My Butt is Sitting, But Will I Write?

To be a writer, write.  Butt in chair.  Shitty first drafts. (Thank you Anne Lamott.)  I’ve heard or read all the advice and yet, though I spend much of my day with my butt in my chair, what writing I do ends up as a tweet or an email, not paragraphs and pages toward my dreamed-of creative pursuit.

“How’s your writing coming?” is the oft-asked question by well-meaning acquaintances who I now deeply regret telling of my hope to tell a story of a kick-ass woman from medieval times.  And, though I love research, I can’t even blame my lack of progress on too much of that.  No, I let time escape by other means, despite purchasing a variety of planners all promising to help me manage that elusive construct humans have created to give a pretense of structure to our lives.

Yesterday it was the holiday cards I had to get ordered if they were to arrive before the holiday was over.  And it’s true, I did need to get them ordered if I was to send my usual multi-photo, narrated card.  And the website I used last year used up way too much time by creating seemingly limitless obstacles to what should be a simple task of uploading the photos I’d already placed in a Christmas card album on iPhoto.  It should have been easy, but the website kept reloading and my slowly loaded photos somehow kept disappearing and I was determined not to give up because it was the only site that I could find that allowed Christmas card booklets — yes, booklets — to give me room for all 50 of my must-have 2017 photos with plenty of space for sharing the story of our year.

Alas, and kudos to me for finally admitting defeat (admittedly difficult for me) and going to another, Wirecutter-recommended site for a 12-photo card that, praise the Lord, uploaded my edited list of photos quickly and without technical difficulties.  (SimplytoImpress online holiday card site).  And even though it also was intuitive in loading my Word address list from last year, I needlessly complicated matters by an inefficient method of attempting to confirm addresses that wasted at least another hour.  Finally, my cards were complete and off to the printer, but my day was also near its end, without one word of writing on my much-discussed novel being written yet again.  I had Christmas cards, and two trips to the grocery story completed and my dog walked multiple times and a delicious home-made roasted tomato soup made, and I could give up-to-the-minute updates on the spread of the Lilac fire in North County even though for the first time since I’ve lived in San Diego the fire posed no threat to my house or home, but another day ended without writing more than the paragraph on the back of my Christmas card.

And yet I could justify my day.  After all, it’s nice to keep in touch with folks via holiday cards and I have four children whose photos need to appear equally in the end product and way too many photos — most dimly lit or unflattering or in need of cropping or other adjustments — to comb through to find just the right ones to tell the story of 2017 at our home, and I needed to ensure the addresses were correct, didn’t I?  And homemade soup is good for me, as are long walks with my dog.  But none of that is getting any of my writing done, and therein lies the problem.  Whether of not the way I spent my time can be justified, it is without question that I did not prioritize my writing so that it, too, got done.

So today I will at least write on this long-ignored blog a post that helps me try to make sense of how it is that I am not pursuing what I believe is my passion.  Why I am choosing to waste precious time despite knowing how valuable it is and how quickly it passes.  How it is that I can keep buying planners and even sometimes writing my goals and “to do” lists in them and yet not doing what I’ve listed to do, ignoring the goals I set for myself, disappointing myself over and over and over again.  Maybe putting it out there will help me come to grips with whatever it is that ails me, that keeps me from fulfilling my commitments.

I want to live audaciously, bravely, big.  Yet I’m constrained by the rules that no longer serve me, by the good girl perfectionist I taught myself to be so long ago that it’s all my cells remember, it’s all my brain can recall.  It’s a prison I created to give myself worth and it’s damn hard to knock down.  Especially when it’s hard to argue with being good being a good thing.  Being nice seems, well, nice.  And there is nothing wrong with being good or nice but I sense that I need to be more than that to reach into my creative soul that I’ve constrained for so long and free it to be more than the small person afraid to take up space I’ve occupied for so long that it’s become me and I don’t know how to be the person I long to be.  Another day has been given to me, and it’s not yet over, so let’s see how this one ends.  One thing for sure, I’ve done SOME writing, and that’s a start at least!

 


Lightness of Being, Simplified

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It’s so easy to over-complicate, well, everything.  See something you like, and buy it.  Hate to say “no” to good causes or good friends or, well, just about anyone or anything?  Easier to say “yes” and figure out later how to deal with it.  Want those around you to be happy?  Go along with what they would like rather than disappoint them.  Step by step, day by day, each purchase, each “yes,” each twisting yourself every which way so that you can please those around you creates a maze of complications, of stuff, of weight on your shoulders that presses you down, that depresses you.  Resentment builds and you snap over the simplest of things, when all you were trying was to do was to be good, to do good.  And what you end up with is complications, stresses, stuff cluttering your days and your life.

