Gathering energy for big projects

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.

succeed because I am crazy
Art found in one of our AirBnB‘s in Bemidji.

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.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Travel notes to self

Hello Friends,

My usual Saturday share is on holiday as I am traveling on my honeymoon/1-year anniversary trip with my husband until the 19th. As I work out final travel details for this trip, I thought I would reflect a bit on the best and hardest parts of this trip so far, and what I am “filing away” for future reference.

We had a lovely visit to Loch Lormond, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness yesterday. I definitely recommend a visit to the Scottish Highlands if you travel here – the beauty of the landscape is worth it. We used Timberbush Tours, because I found a brochure in the train station in Glasgow that offered some options we could consider. Definitely worth trying to book a few days in advance or a couple weeks, since a couple of the tours we considered were already full for just one day in advance.

It was definitely a satisfying day though quite long, starting at 7:45 a.m. to meet the bus and not returning to the city center until 7:30 p.m. at night. But the drive was worth it. My hubby got some excellent photos and I will be sure to share them in future posts.

Urquhart Castle
Castle Urquhart, taken September 14, 2018.  Use only with attribution to mexi-minnesotana, please.

This morning I woke up thinking about how to modify our trip to perhaps cut one long(er) train trip out and replace it with a short flight. We have one night in Edinburgh, one night in Manchester and two nights in London reserved via AirBnB for the final days of our trip. I realize that having only one night in a place versus two can feel too rushed on a trip like this.

In our first 6 nights here, we had two nights in each location, and that felt like a good pace, time to settle in and also time to explore. Then we only had one night in Liverpool, and I could have used two. Arriving in Glassgow I felt very tired and trip weary.

I am researching a change to two nights in Edinburgh, and two nights in London, canceling the visit to Manchester and flying directly from Edinburgh to London, making it a shorter trip back. I am considering that idea, though it looks like our Edinburgh host does not have a second day available so we would still have to find a 2nd night there.

What I am learning is that my exuberance in seeing so many places needs to be balanced with our need for rest and relaxation on a trip. I think in the future, I will try to book 2-3 nights in each place and be more selective about the number of locations we visit. It is so hard to choose! I want to see everything and go everywhere!

But in the end, I do not want to arrive home exhausted, feeling like I need a rest to “recover” from my vacation. So I will make mindful choices after this trip experience and with our needs and desires in mind.

Cheers & happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Throwback Thursday: time enough at last

As the end of my time in my current company draws near, I return to a post from December of last year. I am looking forward to the month of August, since I have a road trip planned with my sister, LOTS of reading and thinking time ahead. What a relief! Time enough at last!!

***

Do you remember that episode of the Twilight Zone called “Time Enough At Last“? I own the Twilight Zone complete collection on DVD, and this is an episode worth watching if you have ever wished for “time enough” to do what you want.

henry bemis
Photo credit link – episode wiki page

Henry Bemis wants one thing in life: more time to read. I have so much empathy for Henry. There are times when I really long for more solitude, reading (and writing) time. Henry works at a bank but sneaks down to the vault during his lunch hours to read.

But not only does he do that, he tries to read while he is doing his job, which means he does not do that job so well. He clearly feels “put upon” by the world, his job and his wife, since nobody seems to understand his thirst for books and reading time. But I have deep empathy for his suffering.

Prior to my appendectomy in December, I was really wishing for some reading time and contemplation. I wanted some time off from work when I could just read, relax and enjoy some time to myself. I looked forward to the holiday break coming up – my workplace shuts down between Christmas and the New Year. I was feeling rather “put upon” at work myself, and I just wanted an escape. I had in mind a sabbatical, and while I think this was not so practical in my current job, I viscerally ached for this kind of break.

I would not have chosen to go to the hospital to have emergency appendectomy surgery in order to get out of work. But I was fortunate to recover very quickly, so it felt like a blessing in disguise.

