Flow in Writing & Life

I’ve been reading Ursula LaGuin’s blog posts No Time to Spare in book form on my Kindle. I’m interested just now in reading about aging…I’d like to write about it, too, and I’m trying. It’s a challenge, but I love when writing presents a new challenge. We’ll see how it works out for me, although LaGuin does a beautiful job. She has a way of making the profound seem like common sense.

The other thing I’m doing is writing with my Florida group. There are ten of us this year. Our leader gives us prompts and we write a page or so. Everyone reads aloud. This week’s prompt “A Memorable Teacher” was particularly difficult for me. I’ve been thinking about it since Friday, so five days. When you get to my age, especially if you love learning and seek it out like I do, you’ve had a lot of teachers, good ones and bad ones, horror stories and terrible bores.

What seemed obvious to me was that life is the best teacher. Marriage and children are profound teachers, too. I actually learned how to stay married (after two failed attempts) because of my sons. I didn’t want to put them through another divorce, so in spite of sometimes wanting to give up on my third marriage, I stuck with it. Because I loved my boys more than I’d ever loved any other human, I learned to compromise, forgive, and stand up for myself with a husband. I also learned how becoming a grandmother expands the capacity to love beyond limits.

Finally, I thought of who or what helped me and taught me how to maintain sanity and happiness through rough times. The best lesson I ever learned. My favorite teacher. The runner up taught me how to teach and how to love Shakespeare. That was a lot! The winning teacher was Brian, my yoga teacher. He wasn’t my first and he won’t be my last, but he was absolutely the best because he taught me how to truly inhabit my body.

Brian’s best lesson went something like this: “Close your eyes during practice. Don’t look at the people around you to see how they are doing the poses. Don’t compare your body to anybody else’s. Make this time about you and your relationship to your body, mind and spirit. Flow your own way through the poses. Find your own edge. Remember to breathe. Be grateful for your body and your breath.”

I was, by far, the oldest person in Brian’s class. I had the biggest belly. My hair frizzed and I didn’t wear make up because it would just melt off. I had to get over all that, and it was easy to do once I really understood what Brian was saying. It clicked in pretty quickly and I was good there with all the young and lithe yoginis. I was in my 40s when I went to Brian’s studio. Now I’m in my 60s. I still take his advice every day. Not comparing myself to any other is such a relief. Accepting my own limits is humbling and freeing at the same time.

Brian’s advice goes beyond yoga. It has helped me in other ways. Like with writing ~ I don’t compare my books to other authors’, I don’t compare sales, or calculate at what age others achieved success. I pay no attention to what level they’re at or how I do or do not measure up. I’m in my flow of writing and life and you’re in yours. It’s all good. Namaste.

Changing Your Life

Sitting here writing about changing my life with advice from a self-help book when I feel as if that’s an impossible task. It’s almost as if someone snatched away the me I used to be, and frankly, all I want to do is get her back. Where did the Cindy who loved yoga and writing go? When did my resolve to eat healthfully disappear? I’m reading STICK WITH IT as a last-ditch effort. The book bases its premise on an acronym SCIENCE and does claim that all the advice is science-based. Since last report I’ve read two more chapters and actually made some progress. Did some backsliding, too.

I’ve already written about stepladders and community in previous posts. This past week I felt I needed a super dose of help so I tackled “Important” and “Easy.” I can sum up those two chapters swiftly. “Important” is all about priorities. If you think the change you want to make is important, you’ll try harder to make it and keep it. Sean Young, the author, sites a study about the three most important things in many people’s lives.

Money, health, and relationships are the top three. Turns out, as long as you’re not destitute, money isn’t important to health or happiness. People with money can still get death sentence diseases or be clinically depressed. People with lots of money are often miserable in their relationships.

It’s easy to think “if I just had X amount of dollars, all would be well.” I’ve thought that myself many times. One of the changes I’d like to make is in my health. “If I hired a chef, I’d be able to eat better with less effort. I’d also be able to hire a private yoga teacher.” All true but I can see that money wouldn’t take away temptation as far as cake goes and if I didn’t feel like working out, a coach wouldn’t motivate me to do it.  I’d just cancel. Health has to be important enough to me to change my eating and exercise habits for the better.

