This Side Up

I am well-made

Quality-checked

Integrity-tested

Superbly crafted

From the strongest materials

But I am delicate

With fine details

Intricately pieced together

If I am broken

There may be no fixing me

I am more fragile than I seem

And I don’t come with instructions

So handle me with care

This side up

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Giving Up Reading for One Week – Day 7

The last day of no reading. And I gave in.

I needed a break from work and I needed breakfast. And you can’t just sit in a food court by yourself with nothing to do. My go to distraction this past week has been drawing but you don’t want to do that while you’re eating. You know what the perfect thing to do while you’re eating is? Reading.

So I opened a book and I read a few chapters. I convinced myself it was the last day and that it didn’t matter. But it does matter doesn’t it? Not necessarily that I started reading when I’m trying not to, but that I so easily decided I didn’t need to follow through on something that I had previously committed to. Priorities change I guess, but it’s way too easy to break promises to ourselves. And then we slowly learn not to trust ourselves. What may seem like a small thing by itself, could be a big problem when looking at the whole.

But I’m also learning to me more forgiving of myself. Does a slip mean that I outright fail? Before I would have said yes – the assignment was to not read for 7 days and I only made it 6 1/2. But sometimes we learn the most when we slip up. And then we have the chance to grow and move forward.

So now I’m back on the wagon with full intentions of finishing out the day. Because when we’re weak, we work on becoming stronger and when we fall off the wagon, we climb back on.

Giving in for an hour doesn’t mean the whole week was for nothing. I still got a lot of use from not reading or watching TV. It did in fact make space for other things in my life like blogging, writing, drawing, online classes, etc. But there’s also definitely room for reading. Some situations are just made for sitting down with a good book. And apparently one of those situations is eating breakfast while sitting alone in a food court in order to get away from my desk for a while.

Giving Up Reading for One Week – Day 5

The most dominant thought running through my head when I first started this was “I am about to discover just how boring my job is.” And I was 100% right.

I don’t consider myself a very jealous person but one thing I do get jealous of is people who love their jobs. People who can spend hours lost in their work only coming up for air when their bladder can’t take any more pressure and pain. Or their stomach is slowly consuming them from the inside out. I’m jealous of people who get live in their flow and get paid to do it.

Living in the flow is amazing. Magical even. How hours and time can just disappear because you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing. I’m not unfamiliar with the experience but it definitely doesn’t happen as often as I would like. And while maybe it used to happen in my job when I first started, any moments living in flow happen outside of work now.

I never realized how much time I kill a work. Especially during our off season when things just aren’t as busy. And when you can’t kill time reading articles on the internet or listening to podcasts or YouTube videos, how do you kill time?

I’ve been choosing writing, Duolingo, and online classes as my new time fillers.

  • I have a page downloaded from the internet with 365 days of writing prompts. These have definitely helped and a couple of poems have come out of them, but I find them tedious after a while. And I’m still too intimidated to work on anything real… Blogging is another good time filler though. But how many posts can one person really make before chasing away readers?
  • Duolingo is another great option. Learning Spanish has fallen of my list of priorities lately, partially because I don’t foresee traveling anywhere where I need to speak Spanish in the near future. Duolingo is a great little way to practice Spanish without a lot of effort. Plus, you can turn off the sound features and just work on vocabulary and grammar without doing the listening and speaking exercises.
  • The final time filler I’ve been using is an online class. Udemy was having a sale so I decided to sign up for a digital art class. While TV is discouraged during this week of no reading, I think instructional videos are a nice loop hole.

These things have been great little lifelines. Some of you may be wondering why I don’t just ask for more work? Because anything I’m going to get is going to be “make-work” work. And if I take it on now, I’ll have to keep doing it even when things pick back up again. I don’t want that shit work on my plate.

 

The weekend was way easier. There were all kinds of things I could fill my time with outside of TV and reading. I played a whole bunch of volleyball, went to dinner with a friend, went to a science/art festival close to my house (below are some videos and a photo of some of the exhibits), sewed on a whole bunch of buttons onto clothes (a task I had been avoiding forever), made granola, made muffins, walked my dog… All kinds of things. But I can’t do those things at work and look like I’m doing work.

When I came home on Friday I was anxious. I love reading and I had a long day on Friday trying to think of other ways to fill my time. And after a long week I enjoy decompressing with a good book or movie. And those were off the table.

