Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 Ways To Reignite Creativity

Winter is my least favorite season. Its shorter days, colder weather and extra layers of clothing tend to constrict my creativity as much as my blood vessels. If I’m not careful, winter will put me in a funk. Here are some ways that have helped me stay creative:

1. Do something spontaneous
I am a creature of routine. I get a method in place and if it works for me, I stick with it. The problem is that routine also bores me. One summer, I got an idea to take a road trip. The next day I put a few things in a bag, grabbed a friend and drove to Florida. For a venture closer to home, I have been known to get in my car and drive just to see where I end up in two hours time. Doing something spontaneous is great way to break the same ol’ - same ol’ grind.

2. Find a challenge
I enjoy things that provoke my mind but when I’m stuck, my mind doesn’t fire on all cylinders. Since being unemployed, I have done more cooking. I’m the girl that does quick and easy meals like spaghetti or tacos and brownies from a box. Recently, I added chicken parmesan to my collection. When I feel bogged down, doing something new or finding a new solution gets my brain revving again.

3. Clean out the clutter
When I get in a rut, I start to feel suffocated like a butterfly in a mason jar. I can see the blue sky but I keep bumping into constraints. A few weeks ago, I went through every box in my storage closet and filled 3 garbage bags with junk that I’ve been holding onto; some of it for 20 years. Interestingly, the space I created in my closet helped clear out space in my mind as well. New ideas formed and I found motivation for following new possibilities.

Whether it’s a season, a job or some other thing that makes you feel stalled out, you can get your stride back just by doing something off the beaten path.

How do you restart creativity?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Savin Rock And A Soggy Sock


Looking at my phone to see what time it was became a puddle-skip fail.

The first day of 50 degree temps in the northeast brought a full parking lot at the Savin Rock boardwalk. The cement path stretches alongside 1.6 miles of West Haven, CT beach that was once the home of New England’s Largest Amusement Park.

Melting piles of dirty snow dripped into the Long Island Sound signaling spring to stay for a while. The grassy park that saw 50,000 people each weekend in the late 1800s, now displays picnic tables waiting for visitors to share a lunch.

“Excuse Me,” I said as I sped past two ladies walking their sweater-wearing lap dogs. They kindly stepped aside.

My view caught the movement of a mom with three young kids sitting in a beach chair while her little ones shoveled sand into their buckets. They played at the edge of Liberty Pier where 10 cents would buy you a ferry ride to the east side of New Haven in 1870.

A grandfatherly old man with a tree-branch cane took two startled steps to the right as I went around him. He was shuffling past the swing set. It sits on the spot where The Thunderbolt, an 85-foot high roller coaster screamed over the water in the 1920’s. Children of his generation would have been found on the carousel or ferris wheel; in a funhouse or an arcade. Now, those men gather for a game of bocce ball or horseshoes. The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the theme park attractions of their youth.

On a steady pace, I nodded to the Latino man on a bench. He didn’t move or divert his gaze. Mesmerized by the Spanish sounds coming from the radio next to him, he stayed fixed on the slapping surf.

The warmth of a mid-winter day reminds those with cabin fever that summer dances will soon return to the center square at Savin Rock. The rides and hotdog stands are gone; the magic shows and cockfights have disappeared. West Haven’s landscape has been transformed but the spirit of recreation continues to be handed down, steadfast as the incoming tide.

On this pleasant day at the Savin Rock boardwalk I got more than a jog in time... I also got a soggy sock.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rejection Is God's Protection

I’ve been unemployed for several months.

Prior to this stint of joblessness, there were few things that stirred up anxiety like being out of work. Of course I like being able to go to the beach in the middle of the day or take a two hour walk without worrying about getting to the office on time but financial strain and looking for the right position and going on interviews are things I could do without. In my world, looking for a new job ranks up there with falling from the sky in a crashing plane. The fear grips me in irrational proportions.

Much of my anxiety surrounding the process of finding a new job has been based in aversion to rejection and lack of confidence. The antidote for those things can often be found by simply doing more of that which one feels unconfident about. In my case, send out more resumes, do more interviewing and embrace the process so that fear is dispelled by the reality that it isn’t as scary as it seems. In turn, that builds confidence. 

When you turn on the lights, you find there is no boogie-man in the closet.

After months of being asked about my strengths and weaknesses and how I handle difficult coworkers I don’t get sweaty anymore. The heart palpitations and dry mouth have all but disappeared. Although the job search is still not something I love, the nervousness has been greatly reduced and the fear of rejection virtually doesn’t exist.

I still don’t have a job but maybe that’s an air horn in my face trying to tell me it’s time to change direction.

Sometimes it’s a gift when things don’t happen the way we think they should.

Sometimes the career path we end up on is as complicated as our relationships and like relationships, sometimes we stay in a job or a field of work that is just okay because it’s comfortable and we’ve invested so much time into it even though we know it’s sucking the life out of us. We are afraid to let go of something that pays the bills but causes despair and talk ourselves out of reaching for what we love because we might go broke.

Maybe a closed door to a fulltime corporate gig that would offer financial security but would squash my soul is really an open door to keep plugging away at a dream I’ve been putting aside for years. Maybe I will go broke and lose everything but maybe that’s the path that will open to the meadow of a more meaningful life.

When all our efforts don’t add up maybe it’s because, as I heard Katy Perry say recently, rejection is God’s protection.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hope Unashamed

It knocks unexpectedly and whispers into raging silence.
Hope offers subtle surprises.

