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Posts Tagged ‘the gift of time’

The gift of time. Rocking in a white porch chair, drinking Stash Fusion Green & White tea. My stomach is full on residual Thanksgiving, a small feast for two (plus two cats). I am grateful for those who checked in on red Ravine while I took a break. It started as a short week away from the Internet, and turned into boots on the ground living—time for Liz, for my brother’s visit to Minnesota, for Mr. StripeyPants and Kiev. I checked in with my family on Facebook once in a while, but rarely fired up the laptop during the week. It was refreshing to take time to think, to sit, to be.


Unconnected.


I stopped all my practices for a month, including red Ravine. Since 2001, I have done at least two yearly practices, one writing, one visual, each beginning in January and ending in December. Writing practice, haiku, haiga, renga, BlackBerry 365, the Great Round mandala series; I stayed true to them. I honored them. This year it felt like all I was doing was trying to keep up with the many practices I had taken on, my agreements to others, my commitment to myself to keep going for a full year. I made it January through September. It was freeing to choose to take a break rather than force myself to continue.

But I miss this place, this creative space. Something I learned when I stopped doing my practices was that a part of me went into hiding. I am not happy when I am not taking photographs, writing, painting or drawing. Last night Liz and I watched A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. Lady opened up in a short interview. She said her song, “Marry The Night” was about the moment she made a choice to give her all to music. Right or wrong, up or down, her first relationship would be with the music; she would be true to herself.  It is another form of befriending the Black Dog, the dark shadowy side that comes with deep exploration of your writing or art.

When I listened to her, I knew she was right. It takes great sacrifice to marry the night. And part of the ritual is to know when you need a break. Near the end of the silent workshops with Natalie in Taos, there is a short meeting with her in the round. We sign up on a sheet of paper taped to the zendo wall. Five or six at a time, we slow walk to the cabin at Mabel Dodge Luhan, take our shoes off, sit in a semi-circle, candles lit, in silence, and Natalie goes around and checks in with each of us. Almost every time, there is one person who says they don’t want to write anymore. Natalie inevitably responds, “Then don’t write. Take a break. See if you come back to it.”


Those words are as important to me as the day at my first workshop when she told us to plan on at least two years of Writing Practice before stopping. Oh, and don’t quit your day job.

If you are listening to your teachers, good advice sticks in your craw, and rises to the surface when you need it. The list of things Natalie has taught me over the years would fill a notebook; I bring each one out as I need it, and practice those I believe will make me a better writer, a better artist, a better person. Sometimes I fail. And that is okay, too.


At the one month mark away from my practices, I started adding them back in, one at a time. I added Writing Practice first and continue to write with my online group. I am grateful they have stuck with me. After a little over two months away, the next thing I am adding back into my practices is red Ravine. I have noticed that I am happiest combining writing and art; red Ravine is a good venue for the collaboration and synthesis that happen between the two. I want to look at restructuring, infusing the past with a burst of new life.

It is Thanksgiving weekend and I have much to be grateful for. I will take time to make my yearly gratitude list and begin work on another mandala. I have not been tossed away. The work continues. Positive effort for the good is the best practical response to a hungry world. I am grateful to be back on the page, thankful you are still here. The silence doesn’t scare me anymore; it is filled with light. The wind bristles and becomes her own wingman, sailing to the next stop. The best I can hope for is a gentle landing.


-posted on red Ravine Friday, November 25th, 2011, Thanksgiving weekend, an edited Writing Practice

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Ms. Kiev: She Who Rules The Roost, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It’s been a long week. Except for the house noises, it’s quiet as the wind. Liz went to the hardware store to buy a new shower head. For the first time this week, I’m alone. It was a hard week. I felt sick on Tuesday but went to work anyway. After becoming a national statistic earlier this year, for the last few months I’ve been driving a truck, delivering parts to machinists to be electropolished, drilled, deburred, picking them up again. It’s Saturday morning, a sacred time when I can actually catch up on reading my own blog.

Weekend hours are sweet. I promised Kiev during her morning ritual with Liz that I’d post a photo of her. She’s the only cat in our family who hasn’t made it to the cover of red Ravine. (Mr. Stripeypants was published for his support of Obama; we lost sweet boy Chaco this year.) I was sitting on the couch, writing. Liz called me on the BlackBerry from the bedroom; I picked up to hear her whispering that I should come and see the cats. I tiptoed in and took these camera shots. Family time.

The first photograph is alpha cat Kiev in her favorite position. Liz places her arm just so; Kiev curls up in the crook, same position every time. I have discovered that Kiev is difficult to photograph. She is jet black and her catty panther features all blend into night. I guess I need one of those umbrella reflectors. I do the best I can.

How do you spend your days and nights? What are your weekends like? Do you take any downtime, time to do things you can’t get to during the week? Or are you retired, off of work, and every day is the weekend for you. It seems like when I have time, I have less money. More money, less time. Where’s the balance?

In catching up on red Ravine, I see that Bob was moved by Anna Deavere Smith in our Writing Topic — 3 Questions. Our guest Buzz explained some of the nuances of basketball banter in his poetry post Hoops. ybonesy wrote about art as play, community art, something dear to our hearts on red Ravine. The renga has heated up in the Daily Haiku. And we made April plans to go to Lake Pepin in the Midwest writing group I am a part of.

