A Farewell to Blogs

A lot of things have happened since we talked last. The United States has elected its next President, who will take office in January. And stating that fact is the limit of the attention I can bear to give him. Because every time I see his face, or hear his voice, or think about him at all, my heart and mind and soul and body and spirit and guts do something like this:

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I continue to find much joy in my marriage to John, and any time I get to spend with his family. [We’re enjoying an extended visit to Portland at the moment, and have gotten to see them an unprecedented three times in one  year.] My own family and friends–terms I often find interchangeable–continue to be the joy of my life on this twirling blue spaceball that we call home.

I’ve been enjoying my work as a copywriter and blogger for professionals. I work with some amazing people who have great, strong voices; and I love helping them come through, loud and clear.

I get to write up a minimum of 35 blogs a month these days, as well as proofreading, copy-editing; and donating writing services to some awesome grassroots efforts here at home. If I were to blog about my life over the last several months, it would amount to: Guess what: I wrote a blog today.

So things have been awfully quiet here; too quiet, in fact.

Which brings me to my news: this will be my last blog post on In Case of Fire, Use Stairs (as far as I know now, anyway).

future

I am leaving an open door. A couple, actually. The blog won’t be deleted. The Facebook page for the blog won’t be deleted. I don’t want to close myself off to the possibility that this blog, like so many things in life, may re-emerge–like a verbose phoenix–from the ashes of silence to imbue the Internet with newfound revelations.

But as you can see–from my multiple absences stretching for months at a time–I can’t give this the regular attention it deserves. I want creative writing to continue to be a joy, not a burden.

The fact is, writing for me now–creatively, or otherwise–doesn’t take the same shape as writing for me 8 years ago (when this blog began). I still love to write. But  I take solace in doing so more privately nowadays [especially for the creative, introspective expression that is so characteristic of good blogging]. I don’t feel as compelled to share my thoughts and opinions with whoever cares to hear them. Occasionally that does happen on social media. But even there, not often.

And I don’t want to feel an undue pressure, guilt, etc. about that. I want to feel free to dig into writing and see where it takes me. If it takes me back to blogging: wonderful. If it leads me to write a book: excellent. If it turns out that journaling and work are the best ways for me to write, but that I uncover some new creative outlet along the way: sounds great.

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What I’m getting at it is: this isn’t bad news. I’ll miss blogging, of course. But this is the first time in more than 8 years that I’ve given myself this kind of permission: that I’ve simplified my life in a way that allows me to explore other possibilities creatively (and make room for new ones). I feel nothing but gratitude and joy and humility and the good kind of fear when I think about just how sparkly and special that is.

So I want you to know, I’ll be fine. I’ll be happy. I’ll find joy. I’ll learn new stuff.

And  I want to say thank you. To everyone who has ever commented, read, shared, or disagreed with my blog. You have taught me so much about myself and others, and have opened my mind to new perspectives. [And I would be remiss if I didn’t especially thank our pen-pal in the US Army, who connected with us through this blog. We can’t wait to hug you in person someday.]

If you want to keep up with me, don’t be afraid to keep an eye on my website (linked above), email me, or follow me on social media. I’m by no means disappearing, just simplifying. Just taking the first, big, scary step into a new adventure: figuring out more about just what kind of a writer I am now.

And I don’t know if any of you ever really came to this blog for advice (at your own risk, I might add). But if you did, here’s my parting wish for you: do what you need to do to find your true self. Start small, pray, and love real big, and you’ll be just fine.

Thank you for a marvelous eight years. You’ve finally convinced me I’m a writer.

Now, to do that– and perhaps, more! Off I go!

God bless you and yours, unto ages of ages.

Love, Beth

lets_go_exploring

the best ten minutes of your day is in this blog.

I felt kind of horrendous for bits of last week. Studies show that feeling horrible isn’t good. 100% of the time, feeling horrible is unpleasant. I know how it feels when work gets you down, or when you feel lonesome, or when you remember with a few minutes to spare that your big paper is due tomorrow and not the day after tomorrow. It’s the worst. And sometimes you just have to admit that to God and the Internet and everybody.

But sometimes, life throws you a bone. Sometimes, there is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise Gloom-and-doom Sadfest.

Like today, someone called me back at work. Not to tell me about another problem, but to thank me for helping them. To let me know that everything was going to work out, and that they appreciated me walking them through it.

Excuse me, I thought, are you sure you have the right number?

