Dry Spells [Covencraft #4] – update

So, I complained to my sister a few months ago that book 4 of Covencraft (Dry Spells) was the hardest book I’d written.

SISTER: “you say that about all your books”

Me: I DO NOT

SISTER: Yep. You do.

Me: *thinks about it. grumbles because it might be true* “BUT THIS TIME I MEAN IT.”

The thing is, I do mean it every time. Each book has a clear plot to me and a clear emotional feel AFTER I’VE FINISHED IT. but before,  I’m kind of fumbling around in the dark. I thought I’d done enough pre-planning on book 4 that I knew what it was about. And I did, on the surface. But I hadn’t explored what it was underneath. I knew the plot points I wanted to hit, but I didn’t know or understand how I wanted it to emotionally resonate.

It may be that no one but me ever feels those deeper emotions in my books, but I NEED THAT connection to understand the plot. Book 1 was about belonging for Jade. Book 1 for Paris was about learning more about his Coven. Book 2 was about both Paris and Jade learning what belonging meant and how they both responded to that emotionally – how far will you go in response to a feeling of belonging? for Jade it meant she’d be willing to protect the Coven even if she didn’t’ feel she truly belonged.  Book 3 was about recognizing your past and trying to come to terms with it – both with Jade with respect to Lily and Paris with respect to the Coven and his mother. Book 4… I only recently realized book 4 is a continuation of that – recognizing your past and OWNING it. How do you come to terms with things you didn’t want to know? Or wished you didn’t know? or things you knew but wanted to ignore?

I thought I knew what book 4 was about but as I started working through it, it became clear I didn’t until recently. I finally feel I know where I want to go with Jade and Paris emotionally. That doesn’t mean that the reader will see it or that I’m even adept at conveying it or I know exactly what plot points I want to hit. But, I feel I know what I want Jade and Paris to FEEL when I work on this book. I feel like my ‘craft’ as a writer is uncovering these things and trying to convey it. I might not be successful. People might read books 1-4 and not see any of the deeper emotions I’m working toward. but…. I know they’re there and I’m trying.

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Cleaning out my Junk Drawers

Internets. How you been?

I started going regularly again to the gym 4th and then on the 11th signed up for the 30 in 30 challenge [30 classes in 30 days – spin and/or yoga]. I’m about as flexible as a steel pipe, so the yoga is a struggle for me, but I realized it’s a struggle because I NEED it and OH WHY CAN’T IT BE EASY?

This morning I either had a breakthrough or a breakdown. Still not sure which.

My hips are TIGHT and I don’t mean that in a -ph- phat kind of way, [Yo, that shit is TIGHT, y’all!]. I mean that in an industrial strength elastic that has no give kind of way. So all hip openers, hamstring stretches and just general leg flexibility movements are tough. This morning, I found the hot yoga room extra hot [I don’t like the heat, but I do find the stretching easier and I like my gym which is a HOT YOGA and spin place, soooooooo hot yoga it is.]. When it’s that hot, I feel like there’s no oxygen in the air. I’m breathing but there’s nothing actually getting in my lungs. Sometimes, it makes me start to panic a little. But, I could handle that. But then, everything was HARD this morning. Downward dog was hard, child’s pose kind of hurt, side plank was impossible and don’t even ask about standing splits. It’s so far from the splits, I’m pretty sure you can’t even tell what pose I’m trying to do. Plus, a friend just lost her dog and I feel for her so much. Of course it makes me think more of Portia and how I never really had a good cry after she died because I was SO BUSY and every time I felt a cry coming on, I was at work or at the grocery store or at the yoga studio or on the C-Train. and then when I was finally home and COULD CRY, I was exhausted and went to bed.

And my hips HURT this morning. Not HURT like “Geez you need to stop this before you bust one of these hips”, but hurt like “Oh god, if I try to get out of this lunge, I don’t know if this hip joint will hold me! I’m going to fall over!” way.

So I’m there and it’s hot and I’m tired and it hurts and then I feel like I might throw up and then I just wanted to CRY. But I felt torn – should I just cry? my two sisters were in the room and the yoga teacher is a GEM and a SWEETHEART so, I could have had support. But, I’m a solitary crier and people around me when I cry makes me uncomfortable, so I probably would’ve just preferred to start crying and then leave and get in the shower. But then again, if I started crying, that’s going to make an awful start of the day and my eyes will be all red and puffy…

IDK. they say your hips are the emotional junk drawer of the body and maybe I’ve finally done enough yoga to start cleaning them out.

