Chelle Summer

motivation

Finding Joy in Life

Michelle Rusk
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My friend Bonnie taught me so much about not just sewing, but life, too. However, there’s a vision of her that saddens me and yet also is a reminder to me of the importance of how we live our lives. She shared much about her life which– like many of us– was littered with disappointments and losses. Her mother had disappeared at some point after Bonnie was married– mental illness taking over– and Bonnie was never able to find her again. Her daughter Sadie suffered some of the most extreme bipolar that I’ve been exposed to.

There were many other things, but I know those two haunted her and I have a vision of us sitting in her crafting room in the later evening hours, her smoking a cigarette, and her face filling with sadness as she shared stories about her life. I knew she was disappointed at much of how her life turned out, finding happiness in cutting and drying her lavender for potpourri, making quilts, devouring a new copy of Martha Stewart or a quilting magazine that had arrived in the mail that day. Or the show and tell she insisted we had when I would arrive for an evening of working on a project.

While he never said it, I also had the sense that my dad was disappointed with life, too. Quite honestly, I don’t really know what his goals and dreams were. My mom said once he wanted to leave her and take off for California and another time she told me that he was an enigma. He shared little, letting his pain simmer while he drank another beer and smoked another cigarette.

I get it. We get older and we question our decisions. Did we choose the right next chapter? The right next road? Did we miss an opportunity because we chose something over another? The routine of life can bog us down. The bills that force us to keep showing up for work rather than be the footloose and fancy free we believe would be more exciting. It’s easy to let sadness and anger boil over when we seemingly believe the grass is greener on the other side.

And that’s when it’s important that we reach back into our lives to find that time that filled us with hope, a time when we believed the world was our oyster and nothing (nothing!) would get in the way. When I feel down for whatever reason (I work at home– I am left alone with my thoughts much of the day– that isn’t always a good thing for someone who has been taught from my doctorate to dissect a lot), I reach back to that time in my life. I might play a song, bring back a memory. Just something that reminds me that I’m not where I want to be. And I can still get there.

Stay the course. The dreams are still alive. The joy is still there. Sometimes it gets lost and it’s up to us to uncover it. Never forget it’s always there waiting to be found again.

Sitting In Darkness...With Others

Michelle Rusk
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I will be the first to say that I hate darkness. I believe darkness is important because we need to rest, living things needs to rest, and it reminds us how much we appreciate daylight. But I thrive in the daylight, in the sunshine, in seeing the sun come up over the mountains.

However, a long time ago I learned that you can't impose your light on someone else when they need to be in darkness. It's not that they are planning to stay there long– we should know this from our own experience when something happens to us– it's about processing through what has happened.

When someone dies, when we learn disappointing news, when we feel defeated by life, or whatever it is, sometimes we need to stand in the darkness and mull it over before we can move forward with the journey.

When it happens to someone else, we should remember the same. They will move forward but in that moment they don't need to be reminded of all that they know. They know it, they just need a few moments to rest where they are. Let them be there, sit with them, and remember just because you're in their darkness doesn't mean you have to be stuck there. You're there for someone you care about, your light is still with you.

Soon they will pick back up again and head towards the light, tired of darkness and ready to move on. Then you can remind them of all that they have and how much you appreciate the light.

A New Year...Where Will We Go?

Michelle Rusk
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Happy 2018, Everyone!

While I believe that we can start fresh at anytime, there is something to be said for the calendar rolling around into January 1. We come off the holidays– when we've most likely been busy– and then we get (I hope you did!) a holiday break. The new year rolls around and suddenly it feels like all the Christmas lights and decorations should be put away until at least Thanksgiving. Personally, I usually want to clean out all of my closets this time of year. I feel as if it's time to let go of the old to invite the new to come in.

This year is starting out a little differently than years past have and I'm embracing the journey of my job going half time to free up a large chunk of my daily time. However, we were in Los Angeles for the new year (and managed to get colds as happens sometimes) so I didn't feel like I could truly start the new year until we came home– and put everything away (although we had taken care of the Christmas decorations before we left).

For me, Los Angeles still remains a very inspirational place. I can't explain it except that it seems that I woke up one day when I was about thirteen and knew it was where I wanted to go. I didn't get there until the summer after I graduated from high school and obviously I never moved there. I joke that I only got as far as Albuquerque. 

