Posted in A Round of Words in 80 Days, A Round of Words in 80 Days 2017, Blogfest Entries, Challenges and Contests, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Round One 2017, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

Building Into a New Month: January 2017 Final Update

Hey there!

It’s February 1, which means that my January goals are now history, and it’s time for me to proceed on to a new month, with an updated focus. I’ll unveil those on Sunday, along with my Round One progress to date. For today, though…my final January update.

Writing:

  • Kifo Island: Write 5,000 words/week The Far Shore (KIC #6), until complete. Secondary goal. Scene 20/24 in progress. 1,609/5,000 words; 55,721/~65,000 total. I didn’t finish, but I’ve definitely moved this along.

  • Patreon Posts Complete January/March offerings. Tertiary goal: Adaptation: Complete all materials need for a February 1 launch (includes bio). I made progress, but not as much as I’d hoped for.

  • Fan Fiction: Draft one new chapter each for “Arachnid Nebula,” and “A Beagle’s Bedside Manner.” Side goal complete.

Plotting:

  • Rose and Jeremy novella: Plan/plot “Tuesday Afternoon Tea” using The Story Toolkit and existing notes. Develop one-paragraph sketches for remaining 3-5 stories. Primary goal. Character Arc worksheets;7/7 complete. Printed Romance Arc worksheets. Simmering WednesdayFriday sketches. Didn’t finish, but made good progress, and have a much better sense of this story than at the beginning of the month.

  • Kifo Island: Select April and July novels. Create rough AeonTimeline for first six novels/ select and place April and July novels. Secondary goal complete.

  • The IDIC Romance/Solemates: Begin TnT fan fiction – Enterprise/TOS crossover epic timeline; place general events. Take notes and simmer future projects during timeline creation. Tertiary goal completed.

Revision:

  • Short Stories: “Miss Spider and Mister Fly”; Complete edits. Primary goal. First pass edits complete.

  • Kifo Island: Sea Changes: Continue rough revision for crit group; scenes 58. Secondary goal. Scene 5 and 6: Revised and submitted. Didn’t finish; but moved forward.

  • The IDIC Romance: Progress with revisions for First Contact; With Jazz. Review A Backdrop of Stars  1-3 (already posted) and revise 4-7 for posting. Tertiary goal. ABOS: Chapter 1 completed. Chapter 2 simmering for secondary revision pass. Chapter 3 highlighting for revision complete.

  • Work through Holly Lisle’s Revision Course (using “FC,WJ,”) first 3 lessons. Side goal. I was at the beginning of Lesson 2 when I realized that I really needed to wrap up some other things first; 1/3 completed.

Blogging:

  • Blog Hops: Just Jot It January  Write 333 word stream of consciousness vignette for each day’s topic; complete guest posting duties as assigned. #atozchallenge: Complete any loose ends and unfinished business, move all posts to blog interface. Primary goal. #JusJoJan: 31/31 complete. #atoz took a backseat, but some forward progress was made.

  • Blogging Features: Resume Mindful Monday: Biweekly posts on mindfulness. Find blogging/website rhythm. Secondary goal. Completed the first portion; still working on the second.

  • Website Development: Evaluate website page needs; make lists/basic sketches of new pages. Tertiary goal. I have a rough list.

  • Blog/Website Interface: Begin duplicate posts on blog and two-way linking. Side goal complete.

Submission/Publication:

  • Dark and Bitter anthology: “Miss Spider and Mister Fly”: Return edited mss to editors; follow up as needed. Primary goal completed.

  • A Splash of Red”: Complete final revisions and edits/polishing passes; work with Jaz on cover art; make front/back matter checklists. Secondary goal. Began working with Jaz; initial matter checklists jotted.

  • The IDIC Romance: Submit A Backdrop of Stars chapters 1-7 to fan fiction sites as completed. Tertiary goal. I got close, but didn’t submit anything until after midnight on the 31.

