OBT day 11

#OBTChallenge Day 11

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression.

Tonight I’m giving a piano performance. That’s something I haven’t been doing very often lately, and it doesn’t feel quite as routine as it used to. I’d initially planned to keep the program very “safe.” One flashy piece I know really well – Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata – and the rest of the program slow and quiet and tame.

Then yesterday, when I was practicing, I realized exactly how safe I was playing it (literally) and why. Anxiety was telling me I couldn’t do riskier music that might be more fun. I decided to test that theory. Maybe it’s not the wisest idea to change up your program the day before a performance, but why not? 😉

I switched out a couple of pieces and added a couple of others. The video below is one of the switches. My original program included three very safe sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. I decided to trade one of the safe ones for the one in the video, which is quite a bit harder, but more fun both to hear and to play. (If you watch the recording, you might notice my left hand jumping over my right hand now and then, and hanging out at the high end of the keyboard for a while.) I recorded it during my practice session, because playing for a video is even scarier for me than playing for an audience.

The recording is a little rough, but I decided to use it as an OBT less for the music itself and more for the reminder that, sometimes, we can do more than we think. We don’t always have to confine ourselves to playing it safe. Here’s to taking a risk now and then, and trusting our powers!

 

As always, thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share! If you’re not on social media but would like to share something with me to post, crediting you of course, please email me at kfaatz925@gmail.com.

OBT day 9

#OBTChallenge Day 9

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. Last week, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s post is another good thought, in the form of a quote:

“Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing in loveliness.” – Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart

Tattoos on the Heart is a powerful and eye-opening read about a Jesuit priest’s experience working in gang intervention in California. In the quote above, Fr. Boyle is talking about restoring a sense of self-worth to young people who have given up on their own lives.

I think the idea can apply to a lot of us. For me, “re-teaching a thing in loveliness” might be a way to counteract depression and some of my self-directed anger and disappointment. It can mean looking at myself in a new way and seeing beauty and value in aspects of myself I might have ignored; like in my last post, where I thought about my “stubbornness” in a positive light. It can also mean being more patient with myself during the times when I think I’m falling short.

Where might you turn a more positive light on yourself? Where might you look at yourself in a new way and see something beautiful? It’s a short question to ask, but I’d invite you to think about it.

dogwood ice 1.19.20
Some unexpected beauty: dogwood encased in ice

As always, thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share! If you’re not on social media but would like to share something with me to post, crediting you of course, please email me at kfaatz925@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBT Day 8

#OBTChallenge Day 8

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. Last week, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s OBT has to do with holding a good thought about yourself. Right now, as I’m facing down resistance and some discouragement in the face of “stuff I have to do but don’t want to,” I’m taking a rare minute to think deliberately about something about myself that I like. If you’re like me and deal with depression – or even if you don’t have that particular “frenemy,” but are just like a lot of us tend to be at one point or another – you spend a lot of time listening to the self-critical voice in your head. It can be hard sometimes even to find one thing you think you’re good at, or something you’re proud of.

I’m pretty stubborn. Sometimes I’ve put that in the negative column about myself: “don’t know when to quit,” “can’t give up when I should.” But it’s also a useful strength. I don’t want to go through my to-do list today, and I have a feeling I’m not doing everything just so or the absolute best it can possibly be (for instance, writing query letters, which can always drain the go-getter feelings right out of me). But I’m doing those things anyway. I’m plugging through the list and showing up, whether or not everything is as perfect as I might like it to be. Often, like today, stubborn is a good thing to be. And yes, it does mean that I don’t know when to quit…and sometimes that’s meant that I can make things work, even when they might look hopeless.

I invite you to take a minute now and celebrate something about yourself. Maybe, like me, you have that stubbornness that translates to getting stuff done and refusing to give up. Maybe you’re good at finding the positive in the difficult. Maybe your trait is energy, or compassion, or some particular skill or gift.

Take a minute, focus on that, and honor it. Alafair (below) insists that you do.

Alafair portrait
You are excellent. Like me.

As always, thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share! If you’re not on social media but would like to share something with me to post, crediting you of course, please email me at kfaatz925@gmail.com.

One Bright Thing, day 7

#OBTChallenge Day 7

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. Last week, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today, because I’m tired and need a quick smile myself, I’m going with a staple. Cat pictures. I take a lot of those. 🙂

This is Fergus. He’s photogenic, largely due to his funny face. (Hover over each pic to see its caption.)

