On Mourning Transitions (Or When Life is Different but Beautiful)

It's happened at least three times. 

The first time, Russ and I had just moved into our shiny new apartment with natural light everywhere. Hope felt like a living breathing thing we could touch. I remember snapping a picture of the apartment number — 126 — and posting it on Instagram. 

"New beginnings," it said. 

And we all know new beginnings mean starting over. 

I had this vision of me art journaling in my office with the natural light falling into the room, dancing off the walls and my paper. I would sit in that chair — right there in the corner — and write through the night, until my heart had spoken her piece. We would finally bring home our baby to this space, too. I knew that in my bones but couldn't tell you how or when or why.

But it wasn't like this. Not really. 

Two weeks after we moved, I texted a friend. 

"MAYDAY. I can't create. What is happening?!" 

Her response was quick. 

"You need to mourn this transition, braveheart." 

It was the first time I had ever heard of "mourning" a season. This transition my husband and I were in was a good thing. Wouldn't we celebrate it? 

"All transition is a loss," she told me. "Even if it's bringing you into something good — something better." 

Oh. Well. That changes things. 

We were experiencing loss — definitely. Loss of a dream. Loss of a goal. Loss of friendship. Even though the loss was initiated through our decision making because of what we knew we needed as a family, a loss is a loss. It still stung. And when she sent me these words, I realized everything I'd been trying to forget. 

The second time it happened was a little more brutal. I stepped into freedom, but lost a business. With that particular loss, the relief of letting go felt like breath and space to stretch into who I am meant to be, but it also looked like betrayal and whispers behind my back. I can think of that season now as The Burning Season: everything around me burnt to ash, but with it came growth I never anticipated. Because of that season, I found myself working for a company I've always admired from the distance. 

I also wrote Secrets Don't Keep as an answer to the gumption that made its way into my veins during those few months. 

I'm living the third season now.

It's a season where Creativity looks so much different than it did before.

I cannot stay up until 2am writing anymore. I haven't art journaled since August. Last time I was able to color my hair was at the beginning of January. I haven't gotten my nails done since February, when Russ and Jubal were in North Carolina. This past month we did shift bids at work and I didn't have the freedom to choose the schedule I would prefer: I had to think about when Russ worked, when he hoped to be working, and what that meant for childcare before I chose the schedule that would best fit our family.

There is not a day where it's feasible for me to jump in the Subaru and drive the 45 minutes to see one of my best friends who I haven't seen since January. Right now, because I'm training a class at work, my life consists of waking up, snuggling with my son, going to work, coming home, and snuggling him some more before he falls asleep. After that, my weekends are my space to create, and usually this looks like one day of Netflix binging (to recuperate from the week) and one day of writing and reading.

I used to be able to pick up a book and collapse into the pages, finishing it by the end of the day. Not anymore. Now I rely on the quiet space of a sleeping six month old and (sometimes) the empty conference room during my lunch at work. 

Even though I have my hopes of space to create during the weekend, sometimes it's not done at all because mama needs a nap, too. And that's okay.

My husband and I haven't gone on a date since March, and that was to Target and Dairy Queen. And this isn't for lack of babysitters or trying. We have incredible people who've offered, multiple times, to step in and give us a night. But our schedules are completely opposite — both in day and time — so we can spread out the availability of caring for Jubal. While I'm training a class, I see him just as much as I see my son. After I put Jubal to bed I normally collapse on the couch against Russ for about 30 minutes — if we're lucky — before I have to drag myself to bed.

In this season, we cannot make sudden decisions anymore. We cannot go to the movies anymore. We cannot leave for weekend trips anymore. We cannot use our extra cash toward replacing necessary items for us anymore (mostly because extra cash? Ha. What is that?) 

Basically, we cannot live the way we did before.

And this is a loss. It took me a while for me to admit this — to whisper to myself that I miss having time and space to think and create. I fought a lot of guilt and a buckets of shame because I should be grateful — so very grateful — for this gift of a season. 

And I am. Completely. I didn't understand why I felt this way when in reality, I didn't want to go back to how life was before little lion came into it. I'd rather have him than space to myself any day of the week. Then I started thinking — I didn't want to go back to any of the other seasons, either. 

