Create Your Own Challenge #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #Writing

As I’m writing this piece, I’m in the middle of a 30 day challenge I created for myself.

The idea was rather simple: could I find a way to write — actually physically type — on my laptop some of my thoughts from my morning journal? See, I write — hand write — every day in a journal. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. And I keep those journals, which are black hardcover bound sketchbooks, and that’s how I came to write my first book. It wasn’t my intention but it was time to shred all of those sketchbooks I had in storage. So many boxes and taking up too much space so one day, I started randomly going through them. Some, if not most it, felt like junky writing — because, let’s face it — that’s what journaling is all about, writing anything and everything. But then I found these pieces. These moments in time. Scenes that made sense. They were heart-warming and poignant. The book Canela formed almost instantaneously.

I shredded about 25 boxes of journals.

For whatever reason, habit really, when I wake in the morning, I have to write. And sometimes that stuff is so good! And I keep thinking, “If I could just write like THIS on my blog, maybe other people would enjoy this or have feedback or help me with ideas…” or whatever. The point is, I always want to share parts of my journaling but I can’t. I just can’t.

And I had to ask myself why?

The biggest reason is because once I know I’m writing for someone else to read, OTHER than myself, my hand-writing changes. The other problem is that something’s lost in the translation. I write in English, so it’s not a language thing. But if I start typing out what I wrote by hand to put it up on my blog, I start editing, I start “fixing” sentences and hell, it just becomes such chore.

So, I wanted to see if I could change my habit and/or just challenge myself. I decided to try and share my thoughts with my blogging friends but instead of sharing my morning journal-therapy session with everyone, why not instead try to share something else? Why not type directly in WordPress at the END OF DAY and see if that churns up any decent thoughts.

I didn’t want to put too many guard rails on it. I wanted to feel like I could write about absolutely anything at all. One thing I do before I go to bed anyways is a recap of my day. It’s not a writing thing, just a thinking thing. I never to go to bed angry, so I always try and find something joyful to pull from my day to remind myself that no matter what’s happened, that the day had a piece of joy in it, worth remembering (actually this works, everyone should try it!).

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I think I’ve grown as a writer these past 15 days. I’m half way through my personal writing challenge as I’m writing for this #AuthorToolboxBlogHop and I’ve changed. How? Well, in the simplest way, I’ve been able to write more easily using the keyboard verses a pen. Clearly that’s a ME “growth” thing and most people probably don’t have this issue. But my morning journal is still my therapy, my private ramblings, but my evening writing has been this newfound voice and joy… That’s the second way I’ve grown as a writer! There’s a freedom in my writing that I hadn’t felt before this challenge. I’m excited, in a different way, to share. I still have the second half of the month to go — so who knows what else I’ll learn, but I do know this: it was a great idea to just challenge MYSELF instead of jumping on some other formal “competition” or “writing program” or another blog hop (I love this blog hop, I’m just saying).

Challenging yourself to something different in how you write just changes things up a bit. It’s like a refresh button. Or maybe a reSET button? I once challenged myself to only write a paragraph every day for a week after blindly picking a random word from a dictionary I had on my bookshelf. That was so hard! I remember being baffled by it. Most of the time I didn’t really understand the word’s meaning I picked. Ha! But it was a good challenge to change things up a bit. I’ve also done the normal kind of challenges where you try to write from a different perspective or tried different types of writing… I attempted to write poetry once. Uhem, so not my thing!

My point is simply this: Do something to challenge yourself. Stretch those writing muscles! Do it for a couple of days, a week or a month. But if you’re needing a little “pick-me-up” and/or you’re feeling like you could use a little change of pace to brighten up that old trusty writer’s brain or you suffer from that age old term, “writer’s block”, then give it a try. Try a little challenge of your own. Oh, and if you do, please share!

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 10

Saturday, March 14th, 2020 – Saturday working, grateful & Marvel

Today’s joy, just happened. I finished working on a data-entry project I needed to do for a client on the East Coast by Tuesday. But yup, I ran errands early this morning (grocery store run which was… well, pretty okay considering the crazy Coronavirus times we’re living in) and then, came home, sat in-front of my computer and “data-entry’d” myself away. And now, I’m done! Yes.

