On Sabbaticals

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On Sabbaticals

An extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills 

My last sabbatical, now more than ten years ago, resulted in my leaving the world of paid employment, a decision that freed and fed my soul, if not my bank account. Every morning since I’ve given thanks for those gifts.

Now, my novel-in-progress progressed, newly birthed, has been sent to the inboxes of literary agents, waiting to be loved, rejected or deleted without being read by a junior unpaid intern.  I’ve taken this labor of love as far as I can, and, for the next few months at least, it is in the hands of the universe. I’ve released it with love and hope.

But I’m feeling more than a bit untethered without the focus, and burden, of the world of 1913 that I’ve inhabited for so long. So I’m stepping back, trying a self-declared sabbatical. Not from all writing- I’m still committed to my morning pages, and this blog- but I am withdrawing from the world of writing fiction for a while, and I hope that when I return, it will be with a rekindled energy. Another historical novel? Well, yes. Just not now. And maybe a return to poetry.

For the last two weeks, I’ve read and read and read, and semi-compulsively pruned and organized files. But I’ve also watched the birds at the feeder and followed leaves as they fell to the ground. Many books wait on that to-be-read pile, some poetry to savor, to ponder, by poets once loved and those newly discovered. And genealogical research, and Zentangle, and watercolors, and a trip to the beach, a visit to the mountains. And, most of all, lots of time for thinking, for renewal.

Time and freedom – I’ve had both for several years now. But somehow this interlude, this sabbatical, seems especially precious. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. And I wonder if I can go three months without writing. I’ll admit characters for the next book are forming in my head.

On Surviving the Election

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On Surviving Until the Election

I spent the last week in a migraine miasma, brought on by watching the second debate. I’ve still not completely recovered, but a quilt show and an egg salad sandwich on toast helped. I found myself glued to Facebook and to political talk shows where pundits, sure that God and right was on their side, excoriated any and all who disagreed with them.

Now, all politics is projection, right? At least that’s what Jung said, and I’m inclined to believe him. I’ve learned a lot about cognitive dissonance and about projection since that debate. I am working assiduously to respect those whose political choices are different from mine. Let me tell you that, for this election, this is one tough task. Vitriol from both sides, which, not surprisingly, I label as righteous indignation if it coincides with my views. And fear, lots of fear – on my part, on everyone’s part, I think. If our favored candidate does not win, what will our country be like? Who will we be?

I know where my vote will go. It is unlikely that anyone or anything could change my mind between now and the time that I cast my ballot. And I’m thinking that’s true for just about all of us.

So, to survive, here are some suggestions:

Quiet – I’m starting with external quiet – minimal TV (except for the World Series), and no political talk shows. I’m counting on that leading to an internal quiet;

Pumpkin tea – in a china cup, sipped in the quiet of my sunporch;

A Facebook diet – I wish I had the discipline to say that I’m off Facebook, but I know that would be too much to ask of myself – but a morning and evening check-in, I think I can do that. And no responses, no matter how outrageous the comments; and,

Meditation – I must admit that my fingers first wrote medication, but I really do mean meditation. For we will get through this, one way or another. Though I don’t think we’ll ever be the same.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

On Thoughts of Autumn

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On Thoughts of Autumn

That time of year thou mayest in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon these boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

I planned to use this Shakespeare sonnet as a way to begin my thoughts on autumn – of a year, of a life. But anything that I might write falls extraordinarily short of The Bard.  So I leave the rest of his sonnet for you. Here in North Carolina it is a grey, rainy day. A day for contemplation.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Another Sunday,  www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

On Birthdays and Intentions

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On Birthdays and Intentions

I’ve always been a list-maker. It makes me feel safe – all those things that must/should/could be done chase away any doubts, for a while at least, that there is no purpose to this earthly experience. Then I think, so what? Just take each day, each hour, and be grateful for every blessing, whomever or whatever bestows it.

But each year, on my birthday, which conveniently nearly coincides with Yom Kippur, I take time to consider, to reflect on, my year, my life, and, always, commit my intentions for the next year to writing. I keep this in my “to do” file, sometimes tucked away, but always near-at-hand. Sometimes it makes me feel secure; most times it brings close the realization of my indolence about making real change. Oh yes, there is always the proverbial “eat less, exercise more,” but also some deeper, and thus more radical, intentions, propelled primarily by my Buddhist readings.

Letting go. I’ve been working on this for a long time, and when I find that I’ve made progress on one issue, several more arise – those that have lain fallow, yet festering in their own ways. No one said Buddhism was easy.

Being kind. Easiest with strangers and acquaintances, don’t you think? Those closest to us, those we know, really know, and love, how difficult it is to accept philosophies, behaviors that we would run from in others. And acting kind seems much easier than having that gentleness enter my soul. To sit, to listen, to accept without judging, even in my thoughts – that’s surely a multi-year, perhaps multi-life, intention.

Being authentically interested in others. This goes way beyond politeness, past making sure that we have eye contact and not glancing at our cell phones. I’ve found that one of the advantages (perhaps the only advantage) in having a hearing problem, is that I am forced to listen, to give my full attention to whomever is speaking to me so that I can figure out just what they’re saying. It takes all my energies, all my concentration.  And I realize that I am the one who is rewarded by this – at least most of the time.

So, there you have my intentions for the coming year. They are not new ones; they are not easy ones; but they’re mine, and I’m sticking with them!

Another Sunday, www. cynthiastrauff.com