The Dark Coffee-Time of the Soul

I gave up at 3:42 am and got out of bed. I’d been awake for the last hour thinking about all the things that I needed to get done.

4:00 am – Writing

Yesterday, I began doing some research for my second novel. The story is emerging fromcanstockphoto3206388 days of shiftless writing. What started as a simple tale now has layers and I’m running into a lot more questions than answers. This is, I think, a good thing.

One of the problems I had with my first dust-collecting novel was that I was incurious about the story. Like a lot of first-time novelists, it carried autobiographical themes – stories I’d been telling myself all my life. Repetition breeds boredom and I was thoroughly bored with the thing.

Writing a novel reminds me of something I learned when I began raising a child: I was not entirely in control and I had a lot to learn. So it can be with a novel – and being curious is often a happier state to be in, rather than always knowing how the story ends.

*****

6:36 am – Blogging and Book Club Administrative Update

It’s time for me to give The Green Study a bit of an overhaul – update the About page, review what the hell I’m trying to do here and possibly start using my full authorial name.

I’ve been blogging for over six years and every time I go through this process, hardly anything gets changed. I like what I like and I guess that’s the way it goes. I like a simple page that focuses mainly on writing and commenting. My theme has always been book/nature-related and I don’t like too many bells and whistles. I’m curious for those who have been blogging – what changes have you made and what really works for you?cropped-cropped-canstockphoto68267321.jpg

While I will continue writing Fearless Friday posts, it will be inconsistent. I had hoped that it would garner more input and would be a great way for other bloggers to promote their blogs, but I’ve been flying solo and it takes time to put together a theme and find blogs in which others might have an interest. I still like the idea of it and will reiterate it here, for anyone interested in participating.

Feacanstockphoto13410470rless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share.  These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.

canstockphoto7243840The TGS Writers’ Book Club has gotten off to a slow start. I figure these things take time and I might have a few months of talking to an empty room. That’s okay, all the donuts and coffee are mine. I’m giving it six months and if it doesn’t really engage people, I’ll move onto the next thing. On that note, June’s selection is poetry – Mai Der Vang’s Afterland. Short read, much to talk about.

This is the nature of trying new things – sometimes they take time to develop, sometimes they remain a lead balloon that never gets off the ground. But that’s okay. I’ve learned not to be afraid of failure.

7:29 am – Grace for the Depressive

canstockphoto7950236For the last couple of years, I’ve had an impending sense of doom when it comes to the state of the nation. Children being murdered in their schools. Politicians who are so far removed from ethical norms as to be entirely useless to those they are supposed to represent. The pustules of sexism and racism bursting wide open. It seems like we’re all ugly Americans these days.

It has kept a stranglehold on me – that no matter how happy I was in the moment, it was all under the shadow of a cloud.

I thought that the only way out was to operate with intention and to understand that all the angst, guilt, anger, outrage, and sadness in the world won’t make one iota of difference if it’s all in my head.

I started with action. I joined the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and donated to the Center for Reproductive Rights. I embraced my liberalism and joined the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the Democratic party in Minnesota).

My focus turned to local and state issues. Over the last year, I’ve gotten to know my mayor, state senators, and representatives. I’ve learned about my school board. I’ve attended conventions, focus groups, debates, and informational forums.

I retreated from social media platforms that promoted false information and from people who based their opinions on echo chambers and memes. I continued to read heavily on economics, immigration, foreign policy, and history.

And I am so damned tired of it all.

canstockphoto6437374Spring came and so did gardening. It’s my happy place – dirt under my fingernails, errant bumblebees bumping into me, the sun on the back of my neck. After hours of back-breaking work last weekend, I tossed off my shoes and socks and flopped in the hammock. The neighborhood had ceased its endless mowing and children had retreated indoors. All was quiet, except the wind in the trees, carrying with it the smell of lilacs and freshly cut grass.

I realized that it’d been a long time since I had experienced a moment of grace – that space where you recognize the perfection of the moment when you’re in it, the release from all worries. And I thought about how infrequently I’d given myself the opportunity to experience it.

