I got another writing contract today. It came in just as I submitted a couple more proposals and wondered what I could do to improve my chances to keep my work pipeline flowing.
A sentiment came to me as I realized the new assignment was exactly on a theme I recently wrote about on my personal blog the day before. It gave me a little chill, knowing that following my interests and pursuing questions that matter to me is now manifesting in work.
So the answer was: just more gratitude. Keep feeling and expressing the gratitude for all the grace and blessings in my life. The emotion of gratitude carries a higher vibration than fear or scarcity. And it leads to more creative energy than anything I know.
I am taking a blog break for the next few days and considering what schedule I will adopt for the future. I may start a weekly column on Linked In so that I can indulge my need to write regularly, along with building up my business credibility. Please connect with me there so we can stay in touch! It is time for me to start giving more attention to that process, if I want to succeed in staying self-employed.
After my period of organizing journals yesterday, I opted to read through some few early ones. I was only 18 then, just graduated from high school and readying myself for college. I noticed a few things that made me sad for the young woman I was then.
I had such intense body hatred and frequently chided myself about my weight. I was convinced that no guy would ever want me because I was too fat (even though I was just a few pounds overweight). I was hard on myself about academics and I was very achievement-oriented. I did not cut myself a lot of slack. I seemed to feel lonely and disconnected a lot, while I also craved and valued alone-time.
I longed to comfort that earlier version of myself, the one who worried so much, and felt I somehow never measured up or fit in. I wanted to send her some love. So I wrote a little note that I stuck into the last page of the journal:
Dear Cristy (of times past),
You are lovely the way you are. No need to beat yourself up so much. You will find love someday and more compassion and appreciation for yourself. You will be just fine, and your life will turn out to be more exciting than you can imagine. Try to worry less and enjoy yourself more. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it.
Love Cristy (the older and wiser one)
It occurred to me that the older version of myself, perhaps 5 or 10 years or more into the future might give the me that same advice. As I continue to practice compassion and extend forgiveness toward myself and others, the burdens of life lighten. As I have begun to know myself better and appreciate the light and the dark, I continue to be curious about what I will discover.
We are always moving forward in life. I do not cling to the past. But now and then, reflecting on those lessons I have learned gives me appreciation for the person I am today. If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give? What would your future self tell you?
I spent some time Tuesday morning listening to podcasts with writers. In the meantime, I dusted off the boxes in my office and decided to put some order to my journals. As some of you know, writing for me is somewhat a compulsion. It is a non-optional part of my daily practice.
I hand write my journal. I am old-fashioned that way. The ideas that pour forth with a nice smooth pen on paper seem qualitatively different than what I write when I sit down to the keyboard. More raw. Less pre-meditated. Just me.
My intended audience for these journals is just me. I made my college roommate promise me that if anything happened to me she would have the journals burned without reading them.
I was a little embarrassed when I started sorting the piles of journals into decades. The sheer volume of the once-blank books that span the last 26 years astonished me. Think of all the wasted paper! All those poor trees have been sacrificed for my greedy writing habit…Then I was kind of amazed. I started to wonder about the periods when I had been faithful to journal at least weekly, or other periods when journals were either lost or not kept.
What happened to 2008-2009? No journals from that time. Mysterious.
Did I start journal-writing prior to 1992, the year I left home to go to Swarthmore College? I have a cute little lock & key style diary from when I was about 7 years old, a that I probably got from my Mom.
I decided to document via photos the journals I have kept. This is as much to illustrate my insanity as to be able to let go of these books at some point, as per my desire to live a more minimalist life.
My collection from 2018 includes 15 blank books (so far, since I just started #16 today). That is really embarrassing. But I suppose in a way, it is something I can embrace. I write. My days flow better when I write each day. I also seem to have less insomnia when I let it all out rather than letting it simmer.
When then if I want to work on a big project, a book idea? Do I keep writing? Do I perhaps use my journal as the “reward system” for after I’ve gotten my daily pages and work done?
