Self-Reflection and Time

The beautiful part of writing your own blog is that, while you can stay with one theme, sometimes its nice to get off the written path and…improvise a bit. Coming up with a blog this week (after I have somehow misplaced my blog plan for the year) saw me wobbling between some kind of self-promotion, poetry, or writing advice.

Well, I haven’t refined a poem that I’m ready to share yet, and I often get annoyed with too much self-promotion (my own mostly). I have lots of writing advice, but today I want to talk about time.

Time is a tricky sort of celestial magic. It is elusive and easy to lose, yet feels infinite and ongoing. The problem is that humans have such short spans of it to spend. And the more we spend, the faster what we have left goes. It is relative, and yet some moments can stop it. Days are long, but years are short. And the amount we are given is never guaranteed, nor is it ever enough.

So what do you plan to do with the time you have left?

I realize that working, sleeping, eating, caring for family and general ‘stay alive’ skills factor in. I’m talking about the minutes when you have a breadth of time to yourself.

Just before bed.

Right after you wake up.

That 15 minute break at work

the 20 minutes your baby is napping

The 2 minutes, sitting in your car before the kids get out.

The hours on your hands when your nest is empty.

The Saturday morning, the Wednesday afternoon, the Tuesday night…

You see, I just had another birthday, and every year when that date rolls around (especially since hitting 40) there is an urgent sense of morbidity.

What if this is the year?

That I get hit by someone watching their phone instead of the road while I’m out running. That my dog (or one, or all in a congregated attack of cats) trips me down the stairs. That I throw myself in front of my children, (or someone else’s) when a random gunman open fires at the grocery store. That I catch a benign case of the flu and run myself into walking pneumonia, and stop breathing in the night.

That the shadow on my pancreas has become a full-fledged tumor.

What if this is the last year I have left?

What do I want leave behind? I’m not trying to be a downer, or anticipate death. But time…

Time doesn’t slow for any of us. And time can stop us, dead, with the slightest universal plot twist.

What if this is the last year you have left? What if it’s the last month?

We don’t have time to wait. There is never a perfect time to do what you’ve always wanted to do. We have a limited time offer to live.

I have moments to enjoy with my children. I have a lot more naps in the sun with my dog. I have mountains to climb, smiles to spread, joy to foster, power to reclaim, and hurtful patterns to break. I don’t want to waste another minute on people who do not see my worth. I don’t want to waste a second on making the same mistakes that robbed me of time, or dignity, or love. I have so many more books to write. I have so many more poems to scribble down. More students to teach. More coffee to drink. More places to travel. More steps, more breaths, more life. And I want to pack as much of it all in, to every moment I have available.

Make a list. Today. This very minute. Pretend that it is all you have left to hope for and not much time to make it a reality. And start today. This very minute.

Time is not on our side. It is a ever-quickening beast, thundering beside us, and gaining ground. Your job, tiny chess-piece of the infinite universe, is to learn to move, and love, and live, every single moment you are here. So that when that monitor blip begins to slow, and the metronome of your heart ticks to ever-expanding spaces of silence… you know that you spent every beat of it well.

Leaps of Faith, and Other Stupid Ideas

Friends, I’m taking off tomorrow morning at 3 a.m. That’s three in the goddamn morning. All because, on a whim built by the impending doom of middle age, bouts of deep depression, and a general lack of self-preservation, I decided it would be a “fun” idea to sign up to fill a vacant spot on a random Ragnar Trail Relay team one short month ago.

I’m not sure if I was thinking it would count towards training inspiration, an escape from my day to day, or if it stemmed from some kind of deep-seated desire to find an adventurous death, but whatever the case—I’m soon to be on my way up the mountain, for a trying 30 hours and 15+ miles of no sleep, altitude climbs, rough single track, and hanging out in a sweaty tent with 7 other people I don’t really know. (They’re mostly comprised of lovely nurses and good-hearted runners, so I will be in capable hands, even if I try to die by wild animal attack.)

While I’m in some ways dreading the experience, there is a part of me that understands that this challenge, while unnecessary and possibly adding to my overall stress, is something of value.