The exercise is to do this for seven days. And I’ve survived so far. But a bulk of my time was not at work and I’m just not positive that I can do this for two days. Which sounds crazy doesn’t it? But the fact that I don’t think I can make it for another two days makes me think that it’s that much more important that I see this through. Maybe I should just be updating my resume at work… My time at this job is definitely ticking down. My job is adding very little value to my life and I am adding very little value to my job. It’s time to change.

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Not Just Another Story

Time ticks by

Boredom is an itch

I long for an escape

I crave it

To lose myself

To stretch my arms out

And dive in

With no intention of ever coming back

Off to discover new worlds

Where I don’t even exist

I will become them instead

They are interesting

They are exciting

They are alive

In a world of their own

Created just for them

They have friends with long made-up histories

Bonds forged forever in print

There are villains with the worst qualities

But still human

Disgusting but likeable

Complicated

And the adventures they go on

Full of meaning and purpose

The fate of the story rests on their shoulders

How will it end?

Read on

But I’m not reading

I am there

I am them

I have left my own world behind

So I could be in theirs

So I could be them

And forget my own

I am not lost

I am found

The Summer Thief

Autumn is a thief

Working before my very eyes

I might see but I don’t notice

Through the canopy of trees

It sneaks

Leaf by leaf it reaches out

Changing greens to golds

Leaving behind reds and rusts

The change is slow

Subtle

Sandals have changed to shoes

Shorts have changed to jeans

Nights get longer

As autumn steals the day

And wind gets colder

As autumn steals the heat

Leafless skeletons are all that remains

Autumn has stolen the summer

Giving Up Reading for One Week

Could you give up reading for one week? No novels. No stories. No blogs. No newspapers. No articles. No social media. For one entire week.

I’m honestly not sure I could. And I’m even less sure that I can. But that’s what I’ll be doing for the next seven days.

For over three weeks now I have been reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and been going through the twelve-week program and doing the assigned exercises. I’ve been waking up every morning between 6:30am and 7am (even on weekends!) to write my morning pages, I’ve been taking myself on “artist dates,” I’ve been using affirmations, and I’ve been doing a lot soul searching in trying to answer questions about who I am and who I think I want to be. But I think I just ran into my most difficult exercise yet.

One of the assignments for week four is to give up reading for seven whole days. I’m not even entirely sure how it’s possible to give up reading. I love reading so much. I do it all the time. I suck down words like I breathe down air. I’m not even sure I can live without reading – especially if I’m comparing reading to breathing! What will I do with all this spare time?

Here’s Julia Cameron’s reasoning about why reading deprivation is one of the greatest tools you can use to unblock your creativity.

“Reading deprivation casts us into our inner silence […] “

“We often cannot hear our own inner voice, the voice of our artist’s inspiration, above the static.”

“If we monitor the inflow and keep it to a minimum, we will be rewarded for our reading deprivation […] Our reward will be a new outflow.”

“[…] sooner or later, if you are not reading, you will run out of work and be forced to play.”

“For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

It is a fascinating theory. She’s basically implying that by limiting the inflow or words and ideas from other people, which can flood our system, we are able to tap into our own words and ideas and change the direction of the flow; without ideas flowing in, they can flow out instead.

It makes a crazy amount of sense. But it is terrifying as hell. And it’s really strange that it makes me feel panicky. How can the idea of giving up reading be so terrifying? I think it has something to do with the fact that I can’t use reading to avoid things anymore. Cameron is right. Of course I’m addicted to reading. I don’t consider it a bad addiction, but in looking at it from a new perspective, I totally use reading as a crutch. I would way rather get lost in another author’s world than be faced with the prospect of having to create one myself. Even though I love writing too. How does this make sense? Too many times I have delayed doing something because “I need to finish my book first.” It will be interesting to see what happens when that excuse is off the table.

Plus, as part of this assignment, Cameron also suggests giving up TV. The obvious solution to having too much time from not being able to read is to fill it with TV. Watching TV is an amazing way to kill time. But TV is an inflow too. And like so many parents have said to their kids throughout history “TV numbs the brain.” TV is a crutch too. What am I going to do with so much time??!!

Prepare yourself for a lot of blog posts over the next seven days…