Writers’ Block and Middle Age

I’m not altogether sure there is such a thing as writer’s block. In my limited experience, I have found that the only thing that blocks me from writing is the lack of motivation, inspiration, time, technology or sleep.  Oh, and the presence of procrastination.  While I was updating my website with some photos and information, I noticed what a lousy job I was doing with this blog.

There are no excuses for a writer not to write, except, of course, the reasons I listed above. There are many acceptable reasons for not publishing, not selling, not marketing and not finishing a manuscript, a poem or an article.  Writing for me must be treated like medicine for a terminal disease. If I don’t take the minimum dosage, the disease overtakes me… I get lazy. I lose my creativity. I forget some of the ideas I have (I’ve since learned to write them down).

My current dilemma has been this: I started my latest novel six months ago. Easily wrote the character descriptions, an outline and the first 5,000 words. Then, I stopped cold.  The reason I stopped was because I somehow became the subject matter. The story is total fiction; however, it is based on the concept of dealing with suicidal ideation. I became the main character and fell into her same trap. I had to stop writing.  In the last few months, I’ve developed several other stories that I’ve wanted to write, but I kept telling myself that I had to finish the other one first.

Guess what? There are no rules. And there are no excuses.  I started two other books. One in my customary genre, and one in a new venture (murder mystery), and by so doing, I was able to extract myself from the main character in the current book.  Now, I’m juggling three.

Keep your eyes open for:

Voices from the Ledge

Backfired

(A Book to be Names Later)

Happy Reading.

 

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Invisible Rainbow

I  am a fading rainbow, whose colors you can’t see.

Searching for my pot of gold, or at least who I’m supposed to be.

Isn’t it funny how a rainbow appears when a storm is on the wane?

Colors paint the sky in peace, displacing thunder’s pain.

 

Lost in my own sadness, missing the life that I once knew,

The base of the rainbow sits down low, its cornerstone is blue.

The color of darkness and gloom, it was once a warm, loving place.

Now, in depression and woe, blue is something I embrace.

 

Out of the darkest of shadows, green becomes a visible hue.

Its passion is envy, lost in reality, but wanting to be more, true.

Envy is a strong emotion that no one can tangibly see.

It’s that torment, that angst that question, “Who am I supposed to be?”

 

So confusion turns to anger, and ugliness rears its head.

The color of the thoughtless deeds and spiteful words is red.

Rage overtakes good judgment, rushing rivers over rock and silt.

Crushing hearts and spirits, along the way, bleeding red, denying guilt.

 

I am looking for a haven, a spot to find solace, to think.

A fairytale place, where nothing hurts, the color of which is pink.

The numbness gives way, in time, to embarrassment and shame.

A blushing rose whose petals are wilting, pink is my name.

 

At the top of the colorful rainbow, stands the softest yellow tier.

Reaching upwards toward the sky, overwhelmed with consummate fear.

That what lies beyond the rainbow, with its reds and greens and blues,

Will leave only the trace of yellow, in an old and vanishing bruise.

 

 

I am a fading rainbow, whose colors you can’t see.

Searching for my pot of gold, or at least who I’m supposed to be.

Isn’t it funny how a rainbow appears when a storm is on the wane?

Colors paint the sky in peace, displacing thunder’s pain.

My Empty Nest…

(a rewrite of One Door Closes…)

The bedroom doors on the south side of the house used to be open.  All the time. That’s the only way I could hear if they were crying, or awake and playing.  When they were in grade school, I could jump on their beds to wake them up, or plop on the floor to help with a project.

When they hit their teens, the doors closed. They wanted privacy. They didn’t want me or their Dad to interrupt them with their friends. They wanted to blast their music without being asked to turn it down. They were probably doing other things that I didn’t want to know about.

The doors remain closed now, except on the rare occasion when the dog pushes them open to find a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. And it’s quiet. There is no longer any music blasting. The sound of teenaged girls giggling is gone. The thumping and thudding of an occasional wrestling or weightlifting episode has died down.  The silence is clamorous.

When they first left, I kept the doors open. Often, I would walk in and inhale deeply, trying desperately to get a sense of their presence in a lingering aftershave or scented candle. I would walk by my son’s room almost expecting to see him sitting at the computer with his guitar on his lap, laboring over tabs for the latest song he was learning. But he wasn’t there.

