Week #9 – Regarding Battleships and Hibiscus

The woods are never silent.  Did you know that?  People talk about the ‘peace and quiet of the deep woods,’ but they’re never… actually… completely… still.  The slightest of breezes will move the branches of boxelder, poplar, and cottonwood, and the wood sings to itself in little sighs, creaks and gentle clatters.  When the snow is falling it hisses and slides against the branches and brush.  At night the mice scurry through the leaves under the snow, rustle-rustle-crackle-rustle.  At dawn and dusk the deer and the rabbit are moving, searching for browse, moving to or from bedding areas or water.  During the day the squirrels race along branches and trunks to the ground, digging up the nuts they buried for winter forage; chickadees call and flit from branch to branch; woodpeckers tap at the trees with the hollow hammer sound that echoes through the woods.

Does the snow muffle that natural noise?  Yes.  Is there a near-reverent, cathedral-like hush?  Absolutely yes.  But the woods are never completely still or silent.

Last Sunday morning I was sitting in a deer stand, well bundled against the winter cold, twenty gauge lying across my lap, waiting.  It was still predawn; the sky was dark, and the snow had reflected only just enough light for me to see where I was placing my feet as I maneuvered around the brush on my way to the stand.

Now, I realize that I have put myself on a limb by mentioning that I’m a hunter.  It seems to be one of those subjects where everyone has an opinion – it’s right, it’s wrong, it’s good, it’s evil, it’s helpful, it’s cruel.  And whether or not I agree with what people think, whether or not I understand the reason why, I know that by and large they have good reason for feeling the way they do.

There’s a special kind of inner quiet that comes with sitting in the woods… in winter… in the slow and gradual growing light of dawn.  You huddle inside your many layers, trying not to pull the fabric tightly to you because it’s actually the air pockets you’re creating between your body and your clothes that are keeping you warm.  If you’re a hunter or a photographer, you gaze into the dark, letting eyes and mind relax.  Trust me, you don’t need to actively watch; you can be staring at nothing at all for fifteen, twenty minutes at a time; let there be any kind of movement within the range of your vision and your eyes snap to it before you’re consciously  aware that you’ve seen something.  (What a marvelous piece of mechanism is the human body!)  And you have to be still.  Absolutely still.  Because the creatures you’re out there to find have well coordinated senses, hyperaware and perfect for pinpointing you before you’ve seen them.  So if you want to know if they’re approaching from a place you can’t see, you also have to listen.

No electronics.  No radio or cell phone.  No pets or spouse or kids needing attention.  And if you want to see what you came to see, you have to be still.  Quiet.  Your senses are passive instead of being constantly bombarded…

And I thought, Everyone should experience this.  Even if it’s only once in their lifetime, everyone should take ten, fifteen, thirty minutes to meditate in the snowy woods during a midwestern winter.  I pulled out my pocket clock – it was still twenty-two minutes to legal shooting time.

But what I really wanted to talk about were battleships.  See, I started composing this post last Sunday; the last day of the battleship sit.  The USS Iowa, to be specific.  The lead vessel of her class of battleship – in fact the last lead vessel of any class of battleship – she saw combat, carried the United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was decommissioned and recommissioned twice, she’s a beautiful sight and far, far more than merely the sum of her parts.

But she can be stripped down into those component parts.  And d’you know, you end up in a different place depending on which component you follow.  The armament – take a tour around the history of firearms.  The 250 miles of electrical cable – explore the taming of the lightning and how intrepid inventors harnessed it for our use.  Oh, and how about the four steam-powered turbines that propel “The Big Stick” through the water – the simple power of a whistling tea kettle scaled up a few thousand times.

Beginning and ending with human ingenuity and adaptability.

And yet… so fragile, this embodiment of an idea.  Fragile, precarious, because it all rests on thousands of years of ideas, one leading to another which leads to another.  Change one event in the long string of progressions from inception to completion – just one – and the battleship never happens.  Because the battleship has to have all the parts in order to be more than the sum.

Whether I’m holding a weapon or a camera, how do I intersect with that creature on a cold winter morning, if I haven’t all my parts?  My eyes, fastening to motion.  My ears, attuned to animals moving through brush, working with my brain in order to determine the direction the sound comes from and the size and nature of the creature making it.  My clothes and boots, designed for Minnesota weather.  Change one component – Just. One. – the chain of events unravels, and that moment in the woods never happens.

