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Technically week 4 was reading deprivation week, but I postponed it a bit.

So, first things first: I'm pretty sure that I'm done with morning pages. This was not a cavalier decision. I've been considering it for weeks at this point, but I stuck with it. Julia Cameron really hammers home the fact that morning pages & the artist's date are the two foundations of the program, and nearly everyone who's done the program swears by them. They are not for me. Sure, I have been told that “you can go ahead and write 'I have nothing to write' over and over, and eventually you'll find something to write”. I beg to differ. Unless you count, 'no, really, I have absolutely nothing to write. Not a thing.' Then I give up, feeling guilty for wasting paper & time. The page and a half that I averaged would take me hours in the morning. Totally not productive, and nothing I came up with was insightful or helpful in any way, except for the very first time I wrote them. So after struggling for two or three hours every morning for over a month, even filling a notebook almost all the way up, I just flat out am not doing them. I like the affirmations sometimes, and I enjoy the tasks. The morning pages are not for me.

Neither was reading deprivation week. I am a reading being. Should you ask anyone who's known me for any length of time what I'm best at, they would surely respond, “Girl can down some books, I tell ya what.” I don't even remember learning how to read. I've always known, and even in kindergarten, I carried books around with me. Reading is certainly part & parcel of who I am. And, it would seem, I need that to remain mentally stable.

The first couple of days were hard, but okay. Josh worked outside quite a bit, and I tend to get a lot done when Josh is out of the house. I did some pretty good cleaning. I wrote a couple of letters. I colored in coloring books, sketched a whole lot, exercised, talked to my sister for an hour, listened to Keller for several hours, watched tv with my honey, played Civ 4 instead of looked online, and made up more bedtime stories of my 'fearsome battles' instead of reading a book (see icon: the time I fought the T-rex is their all-time favorite and has spawned many more, including dragons & giant killer snails). Eh, not too shabby. The next day, I stayed on track with my daily routines (thanks, Flylady), but really only did the bare minimum. Worked on some more sketching, since I'm really trying to get my artistic groove back. I aimed to write a letter every day, but I really only did it the first three days. Cause after that, things got kind of bad.

At some point, I was particularly grumpy and Josh and I had a bit of an argument. We don't fight, you see. We've had maybe two or three fights in the nine years we've been together, and only a handful more slight arguments. I don't even recall what it was, except we both felt irky, and I ended up 'binge reading'. Only I didn't even really read. I just scanned yahoo headlines, twitter, and my f-list without actually taking in any of it. It was more a “fuck you, I can do whatever I want!” gesture, but I don't think any of it actually registered on me.

And...it got worse.

Without reading, I did not stay on track with Flylady. Luckily for me, Josh basically took over the dishes. I did laundry a couple of times & was able to stick to the menu I'd plotted out (in this, I didn't count following my recipes as 'reading'. Hope that's not cheating). I watched a hell of a lot of tv. Josh's new favorite is CSI & its sister shows (Miami & NY) during the day, and I have a standing appointment for a few hours of Criminal Minds in the evening. Do you know what this means? This means that my days started being FILLED with a bunch of vics suffering head injuries, including very realistic hospital scenes. And what does that mean for me, in particular? It apparently means that I still have PTSD or something. Because I've been spiraling into quite a horrid depression for four or five days now. Some bad shit.

I suppose that I fill my head with alternate, imo better, realities to escape the stuff I don't want to think about. I don't talk about it a lot here, but not a day goes by that I'm not right there, reliving them quite literally wheeling my mom's broken body under my fucking nose as I arrived at the hospital. Not recognizing her until they turn by my left side, and I look down and recognize the freckle pattern on her arm. So, so broken, and right the fuck under my nose. And those crime shows? Maybe it's different in LV, NY, or Miami, but in Asheville, it's the daughter, not the cops, who had to get up close and take shaved-staple-head pictures for 'the case'. For this particular daughter, those pictures are the memories I have of my 'honeymoon'...asking Josh to get the one shot I was too short to reach, and him doing it because he loves me, and then we all gathered to pull the plug & hear her body break down instead of hearing the machines. Such starkly different sounds. Every day, I relive that. It's usually not this bad, though.

That's how I spent these last few days. Unable to adequately escape those memories. Unable to find my spiritual center without turning to the Bible or one of my other religious texts. Not even Rumi. I tried praying & meditating, but that safe, healing center was lost to me.

Nights were almost worse. Thinking about broken bodies & mom for most of the days apparently triggered some other stuff, because my nights were plagued with memories - and entirely new storylines - involving my evil stepdad. Now, I've only ever touched on the abuse once in nearly five years of blogging. There's a good reason for that – I've worked through it. No, really, I have, no matter what the nightmares might say this week. I spent years working through that shit. I've done my forgiveness work and my healing work. That life was another life. I don't think on it or harp on it. I took what good I could and let it go. It's still a part of me – I've had a conversation with my kids once, and occasionally I'll share something with Josh, but even he doesn't know the half of it. And that's okay. I wouldn't change a thing, because I honestly believe it has made me a better mother, and that's all that matters to me now. I quite literally saw that karmic circle close when it was really over and done with. But something about thinking of broken-mom too much made me a vulnerable little kid again, and at night, I was back there with no escape. Only, in some, I was a grown-up with no escape. I would rather have nightmares about zombie-mom again rather than have all that old stuff come back up.

