About Carolyn Cook

I’m an actress, teacher, and explorer. I’m passionate about the arts, travel, and my amazing family. I have spent my adult life seeking ways to balance rich personal relationships with a fascinating and challenging career.

Writing Through Doubt

I promised myself I’d blog for seven days in a row. Though I missed my goal, I have in fact written seven blog posts in just over a week, and I feel a sense of accomplishment. Of course, there are plenty of people who blog every day, 365 days a year, but for me, a week of daily posts was enough to learn the value – and the difficulty – of disciplined writing.

I gave myself the challenge of posting every day because I was falling into one of those dark moods, where you feel like your soul’s been tossed to the bottom of a rusty bucket and kicked under the porch. I knew I had to do something, so I picked one negative voice in my head – the one that tells me I’m a failure for not blogging regularly, but comforts me with the assurance that it’s okay because I don’t really write well enough to be published anyway – and set out to prove it wrong.

Here’s what I learned: writing takes time. You have to sit down at the keyboard and open a channel from your heart to your fingertips, and then leave that channel open long enough for messages of more than 140 characters to come through. You have to be patient when those messages are garbled or slow to arrive. You have to accept all incoming messages, no matter how irrelevant, and trust that real truths will show up if you wait for them. When you have gathered enough of them on a page, you have to put them into groups and let them talk amongst themselves, until they finally sort themselves out into paragraphs and form a little community of words that’s willing to speak to a reader.

It’s been a valuable experience, this waiting for the words. It absolutely erased the self-doubt I was feeling about writing. Quality aside, I know I can at least produce writing in quantity, and that’s reassuring.

I’m going to take a break for a few days now and ponder what to write next. I hope to be back at the blog soon. In the meantime, I’ll be singing, reading, taking long walks, loving my family, and holding on to the satisfaction I feel when my soul peers out from under the porch and glimpses light again.

IMG_2500

Crafting Sanity

Mom and I like to make stuff.

I am convinced that sewing helps keep my mother relatively sane. As her brain slowly succumbs to dementia, her hands remain busy, stitching away on baby blankets that she will donate to charity. She feels active, creative, and useful – and she is. Handwork is good medicine.

IMG_2506

Making things certainly helps keep me sane. I’m not a highly skilled crafter, but I love to make little animals out of fleece and stuffing.

Once I’ve cut them out and stitched them up, Mom fills them with polyester batting. She likes to engage them in light conversation. “Would you like some stuffing in your tummy, little bear?”

“Yes, please!” I answer for them in my best squeaky-puppet voice. It’s a silly game, but we like it. We are easily amused.

Perhaps we are not entirely sane, after all.  But our hands are busy, and for a time, our hearts are light.

IMG_2619

Release

Today was not my best day. I went to the dentist and found out my back molars need serious work or extraction. I took my daughter to a class, and we were late because of the dentist appointment. I lost my temper over something small and felt terrible about it.

In general, not a day to record for posterity, unless posterity would like to remember that some days are hard.

So instead of writing, I went looking in my photo files for something interesting to post, and I came across a picture taken sometime last summer. It’s a shape study; I was infatuated with circles at the time. When I opened it from the thumbnail, the word in the lower left-hand corner caught my eye.

Some days are hard. But guidance is out there, if you know where to look.

IMG_1965

Passion

I spent most of Sunday afternoon sitting by fireplace, reading a book and ignoring my own resolution to practice singing every day until my January recital. Why?

No really, why was I avoiding doing something I knew I wanted to do?

The simple answer is that singing, at least this kind of singing, is hard. It takes discipline to study the songs and plan the breaths and train my body to support the high notes. It takes effort to tolerate my own mistakes and try again. It takes drive to schedule a practice time and stick to it. Practicing is work, and who wants to work when there’s a fire in the fireplace and a good book to read?

I want to do the recital, and I know I should practice, but I’ve never been good at doing things just because I should. I do things because I’m passionate about them. Once the passion is there, I can be incredibly disciplined, but without the passion, I’m pretty hard to motivate.

Now, I have some serious passions. I am passionate about my family. And I’m passionate about elder care. And I’m passionate about acting. So I do a lot of things that aren’t terribly exciting, like cooking dinner or trimming my mom’s fingernails or learning my lines, because I’m devoted to a larger passion.

I tell people that singing is a ‘lifelong interest’, and as a ‘useful skill for an actor’, but I haven’t ever acknowledged it as a passion. It just seems so darn selfish and frivolous. And, okay, yes: embarrassing. Sure, I love to sing, but who cares? If it’s just an ‘interest’, shouldn’t I be learning something truly useful, like knitting? At least I’d get some nice sweaters for all the time and money I’m pouring into voice lessons.

But I don’t want to knit sweaters. I can buy sweaters. I want to sing.

This is a passion.

And that’s terrifying, because what if I suck at it? What if people don’t want to hear me sing? What if singing doesn’t love me back? What if it toys with my affections, and then dumps me at the altar on recital day? I know I said I wasn’t scared, but deep down? Yeah.

It’s so much safer just to sit by the fire. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), it’s time to pay attention to the fire that’s in me.

IMG_2804

Lazy Sunday

(I’m trying to blog daily for seven days. This is day three.)

I wrote a blog post for today, but it turned out to be too personal and self-involved, so I didn’t post it. (You’re welcome.)

Instead, here’s the view from the living room rug, where I spent most of the day curled up with a good book.  May your Monday morning be as warm and comforting as my Sunday afternoon . . . .

IMG_2807

 

QWERTY

It’s Electronic Recycling Day! We’ve been scouring the house for old equipment that shouldn’t be here but definitely shouldn’t go to the landfill. My husband unearthed enough relics to fill a respectable cardboard box or two, and in the process he turned up an old-fashioned computer keyboard and set it beside my laptop. I just found it. OMG. Christmas!

An old-fashioned keyboard! The kind with sticky-up keys! So that I can actually feel the keys when I type! And hear them go clickety, clickety, clack!

I am suddenly transported back to 11th grade typing class, where we all learned to type on manual typewriters before we could graduate to the sleek new IBM Selectrics at the front of the room. Clickety, clickety, clack, an hour a day – perfect preparation for either (A) a college career typing term papers (and possibly getting paid to type other people’s term papers, because not everybody could type) or (B) a secretarial job that would tide you over until Mr. Right came along. Or both!!

I did both, by which I mean, I (A) went to college and typed my own papers (many of which were in French, and required me to go over them with a ball-point pen, adding accents and cedillas because there were no foreign-language characters on my keyboard), and (B) supported my acting career by working as a secretary, office assistant, receptionist, and many other jobs that required typing (on a sleek new IBM Selectric, always), until personal computers took over the world and typing for a living became obsolete.

Obsolete. Like this lovely old-fashioned Dell keyboard that is now hooked up via USB to my Toshiba laptop. I love it. Next thing you know, I’ll be asking Santa for Liquid Paper . . . .

IMG_2794

Something You Don’t Need

(I’ve decided to blog daily for at least a week and see what happens. This is day one.)

For months now, Mom’s been on a new tear: almost every time I see her, she says, “I have a need. I need to take you somewhere and buy you something you don’t need. Something pretty. Something just for you.” My sister gets the same line. It’s deeply endearing. But I simply can’t let Mom buy me a new blouse or knickknack every single day. I don’t have the room, and she doesn’t have the money.

But one day last week I hit on a solution. It may only work once. But here it is. Something I don’t need. Something I just want. Something that makes me happy. Thanks, Mom.

IMG_2789