Creative Questions 14 – Talents

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CQ14 – Have you been inspired to refresh or improve a talent recently?

One thing that I love doing is sketching with charcoal. It used to bring me great joy and I would just sketch whimsical things that popped into my mind. Charcoal can get expensive to purchase though and for a long time, I couldn’t afford art supplies. So my husband would bring me bits of charcoal from wood he’d burnt out in the backyard in his pit. This worked just as well as expensive charcoals. But since I left my husband and moved back to Virginia, I haven’t done any sketching because I’ve had no charcoal and money is definitely a lot tighter these days than before.

A few weeks ago, I was emailing with my husband and he asked if I wanted him to send me some bits of charcoal. I don’t know how he knew, but I had just been thinking about that very thing just a few days prior (he always seems to zone-in on stuff like that for some reason). So to my delight, a package arrived from him on Tuesday with a whole baggie full of bits of charcoal. I’ve been running around with blackened fingers ever since. Quite happily too. *beams*

I don’t know if this really answers Kate’s question this week, but this is a talent that I have refreshed/renewed lately… not sure I have improved on my skills though *laughs*

Creative Questions 13 – Choices

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CQ13 – How have your life values changed?

I just love Kate’s build-up to this question and since it is short, I am going to quote it here:

As our years accumulate we have all endured our share of bumps and lumps, some more than others. Hitting 50 years of age we know that we have lived more than half our life and it’s confronting to decide what we will prioritise on our downhill run … relocate, study, change careers or travel … the decision is ours.

Our plus and minuses are pretty ingrained but we also have the choice to look inwards and see what needs to change to increase our pluses and minimise those minuses. We start to realise the value of good connections, a healthier lifestyle and trimming off the unnecessary.

The superficial holds less value and exploration of life itself seems to open up endless possibilities. How have your life values changed?

I am about to hit that 50-year mark, in 35 days to be more specific. For the majority of my adult life, I’ve lived a bohemian lifestyle, drifting from place to place, partner to partner, and carousing with artists of all sorts – painters, sculptors, writers, actors and musicians. I have worked a ton of different types of jobs, everything from a waitress to a computer tech. I was even a college student for nearly 9 years of my adult life. Since I moved around a lot, I never put down many roots, nor kept friends for very long. And because of my alternative lifestyle, I was the black sheep in my family. None of this really bothered me until the past eleven years. During nine of those eleven years, I married and moved away from everyone I ever knew to a strange and foreign place – Tulsa, Oklahoma. I won’t go into the details, but just suffice to say, while there, I was forced to put down roots, became isolated and descended into madness. It has taken me the better part of three years to recover from those bitter years of my life and it has really put a lot of things into perspective for me. Here are just a few choices and changes that I have made:

