Walk for Life, Write for Life #writing #music #inspiration

Tall, dark, and handsome with a laid-back personality and a slight southern drawl, my step dad was liked by pretty much everyone. I didn’t think of him as a step dad back then – he was just dad. So as step dads go, he was pretty easy to get along with. But looking back, I have two insights into our relationship: (1) he respected my boldness and talent (2) he resented my existence. And knowing what I know now, I resented his.

One thing he said to me that I never forgot was “You’re dreaming your life away.” Wondering why he said that, I remembered how I would take solo walks to think about life. I found it quite inspiring and was the way I sorted through things. How I processed the past and dreamed, yes, dreamed of the future. Was this a bad thing? Was I missing out on life because of it? Those words haunted me.

Continuing to read Julia Cameron’s latest book called Write for Life, I noted this:

Inspiration comes to us as we walk. Novelist John Nichols walks daily. So do I (Julia Cameron), and so does Natalie Goldberg who said, “I will tell you what I have learned myself: for me, a long five- or six-mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.”

Emma Lively, writer and composer, walks daily. As she walks, she daydreams. She experiences hunches, inklings, and inspiration. coming home, she sets her hand to the page, writing out melodies and scenes for her musicals. Lively believes what Ueland wrote: “Imagination needs noodling: long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering…”

Aha! I wasn’t “dreaming” my life away, I was getting inspiration for a life as an artist, a writer, a musician, a songwriter. What that also tells me is that no, I don’t have to make a choice between writing and music. There is much writing in music, musical theater, lyrics, story. Who knows where my writing will take me, what shape it will take. It could only be in song or it could be in novel or short story or playbook form.

And walking and dreaming and thinking is vitally important.

I’ve really been expanding my walks in the neighborhood, either staying within walking distance from my home or getting in the car to drive a couple of miles to another part of our “neighborhood,” with lakes and woods and trails, all so beautiful and amazing and inspiring. I’m looking forward to returning and taking photos.

Yesterday, I walked the neighborhood and discovered a path to a golf course. Walking, exploring, daydreaming… and when I returned home, I finished a song that I’d been stuck on. Walking, so inspiring!

Why We Must Go Big or Go Home

Rethinking yesterday’s blog post as I read the next section of Essentialism. In making choices, an essentialist tries out several things before committing to one. One question to ask is, “Do I want to go big with this idea?” If not, move on. You can’t go big with two things. I must choose, writing or music.

Reading Julia Cameron’s latest “Artist Way” book, Write for Life, I notice she repeatedly says how she “loves to write.” I enjoy it when I’m in the mood. Sometimes I absolutely must write. But I don’t love it! When I first started writing fiction, I would take all day to get around to it. 4 pm, as I recall. Resistance is a thing, sure. But with music, I can get right to it.

She mentions how writing keeps her company. And I recall that when I was home alone, yes, writing did keep me company. I was going through something big back then. Julia has a writer’s dog, I had a writer’s cat. In some ways, he was my emotional support cat during that time. Skipper loved books and sleeping in my comfy office chair as I sat at the computer and wrote. It was quiet. He was quiet. Except when it was time to eat – lol!

He hated it when I started creating music. So noisy! In the 4 1/2 years since he’s been gone (he lived 18 1/2 years), I’ve been focusing mostly on music.

The third thing that happened yesterday that led me to rethinking yesterday’s blog post on my latest idea on how I can juggle writing and music was reading this interview with the composer behind the theme song of Miss Scarlett and the Duke. I want to be him. I would love to watch him work. So inspiring. Makes me wish I’d been more dedicated to my piano lessons.

That song has inspired ideas for my take on a similar song. I shared that in this post, “How to Tell if You’re a Writer or Musician.” I’m so looking forward to fleshing it out during FAWM. Music is what I love! That’s what I want to go big with. I guess there’s a reason for cliches such as “Go big or go home.” There’s truth to them.