Hometending:

  • Homeschool Administration: Gather materials for second quarter reports, due March 15. Create Flickr portfolios for this school year, for both children. Primary goal. Expanding bullet list to Lise’s English Language Arts; 1/11 sections; rewrote template intro for the current report; a bit of progress here.

  • Resets/reorganizations: study, family room, and kitchen. Complete three 27 thing flings each room, each week. Bedroom, living room, and bathroom: one 27 thing fling each room each week. 27 General Hometending rounds weekly. Secondary goal. I’d call this a moderate success; I was more mindful of the goals.
  • Personal Administration: Clean, organize, and back up all designated fiction files. Maintain Blogging/ Homeschool directories. Sort and delete excess mail Homeschooling, and Transactions in Progress folders. Tertiary goal. I did some of this, but not as much as planned.
  • Photo digitalization: Scan 27 travel photos per week; save in organized files with backup. Side goal. Goal Adapted: I made one general directory, but will wait to organize until I’ve finished the travel photo scanning. Good progress.

Lifetending:

  • My beloveds: One on one time with each, doing something of value to us both, each week. Primary goal. This continues to be the simplest to meet and most important of my goals! =)

  • Continue planning/ attending outings (personal and family) as desired. Secondary goal completed (and ongoing). Shopping with daughter; write-in; vaccination appointment and lunch with son; plans for couples’ workout on Thursday; also tentative plans to see George Takei’s Allegiance with my son on the 19th, and the Welcome to Night Vale All Hail Live Show with my daughter in April.

  • NNWM local group: Interact regularly, in person and online; participate actively in critique group. Tertiary goal. This was a solid if incomplete success. Three pieces critiqued in January (with three more in the queue, and one of my own submitted.

  • Paying it Forward: Offer beta reading, reviews, and promotional posts for other writers. Side goal. I could have done better, here.

Selftending:

  • Journal six mornings and three evenings each week. Meditate five mornings and two evenings weekly. Primary goal. I’m getting better at the evening stage; still slip when I stay up all night, which often happens 2-3 times a month.

  • Get a cumulative total of at least 90 minutes moderate physical activity 6 days weekly, and 6 hours of more strenuous activities (tai chi, swimming, hiking, cardio, weights, etc.) monthly by end of round. Secondary goal. Moderate: most weeks. Strenuous: 8/6 hours. Both much better than previous months.

  • Smart Change: Reread early chapters/worksheets; create an approach plan. Side goal. Downloaded book for rereading/goalsetting. It’s a beginning.

Leaps of Faith:

  • Apply at Starbucks and Panera for part-time work. . Adjusting: Will save Starbucks as a secondary option. Read job description; made first steps in applying to Panera.

  • Go through Publication email folder; make subcategory for marketing-related posts. Folder taken from 232 messages to 197; opened some posts and filed in bookmarks. Changes in my email accounts threw me off.

  • Finish up Patreon page and post. This hinges on getting at least the January materials finished, which I’m still working on.

  • Reading: Finish listening to Alexander Hamilton audiobook; read two other books; write four reviews. Audiobook:82% complete. Read the books, but no reviews, making this a mixed bag.

Kait Nolan’s ROW80  –

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life!

ROW Along, or Cheer Us On!
We’re on Facebook!

And now, back on the blog, too!

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Love Is In Da Blog, Mindful Monday, Unschooling, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

Sometimes Clumsy Mindfulness: Mindful Monday, LoIsInDaBl Day 15, and JusJoJan Day 31

This is going to be my last triple-duty post, at least for a bit, because this officially ends my Just Jot it January 2016 make-up posts. The final prompt is clumsy, and comes from Judy at Edwina’s Episodes.

I’m not quite ready to begin ‘making up’ the first couple of weeks of Love Is In Da Blog just yet, but I am totally on board for daily posts, and I will be catching up once I rest a bit from my belated JusJoJan catchup marathon, and move a couple other projects along a bit. Today, the prompt is loving mindfulness.

