Monday, January 02, 2012

To Boldly Go...My ROW80 Goals........

I used to be the type of person who planned things.  I would write up long lists of what I was going to do, filled with detail and blind ambition...

And then, I would lose the list, or get hung up reading for the whole day, or become frustrated by how much easier it was to think up and write down those demands of myself than it was to actually commit myself to the process of attaining them..

It's only now, a year or two after I stopped trying to create these huge to-do lists of things to cross off and keep myself busy with, that I'm beginning to understand why that was.

Every one of those lists were based on what I thought I was supposed to do.  What I thought might make me look successful, responsible, intelligent, creative, or somehow or other cool to an audience that didn't have a face, but definitely had a presence, at least in my own mind.

So I would plan an impressive array of tasks for myself, and I would try (and always fail, in the end) to convince myself that I was enjoying the progress and the process.

But I know myself too well for that, and I suspect I always did.  The little girl who drew horses in fifth grade, and who became the high school student who read Shakespeare at home, for fun, but Star Trek novels in class, during Shakespeare time, who wrote frighteningly bad fan erotica and decent poetry rather than make any real attempt to understand the abstract and honestly uninteresting to her world of trigonometry and pre-calculus, who stayed through three extra periods to work on an essay test on Brave New World,  knew it.

The young woman who left a prestigious college a semester and a half into an English major (with a Professional Writing concentration), and then took a job as a lowly kennel helper for a local veterinarian, knew it.

The slightly older young woman who, after one fiance died, and another left, boarded a cross-country Amtrak, alone, to head to work at the Grand Canyon, where she knew no one, and was not sure there was a  job waiting because she might conceivably have failed the required drug test she took prior to leaving, and who had only $50 to her name, and so ate snacks and little else for five straight days, knew it, too....

And finally, I have realized it on a conscious level, and can claim it, hopefully for the rest of my life....

When something fires my passion and my imagination, when it resonates with my soul and my nature, I will reach and stretch toward it exultantly, with a singing, soaring spirit.

And when it doesn't?

Well, I guess, looking back over my life, that I've never been willing to invest myself, not wholly and completely, into anything that doesn't hold deep intrinsic value to me, personally.  I may go through the motions, but I am not present in the experience if I can't feel passionately that the effort is worth it - that any effort would be worth it.

Writing fills me, and fires my passions and imagination on many levels.  I still write the fan erotica - and it's a lot better in my 40s than it was in my virginal teens. Every partner I have had, every experience, has  deepened that writing, as it has my understanding of the multifaceted jewel sex can be.  More than fourteen years of marriage, pregnancy, the births of three children, the death of one, the nursing and raising and growing together - and, sometimes, wrenchingly, apart - have made it richer than I ever could have imagined in those days before I had ever truly known sexual love, need,  and longing....

Being a parent has thrown many things into focus, and some out of focus.  I understand the challenges my own parents faced to a larger degree.  I know the fear of tight finances, high fevers, the crack of a small head on a flat surface, and the impossible- to- put- true- words- to feeling of passing my 12 day old comatose son to my husband, so that he could die in his Daddy's arms.  I live every day entangled in the living of two alive and passionate children, and with the quiet presence of the one who is not physically here, but can never be forgotten.  Those things, too , have affected my writing, and my living.

We've chosen a divergent path in the raising of the two young humans who live here.  There's more about that elsewhere on this blog, and anyone reading here for ROW80 is free to explore as they please.  Passion and learning and connection and mutual respect are the philosophies we embrace.  Neither Jeremiah, who is 10, nor Annalise, who is almost 7.5, have ever attended school.  Lise has never had a formal, parent-enforced lesson on anything in her life.

Watching how they learn, how completely they give themselves to the myriad of passions they hold, has enriched my own understanding of my lifelong resistance to Doing What I Should.

