life

Breaking the procrastination cycle one day, or moment, at time.

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There was a time when, if you looked up procrastination in the dictionary, you’d find my picture right next to its phonetic spelling. Even now, I succeed in accomplishing my goals in spurts, like a sprinter. But, I want to be more like a marathoner because, after all, this is a long race we’re running.

In my younger years, I would often wait until the midnight hour, literally and figuratively, to do things like laundry or that 40 page term paper on the redemption cycle as represented by earth elements in King Lear. True story.

Then, as it so often does, life caught up with me and my mercurial ways. Certain things just didn’t flex into my creative scheduling. Bills, work, grown up chores, and the eventual realization that, whatever I wanted to accomplish in life, I was responsible for putting into play. I have an expiration date, and contrary to what most of us so-called visionaries were taught to believe by other so-called visionaries, so do our dreams and aspirations.

After a few (okay, MANY) unladylike stumbles and outright epic failures, I realized that my goals were more important than my perceived freedom of spirit. I began to prioritize, whittle down, and focus. None of these actions come easily to me. I can’t even call them habits yet because, even as a 40-something, I still struggle. Daily.

I make to-do lists, lose them, and start over with a new piece of paper (sorry, trees). Between my full-time job, being a mom and (trying) to be a homemaker, sometimes it’s hard to squeeze in freelance work before 9pm. Then, there are my working manuscripts: my memoir, my novel, and my fantasy trilogy. Oh, and those short stories. . . *sigh*

It’s unrealistic to think I can do it all, and yet, I feel like a failure for not being able to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, etc. etc. (If you’re under 40, you probably won’t get that reference. Sorry.) After beating myself up for not living up to my own expectations (or delirium, maybe?), I usually come back to reality with a clearer vision. I count my blessings and remember to be thankful. I remember that, yes, tomorrow IS another day and sometimes I remember that the rest of the day – the afternoon or even this next hour is fresh and unspoilt.

Then, instead of making the day’s to-do list on paper, I email it to myself. Instead of attempting to write 3 chapters between the hours of 9 and 11pm, I tell myself to do one page. One page is good. One page is great. One page is freaking FANTASTIC!

Can I bake 3 dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale this Thursday? No, but I can take home some reading pull out pages and collate them over the weekend. Can I clean out the car, weed the garden, and make a batch of cookies between getting off work and taking my son to his piano lesson? No, but I can grab a few things as I get out of the car, water the mums, and look through the cookbooks quickly with him to pick a recipe to bake together on Saturday afternoon.

Can I say no? Yes.

Can I compromise? Yes.

Can I be patient and forgiving, with myself? Yes.

And so can you.

There are many reasons we procrastinate. Only you can look inside yourself for your unique answer. For me, my reasons vary. I’m tired. I’m afraid it won’t turn out the way I want. I think I’ll have more time later. But, I challenge each of us to look at our lives and realize we’re on a one-way trip. What do we really want to accomplish while we’re here? What will bring us joy? What on our list is worth making a priority? What can we let go?

When you decide what’s important to you, revisit it daily. Spend time with your goals if you want to make them realities. You might stumble and fall, but keep getting back up. Move forward a little or a lot everyday, and you’ll make it.

 

 

Sweet Suprise

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To say that a five year old can be impatient is an understatement. For them, the air is still electrified with constant discoveries assailing their senses in the best of ways. They are Magellan, Marco Polo. And the world awaits. How could they stand still? Why should they?

We adults, on the other hand, have spent several decades in conditioning. Our eyes closing to the wonders around us, and we would-be visionaries grew up to have mortgages and car payments, too many to-dos, toilets to be scrubbed and schedules to keep. We barely have time for sleep, let alone for dreaming. Really dreaming.

A few months ago, my little family and I were standing in line on a soccer field, waiting for my son to have his picture taken. The adults, myself included, were standing and staring, reining in the occasional stray child. The nonconformist rebels.

My son and his little friend were trying so hard to be still. “But Mommy, my body is telling my brain that it just can’t stay still much longer!”

