Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How do you eat an elephant?

"To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one's own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one's own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I had a great day yesterday! We went to a town called Totnes. It's not very big but as our village has one pub and one shop/post office and that's it, any town is a big town to us! We did our groceries and I was able to spend time in TWO bookshops! YAY!! I came home with an ancient copy of Alice in Wonderland and a collection of Collette's essays on gardens. I am working in a lovely garden this summer so I thought I could read it then. Second hand bookstores are amazing.

Unfortunately for them, my new old books will have to wait! Yesterday after writing about reading Women Who Run With the Wolves I was inspired to pick it up again and start reading it. It's like curling up at the feet of and old woman and learning what you need to know. It's become almost a cliche in some circles, but I am an unabashed friend of it.

I came across the quote about strength this morning, and I had to write it down - both here and in my notebook. As I said in my first post, I am so interested in what power we would have if we stopped worrying about our weight and our wrinkles and how we looked. Imagine how much money and time could be spent on our dreams and our children and becoming strong if women (and men) stopped spending money on surgery and potions and pills and diets. So many people are living with the belief that if they could just be different on the outside that they would feel different on the inside. But as Debbie Ford says, "if we put ice cream on top of poop after a few spoonfuls we will taste the poop again."

I used to be like that. I used to think that when I was thinner I would be okay, that when I reached a (frankly) impossible weight that I would also get a personality and confidence transplant and I would be okay. Yuck.

Now I just want to be strong. I want to make my body strong enough to be able to handle anything physical I want to do. I want to be strong enough to take care of myself, to have kids when it's time, and to keep up with anyone. I want to be strong enough to do the Inca trail someday. I also want to be strong inside. I want to be strong enough to fight off the invading media images that show aging as the enemy. I want to be strong enough to be a great aunt to my almost niece or nephew. I want to be strong enough to be an equal partner in my relationship. I want to be strong enough to make the choices and the decisions that mean a creative and honest life.

Can I do it? I think so. Each choice, each decision, each gentle nudge or kick in the ass is a step forward.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A young grasshopper.

"Today come to the life-affirming awareness that there's really no such thing as a mistake. It's simply that you'd make a different choice now than the one you did then, even if then was yesterday." - Sarah Ban Breathnach

Yesterday I was touched by an angel - by my book-angel-therapist. I have always been jealous of people who report that they can open a book and come across the exact passage that they need when they need it. Sarah Ban Breathnach talks about going into a used book store and asking to be lead to something wonderful. She usually finds exactly the thing she didn't know she needed. Well I have tried this. I have tried wandering through shops hoping for divine intervention or a kick in the backside but I have always found myself disappointed. But I also have always ended up with a book.

I've got a passion, you see, and it's for books. I love them. I love the way they look, the way they feel, I love the way they smell. There are two places I can go and know that there will be something that delights me. One is an office supply store and the other is a book store. I laughingly call those places "The Mother Ship," because I feel like I belong there amongst writing and writing materials.

So imagine my sadness when I couldn't seem to get the answers I was seeking immediately upon asking. Instead I would be drawn to books and buy them, often sneaking them home and leafing through, or even reading them cover to cover and then feeling slightly let down. Somehow they were just not quite right. So I'd put them on my growing bookshelf(s) and forget about them. Sometimes I would even carry them with me to new homes to put on new bookshelves for no apparent reason.

It was just a few years ago when I began to finally understand how my book-angel-therapist was working. I had purchased a copy of Women Who Run with the Wolves several years before, read through it, and put it away on my shelf. Feeling slightly unhappy one day I found it again and this time I read it cover to cover, making notes and putting in tiny bookmarks. It was exactly what I needed when I needed it! Since then I have realized that many of the books I bought were just entering my life so that they would be there when I was ready for them. Rather than be immediately gratifying, my book-angel-therapist was thinking ahead, knowing me and what exactly I would be ready for someday.

So that is where my head is today as we head out into the world. There is a lovely town near us that is just full of bookstores and lovely shops. I'm excited to see if any books call to me. I know now that you can't rush these things. You can't ask for something and expect it to just happen. You have to trust that all you have is all that you need. Fate and angel-book-therapists work to their own schedule. Young grasshoppers must take it slowly.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I'd like a Tim Horton's Bagel Please.

