Striving

Is it better to simply be or to continually strive? Does choosing to enjoy what is, abandoning the reaching for bigger, stronger, faster mean you’re giving up, surrendering? Does always looking for the next moment, the ‘better’ moment, keep you alive and thriving?

Is it better to simply be or to continually strive?

The wise among us say that it’s a mix of both- the key is knowing when to just be and when to keep striving. Each comes with a price tag and a pay off. Our character is revealed by the choice we make.

Then there are those who, no matter which choice they make, always wonder if they have made the best one. And so, I would add to the advice of the wise ones, that the best choice is to make the conscious choice, rather than letting circumstances decide for you. 

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Melancholia

Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.

No one wants to be around a downer, a Negative Nelly. People like happy people- it’s like they think it’s contagious.

Poor Alfred, not blessed with a pleasant demeanor nor a penchant for everyday happiness. He was, however, flawlessly consistent. His melancholic undertone held fast through each phase and occasion of his life.

“I’m actually happy being miserable,” he remarked once to his therapist, “If you want to be happy, don’t look to me to do that for you- make your own self happy.”

Like-minded people were not easy for him to find.

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Golden Moments

You know the feeling- that rush of adrenalin, that fire in your belly, that excitement that grips you when you’re doing what you were made to do- and loving it. Everything just clicks and you’re flying on a natural high.

Those moments are golden nuggets, small and self-contained, precious gems brightening acres of blandness.

Think back over the years and remember those moments in your life when you felt truly alive in this way. Write them down. Do you notice a pattern? Is there a common thread? Take a look at when those moments came and in what context. If you can identify that, think of ways to put yourself into situations that will increase your chances of living more of these golden moments.

Your list of golden moments can also encourage you and put into perspective the rest of your life, energizing you.

Go ahead, step away from the computer, grab a paper and pen, the old-fashioned way, and start making your list.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Overdramatized

Empty pale blue eyes, wisps of aging white framing his face. Deep lines cut around his eyes, crows-feet dancing at his temples. Gritting teeth hold back decades of repressed anger over a damaged childhood, a belittling wife, a berating boss.

He stews in the juices of his own hidden rage.

He has ruined it, really- his own life, I mean, poisoned his mind with thoughts of revenge, painted his world with jealousy, peppered his interactions with backhanded compliments.

His heart is black.

There is only one place which gives him release from his self-imposed prison.

When the stage lights go up and the crowd falls silent, he is transformed. From a depth he can no longer relate to, a life breaks forth and breathes into every fiber of his being, infusing it with a vibrancy he has long forgotten.

Heart-wrenching wails, joyous ecstasies, gut-level determination possess him as his body is rocked by the words filling his soul, running freely from his lips. A long-forgotten connection with the truth of each moment carries him into the hearts of the audience that grips onto the lifeline he throws out to them.

They live through him, holding out all their long-suppressed dreams and tear-stained hopes for him to capture.

Yet, when the lights go down and the crowd jumps to its feet, the cloud of night descends on him once more, and the audience’s hearts shrink back to deep within their bosoms. The connection is forgotten- until the next curtain call.

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The Get A Life Tree

Years ago I read a lovely book by Ernie Zelinski titled The Joy of Not Working. It challenges readers to have a proper perspective on the importance of paid employment and to suck the marrow out of life and living it.

One of the activities in the book is creating a Get a Life Tree. Readers draw out a ‘tree’ with branching ideas of leisure activities they have done in the past and ones they would like to try. Additional categories can be added like activities you can do by yourself, ones to do with others, free activities, ones for a short timeframe vs. ones to do at a future point in time, etc.

It’s a great exercise in creativity to brainstorm a host of fun, worthwhile things to do that challenge you and open you to new experiences.

The really fun part, though, is putting words into action- getting out there and doing what you’ve listed on your Tree.  

I love digging out my Tree, crossing off things I’ve done, selecting new ones to tackle, feeling the excitement of new adventures, and adding new ideas to the Tree.

There are always new adventures waiting on the horizon. Why not ‘get a life’ and go after them?

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Inanimate Object- a stream of consciousness

Lifeless, limply hanging, wishing for a breath of life

Dust- living creatures turned into inanimate objects
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes

Faded photos, worn out shoes
Pieces of saints sealed in gold bottles- venerated inanimate objects

Towering cathedrals, lingering incense, echoes of silence 

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Cheap Entertainment

I suppose it was a bit rude if not downright disrespectful. But we couldn’t help it- there was no way we could deny ourselves such riotous belly laughs.

There we were, just faces in a crowd with so many others. There were groups of twos and threes, even a table of ten or so, everyone engrossed in their own conversations- except for us.

We strategically placed ourselves across the room from a couple of ladies having an intense conversation full of animated gestures and wild head shaking. We were in the mood for a movie, you see, without the will to part with the money, given the prices these days. We have both watched our share of foreign dubbed movies, appreciating the quality content. Today, we decided to create our own.

