Someone near our church has ten beautiful crabapple trees. It lightens the spirit and gladdens the heart just to walk past them. I did manage to refrain from bursting into song, though.
Thursday, 29 April 2021
I'm re-reading this sweet little book, and was struck by a particular paragraph. I've written about a similar topic before, but it's worth exploring again. She's discussing compassionate service to others, and this is what she writes:
"You don't need to withhold your comfort and support because you don't have the time or capacity to move permanently into the center of someone else's life. I believe that sometimes I hesitate to open my heart and extend unreserved love because I truly believe I would then be obligated to take in the orphan, adopt and rear him to adulthood. When examined, of course, that is foolish, but emotionally it is the premise I work on, and my immediate response is to move my heart back, tighten it up a bit, build a wall, and say the expected words, which lack the accompanying reality of God's love. Contrary to my emotionally held belief, most of the time, all others usually need from me, and all I usually need from others -- and even from the Lord -- is simply to be held and encircled with love while I cry a little. Then I can hang up the phone, blow my nose, and go back to work."
First of all, I think she was brave to write this from her heart, opening herself up to vulnerability, and that is what I love about her. She's honest, and she expresses just what I've felt myself but am reluctant to confess. How often do I hesitate to reach out because I'm afraid I'll now be stuck for life, having to take care of this person or be best friends with someone I'd really just rather have as a friendly acquaintance? How often do I avoid committing to action because I just don't have the capacity to do it over and over again world without end and fear that's what will be expected? Am I so stingy with my compassion that I fear it will all be sucked out of me if I allow the slightest approach? Does compassion only come in limited, unrenewable quantities? And does the way I demonstrate kindness have to be the same as how others show it?
I like to think that I am generally kind to others and generous in my dealings. But this paragraph made me think it's perhaps time for some introspection. Where can I improve? Who around me needs me to reach out now, today, in even a small way? How can I open my heart just a bit more, soften just a bit more, and let down some of my own miserly defenses? How do I change my heart, not just my actions?
There are so many people around us who need love and kindness. The young mother struggling to keep small brains entertained and small hands under control while she tries to fit groceries into a cart already filled with children. The elderly widow who is perfectly capable of making her own meals but sincerely wishes she didn't have to do it just this once, or had someone to eat with. The exhausted nurse who appreciates the thank-you signs but would really prefer that someone just shovel her driveway. The teenager who feels all eyes on him, assuming, judging, when all he wants is to fit in. The new immigrant swimming up-current in her new reality who craves a simple conversation in her own language.
I've written before about the homeless young man who stood up in church and told our congregation not to judge just because someone may be a little bit dirty, or a little bit drunk, or a little bit sad. I've tried to take that to heart and remember it when I look at others. I want to be better at spontaneously leaning in, not pulling away as my first response. My natural inclination is to be friendly and then curl up in a comfortable, cozy, self-sufficient little ball. My life doesn't need a lot of people in it. But maybe others' lives need me. I want to watch for opportunities to lighten other people's burdens, not just superficially, but with real compassionate intent. To move beyond the casserole and the cheerful wave and change my heart's instinctive reaction. To make it more open like His. It may not feel natural right now, but I hope someday it will.
Friday, 23 April 2021
I am supposed to be working on some rewrites for the publisher and I had set aside the next couple of weeks to do it. Then on Sunday I threw my back out (go figure -- I can shovel 9 tonnes of gravel without a problem, but bending over to pick up a roll of duct tape did me in). And suddenly writing seems very difficult to do. It isn't just a matter of being uncomfortable sitting upright at a computer. When I don't feel well, I don't think or focus well, and the creative juices don't flow. I have found this in the past, as well. I think, for me, overall health is integral to tapping into creativity.
On the flip side, when all is right in my world, the sun is shining, and I feel happy, stories practically burst out of me and I can write a book in a week.
But I think it's reciprocal. Tapping into that creativity can also promote my feelings of well-being and health. After a day of writing that has gone really well, I emerge feeling refreshed and contented with the life, as if I've had a deep restorative nap. If I go for long periods without writing, depression settles in, the aches and pains are more prominent, and the world takes on a grumpy gray light. So maybe there's a way to write myself to wellness.
Or maybe I just need to lie on a heating pad for a few days with a good book and enjoy someone else's creativity for a while.
Tuesday, 20 April 2021
Hi all! We're approaching the publication date for my next book (hooray!), and I'm pleased to let you know that you are able to pre-order copies on Amazon at this link:
Monday, 19 April 2021
Sunday, 18 April 2021
I had to set aside my monk for a few days to do the proofreading on All My Loved Ones for the typesetter. Caught a few typos and inconsistencies, which have now been fixed. There will be one more read-through before it goes to press.
I like this stage where it's just a matter of being eagle-eyed and picky, without the trauma of having to rework plots and scenes. Tomorrow I hope to get back to Manookian and the monk, though I managed to throw my back out this morning, so I may have to postpone long sessions of sitting at the computer. But even if I'm not typing, the story continues on in my head, and I can edit and rewrite there just as well before fingers hit the keyboard.
Saturday, 10 April 2021
I am in the middle of rewrites of my next manuscript, a murder mystery with an Armenian detective who joins up with a Vietnamese Buddhist monk to catch the killer. I'm not sure quite how this idea came about, other than that my husband and I did a three-day retreat at the Zen Forest in Actinolite, Ontario years ago, and I felt like revisiting the spot in my writing.
It was such a beautiful place, a peaceful lake, trees all around, a fountain and bridges and pagodas and little statues to stumble across, tucked away in the forest. Wonderful vegetarian meals. Meditating with the sun on my shoulders, the quiet splash of water in the background. The perfect spot for a murder.