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Outta Time

 I am so excited to work on my new projects! I actually have several that I’m really jazzed about. I’ve started writing a book Hugh Lane. [He’s a famous Irish art dealer with an inspiring story. I wouldn’t have known before I started researching him].


I am creating a couple of new
blogs….all exciting things that interest me greatly. The only thing is I can’t seem to make time to work on them. I’m having a hard time managing distractions and buckling down.

I never seem to use my free time to work on the projects i want to do. I have all of these projects in my head, but my attention gets carried away with all of the latest distractions. Not bad or frivolous things, but getting caught in a phone conversation, getting carried away doing chores, or immediate tasks, walking my dog, going grocery shopping….

All of these things are necessary and good, but we need discipline or  they can take over your life if you let them. That is why people find freelancing so hard. Dealing with a seemingly “wide-open” schedule is harder than dealing with a packed schedule. You always feel like you should be doing something other than what you are doing.

I am not good at creating and enforcing schedules. I don’t think I’m alone.

There was a time when I enforced “office hours,” two to three hours in my office just writing. No phone calls. No e-mails. No Facebook, no contact with the outside world. I don’t know how I lost sight of that. Actually, I do. I started doing my office hours in my living room, where everything happens. My phone is nearby, my dog lets me know she wants to go out, the doorbell rings….and then it all goes downhill.

I am learning to prioritize and guard my time with a vengeance. If I can’t physically separate myself from distractions, I use earphones, do not disturb signs, or I just tell family members that I need to work uninterrupted for 30 mins or so.

My main problem is I go on rabbit trails with Facebook, or emails. I’m really working on discipline, but I still fall prey to “quick checks.” When I find myself doing this, I ask myself, Will this bring me any closer to my goal? If I can’t answer yes, I try to move on.

I am getting better at grabbing pockets of time. Ordinarily I would be using my 10 minute breaks to check Facebook or emails. I now use them primarily for research or writing. Even if I can just capture a few ideas, the time is not spent in vain.

I seem to have a lot of “waiting time.” I’m sure you do too. Waiting on line, waiting for someone who is late, being on hold, etc. Make the most of it. I usually don’t mind waiting. Sometimes I go places earlier just so I can get more work done. I carry a notebook with me to capture important thoughts I may have in random places.
I’m getting much better at it; it takes concentrated effort though. Soon I will be promoting my [finished] book!

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Starry Night

c. davidpaulkirkpatrick.com

Van Gogh considered Starry Night a failure.

I can’t imagine standing before this beautiful painting, cringing with disdain and inadequacy as I usually do with my paintings.

Vincent Van Gogh’s brightly colored paintings of Sunflowers and Starry Nights don’t look like the paintings of a disturbed individual. However, he is probably as noteworthy for his infamous ear-severing as he is for his beautiful paintings.

To me, Starry Night is inspirational.

It’s one of his Nocturne Paintings, a series of landscapes he painted at night. Not an easy feat, to be sure. He loved it though. He liked the challenge, as well as the interesting effects he got.

The famous Starry Night was actually the view from outside his window at the asylum in Saint Remy. He was not allowed to paint in his bedroom, so he sketched the view many  times. When he was back at his home in Arles, he painted the sky. Though, he had planned exactly the way he would do so in the asylum [He left out the bars].

If you look closely at the painting, you’ll notice that the city below is a pretty ordinary city scene. It’s not particularly spectacular. What truly makes the painting sparkle, is the agitated sky.

Researchers have been able to determine that he painted the sky and the city separately. The city is an idealized city in Arles..

Being away from the artificial city lights and smog, he was able to see the brilliant colors of a clear sky. He wrote to his brother, Theo, “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” Scientists have been able to determine that what he saw was actually the planet, Venus.

I’m sure Van Gogh certainly didn’t enjoy the asylum. Who would? Yet he was able to see something beautiful out of what probably seemed like the ruins of his life. Can you imagine a world without Irises, or Starry Nights?

c. 2015

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Shakespeare in Prison

“So is it free will or predetermination that puts Richard in that cell, that puts us in our cells…”

Not exactly the discussion you’d expect to hear walking down the halls of a maximum security prison; much less from the inmates in solitary confinement.

Not exactly the discussion you’d hear in many schools, even. I struggled through Shakespeare in high school. I revisited it recently and still have to work really hard to make sense of it. Who would have thought that hard core prisoners would find it so engaging?

Laura Bates  thought they might. She also thought they could benefit from it. So she went where few teachers dare to go. She taught Shakespeare to maximum security prisoners. These were the baddest of the bad; murderers…rapists….

She found little support. Many, bosses and peers, were dubious. Some saying They don’t deserve education. Others saying, They’re already in prison, don’t make them read Shakespeare. Why in the world would she think that prisoners could appreciate, or even comprehend Shakespeare, when many freemen don’t?

