Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Club

Book Club spread!
Last year I read slightly more than 52 books in 52 weeks. We knew we'd be transitioning from one country to another, with little time to dedicate to writing. Reading is a great way to become a better writer, so I was happy to aim my focus on that. This year I'm still reading a lot, but with no direction or timeline or goals. Except for one...

When we first moved here nearly a year ago, I signed up for every event or group I could find in an effort to make friends and build community. I found a book club in our little beach town thanks to Facebook, and before I could talk myself out of it, I signed up. I'd never been part of a book club before, so I had no idea what to expect. The book club gave me my favorite book of the year, A Gentleman in Moscow, but it was a dead end as far as making friends. The group disbanded after my first attendance, before I'd even exchanged any contact info with potential buddies.

A few months later a local friend mentioned I should join his wife's book club, which has been going for a decade and also meets in the same little beach community where I live. It seemed unlikely that it would also break up after going strong for over ten years, so I downloaded the book to read on my Kindle and showed up, not knowing what to expect.

The first book club was a scholarly experience, where the facilitator had a list of questions and expertly moved the conversation along so that we ended exactly on time. For an introvert like myself, this can be somewhat ideal. Not a lot of time to quickly come up with small-talk, just dive right in to the book discussion.

The second book club is called Books and Bubbles and while there is always at least a small discussion about whatever the book of the month is, the focus is on the amazing food and drink the members bring to share (see photo above, actual pic from book club), and the conversations that spring up from a group which includes nearly a dozen nationalities and even more backgrounds. As an introvert, it's a little bit terrifying. As a collector of stories, it's exhilarating. It's the absolute best evening of each month, and I'm so grateful to somehow have become a part of it!

The books we've read have varied wildly, though when asked what my favorite book from my year of 52 Weeks, 52 Books was, this group also read A Gentleman in Moscow. I didn't even mind reading it a second time. It will likely go on to be a book I'll return to again in the future.

One thing about my year of reading was the conversations which sprung up over Instagram when I posted an image of a book I'd just finished. If you count the number of likes, they were my least popular posts, but the people who did like them, really liked them. I still get requests to continue. So I decided to add a little link here to the blog to show what I'm currently reading in case you want to read along as well.

Right now I'm halfway through The Book Thief by Alfred A. Knopf, which is definitely a great book to curl up with when you want to be cozy or if you're not feeling well and want to escape (though considering it's written from the perspective of Death, maybe you don't want to read it when you're not feeling well?). I'll update the link whenever I start a new book. Please let me know if you have any recommendations!

*Some links on this website may be affiliates, meaning at no cost to you, I might get a small bonus to be spent on more books. Thank you!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Vulnerability

Guacamole by the beach with my beloved. Heavenly!
This year I’ve been pretty much laser-focused on my writing, to the point where I just unfollowed a bunch of sewing/crafty blogs so I’m not distracted from my goals with other fun stuff for this season of discipline. (Don't worry, I archived them in a place where I can re-follow them next year or when I want to make that my focus once again.)

On Saturday, my husband and I went to lunch by the beach for Cinco de Mayo, and over guacamole and fresh lime soda, I confessed that while I’m having no difficultly getting my daily word count goals met (it took awhile but I found a rhythm and strategy keeping me productive), where I am struggling, and struggling deeply, is with the raw vulnerability of spilling out part of myself and committing it to the page. 

I’m not even writing about anything all that intimate or raw or exposing. I'm not writing anything that I wouldn't share with someone (if they asked) over a first or second coffee date in real life. But it's still part of me, something that I nurtured and labored over and created.

It’s May, and this strange feeling hasn’t diminished over the last four months of dedicated writing, it’s only increased. Writing is such a solitary thing, with no collaboration to spread the success or failure among many people... it’s all on me. I'm the only one with skin in the game here, and to my great surprise, my skin isn't getting any thicker over time.

I saw this quote that in a slightly different form has been attributed to Aristotle: We become what we practice. What if, by opening myself up to being vulnerable, it's simply making me more of the same? And can vulnerability be a superpower, instead of something to wish away?

Brene Brown certainly thinks so. In her book, Rising Strong, she makes the point that vulnerability--the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome--is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. I love that. It resonates deeply with me. Because I certainly want more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. Don't you? And if putting pieces of myself out there is the way to get there, then allow me to spill myself all over the page (or screen). 

At that Cinco de Mayo lunch, my husband was beyond supportive. I know what a huge help it is to have someone cheering loudly over even the minor successes. And sometimes that is hard to find. If you take a moment to google "why your friends don't want you to succeed" there are over 12 million hits. I definitely have had my share of friends who have loved me when I was miserable, but pulled away when things were going really well. They were only interested in watching me scratch at the wounds that had finally scabbed over instead letting them turn into fading scars. Or who questioned (and discouraged!) even a tiny step I made to improve my health through daily walking. With friends like these, who needs enemies, right? 

Yet to bring you back around to the point of this post... I'm grateful for the unexpected lessons I'm learning through my disciplined focus on writing this year. I am absolutely certain that without this focus, 2018 would have been like 2017, or 2016, or every single year before that when I said, "This is hard. It's hurts. It's easier to walk away now by choice than to continue not knowing if I'll even succeed. I'm tired of justifying myself to everyone, I'll just do something else creative instead." Just continuing to write at all (in my own private journal, for this blog, for my book, or for other websites I work with) is perhaps the most vulnerable position I've ever willingly placed myself in. 

It's exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. And it's also made me the biggest cheerleader of other people on a similar journey of putting themselves out there in big or small ways. I will not be the person who tries to convince someone that their goals are too hard or too lofty. Life does enough of that without my help!

Let me know what you're up to right now... we can have a virtual dance party to celebrate! And then maybe some guacamole? That photo up there from lunch with my husband is making me hungry... 

Friday, May 4, 2018

May The Fourth (Be With You)



I'm not going to lie, when the whole May the Fourth/Star Wars Day sprung up a few years back, I thought it was cute the first year and then annoying all the subsequent years. Until two years ago, when my friends gave our dog Lucy Rocket a Chewbacca Tsum Tsum from Hong Kong Disneyland. Then all I could think about was how she perfectly resembles Chewy. So last year I took her photo with the Tsum Tsum and posted it. And then this year I decided to do it again, with some of my husband's Star Wars toys and propaganda-style Star Wars artwork we picked up in Shanghai a few years ago. I guess this is who I am now, someone who looks forward to dressing up her dog for a made up holiday. Good thing she completely loves having her photo taken! 

Happy Star Wars Day and may the Force be with you!

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