Choose: Focus

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[Note: Some of this week’s posts were originally scheduled to be written last week, but I’ve been very ill since Wednesday. The only two that are slightly off as far as timely are the reflection for January, which was supposed to appear yesterday, and the review of the Wayward Sisters episode of Supernatural, which will appear later in the week.-Kb]


Focus is the key. (c)2018

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.

 – Michael Leboeuf 



Last Wednesday, I had planned to talk about focus, both in general and what my focus may or may not be for my writing, and that was going to tie into a post for this past Friday about intentions. Unfortunately, on Wednesday, i couldn’t focus on anything except continually alternating between covering myself and uncovering myself with two or more (or less) blankets, and being all around miserable and sick.
It really just illustrates that you can have the perfect planner, the schedule mapped out, the outline written, the post forming effortlessly in your [my] mind, and life will find a way to knock you down.

Because that’s what life is about. Whether they be big or small, life is about facing challenges.

I spent all day in bed on Wednesday, barely lifting my head when an angel from church texted me that she had made my family dinner. She had no idea that I was sick or how much of a lifesaver she was truly being. She had mentioned it last week, but it was a maybe, so when she called, it was a wonderful godsend.

And that’s also what life is about. Sharing love, sharing food, sharing ideas and thoughts and challenges. Apart from my family and church, my writing is the most important thing to me. I think that’s because it encompasses every part of my life. It surrounds and warms, it emotes and comforts, it laughs and screams, and when I can’t do it, for whatever reason, it pains me.

Choose was/is my word for 2018. My second word is focus. Not merely the pinpointing of a topic or a photograph or a subject, but where will my writing take me? Where will I take it? I consider myself a Jane of all trades, which is simply another way of expressing that I take on all kinds of things and remain expert in none of them. Like a Jeopardy contestant, I’m all about a little knowledge about a lot of things, and that’s actually a great thing for a writer, but is it a good thing for a writer’s audience?

Only time will tell, and you, dear reader, will also tell; by your follows and your likes and your opinions, which I love and appreciate.

So where is my focus? What do I write about? So many things interest me, and I can expound on many of them: spirituality and fandom. Self-help and self-assessment. Travel. Writing. I feel like sometimes I can’t decide on which writer, which person I want to be in the moment. I multi-task, but when I looked up synonyms for multi-task, it gave me focus as an antonym. How strange. When I muti-task I tend to focus more on what I’m doing even if it’s three things at once and a delegation of a fourth.

How does all of this align with who I am and the kind of writer I want to be?

What’s the one thing that connects them all for me or to me besides me?

2018 may take me on that journey of discovery. A fork in the road or a crossroads? We’ll see.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

 – Greg Anderson

Pilgrimage

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Is a retreat a pilgrimage? What about the reverse? Is a pilgrimage a retreat? They can be. They can also not be. Is a road trip a pilgrimage?

For a long time, I assumed that pilgrimage meant spiritual and/or religious. In looking back over my more focused travels, I’ve taken historical pilgrimages, writing pilgrimages, and nature ones. I never looked at them that way before. Everywhere I went in those instances (an in many others) always included writing. Notebooks came with me. Notebooks, journals, and my camera. Now, I will sometimes bring a sketchbook, like this past weekend retreat, but as opposed to the notebooks which is second nature I have to be conscious of packing a sketchbook and colored pencils. Drawing will never feel second nature to me, but it is something that doesn’t intimidate me as much as it used to.

While I’ve been writing this, I have come to the realization that a pilgrimage can sometimes include a retreat, but they are two different things.

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As We Journey, We Do Our Best

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I’ve been very lucky that G-d led me to the parish I’m in. When I began attending Mass, the parish priest was in Rome. When he returned, I was hesitant; he wasn’t who I was used to, but it didn’t take long for me to love his way of expressing things. He spoke to me, seemingly out of the blue, but clearly with G-d’s hand on his choices, ones that would stand out to my ears.