Through a series of events, I've been given opportunities that take me back there and as we were driving down the 110 after having dinner with friends in North Hollywood, I was thinking how it still inspires me to be there. That's topped with the many signs of both my parents (through songs on the radio and coins) that don't usually happen here in Albuquerque.

Now that I'm home and everything is put away, the lists made to make the most of this opportunity of time I have been given with job going half time just a month ago, the hardest part for me is being patient with myself. There is much I want to do and I know my timeline. My hope is to spend 2018 with my nose to the grindstone and see what kind of opportunities I can create for myself through all my creative means. I want to take advantage of the time placed in front of me– it is a gift– and see where I land a year from now.

I have lists, goals, and dreams. The key is being patient with myself that there will be enough time to do everything, to know that I will land where I'm supposed to be. And to listen to voices which who are guiding me and leading the way.

A Little Disconnection for Creativity's Sake

Michelle Rusk
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One of my constant challenges is that I am not where I want to be professionally. Soon there will be some changes in my daily life that I'm trying to remember are the universe's way of helping me to move forward even though it doesn't feel like it in the present moment. It's like I'm stepping backward so that I can take more steps forward.

However, the hard part is making sure I don't think too much because that can easily become paralyzing of all my worries. Instead, my motto seems to be, "Create more, think less." I have a slew of projects and ideas and I have to keep myself from being derailed from worries about money, (will we have enough?), about rejections from my query letters to find an agent (is this really a good manuscript or should I scrap it?), and about wondering if I am on the road I'm supposed to be on.

Social media has been huge for me to be able to share with the world what I create– and also to help other people work through suicide, grief, and feelings of hopelessness. But recently I have come to realize that it's taking up too much of my time and it's also stifling my creativity.

I am not going on hiatus at all. In fact, the only person who will probably notice a difference is me. As I will actually have to spend less time at my laptop in the future, it just means I won't be seeing all the notifications right away Essentially, I'll choose the times I look at my phone and laptop rather than looking at them what feels like all the time. In the past week I knocked out one bad habit I developed when I worked with people overseas– checking my email when I get up in the morning which then led to also checking Facebook and Instagram, too. Now I don't look at them until I'm totally done with my workout and running/walking the dogs. It gives me a few extra minutes in the morning and I've come to realize I'm not missing anything by looking at them so early (especially because most of my email anymore is advertisements).

By disconnecting a bit– and looking less in the evening so I can read more– I will be creating more and have more to share with the world. Again, what looks like a few steps backward is really going take me forward faster. After all, I have swimwear to create and a new manuscript that is waiting to be written.

What keeps you going?

Michelle Rusk
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When I was a senior in high school, I remember going through a challenging period that spring. Without looking back into the extensive journals I wrote, what I can best recall is that I was a little worn out on the routine. There was a long day of school and homework and then track practice. And while I was learning how to set goals, work toward them, and accomplish them, it felt a little monotonous.

I remember feeling attached to a television show called "Island Sun" (Hey, I can hear those snickers from here!). It starred Richard Chamberlain as a doctor in Hawaii and I believe he had a son. I couldn't tell you anything else about the show except that those were the days when we had to wait another week to see what happened next. There was no bingeing on anything like we take for granted now.

My wise track coach Marty Bee told me that if that was the thing that kept me going, that was okay. And since then I have always asked myself that during times when I feel depressed, bored, or challenged in some way. There must be something small that keeps us going and we can use that to propel us forward until life starts to feel more hopeful or happy or peaceful (whatever it is we believe we are lacking).

I have always said that I believe we all have an ember of hope burning inside of us. Unfortunately, many times that ember doesn't seem to be burning because of the constant barrage of life events we are faced with. But in times of challenge we should always take a step back and look around us. There is always something we can see or think of that keeps us going. Symbols of hope– that's what I called them when I doing talks about moving forward through grief.

What are your symbols of hope? I asked people. We often forget that it's the little things in life, the sunshine, the change of seasons, the time we spend with people, that keep us going. Sometimes we get caught up in the challenges and difficulties and forget what's right in front of us. 

