A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

A quiet moment from a quiet day [Video]

You know that frustrating feeling when you have a lot of stuff you need to do, but it’s not your favorite. (For me, that’s paperwork and admin stuff.)

You put it off until you just can’t anymore and it leaves you kind of discouraged and cranky.

I had a day like that last week.

And on top of all my least favorite work to do, I was absorbed by News Headlines and couldn’t seem to pull myself away. That didn’t help my mood. The more I read, the more discouraged I felt.

After a few hours, I knew I’d been at my desk too long to be productive. I decided to take a break and stepped outside into the afternoon heat.

It was a beautiful break from the noise and chatter.

I happened to record a few seconds of it.

It’s nothing much, just a quiet moment from a quiet summer afternoon in the neighborhood.

But, wow, did it make a difference.

I returned to my desk feeling re-set and renewed.

Time well-spent

Sometimes we let work, noise, and chatter put us in a negative mindset. We have trouble pulling ourselves away from it even for a few minutes.

But those few minutes can re-set your mind and body in a positive way.

That’s time well-spent.

Photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When leaving well enough alone is a good thing

It can be hard knowing when to leave well enough alone and even harder doing it.

It’s like having a tiny pimple on your nose, so small it’s almost unnoticeable. You ask people, “Do you see it?” and they have to squint and change angles until they see it. That’s how small it is.

But you know it’s there and it’s bugging the heck out of you that it’s there, so you start messing with it.

And it gets worse. Until the tiny blemish starts to ooze and it’s red and you ask your friend and she sees it right away without squinting.

The challenge

It can be challenging to know when to stop, and even more challenging to actually leave it alone.

“It’s all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.” ~ David Sanborn, musician

It’s true of music, but also of relationships, work, and life.

I wonder if Michelangelo struggled leaving his Statue of David alone or did he think, “It’s good, but I can make it better.”

When we’re determined to keep tweaking to make something that’s already pretty good even better, we run the risk of making it worse in a couple of ways.

First, we can have the whole thing collapse. Or, as in the case of the pimple, explode.

Second, we miss out on enjoying anything else because we’re obsessing about making this thing perfect.

Third, we can’t appreciate the amazingness and beauty of what we have when we’re focused on its flaws.

David Sanborn says, “knowing when to leave well enough alone” is a “lifelong quest.” I never thought about it that way, but I see what he means.

Especially if you have a tendency to fixate on things and get obsessed with an issue. It’s hard to let it go.

Getting away from it for a while can help. Get your mind off of it, look at something else, do something else. Go for a walk or run an errand. Start a new project.

The problem or flaw may not look as serious when you look at it again.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on rubymontalvo.com

The beauty of revising fiction and the power of words in real life

Writing fiction has its challenges, like typing words out of your head onto a blank screen and battling doubt every day, to name a few.

But there’s something great about fiction: the ability to revise.

Think of it. You’re writing out a scene and your characters get in an argument and one of them yells something rude, attacks a sensitive issue, and maybe slams a glass to the ground and leaves.  (As I’m writing this made-up scene, I’m imaging them in a bar for some reason.)

Awesome. The scene’s done.

“But wait,” I think to myself the next day when I re-read the scene. “What happens after that? That was a serious argument. They both said some pretty vicious things. I need them to be speaking to each other in the next scene. They won’t speak to each other for days after that argument. What if I tone it down a notch? Maybe she thinks about slamming a glass to the ground, but doesn’t do it.”

And I tweak it. Change a word here and there and, like magic, the feel of the scene changes.

Oh, the beauty of fiction.

Too bad real life’s not like that. Not at all.

Once you say something hurtful, do something hurtful, use poor judgement, etc. it’s done. You can’t change it. There’s no erasing a gesture or even a single word.

And the sting of your words and actions can stick around long after the argument or misunderstanding.

In fiction you hit the delete key and that’s all there is to it. That rude, stupid, angry scene never happened.

But real life is full of real interactions with people, real choices, real consequences.

There’s no revise, no do-over.

Whoever said, “Words can never hurt you,” was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Words are powerful because they express emotion. Add the element of tone and they become mega powerful because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.

That puts a lot of responsibility on us to:

  • think before we speak
  • take a moment before reacting
  • remember there’s no revising the scene.

To quote an old James Taylor song, (which I’ve done before here): “Shower the people you love with love.”