One of those apparently innocuous statements was at the end of my first summer.

As we journey, we do our best.

It was simple. Straightforward. Easy to remember and easy to follow; a new mantra for me to take on my new journey.

As we journey, we do our best.

Lent is one of those times of the year that we try to do our best. We give something up, we take something in. We attend Mass more faithfully.

I’ve been struggling with what to give up, but in remembering that Lent is between me and G-d, I’ve decided to keep it to myself for now, maybe for the entirety of the forty days.

Sometimes it’s easier to do my best without eyes looking over my shoulder for if and when I falter.

It’s the Last Sunday Before Holy Week

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G-d is the G-d of second chances—or third or fourth or as many as we need.

This Lent, stop kicking yourself. Move on and make the best of today.

 Lord, I make no excuses for my past, but I don’t want to be bound by it either. Lord, set me free to move on.

(Connery, Fr. Thomas (2012-12-09). Traveling Light – Spirited Reflections and Prayers for the Days of Lent (Kindle Locations 656-657). Creative Communications for the Parish. Kindle Edition.)

John 8:11 – Neither do I condemn you.

Communion Antiphon

Has no one condemned you, woman? No one, Lord.

Neither shall I condemn you. From now on, sin no more.

(John 8:101-11)

In the meditation (from The Word Among Us publication for March 17, 2013), we are reminded, “Jesus knows our sins far better than anyone else, even better than we know them. Still, he refuses to condemn us. It doesn’t move him one bit when others try to remind him (or us) of our failings.”

As most of you know, this is my first Lent. Since it is my first time, I’ve gone to several people in order to both do it right and make it meaningful for me. I was told that the act of giving something up isn’t simply to suffer, but to trade something that we enjoy and think we can’t live without for G-d and Faith and what is really important to us.

For me, I’ve been talking about writing and writing since I was a little kid. Some of it is bad. Some of it is so good I can’t believe I write it. One of the things the Internet has given me is a platform. A platform to share, to get feedback, to meet people and to share my thoughts, my feelings and to thank the people who help me on a daily basis. I try to do that, and in the last year, I am a better person and I am grateful for that, to G-d, to the friends who’ve stood with me and supported me and shown me what true friendship is as I now find my true faith.

What I had decided to do in addition to giving something meaningful up, I added a few things into my life. I was asked the other day about how giving up my diet soda and favorite scone treat was going, and I admitted rather reluctantly that it was going surprisingly easy; easier than I expected. I’ve missed neither except for a couple of times that I wanted a soda and then reminded myself why I wasn’t drinking them, and I was fine.

I did go from 5-6 12oz. cans of diet Coke a day to ZERO. Cold turkey. I replaced it with green tea in the morning and water throughout the day with very occasional visits to Starbucks.

I attend the daily Mass three days a week and I’ve been trying to attend Sunday Mass (which I will continue for the next two Sundays).

I had a chance with Lent to remind myself of my New Year’s resolutions, one of which was to increase and be more consistent in my writings of all subjects: fan fiction, non-fiction, memoir, my spiritual journey of the last year and anything else that springs to my mind. I’ve certainly been better than last year, but I still need work, and so for Lent, one of the things that I promised myself was to do more writing, ideally on a daily basis: one faith based writing and one writing about anything else.

Unfortunately that hasn’t happened as easily as I would have liked and last week brought my second bout of a deeper depression than I’ve experienced since I’ve been on the medication. I know it’s a recovery process and there will be times like this, but it’s not easy and I’m still not out of last week’s; there is a mound to climb over and with my friend’s birthday looming (I’ll write more about her on Tuesday), it is just not an easy week.

They’re not for everyone, but I stick to my rituals and they help. I get up in the morning and I have my ‘kindle things’. I check the free app of the day because Free is Good. I check the overnight onslaught of Tumblr, which is usually good for a few smiles. I check my Facebook. Even if I don’t do anything else in the daily routine, I do those and I read two things: the day’s Scripture/Mass from The Word Among Us and the day’s entry in Traveling Light by Father Thomas Connery, which is a book of reflections and prayers to be read during Lent. My church gave these out with a small cross at the beginning of the Lenten season.

