2020-01-10 Frying Pans and Forest Fires

One of my goals at Residency is to blog my experience every single day. I almost made it. 8 out of 10 days made their way into the official record. Then things just started moving way too fast and my priorities and desires went elsewhere (appropriately).

At the time I thought to myself that I would catch up on Sunday but I was in serious need of a down day and had to try and recover mentally and emotionally and get myself together. And, oh yeah, sleep.

My average night of sleep at Res was 4.5 hours. Longest night being 5.5 hours and shortest being 2.5. It’s not because I was staying up late drinking and socializing. It’s just cuz I don’t sleep well during immersion. Too much stimulus and I can’t turn my brain off. I digress.

The other reality when I returned home was that there were responsibilities waiting. Not only did I get tapped on by work for some ASAP stuff, but I also had the return of the kids and daily life. If that was it, no problem. But wait, there’s more.

The procrastination has finally caught up with me and now I’m in a mad scramble to move on some wedding planning details. Meeting with the caterer/event coordinator, ordering a wedding cake, gathering supplies for decorations, and touching base with my officiant who, by the way has not met Jim yet. 😱 I’m compiling RSVPs and thinking about readings and vows and the flow of the events (of which there are two), the wedding and the party the night before).

There are 22 days to go, and counting. I’m so full of anxiety that I can barely eat. I mean, I can eat but I’m walking around all day feeling sick to my stomach. I’m not great at asking for help. I’m not great at accepting help. I need to get over that.

That’s really enough, to keep me off my daily routine. But wait.. there’s more…

Because of the wedding planning, wedding, honeymoon thing, about 2-3 weeks of my semester are going to be lost and I had to adjust my deadlines accordingly. This means that the first packet which includes a first draft of my thesis manuscript had to be moved up. That deadline is today. Yup, 75 pages of creative work organized into a cohesive collection with some overarching theme.

Thankfully, I have about 100 passable poems to work with! I literally put that shit together in the space equivalent to about 2 work days. I have to remind myself that it’s just a draft and I have all semester to revise and move things around. But it had to be done ASAP because it needs to be in the hands of my new mentor who has not had a lot of exposure to my work previously.

My thought process was to get this little nugget to him and then shift my focus back to home and work and wedding planning. It’s not a little nugget, it’s a lot to chew on. I’m hoping he takes a couple of weeks on it. If not, At least a week.

I sent two large documents to him this morning with a substantial letter. I’ve sent a draft of what is sure to be a masterpiece into the universe and now?? Now I release myself to walk on my treadmill (which I have not done in 5 days) and write and truly get my thoughts together.

That pretty much sums things up and brings me to the current moment. I’ve been walking for 40 minutes and will keep on till I hit my hour. Then I’ve got a huge set list of tasks that need my attention. Work, house chores, wedding prep, and a few errands. I’ve really got to just take things a task at a time and not get overwhelmed by the list.

First up is house chores. Yay! 😏

I will say that one of the saving graces of my return home and a big part of how I’ve been able to stay sane is Jim and how he did everything while I was away. He even put ALL the Christmas decorations away. That’s hours and hours of work that I didn’t have to do or think about. It was just done. He’s truly the best and I’m a lucky girl!

Ok.. I think that’s really it now. That’s enough already though right??! 😉

Looking Forward,

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-01-04 MFA Day 7 – It Will Find It’s Way Out

(making up for my brevity yesterday apparently so.. long post)

Your voice, your words, your emotions, your suppressed or unsuppressed opinions and thoughts. The things pushed deep inside or those loitering silently just below the surface. Whatever it is, it will find it’s way out. Especially in moments when you feel like you can trust the ones around you or if you are pushed to your limits.

Here in this place I have both conditions active so it’s no wonder that the things I hold inside find their way out. It’s not in the group dynamic mind you, it’s in those intimate moments where I’ve had the opportunity to talk, really talk, one on one or with just two other people about what’s happening in our lives.

And surprisingly it’s not sharing what’s going on with me but listening, really listening, to those people. Feeling with them in their moments of reflection, contemplation, and clarity. It’s incredible actually. It makes me feel like a whole person.

One of the things that have been different about this residency compared to others is that I haven’t given in to the flight or flight response that has caused me to have a need to get in my car and drive home. In past residencies I’ve found myself at a breaking point and just made the executive decision to leave for the night. Not just to sleep in my own bed but to disconnect enough to be in my own space and consider my own issues and make sure I can still reach my center of gravity.

What happens on those 45 minute car rides was unexpected but somewhat reliable. I’m on the highway like 5 minutes, enough time to get out of town and confirm I was headed in the right direction and let go of that and start letting my mind wander. Almost as if a switch has been flipped, I think some thought and am moved to tears.