Why Sharing a Home is Hard for Introverts

When I saw Why Is It So Hard for Introverts to Share a Home on IntrovertDear, well, just say, it really struck a chord. As regular readers know, I’ve been struggling with this, like many, since Covid because now hubby and I are both working at home instead of just me. And let me say upfront that he is the only person I can stand spending this much time with. Over 26 years now. Longer than any roommate (really didn’t enjoy roommates), longer than my family of origin, longer than my first husband. We are so compatible.

When we first got together, we often stayed in because we didn’t want the wait staff to interrupt the flow of our great conversations. Our 1-week honeymoon in Maui wasn’t enough time together, so we booked a Caribbean cruise 7 months later. And traveled extensively since. Often shorter trips because you can do more of them. Stretch those vacation days with weekends.

We ended up moving cross country several times and one of the things I enjoyed the most was the cross country drive because we got to spend so much time together. Each move was such an adventure!

But having said that, I’ve been struggling since he started working at home full-time during Covid. He’s now got ongoing full-time remote status. I knew retirement was coming one day and I worried how I would handle that. But we’ve had to face this nonstop togetherness before retirement. At least in retirement, he could always go off and walk on the beach, but, then, I’d want to go, too – lol!

The thing is, I didn’t really like being at home alone all day when he worked onsite. It would have been great if he could have come home in the early afternoon after I’d had my alone time. Feast or famine, I guess.

We’re making a conscious effort to do some things differently. He goes off to his home office as if it’s onsite. I try my best not to pop in, but I still do that, so that’s on me.

I’ve been taking my solo walks by just gathering my things and walking out the door. No big announcements, no stopping in his office first – lol! We’ve streamlined our lunches – sometimes together, sometimes apart. I often get up at first light and sit out on the screened Lanai overlooking wide open spaces, sipping my coffee – totally glorious!

I’ve yet to do an artist date (was supposed to go today but didn’t or haven’t… yet). I don’t really want to drive off. I love my studio too much. Will have to work on this. Plus, we need to set aside some alone time on the weekend, which can easily get overlooked.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good week. I haven’t enjoyed my studio as much as I’d like because I was busy rearranging furniture and getting some things set up. I’m looking forward to working on my projects in my studio next week. So much to catch up on.

Until then…

 

Lucy By the Sea, Part 3: Truth Discovered

Lucy By the Sea is quite thought-provoking but mostly because it triggers my own experiences. And the most recent part that triggered something is the discovery of William’s half-sister–the one he didn’t know about. And how the first attempt to meet her did not go well. In fact, his sister refused to meet him. But, later, during the lockdown, she sought him out and very much wanted to meet him. And they had a lovely reunion.

So I thought about my own half-siblings–the ones I didn’t know growing up: my father’s younger kids (my two half-brothers and a half-sister). I grew up with my mother’s two other children–a half sister and a half brother, and a step dad. Also, I knew about a son my father had before I was born and a daughter my step dad had before I was born.

But during this time of discovery, I exchanged several emails with my half-sister, my father’s daughter. And things started off rather promising, but, then, it turned ugly. My dad tried to build a relationship with me, I know he did, but he had other family members pressuring him. And I thought about the entire family and their reaction to me and while I was open to a relationship with everyone, my main interest was my father. And nobody, really, was interested in the truth I’d discovered. And that, along with my natural curiosity, was the reason for my search.

People always want to know “why now” did you look for them. Besides my other unsuccessful attempts, I finally had the means to find them. But my main purpose was not to just get to know them, but to get to know them with this new understanding I’d had. This truth, this secret that had come to light which changed everything for me. But nobody wanted to know that and refused to hear it. And so it all came to an end.

I had risked it all and, for a time, it had paid off. But, in the end, I lost both sides of my family, that is, my mother’s kids and my father’s kids. But if you can’t have an honest relationship, is that even a relationship at all?

The good news is that those not so closely involved welcomed me with open arms.

If I Don’t Tell the Story, Who Will?

