When Reality Does Not Match Idyllic Expectations

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Crow on a foggy morning Photo by M.A.D.

The shiny crow

One nature’s note

The lovely sound

Of Autumn’s song.

 

We start to dream when we are children. We imagine fantastic worlds, magical places, dream  of toys, and in general, anything seems possible and attainable. As we grow up, we learn that things are not always as we imagined or hoped. We learn disappointment when we don’t get the toy we expected, or pain and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Other children learn these lessons on a more somber note, the death of a parent or friend, hunger, or abuse. Every person experiences life in a different way at a different level. However, we manage to keep on dreaming throughout adulthood, and many, up to the time of death.

We have idyllic expectations in life, and many times we are lucky enough to live many of those dreams. Sometimes what we have imagined, what we have carefully crafted in our minds, does not match the accomplished/realized dream. It is a total let down, another disappointment in life, and almost as if we never learned those childhood lessons. It is the theme of many stories. Writers experience disappointment when books do not sell as well as expected or hoped. In anything in life there are ups and downs, and those are necessary for growth, to take us to the next level through a natural flow. It is called living.

When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia (USA), I moved from the city to the country. I had idyllic expectations of what country living would be like, romanticized ideas as well – green pastures, grazing cows, rolling hills, fresh air, cozy winters … I can go on and on. Little did I know that the first year I would encounter a cloud of migrating lady bugs look-alike japanese beetles in our area, landing everywhere and looking for shelter before winter. These would arrive in waves throughout the day for weeks. At the same time, a large amount of alien bugs (alien to me that is) known as stink bugs was trying to do the same, look for shelter before winter. Autumn, my favorite time of the year had turned into a nightmare. I was not used to these insects nor was I used to these clouds in number, or any other type, as I had lived pretty much insect free for most of my life, being bugged by an ocassional spider or a lonely wasp. Mosquitoes were my only nuisance as I lived near the water. I was afraid to go outside during the “arrivals” and soon I learned to time their peak hours. Luckily their presence lasted less than a month, that is, until next season. Winter became my favorite time of the year. Cold weather meant no bugs. Spring became a bug fest as well, and for the first time I realized that there were so many, oh so many, insects I had never seen. Never did I experience so many types of wasps flying at once. Soon my closest neighbors became used to my screaming fits, and the occasional sight of a mad woman running through the field being followed by a giant wasp.

The idyllic expectations about country living gave way to reality. I told my friend that living in the country seemed to be more work than living in the city. Awareness became important as well. The other day I was heading out the back door to pick up my mail, and as I stepped down only two steps, a leaping deer crossed in front of me followed by another one, a very close call. Farm dogs were running after them, and being terrified, they were flying for their lives. I was so lucky; one more step and there would have been an unfortunate encounter with nature. I have seen the damage deer can cause to cars. On another occasion what I thought was a piece of black rubber left behind was a black snake.

The point to all this rambling is that at one point, when reality does not match idyllic expectations, we get to decide how we are going to set our focus, and that will determine the degree of “happiness or disappointment” as well as our next step in life. Do we focus on the less  than perfect image or do we start seeing the rest of the picture? So many other beautiful and interesting things can be found in it. I am starting to enjoy Autumn once more. Every day I see something different, from colorful and weird mushrooms to even four-leaf clovers. I have found four so far.

I always try to relate every blog post to the topic of writing. Maybe books are not selling as expected, and you are thinking about quitting writing, even when you love it so much. You are a story-teller and writing is like the air you breathe. Maybe you can adjust your focus away from profitability or recognition, and see the beauty in finding words to tell a story that has been sleeping in your imagination. The story that will be shared with the world, whether it makes you money or not. After all, if you love telling stories so much, and these stories have become alive inside the pages of a book, it only takes one reader to make them real. The purpose has been met. When reality does not match idyllic expectations move your eyes away and place them back on another spot.

 

Elements of Transition

Transition – An instance or process of changing from one form, state, subject, or place to another. (American Heritage Dictionary

Life is full of periods of transition. From our conception until we die, we go through several stages during the evolution of our lives. We transition in decades, work, relationships, beliefs, likes and dislikes, appearance, and so on. It is so because we are alive. For some, there are transitional moments that present extreme challenges, and many times they come in the form of tragedy or sad news. These are defining moments. For some people, harder than for others. In any case, the outcome is defined during that process. I’ve been through many transitional moments, some easier than others, good and bad, and truthfully for the later, there were many times when I felt I didn’t know the answer, and as if I had run out of options, faithless, hopeless. I can look back at those transitional moments and see how many times the simple answer eluded me.

Pondering about these things, I was able to identify some elements or factors that might influence the duration and ease of the transition process. For the purpose of this post I will write referring to challenging and hard transitional times.

