Up Shit Creek without a Paddle. Or, the Susquehanna River.

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Skygazing. Because it’s pretty.

July 6th marked exactly one year since I sold my house. The day of the closing, I had just left my only stable source of income and was trying to get used to the idea of being single again for the first time in nearly six years. Immediately after signing the papers, I called a friend, bought a bottle of champagne, and waded into the Susquehanna River with all my clothes on to get drunk and look at the sky.

Yeah.

How everything got to that point is a story all its own (which I know you’re dying to read about when I eventually finish Venus Retrograde), but needless to say, I had no idea what was going to happen next in my life, nor did I have the interest or stamina to figure something out.

A year later, I’ve done a lot of things that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d stayed on track with the life I’d originally thought I’d have. Instead of shacking up in an old renovated Philly house with my long-term boyfriend, planning nuptials or babies or both, I’ve gotten to travel for a total of four of the last twelve months, (including six weeks wandering around Europe – for free!*), learned a new language, started a book, discovered the impacts of lying by omission, laughed, cried, orgasmed (sorry, Mom), made new friends, lost old ones, seen weddings, births, and funerals, and I still don’t have a damn clue about what I’m doing next.

I am happy and I am broke, and I don’t know if that’s progress or pathetic, but at least it’s living. It’s been an interesting year for sure, and though it’s not where I’d thought I’d be, it turns out it was much better than the alternative.

I made the choice a year ago to hold off on making plans for a while, since all the plans I’d set in place for the previous 10 years went up in a fiery shitball of flames. To rush into making more plans not only seemed pointless and exhausting, but a blatant fire hazard.

After a year of floating wherever the open sea of opportunity took me, however, it’s now time to find my ass a paddle and figure out where I’m going next. I don’t know what it is yet, but either my instincts or my wallet is telling me that something new is on the horizon and I need to be ready when it gets here. It would certainly be easier if I knew what the hell I was getting ready for, but I’m still a hippy and fear the wrath of telling the Universe what to do.

I’ll keep you posted on any updates, homies.

*Ok, almost free. For six weeks, including flights to Italy, transportation within Europe, food, tours, lodging, and booze, I had to chip in about $350. Which is nearly free in my book. More on that later.

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I Do (Re-)Declare

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Copies of My last blog posts, circa 1763.

 

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I go into panic mode. In fact, sometimes even just thinking about writing it makes my heart turn sideways in that uncomfortable, nauseating sort of way. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes it’s so awful that when I decide to go write, I promptly realize that my bookshelf is in desperate need of a good dusting or that it’s a really good time to go out back and pick up dog shit.

Ya hear that? Dog shit. As if there were ever a “really good time” to pick up dog shit.

So my question is, What the f**k is the deal with that, Universe? Here I am, knowing that I can and will (eventually) write this incredible book/blog post/birthday card, yet every time I sit down to write, I don’t. I’ve been given this wonderful gift, yet it’s been coupled with an irrational fear of parking it at my computer and actually writing something.

If, by now, you’ve read some of my earlier posts (and if not, you’re dead to me), then you will already know that I believe in chakras, astrology, and all that other weird hippy shit. Most importantly, I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with my Bitch Chakra which prevents me from being as consistent and productive as I would like to be. Despite my earlier declarations of getting my third chakra in check (i.e. posting on this blog every week, keeping a schedule, staying on top of my water intake) the Bitch has prevailed. I haven’t posted on this here blog since March – March! – and I am also dehydrated to an unacceptable degree.

Sure, I’ve been a very busy bee these last few months, so it’s not just the terrifying feeling of writing that has stopped me from posting. But still, this blogging thing has not exactly gone as planned. Rather than accept defeat, however, I am going to be bold in my endeavors and re-declare my intentions. Same intentions, different day. I have returned from the depths of the interwebs and will be blogging and writing regularly once again.

Don’t get me wrong – I realize I’m swimming in Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf territory here. If I said I’m going to do this once before and failed, then what’s to stop me from failing again? And will anyone keep reading what I have to say by the time I actually follow through with writing it?

