Sunday, October 26, 2008

Leaning Into Change

Some changes by their nature are sudden and drastic, but where possible, I think leaning into change makes sense. I went back to work last week. There was no leaning into that change. I knew it was coming, I courted it in fact, but it was still a shock to the system. Going from working for myself, making my own schedule, working as much as I wanted on my writing, to working for someone else, on their agenda, away from my house and my writing, well, it was a lot of change to try to absorb in a week.

So in retrospect it probably was not a great week to try to attempt any other drastic changes, like trying to turn my standard American diet into a 75% raw foods diet in hope of curing a recurring health problem. I tried to take small steps, but before I knew it I had spent all afternoon yesterday reading, researching, list-making, and visiting health food stores. By early evening I felt completely overwhelmed, even before someone rear-ended my car.

At least I had the sense to recognize I needed a break. I came home and did some yoga, and then spent today resting and regrouping. And thankfully, while I was out walking today it occurred to me that this was a change I could lean into. Maybe I can’t get to 75% raw foods this week, but I can pretty easily increase the amount of fresh fruits and veggies I eat. Throw in some more nuts and seeds. Work slowly toward the goal.

Which brings me to my writing goals. My fear with going to work for someone else is that I will lose focus or momentum with the book. To combat that, I set a goal of working for two hours on the book in the morning before I left for my job, and I did that this week. But though I am proud of my dedication and discipline, I am suspicious that here too I am pushing too hard. I picked up one of Julia Cameron's books (yet another fairy godmother) this morning and read her thoughts about setting reasonable goals for our work. She says to figure out what amount of work I can accomplish daily without drama.

This was a needed and gentle reminder that as I make room for this new job in my life, I may need a period of time for adjusting to my new schedule, my new set of responsibilities and expectations. So maybe this week instead of working for two hours in the morning on my writing, I’ll try one hour, and see how that feels.

We want change, we need change, but maybe there is only so much change we can handle at any one time. Hopefully, as I get accustomed to my new job, I will find time and energy to make sure the book continues to move forward, steadily, at a pace I can sustain.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fairy Godparents

Yesterday, I was feeling a little overwhelmed, a little down, a little tarnished as I waited in line at the Corner Bakery for my coffee fix, briefcase in hand, preparing for another day of working on the book. As I walked to the counter to place my order, I turned around and saw two ladies that I know—Suzy and Sylvia. And I mean ladies. These women are beautiful, older than me, but not old, oh no. They are thin, stylish, coiffed, handsome. And though I’m sure they’re not always together, in my mind, they’re a pair. They ushered me over to a table to have some coffee and conversation with them and after just 30 minutes, I was a new person. Shiny and enthusiastic, optimistic, excited about my book, my life, and the future, anxious to get to the computer to work, which I did, happily and productively for the next several hours.

Later, when I was telling Carl about my day, I said they were like fairy godmothers, appearing out of the blue, and giving me just what I needed—some warmth, some encouragement, some wisdom, some laughter.

Which got me to thinking about the many fairy godparents I’ve had over the years. There’s Louie, who not only helped me find my first job as a lawyer, but gave me countless sincere and effective pep talks, boosting my spirits to counter the horrors of a long and disheartening job search.

There was Carol, my faithful friend, secretary, and confidant. Who listened, and empathized, but also pushed me to address issues that needed addressing, from my lack of organization to my health problems. It was Carol who started the ball rolling that helped me to regain my health which then allowed me to look at my life, see what was missing, and start following my dream of writing.

And of course, my archetypal fairy godmother, Margarita, my host-mom in Mexico. I could fill a book with what Margarita meant and means to me, and indeed, a character based on her appears in my novel, but for now, suffice it to say that she gave me unconditional love and support from the get-go. She gave me a home when I was in a foreign land. She gave me a family when I was a world away from mine, feeling like a lost orphan. She made me soups and teas when I was seriously ill, willing me back to health. She tried to teach me to cook, as hopeless a prospect as that seemed at the time. And maybe best of all, she showed me that my fumbling Spanish didn’t matter, that I could connect with people, in a real and powerful way without elegant language.

I believe that each of these people were brought into my life just when I needed them, and I am grateful for my ever generous Higher Power for seeing what I needed and providing it. Remembering the gifts of these relationships bolsters my faith that I will continue to receive what I need, that with each challenge comes the support needed to survive it, and even to flourish.

Who are your fairy godparents?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

Is attitude (pronounced add-ee-tood here in Philly) everything? For a summer girl such as myself, fall has always been difficult. I hate saying goodbye to the beach, the warmth, flip-flops, days that last until 8 pm, barbeques, fresh berries and tomatoes. But this year, rather than focusing on the loss of summer, I'm trying to see the gifts of autumn. Like my rust colored 3/4 sleeve jacket and my brown suede boots. Or the shock of a crimson-topped tree, or a flash of tangerine in the distance, just enough to bring me out of my head and back into the moment.

In search of autumn treasures I went yesterday to Longwood Gardens, one of my favorite places in the world. Boy do they know how to celebrate fall. Artfully arranged squashes of all shapes and sizes--butternuts with necks like swans, squat green and white speckled acorns, pumpkins almost big enough for Cinderella's carriage. A wall of mums of the truest yellow. Marigolds of toasted sunshine. Ornamental spiky peppers of red, yellow, orange and green. Nature's gifts were so dramatic and gorgeous and abundant it was almost too much.

This particular fall has brought with it the need for me to make some money. This was hard to accept at first. I had hoped I would finish the novel and sell it and never have to work for anyone else ever again, but that is not how it has worked out. Here too I am looking for gifts. I am grateful that the book is progressing so well and so steadily, and that I often have faith that it will be finished whenever it's meant to be finished. These are two incredible gifts.

As for the job itself, I welcome the opportunity to make some money, to have more structure, more socialization, a change of scenery, and the chance to use parts of myself that have gone unused at home writing. I think the right job will provide some balance that I need in my life, and actually help me finish the book, and not hinder it.

One more small example of searching for gifts: the gift of waiting in line. Rather than feeling angry and frustrated and impatient (as I usually do) I've been trying to feel gratitude for a few moments to just be--a few moments when I don't have to do or say anything.

Looking for the gifts changes my attitude, which in turn allows me not only to accept my life, but to enjoy it much more, and to move through it as a happier and calmer person, which may be the greatest gift of all.