If I've learned anything through the process of bringing Jubal home, it's that you can hold multiple emotions all at the same time. The human psyche and heart are nuanced and layered and so very difficult to capture. When I hold my son I waited six and a half years for, I'm not thinking, "I'd rather be reading or writing or creating." It is all him. All I can focus on are his eyes, his smirk, his laughter.

But in moments of quiet, when I open a book or sit in front of my computer to pen some words, I realize I miss that piece of me and I'm glad that for a moment, I'm getting to spend some time with her. As I write this, he's sleeping. I'm able to focus. I remember how much I miss the feel of being in the flow when words come without me even trying. I think about how great it would be to have a day to myself — how many words would I be able to write then? Even as I think this, I know the truth: probably not a lot. I'd be thinking about Jubal. Wondering if he was okay. Texting Russ to make sure he didn't need anything. Brainstorming about something fun we can do as a family when I get home and remembering our jam sessions that have quickly become some of Jubal's favorite moments. 

This life I'm living? It's magic. The story we found ourselves this past year in has completely taken our breath away and I am daily thankful for the gift of loving little lion. I am grateful for all of the seasons before this one and how they prepared us to become a family that loves hard and lives to join forces with those breathing life into new things.

Our life last year was good. 

Our life this year is better. 

And for that, I give thanks. 

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Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Art: The Demanding Mistress

There’s no way around it: Art is a demanding mistress. 

She’ll wake you in the middle of the night. She’ll have you falling asleep at the crack of dawn only to get you out of bed a few hours later. When Art visits, there’s nothing else you can do.

This is a lie I used to believe.

Now I know that Art, and her twin Inspiration, visit quietly. This is different than silent. There is no sneak attack of words these days, no looking over my shoulder for when an idea will slap me upside the head. I know now that she sounds like the trees rustling in the wind or the distant rumble of thunder in a summer storm. She sounds like my husband breathing in the middle of the night. She sounds like the sound of a laugh that comes from the gut, eyes wide shut in glee. 

And if I’m honest with myself, when an idea comes to me, I feel the weight of the roots internally.  Ideas do not come on a whim, they breathe and grow and learn our grooves. The succulent ones take over and make themselves known. The titillating ones — the ones meant to distract — they grow with abandon but have nothing holding them down. It’s why they tickle. There’s no substance there and they feel like a feather across your insides.

But here’s the thing: I know that if I’m not careful, I can miss Art in how she comes to me. My first clue is an erratic sleep schedule — up earlier than I should to hit the daily grind (and not to read and write) and falling asleep in the pitch black hours of night, mostly because I’ve been glued to Netflix.

I become a zombie. Get up, scroll through Facebook, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch Netflix, fall asleep. Art keeps me alive. She fills my lungs with poetry and beauty. I never lose sight of my purpose.

When Art goes silent, I know Fear has taken her place. 

It can happen for a number of reasons: my schedules goes haywire; I’m faced with a crisis; I receive a criticism; I question my story.

Regardless of why he shoed up, there’s always one thing true: when Fear takes root he demands our attention. It’s easy to talk yourself out of creating in this moment. 

You’re too tired and want to sleep.
You want to stay up and read this book.
You need to clean the kitchen instead.

Or, you don’t even need to talk yourself out of creating. Usually, when Fear has come to stay, I am so easily distracted by social media. I wake up early to write and then scroll through Facebook until I have to leave for work. I sit down to finally write a blog post but then get caught reading every one else’s words instead of creating my own. 

Art keeps our vision straight toward the horizon. This provides movement. Fear keeps our vision peripheral. This keeps us stuck. 

If you feel stuck, if the frustration is getting higher and higher and you feel a little suffocated, ask yourself —

what is it I’m afraid of here?

Get quiet. Go still. Stay in this position until you hear the answer and resist the judgment and shame that may surface.

Every artist faces fear at some point in the career. For me, I have to face him down daily. But looking him in the eye brings the power back to you. Looking him in the eye and demanding an answer shifts the momentum and allows space for Art to breathe again. 