I can’t say if I will stumble again, but what I do know is that right now, I can either say I failed and quit, or decide that I haven’t failed and keep going. I may be a slow poke, but I’m not keen on quitting. So there it is, Reader. You’re stuck with me. It’s time for me to once again deal with this extraordinarily uncomfortable fear of writing and get this book done. Whether or not you stick with me, of course, is up to you. But if you’re down, I’ve just spent six weeks fluttering around Europe and have some sweet stories you’re gonna want to hear all about 😉

See? I really wasn’t lying when I said I’ve been busy…

Caffeinated Consciousness

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My secret to meditation success

 

For the last several weeks, I’ve been trying to meditate every day, usually in the morning before I get crackin’ on my computer. Meditation can be a funny thing. As soon as the word comes up, most people fall into one of two categories: either they commend your efforts and wish they had the discipline to meditate regularly, or they think you’re a pretentious weirdo. (For the record, my discipline is atrocious, I am a weirdo, and whether or not I’m pretentious is probably up to you.) Meditation can be a silently polarizing topic, which is crazy when you consider that it comprises of sitting down and doing nothing at all. What could possibly be more neutral than that?

Still, sitting down to meditate can be one of the hardest things to do.

Just sit here? You want me to sit here and do nothing at all? Like, not a thing?

Why is it so hard?! Back when I was going through my yoga teacher training in 2009, part of our ‘OM’work (yogis love puns) was to meditate every day to help us stay open and grounded. I never did it. Then, our instructor gave me the personal ‘OM’work to meditate double the time we had originally been assigned. I didn’t do that either. It’s not that I didn’t want to meditate; I just found myself procrastinating, promising myself to do it a little later in the day, or maybe right before I went to sleep, or, hey, at this point I might as well just wait ’til tomorrow. And so on.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t realize that meditation is actually a lot like yoga. There are lots of different styles and techniques, and I simply wasn’t using one that was right for me. Everybody told me that the best time of the day to meditate is right after waking up. So every time I tried to meditate, I stumbled right from bed to chair, set a timer, and sat in silence for the next several minutes. Inevitably, I fell right back asleep until the timer went off, and if it was a really good day, I just shut the timer off and went back to bed. Clearly, that was not my ideal meditation strategy.

Recently, though, I’ve been making some progress with guided meditations that I got for free online. My favorite ones come from Deepak Chopra, who regularly offers 21-Day Meditation Challenges for the spiritually inept like myself. Each one lasts around 15 minutes and starts out with a fun little nugget of thought to help you get in the right mindset for meditation. These “Centering Thoughts,” as he calls them, include “I use my conscious intention to manifest my dreams,” and “I create my personal abundance from an infinite source.” Now that I write them out, they look a little heavy, but Deepak gives a nice little pep talk to help put each one into perspective. Finally, there is a little time for ‘going into the silence,’ although they always provide some white noise to remind you the recording’s still on. After five minutes or so, our pal Deepak wraps things up by restating our centering thought, then he pushes us out of the nest and into our day.

I’ve been pretty consistent with Deepak’s meditations for almost a month now because I’ve shifted the responsibility of setting the timer and coming up with some perspective onto him instead of me. I’ve also figured out that I need to give myself about 10 minutes to wake up before I start, and I allow myself a little crutch by holding a mug of coffee in my hands during the meditation. Sometimes I don’t even drink it, but just knowing I’ve got a warm cup of life blood in my hands helps me feel like I can get through the next 15 minutes of not doing anything. It’s my meditation security blanket, and if you have any interest in trying out meditation for yourself, you might want to find one, too.

Even though I’ve only been meditating a few minutes each morning, I must say I’ve been finding myself more even-keeled and open-minded throughout the day. Whether you want to meditate or not is none of my beeswax, but if you are interested, you can check out the Chopra Center meditations here. For some reason, Oprah got involved this time around, so you’ll have to deal with her brief but unnecessary summary before each meditation. Or, if Oprah makes your ears bleed, just go find a nice quiet place to sit down for a few minutes and empty out your brainspace. Just make sure you set an alarm to wake you back up.

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Oprah gettin’ all up in my meditation business

Curious about meditation? Have questions or comments? Post ’em below!

Getting Mooned

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A Happy Birthday wink from me to you

 

Over the last year – even before shit hit the proverbial fan in my life- I’ve really started to open up to the concept of astrology. If you’re anything like me, it’s quite likely that you view things like astrology, tarot readings, and superstition as a bunch of hot-aired nonsense made up by hippies and Californians. How could all the people born within a month of me have the same personality? I’d ask. How does the day I was born have anything to do with the fine specimen of an individual I am today?

