Become to Believe

I sit here facing the onset of a new year, much like I did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and so on…

This time around, though, it’s different. 

Today, when I say that hindsight is 2020, that’s literally true.

Tomorrow, when I sing “20 20 24 hours to go…” as immortalized by The Ramones, that’s literally true.

When I wake up on Friday morning, my childhood fantasies about having a flying car by 2021 won’t be realized, but something better will have happened.

Together, we will have crossed the finish line from the most bizarre and unsettling year we’ve ever experienced as our next race through the calendar and around the Earth will begin.

Despite its challenges, 2020 also had its silver linings. My word for 2020 was BECOMING, and while it didn’t seem too fitting as the year unfolded and I felt so incredibly lost, the pandemic provided me with time: time to sit and be, time to think, and time to shift my priorities and appreciate what I formerly took for granted. I might not have been able to travel, but I felt the sunshine on my face and the rain hit my skin in my backyard. I wasn’t able to see loved ones and friends as much as I had hoped, but now I am more present when I am in the company of others. I experienced euphoria and sheer joy by witnessing the return of Boba Fett, my favorite Star Wars character since I was 9 years old, in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian” and enthusiastically look forward to seeing more of him “The Book of Boba Fett” series coming in 2021.

Most importantly, the pandemic provided me with time to write. Over the past year, journaling gave me the gifts of clarity, acceptance, and courage. I freed myself from the layers of self-perpetuated bullshit and scars and blindness and indecisiveness that essentially crippled me for years and realized I am meant to live and thrive, not just exist while unconsciously muddling through day after day after day like a lemming or a droid.

Words are my life raft, my passion and my purpose, and dammit, and I AM worthy of good things and fantastic experiences.

I am more ME today than I ever have been, and this time, without judgment and without shame. 

Wow, I can actually breathe now. 

My word for 2021 came to me earlier this month with unwavering certainty.

My word for 2021 is BELIEVE

This will be the year I wholeheartedly believe in myself and everything I do as I pursue my passion of writing with all of my heart and soul. 

I believe I can successfully market an exciting project that will come to fruition in early 2021. Teaser: It combines my love of the shore and summer with my passion of writing and thriving, and the universe suggested it was time to pursue making this idea a reality.

I believe I can finish the two novels I’ve walked away from over the past year and use my powerful voice to create two very different stories that each have a purpose and need to be told.

I believe I can be more active by walking, riding my bicycle, or practicing yoga at least five times a week. 

I believe I can learn to surf.

I believe I can overcome my terrible habit of pulling and clawing at my fingernails. 

I believe I can successfully weave words together about difficult topics and chapters of my life in hopes that others in similar situations or who might be battling similar demons will know they aren’t alone.

I believe I can build a life full of wonder and authentic experiences by getting out into our amazing world, whether close to home or on the other side of the globe (when the time is right). 

I believe I can trust both my intuition and the universe for guidance. 

I believe I can embrace my idiosyncrasies and celebrate my journey with delight.

I believe I can make my eyes shine.

I believe I can serve myself first while no longer disappointing ME.

I believe I can.

So I will.

May 2021 bring you good health and all that your heart desires. 

My love and light to you, as always.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Become to Believe” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on December 30, 2020. 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 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Thankful for 2020’s Roller Coaster

2020: What a long, strange roller coaster ride it’s been for all of us.

We collectively entered the queue together in January and followed the long path that snaked through February. We stored our belongings and removed our glasses, hats, and shades and reached the front of the line in early March. We sat next to each other in neatly arranged rows and locked in our seatbelts and harnesses. After a quick safety check, the car pulled away from the loading zone and rounded the curve to ascend the first massive hill.

We didn’t realize each click-click-click upwards represented a faction of life as we knew it being left behind us.

It became more difficult to see what was ahead of us the higher we climbed.

We reached the top, looked down, and…..bam.

Insert appropriate expletive here.

The drop was immense, like nothing we ever experienced before. Our stomachs were left 230 feet above us as we screamed in futility. Some of us worried, some of us cried, some of us laughed, some of us got sick, and some of us were unimpressed, claiming the drop was nothing, no big deal. They taunted, “Is that all you’ve got?”

