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Spiders and storyweaving

Over the last couple of weeks, I have encountered spiders regularly in my bedroom. One spider at a time. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in a house and so I haven’t really encountered spiders very often in my adult life. (During the emptying of my old apartment in November and December, I found and dispatched a number of spiders from the dark and dusty recesses of the various clutter-filled cubby holes, but that was in conjunction with a whole lot of other multi-legged undesirables; otherwise I hadn’t encountered more than a handful of spiders in my own home in my entire adult life.)

I’m not afraid of spiders — in fact, an old boyfriend had a pet tarantula that I held and let crawl up my arm. (As an aside, if you’ve never held a tarantula, you really should at least once in your life. It’s a most remarkable sensation — their “feet” feel like the hook side of velcro, which is not at all what I expected. And it tickles.) But I don’t like the idea of spiders getting into things they aren’t meant to be in, like my hair. So I have difficulty letting them remain in areas where that is a possibility. I’ve tried to explain to them that there’s an entirely empty bedroom next to mine that they are welcome to take over, but they seem to like mine best. It’s not a good mix.

During all this, and despite the fact that I’ve long considered getting a spider or spider web tattoo, I’ve never considered that perhaps the repeated presence of the spiders might have a more symbolic meaning. My weekly class with Asia Voight last night featured one of my favourite authors, Dr. Steven Farmer. He spoke about power animals and spirit animals and about learning to recognize when the repeated presence of a particular animal brings a message for you. While I was listening, I decided to bring up the Spider card in his “Messages From You Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards” iPhone app:

Trust the creative spark you’re feeling, and express it through writing stories that inspire and enlighten.  The pulse of creativity is especially strong right now, triggering a not unfamiliar and compelling desire to express yourself through creative writing. Whether or not the tales you weave are true, whether they’re based on actual experience or the imaginings of your fertile mind, each day sit yourself down and pour out the words that come to you. Don’t ponder each sentence or paragraph; just write whatever wants to be written through you. To inspire and enlighten others, you don’t need a profoundly complex tale. Start by describing a personal experience, one where you gained some insight that may also be useful for others. However, don’t focus on how people will respond to your story; instead, just enjoy the process of writing without judging your work or yourself. […]

Associations: Creativity, wisdom, weaving, balance, storytelling, writing, connectedness, inspiration, femininity, nurturing, communication, imagination, individuality

It touches on two things that have been on my mind lately: blogging and continuing to work on the novels I started for past 3-Day Novel contests:

  • Blogging: I didn’t write much in this blog after Maci died because, well, I just really couldn’t put what I was going through into words. Since the move, I’ve been wanting to write more here, but I’ve been conflicted. This blog has always been my general, all purpose blog. I’ve tried to keep most of my spiritual and writing ramblings to other blogs I’ve created for those purposes, but that hasn’t been working for me so far as it has led only to dozens of half-written and halfhearted draft posts strewn across all of the blogs, with few actually published. I don’t want to split myself apart like that any more so I’m going to reintegrate myself into this one blog. And I’m going to start trying to post regularly — perhaps even daily like I did before. I do have thoughts to share that might well help someone else, and if not, the writing is the thing. If it only helps me to sort things out, then it will have done its job well.
  • Writing: When I moved, I threw away most of the books I’d collected over the years. The relatively few books I kept tend to fall into three categories — spiritual, technical writing or grammar, and creative writing. The technical writing/grammar books I kept because I expect to one day go back into technical writing and many of the books I have are hard to come by today; the spiritual books are relevant to my current intentions for my life; and the creative writing books speak to my long-held and newly-renewed desire to write and publish (even if on my own) a novel. Today, I received my participation sticker for last year’s 3-Day Novel contest and a pretty hefty discount offer for this year’s contest fee (30% off). So I signed up again. Between now and then, I would like to revisit some of the other stories I’d begun for past contests and finally get them written. One in particular — one that speaks to the interconnectedness of all things — seems to want to be written now and so I think I will start on that one. One of my biggest difficulties with past contests is that I lacked the discipline to sit down over a 3-day long weekend and try to write an entire novel. By making a commitment now to write at least something every day, perhaps I will be able to succeed in September. More importantly, the stories already bursting to be finished will be that much closer to completion and release into the world.

A very good place to start

“So…you mentioned ‘epic’ in your last post. Care to elaborate?”

Oh, yeah.

I should probably explain that.

And why I know this time is different.

(I know…how many times have I said that. I have journals and diaries going back decades that attest to my high failure rate at making any lasting changes in any aspect of my life. So why is it different now?)

After my last Maci-related posts here, I drifted in apathy and sadness and nothingness. Slept a lot. Ate more. Wallowed endlessly. Got further out of control in pretty much every aspect of my life.

Cut to November 9.

That was the day that I decided I needed a new start — an extreme new start.

[I grew up in a household full of wonderful clutter. The difference between that home and mine is that my mother was neat and tidy by nature (where I’m messy and lazy) and so our houses were always charming and homey in their clutter. And my mother was a serial collector — giving away the contents of one collection when another was started — rather than a hoarder.

When my mother died, my attitude towards “stuff” began to change. You can’t take it with you, and if I were to die, there was nothing I owned that anyone would struggle to (or want to) keep — at best, things to be sold off to get rid of them; at worst, they would just be tossed out. If it wasn’t making me happy to have it around me, then why keep it? My attachment to my “stuff” was weakening, but the situation I was in was overwhelming.]

