Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Midlife Crisis, or, Looking Enkrateia In the "I"


Photo: jinterwas

Come closer, I've got a secret...

Today's my birthday.

There. I said it. I tend to be one of those folks who lets birthdays slide under the radar. But this one's a little different— it's the last of my 40-something years. I've been stockpiling enough hopes, dreams, plans, and expectations over the past few decades that it may take some doing to make sense of it all before the big 5-0.

Welcome to my mid-life crisis.
I'm hoping you can help me out, but more about that later.

Did you know that David L. Harrison was here last week? Here's the link in case you missed it. David challenged us to write poems this month inspired by the word DITTY, and so far I've featured some fantabulous poems by Jane Yolen, Kate O'Neil, David himself, and Diane Mayr. Now I'd like to share mine.

Even though I didn't write something new for this DMC challenge, my ditty will probably be new to most of you.  Be kind. It may not be the best poem I've ever written, but it's dear to my heart because it was my first blog post. Ever.

WELCOME TO TODAY'S LITTLE DITTY

Hello!  I am here
with the blog of the day—
another keen writer
with something to say.

I’m not much for rants
or lengthy tirades,
for tangents, or rambling,
or silly charades.

What I’ve got to say
can be said in a ditty—
brief and concise,
though it may not be pretty.

In fact, truth be known,
it may not make much sense.
“I yam what I yam”
is my only defense.

So welcome aboard,
glad to have you along
to this world I call life
chiseled down to a song.


© 2013 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.

It's a good little ditty. It's served me well even though it's not 100% truthful— I am prone to rambling, tangents, and assorted other deviant behaviors, which may or may not be divulged over the next several paragraphs.

SOoooooooo... if you'd rather just read something new and call it a day, visit David's Word of the Month Challenge. My poem is called "In February...".  You may even want to consider contributing a leaves poem of your own. It will earn you an extra entry in this month's giveaway of NOW YOU SEE THEM NOW YOU DON'T (Charlesbridge) to be released this Tuesday!

Now where were we?  (Shame on me– rambling already.)

Right. Welcome to Today's Little Ditty. It was written about three years ago, a few weeks before my blog launched in April 2013. In three short years, look what Today's Little Ditty has become! The blog is scarcely about me anymore. It's about you, the TLD community, the Poetry Friday community, the children's poetry community, the kidlit community. It's really taken on a life of its own. I'm just the momma— the one who feeds and clothes it.

And here comes a tangent... (bear with me...)

Usually by this time in the new year I have my One Little Word (OLW) picked, primed, and fully functioning. In 2014 my OLW was FLYING. Last year it was HEARTBEAT. But this year the process took longer. I've known from the get-go what my goals were for the year— to stay focused and be more deliberate in my choices; to maintain balance in my life while at the same time moving forward (no more status quo); to make the most of this writing career I've adopted. But how do I consolidate all of that into one little word?

Eventually my word found me... with a little help from Carrie Clickard. Given a recent conversation, she sent me this article by James Clear: "The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do (And What to Do About It)."

The Oxford Dictionary defines akrasia as "the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will."
Procrastination. 
i.e., idling... frittering... dilly-dallying... aren't those great words? (Much better than procrastination.)
The article presents a time inconsistency conflict that explains why making plans for your future self usually takes a back seat to gratifying your present self. Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with a bit of idling and dilly-dallying. For creative people, those behaviors are desirable (within reason), but not so much when you're trying to build a career. To be honest, I don't even consider myself a procrastinator. More of a distractinator. I don't WASTE time (most everything I do is important to some degree), but I do get distracted by things that give instant gratification (like blogging) rather than keeping focused on my future success as working writer (emphasis on WORKING).

It wasn't until the last paragraph of the article that I found my One Little Word. Aristotle, who was kind enough to come up with the word akrasia, was also kind enough to coin its opposite:  

Enkrateia = to be "in power over oneself." 

Aha! Looking through the lens of enkrateia, I'm coming to terms with what I need to do. I need to cut back on some things in order to make room for others. Duh.

There are some things that I'm not willing to give up. The camaraderie of this community is a big one. Also the spotlight interviews and the challenges. (I need the motivation as much as anybody else!) But there are ways to cut back and I'm considering a number of options.

Here's where you come in, i.e., HELP!!!

Besides the Ditty of the Month Club, there are several other repeating features on Today's Little Ditty (listed as links in the sidebar to the right). The main ones are:
  • Haiku Garden 
  • Limerick Alley 
  • Two Line Tuesday 
  • Poetry in Action 
  • Five for Friday parties

I'd love to know which (if any) of these are more, or less, important to you as a subscriber/frequent visitor to the blog.

