The Last Month of Venturing…

The Chinese Garden at Huntington Library and Gardens

It has been a month since my last post. Here is what I’ve been doing:

The last month I spent much time retracted and journaling. Writing for myself is a little different than writing here on my personal blog, and very different than writing for others. I get a lot of emotional processing done by journaling, and it’s something I suggest for anyone. Personal writing is healing, and the last month I’ve realized how far I’ve come on my journey recovering from past trauma, PTSD, and the negative pressure I placed on myself to counter undiagnosed ADHD.

I spent a week in LA with my partner, enjoying visits to Huntington Library and Gardens, the LA Opera to see Aida on opening night, and the much lauded and admittedly awesome Alamo Drafthouse for The Northman and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Our transition to a long distance relationship has been challenging, but this visit really paid off with relaxed enjoyment and connection.

Huntington Library and Gardens is incredible, and well worth the visit! It takes more than a day to see it all. The Chinese and Japanese Gardens are incredible, and the Herb and Rose Gardens were fascinating. The Mapping Fiction exhibition was superb, and the Library Exhibition Hall with a Gutenberg Bible and the Ellesmere Chaucer were uniquely enjoyable. We did not get to see the Australian and Desert Gardens, sadly, nor many of the art exhibits. Notably enjoyable in the Chinese and Japanese Gardens were the Penjing and Bonsai displays.

Chinese Penjing display, a miniature forest landscape

We also visited the last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, my first time there, and I purchased an epic hat from Bat Hatter Dude.

At Renaissance Pleasure Faire with my new hat by Bad Hatter Dude

Coming back to San Jose, my wife and I notified our landlord of our intent to move out by July 31, kicking off the official move. We’re working on cleaning out the house and looking for a place in the Portland, OR, area. It just needs to be somewhere temporary, not a forever home, but cheap enough to get us started and in a location we can enjoy both the city and the surrounding natural beauty.

I’ve started looking at work, thinking about what a return to work looks like. I’m landing on freelance and contract work, maybe some consultant work. Like many, I want more freedom and flexibility from the workplace, and it will be nice to have the flexibility to work from anywhere. I have range from data center hardware consulting, technical writing and communication, to various other content work, so I’m not going to lock myself down to the old niche just yet. However, if anyone needs consulting expertise on data center hardware serviceability or procurement, I’ll be available soon.

I am also catching up with friends before we leave, especially now that I’m out of this shorter period of isolation. It is bittersweet to leave now, especially as I’ve made friends and found community during COVID, in unlikely times. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to get some outdoor coffee before mid-July, please reach out.

I continue to walk near daily, and I enjoy walking meditation particularly. Walking meditation is a great skill to develop. It provides feelings of harmony with your own little area, seeing the changes from day to day, week to week, particularly in the spring to summer. Summer solstice, what we refer to as Alban Hefin in Druidry, is just around the corner, and it is nice to enjoy the longer days and cool fade to night.

Sometimes my 5 year old joins me on walks, and he is quite the director of photography.

My son asking me to zoom in on this ball from a tree

I usually place pictures from my walks on my Instagram account. Please like and follow there for more.

Thank you for reading these words. Bookmark, and come back again soon. I have plans for this space as I return to work, and it will continue to be the area for personal insights and musings. My book is still in development, and more poetry will be coming.

Until then, may you find and share peace, harmony, and love in your life.

Getting sick while travelling in the time of COVID

It started in my chest. First a tickle. Then a little pain.

Was that my heart? Nope, all looks good there…

A cough. Uh oh.

That night, I wheeze going to sleep.

I wake up to a full chest cold. These are rare. Usually my colds start in my head and go down. Rarely do they start in my chest and go up…

Do I have COVID?

I think over the preceding days travelling with my partner. Flights. A wedding. Venturing on the LA Metro for the first time. Plenty of opportunity to get it. My partner seems ok though.

My son back home gets sick and starts throwing up. My wife is worried. I am too. Should I go home if I have COVID?

My cough gets worse. My son gets better. I take a COVID test… negative.

That evening my nose starts running and doesn’t stop. Cold chills bring shivers and I’m afraid to move under my blankets. I’m supposed to fly home tomorrow.

I wake up and can barely breathe. I’m supposed to pack, but still have chills and fatigue. I talk with my wife and reschedule my flight.

I’m on a medication regimen now… something for the mucus, something for allergies, something for fever… I spend most of the day sleeping. My partner takes care of me, making sure I’m covered with blankets and checking in.

I take a second COVID test… negative again. I feel thankful at least it’s not that I might take home with me.

My wife gets sick, the same bug our son had. She’s throwing up, which she hates more than anything else. She wants me back home. I want to be back home, but I’m not feeling well either, and I’d either take what I have there or get what they had too.

The sleeping through the day helps. By evening I’m not shivering. I go to sleep feeling a bit better and breathing well.

This morning I wake up. I cough a bit to clear out my lungs, but my wheezing isn’t so bad. My sniffles are waning. A round of meds should help. I feel well enough to pack and get ready to head home.

