#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:

I Prayed In My Car

Yesterday, it rained.

This wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most, but I live in Los Angeles were “rain” is at a premium. 

Anyone who knows me, gets that I hate to drive to begin with, but hate it even more in mist, rain, darkness, anything but perfect sunny weather at this point. If I won the lottery today, one of the first things on my list would be to hire a permanent driver. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. I’ve been saying this since I got my license as a teenager.  I’ve just never been a fan of driving and I don’t care about cars at all.  But, I do drive and yes, I drive well – just like everyone else thinks they do – it’s just not my thing. But, I had an appointment to meet with a client and since I’m a stickler for keeping my commitments, I went anyways even though when I started to leave, the rain was really coming down hard.  I can’t lie, I thought about cancelling for a second — okay, maybe more than a few seconds – Yaaasss, because it was raining!  I would have come up with another reason of course, like I was “sick” or something, but I truly considered ditching the meeting because of the rain.  Hee! 

Well, I went to my appointment.  And in case you missed it, I hate driving. I hate rain while driving even more. 

I prayed in my car. I did. Honestly, I realized yesterday that I do that pretty regularly. I’m not religious at all, but prayer (wishes, hopes, whatever you want to call it) is a part of who I am. People don’t know this about me – well, maybe one person does, the one who taught me this when I was a little girl, but every time I go by an accident, or see someone in distress, or just have a fear or need, I do a small cross at the top of my forehead with my thumb. Yes, I know, how very Catholic of me, but I’m not. I was “raised” Catholic, but I consider myself a recovering Catholic and actually, truth be told, I can honestly say, I hate the Church and most religion any day of the week.  But my faith in something “bigger” and “after this life” is on point and strong.  I also believe that whatever keeps me hopeful, empathetic, considerate and in joy, is a good thing.  Yeah, I pray most every day, maybe sometimes twice a day.   

I prayed in my car that my journey on the 405 & 10 freeways would be easy, that people would be kind, that other drivers would use their directionals (we call them blinkers – or blinkahs – in Boston). I prayed that my journey would be safe and that my car would not slip or slide and that my tires would hold out (the guy who changed my oil this year told me I needed new tires because they were worn out and then proceeded to show me the worn tread to make his point. This is in my head every time I get in my car. Thank you, mechanic guy.) – So, I did my little cross on my forehead with my thumb and went on my merry way. 

It was a lovely drive. I swear to God, or whatever you believe in, it was incredible! I mean EVERYONE used their “blinkahs” and even though there was one little mishap –  where a car tried to get into the next lane during a slow in the downpour while the opposing car was trying to do the same, they both noticed each other and one let the other by kindly. No horn honking, no middle fingers or exasperated looks – actually, there was a “It’s all good” wave by the person in the first car to the other car.  Seriously. In Los Angeles!  Amazing!

Now, do I think my prayer made that happen? Of course not.  I do not believe that’s how it works.  The God I believe in, isn’t messing with my head that way.  If that were the case, my “prayer” for a few million dollars would have already come true a long ass time ago!  Hahahahaha!  No, that’s not what prayer is for or about for me… 

When I pray, when I do my little cross on my forehead when going past an accident or seeing someone struggle, that pray is a reminder of my compassion. Prayer for me is about hope.  A wish that I be better than I used to be, no matter what happens. Prayer is what made me notice the best in people when a slight mishap occurred between two cars in front of me, in the rain, on the freeway, instead of being angry and frustrated that it ever happened at all.

Yeah, yesterday was a great day.

How to Become a Writer… a Better Writer #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I was a dancer as a little kid.  I rehearsed early in the morning and after-school till late at night. I was diligent and passionate about performing and doing a fantastic job. There was also something innate about my dancing. I had to do it daily. It was a part of me.  I was pretty famous too – Well, I thought I was famous in the world, but in fact, I was just a well-known entity in my neighborhood, in my community.  Ha!  When I found out that my “fame” wasn’t world-wide I still rehearsed diligently – maybe even more so. Early in the morning before school, after-school, weekends… I developed a habit of working those muscles daily and always finding ways to improve – fame or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with it!    

Writing is the same way for me.  I don’t dance “professionally” anymore so writing has taken over that habit-forming rehearsal space.  I’m diligent about my writing practice. I write every morning in a hand-written journal, while I drink my coffee. I write during the day, generally for work.  And then, at night, I work on my stories or my exercises. My next work. My next project. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal.  The practice of writing. It’s part of the process, the habit of working to become a better writer.   