Clearly it’s a habit that’s not going away. It feels like a lifeline to me, and I am sure I would need to spend a LOT more on therapy if I were NOT writing each day. Come to think of it, the gaps in my “years” of journals actually correspond to episodes of major transitions and/or clinical depression in my life: 1995, 2002, 2009.
Wow. Sh*t. Ages 21, 28 and 35. It seems I was due for an episode in 2016 at age 42, but it never arrived. I am giving credit to my consistent pile of journals and some proactive therapy. When you have tasted that flavor of darkness more than once you sometimes recognize the signs before it arrives again. Self-care is now a religion for me.
I told and AirBnB host back in September: I write because I must. Indeed. Apologies to the trees that sacrificed their lives for my mental health. And everlasting gratitude to you.
Lately I have had a stronger inclination to blog less often and work on a bigger project. I hesitate to write this here, because it feels a little raw and personal, but I have book aspirations. Some other part of me says, “don’t we all?” This community will understand, surely.
Ever since talking with a potential client about ghost-writing a book he wanted to work on, I started questioning what direction my writing will take me. I feel so fortunate to have worked for three different clients on a few writing and research projects in the past month.
I can now claim an identity as a “professional writer” in getting paid to actually do this thing I love. It felt good to know that this daily blog practice has led to a portfolio of writing samples, several of which may have been instrumental to landing the contracts.
And now I find myself with stirrings toward working on a book idea. Titles come to me sometimes while I allow for quiet reflection. I turn stories around in my head to figure out how they might resonate, if I can find something of value in them. I think I may owe it to myself to figure out whether I can write something bigger and more substantial.
When I considered the idea of working for a client for a fairly low dollar figure to write his book, my response was: my time would be more valuable working on my own book! Then I thought: why not? I do have to earn some income, and I hope to keep a pipeline of projects going. But why not set aside the time, blog a little less often, and really invest in that bigger project?
Big projects feel daunting to me. I remember how hard it was to complete my master’s thesis, and that was only 40 pages long. Something deep within me beckons me to work on it though, to set aside regular time to turn my attention there.
I feel I have been distracting myself with little things, afraid of getting lost in one big project. At the same time, some “gear” clicked into place when I heard myself ponder the question, and I felt excited by the idea. So I have not totally committed yet, but I am imagining ways I could make it happen. I am considering how to block off daily and weekly time chunks for tapping that inner well and seeing what comes of it.
Do I have the endurance for that longer game? We will see. It seems a pity not to make the attempt.
I think we are fortunate in Minnesota that there is very little doubt about that distinct feeling of winter. The cold bites at us, and we notice. It will get down to single digits this week and it is inescapable.
I have come appreciated quiet times of the year, when I take my time. There are less events, though some people attend holiday parties (I manage to avoid most). There are some family gatherings at the holidays, but right now feels like a nice quiet opportunity for reflection. I enjoy my peppermint tea with a dash of eggnog in it, and I snuggle with my cats.
Working from home, some days I am not required to go anywhere. I typically make it outside at least once for a yoga class, a dance class or a walk (at the very least a trip to the mail box). My grandmother used to say she enjoyed winter because there were a lot less yard work chores, and plenty of time for reading. I agree. SO many good books on my shelves.
What is your favorite way to spend quiet times of the year?
It is my Dad’s birthday today and so in his honor, I am posting an edited version of last year’s tribute to him.
My Dad’s choice of vocation as a bilingual teacher fundamentally shaped the way I look at the world. His countless presentations to school boards on language learning and the value of bilingual versus ESL-type programs shaped my thinking about social justice and education. He and Mom did highly influential work together to defend and protect educational opportunities for children of (originally) migrant workers in our small town.
Dad was called to serve these children and their parents, who needed a strong advocate for their education. He worked with them to help ensure they could get the best education possible. He believed in their potential and was ready to nurture it every step of the way, building a strong base of skills and also self-confidence. His work as an elementary level teacher touched so many young children’s lives in a powerful and profound way.
