I have been reading a lot lately about the concept of immersion in relation to creative non-fiction writing. You find a subject of interest and then immerse yourself in that culture/trade/way of life, whatever it may be. In memoir style writing, YOU ARE the subject. You are essentially immersing yourself in your own life. Not in a “head in the sand” type of way (unaware of what’s going on in the world surrounding you, or uninterested, caring only for yourself). Rather, in this refreshing, self-enlightened kind of way, albeit incredibly vulnerable at times. You learn what made you, what moves you…tapping into memories, emotions, hesitations, and ambitions that shape you in one way or another.
When you lose someone close to you suddenly, you begin to think about all of the lingering questions you wish you would have asked them and the stories that were yet to be told. That was, in part, the reason for me to begin writing…the realization that there were many adventures and tales unique to my Father that died with him. Narratives I will never be privy to. I decided I didn’t want the same to be true of myself. And then, as if to cement that way of thinking, I came across the following piece of advice: “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman.
One definition of immersion is “deep mental involvement”. In a world that’s become obsessed with being “involved” in the lives of others (even those they’ve never met), the idea of developing a deep mental involvement in my own life, an awakened consciousness, is a concept I’ve welcomed with open arms. Something I truly hope sticks with me through the remainder of my life, whether that life includes a future in writing or not. It’s something I want my children to observe and to learn because what this world lacks greatly, is compassion. And I believe compassion cannot be shown without understanding, and understanding can’t be achieved without consciousness and recognition. We understand others when we can relate in some way, either with feelings or experiences, aspects of ourselves that we must learn to be in tune with if we wish to tap into them for the better good.
To write about something, actually, to write WELL about something, one must have a level of interest that mirrors passion. I have, through this process, become increasingly passionate about my life…how, where, and with whom I spend it, and most importantly, how I view it. As my immersion deepens, I have found the following state of being to be less and less elusive:
And that is what I wish for anyone that is reading this. Now, and for the coming New Year.
The tranquility of nature….
North Lake Tahoe, October 2015
I’m laying on the grass in my front yard. My body long and placid on the oversized beach towel, soaking up the unusual warmth from this mid November afternoon sun. I started out sitting on the front porch as I often do to drink coffee and read. But as I stared out onto the sunkissed grass, it looked too inviting. At first I felt a bit childish, but not enough to stop myself. Looking up into the same trees I’d seen since I was that 11 year old girl….carefree, unjaded. As I lay there, I close my eyes. Not pretending to be laying by the ocean, exchanging the cool, overgrown grass for some warm sand. In fact, I feel pretty content with where I am, loving that it’s Sunday and I’m home, I’m rested and indulging in this time of quiet. It’s therapy to me.
I open my eyes and fix my gaze on this particular bird, flying higher and higher…observing his technique and at what points in his flight he tucks his long black wings by his side instead of outstretched. Soon enough that single bird becomes two, and then three. Then off they go, disappearing from my sight and me wondering where they are going.
I’m so soothed I contemplate falling asleep out here. Playing out a scenario in my head, one where I fall asleep and wake up to be that 11 year old girl again…laying outside of the new home her parents purchased. A clean slate, a mind full of wonder and pureness. I quickly compile in my mind a list of the most obvious things I would do differently from that point in my life until now. We all have wished we could turn back time on more than a few occasions.
These words came across my feed the other day…their truthfulness both enlightening and chilling. The quote is from Tom Hawking: “It is one of life’s greatest ironies that wisdom comes only with experience, and it reaches it’s apogee just as we are deprived of the chance to use it.” This “irony” is one that never escapes me. Wishing I had known years ago what I know now and that the experience from which that knowledge was derived hadn’t contained so much heartache. Realizing now the things that weren’t worth worrying over and the ones I should have worried more about. The people I wish I’d devoted more of myself to and those I should have never invited into my life to begin with. And especially, all of the time wasted on valueless pursuits.
But living in the past (as most of us are well aware), only robs us of the present. And if there’s one beautiful thing about life, it’s that every day is an opportunity for a fresh start. I may not be able to go back and press the reset button, but I can focus on making better decisions going forward so that twenty years from now, I’m proud of thirty year old me and all of the me in between.
My quote or “thought” for today comes from Allan Lokos, author of one of the most insightful books I’ve ever read: “Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living”.
