In Which I Tell The Truth – A Blog Series

It’s shocking how much I can write about ME ME ME ME ME, without coming into contact with the actual ME – you know, the one who May Or May Not be identical to the ossified caricature I feel like I have become and/or helped create.

My daily life and my character (or lack thereof) are stale. I feel this vague meaninglessness which is not alleviated by habit charts, self-justification projects, or even cafe latte. Also my writing or whatever creative stuff I do, it just feels derivative. And not even derivative of some great artist, but of my own boring-and-not-very impressive Self. You only have the right to be derivative of yourself when you have produced so many tons of amazing work, but you’re so darned humble that you don’t realize you have said/done it all so well already.

Obviously, I am nowhere near that point, and I do hope I am successfully pulling wool (or maybe some nice linen for those in hot climates ) over the eyes of my “fans” and/or critics so they don’t notice this problem to it’s full extent.

It’s not like my whole life is a lie or anything. But I have felt alienated for quite some time (let’s be honest, for years) from other people, from my own thoughts and feelings, and even from my very personality. I think this is an unintended consequence of my 5-or-so-years’ practice in the ancient spiritual discipline of Shutting Up (especially online, but in all aspects of life to some extent). That doesn’t mean, of course, that I never say anything – I’m writing this, and I did have a zine subscription in 2016, wherein I waxed more or less eloquently for probably too many pages…but it only took 4 issues to realize I needed to shut up with that too.

I do hereby acknowledge that the world continues, and yes – even thrives – without hearing my input and/or opinion. That was a good and necessary lesson to learn. But I am afraid my “authentic voice”, the One I Am Supposed To Use For Good In The World, has also been silenced.

It sounds so cliche, and I never thought I’d ever under any circumstances say this, and it’s annoyingly paradoxical because of course I am “known” for my “opennness and transparency”. But I need to start from now and “figure out who I am”. How 70s positive psychology is that??? But I need to do it so I can live with more integrity in the present and have some solidity to offer the people in my life. And I need to do it before I can either abandon, adapt, or move forward with some of the “life plans” I have for my early pre-crone years.

“No one believes a thing you say, not even you”, Keith Green crooned to me in my early Christian years – in as romantic a way as possible when singing about eternal damnation. I recall this phrase now, since I find myself in a suburb of the place Jordan Peterson calls the underworld, mired in a chest-deep quicksand of past selves and tired personae and all the little half-truths I’ve told myself and other people over the years.

I don’t exactly recommend the underworld, but we all end up there at some point so it’s good to be ready. It’s confusing and sometimes terrifying, but also interesting because if you prevail and make it back to the surface, you will hopefully be changed in some kind of positive way, and you can then be a beacon of light to others, or at least post inspirational memes about how what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or whatever.

Jordan Peterson is really into the importance of telling the truth. At times that may mean that we simply don’t lie (it’s often easier to recognize a lie than it is to discern the truth.) One reason he believes this is because he thinks it is a bulwark against serious malevolence on our part as humans. It’s kind of hard to fall into line in the totalitarian state if you have made a habit of not lying to yourself or to others.

He also has some weird mythological/psychological idea about the Logos of God being true articulated speech, and how practicing that will lead you to fulfill the hero archetype, and save Western Civilization and slay the dragon of chaos. I’ll give you my opinion on that another time.

Suffice it to say, that I got the idea for this series during the last 4 months I have spent addictively freebasing Dr. Peterson. I do think we are having our first spat, but he has given me a lot to think about in our honeymoon period. Including the Five-Factor model of personality.  In the next installment in this series,  I will, as complete novice to that system, likely fall on my uneducated face as I use it to interact with my current, real personality (instead of some fantasy one, of which I have had many).

Then we will know what kind of person will be telling the truth about things like:

  • her fears and regrets
  • her “Christian walk” and theology
  • various “hot button issues” she has avoided commenting on for years
  • her thoughts/experiences of marriage and motherhood on “this side” of the Godly Family debacle
  • and whatever else comes to light

This will not be a tabloid-style airing of dirty laundry. There will be few if any scandals disclosed. Please leave a comment if there is anything you have ever wanted to ask me, as now would be the perfect time to do so 🙂

Also, I’d love to hear about your truthfulness factor (however you define that). I understand that some of us are more naturally reserved than others, but taking into consideration your temperament, do you think you are generally honest with yourself and others? Please comment below or email me.

If you’d like to be notified when new installments are added to this series, please sign up for my mailing list:

 

From the Page to Reality: Thoughts on Finishing One of My Everyday Journals

 First, let me define “everyday journal”.

My everyday journals contain Anything and Everything, from stream of consciousness journaling to sketches and paintings, from project ideas and lists, to habit charts, church notes and handlettered quotes, all stitched together with the cord of my neuroticism. They are handbound, with pages made of thick, toothy bristol paper, and are usually (but not always) small enough to fit in my purse (favorite size 7×8.5) All the smaller ones have covers that are made using kitchen chipboard, like cereal boxes, and the covers of the larger ones are actual book covers taken off old books and covered in decorative paper.

I have other books which I consider to be “art journals”. They  are made with 140lb watercolor paper and contain more acrylic paint and no pages that are exclusively writing (although I do write on my painted pages). They usually feel more forced to me than my everyday journals, more like I am trying to “make art” and perhaps am failing at it and so should stop right away.

In my everyday journals, there are no “rules” and Little Miss Perfectionist isn’t welcome. Paint sometimes bleeds through the paper, some (or maybe most) of the drawings totally suck and there is a lot of boring sameness in my constant desire to Manage My Time and Improve My Self and Get A Lot Done, and I succeed in that for a while and then I fail, and then try again, etc. etc. ad infinitum, and that’s pretty much what I chronicle in my everyday journals.