And not just a teary eye, and uneven breath, but uncontrollable sobbing. The kind where you can’t catch your breath and the highway ahead becomes so blurry like a massive rainstorm when windshield wipers can’t keep up. It’s raining on the inside and everything on the inside just comes out. it pours, for a good 20 minutes and then just as suddenly as it came, it’s gone.

It’s not one thing, it’s all the things. It’s an overwhelming force, but once it’s over, I return to a state where my head is clear and I can start to put together my thoughts in a logical fashion again. I arrive home, find my center (or like I said, at least confirm it’s location), sleep, wake up, and return for another day.

So what’s different this time? I guess it is that I am getting more comfortable, have established relationships and trust with people here, and no longer feel that fight or flight in the same way as before. I have not gone home. I won’t go home until tomorrow when this is all over.

But that buildup of stuff, whatever it is, whatever has contributed to it, whatever it is made of is still happening and has been happening since day zero. I’ve felt myself teetering on the verge of tears. I don’t particularly like crying in public (though it did happen once last Residency and big time), so I breathe through those moments and maintain my composure.

Late afternoon yesterday the last of three graduating students presented their reading. One of the requirements to graduate is to give a 20 minute reading of content that you wrote during the course of your time in the program. She presented three pieces, two narratives and a one act play. It was exquisite. It was so moving and so well written that the narratives felt like long prose poems, constructed with language that carried powerful meaning while also singing and and creating a unique aesthetic experience for those of us fortunate enough to be in the room to hear it. And hear it in the authors voice, which was both soft and and strong in conviction with confidence and, a few times, with the brief line or two which were actual song.

When it was over the typical routine is for people to applaud and then approach and offer hugs and words of encouragement and congratulations. That happened, but as she started receiving hugs the applause did not subside and people began standing. A standing ovation. A first for me to witness here.

After the first hug and words ended, the author looked up and realized it. She was stunned. It was incredibly moving. I was moved to tears (still standing and clapping mind you). A line formed for continued hugs and those quiet words whispered into her ears. I took my plane in line. It was an honor to witness the moment and an honor to be able to tell this woman, who I barely knew, how her writing and presentation moved me.

After that the group dispersed and continued on with their own objectives and plans. I did too.

This morning I woke up just before 4. My mind was immediately there, back in that moment. Perhaps I was dreaming it all over again and moved so much it woke me. I sat up and realized I was about to cry. It came on like that rainstorm in the car, so suddenly and so hard. I wasn’t even fully awake or aware of what was happening. 4 am and it found its way out.

I had a good cry, albeit brief and that was followed by an epiphany. A rush of thoughts about my thesis and it’s content and organization and preface and the accompanying lecture and reading. All in a rush it came to me. What it is and what I have to do next.

I spent the next hour making notes. And now I’m well past an hour (approaching 1.5 hours) on this treadmill writing this post.

Because of the extra time I took today I’m running a little late to find Miss Margret up in the dining room to have our morning breakfast chat. Which means I’ve got to go.

Lots to do In the next 24 hours.

XOXO,

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-01-02 MFA Day 6 – Telegraph for Today

Worst sleep ever. Stop

Literally. Stop

My own fault. Stop

Complete sentences. Gone. Stop

Too much. Stop

Send help. Please.

Stop

Yesterday was a long day and I would recap but I just don’t have it in me right now. I would provide a sneak peek of today, but it’s kinda the same thing. So much has changed from day to day yet everything feels like a repeat of the day before. Same activities, people, food (though I went off campus twice yesterday, once for lunch and again for dinner), same sleep deprivation, same exercise, same thoughts rotating in my brain over and over and over. Still, there’s a progression and developments that contribute and carry me forward to each next minute, a changed being.

That’s fairly non-specific, nebulous, and abstract.

I’m just gonna be honest (not that I have previously been dishonest), but I’m just gonna give this up. I just wanna walk and listen to music, think, and stretch.

Perhaps I need to give myself permission. And not just a pass for this first hour of my day but for other thoughts of what’s required. These requirements are mostly self imposed. So convincing myself that it’s ok not to do something is an inner dialogue and it really should not be such a struggle.

It’s first draft Friday again and perhaps I’ll let that be my contribution and give this day meaning and voice.

On that note. Ciao for now.

~Miss SugarCookie

2020-01-02 MFA Day 5 – Balls

The lead in to of the lectures I attended yesterday lobbied that we should have 10 balls in the air at the all time. That if we did, it would be a bit of chaos but that it would increase our chances that some thing, even just one, would land and turn out golden. She proceeded to tell the story of what her journey has been and how that philosophy has played out.. with great success.

