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Posts Tagged ‘Reverb10’

The Reverb10 prompt for this month asked, “What’s blossoming?”

I have answers to that one on several levels.

For one thing, the cherry trees in the Public Garden:

And the trees on Boston Common:

The vase of flowers on my desk, which changes weekly. It’s amazing how spending a few dollars on daffodils or tulips can brighten a Monday:

On quite another level, the answers include: some new friendships with folks we’ve met in Quincy; the springtime, in general; the hope of summer and the anticipation of lots of visitors. And I’m thankful.

What’s blossoming for you?

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Recently, an email appeared in my inbox from the Reverb10 crew – the women who brought us 31 days of thoughtful prompts in December. I didn’t write about all the prompts, but I found inspiration in several of them. This month’s prompt (they’ll have monthly ones throughout 2011) is: What questions are you living?

I immediately thought of this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, as if they were rooms yet to enter or books written in a foreign language. Don’t dig for answers that cannot be given you yet: you cannot live them now. The point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer.

And this one from Zora Neale Hurston:

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.

So far, it seems, 2011 is doing a lot of both asking and answering. When I received the email, I was still asking: where and when will I find a job? How will we pay the bills this month without dipping deeply into savings? Can we make it financially here in Boston? Will it ever stop snowing?

Now, I’m asking a slightly different set of questions: what will my new job be like? Will I like it? How will I balance my own writing with full-time work? (And I’m now asking, Will it ever be warm again?)

Of course, these are the everyday questions – along with the more mundane ones of what to wear, what to cook, which flowers to buy, what to order at a restaurant. But there are deeper questions I’m living, too, the most salient of which I’ve been asking for six months now: How will we make a life here in Boston?

I don’t think that last question has one answer; indeed, I think it has many answers. I am still discovering many of them. But for now, I think, the most important answer is: we are making a life here. Slowly, slowly, with each day and week, each workday and each evening at home, each hour spent with friends new and old, we are carving out a life for ourselves here. We are living an adventure we only dreamed of back in Abilene (though we still miss it, and our dear ones there). We are living the answer to a huge question: What would happen if we moved across the country to pursue our dreams?

At times, the answer can feel difficult or lonely. But I’m glad we decided to ask the question, and so far I’m enjoying living out the answer.

What questions are you living lately?

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I’ve taken a break from Reverb10, in light of a few freelance deadlines, four Christmas parties in one weekend, a stack of to-dos and some upcoming travel plans. But last Saturday’s prompt combined reflection with a list – and I needed just one more list to make up my 52 for this year. (I never thought I’d actually come up with 52 lists. But it’s been an amazingly fun exercise.)

So. Eleven things my life doesn’t need in 2011:

1. Financial stress. I know I’ll still think/budget/worry about money in 2011 – that’s the nature of the beast, when you’re Type A and unemployed. But I need to let go of worrying about every penny we spend, every single day. I need to make a budget and stick to it, and then relax, because I can still afford the occasional scented candle/literary treasure/fancy coffeehouse drink. Despite all my freaking out about money since we moved to Boston, we are okay. And I need to remember that.

2. Excessive Internet surfing – this is a hard one for me, especially on bad-weather days. But there are times I just need to get up from the computer, take a walk, make something, then come back to it refreshed and focused.

3. Feeling like I’m not doing “enough” – whether that’s related to the job search, my writing, keeping the house clean, whatever. In the words of the beautiful Tracey Clark, I am enough.

4. Less sweet stuff – the holidays are a candy trap, of course, but I need to watch my sugar intake in the New Year. Everything in moderation…right?

5. Some of the clutter in our guest room. As soon as we clear out the Christmas boxes (which are living in there temporarily), I need to clear out some of the other junk. (Though we did get rid of a bunch of stuff when we moved across the country.)

6. That box of stuff meant for Goodwill that’s been sitting in our kitchen for MONTHS. (I don’t even want to tell you how long.)

7. Some of the photos on my computer – I could stand to delete a few hundred.

8. Some of my own internal chatter – I need more truly quiet moments.

9. Procrastination. Sometimes I just need to buckle down and get. it. done.

10. Some of those papers in my file cabinet – oh my, it needs a cleaning session.

11. Worry (in a general sense). This one keeps sneaking back, but how nice it would be to banish it for hours or days at a time.

What do you need to let go of this year?

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The Dec. 6 prompt for Reverb10 (written by the lovely Gretchen Rubin) asked, “What was the last thing you made?” And, a bit more pointedly, “Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?”

In one sense, I make things all the time. I’m a writer, so I make articles and blog posts, journal entries and email newsletters and notes to friends, grocery lists and to-do lists and other scribbles. I’m also a knitter, so I make comfy, cozy things to wear. And I love to cook and bake – not to mention, we have to eat around here – so I make daily cups of tea; sweet treats to share with friends; and meals to eat alone or to share with my husband.

However. Sometimes the joy of the making gets lost in the deadline, or the labor, or the long list of to-dos piling up after I finish this one and this one and that one. Sometimes I get tired of making things and want others to make them for me. Sometimes I wish I had time to make what I want to make.

