Tag Archives: Reading

Writing Through

Perhaps this will be a short post. Perhaps not. The point is to write something, anything. Because it’s been far too long since I have. 

It’s such a cliche for writers to be afflicted with depression, and of all the things I am, of all of my unattractive qualities, this is the one I hate the most. The first thing to go when I’m down the rabbit hole (and, God, I’ve said that so many times, that term is becoming it’s own cliche, I need a new one) is my writing. Then my reading. Until I can barely find much satisfaction in even magazines. It’s a cruel, ironic state for a writer: cliche depression leads to cliched writer’s block which leads to writer not writing, leading the writer to become more depressed. All I have managed to write lately is a story about a girl (woman) who is depressed. At least I was able to use the darkness for a purpose, if only for the few hours it took me to write it.

I’ve had to force myself to read. I was back to my voracious self for quite a while before I got reader’s block. It didn’t help that the book I was reading was about depressed women writers. The fact that it was so well written, and that it was as if the author had crawled into my brain and set up camp from which to narrate, only drove me further down. 

I’ve had to force myself to keep going, keep writing, even if it sucks (because, hey: words), to keep reading, keep moving my brain cells in some communicative way. So why am I sharing this? Partly, writing this post means I’m writing which is vital. Partly, because I believe good writing is painfully honest, it’s what invites the reader to empathize. Think about it: even sci-fi & fantasy is best when it is written so flawlessly that it could be true, right? (C’mon, if you ever find yourself in King’s Cross Station in London, aren’t you going to pay extra attention to the pillars between Platforms 9 & 10?)

I write this because I’m not the only one. Because being a cliche means there are enough people like you to make the cliche valid. Maybe if I let it out, I’ll perform my own exorcism, at least for this round. Maybe, I’ll inspire someone else to admit they’re feeling. The same way I am, and maybe they’ll write about it. Either way, the point is words. Words drive me and stop me, sometimes they drag me. I just want to be the one who knows how to read the map.

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Yoga Challenge: The Make-up Days

Pose of the Day: Tree pose

Last week, man, I just fizzled out. What a horrible way to “finish” a challenge I felt I’d so successful at. I was… I don’t even know what I was. Fibromyalgia-y. In the midst of a flare, you’re picking and choosing what you can and can’t do, and your body whittles down that list even more until you find that biggest accomplishment of the day was brushing your hair. I slept a lot. A lot. I slept for twelve hours one night, took naps almost three hours long, couldn’t move much, felt nauseated, barely ate or ate too much. No yoga for a whole week. And I felt awful without it.

I’ve come to look forward to the evenings I practice yoga. I make tea, set up my mat, listen to some smooth music that helps me relax, do my 15-20 minutes, and then lay in bed to watch tv, or read, or even just something like a blog post or a to do list. I wouldn’t say yoga has made me more focused, necessarily, but it’s given me a sort of routine in the evenings that I looked forward to, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. Even if my body still has some rolls that I thought would be–at the very least–more subtle than when I started, and even if I’m still wearing the same size I was wearing at the beginning of the challenge, I still felt change. To not have that, even for a week, especially for a whole week, I really felt like I lost something. It was partly guilt over my challenge, but, like I said, it was something I looked forward to.

I felt better last night, and got right back into it. Twenty minutes, good music, every move felt amazing. I realized that, after a whole month, I can actually touch my heels to the floor in Downward Dog now! It’s an amazing feeling to realize that your muscles have extended themselves to make new things possible within the confines of your body. I also got back into drinking plenty water. I had a superbad sick day on Sunday, replete with vomiting, body aches, fever, general grossness. And all I wanted was water. (Mainly, it was most of what of what I was able to consume without throwing up.) I’ve noticed that I am hyperaware of when my body starts needing water now. Before I know it, I’ll have drunk a full water bottle. It turns out I can curb many headaches by doing this. I’ve had far fewer (as in, not every single day) headaches since hydrating.

I could say that yesterday and today were my new Days 29 & 30, but it just doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m not finished. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to be finished. It seems to me that that would give me the perfect excuse not to keep going with it. Yoga’s become one of those friends I have to check in with several times a week just to make sure that everything’s okay, it’s not in my head, that it’s real, that it’s something I still look forward to and don’t feel as happy without.