As always, thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share! If you’re not on social media but would like to share something with me to post, crediting you of course, please email me at kfaatz925@gmail.com.

One Bright Thing, day 6

#OBTChallenge Day 6

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. The ordinary day-to-day gets complicated by the weather, the increased hours of darkness, the post-holiday slump, and very often, the news in the wider world.

A few days ago, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s post (which might also be tomorrow’s, since I’m putting it up late 😉 ) breaks from the music string of the past days and instead is just a short line of thought.

I was teaching a creative writing workshop this afternoon, in which we talked about how pretty much any storyline you might think about writing – a love story, a war story, a heist, a quest, anything really – has probably been written before, lots of times. The one unique thing any writer can offer is our characters, the people who live our stories, because our characters come from ourselves and who we are.

This morning I got up feeling pretty down. Sometimes I get very much into self-comparison, and I usually decide I’m not doing nearly as well with my life as this or that other person, or doing as well with my life as I “should be.” In those times, I start to wonder what exactly I have to offer at all.

But this afternoon’s workshop reminded me that, just as any writer’s unique offering to the world of story is their characters, so any person’s unique offering to the world-at-large is themselves. There’s no one else quite like me. There’s no one else quite like you who are reading this. We might be doing things, or trying to do things, similar to what other people are doing, and we might be inspired or daunted by the achievements of others: but no one else can be exactly like us. No one else thinks like us, talks like us, loves or cheers or cries like us.

And no matter how we sometimes feel, the world could not be the same without us, exactly as we are. No one else could shine the unique and specific candles we light in the world every day, just by living and doing and being.

So if you need a good thought to hold, maybe this one will help. And this seems like a good place for a picture of one of my critters, who absolutely knows that there is no one else in the world like him:

Fergus piano

As always, thanks for visiting, and stop back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share!

One Bright Thing, day 5

#OBTChallenge Day 5

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day…or at least most days. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. The ordinary day-to-day gets complicated by the weather, the increased hours of darkness, the post-holiday slump, and very often, the news in the wider world.

A few days ago, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s post features music by Felix Mendelssohn; not my own playing this time. 🙂 This is the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49, as performed by the Zukerman Trio.

I’m currently learning this piece, and it’s a big challenge. If you’ve read about me here on the site, you know I’ve been balancing work in music and writing for a number of years. Sometimes that balance leans more one way or the other. Lately, I haven’t been as much of a “real pianist” as I trained to be, and this Mendelssohn is definitely pushing me to get my chops back.

Learning it has been a mix of fun and frustrating. Over the past few days especially, I’ve caught myself getting really impatient with my own limitations. Why can’t you remember those notes? Why can’t you get that passage up to speed? I know the real issue is that I’m scared I “can’t do it well enough,” that I’m not enough of a pianist anymore. But if I let myself get impatient and angry, it only makes the work harder. If I try to keep a sense of humor about it and let myself learn and grow at my own pace, things happen much more easily.

It’s hard for me to be patient and accepting with myself and to honor when I’m trying my best. If I want to be able to do that with others, the buck starts here. This piece is teaching me lessons about more than music. And it’s a wonderful piece too: full of drama and fire and all shades of expression.

Please enjoy the video and visit back again soon. If you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share!

One Bright Thing, day 4

#OBTChallenge Day 4

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. A few days ago, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s post features music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This is a recording I made of his Sonata in F Major, KV 280. It’s about ten minutes long, and like a lot of Mozart’s music, it’s joyful, sparkling, and full of energy. Guaranteed to give your day a boost.

Please enjoy and visit back tomorrow, and if you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share!

One Bright Thing, day 3

#OBTChallenge Day 3

My new goal on the blog for a while is to post one “bright thing” every day. This can be a tough time of year for those of us, like me, who struggle with anxiety and depression. A few days ago, I was feeling especially down, so I asked myself how I could turn those feelings around and put some light out into the world. The OBT Challenge was born.

Today’s post, keeping with the music theme from OBT Days 1 and 2, features music by Robert Schumann. The recording below, which I made a couple of years ago, is about fifteen minutes long. If you don’t have time to just sit and listen, I definitely recommend it as a soundtrack while you’re working. Guaranteed to make the work go faster. 🙂

Schumann (1810-1849) wrote this piece, Papillons, early on in his career. The title literally translates as “butterflies.” Schumann chose it to capture what writing the piece felt like to him: he was riding a wave of inspiration, with musical ideas flying around him thick and fast, a cloud of butterflies.