But in that kind of situation, you don’t ask questions.

So.  just in case you’re having a rough week, or day, or whatever, I bring you two videos that I can solemnly-courtroom-style swear will comprise the Best Ten Minutes of Your Day. Go ahead. Bookmark it. You’ll be back.

First, this delightful animated short, Paperman, which is nominated for an Academy Award:

Let me guess, did it get the nomination for THE MOST ADORABLE THING I HAVE EVER SEEN?!

Go ahead. Watch it again. No one will judge you.

As if that isn’t wonderful enough, Soulpancake has put this kid on the map. He’s Kid President. And he has a Pep Talk. For you.

Best part? Not cool, Robert Frost!

What I love most about this video is the underlying assumption that everyone is awesome, and therefore, can be awesome and do things that are awesome. That includes you, you know.

Since it’s obvious that Kid President and I have a lot in common, it shouldn’t surprise you that I want to participate in making this an Awesome Year for Other People [and not just by dancing]. So I’m going to write up an email to the President himself, asking him to give an interview for this very blog. I’ll let you know what he says.

I hope it’s yes.

And I hope that if you were having a bad week, it just got better.

If not, let me know what else I can do.

in case of Mayan Apocolypse.

Okay.

It is probably safe to assume that people like me-with the attention span of a hummingbird, and an equally overdeveloped guilt complex-should not focus too much time or energy on resolutions for the new year [or on how I may have dismally failed to keep the ones from years prior].

But now the Mayans are going all Televangelist on me and telling me it’s going to rain blood and explode badness at the end of 2012. That means I need to set at least one goal I can feel good about. You know, just in case I get thrown down some kind of Doom Pyramid. [To be fair, the Mayans were a little intense. They probably looked forward to that sort of thing.]

S0. If things are going to get a little Kubrick by the end of next year, I might as well take every opportunity to Carpe Year, as it were. Don’t fret. I don’t plan to throw responsibility to the wind and give over to Bacchanalia. And I don’t mean to pull a Thoreau, quit paying taxes, and become a forest dweller. I just need to continually engage in pursuits that make me feel whole and happy, while I have the chance.

My resolution for the year? Be creative. I mean, embody the term; redefine it if I have to. . . it is high time to push my creativity to the limit. Challenge it. Grow it. Do whatever it takes to more fully participate in it.

Because, along with being in Sacred space, being in creative space gives me peace and joy. It makes me feel like I am more fully myself. It shows me new parts of myself. It humbles me and makes me proud. It gives me crystalline awareness of the human and the Divine.

While taking part in a collage night a few weeks ago, my friends and I adopted a new rule: The answer is Yes. Should I give FDR giraffe legs? Yes. Should I place the words “The Strangest” across an American flag? Absolutely. Should I give Baby Buddha robotic hands? Of course you should.

When it comes to Being Creative, if I ask myself “Should I try this?”, I am starting to understand the answer should be yes. [I’m not saying that every single impulse has to be indulged and obeyed, or that every endeavor will be successful. There’s just no reason I should limit myself in an area where everyone is meant to drop the limits.]

How is this goal going to be quantified? I’m not sure. But the nice thing about having a resolution completely based in creativity is that my approach can be, too.

I have been thinking on this for a while. And the glimpses of freedom and joy I have felt while immersing myself in creative projects is something I had to make a bigger part of my life.

I have basked in the love of my friends and family long enough to know that you guys will not only support me and hold me accountable, but that many of you will jump on the bandwagon [which undoubtedly resembles the bus from Magical Mystery Tour] and join me in my foray.

And knowing how talented so many of you are, and how much you inspire me, we seem to be well on our way.

Look out 2012. Look out Mayans. We’re painting this town red. Or blue. Or decoupaging it. Whatever. We’re making it beautiful and sparkly and awesome. And in that way, we are claiming it. We are promising to make it new.

curve your enthusiasm

Okay.

I really need to be better about keeping you guys up to date on things.

I know, I know. It’s a blog. I’m a blogger. And you need something to read. I’m sorry. I’ll be better about it. I really will. Especially after I learned that this guy [super-megalo-attractive British astrophysicist Brian Cox] married a blogger. Not a supermodel. Not a movie star. Not the frontwoman to an alt indie pre whatever band. A blogger. Hecks yes. Consider me motivated to blog for the REST OF MY LIFE].

he hosts a show called Wonders of the Universe. probably because he might actually be one.

