Attempting to reinvent myself at Sixty-Five. What am I doing?

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I am reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  She is a master with language and peppers her writing with terms both wise and witty.  Sometimes she grumbles and whines. I like that.  Today is a grumbling, whiny day for me.

She tells me I am to simply bang out my first draft, have fun, be crazy, play.  It will be shitty, she assures me of this.  But in the shit, I might find a sentence, one little line or maybe only one tiny word that will dredge up….Oh for phuck sake.  Today I can’t get there from here.

I meditated.  I’m kinda’ centered.  Blah Blah Blah.  Yet I find myself with nothing to say and who the hell am I saying it to anyhow?

(Alice, dear, you know you are supposed to be thinking only positive thoughts in order to attract positive energy into your world.  Pretend all the stuff you want already exists and it will magically manifest as your “new reality.”   Yes, Random-Whispering-Voice in my head, I know, but some days it’s easier than others, so just shut up about all the manifestation crapola for twenty minutes.)

What the heck am I doing this for?  At sixty-five I’ve decided to reinvent myself as an author?  On good days I think, “Hey lady!  You got this.  You invented yourself into a product designer at fifty.”  But on days like today taking my past-middle-aged self and turning into a writer seems a preposterous dream.  As if I could become a bagel just by breathing, believing and thinking, “I am a bagel. I became a bagel the day the local bakery spotted all my warm potential bagel deliciousness.”

Okay, Alice…think about Grandma Moses.  I just did a Google search.  Old Granny Moses didn’t get serious about painting until her seventies.  She lived to be 101.

I will channel Grandma Moses, replacing her brushes with a keyboard. I’ll keep slamming on the keys, making shitty first drafts. I made a boatload of shitty paintings when I first began working with watercolors.  I actually sold some of those dreadful pictures and gave several away.  One particularly embarrassing piece comes to mind.  A raccoon wandering a snowy field under a full white moon.  He casts long blue shadows as he roams in front of a weathered barn.  Herbie and Barb were my victims. I’ve pleaded with them to toss that painting out, but they’ve refused.  Your crap paintings live on to haunt you.  The good news is after a while, my watercolors improved.

As a fledgling product designer, I had no idea what I was doing.  I just doggedly kept at it, drawing lines on paper.  Boss Mary Beth said she gave me a box to grow into.  My first box was the size of a Sunkist raisin single serve container. When I outgrew that box she gave me a full-size Honey Nut Cheerios box.

Ultimately I outgrew all of her boxes and went on alone to design for a Chinese factory, walking the design wire without a net.  The earliest product I created, a classic fountain made of resin, got a roll-out at Costco.  It was carried in every Costco Warehouse from the here in the USA to Canada, United Kingdom, and Mexico.

Now, I will occupy writing boxes.  My current container is as small as a ring box.  I’ll keep pounding keys until this one becomes too snug.  Then I’ll crawl into a larger carton, dragging my laptop along with me.

For today, I’ll quit beating my head against the keyboard. I’m doing a drawing of peridot eyed, gray and white Smokey the cat.  He had to be put to sleep last week.  Perhaps the drawing will be a nice keepsake for Smokey’s owner.

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I painted Mike the pitbull for Mo.  I think I did it a bit too soon following Mike’s passing.  She opened the gift box and immediately burst into heartbroken tears.

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I won’t write today.  And that’s good because I will get to spend the day coloring and reading my book club book, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.  It’s a spellbinding story set against the icy backdrop of a 1920s Alaska winter.  A despairing childless couple, in an unusual moment of levity, builds a child out of snow.  In the morning the snow girl is gone, but they glimpse a young child running through the woods.  It reads like a frigid fairy tale.

 

 

Passion for Words

My positive thinking reading reveals that what we are most passionate about, is our true purpose.  When we are truly absorbed, unable to “put-it-down”, we are experiencing the life our higher power intended.

I’ve been absorbed by writing since childhood.  However, I wavered and therefore became an artist.  The reason I abandoned my dream can be found on this former blog post At sixty-five I’ve embraced the power of positive thinking.

Instead of writing, I created two-dimensional art.  I peddled my art for money.

My first art-for-money-peddling experience was when my son Matt was an infant.  I wished to buy my then husband a gift.  I wanted that gift not to be bought with “his” money.  My goal was to earn enough, on my own, to purchase something he might relish.

I drew black and white pencil and ink sketches of wildlife.  With my baby on my back, I headed out to hawk my drawings.  I found several places willing to buy my work.  Then I found one gallery owner willing to barter. I traded several drawings for a large print of two duck decoys.  My then husband loved duck paintings.

Later I was able to gift him a set of golf clubs by bartering with a Wilson representative. I traded a large watercolor painting of Lafayette’s Headquarters in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania for those irons, wedges, and woods.

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I painted on pretty much every possible surface simply to make money. I painted on glassware for my store Whimsical Rose.  I painted on walls, I painted a portrait (Ed O’Bradovich, Dan Hampton and a roll of Duct Tape).  But painting was never my passion.  Painting never sucked me in, inducing me to lose whole days enthralled by brushing color on canvas.

