My Reality Is Living…And Writing…

A secret little spot I discovered on one of my more recent walks. Others have discovered it, too.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so I figure an update is in order. My lack of posts should not be interpreted that I am not writing. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. I’m working on editorial work for another round of deadlines, and I happily received three writing acceptances over the past month for three creative fiction/essay pieces. I’ll announce details as each publication is released. It felt great to sign my second official writing contract for one of the publications. The acceptances make the bitter pill of rejections easier to swallow, and believe me, there have been more of those than there have been acceptances.

I am also working on the draft of my second novel and a non-fiction book with my nephew, N. Research takes time, and the payoff will be our fact-finding research mission over the summer for our project, which will hopefully be ready to share near the holidays.

All of my nieces and nephews are the apples of my eye, and it’s been a month filled with birthday celebrations, graduation dress shopping, and baseball games. What a difference from a year ago when none of these events could happen. I relish the opportunity to support each of them and celebrate alongside them in person. Zoom birthday parties don’t cut it, and singing to each of them in person makes my heart beat the happiest. My monthly calendars have a lot more things written on them than they did a year ago, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

While my school has been open and I’ve been teaching from my classroom most of the school year (and days I was not physically present in my classroom I actively taught from my home), my students will soon return 5 days a week in a newly reconfigured classroom that can now fit them all safely. I am soooooo looking forward to welcoming them back while also teaching simultaneously to the students who will stay full remote. Sidebar: It drives me nuts when I hear the mantras “Open the schools!” or “Get those teachers back to work!” Ummmm, I HAVE been working the hardest I ever have, and my school HAS been open this entire time. To those who fling judgmental comments from your keyboard, please shut the hell up. Just shut up. I go above and beyond to do my job well (WITH health issues, I might add), so take your judgment and your diatribes elsewhere and find some other profession to hurl your hatred at. I’ve had it with you, and so have the countless educators who DO THEIR JOB just like me. JUST SHUT THE HELL UP and move on.

I am also fully vaccinated. No major side effects, even with a compromised immune system, but I’d rather deal with side effects than contracting the virus again. I chose to get the vaccine because want to have a life. I want to do things. I want to keep those I come into contact with safer than they would be if I didn’t have the vaccine. Getting it was the right choice for me, and I completely respect your choice, too. (See what I did there? I didn’t condemn you if your opinion differs from mine. I still respect you! Imagine that…civility despite disagreeing! It CAN be done!)

My daily walks provide me time to enjoy the present moment and either take in the wonderfully colorful scenery painted by spring’s vivid palette if the weather is conducive to walking outside, or to reading if I walk inside on the treadmill. My walks have become a necessity for my peace of mind, and while the weight is staying put because of my medication, the activity is still beneficial to my mental well-being and to strengthening my legs. I’m battling a bit of a flare, and forcing myself to walk on days I’d rather stay put on the couch helps keep some of my Lupus symptoms at bay.

As Qui-Gon Jinn said in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, “Your focus determines your reality.” Right now, I have two focuses. One is to be a good person who squeezes as much life out of each day as possible. That focus trickles down to making as many memories with the people I love as possible and to being the best teacher I can for my students.

My other focus is writing. Writing writing writing writing writing writing writing. And then some.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“My Reality Is Living…And Writing…” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on April 18, 2021. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer, who was not endorsed or compensated in any manner by any entity; views do not represent any employer. Copyright 2021, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries

Reinvigorated and Re-Inspired

img_4992Last week, I attended a writing event titled Writing on the River: A Spring Retreat for Teachers held at the Oyster Point Hotel. It was sponsored by Project Write Now, which is a non-profit organization in Red Bank, New Jersey.

The Writing on the River event was simply lovely. What I liked most about it was that while most participants were educators, everyone there was also a writer and THAT’s the identity we were able to don. No talking about standards, goals, objectives, testing, or the like.

We were WRITERS and were able to nurture the WRITER inside us all.

I felt like I was part of a wonderful community throughout the whole day. Leah Mermelstein was the keynote speaker and she spoke about sharing our writing and how to transfer those skills to the classroom so our student writers have more of a voice.

We were given plenty of time to freewrite in response to prompts and the like, and the food was outstanding.

The day was definitely inspiring and a catalyst to fuel my writing in many ways.

However, there’s one thing I did that I am particularly proud of, and the paragraph below is what I wrote after becoming part of something that was bigger than just me:

I’ve never been into “fan participation” things ever since I was forced to participate at the Busch Gardens Bavarian House when I was a kid. Scarred for life by those German dancers who pulled me onstage as I fought against it, my parents laughing the whole time while I was terrified. Those permanent scars made me tense up when I heard that we were going to be in a drum circle. I was afraid at first, apprehensive and uncomfortable. Part of me wanted to run away, but I took my seat and secured the drum that was given to me with my feet. I had no idea what was going to happen, which added to my discomfort. As the leader began, he would drum a beat on the side and on the front of his drum for two different pitches, and we would echo. And it wasn’t that bad at all. I liked the repetition of the beat as it went on and my drum was in time with the others, and when it wasn’t, it was no big deal. It was good for me to try something new that was completely out of my comfort zone. I definitely awakened my inner 3-year-old.

One of my other freewrites from the day is below. I am very grateful to the three women who planned the Writing on the River event, Jennifer, Colleen, and Lisa. They did a wonderful job planning a meaningful and inspiring day.

My Freewrite #2:

Miniatures: A Reflection

I have an affinity for little things, the tiniest of the figures, the smaller the better, even smaller than dollhouse size. I don’t know where this stems from, but it is innate.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always seen myself as small and insignificant. Even the grocery store’s automatic door sometimes doesn’t open when I step on it. Truth.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to feel that maybe I do matter, if only to the universe. Maybe my place in this world isn’t so small, after all.

My heart is full of love for my family.

I know my words are needed.

No longer do I apologize for being human.

I know we’ve all got our own proverbial shit to deal with.

Authentic is the life I want to live and be as

True to myself as possible.

Under no circumstances will I lie to myself ever again.

Right on, I say, Right on to

Every experience

So long as I shall life.

There’s nothing miniature about that approach to live moving forward.

The littlest is the mightiest.

Miniatures, so big and so awesome.