  1. I am now the mistress of my own destiny. This isn’t completely new to me since I’ve pretty much come and gone and done whatever I wanted in life. However, I often allowed others along the way to dictate how I lived my life. Some were during brief relationships and others, like with my ex, were for extended periods of time. No one will ever take that away from me again.
  2. I value time spent with family and friends. This is completely new to me. Since I never had close bonds but with just a few people, forging these bonds now take more effort. It is time well spent though.
  3. I am more concerned now with my future – how I will live, where I will live, if I will be able to afford it, etc. I didn’t use to concern myself with these at all. Money had no real value to me. My motto was ‘I can always earn more’ and that was how I lived my life. But I am disabled now and on a very fixed income. So it matters a whole lot more these days.
  4. I am more concerned with my health these days – physically, mentally and spiritually. I was never into drugs or drank excessively, but I did have reckless behaviors when it came to sex and relationships. I didn’t take care of my physical health and mentally, I was a complete mess. Although I’ve always considered myself fairly spiritual, I flitted from one religion to another constantly, never settling on just one firm set of beliefs. These days, I tend to watch my diet most of the time as I am diabetic and have chronic pain issues. I do yoga and qigong, I meditate and follow mostly Buddhist practices. All of these have benefited my physical health, but also my mental and spiritual health as well.
  5. I now choose a drama-free life (or as near to it as possible!). I made a decision to eliminate as much negativity from my life as I could. This not only included thoughts, but also people. I have just stopped feeding the drama monkeys. Anyone who continued to foster negativity, I stopped associating with them – friends, family and acquaintances. I try not to read news that will stir up negative emotions, listen to music that foster negativity, or watch tv or movies that feel negative to me. Now that is not to say that I have completely blocked out the world around me, but I try not to allow those things to stir up negative emotions within me and if they do, I now have comping skills to rid myself of those emotions. It really is a choice! Somethings still get through from time to time though. *coughDonaldTrumpcough*
  6. I spend time on things that matter. This again is not something that is new to me. I’ve always done my own thing. However, I am also a people-pleaser and would often let people talk me into doing things that would distract me from things that really mattered to me. The word ‘no’ just wasn’t in my vocabulary. It took years of therapy for me to finally learn the importance of the word ‘no’ and how to effectively use it. Surprisingly enough, what I thought would happen – people would get angry at me for saying no – hasn’t happened that often. Most of the time, people just say okay and move on. *shockshock* There are always those few though that persist and I have to keep reminding them. This happens a lot with my writing. There is only so much *extra* time available for others when I am doing writing projects. Now I tell people, ‘sorry, if you want me to spend such and such day with you or work on such and such project with you, it has to be scheduled ahead of time.’ Some people don’t mind. Others have gotten angry about it. But, I don’t care anymore. My writing has value and meaning to me. It is important and I now foster what is important to me.
  7. Material things hold little meaning in my life. Now that’s not to say that I have given up every material possession and become a nun or anything like that. However, I no longer spend money on a lot of material goods like I did in my past. I live very simply and tend to my basic needs – food, shelter and clothing. I do still buy books now and again, but since my space is limited, so are my purchases. I now make conscious choices. Do I really need this or is it just a want? What will I have to give up in order to have this? Generally I discover that things are merely wants and I don’t have the space for them.

I am sure there are more choices and changes that I have made in my life, but for now, these are the major ones. I intend for this down-hill ride to be a much healthier one for me all around. I do still realize though that it all happens one step and one day at a time.

 

Creative Questions 11 – Music

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CQ11 – If you were a musical instrument which one would you be and why?

I would definitely be a piano. I would delight in fingers tickling my keys. Relish in the sounds vibrating from my strings. Enjoy in the various styles of music created from my being – classical, jazz, pop, funk, blues. I would be just as content in a grand hall, a smoky blues bar, or sitting in a corner of a modest home with a young child learning ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ or ‘Hot Cross Buns’.

I’ve always enjoyed the elegance of a piano. There is just something majestic about them. Their sizes and shapes. The keys, strings and peddles. It is the one musical instrument that I’ve always wanted to learn to play, but I never could get the hang of each hand doing something different on the keys. *sighs* it was just never going to be a skill I would pick up.

How about you, dear readers? What instrument would you choose and why? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 10 – War

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CQ 10 – How has war impacted on your family and life?

War has never directly affected me. No one in my immediate family served in the military. My maternal grandfather served in WW2 and I have some cousins who served in various branches of the military, but they all came back home from their services. I’ve had no close acquaintances die during war. However, I am aware of the hardships that Vets live through as I have worked in various community centers who serviced Vets. I am a pacifist and believe in non-violence. I have nothing against the military and am proud of those who are and have served, but my preference would be that no one’s sons or daughters would ever have to go to war again.

How about you, dear readers? Has war had an impact on your life or family? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 9 – Mental Health

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CQ9: How has mental health impacted on your life?