And just like dancing, writing takes many different forms. I’m great at some types of writing and not-so-great at others, but I’m always in the pursuit of getting better.  I love writing content – especially in first person. I love writing stories, blog posts… however, I also enjoy the struggle of writing copy for a product I have no interest in – it reminds me of ballet class. I hated ballet with all my heart as a dancer, even though I loved watching it. As most everyone knows, if you’re going to call yourself a “dancer” you better at least know the basics of ballet and find a way to push on through, even if you don’t like it!  Writing copy for a product I don’t care about is almost like that.  A good example: I wrote copy for an electrician’s website recently. As much as I didn’t care that much about the subject matter in general, it was like that ballet class – I appreciated the work I had to do and ultimately, I got through it and did it brilliantly.  But only because I’d “rehearsed” my writing over and over again. When you practice your craft and you’re thrown a new category or style, you can easily maneuver your way through it because the basics are so innate — they’re a part of you. So much so, that when given a challenge, you’re always up for the task!  I may know absolutely nothing about how to be an electrician. But, I know enough about copy and how to write to sell his work – it’s easy enough to navigate and get it done!

So, why am I bringing all this up?  Well, I get this question a lot, especially after a speaking event about how I wrote my book CANELA. Everyone thinks they can sit down and just start writing their book. They think I might have a secret formula on how to do it — How do I find the time? How did I even start?  How do I find work as a writer?  Most people want to write their own story  — surely, anyone can hire a ghost writer – that’s one way to go, but most people fancy themselves a writer.  But what they don’t realize is, like anything else you want to excel at, you have to put in the work. Writing is NOT EASY! Yesterday, someone actually explained to me that they were planning to write their book and have it published before the Christmas holiday so they could give out as a gift.  They wanted my insight into how to make that happen.  Christmas is only four months away! WHAT?!?!?!

Well, suffice it to say, I told that person they should definitely consider hiring a ghost-writer, make it a real short story of just one moment in their life and call it a day.  But for everyone else who is serious about writing – whether it be your own story or just getting better as a writer, here’s my advice about how to start and how to keep your writing strong, fresh and ready for the next challenge:

Write every single day about anything and everything!  This will help you find and develop your voice. It doesn’t matter if you do it with a pen, on a computer or just for a few minutes a day. Rehearse every day. Write. Dance. Write. Repeat.  

Think about moments in your life and write those first. Don’t worry about the book and it’s beginning, middle and end just yet.  If you’re just starting out, or if you’re just stuck on where to start, just jot down the story of you and your brother taking a sleigh ride that winter when he broke his leg. Or write about your dog when he was a puppy and you first brought him home. It doesn’t have to be long at all – a few sentences. Just start the process of thinking something and writing it down. Thinking about dancing isn’t the same as actually getting up, putting on the music and gettin’ down. Same with writing. Stop just thinking about it writing that book and instead, write that thought down NOW!

When you don’t know what to write about, write about the first thing you see: Currently, I’m looking at my lamp. I think I need to change the bulb because it flickers every-so-often. I keep meaning to buy a bulb, but I always forget. I’m going to write that down in my grocery list right now! When you practice regularly, you can easily find a way to express yourself on paper.  That’s the goal. It’s like dancing – the more you do it, the more comfortable it is to just go with it and not think too deeply about HOW to do it, it just starts to flow.

Stretch your writing skills:  Here’s a fun way to do this. Put down your pen or close your laptop.  Watch TV.  Yup, I know, trust me. Watch TV, wait for the next commercial. Any commercial.  Before the commercial really starts, turn off the TV.  Write about that product and try and sell it through your writing in a goofy way. Be fun with it, play around a bit. It really helps – and hey, you may be a copywriter and not even know it – but walla! This is another way to change up your writing rehearsal time.  If you normally write stories, try a script, or a poem or write a speech.  All of these take different types of skills as a writer and regardless of whether you do it professionally or not, it’s stretching that writing tool. Just like when I took TAP as a dancer – I’m not a tap-dancer, but I surely can tap if I have too. I never knew that, until I forced myself to try…   

Be comfortable with your own voice. This will take time.  I know a lot of people are advocates of reading as much as possible in order to become a better writer – eeeh… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Don’t get me wrong, I watched other dancers growing up and admired them, but it was the music and the constant battle to be a better dancer and finding my authentic style that made me great. So, of course everyone should read books – I love to read – but I don’t think that’s the ultimate reason why I became a decent writer. Actually, writing daily makes me a decent writer. Learning what my voice “sounded” like on paper made me a more confident writer.  Being a confident writer, makes me a viable writer worthy of getting paid and more importantly, being “seen”! So, practice that writing and get comfortable with your own style and voice on paper!

