This post by Gayle M. Irwin
We all look in the mirror, some people more often than others. Me, I’m not much for mirrors because I generally don’t like what reflects back at me. I especially dislike full-length mirrors.
My husband and I attempted a lifestyle eating change in October, and we did wonderfully for about four weeks. He lost 8 pounds and I lost 9. We had good intentions of continuing our new habits, but the 15th wedding anniversary trip to southern Utah took place, and though we didn’t do too badly, our downward spiral began with this trip. Other trips, work-related, ensued for both of us, and by Thanksgiving we were toast (and eating toast – with jam even!)
Now that Christmas is around the corner and we’ve received gifts of candy and cookies, have eaten pie, and anticipate a large, yummy meal on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, our weight-loss plans are nixed until the proverbial New Year when nearly everyone in the world resolutes to “loose weight.” Boxed DVDs of exercise programs await being popped into the player on January 1st. I’m a planner, if nothing else (although I confess I bought those DVDs last January and they are still in their shrink-wrap packaging!)
Although I may not like my physical reflection that stares back at me, aging, graying, and growing rounder, I admit I do like the reflection I see in my writing career. In 2014 I was blessed to work with a company that produces two regional magazines, and to write for both publications, eight articles for one magazine and four articles for the other. I also wrote regularly for the Casper Journal, and had a pet column every week for 12 weeks in one newspaper and a monthly pet column in another. All this in addition to my three to four monthly articles, including pet column, for Our Town Casper magazine … and my “day job,” at which I work 27 hours a week – and school visits, at least twice a month. I even conducted four regional speaking engagements plus booksignings and released a new book. It was a banner year overall!
In 2015 things changed a bit. One of my newspaper pet columns went bye-bye due to changes in the paper’s features, and one of the magazines gave me only four instead of eight assignments. However, the other upped from four articles to six. The Journal also decreased the number of features given to me. However, I picked up SEVERAL Vietnam veterans stories to write via the same publishing company, and they also ran one of my children’s books as a serialized story for more than 12 weeks. I also began writing occasionally for an online publication geared toward pregnancy centers. My school speaking opportunities grew, even though other types of speaking opportunities fizzled, and I revised a children’s book I had produced a few years ago and made it available on Amazon. That and the serialization lead to the local school district purchasing several copies for a school that wants to create an environmental education site on its grounds. I had a few book tours and signings and made in-roads with some of my works in progress, getting ready for 2016. Up and down, and back up again, that’s the nature of the writing beast it seems. Reflecting back, I can’t complain at all about 2015 and the writing and speaking opportunities that came my way.
One of the “ups” is being part of Cherley’s All About the Girls project. I have two stories in that book, one about my mother and another about her mom, my grandma Mardy. Those two women have positively impacted my life, and really, without them, their encouragement and love, I likely would not be a writer. Neither woman attended college, and neither of them were writers. Their gift is/was that of encouragement and also of selflessness. Grandma helped pay for my college and while in school, I studied journalism. That eventually led to becoming editor of the West Yellowstone News and to many years serving as a reporter. I also dabbled in magazine writing, which later produced wonderful offspring, including several short stories in various Chicken Soup for the Soul editions as well as the magazines I have written for and currently write for.
When I do garner enough courage to look in the mirror, I can see some of my mother and my grandmother reflecting back. Both women were/are courageous and persevering. I’m not as apt in those traits as the two of them, but I do believe I possess some of those characteristics. If I didn’t, I couldn’t have endured the past 25+ years as a writer. I may not be JK Rowling, Rebecca Mead, or Jeff Goins, or any of you, my fellow Writing Wranglers, but I do persist… even when I sometimes want to throw in the towel. At times, it’s very difficult for me to juggle so many assignments and so many responsibilities – in addition to the writing career and the “day job” at a medical clinic, I have work at home, including the care of four (aging) pets. Lack of sleep makes me cranky, and when I’m that mood sets in (or the 55-year-old female hormones kick in, making me EXTRA cranky!) I want to chuck it all. During those times, I conduct a soul-searching and have a good long (sometimes loud) cry.
Then I receive a card or a Facebook post, both of what I recently received … and, shockingly just last week a request to interview from a major corporation for a communications manager position (they “found me” via my LinkedIn profile) – each instance reminds me there are people who read my writings, who value my work, and who believe what I compose matters.
I look at my reflection, at times with blurry red-eyes, and I see my Grandma Mardy At 85 years of age and a stay in the hospital for a blood hemorrhage, that woman took a plane a few weeks later and flew from Iowa to Montana to spend six weeks with my parents; I was fortunate to spend a week with all of them during that time. It was only her fourth plane trip and it would be her last, but she lived another six years, and she was able to remain in her own home until her death in August 1990 at the age of 91.
I see my mom, too, who, with my dad, lived without electricity or running water in a beautiful Montana mountain setting for nearly 12 years. They primarily hunted and raised their own food, had wood for heat, and solar for the minimal electricity they needed. It was not an easy life, but they lived like this purposefully and productively, pursuing a dream they created together.
Courage, perseverance – in my family, in my genes … and in my dogs.
Sage lived without sight for most of her life and she endured. Cody, at nearly 18 years of age, continues today despite many times being at death’s door. Sage died in 2012 from cancer, but she lived every moment, to the very end, with dignity and tenacity. Cody lives that way, too. I have to carry him up and down stairs and I change his bedding several times a day. But, his stubby tail still wags, he still snuggles with me on the couch, and he still pads around the cabin and mountain property, reminding me there is value even when it may be difficult and in spite of failing health … or low book sales and vanquished freelance projects. There is value because there is always something still out there to do, whatever that “something” is.
My mother, my grandmother, my dogs – they reflect back at me in the mirror. Some of that reflection is physical (well, hopefully I really don’t look like a dog, no matter how cute I think they are!). But mostly that reflection is experienced in the invisible – in their character.
I’m a writer, among so many other things, and I always will be… in spite of blurry eyes, a round middle, and graying hair which reflect back at me. That corporate job? I’m still not sure about following up – lots of factors to consider. But how honored and humbled I feel to be “courted!” And how thankful I am for the reminder that my writing is appreciated and valued!
How about you? Do you mind looking in the mirror, whether physically, emotionally, or academically/career-wise? What do you see in your proverbial (or real) mirror?
May you discover the value of who you are and the importance of what you do, and may you always see that special reflection — the one who is uniquely YOU!
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MY FRIENDS!!
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.