Friday, December 30, 2011

The Constipated Muse

My hubby and I ran away from home for Christmas: no cell service, no internet, no family, no stress. Our daughter went to stay with her dad for the holiday, granting us four days of nothing to do but lounge. We spent three nights at a B and B in Westport.  Drinking wine in the afternoon and then walking on the beach while our dog ran across the sand was the perfect vacation to wipe away the stress of this hectic year.

When I returned home from vacation, my muse was waiting for me.

"Feel better?" she asked when I walked into my room.

Setting my overstuffed canvas suitcase on the floor, I said, "Yes. Much better. You?"

"Fine. I'm fine."

I studied her pursed lips, her folded arms, the snakes twined severely on the back of her head. "You don't look fine."

"Of course I am. It was a nice break. I'm glad you had fun."

"What did you do?"

"Nothing. I decided to stay here and read."

"Really? I thought you were going up to Alaska to play in the snow."

"I changed my mind." She reached out and brushed lint from the back of my office chair.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

She nodded.

Shaking my head, I said, "Why don't I believe you?"

"I'm fine!" she snapped, taking a step away from me.

"Okay, you're fine. That's why you decided to stay home all alone and read books you've already memorized rather than go play in the snow with Alaskan wolves. And that's why you're holding your body so tight those snakes look like they might break in two if you sneeze."

She sighed. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay." I bent down and opened my suitcase.

"You wouldn't understand. It's a muse problem."

"Alright. We don't have to talk about it."

Pacing the room, she said, "It's painful and muses find it embarrassing, so we don't talk about it, especially not to our artists."

"If you say so." I pulled out a pile of mostly dirty clothes and threw them toward the hamper.

"I doubt you would even understand, but..." She stopped pacing and stared up at the ceiling. "Sometimes, we muses can get... backed up."

"Backed up?"

"Yes. Our energy can... get stuck."

I stood. "Stuck?"

"Yes. Stuck." Her lips pressed tightly as she stared at me, then she said, "It's very uncomfortable."

"Sounds like it. But what do you mean your energy gets stuck?"

"Sometimes the creative fires burn too hot and too much inspiration flows through me without an outlet. Since you're human, and busy..." She rolled her eyes."... you couldn't possibly handle the amount of creativity that needs release, and besides, you'd burn to a crisp, or at least your brain would."

"So it's like being horny?"

"No, not at all. After a while, too much repression leads to a slowing down of the inspirational flow, which causes the creative fire to back up. The fires build, but the outlet becomes blocked. This leads to actual physical pain for the muse."

"I see." She watched me closely as if judging if I was capable of grasping something so delicate and crucial to the muse experience. I took a deep breath and said, "It's more like being constipated."

Her eyes widened. "What?"

"Constipation. You know, when you really need to go but you can't, so all you feel is cramping and gas."

"I should have known that you'd imagine trapped creative energy feeling like the need to shit."

Suppressing a smile, I held out my hands to her. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to belittle this, I'm just trying to understand what you're going through so I can help."

"You can't help. You can only make jokes."

"I'm not laughing."

"Yes you are. You think I can't see that smile you're hiding."

"What can I do to help."

"Do you really want to help?"

"Yes, I really do."

"For starters you can finish the kids book immediately so you can finish the play. Then you can start the next play. And after that I'll tell you about the other book idea I have. I have lots of ideas to pump new energy into Medusa's Muse, including a new website and e-books. " She paced the room again. "Your workshop is ready to go forward and I have lots of thoughts on how and where to present the material. Also, you seem really excited about writing for kids, so I have several more possible subjects. And "Miranda" is waiting for you to finish, but I'm not sure that's where your passion lies anymore. Don't forget Burying Mama. You should just send it out into the wild again and see what happens." She whirled around to face me, her eyes shining. "Plus those two short stories are simply stellar, but of course need polish."

I sat down, suddenly feeling tired. "No wonder you're constipated."

Stamping her foot, she yelled, "I am not constipated!"

"I know, I know... I'm sorry. You have too many ideas for one artist. It's a big problem. I'm sorry I can't get all of your ideas done."

She gracefully dropped to the floor and sat with her legs criss-crossed. After a moment of silence, she said, "It's not your fault. It's mine. I push too hard. I want too much. Everything in the world inspires me, but the whole world is too full. That's why I stayed here in your room reading books I've already read a thousand times. I don't need any more ideas." She held her stomach tightly. "Ouch."

You need a good laxative, I thought, but decided it wise to keep my mouth shut. "I'll try to finish the kids book this week, if that will help."

"Thank you." She smiled at me. "But no pressure. Like I said, this is my fault. The creative flow is out of balance because I'm out of balance. It's time for me to focus, and help you focus, until we're both in harmony with the work.  It just takes time."

Time. That seems to be the biggest problem of all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice: the holiday that celebrates nerdiness

Solstice is a big event in my family. We decorate the Solstice tree, string the house with as many holiday lights as we can before blowing the fuses, and open most of our presents. It's the day we celebrate our family, just the three of us. There are no outside obligations, like mom wondering why we didn't invite her over, or long drives in Christmas traffic. We often have a few friends over to share a good meal and some good bottles of wine. It's a relaxed, carefree, do whatever we want, kind of holiday.

Plus, Solstice is really frickin cool!