If you want to be a writer, you need to write. If you want to be a decent or great writer, then you need to put in the rehearsal, the work. It’s not any different than any other profession. Writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. Maybe you’re a born writer like Misty Copeland is a “born” ballet dancer?  Maybe it’s an innate talent? Writing/Dancing comes easy to you?  But know that Misty rehearses every day.  I rehearsed every day as a dancer and now I practice every day as a writer. The greats, especially the innately gifted, always rehearse and refine their gifts.  Writing is no different.  If you want to write, then sit down and start writing!  Do the work. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!  There are no short cuts success.  Period.

Click the link below if you want some other tips from other writers, authors, etc. about how to be a writer…any tips on dancing or for further questions/comments from me, please feel free to reach out to me anytime on my contact page!

Somewhere Between Rich and Poor

It’s raining.  It’s been raining for a while actually.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, but sad bitmoji1646363289nonetheless. There’s a grey-ness to it all, a coldness. And yet, I welcome it. Somehow I see it as tears from heaven, if you believe in that kind of thing…

I work for this organization that does amazing things in the world. And it has the potential to do so much more. I’ve known this organization for years and although it never has paid very much, I’ve always loved the work.  My feeling is, if at the end of the day, you’re going to have to do something for a living, especially if it’s not your innate passion – like being a dancer, actor, writer or a painter — then you want to work with people who are at least doing some good in the world, right?  That should be an easy compromise.   And for me, if I’m not working as an artist on a given day and being paid for it, then being part of this organization is the blessing – to do work that helps someone else…to make a real difference in the world. Easy choice.

I think that’s why I ultimately left my job at a once cool start-up company many years ago. I loved the people, but at the end of the day – I hated that I was pouring my heart and soul into what was basically selling products.  Don’t get me wrong, there was much artistry to what these creative people were doing, but for me, it didn’t make sense.  Especially when things started going south with the partners – the owners — why would I ever want to dedicate my talent, sweat and tears to selling products?  When the time came for me to walk away – it actually wasn’t that hard to do.  Financially it killed me, but I just quit.  And it was the right thing to do. No regrets.

This time, things are so different.  This organization that I have the privilege of working for now is actually changing people’s lives. It makes a difference in the world.  And even though there are a lot of the problems happening, again, with the “owners”, it seems to still be worthy of all my efforts – my sweat and my tears – maybe even more so. Every time a delicate painful issue arises, I feel even more compelled to do the very best I can to make sure we continue to do the good work.  It seems odd to me, because you’d think I’d just want to quit and move on… but no. It makes me even more committed to stay, to figure it out, to help in any way I can.  It’s odd, and I guess I’m just trying to understand why…

I’ve worked for so many people – so many wealthy individuals – and for the most part, wealthy people are not any different from poor people.  They’ve all got problems.  I’m 100% positive I would never trade my life for any of the wealthy people I’ve ever known.  Not one.

See, the problems of rich people are just as real.  Surely, poor people – in this generalized example – tend to have an over-arching problem of never having enough money to do anything. And everything they try to do is usually about trying to pay a bill. It’s a horrible cycle. Living paycheck to paycheck.  Rich people don’t get that. Even poor people that become rich, forget that – because it’s an easy thing to forget. And the thing about poor people is, when you get that extra money from a bonus, or an unexpected financial gift that lets you pay up your bills on-time or ahead of schedule, ohhhhhhh, that feeling is priceless, right?  I mean, there is a cleanliness to it that is hard to explain.  A burden jumps off your shoulders that you didn’t even realize was sitting there.  Rich people don’t get that because the sheer aspect of financial security makes it difficult to comprehend.  If you hadn’t had to think about how your rent or mortgage is going to be paid, then you can’t feel that burden. If you don’t have to save money to buy a pair of jeans, then you don’t know the inner negotiating and anxiety that comes with having to choose between paying your gas bill or fudging it for the month and spending that money at Target instead simply because you’ve worn your one pair of jeans so much that they’re falling apart in the crotch.

But the rich – their burden seems worse to me.   Again, I’m totally generalizing here  –  but the rich walk around in constant thought that someone is trying to screw them over.  Rich people never seem to feel completely settled.  Trust is a coveted process and never fully practiced or embraced because they believe everyone has to prove themselves first – over and over again. Everything is about THEM. Their vulnerability, their money, their lives, their self-preservation. They are always the first to scream that they are NOT about their money at all. And they always claim NOT to be THAT rich.  Cracks me up.  But sadly they always think  someone wants something from them.  There’s a fear of some entity that’s going to try and steal from them.  It’s sad.  They’re not positive of who their friends are. They think its other rich people who “understand” them – but nine times out of ten, their friends are just as skittish about trust and friendship as they are.  So the rich pay therapists, and massage therapists, and psychics, and go on ridiculous shopping sprees and visit all sorts of doctors, spas, etc., — all because of feeling unsettled. It’s a different kind of anxiety than the poor feel, but anxiety nonetheless.  The rich, in my experience,  try to feel better by hiring lawyers and doctors who will tell them that they are fine – and the more they cost, the better because, well, if the “BEST” are telling you what you need to hear, then it must be right.   And look, I’m not even saying that all these doctors and lawyers are being abusive and sucking money from these people – truth is, a lot of these people are so fragile, they need to hear some sort of comfort, some information from somewhere…  And this tends to be one place where rich people get that from. It’s a vicious circle.