The music creates a ballroom scene. Schumann puts the listener there, watching the dancers, admiring all the costumes and masks, caught up in the swirl of light and sound. It’s been one of my favorite pieces since I first learned it about 25 (!) years ago: fun to listen to and joyful to play.

Please enjoy and visit back tomorrow, and if you like what you see here, please share! Also think about posting your own bright thing somewhere on social media today. It could be a photo, a drawing, a poem, some music: anything that makes you smile and puts some light out in the world. Bonus points if it’s something you create yourself. 🙂

If you post your OBT on Facebook or Twitter, you can tag me (@kfaatz925 on Twitter) and use the hashtag #OBTChallenge. I’d love to see what you share!

Back to Work

Yesterday I wrote a little over eight hundred words on what I think will be my next book (Number Three 😊). This feels like a big step in the right direction, because part of me has been avoiding writing, and/or struggling with it big time, for a while.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know I’ve been wrestling with pretty severe anxiety since early this summer. This is a big reason why I haven’t been writing much (when at all). It’s not the only reason for the slump, though, as I’ll explore a little bit farther along in this post.

The anxiety first. Folks who have dealt with it know how, initially, you get scared of something, most often a perceived malfunction in your body or mind. Nobody else, not doctors or therapists or family or anyone, can see or confirm the malfunction, but you can’t explain the fear away or reason yourself out of it. Then, insidiously, you get scared because you’re scared. You think things like, If something wasn’t really wrong, I wouldn’t be this scared, or The very fact that I’m scared means I’m hopelessly messed up. The fear goes around in circles, escalating and dragging you with it.

Anxiety can also leave you confused about yourself. You spend so much time hyper-vigilant, watching yourself to make sure you’re still operating okay, that you kind of forget how it feels to just be in your own skin and your own mind. You might feel like you’ve turned into a different person, or you’re not really sure who you are anymore. It can feel terribly risky to trust yourself.

6.26.19 post - Pine Creek falls (2)

That’s how anxiety has been for me, and it made writing feel frankly dangerous. I felt like had to hold on super-tight to the objectively real. Otherwise how could I be sure I was still functioning okay? I couldn’t let myself escape into a fictional world, especially one of my own creation. How could I believe it was okay to imagine things? How could I trust myself to walk that balance between the world in my mind, and the one I lived in?

I hated feeling like I couldn’t write. (Talk about not being sure who you are anymore!) The good news is – as I read when I was learning all I could about anxiety – that the mind will heal and get back to its accustomed way of working, once you figure out how to get out of its way. Hyper-vigilance doesn’t help. It only keeps the fear-cycle spinning. The best thing you can do, I read, is get on with your life as well as you can. Do the things you want to do, even if anxiety tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t.

This gets me back to writing, and to the second piece of the creativity slump. I call this piece the Why should I? phenomenon.

It was easy to say that I should write, to ground myself, to help with recovery from the anxiety, and because, when you get down to it, writing is what I love to do and the one thing I most want to do. But it was hard to get past the fear that it was somehow dangerous, and on top of that, there’s the uncertainty in the act itself. Why should I do it, when I don’t know if it’ll be any good? Why should I do it, when I have no control over whether anyone likes it, or whether anyone sees it, or whether it gets out in the world at all?

river 1

When I found myself starting to feel like writing again, it felt like deciding to go down with my colors nailed to the mast. Maybe diving into a fictional world was the wrong thing to do, even though it never had been before. (Anxiety also likes to tell you that no matter how many times you do something with no trouble at all, next time might be different.) I figured that maybe my brain just couldn’t handle it. But I was sick of not doing it, and I found myself wanting to get back into the world of my second book, Fourteen Stones.

Well. My brain fought that idea as hard as it knew how. You can’t do that. Who knows if Fourteen Stones will ever see the light of day? How can you possibly justify writing a sequel (editor’s note: it’s actually a prequel) when nobody might want the first one? Why do you want to waste your time? That’s stupid!

But the mind does heal if you can figure out how to get out of its way. In spite of all the messages about danger and uncertainty and the possible stupidity of the whole idea, I found myself putting a toe back in that fictional world. First I was thinking vaguely about my favorite character again. Then I was going back to a period in his life that I’d dreamed up while writing Fourteen Stones, but that hadn’t needed to go on the page in that book. And then – glory be – I was back in the farmhouse where he grew up, and I could practically smell the fire on the hearth in the front room, and run my hand along the generations-old wooden beams and floorboards.

