In it to win it

In it to win it

I think sometimes we ask why we do what we do and if it’s a worthwhile endeavor when reflecting on our choices. Many evenings the past few years I’ve considered the same two options: I could spend time writing or I could lay on the couch and watch TV. One feels easier than the other…but is it because there’s less risk? There’s undoubtedly less potential reward to merely consume instead of create. 

Writing fills me up as I pour out the words and thoughts. Yet at the same time, it depletes me. It takes my time and energy, but with it also some of my hopes and dreams. Aspirations of connecting with a wider audience or building toward a bigger project. When said like that, it’s hard not to say, Where’s audience? Where’s the awards? Where’s the blog sponsorship or book deal?

Simply put, they aren’t there in spades. Will they all someday show up out of thin air? Probably not. Will they ever come after years of effort? I don’t know. Is it still worth it regardless of the possible accolades?

It’s nice to know what we’re working towards. Goals give us direction, purpose, and motivation. But even if I want a larger audience or awards or a monetary deal to transpire, can it still be good without those? You know, as is.

Married to a musician, we’re constantly asking ourselves if the amount of time, money, energy, and even physical space that is devoted to music is justified. Likewise, I second guess myself when it comes to writing here on my blog or for a random publication or on yet another word doc to metaphorically collect dust while stored in the depths of my hard drive. Sure, it’s great to pursue your passions, but we have a family and friends and jobs and responsibilities that need tending to. At what point do we sacrifice what we love for those things (and which is which)? Conversely, when is it worth continuing to press forward despite the sacrifices required…even without a payoff guaranteed on the other side?

For instance, is it enough to just compete in the Olympics if there’s no way you could even come close to the podium? Should you be in it to win it? I can’t help but think about Olympic halfpipe skier Elizabeth Swaney. If you didn’t see her run in PyeongChang, it was entirely lackluster and she received the lowest score by a landslide. People have a lot of opinions, and it’s hard to even say if what she did was admirable or embarrassing. On the one hand, she technically made it to the Olympics but on the other hand, some may say she didn’t belong there at all. Was it an accomplishment or was it a completely foolish waste of time?

Then again, isn’t it still an enjoyable hike and experience up a mountain even if you don’t reach the summit? As a rather unaccomplished hiker and climber, I feel confident in saying, Yes, yes it is worth it. But I only go on a few hikes a year (if that), and rock climb each week to squeeze in a little healthy exercise. I never aspire for more than that. Therefore my level of effort and ongoing mental consideration toward hiking/climbing is likewise reflected. Is that the difference? Having completely grounded and realistic expectations of my progress and no wild dreams or creative passion tied into it?

Somehow writing is different. Music is different. Although I’ll never be a painter or sculptor, I assume that’s different too. It’s more personal and protected in a way. Hence the continued questions and thought toward the value and worth behind my thought and energy devoted toward creativity. But then are those questions themselves worthwhile or are they merely excuses to hide behind? Honestly, it’s easier to just turn on the TV at the end of a long day. Rather than deeply consider the potential to create something of significance or obscurity, I watch someone else’s stories unfold on a screen and feel a mix of rested and restless.

Eventually, something seeps out, because you can’t hold back creativity forever. There we circle…back and forth, the cycle of self-doubt and fleeting satisfaction.

The question remains, is it worth it?

Finding Easter Eggs

Finding Easter Eggs

The birds are chirping, the flowers are starting to pop up (be it in the ground or in your local garden shop), and the kids are hunting for brightly colored eggs.

Why do we go on Easter egg hunts? I think the short answer is that it’s fun. You could look a little further online and find that the eggs have a bit more meaning, but I’m still going back to my original answer as to why the tradition continues. Kids run around with baskets (because it’s cute, right?) snatching eggs that are filled with candy or are hard boiled and soon to be smelly. Having a kid old enough now to participate means enjoying this odd tradition all over again. You know what? He loves it (and so do I).

He has no idea what’s inside or why he should gather eggs. In fact, just this morning he saw a packet of plastic eggs I got for later this weekend and was so excited about it that I “hid” six empty ones around the living room for him to scout out right away. The process of seeking and discovery is worthwhile to him. He finds excitement in merely looking for what is waiting for him to find.