“I came to prison at age seventeen. I never studied Shakespeare at school. He was just a one-named figure from history to me, like Moses or Hitler. I had no idea that he wrote.” said Prisoner, Larry Newton, who would become her protege.

But Bates quickly learned that you don’t need a higher education to read and understand Shakespeare. The prisoners easily related to stories like Macbeth,  making them question their own motives.

They even delved into the lesser read novels. They loved it!

“I believe…as a convict having been allowed to interact with Shakespeare, that you and this program have allowed people to release anger, release thoughts of revenge, various thoughts of frustration and confusions. And when those things cloud judgement, that’s when things happen. I know, for me, it has been an alternative outlet. And when you talk about the issue of murder, I believe that if an individual had a small alternative, a moment to think, a person to lean on, in that split second, it probably never  would have happened.”  Larry says.

These prison discussions matched any higher learning environment.

“Do you think that Shakespeare wrote King John after the death of his own child? The pain just seems so real to me,” one of the prisoners asked.

What might be considered a common question in intellectual circles with access to academic commentary came as a real surprise to the prison Shakespeare teacher, Knowing he had no access to such texts, that it came from his own reading and reflection. He gets it!  

These insights are coming from a murderer who never finished school, with only an elementary grade reading level.

Shakespeare saved my life…[He] offered me the opportunity to develop new ways of thinking through these plays. I was trying to figure out what motivated Macbeth, why his wife was able to make him do a deed that he said he didn’t want to do just by attacking his ego. ‘What, are you soft?’ Ain’t you man enough to do it?’  As a consequence of that, I had to ask what was motivating me in my own deeds….When I started reading Shakespeare, I was still in segregation; that circumstance didn’t change. But I wasn’t miserable anymore. Why? The only thing that was different was the way I saw myself. So the way I saw myself had to be the source of all my misery…and that realization is empowering!”  Larry Newton from Laura Bates’ Shakespeare Saved My Life

“This place is great!” he said gesticulating around him. “Great for reading Shakespeare!”

c. Laura Bates

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Escape

“‘So every bondsman in his own hand bears the power to cancel his captivity.’” To me, that’s empowering, that we can free ourselves at any time — psychologically, I mean.” Prisoner Newton, quoting Julius Caesar

I recently read Laura Bates’ book, Shakespeare Saved my Life about her time teaching Shakespeare to maximum security prisoners. One of her prisoners says:

“When people ask me, ‘How did you stay sane all that time in seg?’ I just say, ‘You do what you gotta do.’ People say, ‘I think I’d go crazy,’ and I say, ‘You don’t know what you’re capable of.’ That’s what I say, but in my head, I attribute a lot of that to….the fantastical walks.” Prisoner, Newton in Laura Bates’ book Shakespeare Saved My Life

“Fantastical Walks” is the term he used to describe something that could be described as part hallucination, part fantasy, a coping mechanism he used to get through prison.

“The ‘fantastical walks.’ That I was able to leave, in a way and live a different life while all this crap and turmoil was going on around me.”

It’s an exit strategy. You sort of live in your own reality. Everyone does this, not just prisoners.

What some might call delusion, I would simply call escapism. A common stress response. We all do it. Some more than others.

The “fantastical walks, “ as he calls them were more about survival than inspiration. He later turned to Shakespeare. He was really able to relate to stories like Macbeth and King Richard. His enthusiasm was a contagion that spread around the prison. He created worksheets, study guides for the groups which met regularly.

Similarly, Ralph Lauren was able to use it to create a successful brand. Growing up poor in the Bronx, he would escape to the movie theaters, and fall into the story, the lives of the people portrayed onscreen.

‘That vision, that ability to step into a fantasy world, Ralph brought to the fashion business.’

It is important to note that both of these were not just escaping [like I was], but that their dreams of escape led them to action. I’m sure that many disparagingly thought, oh, there goes ralph to the movies again…. or who does that Lincoln think he is, putting on airs reading Shakespeare…he’s just a prisoner…

The ability to escape is necessary for our well-being, indeed, survival. Some have even proven to channel it into something very profitable. It might be automatic for us to escape, but channeling those dreams into something productive is an art.

c. 2015

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Paris Lamb review

c. Marcia Fine

What do you do when your life takes an unexpected turn?

Michael Saunders was perfectly content and relaxed on sabbatical, researching ancient artifacts in Paris, when several surprises intruded into his life. He didn’t know that his job would change drastically and exponentially.

He was abruptly called in to replace a speaker and biblical scholar who had died in a suspicious car crash on the way to the conference. Michael had spoken at many conferences in his life. He didn’t know that this one would change his life forever. He hadn’t counted on being placed in the throes of a conflict of biblical proportion and he certainly didn’t count on meeting Sandrine.

All of these changes came upon him at once. One minute his life was normal and then everything changed.

