No, sillies, I am not taking a blog break to cavort in the sunshine. The horror. You should know me better than that! Besides, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and why risk going out there today? What I am doing is replying to the Sunshine Award questions Sadje posted.
1. How are you, really?
Eh, I’m OK… could be worse… could be raining. Oh wait! Actually, I am feeling somewhat better today from my fall a few weeks ago, but I’m still gonna take it easy. Decided that making banana bread was too much work, so I just threw the bananas in the trash and decided to blog this instead. You’re welcome!
2. What was the best age of your life?
Best is relative. I loved the years when my girls were little and I played with them every day… had the energy to do that along with help from my mom. I miss my mom so much. But other things weren’t great back then, and I have to admit I truly appreciate the past 10 years+ of fully financially supporting myself without depending upon some man.
3. What is your best method of relaxation?
It’s funny… up until a few weeks ago I would have said playing solo games on my phone. But then I had the epiphany that they weren’t relaxing at all and kept me hyper and unable to sleep. I’m back to reading ebooks now, and diving into fiction is a good relaxation tool until I get enraged by typos. (PS: I have only 7 books to go before I hit 100 read for the year!)
4. If you have a favourite movie, which one would it be?
Can’t choose only one, but some all-time favorites are Dr. Zhivago, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Alex & Emma, 27 Dresses, Analyze This, Goodfellas, Young Frankenstein.
5. How about a book? Which one would you choose?
Again, not possible to choose only one. Here are some at the top of my list: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Great Gatsby, Where I’m Calling From, Blind Willow/Sleeping Woman, The Velveteen Rabbit.
6. What do you think of psychology and the way it can help people?
Meh. It’s a soft science. But what I do think helps is having an objective person to talk to who is not a friend or family member ~ someone to whom you aren’t afraid to express your true feelings. But I think most of the “help” consists of realizing the solution to your own problems as you’re finally free to honestly say what you think. Now, if we are talking about actual doctors (psychiatrists) who can prescribe meds, that’s different. I’m highly in favor of meds.
As an aside, I’m NOT a fan of all the pop psychology floating around the net where completely unqualified people read an article or two and then believe they have the skills to label others with mental disorders. This does not apply to me obviously when I call my exes psychos and narcissists.
7. What’s your favourite food?
It really is mood-dependent. While I often want sweets, there are times I crave a yummy pizza or delicious, creamy seafood pasta. And a couple times a year, I simply must have a CHEESEBURGER!
8. What’s your favourite social media platform?
Even with all the glitches… WordPress by a mile. It’s mostly because of how nice everyone is in our writing community. Thank you, all!
9. Do you like hot or cold weather, and why?
Hot, up to a point… 75-85 is my ideal range. I enjoy the rhythm of long sunny days when it isn’t dark right after work and I can get motivated to be productive (or even social) in the evening.
10. What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A day without pain.
11. Finally, if you could change something in the past, what would it be?
Not a change, but I wish I could remember all the math I took. I was great at math as a teenager (including advanced calculus) but can’t recall stuff now. I am seriously thinking of buying math books to review what I used to know and go beyond that into the weird…
During the height of the pandemic, to what extent did you avail yourself of online shopping for meals, groceries, and other goods and services? If you did use online shopping and delivery services, now that things have eased up a bit, has your reliance on or use of such service continued at the same rate, increased, or decreased. To what extent?
In March of 2020, when we all realized that Covid was a bfd, I stayed home from work for a while and was terrified to go out, touch anything, or breathe. While I had been ordering miscellaneous stuff online for years (vitamins, clothes, gifts, etc.), I had never used grocery or meal delivery services. I tried to set up grocery delivery during the beginning of the lockdown and every attempt failed ~ through Amazon, Target, and Vons. I’d load up a virtual cart only to be told at checkout that none of the items were actually available and/or that there were no delivery times available. It was incredibly frustrating.
So I kept going to the grocery store. I went super early, the minute they opened, and hurried through, masked of course, trying to touch as little as possible. When I got home, I swiped everything with alcohol wipes, including my steering wheel, purse, keys, credit card, and all the groceries. It was completely nucking futz. Naturally, I was extremely relieved when it turned out we didn’t have to do any of that alcohol wiping.