Bee is also efficient, and has paired her month-long hop with others, including Silver Threading’s Mindful Monday, one of my regular weekly blogging stops. A bit of a windfall for me, as I get back into the swing of things, while at the same time adapting to my Accomplice’s midwinter vacation.

 

All that is a little clumsy, isn’t it?A lot of words to say where this post fits in, and you haven’t even had a chance to read the post yet.

I think maybe that says more than it might seem to. You see, I’ve made a practice of mindfulness for the last several years. Without it, I couldn’t possibly have made the huge paradigm shifts I needed to make in order to become the unschooling parent I wanted to be. It was necessary to look at every aspect of my parenting, and that, by extension, led to examining my approach to the rest of life – my marriage, my relationships with my family of origin, my friends, and the larger world.

What I resisted the most, though, and have come to lastly and rather clumsily, is my relationship with myself.

Like many women, and maybe most mothers, I tend to focus more on the services I can do for others than those I can do for me. Western culture paints an image of the selfless mother, giving and giving to her family, stretching herself thinner and thinner to met the needs of others.

It’s never really mentioned that, if we approach marriage and motherhood selflessly, we are by definition subsuming ourselves. Or, put differently:

We. Are. Subsuming. Our. Selves.

Don’t our loved ones deserve wholehearted, full-souled love and service?

Don’t we deserve to be ourselves, to be something beyond the roles we fill in the lives of others?

In my journey into radical unschooling, I released a good many of the trappings society gives to the role of ‘mother’. If there had been nothing of myself to replace that with, I might have alienated myself from my children – and that would have done nothing for the relationships that are at the heart of unschooling.

So there’s a real, external reason for prioritizing the care and keeping of me. But that’s really not the point.

If I never nourish or inspire my own soul, I’ll lose myself. Without myself, I have nothing. Nothing for anyone else, but, more importantly, nothing for me.

 

So, even though it’s clumsy, in the last year or two, I’ve put increasing attention on being mindful of me. What does that look like?

  • Rather than attempt to be awake or asleep on my family’s schedule, I honor my own rhythms. I don’t need as much sleep as my spouse or children, and, especially at the new and full moons, I tend to be nocturnal and highly creative. I treasure those quiet hours. I couldn’t fully indulge in this tendency when my children were small, so it’s something I really appreciate now that they’re older.

  • I have my own morning rituals. For years, my Accomplice has generally risen earlier than I do, and gone to watch game shows in the living room. It’s his way of waking up; he needs to cocoon himself. Only in the months since I first read Amy Kennedy’s #onegoodcupproject post, I’ve realized that what I need upon waking is time with my various journals, and in meditation. I’ve also learned that I do best when I change up the meditation, so I’ve been exploring various techniques, such as the tangling drawing shown here.

  • I seek out movement and exercise that suits me. A lot of my activity is hometending, in bursts throughout the day – writing is sedentary, so I set a timer on my phone and hop up when it chimes. I also love moving firewood, mowing the lawn, walking, swimming, and tai chi – generally, low-impact but strenuous activities that allow me time and space for inward focusing.

  • I take time for my own pursuits. Both of my children, ages 14 and 11, enjoy spending a good deal of time in their rooms, engaged in their own pursuits. While we still have more time to just be together doing things we enjoy than we’d have if our kids had school, homework, chores, or punishments, I also have far more free time than I did when they were small and needed me for most of life’s essentials. I use some of this to attend a weekly write in with my local NaNoWriMo group, and to attend tai chi classes. More, I give myself time to write and blog daily, because those are both integral to my personal happiness, and feed my journey into mindfulness.

  • I’ve given myself space. Space to learn and grow in, to create in, to dream in. Physical space, in my cozy little study, and inner space, in unscheduled, flowing spans of time to simply be.

Yes, I’m still learning, still more clumsy than graceful. But that’s if I only look forward to those levels that I haven’t attained yet. If I turn back, though, and see where I’ve come from – well, I’m a prima ballerina!