Here are a few pages from the past three years:

1) a habit chart (which usually cover about 2 weeks)
2) a self-portrait I did over some journaling
3) some dried rosemary from our 2014 garden (stashed in an envelope page)
4) a diagram of my circle of influence vs circle of concern.
5) some sketches for printable ideas for “freebies” to get people to sign up for my Rough Edges Life mailing list
6) covers that are decorated with “engraved” aluminum tape (a very easy technique that makes it hard to believe your cover used to be a cheezit box)

From the Page to Reality

My current journal has taken me almost four months to fill. When I got to the last-ish page, I noticed that there were a lot of ideas that kinda “went somewhere” quickly. That doesn’t necessarily happen with every journal. I am telling you this not so that you will think I am so impressive Dahlink, in my accomplishments.  But rather, so that you can see what a good tool a journal-based creative practice is for a person like me (and maybe like you too), someone who has limited time to create/achieve/produce and is not known for high levels of focus. I am a self-improvement junkie, as you may already know.  This disorder, if left unmanaged, can lead to excessive reading about self help, rather than actually helping oneself and perhaps might even lead to wallowing in one’s most unhelpful habits. But keeping journals like this, which have no rhyme or reason or expectation, has helped me more than any other “technique” to be steadily productive on a sustainable level. Maybe because all these ideas would have vanished into the ether if I didn’t have my journal around. Not to mention the little snatches of memory or personal insight jotted down randomly or contained in a few sentences of writing. (I still have a lot of bad habits though, this isn’t a miracle process by any means).

What Came to Fruition In This Journal

  • Here are the first and second stages of the idea that became the banner image on this blog (although ideally it is for my new business website, which is unfortunately NOT one of the projects I have completed):

We won’t talk about the fact that I actually prefer the middle image. When something gets too polished I don’t like it as much. Plus in the final image it looks like my cup hand is amputated. But since my “brand” is all about persevering creatively through imperfection, I allowed that to remain.

  • A few days after the Mockingbird Conference last February, I was still trying to figure out what the Mockingbird fundraiser zine would evolve into. On the right is a list of my motivations and fears about the project. It was not a big success financially, but it’s not true that No One Bought It (which was one of my fears). It did just break even. Also I may presell them at next year’s MBird Tyler conference. So a new opportunity did present itself even if I didn’t sell as many as I’d hoped.

And here is the completed MBird zine. Hopefully I can master watercolor skin tones by next year. I am not crazy about the stark whiteness of the Magills, who are stunningly attractive and always have the glow of health, but who would have undoubtedly looked piggishly pink under my “artistic ministrations”. THIS ZINE CAN STILL BE PURCHASED HERE:

  • Another wonderful providence is that I bought Anne Kennedy’s book Nailed It and I fell, immediately, deeply in love with it. I don’t remember how it happened now, but Anne and I started corresponding, and now we are friends. I even had a guest post on her blog, which was not even on my fantasy radar of what might possibly happen, ever, even in an alternate universe, between me and such a cool person as Anne. Here is a page whereupon I made a sketch inspired by the cover of Nailed It, probably a few days after I received it. I was thinking about writing a review Praising It to High Heaven (which I have not yet done because I haven’t made a zine since that time, and I would not relegate such an important piece of writing to the ephemeral blogosphere) :

  • And here are my first ever notes about Jordan Peterson, who I heard for the first time in mid-March. I had no idea at that time how he was going to become one of the Grand Obsessions of my life.  These notes I took while listening to him are intermingled with notes from Sarah Condon’s Tyler talk, and in both sets of notes is the word Suffering (with Sarah Condon thankfully having the word of Grace as an oh-so-necessary foil to JBPs almost neverending Law)

Dr Peterson pervades the rest of the journal, although there are some mind maps, a few pages with brainstorming for the upcoming habit chart/everyday journal making class that will be out by the end of August, and a painting or two:

I have many notes to help me as I create the Jordan Peterson Fanzine during the long, hot Texas summer. I’ve done sketches of him lecturing, and he never stops moving, so that’s a real challenge for me with my rudimentary sketch skills And in his honor, my habit charts are now titled with the admonition “Sort Yourself Out”

  • Another thing that began in this journal, and that seems to have become (for the time being at least) a semi-regular activity – church sketchnotes done using a template for an orderly layout (which pleases my inner zinemaker):

Three Days On, One Day Off

In addition to “being productive”, I learned something useful about myself near the end of this journal. I figured out that one reason I have always had a problem with time management is that planning or scheduling within a 7 day week doesn’t work for me. Maybe it’s just rebellion, feeling like I am expected to just fit into this RANDOM social construct that I didn’t even ask to be born into, man! But whatever the reason is, I decided I was going to buck convention and try a four-day structure.

In case you have ever wondered, there are 91.25 four-day-periods in a year.

On each of three days I have been having a loose focus, and then on the fourth day I do whatever the heck I want. I need one day for grocery shopping and other errands and for housework. Another day for creative but “business focused” work and a third day for whatever seems pressing in the family or household – maybe, if I can ever break through my annoyance and resistance, I could do some reading aloud or take better care of the household finances.  Those are two squares on my habit chart which rarely get filled in with pretty colors.

In the little snatches of time apart from the day’s focus, I have been “fitting in” the things that too easily slip through the cracks, like reading real books, (most notably, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge) and also exercise, salads and brief but blessed moments of silence and inactivity.. Then on the fourth day/evening I can drink alcohol, or binge watch TV (which for me might mean three episodes) or just sit around all day reading Nordic crime fiction. But I am just as likely to spend an “off” day rearranging some room in my house, which is one of my favorite activities and technically would be considered both housework and exercise on the habit chart.

