The WouldaShouldaCoulda pays a visit

Regrets? I’ve had a few, but then again …

They’re right about how the things you didn’t try loom larger in your memory than the things you did — I would have treated some people better, and I would have spent more time thinking through certain things.

The WouldaShouldaCoulda circled three times and settled into a ball like a fat coyote (or would have if there were ever such a thing as a fat coyote). It looked me in the eyes with a disinterested expression, which is odd because I’d always heard the WouldaShouldaCoulda was a wily predator and very interested in stealing your sleep and feeding on your dreams.

But it just sat there contentedly, watching me, watching me think about days and years that were long out of my control, until the risks and opportunities of this day — today — faded into the background.

That was when I realized what it had done, the insidious creature. It yawned, and its eyes seemed to grow heavy.

“You haven’t won,” I cried. “This isn’t over.”

But I kept thinking about what I would have done, what I should have said, and how I could have changed the course of the things that happened.

I vowed to be more bold and decisive from that moment on, and the WouldaShouldaCould opened its eyes and I could swear it looked amused. I had, after all, spent the first 20 minutes of a fresh new day dwelling on the imperfections of a past long gone and filed away, maybe not best forgotten but certainly best set aside as unchangeable.

I sighed, and to give myself the smallest of victories, I took a step forward.

Don’t worry, be writing

“Writing doesn’t always have to know where it’s going …

“And so, in order to be a good writer, I have to be willing to be a bad writer. I have to be willing to let my thoughts and images be as contradictory as the evening firing its fireworks outside my window. In other words, let it all in — every little detail that catches your fancy. You can sort it out later — if it needs any sorting.”

Julia Cameron
The Right To Write

How to handle an officious Self-Editor

Snooger, a snoggle, woke up to a blazing sun. Snoggle Swamp was hot and wet this morning, which was nothing new. After all, it was a swamp.

(Uh oh — you didn’t hear this, dear reader, because you can’t hear what’s in my head, but the Self-Editor is also awake, trying to form the exact right words to put down so that Snooger and his swamp appear perfectly formed on the page.

But that isn’t the point of this exercise, is it? No, my fingers are supposed to fly across the page and whatever comes out is OK, because I’ll go back and save the brilliant ideas and discard the silly ones — unless it’s supposed to be a silly story, and then I’ll keep the silly ideas and discard the bland ones — but the point is to race across the page and write without that idiotic Self-Editor trying to manipulate the words so they’re just-so-perfect right there on the page the first time he gives me permission to set anything down on the page.

Well, oh yeah, sez I? I give my Self-Editor permission to stuff himself into the arse of the left side of my brain and sit there reading spreadsheets until I’m ready to let him out! Right now, it’s time for flying through space and climbing faraway mountains or shrinking to the size of amoebas and rustling bacteria into their cages, do you hear? No more self-editing!! At least until it’s time to take a break and see what’s been hurled freely onto the page without that worse-than-senseless fool of a Self-Editor who can’t stand the sight of freedom.)

Now, as I was saying …

Snooger, a snoggle, woke up to a blazing sun. Snoogle Swamp was always hot, and always wet, because of course swamps on Venus are always hot and wet. If you were closer to the sun by 26 million miles, you would be hot and wet all the time, too.

(The next half-hour turned out to be amazing, in part because two friends happened to drop reading prompts at just the right moment. I must wait to share that scene, because it’s part of a larger bit of writing that I plan to share by year’s end. If all writing sessions went this well, I would promise to share it before summer. All I know is: When I banned the Self-Editor from lurking where he doesn’t belong, all heaven broke loose.)

Zola and a parting of souls

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot, a moment of joy captured by an inexpensive camera that had no business taking a photo this precious — Willow The Best Dog There Is™ and her cousin Zola romping with wild abandon across a field. I took a lot of photos that day, most of them blurs or pictures of stationary dogs, but somehow this image also emerged.

We took our almost-year-old golden retriever puppy with us to visit a friend and colleague whose golden was six months old. The resemblance between the two pups was amazing, and a quick comparing of notes revealed we’d adopted from the same breeder, so our girls were cousins or perhaps even sisters from different litters.