How about you? Have you been mindful of yourself lately, are you in danger of becoming selfless, or somewhere in the middle, like me, learning and growing as you go along?

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just for Fun!, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Parenting, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekend Coffee Share, Writing in Freedom

An Arctic Blast: #WeekendCoffeeShare, #SoCs, and #JusJoJan Day 30

If we were having coffee, I’d be waiting at the door to take your coat and usher you into the living room, where the fire is crackling away, because, baby, it’s cold outside! And I’m not talking about just a little cold, either.

I mean bona-fide killing cold. The kind that makes me so happy for the simple pleasures in life, like hot coffee and plenty of seasoned and fragrant firewood for the old wood stove, and water that pumps up the way it should from our front-yard well. I’d tell you, while you get settled, that I don’t take that water for granted in weather as cold as this (windchills of -40 degrees Fahrenheit – I wasn’t kidding when I said Arctic!). Last night, it froze, and my hero Accomplice went down into the well housing to reset the heater we only need on days that plunge into the single digits.

If we were having coffee, I’d say Happy Valentine’s Day, and tell you how when I met my Accomplice, just about nineteen years ago, now, I never anticipated this life with all the details that make it this life, our life – and not anyone else’s version of living. We fell in love, after all, in a place of canyons and scrub pine, juniper and sage and hot sun and monsoon rains. The air was thinner, and there was something of magic in a life of such complete freedom. On weekends off, we traveled to Sedona, to Flagstaff, into the canyon on Havasupai lands, to the ancient Anasazi cliff dwellings, through Winslow and Wickenburg and Crown King. We slept beside Lava Tubes and Lee’s Ferry, and were once interrupted in the middle of the night by a solitary javelina hog, who, thankfully, just wanted to scuffle around the perimeter of our campsite.

If we were having coffee, I’d shake my head and remember, long ago, in that newlywed gauzy place, that we talked about our future at Elijah Bristow State Park in Dexter, Oregon, and while strolling around the Pisgah Arboretum, and there was nothing in those conversations that mentioned a baby boy named Elijah James Burton, who would be born not breathing on July 13, 2003, and whose entire life would be lived in the span of twelve days, and in only one place – the NICU of the hospital where he was born, and where he would die while his Daddy held him, and I listened to the monitors slow, then stop.

I’d tell you that we never expected that to happen, and certainly not four days before my birthday. I’d tell you that, before you exclaim about how tragic an event that was (and, yes, it was, and I know it with every fiber of my shattered mother’s heart), you might want to witness the rest of our story – how Elijah’s heart valves still presumably beat somewhere in the chest of a teenaged girl, and how we are all better, and his little sister exists, as a result of his coming, brief stay, and exit from life.

I’d tell you I am a sweeter and more gentle person, a better version of myself, than I was before this precious child who came and so quickly left, and yet has stayed, in spirit, bringing value and grace much larger than the small body that once contained him. I’d say there’s a certain kind of magic and wonder in that, and then I’d turn, with a sad and private smile, and wipe a tear for a Valentine I can never hold close. After that, I’d excuse myself for a moment, to tend the homefire, and go hug the daughter who would not be if her brother had lived.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I want to touch on lighter and happier notes, now. Like the snapping of the fire I just stirred back to happy life. Like the dishes soaking in the sink, or the clean laundry that will go to the dryer when I get up next. Like my daughter’s laughter, and her play with her Littlest Pet Shops, heard in muted fashion through her bedroom door. Like my teen son, asleep in his room after being up all night. Like the tapping of my laptop keys, the hum of the heaters that supplement the coziness of the fire, and the sounds of peace, so different from the sounds I grew up thinking of as home.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you it’s about time for me to go. I promised my daughter that I’d be ready to listen to the newest episode in the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, which will air early tomorrow morning. I was rather late coming to this unique series, and it’s best listened to and experienced sequentially. I’m now about to listen to Episode 74, “Civic Changes”, and need to get to 81, “After”. This quest is slightly complicated by the fact that I need my attention for both composing blog posts and podcast listening – details are important in both. So, I’ve been alternating. Fortunately, I can finish drafted posts while I listen. Unfortunately (well, in regards to the quest), there’s a Castle special on tonight, and I’m not about to miss that…so we’ll have to see how all this plays out.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that this post is my make-up for Just Jot It January, Day 30, and used the Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt: ‘an’, as a word, and/or part of one.