Long ago God lit a fire under me to write.  I’m unsure exactly what he wants me to say.  But I’ll just keep writing.  Posting my posts.  Dreaming my dreams and manifesting a life as a writer.

I just ordered Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  I read it years ago.  It was extremely inspiring.  Back then, however, I was a painter.  Not now.  Now I’m a writer.  And this writer intends to reread and be inspired once again.

Breathe and Believe

Every positive thinking tome I read assures me the New Reality I want, already exists.  My New Reality is to be a published author, making enough money to donate to a cause that has recently become dear to my heart.  I am to state my New Reality as if it is here, now, in the present tense.

I just finished meditating.  My recent mantra is, “Breathe and Believe.”  Upon opening my eyes I realized how many things in my life existed long before I realized they did.  The house I now live in, built in 1980’s, has been sitting here on its little patch of coarse Floridian grass since my children were in kindergarten.  My sweet husband existed, walking around on the planet, hurtling toward my life long before I was aware of him.

My New Reality, published author earning lots of cold hard cash, is out there–floating in my future, real, concrete, as solid as the walls of this house.  I simply have to breathe it, believe it, and take the steps necessary to attract it.

My current read, Laura Dey’s The Circle, includes a workbook.  Today’s exercise was to become aware of patterns in my life that do not serve me in my New Reality.  Each day I am to pick one pattern and replace it with a thought or action I consciously choose that supports my New Reality,  Everything I do is conscious and empowering.

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A habit I need to change:  I waste too much time looking at internet grack.  Checking if Kate Middleton is pregnant doesn’t support my New Reality.  Further, I don’t need to see Stephen Colbert’s monologue every morning or make myself nuts looking at the daily political bombshells.

In writing, I pledged not to play around on the internet until after 5 p.m.  I am, of course, allowed to write blog posts.  Those support my New Reality. As I wrote these things in my Circle workbook, I found myself on the edge of a panic attack.  I was mentally taken back to the day I finally quit smoking.

I was twenty-two years old.  I had been smoking since I was sixteen.  I smoked like I was being paid to do it.  Chain smoking, over three packs a day.  If I ran out of cigarettes I plundered the full ashtrays, finding butts that could be coaxed back to life for a moment or two.

I smoked while I put on my make-up.  I smoked while driving.  I smoked during meals.  I simply could not imagine how to function in the world without a burning stick of tobacco between my lips.

That’s the feeling I have at the prospect of limiting my internet addiction.  But this dependency doesn’t support my New Reality.   I vow to replace the internet habit with a new ritual.  Each time I’m tempted to click on Facebook, I will imagine a fresh idea for my blog.  Or say a gratitude prayer.  Or focus on the editor who is actually alive somewhere in this real world today. She is a living breathing reality.  Sitting at a desk, doing whatever editors do all day.  She is my friend.  (yes, I’m to state these things as if they are here and now.)

(Eeeek!  I just considered checking out youtube.  No Alice.  That is no longer your ritual. You can do this, Alice.  Just breathe and believe.)

The Circle

 

Circling the Sun

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I’ve just completed my Book Club read,  Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun.  The novel is based on Beryl Markham’s early years in Kenya.  Born in 1902, Beryl has become a feminist icon. Her mother abandoned the family when Beryl was quite small, her father was loving but distant.  Beryl grew up largely on her own.  She played and hunted with the natives, became a racehorse trainer and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

Paula McLain is a gifted scribe.  Through her words, the reader endures the simmering African sun, experiences the fear of a cold dark night spent in the bush, feels the horror of being attacked by a lion.

I peruse with a yellow highlighter in hand, underlining the many imaginative phrases and rich metaphors.  Before beginning this blog I galloped through novels, eager to race to the finish line, sometimes even reading the last page first.  Now I find myself considering how an author crafts her sentences.  Which delicious adjectives are strung together to paint the crystal clear images in my mind?

McLain also wrote The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife. I’ve read The Paris Wife.  I now plan to re-visit it, putting my yellow marker to work.  What better way to study the art of writing than to read excellent books?

Learning about Beryl Markham has sparked an interest to delve more deeply into her life.  She wrote memoir West with the Night, about which Hemingway stated, in a letter to his publisher,                                                                                                                               “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? …She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers … it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

I just ordered it on Amazon.  I will savor it slowly, highlighting the passages Markham uses to breathe life into her story.  Maybe, sentence by sentence, passage by passage, I too will outgrow pounding together “okay pig pens”.  ( I should be so lucky as to create a Heminwayesqe hog stall!)

At sixty-five I’ve embraced the power of positive thinking.

I am reading psychologist Kelly Flanagan’s book,  Loveable.  My son Matt, knowing I have embraced the power of positive thinking concept, introduced me to  Loveable.  I immediately ordered it on Amazon.com.  Thirty seconds later I had manifested Loveable into my mailbox.  (How does Amazon do that?  Do they have little magicians waving wands, making mailbox magic happen?)

This book is wonderful.  As stated on the back cover, “Loveable is written to the little one in each of us who is all too ready to be reminded: You are enough, you are not alone, and you matter.”

