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I finally managed to fit in a 2012 camping trip last weekend. We decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been before — Itasca State Park.

The problem, I discovered, with going somewhere new is you don’t know all the ins and outs of the area. The first out came when we went to our reserved, cart-in campsite.  Past experience led us to believe that carting in would take us to a site far off in the woods, out of view of other campers.

But at Itasca, a cart-in site means that you park in a lot and walk 20 feet to your campsite, which is located in a camping metropolis, with no foliage to block out the other campers. 

I don’t understand camping when you are piled on top of each other like that. You might as well stay at a hotel. And I’m sure my fellow campers loved it when I started yelling in my sleep because of a bad dream.

Anyway, I took many deep, cleansing breaths and tried to see the positive. It wasn’t difficult really, once we hit the trails and took the time to simply gaze.

But even the trails were more tourist-trappy than what I’m used to. Fortunately, we found a few out of the way paths. We saw many signs of beaver but no actual beavers.
But we did see swans.

Some even with swan babies.

In day-to-day life, I’m always looking for signs when facing choices and looking for direction. Like this sign — Java and Latte (the Brew Babes) thought someone must have posted it just for them.

My most recent dilemma has centered on how best to progress as a writer. I’ve had my eye on three published authors who teach classes and will coach writers and edit their work. 

I’ve read each of their books, looking for the person who I think will best understand my work and what I want to accomplish, and who’s personality seems like the best fit with mine. 
I’ve compared their class and coaching offerings. I’ve thought about this a lot and finally chose the one who’s class I most wanted to take.  The plan was to take the class, get a body of work going, come out with a better understanding of the heart of the story, then hire the instructor to help me complete the book.
That was my well-laid plan, but when I went online to register, I discovered the class is full. And my heart sank. Now what?
Maybe I’m just not meant to write a book. Every step I take to move forward and get some help, a roadblock appears. Maybe the universe is telling me a big, fat “No!”
I want a door to open! A path to open up! For all the planets to line up perfectly and things to fall into a lovely pattern that says, “Come Maery! This way!”
Yes, that’s what I look for when it comes to my dreams, passions, and day-to-day life decisions and work.
But when I hike, I want wild entanglement. I want overgrowth and mystery. I want the possibility of being lost and discovering something new. I want hilly challenges, even though my knees are undependable and painful. 
I breathe in deeply, trying to absorb that smell of piney, leafy, dirty decomposition, knowing that it brings about rich soil and new life. I want to be able to recall the depth of that scent memory during the long months of winter. I want to hold that feeling of rich life inside me.
So as I face a few disappointments and a few possibilities. I’ll think about what I do and what I enjoy when I’m hiking. An overgrown path can be a good thing. It slows you down enough to notice the things that you might otherwise simply hurry past, not recognizing the hidden treasures.

“There are times in your life where all you can do at the end of the day is turn out the lights, flop on the bed, and throw in the towel… The very act of giving up becomes a starting point. You clear your head. You still your beating heart. You navigate the rocky shoals, setting out again.” — Mary from ‘In Plain Sight’,  season 4, episode 8

“Abandon all hope” is one of the things Pema Chödrön suggests in her book “When Things Fall Apart”. What this basically means is quit wishing for things to be different than they are.

We hope that things will get better if they’re bad or stay the same forever if things are good. But the only thing consistent in all of this is that we’re here. We’re living this thing called life, unless we’re not because our mind is somewhere else, trying to see chocolate instead of dirt when dirt has it’s purposes too.

Up until I turned fifty, it seemed like every time I hit bottom or got stuck, something would come along to shoot me off into the stars… I made first chair flute, a new love interest came along, I got a promotion, I got to travel to Europe for work, I had a beautiful baby boy… something different and good happened to me that made me feel special, talented, even loved.

And then something happened where I didn’t feel good about myself anymore. Circumstances drove my feelings then and still do.

But since I entered this era of my life, there appears to not be any magic bullets to reinvigorate me. There’s more of a level steadiness, which has its appeal, but it’s put a damper on me creatively.

It appears writing, or perhaps the fear of failing at writing, has become such a huge thing in my mind that I have anxiety attacks every time I try to get back to my numerous unfinished writing projects. Even writing this much has been difficult. So I write jibberish, every moment I can, and maybe the answer is as simple as that.

I have a pretty good life. I keep buzzing along, doing what I can. I may not believe it completely yet, but this is the truth — whatever I get done today is enough. 

As I read through what I wrote here, it made me think of a poem my son created when he was thirteen and that I’d like to share. 
This Place

We all try to find a good 
out of this bad.
We all try to find a bad
out of this good.
Where’s our mind in this chaotic jazz?
Why don’t we let things do as they do?

We try to wish on a star 
Or a coin tossed into a well 
Or flaming candles on a cake.
Just live with what we got
when the bad’s lost its good.
Because we can’t choose a choice
To get out of this place or this skin.

“We have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always. .. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds.” — Pema Chödrön, “Taking the Leap; Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears”

I’ve read in so many places that writer’s need to build up their connections with others, even before they’ve written their book, by blogging, tweeting, retweeting others tweets, tweeting and Facebooking other people’s blog posts, and commenting on lots and lots and lots of blogs. There’s also this thing about authors having their own Facebook page before they’ve been published. That seems just silly to me.

I see writers and people with some kind of small business doing all this quite successfully.  I can’t figure out how they do it, even though they are kind enough to tell you how YOU can do it also.

I feel like I’m back in high school trying so hard to be popular and feeling like crap because I’m not.

I think I’m whittling down through my Google Reader list when BOOM! there are twenty-five more things to read! Even with an IV of coffee constantly running, I cannot keep up!

My low numbers of readers and commenters makes me especially thankful to the people who do faithfully show up at my site. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’m starting to wonder if I am actually being misled by these people telling me what I should do with my time. I am not getting any of my book writing completed or doing the kind of writing that will lead to writing as well as I know I can if I put in the miles.

At this point, I think I’m too burned out to produce anything of quality and need a break, so I’m taking one for the rest of July. I’m going to try going cold turkey on blogging, Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, and Pinterest (although Pinterest is where I found my haircut). Okay, so maybe not cold turkey because I just saw on Facebook that there’s a cool event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. That sort of thing I don’t want to lose sight of.

And I still have a post to write on Vision and Verb later in July that I’ll post here too, but otherwise, I’m going off the radar. Really! (breaks out in cold sweat…)

If I need more time to figure some things out, I’ll take even more time.

This blog started out being geared to other cowgirls and animal lovers, but times changed and I’ve changed in the process. Writing teachers often talk about “finding your voice”. I used to have a very distinct voice. I was once told I sounded like Anne Lamott, not as poetic but able to lay things out, honestly, down on the table. Fear and uncertainty about what makes people stay and what makes people leave has silenced much of that.

I don’t know who I sound like anymore, but I’m going to find out.

“Naturally, we are wise to be patient with this process and give ourselves unlimited time. It’s as if we’ve been kicking a spinning wheel all of our life and it has its own momentum. It’s spinning rapidly, but now finally we’re learning how to stop kicking the wheel. We can expect that the wheel is going to keep spinning for some time. It won’t just abruptly stop. This is where many of us find ourselves: we’ve stopped kicking the wheel, we’re not always strengthening the habit, but we’re in this interesting middle state…”
— Pema Chödrön

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