The closures, the orders, the face coverings, the scrambling for necessary items, new rules and regulations, the rise of the essential and front-line workers, honk parades, eating outside in tents, sanitizing the whole shebang…everything its own hill with its own form of up-and-down-and-loop-and-invert.

However, if we looked hard enough, we were able to find a number of hidden silver linings along the metal tracks.

The coaster’s trail evened out a bit during summer and briefly morphed into a straight line. Smooth sailing, but we had to scramble mid-ride to leave the seats to our left and our right empty.

We expected the ride to end, but instead, found ourselves at the bottom of another enormous steel-tracked hill that looms even higher into the sky.

This is our location right now, today, on Thanksgiving 2020.

We’re ascending speedily yet ever-so-slowly and are currently near what we hope is the middle of that second, massive mountain with no hand to hold on either side and the path ahead completely obscured.

It’s dark. It’s cold. And it’s no longer fun.

Everyone is screaming, but nobody is listening. We scream louder and louder until we drown each other out and all that is left is white noise.

Some are still worried. Some are still crying. Some are still laughing. Some of us are sick. And some are still taunting.

We have no idea when we’ll reach the summit or accelerate at top speed on the downside while descending towards terra firma, or how many bumps we will encounter along the way to this bizarre ride’s finish line.

For me, the paradoxical roller coaster of 2020 has certainly had its ups and its downs, pun intended. Love and loss, gathering and isolating, fear and calm, laughter and tears, beginnings and endings, empty and full, lost and found… the full gamut of the human experience is thriving in 2020, that’s for sure.

In all honesty, I am most grateful for those ups and downs this Thanksgiving, for they have shown me what truly matters:

  • My loved ones…family, friends, colleagues, students…staying connected and relishing the time I am able to safely spend in everyone’s physical presence, especially my nieces and nephews.
  • My daily life and the glorious moments of sheer awareness and indescribable beauty that I’ve experienced as a result of slowing down. I am no longer a slave to a “to do” list but mindful, awake, and enlightened.
  • My true self… embracing the person I am becoming and becoming the person I am meant to be. I don’t believe I would have found her if the coaster was closed for maintenance or never constructed at all.

I am most grateful for the wisdom to never again take anything for granted, especially my health, and for all that I have and all that I am.

Hopefully, we will soon reach the end of this unsettling ride and emerge from its tunnel as unharmed as possible. I don’t know when that will be, but I DO know that next year’s Thanksgiving is going to be one hell of a shindig.

Wishing you good health and the happiest of Thanksgivings wherever your table may be this year.

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

With gratitude,

Jill

“Thankful for 2020’s Roller Coaster” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on November 26, 2020. 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 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

Digesting the Goodness

521c8921-b020-4a92-ae9c-89830ae4d8c2I sit here enjoying the silence, exhausted yet satisfied, after spending four intense days at the Yale Writers’ Workshop at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Had to insert a nod to one of my favorite songs from my own college experience, which did not end on a good note.

This experience, however, DID, on so many levels.

It’s true that everyone has their own shit going on, and most of us are orchestrated every day by a ridiculously rigid schedule, including me. My schedule from April leading up to the workshop was so slammed full, I couldn’t even fit a thin pencil line between events and responsibilities. Other writing events and conferences, editorial assignments, school-related tasks including yearbook distribution and end-of-year procedures, writing, family obligations, homework for my Yale workshop, and a never-ending list of chores related to moving and taking care of my uncle’s estate has stretched me thinner than a rubber band pulled back to its maximum length right before it breaks. I’m mystified that even though I came close to snapping a few times, I’m still in one piece like that rubber band.

As is true with my fellow sufferers of imposter syndrome, I did not think my writing was of the “Yale Writers’ Workshop” caliber. However, I literally had this quote appear in my social media feed right above an ad for the Yale Writers’ Workshop:

 

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

With Hanson’s words resonating in my mind, I took a chance and applied despite my feelings of inferiority, believing I’d fail.

However, I realized it was time for me to fly as I wept tears of joy when I read my acceptance email on April 2.

I then cried for a different reason as I faced the truth I’d have to venture out of my comfort zone by driving on roads that frightened me to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

I promised myself that when it was time to go to Yale, I’d focus solely on the workshop and put all other distractions out of the way, including my feeds, my calendar, and whatever was scribbled on my to-do lists, both real and perpetual.