And it’s the same – exactly the same – for a flower.  I have a hibiscus plant of which I am very fond.  Jerry picked it up two years ago from Menards and planted it out front here at the house.  It has large and thick leaves of a rich dark green, all the more startling when contrasted with the larger pale pink flower with its startling goldenrod-yellow stamen.  Hibiscus aren’t cold-hardy and Minnesota winters are harsh, so I needed to move the plant indoors to keep it.  At that, I almost waited too long; last year the bulk of the winter my poor hibiscus had frost-burned, dead leaves clinging to brittle twigs, and I wondered for a couple months if the plant would actually come back.

This week’s sit is to see a seed of our favorite plant through its entire life cycle – from planting to germination, the development of roots and puller leaves to the birth of a bloom and a whole new seed.  Simple.  Easy.

But what if the soil isn’t right?  Too acidic, too basic, too wet, too dry?  Too cold?  And if the seed germinates, what if it was planted too deep?  Roots will reach out, right enough, but the plant will spend too much energy trying to find the sun.  If the leaves can’t soak up the rays then no matter how good the root system is the plant will die.  Likewise, no matter how much sun those leaves get, if the root system can’t draw up sufficient water, or if the roots drown and slough off, the plant will die.

Change one thing.  Just one.

Most of us are in the MKMMA because there’s something more, something better, something greater that we could be doing.  And because of that what we do, what we say, what we think from moment to moment matters.  Because big things are made up of small things.  And because the sum of components is fragile.  Change one thing… just one.

I dare you.

Week #8 – (Re)commitment – and maybe I oughta be…

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.  Stay positive.  Apply “Squirrel!” mentality (otherwise known as Attention Deficit Oooh, Shiny!) to thoughts of ‘I’m lesser.’  And in the words of Logician Jahana Shaharan ar-Drindi of Orocno, “Stop emoting and analyze!”  Figure out what I’m addicted to, and why, then set up mental guards to shift the stimulus (thank you, Mark!  That was one of the pieces I was missing).

Monday I caught up on household chores – felt good not to have them hanging over my head any more.  When I did my reads I held in the back of my awareness the memory of flying from when I went parasailing in Catalina – I actually laughed with delight through the words I was speaking.  No TV, limited iPad and computer (no computer anyway – it won’t boot up properly again.  Which also means I’m cut off from my pictures); I used a notebook to scribble my writings in so I’d have the rough draft handy and could just type the words in quick when I turned on the device.

Attending the funeral of a long-time family friend (to which I was nearly late), I found myself wondering why I do this kind of thing to myself – I’d fallen back to sleep after my alarm went off and I’d done my first read of Greatest Salesman and woke up just barely in time to have my shower and drive to the church.  I got there before the service – by about three minutes.  (Beautiful ceremony, by the way, but I kept wondering why religions encourage people to look outward to a Source greater than they, rather than inward to a Source greater than yet part of themselves…)

But.  I’m addicted to the peptides I produce when I think about ‘sleeping in’ even when I don’t need to physically, and apparently I’m also addicted to rushing, rushing, rushing.  Reminds me of a poem from Black Beauty that the character Jerry Barker would sing –

“If in the morning you throw minutes away,
You can’t pick them up in the course of a day.
You may hurry and scurry and flurry and worry,
But you’ve lost them forever, forever and aye.”

What to replace those two stimuli with?  Haven’t decided yet.

I was twitchy about the no TV thing.  I didn’t think I would be.  After last week I’d already decided to do what we were going to get told to do on Sunday, so why the craving?

(Because it’s a form of mental dissipation that releases peptides I’m addicted to.  What can I substitute…?  Constructive imagination for new novels, that’s what.  Keep a pen and notepad handy, scribble outlines – still need an alternate main character and beginning for Guardian’s Genesis: The First Guardian.)

So I didn’t yield to it – point number 2 to celebrate – not even when Jerry got home and immediately turned on his video game and then later the Monday Night Football.  Instead I dug out an old workout DVD, loaded it into my laptop and put some time into exercise.  (That might be pushing at The Rules a little bit – but I wasn’t doing it for entertainment.)

I also did my requisite 2,300 words for NaNoWriMo.

For those who aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  A group of friends back in the nineties challenged each other to write 50,000 words in 30 days; it’s grown through the years from that core group to include thousands of people worldwide, all busily writing away during the month of November.  And it has to be either a completely new novel, or you have to add 50,000 words to an existing one.

You can write an entire book in 50,000 words, did you know that?  The Great Gatsby was 47,094; Old Yeller, 35,968; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was only 30, 644!  I’m behind this year – first the cruise, then the lazy fit – I didn’t actually start writing until the 12th.  But as of last night I have 20, 982 words and the story is moving along.