Some parts of that equation that she made perfectly clear was the need for perseverance and having a great desire. What she did not speak to as much, probably in order to stay within the 50 minute time constraint, was the hard work and time commitment and focus that we’re also required. No time to talk about all the other balls that did not work or were dropped in pursuit of the one that did turn out golden. But I know — I can infer that it wasn’t just sheer luck that the things that happened to her happened. It was the effort and drive.

At this point I already feel like I’ve got multiple endeavors in the air and another large thing has just been tossed in my direction. I have to be very careful. I don’t know how to say no. If I’m going to catch it and do it, I would want for my role and contribution to not be half ass. That’s not how I roll. When I’m in it, I’m going to win it.

But now my brain is stuck on that and this whole thesis thing I’ve got to get done is idling in my left hand (because the left hand is controlled by the right brain). My left brain is latching on to this new idea and the machine is revving. It’s that point in the start up process the flywheel is doing it’s thing. I need to remember that though this organizational, process driven idea feels vital, it’s not the most important thing. Or should not be.

The primary objective in my writing like right now is me, and my growth and development and making the biggest leap forward toward a fulfilling life as a writer. Mario (the spokesperson for my left brain) contends that this new project is vital because it’s fulfilling the requirement to build contacts and a resume that proves I’m a part of the literary community, and invested in it. There’s a seriousness in it and it needs to be given that measure of consideration and effort.

Conversations need to happen before I leave Nebraska city and so that’s what my brain keeps focusing on now. I think I’ve just done the opposite of what I set out to do in writing this. Instead of making a case for minimizing it, I’ve made a case for it being vitally important.

Yesterday was long and I had 4 hours of sleep the night before. This morning I woke at 5am and Fitbit reports 4.5 hours were had last night. At 6:30am (which is what it is now), I’m approaching an hour on the treadmill and still energized about the day ahead. I know from yesterday that by 3 in the afternoon my mind and energy is going to crash. I know that by 7pm I’ll be approaching zombie status. And tonight is a long one. Talent show followed by movie night. I would skip out of movie night but there is a requirement to see that movie in order to participate in one of the workshop/lectures tomorrow.

Yes, lots of balls indeed. And lots to prepare for just for today which is calling me back to my room. Study plans discussion prep, workshop prep, talent show prep. Yeah.. for real.. I gotta go.

I guess today was more thinking than writing but it is what it is.

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-12-29 MFA Res Day 1 – Unpredictable

It’s not quite 6am and I’m on the treadmill. I went to bed at a decent time but my Fitbit is still reporting less than 6 hours with poor quality for sleep. I dunno.. I think that’s unavoidable. Still I feel pretty good and ready to get after this day.

Yesterday, which I thought was super action packed was actually kind of slow moving. The morning crawled along and we had orientation and our first workshop and that was great. A long break later and there were a couple of lectures and that was fine too. I actually had enough break in-between things to return to my room and think about life and make sure I was prepared for the next thing. I even printed some material that I need to read for a session like 5 days away.

I was thinking that there’s something very different this time. Perhaps it’s just me. My anxiety is still hovering around minimum and I’ve always before been a bit cray-cray and I’m just not (yet). I always freak out packing and load my bag with books to have something to do, worried I’ll “need” that and I never have. I’ve always been irritated with the neurosis that caused me to lug my books with me. “A waste of space and weight”, I’ve furrowed.

This time? I didn’t bring any books. I thought “I’m fixing mistakes I’ve made before.. ha!”.

The Universe just smirks “wrong”.

Yesterday I wished several times I had a book to read. A good story to get lost in for an hour and so instead I just sat and tried to think of what I could possibly do to be more prepared for something else. And of course a fair bit of thinking about not having any books. “Fine, Universe, you win.”

That being said, the schedule for today looks to be more action packed and this time I think it’s for real. There’s about 8 things I want to go to on the schedule and that does not include meals. I’m definitely ready and very much looking forward to all of it. Except of course the meals. I still hate the dining room.

I don’t think that’s ever going to change. “You hear me Universe?! It’s NEVER going to change. Let’s see you flip that script! Ha!!”

What else? Oh! I wrote like 3 new poems so far and one of them might even have the potential to be pretty good. I would declare that I’m going to try to write at least one a day but I don’t want to set the bar too high. That way lies madness. But, a girl can dream right?

Though I may end up sleep deprived, I think it’s totally worth it to have this hour of the day alone. It’s so strange for it to be so quiet and calm now when in just a hot little bit this place will be teeming with activity. The Chateau is packed this go round, complete with faculty, staff, students, families gathering for the holiday, and people getting ready to kick off the New Year. There’s no escaping the crowd. I need to enjoy all the quiet contemplation I can.

