Last night, I had about 450 minutes of respite from Input, and I slept well.
Deep sleep visited me, unlike the night before—a night of restlessness born from a bubbling slough of unconscious anxieties. The battles I fight right now are mere skirmishes, practices even. In that sense, I have no right to become anxious or sleepless, and yet it happens more often than I like when I allow Input to balloon out of control.
Sleepwalking days follow wakeful nights. I’ve dubbed them “Lost Days” because though I move and function and take care of vital tasks, I’m not one hundred percent. The lack of sleep puts stress on my immune system like a hot day taxing a freezer sitting out in the full sun. I feel physically ill. Sometimes I even run a slight temperature. I am mentally fogged. Taking a long afternoon nap in bed perpetuates the problem of night-time insomnia for me, so I fight through the long, Lost Day, catching a cat nap on the couch when necessary, and then go to bed at a reasonable hour, surrendering to sleep and the comfort of blank sheets.
When I awoke at 5:30 a.m. this morning, I tried to return to the bliss of sleep’s respite, but I could not. Instead, I realized the previous day had been spent recovering from an Input-binge hangover. The last couple of weeks have been full of information and social media and reading and researching ideas for projects in progress. Not only was my desk cluttered, but my mind felt cluttered.
This morning after my night’s reboot, it was time to create a blank slate in my work space as well. So, between 5:30 and 6:04 a.m. I did just that.
- I cleared my desk.
- I pulled all of the sticky notes off the wall in front of my desk except for one, “…the blank page is a magic box.” (J. J. Abrams, TED Talk)
- I thought about writing on paper, but instead I chose to clear my computer—metaphorically. I shut down all programs except my word processor. I did not check email. I did not check social media. I went straight to my no-distractions blank page mode in Scrivener (the writing software I use), and I began to write.
It was a clean start to a new day.
How will you reduce your Input load today?
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If your house caught fire, your loved ones (including pets) were safe, and you had time to save one thing, what would it be?
Before off-site digital storage existed, photographs would have been the top answer for many because they are irreplaceable. We can’t go back in time and capture those moments again.
And yet, within a generation or two, many of those priceless images become worthless and meaningless. Printed photographs find their way into flea market bins anonymous and mute regarding their history. Their unclaimed digital cousins may simply be erased or eventually released onto public domain sites where they will become meme fodder for coming generations. How can something priceless become worthless in such a short time?
Family photos are priceless to us because they are story triggers, no matter their aesthetic quality. They help us remember who we are, where we started, and how far we’ve come. No matter how well a photograph is composed, however, it is unable to speak beyond its proverbial one thousand words. We need words written, spoken, or acted out in relationship to know the full story behind the image. A picture detached from its story becomes meaningless to all but those rare, curious souls compelled to solve the mysteries the image is incapable of revealing on its own.
So where are all of these thoughts coming from? This week, I’m excited to say I’ve taken on a new writing project. I’m helping my dad write down his stories with the goal of turning them into a memoir that can be shared.
Spending so much time delving into my past and the past beyond my past has been a bit like taking a vacation from the present. It’s not where I want to live long-term, but it has been enjoyable to revisit the familiar, best-loved family stories and to hear new stories that my dad has never told me before. It has been an exercise in remembering and discovering the deeper stories behind my mind’s “pictures” of our family’s history. I’ve gotten to know my parents better, and it has been both humbling and instructive to look back at our journeys so far.
I’d like to encourage you to take some time this week to consider which stories in your life help you to remember who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Take time to share your stories and listen to others’ stories so we can remember our lives are not meaningless. Focus on the ones that reveal the priceless truths and mysteries behind the image you present to the world. Though we, like our photographs, may be forgotten, let us not allow the important stories that reveal life’s truths end up forgotten on a flea market table.
A picture may be worth 1000 words, but its story may be worth 10,000 more.
Photo: From my family’s photo archives.
Warning: This blog post is an experiment in forcing myself to sprint to the finish line. The timer is ticking. I gave myself thirty minutes to formulate this post, edit it, and hit the Publish button. Let’s see how this goes. If there’s no real ending, you’ll know why.
When will it ever end?
That is what I keep asking myself about the current story I’m working on. The longer I spend writing and developing the story, the further I get from the end. I now realize I’m running the opposite direction, hoping I’ll never finish because when it comes down to it—I hate endings.
Why? So glad you asked.
- Endings can be painful. In life, ending means saying goodbye. Maybe not forever, but one never knows when one goodbye will be the last. Badly written story endings are painful for other reasons. The pain of realizing you just wasted an afternoon or a night’s sleep is the one that I dislike the most.
- Endings can disappoint. I’ve read two novels in the past couple of weeks—one satisfied me and one was somewhat disappointing. Both were quick summer reads (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store and Innocence) that I read just for fun. I read Innocence simply to enjoy the experience without trying to second-guess where the story would go. I was pleasantly surprised with the story’s resolution. On the other hand, with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store, I was fairly certain that it would be difficult to end the book in a satisfying way. I enjoyed the book and the ending had a clever twist, but I still shut the book wishing the ending would have been different. It’s like the joke that stops, but you somehow missed the punch line.
I don’t like to hurt or disappoint people. So is it any wonder that I’m running from ending my story because I know that I’ll likely do both? My only hope is that story is really a circle and if I run away from the ending long enough, I’ll eventually find it—satisfying or not.
Okay. Thirty minutes are up.
Photo Credit: morguefile.com
Our yard has gone through the first round of dandelions already.
It always amazes me when I look out to find the golden-maned flowers have overtaken the lush, spring grass seemingly overnight. And then only days later, with their flash of youthfulness complete, they stand tall, gangling and white-haired, ready to become the seeds of the next wave of dandelions.
Because of the dandelion’s ability to reproduce exponentially, we usually see them as weeds, but no matter how many times we mow them down and spread weed killer, they come back. That perseverance and strength in the midst of adversity is what inspired me to write the vignette, “Dandelions Dance,” which is tucked into the middle of Refractions: A Collection of Short Fiction.
Though short, this glimpse into a young mother’s life takes on some big issues: we don’t always get to finish what we start, we don’t always get to do what we want to do, and we mourn the paths in life we’re unable to take. Sometimes it helps to stop and learn from the flowers because even the so-called weeds have a story to tell.
I’d like to invite you to read all three of the selections in Refractions: A Collection of Short Fiction if you haven’t done so already. You can find links to your favorite book retailers below.