I wanted to do a ceremony, but I couldn't find my sacred space. I wanted to write a story for that Keller contest I'm so intent on winning, but I haven't even been thinking clearly. (Tomorrow is the deadline, so I HAVE to write it today.) I wanted to work on the WonderSaga. I wanted to paint. I've missed painting since college. I'm not very good, but I enjoy it. I went out, before reading deprivation week, and splurged on some acrylics & all the supplies I'd need, even though I felt guilty. Paint stuff is expensive. But I'd been wanting to do it for years, so I stocked up and looked forward to painting again this week, and then I just couldn't do it.

I did manage to unpack a few boxes of books for my new bookshelf Josh made me. I've almost finished setting up my cold frame, although I thought it'd be done and well-planted by now. I cleaned up again yesterday, even if my heart wasn't in it. And I've played a whole hell of a lot of hearts & solitaire on the old computron. And I drank a lot more than usual. I'd been weaning off, wanting to fast & get spiritual, and I totally spiraled the other way this week.

I haven't done my tasks for this week yet, but I will later on. I still need my artist's date tonight. I'll tackle the task stuff after I actually pound out a Keller story, but I'm dreadfully afraid that it will not be my best work & I'll not win the contest. My brain feels entirely fried. I can feel how my energy is way off kilter. (And, yes, I can hear in this entry how my tone is...off.) I look at my life pie and realize that I have no friends, and without the internet, I feel like I literally have NO friends at all. I know that isn't true. But I definitely realize that many of you help keep me sane, and I appreciate that. I just wish my friendships were a little more solid. Which is weird, because I don't actually get along with people all that well. I've tried making friendships, and I'm weird around other moms/women. In all my years of trying, lahermite was my only real-life friend that I could hang out with, and I met her online too. I'm actually surprised she put up with me, but we had some good times. I never even got 'home sick' at college, but I've been feeling it now. I want her, and I want my sisters – and they don't even like me either. I don't know. This week was not at all what I expected.

At least I learned a very important lesson. Amanda must always have a book or magazine. I usually do, but now I realize that it's actually very essential for my health and well-being.

So...I reckon I'll spend the rest of today reading deprived and sticking with the program. But I can't wait for tomorrow morning.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
Do you have another practice that might be more meaningful for you to start your day with?

For me the major purpose the morning pages serve is that they give me space to clear out some of the sludge that's in my brain when I start the day. It's rarely enough to clear out all the sludge, but I'm at least 3 pages lighter when I start the day. Sometimes that means I write down a bunch of gibberish, I play word association, I start listing things that I think of or that I see around me. Sometimes I use it as a space for dream journaling. Sometimes I'll take a few minutes to check in with my body and start writing something like "How are my toes doing? My toes feel okay. How are my ankles doing? My left one hurts a bit and I haven't stretched yet so they feel a little funny..." and by the time I get to the top of my head I've filled all the pages. Some days I'll grab a Tarot deck, pull a card, and start writing about it until I run out of things to say about that card and then I'll pull another, and keep doing that till I run out of cards. But I think that for me, I write the same way that you seem to read. I actually do remember when I learned how to read, because I remember being very exasperated that other people had to read to me instead of me being able to do it by myself, so I taught myself to do it (around age 3), but I definitely don't remember "learning to write"...that's always been there, as far as I can tell...and it's very easy for me to use writing as an escape. So I'm certainly not trying to pressure you to use this tool if it's not for you...but, if you're looking for some suggestions on how to get something out of this exercise or approach it differently, I've been doing it for years now and I'm full of them! ;-)

I read a lot, but it's not a "tranquilizer" for me on its own. What I found when I did the reading deprivation week was that the thing that really opened me up wasn't "not reading", but "not using the internet to communicate with people", which is a whole different issue. At another point (not while doing the Artist's Way, but inspired by the same concept) I did a music deprivation week -- no YouTube, no iTunes, no radio, no music in my car -- the only music I was allowed to listen to was music that came out of ME (and wasn't written by someone else!) That was intense, but in a good way...I would never want to do that for longer than a week, but it really made me appreciate silence more and also appreciate the sounds I take for granted more, and both those things affected my own approach to music and made a better musician out of me. I had kinda committed to doing that at least one week a year, but I haven't kept up that commitment very well I'm afraid.
Feb. 28th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
My usual ritual is to hang out with the fams while I have my morning coffee, usually catching up emails or watching some tv before starting my routines. I think the thing is that I don't have any sludge when I wake up for the day. I'm refreshed and ready to go. Trying to think of something to write is an awful, homeworky chore, and it brings me no pleasure at all. I might try some of your tips, but I'm pretty sure it's just the opposite of what it's "supposed" to be for me. It works my stress levels up more than it clears anything out. I do like the tarot card idea (I've done meditations like that, but not used them as writing prompts). I just...am forcing it instead of feeling it, and that makes me more inclined to just drop the whole thing. I like the program. I just abhor the morning pages and find them extremely wasteful, for me.