It feels so good to clean out your closets, to leave some white space on your calendar, to simplify.  It leaves space to take a breath, to take a nap, to soak up the beauty of this moment before you, without worrying about what’s behind or ahead.  I constantly strive toward a goal of creating more light, both in the sense of brightness and in the sense of weightlessness.  One path of achieving that goal is to remember that it’s the simple things in life that are often the tastiest, the most nourishing, the most satisfying.

My intention for the day – to Simplify.  Check in tomorrow to see how I do!

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Pensive

Contemplating Life

Peace in the Pacific

Where am I going in my life?  After 25 years of thinking about it, I finally took the leap of leaving the comfort and more-than-comfortable salary of Big Law and started my own, little-ole-me firm — the goal being to free up my life while still maintaining an income and taking advantage of the relationships and experience built up over all these years.

But I have no more time than I had before.  My “to do” list still includes a host of action items that come before the one I know my soul wants to do — work on my book.  That elusive book that exists in my head, in my imagination, in my soul but not on paper.

Am I just treading water?  Am I constitutionally unable to end my procrastination and step into my fear and just force myself to give myself time to write?  I find myself contemplating this quandary often, pensively.  I have no answer.  It’s easy as I lay down at night to plan a different day tomorrow.  Scarlett O’Hara still alive and well, living through me.  Tomorrow, it IS another day.  But every day so far it ends up as just another day that the way I spent my time conflicts with the way I say I want to spend it.

One foot in front of another, blog by blog, I will create a writing habit of butt in seat, writing even when I have no thoughts in my head.  I will be pensive no longer.  Contemplative, yes.  But putting the thoughts into curious, excited, motivated, positive action.

ravens


I Should Be Doing My Timesheets …

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As an attorney who bills by the hour, timesheet are the bane of my existence (and I doubt my clients like them any more than I do). So here it is, Saturday morning, and I know I should be putting aside my reading, my writing, my research because I should be completing my timesheets. But first (the procrastinator in me readily pops out) I should do the filing of magazine clips and other miscellaneous papers that have gathered on my desk during the week. The first page I cut out to save? An excerpt from Elle Luna telling me to pay attention when I tell myself what I “should” be doing and, equally, what I feel I “must” do. According to Luna, at least as summarized by O Magazine, “Should is the expectations others layer upon us. When we pick Should, we’re choosing to live for someone or something outside ourselves.” True that. “Must, on the other hand, is who we are, what we believe, the things that call to us most deeply.” Hum, never that of it that way. Intriguing, though. “Pursuing our Musts as we move through the world is the journey of a lifetime, but even the first step on that road is a mini adventure all its own.”

Think I’ll go on a mini adventure of my own…
bluevwwagon


The Innocence Project

I want the bad guys put away. I am nervous when a judge reverses a sentence because of some procedural error. After all, how many times do we later find out that someone who should have/would have been in jail had not the overcrowded conditions or “good behavior” or some such thing gotten him out early committed yet another crime,  hurting someone else’s life.  So I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about signing up to help the California Innocence Project as my pro bono commitment for the year.

Prison Bars

But I went because as the partner in charge of pro bono in my office, responsible for ensuring we have 100% participation in our office this year, I needed to make an appearance. And of course I’d heard the Innocence Project being touted for high-profile victories and was interested to hear their story.

I’m so glad I went.  First, it had all the elements of a great lunch. It was over in just under an hour, the sandwiches were from the “good” deli and we had cookies and chips (not so good for my dieting attempt but were yummy), and, to the important stuff, their story was fascinating. It was a combination of CSI and one of the best days of class in Psychology 101 — they had a Powerpoint presentation that included images that caused our minds see things that were not there. Green dots jumped around a circle despite the absence of green dots actually appearing anywhere on the slide (they say), despite what our brains tell us we see. Images that appeared to move around, but in fact did not.

But the last three minutes of the presentation are the reason why I signed up to volunteer.  The last three minutes had me blindly and, hopefully, discretely, searching in my purse for tissue.

Sadness

Earlier in the meeting we had heard the facts about the subject of that last three minutes earlier in the presentation. A scary story about a 16-year-old girl at 11 in the morning in a not-bad part of town walking on a well-traveled street next to the Home Depot on her way to a friend’s home being hemmed in by a white truck with a battered camper shell. Then chased down, dragged into the bushes and almost raped before managing to fight off the thirty-something white male with a goatee attacker and get away. I am totally with that girl, on her side all the way. I, too, thought mornings were safe. I, too, was wearing earphones and walking in a very safe neighborhood at about 10 in the morning, minding my business and just trying to get a little exercise, when my gut told me something was wrong and I looked to my right to see a beat-up VW bug driven by what I can best describe as a huge, muscular, tattooed arm right out of Hell’s Angels attached to a bearded man staring at me as he crept along beside me. He didn’t catch me, but he came close enough that this girl’s story spoke to me.  I learned a lesson indelibly printed in my soul by that incident.  Mornings are not safe, even in nice neighborhoods.  Bad things can happen at any time, and anywhere.  All my sympathy is with that 16-year-old girl who was just trying to walk to visit a friend, and the hell some asshole created by attacking her, destroying her sense of safety, causing her nightmares she may never fully escape.