And once we let go of our challenges and focus on whatever is keeping our ember burning, we realize how much better we feel. And hopeful. We can feel the ember burning brighter.

 

 

Where do I go?

Michelle Rusk
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I'm not very good at standing in one place. I see that there is too much to do, too much that I want to do. And yet sometimes life holds me in places which quite honestly don't make me very happy. I keep working hard, I try not to let it get to me, but then I reach a point where I'm not even sure if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. 

This might be where I'm supposed to be. I might be questioning everything because I'm confused while standing still, but that also doesn't mean I have to like it. I remember once in a conversation with a priest about something similar to this. 

"You can tell God you don't like it," he said. "That doesn't mean it'll change."

There are times in our lives where we feel like everything is moving forward– maybe not perfectly as nothing ever is perfect– but we can feel the people mover under our feet taking us forward as we also walk forward. And yet there are other times where we maybe don't feel like we're in darkness, but instead at that time right before light appears, before the sun comes up, and yet, there isn't any sun. Yet.

Yes, that's where I am at with many aspects of my professional life. I had long thought that this part of my life would be in a different place than it is right now. And so I continue to create, continue to make the most of each day, and believe that something will breakthrough and major– positive– change is coming. 

Until then? Here I am making the most of it.

Seeing Past Darkness

Michelle Rusk

The photo of this beautiful sunset was taken in my backyard a few weeks ago. I never posted it on social media because no matter what angle I took it at, I couldn't escape the pole or the countless electrical, phone, and cable lines that come from the pole. On social media, we have the choice to choose how we portray our lives and I am honestly embarrassed that my house has one big detractor: this pole. 

My house was built in the 1950s and the city of Albuquerque has never buried these lines. So each time I go outside to take photos, I am constantly trying to find way to avoid the pole and the lines. 

But I know that reality is that I can't erase this pole from my life (at least until we move to a different house) just as I can't erase any darkness I have experienced. It's part of me and part of who I am today. I choose to post photos of what I create because that's what inspires me and keeps me going, being creative. My life isn't perfect and there are challenges I choose not to share because I don't see any reason to share them. I work through them and I stay hopeful that my frustrations will turn into something better. And I keep working hard even though I feel like I'm on a very slow road to get my life professionally where I'd like it to be.

I have written and spoken many times about how I have found hope in the sunrises of Albuquerque, how when I'd ben out run-walking my dog Chaco and– despite the darkness I'd endured the day before particularly of then having a spouse who suffered a head injury– it would feel like the sunrise was a clean slate to a new day. Hope. Darkness can't last forever a friend once said. The sun has to come back some time. 

Several years ago I was reading my high school journals and was surprised to find how much mental pain I found myself in as a fifteen year old experiencing a stress fracture in my foot that kept me from running much the spring of 1987. I have no recollection of having feelings of wanting to end my life, but there they were written in my hand writing. I don't believe that I would have done anything about the feelings, it was just an escape from the frustration I felt and not understanding that the injury would eventually heal and I'd be able to run again (which I happened by that summer).

It speaks to my life though as I work through challenges and losses. While sometimes it's annoying (well, all the time!) that I continually experience these, I try to learn and grow from them. I ask myself what I can to do to make myself feel better. I can look back on the road behind me and see how far I have come.

Last week Greg and I went out house stalking– I had found a house online for sale nearby and we drove by after dinner one evening. When Greg realized no one was living there, he pulled into the driveway and we walked around to the back of the house to see how large the backyard was. I was immediately drawn to a view of the city toward the mountain, one they had neglected to include in the online listing.

"Look at that view!" I couldn't stop saying.

Then Greg laughed and said, "Look up. You're never going to escape it."

And right there in the middle of the view was a pole just like the one in my current backyard. 

I hadn't seen it because I looked past it, just like I look past the pain and darkness to see the light and the hope.

Easter Perspective

Michelle Rusk

I had taken some time on Saturday morning to photograph the dogs– Hattie and Lilly– for Easter. Neither one was happy with me (although after they ran off when I told them we were finished, Lilly hurriedly pushing the bunny ears off her head, they were easily swayed back into happiness with treats) and later I told Greg about how obvious it would be when I posted the photo on social media Sunday morning.

