A Few Surprises

Nearly one year has passed since I’ve retired, and I haven’t travelled. I’d imagined that I would have gone at least to Italy by now, if not Riyadh, but I’ve become settled and even complacent.  Sharon and I still talk about going back to Riyadh together. Last year we talked about doing it this year, and this year we’re talking about doing it next year.

Another surprise is that I’ve become physically lazy. Instead of going to the gym daily, as I’d intended, I have not even increased my frequency of going two or three times a week, and I’ve certainly not increased the intensity with which I exercise. My body displays this neglect.

One good habit I’ve picked up is going to the masjid for jummah most Fridays. Our new mosque is lovely and clean, and our imam impresses me with wisdom, depth, passion and dedication based upon common sense and thought as well as education.  I’m not much of a Muslim in this country, weak as I am in faith and subject to the influences of non-Muslims around me. This blog has always been a place for me to explore my relationship with religion in general and Islam in particular. I’ve remained somewhat anonymous in order to protect my freedom to explore ideas that would not be appreciated by family members or friends. Now, I’m going to admit that I’ve started to learn about Buddhism.

I’ve always wanted to learn about diverse systems of religious thought, not necessarily to practice but to draw lines of consistency from one to the other. I’ve never abandoned the hope that the best religion is that which espouses whatever runs as a common thread throughout all religions. That would mean something like a Ten Commandments faith system.

Now that I’m retired, I have the time to study all of those Great Courses I’ve accumulated over the years, most of which focus on religion and psychology. I’ve got courses in Buddhism, Judaism,  and Axial Age religions. I’ve got courses on the “great minds” of the Eastern traditions as well as philosophies and psychologies. I chose to begin with the Buddhism course because I’ve been corresponding with a Buddhist who is open and willing to share the experience of that faith, and can answer my questions in a personal way.

Another retirement goal– of returning to the study of Jungian theory and practice– is just now starting to get activated. I once asked my friend Ellen if Depth Psychology could be a religion, because if so, I would join up. She said no.

I met Ellen in Ireland, at the annual Jung in Ireland seminar. I’ve always wanted to go there again. Two days ago I received the brochure for the 2017 seminar, and noticed immediately that it will be conducted at the same place in which it was conducted when I attended back in…2002? I would love to go. Can I afford it? I don’t know yet.

That reminds me of another surprise: I have not resumed studying to become a leader for Progoff’s Intensive Journal. That was to be my post-retirement vocation. I was quite devoted, and spent lots of time and money preparing myself.

Falling away from Journal work occurred organically, in 2007, when several circumstances combined to draw me away. The grandkids started getting born, and my father got ill. Then, Jon Progoff deemed me ready to start leading workshops, even though I hadn’t quite finished the preparatory work. I tried to organize a workshop.

I tried hard, contacting at least four potential sponsors, having meetings, spending time and money courting them, all while still working in the laboratory, and not a single one of them agreed to help me sponsor a workshop. I became discouraged.

Granted, I disliked the public contact, the salesmanship involved, the effort I expended without guarantee of pay-off. I’ve never been a successful salesperson, not from lack of ability or lack of opportunity but for distaste of the process. I’ve tried, even before the Intensive Journal effort. I’ve tried real estate, cars sales, and Shaklee products. Always enthusiastic about the preparatory work, the intellectual effort and the logistics of these activities, I consistently slowed down as I approached the meat and potatoes of salesmanship– interacting with the public.

I thought I’d be successful with the Journal because leading workshops is not about salesmanship. What I learned fast, however, was that organizing workshops was about nothing if not salesmanship, Jon Progoff’s comments notwithstanding. I once told him I disliked sales, and he adamantly asserted that the Journal was not about sales. How many workshops has he organized? I don’t mean sitting at his desk and putting together workshops that other people have started. I mean pavement-pounding.

What my failure to lead workshops means is that I cannot deduct an Ireland trip from taxes because it would not be a continuing education function. It is expensive, and maybe more than necessary because most participants are professionals who deduct the expense.