I agree that there are plenty of swindlers and liars in astrology land; but really, the same’s true for just about any other field – business, banking, government, medicine, you name it. As a yoga teacher, however, I have had plenty of access to hippies and Californians who have been more than happy to direct me to some of the more respected and authentic leaders in astrology and the like.

I didn’t go looking for a reason to like this stuff, but I’m beginning to learn that whenever the Universe wants to have her way with me, my resistance is futile. It’s like trying to see Lindsay Lohan sober or a Kardashian with all her clothes on. That shit’s just not gonna happen.

Despite my original reservations, I have drunk the karmic kool-aid and now consider astrology to be an important guide in figuring out how I’m going to navigate the insanity of life. (There will be plenty more about this in the aptly-named Venus Retrograde, the book I’m currently working on. Prepare to be amazed. Or at least mildly amused.)

All this brings me to today, March 11th, when the new moon rises in Pisces and kicks off the official start of my fresh, new astrological year. Tomorrow is also my birthday, and while I have never before given a rat’s ass about whether or not my birthday coincided with a particular phase of the moon, all the important horoscopes for this month have warned me that there is a LOT going on.

This month is one for the record books, I’m told, due to the sheer number of planets that are hanging around in my sign and where they plan to go for the next few weeks, months, and years. I can’t pretend like I actually understand all this stuff, but what I know so far is that my horoscopes have been absolutely spot on for the last couple of weeks, and if things continue to go this way, shit is about to get real. In addition to what one astrologer is calling a “Monster Moon” coming up on the 27th, it seems that whatever I end up putting together during the next couple of weeks has the potential to affect not only the entire next year, but possibly the rest of my life. No pressure there, Planets.

In truth, there are a small handful of things I’ve got going on that have some serious potential in all areas of my life. I certainly have no idea what will manifest or what I will need to deal with, but it’s safe to say I’m equally terrified and excited about whatever’s going to happen next. If there’s one thing I learned during the last year, it’s that things will work out much easier if I create the space for them to happen without forcing anything along.

Who knows whether I’ll actually be able to follow through with that plan or if I’ll just self-implode from horoscope-induced anxiety, because right now, it feels like the latter. Either way, I’ll keep you lovely readers apprised of what works, what doesn’t, and whatever funny shit happens in the meantime over the next few weeks and months. Stay tuned.

I May or May Not Currently Be Naked

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I like my chairs like I like my houses – Empty

At the end of last week, I started a blog post about joining a writers’ group. I made it a few paragraphs in before I got stuck, thought about something else, and never finished the piece or posted it online. And that, dear reader, is exactly what I’ve been afraid of: getting distracted and not finishing my work.

“Work” is a funny word these days. I get up every weekday around 10ish (don’t hate…I have no timecards or babies to worry about), drink my large glass of water, then spend the rest of the day in front of my computer, hammering away at what needs to be done. Between writing, reading, reading about writing, blogging, marketing, and learning Italian (more on that later), I still hardly have time to run my business, practice yoga, and handle all the stuff that greases the wheels of my life: grocery shopping, walking the dog, finding a NJ health insurance policy I can actually afford, etc.

While no self-respecting lady of nearly 30 years old actually wants to live with her parents, I am extraordinarily lucky to have a warm, dry, and occassionally clean place to do all these things. Without my parents’ generosity and spare bedrooms, I would have neither the time nor the luxury of working on some of the big goals I’ve set for myself. Getting this book done will require a tremendous amount of time and focus, and if I have to sacrifice a chunk of my privacy and a few ounces of sanity for a rent-free place to sleep and work on my book, so be it.

That said, I am thrilled that for the next week, I will be the only human in the house while my parents are on vacation in New England. There is nothing like the freedom of having a place to myself again, even if it’s only for a few days. I have already planned a party for the weekend, turned the living room into a makeshift office/yoga studio, and triumphantly strolled around the house completely naked – and they’ve only been gone for a day.