Paralyzed by all that isn’t right in the world; when I don’t know what the next step is.
Hope sets the frozen in motion.

Bubbling up when every day has been the same for months and time is not my friend.
Hope changes the overflow.

There’s a seed on the inside that sprouts joy in the face of impossible odds. There’s an intuitive knowing that something good, right and true is coming even though it isn’t yet revealed.
Hope reverses doubt.

I don’t know what to do with it or how to manage it but instead I let it sit beside me; a companion that gives me strength.
Hope lights a dark night. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Forbidden Flames

Sometimes we choose someone or something even though all we know and every piece of sound advice goes against it. A decision made in the face of good judgment is the equivalent of a raging forest fire that can’t be contained. It’s not a birthday candle confined to a one-inch wick or a sparkler that fizzles after a minute or two. Once it starts, it’s rarely stopped before it runs its course.

The consequences are known in advance but it’s the fraction of a percent that this time will be different that sets the pursuit ablaze.

When the fuel has run out and icy water has doused the embers, it’s black. The heart is charred like Yellowstone Park in 1988. It takes time and seasons filled with sunshine and raindrops to grow back but it will. Just as fire in nature scatters seed and has a strange way of planting new life at the same time it is delivering death so also the heart will find new strength from the bowels of a complicated situation. All is not lost. It looks that way. It feels that way. The eye sees only filthy soot but underneath, there is a channel of redemption stirring.

The blemish becomes a beauty mark. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bring Me Your Love

In celebration of “love month”, Elisa Doucette over at Ophelia’s Webb is hosting a series about love from all kinds of angles. This is her second year doing a love anthology and  

The series is called Pas de Deux, a ballet term which means “a dance for two”. Each day of February features a different writer’s perspective on love. 

I'm over there today so click over to "Bring Me Your Love".  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Happens When You Put Away The Bottle

I drank one last beer on New Year’s Eve.

The next day was the start of my hiatus from booze for an undetermined period of time. I did this one other time and it lasted until my birthday in mid April. It’s a challenge (I love a good challenge) and it’s healthy (I need to be more healthy) but my determination was about to be tested in a big way.

Jan 2nd I was in a car accident.

I went to meet a friend for lunch and noticed that the interstate was a parking lot. The traffic wasn’t even crawling; it was at a dead stop. I rerouted to back roads but everyone else had the same idea. The 6-mile trip took 1 hour and 15 minutes. Finally, just one block from my friend’s house, a car ran a stop sign, through the intersection smack in front of me. There was no time to stop and I T-boned them in the passenger side. Clearly at fault, they fled the scene before I could speak with them. I jumped out of my car to get the license plate number as they drove away. I called the police. Somehow, my front license plate came up missing in the commotion. TWO HOURS later, an officer showed up for my statement.  Happy New Year.

It was more of a hassle than anything. I called my insurance, set up a time to take my car in and began the process of dealing with one of life’s annoying misfortunes.

The next morning, I had a bonafide pain in my neck. I picked up a rental car, braved the DMV for new plates (which is a tribulation in itself) and saw a chiropractor for my neck pain. Then, the news came that the repairs to my car were extensive and would take 2 weeks to complete. Lovely.

A few days later, my cell phone committed suicide. It jumped from my pocket, head first into the toilet. I grabbed it out as fast as I could but it was lifeless. I did my best to revive it with rice to dehydrate and a space heater to warm it but it was gone. A comical finale. Even so, a new one would be sent overnight.

But overnight it snowed. A lot.

20 inches closed down every airport in the northeast and I was without a phone or text messages for the next 4 days. I have no landline so during that time, email was my only mode of communication with anyone until…

My email went down.

In 11 years of having the same email address there’s been two or three times that I haven’t been able to access my account. The downtime has never lasted more than an hour or two. This time, my email was completely down for 36 hours. What are the chances?

After 2 weeks, the car still wasn’t fixed. It was going to be another week. Still driving a gas-guzzling Ford Taurus courtesy of Enterprise, I tried not to get worked up. At least I had wheels in the mean time. At least I was ok. Things could be worse. The police report from the accident was released. The PD traced the plate number of the car at fault but the plates were fake. There was no way to find them or hold them accountable for the damages. Awesome.

And it kept snowing.

6 snowstorms hit the northeast in rapid succession like leap frogs. In the month of January it snowed 16 of 31 days and blasted the state with a total of five feet. The last one dumped 16 inches on my sidewalk in 8 hours. The piles of snow on yards and street corners and parking lots are well over my head… and right now; it’s snowing yet again.

In the middle of the last big bad snowstorm, the insurance man called to say my car was finally done. After 3 weeks, I was so happy to finally get my car back.

Hold on, not so fast. 

A once over revealed two gouges on my car that weren’t there when I took it in to be fixed. My car wasn’t done after all. Thoroughly frustrated, I wasted a trip to the dealership and left with an approximate timeframe of another day or two before they would be able to repaint those two spots. Did they think I wouldn’t notice??

Not to be outdone by the external forces of stress, my body took in a raging sinus infection causing my head to wish for decapitation.

Finally, on January 31st, my car was returned to my possession but not before it failed the emissions test. It’s a 4 year old vehicle for heaven’s sake, how is that possible? As it turns out, not driving it for 4 weeks is the culprit of one more hurdle. Just add it to the list.

So far, 2011 has been a bad time to scale back the drinking because right now, that’s all I want to do.

Nevertheless, the dry endeavor continues because after all, what is perseverance without opposition? 

However, a little less opposition would be nice.