What Is True Success?

So many things make us happy; so many things make us sad. So many times we wished we  had turned left instead of right; so many times we are soooo glad we did turn right instead of left. Sometimes I get really sad that I’m soon going to turn 60 — where has my life gone? Other times I look back and am sorry my mother never made 54. I’m sad that I had breast cancer; other times I’m so glad they found it when they did.

Life is packed with highs and lows, yellow and blacks, snow and scorching heat. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what it’s always been about. For us, for our grandparents, for George Washington and Kublai Khan and St. Joseph. I’m sure they all had a hundred things they wanted to do at one time, too.  Just like us. We all want to be appreciated for what we’ve done. What we’ve become. We all would like to think that our time here on Earth has been for the Greater Good.

This is not a confessional blog; this isn’t a tell-all or a bad news bomb.  I’m sitting on my sofa this cold Sunday afternoon, looking at the bare treetops in my front yard. Of course, you know me — I’m also watching football, eating lunch, doing laundry, getting ready to write some in  my latest novel, wondering what I’m gonna wear to work tomorrow. I’m also thinking about the fun I had with my grandbaby this weekend, thinking of taking some drugs for my achy legs, and feeling guilty I haven’t played fetchie with my dog today.

That’s really what this blog is about. Sometimes I feel I should be pushing this blog harder, trying to share the Word with more readers. Other times I think I’ve run this horse to the finish line, and should start a new creative venture.  Yet more often I think  I’ve let my writing simmer on the back burner for so long it’s started to dry up and stick to the pan.

How do you know if you’ve succeeded at what you tried to do? What is the measure of success? Big paychecks often are an indicator;  good health, always. Waking up every morning is a success all on its own. Family? Kids? Making the perfect apple pie? All of the above are successes if never done it before. Success has always been measured from the heart first, from the masses second. And often it takes on a meaning more cosmic than one thinks. I think I make the best spaghetti sauce this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t agree, does that mean it’s not good? Of course not. All it means is that I can eat it all myself.

Writing is the same thing for me. What is being a successful writer? Have I ever been published? A short  story here or there in the past 10 years. Have I won awards for my creativity? No. Have I ever I gotten a call or email from a publisher? No. Do I think I’m a successful writer? Yes. Definitely.  I’ve had people say positive things about my stories; I’ve brought smiles and tears to readers.  I’ve written 4 novels, 1 novella, 32 short stories, 42 poems, 84 blogs, and 3 novels in-progress. I think that’s being successful. Why? Because Ive continued to do what I love, no matter what the  result. I’ve had fun making friends, creating worlds, and trying things that make me uncomfortable. I encouraged people to believe in themselves, given life to middle-age heroines, and never killed off  the main character.

There are still so many paths to follow, worlds to explore. And that’s only after I play with my grandbaby, fetch my dogs, pet my cats, cuddle my husband, go to work 40 hours a week, clean my house, grocery shop, get together with family and/or friends, and dozens of other responsibilities. Life has only so many hours, and I’m still struggling on squeezing a few more out of every week.

So what this all boils down to is that I’ve driven the Humoring the Goddess train long enough. Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to believe in yourself, have fun with your life, and laugh as much as you can. There are so many things you can’t change, so why not toss your hands up and laugh and move on? You’ll know the things you CAN change..that little voice in your heart/head/soul is always there to remind you. Your job is to listen.

I have enjoyed entertaining you all these years more than you know. I have learned so much from you. I might try another blog, or finish one of my novels, or sit and spew poetry until I feel nauseated. I’m sure I’ll be back and visit sometime. If I start something new I’ll post it. I will look foward to hearing from you and YOUR projects. You will always find me at my email world…  humoring_the_goddess@yahoo.com.

There is always a path ahead of you. Always. It’s up to you which one you take, or how often you turn left or right. In the end, none of that matters — the only thing that matters is that you keep walking.

Keep Humoring the Goddess…and Loving your Life…

Claudia Anderson

CHOCOLAT AND THE TUSCAN SUN PART II

A while back I wrote a story about two of my favorite movies: Chocolat and Under the Tuscan Sun.  https://humoringthegoddess.com/2011/04/28/chocolat-under-the-tuscan-sun/.   It was an irreverent observation of the main characters (thin, lovely 30ish beauties) and their ability to start new lives in quaint surroundings filled with friendly neighbors, gorgeous scenery, and hunky men.  There was drama, of course; some sort of “obstacle” the main character had to overcome. But it was artistically woven into the background, and it left me with a positive attitude about life after 30.

