Two principles

Two important principles I need to remember:

Principle 1: The rule of holes: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

    I’m not entirely sure how I managed to forget this rule for living, but, well, I did. I’ve found it relevant in work and life recently. At work, I’ve stopped digging on some projects that just needed to be put aside. They’re not priorities for now. I may never pick them up again. But I was in a hole, and I needed to just. stop. digging.

    In life, this quote came to mind when I realized that my desperate desire to catch up on past blog posts from all of you was keeping me from knowing about what’s going on in your lives right now. So, although I would love to read every word, I think it’s time to stop digging. I’m getting even further behind and I’m not close to catching up. I am probably going to have to unsave a bunch of posts. Please know that I do care about what’s going on in your lives – but I would rather be more up to date than stuck in the past. You all are too important to me!

    Principle 2: Never assume, because, well, you know why. 🙂 (And if you don’t, make a comment and I’ll share what Mrs. Markle told my 6th grade class…)

    Friends, I almost – key word, ALMOST – trashed a hard drive that has about 30 years of my life on it. I know. I assumed it was just time machine system snapshots from my old laptop. I was so, so wrong.

    I thought I’d somehow lost all my files from my PhD program and before. I thought I’d somehow lost any and all documents that were related to my life in the early 2000s. And it turns out that no, I hadn’t. They were on the hard drive. The hard drive I almost took for recycling today.

    I almost cried. It was such an unexpected gift. I know, you’re thinking, dude, it’s a hard drive. But when you have a path like mine (lots of twists and turns, and yes, Engie, I still owe you a list of all the jobs I’ve held), it helps to have a bit of digital memory to help me recall all the good and bad moments along the way. For me, those files remind me of where I’ve been and how far I have come.

    So never, ever assume. Please. Check the hard drive. Ask the question. Find out why someone did something, rather than assuming they did it for x reason. I’ve never regretted doing so, and I hope you don’t either.

    Take care, my friends. Happy weekend. I look forward to catching up on your current lives soon.

    Tuesday, again

    It’s Tuesday, so time to subject you to a few more bits and pieces from life in the past few weeks…

    I’ve noticed that my life does not really change in rhythm when summer begins. I cannot remember who all has posted about the change to “summer life” when kids are out of school. I know Elisabeth has mentioned it, and I know it’s what I experienced as a kid. But now, life is more constant. I don’t mind that, but when I forget it? When I realize that summer isn’t going to be what it was (too many) years ago? There’s always a bit of, well, deflation.

    However! I have been able to do more (non-work) things, and even better, read a lot more. I’m more willing to take a break in the middle of the day, or pause my incessant dive into the news to listen to an audiobook. I’ve connected twice with Engie, and once with Birchie. I’ve plowed through books – both e-books and audiobooks. I’ve had lunch with friends. It’s been… good. Not the same as playing Legend of Zelda with my brother all summer (no, seriously), but really good.

    In that spirit, a few things that grabbed me recently…

    From Mary Somervell, a writer from New Zealand whose Substack newsletter I found somewhat randomly: “Imagine setting out on a voyage without a destination. That’s life. You never know what lies just beyond the horizon. If you think you can get there, you probably can. Are you moving away from or moving towards something? Downsizing or rightsizing? Retiring or rewiring?” (emphasis mine)

    This idea of moving away or moving towards is a fascinating one, and something I need to think about for my own life. I feel like I’ve been moving away from who I was for a long time, and now I am moving towards who I want to be. In big ways and small. How do I want to shift into the second half of my life? The first half was pretty darn good…can the second half be even better? Time to find out…

    Switching topics completely, I am a mood reader. I am fascinated by Stephany’s structured approach to her TBR. For me, it’s literally what feels right to read (or listen to!) at that time. Case in point – I was slogging, really slogging, through a thriller that was not grabbing me 10% in, and was debating giving up. I had a long and tiring day that meant I was up and wired later than usual (which is to say, not very late…), and I just needed some evening distraction. By chance, I read about Erica Bauermeister’s book The Scent Keeper in a blog post, and decided to give it a try. Friends, I was pulled into that book so fast you could see the (virtual) pages ruffling as I zipped through it. I haven’t been so, well, captured by a book in a long time.

    And it reminded me of moments I had as a teen reader, as a young reader, when I would, as I still say, fall into the story. It may not be a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, or one that gets great ratings, but if a book grabs you like that? You follow.

    The same has happened with nonfiction, but perhaps that is a post for another day. 🙂 In the spirit of what I just wrote, a quote to send you off into Tuesday. Be well, my friends.