I hope your interest in making and keeping your own everyday journal has been piqued, and that you will let me help you in that endeavor 🙂

Be in the Rough Edges Life Creative Loop

If you have any questions related to journaling, personal excavation and/or creative practice (or if you just want to ask me some random question or tell me something) please email me at samantha@roughedgeslife.com

On my next “creative work” day I am going to make a video to go with this blog post. If you’d like to see that video, or be kept abreast of the progress on the habit chart class or the Jordan Peterson Fanzine, please sign up for my mailing list.

Mockingbird Tyler 2017 Fundraiser Fanzine is HERE!!

I know it’s been six weeks since the conference, but Mockingbird never gets dated!

I love making zines to document my life. I also enjoy drawing humans in their natural habitats. And I love Mockingbird and want to give them a token of my esteem. This zine is my homage to the Tyler Mockingbird conference, with my original drawings and commentary, plus three essays by other Friends of Mockingbird. 50% of the profits from the sale of this zine will go to Mockingbird ministries.

The zine is 7.5×8.5, 40 pages, and handbound with a heavy color cover. Price is 15.00 including shipping.

You can also buy last year’s conference zine for 8.00, 50% of profits for that will go to Mockingbird as well. The theme of last year’s conference was Story, and in addition to original drawings and commentary, that zine also includes a small article about my experience with personal storytelling and everyday memoir (including book recommendations to get you started on that in your life, if that interests you).

If you’d like to purchase these zines and support indie publishing and Mockingbird Ministries, please go here

This blog will soon be incorporated into Rough Edges Life, which will provide encouragement, creative resources and gentle self-improvement for the tired and somewhat jaded optimist. If that sounds like something you need, or if you’d like to be updated when future zines are born, please sign up for the Rough Edges Life email list!

How I Determined My Productivity Personality

In all the “online business” stuff I’ve been reading over the past few months, I hear that I need to “present myself as an expert in my field”. I’m also supposed to have some kind of system or thing to teach that will Get Results As Quickly As Possible For My Students. But honestly, the only thing I am an expert at is persevering over decades in self-improvement and creative work even when I don’t see tangible results and when no one else seems to be all that impressed. It seems like the perseverance itself is what keeps the tiniest ember of hope burning when my inner fire pit of hope is just about extinguished.

I have gone back and forth with myself on the importance of having “specific, measurable goals” – the necessity of which is of highest importance to most productivity voices. I like to achieve goals as much as the next person, but when I take the meandering out of my life and my projects (in favor of reaching a specific outcome by a specific time) that’s when my Ego Gets Involved, and an ego is a fragile and fickle thing. If I “succeed” at whatever my goal is, I feel good (usually better than is justified in proportion to the actual success). But then anxiety starts creeping in because I now have to keep performing up to the standard of my previous awesomeness. If I fail at achieving my goal or if my project isn’t well-received, then I’m just a loser who doesn’t even have any laurels to rest upon.

One of the big themes that has run through my life is the relationship between freedom and form. Too much structure or too much focus on one project, and I rebel. I dig my heels in and refuse to do anything because no one (not even ME) is going to give me orders! No rulers, no masters, anarchy FOREVER!!! But when I have too much freedom (too many art supplies, too many “possible” projects or plans or too much outer chaos because I am just too “free” to have to do basic household chores) then I freeze up and do nothing. Either way, I don’t get a lot done, which for a self-improvement junkie means that withdrawal symptoms kick in pretty quickly. Understandably, this is something most addicts try to avoid.

But sometimes, I’m being super-effective and my inner Stephen Covey is patting me on the back, and then suddenly I find myself burned out and unable to do anything except what I call monk’s work – those repetitive tasks of daily living that sometimes seem to be what hold me back from the mythical self-actualization, but which save me when I can’t eke out even one more “productive” thing, when I just want to  be left alone to die in peaceful obscurity, thank you very much.

It’s the proverbial vicious cycle or the blessed paradox. I can’t decide which.

Before you decide whether I have the right to say anything about productivity, let me tell you about myself and what my life has been like for the past quarter century. I am a 48-year-old homemaker with five children from 23-5 who have never gone to school. I haven’t been the CEO of any companies or started a successful nonprofit. What I have done is spent spent untold hours answering questions, wiping butts and making rotini pasta with butter and romano cheese. I’ve also spent a lot of sleepless nights (pre-Netflix). Despite these challenges, I have made 13 long zines, written scores of illustrated letters to friends, made acrylic paintings, hand-bound and then filled numerous art journals and sketchbooks and written a 22,000 word spiritual memoir that was published by Christianity Today (and they even paid me!) I have done thousands of shoulder press reps with 20lb dumbbells and read a lot of theology and psychology books, as well as as many pleasantly gruesome crime novels. I did not do all these things within the same week or even the same year.

I used to strive for “balance” in my life planning, but I have found through long and sometimes humiliating experience that I can’t “manufacture” balance. But in hindsight and often in spite of manic planning, some kind of balance and a measure of freedom within form appears when I follow some “general principles” maybe 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time I am having some kind of existential crisis and doing nothing but drinking too much coffee:

1) Focus On One Thing, But Not For Too Long:

This might mean that I binge a project over a relatively short time, like a thirty-day zine (which necessitates ignoring other semi-important things but which quickly gives me a finished project and a significant deposit into the oft-overdrawn Personal Integrity Account) OR I work on a bunch of different projects for maybe 25-minutes at a time. I have accomplished extensive projects and goals using both these methods. I have also accomplished things with absolutely no plan at all and now I am baffled as to how I managed to do (insert whatever I did here).

And let’s be honest, I have also gone years where I accomplished nothing except basic household maintenance, no matter what my self-improvement technique was at that time. I have learned to honor the fallow periods. If you don’t honor them, they are like the Godfather when he doesn’t get any respect. But at the very least they do allow you to develop simple memories of your life with your people, undistracted by too much doing. And sometimes, like their agricultural cousins, they are working unseen in the soil of your life, and some weird but beautiful plant may grow.