But as far as shopping during the worst of Covid (assuming the worst is over!), I basically carried on as usual. I went to meatspace stores to buy things I needed that I couldn’t get online. The above pic is from a farmers’ market outing with friends. We felt relatively safe outdoors, though we wore masks even at the beach, which in my opinion is an enormous pain. I hate masks. They are hot and annoying, and they make my glasses slip off. My glasses actually fell off and broke at one point (in my office building) and are currently held together with superglue. Yes, I understand this is minor compared to being on a ventilator, thanks.
I’m triple vaxxed now and lately I’ve been doing whatever ~ restaurants, movies, game nights indoors, etc. I will be flying to NorCal in November to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter and son-in-law. Last year I drove, but ugh… 7 hours in the car is really painful for my back. I feel safer now that I’ve had so many vaccines (not just for Covid but also for the flu and shingles), and California has a high percentage of sensible people who are fully vaxxed as well. I don’t always love living here with the ridiculous taxes and cost of housing, but I am grateful for the way most of us in this state have behaved during the pandemic.
I’ve seen some peeps asking about NaNoWriMo, which I have participated in many times over the years, hitting 50K words on several occasions. I did not NaNo last year though, nor am I doing it this year. Frankly, I can’t imagine ever doing it again.
I achieved my goal of completing full-length novels ~ I have 4 novels, 1 novella, 4 short stories, and 6 books of poetry, all available for purchase on Kindle. None of them sell, partly because I despise marketing and partly because there are so many indie books for sale that it is impossible for an ordinary writer to get any attention, marketing or not. I have friends who advertise and they do sell more books, but the sales do not exceed what they spend on ads. And maybe the simple fact is that I am not good enough to stand out from the crowd… something to consider.
But doesn’t my love for writing overcome such a silly concern as making money at it? Well, yes and no. I can post poetry here on my blog to get my words seen by readers, and that’s satisfying even without financial compensation. Toiling away on a novel month after month only to get a handful of buyers? Nah. That is not appealing. In fact, my feeling right now is that I will be leaving my half-finished novels in the cloud until the end of time, or deleting them. It troubles my OCD to have WIPs lurking, so it’s more likely I will delete them. They are romances, so no great loss there.
I have something else however: a series of longer short stories that ultimately connect into a whole. About half are finished, which leaves 6 or so to write. I really like these and don’t want to abandon them, so I’m thinking about posting them here. I don’t want them lost in the mass of prompts and such, so I’ll have to figure out a better way, such as making a separate page for each.
There’s a quote going around about how writers turn into monsters if we can’t express ourselves. First, I think it is bad for anyone not to have an avenue of expression for their emotions, whether it’s writing, painting, or simply chatting to a friend. Second, as far as my “monster” tendencies, they have nothing to do with writing (or not writing) and everything to do with stressful circumstances. Finally, for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching more TV than writing, and I don’t feel the least bit monstery because of that.
But what if I didn’t even have a blog? Well, for most of my life I didn’t have one and that was fine. There were many years I wrote nothing but the occasional letter. I am still enjoying this blog though, especially since my refresh, and I appreciate the blogging community. But I do have to take the occasional step back and reevaluate all the things. I haven’t been participating in as many prompts as I used to, particularly the ones that specify word count and/or syllables. I find that makes my work sound stilted. Basically, I only do prompts that actually inspire my creativity, including words of the day when they combine to trigger a fictional scene in my mind or a burst of poetic lines.
I used to wear a mask And hide the truths about me, Worried if people knew There’d be no sympathy. But one day I removed it, Put it high upon a shelf, And no one cared at all— They were focused on themselves.
I turned sixty earlier this year, which was celebrated with (vaxed) friends at a very fun (outdoor) birthday party. Some people insist that they don’t feel their current biological age, but I do and then some. It’s a cruel trick of our perception that time seems to speed up just when we figure out what we actually want in life and then oops there isn’t much time left to enjoy or pursue it. But of course the clock ticks on the same as always in the afterglow of our epiphany. It only feels faster because we have a greater percentage of years behind us than in front of us.