And it’s hard, especially in the heat of the moment, but it’s a challenge we all face. No one’s perfect. We’re going to say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing once in a while.

Thank goodness for forgiveness.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Life, confusions, and clarity. It’s simple, but not easy.

You live out the confusions until they become clear. ~ Anaïs Nin

Have you ever found yourself in an unfamiliar role, like being a new mom or at a new job, and you realize you don’t know what you’re doing?

Like you find yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do,” at least once a day.

Or maybe you think/say the sister statement, “I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Okay, you’re confused. You’re unsure about what to do, but you still have to do it.

Confusion isn’t the end game

Doing something new is scary and can be confusing, but you live out the confusions until they become clear. You keep working, forge ahead, keep hanging on to the people you love, keep doing the work you love, and know in your heart that at the end of the day if you’ve done your best, if you’ve been kind and loving, and done your work with joy in your heart, it will all work out okay.

That’s what it’s about, I think.

The long haul

When my kids were young and especially through the teenage years, I was often confused. I would have moments where I felt like a horrible mom, wasn’t sure I was doing the right things for them, or had made mistakes and should have done more for them.

But life demands moving forward. Parenthood demands moving forward and doing your best even if it’s not clear what “the best” is.

It may make you want to throw your hands up and say, “I’m done!”, but don’t give up. Keep going. “Live out the confusions until they become clear.”

It’s okay to be in the learning stage

I’ve said to myself at least a hundred times in the past year of writing and publishing my first novel, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” And yet, I’m doing it.

If I wouldn’t have worked through the confusion and been okay with making mistakes, I wouldn’t have gotten very far.

I had to:

  • ask a lot of questions
  • learn all I could
  • make the best decision I could with what I knew at the time
  • overcome my fear of taking action
  • be okay with making mistakes
  • learn from my mistakes

It’s been a long and winding road, but I’ve learned so much and the whole process is becoming more clear to me now.

If you’re at a point of confusion and uncertainty, don’t despair. Keep moving forward. Learn all you can and strive for progress, not perfection.

Live and love the best you can and clarity will be your reward.

I believe that.

Photo by Mark Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When the level of gratitude is over the top

There’s an old movie starring Joanne Woodward called “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Paul Zindel.

I watched the movie a long time ago, and don’t remember a lot about the plot, but one scene has always stood out in my memory.

It’s the scene where the mom, Joanne Woodward’s character, walks down the aisle of a near empty auditorium where her daughter’s just won the school science fair. (The daughter’s science project is where the name of the play comes from.)

And the mom calls out to her daughter, “My heart is full.” Her voice echoes and she repeats a couple of times, “My heart is full.” Then she turns and leaves.

Moments that stick

I might have been 10 years old when I saw that movie, but that scene has always stayed with me. In my mind it perfectly exemplifies that feeling of being overwhelmed with gratitude and love and absolute joy, when there are so many emotions all mixed up at once.

That’s how I felt last week at my Book Launch party for “A Song for Jessica”. My heart was full.

The party was a celebration of the official publication of my first novel and to have worked on it for more than a year and told people “I’m writing a book,” and then little by little to have it formed into something real and tangible that I can share.

And then for people to be interested in it and to have it all come together and my family and friends show up on a steamy, Thursday night to help me celebrate the actual publication of a book I wrote and published.

It was just a very humbling experience and to say I’m grateful doesn’t quite get it. Yes, I feel incredibly grateful, but it’s like uber-gratitude, which doesn’t even sound right.

No. My heart is full. 

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Gratitude’s a game-changer

I believe daily gratitude can change your life, but this mixture of love, gratitude, hope, and joy doesn’t feel like an everyday thing. It’s one of those moments I’ll always hold in my heart as an extraordinary gift.

Thanks to everyone who came and special shout out to my team ; ) — my husband, Mark, who’s always right there beside me, my sister, Lynda, who always comes through for me, and for my niece, Juliana, who was a popcorn-popping trooper. And to my friend, Gigi, owner of WT Cafe who provided cookies and muffins. It was a warm evening and we were very fortunate to have a nice evening breeze and smooth sounds by Frank, Kelso, and Kelly Ann Morales. Thanks ya’ll!

Thanks also to Marisol at The Koffee Kup Co. for offering to host and stay open late. You rock!

To all my family and friends who couldn’t be there in person but were there in spirit, thank you for sending love and good thoughts. I felt those, too.