A Day In The Life

This came to me at the end of my meditation sit with Calla on my lap this morning.

A Day In The Life

In my early morning slumber I can feel the heat of my loved one snuggled beside me, slight sweet breathing sounds coming from their mouth. I can’t wait for breakfast so I roam around a bit to see if others are up and ready to eat too. Yum, it’s so good.

Now I have so much energy I don’t know where to begin. I think I’ll rearrange the pillows. Oh, look at that! It makes me want to sing out loud it’s such a wonderful morning. The sun is coming in but it is a cold winter day. I could use some warmth and cuddling. I know, I’ll sit down and meditate for a bit. And lucky me I can get under the blanket and go inward. Is it meditation or am I sleeping? Maybe a bit of both. I can be here in this moment. Until I can’t.

Now what’s next on the list for the day. What needs to be accomplished? Does anything need to be accomplished? Why is that a requirement most of the time? I do need a bath, however, so I’ll do that next. Can someone put the heat on? it’s too cold in here. Ah, that’s better. I think I’ll hang close to the heat source while I comb my hair. I do have some knots but mostly I enjoy the strokes against my skin. Then perhaps I’ll do some planning for lunch and dinner.

But first I see something in the other room that I need to investigate. I think it is moving so I’ll see if I can get it to stop. Or maybe I can get it to move. I’ve got it now so I’ll take it with me upstairs. Or maybe back downstairs, I’m not sure where it wants to be. But I need to go back up to the bathroom. Gosh I must go up and down these stairs ten thousand times a day. I’m pooped now.

Nap time! Where is the perfect spot? There are so many wonderful choices. Sunny, hidden, supported, cuddled, with another or by myself. Yes, that’s perfect. Slumber…

Now it’s time for a snack! Rinse, repeat.

I am a cat. Is this so different from being human?

xoxo Rachel

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Rearranging A Room For Creativity

I have always been a furniture re-arranger. As a child my parents would hear bump and scratch noises coming from my room late into the evening. They always knew it was just me rearranging my furniture again. I tend to get visually bored fairly easily so I like to rearrange my visual field regularly. It can be as simple as changing a table top layout—moving nick-knacks from here to there. Other times I need to really mix things up and I move furniture and redesign the space.

My most recent rearranging took place yesterday. For my birthday on Sunday my husband Andy surprised me by making me a large wood painting easel. It’s not quite finished yet but on my birthday morning it was waiting for me in my office. My office is already a multi-use space for me. I write here, I meditate here, I workout here, I bead here and I have been wanting to paint here too. So motivated by the beautiful large easel I decided to turn my office into a office/studio. Actually I prefer the term studio. My dad would go to his studio in the attic to work even when he had his computer up there to write. So I now formally designate this space as my studio. That’s important because it conjures up greater creativity. And the goal for my rearranging project was to facilitate creativity.

Designing a space as an artist’s studio has different elements to explore like lighting, table top space and storage. I had the additional constraint that the room is also our guest room and I don’t want to get paint everywhere. So I tried a couple of different configurations. I first moved some stuff including my art caddy (that Andy made me last year) into the middle of the room so that I could clear the way for the new design. Then I futzed around with placing the easel in one spot or another until it seemed to give me enough room to work. Of course that meant that I had to get rid of some items and move other things to different spots in our house. I tried to keep all of my creative work on one side of the room and the guest bedroom on the other but that didn’t work. So I pushed furniture here and there and finally I found the sweet spot—for now at least. No doubt I will change it many times at different points in the future.

I feel renewed. I have distinct areas for different purposes, though when I exercise or do yoga I am kind of sprawled everywhere. There’s my desk for writing, my round table for beading, my new easel next to the be further developed dresser top for art supplies. I love the new location of my meditation cushion. As I was rearranging I discovered that the wood pedestal that Andy made many years ago is perfect as an altar to help define my meditation space. My sense is that with the redesign the creative flow of the room is much better. When I stepped into my new studio this morning I wanted to write. I felt that the creative energy was pulling me towards the computer. I have to admit that I keep eyeing my beading space thinking about how I can increase the ease of access to the beads to facilitate my necklace creations. Yes, for me there is always more to go when it comes to organizing. I love the rearranging process and of course I also enjoy the feeling I get when I look at the end result of whatever I have created. I am so grateful for my new studio space.

