Monthly Archives: January 2015

What if you have no words…

How can I call myself a writer if I have no words?

It’s not that I have absolutely no words.  I just don’t have words I want.  Words that tell a story.  Words that sound good.  Words that mean something to someone.

It’s nearly Tuesday and the words won’t come. No topic on my subject list sounds interesting.  They did once, but not right now. Perhaps you know the feeling.

So, I’m going to tell you about life in front of me and how it came to be.

A few weeks before Christmas my son and I spent a lovely morning at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY. Most people were frantically Christmas shopping.  We were just browsing in one of our very favorite places.

After checking out the bargain table together, we went our separate ways, as we usually do here. He wandered toward the baseball section.  I began in current fiction and literature.

Our paths accidentally crossed a long time later.  After examining his stack of books and hearing his excitement about each one, I said, “I’m going to the restroom. I’ll meet you later in the cafe.”

On my way from the restroom, I meandered through the gift section, not looking for anything in particular — nothing, that is, until I spotted a crackle-glazed grey blue elephant with a top opening for a plant or pencils or coins.

When I found my son in the cafe, I greeted him with, “The trip to the restroom cost me twenty dollars.”  He looked at me quizzically, knowing there must be a story to accompany my comment.

I held out the elephant.  “I have to have this,” I said.  “I will regret it if I leave him here.”

“It’s you, Mom,” he said.  He liked the elephant as much as I did.

When I got home I placed him on my desk where I see him every day.  His mere presence makes me happy.

Yesterday I took him to the local greenhouse.  “I need a plant for this guy,” I said to the salesman.  “Have you got anything that will work?”

“I think so,” he said, pointing out several small plants.  I quickly picked one I liked.

The salesman took Elephant to the back, crafted an interior pot of aluminum foil, and watered the new plant carefully.  “Just give it a little water once in awhile; don’t let it get too dry,” he said.  “Pour out any water that accumulates in the bottom.”

Elephant and I came home — happy.

He sits on the shelf beneath the warmth of my lamp.  He has brought life to my desk.

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Perhaps tomorrow there will be live words as well.

 

 

 

 

How about you? Where’s your spark of life?  What makes you smile?

It’s probably right in front of you.

Until next Tuesday…

 

Control Addict

I changed hairdressers a few months ago — not an easy thing for me.  Once I find someone I like I stick with them — forever.  So changing creates some anxiety.

I want consistency. I want an excellent haircut every time.  In fact, I don’t want anyone to notice I got my hair cut.

The new beautician is doing great. During the first haircut she asked lots of questions to make sure she understood what I wanted.  I could tell, even before the blow dry, that the cut was good.

As she was finishing, she asked what type of hairspray I preferred:  light, medium, or heavy.  I replied, “I only fix my hair once a day and I like a hairspray that will keep it in place — no matter what.”

“Got it,” she said.

I’ve been back three times since then.  The trauma of changing hairstylists was short-lived.

Because I’m totally pleased with her work, I decided to buy some hairspray to support her business.  She sold me the exact kind she’s been using on my hair.

When I got home I took the hairspray out of the bag — a tall black can with bold gold lettering: CONTROL ADDICT 28. The fine print says 01-05 is mild control, 06-15 is medium control, 16-28 is maximum control.

On the hairspray scale I am the maximum control addict.

So, as I am wont to do, I’ve been pondering my control addiction.  Among my friends and acquaintances, I’m not the most controlling, but I’m near the top.  I like to know the schedule.  I plan dinner parties to the last detail.  I calenderize my writing and practicing time.  I’m an incessant list maker. I count laps when I swim.

A coworker used to rag me about my lack of spontaneity. From her perspective, any thought prior to an action invalidated its spontaneity.  My joking response was,  “I have spontaneity scheduled for next Tuesday at 1:13.”

But its my lists and schedules that keep the most important things in front of me.  When unexpected things happen, I know exactly what critical items must be completed today and what can be shifted to tomorrow.

My addiction to planning, or control if you will, is exactly what allows me to break free from the schedule to engage in other things like lunch or movie with a friend, becoming lost in a new book, or phone chats with my kids.

I have friends who never plan a thing; they’re always open to whatever comes along.  A schedule like mine is absolutely stifling for them.

For me, I can’t live in the chaos of disorganization and lack of planning.  It saps my energy and rattles my days.

The challenge for all of us, wherever we fall on the spectrum between total spontaneity and total control, is to find the sweet spot — the spot where our life hums, the spot where we can focus time and energy on our important things, and still be able to switch gears, go off the grid, and explore something new.

If your life is humming, don’t change a thing.

If your life is bumping along, being battered this way and that, or if you miss the good stuff because you don’t have time, or you are constantly frazzled — then you need to make a change.  Move the needle a notch:  towards spontaneity if you need more fun in your life or towards control if a little more organization will calm the chaos.

Check your priorities. Adjust as necessary.

Until next Tuesday…

Broken Hair

Stuff happens.  Accidents.  Mistakes. Things you didn’t expect.

Until last Friday a nameless guy sat on my bookshelf.  A funky guy with big ears, a crooked mouth, a bulbous nose, drippy blue eyes, and stringy yellow hair.  He was just a head — not a whole guy.

He claimed obscure corners and shelves as home for years — waiting for someone to discover him and inquire about his origin.

He began in my son’s elementary school art class.  I can almost hear the teacher guiding them through their clay lesson, coaching them in techniques, demonstrating how a garlic press makes spaghetti-like hair, and guiding their glaze-filled brushes. After firing, they must have been surprised at the colors that emerged from lack-luster glazes.

Then my son gave it to me.  Perhaps for my birthday, or Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or maybe for no occasion at all. I gushed as all mothers do over their child’s creation.

The Guy eventually got packed away with school memorabilia — precious stuff to be saved.  He emerged later when I was returning childhood mementos to my grown children.

I kept The Guy for myself.  I couldn’t part with him yet.

And so he sat here and there for years.  Sometimes on the mantle.  Sometimes on a bookshelf.  Sometimes on my desk.

On Friday I was gathering information for my nearly completed memoir.  As I searched my bookshelves, I accidentally disturbed The Guy.  He crashed to the floor, cracking his head and dislodging his hair.  Little strands of yellow scattered on the floor.  Like Humpty Dumpty, reassembly was impossible.

I swept him up and left him in the dustpan for several days.  I couldn’t figure out what to do.  Just dumping him in the trash didn’t seem right.  He deserved better than that.

He was a remnant of an earlier time.  I intended to keep him forever — a reminder of my son when he was young. But my son is not The Guy; he merely created The Guy when he was five or six or eight.  He’s over forty now.

We often have a similar problem with stuff we’ve kept a long time.  Our memories elevate the items to near-sacred status.  “It belonged to my mother.  It belonged to my grandfather.  It was my daughter’s.” We say, “I can’t bear to part with it.  It’s the only thing I have of my son’s.”

We keep things as a way to honor the original owners — out of respect we say.  But being banished to a basement box doesn’t seem respectful to me.

Sometimes we keep things out of fear — fear that if the item is gone, the person who gave it to us is also gone, and our memories have vanished as well.  Without the items we may feel as though the owners or creators never existed or that their importance to us has diminished.

But what to do — when something breaks, or we no longer have room for it, or we’re tired of keeping it around?

Years ago I read about a family who took photos of their heirlooms and put them in an album.  To their surprise, they discovered the photos generated the same memories as the objects themselves.

So, I took a photo of The Guy — and all his pieces and parts.  His hair no longer sits right on his head.086 Perhaps you can imagine how he used to be.

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Take some photos to hold your memories.  Then clear out some boxes and closets.

Until next Tuesday…