Reading the novel Lucy by the Sea (Elizabeth Strout) in the author’s very autobiographical style stirs up all kinds of memories and ideas, not only in my experience with Covid, which was so different from the main character’s (and author’s?) and probably from so many New Yorkers, that I’m driven to write bits and pieces of something that may or may not make it into a book.

One piece sitting on one of my hard drives is called “If I Don’t Tell the Story, Who Will?” Perhaps, it’s on a backup drive because I can’t find it on my newest computer. So I decided to write this new piece:

If I Don’t Tell the Story, Who Will?

The last time I “spoke” to my father was actually through email. I’d posted a photo on Facebook of him (with camera, next to Joe) with Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, the one he had given me and said I had permission to post on my website even in a book as requested by somebody writing about Marilyn Monroe. Well, he asked me to take it down from Facebook. For some reason, it was a problem for my half sister, the one who was his daughter, not my other half sister, who was my mother’s daughter.

It brought back those heartbreaking memories of when I was a kid and had first heard that my dad was not my dad, that he was Sherry’s dad and I had a different dad. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) had given me a letter and photos, but my mother insisted I give them back, that they would “hurt” my step dad, who I called dad.

So to have my real father so many years later, the one I had searched for and found and met and was doing everything I could to create a relationship with, ask that I take down that photo was just too much! I deleted Facebook for the last time and never communicated with him again.

A year later, I sent him a Christmas card because I didn’t want to part that way but he died the next year and I don’t even know if he got the Christmas card as he was in an assisted living facility before his death. I only discovered my dad was dead when my aunt (my uncle’s widow) saw it on Facebook and told me at the same time that the rest of the world found out. This is why I hate Facebook.

Writing as Therapy

Writing used to be therapeutic for me. I processed a lot of stuff during that time of discovery by writing and blogging. And did I need to do that back then! You’d think I’d be finished by now. But every once in a while, some old feelings are stirred up and become too draining to write them in a book. It’s no longer therapeutic. Besides, I told that story in Myths of the Fatherless (the “cleaned-up” version, I might add… what if I told the whole story…) And that’s the idea behind “If I Don’t Tell the Story, Who Will?”

Even my wip, She’s Not That Good, is giving me migraines during the editing process. My editor kindly suggests I stop the project. But I’m feeling a bit stubborn and want to finish it. But will I have the stamina? Perhaps, one chapter at a time.

Music as Healer

Instead, I find music more soothing. It keeps me anchored in the present, instead of the past. It conquers the past. it’s like my brain has been rewired from writing to music and can’t really turn back. And if it’s true that you should “put your ass where your heart wants to be,” well, that is certainly where my heart is.

“Lucy by the Sea” #amreading #Covid #Novel

After reading My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Stout (recommended as a novella, but I would say it’s a novel), I was intrigued by the continued story of the main character in Lucy by the Sea. Reading the sample, I was super intrigued as I realized I was now ready to read a Covid story. In fact, it’s got me thinking about my own awareness of Covid and the reactions we had back then.

We’d moved back to Las Vegas from Florida and were living in a rental, although I was missing the Vegas house we’d owned for so many years. It took awhile to sell the Florida house and so we were keeping ourselves busy househunting, although I wasn’t sure I wanted to own another home in Vegas after living through the housing bust and being underwater, anxiously awaiting the market to pick up again so we could leave. I thought maybe we’d rent this time so we could be more nimble.

But the rental sucked! It was in a very nice part of town, super nice neighborhood, and looked nice but so many things were broken and they had no intention of fixing them. The stove top, for one. We used the microwave, electric skillet, and rice cooker instead. They only replaced the leaking toilet and half bath vanity when the water department sent a notice to say there was a leak and must be fixed immediately.

I loved the casita–a separate building where I set up my studio, but the air conditioning wasn’t working and there was no heat. They finally did fix the A/C (law requires it), and I used a space heater in the winter. But then the sliding glass door that led to the casita went bonkers and wouldn’t close completely – at least, only with force that my husband had to administer. So I stopped using it.