They are fearless, relentless, and boundlessly enthusiastic about their passions.  Their ideas are expansive and sometimes improbable (and I think sometimes they know it, but, like me chasing after Spock - in Lynxform, no less! -  in my mind, they don't care, because the fantasy delights them and makes them more alive). They will use any resources at their disposal to learn more, to be able to do more, when they love something.

And they are also oddly realistic.  They don't expect perfection - overnight or ever.  They expect to get better if they keep trying.  Sometimes, they know they need to STOP trying, and go do something else.

They don't try to hang on to passions they've outgrown, as so many adults seem to.  They seem to have a deep understanding that life flows. and things change.

A year ago, maybe even six months ago, writing what I have written here, so far, in about twenty minutes, would likely have taken days of writing in tiny bursts.......I was needed by someone throughout most of my waking hours.  Just lately, though, both children have begun to surge in their independence.  They are eager and ready to take on more and more of the adult world, and my willingness to be there for them when they needed me has led to a certainty that I will still be, when they need me, or just want me near.

They are beginning to fledge feathers that will someday hold them, each in their own way and time, as they soar.  There are years to go, but nowhere near as many as there once were....

And so, now it's time for me to molt the old and dingy feathers in my own life, to preen the new and shiny ones I've grown in their place, and begin taking small test flights higher and further into my own passions.....

What better place for me to begin than with the one passion that runs through, around, and beneath all others all aspects of my life?  What better place than the deepest places I know within my own unique soul?  No one else can ever take me there.  Only I can.....

So, in accordance with my new intentions to do nothing that does not bring me joy (sometimes the joy will be the indirect result of bringing joy to another!), I didn't spend a lot of time contemplating what my goals for this, my very first Round Of Words, would be.

Instead, I let myself feel.  My writing matters to me.  Some is private, and I may never care to share that.  But, the more I open up and speak my truth, the more I know I need to continue, and speak deeper truths as I realize them on my inward and outward journeys.  When I do this, I am often compelled to share the words, and that has been powerful for others with truths similar to my own.  When they share their feelings on my truth, I often understand my truth even more clearly, seen juxtaposed with theirs.

I have found healing in this, and so have others, and that is a good thing.

I love writing essays; I love writing fiction.  For too long, I thought I needed to choose, that I needed to do some type of writing that fit under a specific label, and, for the most part, live there.

So these goals are more than goals.  They are an affirmation to myself of what I value and who I am, right now.  They are self-exploration, sharing, and flights of fantasy....

They are me.

They are part of my life.

I've made certain to make them meaty enough that I want to sink my fangs in and indulge myself in a sort of feeding frenzy.  I've tried to set them with few enough moving parts that I can be here, when I need to be, for the people I have already committed my life to, and so I can do things like the homeschooling reporting that allows us the freedom to fully support our children's many passions.

Round of Words 80 Goals - Round 1, 2012:

I will write at least 10 essays and/ or photo essays, and post them publicly.

These may be completely original works, recurring themes, unfinished pieces from my blog's drafts folder, or pieces pulled from my writing notebooks.  It will require an average of one completed and posted essay every 8 days to achieve this goal (and, lookee, here's number one, nearly finished; and I am halfway through another in my blog drafts file.....that's two working, with no sweat at all!)

Most of these will post to this blog, but....

I will submit at least one essay or photo essay apiece to Tiny Buddha and Sunday Surf.  

These don't have to be accepted to count; only written, polished, and submitted.  This goal is based on my desire to share my truths with audiences who might find value in them; these seem like good places to begin to do that on a larger scale.  I may decide, if I get on a roll, to submit more than once, or also to other blogs, carnivals, hops, or whatever else tickles or inspires me.   I will need to complete a submission on average every 40 days to attain this goal.