I just finished watching Tuscan again, and I find a little uneasiness creeping into my positive attitude. While I know that movies and fiction books and television are all pretend, I wonder why so many of us are drawn to such escapism. I mean, flying spaceships through outer space or sitting at the other end of the table from Henry the Eighth are out-and-out fantasies, not available in this (or any) lifetime. But modern-day escapism is a lot easier to imagine.

It’s not that I want to leave what I have behind (although the thought of never having to change the kitty litter again does sound enticing); it’s more the attitude of pretend that seems to strengthen me. I spend most of my waking hours trying to deal with life.  Some of my friends are planning early retirement, others planning to have kids, some trying to get out of bad jobs, and still others taking second jobs to make ends meet. I have lost parents and friends to the Reaper, and sat besides others who have cheated him one more time. I can see how the world is unfair, unyielding, and unacceptable. So I can see how a happily-ever-after movie ending rates right up there with dark chocolate and the 1812 Overture.

But after watching my favorite movies for the umpteenth time, I see my creativity being put to the test. I don’t confuse fake gazebos that overlook vineyards with the pot of geraniums on my back porch; I don’t think making homemade chocolate would be any more rewarding than making homemade spaghetti sauce. I know I will never look like Diane Lane or Juliette Binoche — too many babies and too many cookies and too much menopause has taken care of that.   But that doesn’t mean I can’t follow my own Yellow Brick Road now and then.

Moviemakers are dream makers in the ultimate sense.  Not only do they manipulate scenery into idyllic settings and everyday conversation into romantic poetry, but take us just where we think we want to go. As the observer, we never see the cameramen, construction workers, caterers, painters and all the other thousands of people who make our trip to la la land possible.  We never see the accounts payable clerk at her desk, the plumber fixing the waterfall, the cleaning service scrubbing the toilets or the mountain of programming needed to make a glass of champagne bubble someone’s name.

And we don’t want to see it.  We don’t want to see the mess the cleaning crew has after a day’s shooting; we don’t want to be reminded of the endless peanut butter sandwiches the street sweepers and lighting technicians had to eat just to stay on the production company’s payroll.  Why?  We don’t want to see the behind-the-scenes efforts because they remind us so much of our own daily life.  If we were to watch the women wash the floors of the Italian bungalow, we would be reminded that our own kitchen floor needs scrubbing. If we were to watch the crews paint the set to look like old world France it only reminds us that our house could use a fresh coat of paint.  If we were to know that all the food on the banquet table were fake except for what the actors were eating, it would bring home the fact that some of the food we bring home from the grocery store tastes pretty fake, too.

Is that all bad?  Not really. As we get older we find that reality distorts a lot of things.  The length of the rope seems to be longer behind us than in front of us.  We know that today could be our last chance to drink a glass of wine or hug our kids or listen to Louie sing What A Wonderful World. If we keep on track and bring light into our lives, we can make the length of the rope in front of us infinite. And how do we do that? We make our own version of pretend.

As I said before, a pot full of geraniums can be just as rewarding as the French countryside, be it in a different form.  A piece of Hershey’s chocolate sitting on a fancy plate from Good Will can be just as alluring as an exclusive delicacy served in a five star restaurant in Italy.  Toga parties can mimic ancient Rome (or Animal House), and calling the gang over for game night can rival any three-dimensional chess game Spock and Kirk could play. We just have to understand that reality is all in one’s point of view.

I am learning not to take the movies seriously. Not that I ever did, but there were times I was genuinely tempted to build a greenhouse like the one in Practical Magic or rent an atmospheric cottage in rural Scotland to write my breakout novel like Demi Moore in Half Light.  The point is, don’t let pretend pass you by.   Just know it for what it is, respect its limitations, and let it fly in and around and through your life.

Besides — if a librarian can travel to Egypt and discover mummies and telephone repairmen can have close encounters of the third kind, there’s no telling where a wife/mother/grandmother can go.

Want to come along?

Cracks in the Sidewalk

The fireflies were out in full force tonight, their little behinds blinking, signaling, and flirting away in the dark woods behind my house. I took off my glasses and watched the blinking blurs zigzag through all dimensions, and I wondered — what did our ancestors see around them before glasses were invented?  I myself could definitely see faeries with their little lanterns just out of reach, being busy little beauties, doing whatever little faeries do.