When I hear the words “mental health,” I automatically think of someone with a healthy mental state, or advocates for the mentally ill. I do not have a healthy mental state, but I do advocate for those with mental illness, mainly because I have suffered from mental illness since I was a child. I had minor depression beginning around age 10 which lasted until I was around 16. Then again in my early 30s – I was finally diagnosed as Bipolar around then. But I also showed the reckless behavior of Borderline Personality Disorder beginning in my 20s and lasting through my mid-40s. I’ve had Social Anxiety Disorder since my early 30s and suffered Agoraphobia in my mid-30s until my early 40s. I’ve rarely known a time when mental illness hasn’t affected my life. Mental illness even runs in my family on my mother’s side. My mother had some form of it and I had an aunt who committed suicide. I’ve witnessed almost all of my other aunts suffer from depression or phobias.

In the Mental Health community, I was fortunate enough to end up in some really great hospitals, have some good doctors who worked to get me the help I needed and even a few therapists who took the time to understand me and work with me. But there are still stigmas out there about the mentally ill. People think most of us are deranged or dangerous and that isn’t always so. The only danger most of us pose is toward ourselves. And yet anytime something really bad happens, the government and the media always declare that the person or persons was mentally ill. We cannot even discuss our illness in workplaces because we get stigmatized or, as in my case, fired – though I was never directly told it was because I had a mental illness, but I knew why I was fired. And because there isn’t enough knowledge about mental illness, relationships get ruined.

So how has Mental Health impacted my life? Negatively for the most part. My only success in dealing with my illness has come through Mindfulness practice. Without it, I would most certainly be dead.

Creative Questions 8 – Gifts

CQ 8: Please share a gift that you’ve received and one that you’ve given?

This is a difficult question for me. I don’t receive many gifts. Usually only on Christmas and even then not very often.

My ex-husband did gift me with all 5 seasons plus all of the movies of Babylon 5 a few months back, but they had previously been gifts I’d given him. Still, it was lovely since he knows how much I love that show.

His sister, Thea, gifted me with a lovely book a while back, but I haven’t had time to read it yet.

My friend, Lisa, gifted me with an adult coloring book for Christmas. It was a lovely idea, but I haven’t had time to color recently.

I am enjoying the gift of friendship from Annette, my newest friend. She is a lovely woman and we have so much in common.

As for gifts I’ve given… well, I don’t give gifts often anymore either. The last one I recall giving was a small pendant of a butterfly to my friend Lisa for her birthday back in November.

Oh, I gave my grand-nieces some lovely stones on their last visit and their mom, my niece, a beautiful black shirt with lace.

I am on such a tight budget these days that I cannot really afford to give presents. I do try to give my time more often to people now than I have in years past.

Thank you, Kate for another thought provoking question!

How about you, dear readers? When was the last time you gave or received a gift? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 7 – $10 Million WIN

CQ7: Congratulations – you have just won $10 million dollars in the lottery! Please tell us how this windfall will impact on your life and how you plan to spend it? Get creative, make it fun or be sincere …

My first thought would be: who entered me in the lottery? I don’t play lottery or spend money on scratch-offs. The chances are so low to win, that I just find it a waste of money. But I will play along. I won! Hurray! I’ve actually played this what-if game before and my response is usually the same.

  1. Pay off my student loans.
  2. Pay off dad’s house and buy him a new truck.
  3. Contribute $1 million to the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation. He is my spiritual teacher and his foundation does so much to help other Buddhist monks and nuns around the world.
  4. Contribute $1 million to Futures Without Violence because they help women and children who have been subjected to Domestic Violence.
  5. I would probably donate smaller amounts to other charities that deal with cancer and hospice care, education for third world countries, and a few environmental and animal rights groups. I would be careful to whom I contributed to make sure they are small groups with low administrative costs because I would want the money to go directly toward helping and not lining someone’s pockets.
  6. I would donate some money to  the local art organizations in my small home town and to our small library.
  7. And then, I would buy myself a car and move to coastal Maine, purchase a modest-sized house, set up a writing room, an art studio and a library. I would live out my remaining days on Earth doing what I love: reading, writing and painting.

How about you, dear readers? What would you do with $10 million dollars? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 6 – Courage

I’ve been joining calmkate @ Aroused for her Creative Questions Challenge by answering each of her 6 current questions. This is the last one and she promises something special for April that I cannot wait to see!

