NaNoWriMo

banner for Nanowrimo
National Novel Writing Month

When I was in Quebec with my friend, Patricia in September, we talked a lot about the dreams of our youth, and the dreams we have now. I told her about the germ of an idea for a novel that I’ve been carrying around for about 40 years. This was one of my deferred dreams, I never thought I had time to write while raising kids and working, but it has surfaced over and over again, a little more insistently in the last 4 years.

Today starts National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During the month of November, thousands of people commit to writing daily for 30 days, the object being to complete a first draft of a novel during that time. It may seem gimmicky, with a cutesy name, but I know enough about my habits to know that I need a structure and some form of accountability to keep me on track! So I am committing myself to writing daily for 30 days on the novel idea I’ve had for 40 years. I have a writing buddy, we’re checking in daily with word counts, and because she is a friend, not someone anonymous from the NaNoWriMo site, I will be less likely to blow her off!

While thinking about whether to relaunch my blog, I realized that unless I was living up to my tagline, it’s never too late, I couldn’t write honestly or convincingly to you. I keep coming back to another maxim: It’s only too late if you don’t startI am writing blog posts again because it’s something I really want to do, and the only way to do it is to write, and hit publish.

I’m not expecting a first draft by Nov. 30, but I will have way more direction, pages and ideas to work with than if I didn’t take the leap to join (and told everyone that I am doing it…). And who knows? Maybe it will be a rough first draft? I’ve never written a novel before!

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A Glorious Freedom!

author picture
Meeting Lisa Congdon at her book-signing in Seattle!

When I heard about the new book, A Glorious Freedom Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon, I was really excited. After all, it is one of my favorite subjects, and written and illustrated by a favorite artist and writer! She is not a personal friend, but I did get to meet her at her recent book-signing event at Elliot Bay Books (she is every bit as delightful as she seems in the photo!)

I pre-ordered the book, so I’d receive it on publication day, and I was not disappointed. It is a beautiful book, illustrated by Lisa with portraits of many of the extraordinary women in the book, as well as her own distinctive illustrations and graphics.

She chose to write the book because she is a “self-described late bloomer” who didn’t begin her illustration and writing career until she was 40. She is now 49 and has published 7 books, her 8th book is coming out next year. It takes courage to begin a new path at 40, or 50 as I did, and some of the women profiled started even later. This book explores the courage and resilience of women who either started “late” on careers or redefined their careers as they aged.

The women profiled are a mix of contemporary women and historical figures. Some are interviewed by Lisa, the stories of others are essays by the subjects themselves or by Lisa. This makes for a nice mix of style in the text, and every woman profiled made me hungry to learn more. I jumped to my laptop a few times to look up artists previously unknown to me, especially a collage artist named Della Wells. She is now a favorite, not only for her own amazing story and work, but for her work supporting and promoting other artists in her city.

The women profiled are not all well-known, nor are they all artists–there are athletes, scientists, authors, and business people. I think one of the most fascinating interviews is with Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest national park ranger in the US who is still working at the age of 95 as a ranger at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, CA.

She is a very articulate and thoughtful woman, and does a tremendous service telling the story of the war experience of women of color, highlighting how much social change has occurred since 1942, the remarkable thing is that she is telling the story from her own lived experience. It is no wonder she received a commemorative presidential coin from President Obama in 2015.

I love this book, and it’s subject is completely in line with my purpose writing this blog…it’s never too late to live your life with courage, creativity and wisdom.

My favorite quote from the book is from the interview with Debbie Millman, host and founder of the longest-running design podcast, Design Matters. Asked by Lisa to elaborate on her opinion that confidence is important, but courage is more important, Millman says:

“I think confidence comes from a repeated effort that continues to go well. so if you try something and you are successful at it, you feel that if you do it again you will be successful again. And that repeated success breeds confidence. I think it’s actually more important to have courage, because you tend to be more afraid of doing things that you’ve never done before and through which you have no previous experience of success. Courage is more important than confidence because it forces you to try new things, to move outside what is comfortable.”  (emphasis is mine) page 126

Reading that paragraph made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have not always been courageous in my life, not by a long shot, but being courageous is one of my core values as I age.

This is a terrific book, and I hope you will find it, read it, and try something new in your life. After all, it is never too late…

 

 

 

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I’m Retired, Now What??

get it on paper…

For years I have been saying that I would be so busy after I retired, doing all the things I put off while working, that there would be no adjustment period. HA!! I retired in November of last year after 16 years as a massage therapist, a career I entered at 50 and loved. I thought I would work at massage until I was 70, but when my hands began to hurt, I decided I was ready to quit, because I want to use my hands to do all the things I have been planning for years.