 What else did our primitive ancestors see?

 No wonder ghouls and Bigfoot and ghosts were so much a part of our history.  Puffs of mist, the meeting of warm air and cold, could easily be mistaken for a ghostly apparition. Everyone thinks squirrels do nothing but chitter throughout the day. Few know that their agitated squeal outweighs that of a crow at times. Why wouldn’t that sound be translated as a banshee in the dark?

 Modern day humans have lost touch with the mystic, the magical, the moronic. I suppose it makes more sense to know that moving lights across the night sky are airplanes and not spaceships, or that the little furry thing scurrying behind the rock in the yard is a striped chipmunk and not a hodag.  But what’s the harm in thinking unicorns hide in the woods or the blinking bug derrieres are faeries with lanterns in the dark playing hide-and-seek? That the hill in the distance is really Mordor? That the path that disappears into the woods is really a bridge to another time?

 I know writers tend to exaggerate when it comes to telling a story. But I’m talking about all of us and our ability to spin tales and our willingness to make things up as we go.  We should test the bounds of physics, chemistry, religion, and countless other logistics that humans have taken so long to create. In the hands of a master puppeteer, a wooden creation can take a life of its own. What is so wrong with dancing along with the puppet? To step on the cracks on the sidewalk instead of over them?

  I look at my grandbaby – everyone’s grandbaby – and admire their ability to pretend. They don’t know the difference between a box and a rocket ship, between a plate filled with noodles and plate filled with worms. We are always so quick to correct, to point out the truth, that we leave little room for imagination to grow. Of course we want our kids to know the truth. But through the effort of correction we also close the doors to maybe.  When those doors are closed, especially if they are slammed shut, we often cannot get them open again.  We have to “know” everything as if our lives depended on it. Indeed, we need to “know” not to stick our fingers in an electrical socket or to stand in the middle of the highway. But you know I’m not talking about that kind of knowing. We know lightning is an electric discharge from cloud to cloud or from cloud to earth seen as a flash of light. What ever happened to Zeus’s bolt from Olympus? And why can’t clouds be pillows?

 Those who have lost the ability to pretend have lost a valuable part of their personal development. We are brought up to understand right from wrong, how things work. That part is important ― that part assures our survival. But so does pretending. A little twisting of reality doesn’t hurt anyone, especially if it is shared in a positive, good-natured way. We tell our kids that the tooth fairy takes the tooth under the pillow and leaves some monetary reward behind; sooner or later they figure out the truth, and chuckle that they were so gullible. So it is with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, too. And as far as I can see, there are no mental scars in those who once believed.

 Sometimes it’s just fun to get carried away with reality, make up your own stories, your own tales, of who, what, where, or why something “is”. The truth will always be the truth in one realm. But there was a time when truth was something totally different from modern days. Who’s to say that crop circles aren’t made by aliens? What’s wrong with “believing” that carrying an acorn will bring you luck and longevity, or if your right ear itches, someone is speaking well of you, but if your left ear itches, someone is speaking ill of you?  There’s nothing wrong with a little nonsense sprinkled into your daily repertoire. Nothing wrong with spinning tales of angels bowling when it thunders or thinking dragons once roamed the earth. Make up your own stories. Create your own myths. Pretend that the lady in the grey coat you always see in the park is really Coco Channel. That the car parked under the tree in the alley is really Al Capone’s getaway car. Tell stories of ancient heroes or pixies or the Civil War. Are they true? What does it matter?

 According to Reader’s Digest (http://www.rd.com/family/encourage-your-childs-imagination/), encouraging imagination builds self confidence (develops confidence in one’s abilities and their potential), boosts intellectual growth (helps to think symbolically), improves language skills (people who pretend do lots of talking and thinking, helping to boost vocabulary, improve sentence structure and enhance communication skills), develops social skills (explore relationships between family members, friends and co-workers and learn more about how people interact), and helps work out fears (pretending helps gain self control over confusing feelings).

So the next time you see something out of the corner of your eye, or gnarly branches that look eerily like monster arms, have no fear. It’s only Gandalf, Nessy, Frankenstein, and Apollo all knocking on your door, wanting to come in. Let them.

As long as they don’t stay for supper, you’re all right.