So, yes, in some ways it is indeed a drag getting old, but it beats having a piano fall on your head (one of those cartoon dangers we learned to fear as kids, along with quicksand, but don’t actually hear about too often in reality). Just to be safe however, I frequently eat cake for dinner in case the piano or quicksand is waiting for me tomorrow.
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Mark Manson phenomenon. I found his blog ages ago. At first, I loved him. He was new! He was brill! Then when he become super popular and began charging for his words (NTTAWWT), I viewed those words more critically. Hmm, I thought, he’s actually just recycling stuff advice columnists have said forever but packaging it up in cool terms with swear words. Feh. Also, I was mad because someone advised me not to use F*CK in a title and I listened, but Mark did and his book became a best-seller. We won’t talk about the fact that I never actually finished my book. That’s irrelevant, people!
But lately, in the last year or so, I’ve wandered back into the MM fold like a lost little sheeple. Not really in the fold, more like on the edge of the field, ready to bolt away again at any moment, but… I kinda inadvertently subscribed by email to his newsletter. The free one! Gawd. And I may have the PDF of his free self-help book ready to download in another email. Maybe. Not saying if I do or not. I’m certainly not a stan, just an interested observer. Curious, ya know. He’s interesting. Once, lol, I wondered if Mark was actually a real person or the creation of a marketing team, so I did some sleuthing and concluded that he probably does exist.
Anyway. Point is, this last article from Mark knocked my socks off. I mean, it was the bees’ knees, my friends. The cat’s PJ’s. And the best thing about it? It is only telling you what you already know! But Mark puts together a bunch of disparate things you know in one place and ties them together in a way that makes sense and gives you a clear insight into something really profound: the relationship between effort and reward.
“Why The Best Things In Life Are All Backwards” may be the most brilliant piece I’ve read from Mark, and that’s saying a lot. I encourage everyone to read it right now and keep it bookmarked. I intend to reread it many times. The following quote is one gem, and it makes logical as well as intuitive sense:
Pursuing happiness takes you further away from it. Attempts at greater emotional control only remove us from it. The desire for greater freedom is often what causes us to feel trapped. The need to be loved and accepted prevents us from loving and accepting ourselves. — Mark Manson, in “Why The Best Things…”
You need to read the whole piece to really grok what he’s saying. It’s so great, and yet so simple too. That’s what makes it outstanding. I sort of stumbled toward this idea several times when I grew frustrated with my writing and couldn’t bear to do marketing, and then went back to my WIPs but only on my terms, which were pleasure-only. I can’t pursue writing for the goal of making money or selling X-number of books, since that only makes me frustrated and upset when it doesn’t happen. I don’t enjoy writing when I’m pursuing those goals because I’m thinking about them instead of immersing myself in words. I start obsessing about details of marketing and sales instead of points of plot and character or intricacies of rhyme and rhythm. And then I give it all up and watch TV.
There’s so much more to MM’s article ~ I’m just giving you a little taste in my bloggery here. If it doesn’t appeal, check out one of his greatest hits. I’m not getting a kickback. I just think he has some good things to say.
Ripples across a receptive mind Disturb the soul’s dark night; Awakening comes slowly as Suggestions of connections Form then dissolve again. There is no space For revelations Until ancient demons Are forced to vacate. Some go quietly; Others scream in outrage, Their claws sunk deeply In the foundation. When the last devil is pulled From the cave, You stare into its face: A mirror.
Melanie sets the spooky mood with her fresh set of questions today and a fab new SYW image! Love the earth egg…
1. What is the scariest game (board or on-line) you ever may have played?
I don’t find board games scary, not even the Ouija, which is just silly. I’ll have to agree with Jim that the online dating game can be frightening. You never know which profile will turn out to be a scary stalker, or worse. Most psychos know how to keep their crazy on the down-low for a short while. For me, scary games are anything physical where I could get hurt ~ and I have a PhD in tripping over my own feet. I particIpated in an escape room event once and that got a little scary. It was fun though!
2. What’s just ‘over the rainbow” for you?
Not sure what this means, since I don’t believe in anything supernatural. Rainbows are pretty, but they have a scientific explanation and my dreams aren’t coming true on ”the other side” of them, since a rainbow is, in fact, a circle, an arc of which is visible to observers in a particular location.