Trying to fix things while staying put where I was wasn’t working for me. It was long past time for a change.

“Portable” became my new mantra.

I put in my notice on my apartment and found a room to rent in someone else’s house. Rented a small storage unit and a mail box.

I threw away most of my belongings, and I do mean “most”, including almost all of the books that I’d been desperately holding onto for decades, every piece of furniture I owned, my television, and most of my computer equipment. (I know — it seems a waste to have thrown out so many functional and usable items, but ultimately that excuse has been keeping me from decluttering properly for years and if I held onto things now long enough to sell or give them away, I’d never be free. It had to be a quick and clean break and that meant throwing things away while I could.)

I couldn’t manage to do it all myself — not because I was holding onto things, but because I wasn’t in the best shape or health and trying to do this huge a job on my own while working 12-hour shifts was hard. So I hired the 1-800-Got-Junk guys. Unfortunately, one completely-packed-to-the-rafters truckload and many personal trips to the dumpsters later and my apartment still looked like a squat. That’s when I realized that I’d never finish it if I stayed, so I cut and ran before the new year. One of these days I’ll get a bill from the landlord for the final clean up. And that’s a small price for the sense of relief that doing a runner brought.

So now I live in a rented room in a house with dogs and a small yard. My phone and my Internet are mobile and contract-free. My electronics are all portable. The only furniture I own is a new twin mattress set. Everything else that is here with me is in a half dozen plastic storage containers. My small storage unit is severely underutilized and contains pretty much only those items that I wanted to keep but didn’t need with me: my mother’s paintings, my technical writing and other reference books, photos, my guitar, some tarot/oracle card decks, and some papers I didn’t have time to sort through. If I were to lose it all tomorrow, I’d be disappointed but not heartbroken, and that’s very liberating.

I live closer to where I work so I’ve virtually eliminated my taxi addiction and I’m walking more. I’m working on cleaning up my finances and my health. I’m coming out of my hermitage and beginning to actually interact with the Real World in ways I’ve avoided for over a decade. I’ve returned to the spiritual quest I paused years ago. And I’m working out what phase II is going to look like.

I am still very much a work-in-progress. I don’t know where this is going, but I’m no longer afraid and no longer hiding. And that’s a very good place to start an epic journey.

We interrupt this interruption…

I need to live with nothing fixed
Don’t tell me what’s gonna happen next
I’m alright, I like the way this feels
Leave behind all the things I miss
The next stop isn’t where you think it is
‘Cos tonight I’m riding off the rails […]

The end is where you hope you never say
“I coulda done it better”
I’m gonna keep what counts
and throw away what doesn’t really matter
And I wanna die on the highest high

(McFly, “The End”)

I started writing this blog back in August 2006 as I was heading into a full-blown mid-life crisis. The years since then have been rocky — ups and downs and sideways turns and rolls that never quite amounted to anything I’d hoped for. The expected mid-life crisis certainly never really materialized.

This is the year.

I don’t know the shape of my future, but I know it looks unlike anything I ever imagined.

It’s going to be epic.

A new year, a new start

I worked as a mainframe computer operator for the first 11 years of my post-educational work life. When I left the field in 1996, I was in a life expansion phase: I’d lost 25 pounds and was fitter than I’d been in years; I was feeling better emotionally and mentally than I’d felt in almost a decade; I was positively exploring my spiritual life; and I had definite and achievable goals for the work, personal, and educational aspects of my life.

Within a year, everything had started to gradually head south, and in the years since then, I’ve gained back all of the weight I’d lost (and a whole lot more), I’ve become a mental and emotional wreck, my personal life has been non-existent (generally through unconscious choice, as I turned myself into almost a shut-in), my work life has been highs and lows and a lot of unemployment, and I’ve almost completely lost track of the goals I’d had for myself because they take more energy, enthusiasm, and commitment than I can sustain.

The last year has been rough, with everything heavily colored by my mother’s illness and death and steady unemployment. You probably wouldn’t recognize it as depression unless you’ve experienced it before or known someone who has — most people think of depression as sadness, crying, moodiness, etc., but it frequently manifests itself in subtler ways. I’ve tried to convince myself that I’m not depressed. Some days it works, most days I lose the battle part way through the day.

But enough is enough.

I’ve been absent from my life for much of the last year — probably even longer — and my world (and my cat’s world) are the worse for it. Both of us now suffer from health issues that are most definitely à cause de moi. We both deserve better and I can only hope that I’m not coming to my senses too late for either of us. Depression or not, I have to get my shit together.

I aim for 2011 to be different — better — than 2010.

I start a new job in the new year, one that takes me back into the world of mainframe computer operations. And even though I’d always thought I’d never go back into ops, that it would be a step backwards if I ever did, it doesn’t feel like backsliding. Instead, it feels like I’m being given a do-over, like my life is being reset back to the last high point. It feels like I’m being set back on the right road after taking a lengthy detour.

So, this is the year for the mother of all resolutions — rebooting my entire life.

No, I’m not crazy. In fact, I may be more sane than I’ve been in a very long time.

(More details to come later, as I sort out what exactly “rebooting my entire life” encompasses.)