It still felt like a huge risk, for more than one reason. It still does. But I’m learning that my writer-mind is stronger than the other stuff, and for sure, if I was going down, I would want to do it with my colors nailed to the mast…except I’m not going down. I’m off to the races.

After a couple of weeks of sketching and brainstorming, I figured out where this prequel-book needs to start. Yesterday I wrote the first couple of pages of Chapter 1. When the anxiety was at its worst, I thought I might never be able to do this kind of work again, but the words are coming back, and the story is already unfolding in shapes I hadn’t considered.

Getting back to work, for me, means coming home. I’m so glad to do it. Let the new adventure begin!

minebank view

 

 

 

Teaser 2

Thanks for visiting, as always! Today I’m sharing another teaser from a new project I’m working on: a collection of very short, fable-like stories about the experiences artists face. As a short intro, Vera is an artist, in any discipline you’d like to imagine – whatever resonates most with you. Lia is one of her three feline-shaped muses.

If you like this excerpt, you can read another in my post here.

**

It’s raining today, a steady thin drizzle. Vera sits under a spreading tree, leaning back against its broad trunk. The leaves make a green cave to shelter her. Now and then, collected moisture drips off a branch here or there, splashing softly on the grass.

Vera would like to be walking again. Sometimes she welcomes the time to think and be quiet, but right now isn’t one of those times. She’s been thinking too much lately about her art. Sometimes nothing about it seems right. The quieter her mind is, the more she sees problems and mistakes, and the faster they grow.

It’s a little too wet to walk, though. Aurelia-who-is-called-Lia, sitting in the grass beside her, agrees.

“Wait for the sun to come out,” Lia says. She lifts a dainty front paw to her mouth and smooths a few hairs down with her tongue. “We should only walk when it’s nice. Much more comfortable.”

Lia is small and striking. Most of her fur is black, but with enough ginger and beige mixed in to give it a marbled look. One hind leg is orange with tabby striping. Her paws and chest are white. In sunlight, her fur has the sheen of velvet.

Vera fidgets. “When is it going to get nice again?”

Lia cocks her head. “Why are you in such a hurry?”

Vera doesn’t answer. She drums her fingers restlessly on her knee, not looking at Lia, but she can feel the grass-green eyes studying her.

Lia gets up and comes over. She climbs into Vera’s lap, pushing her uneasy fingers aside. Her claws come out, just enough to prick Vera’s leg and get her attention.

“Hey,” Lia says. “Don’t ignore me.”

Vera looks down into the small face. Lia’s ears are mostly black, mottled with a little bit of orange, but she has a mask of ginger around her eyes and a splash of white and beige on her nose. Vera can’t help smiling. “I can’t ignore you,” she says. “You won’t let me.”

Lia arches her back, purring. “That’s right. I get attention when I want.”

Vera runs her hand down Lia’s sleek side, feeling the texture of the glossy fur. The purr is a noisy rumble now as Lia presses against Vera’s hand. Then the purring stops and Lia sits back on her haunches.

“You know you’re just the way you need to be,” she says.

Vera shakes her head. She’s used to the way Lia thinks. “Maybe you are,” she says.

“Maybe?” Lia’s green eyes go wide. “There’s no maybe about it.” She lifts her chin proudly and swishes her tail, displaying the tiny white point on its tip. “Look at me,” she says. “How could anyone be prettier?”

She’s right, of course. Nobody else could look quite like her, with her mix of colors and the funny patches on her face that are somehow perfect. Vera rubs the top of the small round head. “It’s true,” she agrees. “Nobody can match you.”

Lia looks satisfied to the point of smug. “Same for you.”

Vera thinks of a lot of things she could say about that. The whole world can see Lia as lovely and delightful; Lia knows it’s her due, and anyone who doesn’t agree isn’t worth her worry. But Vera is different.

Lia rubs her face against Vera’s hand. “You’re mine,” she says. “That’s all you need to know.”

Because Lia doesn’t have time for anyone who isn’t worth it. Vera can hear that, loud and clear. She’s still not totally sure she believes it, but she smiles.

Lia curls up in her lap. The two of them sit quiet together, listening to the soft rain.

Alafair portrait
Alafair, aka Smidgen, the original Lia

 

Alafair nap
She’s not very fetching…