3. Do you have to watch something upbeat after watching a suspense or horror movie so you can go to sleep?
No, but first I generally don’t watch horror movies, and second I have trouble sleeping whatever I watch or avoid. Luckily, most days I can crash between 4-7am after waking repeatedly earlier (and staying awake), so I’m not wandering around like a zombie. I do wonder if my crapadoo sleep habits contribute to my klutziness though…
4. Is there intent behind every action?
I am not a huge believer in ”free will.” While we may think we are constantly acting with intent, and ascribe the same to others, my view is that we rarely behave with conscious intent. Yes, I know there are exceptions, and YOU, of course, are one of them. No one wants to believe their behavior is not under their total control.
I’m not feeling especially grateful today, so I have nothing to share in this section. Hoping things improve…
This week’s Throwback Thursday focuses on our memories of school. We’re told to take this prompt wherever it leads, and I’ll begin with their questions…
1. Who was your favorite teacher? What about your worst?
My favorite teachers were math teachers (after elementary school we had different teachers for various subjects), all men, and no BS. They neither shared things about their personal lives nor intruded in ours. Not coincidentally, math was my favorite subject.
My least favorite teacher was a high school history teacher who constantly babbled about personal stuff. He even put it on the quizzes! I had a 7th grade history teacher who spent a lot of time telling us about her divorce too. I didn’t much care for the elementary school teachers, mostly because they didn’t seem to like me.
2. Were you a member of any clubs?
Not really my thing, but my parents nagged me, so I joined the Spanish club and the newspaper team.
3. Did you attend homecoming or the prom?
4. What was your favorite subject?
Math, as I said. I also enjoyed a creative writing class senior year (male teacher). I enjoyed Spanish all through high school, which was taught by a woman, and she created an independent study class for me senior year because I was so advanced. She also gave me an award. Very cool.
5. Were you the perfect student or a troublemaker?
Neither. I broke some rules, but I didn’t do anything too horrible. My grades were always fantastic, so teachers didn’t bother me much. Here’s a naughty thing I did. In 8th grade science, we had to write a 10 page paper about something or other. I chose scallops. OMG they are boring (though tasty)! I took a chance the teacher was not going to read all 10 pages, so I wrote about scallops on pages 1 and 10, and in the middle I wrote a bunch of garbage. I received an A.
6. What clothes were in style when you were in school? How did you get to school? Bus, walk, drive? Any extracurricular activities? What did you do for lunch? Did you attend football games or other sports? Did you attend school when corporal punishment was applied? Have a school photo you wish to share?
We mostly wore jeans, sweaters, boots. I had high school in Illinois, so it was freezing much of the time. I never took a bus ~ either walked or got a ride, and at 16, I had my own car. I wasn’t into any rah rah stuff, such as sports, pep rallies, dances, etc. I either brought my lunch or bought junk food in the cafeteria. There was no corporal punishment.
I hated school when I was little because the other kids mocked me for being fat, wearing glasses, having no athletic ability, and even for being smart. Intelligence was not valued. Cute, slim girls who were good at volleyball were valued, just as Janice Ian wrote. You would think then maybe at least the teachers liked me for being smart? Nah. They didn’t care. They also preferred the cute kids.
Later, in high school, things were a little better because I developed anorexia and was no longer fat. I sort of became invisible at that point, which had been my goal… to float through the days without anyone taking notice of me and saying something mean. I deliberately let my grades slip so I wouldn’t have to be the valedictorian or one of the salutatorians on stage at graduation. I came in at no. 5, which delighted me and infuriated my mother. My father said kids would be different in college, but he was wrong. They were the same people who were jerks in high school ~ a new location did not change their personalities. Nor did it change mine. Depressed, I left the University of Illinois in Champaign after one semester and returned home to be invisible again. Finally, I finished college in California as a commuter student when I was 29.
I am brave enough to share pics! I made a collage from phone pics of photos in an album. Top left I’m around age 4 and already rolling my eyes. Look how pretty my mommy is! The next one is from like 2nd grade when I was super chubby. Then comes 4th grade or thereabouts. The one with the doggy is 6th grade in New Jersey. And finally I’m in high school… dig my kaleidoscopic shirt!