My life of late has been…tumultuous. It’s been a rough day… since about 2020… and personal conflicts and their responding growth have come at a cost to the security I once felt with my place in the world. I’m in a state of upheaval and I honestly don’t know what next year, next month, or even next week will look like.

Sometimes, when we undergo these painful growth spurts it can feel that we’re a little lost in the world. As Paul Simon once sang. Nothing is different but everything has changed. Oceans and Mountains

Part of us is still lagging behind in our old ‘knowns’, part of us has been thrown into a blender of new and frightening possibilities. We are, as a species, not designed to stay stagnant. Challenges, hardships, changes, and losses are elements of the journey that test our ability to adapt and grow. If we don’t…we’re doomed to stay immobile an maybe what’s worse, risk living half a life. You should really watch this movie…

When you only get 76 years, 42 starts feeling like a decline to the end. A sharply steep trail, in the dead of night that only seems to drop faster, the farther we go down. Rocks slipping under our feet, scrub tearing at our ankles, and the out of control realization that nothing we do, really matters. We’re all headed to the bottom.

So the question then becomes, do we stay stagnant and let the gravity of life take us down the hill, a complacent body rolling over cactus and sharp stone? Or do we try to stand in the midst of the pull. Control the hill so the hill doesn’t control you?

Now, I’m a bit free-wheeling, and I’ll never tell you to try to control things in life outside of your power. The hill is there, you’re going down it. The path has rocks you can’t see until they’re tripping your toes, and falls that will scar and scare you. But you can control your legs, how you view those rocks, and perhaps most importantly, how you rise after you fall. (I prefer cursing, gritting my teeth, a bit of healthy anger, a good laugh at myself, and continuing on)

The thought occurs to me that one of the reasons I signed up for this crazy race…might have been to remind myself of how strong I am. Of how many mountains I have climbed, and how many falls I’ve survived. A good dose of suffering can sometimes bring out the heart that has been shuttered for too long. Maybe in every aching footstep, is a starlit night. Maybe in every scraped knee and bruised elbow, is a view you’d never have seen if you didn’t choose to fight your way up that hill. Maybe it’s not a good death I’m looking for, but a better life.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find it, on a dark starlit night, beneath a blazing sun, alone but still supported, on the long and distant trail. Find Your Heart

Guest Poet: Bethany Beeler

Good morning, Beautiful Readers! Today’s blog and poem come to us from the incredibly talented Bethany Beeler. https://www.bethanybeeler.com/. Please enjoy an in-depth look at why poetry offers us intense and true experience, in an angel’s breath of time and, as Beeler so eloquently says, “poems are your and my experience of a unique and intimate moment that can’t be replicated

I would love to see some discussion on this blog so shoot me your comments and questions. Also, look forward to enjoying some of Bethany’s poetry in The Beautiful Stuff’s new anthology “Wilderness of Soul“, out next Fall.

Here’s a little more about Bethany and where you can find her work:

Author of North Street Book Prize Finalist, How to NOT Know You’re Trans., and artist, Bethany A. Beeler was born and raised in the Pittsburgh, PA area. After college, she settled in Texas for the next 37 years with her wife Pamalyn, raising three children, and mayoring the city of Krum, TX. She’s been a professor, teacher, and tech writer. Her work has been published in The Twinbill.

Links

Website – https://www.bethanybeeler.com/

Amazon Author Page – http://amazon.com/author/bethanybeeler

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BeautifulBuddhaBethanyBeeler/

Medium – https://medium.com/@beautifulbuddha

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bethany_beeler

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/beautiful_buddha_bethany_b/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/

Another Kiss


Goddess fingernail moon over pines,
Crepe myrtle early
Bloom. Huntress
Belt, chaste and fair, Hekate
Gift and swoon. Thrush song’s
Dark, creeping
Cold
Grips my soul. Walk apace,
Venture, snap,
Brittle face, I
Take her lavender
Kiss, lips trembling. I
Sing silent, sibilant, unsated heart, hand in
Nest, breast aflame, this

(Nipple spark)
Touch too wet,
Soft. I
Hush, her hand awash in
Me, greet, guide, hold, caress, I
Burst, dripping
Star and comet, quasar and
Dust, fecund harvest,
Birdsong lush in night of
Morn and noon. She takes
Me home too soon to sleep in
Parted lips, hastening another
Kiss.