2) Try New Projects and Self-Improvement/Productivity Techniques On For Size, But Feel Free to Abandon Them If They’re Not a Good Fit:

I have tried so many creative things and quickly realized I hated them. Despite the cultural belief that quitting equals failure, I have finally accepted that time is limited and just because I admire something as a concept doesn’t mean I have any talent for or true vocation towards it as a pastime.

And just because I am impressed by certain techniques, planning systems and philosophies other people may use to accomplish things, that doesn’t mean their method will work for me. You will ultimately get more done in the areas that are important to you if you accept who you are and work with your strengths. Time spent learning discernment about yourself, your energy levels, your motivations and true aspirations – that time is never wasted. So even if you “fail” at whatever it is, you have learned what doesn’t work. That’s important information.

3) Go Outside Your Comfort Zone Sometimes, And Retreat As Far As Possible Into Your Comfort Zone at Other Times:

This is the difficult challenge of determining when you are experiencing fear and resistance, and when you are experiencing burnout. They can look the same on the surface but require different tactics to overcome. What fear and resistance want to do is keep you from working, that’s why they are always distracting you with other things and/or tell you how much you suck so you may as well stop now. It really pisses them off when you ignore them and work anyway. They retreat and lick their wounds for a while. You will, unfortunately, deal with them again and again in your life.

When I find myself burned out, I either have too many projects going at once and/or I am not getting enough time alone and/or my work is being done with wrong motive – meaning I’m using it as a self-justification project, trying to impress people etc. Sometimes I misread the symptoms as resistance, and I make it worse by pushing through for longer than I should. Once I recognize it for what it is I go into monk’s work mode, and I usually choose a new television show and I take a lot of baths with the oil lamp burning. I try not to judge how long it takes me to come out of this and “start working again”, and so far, I always have.

4) Keep a habit tracker, and be generous to yourself when filling it out:

I’m not a big pinterest person, but when I first saw a habit tracker there I knew it was something that would work for me. But what it took me a while to figure out was that I respond better if I just have to do a little tiny bit of something for it to “count”. With my first habit tracker, I think I had to do a whole workout DVD to be able to color in “exercise” on a certain day. Well, I rarely had time or energy to do a whole DVD, which left me discouraged when I looked at my tracker, because it looked like I wasn’t exercising at all. But most days I really do at least a few minutes of exercise…I might jump on my rebounder for two 5-minute periods or do 15 knee pushups and 20 single leg bodyweight deadlifts or eke out a few downward dogs or sun salutations.

Now, I give myself the pleasure of taking out those Inktense pencils and waterbrushes and I color in that darned “cardio” square if I stepped on the freaking rebounder. I color in the “writing” square if I wrote three sentences in my journal. And I color in the “mindfulness” section if I sit outside with my kids for 15 minutes without doing anything else. Our get-as-much-done-as-possible-every-day-society would think I was cheating here, but what I want to do is develop a habit, and I know I am not going to stick with anything if I feel beaten down and judged by my very own self for yes, keeping the habit but doing it in an unimpressive way. It’s better to give myself the small wins and they will either add up cumulatively over time OR I will eventually feel confident enough to expand the length or scope of the habit.

Today I hula hooped for 250 turns each way, but I’m not sure if that should be labeled cardio, strength, or restorative? Either way, I’m marking it down!

Please tell me in the comments what you know about your own productivity personality!

This blog will soon be replaced by Rough Edges Life, which will focus on encouragement, creative resources, and gentle self-improvement for the tired and somewhat jaded optimist. If that sounds like something you need, please sign up here and I’ll let you know when that site is “live”.

 

 

 

 

 

The Coffee Silence – or How an Antsy Person Like Me Found a Way to Meditate

the-coffee-silenceI have been “into” mindfulness and meditation for a few years now. But for me, being “into” something often means I read about it more than I practice it.

Learning to be more present in my daily tasks has been easier than finding time to do more formal meditation, and let’s be honest, sometimes it wasn’t about finding the time. It was about my aversion to doing seemingly “nothing” for any length of time. I’m a person who doesn’t like to be idle, which is fine in itself. But I am also an unhealthily reactive person. I have the Not-Very-Zen tendency to believe I need to take action RIGHT NOW on any thought or task that comes to mind. That can lead to a lot of unfinished tasks and projects and also creates stress because I can’t accept a thought as just a thought. I often allow my thoughts to morph into such a negative storyline about myself or my relationships that my body starts pumping out the stress hormones (because it perceives this ephemeral THOUGHT as a clear and present danger, like I’m being chased by the proverbial saber-toothed tiger.) I knew that meditation would help me with those things, but I had to find a practical way to fit it into my life.

In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin talks about various methods that can help us create healthy habits in our lives, while still being sensitive to our own personalities and “what works for us”. The strategy I used to create my meditation habit is “pairing”. One thing I already do every day about the same time is drink my morning cafe latte, so I decided I would pair meditation with that already ingrained and pleasant habit.

Since I often suffer from paralysis by analysis, I decided that the formalities of meditation (how I sat, whether my eyes were open or closed, how I held my hands) weren’t important. All I had to do was find a comfortable place to sit (alone and in silence), set the timer for 20 minutes and do nothing but drink my coffee and return to the breath when my mind wandered. For all you laid-back people, that might not seem like a big deal. But for me, the first day I accomplished this was a real milestone.

It was a gloomy, wet day, and I was in a funk about my life. I sat there by the window and watched the sparrows flitting in the crepe myrtle trees. I felt a heaviness and silent tears ran down my cheeks. But still I breathed, and a few sparrows landed on the windowsill and seemed to look into the room. That felt like a blessing to me, I had never seen them do that before. A lot of thoughts and fleeting emotions came up during that 20 minutes, including the question “WHEN THE HECK WILL 20 MINUTES BE UP????” When I felt like I was about to cave and look at my timer, the 20 minutes ended. I had done it.