Two steps further and I would be in front of my daughter’s bedroom door, forever adorned with pictures, quotes and flowers. That door now reminds me of just one more household project that my new best friend, my husband, and I can complete together. We have to remove the old, sticky tape, sand and paint it.  It’s barren.

Keeping the doors closed now is my way of separating myself from that chapter in my life when the machinery of parenting required so many more adjustments and tune-ups. Today, a little oil on the hinges and they swing open and closed for a quick visit, once in a while, and I go back to opening new doors on the north side of the house.

Does This Fit Here?

My grandmother did crossword puzzles. So did my dad, in pen. My one brother would photocopy both the morning and afternoon newspaper puzzles and we would sit around the dining room table doing them, almost as if it was a race to the finish. Another brother used to pore over jigsaw puzzles. Still a third brother liked the logic puzzles that came in the Dell Puzzle books. Mom likes Sudoku. I was fascinated by the Rubik’s Cube. I like them all. In fact, I like word games, puzzles and just about anything that challenges my mind, that is, except for the puzzle that is my mind, which is the greatest challenge of all.

Even the artistic expression I’ve settled into has been somewhat fractured. I choose to blog about anything and everything that pops into my head. There’s no stream of consciousness and it would be impossible to put the individual posts into any semblance of order that would make any sense. I dabble in mosaics: cracking up pieces of tile and glass, and attempting to create a masterpiece of recognizable images. Most of the rest of what I do is graphic art, at best. Even when I sing, I do parodies of some of my favorite songs, never singing them the way they were written, but always in an attempt to make someone feel touched, loved or when it’s really good, embarrassed.

It should be no surprise, then, that I am, in middle age, attempting to piece together the splintered elements of the puzzle that has been my life. Now, I suppose, is the time when most women go through this: when their kids have grown and gone, when they’ve settled into a new normal with regard to their body, their health, and their sex life; when they have a whole lot less time in front of them than they do behind them. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t an easy thing either.

Having discovered much about myself through honest introspection, and having overcome some of my demons (we all have them); I have survived the hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes of life. And now, when things have finally settled down, it’s the aftershocks that have to be put into place… like the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, or that one last word you can’t get, even with the crossword dictionary or the internet.

What I have learned is that when you try too hard to seek happiness, you are often disappointed. When you attempt to please others to validate yourself, you do yourself a great disservice. I think the best way to find that happiness, to validate yourself and feel real and complete peace of mind is to live your life authentically. Listen to and follow your heart and the pieces of your own puzzle will fall in to place naturally.

My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

Alone Again, Naturally

This is not an interpretation of my Empty Nest.  Nor is it a diatribe on issues of abandonment.  It’s more a commentary on the transition, or at least one of them, that we go through in life, for which we are completely unprepared.

We come into this world butt naked.  The things we learn early on are the things that are put into our head by our parents and/or caregivers.  We are, hopefully, schooled, given some sense of self, and exposed to one version of spirituality or another.  We hit adulthood (much too early for me), and think we know an awful lot, only to find out that we haven’t even begun to live.

Life hands us all kinds of crazy scenarios over the years, whether we choose a professional life, a family life or both.  Sometimes, we choose neither, and let life just happen to us.

And then we get old.  We hit 50 and hear from AARP.  We get into are 60’s and some ask us if we are ready for retirement.  Our bones start to creak and it isn’t so easy to climb out of bed in the morning.  Some of us deny it and try to act like we’re still 23.

Our kids leave us to start their own lives; our parents leave us as their lives have run full circle.  We range close to, if not reach, retirement.  Our friends take off to find their final futures.  Some of us have been so wrapped up in the ride, we never see it coming, and when everyone else starts making those last moves and changes, and the dust settles, we find ourselves alone again, caught with our pants down… butt naked.

From Camelot to Disney World

Born in Camelot
I was born in 1957, towards the end of the Baby-boom. When John F. Kennedy came into the White House, they called it Camelot. The early sixties was an upbeat time, full of hope and growth and movement to suburbia. When I say growth, I mean it. I was the fourth of four kids, in an upper middle class family outside of Philadelphia. Camelot, or it was at least, until November of 1963.