We used to go to the classroom late at night, my Mom and Dad and my sister, to put up bulletin boards at the beginning of each new month. My sister also remembers how “cool” it was for Dad to have a key to the school, and he and Mom could work there after hours, when it was easier to get work done uninterrupted. Having special access to the school meant that we could run down the hallways while nobody was there! So much fun. We could never get away with that during a school day.
I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? I got to skip my reading classes in favor of going to the bilingual classroom several hours a day. This saved me from the torture of repeating what I had already mastered.
Dad nurtured that spark of learning within me, and that has been a constant throughout my life. I learn quickly, and greedily, reading books as fast as I can. Of course, having a bit of challenge with attention, I sometimes read a book twice in order to fully absorb it.
Both Mom and Dad believed in reading to us when we were young, and this may be one reason I still love to read. I also enjoy audio books because it is a sweet memory to have someone read to me. For sure, my Grandmother had great influence as well. She was an avid reader and consummate learner.
Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved well for him. He almost never sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed by his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year.
Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior by their children in school. One call from “el Maestro” was enough to get a student to realize they could not misbehave in his classroom without having consequences happen at home. Their culture still has high respect for teachers. Sometimes Dad brought in psychologists as guest speakers to talk with the parents about how to help their kids at home, and was devoted to helping those young minds open and bloom.
Dad faced racism in his experience as an educated Mexican living in a small town, a very “white” town. The parents of his students respected him a great deal, but some of the teachers he worked with did not. Indeed some of the administrators did not, but he did have good principals. One particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This leader, noticing how respectful and well-behaved my Dad’s classes were, made sure that the direction from the top was to expand the bilingual program, not to cut back, as some school boards had tried to do.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad (and Mom taught me this as well) was that you should treat everyone with respect. A person’s “station” in life does not matter. Whether they are a teacher, a principal, a janitor or a cook, you must treat each person with dignity and respect. This is fundamental to the way I interact with the world, and is something I strive to emulate as well.
I am truly grateful to my Dad, and for all the lessons I learned through the way he and my mother live their lives. Teaching is a vocation, not just a job. I like to say I come from a family of teachers, and it is true, multiple generations. I am immensely proud of that.
This week I am taking my own advice and taking a pause on my usual Wednesday feature. I have writing assignment due Thursday, and I just completed two projects with Monday deadlines. So because my blog is not “required” for any reason other than my compulsivity (yup, I know), today it shall rest.
Enjoy reading the abundance of other amazing things to read out on the internets! I shall be back soon. Hasta luego!
I recently wrote an article for a client on “meditation 101”. It was fun to write, given my study of the topic and my practice for the past 2.5+ years. It was posted at the client website, sadly without a byline. But it is all good practice and part of my writing portfolio, so to speak.
I wanted to reflect on a principle that I think is a misconception about meditation, at least in my experience. People often assume that you must do something to “transcend” the body, when in reality the goal for me is to get grounded in the body. I seek to come back to my body not to transcend or escape it in any way.
Most of my days are spent “in my head” and outside my body. I recently realized that my body contains a tremendous amount of wisdom and intuition that my over-active brain conveniently “skips” much of the time. When I come back to my home, the body itself, I access what my soul is trying to tell me. It is through understanding the subtle emotional language of the body that our truths can be revealed to us.
A lot of the men and the male teachers of meditation that have instructed me have encouraged us to “transcend” the body, and go to some ethereal destination. Perhaps this works for them, and I will not disparage their efforts.
We are built with this mammalian architecture that is incredibly subtle and wise. We ignore it at our peril. Women have been “escaping” and transcending their bodies for millennia due to patriarchy, cultural norms and many other reasons. It is time we stopped taking that advice, and stepped into full ownership and joy in our bodies. That’s where the magic happens.