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Dwell on the Awe-Ful

April, 2020

Seeking Joy When the Times Are Awful


It’s at one end of a spectrum, and mobilization is at the other.

Tough times do call for mobilization. In response to danger (real or perceived), we may fight or flee. But there are those of us who freeze, too. (Don’t judge!) I doubt I’m the only one who has regrettably spent a lot of time more paralyzed than mobilized during this COVID virus crisis.

What is the antidote? This is the question that has been riddling me for weeks, now.

I wish I had some pithy, universal answer for you. I don’t. If I were to put pressure on myself to find that solution before sending out this month’s blog, there might be no blog this month, or any month!

Perhaps our challenge, right now, is to figure out how to dwell on the awe-ful even though so much that is occurring is awful and wretched. Tall order, right?

An odd assortment of recent “happenings” helped me get a little less focused on the awful. The only common denominator I can identify is that these “happenings” were the result of going back to something I’d tabled before.

For example, I read a blog I’d started before but didn’t have time to finish. This led to the purchase of a book. When the book arrived, I devoured the first half in less than hour. The author, Naoki Higashida, an autistic young man who was only thirteen when he wrote The Reason I Jump, had very pithy things to say . . . especially about the role nature plays in lifting his spirits:

“But nature is always there at hand to wrap us up, gently: glowing, swaying, bubbling, rustling.”

“Nature calms me down when I’m furious, and laughs with me when I’m happy.”

I can’t explain why but somehow, these simple words jostled my paralysis.

There was also a video I’d been meaning to watch but never got around to it (hah, even though it’s under two minutes in length). Thanks to time being more expansive due to shelter-in-place, I finally watched it the other day. It is so gorgeous that it’s one of this month’s Prompts for Joy (see below). A nature poem called “Wild Soul” by Nitin Das accompanies the video’s stunning photography.

One line of “Wild Soul” was a real gotcha for me:

“staring at a box, don’t stay stuck”

Now if someone were to witness my paralysis and advise me with “don’t stay stuck,” I’d probably be irritated. If it were only that easy.

It was the “staring at a box” part that grabbed my attention. It got me thinking about how many types of boxes we stare at, and to what extent do they keep us stuck? Or unstuck?

A book is a box, of sorts, but in this case, it got me a little less stuck.

A computer screen is a box, too, but a few timely videos also got me unstuck.

And a cell phone is a box, as well . . .

It’s all in what we choose to stare at, I guess.

It is so easy to get pulled down by how awful things are right now. Television coverage, social media posts, the newspaper (if you still read one) . . . we need these important sources of information, yet it’s hard not to get flooded by the bad and sad news.

We can’t really put our heads in the sand and block all exposure to what is happening because we might miss vital information about what we need to do to stay safe and promote public health in our community.

But what we can do is balance out that type of exposure with other types of exposure that render us awe-ful. It might be spending more time in nature (with proper distancing of course). It might be reading or viewing something that will make you smile, or perhaps shed tears of joy, or somehow get you unstuck.

If you’ve already tried these sorts of strategies, I guess it’s important to keep experimenting. And pay attention to any odd “happenings” that might give you a benevolent nudge. I send wholehearted wishes that this happens to you, especially if paralysis has got you by the short hairs.

Above all, please stay healthy!

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Prompts For Joy

This month most definitely begs for more Prompts for Joy than the usual two. Perhaps if you stare at one or more of these on a “box,” it will give you a much-needed lift or nudge.

Click here to stimulate your “Wild Soul.”

Click here for a viral meltdown that’s sad but funny.

(Thank you, Michael Sally!)

Click here for a bit of COVID humor.

Click here for some Hamiltonian feel-good!

Click here if you need to remember to appreciate someone’s unique gifts.

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Upcoming Event:

"There's Gold in Those Boxes in the Attic!"

Wednesday, May 20, 2020, 7:00-8:30pm

Writers Helping Writers at the San Carlos Library

I will demonstrate how items that link us to the past (such as photos, scrapbooks, music, home movies, and newspaper articles or other documents) can help us access vital information that will enrich our stories.

Would love to see you there!

(Please note: This event is subject to cancellation, or virtual availability, only. Stay tuned!)


Pictured Above

Top: Green is Joy, Joy is Green (this month)


Front Cover of Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

"What is most unusual and clever is that she discusses her process in this book to let her readers know how she is progressing. I especially love how she talks to and about her internal critics . . .

So, as Martha Clark Scala says: 'If you have any desire to honor a departed loved one by exploring the past to tell their story, read this book first.' If I do, Assembling A Life will be my Bible."

~ Madeline Sharples, Author

Papa's Shoes

Leaving the Hall Light On

To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

Check out this video that reveals what motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself). Comments and feedback welcome!


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