Time – Many times we feel that the catalyst to a transitional period could have not come at a worst time in our lives. We might think, why now? It is not fair. The nature of change is neither fair nor unfair; it just is. Our perception of timing is what labels it such; however, throughout the years, I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong time for change. God’s timing is perfect, even when we don’t understand it. Even when it may seem that our past actions/decisions might have caused or served as a catalyst for change. Time is human perception.

Money – Who on earth wouldn’t want a bit more of it? Unless you have taken a vow of poverty, money seems to be essential and necessary to live our lives, even if we have minimal expenses or few material desires. Money, whether in the shape of currency or any other form, seems to be necessary to propel forward. Many times, we feel that the lack of money prevents us from living our life and dreams. Although it is true that things flow easier when there is an abundance of money (at least in the perception of the material realm), lack of money should not define us. Money is a resource (as any other material instrument) to achieve something. However, during transition, we may feel that lack of money slows things down or even halts the process (hence the invention of credit). During this challenging period, it doesn’t occur to us that it is part of the transition, another piece to the puzzle, and not outside of it. Sometimes, in our most desperate moments money seems to have fallen from heaven at the right time.

Health/energy level – This concerns physical health as well as spiritual and mental health. When we feel good we have the disposition on taking on the world, but when we are not feeling 100% well, our perception of the situation changes. We feel that a situation is more difficult when we are not feeling well, are sick, or feel lost. The transition, whatever type, becomes insurmountable. Sometimes, we also experience a rush of energy to get us through, and it is only after we have gone through and looked back, that we can say, “I don’t know where from or how I got the strength to do _________ (fill the blank).

Past and new interests – Sometimes during transition, we undergo a self assessment that usually happens at the same time confusion/chaos sets in our minds. We start to discover that we have outgrown certain things, we have acquired other likes and dislikes, and other interests as well. The new you starts to emerge as part of the transition process. We have a glimpse of past and present, and even of what the future could be like. When we become clear of the things we don’t want anymore, but have been a constant in our lives, a series of emotions and feelings show up, making transition more or less difficult to deal with, however, necessary. The range of emotions/feelings seem to make things more complicated momentarily until we sort things out, discard what isn’t working, and decide, in order to move forward. There is no right or wrong length of time as it is part of the natural process of transition.

Failures/history/life experiences – Our past, our previous experiences, the labels we carry with us, our baggage, our personal history, seem to show up very loud during transition. Although it seems to make things more complicated or chaotic, it always comes with bits and pieces of insight and enlightenment, which seem to be necessary to propel us forward. Even when we seem to have lost faith when our history shows up, there is a switch that presents itself as a choice – to listen or not. It is when we choose to listen that we move forward. When we shut our eyes at the images that represent our history or close our ears to the sounds of it we are preventing our own evolution.

State of mind/attitude – We cannot be in a constant state of happiness or positivity; it is not natural. However, one can choose how to react to the challenge that is presented. The mood, the thoughts, the will are up to oneself. Of all the above mentioned elements, I’ve found that state of mind is the second most important during transition because it will determine much of the others. Our perception during a challenging transitional period might be clouded, but our attitude and disposition determine how bright the light on the other side shines through.

Faith – The personal beliefs we carry with us will support us during this time of transition. Our spiritual beliefs are there to comfort and guide us during transition. Even when we think we have lost hope and faith, those beliefs will show up in different ways to light up the path, so we find comfort and secure our step. This one, to me, is the most important of all the above mentioned elements of transition, and the one that influences all the others. Even when attitude fails, faith is there to pick us up.

These elements of transition are the ones I have identified during my transitional moments. There is no particular order to these, whether one or more, or even all at once show up during a transitional period. As a writer, I believe that transitional moments in life enrich my writing and help me portray characters and story in a more substantial way.

 

 

In Simple Words, It is Too Loud

For me, that is. I am talking about social media. This post will be about my decision to leave most of my social media sites. I dropped social media for good; my internet presence is summed in two sites, all related to writing and my art, and this blog. Simply put, it was too loud for me, and my personality could not adjust to it. I am a bit of a lone wolf, introspective, introverted, and the quiet type. I like silence, I enjoy solitude, and I have never been a social butterfly. In an ideal world one site is good for me. Some people don’t understand this, and might suggest that I am missing so much and so many opportunities by dropping social media. How can I miss what I don’t want? I believe in doing what I enjoy, and when something becomes a chore, or is robbing me of time and focus that I rather put in something else, then it is not working for me.

Another argument is that you have to be well-connected online by having many venues to promote your work. I understand this, however, I think this only works if you love doing it in a genuine way. Besides, there are authors who don’t have a social media or internet presence, or have minimal exposure.