The flight leaves in a few hours. It’s a short one, less than a couple of hours. My partner is going to drive me to LAX.

My wife feels much better. My son has to stay home from day care though, and she’ll be with him today.

Looking back, I think this is allergies. The mucus meds helped the symptoms, but the med that helped the most was the allergy medication. It seems to make me more sleepy when it’s really doing something.

Time to pack. Time to fly. Time to say goodbye to my partner for another month. Long distance goodbyes are sad.

I’m just thankful it wasn’t COVID.

Crows Came

Today I watched a man
So angry about littering
He chased a car out of
A parking lot on foot.
Yet he was not
Angry enough
To pick up the litter.

The gulls came first.
White as clouds,
Surrounding fries hungry.
Then their victory lost:
A crow arrived
And staked its claim
Picking up a fry.

I watched it a while.
It called another.
They picked and pecked.
They took what they wanted.
I finally got out
Of my car at last
And picked up the rest.

Why do we get so angry
We will attack others,
But not take action
To address what we’re angry about?
And I can’t help but think
This is Our story
As we let the Earth choke.

Writing emotionally, from the heart…

The last two days I wrote an essay for admittance to the next course in my Druidry training. I’ve been in the prerequisite course for the last two years, and the essay is a recap of that course. It’s experiential, so the essay doesn’t have right or wrong answers.

I’ve never been that great about writing to others authentically, meaning with emotion and personal perspective, about my personal experiences. It’s been a challenge, and no matter in the past how much I’ve poured out on the page, I had not hit that threshold of the deeply personal and intimate. I used to write police reports, and I spent so long trying to articulate the objective and rational, I beat out of myself the ability to write how I feel and how things affect me.

Another problem is I hold back. I worry about judgement and fear exclusion for what I think and feel. I’ve known for a while I can’t do that with creative writing. It’s sabotage. As I’ve gone through this course, as I’ve written poetry and read other writer’s works, I’ve looked for signs of writing which effectively draw out the author as a real human.

With this admissions essay, I think I finally achieved it, if for only one example. My partner Erica, after she read it, said it’s the first piece of writing that feels like me, even saying her reaction was “Yeah, this is him.” Then we talked about what she thought differentiated yesterday’s essay from other writing.

Erica said I usually write fast. I write fast, publish fast, and move on to the next thing. She doesn’t think this gives me adequate time to deeply feel, or realize my feelings enough to effectively articulate them. She said writing an essay that was essentially two years in the making gave me enough time to expand my feelings to writing.

I see it, and agree with it. I also don’t want every effective work of writing I make in the future take a couple of years.

Another friend who hadn’t read the essay asked me about it this morning. She’s taking the same course, and her own essay will be coming up in the next few months. She is worried about how long it needs to be.

I give better advice to others than I do myself. This is some of what I shared with her:

“If there is one piece of advice I might have: don’t hold back. Our advisors have seen many of these, and have been there themselves. I wasn’t sure how mine would respond if I fully opened up to him. Part of it I wondered if he would think I’m crazy.

I kept in mind as I wrote how much I worked for this. How much I learned, grew, and changed. Giving myself a break after finishing, I also thought about how much I wanted to move forward. To honor myself, my work, and my intentions, I put my whole heart into it, 100%. I haven’t done that often in my life. I’ve always held back, pulled punches, and tried to soften blows. I’m intense, and I hit hard. I’ve always been afraid of myself a bit. That fear sometimes holds me back from seeing what I can do.

Yet if you’re standing at the gates of somewhere you’ve worked hard to be ready for; if you feel you’re experienced and ready and put your heart into it; there’s no other way than to give it your all. So when you write your application, speak your truth, give it your heart. Tell them what you did and what it meant. Don’t hold back. The length doesn’t matter. The power you put into it does.”

Today, between those two conversations, I’m reflecting on the advice in front of me.

  1. Honor and take time with your feelings when writing. Don’t just grab the Who, What, When, Where, and How and go. Our feelings give us our Why, and sometimes they don’t make any sense. They don’t have to make any sense to anyone else but us. Yet, when we have the courage to put them out there, they may resonate with others, and that’s what forms meaningful connection with readers. To put feelings out there effectively, you should have a fair understanding of your own, and that takes time and mindful work.
  2. Be open and honest; intimate. Don’t hold back. It’s natural to want acceptance, to fear rejection or judgement. Fear is a great emotion – it warns us of danger, it can help us make better decisions. If I want to write authentically and intimately in a way that can connect emotionally with others, I have to overcome the fear that I will be judged, rejected, or shamed. What are you willing to risk to connect deeply with others? To be understood? To have someone respond to you and say “I feel this too!”? Those are the potential rewards if you can work past the fear.
  3. Remember your motivation and be passionate about it. For this essay, I had a clear goal I wanted to accomplish, to move to the next course. I felt that passion while writing, when making the decisions on what I would say. That motivation influenced how much of my emotion and self I put into it, meaning to say, all of it! The lesson I’m taking with me to the other projects is to remind myself of and cultivate my motivation and passion.
  4. Make yourself your first audience: Write like it’s your journal. Since this was an essay about a course I had taken over the last two years, I had a journal with my thoughts and observations. This journal was just for myself, so the things I wrote in it were my most intimate feelings. Writing the essay, I transcribed a few parts of the journal – a couple of poems, some off-hand writing. Easily, these are the most intimate parts of the essay. We don’t always have the benefit of having two years of intimate writing behind us, but we can turn whatever project we’re working on into our own private journal, at least for a time. However, doing this means you first have to be able to be completely honest and open with yourself, and that is a complete other topic for another time.