This is still a new practice for me, but it feels sustainable. My kids don’t go to school, so once or twice they ignored my command not to come in the room, but I took that as an opportunity not to be my usual reactive self (meaning I didn’t yell). Right when the timer goes off, I take my journal and write down any thoughts that seem important to remember, or ideas that will need action. Then I read the day’s entry in The Mockingbird Devotional, and then I allow myself to leave Being-Only mode (and I usually go wash the dishes).

I know that meditation isn’t about progress or achievement, so I am trying not to judge whether the 20 minutes was “a success”. The success for me is in keeping the commitment. I trust that over time the practice will shape me in some positive way.

A few questions for you:

– Do you have any long-term practices that have enriched your life?
– Do you have any strategies for developing and maintaining healthy habits?

 

In Which I Re-Enter the Blogging World and Recap My Blogging History

I started blogging in 2002, as a way to affirm life after a 9-day bout of the stomach flu. My first-ever blog post was called “A New Beginning”, probably because I was so glad to not feel sick anymore, plus the blogosphere of that time was my oyster, People. I was a stay-at-home-homeschooling mother in my mid-thirties, and I felt like I had found my “tribe” in the Godly Woman Subculture (wherein I felt included but also interestingly “edgy”…since my Proverbs 31 credentials may or may not have been forged or from an unaccredited institution). At that time I didn’t even know what a digital camera was, so I didn’t understand how these women always had photos on their blogs from THAT VERY DAY, too quickly to have had film developed while they were already so busy with bread baking, latin games with the children, plus being the kind of wives whose husband’s desires were always at the very forefront of their humble and modest thoughts. Anyway, I digress. The point is that I started blogging at The Home Realm (where I wrote a few okay pieces but mostly, too many posts from my smug young mother vantage point) and I continued there until about 2006. I also had a few (basically unsucessful) forays into “business” during those years, and a short and forgettable stint on the now-defunct Intellectuelle blog (it’s my contribution that was short and forgettable, not Intellectuelle itself).

In 2007, I discovered the world of home fitness and became obsessed enough with that to start a blog called Eclectic Domestic Works Out. I chronicled my P90x experience and documented my workout DVD collection as it grew to over 200 discs. I gave up on that blog in 2009, but I kept working out almost daily until Moppet 5 was born in 2011. Since then I have been more sporadic with exercise, but I have retained a lot of my fitness gains and I do work out fairly often in short spurts. I have no idea why that blog even exists in cyberspace anymore.

No Spring Chicken was born in 2010, a year or so into my Midlife Crisis. I was considering getting back into zinemaking at that time, but I guess I didn’t and started that blog instead. I still talked about diet and fitness a bit at first, but overall, NSC is a good screen capture of Who I Am Now (in germinal form). There are a lot of thoughts and feelings chronicled there, which were clarified for me a few years later, when I heard art historian Dan Siedell interviewed on The White Horse Inn, and then found Mockingbird. I last wrote on that blog almost exactly two years ago, when I started my eponymous blog (which shares characteristics with No Spring Chicken but has definitely also been a precursor to the business blog that will hopefully “go live” in early December.) I am also a “contributor” to the Creative Circle Blog, where I have not contributed since probably February.

One thing that concerns me about having a business blog or being a “contributor” or “guest poster” is how I will manage the contant drumbeat from the biz gurus to Stay On Brand, and even better if your brand is so inspiring and inspirational and full of those bright colors I hate. I’m sure I can come up with a somewhat cohesive and/or coherent “brand” (even with my various interests) but I don’t like the feeling that I can’t let the “brand identity curtains” get at all frayed. Like if somehow people get a glimpse behind the curated image, that’s a negative for your business. But since my business is called Rough Edges Life, I don’t want to feel trapped by my brand or like it is a facade. I need to have a place for my honest writing (especially since the zine is on hiatus) but not necessarily interspersed with “content” on a business blog. I think I will just keep this blog and link to it in my new About page, so anyone who might want to risk seeing “behind the brand” can do so.

Two women who were small-time bloggers on the periphery of my early blogging circle are undoubtedly millionnaires by now (Pioneer Woman and Ann Voskamp). I think it’s unlikely that I’ll become a millionnaire, but I am ready to “embrace the blog” again and see where that leads me.

The Year of Not Sharing – Maybe Part One

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If you will miss me when I am no longer hanging out in cyberspace, subscribe to my zine. I’m sure chronicling this experiment will be something I do a lot of in there.

I have been “on the internet” since 1996, so it’s almost 20 years, almost half my life. I don’t remember much of what I did in that shadowy early online world, except hanging out for a while on the message boards at John Michael Talbot’s Brothers and Sisters of Charity site. I was a new Christian and (as usual) my talent for being simultaneously ignorant about a subject and inappropriately vocal about it was alive and well. I hardly knew anything about Christianity or Protestantism and there I was, debating Catholicism.

I was in the Cage Stage of Libertarianism at the same time – I needed a cage inside a cage (and perhaps a straitjacket and definitely a sedative). I got a lot of great radical libertarian ideas online, to mix with my own thoughts (always a deadly brew) which I then put into my zines and mass mailings. My eyes glaze over when I think of it, I can’t imagine the eyes of my poor friends who had to read that stuff in real time.

As I look back over my online history (which, as an everyday memoirist, I can easily do because I have almost the whole thing printed out hahahah)  I see the majority of it as Identity Creation and/or Enhancement, which includes (but is not limited to):

1) Debating various topics in order to be perceived as intelligent and/or a good writer and/or communicator

2) Getting people with a similar (but more impressive – or impressively developed) identity to mine to accept me into their cool online cliques

3) “Sharing” my life, thoughts and activities so others (usually the people in #2) can approve of me because of (insert thing I do/don’t do/believe/don’t believe) or because I am “talented” in some way

4) Circling back to #1 to defend myself when people don’t actually approve of me or like me

The online time that isn’t conscious or subconscious Identity Enhancement (also known as self-justification) has been roughly equal proportions of unhealthy distraction from difficult emotions and finding/utilizing truly helpful information or services.