(From the book Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living)
Being honest with ourselves and about ourselves is crucial in our quest to become the best version of “us” that we can be. It may not be easy to address our own faults, but the end result of self awareness, self restraint, and the practice of healthier habits (whether it’s our reaction to trying situations, our dealings with others, or even our dealings with ourselves), is a beautiful one. I truly believe in never becoming complacent with who we are. Rather, always striving to become a more well rounded, compassionate, contributing member of society.
I hope everyone is having a positive week!
I gave in this morning to a moment (or two) of self pity. Yes, I threw myself a little pity party and I was the only sad soul to attend. My reasons having been pretty inconsequential. Comprised of both situations that I had no control over entirely, as well as those I could ultimately control, just not in that very moment. I let it eat at me for a bit. But then, I did something that I’ve become progressively better at (proud moment…drum roll please); I stopped. I turned the anxious negativity off like a faucet and decided that wasn’t the way I was going to spend the rest of this perfectly good day.
Sometimes in order to redirect our thinking, we need a little perspective. As I sat behind the wheel of my car during my trip home from the morning school rounds, a story came to mind. A story I came across last year about a man whose life, whose struggles and subsequent accomplishments left a lasting impression on me. This man’s name is Michael Naranjo.
Michael is a famous Native American sculptor. The unique (and awe-inspiring) thing about this artist, beyond his abundance of talent, is that he is completely blind and has limited use of his right hand. He is known by some as “the artist who sees with his hands”.
In his early twenties, Michael received notice that his service was needed in the U.S. Army. Mind you, Michael had been raised on a Native American reservation in New Mexico. That assignment essentially meant he would be fighting to protect a country that had “historically treated his people poorly, without honor”. Talk about mixed feelings! However, just six weeks into his time served in Vietnam, this young soldier was hit by a grenade.
During one interview, when recalling his initial hospital stay after sustaining his injuries, he said “he kept reminding himself that he was alive and he was able to think. He felt that as long as his mind was clear he would be okay.” That measure of optimism is something I just can’t fathom. To be able to turn what most would consider an incredibly grim situation into a positive. That mentality still holds true with the artist today. In a more recent interview with the Albuquerque Journal, Michael says of his career: “Sculpture is what I wanted to do. Somehow it lends itself to touch. So it worked out, even with one hand and no eyes. I’m fortunate that I’m doing what I always wanted to do.”
This story will always serve as inspiration to me and a reminder that our circumstances only affect us as much as we let them. The one valuable thing that we have total control over is our mindset. I hope that you can take the time to view some of this man’s works of art and that you may find some inspiration of your own today. Is there someone in particular whose story has touched you?
(Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from the book Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living by Allan Lokos)
I’m not sure if Thoughtful Thursday is really a thing, but oh well, I’m going with it. Here is my thought (quote) for the day. I have always felt like this is one of the truest quotes I’ve ever read, not to mention one I can relate the most to….
Despite the fact that lack of time can be quite a frustrating feeling, I suppose the beauty in it is that every day is a blessing and a day worth living, even if it’s not all we wanted it to be.
Happy Thursday friends. Make it a good one!
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” – Anonymous
I’m not sure those words could reflect more accurately how I’ve been feeling as I approach my 30th birthday. Time has evaded me. Almost three decades on this intricate planet of ours and I still have an overwhelming amount of self-awareness to achieve. I would file the past three years in particular under “lessons learned” and “harsh realities”. Life changing for both the good and the bad. In that time, I have managed to experience some of the most exhilarating moments of my life; hit rock bottom (or what I certainly hope is my rock bottom), both emotionally and financially; seen some of the ugliest sides of life, as well as people (myself included); rebuilt some relationships and abandoned others completely; and struggled with a mountain of guilt, regret, and loss (not all in that order).
There have been times I didn’t think I could possibly feel more alone…imprisoned in my own whirling thoughts. Times I didn’t think I could feel more alive and enlightened. And times I truly didn’t know how or what to feel, so I sort of just stopped feeling. But that, I’ve come to understand and embrace, is life. The only thing predictable about it is it’s unwavering ability to be unpredictable.
This period of transition I find myself on the brink of is pivotal to my evolution. No, the earth won’t stop turning the day I turn 30; nor will life suddenly change in some sort of drastic or abrupt way. However, the opportunity presents itself to exhale the negative from the past decade of my life (a decade full of self doubt and self scrutiny, more rash decisions than I’d like to recall, and more hard losses than I was able to cope with) and to instead breathe in a new decade. One of potential, one where I focus on self love, personal growth, and strengthening my ability to be more patient and understanding of others, and most importantly, MYSELF.