I will complete the rough draft of my unfinished NaNoWriMo novel, Chameleon's Dish. 
When I began NaNo this year, I really had no idea where my writing was leading.  The beginning was a series of essay chapters, all springing from Hamlet quotes, with a very loose framework of fiction wrapped around them (some of these may be perfect fodder for the first goal, above).  The main character and the skeleton of her story appeared about 35,000 words into the challenge.  
I've mostly left her hanging, lost in time and space, and working at survival, since December rolled in.  I wrote over 60,000 words, but Tisira needs to make it home (or does she?)  At least, she and her loved ones deserve resolution.....
And by rough draft, I do mean rough, in the NaNo sense of things.  I can edit it all in later rounds, this one is just for getting the basic story down where I can see it and play with fingers will hopefully fly like Hermes' feet, inspired by lives that must speak through me to have their stories told....I owe them that much!

I will submit at least four pieces, queries, or proposals to for-pay markets (like Elance, for example).  
The pay doesn't need to be much; but there should be money involved.  For over two decades I  have dreamed of making a living with the words that are always with me, the imagery and emotion that are part of every moment, the lessons I have learned or failed to learn, the fantasies that have made my world a more wonderful place to live.  
It still scares the shit out of me, to put myself forward this way.  I was raised to not look for compliments or toot my own horn.  But, if I do not, who will?  Who will know I have this burning desire, if I don't say so and back it up with action?  All I have is the rest of my life.  Submitting some effort at earning every 20 days seems like a not-too-daunting way to make that dream a reality.
I may choose to substitute an idea I've had for a private writing enterprise for one of these submissions.  I'm not really ready to talk about it yet, but the idea has been with me for several years now.  I would need to roll out a completed offer and post it publicly before I could count it.

I will update, keep current on a weekly basis, and add writing samples to my Facebook Writer Page (Shan Jeniah Burton, Writer).

I started the page in the summer, when I made my first foray into Elance, and was looking to network more fully.  Life intruded, and the page has been ignored for months.  I will resurrect it, update it, and use it to recount my Various Adventures in Writing Land.  Both the successes and missteps will be valuable to me; and they might be to others, too......

I imagine this goal will be the least labor intensive, requiring only random pieces of time as I have them to spare.  It's more about returning that long-neglected orphan of a page to a state of kemptness and usefulness, and about publicly and unapologetically proclaiming myself as who and what I am -  Shan Jeniah Burton, Writer).

Whew!  That's all of them.  I now prepare to edit, hit send, and commit myself for any and all to see!


Shan Jeniah =D


Suzanne Lilly said...

Hi Shan Jeniah,

These are quite lofty goals you have here, but I'm sure with your passion, they're highly attainable. Your story is moving, intriguing, and heartwrenching. I'm looking forward to getting to know you during this round of ROW80.

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Thank you, Suzanne.

When I am really in tune with my inner self, I can write a LOT, and FAST....and it will be better than anything I wrote when I was focused on craft or trying to impress someone.

Honestly, Jeremiah and Annalise give me so much to write about, every day, that I could do all the blogposts just about that.

This story the novel is a portion of has been playing itself out in my head in random moments since I was about 13. The trick is finding the spaces where the story can unfurl (hometending is good for that, if the children have chosen to do something that doesn't include me....

The only part that scares me is the submitting part. I'm not fond of jumping through hoops, as you maybe guessed! =) And we happen , for noe, to live in a state that requires an immense amount of reporting for homeschoolers - that pretty much uses up my tolerance for paperwork hoops each year.

But the goal is my dream....THE DREAM. The one that's better than giving Spock the perfect (and unexpected) companion....better, even, than getting to have lunch with Paul Simon would be.

SO I will relish even the scary parts, and, like so many other things, once I'm in the midst of it, the reality will probably be a whole lot less scary.

For more details on our second child, Elijah james, and his story, you coud go to the beginning of this blog. The first posts were written in the weeks following his birth and death, before we knew that Annalise would be born. They are raw posts, and the most honest things i had ever written, up to that point in my life.

Thank you again for taking time to comment. I love comments! =)

Kelly. said...

Wow! This is a really amazing blog post - very inspiring with all its introspection.