One day while reading down in the vault Henry Bemis is knocked unconscious by a shock wave. He awakens to discover that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war. At first he is in shock, walking through all the devastation around him, and he decides to commit suicide. But then he sees the ruins of a library, his paradise!

henry bemis and clock
Photo credit link

Henry gleefully piles up the books, thinking he has a supply to keep him busy for years to come, with all the time he needs. But as he settles to read his glasses slip off his nose and smash on the ground, trapping him in a blurry world forever. “That’s not fair! That’s not fair at all! There was time now. There was all the time I wanted! That’s not fair!” (I found a 3-minute video on YouTube if you want to see that scene. It still breaks my heart).

Poor Henry. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. And yet this is the way of life. We get sick, our plans go awry, and we have to adjust. We must get extra rest. We must slow down and respect our body’s limits. We must acknowledge that we do not control everything, and stop resisting and arguing with reality.

Oh, Henry. I am giving myself the gift (in August and September) of time enough at last! It has been so long since I had more than 2 weeks off for a summer vacation. I am beyond grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Saturday Share – Marion Woodman’s poetry

I just love this beautiful poem in the intro to the book “Coming Home to Myself” by Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick. Since they encourage the photocopy or transcription of pieces that carry meaning for us, I am sharing with grateful permission.

Linearity does not come naturally

to me. It kills my imagination.

Nothing happens.

 

No bell rings

No moment of here and now.

No moment that says yes.

Without these, I am not alive.

 

I prefer the pleasure

of the journey through the spiral.

 

Relax.

Enjoy the spiral.

If you miss something

on the first round,

don’t worry.

You might pick it up

on the second – or third – or ninth.

It doesn’t matter.

 

Relax.

Timing is everything.

If this bell does ring,

it will resonate

through all the rungs of your spiral.

If it doesn’t ring,

it is the wrong spiral –

or the wrong time –

or there is no bell.

Wow. This resonated in my body and my mind. Maybe it does for you also?

 

coming home
Link to the book at Amazon

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Hours fall off the clock

I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.

This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.

It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.

melting clocks
One of my favorite Salvador Dali pieces – photo credit link

I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.

This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.

I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.

What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Constraint

In this big, wide world with so many channels, choices and chatter, it can be hard to find our focus and stick to one main goal. I really struggle with this intention. I like to take on a lot of new things, but then sometimes I find that they “pile up” and start to crowd my life, in a way.

I generally try to put a constraint around things like the blog, for example. I give myself a limited amount of time each morning 30-45 minutes, to write the content. Sometimes if I am looking for photos to add, it can take up to an hour. But I try to make sure there is a limit. I could literally spend hours writing if I allowed it (and maybe someday I will), but I have a “regular” job. At least today that’s what allows me to pay my bills and not strangle my creativity by trying to make it pay.

constraints
Photo credit link

As I near my 200th post (this Saturday!) I am considering whether to impose another constraint, to help me focus on larger projects that have been scratching at my consciousness. Since October 1st I have been posting daily here. Sunday is a haiku and it is short and sweet, though I cannot always resist 2 or 3 verses. And Saturday has become a blog share day, to pass along some love to other blogs I have discovered and enjoyed. So in a way, I already imposed some constraints that helped me find writing rhythm in my week.

I truly enjoy this daily ritual, writing whatever I happen to be thinking about each morning. So I hesitate to pull it back. It has given me structure and focus, and even when I have had to travel for work, I planned ahead and made sure to plan short posts sometimes scheduled for while I would actually be on an airplane.

There is a little thrill when we hit the “publish” button (do you get that too?) and our work goes out into the world. Even though I try not to get caught up with how many “likes” or “views” any particular piece has, I sometimes do consider it. Truly it fascinates me, which topics resonate with people, not always predictable and often a surprise for me.

Now that I have had some time to develop a regular writing practice, though, I strive for a bit more focus on some longer and “meatier” pieces, perhaps to submit to publications. I told my husband: I have a book in me (or three) and I would like to consider whether that is my ultimate goal. I sense a transition in my own creativity, and may need to constrain one area of my writing, so I can generate greater focus on another part. So again I toy with a frequency that will work for me.