It’s Saturday morning in early September. A pretty perfect Saturday morning I might add. As I sit alone on the front porch, hair unbrushed, not a stitch of makeup on my face; I embrace the pureness of being me. Taking in my surroundings, I watch as the neighbors scurry about, busy with their weekend chores. I wince at the sun as it pokes through the overgrown trees in my yard and I feel the breeze against my bare arms. The foam from my second latte tingles against my top lip. I’d say I’m somewhat addicted to these things… one cup always leads to a second. The flavor is subtle, yet satisfying and the warmth brings a sort of indescribable comfort. I’m reminded of the first time I drank one of these particular lattes. Christmas day two years ago. Sitting on my mothers couch in a big warm polkadot robe. That was such a good day. Just the two of us, nowhere to be….pj’s, lattes, and movies.
Realistically, there are 100 different things I could or should be doing this morning… mopping floors, making beds, scrubbing toilets, sifting through that nagging pile of mail. But in this moment, I’ve chosen my mental well being over the to do list. In fact, the older I get the more I realize the value in allowing myself to be alone and uninterrupted in my thoughts. A concept that at one time seemed downright scary to me.
Truth is, I was anxious to crack open the book that arrived in a box on my doorstep yesterday. It’s a book that was recommended to me by a fellow blogger, one whose writing has become beyond inspirational to me. The book focuses on our ability to cope with life when things don’t go the way we planned and was written by an American Buddhist woman. Buddhist teachings are something that have increasingly gained my intrigue over the past few years. Sure enough, I finish the very first chapter (all of four and a half pages) and I realize it is exactly what I needed. Funny thing is, this happens to me more and more often lately. I read or hear something at the exact moment in time when I need to be inspired or put things into perspective. Maybe it’s because I’ve become more observant; maybe it’s because I’m searching harder with ears and eyes open wider than ever in my life. Either way, it’s a constant reminder to me of the value and power of words and the realization that we have so much to gain from others’ knowledge.
What I’m reading is about fear. How it’s inevitable in life and even the universe’s tiniest creatures experience it. How fear means that we are moving closer to the truth and when we run away from it we are doing ourselves a disservice by missing out on the present moment. She talks about our natural inclination to run from it, to escape. Her words resonate with me because I’ve been there so many times in the past few years, running without even realizing it. Coincidently, I was sitting at a party recently and as I looked around I noticed everyone was drinking and smoking heavily and my first thought was “what are they trying to escape from?” And in that moment it became clear to me yet again that not only did I not need an escape, I didn’t want one. Whether it’s fear, sadness, loss, joyfulness, peace, or any of the transient emotions we experience on a regular basis, they are all beautiful in their own right and worthy of being felt completely because they are an indication that we are not only alive, but that we are living.
Recently I learned a new term: Monachopsis. It means “The subtle but persistent feeling of being out of place.” That pretty accurately describes what I’ve felt in the past year. I believe it’s because of the aforementioned epiphany, the revelation that so many people around us are fearful of life and feeling and look for any means possible to escape. And that’s not a life that’s meant for me. I’m here to feel, and to feel deeply. To bask in the present moment whether it’s good or bad or just can’t be measured one way or another. Because the truth (albeit scary) is that I will never get that moment back and that moment, in the long run, will somehow shape me into the person I was meant to be all along.
So as I sit here, enjoying the simplicity and yet the profoundness of this moment of clarity in my mind, I feel at peace. Confident in the notion that whatever the rest of this year brings my way, I can face it head on and I will continue to evolve. Continue to grow and inspire and be inspired. Continue to feel, whatever that feeling may be, and to embrace it rather than escape from it. And maybe, just maybe, turn it into something beautiful.
Her very essence is one of chaos
Her mind, her heart, even her hair…all untamable
She’s a tumbleweed; bound together by her brokenness
She’s fearful of planting roots; for to her that means giving up what could be
Always carrying in her back pocket, a flight plan
Living life with the freedom that accompanies the giving up of expectations and the holding of ones’ breath
Realizing nothing is stable, nothing is constant ~ This is a blessing and a curse
Knowing now that an ending is merely the beginning of new possibility
She makes as little promises as the ones she holds onto
She figures life out long enough to remember she doesn’t want to ~ There’s beauty behind the madness
“The best thing you could do is master the chaos in you. You are not thrown into the fire, YOU ARE THE FIRE.” ~ Mama Indigo