My other goal is to finish my book. I actually did complete a writing project that was on my to-do list. To get my books on audio, I had to fill out five spec sheets, choosing a section of each story to be narrated. After weeks of procrastinating, I got it done this past week. So that’s what I mean…this self-help method is working to a point. But all the money in the world can’t conjure that spark of hot desire that compels me to tell a story and get it in great shape for my editor’s eyes. But, since it’s important to me, partly because of the writing communities I’ve been a part of for so long, I am determined to get it done this summer.

So much for “important.” Next is “Easy” and I do know that “easy” helped me start a yoga practice again. I simply loaded Gaia onto my computer and with a couple of clicks and a move from chair to floor, I’m ready to go. No special equipment or clothing needed. No trip in the car to the yoga studio. “Easy” works for me as far as exercise goes.

Eating the right food is a bit more complicated. Fast food is easy. The stocking, preparing and cooking of whole nutritious food takes way more energy. Stepladders (that first helpful hint in SCIENCE) breaks down difficult or complex tasks, which does make them easier. I’m still working with my goal of eating right. And I’m trying not to bask too long in the glory of finishing the tasks for the audio books.

I have a set of steps for completing the book project, too. Meanwhile I’m still reading. I’ve done S, C, I, and E. I can’t wait to see what the heck N is all about. Neurohacks. Hmmm. Something with the brain, I suspect. SCIE/NCE. Maybe I can get this book finished by next weeks so I’ll have all the tools necessary to implement my goals.

 

 

Stick With It

Rewrote the end of the manuscript I’ve been working on for a few years now. The first and last chapters always need the most revision. But I think this time I’ve got it. The photo is of the finally finished product. I say finished by that’s just the story I’ve told. Now I need to edit, add chapter headings, and construct a timeline. These are things I’d rather not do, but do them I must. Only then, when I feel the narrative is as tight and the writing as polished as I want it to be, can I send it to my editor.

I have a lot of experience sticking to my writing projects. In other areas of life, I’m not so great. I’ve gained and lost weight for 25 years, never able to stay for long on the slim end of the scale. I’ve also started and abandoned every kind of exercise program you can imagine from running to weight training to every kind of dance class under the sun to yoga. I like yoga best, but even that hasn’t stuck as firmly as I wish.

Which is why when I was at the bookstore the other day, a book called “Stick To It” caught my eye. I’d just had a bad report on my blood sugar from my doctor (I can never stick to the plan not to eat cake, either) and she suggested I go on the Mediterranean diet. While at the bookstore, I picked up a cookbook, too. The Mediterranean food pyramid looks a bit different than the one from the USDA.

Because I’ve been on so many diets, I worry that this is yet another one I won’t be able to stick to. Thus, the new self-help book might finally give me ways to stick to a diet and exercise routine that work for life. Here’s hoping. The subtitle to the book by Sean Young is “A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life–For Good.”  Young has a process he calls SCIENCE. It’s an acronym for stepladder, community, important, easy, neurohacks, captivating, and engrained.

Over the weekend I finished a couple of chapters. The stepladder concept is simple and makes sense (unlike some of the other words that seem silly, like “captivating” or strange like “neurohacks”). Stepladders are just breaking goals down into manageable steps. Before that, people need to discern what goals are really dreams. Dreams come after you’ve done the work with the steps toward a goal. That makes sense. One step at a time.

I outlined some steps toward my goals of exercising more and eating right. I even rejoined Weight Watchers (the “C” in SCIENCE is) so there’s my community for diet. I bought the cookbook. And each day I’ve used at least one recipe from the cookbook. So, I’m eating Mediterranean. I also joined an online group called Gaia (gaia.com) that has a terrific 20 minute yoga flow. I’ve managed to do that once. I plan to do it again today, but not sure if I will have the time since I need to pack for a much anticipated trip to Seattle to meet my new granddaughter, Julia June, just a few weeks old. We leave early tomorrow morning.