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2015 – a reading Round-up!

Like most writers, I am an avid reader. or rather, I try to be. This year on Goodreads, I pledged to read 40 books and I made my goal with some to spare! Some books were hardly book length (more like short stories), but I counted them all. Especially since I don’t count the fanfic reading I do on goodreads ;). I don’t finish anything I don’t really like, so if I finished it and it’s listed below, I enjoyed it. Here are the snapshots of my Goodreads list!

 

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Okay, Ravenwood is my OWN book. It still counts! I read it, like, 12 times while doing edits.

What stuck with me:

The Success Principles [Non Fiction, self betterment]– I feel like this is a book I will continually return to and re-read as I progress. I really enjoyed this book and felt empowered while reading it. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN SUCCESS! If I work hard, I can do it!

Dead Mountain [Non Fiction, true story, mystery] – WOW. What a story. ALL TRUE [with some speculation tossed in]. This was a book that I TOLD EVERYONE ABOUT. a true story about a group of hikers that died in Russia in the 1960s. Amazing story. Has tickled my brain re: Infrasound.

Dark Space [M/M Romance, Sci Fi]- THIS ONE HAUNTS ME. I read a couple Lisa Henry books this year and HOLY GOD. she is SO GOOD. Her narrative voice is amazing and PULLS YOU IN. I felt like I WAS HER CHARACTERS. I read it in one day and then cried happy tears when I saw Henry had just released a sequel.

The Riddle of the Labyrinth [Non Fiction, true story, languages]– Another amazing story, this time on the decipherment of Linear B. WHAT COMMITMENT. Unbelievable. I can’t even focus on a book sometimes so reading about the effort and time these people put into deciphering an unknown language is truly fantastical to me.

Reflections in General – As a reader I am HUMBLED by the storytelling abilities of the books I’ve read this year. Shirley Jackson, Dean Koontz, Lisa Henry… I’m in awe of their ability. I hope my own writing grows and that I get better as I go!

What am I reading now? – I’m currently working on The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon. Having struggled with depression for most of my life, I was amazing and gobsmacked by some of Solomon’s insights during a Ted talk. I immediately picked up his book. I’m also re-reading Fingerprints of the Gods. I read this one in 2007 and really enjoyed it. With a trip to Peru coming up this year (29 WEEKS AND COUNTING), I wanted to re-read to refresh my mind. Just as engaging the second time around. I’ve pledged to read 50 books this year, including writing 2, so I guess my decision to give up almost all television was a good one.

Happy reading!

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My Brain is getting Crowded

So. I haven’t been writing lately. Combination of still being in a bit of a funk about Portia, being hella busy with the day job and just… I don’t know. Stuff. I go through these phases where my anxiety creeps up on me and then it seems like everything sends me into a panic. Respond to comments on the blog? PANIC. Sit down to write? PANIC. Pick up the phone at work? DOUBLE PANIC.

I’m trying to break it all down into tiny, manageable bites. Today was to sit down and get 500 words done on book 4. A small goal, one that I know I can do. And then it would be a little deposit of good in my emotional bank. Goal achieved – got 538. And I still have more time to write, so anything else I get now is gravy.

But when I don’t write regularly, my crazy seems to leak out into my dreams. The more I’m away from the keyboard, the more bizarre my dreams get. I tried to write down one I had a few days ago:

I dreamed I was some kind of timeless, immortal woman who had captured some people in the upper floor of this grand old house. They had all agreed to enter the floor, but they didn’t know that as soon as they agreed, they were trapped there until I let them go – everyone was now immortal in this place. It was like a large apartment suite – the kind you would see in a really old castle or townhouse.
I was kind of dressed like I was from teh 1920s. I had a sort of manservant that was outside the apartment suite, or the Tea Room, as I kept calling it. He could bring us [or rather ME since he only did stuff for me] things from the outside world. He brought liquor and food [although we required none] and would take my things out to be drycleaned. he was dying of some kind of cancer and I was going to miss him terribly once he passed.
 