Then, it happened. Her words came out of my mouth, unbidden. My mother telling my son and his friend to sit and look for a four-leafed clover. As she had told me to do countless times in a life long past.

Their bodies were still, for the most part, and their wills were occupied.

The little patch of clover at our feet that I don’t really remember seeing in the first place, was dotted with miscreant dandelions. Pretty patches of yellow in a sweet patch of green. They looked and looked, but never found a four-leaf. But during his search, my son occasionally picked a dandelion or two, and a couple of fragrant clover blossoms, and gave them to me.

“Mommy, I picked these just for you! Will you keep them forever?” Blue eyes hopeful.

“Yes, of course I’ll keep them forever.” A hug and a kiss, and a mother’s hand brushing against his freckled cheek.

I hold onto them for a while, then tuck them into the little side pocket of my purse.

Today, I was looking for something. A boring, grown-up something that I knew was in there somewhere.

Frustrated, I take everything out. Wadded up napkins, receipts, a pen, more receipts and some loose change.

My fingers scrape the bottom seam, and there’s something not a penny, or a Tide stain stick. Something soft and delicate, dry and crumply.

I draw it out. My little wilted waiting bouquet.

It had survived months in the crucible of my life on the go. Pounded down, smothered, by bills and checks and keys and my cell phone. Day. After. Day.

Still, they have color, and fragrance, and shape. Identity.

We were all Magellan once. I think we all are still. Where are you keeping your dreams? Your mind’s occupations? Are they dormant, glazed over by an “I want coffee,” “when will this day be over,” or an “I’m so tired?”

Go. Outside. Breathe Deep. Look for the four-leaves in your life. Look up. Look down. Search. If you don’t find one, it’s okay. You’ll find something else. Just keep your heart open.

The Making of a Memoir

ImageAs some of you may know, I’ve been working on a memoir for the last 2 years or so. While I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 5 or 6 years old, I never intended to write a memoir. I thought they were reserved for celebrities or renowned movers and shakers — great minds, innovators, etc. You know, people who’ve made a contribution to the arts or humanity in general.

I am not a celebrity, nor am I a “mover-and-shaker.” I’m just a woman who was a girl with a story to tell.

I’ve written most of my life, writing my first short story in maybe the first grade. I like stories of all kinds, as long as they’re good stories.

When I began writing my memoir, I was actually elbows deep in another project that had completely captured my heart – a fantasy trilogy. Then, I got the call that my mother had been diagnosed with Leukemia, and my mind drifted back in time, flitting in and out of memories that mama had always meant to write down, but didn’t. I decided I would write them down for her, and quickly realized that I wasn’t able to write her story. I had to write my story, and by telling about my life, I would be able to share her life in mine.

So, I set about writing. Joy, pain, suffering, victories, loss, and change.

It has been difficult. I relive moments of my childhood through my grown up filter, and I’m overcome with respect, compassion and understanding for my family that I couldn’t see before. I see my mother’s actions now as a mother myself, and so many things make more sense. I value the journey, and attempt to honor the past.

But, I doubt.

I doubt my talents and skill. I doubt the value of my words, the significance of my endeavor. Will it offer anything to the world, to my readers? Will I do justice to the past? Will I honor my mother?

Then, a friend asked me a simple question. Why are you writing this memoir? You’re wanting to make a contribution, right?

Yes. A contribution.

It may not be published. It may not be praised. It may not receive a Pulitzer.

But all those things are reactions to my work that are out of my control. My job is to create and give. A part of myself, my history, experience DNA – this is what my experience was, and this was my reaction. Maybe it will help you if I share it. Maybe I can contribute to your life.

An offering. A gift.

Do you have something to contribute? Have you been hesitating? Do you doubt?

Remember that there is a purity to a gift given without expectation. When we do our best and offer the world a bit of ourselves unselfishly, good things happen. How can they not?

Be encouraged. Embrace the journey and the things you learn along the way. As you give, you grow, and isn’t that part of the joy?