I have been positioning myself for about 4 years to be able to retire from full-time work and get along on my resources. I am incredibly lucky that in 2014 I was able to move into an Artspace community, with subsidized rent. The building is located in a transportation hub, so I have been able to give up my car, which is a huge saving. I am able to get all over the city from where I live. The apartments in my building are designed to be live/work spaces so I have plenty of room for the types of art that I enjoy. The best part, and one that I consciously considered, is that this is a community of artists, I am surrounded by interesting people of all ages, so I am constantly learning new things.

I made lists and plans for years of all the things I wanted to do when “retired”. Working on this website and blog were high on the list, as well as offering classes here in my studio. I felt like I was all set! However. if you’ve worked for the better part of 50 years, with your time externally structured around working 5 or so days a week, with two or so days off, it is quite a shock to suddenly NOT have that structure, and have to structure your time yourself…

As I have said before, the election in November was a real roadblock for me, and it didn’t help that I had no real structure in mind for my days. I’ve talked to other people who have been retired for a few years, and all have said that there is a period of adjustment to the amount of freedom from time constraints one suddenly has. The temptation to stay in one’s pajamas all day is real!

I’m only now getting down to the work of figuring out how to structure my days, post-retirement. I have discovered that I still need to keep a schedule, and to write things down if I want to get anything done. I’m working on getting rid of the bad habits I developed in the last year. That will be an ongoing effort.

I set an alarm and try to get up at the same time every day. I’ve found that showering and getting dressed first thing is really important for me. Pajamas are great, but if you need to go to the store, or want to go for a walk, or get invited to meet someone, being dressed makes it a lot easier and quicker! Even sitting down to work on my blog or some art is more likely to happen if I am already dressed.

I am still working on scheduling the hours of my day. I have really resisted doing this, after being a slave to work schedules all my life, but if I don’t have a plan written down and at least preliminary steps to get started, nothing happens. It may be “never too late”, but without some kind of plan and a few action steps, it ain’t happening!

I live alone, so part of my planning includes making sure that I get out of my apartment and see people. Following people on Facebook and Instagram doesn’t count, as fun as it is to see what people are up to, nothing beats meeting friends in person or going on your own adventures! I also go to a gym to take classes, rather than work out on my own, because I am a) out of the house and b) seeing people!

Goofy as this may sound, I use charts and markers to keep track of my progress on projects I am working on. I am a person who needs accountability structures to get things accomplished. When I was working, I was accountable to the people I worked with and that was great, but if I don’t have that external motivation, I tend to not do even the things I really want to do! So I make charts, and draw stars on them with colorful markers. I also tell key friends about big projects when I think I will have a tendency to slack off. I value their opinion, so I am less apt to quit.

Being retired is an ongoing adventure, and I know I will always be working on how to make it work for me. What kinds of structures do you use? Do you have other questions you would like to explore? Leave a comment, and I will share in a future post!

 

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Why a (Wild Girl)?

 

paperdoll collage
be a good girl…

The tagline for my website is “It’s never too late to be the (wild girl) you might have been”. I put “wild girl” in parentheses because being wild may not be your goal, and you can fill in what your long held desire is. For me, the wild girl is what I imagine I would have been like if I had not been raised to be a “good girl”.

Growing up in the 1950’s and coming of age in the 1960’s was a massive contradiction. I rebelled in the ’60’s but unfortunately (and also fortunately!) I had the “good girl” model pretty deeply ingrained. I think most of us roughly my generation were raised to be “good girls”. Good girls didn’t rock the boat, they were good examples to their siblings, they didn’t talk back, and the strong opinions we formed were often kept to ourselves or only shared with each other. We put up with a lot, and voiced our true thoughts and opinions at our peril: the peril of losing our jobs, the good opinion of our peers, the affection of boyfriends and spouses.

A year ago when I was planning ideas for this website, the image of my wild girl was an artist who followed through on her desires to be creative in all aspects of her life; hair, clothes, lifestyle, all forms of expression. I still feel that way, but I have had to add the image of using my voice and my actions to really show up in the world to make a difference.

I know I am not the only one, there is a lot of simmering anger or at least frustration in the women of  my generation for not being a little more wild, for putting everyone else and their feelings ahead of their own feelings and desires. We may feel like we have missed out, and wonder if it is too late to BE what we always have wanted to be.

I think the 53% of voting white women who voted for Trump in the last election are also full of simmering anger and frustration. I wonder if they are so lost in good-girl world that they voted to keep the status quo? I don’t know.