The people I had trapped with me were angry, scared and at times violent. I was more… amused or entertained by this than anything else. I dont’ know what I was planning. I do know that at one point, I curled up in this big easy chair – and this chair, I had the knowledge, used to be in some sort of a men’s club back in time. I opened one of the side pouches and found some cigarettes and lit one. As I sat there, one of the women I was keeping hostage came and sat in the chair next to me and I said something like “How easy it would have been to be a man back then. With items like this at your disposal, everywhere you went.” and I was so angry at how hard it had been to be a woman in history.
 
I had several lovely things picked up from drycleaning by my servant and my hostages ended up playing around in them like kids playing dress up. capes, hats, big scarves and feathers. This also amused me. They thought my things were so extravagant.
 
There was on person who said he wanted to leave, and he demanded it. he was escorted to a weird kind of old fashioned elevator and one of the other hostages went with him, saying he could accompany him on his trip down, but wouldn’t be leaving with him. As the elevator descended, it was consumed by fire, and the man who wanted to leave [he was young, maybe 20 or so?] turned to paper money and then to ash, only his mind was still present and he had this knowledge that he would be burning ashes for the rest of eternity. the fragments of him fell through the bottom of the elevator grate and then the elevator rose again, with the other man who had accompanied the younger, now ash one, coming back to the Tea Room.
 
There were large bay windows for one section and you could see the world outside, but they could not see in.

About two days after that one, I had one where I was playing some kind of game with people where I had to crawl through tunnels and small spaces [this is actually a recurring theme in my dreams. I have to crawl through a vent or some kind of portal and it only works as long as I don’t think too hard about it. but if I DO then I can’t fit through. And I’m always super anxious that it won’t work because I’m thinking so hard about it and then I won’t fit]. I was just about to crawl through a small vent when I noticed there was a stairwell off to my left. I went up the stairs and found myself in the top floor of a strange kind of house. It was like a little self contained place all on it’s own. And there were these two women there, who were more like girls. They were misshapen and didn’t speak any language I understood. and I had this sense that they were kept up in this attic, but not as a punishment. More like… a protection. Their caregiver arrived – a lady that started yelling and screaming at me for finding them and as she rushed toward me, I grabbed a chair and used it to ward her off only I pushed too hard and she fell out the window. And now these strange girls were without a caretaker. The stairs down from the attic had a complicated mechanism that the girls couldn’t use and but that I was able to and I found myself exploring the rest of the house. On the second floor lived another woman. She was the sister of the woman I’d accidentally killed. She didn’t tell me who the girls were, only that they belonged to her sister and her sister had left life to take care of them and so she followed her sister because that’s how their family worked. She was showing me old pictures of them from before they entered the house. they were beautiful women – dressed in fancy items and with silky, shiny, styled hair. I felt awful for what I’d done but I kept remembering how she’d charged at me and I didn’t mean to push her, it just happened. The sister didn’t seem angry with me. But did seem sad about being trapped in the house.

So, yeah. It’s time to start writing again. My brain gets too full when I don’t.

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Spending time with your Tribe

Ah! Squee weekend! That time of year I get together with my fandom friends [many of whom write, create art, do crafty things and/or are voracious readers].

And then we talk. We talk about a lot. The thing is, there are things that you need to talk about with your female friends – things you can’t find on the internet, or if you do, you don’t feel as comfortable discussing. I don’t mean naughty or salacious conversations [although we have those too!] but things that are important to us. Not only do we discuss, we problem solve. I love this group of people. We are committed to helping each other out. We’ve discussed feeling overextended at work, feeling overwhelmed by life, not knowing where this particular story is going, not knowing if this idea we have is better as a short story or a novel. We’ve also talked about dying our hair and finding a good mascara and bemoaning finding a good bra that fits correctly (this actually ended with a bra-buying trip to a department store).

It just makes me feel like I belong and that I’m safe with my friends. I know I can bring up a topic, ANY TOPIC, and it will be treated with reverence and seriousness. We’ll discuss, we’ll solve the issue or come up with some things to try and I’ll feel better. And then someone will utter a double entendre and we’ll laugh pass around more wine.

I just love spending time with my tribe!