xoxo Rachel

Perfectionary in Isla Scotland

Perfectionary And Other Made-Up Words

Perfectionary in Isla ScotlandOne of my favorite bookmarks that I picked up at a chocolate shop (Vegan no less) has the word perfectionary in bright colors across one side. Well, actually it doesn’t. It says confectionary but I somehow always read it as perfectionary and it has turned into one of my favorite words. I love made up words. I don’t create them deliberately; they just come out of my mouth here and there. Perfectionary evokes such a sweet and wonderful image to me, particularly as it relates to people I know and love. And undeniably everyone is perfectionary in my opinion. Life is perfectionary.

New words are created all the time for companies and brands. The pharmaceutical industry employs people who spend their days creating names for their drugs that go to market. They want them to roll off the tongue better then the chemical drug names. So yes, new words appear all the time. But the word creation I speak of is spontaneous.

Erik and Rachel By Vivian CrozierMaking up words as they speak is something that I know many people do. I started creating words when I was fairly young. Kids do that all the time. Word play and word creation indeed runs in my family. My brother Erik created my company name Wondrance and named our grandma Coco and one of our cats Rugashey (I have no idea of the spelling). Those words stuck. My dad had lists of words that he created over the years. A number of them show up in his poems, including Ballahoodleness and Poetographics. Another of his poems comes from my word creation.

GRANDMA RAYS*Hani Mama

It is as if
Grandma
Exists at
An infinitely remote
Star
Beyond galaxies,
Ancient in time,
Allpowerful anodyne,
Beaming concern
At us grandchildren;
Powerful and sweet
Her childlike eyes
Touching us
Everlastingly,
Her delicate love
Penetrating us,
Altering our genes
With her ubiquitous
Grandma rays.

*One morning we left Grandma, Hani Mama, who is about 92, waving at us, smiling her love, standing in her white flowing nightgown, childlike. Rachel said, “Look at her, beaming her Grandma Rays at us!”

© Robert E. Mueller 8/9/77
Property of the estate of Robert E. Mueller

Mueller Family 1962 with Coco

Making up words I suppose is just a mind’s way of expressing something that no other word seems to fully capture. And it feels natural and yet magical at the same time. But I haven’t done a good job of keeping track of them. Sometimes they stick, but mostly they come and go as easily as the days and nights pass by.

xoxo Rachel

 

The Powerful Impact of a Master of Words

Books!I go through phases when I can’t get enough to read. I am in that circumstance right now. I drift in and out of novels and essays and works about philosophy and religion and travel and more with a kind of endless appetite. It is voracious and seems to come about this time of year and it is, I imagine, prompted by something. Though I don’t know what. I can’t stop. And then a book hits me with such a profound reaction of emotion that I am stopped. Sadness, or something I can’t quite put my finger on arises. Wanting—that’s it. I want to know everything about the author, the master of words. I want to be the author. I want to inhabit her talent. I want to inhabit her book. I want to be her friend. I want to know and love her, even though I know nothing of her other than her amazing talent as a writer.

I am relieved to realize that at least I am drawn to write after reading her book. I could be very inhibited to write. And at a certain level I am after witnessing her awesome skill. Is there some truth to my concern that I might be expecting to somehow magically be able to write like she does if I put pen to paper just having read her book. Not that I really thought that I would want to write after putting her book down. I was not expecting a piece of exquisite writing—though one can always hope for that. It’s not that at all. I just want to pour out my reactions and I must do that through writing. Not because I want to create something, but because to write is for me to process the experience and to understand, perhaps, what I am feeling.

I have swirls of emotion and a sense of a new beginning. Perhaps a new exploration of writing? What am I to do in this moment but to write? I cannot stop crying and I most certainly am feeling overwhelmed, perhaps embarrassed. But why should I feel weird about the tears? Whatever one encounters, to truly experience it is to be fully taken away with emotions. Often life experiences of all sorts can be so profound. Reading, it should not be a surprise, has such power over me. Isn’t it a wonder of literature that it can be so haunting? Just as music is very often compelling. Is that what makes her so gifted a writer? That she recognizes that to observe and to feel emotion is the essence of a life fully lived? Or is it that she has no other option than to write down her experience and it creates a masterful and intelligent story?