When I imagine cutting back to once a week, as many bloggers do, I get this “muzzled” feeling which I do not like. I then consider 3 or 4 times a week as a reasonable limit. It allows for me to get my blog “fix” and generate some short(ish) pieces as warm-up writing and to keep myself loose. But it also allows for those other mornings when I can assign the time to a few project ideas that are longer and more involved, that require some editing and polishing.

Are there areas in your life where you recognize constraint helps you focus? Do you struggle as much as I do when you first consider cutting something out to make room for other things? I would love to hear about your experiences with this in the comments.

Open 25 hours

There is a store I encountered as I walked Saturday in Buenos Aires, a pharmacy that is open all the time. Usually we see an “open 24 hours” sign. But what is the meaning of 25 hours?

It got my attention attention right away. I only have 24 hours in a day, how can they give us 25?

open25hs.jpg
Chain of drugstores in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I started contemplating time, and that fact that we only have 24 hours in a day. What if we could manufacture another hour, and we had an extra hour? Those of us who cope with twice annual time changes, may experience this once a year, when we gain that extra hour in the fall. But we trade that hour in the Spring, when we lose it, and mess up our circadian rhythms… They don’t do that shit here. Enlightened, perhaps. Not sure, I am biased on that one.

So why 25 hours? I think the underlying message is: we strive to go beyond. We strive to give you more than your “share” of what you expect. Or at least that is how I choose to interpret it.

I love this beautiful ambition of the Argentinian people, a quintessential American trait, to dare to try for more. They want to go beyond, and they push the boundaries of what is possible right now, they want to achieve more than your expectations. There is a sense of ambition, creativity and magic that I feel when I visit South America. I also feel this in Mexico, but it is distinctly different, I realize. Perhaps because Mexico sits in the shadow of the United States, and many people aspire to go to “el norte” there is a different sense of expectation of one’s lot in life.

cafe and croissant
Cafe con leche y medialuna – brunch on Saturday.

Y’all know that I have an ongoing romance with Mexico. She is part of me, that nation. But I feel similar love for the people of Argentina as well. Sure, they can be a little snobby about their wine, their steak and their coffee. They are not wrong! They are delicious!

A colleague/physician and his wife took me out for dinner on Friday. I’m embarrassed to admit I am never this generous with my personal time on “date night” with work-related guests. That’s a part of the Latino culture, generous hospitality, and I am deeply grateful to have been “embedded” here since I started traveling for work ~9 years ago. We had a marvelous time, and despite my introvert self sometimes balking at these sorts of invitations, I am so glad I accepted.

Maybe it was a “hail mary” pass to me, since I have already confessed to that colleague that I plan to leave the team in 3-6 months. Or maybe it was a joy to invite me into his “family,” since we have known each other for over 10 years. He and his wife had their first grandchild almost a year ago, and they recently reunited after a 6-year separation. He has always treated me as a daughter figure. Even though he has made decisions that resulted in bad consequences for our team at times, I know he meant no harm.

olympics obelisk
Isn’t it funny how many cities have their phallic symbols? This obelisk was taken near the symbol of the Youth Olympic Games which will take place here in October 2018.

His team is sometimes afraid to say no to him, or to tell the whole truth of a situation. They may fear the consequence of standing up for themselves, or maybe since he is a physician, there is extra deference. I get it. This takes courage! A lot of courage, especially when it is your boss who doesn’t get it. I practice this myself also.

We may try to manufacture an extra hour to get something done, but the optimism is not enough. It is at best a valiant attempt to meet the challenge, do our best under the circumstances. At worst, it is a cover for what is lacking in our skills, intentions or capacity. Then the best thing to do is surrender to the truth of the situation, and find a way out.

It is not easy, to stop meeting those demands, striving for more. But we must wake up to the reality that human beings have limits, and that striving must be balanced with rest. Yang (active) energy requires yin (restful) energy to regenerate.

There are only 24 hours in a day. A third of them I will sleep, and the rest I will spend on what is important to me, including time to recharge and reflect. 25 hours is a nice fantasy, but we have enough hours every day to do what is necessary. If we stay present to our life, we have exactly what we need.