Hearts of Hope

I ventured out of my house this morning at my usual time for a walk and found the lack of people out and dearth of traffic noises somewhat eerie. The birdsong, however, was cheerful and loud, heralding the coming of spring and warmer weather.

I wanted to see if there were hearts in the windows of homes in our neighbourhood or messages in the shape of a heart along my route. At the end of one of our national news programs last evening, there was a short segment about a movement that parents and children have embarked on to inspire hope in others.

Many homes in the news clip had colourful hearts taped to windows and there were hearts with messages posted on poles and trees. Children and parents around the world have been posting these hearts to support and encourage each other. These images have gone viral on numerous social media sites and have also been sent to people through text message and emails. It was a pleasant way to end a difficult and challenging news program.

Foot traffic along the biking/walking path I typically travel along has been light as people are staying home and being mindful of social distancing to try and slow the rate of the COVID-19 virus. Lately, when I encounter other walkers or people on their bikes, we smile politely in acknowledgement but try to maintain our distance. I have missed the morning conversations that I often have with friends and neighbours who are also out walking early each morning.

Along the path this morning, I found a large red heart tied to one of the trees in the park that lies adjacent to where I was walking. It wouldn’t withstand too many days of strong winds or spring rain but was still where someone had placed it, most likely two days ago. The message written upon it was difficult to make out, but seemed to contain a note that we will get through this time together.

Further along the path, there were sidewalk chalk messages, now partially erased from a schiff of snow yesterday, imploring us to look after one another, and to help each other out by staying apart. Some of the messages appeared to be written by children and others I imagine were crafted by parents.

Laying down these thoughts in pastel colours, I imagine that parents created these messages in heart shapes to reassure their children, to support others as well as to cultivate a sense of optimism for the future within themselves. The resilience of families in our community and willingness to care for and encourage others is a positive sign that we will, indeed, get through this together.

On the final leg of my morning walk, I wandered down the street towards my home and did find several homes with colourful hearts taped on the inside of their windows. I was pleased to have discovered these images close by. It was a comforting and welcome sight.

It was a different walking experience through my neighbourhood this morning but discovering the number of hearts taped on living room windows, and sidewalk chalk messages written in the shape of a heart, was uplifting and serves as a welcome beacon of hope. I hope that you, too, find hearts of hope in your neighbourhood.

Stay healthy and well.

Staying Emotionally Connected while practicing Social Distancing

The biggest tip of all to promote healthy emotions as we age is to find a way to help others. It is much more difficult to be depressed or dreary if you are working to make someone else’s life better.

Daniel J. Levitin

The closure of our local libraries due to COVID-19 preventative measures came just after I picked up a copy of Daniel J. Levitin’s 2020 book, “Successful Aging: A neuroscientist explores the power and potential of our lives.”

Amidst the many amazing pieces of information I am absorbing from this dense and fascinating read, are the many ways in which hundreds of neurotransmitters and neurohormones interact in complex ways and influence our psychological and physiological well being.

The critical impact that our social connections can have on our neurological and emotional well being was clear in his writing.

At the same time, I have been trying to figure out the ins and outs of what social distancing entails, the basics of where I can go, what I can do and who I should see. I have also been obsessively monitoring the local, national, and international world news on the coronavirus and its deadly spread across the globe.

Each time I leave my computer, I then wash my hands and am now applying salve as I am developing a rash from excessive hand washing.

With all that is going on in the world, it has been challenging to keep a positive frame of mind and emotional balance.

Following more reflection on how to safely connect with others, I have been using technology as much as possible to reach out to family and friends to see how they are faring in these difficult times.

It has made me realize that I should make these efforts routine in my life and there has in fact, been a positive emotional impact after connecting with those I care about. Reaching out to those in our families, and our social networks, does in fact, contribute to emotional well being. Doing it more frequently, especially when life returns to some sense of normalcy, will be important for us all.

Connect with those you care about in safe and positive ways. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay healthy and safe.

Facing doubt

Anyone coming into this creative realm has to know that it’s not all “fun,” and, in many ways, the further into it you go and the more successful you become, the more the challenges intensify.

Dave Brosha

One unsettling aspect of the reinvention process is facing doubts. Doubts abound as we take on creative endeavours that are different from what we have engaged in before in our lives. Questions of competence can plague us and derail our dreams if we let them.

I have looked at the opportunity to develop a writing practice and to follow my interests and passions after retiring from full time work as both a gift and at times, a curse.

No one told me how much effort it takes to learn a new skill and to develop your craft. Writing is a solitary profession where feedback can be non-existent and the aloneness aspect can be overwhelming. The feedback and achievement loops that we become used to in our regular work lives, don’t exist in the same form in the writing world.

Quite the opposite actually. Rejection is purported to be the rule rather than the exception. I have even set a goal around the number of rejections I hope to receive this year. Seems a bit topsy turvy from the world I just left.

The time required for learning the craft of writing can be a sacrifice that isn’t understood when you start. The self-imposed pressure to produce and to find some type of rythym for writing can be draining. At times, I have felt like stopping before I even start.

How do you develop strategies to remain creatively energized and work through the process of bad writing until you find the hidden gems through the editing process.

Writers can form a community of support around you and it is critical to choose those who are actually interested in your success rather than putting themselves above where you are currently at with your struggle.

Facing doubt seems to be a part of the process and getting through it has a learning curve all on it’s own. Approaching this work with a light heart, an intense curiosity about the world around me, and a healthy sense of humour have been the strategies that have worked best for me so far.

What keeps you going when doubt seems overwhelming?

Creativity in Crisis?

During this past week, I learned that one of our most reputable local literary publishing houses was closing, declaring insolvency, and had begun bankruptcy proceedings. For almost fifty years, local writers have had their publishing dreams realized and many others have been inspired by this independent publisher.

Along my journey to submit pieces of my writing, I have discovered that many literary print magazines have closed submissions due to lack of resources, and some no longer exist.

Last evening, I attended a lecture at the school of journalism at our local university. The theme of the lecture questioned the future of media. There is a tug and pull between carefully crafted press releases and genuine investigative reporting.

Is creativity in crisis? Certainly journalists and writers have been challenged more in the last few years as we have seen the rise of populism surface around the globe. Declarations of fake news obscure truth telling. Power is obtained and maintained by managing the narrative.

Fear, anxiety, and distrust can overwhelm us as we read through negative news feeds, read vitriolic attacks by organized trolls on social media, and plow our way through one global disaster after another. Should we be concerned about a pandemic or not? At times, our trust in the written word falters when there is so much contradiction and confusion.

There are certainly numerous challenges for writers and readers of the written word these days.

Yet, humans crave and require opportunities for creative expression whether it be through writing or another form. Imagination can be transformative. When we put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard, we can lose ourselves in the process of creating words that allow us to share what is in our hearts and minds. Expression can be both healing and affirming.

Storytelling is the means we use to connect with one another. It is the medium in which we learn about our differences, our similarities, our pain and our joy. Let’s ensure that we continue to embrace our creative impulses and to share them with one another. Happy writing!