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Feeling blue

We said goodbye to Portia on the 15th of August and to be honest, the rest of August has kind of been a long, washed out blur. I was so surprised the other day to realize it was nearly the end of the month. Didn’t I just start August? But saying goodbye to Pcakes has really hit us hard. I call this picture her Disney Princess shot – the eyelashes! the tail! so precious!

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Letting her go was definitely the right decision, but it’s still pretty shitty. When we knew she was sick, and that it was serious, I prayed that the decisions I knew I would have to make would be clear and obvious. And they were. I’m quite grateful in that respect. It’s never easy to lose a pet, but it was completely obvious it was what was best for her.

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For a large dog, she was surprisingly quiet and I wasn’t sure how that would translate to our household. She’s left a really big hole. While she wasn’t loud, she was always THERE and she had a big presence. Her personality really was larger than life!

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She was a very HAPPY dog, although sometimes she got a little pissy at us for not giving her enough food. I always said, anyone who says dogs don’t or can’t smile must not have seen Portia’s face!

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We’ll be missing her a long time for sure.

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Inky Thoughts

Inky thoughts – kind of like thinky thoughts but involving tattoos! I got a new one today!

Backstory – when I was nine, I fell up the stairs carrying glasses and scissors. This left me with quite a scar on my forearm. It’s very faded now since it’s OLD and while I’m sure most people don’t notice, I notice it. I notice it a lot. And when people do notice it, I feel like I have to explain what happened. I’m sure I don’t. I’m sure no one really cares. But… it makes me self-conscious and has for 30 years.

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In the above, you can just faintly see the scar, running down almost the middle of my forearm. it’s got a big middle and then long tails on either side. I’ve always thought about covering it with a tattoo. I have other tattoos but they are all in places covered daily by clothes. This would be my first visible tattoo. It took me a while to get to a place where I was like, YEAH, I CAN DO THIS. I feel like I have enough ‘cred’ now in my real life career and also that tattoos are so mainstream now that if I did need to find a new job, having a visible tattoo wouldn’t be an issue.

But, what to get?

I recently heard about Project Semicolon and when I did, it really resonated with me. You can click on the link if you’re interested in why but, suffice to say, the decision was made that some sort of a semi-colon tattoo would be the thing to cover up “THE SCAR.”

And today was the day! I drew up a quick little image a couple weeks back, booked an appointment at a tattoo shop with an artist recommended by a lady in my spin class that has awesome ink. I have another artist I’ve gone to twice before, but I feel like if you want your ink to have a diverse feel, you should try out new artists. I’m VERY HAPPY with the final product. (rotated so you can see the flower upright).

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The semicolon is kind of built into the flower, so the dot is the center and the comma part is the stem. I went with black-grey shading instead of color. I’m just really pleased with it. Since it’s black and grey and a little smaller than my last two tattoos, it was a very short appointment! Under an hour. I can hardly see the scar now! and I know INTIMATELY where it is. 😀

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The Sun is God’s Flashlight – and I have usually stayed up too late

I am not a morning person.

I will never be a morning person.

I have TRIED, internets. I HAVE TRIED. I have seen two GPs and a sleep doctor about it and the fact is, I am part of a small percentage of the population who’s internal clock cannot be reset. I am a night owl, through and through.

Mornings SUCK.

Oh, how I long for the days when I would stay up writing till 2 in the morning or watching tv until 4 am and then crawl into bed and roll out around 10 or 11 am.  Not anymore. Le Sigh.

Now, I get up at 5.15 am. I go to spin 2-3 times during the workweek, and the other days I just get up early so I can have some ‘SITTING AND GETTING SELF READY FOR THE DAY’ time. I don’t like working out early, but I like it when it’s done, so there you have it. Also, if I get to work by 8.15, then I can leave around 5 and that’s kind of nice, especially in the winter when it gets dark early. If I stay later I start to feel scared being out in the creepy creepy dark! Plus, my boss and an esteemed coworker get to work at 6:30 and 7 respectively. So. If I’m going to roll in about 8:15 ish, I feel better being able to say, “Yeah, I already hit the gym.”

But it’s tough. I know there are many of you who feel my pain.

There are people in my life who say, “Oh! How wonderful you get up so early, I am not a morning person. I couldn’t do that.”