 

The Journey, February 26, 2014, I gave up diet soda!

Sugar by any other name…

Imagejust isn’t sugar.

So, 6 days ago I decided it was time to give up diet soda. Brilliant, right? I wasn’t really happy with my decision. It was more of a deep-seated recognition that I needed to do something different. I needed to drink something different. Like, something that didn’t taste like liquid Raid.

You may be asking, “Marilyn, why would you drink something that you don’t like?”

Excellent question. As a matter of fact, I have been asking myself the same thing for, oh, the last 25 years or so.

I didn’t start drinking diet soda until later in my high school years. Prior to that, I drank things like iced tea (strong, no sugar), milk, juice, water, and the occasional Coc’-Cola, which, by the way, is my favorite carbonated beverage. Once in a while, I would play refined and have a nice cup of Earl Grey with cream and sugar. But diet pop? Ugh. Until…

Somewhere around the age of 16, I decided that my size 10 Irish/Italian curves could benefit from a bit of slimming down. Mind you, being a size 10 in 1986 wasn’t a bad thing. There were no size 2, 1, 0 or 00 to obsess over in the Wal-Mart Lees for Her section. But, what if…I was thinner, would I get asked out more? Uhm, no. Even after my conversion to diet soda, I only went out on a date like twice in my entire high school career. — junior and senior proms – with guy “friends.” And, honestly, after looking back at old pictures documenting my size 8-10 fluctuation over those years, I don’t really think my size was what kept me from getting asked out, but that’s a different post entirely.

But, what really matters is that at the time, I thought it was why I didn’t get asked out. So, I drank diet soda by default. Real soda was for people who didn’t have weight problems. Right?

Ahem. Well, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s not necessarily about what I eat or don’t eat, or what I drink or don’t drink. It’s about portion and variety and self control.

For over two decades, I have consoled myself with something I didn’t really like, but felt that I deserved because what if I couldn’t control myself with the “real thing?” What if I stopped drinking diet soda and gained weight?

Well, guess what? Drinking diet soda didn’t keep me from gaining weight, and it wasn’t the “secret weapon” back when I was thinner. I gained weight because my input exceeded my output. When I was thin, my output exceeded my input. Period.

I’ve been drinking alternative beverages for 6 days now, and I haven’t gained an ounce. (Yay, me!) And guess what else? I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had to drink. Milk, iced tea, water, vanilla chai, and the occasional Coc’-Cola. 🙂 And an unanticipated bonus? A fuzziness that I didn’t realize was there seems to have lifted from my brain. BOOM! How cool is that?

What’s the takeaway from my a-ha moment? Don’t be afraid to try something different. Change course just a little bit. Be brave. Be wild and crazy. Be daring. Go left instead of right. Try a vanilla chai. It might just be worth it 🙂

Irreplaceable

One of my favorite quotes is credited to renowned 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde.

He advised, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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Dying Star Photographed by the Hubble Telescope

My first husband had a saying, too. A bit more Poe than Wilde, his words were the cautionary, “You can be replaced.”

The glorious truth? I am many things, but replaceable I am not. And neither are you.

Sure, most any woman would be capable of keeping house, running errands, and taking care of things in general. But all the little things that make up who I am are the sum total of my DNA, my life experiences, and how I’ve chosen to respond to those experiences. Never before, and never again will there be another Marilyn Elizabeth Luce Robertson who is like me. I am one of a kind – irreplaceable, for all of time.

Recently having lost my mother to leukemia and congestive heart failure, I have understandably been thinking a lot about life, purpose, and the brevity of our window of influence on our world and fellow man. I’ve been spending some time in the past, remembering good and bad and relishing both because it was real and true and mine – my life with my mother, who was irreplaceable, too.

I have also been thinking about the future. My future as well as the future my mother stepped into just over three weeks ago. I’ve been reading a variety of accounts about heaven by believers and non-believers alike. I even watched a video clip of the transcendent theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking describing his belief on the afterlife, which is that it is non-existent. He explained that he sees the body as a highly complex computer that eventually shuts down. And, when it shuts down, that’s the end of it.