I imagine that she has a process of her own and she might in fact have an outline for her books. But as I read her book, it feels more like it is unraveling before my eyes, liker a river of life just being lived and felt. That is her gift. That is the startling nature of beautiful writing, beautiful music, beautiful art. I am humbled. I am grateful.  Oh, the book by the way is Outline by Rachel Cusk.

xoxo Rachel

The Contours Of Time In My Mind Map

Time is a topic that I haven’t spent much time writing about, yet I have a different, I think, way of thinking about it. When I consider where I am in the calendar year I have a visual image that represents physically where I am in the year. The months are laid down in a very clear and concrete design. I go about my days each month in a year as if I am traveling across a contour of months physically located in time and space. I have a mental map of time.

If I were to literally walk through the months (which I do in my mind), I would be walking to the right during January, February and March. Then I would turn to my left then head forward and deep across dimension for April, May and June. Then I take another right and walk forward for July then August and keep going through September, October, November and December which then continues to the right with January again. I don’t circle back. I always walk towards the next month, which continues for perpetuity to the right and into the distance. A picture might help you to understand my way of thinking about time.My mental map calendarMe!

This is an ongoing contour of time. Wherever I am in the year is wider and bigger in my focus. Almost like when you flip though pictures or files on a mac in the Cover Flow view where the file in focus is the largest—though I had this way of thinking since I was a little girl and well before macs existed.

october-onlyI feel a kind of comfort when I locate myself along my physical time continuum. It is October now and I am headed to my right. I always face the direction I am going on this path. It is all relative to me. So although at the moment my right is to the north, if I were to turn to the right I would still see the future as to my right, which would actually be to the east. I am surprised that I don‘t keep this map of time associated with natural directions—I am very fond of directions and seem to be able to locate where I am relative to north, south, east, and west fairly easily and intuitively. Yet when I peer at my mental map of the months, it has clear direction that is not in anyway associated with the cardinal directions.

The layout of each year is the same, however, the past is diagonally behind my left shoulder and the future is diagonally in front of my right shoulder. It is almost, I just realized, like a line graph where the x and y axis meet represents the past and the 45° line that continues into the future is crossing through my body at the present moment. But, and this is very important, it is tilted flat on the ground so that I can traverse it.

Me!As a kid one of my favorite books was Flatland. It is a wonderful book that describes the existence one has living in a world with only two dimensions. Everything is flat. Navigating in that world isn’t easy but it reminds me that I live quite linearly against a flat calendar of time even if in reality I walk across it in 3-D space.

I did my best to draw up a representation of my mental calendar though I haven’t done my vision justice. I have no doubt that years of exposure to calendars has had some influence on my visual representation. For instance, I see months as rectangles as they tend to appear in traditional calendars. It is a flat representation lifted directly from a standard calendar. They just happen to be rotated depending on where they are in the year and I live spatially in that location. I don’t see each day within a month any different I imagine from most people. I get my physical position based on where the day falls in the calendar.

I love calendars. I have my Google calendar laid out by week (starting on Monday, not Sunday). And I always have a small, what Google calls mini, calendar open to my left so I can identify where I am in a month. I don’t have an equivalent physical location in space for the days of the month like I have for the months of the year.

Living my life through the months of the year clearly has some incredibly huge significance to me. It is importance for me to know where I am in the year because—well I am not entirely sure why but I’ll give it a stab. As a huge planner and organizer, I like to have a visual representation of stuff—of all kinds. I love lists of things to do, I love lists of things to take with me on trips, I love lists of places I want to go—basically I love the feeling that chaos is ordered that lists create for me.

And I love schedules; in fact I am staring at a pool schedule for a health club that I am testing out. A schedule is an organized visual calendar of time. I would feel muddled if I didn’t have the organizing principles of my calendars in life. And though I use my Google calendar every day (and I have used physical calendars since schooldays) my mental map calendar of months is so organizing that I think perhaps I could get away without the other physical calendars and not have trouble existing. I might not get as much accomplished because I would have to remember all the things on the calendar, but I wouldn’t feel disconnected to the world.

