A Manifesto for 2018

We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.

It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”

Frigging bastards.

When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.

I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.

Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.

The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.

That stops now.

There’s no resolutions for me this year.

No, sir.

Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.

Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.

The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.

What matters, I mean what truly matters, is this moment.

I am alive.

And so are you.

This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.

No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.

It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.

I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.

I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.

I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.

Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.

Let’s do this, 2018!

With gratitude and joy,

Jill

Note: This was also posted on jillocone.com. 

When You Least Expect The Answers, They Come

It’s been a while since I posted, but my absence is for very good reasons. Between my last post (“High Tide Low,” which was wrought with doubt) and now, I completed my work for the spring issue of Jersey Shore Magazine. The issue is now online…if you’d like to take a look at it, click here. I wrote four articles (and loved every single one of my topics for this issue) and provided photography and editorial work.

Anyway, with the magazine work done, my creativity was not as constrained. Then a truly amazing thing happened, and those elusive answers I’ve been searching for aren’t so elusive anymore….

Without warning, the floodgates opened and my fingers got to work. The words keep on coming, over 21,000 as of yesterday, and they aren’t anywhere near stopping. All of the prayers and wishes for the words to come have been answered, and I couldn’t be more excited. Many times my heart wanted to write a post here to keep you informed, but my body and mind wouldn’t let me lose focus on my novel by stopping the flow of typing and revising.

All of the other ideas in my brain have now taken a back seat to my novel, whose time has finally come, and I’m as focused as ever.

Yesterday, I took another leap forward in my writing career by registering for a writing conference in June that will not only offer educational workshops but will have agents and publishers on hand for pitch ideas and the like. The weird thing is that I found out about this conference, which is being sponsored by Rutgers, through an email I received at a Yahoo address that is my “bill” and crap address. I don’t use it for writing or correspondence at all, and I have never used Yahoo to search for anything regarding writing. That email was undoubtedly sent by the universe, and I listened to it and registered for the conference, which is the first weekend in June.

My spirit guide has been around as well, pleased that I’m finally making progress. Subtle, little signs here and there reinforce her presence with an “it’s about time” sassy reassurance.

I’m glad I didn’t force the story when I wasn’t ready because I fear that would have left to burn out and an abandoned idea. Right now, the manuscript is here and there with parts written not necessarily in order, but the prologue and first two chapters are complete. What helped me was to make a timeline for the main character, listing when specific events occurred, as well as her age and that of the people she associates with at the time of the events.

With 76 days until the conference, my goal is to get as much of the novel completed as possible between now and then.

I am surrounded by many supportive friends who listen to me babble on about this very special pursuit, and if you are one of them, thank you so very much. Inspiration also surrounds me in the form of colleagues who are writers, friends who are valued, family I love, and those ever-elusive easter eggs that I keep on finding.

One of my struggles is, in all honesty, very vain: deciding upon what I want to use as my author name. Instead of rushing a decision, I have decided to let all of the ideas simmer. The right one will eventually make it to the top of the list.

I will post updates here when I can, but please forgive me if I don’t post here as much as I used to. The universe and my spirit guide want this book complete, and so do I.

It’s true…when you least expect the answers, they will come.

The final lesson from this journey so far? Have faith. Thank you for following my journey. This mission has been in the making for 46 years, and each step forward fills me with exhilaration and excitement!

With gratitude and faith,

Jill

My Ordinary Playlist of Extraordinary “To Live List” Sentiments

It’s here! It’s here! The second day of 2017 already has a different feel for me. I was hoping to catch the sunrise up at the beach this morning, but the weather gods thought differently. Instead, I sit here listening to the raindrops hit my windows, satisfied that fate had other plans for me.

After making my daily cup of peppermint coffee, I looked over my goals and my schedule for the week and the month. I then refined a few of the penciled-in daily tasks I will complete as I move towards making my future happen. I already was able to cross a few items off that I completed yesterday.

This is not my to-do list. Rather, it’s my To Live List.

That got me thinking…my To Live List needs a little more oomph, something that will help me stay positive and on the right path. Something to accompany it.