Argument three suggests that times have changed, and things do work different these days – the internet rules. I agree. However, it is up to me to utilize parts of it to express the parts of me that I choose to express, and that is fine. I think many people feel that they have to join every social media site to become visible, even when they don’t enjoy it anymore, become stressed about it, and are in a constant battle to keep up with it. For other people, it works just fine; it is like the air they breathe, and they are happy with it. My point is, despite the many suggestions you might hear and read, ultimately you have to do what works for you, personality and working style.

Argument four suggests that it will hurt my writing, as far as exposure goes. I write because I like to write. Right now, I love doing it, and the day I don’t love it anymore I will certainly stop writing. In that aspect, I am not worried about exposure, or ratings, or money, or fame/outside recognition… . I don’t plan to become a traditionally published author either, which seems to require a huge internet presence these days. In simple words, I have been weeding out what doesn’t apply to me.

I wrote about this topic because I think that as writers, we feel pressured to keep up and beyond, even when we don’t want to or don’t enjoy it as much. It is a personal decision to work with the tools that will benefit you and your writing, and enjoy the process as well. For some people, more is better; for other people, less is more. It all comes down to what works for you.

The Harvard Classics

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The Harvard Classics are also known as Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf.  Dr. Charles W. Eliot was the president of Harvard University. He insisted on taking the challenge of compiling classic works of literature that would fit into a five foot shelf, and provide the reader with a good liberal education.  According to him, by reading only 15 minutes a day this would be possible. That is how The Harvard Classics came to be. The anthology consists of 51 volumes of classic literature from around the world, known at that time.

If you didn’t have any other way of obtaining an education, this was a good and affordable way of achieving one. I think it was a great idea; still is. Many of these volumes can be found today at very reasonable prices. Websites such as eBay are a good way of finding them individually or as a collection, many times missing a few volumes, but you can always add the missing ones later on. This was one thing I set out to do many years ago, and I was lucky to obtain a complete collection, although it had four volumes that were added later on. These are the three red volumes and the blue volume you see in the picture. I got it for a song and dance, as the adage says.

One of the reasons I am writing this post is because many times people think that a good education can only be obtained by attending a college or university, and for many people, this is financially difficult or impossible, depending on the circumstances. Yes, a degree from college is needed to work on a chosen field, but we are talking here about a liberal education, something that is very valuable. For example, if a parent is unable to provide a good education for her/his children, this would still be a viable way of achieving it. I admit that times have changed, and many times, kids are not interested in classic works of literature. It is not valued as much today as it was then. Our society has become more technological, and sometimes, money is valued more than education. Video games, computers, smart TV’s and social media have taken priority in our society, but Dr. Eliot’s 15 minutes a day suggestion is still a great way to become educated. If you don’t have 15 minutes, 10 minutes of reading will be beneficial as well. Many of these works can be found online in electronic format, to be downloaded for free, if you prefer e-reading.

I hope that this post helps anyone who feels that education is far beyond reach. Whether you have a college degree or not, The Harvard Classics will enrich your life.

 

 

 

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.

Many of us have heard this old adage, most likely during childhood, and meaning mostly that words cannot cause physical pain. When I was a kid, it seemed true enough. As I grew older and matured, I disagreed.

Words are powerful; powerful enough to unleash a river of emotions. The right words at the right time may elevate one’s spirit. The same goes for the wrong word at the worst possible time; it can drown your soul. Repeat unkind words to a child and his/her personality will be affected in a negative way.

Words can bring joy, comfort, hope, and even peace. Negative words can hurt, destroy, and even drive a person to take their life (as in bullying). Words can kill. Words remain in memory and travel to someone’s heart and soul. Words are driven by intention, the intention of the speaker or the writer. The writer utilizes words to craft a story that paints a picture in the mind of the reader. The writer creates worlds/universes, and evokes emotions/feelings.

The power of words transcends time. The words of great writers remain, whether written or in the mind of the people. We quote the great writers and speakers of centuries ago. Words become alive the moment they are heard or read. Words are full of intention but their power is unleashed by the mind of the recipient.

What I’m Reading Now

1999 – Jeff Herman – You can make it big writing books

That is the book I’m reading now. I bought it many years ago, and never got into it. I bought it when my thoughts were around the idea of publishing a book going the traditional route. Although it is an older book, and I am not interested in pursuing traditional publishing, I find it is a good read and interesting. If you are considering traditional publishing this book gives you a glimpse of the work, publishing experiences of many top writers in the industry. If you are contemplating a writing career or are interested in learning more about the traditional publishing experience from many traditionally published authors, this book is good for that. It is brief and set up as a series of short pieces of advice from 60 bestselling authors who have been in the industry for years. They talk about their writing experience, beginnings, as well as offering advice to the reader.

Most likely, by now there are more/better books on traditional publishing but I had that one sitting on the shelf for a while, and decided to give it a try. So far, I am enjoying it. I have a goal of reading everything in my bookshelves that still calls on my curiosity. I have gotten rid of everything else that does not. I will continue to share any other interesting books that I get to read.