My mental map of time gives my time in life a contour. I could live in my head just fine. You might say that I do that already all the time. I tend towards going up into the sky to peer back down on my existence (see Cloud Hopping). So perhaps my imaginary year of months calendar—which is very much located on earth—helps to keep me grounded in the here and now so I don’t feel adrift and I don’t float too much. Not that I mind floating. Writing this blog is like floating a bit while at the same time trying to explain how I float. I love to question and always search to understand—even if it is something seemingly insignificant like the calendar in my head. But this is one of the most significant aspects of my life. The contour of time that I mentally traverse is part of every single day of my existence. It is how I navigate my wondrous and magical life.

XOXO Rachel

Discovering My Passion For Writing

Some of my writing journals from over the yearsIt might seem obvious to anyone who reads any or all of my blogs that I love to write. But actually, I have been a bit slow to realize just how much writing means to me. A few weeks ago I went to a two-day meeting of my entrepreneur school. One of my favorite parts of the event is when we do a masterminding session where we break up into groups of eight to facilitate an exchange of ideas. Each person gets 20 minutes to discuss what their goals are for the next 120 days and where they could use some help. This masterminding is both a brainstorming session and a coaching session on steroids because you have the perspective and intuition of seven other people to help guide you.

It was my turn and we were discussing my new coaching book and how some others in our group who had also written a book were going on promotional book tours, when I suddenly burst into tears. I could hardly articulate what was going on. But the more I vocalized what was happening internally the more it was clear to me and to every other person at the table just how passionate I am about writing. But to be more precise, the tears revealed just how passionate I feel to be a writer.

A few days after the event, one of my mastermind team sent me an electronic invitation that she had received from her alma mater Manhattanville College. In just a few weeks they were having a Saturday MFA Writing Day event. I signed up even though I had butterflies that stayed with me all the way up to the day of the event this past weekend. And yet pushing myself into it and allowing the fear was, of course, worth it. My passion knew better than me that I would find something important that day. And I did indeed. Sitting with a group of about twenty-five—all but one were women—I found camaraderie and learning. We wrote given cues, like a single sentence to spark a short story, we shared and discussed our work and we talked about what it means to be a writer. The love and support was reassuring and empowering. We were encouraged to all embrace the label of writer, published or not.

The term writer holds a lot of weight in our society. And describing something as a passion is equally weighty. One of my current mentors, Fabienne Fredrickson uses the term unique brilliance to describe something that you do well and would do all day long for free. It is a passion. I have been writing blogs for years now even though I haven’t been paid for writing them. And writing has been in my life for years though I have used the term dabbling in the past to describe my involvement. There was the memoir-writing course at The Learning Annex, and there was the improv class at The Upright Citizens Brigade where I enjoyed creating monologues off the cuff. In my corporate roles I was always giving presentations that I wrote. And before that I published research articles in psychology journals when I was in academia. Most recently I was writing love-story weddings.

But somehow I discounted any of this as writing and somehow I never allowed myself to identify as a writer. In part because there was such a clear format and structure as defined by the APA (American Psychological Association), my journal articles didn’t feel like writing. Although I was a published author, I didn’t consider myself to be a writer. A psychologist yes, but not a writer. The purpose (presenting research results) outweighed the form (writing). But as I gaze back at what I did for so many years, I realize that I was writing, was a writer, and will always be a writer. Regardless of the structure, style, form or purpose, whether fiction or non-fiction, I write.

It occurs to me that my passion for writing was both something that grew over time and something that has always been a part of me. However, I felt great fear and vulnerability sharing my writing so I stayed clear of it for many years. As a girl I felt very inadequate as a reader and a writer. I am not sure where my uncertainty came from, but I presumed that I was good at math and science but no good at English, even if my grades were fine in both. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered my love of literature and then in college that I learned I loved writing essays. I still have some of my Berkeley cognitive psychology reports that in hindsight feel so similar to what I enjoy doing to this day: riffing on some topic.

I am to thank one of my coaches, Melanie Dewberry Jones, for pushing me out of my writing comfort zone after I brought up wanting to write when we spoke a few years ago. It felt more like a push off of the cliff when she challenged me to start a blog and publish my thoughts in two weeks’ time. I probably got silent in response but I took the challenge and created my first blog. I remember with great clarity how scared I was the very first time I hit the ”publish” button and it was for real. I physically felt the vulnerability of exposing myself, my thoughts and of course my writing. I felt like I was coming out of the writer’s closet.

