Taking a Deep Breath

It’s morning, and my toddler is still asleep. I watch him sleeping soundly, breathing deeply, and I am grateful for him and for this day that I will spend with him. I smile.

And then, I become aware of my own breathing.

I inhale.

I exhale.

I smile again.

There really is something so powerful in taking just a few seconds to concentrate on this thing we all do, all day long, usually without giving it a single thought. Inhale. Exhale.

So many of us are caught up in a million things each day. Regardless of what any of those particular things may be, regardless of who we are or where we are, I love that we can all do this same thing and find a moment of peace, a moment of gratitude, and feel the joy of a smile on our face.

I wish that for you today.

~Melissa

Public and Private Writing

Today, on the morning of this second day of the new year and the last day of winter break, I’m drawn to write. This is nothing new. Writing is a big part of who I am. It always has been. I imagine it always will be.

Like many other writers, as I contemplate my thoughts and capture words that pass through me in this creative process, I recognize that different kinds of writing serve differentĀ purposes in my life and that the audience for whom I write changes largely depending on the topic. I have public writing — this blog is an example, and everything I write on a regular basis for work. Social media has also filled in for some of that public “sharing” and expressing of ideas as well.

I also have private writing — usually it’s handwritten, sometimes typed. It’s writing that helps me process ideas, navigate challenges, and it’s a raw record of my journey. It’s writing that I both intend to keep private, but at the same time hopeĀ will eventually be for others to read. Ā Often I wish to share these ideas out immediately because I can write about things that are hard for me to speak of, the challenges I am working though, disappointments that I face, what some people might even call hardships. In a way it would be so much easier for me to share out these experiences in real time so that friends and family can know why I may not call as often asĀ I want to or why I am not as social as I’d like to be. Perhaps it’s my nature (as an introvert), or perhaps I’m socially conditioned, either way I don’t want to burden anyone with my troubles. So that writing all stays private.

The same has been true of my most celebrated and exciting moments in my life. I’ve kept many of them private as well. I think in the same way I don’t want to bother or burden anyone with troubles, I also don’t want to brag or boast.

The thing is, as a reader I know I benefit greatly when others share their experiences through tough times, and I love to read about celebrations and expressions of joy. I read through these accounts and they help me put my own experiences into perspective; they give my ideas for how to address my own circumstances and opportunities. I know in my heart that this kind of raw, experiential writing is the most powerful writing of all. It’s something that my public writingĀ has been lacking, and I’m afraid it’s been holding me back from becoming the writer that I’m meant to be.

This blog post itself, about public and private writing, feels very personal, very private to me.Ā It makes me wonder if our public and private writing is merely an extension of our public and private selves,Ā and if these are fixed or fluid.

Do we as writers, as artists, ultimately need to merge these two selves? Can we be successful in our craft if we keep them apart?

A dear friend recently shared with me that she wanted to be more proactive in this new year with accomplishing the goals she’s set for herself and asked me for advice for how to do it. I was taken aback a bit, becauseĀ it’s honestly something I think I need work on myself (and something I write, privately, about quite often). After reflectingĀ on her request, I realized that IĀ may appear proactive and productive to others because of theĀ public writing that I share. There is, however, so much more that I’d like to do and accomplish, so much thatĀ I’ve kept safely guardedĀ in my private writing.

While I can’t make any promises, and this is not a resolution, I am going to try to be more mindful and intentional this year about my writing practice. I willĀ try to push myself out of comfort zone and tackle projects that I might have shied away from before. They may not all make it out to the “public” just yet, but I am going to work on better merging these two sides of my writing process in hopes of creating more meaningful and authentic work.

Happy new year and happy writing.

~Melissa

 

 

Keep Clapping

I’m here now at the train station,  waiting for a train where I will settle in and read a book for the next hour or so. This train will whisk me away to a change of scenery, to the lights of New York City, extra bright for the holiday season.  

After an especially stressful day, I’m looking forward to this break.

I hear clapping. 

Clap, clap, clap.

I buy my train ticket. 

Clap, clap, clap. 

I find a seat on an empty bench to wait for the train, and it gets louder. 

Clap! Clap! Clap! 