Okay, okay. Moving on. Just wanted to tell my fellow bloggers out there to keep aiming for the stars: specifically the unbelievably intelligent, dashing, European ones. But I digress.

Here is something else I realized today. This is really important, people. So listen up. It made me feel better. And I have a hunch that it might help you.

We live in a world of “what do you do?”. Everyone is expected to have a well-thought out, socially-acceptable answer to that question. In the face of a job market that looks like the wrong side of a mountain troll, I have really grappled [often unsuccessfully] with that question. I have used such gems as “I’m unemployed”, “I am exploring the job market”, and the one that’s sure to have me up to my neck in suitors once they catch on: “I live with my parents”.

All in all, I was starting to wonder if this was my destiny:

Then it dawned on me. I do important things. And in case you’re wondering, here is what they are [in no particular order]:

I am a writer [with this blog, and a finished manuscript for a children’s story that I am going to start shopping, once I get a query letter written].

I am a freelance consultant for nonprofits and small businesses. [It’s true! It is all of a sudden turning into a bit of a part-time job, and is bringing with it a learning curve the size of a National Landmark. Please pray for my sanity and that of those I am working with.]

I am a volunteer. [I do a lot of things for no money- a lot of which I love doing, and am glad to do!]

I help to promote and manage an independent singer/songwriter, who I also have the privilege of calling one of my best friends. [Here is his site.]

I am an Orthodox Christian. [Ask me any question about it anytime: it is my Home and my Family and the Joy of my heart.]

I am a friend. [No matter what else happens, that is always my full-time job. I have never been perfect at it, but have always worked tirelessly.]

I had to write all this down immediately, because I will probably forget it in about 12 minutes. But, aside from the fact that they could someday put me in the path of a modelesque genius, the things I do are generally important. I do important things. The things I do matter in the scheme of things to others.

And the same goes for you.

Repeat that to yourself whenever you feel like you’re losing your nerve.

“I do important things.”

Because you do. I do. We all do. World at large, take note.

you say tomato, i say a motto

It’s that time again: the time to think about all the ways that this year has disappointed us, and to muse that the coming year will be a never-ending Utopia of Awesome. In other words, the jig is up, 2010: hand everything over, cash in your chips. Your number has been called.

I can haz rezelushun

Apparently, I was feeling rather ambitious this time last year. I had not one, but two New Year’s Resolution related blogs. I won’t belabor you with the details, because I shamelessly link to my own content, and you are all very literate people.

I can say, though, that I actually read both of these this morning- to assess my progress, and overall, I did alright. I bought and learned chords and tuning for a new instrument. I managed not to go ‘in the red’ financially. And I was better about keeping track of tasks and time in planners, task managers, etc. So, in light of resolutions rather than circumstances, my year was decent, and I am not a profound disappointment to humankind.

If I’m being honest with myself- a curse lately, that doesn’t seem to be lifting- these past couple years have not been my favorite ones of the epoch. Mainly because I hate the feeling of life, or anything, being stagnant, and not many of my circumstances have changed. Of course, I have learned and grown a lot in ways that are intangible, and have spent much time learning from the wonderful people that I surround myself with. But I digress.

More important than a set of goals and objectives- as if anyone’s life can be mapped out like a business plan in the first place- it seems that this year I should have a more ‘big picture’ aspiration. I need a guiding principle, or, as my best friend would like to hear it put, a motto. After some deliberation, and a mighty effort to avoid cliches, I think I have arrived.

“Be Here Now” seemed like the best way to verbalize the attitude I’m going for  without sounding like an Oprah guest or one of those single-word Motivation posters.

As my friend Gail is fond of saying, this year it’s going to be all about “looking at my feet”. In other words, 2011 is for focusing on where I am right now. From there, I can concentrate on being thankful for what I have, try to learn from it when I can, or just own the feelings I have as they come and go; without dwelling on too much negativity.

Moreover, I figure the more ‘present’ I try to be, the more I will end up being proactive, and the more I will participate in my friendships and relationships.

Hope that’s not being too smaltchzy. I am listening to the Black Keys, thereby feeling an  immense pressure to be smooth.

I hope you all have fun bidding farewell to the year that deserves to get picked last for kickball. Break out the bubbly, turn on Dick Clark [or Ryan Seacrest, to be both more accurate and more disappointing], or go to bed the same time as always. . .

Do whatever it takes; shake it off; the past will have passed, and you will be given hundreds of brand new days. Own them.