These five things are an always for me. They set my day. Some days, the scripture readings are just readings, the next day in a succession in the life and teachings of Jesus, and a reminder to stay on your path, but some days (remarkably more often than not), they speak very specifically to something I’ve been dealing with, something I’ve been praying on, something I need counsel for, and somehow, despite all of the belief and the comfort, I am still surprised when G-d knows exactly what I need and when I need to hear it.

Today was one of those mornings.

#5: Special Blend Tisane: The Last Tea

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After a rough morning and an argument with my husband, a crying jag of tears, it was time to try and put all of that aside to honor Brittany. That had been my plan before being briefly derailed with life as it is. It was important for me to have Brittany’s last tea on December 7th. This date was significant for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was 19 months to the day that Brittany was murdered. It was also eight years before that I spoke to my mother for the last time before she died; the two things that have stood out for me emotionally since that time.

I showered and cleared my mind. Mostly. At least I’ve cleared it enough that I can keep the morning’s annoyances at bay, off the path and enjoy the final tea.

I usually like a savory breakfast but instead I’ve chosen sweet scones for today. The sweetness does so much better with this tea, which is actually a tisane. I’m not sure if I like it when I first taste it. It smells tea-like – the deep leafy scent that tea has. Unlike the other teas I’ve had, the scent doesn’t change much with the addition of hot water. I’ve also used honey as a sweetener, which I was told was the only thing to add, and that only smooths out the flavor.

As it steeps, there is a new scent; and taste that I can’t place exactly; it’s a would-be memory; I’m not even sure if it’s real. Strangely, it reminds me of Asian grass huts. It’s the scent of a picture in my mind. It’s very vivid. The smell is also some kind of familiar food that I don’t remember – from childhood maybe?

As I drink, I can feel my breaths deepening; my chest clearing with each swallow. I remember that there is licorice root in the blend. I can feel the extra space in my chest –cleansing. The licorice root opens my lungs as the teas have opened my soul.

This one is less of a hug than the other teas have been; this one is more of a push, a nudge in the back of the shoulder. It is an unknown expectation. It’s a ‘go; now.’ I feel it. It’s the moment when Mama Bird pushes Baby from their nest. Time to soar. Or time to fall. Or both. And it’s neither. This is definitely a push and I can hear Brittany laughing at me. I can see her curls tossed back in that laughter.

I do not like this tea.

I want so much to like this tea.

Her other four teas were all different – not really my usual taste and they all surprised me. I really liked them all. This one, though, this one is special; it is Brittany’s special blend. Her heart is in this one. I want to like this one. I need to like it.

I barely drink it before she’s laughing at me. She’s laughing at me. And swiftly, I’m laughing too. Our differences are summed up so succinctly in this cup. We were so completely different. Our tastes were different; our thoughts were different, as different as our personalities, but we can join together in a cup of tea, just not this cup of tea and….. it’s okay that I don’t like it. She’s shared it with me, her special tisane, and I’ve accepted it, but it – it is literally not my cup of tea.

This is the last of the teas that I was sent to commemorate and memorialize Brittany and think back on my relationship with her and reflect on my relationship with myself. I’ve found a lot in these teas and this time with Brittany.

However, this won’t be the last time I write about tea; or about Brittany. These teas have opened other avenues for me.

Since I started these tea times in the summer, I’ve been trying other teas that are not related to Brittany, and so I will continue that and post about those tastings.

In life, Brittany changed both of our paths. And in death, she has transformed my beliefs, my attitude, my spirituality, and who I want to be, and how, for the rest of my life.

I’m really not sure where my current life fits in, but that’s why it’s called a journey; a path, several to take on that journey.

This has been packing the backpack and refilling the water jug.

Next tea: Moroccan Mint or Ginger Citrus