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Yoga Challenge: Day 10

Pose of the day: Baby Pose

For Day 10, I did the Day 6 DoYou workout, a program for the lower back. I’m skipping over some of the challenge workouts in my email and cherry-picking for the things I actually need. I always need the lower back and anything for my shoulders, but I can definitely skip the core strengthening stuff because, while I’m in it for the yoga, I’m in it for specific benefits of yoga. Maybe once I figure out a way to maintain the pain areas, I’ll move on to focusing on other parts of my body.

I really liked this particular workout, especially Baby Pose. It elongated my back, stretched my leg muscles and still worked my core and arms, without feeling evil. It was a bit difficult to figure out to grab my feet and bend my knees in a comfortable way, but once I did, it felt very good. It was also nice to have a workout that wasn’t so Downward Dog focused, though I am doing much better with it. I found old copies of a yoga magazine at the library book sale. One has an article on how to strengthen your wrists and elbows, so I’m hoping that will make certain poses like DD, Bridge, and Plank easier on me. Sure they’ll still suck for the most part, but they should at least not wreck my itty-bitty joints.

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Yoga Challenge: Day 8

Pose of the day: Standing Forward Bend

To be honest, I was more interested in finishing Wide Sargasso Sea for my Read Harder challenge than I was in yoga yesterday. (Stay tuned for my post about this wonderful book later today on Jillie’s Bookshelf!) I did my stretches intermittently, probably getting my minimum ten minutes, but I never pulled out the actual mat. I really wanted to see what happened with my body and muscles when I did my yoga at the end of the day/before bed versus the morning. The problem, I have realized is that by the time the evening rolls around I am more interested in reading or watching tv and no longer have motivation to continue accomplishing tasks. So, I’m back to mornings.

What I have noticed is that I need to remain hydrated to be any sort of functional, yoga’ed or not. I barely drank any water yesterday and felt terrible by 3pm. Surprise, surprise as soon as I made some tea and drank a glass of water, I felt much better. I have to admit, though, that doing this challenge is very hard for me right now, what with my body not being at its best. (let’s face it though, even it’s best is pretty crappy on average.) I keep hoping I’ll feel a change like I did with my water challenge. So far, nothing. Not even reliable relief. Luckily, I’ve been able to find some poses that make me feel better. But I really didn’t start this challenge for minor maintenance; I really want to be a healthier person, or at least a more comfortable one.

Obviously, I’m going to keep it up, though. I can’t give up just because the gates of Heaven don’t open to reveal a choir of angels singing and cheering me on. The most change you can ever hope for is directly proportional to the amount of steadfastness you demonstrate, no matter the task at hand.

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Yoga Challenge: Days 4-7

Pose of the day: Eagle Pose

The thing with these challenges is that life inevitably gets in the way later in the week. Luckily, I was able to maintain my challenge, even if I wasn’t posting over the weekend. So, let’s do this by day, shall we?

DAY 4: I did a self guided workout, but I used a lot of the poses from DoYou Yoga’s Day 2 as well as Eagle Pose, one of my favorites for stretching out my angry shoulder blades. I waited until much later in the day to do my yoga because I have been very sore between my fibro-flare and the renewal of an actual physical routine. Say what you will about how short my workouts have been, but when you’ve done nothing and start doing something, there is a period of your body revolting. One thing I noticed was that it doesn’t take much to make my 10-minute minimum. I actually did over 15 without even thinking about it, something I thought I would have to work hard to do, especially being out of practice. Instead, I find myself wondering what new pose I can do or what poses I may have forgotten from years ago that I might want to do now.

DAY 5: I took the day off. I can do that. I said 5 times a week, minimum, and I was so busy all day that I just didn’t get around to my yoga. I did spend four hours grocery shopping, which involves being on my feet for extended periods of time (I go to every supermarket and shop the sales), so I did do something physical. It just didn’t count as yoga.

DAY 6: I was going to make this day, Saturday, my other day off. I have this nasty thing that happens when I get a hangover: my (once again, angry) trapezoidal muscles will go all knotty, the tension creeps up my neck, and adds to the headache I already have from over-consumption. This actually happens without drinking as well, sometimes to the point of such pain that I vomit. Nice, right? This little tendency is one of the reasons I practice yoga in the first place. At the end of the day, right before bed, I ended up spending my ten minutes stretching and doing some Warrior poses. Again, Eagle was a big help in feeling better.