So, on Monday afternoon, I made Tara’s cranberry-orange bread, just because I wanted a sweet-yet-hearty snack to go with my afternoon tea. I’m planning to make lots of lovely knitted things because I want to, once my latest custom order is done and on its way. I’m planning to make peanut butter kiss cookies, which I haven’t made in forever, this weekend. (I don’t make them often because J can’t eat them – but everyone else at our church Christmas party can. This is a win-win: I get to enjoy making them and will be prevented from eating them ALL.)

And I’m thinking I need to clear some space to do some writing just for me. A little project, or a few of them, that have been percolating for a while. Something without the pressure of a deadline or the lure of payment or the necessity of skillfully inserted marketing terms. Something close to my very soul. (Of course, as Heather reminded me recently, it helps to have lots of projects going at once – because then I can sneak things like this in without alertng my inner perfectionist.)

I’ve also got lots of “Boston bits” lying around that need to go somewhere – into an album, a scrapbook, a shadow box, something. Maybe that will be a project for the New Year.

What are you making lately, friends? What are you wanting to make?

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Several days in, I’m still loving the Reverb10 prompts each day. They’re wonderfully thought-provoking ways to reflect on the year.

However, I’ve already let go of the illusion that I’ll be perfectly on schedule – which is OK, since this is the time of year to focus on what’s important, not on slavishly meeting deadlines. (Though deadlines are helpful, indeed.)

Anyway. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s prompts (if you missed my post about the beginning, you can start there if you like).

Day 4‘s prompt asked how I cultivated a sense of wonder this year.

In some ways, this was so easy to do – especially since we’ve moved to a new place that’s full of wonder. I’m always finding new things to marvel at in Boston, whether it’s the autumn color, the afternoon sights on Boston Common, the Christmas decorations downtown, the taste of clam chowder or Mike’s cannoli, or the community at Brookline. I’ve carried my camera everywhere since we arrived here, and spent hours browsing the shelves at Brattle and other shops, searching for hidden treasure and finding lots of it. It’s been easy, on most days, to marvel at this new life and how lucky we are to be living it.

Even back in Abilene, though, wonder abounded – mostly in the faces of my friends. I’ve long marveled that an otherwise unremarkable Texas town can draw such brilliant, compassionate, fun, kind, creative, diverse people from all over the world, and keep many of them there. We were and are so, so lucky to have the friends we have in Abilene. (And we’ll get to hug some of them at Christmastime – I can’t WAIT.)

Day 5 asked a hard question: What did you let go of this year?

I let go of a job, a church, a house, a routine, a rhythm of daily life and so many friends when we moved to Boston. I let go of certainty, predictability, financial security (though we’re making it) and the comfort of a steady paycheck. I let go of health insurance (and the peace of mind it provides) for a while (though we’re back on it now). I let go of living near my parents, of semiannual trips to Kerrville and Midland, of being able to split holidays between parents and in-laws. I let go of the stability of the town that has held and sheltered and loved me for eight years – and that has been both challenge and blessing.

Of course, letting go of all that enabled me to embrace a new life in Boston (see above). I’ve been able to sink into a new rhythm, new friends (and some old ones who moved here with us), new sights and sounds and tastes, new wonders all over the place. That, too, has been both challenge and blessing.

What has made you wonder this year – and what have you let go of?

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If you blog or tweet, you may have heard about a little thing called Reverb10 – a way to “reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.” I’ve gotta say, I’m more comfortable with the first part than the second, since “manifest” sounds all New Age-y and abstract to me. But I like the idea of preparing for the year ahead, thinking deeply and intentionally about what I want it to be. And reflecting is something I do often. I’m a writer, a blogger, a memoirist. Reflecting is my bread and butter.

The Reverb10 team has gathered a bunch of great authors and asked them each to submit one daily prompt, then left it up to the rest of us to participate however we like. I’m a little late, but here are my answers to the first couple of prompts:

Dec. 1 – One Word
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today; what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Gwen Bell)

If you’re a regular reader, you know my one little word for the year has been BRAVE. I’ve followed it into a freshman English classroom, to New York in April, to St. Louis in May, and to Boston in August. I’ve followed it through challenges in my personal and professional life, and I’ve been wearing it around my neck on a pendant since May. This year has demanded a lot of me – creatively, personally, emotionally, financially – and I have a feeling it’s not over. I’ll continue to wear the pendant into 2011.

However, as I continue being brave, I think a new word needs to come alongside it, and right now, I think that word is COMFORT. I need to seek ways to create comfort in my life as I’m still adjusting to a new city, searching for a full-time job, enduring my first Northeastern winter, facing so many unfamiliar things. And I also need to get outside of myself and help create comfort for others. I want my life and my house to be a welcoming place, where others can lay down their burdens and rest, and be comforted.

December 2
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing – and can you elimiinate it? (Leo Babauta)

This one’s easy: I spend too much time on Twitter/the Internet, clicking links and searching fruitlessly for inspiration. Twitter has brought me lots of great online (and a few real-life) friends, and sometimes it provides a brilliant creative spark – but I need to know when to get OFF and go somewhere, wash the dishes, or just close down the Internet browser and write, write, write.

I’m still thinking about the Dec. 3 prompt, which asks me to choose and describe a moment this year when I felt most alive. I may wind up writing about more than one. We’ll see.

Are you participating in Reverb10? Whether you are or aren’t, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the prompts above. Share, share!

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