In The Alphabet Versus the Goddess , Leonard Shlain says that “written words and images are
entirely different ‘creatures.’ Each calls forth a complementary but opposing perceptual
strategy.” He’s wrong in two ways—words and images are not merely complementary but are
abstractions of a deeper reality, which, of course, also means they aren’t in opposition at all.
That deeper reality is experience, which is neither an abstraction nor a material thing but an
event that is life itself. Nowhere do we better see the wholeness of which image and word are but
facets than in poetry. Poems are liminal moments of experience. If novels can be likened to
movies and short stories to snapshots, poems are not even the camera flicking on; they’re the
threshold between “on” and “off,” an event that can’t be filmed or recorded but experienced only.
We don’t observe poems. We live them.

In poetry, words cease to be signifiers but image things themselves, and images cease to be
“like” anything but word experience itself. When I write a poem, I’m both aware of and
oblivious to being watched. The absorber of a poem is eavesdrops on the speaker’s
liminal/threshold experience. I am not the speaker of my poems, but we couldn’t eavesdrop on ​
that speaker without me as the poet and you the voyeur. I hope you feel the same about poems
you write and ones you take in. Whether composed or received, poems are your and my
experience of a unique and intimate moment that can’t be replicated. The quality of your and my
experience and the event you and I consummate is more unique than you and I are individually.
Here, in this moment, at this doorway, we meet in a way we’ll never meet again, even upon
repeat couplings. Ours forever, it can’t be taken away.

So what is “ours” about “Another Kiss”? I love words sounding to me without my thinking about
them. I want their thud, slither, or hiss to knell me and you without their having to “mean
something.” Simply put, I try to make words “image” experience for you and me.
That being said, consciously or not, I don’t choose just any words to thud, slither, or hiss us.
Those chosen words image a river of cultural and personal significance for you and me. In a
poem, we step into a river that was there before us, caresses us right now, and will tug us after.
But you and I change its course. For the better. In a way no one alone, nor any other pairing of
persons can recreate.

But I want us to recreate, too. And “Another Kiss” is as sensual a poem as they come. I
swallowed this night, wooed by plants, scents, breezes, stars. I invite you to seduce the event, as
the event. For you and I are the event. Enjoy.

The Beautiful Stuff Writers Workshop #14: Poetry: The Quarrel with Ourselves

“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” –William Butler Yeats

 

I cannot believe it’s taken me nearly all month to remember that it is, in fact, National Poetry Month. I think I may have skimmed over something in the deluge of news clips and overthought, under-edited articles that pervade my cyber space, but in a world where days blend together, I nearly missed it.

You know what coming next, don’t you?

Oh,I’m not being lazy! It’s good practice!

And its more a matter of economy–I’ve got end-of-school projects due and a Black Belt Progress check this week, and therefore, my plate is a little full. So this week your exercise is simple. Go outside, mask it up if you find yourself in a bustling park, of course, but if it’s a deserted early morn, breathe the un fettered air, allow a scrap of paper and pen to tag along with you.

Take ten minutes of just being aware of the moment. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? Use these observations and notice how they filter and affect the thoughts already on your mind. Have a quarrel with yourself and see what arguments emerge. What solutions? What epiphanies?

Then go find yourself a favorite place to sit and write me a poem.

I was going to give you some restrictions but I think we’ve all had enough of those. Any length, any form, rhyming or blatantly against, iambic pentameter–why the f%*k not? Limerick or Odyssey, dark or light, whatever is on the tip of your brain, no matter how sharp or dull.

Send them along, and let me know if you want me to include them in the weeks to come.

I’ll craft one as well.

Happy Writing!

Undiscovered You

 

Now, I know last week I talked about taking life down a notch, enjoying the time we have and not stressing about impressing others. And I was honest in my expression of those thoughts.