They ran and ran together in the field and along a Lake Michigan beach until we were tired — THEY never tired, we did. It was a magical day that was repeated a few other times. We haven’t seen our friends in some time, but we think of the special kinship between the two goldens often, and I framed a copy of that little Nikon’s moment in the sun and hung it on my office wall.

You can see the resemblance; I have to look closely to remind myself that Willow is the one in the lead, being chased by Zola. They are beautiful animals sharing sheer joy.

And so my heart sank yesterday when Zola’s human posted photos on Facebook with the simple caption “Zola — Aug. 31, 2009 to Feb. 12, 2021.”

Willow is more likely to trot across a field nowadays, her mad dashes behind her now, and I suspect Zola aged with the same grace and dignity. They fill our hearts to overflowing and then break them, never to be forgotten, always remembered with love.

And every day we see friends and acquaintances on social media mourning the loss of their furry companions, but this particular one strikes especially close to home, as a literal death in the family.

I am grateful for every morning that Willow strolls in to remind me it’s time for her breakfast, and for every night that she steps up onto the footstool and then onto the bed to take her place at my feet, because I know a finite number of those mornings and nights remain.

Today, though, I remember a dog who loved the water and running and her human dad and mom with a depth that belied her youth. When the pain of losing her eases, the joy of Zola’s memory will endure.

Cluttered mind journals in cluttered room

(Stares at the blank page, then at the bitter cold view out the window — sunny, but treacherous — then up at the clock and at the Julia Cameron book left next to the other armchair instead of back up on the shelf where it belongs.)

What is the problem with having “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Why do I just leave everything where I left it, lost and disheveled in a place not its own? How will I ever find it there? Rolling my eyes at myself asking, “Now where did I put that?” or stumbling over it in the dark or forgetting it even exists until one day, sorting through a pile, I see it and think, “OMG, I was supposed to do something with this,” or “OMG, now I remember what I meant to do before Christmas,” or “THAT was it.”

Continue reading “Cluttered mind journals in cluttered room”

The value of being real

“People want their wisdom in short bursts.”

“People want their stories long and complicated.”

People — people — people — what do YOU want? How do the wisdom generators and storytellers reach YOU?

That’s the puzzle, and that’s the solution: You are not “people.” You are person. You have a name. You might enjoy the cookie made with a cookie cutter, created to fit “the market,” and you might not.

How do I reach you? By giving the universe what I would want to see — providing the most authentic version of me that I can muster — and hoping you find it.

It’s not quite as random as that, but it’s close. And being The Real Me is my best shot at reaching The Real You.

Righting

Is something bothering you? Start writing.

Something’s wrong. You’re not sure what it is, but you’re uneasy — or you know exactly what’s wrong and you’re seething or brokenhearted or just upset. Start writing.

Don’t worry about what to write. Write about what’s wrong — that’s easy, it’s the main thing on your mind. Write why it’s upsetting you and what in the world you’re going to do about it — fix it, walk away, whatever — go through the options if you’re not sure. Start writing.

After a while something amazing will happen. As you see the problem unfold — literally — you’ll start to see solutions and options and all the other things a person does to deal with problems. And you’ll feel better because writing it down gave you more control over the situation, or at least more understanding.

“Writing ‘rights’ things,” Julia Cameron wrote. Want to see how that works? Start writing.

You got to know when

Somewhere out there, someone laughed at what he was writing. Someone else rolled their eyes. As for him, he was just sleepy.

And poverty came over him like a bandit, right on time.

Some Time Later, he came back to the place, picked up the book, and read What Had Been Written.

“Danged if I can make any sense of this s#!+!” he heard someone say, and maybe it was his voice. In any case, he moved on.

Where do I begin?

Where do I begin?

“What’s wrong with starting at the beginning?”

It’s hard to say. Because what IS the beginning anyway? At what point was the story in a place where it all started?

I suppose it depends on what “it all” is.

It all is what it all is. It all means what it all means, whatever it is and whatever that means.

Why does it all have to mean anything anyway? What and who gives it this thing you call meaning.”

“Yeesh. Just begin wherever you want to begin.”

Thanks. I think I will.

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