Be assured that I have neither the desire nor the ability to debate Mr. Hawking, one of the premiere minds of the last century at least. No, I will not debate Mr. Hawking. However, me being me, I must beg to enter the conversation in my own way, here on my little blog. I don’t even want to approach the idea of heaven. I want to start with the basics – the belief that we do or do not have a soul, which Mr. Hawking seems to believe that we do not.

I would argue that a computer does not have a presence, as a person does. Any intelligence that it has, has been created on it’s behalf. It does not have a hunger for knowledge or a need for relationships. It doesn’t dream of flying or exploring beyond the stars. It does not know jealousy, compassion or love. Even advances in artificial intelligence are only the product of man’s invention and intervention. I do not see the logic in using the creation to define the creator. Even we Christians do not do that. We believe we were made in God’s image, and we strive to reflect His character. It’s not the other way around.

About now, I am guessing that you are asking yourself what Stephen Hawking’s spiritual view has to do with  Oscar Wilde and my ex-husband. Where is Marilyn going with this?  Don’t worry, I have a plan 🙂

One of my favorite laws of physics states that two forms of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. When a computer dies, we put it in the trash, take it to a recycling center, or stow it in the garage to save for parts. It does not transform of it’s own accord. Unlike, say, a star. When a star dies, it changes form and in most cases, it eventually explodes, sending all the things that it once was out into the galaxy.

If I had to explain the spiritual side of death scientifically, I think I would do it this way. When a person dies, everything they were goes someplace else, not totally unlike a star. When I explained it to my 5 year old son, I told him that when Grandma died, God gave all the parts of her that belonged to the earth back to the earth, and that He took all the parts of her that He breathed into her, like her personality and charisma, her humor and love, all the things that made her irreplaceable, back to heaven with Him.

I think that makes a lot more sense. Sorry, Mr. Hawking. Even Transformers believe in the AllSpark.

Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.

For my mother…

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My soon to be 80-years old mother has battled illness for most of my life. Even now, she is in a hospital several hours and miles of snow-covered road away from where I am.

Over the years, she has battled Diabetes, Congestive Heart Failure, Degenerative Disk Disease, Arthritis, Esophageal illness, and endured many, many surgeries. As if all these weren’t enough, just a couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. Thankfully, she has been in remission for  just over a year.

Her current condition is a result of a seemingly innocuous injury that, combined with the complexities of her other health challenges, has developed into a very painful and threatening situation. A hematoma developed on her leg and ruptured, broke through the skin, and despite immediate medical attention, is not healing properly. She has been transferred to a large, metropolitan hospital where her oncologist and other specialists are able to address the situation and, hopefully, produce a positive outcome.

If you know my mother, you know that she is a fighter. Even her name, Marcella, means female warrior in Latin.  I almost laugh out loud when people meet my mom for the first time and tell me what a quiet, sweet and soft person she is. Of course, she can be soft and quiet, and sweet, but she is also a she-bear in the shadows, prepared to protect and defend to the last claw, if necessary. Has she always been this way? I don’t know. As far back as I can remember? Yes.

In the face of all our family stories, funny, fantastic, or tragic, she has been there. The she-bear. Of course, she is human, too 🙂 There are weaknesses, as there are for all of us. But, they are all wrapped up in this vibrating ball of fur and claws, and her sheer will to survive always wins. Always.

I could tell you lots of stories about her. Stories of hard times, stories of heart ache, stories of victory, stories of making something out of nothing, and of making the best out of something, anything. And, one day, I will share some of those stories. But, for now, consider this a little introduction from me to you, of the most strong-willed woman I have ever known.

Now, today, as she fights, as she braces her will against the forces of nature that would seek to lay us all to waste in time, I imagine the fur bristling. Her Madeira Wine painted nails growing long and thin and sharp. Fight on, Mama. Fight on. I am there with you, in spirit. We will fight together, side by side.

Loving you…