I’m relieved to know that even though I feel dead beat at the end of my truck driving day, the creative world goes on around me. And sweeps me along with it. I’m grateful for that.

For Christmas, I may ask Liz for a pocket protector and a few cotton work shirts with my first name stitched above the pocket, but I’m still a writer, a photographer, an artist. Still full of wonder at the animal track flannel sheets in the photo behind Kiev. Making a living as writers and artists isn’t easy. All of you make it easier. Thank you for that.


Morning Rituals, Mr. Stripeypants: Paw Over Hand, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 5th, 2009 with gratitude to Liz who holds up the other half of the sky, my family and friends who check up on me, and Roma, the best blog partner a woman could ever have

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Close Gates, outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Close Gates, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On Friday, February 27th, 2009, I became a national statistic — I lost my job. Like most writers, I write for a living. I also have a part-time bread and butter job that helps pay the bills. In January, when all of the temporary employees at the corporation where I worked were laid off (except me), I saw the writing on the wall. A month later, after a 5-year stint at a company that paid well, offered independence, flexibility, and respected my work, poof! I was gone. Monday of the same week, 45 permanent employees got the ax; some had been there 25 or 30 years.

In Minnesota alone, 55,000 people lost their jobs over the last year, a staggering number that, according to one news station, could fill two Metrodomes. The second week of March, when I put in my claim for unemployment, the Minnesota Unemployment website crashed from the volume of new claims. It’s predicted that 72,000 more Minnesotans will lose their jobs through 2010, including 15,000 in construction, 42,000 in manufacturing, and 15,000 in professional and business services.

Of course, Minnesota is not alone. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February 2009, seasonally adjusted, up from 7.6 percent the prior month and from 4.8 percent a year earlier. In February, total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 651,000 over the month and by 4,168,000 from a year earlier. According to a CBS article at the WCCO website (a local news channel that has also experienced layoffs) the February job loss numbers look something like this:



February 2009 U. S. Job Loss Numbers


Temporary help services ……………………………78,000
Factories ………………………………………………168,000
Construction ……………………………………………104,000
Retailers …………………………………………………40,000
Professional and business services  ……………180,000
Financial companies ……………………………………44,000
Leisure and hospitality firms …………………………33,000



At times, I’m scared. Some nights I can’t sleep. And the reality of not having steady income slips into my thoughts on a daily basis. It puts added strain on my relationship, even though I have an understanding partner who is loving and supportive. Responsibilities shift, and any part of my identity that is wrapped up in what I do for a living takes a beating. The structure of my life has completely changed.

I had to create new daily rituals to keep myself from spinning. I spent the first week unemployed scrambling to make changes to money-related items I used to take for granted: research guidelines around continued health insurance, apply for unemployment, reduce payments on my car insurance by checking with my agent about a different policy. I updated old copies of chronological, functional, and artistic resumes. I’m still working with the temporary agency that on the very day I was laid-off, closed their nearby office and consolidated to downtown Minneapolis.

Yet I remain optimistic. The flip side of the coin is that I’m a writer, an artist and photographer, with all the usual complaints about not having enough time for my creative pursuits. Now I do. I have been given the gift of time. What will I do with it? Will I be tossed away, fret and fume, worry that I don’t have a job? Or see it as an opportunity, a gateway to reinvent myself, to focus on my writing.



   Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It depends on which day you ask me. I realize there are probably many other red Ravine readers who are going through layoffs, are stressed-out or down about money. Not knowing how they will pay their mortgage or put food on the table. What about people who have been out of work for many, many months. Or have taken jobs they would not ordinarily take, just to have money coming in.

How do you deal with the pressures of not working (or working but not making enough money to make ends meet). Is there anyone who has been laid off, lost their savings, posted their resume 1000 places and gotten no bites. If you are a writer or an artist, how are you coping with extra time and no money. Is it easier to work on creative projects? Or harder because of the stress. How is it affecting your children. What about health insurance?

When I start to feel crazy, my practices help sustain me: red Ravine, Writing Practice, mandalas, haiku. It’s helpful to get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, and eat lunch at noon. I do business related items, then have time to write, refill the well, revisit creative projects. But that nagging Monkey Mind. What if I’m in the same place months later?


      Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Open Gateway, in the flow, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The unemployment rate is predicted to peak out around 9.5 percent next Spring. Yet the state of Colorado shows a decline in layoffs for the first time in 6 months. It’s true that 91.9% of the population still have their jobs. And a few areas such as education, health services, and government, which boosted employment last month, have been spared. F. Scott Fitzgerald might say that a “vast carelessness” has caused this money mess. But maybe there is a silver lining. Is the glass half empty or half full? What do you say?



Resources:


NPR Announces Cuts To Staff, Programs
MPR Midmorning: February Layoffs Take a Toll
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mass Layoffs in February 2009
WCCO U.S. & World: Unemployment Hits 8.1 Percent, Highest Since ’83
Denver Business Journal: Mass Layoffs Decline in Colorado for 1st Time in 6 Months


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 24th, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – JOB! WHAT JOB?, Make Positive Effort For The Good

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