I’ve achieved yet another failure this year in developing a nice activity that relies upon public content. I’ve opened an on-line store as a sales outlet for my knitwear. I loved the work of establishing the store, but I haven’t sold anything because I haven’t followed through with the tasks necessary to reach the proper customer base, and guess what?

I don’t care. I don’t care if I never sell a single item. The knitting itself has been a joy. One hope remains, and that is in developing my own patterns that I can offer for online purchase. I can set things up so that I don’t ever have to contact with anyone. I simply post the patterns on line and offer them for sale on the appropriate web sites, and wait for sales. I will pursue this line.

My return to knitting in such a big way has been yet another surprise, even though I always knew I’d return to knitting, after retirement. I will also return to sewing, though not until the knitting energy has been dissipated.  I intended only to start knitting items here and there for myself and the kids, but I started looking at patterns and yarns, and realized that knitting can become another art form for me, especially in the designing of patterns. That’s what I’ve been doing all year, and I my first published pattern will come out in December. After this first one, the others are developing nicely and more quickly.

Another surprise is that I haven’t increased my study of my languages, nor have I kept up this blog or any other personal writing. Though I’ve, “got my life back”, as I like to describe retirement, I’ve been somewhat absent from it. Maybe I’m simply on an extended vacation. Maybe I’m still indulging in the decompressive process called retirement.

In any event, I find myself content, and sometimes downright happy.

 

 

Blogging a Book

Blogs, Books, and Good Writing

Blogs and books don’t share much in common, at first glance, but they should share the most important, critical aspect of the written word: good writing. Now that blogs have “grown up” as a literary form, blog authors need to  pay attention to craft.

Nina Amir is a writer, coach and editor of both books and blogs. Her guidance not only improves the writing of blogs, but opens an avenue for bloggers to publish their work in book form. Since many blog readers are blog writers, I offer her website as an invaluable tool for those whose blogs could, or should, be published as books:

 http://howtoblogabook.com/hire-a-blog-coach/

I’ve read several blogs that deserve to be immortalized in books, and I’ve read at least one book that started out as a blog:  

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverbend_(blogger)

I’ve considered using my own blog to construct a book, eventually. Book or no book, a blog should offer good writing. I encourage all who  write blogs to learn about the craft of writing, even if their blogs are simply places in which they release a pressing stream-of-consciousness. Readers deserve good writing.

Book Review: Kabul Beauty School, by Deborah Rodriguez

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I think it is very well-written, contrary to some reviewers who think otherwise. The narrator’s voice remains in character, and the language flows nicely. Though the writing is conversational, it does not succumb to the repetitions and irrelevant interjections that cause actual conversations to become boring.

This book is as much personal memoir as it is an account of how the Kabul Beauty School developed. The author’s personality weaves in and out of her environment in a fascinating account of cultural conflict, cultural engagement, and the remarkably unpredictable results that emerge when people do not let go of their own cultural orientation while trying to function in foreign country.

Deborah retains her American perspective on just about everything; she continues to smoke and drink in a Muslim society, looks forward to celebrating Christmas, and feels little need to adjust her behavior with men in deference to the prevailing attitude of quiet feminine subservience. In this way, she is different from the authors who accept the religious and cultural attitudes of their adopted countries.

At the same time, Deborah becomes profoundly involved with many of the women who attend the beauty school. She also marries an Afghan man, only a few weeks after she met him, and in spite of the fact that neither speaks the other’s language. Many readers will frown upon a protagonist who makes such a vital decision based upon none of the commonly accepted parameters that predict marital happiness, but this decision, probably more than her other decisions, displays her personality perfectly. She is a risk-taker, and willing to assume the consequences.

One wonders how it has fared over the years, but I suspect both of them will accept the influences over which neither has much control to strengthen or dissolve the marriage.

The beauty school closes and opens, and closes again, amidst accusations and rumors regarding what Deborah did or didn’t do with respect to taxes and other aspects of the business. Who knows, certainly not the reader of this book, but none of that is important to the purpose of the book, which is exactly what Deborah says it is– an account of the terrible circumstances of the lives of Afghan women, and how the beauty school gave some of them a chance to develop themselves in a way that most women of the world take for granted

WNFIN Results

Statistics for the WNFIN Project
Writing Nonfiction in November

This is the first year I’ve participated in any type of writing challenge, and I am satisfied with the results. I’ve produced the rough drafts for several essays worth more effort, and I’ve improved my sense of emotional balance. Rather than write sporadically, I’ve written regularly, even when I didn’t feel like it, except for five days, several of which found me totally upset with my son-in-law, and of two which found me at work unexpectedly during my usual writing time.