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Last week I watched the documentary Tiny, which is about people living in microhouses under 200 square feet. Everything they chose to own had to have both a purpose and a place, which is something I’ve always admired and want to emulate in my own non-minimialist way. I decided to think about each room in my home as a tiny house in itself, and that helped me to make some changes regarding both the stuff and how I manage the stuff. In one of the tiny houses, they had a small built-in bookshelf that was probably 4ft worth of total space, and it was fascinating to think which books are important enough to me that I would give them that kind of precious space. Anyway, I digress, but somehow that made me think about my time and what I put onto the proverbial but also limited Shelf of My Life.

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I have wanted to make a radical change in my life for some time. But my options for radical change are limited, being that I have five kids, a husband and a heading-towards-elderly mother who lives with me. I can’t just up and go backpacking across Europe. But taking into consideration my desire to be more mindful, more prayerful, more productive in things that matter…I decided that giving up most internet, and especially social media, was my best option.

Also, I want to make a zine every two months for the aforementioned Zinescription Plan, and I won’t be able to do that if I am always frittering away my thoughts and experiences and creative explorations in little social media sound bites.

Ever since I read the book Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping,  I’ve wanted to do a kind of psychological experiment on myself. I do want mindful spending to be a part of what I work on during this year, but since I don’t have what I consider to be an “issue” with shopping, that wasn’t quite the right experiment for me. I don’t think I have an issue with excessive internet or social media use as far as actual minutes spent, but I feel like somehow it sucks away energy for other good activities just by always being an option. I also want to remove it as an activity that I can use to distract myself from those circumstances or feelings that are uncomfortable or unpleasant.

I’m also curious to know how the very nature of the internet has contributed to my problem with focus. How is scrolling, clicking and being presented with short boring articles with hardly any content affecting my ability to read books or to think longer or more complex thoughts? (Of course, motherhood has already done that to a greater or lesser extent). Also, how does the act of reading onscreen vs. reading on paper differ, and do those differences matter for my brain and my life?

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“Before The Internet”, I still made and distributed zines and I communicated with a lot of people through what we now call snail mail. I used to write letters and send zines to authors I liked or people I wanted to connect with, and that almost always “worked”. I wrote to Vince Bugliosi (Charles Manson’s prosecutor) when I was about 15 and I got a long letter back from him. I wrote to Walter Williams and he sent me a copy of Frederic Bastiat’s book The Law. I want to start using the power of the post again. Right now I want to write to Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club and two other memoirs) and Dan Harris (author of 10% Happier) I also want to see if I can “grow my business” with just word-0f mouth from people who, for instance, subscribe to my zine. Regularly posting on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to plug myself and my products or services is just not for me. I want to let God build my business, if I’m going to have one.

Too much self-promotion and I get depressed and overwhelmed. If it doesn’t seem to be “working” (meaning no one is buying, liking etc.)  I morosely wonder why I am even bothering. At that point it has become not about the work, but about my awesomeness quotient. And that fluctuates dramatically depending on how much I can sell or how many people “like” or “heart” or “retweet” the picture of my art journal page or my pithy 140 characters. I want to nip that cycle in the proverbial bud.

If I am mentally and emotionally projecting what I’m doing into the social media future while I am in the actual physical process of doing it, the enjoyment just seeps out of it somehow. I also feel like I am crafting an “image” and I hate doing that. I hate how internet images just present this facade of calm or contentment or got-it-togetherness that doesn’t match with real life, at least my real life (which I assume is similar to everyone else’s life in human condition generalities even if not in the particulars). When I get too caught up in that I feel like I am lying in some way, even if what I’m doing is only “selective sharing”.

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I don’t feel that way with zines, because the act of creating the zine takes quite a while and so is separated somewhat from other people’s opinions about it – even if it’s the week between printing and mailing. My ego is not as involved after even that small separation. I am also a super-confident zinemaker and in the realm of social media, I “share” more of my visual arts, where I’m not as confident because my drawing and painting skills are way less honed and/or impressive than my zinemaking skills. I’m not saying that everyone will love or like or even care at all about my zines. The point is that having this zinescription – wherein I also “share” with people – will most likely have a positive effect on me whereas using the platform of social media has had a negative effect (for whatever reason, I’m sure there are a bunch but I don’t feel like extrapolating.)

In Not Buying It the author determined what the “rules” were, as far as what constituted “shopping”. So, it was okay to buy any kind of food or alcohol (even expensive, gourmet or whatever) but it was not okay to go out to a restaurant or a bar. Then the question came up, is it okay if someone else takes her out to eat or drink, and the answer to that was no. The whole book is basically a chronicle of questions that came up, how she felt emotionally during the experiment, how often she “failed” (meaning broke down and bought something) and what “success” taught her. I have had to think about what internet use will be “okay” during this time.

What I CAN do:

– Read at sites like Mockingbird (whose most recent Technology Issue solidified my longtime desire to try this) and click through to any articles they reference in their commentary

– Shop on Amazon or Dick Blick or wherever (this includes reading reviews of books and products)

– Listen to podcasts like White Horse Inn or watch conference talks or Ted Talks or equivalent

– Use Pinterest for a certain purpose (though Pinterest has never really “drawn me in” so it doesn’t need any rules)

– Use a secret group I started on Facebook that has my six closest Internet Friends in it

– Find images to use in my zines

– Write and produce videos with my friend Donna at The Creative Circle

– Use Facebook Messenger

– Work on maintenance for my two websites, add pages, links to things I am selling, etc. but no blogging

– Post completed things listed FOR SALE on Facebook

– Watch Netflix or Amazon Video

– Use email

– Read the few blogs that are important enough to me that I already get email notifications, like Dirty Footprints Studio

That may seem like a lot, but none of it is stuff that I do all that often, and it has no Identity Enhancement attached to it nor does it control me in any way. Those are all things I see and use as tools, in a healthy manner.