I expected to wait up to a month for a response to my essay. Surprisingly, I got a response within a few hours; I’ve been recommended to proceed! I feel like the emotional work I did for this course and essay was key to the response it received.

I still have a lot of work to do in this space, but I feel like I’ve reached a new level. I’m going to continue reflecting on the advice I received and gave. There are points there which can be refined and improved, but for today, it’s real and raw, where I am now, and that’s enough.

A rebrand, with more new stuff coming…

I have lived many stories. I have done many things. Through all of them, I’ve never had something I’ve had interest to write so much as to write a book about it.

Writing has been a near life-long interest, hobby, and benefit to my career. I started reading at 4, with spelling and writing coming along shortly after. Until the joy of literature and creative writing was beaten out of me by uninspired and end of career teachers, and one specific very likely racist English teacher, I might have taken a more active, professional interest.

Instead, writing was left to personal notebooks until I realized my reports as a police officer were well regarded. As I left law enforcement and went into business, my professional style developed with a shift toward business writing. Eventually, I became a technical communicator as an intrinsic part of my roles, which brought new methods and skills to my writing.

Through storytelling, social media, and other blogs, I have received continuous, healthy feedback from friends and family. At work, I have been encouraged by prior managers and coworkers. Finally, throughout my life, I’ve heard a repeated, mostly serious, and occasionally pejorative phrase…

“You should write a book.”

I have lived many stories. I have done many things. Through all of them, I’ve never had something I’ve had interest to write so much as to write a book about it.

Yet privately, some things changed…

The last few years I have explored inspiration and creativity again, revisiting the joy of my younger years, and healing some of the wounds I had from childhood teachers. I have been properly diagnosed with ADHD, and I’ve developed tools to help me beyond the personal tools I had through the first part of my career. Through a renewed spiritual interest, I have explored literature, poetry, and committing emotion and artistic meaning to writing. Essentially, many of the things which would be necessary for me to even consider writing a book have now happened, but there was one final problem.

I needed an idea.

Among my reading, among the stories, among everything I have explored the last few years, I have found something unexplored which uniquely aligns with me, and is a story I am very well inspired to develop and tell. Part of me is deathly afraid that someone out there is in the process or already has a head start on writing it, but another part of me comforts and assures that even if they did, they could not and would not have the unique take for this story I do. The other part of me fears that in the uniqueness of this story, I may not gain either readers or following for more, but that is a problem for another time.

The important thing, at least right here, right now, is that I now have at least a book to write, with ideas for storytelling, art, and other mediums for a long time to come. They have come through like a fissure suddenly opening from green land, erupting lava, forever changing the landscape of my mind.

So now I do have a book to write, or at least an idea supporting one. For some people the ideas come easy, and while for me this is true, finding an idea worthy of taking action on the scale of writing a book has been new. Here’s the catch…

I don’t know how to write a book, or at least, I don’t assume I know how to write a good one.

So as with all things, the decision to write a book also begins with learning how to do it. I could assume I could start right now, write a few stories as chapters, mash them all together between a prologue and epilogue and call it done. I imagine especially in the beginning this process won’t be too far off that. I also have the benefit of this coming about two weeks before November, when the annual NanoWriMo competition (?) begins. I’ll be working on the book through the month of November, provided I get some of what I need to do done before Nov 1. I don’t want to rush my work, but I do want to do it well and get it done.

Finally, it will not be my only writing. It can’t be. To keep the skill of writing sharp, you have to keep writing to hone it. So that’s how I’m using this space, apart from my other notebooks. Here I will write about what I’m doing, my process, and from time to time I might drop other writings about other things. Maybe even some poetry as I encounter it in myself.

So I come back around to you as a newly aspiring book writer, what are your tips, tricks, and tools which you use for writing novels? What are your pains, your gotchas, and your watch-outs? I’m also interested in any groups or workshops which might be a good fit, and I’m looking out for those separately.

Finally, I want to thank anyone who has told me, at least halfway seriously, that I should write a book. I’ve usually either responded with extreme humility or absolute certainty I will, but I have never been sure the day would come where I would be inspired for it. Here we are, and here it is. Thank you. I would not be doing this if it weren’t for the encouragement I’ve received, and the support of friends, family, and loved ones.

Peace, Harmony, and Balance,

Alex