Remember: art is not a demanding mistress. She waits for the signal. 

So if you’re struggling because you’re not a writer….
Or if you feel the tightness in your chest because there’s just never enough time….
Or if the thoughts are pinging about you having nothing to say….

You have a story that needs to be told….and only you can tell it. 
Fear keeps our breath short and lacking….breathe deep and remember you have all the space you need.
Fear likes to grow in urgency and need….if you go still in order to find words you will not be forgotten.

Don’t let fear win.

You are a storyteller. There is time for you to breathe. And you absolutely have something to say.

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Do you enjoy my writing? Come join me over at Patreon where I'm creating exclusive content and giving away my manuscripts as I write them. 

Posted on May 11, 2017 and filed under Building Your Craft.

Finding Your Muse: The Secrets of Trees

My mother has always been a bit of a mystic.

I remember summers spent in the Idaho mountains, reading a book by kerosene lamp in a one-room cabin in the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains. During the day, while my great grandfather would be herding cattle on more treacherous cliffs and rivers, my mother would stay behind with my sisters and me. I was content with the mountainous view and book in my hand, but I also knew she wouldn't abate until I followed her outside so I would often agree, albeit with a curled lip and frustrated whispers.

She wanted us to learn how to climb mountains and listen to trees. Every time, she'd remind us why.

"Sometimes in life you'll feel like you're climbing and hiking a huge mountain and there's no ending in sight," she would say.

I'd roll my eyes and whine about the dry valley heat and how if I'd seen one sagebrush, I'd seen them all.

"But look," she'd respond, pointing ahead. I'd follow her gaze and widen my eyes at the way the mountain peeks jutted up right there next to us — so close it seemed as if we could touch them. The air, once dusty and dry and heated, would begin to slowly carry the sweetness of melted snow dripping from nearby creek beds. We'd walk, I'd complain, she'd point out beauty.

And sometimes, she'd stop and close her eyes and a smile would play on her lips. "What are the trees saying to you, Elora?"

I'd bite a fingernail and raise an eyebrow. "What are the trees....saying?"

She'd nod.

I'd shrug, embarrassed. I'd kick at the dirt underneath my boots. 

"Trees don't talk, mom." 

"The trees will tell you secrets of God." She'd open her eyes and wink at me before walking away, my trailing behind her. "But you have to listen."

.::.

I listen to trees now. It's been over ten years since I've walked the red dirt of the Sawtooth Mountains or stood in the midst of a wooded meadow in the crisp air of sunrise, but trees and mountains and wind — they're all secret messages in their own right, carrying with them the Muse I so desperately need in order to get the words up and out of this soul.

"How do I share this story?" I'll ask the cloudless sky as I feel the summer heat radiating off my limbs and hear my dog rummaging through the dead leaves falling from the oaks surrounding me.

"Just tell the truth." The whisper is faint, but evident.

Just tell the truth.

And with that truth, a secret is unlocked and in its place rests my Muse, contented smile on her face while she listens to the songs of the branches swaying in the wind and the crash of the ocean wave. 

.::.

I was holding Jubal one day, the sun bright in the crystal blue sky. We walked around our back yard, his eyes always landing on the tree across the alleyway, leaves blowing in the wind. He'd blink fast, transfixed, his breath slowing.

I kissed his cheek.

"Here's a secret you should probably know, little lion. The trees will tell you things if you listen closely." I study the way he watches the leaves dance across the sky and I smile. 

Things to Consider:

Think back to moments in your life where your Muse began to introduce herself to you. For me, it is the summers spent between desert and mountain — crisp sunlit air and dusty-mid day heat. What about you? 

Grab My Book! 

This book is for the creative who knows you have a story to tell but you have no idea where to start.
Let me help you: you don't have to wait for the gatekeepers anymore. 

The time for your book is now. There is no excuse. You know this — you feel it in your bones. That's what this book is for — that's why I wrote it. 

Ready to begin?

Find it here on Amazon.

Posted on May 9, 2017 and filed under Building Your Craft, Soul Care, The Memoirs.