Last night Mark and I went out to a pub for dinner with our friend Jonny and his Mom. Jonny and Mark both ordered 'Steak on the Rocks.' It comes just like it sounds. You get a platter with a salad and a portion of chips (french fries) on either side of a piece of marble hot enough to cook a steak. It comes out sizzling and spitting and you cook your steak to the desired done-ness. I didn't order this as any meat that I eat has to be cooked until there is no resemblance what so ever to anything that was ever alive. Ethically I am so very close to being a vegetarian, but my tastebuds are weak. (I like the hamburger - don't want to meet the cow.)

One interesting side effect of the smoky bar and the cooking meat was the wave of nostalgia it caused. When I got home I was changing into my pajamas and as I pulled my shirt off I had the most intense memory of my Oma and Opa's house. When we went to Oma's for dinner she almost always made roast beef, boiled potatoes, beans, and jus (thin gravy.) Both of my grandparents and a few of my aunts and uncles smoked. This combination of the smells of cooked beef and cigarette smoke brought me straight to her house last night. To anyone else that scent might be terrible, but I had to sniff my shirt several times before putting it in the wash. It was nice to think about those times.

I'm feeling a little bit homesick today. Jonny lost his Dad recently and Mark and I weren't able to be here for him over that awful time. The only trouble with living somewhere that isn't where you are from is that you are always missing things. You miss people's weddings and funerals and babies being born. You miss spending ordinary time with people too. Sometimes your friends forget about you. Life goes on in both places whether you are there or not.

Don't get me wrong, I love living here and I love both of my homes. I love that my life is unusual and that I followed my heart. Sometimes I just wish I could twiddle my nose and be home for a minute or two. For anyone else who is an 'ex-pat' you should check out Isabel Huggan's book, Belonging: Home Away from Home. It really captures the experience.
(I'm homesick for a country that has stores like this???)

On a different note, I thought I would try to channel some of my weird energy into doing some artwork. I went to Illustration Friday and looked at the word for this week. It's Glamour. Huh. Glamour? As I sit here in my pajamas, sipping nettle tea I wonder what I can say toward that subject. Glamour? Me? The girl who sat next to 'Steak on the Rocks' last night? Maybe I will just wait for the next 52 Figments assignment and do that first! I think 'Glamour' might be be too deep an end to jump into.

Friday, January 27, 2006

So... I think I like blogging.

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
- Dr. Seuss
Yesterday when I asked Mark what he thought of my post and the picture he laughed and said that my desk was the one bright shining spot in our cave. He's right. I've realized with my pictures of the beaches and the cliffs surrounding our house I may have given the impression that we live in a lovely beach-front home. In fact, we do live in a cave. Well, not exactly. We live in a small 'ground floor flat.' In Canada we'd call it a 'basement apartment.' It used to be smaller but some long renovations turned our one bedroom into a two bedroom. It also has one strangely shaped room that was going to be an office until we bought a ski machine and it was the only room with a ceiling high enough for the machine. So now it's the gym (it's a three foot wide room that is basically a hallway to get to the bathroom so don't be too impressed!!)

The trade-off for living in such a beautiful place is that we are pretty isolated. There is magic in living in a small village but there are also lots of limitations. We have to drive everywhere for everything. For about eight months of the year the population here dwindles and the number of like-minded youngish artists and writers is a grand total of two - and it's us. Young people just can't afford to live where we are. We are able to only because of the amazing generosity of Mark's parents.

I've been a strange mixture of emotions these last few days. Yesterday I was so full of a strange manic energy that I had to go out for a long walk over the cliffs. When I was in my house I wasn't accomplishing anything, and I broke everything I touched (sorry Mark - xo.) I ended up on the beach in the picture. I watched the waves and the seagulls and tried very hard to think through what was going on in my head.

It all boils down to this. I should have started this blog ages ago! In the last few days I have connected with some of the most amazing, brave, open, and creative people. I haunted other people's blogs silently for a long time before I finally started my own. I knew that there was a community out there who was being supportive and creative and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I had no idea how powerful it would feel to step in. I find myself buzzing with energy. I want to paint and draw and write, but there is so much energy that I can't put it all into one place. I've met some wonderful women who are at the same stage in their blogging career and I'm just as excited for them as I am for me! This feels like the beginning of a great adventure. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cluttered or creative?

This is my desk! Actually, this picture could almost be an entry into the Self Portrait Tuesday thing. At the very least it is a picture of the inside of my brain.

No matter where I have lived I have needed to have things up around me. Whenever my friend Jayne came over to my house when we were teen-agers, she would sit in the middle of my room and just look around her at all of the things on my walls. I love inspirations. If I could have a job that involved collecting inspiring and lovely creative things and sharing them with people, I would be happy going to work for the rest of my life.