As he matures, it will be about both the search and the takeaway. Right now he’s just learning to seek and discover and that is enough. But later he will be more excited because he will expect something inside those eggs like candy or prizes. (Back in my egg hunting days, the single golden egg on the neighborhood hunt held an entire one dollar bill, which was basically the ultimate achievement for a kid.) No longer will empty eggs around the house be satisfying or enjoyable. He’ll want more. He will want something that fills him (with sugar) or provides him more activity or enjoyment beyond the search itself. Therefore the search will need to be more challenging and the stakes higher. I’ll probably give less hints, and perhaps we’ll both get frustrated when an egg or two completely alludes us, causing us to spend extra time foraging for an overlooked egg.

I can’t help but wonder if there are Easter egg hunts all around us, and we simply stopped noticing. Not that I think life is just one big game all about collecting quantity and mass. No, more so I’m talking about collecting wisdom and grace. Also on the list: patience, joy, thankfulness, understanding, and love…among many others.

Like the eggs, we can’t possibly collect it all in one year or season. When we’re young we need guidance on where to look and the support to help gather it. Along the way, those helping us in that process may both enjoy the hunt and also receive some of the benefits. As we grow and mature we realize it’s more than simply seeking wisdom and grace, but also receiving its contents and hopefully, applying it to our lives so that it lasts longer than the search itself.

Where there was once a youthful excitement sparked by the discovery, maybe we’ve come to hesitate when considering the effort required to continue to seek and find such things. Sometimes it doesn’t come as easily or isn’t right in front of us like it used to be. We have to tediously rummage around and sometimes look like an idiot in the process as we make mistakes and fail amidst the search. Or, we once we finally gather that wisdom and grace, we hide it away instead of absorbing it and sharing it, hoarding it in the back of our closest long enough to become a like bunch of rotten candy or smelly eggs.

Through it all, I still think it’s worth it to pursue this grown-up Easter egg hunt. It’s more of a challenge and we expect more for our efforts than we did as kids, but we wouldn’t be satisfied with it all being within arms reach or if all we found was a bunch of empty eggs. So this spring, this Easter, I’m hoping to both continue to seek and discover, but also to receive and apply the depth found inside. 

The day everything was off

The day everything was off

I didn’t lose power, I didn’t lose anything really other than maybe another hour of sleep. But today felt like it started like many of mine do–tired and resistant to the idea of leaving my bed. The overcast skies were of no help either.

Today is another day. A day for work and making meals and fighting the never-ending battle of being overrun by toys in almost every inch of my house. It started with the no-less-than ten-minute game of “clothe the toddler” as he playfully scrambles from room to room while I chase after him, trying to squeeze on another article of clothing. By the time we had finally packed the car and headed to preschool I thought we had made it. We got there, albeit late, and now the day could start anew as I spent the next few hours kid-free. But as I drove over to work at a new-to-me coffee shop with a friend, I struggled to gather my thoughts and my fatigue.

I arrived feeling disheveled and out of place. This wasn’t my usual work spot on the couch. It was full of lively college students and young adults with their multi-colored hair and trendy green coats. My computer needed an outlet to survive, which meant wedging myself in the middle of a small bench to claim access to the power strip. It was loud and full of stories, but made it hard to write mine.

As I attempted to get in a groove and focus, I realized my wedding ring I’m constantly adjusting was left at home due to going rock climbing last night. My back-up hair tie was also gone from my wrist, and I have nothing to fidget with. Suddenly I’m surprised to be staring at a blank page without a clue what I will write.

Am I in over my head? What am I doing here? If I can’t manage a simple thing like showing up to a new coffee shop without feeling like a total klutz, how will I convince someone to hire me for more freelance assignments? What if I’m not a real writer anyway? If I can’t manage the first sentence, how will the next 1,500 words of this assignment ever seep out?

That toddler who needs to be picked up in an hour? I can barely seem to get him dressed in time for school and am often counting down the hours until nap time or bedtime. What if I’m not cut out for this? I’m not that mom who makes sensory bins or has a new project for him each day. Sure, we go on long walks around town and hit up some museums occasionally, but often our biggest outing of the week is the grocery store. And it’s an Aldi week…the prices are good, but I don’t feel like I have the patience for the manual labor that trip requires.

Some days I feel more in the zone, more confident and capable. More grateful and maybe more rested. But regardless of off days or on days, I have to remember we as humans will experience both. We can’t constantly achieve and succeed. It’s not all upward motion. We need to go down to go up, or even just to go forward. There will be doubts, questions, or feelings of inadequacy. There will be “meh” cloudy days that no amount of caffeine can pep things up. Not even bad, terrible days, just off days. Days of feeling like a klutz and mentally disorganized.

Today might be off for me. It might even be a total wash, only time will tell. But I’m still doing it. I’m a writer and a mom, a wife and friend. It’s just a matter of continuing to show up–whether feeling on or off.