To this day, I still get a tummy tumble when I am about to post a blog, and even as I just sit here and think about sharing this piece. And yet, the passion to express through writing overrules any fears. After the masterminding session I left processing everything but not really thinking about next steps for writing. Then ideas began to flow. I want to create more books and I want to attempt some poetry and fiction—not just the coaching/advice and memoir non-fiction that I tend towards. I realized this morning that my love for psychology and philosophy is intimately tied to my love of writing. I am curious about the world and people and the mind and my way to explore that fascination is through writing. Making sense out of life drives my writing. Reading and devouring ideas gives me ammunition for my own ideas and perspective. I can’t not write just like I can’t not think.

Deep in my heart I still feel like a fraud at times. How can I say I am a writer when I wasn’t born writing stories like so many writers? Does starting later in life invalidate it somehow, even though there are many authors who started writing later? Who do I need to prove to that I’ve been writing for years? And yet all that doubt won’t keep me from writing. It won’t prevent me from working harder, learning through writing and though courses and through reading and testing the process and pushing to write fiction and poetry and whatever pours out of me. I am a writer. It is a passion.

XOXO Rachel

My Head Is In The Clouds

Ah, the summer. It is a time to relax and unwind and do nothing. I have been doing a lot of nothing this summer and loving every minute of it! Of course, my nothing is still fairly active with regular exercise and yoga and our DIY house painting room-by-room project. But I have slowed with work and I have indulged by reading many romance novels and murder mysteries and taking trips to the Jersey Shore (see Magical Moment Mondays Jersey Shore) and a trip to Saratoga Springs (see also At The Races).  Clouds above the raceway at SaratogaAnd I find that my head is in the clouds, both literally and figuratively. By literally I mean that I am perfectly content to watch the clouds roll by and do some cloud hopping (see Cloud Hopping) if the conditions are right. Lately the sky has been very clear but today I am enjoying the drift of fluffy white clouds just asking to be leapt into. When I engaged in cloud hopping, I feel a lightness and thrilling sense of freedom as I jump from cloud to cloud. And that moves me to then have my head in the clouds figuratively.

When I go up into the clouds figuratively, I am very removed from the world and my body. It is as if I can peer down upon me and my own life with a new perspective—almost as if I were a different person. It is very calming because that view is always magnificent and optimistic and persuasive. From the cloud view I am able to look over the past of my life, the present of my life and the future of my life without fear and without judgment and with love and kindness. It is serenity. It gives me clarity.  What a great place to live!

Clouds above our vege gardenSometimes I figure out a problem up there. Other times I get new ideas and run back inside to write them down. Almost always I want to write after I am up in the clouds because I have so much pouring out of my head that I must release. And writing is a wonderful method to release and cultivate my thoughts. Even as I type away at the keyboard, I feel removed from my physical self when I am downloading post cloud time. The words tumble from my head and I feel soothed and completely at home. As I sit here attempting to make sense of it, I would say that for me nature and writing are curiously intertwined. I don’t always need to be in the clouds or in nature to write, but nature moves me. Being outside pushes me into the clouds, which then pushes me into thoughts and then pushes me to write. I say push because it is as if an energy field is surrounding me that compels me to write. Yes, inactivity leads to boundless activity! The inactivity of having my head in the clouds is actually one of the most powerful ways for me to get into action—the action of writing. I say let’s all get our heads into the clouds and see what we create!

XOXO Rachel

Some people count sheep…

Anubis sleeping on meI bake cookies—in my head, that is—while I try to fall asleep at night.  I’ve never been a good sleeper.  Even as a child, I could hear a pin drop when I was sleeping.  And the princess and the pea—well, that is me as I fidget in bed trying to get comfortable.  Now I seem to rarely have a full night of sleeping.  I know that having my cat Anubis sleep on me is a mixed blessing (he is so warm and snuggly, but he is nearly 10 pounds of furriness sitting on my stomach).  So I try lots of evening rituals like doing some yoga poses and breathing exercises before I get into bed.  I sleep on wickable sheets to stay comfortable regardless of temperature changes.  I keep my eyes covered with a sleep mask every night to block out light and other energies around me.  I have tried earplugs and they do help to keep out sound but they aren’t very comfortable—yeah that princess and the pea phenomenon again.