"Invent your world. Surround yourself with people, colour, sounds, and work that nourish you." - Sark

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Writing again.

This morning I went for a walk down to the beach to get a picture and ended up wandering and beachcombing and only taking two pictures. I love the beach at this time of year because I usually only share it with one or two people. In June the population of my tiny village begins to swell with 'holiday makers' and tourists and this beach gets filled with suntanners and boats. But for now it's just ours.

I wandered around, looking back and forth between the amazing views and the ground. I have begun collecting bits of seaglass. I am on the hunt for a bit of red. I am assured that red doesn't exist and that the search is futile, but I am not convinced. I have yellow, brown, purple, green, blue, white - why NOT red? Today I found a very tiny bit of yellow. I wonder what it was a part of in it's previous life.

So now I am back, pink cheeked and ready to go. Mark did some amazing things on our home page yesterday. It's looking very professional and very real. This scares me a lot because I have only a small amount of my portion of the site done. I'm going to have to move it to catch up. The trouble is, I am itching to get started on some new writing. I have had my first book on my 'to do' list for so long that now that it's off I am overwhelmed by all of my new ideas. I want to start them all.

When I was in school I always worked to a deadline. I never followed the instructions about making two drafts before you got to the finished product. In fact, I have been known to go back and fake a first draft after my project was complete. I always needed the pressure of a deadline to force me to work. When the end result has to be perfect, I become too afraid to start. It's too much pressure.

So what's changed? Why was I able, finally, to finish something and be brave enough to send it out into the world? I learned to accept the Yucky First Draft. Sometimes I think that people who are writers feel obligated to WRITE. We feel like everything needs to be good and slightly profound, and spelled correctly and graded with an 'A.' Artists, too, I have discovered, often need each canvas to be good, each picture to elicit awe. I was never able to just muck in and get something on the page. I edited madly as I went, scribbling out and deleting until all of the energy and joy and spontaneity was taken out of whatever I was writing. So I stopped.

When I started tentatively scribbling again it was in a journal. Because no one else would see it I just wrote what I thought, how I was feeling, what was going through my mind. I didn't edit myself. I didn't worry about an audience. I loved it! I remembered that that was how writing used to be before it really mattered what grade I got. I resolved to start writing first drafts again. To begin to let my writing and my art flow as it wanted instead of forcing it to be something I thought it should be. It's still really hard to silence my inner editor, but at least now they have something more to work with.

So today it's tea and my website work and hopefully a few minutes to get started on my rough draft of a new book. Oh! and maybe a minute or two reading blogs. I'm afraid have become addicted.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm just getting started!

"Metamorphosis isn't always pretty but it is always awesome and absolutely essential." - Oprah Winfrey

I have been sitting here typing and retyping and thinking and stopping for a cup of tea, and trying very hard to write something Good for my first blog entry. I wonder if everyone else who ever started a blog was this nervous or if they all sat down boldly at their keyboards and wrote something they were happy with the first time. It's difficult to do this. I want to write something that will make whoever reads this interested enough to come back, but I also want to use this to capture who I am now and what I am doing. I hope that the second entry gets less scary.

For a long time I waited to do anything. I wanted to be thinner or richer or braver before I took any steps. I am so sad now because I see as I write what a cliche that is. That is why I chose to use the title 'More to Me' for this blog. I have wasted so much energy not liking different aspects of myself. I have wanted to be different based on what other people tell me is okay. But there is so much more to me than my weight, or what clothes I am wearing, or whether or not I have wrinkles. What if we put all of the money and energy that is wasted worrying about those things back into living our lives? What would be possible?

So a little while ago I started to do things. I moved to the UK to teach high school english, but then quit teaching and moved in with Mark. I have finished my novel (only about 12 years in the works) and sent it off to a publisher (please keep your fingers crossed.) I've started a new book that is non fiction. And last October I participated in a 16 mile walk for charity (that was mostly uphill and we're pretty sure was closer to 17 miles!) The picture at the top is us about 1/2 way through. And now Mark and I are working on a new and exciting website. We are both novices at this. As I type he is teaching himself Flash. He's designing the look of the site, our friend Matt is designing the backend dynamic logic system (uh? what?) and me? I am in charge of coming up with the 7000 or more creative things that will make up the information of the site. I am at 627. Talk about a challenge.

I started this blog because I wanted to have a place to come and write every day. I wanted a place to chart our progress on the website. I wanted to chance to become part of a real community of creative and interesting people. There is so much inspiration and honesty and creativity out there. I am excited to be a small part of it.