And there it is: My To Live List needs its own playlist.

I already had an idea of two songs to guide me this year, but two is not enough. I need a compilation of songs that are special to me: songs that hit MY chords of inspiration that are meaningful and exhilarating to my heart and my soul…songs that guide my journey and give me chills when I envision my future path, some of which actually make me tear up.

…ok, I’m a tad bit weepy here…shake it off, you’ve got this…Pardon this pause of being human…

Onward!

I would like to share with you the first 10 songs on my list, and explain why each song will be a part of every single day in 2017. On the surface, the songs might seem common and ordinary.

Nope. That’s the farthest from the truth.

My connection with each song, who now has a coveted and loved home on my Amazon music app, is very personal (yep, one way I put my Prime membership to work for me!). I carefully selected each song for a specific reason.

My goal in sharing these songs with you is not to “toot my own horn,” per se, but to hopefully inspire you to find the songs that will be the soundtrack to your 2017 life, songs which will make you come alive this year and fuel your passions as these songs fuel mine.

I present to you my Onward, Writer! My “To Live” Playlist.

img_0951Song 1: “Blackbird” by The Beatles. “Blackbird fly…Into the light of the dark black night…Blackbird singing in the dead of night…Take these broken wings and learn to fly…All your life…You were only waiting for this moment to arise…Yes, I have been waiting for this moment my entire life, and instead of waiting, now I am living and doing.

Song 2: “Gonna Fly Now” by the Rocky Orchestra. Hokey and stereotypical, but nonetheless important to me. There will be a moment later this year when I run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead of laughing, consider joining me! Let me know that you’re in and I’ll keep you posted about plans to make this happen!

Song 3: “Look Around” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This upbeat song is a reminder to take a look around every day to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might find me happily jumping around like my 2.75-year-old nephew while listening to this song.

Song 4: “Rey’s Theme” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. The character Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is one of my heroes because she’s strong and brave. Even though she doesn’t know what path to follow at first and wants to stick around at home, life (and the Force) has other plans for her. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I look up to her a lot, despite being more than half her age.

Song 5: “Training Montage” by Vince DiCola from the Rocky IV soundtrack. No explanation for this one is needed.

Song 6: “The Jedi Steps and Finale” from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. This one is hugely personal. Hugely! I cannot put into words the massive symbols and meaning this song has for me. Maybe someday, but not yet. You can read a blog post I wrote last January about that scene in the movie and some of my connections to it.

Song 7: “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Can’t stop the spirits when they need you…this life is more than just a read through… The spirits? Yes, especially SHE who is still guiding me. It’s time to LIVE as this is my one and only LIFE. Time to make my dreams come true!

Song 8: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. I am not a fan of Eminem at all. However, I think you’ll agree with me that this song is legendary, one that will put my ideas into action and give me the kick I might need at times.

Song 9: “The Longest Wave” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The wave is here, my friend. The wave is here, in more ways than one. Did I tell you I intend to learn to surf this year?

Song 10: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. These lyrics are wrought with meaning for me and this part of my life’s journey: Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting…Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…Here comes the sun, here comes the sun…And I say it’s all right…

wordThere are 93 other songs on the list, ones that I know will provide me with encouragement and guidance when I randomly shuffle the playlist. The universe is pretty good at selecting just the right song I need to hear at a particular time, and I wholeheartedly believe it still will guide me this year.

I’d love to hear what songs you have selected to be a part of your To Live Playlist for 2017! Please leave me a comment and tell me about one and what it means to you!

Until next time, 

Jill

 

The Changes, The Challenges, and The Chump in Control

Indeed, it is back to reality now on all fronts, but this time, reality is wrought with change.

Please do not interpret this post as one large complaint, as that is not my intention. Rather, it’s my attempt at authenticity as I share a sliver of what it is like living with Lupus and Fibromyalgia.

Last week was a sea filled with many changes as I returned for my 16th year of teaching, including (but not limited to) adjusting to a completely new schedule and a substantial increase in daily physical activity (in part a byproduct of said new schedule).