MAKE NO MISTAKE – I AM NO MORNING PERSON EITHER. BUT I DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Most days, when I wake up, I feel so tired I think I could vomit from it.

This also means that when I’m just starting to perk up around 8 or 9pm, it’s time for me to be thinking about heading to bed for the next day. Even if I don’t sleep, I remind myself that lying in bed is restful and I will get some benefit from it. I think my iron is low lately because I’m barely making it to 9pm some nights. But, usually, around that time, I’m starting to think, HEY! LET’S COLOR ORGANIZE THE CLOSET! AND! LET’S START ALL NEW PROJECTS.

I once talked extensively about this with a sleep doctor. He said, “Well, your body just can’t be trained and some people are like that. You’ve tried. You should just get a night job.”

Like what? Bartending? I DON’T LIKE TALKING TO PEOPLE. I have a desk job. Desk job usually means DAY job. Day being the key word. I could go in later bu then I’m working later and that feels… sad? IDK. Even the way it is now, I stay till 5, 5:30 ish and the building staff is already coming out to start vacuuming and cleaning – they are expecting most people gone! The world is run by morning people.

So, what’s a night owl to do but try to conform? I do what I can during the week to be in bed by 10 and up at 5.15. I nap a lot on the weekends to ‘catch up’ on the sleep I miss (I go to bed at 10 but I don’t fall asleep. Yes, I have tried melatonin. Yes, I have moved all activities out of my room other than sleep, no, I don’t read backlit devices in bed, yes, I have tried a light book, working out earlier, working out later, eating earlier, eating later, no naps, more naps, no caffeine, more caffeine, overnight stay at the sleep clinic and I have excellent sleep hygiene. I HAVE TRIED, INTERNETS. THIS IS THE WAY IT IS).

BUT OH THE GLORY DAYS! when I was in school and then on a holiday and I could just… live by my clock. I remember staying up late reading and writing with the house silent and dark around me. SIGHS LONGINGLY.

Back in the days when homes had computer rooms, I remember waiting for the fam to be in bed and then looking around at 11pm and thinking, “Oh! time to go write!” and I would sit in that room, in the dark, with only the computer screen lit and I never noticed time passing. I would just write. Of course, I never finished anything at that time because I had no structured routine! But there was something… magical about being there, in that room, in the quiet and the dark, with nothing else but the click-clack of my keyboard.

Who put the morning people in charge of the world?

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Losing Weight and Letting Go

In March of 2014, I had weight loss surgery. I had a procedure done known as a VSG – Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. Going through my decision to have that surgery, the prep and the aftermath is a whole other post. One I may or may not make, I don’t know (although feel free to email and/or comment with questions if you’re curious – I’m happy to share my experience for those who may be considering the same surgery).

Since my pre-op, I’ve lost about 70 lbs and I’m at a stable weight now – one I can maintain with my current diet and exercise, provided there aren’t too many trips to Palm Springs with Key Lime Martinis!

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But, as the weight started coming off me physically, I really tried to focus on where I could also lose weight emotionally and mentally. I have a lot of STUFF. I keep a lot of STUFF. I’ve come to realize that in some ways, I think  these material things help my memory, in that, if I didn’t have them, I would forget things from my past. I also have this notion that these things validate my experiences, validate ME – If I get rid of them, somehow the memories and experiences that are attached to these things are no longer valid.

My first big ‘break’ came when my mom sold her house after my dad died. I had this fear that I could never go home again, and that somehow my memories of my father would fade without the concrete and tactile presence of that house. Of course, you can’t go home again. Our experiences are what they are when we are there, in the moment, and despite the fact that traveling forward in time is no different than back in time from a physics point of view, you cannot go back. If you were to go back, you are who you are now, and the experience wouldn’t be the same. If you were not who you were now, then you would be who you were then and you wouldn’t be able to grasp the reason why you wanted to travel back in time to begin with.

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This was a hard thing for me to come to grips with and something I still work on. But, as it relates to my parents’ house, I think I got there. However, I’m still trying to incorporate the global scale of that idea into my entire paradigm. Translation – I keep a lot of shit. A LOT.

