Surrendering to the process

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control — Julia Cameron 

This week I’m going to spend some time with the fictional characters for my next novel. You know… sit down with a glass of whiskey and catch up on what my two boys have been up to while I was busy with life and doing a little informative reading.

After a couple of months of research and letting that knowledge slowly sink into my bones, it’s time I paid a little attention to them.

No, I’m still not done the research because it involves a ‘field trip’ near the end of October. Yes, I’m currently in ‘pause’ mode until I can roll up my sleeves and write like a demon possessed. However, I’m getting to the point where I need to start writing regardless of the status of my ongoing research.

So, next best thing is to let the boys bounce around in my head and engage in a lively discussion about what they want to do with the research I’ve done so far. I have a few ideas. I’m sure they have a few ideas, too. But I also have some tough questions for them (and for myself) that need clear answers or at least a clearer direction.

The boys love the fact I’ve been working on my Spanish. I think it took me awhile to finally stop pronouncing some of the Spanish vocabulary with a French accent. This is what happens when you’ve been learning to speak or read French for a good chunk of your life. And after all this time, I’m still better at reading French than speaking the language. That may hold true for Spanish, as well. But I’m hoping I can change that and be equally functional in both reading and speaking Spanish one day. Sólo puedo soñar sobre él. I think I said that correctly. I could be wrong.

I think I’m going to spend the afternoon with my boys today and start surrendering to the process again. I’m going to put on some music (Game of Thrones and Narcos soundtracks come to mind), make a mug of hot lemon water, have pen in hand, paper waiting to be inked and have a lovely conversation and get some shit sorted out.

The whiskey will be on standby once day morphs into evening.

In praise of besties

When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character — W. Somerset Maugham

I’d like to think that the people I am close to, are folks with character. Yes, they have personality, and some of them, have it more than others. To be honest, they need a little bit of character to put up with my shenanigans.

The folks in my life have proven that they will step up to the plate when I’m in some sort of tailspin. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago, I found out who were my friends. And each one of them will always be my friend.

My best friend, Ali, has tons of character. She also has tons of personality. The tons of personality is bonus. And the thing is I only met her nine or ten years ago through the News Photographers Association of Canada. My mind is a little fuzzy whether or not we first met just before the cancer diagnosis or just after. I find I’m not one for micro details. I remember what my mind chooses to automatically remember. Initially, our interactions were limited to phone calls whenever there was things to discuss regarding the organization. Our conversations were easy. We clicked. We slipped into each other’s lives without much fanfare but made up for it when our mutual friends would stare at us in astonishment over our brand of insanity. One such friend always looked forward to being entertained whenever Ali and I would start something that no one else had the nerve to finish. Filter? What filter?

Some folks believe you meet your best friend/s somewhere during your formative years before technically becoming an adult. That was never true for me. I had friends. But I also had false friends (have the personality but no character whatsoever— something you eventually discover when things go sideways). Having false friends made me think that the truly dependable, got-your-back kind of friends were still out there and I would find them once I had gone through the education system which included university. I was kind of singular-minded back then. I still might be. It was education first, life after.

So, I made no effort to stay in touch with 99.9% of my classmates after high school graduation. Now, make that 100%. There was no bond. There was no connection. I never felt to the need to continue my association with any of them and clearly, the feeling was mutual.

Post-university and post college (for a diploma in photojournalism), I was still figuring out the friendship thing. And it turned out that for me, the majority of the folks who would be my life-long friends were the ones I met in my 30’s. But that doesn’t mean someone I will meet in six months or in two years couldn’t become a life-long friend. That door is always open to the right person.

Ali is proof that a best friend or a true friend isn’t someone you meet as a child or as a teenager. Your best friend isn’t the person you’ve known the longest. It just means that person has known you the longest which does not mean they know everything about you.

I don’t know how to describe Ali other than she gets me. She’s seen the best and the worst of me and still loves me unconditionally. And I feel the same way about her. If either one of us did something immoral or illegal, being judgmental is the last thing we would be with each other. We’d call each other out on our shit but be judgmental? Never. Upon being informed of the questionable deed that was done, I believe a round of psychotic laughing from both of us would ensue, followed by “Fuck, I wish I had been there to see that.” That’s how we roll when we’re together. Good thing, we live in different parts of the country. All sorts of crazy would erupt if we lived in the same geographical location.