Solstice is a celebration of the return of sunlight. The Sun has traveled as far to the southern horizon as it can get in our hemisphere and it will now begin to climb back toward the north, bringing longer days with more light. Yes, I know, the Sun isn't actually going anywhere, the Earth is doing all of the traveling, and it's the angle of the Earth in relation to the Sun that changes the Sun's position.  Which is exactly why Solstice is so cool. The Earth has traveled to this specific position on it's journey around the Sun, marking the exact location where the days will begin to get longer for us. This is as dark as it's going to get.

Ancient peoples marked this occasion and celebrated with bonfires and music, which is where we get Christmas lights and Christmas carols (maybe I made that last one up). We can't light a bonfire in our yard anymore or the cops get upset, so we wind hundreds of colorful lightbulbs all over our homes to chase away the darkness, just as our ancestors did with their bonfires and candles.

I'm not a pagan (technically I guess I am because I'm not Christian), so my family doesn't attend the Pagan celebrations in our community. I guess you'd call me a Scientific Pagan; my holidays focus on astronomy and nature. I drink champagne when NASA sends a new probe into space, or when scientists discover something new about the universe. I was absolutely giddy when they discovered a new planet in the "Goldie Locks zone." And I cried when the last Space Shuttle flight landed. No more launches.

Solstice and Equinox are the holidays that let me fly my nerd flag, when I can debate with other nerds the exact time of day winter begins. The Winter Solstice happens at the exact same moment all over the world, and is officially clocked in Universal Time at 5:30 pm on December 22nd. But what is the exact time in our own timezone? Here is an article from Earthsky that will help you determine the exact clock-time for your timezone. For Pacific Daylight Time (my own timezone) I need to subtract 7 hours from the Universal Time (5:30 pm on the 22nd - 7 hours = 11:30 pm on the 21st). Did I do that right?

I'm a science nerd, but unfortunately not a math nerd.

The universe is more beautiful and mysterious than you can possibly imagine, filled with wonders and constantly evolving. As soon as you think you've got it figured out, a new discovery will shake your hypothesis into nonsense. And the Earth, our planet, our home, is this beautiful vessel filled with just as much beauty and wonder as the universe it was created from. We should honor that wonder. Recognize the impossible odds that allow us to be here.

This is why I celebrate Solstice. This is why I proudly call myself a nerd.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Enough with the Insecurity

"Have you read your blog lately?" my Muse asks while storming into my room with a stack of books in her arms.

"Yeah. I wrote it didn't I?"

"Then you know how pathetic you sound lately."


"Yes. Pathetic." She paces the room still holding the tower of uneven paperbacks. "Blah, blah, blah... I'm so insecure... I don't have any confidence... I'm so afraid... pathetic!"

"What are you talking about? I'm trying to help people."

"Help people? If helping people is showing what a complete wimp you are then you're doing an awesome job. Here! This is for helping people." She tosses the books at me.

Flinging out my arms to protect my head, I catch one of the flapping books as it heads for my eyes. Several land in my lap and the rest bounce onto the floor.

"Watch it!" I shout. "What the hell are you doing?"

She puts her hands on her hips and in a mocking tone says, "Helping you."

I look at the book in my hand. How to find meaning in the second half of life. "What's this?"

"It's a book to help you stop being so annoying."

Looking down at my lap I read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Co-Dependent No More. 

"Why are you throwing self-help books at me?"

"Because nothing else seems to be working. You're still the same insecure, terrified, wimpy little writer and editor you always were. Only now you're too old to blame it on youth." 

"I am not."

"Yes you are."



"You're just mean!"

"God! You can't even argue like an adult!" My muse kicks Going to pieces without falling apart so hard the front cover rips.

"You know I grew up in a crazy household. It's taken me a very long time to get over it."

"But that's the problem, you still haven't. You're still living like that little girl, and at your age, it's boring."

"Will you please stop making cracks about my age."

"Not until you start acting your age. Then I might."

I stand and let the few books in my lap fall to the floor. "I'm sorry."

"Stop saying you're sorry."

"Okay, I'm... you're... right."

My muse crosses her arms. "I am?"

"Yes, you're right. I have been too focused on my own insecurity, and yes I have been writing about it too much. I'm just nervous, that's all. But I'm working on it."

"Work on it harder."

"Okay, but you know you don't help when you throw self-help books at me."

"Be happy they weren't encyclopedias."

We stare at each other, our eyes not quite meeting for fear I might turn to stone. Her snakes stick out their tongues at me.

My muse sighs. "You really have no idea how talented your are, do you?"

I shrug. "I guess not."

"Well figure it out." She turns her back on me. "And stop wasting my time."

I look down at the floor and read, The places that scare you. 

"Maybe if you didn't yell at me so much I wouldn't be so insecure."

She turns to face me again. "Don't try to blame this on me."

"You aren't exactly the nicest muse on the planet, you know."

"The niceness of muses is overrated. We're all bitches. And besides, do you want to be coddled or inspired?"

"Inspired, of course."

"Then pick up these books, read a few, and get back to work. Enough with the insecurity for frell's sake!"

I snap my fingers. "Just like that? You know it isn't that easy..."

"Yes it is. Stop writing about it, dwelling on it, thinking about it, and stewing in it. When you feel insecure push it aside, take a deep breath, and keep working. Simple."

I can't think of any way to respond, because the simplicity of her words is so... simple. But is it really that easy? Just stop thinking about insecurity and it will go away?

She reads my mind. "Yes, it really is that simple. If you stop feeding your fears, they die. God, I didn't have to read a single fucking self-help book to know that. Humans overcomplicate everything."

I shrug. "Okay then, I'll give it a try."

"Good." She walks out of my room, yelling, "And throw out those books, too."