I don’t believe it is too late, I don’t believe it is ever too late to be what we might have been and to explore new territory. I want to write about all the reasons opening up to our creativity and being even a little bit wild will make us all healthier and happier and save the world for women and men. I lost sight of the vision I had for this blog when I started it last year, wallowing in the insanity of the last 10 months. I forgot about becoming a wild woman. I forgot that being who we really want to be will allow us to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. I forgot that this is what the world needs, and if we as women accept and embrace that, we will help bring about a courageous, wise, creative world for all.

 

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Beginning Again

the magic of old friends

Hello there! I am coming back to my blog after being absent for most of this year. I never intended to be absent when I launched my website a year ago…I wrote about one of the reasons in January, I have been seriously distracted by the shit storm of the Trump “era”. I followed each new (horrible) development, and I have made many phone calls, and signed many petitions, and I managed to lose perspective on my real, day-to-day life. I retired at the same time, and having so much free and unstructured time, I got sucked into following the insanity on the internet rather obsessively, I am ashamed to say. I let my connection to things that I valued, my REAL life gradually fall away.

I gained weight, stopped going to exercise, stopped reading books for the most part, stopped creating and became very depressed.I had great plans going into retirement, not the least of which was developing this website and blog, but I did not pursue any of them. I thought about how I was NOT writing, but it only made me more guilty and less able to write.

As the months added up, I became more depressed about my failure to be the (wild girl) I wanted to write about and embody.

Here’s what saved me: at the beginning of the year, I bought a ticket for a big trip. One of my dearest friends from college, Patricia, lives in Quebec and Ottawa, and I have never been there to visit. I decided to make a trip in September to celebrate our 50 year friendship. We planned to do a lot of walking to see everything, and here I was, gaining weight and not exercising…

I went to Quebec two days after my 68th birthday. I was nervous and worried I wouldn’t be able to walk so much, and whether Patricia and I would be able to spend 2 weeks together without running out of things to talk about. I KNOW that if I hadn’t bought my ticket in February, I would have chickened out on the trip…

Of course, it was wonderful! We talked all day every day, we walked 3-4 miles a day (I was in pain some of time, but I did it anyway), I fell in love with Quebec, especially Montreal, and I walked and talked myself out of my depression. I am beginning my blog again, with an entirely different perspective than I had a year ago. I am going to be posting three times a week and will be sending out periodic newsletters, I’d love for you to sign up here.

I hope I will inspire you to follow along, reading what interests you. I am planning a few book reviews, a little travelogue, some thoughts on friendship, and other ideas about finding the (wild girl) if she’s gotten lost— we all need to find and celebrate the parts of us that get lost along the way. 

 

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Here’s to a New Year!

Happy 2017!

I did not intend to have such a blank spot in this blog after beginning a few months ago. I wrote up an editorial calendar of all the posts I intended to write for two months a few days before the election. Like many others, the election really threw me for a loop. I had a hard time concentrating on anything. The election and the response to it from both sides has called into question my values, my vision for the future, and frankly, my vision for this blogging adventure of mine.

To add to the mix, at the end of November, I retired from my 16 year career as a massage therapist. I planned for the retirement, but the reality of letting go of the career I loved so much when everything else seemed to be up in the air only added to my confusion and inertia. I expected a certain amount of inertia, it goes along with retirement for a few months, but had not planned on the sadness and fear I have been feeling due to the election.

However, here we are. It is January, a time for new beginnings, and I have had over a month of retirement and two months of post-election wallowing. I am ready to shake off the doldrums and get to work on my plans for the rest of my life. I am ready to meet whatever comes with the political climate. Not resigned to it, but ready to resist and to stand up for my beliefs and values and the rights of all people.

I figure out what I am thinking and feeling by writing and making art. I feel that now, more than ever, the world needs people who are figuring themselves out and expressing themselves.

Being creative has made me braver. The world needs bravery and courage, it needs people able to express themselves thoughtfully, not just with knee-jerk responses on social media.

So, I am still here, and I’ll be writing and sharing, and making art and sharing. I hope you will join me, whether online or in person. I have updated my classes and events page with a wonderful two part class I am teaching with my friend, Tina Abbott. It is a class about getting curious about what really lights you up, and how to make those things happen for you in the New Year. It is more than making resolutions, read the description for more.

Unfortunately, we have canceled the two part class, and will be announcing it at a later date. I have 3 dates for beginning art journaling classes in my studio on the classes and events page, if you are interested.