We’d left a beautiful home behind in Florida and I desparately missed our French door refrigerator. This rental had one of those small apartment-like fridges. I was determined to have my own refrigerator, even if we had to buy one and squeeze it into that small space – lol! So we scoured the area for a better rental, and were just about to sign the lease, when something made me stop. Instead, we decided to go under contract with a new build, although it was a bit smaller than we were used to, but it was better, we thought, than a townhouse. Anyway, our house would be finished by the end of April.

And we all remember that March, right? Everybody was hoarding toilet paper and here we were living in a rental, about to move out, and we certainly weren’t hoarding anything. I began to use each square of TP with judicious care to make it last until we could get some more (and swore at all those people who were hoarding it).

My husband began to work at home. We were holding our breath waiting to hear if new construction was “essential” or not. What if they stopped building our house? Thankfully, it was deemed essential and we continued to hope that we would be in our own home soon. Having your own home suddenly seemed even more important than ever–to be able to control your own environment was at the top of the list.

Layoffs were happening all over, but, thankfully, my husband was also on the essential list. But somehow our builder rep thought he was on furlough so we had to set him straight right away. Don’t stop working on our house–we’re counting on moving in! We did hear rumblings of appliances being unavailable. Refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc. We opted not to go through the builder for those–otherwise, closing may have been delayed until they could get their supply. No, we went through Home Depot, and though there was a bit of a delay, eventually, we got them delivered. They gave us a refrigerator rental (yes, one of those small apartment-like refrigerators) for a couple of days.

As is true with every new house, it seems you must buy new furnniture to fit the new space. We donated some of our stuff that didn’t fit and bought new stuff, although the choices were limited.

Two years of living in that “tiny house” (the downstairs was the problem–the kitchen and living room were squeezed together with no dining area)–the rest was taken up by the garage. And with both of us working full-time in our adjoining spaces upstairs, feeling squished, and with companies more supportive of remote work, well, all this led us to moving back to Florida. Thankfully, we’ve always been able to have a larger, single story house with plenty of room for both of us to co-exist in our own workspaces in Florida. We took that window of opportunity and sold tiny house at top market value. But post-Covid brought its own set of problems.  I’ll tell that story another day.

In the meantime, I might be inspired to get back to another manuscript I’ve started about living in a tiny space. My editor says proofs for “She’s Not That Good” should be coming within the week and I’m hoping the changes are minor and I can send it out into the world by the end of the year.

The Courage of Making Art

In every book I read about the artist life, one thing in common is the idea that it takes courage to do it. Especially when you’re bold enough to tell the truth. And the truth makes the best art.

I remember how exhilarating and draining it was to write my novel Letters on Balboa Island. I played my Bryan Ferry album over and over again, putting me in the mood. Many writers have spoken of those scenes that break you into a million sobs. This came close. When my mother read the first chapter, she demanded to know, “What’s this all about?” in her usual accusing manner. My father called me and wanted to talk about it because he loved it so much!

It was especially hard to tell my story in Myths of the Fatherless. Back then, we still sent out Christmas letters and I almost sent my father a different version, omitting the part about publishing that book. In the end, though, I realized that if I was going to have the relationship I hoped for, I would have to tell him about it. And so I did. He told me he read it twice right away. After that, he became “dad.” After that, he read everything I wrote.

A friend said I was courageous to look for my father and to meet him. When I told him that, he said, “It’s not courage, it’s normal.” I think both may be right. My normal desire outweighed my fears. The courage came from admitting that desire to myself. But I do think it’s courageous to reveal parts of ourselves in our art, either through words or music or paint or whatever it is that makes us feel vulnerable. A comment on social media. Even this blog post.

Anyway, the inspiration for this post today is that while I await my editor’s feedback on “She’s Not That Good,” I’m starting to organize my other wip, working title: “Burying the Dead.” And it’s killer. The truth always is.