CQ6: Write about a moment of courage when you stood up for yourself!

If you’ve ever dealt with depression, then you know how it is a cruel monster that steals away your self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect. It can also make you a sniveling shell of your former self. Add to that a life with a Narcissist who loves to take advantage of you when you are that shell and you have someone devoid of courage. This was me for the better part of nine years.

Since I was so depressed, I couldn’t handle conflict of any kind. I would agree to things just to keep from arguing over them. My ex husband knew this about me and would make demands on me that were not in my best interest. I couldn’t find the courage to tell him no. I couldn’t even find the courage to live most of the time.

And then two remarkable things happened almost simultaneously: I had uterine cancer and learned Mindfulness. The cancer gave me the courage to live. The Mindfulness gave me the courage to stand up for myself by teaching me to deal with my depression. Suddenly, I wasn’t that sniveling shell anymore. I was not so apt to say yes just to get along anymore. I began saying no. No to sex when I was sick. No to working on a dead-end marriage. And no to sticking around just because he couldn’t live alone with his own self.

The day I told him I was leaving him and moving back to Virginia was my greatest courageous moment. I didn’t pay attention to his pleads. I didn’t go along to get along. And I didn’t let his needs overshadow my own. I made my plans and carried them out. It was the most rewarding moment of my life.

How about you, dear readers? What was your moment of courage? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 5 – Cheer

I’ve decided to take calmkate @ Aroused up on her Creative Questions Challenge by answering each of her 6 current questions over the next few days.

CQ5: What cheers you up – what brings a smile to your dial, a skip to your step, makes life seem more worthwhile?

It may seem odd, but normal cheery things do not cheer me up. Okay, I should redefine that. Some normal things do not cheer me up. I will admit that a gorgeous sunrise or sunset will put me in a state of awe, but is that cheerful? I am not sure. I will also admit that listening to birds singing, especially the cawing of ravens will make me stop, think, reflect. What I call “gap” moments, but is that cheerful? I am not sure of that either. Laughter will make me stop and smile, especially genuine deep belly laughs. I suppose that is cheery enough. And talking with old and new friends will bring me a moment of joy, so I guess that is cheery too.

However, if I am down and depressed or just sad or lonely, dark things really seem to lift my spirits. See, I told you it was odd! Certain dark music, like that of Linkin Park, Type O Negative, and a few others will lift me quicker than anything. Reading horror or watching documentaries on Serial Killers will bring me out of a slump. Reading or writing dark poetry also cheers me up. Wearing dark colors, usually black, crimson red, or a deep purple can bring me from depressed to happy in a nanosecond.

How about you, dear readers? What cheers you up? Share your thoughts with me in comments.

Creative Questions 4 – Who Am I?

I’ve decided to take calmkate @ Aroused up on her Creative Questions Challenge by answering each of her 6 current questions over the next few days.

CQ4: How do you describe yourself when asked Who are You?

This is a question that I have struggled with for a very long time. I know I am not my birth name (Loretta, for those who are curious), I am not my profession (writer), not my nationality (American), or my ancestry (English, Irish, German, Cherokee), I am not even the *me* that inhabits this body. It’s difficult to answer such a question when you are a walk-in, but am I even I’Ceen (my Andromedan name)? Perhaps I am merely a spirit inhabiting a body, but is that the totality of who I am?

I could tell you of my personality – introvert, quiet, peaceful, at times anxious, at times manic/depressed, at times extremely OCD, riddled with phobias, eclectic, an enigma, so open-minded I fear the Universe lives within my mind, intuitive, empathic, highly sensitive to everything around me – but are any of these things really me?

I could tell you my labels – daughter, sister, aunt, ex-wife, lover, friend, bisexual, Buddhist, witch, spiritualist, poet, artist, fiction writer, Reiki Practitioner  – are any of these really me?

I guess I would just say that I am ME – take the time to get to know ME and perhaps you will discover the answer without asking me.

How about you, dear readers? How would you describe who you are if someone asked? Share your thoughts with me in comments.