She thought the police found the guy; she was 60% sure in the photo line-up and then, in court, 100% sure that the defendant was the man who had attacked her that day.  Except it turns out that it wasn’t. Too many years later DNA testing proved beyond a doubt that the bad guy was a different man who also had access to a white truck with a camper attached and who looked almost exactly like the man who had been wrongly convicted of the crime. This man who had the misfortune of looking like the bad guy had spent eight long years in jail for the crime.

That was all bad enough, but then the presenters showed a short video of the now-released, wrongly accused man who had spent almost all the years of his only son’s childhood wasting away in prison standing at the San Diego Airport awaiting a visit from the son he hasn’t been able to hug all that time. From the time his son was two. And now that boy he barely knows is 11 years old.  The video started, and we watched as the man in turn watches the passengers exiting the gate from the flight his son was supposed to take to come for his first visit in many years.  As he searches intently for the son he hopes he can recognize, the tension in my stomach starts to grow.  I see a boy walk pass, and then another one, but neither one is him.  The number of passengers exiting the gate start to dwindle and now my whole body is tense, not knowing how I will be able to stand it if he’s left there at the airport, empty-handed, alone.   What if his son doesn’t get off that plane because he decided not to get on it, not to waste his time on this man he doesn’t know?

The Embrace

Finally, I can breathe.  The freed man spots his son, and they run to one another, and the boy who is no longer so little is still young enough to be fully enveloped by the longed-for hug from his Dad, who wraps his arms around his son and holds him as if he never, ever wants to let him go.  And I don’t know about the rest of the people in the room, since I was trying not to look, but I know that I could not help but cry.

I signed up to help get people who shouldn’t be in prison out.   Because the bad guys should absolutely be put away. But not everyone in prison should be there, and the ones who have been wrongly accused, who are the victims of error or revenge or laziness or some injustice in our judicial system — those people need to be home with their sons and their daughters and their wives and their mothers and fathers and everyone that loves them and that they love.  I am eternally grateful that I haven’t suffered from that injustice, and that there are people like the people at the Innocence Project who work to help correct those wrongs.

I hope one day only those who deserve to be in prison will be there, and I will do my little part to help make that happen, one person at a time.


Life Can End In An Instant … My Friend’s Did, This Week

Life is Short

Life is Short

Each of us gets a limited number of days.  Tuesday was the last day Melissa got.  That morning she woke up, dressed, dropped her three children off at school, went to work, then ran some errands before lunch … never knowing it would be the last time she’d ever do any of those things again.  She was having an ordinary day when an extraordinary tragedy took away all the wonderful things she had yet to do.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

It was close to noon when she likely thought herself lucky to find one of the diagonal parking spaces on Girard, in the heart of the village of La Jolla, near the shop where she needed to drop something off before grabbing lunch.  Did she hear the revving engine of the car across the street when she reached into get something out of the car?  She had no reason to suspect she was in any danger.  It wasn’t dark, she wasn’t in a sketchy part of town, there was no reason at all for her senses to be on alert.  But seconds later she was hit, by a 91-year-old woman who inexplicably gunned her car when backing out of her space on the other side of the street, speeding across two lanes of traffic and ramming straight into my friend, pinning her between the two cars.

Before the lunch hour was over, Melissa’s life ended. This beautiful, talented mother, killed on a sunny street in an almost-perfect village on the Pacific Ocean.  Because someone was driving when they shouldn’t have been, Melissa couldn’t pick her children up from school, cook them dinner or help with their homework. Now she won’t see them graduate from high school or help them pick colleges or dance at their weddings or babysit their children. She can’t share her recipes with her daughters when they move off to live on their own, or tell her son how proud she is for the man he has become.  She can’t give me brilliant advice on communicating ideas or hosting events.  She can’t wake to the beams of sunlight streaming in her window or walk along the beach, toes in the sand, watching the sun set as the sky glows orange and purple as she listens to the surf pound against the rocks.

What a sad and brutal reminder that life is short and unpredictable.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the importance of living each moment well, of appreciating every day I get to spend on this earth, of leaving my many computer passwords accessible and updating my will and making sure my children know how much I love them. But this week the lesson that I must be mindful and appreciative of each moment came home to me in the worst possible way.

Ocean Beach Pier

I will miss you Melissa. You are loved.

Melissa's Smiling Face

Melissa’s Smiling Face