Here’s to the here and now.

measurementality

I have recently been struggling with feeling that I have not had a successful year. (Since I am still living at home; still without a permanent, full-time, or paying job; still unattached) Not at all saying that I haven’t done anything this year, or that I am full of woe and misery. Nothing like that. I’m just being honest: I’m not where I thought I would be. I’m not where I wanted to be by now.

I posted a note on Facebook the other day, updating everyone across the board on how things were going- or not going- and expressed the same feeling of discontent. (It was long, so I will spare you. But you can probably guess the gist of it.)

At any rate, as usual, my remarkable friends responded with gentleness and love. You guys are a supportive lot. In a particular conversation, Michelle and I were talking about the disconnect between the social ideas of success and our personal idea of success. In other words- when I say I don’t feel successful, whose standards am I using? The standards of society: get a job, get a house, make money, get a fella? Or other, more personal goals and means of understanding success: personal growth, spiritual stability, the building of strong friendships, volunteering, etc?

There is no clear answer for this. Of course, social standards of success are not always bad. I genuinely would like a job and an income and a place of my own, and there’s not anything shallow about that. But if that’s all I’m going on to gauge my success, it’s not going to be pretty.

It’s not like I’m going to go all Thoreau on you guys: living in the woods, tax evasion, and being a social pariah may work well for some writers, but not for this one. I’m just saying that my conversation with my friend was a great reminder that there is more than one way to define success. For example, giving to others of your time and yourself is definitely a mark of a successful life- but it is a lot more difficult to do this if you are not in a stable, secure place yourself (and this requires some degree of traditional, material success).

Success seems to be a combination of accomplishing your goals and learning something when you don’t.

What do you think? What is the best unit for the measurement of success? And how are things stacking up for you these days?

not as i do

I have learned a few things from a lifetime of being a Girl.

  1. Guys are right. We’re crazy. I have decided to embrace this part of myself and try to pass it off as “uniqueness” rather than fighting it. It’s going alright so far.
  2. We like to talk. Okay, that’s not accurate, I’m sorry. We love to talk.
  3. We like to fix things. Or at least try our darndest to. And I’m not talking about useful “things” like your transmission or your plumbing. I’m talking about other “things”:  like your deep-rooted character issues, your most profound fears, or the Pile-of-Mess that is Your Feelings.

[Please note that these- and like statements throughout this post- are observations about patterns I’ve noticed, not universal, gender-exclusive truths that are set in stone. Okay? Great. Moving on.]

Because Talking and Fixing Things play so nice together, people like to come to us girls for advice. And more often than not, we jump at the chance to flex our highly attuned nurturing muscles. “What can I do?” “How can I help?” “Can I pray for you?” “I’ll be right over with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for each of us!” We are all-too-ready to dive in with a solution. There is absolutely nothing wrong with following this impulse tactfully. People- no matter what their chromosomal makeup- need each other and need advice.

I am comforted not only when I know I have received good advice, but when I know I have given counsel that  comforts or spurs on someone I care about. But I had an epiphany recently. And not the pleasant kind, the nagging, annoying kind.  it’s been bugging me ever since. There is a striking similarity between the answers I give and the answers I seek.

Thus begging the question: why can’t I take my own advice?

I cannot tell you how many times I have said things like “Why would you like someone who doesn’t like you?” or “Maybe you should set smaller, more attainable goals for yourself”, or “Get a job, hippie!” and thought-  “Hey, that was really profound. I wish I could think like that.” Of course I do think like that. But I can’t seem to connect the dots. I have a head full of stars, but no constellations.

Last night, I had a head full of medicine, food, and drink, and none of it was mixing very well. I had far too much on my mind, and was feeling particularly Out of It. As soon as I settled in, I got a message from a friend who I hadn’t heard from in ages. He asked for help. He was having a crisis of faith. And having had my fair share of those myself, we were able to talk through some things. I was remarkably calm, cool and collected. Even though, just an hour or two before, I had told someone “I just feel like I don’t know which way is up”.

I think being incapable of taking our own advice is a distinctly human problem. Everyone grapples with it. But why?

Well, for one: nothing tastes quite like humble pie. Life is a parade of lessons in humility for those who are paying the slightest bit of attention. So perhaps all those little ironies are just, um, teaching opportunities.

Then there is the encouragement we get from taking someone else from a not-so-good place to a better one. Perhaps those same moments- those same character exercises- can remind us that no matter how low we feel like we are, we can always reach up to help someone elsee.