Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I coulda been a contender

"Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be."

So, as I said, I've been taking a step back from lampworking, sort of. I've made beads twice since I said that, but I've tried to do it mindfully. Usually I light the torch without a plan and just start grabbing colors and working without rhyme or reason. For a change, I've been spending time thinking about what I want to accomplish before rushing in like a fool.

On Sunday I decided to work with just three colors for a while. I chose Adobe, a terracotta shade, Moana, a drop-dead gorgeous limited edition teal blue, and Dark Ivory. I silvered some of the ivory with fine silver, so you might say I had 4 colors to work with. I started with a focal and then I made a set of donut rondelles using just those colors. I also made spacers to coordinate, in transparent light aqua, a transparent called Peachy Keen which looks more like amber than peach, and a color called Golden, which looks like a rose amber.

I felt good about the experiment, so today I worked with three colors again, an emerald green opal called Jade Palace, a blue violet pastel called Lavender Fields, and an ivory-like shade of Butter Pecan. And silvered ivory again. And I picked out my next set of colors, a pearl gray opal, a pink pastel and, surprise, more ivory-like Butter Pecan. To be followed I think by Mint Lozenge opal (think Halls Mentho-lyptus cough drops) and a lilac pastel, and some sort of ivory and silver no doubt.

Yeah, I know, it doesn't sound like much of a step back. But I am stepping it down a bit. I guess I wasn't ready to go cold turkey, or even cool turkey. I'm actually happy to feel motivated again for the moment, but damn, my arm and my neck still hurt.

And as I also said, it isn't just making beads that I'm trying to step away from, it's the immersion in bead culture that I'm trying to draw a line on. (I just ended two phrases in one sentence with prepositions, but a quick Google search tells me that that's AOK, because writing it grammatically correctly would sound stilted and contrived.) I've been spending much too much time on Lampwork Etc. My current post count there is 4,360. That is a bit ridiculous. And Facebook, where I estimate that something like 75% of my current 287 friends are fellow glass community members.

I don't think of myself as having an addictive personality, if such a thing even exists. I gave up smoking after five years of a half-pack-a-day habit when I was 23, and alcohol after more than 20 years of habitual drinking when I was 40. In both cases, I just put down the butt and the glass and didn't look back, although for years I had the occasional nightmare than I smoked a cigarette. I've never been much for recreational drugs, a bit of college exploration notwithstanding.

Caffeine. Well, they will have to pry my coffee mug from my cold dead fingers. Sorry. One is entitled to at least one vice. I don't really count sugar, I love it and crave it sometimes, but I can leave it if I have to. I don't buy lottery tickets, I don't like playing games I don't win. I'm not much of an adrenaline junkie, not a thrill seeker, more of a thrill avoider if you want the truth.

It should be easy for me to ratchet back on lampwork-forum and social-media time suckers. Right?

I doubt anyone will miss me. And that makes me a little sad. But I know it will be better for me to kick the habit, because I'm so tired of letting it make me feel bad when I don't get responses and comments and validation online anyway.

Finding meaningful things to fill the time I save will be my challenge.

One of the things I've been doing is reading Claire Bidwell Smith's blog, working my way forward from August 2006, the earliest post available, to the present. I'm somewhere in 2009 now and it's been no easy feat, as Claire blogged frequently, sometimes daily, and at this point I'm slogging through it. It began as a chronicle of a girl working through grief at the loss of both parents by the time she turned 25, then at some point it morphed into a day-to-day journal about meeting her husband, marriage, pregnancy and the birth of the first of her two daughters.

Claire oscillates a lot between her gratitude for where she is in life and her ongoing mourning for being a motherless, fatherless daughter. I have much compassion for her and at the same time, the picture she paints in her posts is a different one from herself as a girl in her riveting memoir, Rules of Inheritance. As she herself admits, her blog has become just one more mommy blog. Yet I am determined to read it through. I said I wasn't an addictive personality, I didn't say I wasn't an obsessive one.

Claire began blogging at the essential dawn of the blogosphere, in 2003, although those early posts are long lost in cyberspace. Facebook wasn't yet in its infancy, there were far fewer bloggers then, and she developed a devoted following after her month-young blog was written up in an Australian newspaper. I have nothing but respect for Claire, except perhaps a bit of envy. She not only blogged steadily, she published a lot of articles in well-respected online venues, she wrote the first draft of her book, and she did all of this while getting a graduate degree in clinical psychology and working as a grief therapist.

My fascination with all things Claire comes partly from my ideation that I coulda been a contender. If I have a gift, it is the ability to write, words and sentences that feel like they come through me rather than from me. And I've done so little with it. In the 1990s I had two stories published in the Houston Chronicle and was a finalist in a bedtime story contest. I have a little library of stories I wrote in the '90s and perhaps one of my new projects will be to organize them. You know, in case my children are ever curious about my take on life during the time when both my career and my first marriage were faltering.

From 1999 through 2003 I had a job in corporate communications, writing and editing newsletters and website content. It was the best job of my career and ironically it overlapped with the lowest point in my emotional life, and then after I had fought my way back to wellness, a corporate merger precipitated my first involuntary job loss. My new job entailed only a little writing but I did write a blog on the Houston Chronicle site for several months in 2008, around the time I started making beads.

Until now, that is the sum and substance of the writing I've done, until I started this blog in May of 2012. I'm still such a baby about it too. I feel like I am still flexing long-unused writing muscles and I've gone only as far as sharing two posts on Facebook, this one and this one. (Look at how I just cross-promoted those posts. Who knows, maybe next I will add tags to my posts. I will become a real blogger yet.)

Underachievement. That's how I feel forced to characterize my life. I wanted to be a writer and my mom said, writers starve. So I stopped writing for a long time. Only I didn't replace it with anything else really. I bumbled in and out of jobs until I got my corporate job which lasted 30 years but was rarely a career and never a calling. I floundered in and out of relationships until I stumbled into my first marriage which lasted 18 years if you count the two years we dated and the full year it took to be divorced. And I wobbled through four years of single motherhood, including the devastating end of a relatively brief but profoundly intense love affair.

Life began afresh in 2002, after I moved through the grief and sorrow and ultimate growth precipitated by that failed relationship. A story that I need to share, but not today.

Today I am going to clean beads. I am going to the post office to mail two packages of beads that I sold. I'm going to pick up some fresh bagels for simple dinners on Neil's softball nights. I've already dipped mandrels and I have today's colors laid out on my work bench.

And I'm going to publish this post. With this photo of my first set of mindful beads.



"Wise men say only fools rush in
but I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay, would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you

Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too
for I can't help falling in love with you."

Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss, recorded and made famous by Elvis Presley.

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