After I lost weight, I had to get rid of a lot of clothes because they didn’t fit, but I also was coming across things I’d not worn in YEARS and wondering “do I wear this now? It fits again?” – and these were tough decisions! After reading a book on the subject, I knew I had to ‘lose some weight’ in my life, but I wasn’t prepared to do the BIG DUMP the author mentioned. But, I found that holding each piece of clothing I was reluctant to part with in my hand and thanking  garment for the memories and reiterating that I was donating the garment, not throwing away the memories or feelings associated with said garment helped.

I’m still slowly working my way through things. Tonight was a BIG moment for me. I finally got rid of my class notes from my last year of university. How long ago was that? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA-cough-cough-cries-a-little-sniffle. A while. I always had this notion that maybe I would go get my masters and I would need those notes. But this week, the thoughts I ‘SAT WITH’ were this: I like writing. I want to keep writing. With my day job, writing takes up all my spare time. If I were to get my masters, I’d have to give up writing. And, at this point, it’s been MANY A YEAR since my classes – I’d have to retake a SLEW of those courses to refresh my brain so I could keep up.

So, that was one reason I was keeping those notes. What were the others? Well, that last year or so was a tough but proud one for me. I’d had to take a year off school for illness and going back was a struggle. I’d changed faculties so many times that I’d been in university for 5 years and still had no degree. I’d finally managed to pick a major and I had a plan to complete it. It meant I’d have to do Fall Semester, Winter Semester, Sprint Semester, Summer Semester, Fall semester and Winter Semester. and my final semester would be 5 400-level math classes. It wasn’t going to be easy. But I DID it. and I GRADUATED and HOLY SHIT, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??

I felt like a lot of my soul and being were infused into those notebooks – this had been a major milestone/event in my life and if I got rid of those things, was I throwing all that away?

Obviously, no. I still have that degree [FINALLY FRAMED AND ON MY WALL, YO. I got it framed JUST THIS YEAR, lol!]

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So tonight, I fortified myself with two glasses of wine and then some puppy snuggles and went through those notebooks, taking the time to hold each one, feel gratitude and validate my experience with them and then, say goodbye. I know to some people that sounds hokey or like woo-woo, but it was definitely a necessary step for me and one that made the entire process viable.

Deep breath. Time to keep losing weight. I need to make room for all the good things yet to come.

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Patience, Padawan – Cello and Writing

I often think and draw parallels between my cello lessons and my writing progress. I feel like I’m a constant student – I never want to think I’m THERE because I feel like there’s so much to be said for always being on the journey.

In cello, I’ve FINALLY progressed enough to learn one of the Bach Cello Suites. I’ve chosen Suite 2

Oh, I love this one so much. I listen to it a lot and I put my ipod on repeat to hear it over and over again. I would probably have started this earlier IF I PRACTICED, but as it is, I don’t practice very much and I have the BEST CELLO TEACHER ever, and she’s fine with how much I do or don’t practice and just works with me where I am. We FINALLY started working on this and I was SO EXCITED. I said to her, “I’ve told people I’m working on it and they want to hear it!” and she nodded with excitement and said, “Yeah, in a couple of years, you’ll be ready to play this!”

RECORD SCRATCH – WHUT. A COUPLE OF YEARS???

Ah, yes. Such is the cello, such is Bach, such is the way of things. I will be able to play the notes, and indeed can do so moderately now [okay, moderately is generous. I can hit the notes. Mostly. Some of the time.].

But yes. YEARS. That’s how long it will take for me to ‘work’ on Bach and play the Prelude of Suite No.2.

And that’s… well. that’s okay actually. I mean, what else am I doing? Don’t’ get me wrong, it sucks that it will take two years, but… it’s a journey, you know?

I feel that way about my writing. I’m happy with each work as I finish it but as I look back on things I think, well, this could be tweaked or that could have been better. But I’m still a work in progress as a writer, and I hope I always am. I hope to always be learning and growing. Although it can be hard at times feeling like you never GET TO THE END, there’s also a sense of freedom in never GETTING TO THE END. It’s like… if I don’t get it exactly perfect, I get to try again on the next round! That’s kind of liberating and frees from this feeling of.. if I don’t get it right, it’s all over. Now, if I don’t get it right, I just try again.

So, Patience, Padawan. We must learn to love the process.

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