Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Momentum and its Vagaries

I have noticed that there are days when I can't wait to get started writing. The words flow from my fingers and from somewhere in my mind. It is as if I can't do anything else until I write for a while. Other times it is all I can do to write, even if I have set a deadline for myself or if someone is waiting for what I might produce. I would like to know what brings about this difference in momentum. How can I be so motivated one time and so listless another? So far I have not figured this out. It seems I am at the whim of my muse. Maybe I need to tend more to the care and feeding of muses, once I figure out what they like.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Going to the Opera

When I was a child, my parents dragged me to an opera outdoors on the lawn, "Opera Under the Stars." I don't remember which opera it was but in protest I faced the other way so I would at least not have to look at. Saturday I went willingly. I knew one of the cast members in the New York Metropolitan Opera production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It was simulcast live from the Met to hundreds of theaters around the world. Not only did I tolerate it, I thoroughly enjoyed it, finding the singing wonderful, the plot line easy to follow and the antics funny in addition to watching Michael perform. When I was a child I never thought I would live through an opera voluntarily. I have come to enjoy a few operas, especially The Magic Flute and Carmen. Now I can add another one. I have been thinking that I might want to explore other operas as well. It is amazing to me that my childhood aversion could turn into and interest. I don't know whether it will ever become a passion as it does for some people. But the process of change is always interesting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Gilbert Street Greeter

During nice weather I became accustomed on my way home to seeing a man standing on the corner waving to each passing motorist. I wonder how many people interrupted their thoughts about rushing home bristling at anyone who might be impeding their progress and took time to appreciate this man's mission to stand on his lawn and greet everyone. He lightened my heart each day. He did not do much in the larger scope of things but did remind me that there is more to life than rushing from one place to another annoyed with anyone who gets in your path. As spring was arriving, I began to look forward to seeing him and his friendly wave again. I read in the paper this week that he had died in Florida. I didn't really know him and am not sure whether he was there for a visit or spent the winter some place warmer than western New York. My fantasy of him is of his spending his last days greeting cars and their drivers in Florida.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Making Bread

A while ago a friend lent me her breadmaker. I used it for a time, throwing in whatever ingredients I thought would make a good bread and turning on the machine. It mixed, raised, remixed and baked the bread all by itself while I watched or just heard it humming from a distance. The bread was good but somehow did not seem quite satisfying. I did not think too much about it at the time. Eventually the hook became lost and I could not find another one. I did not trouble myself to buy a new machine.

Recently I read Why French Women Don't Get Fat. In it I found a recipe for baguettes (no machine involved). I tried it and enjoyed the process of mixing and kneading the bread, tending it while it rose and baking it at the right temperature to yield fine loaves. I began to experiment with different types of flour and various ingredients. This morning I am baking bread with unbleached flour, cracked wheat, wheat germ, oat bran, rosemary and olives.

I worked initially using my listening and talking skills in psychotherapy. Lately I have been concentrating on writing. But there is something deeply satisfying about mixing the ingredients by hand, creating new breads and sharing them with company. It helps keep my life in balance.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Impersistence of Memory

In the column above mine in The Daily News this morning Scot DeSmit wrote about his faulty recollection of characters from a book he read to his children. He remembered a rabbit and a gopher rather than a squirrel and a mole. His column reminded me of the many times I have misrecollected things and events from my past. I have remembered houses being somewhere else, people looking and acting different and events not being quite the same as others recollect them. In studying memory, I learned that there are biological traces of every memory we have. Our minds also seem to have a pastime of creating scenarios different from the ones which actually happened. Maybe there is a novelist inside each of us happily going about creating new events from the material provided by reality. It certainly makes for an interesting world.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In and Out in Fifteen Minutes

Yesterday I accompanied someone to the hospital for outpatient surgery. She was told she would be in and out in fifteen minutes. That was true for the doctor but we were at the hospital for several hours with all the preparation and mostly waiting time. I think we sometimes consider experiences from our own point of view and do not consider what they are like for others. During the years I saw people for psychotherapy, I don't think I ever considered all the time they spent thinking about a session before or after it took place or how what we did in the session affected their lives and those of those important to them. I imagine this is true for any other interaction of which we are only a part. I will try to be aware that the significance of an experience for people is much larger that the small part which I play in their lives.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Learning Along the Path

I read a motivational sign at the Y yesterday, "If a path has no obstacles, it will not take you anywhere." It made me stop and think. Does everything worthwhile have to be difficult? I think that when there are challenges along the way and I learn to deal with them, I am better prepared for other obstacles I meet later and appreciate reaching my goals more than I would if it happened without difficulty. But there are some times when things happen easily and there are no associated obstacles. These are times of joy and comfort. They might not happen all the time but are welcome when they do come along. I think there are people who seem to like doing things the hard way and always look for ways to make things more complicated. They seem to relish creating challenges for themselves. Sometimes it is nice to have something happen without difficulty and just enjoy the experience.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Technology of Communication

There was a time not too long ago when we had simple options for communicating with each other. We would stop each other on the street, visit each other's houses, call on the telephone or write a letter. Now we tend to choose between calling from a cell phone where all can hear our conversations, text messaging or e-mail.

Last week a new writers' group formed and we began looking for ways to communicate with each other. Several of us knew of structured forums we could use either through Google or Wiki on the internet. We tried setting up groups, but many of us were not persistent enough or sopisticated enough in the required technology to continue with our initial enthusiasm. Our excited communication even through the medium of e-mail fell off to nothing once we encountered the frustration of trying to deal with the technology of the forums. Best of all was meeting together in person although our schedules do not allow us to do this whenever we wish to share something with each other. I think we are coming to realize the limitations of technology which is not always an improvement on the old ways.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fear of Poetry

I attended an organizational meeting of a new writer's group last night. I had no idea who would show up. There were writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. I had concerns about whether writers in different genres would have anything to talk about with each other. I learned from others with more experience in such ventures that people writing in different genres provided a diversity otherwise not available. I had not thought of it this way. Still I wondered whether I would be able to relate to poets. I remember being enthralled by Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan and Cristobel. Something about these poems drew me in and captivated me. I have tried reading poetry lately and find it hard to connect with it. I even heard myself say last night that I was afraid of poetry. It sounded strange coming from my mouth. I am not sure what I meant, but there does appear to be this undiscovered part of myself.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Schedules and Accomplishments

For much of my life I have not liked schedules. I liked to do things when I felt like it but as a psychologist my life ran by appointment. Now that I am spending most of my time writing, I have much more flexibility. Still, I have discovered that I can't be successful doing as I please whenever I please. At one time, I could only exercise in the morning. If it didn't happen then, I didn't get to it no matter what my intentions. I would write later in the day and that worked for a while. Recently I found that I felt an urge to write early in the morning and had to exercise some other time. It surprised me to find that mid day turned out to be a better time for me to exercise, at least at this point in my life. My body and mind seeem to have their own schedules which change from time to time. Rather than trying to impose my will on them, I have found that I am much more productive when I follow their lead rather than trying to dominate them.