I was also doing a lot of thinking around the idea of ‘Everyone has exactly as much faith as everyone else.”  Where am I applying mine?  To believing in faith, or believing in doubt?

Tuesday I made more recordings to play when I’m at the gym walking the treadmill, alternating Master Key reads with my DMP/PPN/POA recording – that felt good, too.  Then I went to the gym and walked my three miles, and wonder of wonders, I didn’t feel that urge to cut my exercise short at the end of the first mile – that was when the music-based recording of my new reality cut in, and I found the pace of the treadmill (3.5 mph) was just too slow.  I got my requisite writings done and posted on my website and blog, and they were decent as far as quality goes.

Today – Easier to get up this morning.  I have two blog posts done.  I’ve rewritten my Movie Trailer card ’cause I found out when making the recordings that the sentences aren’t quite right, and because I was out of lines on the WPOA side.  I’ll have lunch, do my second reads, and go to the gym for my walk.  Then write a post for my other blog (1 hour on the timer!), and after that I’ll be free to saran-wrap the windows for the winter and write my 2,300 words for NaNo… might see if I can push it to 4,000, since Jerry’ll be home by then and he’ll want to play his video game.

(I’m glad we put the door back on the room that is my office; shutting out the cats was regrettable but necessary, as they never did understand why they shouldn’t park themselves on my keyboard and stare at me until I petted them.  The door also blocks out most of the sound from the living room.  I actually work better to silence; I can hear my own thoughts and imagination better that way.  I don’t play music when I’m writing, or in the car when I’m driving, either; I find it distracting and sometimes a bit irritating.)

But this week is a good week.

Mental detoxing,
Not easy to do –
So many words in there,
Yet not one ‘I love you.’
To get bad words out,
Good words must go in –
Words.  Are.  Power.
Their proper use, a ‘win.’

Major slippage

The last thing I want is to be a poser.  And if I didn’t convey the difficulties as well as the triumphs of this journey, a poser is exactly what I’d be.

I don’t believe I am inspiring – though I do want to.  I am not a standard, regardless of how the term is used – a benchmark, or as a flag, a sign, a symbol.  I refuse to live up to any expectations other than my own.

After my last blog post, my week devolved.  I became addicted to the TV.  I got my writing done, sure enough, and I always had the tube shut down an hour before I went to bed… but that just made my bedtime later… and later… and later.  The mental diet was shaky – I had no trouble halting negative thoughts toward others, but cleaning up the negative thoughts directed at myself got harder, the thoughts themselves darker.

My writing, which was supposed to be my joy, became work – something I ‘had’ to do, not something I wanted to do.  Ditto the index cards, the shapes and colors, reading the Greatest Salesman, my DMP and blueprint builder.  I got all the readings done, but they were lifeless; not a service, but a chore.  Painful.  Required.  And the harder I had to work to get everything done, the more I began to dislike it.  Where was the effortlessness that had been promised?  Why was that mysterious source which never sleeps not giving me the words to say in my articles, posts, and books, so that I could get things done in the hour or two I was giving myself?

I could blame the TV – but it was me who turned it on, and me who couldn’t force myself to turn it off, and me who got sleep-deprived because of it.  I could blame what was written on my index cards, pushing the boundaries of my time, pushing me to write in a hurry instead of seeking high-quality posts (which more often than not never got published because they were never ‘right’) – but it was me who chose what to put down on those cards, and it’s me who wants to be able to achieve those things.  I could blame the 7-day mental diet for throwing into sharp relief just how negatively I talk at myself – dear god, you’re fat; why are you forcing yourself to follow those cards, that’s stupid, just pick something easier and rewrite them; boy, you must be a weak-willed mook if you can’t even pick up the remote and press the power button! – but if not for that, I wouldn’t know how bad my mental state is and therefore wouldn’t be able to do anything to change that self-loathing attitude.  I could blame my upbringing, for being taught that emotions are to be suppressed if not outright eliminated, because they can’t be chosen, nobody chooses how to feel, that’s a ridiculous, juvenile notion!  Keep your emotions to yourself, because you don’t want to be the person who wears their heart on their sleeve, people will take advantage of you; stop being so sensitive!

But blame does not serve me.  It mght feel better in the short term, but like procrastination, seeking to blame instead of taking responsibility simply pushes the problem onto my future self.  And like procrastination, if a person keeps it up for long enough, passing blame instead of fixing the problem creates problems of monumental size.  And I’ve had enough of that.  Honestly, truly, forgiveness – however hard it is in the short term – makes life soooooo much easier in the long run.  And I’m here for the long run, am I not?