"No one is ever happy on Easter," he said. When gave him a funny look, he added, "Everyone is uptight about something."

Then I remembered the Easter Sundays of my childhood: we were always late for mass. I have no idea why and I never asked my mom when she was alive because she always got upset and accused me of thinking she wasn't a good enough mother. But the church filled up early and it meant we were left standing in the entry way listening to mass. For an hour. 

In that hour I had little understanding of what Easter meant. Yes, I'd taken religion classes growing up, but honestly it didn't mean a lot to me.

Then about six years ago, the same time I had returned to going to mass weekly, I found myself leaving Easter mass wanting to sing, feeling the happiness of coming out of darkness into the light. And each year since then, Easter has come to mean more to me.

I'm sure that I could argue that I'm older now and I "get" it more than I used to but I believe it's just a sense of having traveled multiple journeys of finding myself in darkness and having to seek out light. Each year Lent reminds me that there is hope, that we can get to the light, to the sunshine, that we don't need to be scared.

And a beautiful, cloudless sky– like we had in Albuquerque yesterday– doesn't hurt. 

A Reminder as the Lenten Journey Ends

Michelle Rusk

Sometimes I repeat myself in a blog. A year might go by but usually I find myself writing about something I had shared some aspect of in the past, mostly because I have realized something different about it. And I figure that if I am thinking about it, probably someone out there could use similar inspiration.

I still talk too much in my prayers.

I hadn't thought much about it in quite a while but suddenly at mass on Saturday I realized that I'm like a constant chatterbox when I pray. I'm that friend who gets you on the phone and you only have to say an occasional "Uh huh" (and you can probably put the phone down and make a sandwich without them knowing it) to keep up your end of the conversation.

Which makes me wonder if God is making sandwiches as I pray– or even keeping tabs on several prayers happening at the same time (more likely). 

The reality is that we were taught to say prayers, to ask for what we need/want/desire. There are unlimited numbers of prayer cards and prayers available to us. We were taught to memorize certain prayers growing up.

So how would we know the importance of silence during a prayer?

No one taught me that it's just as important to listen in our prayer as it is to ask. I'm too busy with my list that I forget to listen, too. And while I know that often the answers don't come during prayers, instead we usually find the answers present themselves to us at moments when we least expect them to. It can happen when we are in the middle of something unrelated (perhaps, cooking dinner) or when our minds have time to wander and we aren't thinking about anything in particular.

But if we don't listen– as difficult as that can be because our minds tend to wander when we "rest" during prayer– we'll never hear the answers. It might feel dry to listen during prayer, but remember that it's part of the give and take of the conversation. We don't give God a chance to give to us if all we do is keep asking.

 

When Things Fall Together

Michelle Rusk

I suck at golf.

Really, that's the best way to put it. And quite honestly, as much as I've dreamed about being someone who can magically glide across a dance floor without a lesson or play tennis so well that I could be a top player, the reality is far from that in everything that I do.

The only reason I can write well is because I've been at it since I was six years old and learned to write. I've talked before about the little books I started to create in first grade and the novel I began to write in high school (which still exists although not in any published form). And I read, read, and then I read more– because there is a correlation between reading and writing well. 

Running was much the same for me: I got somewhat good because I worked at it. And from running came a multitude of lessons, like how to set and achieve goals. Those I parlayed into everything else that I have achieved.

When I took up golf exactly five years ago, I knew it would be a challenge for me. I am especially not good at any sport that involves a ball (hence, why I ran). And it has been a challenge. Now, the reality is that golf is always a challenge. It's supposed to be that way because it's like the Great Pumpkin. We, like Linus, spend our entire lives hoping for perfection in hitting the ball while Linus is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

As I wrote recently, returning to the driving range was part of my Lenten journey– one of which I did have a priest's blessing to do because he understands the importance of taking care of our physical selves. Out to the driving range I went and purchased not the large bucket of balls, but instead the jumbo.

Crazy? Nope, not in the least. I knew I wouldn't get anywhere without practice.

But that's where a funny thing happened. I admit that sometimes I miss the ball. It's worse than hitting a bad ball, but it's always been a struggle for me to even catch what's thrown to me so this hasn't been a surprise in my mind. I'd rather hit something into the sand than not hit it at all. 