    “The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.”
    ― Françoise Sagan

    Are you a mood reader? What books have grabbed you recently? How do you see your future unfolding, in terms of moving away from or moving towards something?

    Tuesday politics & a bit of randomness

    I had a great post queued (side note: is there a better word to type than “queue”? I would say no…) up for today. And then, yesterday happened. Warning: This post will include political comments, which I have not typically shared here. But the state of our country, the impending sense of doom I feel, and the potential demise of democracy are too much for me to ignore. If this isn’t your thing, or if you strenuously disagree with me, please skip this post.

    It’s been a bad week for Democrats, anyone who believes in democracy, anyone who longs for a more equitable society. Up until yesterday, I was actually doing well, for me. I tend to get sucked into political news, especially, and I was fighting against that by listening to audiobooks (a point I will come back to later!) and generally trying NOT to get sucked in. And then yesterday happened. The insane decision handed down by what I consider to be a corrupt Supreme Court has me terrified about what the next five months will bring. I spent the day listening to every story I could on the Post’s app. And I felt myself getting pulled into the idea of “what happens next?” In light of the debate last week, a debacle for which I have no words, the intransigence of the political elites and their refusal to consider any alternatives, and now the prospect of an unhinged felon having untrammeled power if/when he is elected, my brain went to “what can I possibly do?” I admit, it didn’t immediately go to, “Vote”. Instead, I wished for dual citizenship, that I had sought jobs in Canada (I briefly considered it when leaving Philly in 2017). I thought about whether relocating to California would be any help (it’s long been a dream but one I haven’t seriously considered NOW). And I don’t know what to do. I know that for myself I need to step back and I hope to do that today. But oh, long term, I grieve for what could have been. I know there are some of you whose views align with mine, so I’d love any suggestions you have for reframing, for shifting my perspective, for helping me out of this neverending cycle of doomsday news.

    TL;DR: I had hope, it’s diminishing rapidly, and I’m seeking any sources of light I can find right now. Thank goodness for all of you and your blogs. I’m more grateful to you than I can say.

    Rapidly changing topics! I have managed to take some small steps and break out of my inertia! I took those donations to the thrift shop and saw a friend for lunch that same day. I’m working on my focus during work hours and not responding to emails right away.

    And! I’ve delved into books that grabbed me (I am definitely a mood reader) and also started listening to audiobooks. Friends, this has been a life-changer for me. For years, I was adamant that I could not listen to audiobooks. I’d never succeeded before; why would I now? And then! I discovered The Dutch House on audio. Unlike Engie, I liked it. Then I started borrowing more books through Libby. Yes, the library. I put audiobooks on hold. I discovered that nonfiction on audio really grabs me. I found that I could listen to so many more books than I could read. And it’s been so. much. fun. I will probably do a mini-post on the books I’ve listened to thus far, but several have been wow-inducing (Hidden Valley Rd., Sitting Pretty, The Power of Regret…). They deserve their own post. So, thanks to all of you who have advocated for audiobooks and the library. I’m finally – finally – getting it.

    I hope to have a better day today. I hope you all are okay. I hope that my political rant hasn’t alienated the small readership I have. I hope you take care of yourselves if you are feeling like me. And again, I hope you know just how much connecting virtually with you all means to me. <3

    As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. ~ E.B. White

    That feeling when…

    …you come across something – art, a sign, a piece of writing, a book – and you think, wow. Wow. That was exactly what I needed, coming into my life exactly when I needed it.

    Twice, lately, this has happened to me.

    First, with a book (more on that in another post, promise). Then, with an old essay (close to 15 years old) by Elizabeth Gilbert. I have never read Eat, Pray, Love. I never understood the appeal. (But please, if I SHOULD read it, please make your case in the comments! I’ll consider it, I promise!)

    This is from an essay that Gilbert wrote for O Magazine back in 2010. I probably read it in 2010. To say that it didn’t stick is an understatement. I have no idea how I came across it this morning, but it is exactly what I needed to read at exactly this moment in time. The icing on the cake, if you will, of many messages that I’ve gotten from the Universe recently, from books (Atomic Habits, The Power of Regret, Four Thousand Weeks…), and other sources (my therapist, ha). Here’s one paragraph that stood out, although the entire essay is worth reading…

    When I look at my life and the lives of my female friends these days—with our dizzying number of opportunities and talents—I sometimes feel as though we are all mice in a giant experimental maze, scurrying around frantically, trying to find our way through. But maybe there’s a good historical reason for all this overwhelming confusion. We don’t have centuries of educated, autonomous female role models to imitate here (there were no women quite like us until very recently), so nobody has given us a map. As a result, we each race forth blindly into this new maze of limitless options. And the risks are steep. We make mistakes. We take sharp turns, hoping to stumble on an open path, only to bump into dead-end walls and have to back up and start all over again. We push mysterious levers, hoping to earn a reward, only to learn—whoops, that was a suffering button!