The reason I’m yapping about best friends is because I had the pleasure of talking to her over the phone not once, but twice in two days last week. Those phone calls were not 15 minutes bites of time. Total time spent laughing, bitching and guffawing about all sorts of shit — 2-1/2 hours. Good thing we both have decent long-distance plans. When we’re not on the phone, we still communicate via email and texting. But a satisfying gabfest over the phone is the best… unless the gabfest is in person. That takes top spot because wine and food is usually involved.

During this latest gabfest, she had to talk me off the ledge over an ongoing issue I have — something which I have no plans to discuss here. She never fails to make me feel better, and smile and laugh by the end of our conversations. She didn’t disappoint this time either. She’s good for that… helping you find a way to laugh when the last thing on your mind is to laugh. Frankly, I do the same thing for her. We arouse each other’s propensity to be silly. Whereas other folks try very hard to arouse our usually dormant desires to be homicidal. Everybody has a homicidal streak. No point in denying it.

The gabfest completely spoiled us just because we’ve never had the opportunity to indulge in two lengthy phone calls — one lasting over 50 minutes and the other lasting a little over 90 minutes — in one week.

I appreciate her presence in my life. When I feel no one gets who I am, I know she gets me. Having one person who gets you is everything. And she is everything I could ever want in a best friend. A true friend.

Forever restless

I stayed out of the sun when I was young, not because I knew better, but because I’m a Type A personality who gets too restless to lay around and do nothing — Georgette Mosbacher

As one season transitions into the next, I always find myself restless. Certain seasons tend to amplify the restlessness and wanderlust more than others. Depending on how I feel, fall / autumn is the best or worst season for me. More often than not it’s the best season for me.

In winter, I like being cocooned at home and work on stuff like writing, reading whatever I can get my hands on and anything else that might have been neglected when spring and summer rolled around. I hear the acoustic guitar grumbling at me. Not in a judgmental way. Just feeling a little neglected. Sorry, amigo. The restlessness is very manageable during winter.

As winter recedes and spring inches forward, the restlessness is channelled into getting the vegetable garden ready, making sure the push mower blades get sharpened and adjusted. Not to mention the non-home-related stuff I’m annually committed to working on. I’ve always referred to spring as the busy season.

With summer, I do the usual homeowner stuff like mow the lawn and tend to the vegetable garden. But this summer, I wasn’t too keen on one thing. Too much rain from spring to summer fucked up my vegetable garden. I know I wasn’t alone in this frustration. Some folks had the same issues while others didn’t have too many problems. Luck of the draw, throw on the dice, I guess. But do have to say that this was the first year I harvested Saskatoon berries and the apple tree had a very good summer. Still, it was too much rain. There is always next summer for the vegetable garden.

Then there is autumn. I love autumn. It’s when everything to do with the yard winds down and gets prepped for winter. The vegetable garden will be cleared out and the shrubs cut back before the end of October and I get to leave everything alone. Doing all this stuff doesn’t alleviate my restlessness, though. It probably makes it worse. Because I don’t have to tend to the yard or worry about the garden, my brain or my gut, or both, want to get into ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here and do something fun’ mode.

‘Let’s get the fuck out of here and do something fun’ can mean a number of things.

1) Wanderlust has seeped into my bones and I need a break from everything to shake loose the useless crap that has been swimming in my head and reboot, re-focus and reinforce the work I’m doing on my personal projects, for example, my writing.

2) I really need to do the odd fun thing just to break up the everyday monotony. Axe throwing looks mighty tempting.

3) With regards to my short-story-turned-novel, there is a part of me that just wants to start writing again even though I’m not done with the research I need to do for it. I think my two main characters who I affectionately refer to as my boys, are getting a little rambunctious and in need of my attention.

Well, I’m looking to address these three things this fall. I just might be chomping at the bit to get to it which can’t come soon enough.

Channelling the restless energy in the most productive and positive way is the best thing I can do for myself. I don’t do willy-nilly or nothing very well. Leaving the energy unchecked and undirected almost always ends up badly for the other people involved.