Also, taking a closer look at the Ditty of the Month Club:
  • Do you think the DMC would lose momentum if it was only, say, every other month?
  • How would you feel if all of the month's poems were collected via comments, as David does with his monthly WOM challenges or Laura Purdie Salas does with the 15 Words or Less feature on her blog?
  • How would you feel if we did away with the wrap-up celebrations at the end of each month?
  • What appeals to you about the ditty challenges—
    • is it the challenge itself? 
    • the possibility of seeing your poem featured as a daily ditty? 
    • seeing all the poems together in the end-of-month wrap-up celebration?
    • something else?

I would be ever so grateful for your feedback—
as much or as little as you care to provide. If you can't leave a comment (I know Blogger makes it difficult for some of you) or would rather contact me via email, please do! Send your message to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com (or use the blog's contact form).

None of these changes are imminent. I'm just exploring possibilities.

So what have we got here:
  1. rambling
  2. tangents
  3. procrastination/distractination
 Let's go ahead and add sentimentality to the list...

THANK YOU for being such a special part of my life. 
I couldn't ask for a better birthday present.


This week's Poetry Friday roundup is being hosted by Kimberly Moran at Written Reflections.





53 comments:

  1. Happy birthday and thank you for giving time to yourself and showing us all how important that is and thank you for giving us the present of your thoughts and a ditty or two. Have a wonderful day!

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  2. Happy almost-landmark birthday! A dear friend who hit 50 before me said it was her most liberating birthday; she said she never felt more confident or assertive, certain she had earned the right to have voice be heard. Period. Thank you for sharing the daring Ditty that introduced and set the tone for this amazing site. Thank you for sharing your talents and "Momma-ing" this poetry community. God bless you!

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    1. What a great way to describe 50! That sounds like something to look forward to -

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    2. Thanks, cb. I will look forward to my liberation!

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  3. Oohlala - have a very happy 50th birthday celebration! I am turning 40 this year, so am preparing for it by coming up with a 3-part "My Life in Books" post. :)
    Glad to have known you as well through the Poetry Friday community.

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    1. No, no, no... not 50th, Myra. 49th! But the oohlala still works. Looking forward to your My Life in Books post!

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  4. Happy Birthday Michelle! If we were in fourth grade together---which is possible because we are the same age--we would be exchanging Valentines today.
    Wow, your post hit me between the eyes! I totally get the desire to be a working writer and "working" toward it but the ways of getting pulled off the trajectory! And, I have a couple of day jobs. Sometimes I wonder if I use them to hide behind when I'm being lazy in writing.
    I have enjoyed TLD more and more in the past year. Here's what I love and helps me as a writer who would like to write more:

    *The interviews and challenges....they give me a deadline to work toward. I like the sharing aspect because if I"m working toward the deadline to share--I work a bit more focused. Also, I really like seeing what others do with the challenge. It kinda feels like workshopping a poem. And, that is great.

    I don't use the side links very much. Not because they aren't great resources -- they are! I just have little time to allow myself to get pulled into them.

    I find TLD a treasure and I'm very grateful for it.

    Thank you!

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    1. Hello, Valentine Linda— will you B mine? Thanks so much for your specific feedback, I truly appreciate hearing your thoughts!

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  5. What a special place you've created here in ye ol' blogosphere! Your ramblings and tangents are part of what make it such a warm, inspiring place to be. Thank you. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY my February friend! As you ponder "what next" for TLD, do keep in mind that this blog should serve YOUR creative needs first -- wonderful to please the masses, but your inner creative knows sometimes blogging can be a way to distract/protect oneself from the the other work the universe is calling you to do... so happy to know you, Michelle. You are a treasure! xo

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    1. Seriously, Irene. Will you be my guru? I think I'd follow you anywhere. Thanks from both of us (me and my inner creative) for sharing your thoughts. xo

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  6. I'll have to get back to you on all your questions. I recently stopped posting to KK's Kwotes after 8 years. It was time. Don't be afraid to make changes. Do what works for you.

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    1. Thank you, Diane. I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing that if I felt it was time to stop, I would know. My problem is in knowing how to cut back in a way that still feels satisfying. If you have the time to send me more specifics, I would be most appreciative!

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  7. Happy birthday, Michelle! Awesome word you chose!
    Although I enjoy that you have a steady stream of new content, I agree with Irene that you have to do what works for you.