DAY 7: Yup, took this day off too, because I could. I feel no need to justify this since I met my weekly and daily minimums.

As I go into Week 2, I’m considering what I to do for my workouts this week. The DVDs from the library I haven’t even perused yet? The days I missed on DoYou Yoga? Probably, a mix of both, along with my own workouts. The thing I like about guiding myself is that I get to choose my background noise. I’m loving the Swan Lake score and the Best of Sade collection. Two different moods, but that’s a far smaller number than the amount of moods I actually have. 😉

We’ll see what I come up with for my workout tomorrow!

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Yoga Challenge: Day 3

*At some point, I’m not sure when, this blog started to feel like a captain’s log.*

Pose of the day: Cobbler’s Pose

Man, I had a rough third day! Thankfully, it had nothing to do with Downward Dog. I did my morning workout, opting for self-guidance with the aid of DoYou Yoga’s 8 Poses for Fibromyalgia Patients. It’s a pretty comfortable collection, mostly made up of old favorites like Child, Cobra, Corpse Pose, etc. One new one was Legs-Up-the-Wall, which promised:

Because you’re flipping the way gravity is working against blood flow in the legs, this pose can reduce swelling and fatigue in the lower extremities.

Here’s the thing: no. I honestly didn’t feel anything like that. It felt little more than weird, no big deal. I even swung my legs all the way over my head so my feet touched the floor behind me (a thing I’ve been doing since I was a kid that turned out to be yoga). I felt no better than usual.

In fact, by the afternoon I had a migraine that I nursed for most of the evening. When my body started aching badly, I did another round of yoga, actually. Just ten minutes of stretches and easy poses. My hips get really mad at me during a fibro-flare and all I could think about was getting into Pigeon Pose to stretch it out. While that didn’t really do much for me, Cobbler’s Pose provided some relief.

I would really like to get to the point (have I said this yet?) where I don’t feel sore all the time, where my muscles feel like Jell-O instead of wrung-out washcloths. In the meantime, between my yoga challenge and my Read Harder challenge, and the fact that I bought many bottles of wine on my last excursions to Trader Joe’s, I’m not watching as much tv, so I’m getting more done. Also, for those who’ve been following along, I’m still drinking all my water every day, though maybe not a full gallon 😉 That’s good.

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Back in the Cozy Armchair

I love what my Read Harder challenge is doing for me! I set upon this challenge as a way to get back into reading. The last few years I haven’t been able to keep myself as interested in books as I used to be. I definitely wasn’t as voracious as I used to be. I could devour a book as if it were a delicious meal and I nourished me as much as a meal would. I purposefully open all the curtains on a snowy day and curl up in a chair next to the largest window with a cup of hot chocolate and a Willa Cather novel just to be able to enjoy being the perfect cliché for a few hours. I’ve never stopped reading, but I kind of took a back seat to everything else in life.

What I’ve been noticing in the past two weeks or so is that I’m getting closer to the reader I used to be. I persevered through a book I wasn’t thrilled with, to find that the second half was totally worth it. I devoured a book in less than 24 hours. I’m even reading classics again… well, a classic. I reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for one of my challenge tasks (a book published before the author was 25). I do plan to reread Jane Eyre for another (a book published before 1850), which will lead to a book I plan to read for yet another task (Wide Sargasso Sea: an imagined prequel to Jane Eyre focusing on the first Mrs. Rochester, a book that is a new spin on/retelling a classic story). The more I’m reading, the more I’m looking forward to the next book, and the one after that.

I’m also finding that the way that I read is returning more to the way I used to. I’m really interested in interpretation of the text, picking out the various symbols and references to other works of literature. (Mary Shelley seems to have been a big fan of intertextuality.) I’m making notes, I even write in a book because I wanted to underline a passage in the absence of my usual post-its. (If you know me, this is a big deal. I regard most marginalia as sacrilege, but I let it go because it wasn’t an expensive book and I don’t like mass market paperbacks anyway, so it didn’t hurt as much to deface it.)