My friend took on the voice of the middle-aged hippie-looking lady, and I took on the wide-eyed scarf-lady. My friend began dubbing over the mouthed words of the hippy, “Oh my goodness, Chelsea, I so love your hair! I’ve always wanted dry, stringy hair but just haven’t been able to make that look happen for me.”

The scarf lady stared back intently at her conversation partner, soaking in every word. After a poignant pause, she spoke with these words of mine, “Anastasia, I don’t appreciate you putting yourself down like that. You have such beautiful vomit-orange highlights, and amazingly uneven lengths- your hair is a work of art. You need to appreciate yourself more.”

Hippy lady swung her arms in wide circles, “Oh, Chelsea, you’re the best friend anyone could ever have in the whole world! You are so good to me, I just can’t believe you’re my friend. I– I’m touched.”

And on these ladies went to speak- through the words we lent them without their knowledge- of boiled cabbage, undersized Speedos, and rainbow-painted VW vans. We were howling so loudly that we wondered if someone noticed. Maybe at another table others picked us out of the crowd and were inserting words into our mouths.

In this day and age with rising prices and a depressed economy, we need to get creative to find cheap entertainment. This method of do-it-yourself live dubbed ‘movies’ can be applied anywhere, anytime. All it takes is the ability to scout out suitable ‘actors’ and an imagination to improvise the ‘script’. Just bring along some munchies, and enjoy!

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Gift of Presence

I cannot take away your loss, or erase the things that happened. I haven’t got any answers for you, or words that will make it alrght.

But I will sit with you and listen as you cry your tears and recount the moments engraved in your heart. I will smile as you tell me of the happy times you shared and will hold your hand when as it shakes.

I will sit with you.

I will sit with you and hope that it is of some comfort to you. It is all I have to offer.  

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The Story of Your Life

If you had to write the story of your life in a mere 250 words, how would it read? Would it be a mystery, drama, romance, adventure? What would be the overarching theme? Who would be the supporting characters? From whose point of view would you write?

I wonder how clearly we see the story of our lives. Taking the time to think about it could make the difference in finding our “Happily ever after”.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Silent Days

Film shot in black and white. Silent. Women in overaccentuated eyeliner. Men in regal top hats. Flowing sequins gowns. Faces veiled in mystery. The world of elegance and simplicity, graced by curtsies and “how do you dos”.

I peek from behind the thick velvet curtain, waiting for the director to command “Action!”.

The stars mill about, maintaining their poise. They don’t know I’m here, trespassing their era, sneaking a sip from the fountain of yesteryear. It is better for me to be here with them, than for them to be in my day. There they have all been filed into back rooms of libraries and archived into film study collections, replaced by pyrotechnics and botox.

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Those We Do Not Speak Of

 Notes on Creativity

There are beings so terrifying that they should only be referred to a “Those We Do Not Speak Of”. Creatures that fall into this category- and I mention them by name here only out of necessity- include telemarketers, tax agents, and parking enforcers.

Don’t get me wrong, these may be perfectly decent human beings, but put them into their work clothes and they emit a repellant so strong that just the mention of their occupations elicits spiked blood pressure, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, and sudden onset Terrets.

Therefore, in the interests of public health, the term ‘Those We Do Not Speak Of’ is highly recommended.

In fact, why not take it a step further and replace the name of anything that displeases you with a neutral, or even pleasant term. ‘Monday morning’ could become ‘At least I’m not going to the dentist day’ (unless you are, in which case ‘Monday morning’ suits perfectly), ‘Housework’ could be renamed ‘That which someone else should be doing’, and ‘Fighting traffic’ could be referred to as ‘Playing bumper cars in my head’.

The power of positive thinking used again to make this a better world for all.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

Exit

It’s a legislated requirement for buildings to have well-marked signs reading ‘Exit’ denoting ways to leave the building in case of emergency.

She pauses for a moment as she considers this, and then inspiration lands. She grabs some bristol board, a thick red marker, scissors, aluminum edging, screws, small chains. She hangs signs randomly around her apartment against walls, on cupboards, behind open bookshelves. The signs all read ‘No Exit’. Why just mark what is and not also what is not?

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Mixed Up Senses

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Senses

 

Sometimes I wish I could take in the world in a completely different way, challenging all I assume. If I could experience life through mixed up senses for even just one day, what would I find a rainbow tastes like, or hear if I listened to a cloud? 

Would an aria smell like flowery perfume, or the wind show me colours riding its wings? Could I touch the melting words uttered by a dying patient or catch a robin’s song?

Experiencing the world in a wildly different way is not far from any of our reach. All it takes is the sense of wonder and a willingness to try.

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer  

The Dance

She strikes her ballerina pose, tutu flared, welcoming her dance partner.

He comes to her, drawn by the sweetness of her nectar.

She giggles at the serenade of his wing beats, sighs at his speedy steps.

In this moment so brief they follow the ancient melody, knowing what it is to have been made for each other.

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