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    1. Thank you, Tabatha. Being steady and consistent is important to me. I enjoy your blog for the same reason. I'm just not sure when my steady stream became a raging river! ;)

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  8. Happy Birthday Michelle, and thank you for the gift you give back to us, and today, for that article. I think I'd better read it too. As for the questions, I enjoy every bit, but do love the challenges most. Whatever makes you "glow" as a writer is important. Irene said it well, I think. Do what makes sense to you, and your followers will come along with you. I love that you posted your "first" ditty, a pleasure to read!

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda. Your confidence in "my followers" warms my heart... as do you, with every post you write.

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  9. Happy birthday Michelle! Thank you for the new words and for all you do to challenge and educate us. Your blog is always a fun place to be. Keep growing, changing, and doing what makes you happy.

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  10. Loved your ditty girlfriend, and I was interested to read about your dilemma. I have no worries on whether or not you will work it out. It all falls into place, and now that you're focusing on the process, even more likely. I've been so impressed with your "community" here, taking the next step is just a matter of time and "commitment"? Miss you like mad and wishing you the best "end of 40's" ever! (God, you're just a kid!!!) xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Judi. The fact that you popped in here to share your thoughts means so much! I miss you too!

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  11. Happy birthday! The fifties are not as bad as they're made out to be (she says as she prepares to wave them goodbye :( ) I second what Irene wrote about your blog. The challenges and interviews are wonderful, but you owe it to yourself to put the work YOU want to do first, and let your blog reflect that.

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    1. Thanks, Buffy. I appreciate your thoughts, perspective, and your friendship too.

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  12. Happy Birthday, Michelle! Love your ditty poem. Can't recall exactly when I first visited your blog, but it's been wonderful to see how it's evolved with the wonderful DMC Challenges and Spotlight interviews (which I especially love).

    As others have said, the blog should first and foremost serve your personal creative/writing needs/goals. We'll still be here, whatever you decide. Thank you for creating such a welcome place for others and inspiring us to write!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jama. If anyone knows about the responsibilities of being a blog momma, it's YOU.

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  13. Hope you are having a lovely Happy Birthday today!!! When you reach the 5-0- club, speaking from one who's already passed that threshold, I wouldn't bat another eye about it. I decided to start all over again but with all the knowledge and experience still intact.

    Your opening ditty is refreshing and charming. In the last year that I've been visiting your blog, it's spoken strongly to me from your voice! Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure your clan will follow you. The spotlight is truly remarkable and keeps me coming back, in addition to all the rich ditties that appear. I keep on thinking about the song, ch-ch-ch-changes by David Bowie, hey they are part of life- wishes for all the best! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl3vxEudif8

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    1. When in doubt, look to Bowie! I couldn't agree more. :) Thank you for the encouraging words, Michelle.

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  14. I think by the time you are easing up on 50, you should be able to embrace Enkrateia, a new word for me, but what a great one. You will know what is right to do for yourself. Like others have said, we will be here. I like the ditty challenges for the challenge of it. The limelight is fun but not why I write. This community is very special to me , too. I keep writing and blogging because of this kind and welcoming place. Thank you for being a part of this world. I'm glad you were born.

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    1. What thoughtful and encouraging words, Margaret. Thank you! I'm glad you were born too. :)

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  15. Awww, what Margaret said: "I'm glad you were born."
    Happy Birthday, and thanks for a wonderful post. (You'll see no one is jumping in on helping with the weeding specifics! That's because you should include the features that give you energy and feed your soul and Muse, and say a heartfelt but guiltless goodbye to the ones which you feel are getting in the way of your own creative work. We'll lap up whatever you put out in the dish. But you don't have to keep it full for everyone all the time.)
    Thanks for your generous spirit, Michelle.
    Looking forward to seeing more of YOUR WORK, too. XO

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    1. My heart is melting with all of these loving and lovely comments! What you say makes a lot of sense to me, Robyn. Thank you. There will always be a place for you at my table. xo

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  16. Happy birthday. Enjoy 49 and know that each year brings its uniqueness. I love the DMC and hope you will continue. But I understand if you need to change it. I did poet interviews for awhile and then it seems time to stop. You will know.