If we were having coffee, I’d bid you farewell with warm thoughts, and direct you to Part Time Monster’s Weekend Coffee Share for your next cuppa. And, of course, I’d wish you all a week full of the very loveliest of chaos!

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Love Is In Da Blog, Parenting

Respect Is For Everyone: JusJoJan Day 28, and My First Love Is In Da Blog Post

This is going to be a quick post, because I want the focus to be on what I’m sharing. I’m also letting it do multiple duty: it answers the Just Jot It January  Day 28 prompt, “serendipity”,  since I happened upon this post in my email archives just after I read the prompt word. That’s serendipity, right there. The prompt came from Jan at JT Twissel.

It’s also my very first (but, hopefully, not last) entry into Bee Halton’s Love Is In Da Blog.  I would have been playing all along, but I got rather lost in a short story, and only learned that it was happening until earlier this week. I may or may not “make up” for the days I’ve missed.

Fridays will all be about blog love. Celebrate a blog or just a post, that you love. That can be one of yours or someone else’s. It can be a blog about love or just a blog you love. As long as you give it some credit and share it with us it will be fine! This is also a great possibility to use the WordPress reblog button.

Since Fridays are for blog love, and, when I saw this important post,  my question of which of the many wonderful blogs I follow to feature today was answered. The thing about students – whether male, female, transgender, gender fluid, nonbinary, or elsewise – is that they are, first and foremost, people. And, as people, they all deserve respect.  If that is kept foremost in mind, it should be a simpler matter to find solutions that suit everyone’s needs.  By shining a blog light on the issue, Damien is keeping the conversational ball rolling  – and I’m happy to take a turn with it.

So today, I want to celebrate Riley Central, where you can find movie reviews, slices of life and learning, and an eclectic blend of goodies. There’s always something new, and often something to think about. Why not pop over and say hi to Damien right now? You can tell him that I sent you!

You can find more #LoIsInDaBl posts here

Whatever gender identification a person has, they ARE a person.

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Enterprise fan fiction, Flash Fiction Pieces, Just for Fun!, Just Jot it January, Writing in Freedom

The Mendaciloquent Vulcan for #JusJoJan Day 27 and Write On Wednesday

This post is doing double duty. I’ve been wanting to get back into Julie Duffy’s Story a Day Write On Wednesday for some time, and this week’s prompt, to write a story about a lie, dovetailed perfectly with the next of my backlogged Just Jot It January prompts; the word ‘mendaciloquent’, offered by Coralee at Musefully Mendaciloquent.

Standard Disclaimer: I don’t own them; I don’t profit from them. They just share stories through me. Spoilers for Star Trek: Enterprise episodes: “Broken Bow”; “Strange New World”; “Shadows of P’Jem”“Carbon Creek”; and “Precious Cargo”.

The Mendaciloquent Vulcan

“You should have seen her, Trip. Pretending to be our personal judge, jury, and executioner.” Jon lifted his wine glass and saluted the woman at the other end of the table, who sat as straight and prim as she ever had, as though she wasn’t working on a second career as an actress.

As though she wasn’t jealous as hell about him and Kaitama.

Well, he could play along. Maybe he could even make peace into the bargain. He lifted his glass, too, and gave her his very best Tucker grin. “I wish I had seen that. The universe’s first mendaciloquent Vulcan at her best isn’t something a guy ought to miss.”

Trip knew she was jealous, and mad as hell into the bargain, even if he hadn’t quite worked out why, when she didn’t seem to want to go any further than verbal jousting with him. Now, though, she looked at him with that cool-eyed interest, her head tipped just a little in that way he found so adorable. “Mendaciloquent?”