With that, my hour is up and I’m in desperate need of a shower.

Hittn’ It and Gittn’ It,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-12-27 MFA Res Day 0

Why day 0? Cuz I’m a numbers nerd and all good counters start at 0.

Today is my last minute mad scramble to get my act together and haul myself and half my world to Nebraska City for the start of my 4th official Residency for my MFA.💃💃💃 Festivities kick off this afternoon and I’m hoping to be there by 3pm but we’ll see. My checklist needs a lot of work.

I’d love to get to Jazzercise this morning but that’s not looking likely at this point. If I was packed perhaps. If I’d have done laundry yesterday perhaps. If the kids weren’t here perhaps but even my 4:45am wake-up wasn’t enough to Make a good dent. Why oh why is it so tough to commit to 10 days of clothing? And why do I decide to sit in my closet painting my toenails instead? And can somebody please tell me why I feel the need to pack a supply of food and snacks when 1. All the meals are provided and 2. There’s a market 5 minutes from the Lied Lodge? My stupid brain.

And if history repeats itself (which it ALWAYS does) I’ll be making a trip to Walmart while I’m there anyway. /shrug

I’m super excited to see some of the people I’ve gotten to know better during the course of this program and am hoping that I can have a good balance of activities so I can keep my sanity. Since it’s winter there will be no escaping for walking outside.

One of my goals this time around is to do all my notes same day so that submitting the assignments can be done and posted before I leave. I also need to try and keep my focus on the tasks at hand and not let my anxiety get the best of me. Spending 10 days in this environment has historically caused this introverted SugarCookie to go a little bit off the rails. And of course I’m expecting Bob to be there so I’ll have to share the one treadmill in the gym there. 😜

Anyway, that’s probably it for today. Lots to do and the clock is ticking. ⏰

Next Stop.. Nebraska City,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-12-12 Channeling the Chocolate Chip

This post must be dedicated to Michelle without whom I would not be inspired to try and be a Chocolate Chip cookie – today or ever! 😉 (Thanks for being a great accountability partner and an awesome human).

I love a good chocolate chippy as much as the next girl, but for some reason the energy of this cookie is difficult for me to channel. It makes no sense really, as it is very universal and well liked and should be easy to break down into bite size pieces and consume, but something about it is eluding me.

Perhaps this is the classic scenario, with me and the Chippy, you know the “It’s me not you” thing. I’m just unable to get my act together enough for brown sugar and white sugar and butter and eggs and flour and baking soda and salt and vanilla and what else?.. Oh yes!.. The chocolate chips!! OMG, talk about making a mess.

***

Today I’m supposed to meet a fellow MFAer for lunch and it’s one of the more reliable people so the whole thing will go down just as we have planned it. It’s always an interesting chat with her (you remember what I said yesterday about the word interesting?). I never know how it’s going to go and I can’t predict where the conversation will wander. Of course we will be discussing our semester, of which I am certain mine was superior because of other rumblings I have heard from other folks.

This morning I sent my final five revised poems to my professor as a part of one of the last requirements for the Poetry Studio class and now I’m one step closer to being done-done with that (bout time!). One of the poems (the one that made quite a stir in workshop) was one that I revised and included and let me tell you I toiled over it for hours trying to get two more lines to fit into the first stanza/sonnet and then rework the last 4-6 lines in the second stanza/sonnet. It’s a double sonnet and I’m still unsure about the end but I’m letting that go (for now). I am doing much the same with all the rest.

Once I have that last class on Monday I’m going to let go completely for several weeks and not worry about any of that. I will still have reading to do for residency which starts in 15 days but I will not have to do any more writing or revisions for a while. I daresay that even in the first month of my last semester I am not going to do a lot of that because I will have a huge focus elsewhere (insert throat clearing cough here).. my wedding. Yeah, it’s freaking me out a little to think that less than two months from now I will be married. 52 days to be exact. Yowza!!

Anyway, time is moving really fast on all fronts and I have to try to stay focussed on the next most important thing. What does that mean for today? Well, it should mean finishing that last assignment for class, getting back to one of the vendors we got a quote from for services the week of our big event, and maybe even doing a little Christmas shopping, but we’ll see how all that goes. My plan is to do that lunch meetup and then see how I feel. I’ve got the distinct impression now that this chocolate chip cookie attitude is not going to work out no matter how hard I focus.

I did try though… and that should count for something right?! 😉

Made with Love,

~Miss ChocolateChipCookie