As he was examining the artifacts known as God’s Gold, he found out some classified information that the Vatican had been fiercely protecting for years. It was an international scandal that he was on the wrong side of. He became increasingly unpopular. Talk about tense relationships with your peers….

Changes aren’t always bad, though. Sandrine was the one good change he wasn’t expecting and he learned a lot from the situation [including some family secrets, that completely changed his perceptions]. All changes are going to cause stress. Even the good ones. New things always do.

New jobs, with increased responsibility, different opinions, antagonistic co-workers, and unfair biases all take their toll on one’s serenity. We often feel we are in over our heads. But we are not learning if we are always comfortable.

Why do we react so adversely to change? Simply put, our brains don’t expect change. We’ve done the same routines for years without interruption. We naturally create patterns as to how things are done. Our brain expects to do things the way we’ve always done them. Sometimes we must force ourselves to make connections between similar things. It doesn’t always happen naturally.

Change can be very exciting. Relish the excitement and novelty. If you get overwhelmed, be optimistic though you may not be happy. Nothing good ever happens without change.

Look for new skills – what can you learn from this situation? If anything, you will learn that you can handle difficult situations and people. For instance, I learned how to better manage my time when I had to take an extra side job. I was very happy with the extra money, but I was bummed because I had less time to do my personal projects. So I learned some new time management secrets that will probably always benefit me.

I used to eschew change, but I’ve been trying to seek them out. Pursue change, pursue growth, you might say. It is definitely helping me get used to them. Things don’t always end as neatly as they do in fiction. But you deal with them and learn to work through them.

I’m also putting in a plug for my friend, Marcia Fine’s book, Paris Lamb. It is a very well researched novel with intricate history expertly woven in. You won’t be able to put it down.

c.2015

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Awkwardness

No one likes awkwardness. It’s not comfortable. It’s kind of like a swarm of bees buzzing around in your stomach. Like that kid in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, who every time he spoke, bees would fly out.

In a crazy attempt to eliminate all awkwardness from my life, I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried to become a very well-read, knowledgeable person, who always knows the right thing to do in all circumstances. I never wanted to be caught nonplussed. I don’t want to open my mouth and have bees come out.

Those who know me know that it hasn’t worked out so well. I can easily transform into Chandler Bing from Friends at the drop of a hat.

I loathe the feeling of being caught without words. I detest the feeling of awkwardness I get when I know I’m not doing a job right because I lack the necessary information. So I crave routines and rituals [that I can break of course, when I want to. but woe to anyone else who tries to], lest I’m thrown off.

I’m especially awkward when I’m off my routine.

But awkwardness gets a bad rep. I’ve found that its, by far, the best teacher. When I’m awkwardly doing it the wrong ways, I am learning how to definitely not do it.

For instance I only had to mispronounce the word misled once in the right company to have it forever ingrained in my head the correct way.

Once you deal with awkwardness as much as I do, you get used to it. It doesn’t seem that bad. There are plenty of worse things. I’ve gotten used to doing and saying the complete wrong things to people. I’ve found that bees aren’t scary.

c. 2015

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Annoyance

I am forcing my eyes to stay open, struggling to stay awake, as Lisa has been talking for the past hour, without coming up for air….I am waiting in angst for the people who said they would be there and aren’t. The whole reason I changed my plans….The meeting is running later and later and I have to hurry to get somewhere…

Martha Beck says, If you want to witness the most savage, antisocial aspects of the human species, don’t attack or threaten people. Annoy them.” Even the most peace- loving Quaker will lash out once they are annoyed.

People can and will be very annoying. [I, on the other hand, am never so.] It’s almost as if you can’t help but be annoyed by people. Usually, they don’t mean to be, even though it seems that way. Politics, manners, religious beliefs, personal histories, insensitivity, oversensitivity, and just not thinking, all are fair game for the annoying.

Annoying people can only annoy us as far as we let them. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but it’s true. Two of the main reasons annoyance can leave us incapacitated, or at least semi-capacitated:

 

  1. We are so taken aback by the annoying that we can be caught off-guard.

 

  1. The reasons and extent to why we are so annoyed have more to do with our own histories and hang-ups.

 

For instance, talking incessantly is very annoying, but I guarantee it is more annoying to me than to you because it brings flashbacks of when I did it as a coping mechanism for insecurity.

Just knowing these two reasons can empower us. These are two things we can sort of prepare for. We won’t let ourselves be caught off guard. Since I know my history and the ensuing flashbacks, I can be prepared for it. I can set my boundaries from the start.

“That’s the last time we do that,” my boyfriend eloquently said as we walked to the car several hours later. I just nodded enthusiastically in my agreement. I don’t have to stew about it anymore because I have made a conscious decision to disengage.

When we set boundaries, we feel less hijacked by annoyance. Know your boundaries and stick to them.

c. 2015

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