    She continues, then ends the essay with this:

    Let’s just anticipate that we (all of us) will disappoint ourselves somehow in the decade to come. Go ahead and let it happen. Let somebody else be a better mother than you for one afternoon. Let somebody else go to art school. Let somebody else have a happy marriage, while you foolishly pick the wrong guy. (Hell, I’ve done it; it’s survivable.) While you’re at it, take the wrong job. Move to the wrong city. Lose your temper in front of the boss, quit training for that marathon, wolf down a truckload of cupcakes the day after you start your diet. Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted—by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you—trust me—for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes.

    Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop.

    Map your own life.

    I needed this right now. I needed the reminder that it’s up to me. I don’t have to follow the prescribed path. Of course, I’ve known this for a long time. But you know how when you get bogged down, you can lose sight of what’s true? That’s where I have been. These are all half-formed, partially-caffeinated thoughts. I had a completely different post planned for this morning, in which I was going to ask all of you if you had any thoughts on whether it might work to go super-short with hair that tends toward frizzy-wavy. And instead, I find myself here, ruminating on a 14-year-old essay. I guess that means that the hair decision is up to me, like everything else in my life. 🙂 I’ll be spending some time reflecting on this and what it means while I’m having that haircut later today, for sure.

    Have you been (figuratively) hit by something recently? Something you needed to see, hear, read, or remember? I’d love to know…

    Be well, my friends. Happy Tuesday.

    On inertia, and breaking through

    First, if you came here thanks to Engie and her wonderful blog, welcome! And to those of you wondering who and what I am talking about, Engie is an amazing blogger who lives quite near me, has helped drag me out into the real world several times, and is celebrating the 20th (!!!) anniversary of her blog this year. To celebrate, Engie has requested guest posts from bloggers in our little blogger community, and for some strange reason, she asked me to write one. It went up on Sunday, and I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and meeting some new-to-me bloggers to add to my ever-growing blogroll. So, if you don’t yet read Engie’s blog, please make your way there. She reads widely (and voraciously), writes thorough and insightful book reviews, and has the most amazing cat (Zelda, with the floofiest fur you’ve ever seen), and dog (Hannah, who has the best – seriously, the best – doggie expressions I have ever seen. “Hannah’s disdain” should be a portrait in a gallery somewhere, it portrays such emotion…). And if you’re looking to engage with a lovely community of supportive, positive bloggers who actually write about real life? Check out the other guest posts in the series and the comments on them, too. 🙂

    And now to face the hard truth. I am dealing with some inertia, friends. Serious inertia. In my work life, personal life, and (obviously) writing life. I know this about myself. And yet I persist in my inertial (is that a word? if it’s not a word, it should be) state. I am trying to build momentum in all areas, and I’m succeeding, to a degree.

    Finally, in the past few months, a few things have happened that have started to – slowly – get me moving. Perhaps most important has been going through two of David Whyte’s Three Sundays series. In them, David shares his wisdom about finding your path, and experiencing breakthroughs. Each has been what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. The books I’ve been reading have reminded me that we (as in, we humans) do better when we focus on the things that matter most. That a longer to do list is not a better to do list. That it’s possible to feel joy in many ways, and not everyone experiences joy in the same way. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

    I find joy in writing here and engaging with all of you. Why am I surrendering to my inertia and not writing here more? Good question. It certainly doesn’t make me happy (in fact, it makes me sad). And it’s easy to remedy! The answer, of course, is to write more.

    I was searching for quotes on inertia (you know me!) and found one I’d saved from a blog I read back in 2015. DefinitelyRA was a wonderful blogger who no longer blogs, but way back 9 years ago, she shared a quote from Maya Angelou that I had never read before: “Let us live so we will not regret years of useless virtue, and inertia, and timidity.”

    It seems that’s a better option, don’t you think? So here’s to ditching inertia and timidity (and, while we’re at it, useless virtue), and showing up more, writing more, and doing more of the things that I know will make me happy, whether that’s taking donations to the thrift shop (they’ve been in my bedroom for months now…), writing manuscripts, or anything else. I can’t promise I’ll be here every day. After all, I’ve made these types of pledges before and not held them up. But this time seems a bit different. I hope.

    I’ll end with a quote from one of David Whyte’s recent sessions: What is the life I have been refusing all along?

    Don’t refuse the life that makes you happy, my friends. Be well.