What I CAN’T do:

– Post anything on Facebook or look at Facebook (except the two exceptions above)

– Make comments on any article I might read. I can directly contact the author of a piece if I have anything I want to say about it

– Post any of my political or social commentary anywhere online

– Use Twitter or Instagram (which I only recently started using and which had a negative effect on me almost immediately)

– “Share” any creative ideas or projects that are “In Progress”, anywhere online. If I want to talk about that stuff it has to be in my zine.

I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list of what “appropriate” use during The Year of Not Sharing. Facing those questions as they come up is part of the experiment. Right now I am wrapping things up. There are online friends I want to keep in some contact with while I am MIA. I want to finish my in-progress Everyday Memoir site, which is just a business site with no blog. I want to make a few strategic shares about my zinescription, and that’s about it. As the title says, this may be a Part One, but I assume that I will be hitting disconnect sometime in the next week.

Failed Plans and Schedules

The main article in my new zine is called My Favorite Time Management and/0r Productivity Books, wherein I share with you, yes, my favorite time management and /or productivity books (catchy titles have never been one of the more creative aspects of my zines).  If you have read the article, you will know that none of these books have succeeded in making me all that much more productive as a direct result of reading them (though I do think that, when taken cumulatively, they have had a net positive effect). An artifact in my Box of Important Papers is an envelope labeled Failed Plans and Schedules, which are just a fraction of my actual failed plans and schedules (more recent ones are a bit less fleshed out and live inside various journals). All of the ones in the envelope date from the mist-shrouded, long-ago years of my Godly Woman Phase (as you can see from the Biblically-appropriate illustration of the busy mother, working diligently in the home).

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I like looking through this stuff because some of the plans/planners are actually kinda impressive. I have thought that I could make some money designing and selling printables for homeschooling and life management. I would seriously be rich  if I had a million little businesses selling all the many services/products I have created over the years. I’m not sure if I am just truly lazy and don’t want to do the work of production, or whether daily living tasks are indeed so time consuming that I just can’t get to “art and business” regularly enough or is it that research and development really can take decades?

Looking at this stuff put me into Plans and Schedules Mode, but my current approach to that is thankfully a bit more organic and merciful than it was in the past. Beginning to see everyday memoir as a process is helping me to clarify my business objectives as well as channel my self-improvement tendencies into something less neurotic, more helpful, and something like market research on myself. I assume that whatever niche or demographic I am meant to serve with my creative talents and/or offerings is comprised of people who are something like me, so if I make and try something, if I like it, I assume there is probably a market for it.

A few days ago I had a lot to do in a few different “categories” of my life, and I was feeling overwhelmed. I decided I was going to take two hours and dedicate that to house and home stuff, then the next two hours would be dedicated to art and business stuff. One problem I have always had with a housekeeping “schedule” (do this or that on such and such a day) is that, well, either I just rebel against the schedule – being a natural lawbreaker – OR there is another area in the house that really needs work or a chore that really has to get done if my sanity is to be taken into consideration. So, what I did on that day was walk around and see what was really bothering me the most and/or what I felt like I could handle, and I did that stuff for two hours. Then I went in my art room and did a few different things for two hours. I liked that because it alleviated boredom but still required focus. I would not let myself move from one task to another until I was done with at least some pre-determined segment of the current task. It was cool to realize what stuff “fit” into each category. Today when I was in my two hours of “house tasks” I wouldn’t look at Facebook, but it was fine to look for rice pilaf recipes for dinner. No matter what I am doing, it’s always “acceptable” to make notes in my new mini-journal.

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I am thinking that after having a four hour block of “productive” hours (two “house and home” and two “art and business”) I will have a personal hour where I can exercise or read. I don’t expect this to work perfectly or be The Thing forever, but it combines the best of both worlds (Freedom Within Form).

Introducing Everyday Memoir, Part 1: My Box of Important Papers, Part 1

I have mentioned my Box of Important Papers elsewhere. What is in my BoIP is a lot of stuff that is important in the chain of my Everyday Memoir, mostly things that are individually printed or handwritten sheets and not bound like a zine or art journal. Since I am about to begin an online collaboration with a few other women, I was thinking about another online collaboration I was involved in – back in 2005  I was part of a woman’s blog called Intellectuelle, with a few women I still know (at least peripherally) through Facebook.

Intellectuelle was sponsored by The Evangelical Outpost (which still has a website that comes up blank for me). To be a contributor, you had to be one of the top 5 or 6 in an essay contest. I wrote some kind of post about apologetics, and was chosen to be one of the ground-level contributors, along with my still-friend Marla Swoffer. That first essay is the only one I don’t have a copy of (who knows why) and I’d love to see it, because I was never a whiz at apologetics and can’t imagine what I might have said about it that won me that contest.

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The first post is my “introduction” and it is dated June 30, 2005, and titled “Everyday Living Gives Us a Lot to Think About”. The final post was not even three months later, September 16, 2005, titled “Another Resignation”. Every one of my measly 14 posts began with a limerick. Some examples:

…from the post titled “Concealed Estrus, or Why is the Ovulation of the Human Female Hidden?”

There once was a thing, ovulation,
Necessary for human creation.
But it cannot be seen, and what does this mean?
Is there a Christian Explanation?