In the midst of all the fomenting, it’s important to create space for joy, even if it is only moments at a time. For some people, this concept is a given. I’m an intense person with an inaccurate sense of what I deserve. I internalize a lot of the world around me. Which means that I have to be deliberate in balancing it all with moments where I tell myself Yes, there is suffering in the world, but will mine make it any better? It’s okay to be happy sometimes.

Amen.

8:45 am and two cups of coffee later. Back to writing again.

Here’s hoping you find your proverbial hammock this weekend!

 

26 Comments on “The Dark Coffee-Time of the Soul

  1. 1. I’ve been meaning to overhaul my blog but I never do seem to get around to it. Knowing me, I wouldn’t advise anyone to place heavy bets on it getting done.

    2. Moments of joy: Yes. We need them to keep going, but I hope you’ll keep giving ’em political hell. The world needs you. And several million more like you.

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    • I go through the motions of an update and at the end of it, realized I hardly changed anything at all. I just wasted four hours doing it.

      I’m continuing to participate in the @#$% political process and volunteering, but I realized that if I’m going to keep at things, I’ve got to give myself a breather. Meetings and groups of people are my version of hell, but a necessary one in order to make any difference at all. And I’m not convinced I’m doing that. It just startled me a bit that it had been so long since I’d just relaxed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Michele, I think it is wonderful that you are involved in politics – but as crazy as things seem, don’t despair because they have always been crazy. It is just that the press used to have the good sense to ignore it.

    I will give you an example. Back when I worked for the MPD, we found that city council members were bugging each other’s offices. Keep in mind that there were no Republicans on the council at the time. This is not to blame the DFL but seriously – people from the same party bugging each other?

    The stunning thing is not that we found a bug or two but we literally found a history of bugging technology going back to the age of vacuum tubes (okay, I exaggerate).

    Beyond that, we learned that three city council members were shaking down the citizen. Two were DFL and one from The Green Party.

    How can I say politely what happened next?

    Let’s just say that it was not the Hennepin County Prosecutor (Amy Klobuchar) who sent them to prison (all three) but the federal prosecutor. Think that one through.

    I used to be active in the DFL too but after that and a few other incidents, I couldn’t bear to be involved. I guess I just don’t have a thick enough skin.

    I suppose what bothers me about the tribal nature of politics is that we come to believe the bad guys are on the other side and when we learn that is not necessarily true, we lose our faith.

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    • I have gritted my teeth through numerous DFL meetings. For me, it’s the nature of bureaucracy – even at the local level. No matter how organized or professional an organization is – there is always pettiness, overtalkers, pedants, bulldozers, etc. It’s all that human involvement! And I think that’s the most important thing to remember about any organization or party – humans will be humans.

      This morning I started reading Hans Rosling’s “Factfulness:Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think” in the hopes that it will serve as not only an antidote to all the doom and gloom, but also get my focus back on creating positive outcomes, not just fending off negative ones.

      I do agree that all this tribalism is tiresome – mostly because it impedes our ability to correctly address issues based on fact and not emotion. We all get caught up in the hyperbole and showmanship and fail to notice what is actually happening. These are challenging days if one strives to be a rational thinker. I’m trying, but there’s so much noise to cut through!

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the DFL. I guess my hope is that because I consider myself to be a person of integrity, I could help diminish the douchebag elements always present in politics. I don’t know if I have the stamina for it, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And I think that’s the most important thing to remember about any organization or party – humans will be humans.

        So true.

        Mao said, “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun.” I don’t believe that at all. Power comes from having a bladder made of iron and the ability to sit though six straight hours of mind-numbing pettiness.

        I do miss the old days of “good government” politicians. I think of (D) Don Fraser and (R) Denny Schulstad as the last of their breed in Minneapolis, same with (D) Martin Sabo and (R) Dave Durenberger on the national scene and though we may disagree with their policies, they were fundamentally decent human beings.

        I do yearn a bit for the old days. I remember when the legislature used to convene after hours at McCarfferty’s pub in Saint Paul and do the real business of the state.

