Just Do It

miss-frizzleA poster from Moonbot Studios’ new short film “Taking Flight” signed by one of its creators, Brandon Oldenburg. Ohhh.  For a $100 pledge. Hmm.

I know where I’d hang it. In the spare bedroom where I write when my brother’s not in town. “Taking Flight.” It’s perfect.

I hear of the opportunity this morning on our public radio station as I’m driving to the bookstore café to write. A poster. 100 dollars. For public radio. These phrases show up while writing in my notebook, but so do many other things.

Two nights ago in one of our timed topics at writing group I quoted Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus) “Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy.” Actually the only part I could remember was “get messy.” Later Google helped fill in the rest. So my intention for the week became to get messy. Which for me that also meant take chances and make mistakes.

When I get home from this morning’s café writing, my brother entertains me with his running comedic routine. It’s an acquired taste only a few truly appreciate. I’m working on it. He’s here for two weeks before he makes his big move to New York City (taking his own chances.) Next week his daughter and two-month old granddaughter will come to visit for the first time. Everyone seems to be spreading their wings. Is there a connection here?

Later, just before noon, I climb into the car to go to the grocery store. As I start the engine, the radio announcer tells me there are only two more minutes before the matching funds challenge is taken off the table. Whoa. My $100 could be worth $200. And I still want that poster.

Little Ms. Practical realizes this is now a “take a chance” moment. Could this also be a make a mistake moment, I wonder. I’ll be out 100 dollars, public radio will have a doubled pledge, and soon there’ll be a cool poster hanging in my writing room, I tell myself. Don’t see how this could go too wrong. Still in my driveway I dial the number. Four minutes later the volunteer has taken all my information. Did my pledge qualify for matching funds? I don’t know; I hope so. Ah, but I did it.

Would I have thought about it later this evening if I hadn’t heard the reminder again? Or perhaps thought about it at 2 o’clock tomorrow morning and lain awake for an hour with regrets?

Muse:  Why are you even worrying about that? It’s done. You DID it.

Me:  Ah, but I didn’t get messy.

Muse:  Geez. You did it.

Me:  But my intention was to get messy.

Muse:  I give up. You’d argue with a rock.

All this writing practice over the years. How does writing practice have anything to do with this scenario? Maybe because as I write this now I’m acutely aware of the ongoing dialogue in my head over seemingly trivial things that cause me to end up doing nothing. Maybe, even though it hasn’t cured me from the dialogue (even as I’m not sure it is something that needs a cure) I continue to recognize this. But today, here on these pages, I see this conundrum and its resolution. Just by giving myself permission to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.  (Even if it was not that big a chance, no mistakes ended up being made, and it wasn’t even messy.)

So a timed writing for you…What is the ongoing dialogue in your head right now?

Upon reflecting:  So the “chance” I took was not the story of acting on the opportunity to purchase a Moonbot poster by making a public radio pledge. The chance I took, which is so much bigger to me, is posting that story when it still felt like a story. Before I could talk myself out of it. Which is what my inner dialogue is very good at.

I have several drafts of posts that I didn’t post in the heat of the moment. The fire subsides; the story grows cold. Ah, but this time I took a chance. Let’s just see what happens. A mistake? Doesn’t feel that bad. Messy? Nah, not really.

I write to learn. My lessons aren’t neatly tied up immediately. Time and distance works on them. Ah yes. I see what I’m learning here.



Interview with the Muse

         Muse: A blog post Laura, that’s all it is. It’s not like this is the beginning of a book

Me: But it might be

Muse: Let that go and just talk to me. You still have so much middle school language arts teacher in you. She retired, remember? Tell me about when you started writing.

Me: Ok. At the beginning of the last two years of my 30 year teaching gig I started writing snippets, little anecdotes of what was going on in my class. Like we as teachers say we’re going to. This gig was so sweet. Little kids, a garden, animals in cages all around the room, experiments. Total fun. I told people I was playing with angels in the garden of Eden. After years of upper elementary and middle school language arts. It was my reward. So I think, I’ll retire and write about my teaching career. I did, and I have the rejection slips to prove it.

Muse: Remember your first years of teaching? A few “rejections slips” there too.

Me:  Don’t remind me. I had no clue what I was doing. Kinda like stringing pieces of what I thought might work together.

Muse: So when was that …a few years ago?

Me: Nah, more like 17…and I still just feel like I’m practicing.

Muse: Welcome to Life.

Me: It’s not quite what I visualized. There’s no book from those stories and Oprah hasn’t called yet. But I have a closet full of journals chronicling the ins and out of midlife and beyond. (ed. note: At this point I was going to insert a picture of my closet full of journals, but I can’t make my new phone talk to my old computer. Maybe when I meet up with my friend Melissa, half my age and a gazillion times more tech savvy)

Muse: Ok. 17 years. Midlife. Is that what you write about?

Me: Well yeah. My only child died. Suicide. Two-and-a half years after I retired. People tell you to go back to what you were doing before. To move on. But I was shuffling papers with a dream of writing a book and filling journals. And in time I tried again. Fashioning my journal pages into a book, not of sweet school stories, but of the grief journey I was recording. And this time I self-published.

Muse: How did that go for you?

Me: It was interesting. I had a book. With my name on the front. It wasn’t the way I envisioned it. My friends and family bought copies. And it was cathartic.

Muse: How so?

Me: I was learning a lot about myself and the world around me. Reflecting.

Muse: And that’s what you want to write about now?

Me: It’s what I have been writing about and it’s what I want to share. that’s the scary part for me. I’m most brave in my notebook.

Muse: So the blog?

Me: Well, I thought it might help me transition…

Muse: Stop right there. Say it like you mean it, not like you’re apologizing..

Me: Gulp. Yes m’am. I’m who I am today because I have filled a closet full of notebooks with writing practice. And I want you to know that. I want you to know the struggle it was to continue living and facing the shame of losing my only child. Yes, shame. The blame I put on myself. I was his mother. I should have known more. I couldn’t get those thoughts out of my head.

Muse: Did you talk to anyone?

Me: Not really. Not the way I needed to. I was too ashamed. Too scared. And because at that time I was writing daily, journaling, I let it loose in my notebook. It was like I’m doing now, by pretending I’m talking to my Muse, letting you draw out my timid voice.

Muse: Why is this voice so timid?

Me: Words can be so powerful. I know some of the ways I’ve misused their power and I want to be more mindful of how I use them now.

Muse: So what’s your plan?

Me: Right now I’m relying on my local writing group and my long distance writing friend Taj. I set an intention with them to have this blog up and running and my local group meets tonight. I’m running out of time trying to get the words right. It’s time to just push the publish button. Gulp.

Writing Topic: Do you have a Muse? Who is she/he/it?