Parties and nudity aside, I’m hoping this week looks a lot more like Writer’s Gone Wild than Spring Break. I’m already enjoying the solitude and hope it helps me stay focused on writing and reading throughout the week. If I get distracted, there’s no one else here to turn on a TV, strike up a conversation, or ask me to run an errand. I only need to look after myself and my dog, and there’s a beautiful simplicity to that when we’re the only ones around. Hopefully I’ll wrap up the week with a nice chunk of my ‘work’ finished, and even if I’m just as broke as I was the week before, I’ll be one step closer to accomplishing my goal. I guess you’ll need to sign up for my email updates (see sidebar, top left) or follow me on Twitter to find out. If nothing else, at least we know I’ve finally finished up this blog post!

Bees, Beer, and Writing Life Stories

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My striking rendition of the first neighborhood I lived in. That master Hula Hooper standing in the street is me.

Being a writer is a funny thing. Saying you’re a writer is even stranger. When I was an editor at my first job after college, I managed a small handful of freelance writers to help us out with some of the less interesting interviews and articles we needed for our magazine. Even though I was just out of school and still had some things of my own to learn (Passive Voice, you bastard), I was utterly amazed at how bad some of the submissions were from some of those supposed writers. Back in college, there were always some people in English or communications classes who just couldn’t seem to string together a coherent paragraph. But these freelancers were real adults, sloppily tossing the ‘writer’ label around like it was body paint at a yoga festival. How dare they, I thought. Don’t they know how bad this is?

No, I now realize – they did not know. If they did, they sure didn’t give a rat’s ass. But more importantly, it also didn’t matter what they called themselves. If they wanted to be writers and were making money putting words together, who was I to have a vote on what they label themselves? Carly Rae Jepsen is just as much of a musician as Robert Plant – they both make music, they both make money doing it, and they both serve the musical needs of somebody, somewhere. [cue John Bonham rolling in his grave…]

What actually does matter is that if I’m going to be a writer, I want to be confident that it’s something I’m good at and that I challenge myself to be the best writer I can be. Whipping out a fun blog post about timelines and snowstorms is one thing, but the craft of writing is something that I know I need to honor and respect à la Zeppelin. It’s been seven years since I graduated from college, and about that long since I’ve really studied and practiced writing as an art form. So this week, I decided that’s what I needed to do. Though it’s going to take far more than a week to work my way through it, I’ve been getting back to the basics with Writing Life Stories, a book about what it takes to craft a story and how to do it in a way that is artful and engaging for the reader. So far, I’ve created a map of the first neighborhood I lived in (above) to help practice jogging memories and written some pretty nifty first paragraphs for the book. It’s just a start, but I now have 300 more words of the first draft of Venus Retrograde than I did last week.

Yes, I am a writing snob; I am also a snob about beer, and am currently considering whether or not I will become a snob about whiskey as well. That doesn’t mean I’m going to insist everyone around me drink better hootch and sign a pledge to leave Miller Light in the frat houses where it belongs. But when it comes to deciding what I want for myself, I’m generally sticking with the microbrews and “Ramble On.” I also want to write an awesome book, and if that means practice, practice, practice, so be it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t catch me dancing my ass of to “Call Me Maybe” or posting some mindless funny business on twitter.

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When I was four, I was walking to a friend’s house when this bee stung me in the foot. He was asshole. (the bee, not the friend)

Snowed In & Making Routines My B*tch

The inefficiencies of an indoor/outdoor hallway in winter.

The inefficiencies of an indoor/outdoor hallway in winter

 

Today is the 5th day I’ve spent cooped up in a small, one-bedroom condo on Cape Cod. The original plan was to pack up and ship out today, but I wasn’t sure I would get as much done as I wanted, so I phoned in a favor and had this handy dandy New England blizzard delivered. ‘Til Monday, it is.

I left the depths of my beloved NJ basement early last week to spend a few days wrapping my head around the concept of writing this here book, as well as to rid myself of some imaginary personal obstacles standing in my way [Routines are not the enemy. Routines will help you get shit done. Positive routines should not consist of drinking two glasses of wine a night. Ice cream is not the answer. And so forth…]. The first several days here were spent sleeping, eating, doing restorative yoga (or “laying around”), and reading books on how to whip my chakras into shape.

chakra (ˈtʃækrə, ˈtʃʌkrə)

noun
(in yoga) any of the seven major energy centres in the body

[C19: from Sanskrit cakra wheel, circle]

As you may know, I am a certified yoga instructor, so things like chakras, ayurveda, and acroyoga have become a semi-regular part of my existence. If you don’t know or care what these are, don’t worry about it. I’ll only bring them up as necessary, and over time I will trick you into understanding and loving them with my bemusing and comical prose.

