Setting Fire to the Past

I’ve made so many moves over the years it’s hard to keep track of them all.  Besides the physical moves I’ve made—from Wyoming to Chicago and various suburbs thereof—I’ve made personal, emotional and relationship changes.  It is surprising how much distance one can cover without ever having to take a step.

Through all these moves I’ve carried a trunk with me.  It was a high school graduation present from my grandparents.  The trunk has been a bench, a footstool, and a table, as well as being the holder of those things I couldn’t bear to toss, but had no need to be out in the open.  Journals, letters, cards, old ids, and other ephemera.  For the past couple of years it has sat under my desk, home to the garbage can and a laptop that I don’t use any more.  I haven’t opened it, partly because I haven’t had anything to squirrel away (e-mail, Facebook and WordPress has digitized much of my correspondence and thoughts); but also because it is full.

In mid-December I dragged the trunk out.  I was looking for a notebook, and was certain it had to be there.  This happens on occasion. I’ll be seized by a need to find something and I tear apart the house in search of it.  Usually, I fail to find whatever Lost Ark I’m chasing; if it were still around I would have found it easily.  I’m then stuck with a mess and a heavy weight of frustration that my quarry managed to escape the nets of my organization zeal.

This time was no different.  The notebook, and the information therein, was nowhere to be seen.  In my digging through the trunk, I flipped through the dozen-plus journals there.  They were varied: cloth covered ones bought in a three pack from Sam’s Club in the early 90s, spiral bound ones from Borders, “leather” covered ones, five subject Mead notebooks, even a manila envelope stuffed full of loose-leaf paper.  This represented more than a decade of my life: from about 1995 to 2005.   There were some random pages from earlier and later, but the bulk of my regular journaling ended shortly after Charlotte was born.

As I flipped through the pages all I read was misery.  Every randomly picked page was a chronicle of how desperately unhappy I was.  Did I write only when I was upset? Or did I only write of my unhappiness because that’s all there was? I think a little more of the former than the latter, but there was no denying that what I had committed to the pages was unpleasant.  I wanted to reach out to my past self and tell her that it was going to get better … in a way.  I can’t reach her, though.  She is in the past and trying to cast back would only slow down the momentum I have gained.

But I didn’t have to keep carrying the millstone of unhappiness.  What did I gain by keeping these journals around? Evidence of my unhappiness during that time?  Did I really need it?  I had my memories, if ever I wanted to revisit them.  Which, again, wasn’t going to help me move forward.  I had learned all I could from that time.  There was nothing more these journals could tell me about myself.

I grabbed two cardboard boxes and filled them.  The letters, cards, notes, pictures and miscellaneous bits and bobs stayed.  The journals went.  For the first time in years there was room in the trunk.  Room for more pleasant keepsakes: love notes from Stephan, birthday cards from my children, perhaps even a letter to my future self, telling her that I am okay.  She can let me go and move on.

The first of January I took the journals out to the fire pit and burned them.  The day was sunny, if cold, and windy.  Despite the helpful nature of the weather, burning a decade’s worth of misery isn’t easy, even when it is bound in paper.  You can’t just set fire to your past and walk away.  You have to tend to it, or else it won’t be fully destroyed.  Blackened bits of paper constantly tried to escape, flying high and forcing me to run around the yard to catch them.  Some were still burning and had to be stomped out.  I had to open up the journals with a poker to make sure all the pages burned.  I got a surprising, and disturbing, insight into just what goes into a book burning.

The whole process took three or four hours.  As I worked I kept thinking, “This is who I was, but it is not who I am now.”  As the paper turned to ash, I felt the truth of it more and more. I returned to the house cold, smelling of smoke, my hair peppered with ashes.  I can’t say if I have completely divorced myself from the misery of those past years.  However, I won’t have those words sitting at my feet, their ambient unpleasantness influencing me.  And if that isn’t a solution, it’s at least a start.

