When I cannot find the “umph” for a big project I pare down my aspirations to smaller tasks. I may not get that chapter written today, but I can remember and record my thoughts, be focused and present in my interactions, and give myself credit for the little things I accomplish, feeding the birds, changing the linens, or listening to a great audio book.
A friend I share an accountability co-working group with just pointed out that summer cloistering that is common in Tucson, could be influencing me to reframe the family examinations I have already done for my memoir. I am not a swimmer, sun worshipper, or even just heat tolerant and what I do is similar to the denning people do in climates with extreme cold. If I am going to stay in my air-conditioned home, out of the sun and heat, sequestered far away from the ongoing, work-a-day world, it is no wonder that I may feel trapped or given to reconsideration of settled matters or the past.
Covid and horrific gun violence have not helped my inclination to isolate into the cool, dark recesses of buildings and my memories to lessen to any degree.
I am trying to remember good things, to focus on positive things, to be kind. I have never been one to follow trends, unless I am one of the first to do whatever the trend is, so there are no gratitude journals I have worked on. I have never been one to do something just because others are doing it. I have to find personal meaning in what I do, or I cannot maintain my motivation and soon grow to find the task or job tiresome and torturous.
Finding good in the memories of my mother is comforting but difficult. It is an exercise I want to encourage other auto-ethnographers, or memoirists to try out through the vehicle of their own lives. Find a difficult subject in your life. Figure out a way to view it from a different perspective. Ask unasked questions. Notice the first time you identify a new fact, perspective, or thought.
I am trying to remember the good things my mother did for, or with, me. It shouldn’t be a difficult endeavor. Sometimes it is.
She has been gone 15 years, passing in 2007. She was born in 1914. 108 years ago. As I age I am gaining a better appreciation of the hard life she lived and the anger and frustration with her life that lived inside herself that she did not know how to recognize, work through, or release.
I am glad I did not have a child in my 40s as she did. It would have made everything so much more difficult. It was difficult enough birthing a smart, sassy, boundary-pusher in my 30s.
With all the hate and violence in the world today, I am trying to force a few good thoughts through my head each day. Many of those are about things long since gone. This scares me a little bit because it then becomes easy for melancholy to set in. Walking barefoot on soft grass on the farm when I was little. It makes me smile, and then I tear up because I have an Arizona lawn that is rocks, dirt, and plants with spines or thorns, frequented by things that sting, or are venomous. There are many things that I love about the desert, but I do miss soft, green grass, and days that are not so hot and dry as to suck the moisture from my skin and soul.
I never worshipped the sun. I have always sought shade. Those recesses, nooks, and crannies of rumination may be drawing inspiration from this summer sequestration. Being aware of an integrated self helps me understand more about me, the me that is now, and the me that was then. By doing that I also can better understand the nuanced nature of others.
Perhaps other writers might find similar conducive environments in winter, or an Autumn weekend spent at a cabin in the woods. Being aware of how context can shift your perspective, and how your perspective shapes your writing, can energize you and allow you to produce even on the difficult days.