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    1. Thank you, Jone. I know I'm not ready to stop, but yes, there may be changes at some point. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

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  17. Happy, happy birthday! You nearly have the same birthday as Jane Yolen. And you're three months older than me, which would have made a huge difference when we were toddlers. I might even have let you play with my Raggedy Ann since you were so much older than I was. As for blogging, you have created a wonderful world of poetry here, and I appreciate the motivation and the company in which my poetry finds itself. On the other hand, I should be working on this or that MS rather than blogging, too. In the end, it's your ship, and you're the captain. You should make the less useful pirates walk the plank, and promote the most useful to Cabin Boy or First Mate. I try to allow so much time for blogging, so much time for editing and so much time for planning the next book. My family takes the lion's share of my time. I can't even manage to do Poetry Friday every week, so I don't know how you do all of this! It must be incredibly time consuming. I know running my site takes a huge amount of time, too. Do whatever is best for you, Michelle. You will be appreciated whatever you decide. Best of luck this last year before the sand has half run out. XOXO

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    1. I would have liked playing Raggedy Ann with you, Brenda. :) You know, every so often I track my time for a month, with percentages of time in mind for various activities, but somehow the blog always comes out ahead. I've done it enough now to know that the results are not going to come out differently just because I will them too. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! xo

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  18. Michelle, I know how hard it is to keep up with a blog - and I only post twice a week! So take comfort in knowing I empathize, and would suggest you do what you personally feel comfortable with. That is, if you don't want to keep the DOM every month, don't! If you want to get rid of one of those features, get rid of it! When I started mine, I had plans to post 3 days a week, with one of those days being a "Very-Nearly Wordless Wednesday," where I'd post a picture and one line of a poem, and I'd encourage readers to come up with their own...but have you ever seen that feature?? Nope. never had time, and after about a year of trying to FIND the time, I decided I had other more important things to do...like actually writing my published poetry and picture books. Now, with the 2-year-old rarely taking naps anymore, the only time I have to work is usually at night, which means time is even more precious...and therefore, sometimes I don't even post my regular Tue. blog post. Do I feel bad about that? A little. Do I sweat it? Not in the least! Prioritize, then act accordingly...that's about the best thing I can tell you.

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    1. Too many top priorities... that's been my problem all along. ;) Seriously though, thank you, Matt, for driving it home.

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    2. Here's an easy way to prioritize...determine your goal(s), then answer this question: "Does [ ] bring me closer to my goal?" Unless the answer is a resounding 'yes,' put it aside!

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  19. Happy Birthday! You are older, but you are also getting wiser -- three cheers for knowing when it's time to rein in a project that's threatening to be too big to handle well. I'll send some thoughts via email.

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    1. Well put, Mary Lee! I welcome that email if you find the time.

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  20. Your ditty poem is wonderful! I wasn't familiar with the word "enkrateia", but it's a good one to remember. We do have to prioritize. You are not alone in wanting to cut back. I started out blogging once a week, then once a month and now it's random. I try to go for quality over quantity. The pull to engage with other creative people is strong but we do need to focus on our work. Do what you need to do! And have a very happy Birthday and Valentine's Day!

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    1. Thank you, Iza! I appreciate your thoughts as someone who's also been through this particular dilemma. You're spot on with that "pull to engage" as you say, and the importance of putting quality above quantity.

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  21. Happy Birthday Michelle! Loved the ditty! Regardless of age, I think all of us share in your pain. :)

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    1. I can easily imagine that you know that pain, Elaine! Thanks for the birthday wishes. :)

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  22. Michelle, happy birthday, my dear! This is such a rich post. Thanks for introducing me to a new and very useful word. Here's to a year ahead filled with poetry and more words to enjoy at TLD. Hugs to yoU!

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    1. Thanks, my friend. So where's my birthday limerick? ;)

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  23. Hope you had a spectacular birthday. I would love to be looking at fifty again. I am sneaking up on 70 this week and glad to still be kicking around. Love the ditty.

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    1. I did, Rosi, and happy birthday to you! I'm glad you're kicking around too. :)

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  24. Happy belated birthday, Michelle! Another reason why I like you so much - we're practically the same age! I turn 50 in October. Thank you for sharing yourself, your ditty, and your birthday with us, your readers. I love your challenges and spotlight authors - and I like the idea of writing to the challenge and either posting to our own blog and linking back to you or collecting challenges in the comments like David does. Hope my opinion helps. You are a gem. =)

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    1. Nice to be sharing midlife with you, Bridget. :) Thanks so much for the blog feedback.

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  25. First of all, Happy Birthday! I don't know how I missed this last week, but from one "distractinator" to another, better late than never. Speaking of becoming distracted, your reasoning for your OLW choice is uncannily similar to mine. I chose "present" thinking it would help me stay focused. I like your word much better, though. As far as the ditty challenges go, I love them for the challenge. They have pushed me in so many ways. And your interviews with the poets are so informative! I would miss them, but would understand if you only did them every other month. No matter what you decide, thank you for all you do to make this community so warm and welcoming!

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    1. But your OLW is much easier to spell, Catherine. ;) Perhaps we should check in with each other every so often to make sure we stay on track! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words about my blog.

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