 

Making it Work: Nickels and Dimes

We’re a month into the grand plan.  December being fairly low key, with only one semi-disaster, I feel we got a decent baseline on income potential outside of conventions.  The following is our net income from our creative efforts in December:

Etsy Sales $103.94
Amazon Royalties $1.40
Survey Gift Cards $25.00
Total $130.34

The Etsy sales are pretty self-explanatory. The majority of that revenue went to paying for the new cutting table and a cutting mat.

The Amazon royalties come from two books Stephan and I wrote and self-published  a couple of years ago.  We never did any sort of promotion for them, and they usually net us a couple of bucks a month.  Our goal up until this point has been to get enough in royalties to pay for a bottle or two of wine.  Maybe 2015 will see that goal reached.

The gift cards come from doing online surveys.  They don’t really count as coming from our creative endeavors, but I include them anyway.  They are helpful in getting supplies (like the 1 lb of dice we bought for Midwinter).  And we are stocking them up for birthday gifts and perhaps the fourth season of Game of Thrones when it comes out in February.

It’s clear that our income is going to come from various sources.  There’s not going to be a single paycheck every two weeks.  As the months go on we’ll be adding more revenue channels: Amazon Affiliate links, an Etsy store for Stephan, e-book design services from me, perhaps even a Patreon account.  We will make every little bit count.  And I will keep chronicling our revenue.

Examine your patterns.

Examine your patterns. Consider first if the pace and the pattern of your life are of your own choosing.  Take the measure of your life, honestly and logically.  Determine which patterns are imposed upon you from external sources and which are self-imposed (or self-inflicted).

Make an honest assessment of what you have to do, what you don’t have to do, and of what you have consciously chosen to do, regardless of whether it is required or not.

Now reach a little further within to take a deeper measure of your personal life patterns. In doing so, realistically determine what it is you are striving for. Reexamine your life patterns in the clear light of personal truth and choice. Ask yourself what it is that you truly want from your life, from yourself.

If you are fairly clear on what you really want, then you can effectively determine whether or not your life patterns are structuring your success.  If you are uncertain about what you ultimately want, then you must ask yourself who or what is actually determining and managing thee patterns of your life for you and why.

These are hard questions, but necessary ones if you want to take more power over the patterns in your life. Know that you do have the ability to choose far more in the matters of your life patterns.  The first step—and the last—is taking your personal measure.

Amber Wolfe, Elemental Power

Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

In my quest to create a backyard garden (as opposed to a garden in my backyard) some things had to be tidied up.  November was going to be that month.  We knew we had to work quickly as possible since winter seemed on planning an early arrival.

Nightshade Covered Woodpile
Nightshade had taken over the wood pile. Pretty, but smelly, and got in the way of getting to the wood.

The big projects for the month involved trimming the branches from trees, the woodpile and the compost heap.  Trimming the branches would give us all sorts of wood for the fire pit next year.  Alas, the wood pile was still filled with branches and wood from previous years. Continue reading Backyard Garden Project: Woodpile & Compost Heap

Gardening as a Radical Act

My grandparents’ house stood on an acre of land, half of which was given over to gardening.  Most of it was taken up by vegetables: peas, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, even a few pumpkin plants for the grandkids come Halloween.  There was a small strip that I always thought of as The Orchard: an elderberry tree, pear, apple and cherry trees, as well as a few grape vines.  The perimeter of the area was ringed by berry bushes: gooseberry, currant, Chinese cherries.  Having raised five kids on little money, my grandparents, my grandmother in particular, had the cultivation and production of foodstuffs down to an art.

Continue reading Gardening as a Radical Act

Doing the Math

I’ve been trying for a while to write this all out.  I’ve gone through several drafts.  The obstacle I keep running into is not knowing how to start.

So let’s start here: At one point I went through lengthy arbitration with The Bank That Shall Not Be Named.  I had to show P/L sheets, bank balances, invoices, etc. to prove my low-income status.  Looking over my year’s expenses and sales showed a net income in the low three figures.  The man who represented the bank was less than kind in his response.  “That’s all you make from sewing?  Why even bother?”*

Continue reading Doing the Math