What I feel is my choice; anger, love, joy, depression.  To believe otherwise is to deny a long-standing conviction that I am responsible for everything I say, do, think, and feel – and if I am responsible, then I can affect what I say, do, think, and feel.  And if I can affect it, does that not logically mean it’s under my control and therefore a choice?

I thought about quitting.  I won’t say I didn’t.  I wanted my ‘life’ back; my leisure time, my indolence, my excuses.  After seven weeks, I should ought to have all my future successes set up and be able to relax a little, just let the subconscious take care of everything.

But retraining the mental habits of a lifetime takes longer than a mere seven weeks.  And all I did was place stress on several of the good habits I had been building; right now those baby habits are like blood feathers; tiny, fragile, needing care, because if they are broken through rough handling life will bleed out through them.

So this week, I and the various characters living inside my head start over.

Week #7 – Firing thoughts

Timers.

Ellen's clock collection

Ellen’s clock collection

I love timers.  I have a clock collection.  They don’t run, and they all say different times; I like ’em because they’re pretty, and unique, and… well, because I just like clocks.  Tiny gears with tinier teeth, all meshing and clicking away to create a whole that was magical and useful.  You know, the kid’s question – ‘How does the clock know what time it is?’  I used to take a look at mine and wonder where in the world that time was, and what was happening there.

So this week, I upped the ante on my writing.  An article for my website, complete with research.  Two blog posts, complete with good pictures run through Lightroom if necessary.  Two thousand words a day for the NaNoWriMo challenge.  And Wednesday is the day I schedule for my MKMMA blog post.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was still up at three, four and two in the morning, respectively.  I was tired, my eyelids were heavy, heavy… and I damned well wasn’t going to bed until they were done, because it was written on my index card.  And the alarm still rang at the normal time the next day – ‘next day’ being relative.  It isn’t properly tomorrow until I get some sleep!

Mississippi sunriseStill not a fan of mornings.  They’re beautiful – I love sunrises, especially the ones with pink and orange and gilded, shiny gold clouds.  Over water is best.  Love the water.  All the reflections – you get two sunrises for the price of one!  So mornings are worthwhile for sure.  They just start too early.  And I’m still anticipating waking up with a vigor I have never before known.

So I woke up this morning with the thought of ‘timers’ in my head.  I set a timer.  An hour each for the blog posts, two hours for the research and writing of the website article, two hours for the NaNoWriMo challenge.  That’s six hours.  I can do that.  That leaves me plenty of time for sleeping, the MKMMA-related work, regular household chores and other projects…  And we all work better to deadlines, right?

So gonna try that today.  I have a timer running right now, as a matter of fact.  And woe  betide me if this post is not done by the time it rings, for there will be no fudging allowed and yet I must complete the task.

Because I said I would.

Oooh.  Just flashed on the parental phrase, ‘Because I said so.’

Hibiscus and tomato plantSo something else that was different this morning:  I woke up and I was seeing the shapes and colors I have posted around the house.  They’re on my index cards and all, but I’ve never really seen them, if you know what I mean.   I have to make a conscious effort.  My eye just kind of skips over them; it’s the words that are important.  Well, I’ve thrown myself into the spirit of the exercise, and every time I pass one of my signs, I pause, read it, and trace the outline as I close my eyes and imagine what that goal is going to feel like.  This morning I saw the colors.  Red is my first book getting published.  Blue is developing my network marketing team.  Yellow is my website – fifty articles of quality content by the end of the year.  And green is what the bank accounts are looking like in two years.

Hibiscus and tomato plantOh – these are my hibiscus plant, and behind him is my tomato plant.  Aren’t they lovely?  (And yes – that is snow outside the window.)

I think I’ll talk to Jerry – see what kind of plan we can come up with for being snowbirds next year, spend the winter somewhere warm and sunny.  With water and pink-gold-orange sunrises.

(And just like that, we go from ‘I wish I could,’ to ‘How do we want to do this?’)

Week #6 – Interpreting the universe in the guise of a comb

Wow.

Just got back from a cruise to Catalina and Ensenada – my first real cruise ever!  Pictures to share will have to wait until my desktop has a new boot drive (it staged a breakdown the week before we left), but they will be added to the post eventually!  (Do it now, do it now, do it now…)

And of course I brought my MKMMA stuff along with me – there was a group of six of us; four are MKMMAers, and we all brought our Greatest Salesman, our Master Keys and workbooks, DMPs, and notecards.  So on Sunday, we all took a shore excursion in the morning and come 1:00, we were in the ship’s library (the ship has a library – how cool is that?!?)