The rest of the evening will be taken over by a glass of wine and a little Marvel. I think I’m in the mood for Dr. Strange. I love that scene right before The Ancient One dies and they have that awesome exchange. Yeah, I’m gonna watch that tonight, at least until I fall asleep — and just be grateful that for today, in this moment, I truly am okay.

Good night / Good morning my friends.

Carmen

For those who are NOT Marvel fans, you may not care for this clip — but thought I’d post it for those who want a quick Marvel pick-me-up. I love this scene:

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 9

March 13th, 2020   Friday 8:05pm   – Facebook, Video, Unexpected Kindness

Well, today’s joy came unexpectedly. I posted a video on my facebook page thinking I might be able to help a few people who find themselves unexpectedly working from home, but actually, people reached out to me and ended up helping me.  Kindness really is a thing! 

Here’s what I posted:

“Social Distancing doesn’t mean social isolation.” Please take good care of yourselves and yes, be kind. Here’s my few minutes of advice. Hugs y’all.

We will get through this, together.

Hugs and much to everyone!

Carmen

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 8

March 12th, 2020   Thursday 8:44pm  – My gift, my curse

Well, today was a challenging day. The rain was fierce coming down throughout the day  and I had a client cancel and a project I had to put aside for a while.  I think that’s going to be the norm during this whole Coronavirus thing, but the loss of Michael weighed heavily in my bones as I went about doing things. I don’t want to harp on it too much – but losing someone you love is hard. But it’s also a part of life. I guess for me today it was about thinking too much about some great moments we had – I went and bought some chocolate today too to honor him and I laughed and then cried…  Yeah, I’m so sad he passed away. 

Today was challenging because I had to much on my plate and I’m just finishing up the work on my To Do list. I’ve decided that I really need to make money doing something I love. For real.  I can’t keep working for people who don’t “get” it. People who are mean are one thing, but people who are not empathetic towards other people’s needs are a complete other.  Don’t get me wrong, I hate mean people too. But I hate even more working with people who are so caught up in their own world, so self-absorbed, that they don’t even recognize when they’re hurting people.  And here’s the thing: I can’t help but call it out.  Ugghh.

Now, you might think that sounds like a good thing, but I guess if I had a bucket of money somewhere and I didn’t have to pay any bills at all, then me calling people out on their bullcrap would be an okay thing to do.  But most times, when I have to say something, I resign, or quit or walkway and lost the job, at least on my own footing. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, principle. 

You know what though?  Being principled has lost me thousands and thousands of dollars.  I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve done – don’t get me wrong. But it always bums me out when I just can’t keep my mouth shut any longer and have to tell someone, basically they’re an asshole.  Or, they’re a slimey asshole. Or, they’re a cheap slimey good-for-nothing asshole.  I think you’re getting the point. 

Now, in all fairness, there have been people who appreciated the call out.  Some people, in this case an extremely wealthy woman, had no idea she was being a cheap asshole to her staff by not paying them more.  I was frustrated with her for a while, and finally I sat her down and told her sternly,

“You just came back from Barney’s with a wardrobe that includes a White Tshirt that cost over $600. Do you realize that’s more than what you pay your housekeeper for two weeks of work? She cleans your toilets for goodness sake and she’s asking you for $1 an hour raise and you’re having a complete breakdown over it. What is wrong with you?  Just stop it.”

She took it well. She took it like a woman of privilege who had a realization that she had lost her way. 

Yeah, I took some solace in that. 

Truth is, I’ll always be as honest as possible. I’m blunt, but I try to be as kind as I can be, till someone’s behavior is just too much. Then I’ll go off on them. It’s both a gift and a curse, of course. And although I may have lost a lot of money by saying my piece various times in the past and walking away from a client or job, I have no regrets. I can’t work for unethical people. I really can’t be around people who are mean.  And I really hate people who have no no emotional intelligence or integrity whatsoever.  So yeah, no regrets. 

I’m so glad I just wrote that all out — somehow, I feel better. Today, was a good day. Yeah, I like who I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Not for all the money in the world. And that ain’t no lie.

