Shifting Focus

by Donna McLaughlin Schwender

Poppy's Afghan

Two days before Christmas, I’m sitting here at my desk – wrapped up in one of my father’s handmade afghans – trying to decide if I should feel horrible that my last blog post was more than ten months ago. Perhaps even worse is the fact that such a post was the ONLY one I made this year. Although I did declare that “focus” was my word for 2014, I wonder if I focused too much on certain things (like reading) and not enough on others (like writing)?

I confess that part of me is actually elated with the way my writing has evolved in 2014, even if it wasn’t something I chose to focus on by sharing the details here in my blog. If I had to summarize those details into a few sentences for this post, I’d simply say that – by submerging myself in the words of others – I found my own voice this year. My style of writing. And I like it.

So much so that I’ve been busy since October writing the words that I dream might be my first book. (Even as a wannabe author, I’m currently lacking the ability to sufficiently describe how surreal it feels to have written that last sentence.) Surprisingly, my biggest challenge to focusing on such a large project occurred only a couple of weeks ago when a SECOND book idea forced its way to the front of my mind. I’m blaming my limbo-land vacation since then on being wrapped up in the impending holidays.

As I sit here allowing myself to get lost in the task of braiding the fringe ends of the afghan that’s blanketing me, my father, dead now more than thirteen years, is managing to impart his own holiday spirit into this post.

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but my father was also a wannabe author. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a support system like the one I’ve been blessed with. At one of the many breaking points in his life, he packed away his typewriter and traded in his pencil stubs for a collection of crochet hooks. Instead of weaving words, he refocused his efforts on entwining colors and textures.

As his health began to deteriorate, so too did the size of his hand-woven projects. Mobile lawn chairs morphed into stationery floor rugs which eventually became enveloping afghans. I imagine that each of his creations had a story woven into their fibers, ones that perhaps only he could decipher.

I don’t know what the story is that’s embedded in the brightly colored shawl that’s now draped over my shoulders and that cascades all the way to the floor. I do know that my father wasn’t shy about the color choices he made and this afghan is unarguably the “flashiest” of his creations. I could be wrong, but I believe it was the last one he made before he passed away. I like to imagine that it was his subtle way of saying, “Life is short – be bold in your choices and be proud of them.” In other words, “Be all in!”

It’s that thread of revelation that has led me to my word of the year for 2015…COMMIT. Be all in. No more half-assing it and no more downplaying that which I truly desire.

Maybe “commit” isn’t a very big leap from “focus,” but it feels like the next logical step of my journey. Where will it lead me? I hope it brings me back to this blog a little more often. Time will soon tell.

Until then…may 2015 weave a year of beautiful stories for each of you and may you commit to what feels right for your own soul.