I was loving the webinar – though now that I’m home I need to listen to it again.  Once the laundry, my service for the week, my blog post and my WPOA service are done I get to play with pretty colors and put them up all around the house!!!  I’m not too clear on what I’m going to put into the colored shapes, which is why I need to listen to the webinar again.

And Scroll number 2!  “I will greet this day with love in my heart”!  “When I am tempted to criticize I will bite on my tongue, when I am moved to praise I will shout it from the roofs”!

But back to the cruise ship!  Because the experience revolved around… a comb.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my prior posts that I have a tendency toward OCD.  I start and end stairs on the right foot, even if I have to step on the same stair twice.  Every morning I have to have a can of Mountain Dew and a shower in order to feel fully awake.  Unless my hair is in a ponytail, it is strictly parted on the right side, and yes I can feel when a hair is out of place; when in the tail, the binder has to pull all my hair evenly – having a lock or two with less of a pull drives me to redo, redo, redo, until the pressure is even.  My hair is baby-fine in texture, but I’m lucky enough to have a lot of it.  But it makes for a thick ponytail.  And there is only one comb that consistently draws all the hair up evenly.

My combThis is my comb.  There are others like it but this one is mine.  And I’m very fond of my comb.  As you can see, it fits nicely into my hand and all the teeth are the same size, width, and distance apart.  I cannot stand combs with different size teeth!  They make uneven locks of hair in the ponytail, the thin tooth side doesn’t separate the hair enough for a proper part and the thick tooth side allows my hair to wander in and out of the part.  Trouble is, hardly anywhere sells the good ones, and the places that do don’t carry very many.  So any time I find these guys I stock up  with, oh, six, maybe eight of them – basically whatever’s on the shelf.  They last a good long time before the teeth get soft and start breaking – usually about as long as it takes to find them in the store again!

The upshot of all this background is, I lost my comb on the first day of vacation.  I had it on the plane; by the time we were in the taxi on our way to the hotel we were staying in for a night before boarding the cruise ship, my back pocket was empty.  We weren’t going to be renting a car, Lord knew what the area around the hotel in San Pedro was going to be like, so how to get to a convenience store?  And even if I did, what were the odds I was going to find my kind of comb?

Dear and precious gods, how was I going to deal with my hair for five days without my comb?!?!

I fussed a bit about it.  I needed my comb!  (I hope I kept it to a minimum – I would hate to be a drag on everyone else’s mood.)  And I remembered the story Mark told, about he and Davene determining two different experiences at the same event, simply by the attitude each chose.

Having a good time despite the glitch with the comb was never an issue – I mean, come on, I was on my first cruise! – but the major thought in my mind was the knowing that nothing happens without a reason and wondering what under the sun the Universe could possibly be trying to teach me by taking away my comb.

My comb!

Corridor of doors

So many choices…

I was assured there would be combs for sale in the shipboard shop.  Leanne very kindly loaned me her comb that night; the next day on his last check of the room as we were leaving Don found a comb on the top shelf of the closet.  It was one of the small, thin, two-sized teeth ones but I was grateful to Don for finding and to the Universe for providing it.  And I wondered if that was the message – that what I really, really needed would be given.

Or maybe the message was that I didn’t need to be as obsessive about my comb, that any comb would do.

Except that couldn’t be it.  That would be like telling me to settle for less than my actual dream – that ‘any dream will do.’   And that can’t be right.

But at least I had a way to manage my hair.  And somehow, that break in my routine freed me to depart from my normal, more rigid, mental schedule.  I didn’t worry about not having my favorite soda, or having to take my shower the absolute first thing in the morning, or even about the right-foot-stairs thing.  For four blissful days my only mood was happy – even when I got lost, or was late for dinner (twice), or missed a GREAT shot with my camera; it was all experience that I was going to put into my posts on either my other blog or my website.  When I greeted someone I didn’t say hello, I sang it.  It got so the staff of the ship not only recognized me, they were giving me genuine, open, happy smiles that reflected my state of being back at me, talking more than the polite phrases that someone in the service industry is obliged to use.

Gods, I want to feel that way all the time.  Is that how it feels to live your bliss?  What Mark and Davene and Trish and the other graduates of the MKMMA experience daily?  And – d’you know, I only just put it together now…

The Universe took my comb to give me a taste of what it is I’m striving for.  So excited to be making my future happen the way I envision it!