I can't even imagine a music deprivation, but I'm not talented enough to create my own. I can imagine that it would be an interesting exercise though. I hope you get a lot of your own stuff composed when you do that!
Feb. 27th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
As far as the daily sheets are concerned, I've done a similar exercise for different reasons and it's not a waste of time to write "I have nothing to write." What you'll find is that it leads into "I have nothing to write because..." which then leads you further into other ideas and eventually gets to somewhere really, really interesting. The trick is not to think about what you're writing and just write it out, so if all is in your mind is "I can't do this" just write that over and over, no pauses, no stopping to think. It may take a few days to get into the swing of it, which is why when you first start out and all you have is this, it seems like a waste of time, but it's worth persevering with. The exercise that I did you do for 11 days and the first 3-4 days have nothing useful at all and it's only really the last day that the best stuff comes out. I have pages and pages of the word "nothing" repeated but it wasn't a waste of time by any stretch of the imagination.

Did you get my note about not being able to find your number?
Feb. 28th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
I've only just checked all my emails, as I've been in "reading deprivation" all week. Technically, I'm cheating and quitting a few hours early. I'm done with it though. I was going to catch up on FB after LJ. Looks like you weren't on my emergency contact list, but I've added you, so you should have access to that link if you ever need it again in the future. I'll email you our number once I hop over on facebook.

And, sadly, for me writing "I have nothing to write" was indeed a vast waste of time, paper, money, and peace. It did not lead to anything else, except me getting frustrated and angry. Everyone swears by the stuff, but I've been at it for five weeks now, and it just isn't beneficial for me. I have nothing good coming out of them whatsoever. Most of the time, I haven't even made it through three pages, and when I have, it's taken most of my morning. I'm just not a journally person, and I'm already on a "fresh slate" when I wake up. I think it's really just not my thing. I've stuck with it quite a bit because everyone says they eventually lead to all sorts of wonderful insights, but...it hasn't. I have a notebook FULL of nothing but "Blah blah blah, nothing to write, jeez, when do these get better, holy shit this is boring as fuck, why do I keep doing these, I have nothing else to say. No, really, I can't think of anything. I have nothing to write about. I really have nothing to write. Why do I have to do this shit if I never have anything to say here? This is worse than homework. I wish this worked. This doesn't work. What the fuck? Why am I still writing? I'm going to go do something productive and then have some damn fun." After a month, it gets really old, and it makes me start off the day on the total wrong foot from the way I woke up.

So it's not for lack of trying. It just seems to have the opposite effect on me than it apparently does for everyone else. I still enjoy the tasks & artist's dates, though.

Mar. 1st, 2010 12:54 am (UTC)
((((hugs hugs hugs hugs))))

I know that scattered, triggered feeling all too well.

Some writing advice just doesn't fit me as well. I loved the idea of just getting a few characters, starting to write and see what happens but for me that just leads to nothing. I'm a total plotter. It took me a long while to figure that out!
Mar. 1st, 2010 01:56 am (UTC)
*Super Hugs!* Thank you so much.

Man, plotting is totally my weakest area. I wish that I could figure out how to do that. I seem to do the opposite of you - setting & characters, and then edit it afterwards, assuming I ever find a plot within. Not all of my attempts lead to good storylines. What do you do when you're plotting, before you write?
Mar. 1st, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
I never used to plot when I did short stories but with novels I tend to dig myself into deep holes if I don't. I haven't been plotting for very long so I'm still not great at it but I'll try to explain a little.

For last year's NaNoWriMo I wrote out a chapter outline which helped a lot but I had no practice at using one so the emotions in the story ended up kind of flat or forced.

This year, I took a writing class. The main thing the guy taught us was to give the protagonist a flaw and then have him or her overcome that flaw as the story goes along. It sounds formulaic but I think if you worked with it enough you would be able to hide the structure. I can go into more detail if you're interested. Basically I've set it up so I have some idea of what part of my main character needs to change which makes it easier to make the plot center around challenging him.
Mar. 1st, 2010 11:38 am (UTC)
That makes sense. I like flawed characters, anyway. I have kind of a basic outline, like a generic timeline. Like, "First baby born...first crime committed...captain gets preggers...mining mission..." that kind of thing. I don't even know that that counts as plotting. I've never been able to put together a chapter outline, but maybe I should try some exercises like that sometime. I usually never know where my story is going until I get there. I'd probably try with a short story first.

Anyways, thanks for your tips!
Mar. 4th, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
I apologize for reading this so late... I don't check LJ as much as I probably should. I'm sitting up late alternately crying my eyes out & typing with one hand because my other is holding one of my beloved little rattie boys as he slips away. I got them for Christmas 2007, a gift from my daughter. Since rats generally live about 2 years, he's due. He's laying in my hand grinding his teeth. So either he's comforted by my presence or he's annoyed.

I do hope you are feeling better now, darling. You're an amazing woman. Remember that, always. <3
Mar. 4th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC)
Thank you, sweetie. I'm sorry you're having a hard time now! I'll send you guys some juju. *hugs*
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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