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        • I have meeting narcolepsy. The sound of a human voice going on and on knocks me right out. I feel like I’m in college again, trying not to let my head snap back or snorting myself awake. That’s just not how I envisioned activism!

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Hammock moments – that’s definitely what we need. I think we have a responsibility do some self-nurturing, and gardening does it for me too. Though am beginning to think I’m a gardener rather than a writer.

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  4. Counting down the minutes.
    I have a project I want to start, but there are so many books I want to read by better writers than I am. I blame Meg Wolitzer.

    Like

  5. Really enjoyed this, Michelle, as I do all of your musings. I had to smile when I read about your forays into revamping your blog. The theme I chose more than three years ago is no longer available and, like you, I like what I like, so they’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead typing fingers to before I’ll change. 🙂 Also, I’m happy to hear about the June book club selection, as I’m exploring poetry, and the library has a couple copies of Afterland available. Finally, I anticipate writing a post soon that highlights the kindness of another blogger — Bob Okaji, a wonderful poet — when I was feeling unsure and sort of embarrassed about my work and reached out to him for feedback. Might be a good Fearless Friday item to which many bloggers will relate.

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    • Thanks, Cate. I’ll keep an eye out for your post – I like it when the light can be shone on kindness. Still fiddling with the blog stuff, but it’s a nice break from straight up writing. Break, distraction. Tomato, Tomahto. I’m looking forward to reading some poetry. The Ward novel was intense and complex. Poetry can be as well, but fewer words!

      Like

  6. Hi Michelle,
    As usual your writing is introspetive and thought provoking. Keep at it!

    As for the hammock and gardening, you go girl! No harm in kicking off the sandals and drinking in the moment!

    😁

    Like

  7. I haven’t revamped my blog since I started 7 years ago. Sometimes I think I should get rid of the more embarrassing short fiction pages, since I satisfied my need to shove it under anyone’s nose. But it’s not hurting anyone out there, and I’ve got other crap to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate the last sentence of your comment. Sometimes I think I should delete the posts I don’t like, but I also know I’m not a good arbiter of my own work. I still haven’t gotten around to updating anything and maybe I won’t.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I had good intentions of participating in the Green Study book group but so far the books haven’t appealed to me enough to put them ahead of what I was already reading. I’ve been limiting my reading to certain categories (ecofiction, science fiction and fantasy, non-fiction, music, books recommended by friends and relatives who I know IRL, and indie books by people I know and/or like). I can’t keep up beyond that and have had to make peace with it. But if I come to the book group and lurk maybe the books will slowly get into the “books recommended by friends and relatives” category. Not sure. Actually, I’m reading one of those now, Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich, because it was recommended to me by a relative whom I want to talk with about it, and I’ve gotten kind of bogged down. I would probably stop reading it if I didn’t have a reason to keep going. Not sure where I’m going with this, either–LOL! Just want to say to keep trying on the book group for a while, I bet something will stick!

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    • As you’ve mentioned before, you don’t like to read things that have gotten assigned, so I get that. Best to know what kind of reader you are, than to drag yourself through a book. I’m a different kind of reader. I’ll pretty much read anything if the writing doesn’t flounder and I don’t wish all the characters dead. Most of the things I’ve picked for the year are strong contenders in different genres and forms. And I tend to stay away from lightweight reading unless I’m traveling.

      I’m going to stick with it. Even in having to figure out discussion questions and answer them myself, I learned a great deal. If after six months, I’m still jabbering to an empty room, I’ll re-evaluate.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this part: “In the midst of all the fomenting, it’s important to create space for joy, even if it is only moments at a time. For some people, this concept is a given. I’m an intense person with an inaccurate sense of what I deserve. I internalize a lot of the world around me. Which means that I have to be deliberate in balancing it all with moments where I tell myself Yes, there is suffering in the world, but will mine make it any better? It’s okay to be happy sometimes.” Music is that place for me. I stopped writing and posting about politics overtly altogether and feel better for it.

    Like

    • I haven’t given up on political writing, but right now, there is a glut in the market. I’m sick of reading about it in every venue. I think carving out space for joy and for living in the moment is critical for any long term commitment to political and social change.

      Liked by 1 person

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