Poor people don’t have that luxury – to go find some professional to walk them through something.  Poor people can’t go to a doctor on a whim because they’re feeling bad and need someone to talk too, because the co-payment alone may be $90 and not in their budget for the month. That’s grocery money. So, poor people have to trust their friends, their family,  their co-workers,  right off the bat.  And in order to trust people, you have to get good at reading people, at intuition. At understanding who is screwing you over for money, and who is actually doing the work and deserving of your hard-earned pennies.  You don’t have money to waste, so the minute you realize you are being snowed, you walk away and find someone else.

Surely money gives you choices – but from my experience, sometimes having all that choice, leaves you less inclined to be wise.  It reminds me of going to a restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory whose menu is so large that it’s just too much to deal with. Most times I hate going there, unless I’m going just for some actual cheesecake.  But sometimes, when you have all that choice, it’s hard to be wise and choose accordingly.  I think of Michael Jackson too – he had so much money, so many choices – – and with all those choices he became unwise. Purchasing items that seemed ridiculous, just because he could.  I loved Michael Jackson’s music and performance – don’t get me wrong.  He was brilliant. But, clearly he chose badly. And in a lot of ways, I get it. It makes complete sense to me.

Please know, I’m not saying it’s better to be poor.  But what I am saying is that it’s not better to be rich either.  Now, I can’t claim to have ever been rich. But, I’ve had more money than I’ve ever needed at one point in my life – and I tell people all the time, it was the worst time in my life. Not because I had so much money, but because I was so unhappy. I was living a life that wasn’t authentically me.  Now, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was making $10 an hour or $1M a year, it was clearly the wrong job, the wrong place and the wrong time – and had little to do with money. But, for the purposes of this discussion, I remember what it was like not to have to question buying a new pair of jeans that cost $400. Yes, I said, $400.  I still own the Jimmy Choo shoes I bought back then – my Jimmy Choo boots cost $1000 and were fitted precisely to fit me and only me.  There was a freedom in having the bills paid and never having to worry about how the mortgage was going to be paid that month and every month after that. But with that kind of money also came something I never expected:  the insecurity of why people were being nice to me, or questioning why I was getting such incredible service… I specifically remember getting on a plane and being treated like I was a Queen.  The overwhelming kindness and people willing to jump at anything I may have said… of course, I was flying First Class.  The comfort was one thing – you paid for that, but the way people treated you just because you had money… that’s why rich folk get confused.  Truth is, people – good decent people, especially flight attendants – will treat everyone that way.  With Kindness.  And in coach you do get that sometimes…. Not the comfort, but yes, the best flight attendants are the best for a reason. But imagine, being treated that way ALL. THE. TIME. Every day.  It no longer is special, it becomes your new normal.  And “normal” gets old real fast. Basically, you realize people are kissing your ass, not because they are kind good people, but only because you have money and they HAVE to be nice to you. Yeah, it’s like that…and you can easily see why you’d start questioning everyone’s motives, right?

But rich people get that treatment – all the time.  Even when they don’t deserve it. They can bitch and moan and people servicing them will still treat them like the kings and queens they believe themselves to be.  Again, poor people don’t get that privilege. We are grateful when we meet other kind souls who work for a living and treat us like kings and queens, but we also understand when that same flight attendant is having a bad day and is just going through the motions – because we get that they’re working just trying to make a living too… and yet, at some point, no matter how bad their day is, they still have to go up to first class and keep on shining.

I guess all this to say, I’m grateful.  My dream of course, is to make enough money as an artist/creative entity every day and be able to live a comfortable and fulfilling life by telling stories, sharing Carmenisms and changing the world all on my own. But, in the meantime, I’m okay. Happy really. I would never want to have so much money again at the expense of my sanity, and I certainly never want to hate what I do for a living.  So, all and all, I’m okay. Maybe more than okay. This too shall pass…

It stopped raining.  But there’s a heavy tint of lingering grey – it may rain again.  I hope so. For now, everything is so quiet, so still. I have to admit, I love it.

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*The term “poor” here is simply defined as those living paycheck to paycheck. There is no doubt that “poor” in relative terms can and does mean something quite different in our world and this author knows the difference.

*Image used/created on App Bitmoji