And yet when I went to hit that first day on the range this spring I felt when my stance was wrong and I would miss the balls. I can't fully explain it, yet something was different. It was as if something inside my mind– that bridges my mind with the movements of my body– finally made a connection five years later.

Then yesterday on another return to the range, I took some time on the putting green and felt the same exact feeling. Some little piece had fallen together. Two puzzle pieces finally found where they interlocked.

Greg and I were discussing on our way home from the range yesterday my challenge with the serger (a type of sewing machine that allows one to make factory-looking seams). I had been making a skort yesterday and it was taking forever because there is a learning curve to not just using it, but also threading it. He reminded me that eventually it will pay off, that it will be easier, that making a skort will be a piece of cake.

But for now it's like golf and everything else I've done: I keep at it even in the face of irritation when it's not going right.

And I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I made the driving range part of my Lenten journey: getting a little help from above is never a bad thing.

A Contemplative Time

Michelle Rusk

The Norbertine priest at the monastery here in Albuquerque, where I go for spiritual direction, says that I am in a contemplative time of my life.

I didn't blog last week and I almost didn't blog this week either. I'm finding that I don't necessarily have anything that I feel is worthy of being shared on social media recently. As I wrote two weeks ago, I'm busy because I am creating and keeping myself occupied but I'm finding I'm also in a quiet time of creation where I don't always share what I'm doing, or because I want to wait until some things are completed before I do. I also am at work trying to finish a fiction manuscript that I was struggling with (the "fix" came to me two weeks ago as I began to retreat somewhat into myself).

I believe the best way that I can inspire people is through living an authentic life, one where I take the time to do what makes me happy and share that with others. I have worked with people for many years, helping them through their grief and divorce journeys but after seeing how many people actually do not want to change, I realized that the best way I can help is to do what makes me happiest. 

Fr. Gene also believes that my creative side is tied heavily into my spiritual being and by spending this time creating, I'm being spiritual, too. 

In some ways, I'm not sure where I exactly fit in the world. In other ways, I know precisely where my puzzle piece goes. But for now I'm letting that prayer of finding that place lay out there as I work on moving forward through my list of items to create and a manuscript to finish so I can move onto others.

There might be weeks I won't write here. And other weeks I post old blogs from my old Inspire by Michelle site as we get ready to close it out. And I might choose some recipes from Chef Chelle to post as we get ready to shut that one down, too. But I am here working, creating, being who I am supposed to be. 

 

Self-Inflicted Busy-ness

Michelle Rusk

There seems to be a trend this year: everyone is busy. 

Now there are people in the world who are actually busy, but I believe the majority of people who say they are busy could probably walk away from their phone or from the television and realize that they aren't that busy after all.

Whatever it is, people say to me, "Well, you're really busy." They usually add this with how much they see I have created which I share on social media. 

No no no, I am not that busy. The fact is, I choose to be as busy as I am for several reasons, mostly because I have more I want to accomplish in my life and it won't happen if I spend all my time lazing around my couch (although I managed to do that yesterday evening during the Bears-Cowboys game which then frustrated me and I had turn the channel, at which time I became tired and went to bed). That was the first time in a long time that I remember laying in front of the television and flipping through the channels.

I call my busy-ness self inflicted because I have so much that I want to do. Life is short and it's fleeting. In recent weeks I've been making phone calls to several people who don't live near me and making sure I catch up with them. I'm making lists for each day so that I am doing what's important to me (besides my daily responsibilities including a full-time job on a military grief research study). 

I know what it's like to see something pass me by. I often used to joke I wasn't going to miss the boat leaving the dock. I know that life can change on a moment's notice, that time can pass so quickly that I'm going to wake up one day and I want to be sure I can nod and say, "Yes, I did everything I wanted to do."

I stopped telling people I am busy when they ask me what I'm up to. Instead, I say, "I'm busy but it's my self-inflicted list of things I want to do."

However you choose to be busy, make sure it's because your time is spent how you want it to be used. I haven't always had that luxury and phases go where my time isn't always mine but somewhere in there I always make sure that there is something for me.