Not bringing the book with me, but I will be grocery shopping for easy Mediterranean fare like hummus and pita and grape leaves. I kind of know how to do this from my years as a vegetarian. I always get lots of exercise in Seattle. Owen likes the playground down the street, Murphy likes a walk, Al loves riding a bike around the neighborhood the kids live in, everybody in that house loves being active, so I know I will be more active than usual too, but in a fun way. I’m sure I’ll be doing my regular sun salutations, and Gaia has a mobile app, so I may even try that. Maybe.

I plan to write a series of posts on “Sticking With It” upon my return from Seattle  I’ll track my progress here. The main goal for this week is to reconnect in real time with my Seattle family. Namaste.

 

 

 

Runnin’ Up That Hill

Maybe I’m morbid but I have a habit of thinking doomsday scenarios whenever the slightest hiccup happens in my life. For example the latest episode with my knee buckling and me not being able to walk or stand or wear most of my shoes or practice yoga or dance. My favorite dance is the Twist and I just know my twisted knee would not like it. I sigh to think that the Twist may be firmly in my past.

So that would be the doomsday version. To never do any of those things again. There are other things that are worse than temporarily losing the use of a leg. Losing the use of both legs. Completely. Forever. After all, I’m not even sure this is any big deal. Specialist said wait another week, take it easy, and if the knee doesn’t get better, we’ll do an MRI. Leaving his office, my leg buckled suddenly and I almost did a splat on the asphalt. Thank you 20 years of yoga for helping me keep a wobbly balance in airplane pose. It didn’t look as pretty as this but you get the idea.

Not being able to do everything I want to do right now is messing with my head. It’s only been two weeks. So, one more week of inactivity. I’m trying to look on the bright side. I can still read and write. I simply cannot vacuum or dust or rush about running dozens of errands in a day. I cannot take a walk in the park. I have to keep meals simple and maybe hire a cleaning service, which really, if I’m honest, seems like a perk.

I realize this is all very frivolous,  the silliest part is feeling bereft about not being able to wear my summer sandals, at least the ones with cute heels. Ah well. The worst possible outcome is surgery. I feel pretty confident that I will be able to practice yoga (all the poses, not just airplane) again and yes even dance. The Twist. In heels.

DelosI will climb Mt. Cynthus…which is a very small mountain, more like a hill, really. Greece and the tiny island of Delos is my next big life adventure. A highlight of the Sensational 60s! So this time I’m dropping the doom and gloom as usually it turns out to be nothing and I’m embarrassed for being overly dramatic. I mean, there are worse things than having to buy new shoes. If it comes to that.

A favorite Kate Bush song is my new anthem: “Running up that hill with no problem.”

Spring Cleaning Inside

Still working on the site. Molly has a set of instructions for linking inside images I printed out for tomorrow, because, while working on the website is fun, today Linda is on the front burner.  If you’re a Michigan writer (or, hey, come on up from Chicago or Toledo) and want to get published, sign up here for our free team talk.

So much happening and this is my “go slow” month. There are signs in the stars that say I need to do things more mindfully this month, and things inside my own body and brain tell me that, too.

For example: I mistakenly double-dosed myself with hormones for a couple of weeks and my mind has been jumping around like a wild monkey through constantly moving hoops. My body, the body I love but mindlessly abused for so long, has been feeling the pain as I age and continue to carry extra belly fat.

Feeling desperate, I decided to spring clean from the inside out. I’m reading “How to Live for Life: The End of Dieting” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. and beginning to change the way I eat. I had no trouble becoming a vegetarian, and I’m hoping this next step will come naturally, too, scooping out those stubborn pounds.

Also I’m making a point of getting more exercise, including my beloved yoga. But I need cardio, need to get the blood pumping, and that means walking. I walked outside today, it’s sunny and warm, hooray! but yesterday I was so into other things I took a short break to run up and down my stairs until I was panting.

Exercise helps brain chemistry, as does daily meditation despite the monkeys, also focusing on positive feelings and letting the sad things go. Eating the right foods help clean up brain chemistry as well.  It’s a two-for-one. That mind/body connection.

I’ve needed to make some changes in my diet, permanent changes, for a very long time. My strong, sweet body took me a long way without complaint even as I filled it with toxins. But now it complains. Regularly. So I have to do this. I want to do this. And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I CAN do this, with a bit of mindful attention.

And now I must sweep the front porch before Linda arrives.