Impact

Today’s Daily Prompt: Tell us about a habit you’d like to break. Is there any way it can play a positive role in your life?

I like meteors.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks around August 9-14 every year. Like most events in the night sky, it is best viewed far away from the ubiquitous light pollution of urban areas. I’ve often been fortunate to be at the family cottage where we can lie on the dock, away from even the obscuring effect of the cottage lights, and listen to the lapping of the water and the distant cry of a loon while we watch for “shooting stars.”

Lying next to that particular body of water to observe bits of space rock burst into flame as they enter the earth’s atmosphere is made extra exotic by the fact that West Hawk Lake is actually a meteor impact crater. It is, therefore, hard not to contemplate the reality that once upon a time one of those pretty lights shooting through the night sky fell all the way and hit the earth right where you are lying–with enough impact to make a hole in the ancient granite of the Canadian Shield that is approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in diameter and 115 metres (377 feet) deep. It’s enough to make one go rooting around in the shed for dad’s old hard-hat.

Shooting stars are a beautiful sight when you are privileged to catch a glimpse of one. Perhaps because they are so ephemeral, they have throughout history acquired near-mystical significance. People once saw them as divine omens. We make wishes on them. But in reality all that magical beauty is just the long-distance view of something crashing into the upper atmosphere and being destroyed by the resulting conflagration.

That’s a less lovely image. In fact, it sound kind of messy.

Pretty nice for a hole in the ground...
Pretty nice for a hole in the ground…

Judging from the way the rocks are jumbled along the shoreline, I assume that, when the meteorite (which is what you call a meteor that actually lands) landed in the middle of the stretch of Canadian Shield that is now West Hawk Lake, it was extremely messy. Today,  the outcome of that catastrophic impact is an exquisite, spring-fed lake that has been my family’s summer destination for three generations.

We may wish on shooting starts, but it’s the meteorite landing that has the biggest impact.

I had my own crash-and-burn moment this week. In spite of my best efforts to ease myself back in gently, my first few days back at work after my leave left me feeling very much like I was hurtling into the atmosphere with enough force to ignite.

For one thing, there were some organizational changes announced just prior to my first day back, so I walked straight into the predictable tizzy that results from any such announcement. On top of that, this is a super busy time of year in my office. We are currently short-staffed. And of course, there was the shock of the overall pace and complexity of it all after so many leisurely days of doing, and thinking about, one thing at a time. But all that wasn’t really enough to explain why my head exploded.

Then about halfway through the week something shifted. I realized that I had fallen into an old habit that never serves me well: the habit of believing that I’m stuck in a rut, when in reality the tools to pull myself out of it have been in my hands all along. I realized that the greatest gift of my three month break from the familiar wasn’t all the fun I had while I was away, but rather a renewed clarity about things when I came back. I saw that for the umpteenth time in my life I had slipped into convincing myself that my work was something that happened to me, rather than something that was mine to create.

I remembered what I liked about my job: I have the great good fortune to be in a position to make an impact.

Marilyn Monroe is reputed to have said, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I may be a little singed by the time I hit the ground, but when I do, I intend to leave a mark.

Setting me free

Today the Daily Prompt asks: Tell us about the blog post you were most nervous to publish — and what it was like to set it free.

In my short history as a blogger, without question the scariest post I have published was the first one. Not because it was deeply revealing or personally challenging. Just because it was the first.

I’ve thought about doing something like this for a long time, but there were always lots of good excuses. Not enough time, I didn’t know how, anxiety about putting my work out there for the world to read and comment on, and a good strong dose of imposter syndrome (as in, “what on earth would I have to write that anyone would care to read on a regular basis?”)

The irony is that I fancy myself as someone who loves change and embraces new things. But the truth is I’m really more of a closet coward. And I can spin “not enough time” and “I don’t know how” into an escape hatch for just about any adventure. “I don’t have enough money” is also an enduring excuse, although I am learning that, like most excuses, it can generally be bested by a little bit of creativity. I have a sign that hangs in my bedroom where I will see it first thing when I wake up each morning:

imagine

It’s there to remind me daily that if I can imagine something I can make it happen. I really believe that we create many of our own limitations in life by failing to believe that things could be any different.