Raised in Mayberry
It was a simpler, safer time. Neighbors not only knew each other but were friends, and looked after each other’s kids. Doors and cars were left unlocked; nobody had to x-ray Halloween candy; the neighborhood grocer would deliver your regular order to your back door, and the milkman and bread man would deliver to your front door. Doctors made house calls, and then called to check on you later in the day. We played outside until long after dark.

People had reverence for institutions. School was not optional, respect was required. Nobody talked back to teachers. Nobody carried weapons to school. Schools were relatively free from drugs at least until high school. Divorce was not as prevalent. There was no sex and violence on television. (At least not during prime time). Have you ever actually listened to some of the dialogue on today’s situation comedies? Try raising kids and having to answer the questions that come out of an episode of “Two and a Half Men.”

Several generations of families remained within a city area, and cousins grew up together, sometimes ending up closer than siblings or friends. But with my generation, that changed. We became more transient… staying in or near the city or town where we went to college; meeting and marrying someone from out of town; moving across the country to take advantage of a brilliant employment opportunity. It doesn’t matter. Today, families don’t stay together.

Living in Havana
I came home to Miami after college. There was already a large Cuban population in South Florida as a result of the Castro regime, who came here in the late fifties and early sixties. Most of them “Americanized” fairly quickly, attempting to learn the language of their new home, gain citizenship, and become productive members of society. Did they ever. They brought with them a wealth of culture, art, music, foods and more.

But a short twenty years later, another wave of Cubans made it to shore that did not have the same ambition. Since that time, Hispanic countries and cultures have poured into the United States looking for freedom from poverty, from political oppression, religious obstruction and many other reasons. Proud to be free and American, they have made Miami among other cities, their home, however because of the language barrier, I no longer feel at home. I cannot get a job unless I am bi-lingual. There are parts of town where nobody speaks English, and all of the literature is printed in three languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole and English. Even my Temple has a Spanish speaking Rabbi who conducts services in Spanish for part of the congregation. No Hablo.

Looking for Utopia
I’ve been in the workforce for over 35 years now. I’ve maintained a 32 year marriage, raised a family, kept a home, and have been available to be a caretaker. I’ve done everything that has been expected of me. Someone once told me that I have successfully lived my life by “default.”
Actually, I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to do with my life, so living my life by default worked, for a while. Other than raise a family, I never really dreamed of doing anything in particular. I had all the “movie-star” hopes that little girls have. I wasn’t encouraged to follow any dreams. Camelot and Mayberry didn’t lend themselves to girls having ambitions other than pillbox hats and cakes that didn’t fall.

I didn’t know I was good at anything. I didn’t know I had talent. I didn’t know I had dreams. It’s a little late, but now, I do. You see, that same person who told me to stop living my life by default also explained to me a highly technical psychological term. (That, by the way, is sarcasm, in case you didn’t recognize it). She said I have finally begun to “self-actualize.” I’m a late bloomer. But there are things I still want to accomplish.

The one thing I did realize is that I only have one life to live (sounds like soap opera). I want to enjoy what’s left of it, doing what makes me happy, what tickles my heart, what strokes my soul. I know, now, that it can’t be here, and it can’t be now.

Retreating to Disney World
Notice I didn’t call this section retiring to Disney World. I don’t intend to release my inner child, either, although that would be kind of interesting. All I intend to do are three things.

1) Simplify – that means return to Mayberry a little bit. Slow down the pace of my life by moving to a smaller town, to a smaller house and with that, a smaller overhead.
2) Recapture – the days when families weren’t quite as transient. While I don’t intend to become a helicopter mom, I do want to be closer to at least one of my kids, so I can see them more than once or twice a year, with the promise (to them), that I will be there if they need me, but they won’t notice anything different otherwise.
3) Enjoy – the rest of my life, whether its 30 years or 30 days, I want to grow old with the love of my life, doing all the things we always talked about but still haven’t had the chance to do. I want him to slow down too, and join me on my journey. He had his own Camelot and Mayberry. We’ve been together since Havana… we both could use a little mouse.