The effect of her uncertainty was spoiled a bit by Jon saying the same thing at the same time. “Where did you get that word, Trip? And what the hell does it mean, anyway?”

Damn. If he had to tell Jon, he’d never know whether she knew this one, too.

“’Mendaciloquent’, in this case, is a misnomer. I told no lies, Commander Tucker. The Captain gave the aliens an impression. I simply walked into the room, and asked several questions.”

“She’s not telling you that she did it with tremendous flair. I almost believed it myself. But I still don’t exactly know what that word means.”

“It means to tell a lie in a masterful way. However, I didn’t lie.”

Trip was still trying to figure out how she did that – was she reading the entire English language from the database, and committing it to memory? Just so he couldn’t stump her? No, that couldn’t be it, because that wasn’t logical.

But whatever it was, he wasn’t just going to let her win. “Maybe not this time. But way back with those rock people – I know things got a little crazy back there, but you were pretty damned convincing talking to them.”

“And you told the Coridians that you were the Captain, and I was the ship’s steward,” Jon added.

“Did you now?” Trip stared right back at her, as though he had no idea that she had a bee in her Vulcan bonnet about whom he slept with – okay, not that they’d done much in the way of sleeping. “I never heard about that one.”

“As First Officer, and a commissioned officer with the Vulcan High Command, it was my duty to protect my Captain, as well as those in the landing party on Archer’s World. I logically used the tools necessary to fulfill that duty.”

“Won’t give a millimeter, will you?” Jon shook his head, and T’Pol sipped delicately at her tea. Obviously, giving any indication that she’d won wouldn’t be logical or in good taste.

But she hadn’t won yet. “Now hang on a minute here. I can see where the rock people and Coridan and that kidnapper were all in the line of duty. But none of those explain the biggest whopper you’ve ever told, T’Pol – and that was right here, about a little place called Carbon Creek.”

Her eyes came up and fixed on him, and something Trip couldn’t read flashed in them. “I haven’t said that the events I recounted didn’t happen.”

“And you conveniently can’t prove that they did, either.”

“Trip -”

“I’m not disturbed by Commander Tucker’s accusations, Captain. I could easily prove the facts – ”

“That your great grandmother crash-landed on Earth two hundred years ago, and lived there, with two other crewmembers, for three months before returning home without one of them?”

“Yes. If you read Vulcan, I could prove it through the reports T’Mir made upon her return. She wrote and spoke rather extensively on the experience, although her views on humanity were largely discounted.”

“And that, Cap’n, is mendaciloquence at its finest. Conveniently, we don’t read Vulcan. So she never has to back up that yarn of hers with truth.”

T’Pol rose. “I’m very tired. I believe I will benefit from passing the remainder of my evening in meditation and sleep.” She slipped out while they were still saying their goodnights. Trip got the idea that there was another lie, right there. He’d seen her tired; this wasn’t it.

“Do you have to antagonize her, Trip?”

“I’m not antagonizing her – well, not exactly.” Trip realized that he’d never tried to put it into words before, even to himself. “It’s – well, more like a game, I guess. Way back when we needed to get Klaang home, and you got hurt – well, you know we weren’t exactly getting along very well. But, somehow, all that arguing gave us a way to work together. I don’t know why, but it did, and it still does. I’m an engineer, Cap’n. When something works, I stick with it.” He got up too. “And speaking of engines, I think I’ll go take one more look at mine before I go to bed.”

It was three hours later when his computer monitor signaled an incoming message from T’Pol. When he opened it, there were readouts from her scanner, and, beside them, the English equivalents – rock core samples that showed traces of Vulcan metals and fuel residue that dated back two centuries. The location, with specific coordinates, was Carbon Creek, Pennsylvania.

“I’ll be damned,” he said, to himself. “She was telling the truth.”