Post-election Reflections

It helps to write it out...
It helps to write it out…

I had planned a very different post-election 2016 post, I allowed myself, in the last couple of days before election day, to get excited and very emotional about a woman president.

But, here we are, four days post-election, and I am still emotional but not excited. I’m not going to write about all the reasons I’m not happy with the result, but I do want to point out the most discouraging statistic, for me, from the outcome:

53% of white women voted for Trump. This statistic lifted a veil from my eyes. We still live in a white supremacist patriarchy, and the majority of white women voters are ok with that.

White women voted for exclusion against inclusion. They voted for a person and a party that are eager to shut down what little progress has been made for women’s reproductive choice, for equal pay for women in the workplace, for basic dignity rights for women not to be sexually harassed in the workplace or elsewhere. They voted for a system that has children of immigrant parents, and black and brown children waking up afraid and being bullied at school and in the community because of hate speech practiced by the candidate for whom they voted. As a woman, mother, grandmother—HUMAN BEING, I cringe and cry for these children and their parents.

What I have decided so far with this election I am so opposed to is this: I am still passionate about working with creativity and I believe that art saves, art illuminates, art opens our eyes–I am more dedicated than ever to my own art-making AND to opening the eyes of all of us through creative expression.

I hope you’ll join me. Make a journal page that expresses your sadness, joy, anger, fear and transform your feelings into a message of love and action. Write out your anger, fear, sadness and what you can do about it, figure out a way to dress that expresses your solidarity with those who are afraid or being harassed. Make dinner for a neighbor family. March or show up at a demonstration, raise money for an organization that’s threatened and/or working for change.

My hope for this website and for the classes I will teach in the future is to help people find a way to express themselves through art and through that process, define themselves and make changes to live with courage, creativity and wisdom. The world needs women and men of courage acting with deep wisdom more than ever. I truly, truly believe tapping into our innate creativity is how to reach that courage and deep wisdom.

Uncovering Courage

Trees are my totems
Trees are my totems

Six years ago my husband of 31 years asked for a divorce. Despite the fact that I felt in the pit of my stomach this was coming, I never believed we would really split up, after all, we’d been together for over half of our lives. When he told me, I heard the thunderous sound of the other shoe dropping. I was also terrified. I hadn’t lived alone for a very long time, and having a grasp of our finances, I knew my income would make it very difficult to live on my own. My husband leaving felt like the end of the world. I NEVER saw myself as a divorced woman, especially not at 61. Part of me wanted to just crawl into a hole and lick my wounds, but I didn’t even miss a day of work. I was sadder and more angry than I’ve ever felt in my life, but I had to keep going. I don’t necessarily recommend this approach, but I somehow knew it was the only way I could keep from falling apart.

A dear friend offered her empty MIL apartment to me for a few months. I paid rent, half the rent of the apartment we lived in when we split. I ended up staying there for 3 1/2 years. It was a delightful studio apartment with skylights and big windows. The small size felt comforting and cozy when I was still going through the pain and uncertainty of the divorce, and starting my life over. It was my safe cocoon.

Another wise friend who’d also been through a divorce advised me to try something new every day. I took the advice to heart, as doing what was left of  my “usual” things only reminded me I was alone and poor. It was a good practice and helped me realize that there was the possibility of a bigger, better life ahead. I would definitely recommend this practice to anyone going through a big change!

Without the dubious security of another income (my husband’s), I was forced to take my struggling private massage practice seriously. It was a struggle, but I began to enjoy building a business, and eventually my financial picture became less dire. As my life leveled out, and I had time and resources to think beyond survival, I began to feel cramped in my cozy nest. I wanted a place with more space for a bigger life and where I could afford to live as I aged and inevitably had to give up massage.

Two and a half years ago, I was lucky to get an apartment in an Artspace building. I carefully researched what it would mean to live here, based on what I felt my needs would be as I grew older. The rents are stable, and subsidized, the space is optimized for artists to live and work in their apartment, the residents are expected to be a community, supportive of each other and everyone’s artistic expression. I’m also close to all sorts of public transportation, so I don’t need the expense of a car, which I gave up a year ago!

I was scared to death when my husband left, but I have developed courage over the six years since that day. I can see now that I’ve been resourceful all my life, I’ve learned that resourcefulness is a part of courage. I would never have said I was courageous, at any point in my life. That is why I was so scared. Now I acknowledge my courage, which I think may have been there all along, I just forgot about it.

Courage is recognizing I can trust myself.
It is listening to the voice of intuition, more than the voice of the critic.
It is being vulnerable and willing to ask for help.
Courage is trusting that life is good and abundant.