Who knows, maybe the off days define us more than the on ones?

 

 

How quickly we forget

How quickly we forget

Where did I put my keys? When’s the library book due? Did I take my vitamins yet today? What’s the name of that person…the one I just met?

All day long, I’m reminded of my short memory. While I may be able to tell you exactly what happened the week before I graduated high school with vivid memory or spout out just when was the last time we all sat in the same room together, I also manage to forget everything.

I forget what life was like before toys were everywhere and a toddler was serving as my primary alarm clock. I forget the strength of the body of work I’ve created or what I’m capable of. I forget how brave I’ve been and the kind of incredible moments it’s caused. I forget who cares about me or what kind of impact I’ve had at some point. I forget the many goals I’ve achieved and bucket list items I’ve checked. I forget the places I’ve seen and people I’ve encountered. I forget what I’m working towards, what we’re aiming for at the end of the day, week, month, or year.

Because I’m not paying attention. 

I’m tired. I’m distracted. I’m bored. I’m lonely. I’m self-depricating. I’m jealous. I’m busy. I’m scared.

Here’s the thing, I think sometimes we’re living the lives of our dreams. We’ve forgotten that this, what we once wished for or only imagined, is what we’ve wanted all along. Instead of achievement or elation, we forget because we’ve already started dreaming and lusting after another life. We get to this point, wherever it may be and it isn’t everything we expected. So we move on and determine that this wasn’t the life we dreamed up, because it’s simply not enough (or too much). There’s still a struggle and grind toward that next hurdle to cross.

Now don’t misunderstand me when I say that sometimes we’re living our dreams because in reality, sometimes we are living our nightmares. This is not to make light of those very real and painful moments. There are seasons of grief or misery that strike, and those are most obviously not the lives we’ve dreamed of.  But those times may remind us of what we’ve forgotten, either in the moment or once we’ve gotten to the other side of the season. 

So what have I forgotten? That I spend time each day watching my son learn and grow. That I love the man I married. That we live in a space and city that suits our needs. That I am healthy and capable. That I’m working as a writer in a freelance capacity. That I have friends and a community to support me. That I have the opportunity to be creative, generous, and kind.

Junior high me is swooning right now. High school me is overjoyed. College me is amazed. Early twenties me is ecstatic. Mid-twenties me is thrilled. And late twenties me? Feeling forgetful but grateful.

Are there things in my life that aren’t ideal? Sure. Am I sometimes lonely or exhausted or bored or about to go crazy if I hear another battery-operated kid song? Yes, absolutely. But in so many ways, this moment I’ve landed on is fulfilling so many of my hopes and dreams. Therefore I want to live in celebration of what it is I have and what has been achieved. Instead of living in comparison or discontentment, I want to cherish and commemorate. Perhaps, this is as good as it’s going to get. You know what? I’ll take it, because in more ways than one, I’m living my dreams.

And that’s something I don’t want to forget.

What I should be doing

What I should be doing

I should be doing something else right now. Maybe it’s cleaning the kitchen, maybe it’s client work. Or maybe it’s as simple as getting dressed and brushing my teeth for the day.

There’s stuff to do. Things to read. Even more to write.

Why then do I sit staring at this blank canvas these days before moving on to things that pay or things that need cleaning or things that have seven more seasons of 40-minute-long episodes?

Do I take on more client work because it’s what I want to do? Or what I need to do? Do I prefer writing for them because there’s structure provided or an audience guaranteed?

I love writing, but lately, I don’t know what to say. By the time I get around to thinking of what it is I might most want to relay, the sound of distant cries increases in intensity. Suddenly, nowhere in our house is quite so distant.

So I wait. I wait for something big enough, important enough to write about. I wait for a moment when the work is done and the baby’s asleep and the house is clean. I wait for a reason to dust off the digital cobwebs on my blog.

And when the stars align and all of that is finally in place — I freeze. I look at my work and say, this isn’t good enough. It’s not strong enough to be the piece that sits at the top of the page for however long until I next get my moment.

I shouldn’t be writing about my inability to write freely these days. I should be writing about the injustice of racism and how videos from last weekend’s events left me in tears and outrage. I should be writing about taking a stand…but also, not having to do so on Facebook for it to officially count, lest we be caught up in a modern-day “If you love God…” forward email chain.

But if I’m not going to speak on all that, I should be professional and show my range of skills. I should show off some recent client work or write in a way that could attract the work I like to do. Write just like all the other articles I read and think, “I should try to do that too!”