I’m not done the book yet.  It’s a read  I want to savor.  Sip slowly.  The insights are profound.  The pages I just completed speak to finding our passion.  Our passion can usually be unearthed in the memories of what lit us up when we were kids.  What lit me up was writing.

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I also recently read Deepak Chopra.

My earliest writing memory took place at Grove Point Girl Scout Camp.   (Girl Scout camp was a horrible experience and included my first enema.  That’s a story for another day.)  While at camp I met a Hispanic girl.  I’d never known any Hispanic kids.  She was dark, slim, had an accent, wore a flower in her hair and an air of mystery.  I remember sitting on a bench near the camp lake and writing a story about her.  I loved that story, and like most authors believed my written words were diamonds.  No, not diamonds in the rough.  Faceted, sparkling, brilliant gems.

Fast forward to college.  In the summer of 1969 I was a University of Delaware “summer qualifier.”  Basically that meant I’d had such terrible grades in high school I had to prove myself bright enough to become a U of D student.

The University wasn’t unfair for making be a qualifier.  I’d been a lousy high school student.  Over the years I’ve reasoned that must have been since my sister is rocket scientist bright.  She even skipped her senior year and vaulted right into U of D’s nursing program, where she consistently got 4.0 grades.   I told myself I felt I couldn’t compete so why try?

That’s a lie.  The reason I got bad grades was because I didn’t like to study.  I would use any excuse to get out of doing my homework.  I clearly recollect one evening walking into the kitchen where mom and dad were drinking sherry out of small Welches jelly jar  glasses.   Deep in conversation about Daddy’s miserable day, they barely registered me on their radar when I said, “I have to go to the store before I can do homework. I need a pencil.”

We had a desk filled with pencils.  Yellow Eberhard-Faber wooden pencils with pink erasers.  Mechanical pencils using slim. easily broken lead (Daddy was civil engineer).  Colored pencils.  We had pencils of every possible type.  I clearly did not need to go buy another pencil.   But mom and dad were so engrossed in hashing through his daily grind they simply waved me on.

I just did not study.  Studying wasn’t fun and if something wasn’t fun I wasn’t planning to participate.  I’m still a lot like that.

As a summer qualifier I was required to take two classes.  A history class of some sort that involved dreadful studying and tests using blue books.  I loathed it.

The other class was English.  The professor had us do a lot of creative writing.  For the first time in my school life I began to make all A’s.  I remember one story I wrote in which I created characters a lot like Rob and Laura Petrie of the Dick Van Dyke show.  That particular tale earned me not only an A, but conversation with the professor. He asked me why I was in the class.  He couldn’t figure out why an intelligent kid had accidentally been placed with all the dim bulbs.

I told him, “I’m here because I’m a summer qualifier.”

After that my English grades went to  hell-in-a-handbasket.   Back in 1969 I didn’t put two and two together, but I now see the professor must have begun to doubt.  He doubted his ability to realize I was a dunce.

Consequently I began to doubt.  I gave up my dreams of writing.  I clearly wasn’t smart enough.  I told my little one the thing she was passionate about was impossible.  I moved on to my second best passion:  Art.

My little one and I have happily hooked up again.  We are sharing our passion: Writing.   Little One still sees every word as a diamond.  I know better, but I’m putting them out there anyhow.

Yay for us!   I hope you and your passionate little one get together.  It’s fun.  Best of all, there’s no studying.

Loveable Kelly Flanagan    Click here to learn more

Day Two of Manifesting my new reality

My “Big Dream” has been to be a writer. Published, read by many, loved by most, making lots of big fat dollars and having fun doing it. My sister and brother-in-law have nipped at my heels to do this for years.

But those damn doubts always crept into my brain, “Why me, God?” Now I’m saying, “Why NOT me!” During my meditations I have asked BF (Benevolent Force aka Higher power aka God) to use me, put me where I’m supposed to be. I’ve started this blog! That’s writing, isn’t it? I’m writing for the Universe who will eventually stumble across this. Lots of them are sixty-five too.

I figured my blog would be all the writing I would be doing for the foreseeable future. Then, last night, my thirty-three year old daughter, Maureen (aka Mo), called me. She and I gabbed about this ‘n that. She told me she and her husband, Stephen, had watched the movie 20th Century Woman. Something about a single mother rearing a child through the 50’s and 60’s. Following the movie Mo and Stephen had a discussion about how they don’t know their parents. They know their mother. They know their father. However they don’t know them as humanoids outside of their roles as mom and dad.

She then asked me to—Drum Roll Please—WRITE! Yup, I asked the BF to use me. I asked BF to put me where I’m meant to be. And BF responded by giving me this blog, followed by giving me a request to write even more.

Possibly that little whisper inside my head, the one quietly repeating, “please please please write….”,
KNEW what my path was to be. I simply had to get outta’ my own way. Now I have.

Later today I’ll write my first few pages for Maureen.

But first to manifest a shower 🙂

All of you out there, have a great day! Dream big and believe. The Universe will give you all you want if you have faith.