To my right is a little girl, about four years old. She’s clapping. And very happy about it. 

Clap, clap. I love clapping! 

I look over and she’s clapping, nonstop, and she invites her father to join her. 

Come on! Let’s clap! Let’s keep clapping. Clap, clap, clap. 

Her father joins her, and I can’t help but smile as I (and many other people in the station) watch the two of them sitting there, clapping. 

Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!

She’s right, I say to her father. Clapping is pretty fun. He smiles and nods and keeps clapping with her, clearly both very patient and very proud. 

Keep clapping! Clap, clap! 

This time I speak directly to her. I ask, Are you clapping for anything special? 

Yeah, she told me. Clap, clap, clap. 

I’m curious. What is it that your clapping for? 

I’m clapping because it’s fun!

And then I start clapping, too. Just a few times. Clap, clap, clap! Just long enough for her to see me clapping and  for me to see her giggle in response to my joining them.

She turns to her father again, Let’s clap faster! Keep going! Keep clapping! 

I hear the chime that signals that the train is pulling into the station. I give them both a little wave and I head toward the platform.

I realize that I am now about a million times happier than I was a half hour ago, and I’m pretty sure that it’s the reason that this little girl’s path and mine crossed tonight. 

She was an important reminder that there is always something to clap for. 

We can clap for others, to cheer them on.

We can clap for ourselves, and be our own cheerleader.

We can clap just because it’s fun.

The important thing is to keep clapping!     

 ~Melissa

The first few “happy days” and the little things…

I signed up for the #100happydays challenge on Tuesday, September 22nd — shout out to Shaundrika for introducing it to me!

I am a pretty happy person to begin with, so I’m not completing this challenge to become happy. I’m already happy.

So why am I doing it?

Reason #1: Ā I decidedĀ to complete this challenge to make sure that I’m taking time each day (even if it’s just once and it’s just for a second) to make sure I do nothing else but enjoy being happy. That’s it. It’s about letting myself take time for me.

The first day was the hardest, because I found myself wantingĀ to stop and take a picture of everything — every little thing — that was making me happy. Keeping myself limited to just one picture per dayĀ was initially pretty difficult, but I think it is also forcing me to slow down and fullyĀ appreciate that one thing before moving on to something else.

After just a few days, I’ve already been noticingĀ thatĀ I am happy throughout the day for lots of different reasons.Ā The people in my life are the main reasons for my happiness, but there are also other,Ā smaller sources of happiness that I know I don’t usually spend very much timeĀ thinking about.

Reason #2:
Some of these smaller sources of happiness tend toĀ getĀ lost in the shuffle ofĀ theĀ busy day or forgotten about all together. We have a lot of stuff. Many of us have more stuff than we need to be happy. That’s why I’m choosing to focus on the little thingsĀ that do make me happy for my first #100happydays. (Yes, I can totally see myself doing this for more than 100 days…perhapsĀ each 100 days I canĀ have a different focus.)

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Sounds like a pretty good list, if you ask me!

So whileĀ I’m focusing my #100happydays on some of the little things, IĀ can also see myselfĀ doing a little purging through thisĀ process. If during these 100 days of the challenge something crosses my path and it doesn’t bring me happiness, I’m going to get rid of it. There really is no need to be surrounded by anything that isn’t purposeful or beautiful — or both, no reason to be surrounded by things that we don’t need or don’t bring us happiness.

I have a pretty good feeling, because of thisĀ #100happydays challenge, I will also get closer to my goal of #moreartinmylife.

And thatĀ brings me to Reason #3:Ā  I am going to try toĀ makeĀ a photo essay or photo journal of some kind with the pictures that I take for the challenge. Maybe I will use them in a collage or publish them in some other digital format. I’m not sure. As I collect the images, I’m sure I will have a better idea of what I can create with them.

Here are the pictures from my first few “happy days”:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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Having a few minutes to myself just to think and take some notes with my favorite pens — and enjoy a cup of pumpkin hot chocolate!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

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For some reason, soap wrapped in pretty paper is one of my most favorite things in the world!

Thursday, September 24, 2015Ā 

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The first sip of a hot cup of coffee on a dark fall morning.

~Melissa