Then what did I do? I turned around and signed up for a writing challenge last weekend, sponsored by the lovely folks at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, a volunteer group based in Colorado. The challenge was done through a dedicated page on FaceBook and the aspiration was to reach 25,000 words in 4 days, with daily check ins.

Novelrama

 

I know. I know. I said I wasn’t going to push beyond what I needed and no one needs to finish a novella or half a novel in four days. That being said, of the few things in life that bring me true joy, writing is one. So to have a challenge that gives me reason to put my writing first above all other priorities was very good for my practice and for my mental health. I had a justifiable reason to get on the computer, shut out the world and work. I had a goal to get to!

And here’s what I learned:

1.) Sometimes a thing seems impossible; until it’s not.

That is to say, that mountain looks insane and unclimbable when all you’re doing is standing at the base looking up at the top. But if you start walking and focus on the trail ahead of you, taking on the obstacles in your present moment one at a time, soon you’ve found you’ve reached the next rise… and the next, and the next.

Large things aren’t accomplished in one step. They are accomplished by persevering through all of the little steps on the way.

2.) My family didn’t fall apart when I retreated into my writing for a while.

Sure…eventually if you lock yourself away in hermitude, giving everything you have to your craft, your children forget they had a mom, your spouse doesn’t remember what you look like, and all your houseplants will die.

But nine times out of ten, when you need an hour to focus on your work in progress, your kids and family and houseplants will manage just fine. They might even be better for it, having been so bored for so long that they had to go and make their own fun.

In your life, the laundry can wait, the e-mails, the FaceBook updates, the schedules etc, can take a back burner temporarily while you work on a dream.

3.) Writer’s block sort of disappears when you don’t have the time to self-edit or doubt.

Now listen, this thing I wrote is rough. I mean ROUGH.

The spelling, the punctuation, the grammar, the inconsistent plot line and character flaws… the total lack of reasoning in some cases…it’s a bonafide mess. But it’s also raw and flowing. There were no stutter stops or abrupt changes because I didn’t have time to stop and rethink. Character’s said what they meant, and did it efficiently because I had a story-line to build. And I think my ability to follow the character’s lead improved, letting them do what they do without my intervention led to a more interesting twists, and brighter characters.

4.) Never underestimate the power of having people in your corner

Ya’ll…I didn’t even know the people who participated in the Spring Novelrama either to write, or to mediate writing sprints, or to send memes and inspirational videos. And yet not a single one of them, from what I read, had a disparaging word for their fellow writers. When the word counts were paltry, or life was distracting us, or if someone had gotten caught up editing and *gasp* lost words, every response was that of “I’ve been there, I know it, you’re gonna get through this! You’re doing great!” And getting told that three or four times a day by writers more experienced and talented than you can really start to make you feel like:

5.) I’m kind of awesome.

Now listen, I know that sounds cocky. But if any of you know me in real life, you know that I’m not very generous when it comes to dolling out self-esteem. I’ll be the first to tell you all of my flaws and give you a detailed list of why I’m the least capable person in the world for anything.

But when you get to the top of a mountain that you once thought was impossible to climb, you learn a lot about yourself. How dedicated you can be. How well you can step up when something matters to you. So the next mountain over still might be scary but now you know you have the determination and persistence to conquer it. And knowing that is half the battle in recognizing your awesomeness.

IMG_5766

So big picture message here is this: Don’t not try something just because it seems hard or even impossible. Mastery is achieved by accepting difficulties. Living in the moment and taking the steps we can until the impossibility passes beneath our feet like rocky ground. Go do something amazing today, startle yourself, challenge yourself. Whether it be in your work or in your passion (I would love if, for all of us, that was one and the same), take a little leap and trade the fear for faith that it will all work out.

Surround yourself with good people who are sympathetic to your struggle but won’t be enablers to your pity party.

Thank you to all that participated and helped run the contest. Thanks for my quirky new novel that has everything from deep-rooted government conspiracies, to genetically modified super soldiers, to in depth conversations about leg shaving.

Go on now writer. Set a goal, give it a timeline, and get on with discovering who you can be.

You’ve got awesome written all over you today.