I began each day with a short meditation and a smile. I put my best foot forward with my heart in the right place and a positive “Let’s do this!” attitude.

Each day proved to be a challenge, and at the end of the day, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of “Nope. I. Can’t. Do. This.

The summer months off benefits my health greatly. I obviously get a lot more sleep, but I am also able to rest after any sort of activity. Whether it’s after mowing the lawn, exploring our world, or racing after my niece and nephews, I have the time to recuperate and re-energize. If I’m still tired, I take it slow. Even while in Dublin, the schedule I made for myself each day included time to sit and rest. I walked, then I sat, and repeated during the entire trip.

When September arrives, reality drops like a sack of cement bricks from the top of a 10-story building.

On the first day of school, the green flag furiously waves to start the race, and every day from then on through June, it’s go-go-go-go-go from the time I wake at 4:45 AM until well after the end of my work day.

The result?

I am depleted of energy yet “energized” with pain well before my work day is done. I chose the word “energized” because the pain throughout my muscles and joints is like an electric current, radiating and moving up and down while simultaneously throbbing in singular locations such as my inner hip bones and knees. Sitting only stiffens me up, but because I’m so fatigued, I have no choice but to sit when I can, and that’s not often.

My brain is also shot, full of fog and clouds and headache and other barriers to intelligent thought, creativity, and concentration.

It has been nearly impossible to complete any sort of professional responsibilities after my last class at school or after I get home. Likewise, I cannot do laundry, clean, write, or even take a short walk around the block. My eyelids begin closing well before dusk, all the while pain circulates throughout my body and pulsates in my head.

My symptoms are again in control already, and I hate it. So disappointing.

I honestly give everything I have, day in and day out, to my profession, but my diseases end up rendering me physically and mentally useless.

I really don’t think I’m asking too much by wanting to have a life after my work day ends, but with the pain and fatigue, how is that even possible?

After just one week, I already feel like I’m being pulled under and there’s no…

Wait a minute….

What’s that?

I notice a hand with manicured black fingernails reaching for mine.

The lifeguard who is trying to save me is my spirit guide, full of assertiveness, comfort, and hope.

SHE pulls me up and says, “Your purpose is stronger than your pain.

I can hear her voice, in my head, saying those words, like she is standing right next to me.

And I want so hard believe her.

She also says, “Hey you…work on your book already, dammit. You can find time to write at least 200 words each day, you chump.

In her unique and sassy way, SHE has already led me to the revelation of my purpose: teaching, writing, and living.

And now SHE is reassuring me, guiding me towards what’s ahead, what I should be doing, with emphatic certainty.

I can see it, a small glimmer of a speck of light, the light that’s shining ahead.

It’s going to take a while to reach, but it’s there.

Mind over matter, she says, mind over matter, and minute by minute. The light that shines ahead is nothing to be afraid of.

I breathe out my uncertainties. They are now dispelled from my being.

I inhale nothing but possibility and positivity.

My passions and purpose MUST be stronger than my pain.

Last week was nothing more than an anomaly, a road block, a mere short detour on my journey.

I sternly tell the pain it is NOT necessary or wanted, that it needs to vacate the premises immediately and to take the fatigue with it. It’s time for both to get the heave-ho.

My body will listen and adjust to my new “normal” for the next 10 months, as it doesn’t have a choice.

The kinks in my daily schedule will be worked out, and each day will be easier than it’s yesterday.

I will prioritize what is most important each day, balancing my teaching responsibilities with time to write and time to live. The three will live in harmony so I can live in joy.

My symptoms are no longer in the driver’s seat, rather, I am the chump who is in charge and in control.

I’ve GOT to believe…

I am stronger than my pain. My soul is stronger than my pain. My purpose is stronger than my pain.

Well, would you look at that?

Instead of feeling like I’m drowning, I am standing firmly on the shore with my focus on that tiny glimmer of light that shines ahead strong and steadfast.

Postscript: Just to reiterate so I am not misinterpreted, I am the CHUMP referenced in the title. 🙂