#SoCS: Clearing the clutter and creating a fresh start

Hellebore from my Portland garden over 10 years ago. Hellebores were the first flowers to bloom each spring, a welcome sign of renewal every rainy January.

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-4-2020/. This week’s prompt is, “toss.” Use it any way you’d like.

I’ve spent a little while noodling on this week’s prompt. Tossing manure in garden beds? Toss-ups? Tossers (a great British insult)? I landed on the idea of tossing things out, on clearing clutter from my life, getting rid of what I don’t value (much) to make room for what I do value. I’ve been doing that literally and figuratively for at least the last year or so.

I’m big on renewal. I had a lit professor back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was an undergrad, who talked about American optimism and how the idea of starting over is ingrained in our culture. That resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now. I’ve always loved the beginning of fall, when the new school year starts, because it feels like a fresh start. I enjoy moving (well, OK, not the actual process of hiring movers and having them steal our DVDs, nor the process of selling our house to some jerk who wants to lowball us and have us do $15,000 worth of repairs). I enjoy the process of starting over in a new place with new people and new possibilities. Having a clean slate forces me to think about what I really want in my life rather than to keep doing the same old stuff.

But I’ve learned that renewal is possible without something as drastic as moving. I can lighten my load, again, literally and figuratively. I can toss out stuff I don’t use anymore to make room for things I will use, or, better, to create space uninhabited by crap. Open space, empty space, is relaxing and peaceful and inspiring. Clutter is exhausting.

I can rethink my commitments and drop a few to make room for my current priorities (like writing). I can drop an old habit that doesn’t serve me well and replace it with one that does. Example: I read a book called The Miracle Morning a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been revamping my morning routine based on its recommendations. I’m actually more excited to get out of bed in the morning now, and I’m getting up earlier, too. Today–a Saturday and a holiday–I rolled out of bed at 5:40, and I started writing this piece at about 6:30. Anyone reading that last sentence who knew me even a year or two ago probably thinks my soul has been snatched by aliens, and I’m now a pod person.

So if you’re feeling like your space or your life is too full or full of the wrong things, you can change that. You can toss out what doesn’t serve you well and either replace it with things that will help you meet your current goals or enjoy the newfound space in your world. Remember:

Today is a new day.

Today is a fresh start.

What would you like to toss out? How would you like to remake your world?

Celebrate the Small Things!

Celebrate blog hopI have just joined the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. The rules are simple: each Friday, post about something you want to celebrate achieving/doing that week.

This week I’m celebrating the fact that I submitted a short story to an online magazine. Big deal, right? But for me it is. Until about a year ago, I’d never shown anyone my fiction. Since then, I’ve joined a critique group, entered (and won!) a literary contest, and, just this year, submitted two pieces for publication. Will my two submissions get published? Maybe, maybe not. In both cases, I submitted to markets that are a little out of my league, but then I thought the literary contest was out of my league, too. Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and see what happens.

Happy Friday!

Creating is self-care

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeSometimes life kicks you in the butt. Then it kicks you when you’re down. Then it curb-stomps you into a bloody pulp and leaves you twitching in the gutter.

My mother passed away Saturday morning. The woman who birthed me, loved me, taught me, corrected me, protected me, nurtured me, encouraged me. That woman is gone.

Her passing was not sudden. It was not unexpected. Dementia had stolen most of who she was, so her death wasn’t even a tragedy. It was a mercy.

But it hurts like hell.

That sucks, you say, but first Wednesday is supposed to be the day we IWSG types write words of encouragement to our fellow writers, and getting curb-stomped by life doesn’t sound very encouraging. Fair point. Stick with me. The encouragement is coming.

One of the first things that usually gets cast aside in dark times is self-care. Friday I forgot to eat. Yes, really. Me, the unrepentant glutton, forgot to eat for about 8 hours, till my stomach was digesting itself, and I was too lightheaded to think. And even then, I didn’t really want to eat.

Another thing that gets cast aside is creating. We’re too tired, too hurting, too demoralized to do anything but suck in the next ragged breath. The distance between the metaphorical gutter where we lie, broken and bleeding, and the metaphorical curb is just too damn far. That curb might as well be El Capitan. No way we’re getting up there.

And when we finally drag our broken selves up that impossible height to stand again, we can only find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, to take a few shambling steps, to do the things we absolutely have to do. And writing, creating, making art is not something we have to do.  So we don’t.

And sometimes we keep don’t-ing for days, weeks, months, even years. We sink deeper into the abyss, or we take up new activities, and we leave our art behind. Someday, we say. Someday, when life gets easier. Someday, when things settle down.

But things don’t settle down, do they? Oh, no, they don’t. Stuff happens, some good, some bad, some breathtakingly awful in this cosmic game of Whack-a-Mole. But things never settle down.

So here’s what I have learned over the last decade of watching my mother fade away, of caring for ill family members, of losing one of the best friends I ever had–in other words, of getting kicked around about as much as any other middle-aged, middle-class American. No pity party here.

What I’ve learned is that creating is self-care.

Creating is a way to nurture a broken soul, to take tiny daily steps up out of that gutter.

Oh, look, you say. Here’s another person telling me to suck it up, Buttercup. To pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back to work. Work is good for you. Work builds character. Blah blah self-helpity blah.

No.

What I’m saying is that creating gives me hope. Hope that I’ll get through this. Hope that I can still do what I love. Hope that I can get my life back after the curb-stomping. That there’s something on the other side of this pain besides more pain.

Everyone copes differently. Everyone grieves differently. And that’s OK. What works for me may not work for you. But for me, knowing I can still make a tiny bit of progress toward my dream, can still find the will to create, nourishes me through the dark times. It doesn’t have to be much. Ten minutes a day. 100 words. Five minutes. One sentence. One crappy metaphor about being curb-stomped by life. Something.

And so, fellow writer, my words of encouragement to you on this first Wednesday in October are these: Create. Even when life sucks. Even when it all feels pointless and hopeless. Even when getting out of bed seems like an act of heroism. And may each act of creation, no matter how small, be a tiny bandage, a dab of healing salve on your broken, bleeding soul. May each act of creation bring you hope.

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