In Defense of the Senses

Happy Wednesday good people of the world. Extra Happy Wednesday to the bad ones…since you probably need more happy.

 

Today, I’m writing about the beauty of the human senses.

 

The human senses are invaluable to a writer, being the most surefire way to engage your reader in what the main character is feeling/seeing/hearing/tasting/smelling and, if you’re really good at the descriptive narrative, making them feel as though they are feeling/seeing/hearing/tasting/smelling the same things.

 

Senses are powerful. The words you choose to describe them must be impeccable to harness this power.

 

I realize, if you aren’t a writer, you may feel left out. Well I never leave a person behind, so hang on.

 

Why in the hell does a human need to explore their senses if they’re not showing someone the glint of moonlight on glass?

 

Well, hear me out, human.

 

Every single one of us, writer or no, deserves to indulge in our senses.

 

Why? Why is it important?

 

Well, shucks! Thanks for asking, new paragraph that makes my self-questioning seem rational…

 

Because part of living beautifully, is living with purpose which is closely tied to living in the moment, and living in the moment has everything to do with connecting to what is real, around you presently…not the feeling of a chair you sat in five days ago, or the way spring will smell eight months from now.

 

I’m talking about being present through the use of gifts you’ve been given.

 

Sit still for Christ’s sake. Seriously. Just sit.

silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime
Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

Someplace safe and comfortable, turn off your goddamn phone, close your eyes and listen.

Take a deep breath, really hear the wave of it rush in and out against the shore of your throat. Listen to what you can only hear when you stop moving, and worrying, and obsessing. Bird chatter, the quiet hum of the neighbors AC unit (hey, not every sound is some natural wonder sent to give you soulful clarity.) Maybe it’s the squeal of tires outside or the school bell in the distance. Now, before you start having judgments or memories, or ideas that are inspired by what you can hear in silence, let those noises go. Let them pass through your brain like clouds in a sky. Take a deep breath.

What do you smell? Last night’s dinner, the oily basset at your feet (who’s probably clyde.jpgcracking off the most horrific clouds of flatulence you’ve ever suffered through—wipe your eyes, try to get past it).

Maybe it’s soap (the decadent scent of a man newly showered) or maybe you smell the old books on your desk, the bed linens behind you and all the interesting smells that reside there. (Remember, basset or sheets, reserve your judgement.)

 

Open your eyes, focus on the small details, try to descern the exact colors, watch the play of shadows and the shimmer of reflections.

 

When you walk through gardens, through stores, through life, hold out your hand and touch things (no butts please…or unwilling butts? Don’t go touching unwilling participants is what I’m saying…stick to the inanimate). Touch fabric, leaves, dead branches and icicles, let the dog passing by snuffle your hand and leave its viscous slobber behind. Touch your hair, the arch of your foot, the base of your nose, tug on your ear lobe…how different it all is! How does it feel to be touched in those strange little places? Get to know your own body and the sensitivity of your fingertips.

 

When you sit down to eat, really taste your food. Keep it on your tongue and think about what’s going on there. When you kiss someone, taste them, their lips, their breath, the

man and woman kissing together on body of water
Photo by Edward Castro on Pexels.com

flavor of them and their body chemistry…it is different for everyone and that’s something fascinating to explore.

 

Finally…and this is an important one…your gut. The so-called sixth sense. Intuition. IT’s there. IT’s often drown out by the madness of our modern world, the overstimulation and cultural rules and denial of the naysayers who believe humans are so far above ‘animals’ that we no longer need such ‘witchcraft’.

 

Tell those voices to stuff it. Listen to your gut. Listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You’re still an animal and don’t forget it. Don’t get too lost in the  modern world. Remember, use the gifts biology and genetics gave you.

 

IF you are a writer, use these exercises to bring clarity and realism to your work.

If you’re a normal human with a ‘real’ day job (oooo self-burn!), use these exercises to be more present in your own life—to slow down time and remember what you are; A beautiful, messy human being with magical guts, wandering eyes, soft to the touch, with angry squirrels chattering on rooftops, smelly bassets underfoot, and a taste for the sensuality all around.