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Mindful Monday

It’s All Connected: Oneness for Mindful Monday and #JusJoJan Day 26

Have you ever had an epiphany? You know, that sudden ping that opens your eyes to a new way of thinking or being? That thing Oprah refers to as an “Aha moment”? That’s what this post is about, more or less. It’s a combination Mindful Monday Healthy Living and Just Jot It January make-up post, for the January 26 prompt, “Oneness”, brought to us by Carol at WritersDream9.

Have you let that aha moment slip by, or embraced it, finding ways to make it truly your own?

One of the most paradigm-shifting realizations I’ve had in recent years has to do with the inter-connectedness of things, and how it impacts my entire life.

The Vulcans have a koan given to them by Surak, who brought logic to a passionate people.

“The spear in the other’s side is the spear in your own; you are he.” 

Yes, I know that Vulcans aren’t real. Or are they? If I believe them to be real, if others do, too, and if they’ve become a part of our culture, then, in some sense, aren’t they real?

Whether or not you believe that they are, I do, and I take that koan to heart. I’m not inclined, these days, to seek revenge or even retribution against those who wrong me. It’s not exactly “turn the other cheek” – I was abused, as a child, and so I know intimately that there are those who would happily take the opportunity to use my cheek to vent their own emotional chaos.

It’s more an awareness. If you hurt others, you hurt yourself, because we’re all part of one another; far less separate than we often tend to think we are. The emotional energy that leads to lashing out at others is toxic – not just to the person we attack, but to us. It’s better, and far healthier, to learn new ways of handling our own emotions. We can become responsive, rather than reactive.

What’s the difference? Reactivity happens instantaneously/ It’s the ifight-or-flight reflex. It’s the domain of the limbic system – the oldest part of our brains. It can lead to crimes of passion, hurtful words, and other sudden explosions. The limbic system doesn’t allow for rational thought. It’s a survival mechanism for those times when we need to react instantly, and taking the time to think things through rationally could get us killed.

Responsiveness means waiting out that limbic reaction. That takes about ninety seconds; after that we can think again. Deep breathing can help us get through that minute and a half; so can separating ourselves from the situation that triggered the response. In his excellent book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, Thich Nhat Hahn suggests getting still and accepting our emotion rather than fighting it. We’re told anger, fear, jealousy, and other strong emotions are ‘bad’, but, in truth, they’re simply powerful.

There’s something to be learned in these emotions, he advises. Rather than trying to get rid of the feeling, it’s better to turn toward it, to quietly ask it what it’s about, and what would ease it.

When I began doing that, I learned something very valuable about my powerful emotions. Many times, I was angry because I wanted someone else to act according to my own preferences. I wanted to control what others did, and their failure to do as I wanted led to my own furies.

That’s where my wise friend Mary comes in. Once, several years ago, I was angrily recounting an argument I’d had with my Accomplice, when she looked at me and said, “The only person you can control is yourself. The question is, what are you going to do about it?”

It was another paradigm shifter. Yes, I could go on and on in what I saw as righteous fury. But I wasn’t getting anywhere that way, and I was poisoning my marriage and my own soul.

At first, the responsibility of being in control of my own actions and reactions was terrifying and confusing. Did it mean that I simply had to accept behavior from my spouse or others that I found intolerable? That he had no accountability for his own actions?

The answer to both of those questions was no. What I did do was wait for the hard feelings to ease, and then, when I felt we could talk without getting embroiled again, I told him calmly what Mary had told me, and that I wasn’t angry at him anymore, but that I needed to figure out how to deal with behavior on his part that I found personally untenable. That opened the door to a more honest, less emotionally fraught conversation, and a process of change that is ongoing. From that point on, I began to learn how to disagree, and even argue, with him in more productive ways. Eventually, he responded in kind, and things have been getting better ever since.

Just this morning, my Accomplice shared with me that I’d done something he found a bit stressful. Not wrong, just stressful. He told me that he wanted to share it, because he didn’t want it to build up and become an issue between us.

How is all this connected to health and mindfulness? Well, happier marriages offer greater support; give us a partner to help us as we navigate life’s stressors.