I look forward to seeing more of your work and progress.

All the best!


Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Thank you, Kelly! I love taking journeys deep into myself. Always find something interesting, there.....

Eden "Kymele" Mabee said...

Reading this, Shan, reminds me of exactly just how much I love you and always have (even when I "couldn't stand" you).

Best wishes and gentle thoughts.

Unknown said...

Good luck with your goals! Glad to see another person whose child/ren have never been inside a regular classroom :). It certainly is a trip! As long as you have the inspiration and put in the perspiration, anything is possible.


Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Kymele - the feeling is very, very mutual. Without you, I wouldn't be the me that I am. And I think, even as a child, even when I couldn't stand you, either, I've known that.....

I am so happy that you pointed me in the direction of ROW80. How cool that we can both pursue our own goals in our own ways, and yet, in a sense, do it together (which seems very natural, to me).

I'm about to have another cuppa sweet coffee, and salute you as you no doubt down another cuppa tea....

Love you, Sys. Today, and always.

I have been and ever shall be your friend. Oh, and I'll probably make you want to pull out your hair here and there, too!

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Melanie - Yes, it is absolutely a trip, Every day is different and surprising. I am thrilled to get to be so much a part of their lives, and have them be so much a part of mine, too.....

I also love the way my own life has opened up with possibilities and energy since we began on our unschooling path.

Best of luck as you pursue your goals and life with your children!

Lori Freeland said...

What stuck with me when I read your post was your loss. I went through four years of leukemia with my oldest son. He is still with us, but I learned the hardest and best lessons during our journey with cancer.

Robin M said...

Very heartwarming, passionate post. Always happy to meet another home schooler or unschooler as it may be. Excellent goals. Look forward to following your progress.

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Lori - I can imagine the lessons must have been very powerful. That is along time to live life in emotional limbo. I am so happy that he is with you, and I hope he is well.

Elijah deepened us in ways too numerous to list. Because of him,we live differently than we would have, otherwise. I am not sure I would have followed my conviction to homeschool. I am nearly certain we wouldn't have had the courage to make the huge leap of faith and profound life changes unschooling requires.

Our lives are better because his touched ours so briefly. And he will be forever a part of us, and all that we are.

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Robin -

I keep being amazed at how many home and unschoolers there are, these days. I graduated in 1987, and never heard the term except in rare news stoies - the Ryan White case, and kids wintering in remote parts of Alaska, getting their lessons by radio call.....

It's probably pretty clear that I love my life. Jeremiah and Annalise are two of the most fascinating three people I know (the other one is Jim - or maybe Spock, but Jim is OK with that!). I am honored and blessed to be in on so much of their learning, and the amazing ways their minds work. I am learning at least as much from them as they are from me.+)

We began as eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning relaxed homeschoolers - well, I designed a curriculum that was intended to be fun, but I really wasn't at all relaxed about it. Jeremiah, who does not ever want to be told what to learn; he has his own ideas and projects, and, true to his minimalist nature, doesn't want others cluttering them up by imposing outside agendas.

Both of us were miserable, and that spark that had always been there when he "exherimented" on his own faded away. I chivvied him about his emerging reading skills; he went on a reading strike.

Several months later, I found him on the couch reading a Magic Tree House Book to himself. He was 7, and chewed through about 500 books that year, including four Harry Potters, Dickens, Crane, Narnia, and many more....

And I began to learn my lesson, and let go, which was perfect for him - and healing for us both.

Annalise got the advantage of those lessons, and, as she is surging forward in her ability to read, write, spell, calculate, and remember an incredible array of facts about anatomy, nature and wildlife, natural disasters, and several other topics, I'm a little awed at the fact that she has acquired all this without being taught.

I would have made an excellent unschooler, but I wouldn't have been a happy one, given the dynamic in my family of origin. I am thrilled, though, to be able to be an unschooling mama!

Your love for your life shines through your post. May all your learning days be joyous ones! =D