One by one, the Blog Avoidance excuses started to crumble:

“Not enough time”: Three months leave to recover from hip surgery. And you honestly can’t do leg exercises all day. Suddenly I had time to write. And all that hip-strengthening walking was giving me lots of time to think, which was further fuelling my desire to write.

“I don’t know how”:  Actually, everything I have ever done on a computer I have taught myself, so I don’t know why I would ever think this was an issue. But I did. Enter user-friendly WordPress, care of my friend’s awesome blog.

“Anxiety about putting my work out there”: The other major writing project I undertook while on leave was to finish a book-length manuscript  that I have been working on for two years. It’s a memoir, of sorts, of a time when I nearly died of a difficult-to-diagnose illness. In the process of preparing a query to send to a publisher, I took some time to prepare a resume of my past publications. It reminded me that I actually had past publications. Get over yourself, Anna. Your work is already “out there.”

“Impostor Syndrome”: The best antidote for thinking that I had nothing to say was reading what other bloggers were saying. Before I hit “publish” I spent some time reading through the blog posts featured in “Freshly Pressed.” I clicked around some of the blogs that I particularly liked. And I said to myself, “You can do that!”

So I waded in. I’m still really only up to my ankles, but the water is warm and welcoming, and I think I’m going to enjoy the swim. It wasn’t really the blog post I set free. It was me.

And while I’m busy busting excuses, I am going to tackle that YA novel that exists half in roughly written scenes and half in my head. Even if I do have to go back to my day job tomorrow.

My faithful editorial assistant
My faithful editorial assistant

I go walking: North

(The first of a series of reflections based on striking out from home in each of the four directions)

River view 1The river outside my door runs northward. Sort of. That is, it starts to the south of here and ends up to the north of here, but along the way it does a lot of meandering to the east and west, and even the odd little southward switchback as it follows the path of least resistance along the gently sloping prairie. From where I live, a northward river walk begins with a stroll through a long narrow park that slopes down to my parking lot on one side, and farther down to the river on the other. The park is actually a dike, constructed many years ago to keep the river OUT of my parking lot (and my living room) during the annual spring flooding.  The dike is there for the utilitarian purpose of holding back the river – of protecting the neighbouring residents from harm, but the view from the top of the dike is spectacular, and every time I walk it I feel grateful to have stumbled on this location.

North - path 5Before long, the trail dips down off the top of the dike and winds through a wooded section closer to the river. Just a narrow dirt bicycle track, the trail snakes along the riverbank and reveals the back side of a series of apartment buildings that front onto the main north/south roadway in this part of town.

North - after flood 1Here you do see evidence of flooding. The clay-laden soil is cracked into a grey mosaic where the river has breached its bank and deposited a layer of silt along the shore. It can be hard to get close to the water. This cracked earth is difficult to walk on, and the shore in every direction is thick with ankle-stabbing thistles. But every so often there is a path through the tangled growth down to the shore and it is possible to get up close and personal with the muddy water.

The funny thing is that I feel no compulsion to actually touch the water. And not because it’s muddy, either. You see, having grown up in a house with a backyard that went straight down to the river, it was ingrained in me from a very early age to keep a conservative distance between me and the water’s edge. The result of this highly successful conditioning on the part of my parents was that I made it to the age of majority without drowning, in spite of our lack of a fence. But now as I stand—an adult— next to the sluggish late summer water, I know that muddy shoes are my biggest risk of going right to the edge.

North - mud 2Mind you it’s not a river you want to swim in, and I know that the placid surface masks a deceptive current. The river is to be respected. But I think I have internalized a greater degree of caution than the river warrants.

And it gets me wondering about all the other protective dikes I have built around myself. And how many times I have held myself farther back from the edge than was really necessary.