With that, allow me to draw your attention to the third chakra, which from this day forth I will refer to affectionately as, “My Bitch.” The Bitch chakra is known as your power center, and it’s where you get the energy, drive, and determination to get things done. In the past, the Bitch has not been strong in me. Sure, I’ve accomplished a good deal in my scant 28 years, but when it comes to getting things done regularly and consistently (the dishes, for example, or cleaning up dog shit), I have not had the force of the Bitch on my side.

And thus, my problem: If I ever want to get this book done, it will require an incredible amount of daily focus and commitment. When I’m not writing, I need to be planning, reading, crafting with other writers, or selling my soul to the devil. In order to do all that, I need to get this Bitch chakra in check. That’s why I am now committing to a schedule, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Posting on this blog at least once a week
  • Taking notes and jotting ideas every day
  • Writing consistently throughout the week
  • Reviewing and organizing the book content at least once a month
  • Drinking a full of glass of water upon awakening every morning (lemon & ginger additives optional)

The exciting life of a would-be writer, in bulleted format for your reading pleasure. I know it doesn’t look like much yet, but just think of all the fun you’ve had reading my first two posts. Betcha can’t wait to see what comes next 😉

Also, a final amusing note I’d like to include since my previous (and first) post:

I am a good writer, I am a good editor, and I am a good proofreader; however, I have not yet managed to become a publishing superhero. In most cases, I will be the only person to read, edit, and proof these posts for the foreseeable future.

When you do the literary math on this, it means there will likely be a fair number of typos, errors, and other writing horrors therein. Should you find one of the aforementioned offenses on my blog, consider this your official invitation to shoot me an email or message if you’d like me to correct it. I have no shame in my game, and would be happy to benefit from your sharp editing eye. If you see an error and decide you don’t want to mention it—that is equally fine by me. As long as you understand the general gist of what I’m trying to say, eye think we we’re all going two bee OK.

It begins.

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Hey, you. Thanks for clicking on whatever link it was that got you here. If you’re looking at this, it means you and I already have something in common – we both have at least a vague interest in the book I’m currently working on. See that? Great minds do think alike.

If you don’t already know me, my name is Jackie and I am a writer/editor, yoga instructor, and small business owner from New Jersey. If you do already know me, there’s a decent chance that you’ve already been made aware of the fact that I recently lost my home, income, and relationship over the course of just a few weeks in early summer 2012. If you do know me but didn’t already know those details…sorry for being the bearer of bad news. Hope I didn’t spoil your day.

Considering that I’ve just gone through the trifecta of shitty life changes, it would be realistic to feel the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. I lost all the things that gave me a sense of security and wound up essentially penniless and living back in my parents’ NJ basement. Oy. Yet against all reasonable odds, I have managed to feel happier, lighter, and better than I have in many, many years. I have no idea what I’m doing, how I’m going to pay for anything, or what the future looks like for me, but I feel happy and confident that everything is happening as it should. Despite having none of the things that are supposed to make your average white, middle class American girl happy, I am more fulfilled now than I have ever been.

How did things work out this way? I’m going to tell you…in the form of a highly entertaining and insightful book. For all you non-readers out there: Fear Not. My shit is funny, and you will enjoy yourself. Moreover, I’ve experienced a good deal of exciting and scandalous events that will make their way into the pages of my book, giving you plenty of, “Say What?!” and, “Oh no he didn’t!” moments to look forward to.

Hopefully I’ve hyped up my new project enough by this point that you’re more interested in the book than you were at the beginning of this post. If that’s the case [fingers crossed], I hope you stay tuned on my progress by following this blog and keeping me on my toes with getting everything done. If you’re so inclined, you can sign up for email updates on the left (under “Want email updates?”), and feel free to comment on my posts with any questions, feedback, or backhanded compliments. There are also a few notes on who I am and what the book is about. It will take me a while to get this whole project done, but I’m happy to take whoever’s interested along for the ride.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out. I hope you’re as excited as I am!

-Jackie