What I mean to say is that I feel excited again. I didn’t realize that a simple challenge I set for myself last month (Gallon A Day) would lead to me setting new/more goals for myself. This Read Harder challenge came at the right time and I’m so happy about it. I want to write every day. I actually couldn’t wait to type this up because it felt weird not to have something to say.

I think the most important that we always have to remember is that there pieces that are integral to the core of who we are. They may break away a bit, but they’re always still there, even if only by a thread. As long as you know what those pieces are, you always have the opportunity to keep them strong and intact. If it takes a challenge or a kick in the pants to make it happen, so be it. You can’t let go of the things you love, especially when those things come together to make you who you are.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have 15 chapters to go on this one.

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A Writer’s Wresolutions

2015 is going to be a good year. We all hope so. We all hope that the next year will be better than the last (at least, the Counting Crows do). It’s the reason we make resolutions; it’s a way to ensure that the year will be better by making ourselves better. Quit smoking; drink less; exercise more; eat better; blah blah blah. By February most resolutions have been abandoned. The ones that hang on are either made people with stone resolves or were not that hard to begin with (eat salad once a month; give to charity, as in $1 to that panhandler at the corner by Walmart). My resolution is not to make resolutions. Instead, I am creating challenges for myself. I can easily drop a resolution by using the excuse that, really, it’s practically implied in our society that I will anyway.

This year, 2014, I quit smoking. I set a date and, for once, I did it. Honestly, it was one of few, but great, accomplishments that I made this year. I challenged myself, and I met my goal. I made a Gallon A Day challenge for myself to both increase my water/liquid intake and force myself to write about it every day. I’ve been successful on the whole. I have basically made myself accountable. It was a challenge, so I strove (strived? strove seems right) to meet it. Even when I fell short, I didn’t feel bad; I forgave myself.

So, my challenges for this year, so far. I will be coming up with new ones as I go along. Some are going to seem small, but they’re big to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t need to make it official.

1. Participate in Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. Part of the inspiration behind calling my resolutions (ugh, let’s ban that word) challenges, this project urges reader’s to complete 24 reading tasks such as a book by an African author, a book published pre-1850, etc. In doing my research and going through my to-be-read shelf, I’ve realized I won’t even have to make any big investments in order to accomplish most of these tasks. It’s really more a matter of being conscious of what I’m reading. To be honest, I didn’t read as much in 2014 as I used to. I need motivation to get back to the thing I love so much. Ive already started with my short story collection pick, BARK by Lorrie Moore. I will be documenting my reads on my long-neglected, if ever used, companion blog to Random Lines Working: Jillie’s Bookshelf. Regular progress updates/thoughts will happen here.

2 Yoga-A-Day/Yog-A-Day/Stretch A Day. Hell, who knows what I’ll call it, but after my water challenge wraps up, I’ll be doing 10 minutes a day of yoga and documenting it. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s way more than zero.

3. Continue drinking water. I won’t be as anal about it as I’ve been for my water challenge, but I like my results, and want to continue reaping the benefits.

4. Write more. It took drinking water to get me regularly posting to my blog. I’ve barely written anything since editing my manuscript, even though I’ve been very proud of the few things I’ve published this year. I want to make sure I stay in the habit of putting words down, no matter the subject… though, I won’t count grocery lists.

5. Publish more. I realize I have no control over the opinions of editors, but submitting more work, means my chances go up. I want to publish at least 6 book reviews. With three already in the works, I shouldn’t have too much trouble achieving this goal, but the other three, who knows? That’s why it’s a challenge. Not to mention I have to write more in order to have more to publish.

These are just the challenges I’m starting with. There’s always the possibility of NaPoWriMo, or a new 30-day challenge I haven’t come up with yet. There is room for editing, changing, evolving, growing bigger or smaller. That’s why they’re challenges and not resolutions. Don’t make promises to yourself that you might break. Don’t say you’re going to make these catastrophic, ridiculously huge changes. If you fail to follow through, you’ll end up feeling guilty, to say the least. I have millions of excuses why these challenges are too hard to meet. But the point is trying. The point is doing what I can to raise myself to a certain level and feeling good no matter what rung on the ladder I get to. Challenge yourself. And be proud of even attempting greatness.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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