Instead, I think of measuring brown sugar, white sugar and butter then creaming it together (yum, especially the brown sugar). I add the eggs and vanilla and even taste the batter along the way just like I do when I am actually making cookies.  And of course the recipe I seem to make most often is chocolate chip cookies (see Ode to baking chocolate chip cookies).

Notes for blogI even write entire blog posts like this one not on paper but in my head.  Initially I am too tired or afraid that turning on a light to write it down will wake me too fully that I try really hard to not forget it by morning.  One night recently it was no problem—I was so awake all through the night or just determined to remember that in the morning when I got up, all my thoughts just poured out long hand on paper.  I couldn’t wait the time it would have taken to turn on my computer.  And some how it seemed too early, too strange to turn on my computer.  But I don’t always remember what I “wrote” in bed.  Sometimes it will be days and then I finally remember a topic I thought of to write about while I was “asleep”.

I also sing songs all night.  That happens pretty much regardless of where I am in the dream-sleep continuum.  I can get really annoyed by a song if it keeps playing over and over again when I am awake-ish.  If I am actually asleep, the song simply becomes the soundtrack to whatever is taking place in my dream.  It doesn’t necessarily change the dream, it’s just there in the background like in a movie.

It turns out that my uncle has some similar experiences.  We probably share some unusual gene.  I can’t say that I am sorry that I have that gene.  Other than being such a poor sleeper, I do appreciate that my way to create is so interesting and I get fun things to blog out of it!

The quality of snow

There is something very satisfying and important to me about the quality of snow.  It can be at once both very calming and sad or furious and determined.  Part of the quality has to do with the rate at which it descends – floating down softly in a light snow, or a fast and heavy downfall that collects many inches in no time.  Today, the snow is almost drifting down to the ground and just a trace of whiteness appears around our yard.  First the tree limbs become white, and then slowly the ground picks up the tinge as well.  Perhaps because of the slowness of the flakes arrival to the earth, I feel as if I am being blanketed with a reminder to take one step at a time and the accumulation will happen eventually.  “The accumulation of what?” you may ask.  And my response is “of anything”.  Writing is dropping snowflakes one at a time that requires a kind of patience as the words accumulate into a larger piece.  I find that a certain soft quality much like the snow is at least one way in which I approach the paper to write.  I sit in front of my keyboard and let the words fall to the page.  There are snowstorm days where I can feel my blood pressure rise and my fingers won’t type fast enough to keep up with the quick flow of words that come from my manic cloud-mind.  In general I find that even in the calm days of light snowfall, I have a tendency to not breath well enough.  It is almost as if the anticipation of interacting with my thoughts on the page is just so intense that I loose the rhythm of my breath and get disconnected from most parts of my body, save my hands.

The quality of snow, although clearly present today on this early November snow-day, is present in all seasons in a variant.  Misty days in any season are not unlike light-snowfall.  They too are quiet and solemn and softly push me toward my inner contemplation.  The weather provides access to parts of myself that otherwise would not be present or at least have not been paid attention to recently.  Attention.  Yes the process of attention is a big part of the weather impact for me.  The weather draws my attention to much finer detail.  With snow, depending on my attention, I am transfixed to a small spot or a grand area.  In one moment, I might catch a single flake on its route to the ground.  Beginning at the top of the window, I latch up to one flake and my eyes travel down until it hits the ground and disappears into the accumulated flakes or wet ground.  In another moment I look straight ahead and welcome the multitude of snowflakes lofting through the air.  The simple change of my attention to the frozen clumps gives me very different sensations.  Part of the quality of snow is this flexible frame of reference, flexibility that is a perfect companion to words.

Words.  Or snow

Irregular, regular formulations of sparkly light

that provide me moisture, lubrication of mind.

Know no cares nor reason to be – other than present

to the curvature and surfaces that approach as they befall.

Sparse or clumped in action, yet no deliberation

intended or even needed.

They just appear.