I joined the challenge on November fifth, therefore I had twenty-five days of participation. The statistics are as follows:

Total words written: 17071

Average: 683 words per day for the 25 days to which I committed
Actual average:  898 for the 19 days on which I actually wrote
Least amount of words a day: 237
Most amount of words a day: 3339
Goal:  50,000
Short of goal: 32929
Days needed to achieve goal at present rate: 48
Total days to goal: 73 (~.2.5 months)

This interesting experiment made me realize the necessity of commitment and good-old-fashioned will-power needed in order to be a writer while still in the midst of responsibilities. I learned my own rate of production. The fact that I fell profoundly short of the goal does not distress me at all, because the goal was not my own. My intention here was to do as much as I could, and even though I couldn’t do much, I did some good work.

I suppose I am ready to set a goal of my own. The goal would be to write consistently, at least twenty-five days per month, on the average of 500 words per day. I can do this. I will even craft essays worthy of posting to this blog and/or distributing elsewhere. The main goal of writing, however, is to open life’s door to deeper levels, and to position my soul closer to center.





WNFIN— Progress Commentary


Excerpt from the WNFIN challenge:
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
597 words

Maybe my ambition to write  is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to romanticize my life now which is entirely devoid of romance. Maybe my desire to write is nothing more than a sublimation of my desire to escape the routine of working. Not yet a week into this writing challenge, I am threatened with doubt about my intention as well as ability to write. The goal is fifty-thousand words during the month of November. Granted, I joined late, which means that to reach the goal, I’d have to produce about two thousand words each day, which should not be too demanding for a real writer. I, however, have fallen short of even half that measure, and I can not rationalize by blaming my job or other worldly responsibilities that rob my writing of its due.

The truth is that I spend less time writing than I do surfing the net, playing Spider Solitaire, downloading music, watching Italian films and even  inferior American films. I also do my Arabic lessons on-line, and read dozens of emails and blog comments from various sources. I am currently not doing digital photo editing, but when I get on a roll, I do nothing but digital photo editing which doesn’t even have redeeming value, such as a  family album for the grandkids; it’s fractals and kaleidoscopes and combining unlikely layers into patterns and colors that thrill my eye. No one even sees half those images, except perhaps a few of them that I put on Flickr and are looked at by a minuscule slice of Flickr membership.

All of this activity entertains me, engages me, and inspires me, but at the end of the day, I have not written the stories I think I’d like to write, so what’s going on? Even my Intensive Journal certification course has fallen by the wayside, but that, at least, is an effort I always preferred to develop in retirement.

I love reading memoir, and this year I’ve read at least a dozen, with several dozen more sitting on my bookshelf and in my Kindle, waiting. I fancy myself adding to the tidal wave of memoir that now overruns literary circles, but here I am, right now, at the keyboard, giving myself the chance, and what do I do? I complain about my lack of production. So what can a rational soul think about a person like me, a writer like me?

Well, I do have talent, that is indisputable, evidenced in the fact that I’ve been positively reinforced for it all my life by people who own  credentials. I’ve even been published a few times, once by TIME magazine when I answered one of the their questions to readers about phobias. They wanted a few words– literally– about their reader’s phobias, so I crafted a statement about my phobia of nasal congestion, and several months later, my brother was on an airplane and read my blurb. He was so shocked he said out loud, “Hey, that’s my sister!”

The TIME piece, novelty as it was, is not something that would go into my portfolio, but it does stand next to the handful of magazines, chapbooks and anthologies that include my name. So, I have talent, and that fact makes my lack of production even more suspect.

I am rambling. Yes, I am rambling, and I hate rambling, but I am doing so in order to fill the screen with words in an effort to reach the daily goal. It’s not going to happen, not today, at least. Maybe tomorrow.