And I did just that, minus a few Instagram posts…hell, when I see a USPS mailbox decorated like R2D2, I must share!

59c71cb2-50ce-4535-a10f-7f59866ab7fcI’m humbled to have sat in the presence of twelve other phenomenal writers in my workshop titled “The First Ten Pages,” including my teacher, “Marlena” author Julie Buntin. Everyone was kind, enthusiastic, and inspiring as we spent four intense days workshopping the first ten pages of each other’s manuscripts, as well as hearing from speakers Steve Almond, Betsy Lerner, and Chaya Bhuvaneswar. I gained new friends, new insight, and new ideas to re-craft Chapter One-A Novel to make it the best it can be for the reader. I see it, and my intuition knows it is right. My vision will become a reality. I’m looking forward to reading the revised drafts written by my fellow attendees.

And, good news! I successfully navigated the way to and from New Haven surprisingly without any fear! I can do it!

I’m also still absorbing the wonderful advice I acquired from presentations by Neil Gaiman, Amy Tan, and Colum McCann at the third annual Rutgers Writers’ Conference held the first weekend of June.

As I finish out the school year and digest the feedback about my novel, the first steps of Chapter One-A Novel’s re-crafting will begin tomorrow.

I plan to engage more with readers on my blog and to building a better platform over the summer while working on some other side projects.

I’m finally flying…man, my spirit guide would be so proud of me.

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey!

With gratitude, 

Jill

 

I’m Energized and Inspired

img_6101That’s exactly how I feel, energized and inspired. I attended the second annual Rutgers Writers’ Conference on June 2-3, 2018, and its euphoric aura still surrounds me.

The conference began with keynote speaker Alice Hoffman. Both her keynote speech and her session about creating a book of linked short stories were inspirational and motivating. She was real. She was down to earth and shared a lot of information and advice for both novice and experienced writers alike. Some of my favorite takeaways from Alice Hoffman:

  • “I write stories for people, especially women, who cannot tell their own stories.”
  • “Sometimes you’ve got to write a book on pure instinct.”
  • No one can write the way you do. You have a single voice influenced by your experience, especially from reading as a child.
  • Your voice is your voice just like your fingerprint is your fingerprint.
  • The fear of the blank page is huge.
  • If you set a deadline for yourself you can do it. We can make ourselves write by setting our own deadlines, even when life gets in the way.
  • When you write a story, you are weaving or knitting the tale together: it’s the PROCESS of making the sweater, not the sweater. “I’m trying to weave straw into gold.”

I was so excited to learn from Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, aka The Book Doctors, again. I attended their two sessions titled Perfecting Your Pitch and How to Get Published Today and came away with a wealth of wonderful information. During lunch, they held Pitchapalooza, and I was actually one of the twenty people selected! After I delivered my pitch (which I revised with suggestions they both made after my May Pitchapalooza pitch), I was overwhelmed by their positive reactions. Both remembered me and said my pitch this time around had immensely improved. While I wasn’t the winner, I am proud that I was confident while I delivered the best pitch possible. Both David and Arielle are role models and I hope to one day emulate their success and their ease at speaking to large groups.

Another writer I learned a lot from was Sunday’s keynote speaker, Chris Bohjalian. I don’t want to go into detail yet, but the two sessions he led were sprinkled with many breadcrumbs and serendipitous signs, one of which has developed into a book idea whose seeds were planted along my journey two years ago. Chris mentioned the right terms and, more importantly, I realized he mentioned those words. His influence goes beyond his message, and I am quite excited about the possibility of this book idea actually becoming a reality now that Chapter One-A Novel is complete.

Fate led me to sit at the right table and I made new friends with other writers who I have much in common with. I enjoyed the time I spent talking with and supporting these fellow writers because it’s not that often I find people who are a part of my tribe.

img_6085The Rutgers Writers’ Conference was a fabulous event. When I filled out my feedback form, I couldn’t list one way the conference could improve next year because, in my eyes, it was absolutely perfect. I look forward to attending the conference next year. Save the date if you’d like to join me! June 1-2, 2019.