Well, I didn’t think I would write about that tonight, but there you go – surprise, surprise! I’m kind of loving this end-of-day journaling thing.  Hmmm.

Till tomorrow, I guess.

Carmen   

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 7 and Day 6 Missed

March 11th, 2020 Wednesday 7:33pm – Michael, Hershey Bars & Quality

Yesterday, my “Day 6” of this late night journaling thing — I got a call from my dear friend Alice.  She lives in Boston.  I’ve known her since I was just 11 years old.  When Alice calls, I stop what I’m doing and pick up the phone. It’s rare to get a call from her – usually we exchange texts and emails around special holidays and such and when we’re in each other’s “town”, we visit with each other if and when we can. It’s a solid friendship. An old friendship. It’s one of those friendships that needs no explanation or excuses. We just pick up from where we left off. Easy. Doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It always feels like just yesterday we last spoke…

I picked up the phone, excited to have seen her number and name show up on my cell so I answered happily.  Sadly, she was calling to talk about Michael having died the Friday before and thought, because I was on social media, I might have already known through his brother’s post or something. But I hadn’t.

I wasn’t shocked that he had passed away. But it hurt my soul nonetheless. It bothered me the rest of the day.  Michael had recently gone through a liver transplant about 8 months ago.  He’d had this pretty interesting and incredible life…so many ups and downs, and yet, he always found a way through them all. In so many ways he was a pillar of strength.  It really seemed like he had 9 lives or was just indestructible. He’d been through so much, I just never thought he’d pass away.  Alice mentioned something that made me feel so much better – she reminded me that after all Michael had been through in his life, the idea that he would end up passing away, on the couch,  after talking to his mother, might really be the blessing none of us would have guessed would happen. She’s right. He had a quiet and simple passing. At least compared to what might have been many times before…it really was the blessing.     

I’ve been thinking about his family and friends all day. I hung out with Michael when he visited Los Angeles on New Year’s in 2009. I picked him up from the airport and then we drove to Simi Valley or somewhere like that to spend the weekend with another friend, Donnie.  I told Alice about that time and reminisced for a bit and I think she heard me get pretty sad, because she then reminded me to eat some chocolate in his honor – Michael loved Hershey bars and I could honor him by doing that. Eating chocolate! It made me laugh a bit… 

What I thought about today though was how easily one life could change another’s. I keep having these thoughts in my head that I’m not doing enough in my life, that I’m wasting away somehow because I feel that my reach is not big enough and that I should be helping more people. I should be doing more.  I’m honestly not sure what it is I think I can do to help the world, but does anyone else out there ever feel like you could be doing so much more, if only if…? I find myself feeling inadequate most days, like I’m wasting too much time and just not doing enough…

But I realized today that Michael, just like my mother, changed and molded my life just by being simply who they were. My mom’s influence is pretty obvious.  But I met Michael when I was just a kid and even though he was going through his own private hell, he made sure to walk me through, by paying attention to an annoying teenager and by offering a tough-kindness and words of wisdom that I still hold onto today.  Michael is one of the people I wrote about in my book.  And this is in no way a push of my book on anyone, but to actually demonstrate how important Michael was to me. His presence in my life mattered and there’s no doubt it helped make me the woman I am today.   

I guess what I’m saying is simply this:  It’s not the amount of people you know that matters – what matters is the quality of the moments you have with every person you do get to meet. And whether Michael was talking to high profile folk (he knew quite a few) or just a kid like me back in the day, Michael was authentically Michael!  There was nothing fake about him.  Michael changed me and made me a better person, just by being himself.  Our moments together in the big scheme of things were few, but they were quality times and life changing for me.  I’m so grateful to have spent the time I did with him and I’ll always cherish the letter he wrote to me (that I still have! I found it today) and that crazy fun New Year’s Eve weekend we spent hanging out in Donnie’s living room laughing and reminiscing about life in Jamaica Plain (Boston).  

I’m gonna run out and grab a couple of Hershey Bars before I call it a night.

I love you Michael, forever and a day. Godspeed my friend. Godspeed.