If not professional, at least make it witty and fun. Share a little piece of our life or cute photo or something, right? What the heck is a blog for if it’s not to share some personal life with the world wide web in hopes of gaining a few new followers?

Is this blog still a thing? Should I give in and let go of the domain as the bill threatens will happen if I do not pay in 60 days? Take it off my portfolio website and just say, “trust me, I write”?

No, that isn’t the answer. I’ve got to keep going. Keep tapping the keys with my unusual yet somehow surprisingly effective self-taught typing ways. There’s more to work than getting paid. There’s more to the internet than showing off, seeking approval, or spreading hate.

There’s no one moment to act, do, write, or say. It’s over and over–again and again. Continuing to live and plod on, letting the tasks become habits. Those habits move toward discipline and eventually, a way of life.

So continue I’ll do.

Proof of Creativity

Proof of Creativity

There’s something about creativity that begs to be seen. Show me your big idea, let me read your work, play me a song, hang up your art, watch that video project.

And then the masses, they can say, “how nice, how artistic, how talented” you are at that thing. Or, of course, there’s also the risk of a negative response, or even worse, no response or acknowledgement whatsoever, leaving that creativity vulnerable and alone in the world.

But one is never enough. You need a body and collection of work. It can never be stagnant or stale. You think you’re a writer? You call yourself a musician? You want to be a videographer? You consider yourself an actress? You say you’re an artist, a dancer, a dreamer, a poet? Prove it. 

Instead of the love and the passion and the drive that once compelled such creativity, you find hustle and exhaustion and burnout. A world that says, if you don’t keep churning out more you’ll be lost and left behind by all the ones ready to chew you up and take your spot.

It places all of your worth into what you produce or your results. You’re only as good as your latest project, and it better be something recent, otherwise, what have you been doing all this time?

And not only that, but where’s the self-promotion, the curated pieces, the shows and the gigs and the countless fans along the way?

For the average creative, or maybe just for me, it’s too much. The hustle and chase and sacrifice is too great. Maybe that means I’ll never make it or never have my name in lights. I’d like to hope instead that it means that my creativity and my sense of self will still stay intact.

May the thoughts and dreams that excite me stay possibilities and perhaps even one day realities, instead of drowned out by the noise and expectations to keep the same rapid pace of someone else. May my success be simply gratitude for the ability to create and connect with others, instead of an addiction to constant adoration and attention that can never quite be fulfilled. May I find moments for creativity and inspiration but not feel it is my only or greatest legacy.

That’s not to say that hard work, dedication, and motivation have no place here. All of these make their home here, just as I welcome space, grace, rest, and relationships. It’s about finding a balance and enjoyment instead of making chores out of the things I love.

So, for the last few months the blog has been quiet. This time I don’t think I’ll try to promise a revitalization coming soon but just let it happen as it happens. As for creative side projects, our music has been getting more of my energy and effort for the time being. At work, my writing and editing has continued. At home, we’ve chosen to listen to the need for rest when it comes, to celebrate weekend afternoons relaxing on the porch or rolling on the floor with our little one.

Does my work say something? Sure, sometimes. But more importantly, I’d like my life to speak louder. Not through fame or failures, but through my faith, family, and friendships.

 

Thursday Three

Ready for some thoughts and emotions on a Thursday night…err, early Friday morning?

1. Please don’t cry. That is the phrase I think (and sometimes say) throughout the day. Because it’s hard to think straight with a whimpering or crying baby in the room, it’s just one of those things. I try to concentrate and get things done and continue to pursue some of the things I like or want to do, but the reality is, I have to do less of all that so I can just be there and fill my baby’s needs. It’s still a shift and a balancing act, but a good one that I am grateful to work on.

2. Get motivated. It’s easy to feel like we need to “get through” the holidays before we take steps toward positive personal change or development–that such things only begin (and sometimes end) in January. I think it can happen at anytime, and maybe the time for that is now. Working out, eating better, investing in the lives of others, reading books, cleaning out closets/drawers–all of those things seem to not only feel good afterwards but also seem to bring more life and energy into my days.

3. Love anyway. I shed a few tears of my own tonight as I read and thought about Aleppo. It’s absolutely tragic. I feel far away and almost helpless to make a difference, but I can give and pray. So that’s what I did and will continue to do. If you’re looking for somewhere to give to the refugees, I had several friends post about Preemptive Love Coalition. After some research and consideration of my own, felt it was a worthwhile place to start with donations.

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One of their core values, this is a screenshot from Preemptive Love Coalition’s website