Taking responsibility for my own actions, and releasing others to theirs, keeps me from a great deal of angst in my life. Living in a way that accepts others and embraces peace rather than retaliation means that I live in a kinder and gentler world than I might, otherwise. It frees me up to simply live, joyfully, focusing on what makes me happy and healthy.

So, even though this post is a bit rambling, that’s OK, because all these things connect to one another in a spirit of oneness that feeds our healthy living.

Want more Mindful Monday learning? Follow the link!

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Just for Fun!, Just Jot it January, Life Writing, Weekend Coffee Share, Writing in Freedom

Plotting Over Coffee: Weekend Coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d be compelled to tell you that I’m participating in Just Jot It January all month, and that I’m using the prompts, because I like the way other people’s ideas shake up and stir around all those ideas in my head, so that I never quite know what’s going to come out. It’s like sprinkling adventure into my mind, or playfulness…

I’d also be compelled to tell you that today’s prompt is the word compelled, which comes to us from willowdot21…why not pop over for a chat with her when you’re done here?

If we were having coffee, I’d meet you at the door, and tell you that this pot is fresh. I’d let you pick your weapon of choice (that’s your mug), and your ammunition. We’ve got coffee, of course, but also an eclectic selection of bag teas, the hot cocoa packets my daughter prefers, and sweet water from beneath the ground, drawn up from our well…you passed that when you came in, although you might not have noticed it, because you were probably as astounded by the green January grass on our snow-deprived front yard as I am. I’d be compelled to mention that I kind of wish, for the first time in my life, that I lived a couple of hundred miles further south on the Hudson River, so that my girl could fulfill her compulsion to play in the snow we’re not getting this year. Last winter was a banner year, and we were thrilled to have Oregon family to escape to for ten days…this season, I think they’ve had more snow there than we’ve had!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’m feeling an urge to make this post (and this cuppa) a short one, because I’m compelled to write. At the very end of December, I learned about this short story contest, and the deadline is swiftly maybe just a bit too swiftly approaching. I had less than the glimmer of an idea on January 1. Today, with just over a week to go, I’m adding the musculature and beginnings of the circulatory and respiratory systems to the skeleton outline I finished in Saturday’s midmorning hours, before I finally admitted that I’m a corporeal being, and therefore sometimes compelled to sleep!

I’d be compelled to add that I’m excited – it’s so much more of a story than it was even several hours ago. I’ve got the first four scenes fleshed out, and next I will do the last four – leaving eight in the middle, as the bridge that binds it all together. I’m hoping to have a rough draft before I sleep again. (Update: It’s Sunday, nearly 5:30am as I’m typing this. Ten scenes are fleshed out, with six to go, and it’s much more a story, with subplots and insights popping left and right and reminding me why I love my open-ended plotting system so much!

If we were having coffee, I’d be compelled to show you how clean and decluttered the kitchen counters are getting – but I’d probably resist that temptation, since you didn’t see the shambelized version, and therefore would be less appreciative than I am at the emerging order in that formerly lost space. Maybe next week, it’ll be done, and I can share it…

If we were having coffee, I’d say that it’s just about time for me to go put another log on the fire, because, even though there’s no snow to speak of, it is cold. I’d make sure you were well bundled, and offer you a travel mug to take another cuppa with you, so you could keep your hands warm out there – and I’d show you the door. Because I like sharing coffee and conversation with you – but I’m a writer, and sometimes I need to listen to the people in my head who are clamoring for their stories to be told….it may be a compulsion, but it’s a happy one, for me.

If we were having coffee, I would remind you to check out the other Weekend Coffee Share posts at Part Time Monster. I hope to have more to say next week, by which time my completed gem of a story should be polished to a lovely lustre, and off to take its chances in the Big Wide World!

Until then, I leave you with my daughter’s tribute to what was the most magical moon of her eleven and a half years…

And, of course, I’d wish you all a week full of the very loveliest of chaos!