…from the post titled “Memento Mori”

There once was a gal quite alive
Who could think of no way to deprive
The spectre of death from a-stealin’ her breath
But she knows in the Lord she’ll survive

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This whole thing was nerve-wracking for me because 1) I had to make some appropriately intellectual post EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK and 2) I’m really not all that intellectual and most of the other contributors really were. They were doing stuff like reading difficult books and writing thoughtful commentary about them, probably seamlessly integrating all their other knowledge into the post as well. It’s likely they even spoke French and so were true Intellectuelles, while I was pretty much a poseur. We were also buying and moving into our first house at that time, and I’d had three miscarriages in the past year, and in general this was my last attempt to prop up a certain fantasy about myself as A Great Thinker, and I got out when I finally admitted that to myself, and I haven’t looked back.

This is an interesting pit stop on the Trail of Everyday Memoir (sometimes known as the Avenue of Absurdity). I could write a blog post or zine article on any of the same subjects I did at Intellectuelle, but I know my tone would now be different and my thoughts about most of the subjects have changed, maybe significantly. It’s both humbling and encouraging when I look at my past self, because I see definite evidence of sanctification while I simultaneously still possess some of the annoying and/or sinful traits of my youth, which range from actual bad behavior to well-hidden but impressively crappy attitudes that are rarely seen by anyone except me and God.

We’ll come back to the Box of Important Papers again in a few days.

 

 

 

 

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Creative Stuff Goin’ On

The last month and a half has been a proverbial whirlwind of creative busy-ness, planning, and some surprises. I spent a lot of August finishing my zines and being very nervous about sharing them outside my usual crowd. I went to an event called The Dallas Zine Party in early September, which was a panel of longtime zinemakers talking about their work in the zine world. Even though I’ve been making zines for more than two decades, I still experienced mild Impostor Syndrome symptoms when I was there. Unfortunately, the only antidote to those symptoms is to act like you aren’t an impostor, which can be difficult. But I handed my zine packages to the panelists and they all just seemed happy to get some new zines and not hell-bent on exposing me as a fraud. Later that night when I was making more zine packs for Day 2 of the event, I realized that I had a misspelling. On the zine COVER. The zine I had just given to 10 people earlier that day while pretending not to be an impostor.

I was mortified for about two minutes, then exhausted at the thought that I had to print new covers. Then I had an epiphany. I saw that I could “fix” the problem while simultaneously reinforcing the main theme of my zine – being “productive” while also accepting my very real limitations as a fallen human being. So, with the help of my trusty Pigma Micron pen:

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So, that ended up being a happy accident, and it was good for me to have to walk the Accepting Failure Walk, instead of talking about in an inspirational way (which is a good way to distract people) while behind the scenes I was eradicating any evidence of actual failure.

A few days after the Zine Party, I became a paid, published author. That had been in the works for a few years, and I don’t know if I believed it would ever really happen. The piece that was published began as an article in one of my zines from a decade ago, and it was interesting to see how it came to be a 22,000 word spiritual memoir. I have never had a huge interest in being a published author apart from my own self-publishing, and the reason Mark Galli (Christianity Today Editor-in-Chief) knew about me at all was because I sent CT my zines (way back in 2009, I think) in the hope that they would consider writing an article about zines and how they are an underused medium by Christians. So, it was a pleasant surprise that something I wrote so long ago would come back to benefit me in some way, and would be read by maybe tens of thousands of people instead of the (maybe) fifty or so that was my usual zine readership.

I was personally contacted by maybe 15 people after the CT piece was published. It was encouraging to know that my writing resonated with at least some people who don’t know me and don’t consider it their job as my friend to be encouraging about all my weird ramblings. Then, about a week after that was published, I got an email from someone at a Pittsburgh radio station inviting me to be interviewed on their show. That was a terrifying prospect because while I am fairly eloquent and somewhat funny in writing, I am not known as a super articulate speaker. I had visions of being introduced and then nothing but the sound of my drooling would be heard. But John and Kathy put me at ease and asked good questions, so the drooling situation was mostly avoided. My delusions of grandeur (that every single one of John and Kathy’s listeners would immediately order my zines) also did not come to pass, but I don’t think I could have handled that much business anyway. But I was invited to be on the show again, and that is happening this afternoon. They even made me my own graphic!

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I’m just as nervous about it this time and I have no idea what I am going to say about “the act of creation: what is it, how does it work for you, why is it important for Christians to create and flourish?” (which is how they are promoting my segment). Hopefully we can bypass the drool scenario this time, as well.

And then finally, my dear artist friend Donna has invited me to participate in an online teaching group called The Creative Circle , where three of us will regularly write and have videos about our own creative practices and our creative struggles, as well as “teaching” various techniques or art things that we do. That is a nerve-wracking situation for me, mostly because I am afraid of not getting the stuff done and proving myself once and for all to be an incorrigible flake. Realistically, I don’t expect that to happen, but the aforementioned Impostor Syndrome always has a serious flare-up when I think about having to come up with fresh content to “inspire and inform” people. The blog portion of the Circle will begin in November, and come January we will open it for subscriptions, which is how you will be able to access videos and other content and “Support for Your Creative Practice”. Go here if you want to get in on the ground floor.

Oh, and in the next week or so I am going to buy the domain everydaymemoir.com and get started offering my own zine/mail art subscriptions and tools to get you started on an Everyday Memoir Practice. So, I have a lot going on, which is interesting but also mentally exhausting. One of my perpetual challenges is trying to simultaneously do enough to avoid boredom and feed my alter-ego Self Improvementista, while also giving my Introvert enough downtime (she has been known to create drama if I don’t do a good job with that).

One cool thing about being an Everyday Memoirist is that I know in a year’s time, I will come back to this post (the printed version, of course – since I’m all about paper) and I will have Thoughts About It. I will compare my delusions of grandeur and/or worst case scenario for my artistic career with whatever the reality is, which I actually consider to be a fun and edifying activity.