Life Isn’t A Race

Don’t let your life pass you by while you race along at 100 miles per hour. This thought may seem contradictory. It isn’t. Many people spend much of their life in “frantic” mode – lives so full that they dash from one event or project to the next. It’s as if they are in a race with their own lives – and that they are! The trouble is there are no prizes, no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, because we all arrive at the same destination, albeit at different times. When they get there many people realize that life itself was the prize and they missed much of it.

Don’t wait until then. People often get warning nudges that perhaps it is time to slow down, to stop and look around. Maybe they think they are going to lose their job (or they actually lose it), get a cancer scare (or actually get cancer or some other illness or injury) or someone similar in age and status dies. They stop briefly, tell themselves things have to change, that they have to get their priorities straight and start to enjoy life more while they can. But the crisis passes and they brush themselves off and get back on the track until the next time when it is a punch in the mouth and then a full body blow before they really listen. Some never do.

I know. I was there. I had (still have but much less) a bookkeeping business in addition to my writing business (if you can call something I make a minimal amount of money from a business!) Suddenly in 2003 I got a contract for a book and I barely remember the next six years. I wrote seven books (some small, some not so small) and continued with enough bookkeeping to pay the bills. It was an exhilarating and “frantic” time. I have always been able to multi-task and could get more things done in one day than most in a week. That trait served me well. It was not unusual to be at the computer for 12-14 hours a day. In order to get fit I lost a great deal of weight, did something I had wanted to do for 25 years by becoming a vegetarian, and I walked 1-2 hours a day. I finally decided to give up most of the accounting and focus full time on the writing.

Then it all came crashing down.

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Love And A Maine Coon Cat!

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning – How does my cat Jay love me? Let me count the ways.

My recent blogs have been of the more serious kind so I thought this month I would do the one I intended to do in February for Valentine’s Day – Love and Jay. The subject of love is always a slippery slope because it means something different to everyone. There are so many different kinds of love – for a partner, lover, friend, child, sibling, and parent, among others. And then there is love for a cat!

Although I could not have foreseen it when I got him as a rescue cat at seven weeks and 1.6 lbs, Jay has grown to be 17 lbs and 42 inches from the end of his front paw to his back. He is a mostly Maine Coon cat. I tell him I love him more than anyone in the whole world and, yes, I actually mean it. I know statistically I am going to lose him before almost anyone else close to me but I still want to believe that Jay and I will grow old together. Given that I am no spring chicken and he is, that is possible.

If you want to know more about how I found Jay go to his page, My Muse Jay, in the Menu to the left.

It is not earth-shattering news that animals give us unconditional love. Anyone owned by a pet knows this. It has always been so. I have never managed this kind of love with a human but it is easy with Jay. Of course he is not human but in my mind this is not a bad thing! Cat’s (dogs too) ability to love regardless of how they have been treated truly overwhelms me sometimes. I have a friend who volunteers two half days a week at two separate no kill animal shelters in New York City. I have seen numerous videos of her interacting with the cats there, many of whom have been ill-treated or abandoned and they still come to her for love. What she gives them, and what they give her back, is as close to unconditional love as one can get.

I believe Jay gives me that type of love even as he patiently (sometimes not so much!) tells me when he wants food, a treat from a drawer, his daily walk and even a cuddle. I think he would still love me anyway even if he got none of those things. The bond between us is palpable. So how can I be sure he loves me? Here are the ways:

 

#8 Somehow Jay always knows when I need an afternoon nap and will go and lie seductively on the bed tempting me to join him.

 

Jay Tempts Me To Come To Bed

 

#7 He made a special effort to go out and buy me a present for my birthday. I try not to read too much into the fact he bought me a book called How to tell if your Cat is plotting to Kill You!

#6 I used to do income taxes and during tax season Jay helped me whenever he could, especially with adding all the receipts. 

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Writers and Self Doubt

To write or not to write, that is the question. I like to think all writers suffer the self-doubt that I do but perhaps the Margaret Atwoods of the world don’t. You know, the ones who know they can actually write! But I suspect even they have their moments. Not for the first time, I am seriously thinking of giving up writing. I really don’t know anymore what I think about myself as a writer – or even if I feel as though I am a writer at all. I guess on my better days (too few and far between) I consider myself a journey(wo)man writer. I slog along in the trenches hoping one day people will actually listen to what I have to say.  I tell myself part of the problem is that I have never been able to turn to the type of writing that I feel I am meant to be doing. I am too busy writing books I have been asked to write or working on a book that was started years ago and recently published. Or, heavens forbid, doing non-writing work that actually paid the bills! But I suspect when I get to that writing, and I am close, that I will feel no more secure in the vision of myself as a writer than I do now.

Is the insecurity around myself and my writing inherent in all writers or is it because I am a woman that my self-doubt gets so strong? I suspect it is a bit of both. After I started writing this post, another writer, Teri Brown, wrote a good blog called That Dumb Thing Even Smart Women Do, Part 1. http://teribrownbooks.com/that-dumb-thing-even-smart-women-do-part-one/ I suspect she will never run out of parts! In it she talks about how many women think they are frauds in spite of all their successes, and are afraid everyone else will find that out. But I am a fraud I want to say. People will eventually figure out I can’t write worth a damn.

So I am trying to look at what criteria I am using to define myself as a writer. Am I any good and who decides that? 

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Chronic Pain

It is February and I had intended to write about love and its various forms, specifically the love between my cat Jay and I. However, having spent many hours last night being overwhelmed by my physical pain, I decided to talk about pain instead.

I am not talking about pain from an injury that may last months but eventually subsides. I am referring to pain that impacts every day, year after year. As with all pain, some days are worse than others and on the better days I truly think “this is not so bad” and enjoy life. Of course those are my good days. Most people don’t see me on the worst days because I stay where I am now – at home in bed. On the bad days where I still have to go out, well I would not say I am exactly stoned but I certainly have taken enough medication that I am not completely there either.

This pain leaves me feeling set off and isolated from the world. I feel if I mention it I am complaining or looking for sympathy and if I don’t mention it then no one knows and expects me to be able to do things (and even move) as though I have nothing wrong with me. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. The pain I have does not make me look sick nor even apparently in pain although as the pain has worsened I have gone from looking ten years younger than my age to looking older than I am. I have no cast, no visible scars.   How I got this pain is not as important for this blog as the fact that I have it. I find the emotional component to living with it as difficult to deal with as the physical side of it. When it becomes severe (thankfully not every day) it naturally leaves me very depressed, feeling incredibly low and alone. I don’t know where to turn to relieve it. I try all the things that sometimes help distract me but nothing really works. I am afraid to take more medication than I absolutely need to survive because I am terrified of getting horribly addicted. I don’t drink for the same reason.

I thought I would lose my mind at 5:00 this morning.

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