Saturday, January 23, 2010

You Know What I Hate?

Aww...come on.... you're not the least bit curious???

I hate it when people say "one step at a time" -that's what I hate. You know how when you're already a little irritated and someone sanctimoniously says "temper, temper" that what had been a little angst has now become much (and needlessly) bigger? That's what I feel when people tell me to slow down. I don't have time for once step at a time. I'm not completely naive or grabby (or the emotional equivalent of a 2-year-old); I don't want everything right this second. But I do want to take several steps at one time.

And, I might point out, I am not alone in this. Dear friends have pointed out that I'm a bit obsessive with my lists, and my lists about my lists. But, I would contend that, however people keep track of it all, healthy people have goals on several fronts. Having no goals at all (and I've been there, done that) is frequently a sign of a depressed person. One might (and I do)have goals about health and fitness, even goals about appearance (The braces aren't just for the cross-bite, after all). There are goals about education and career. I have goals about my home and my free time. I have a general sense of what I'm knitting next and reading next.

How can a person newly engaging with life NOT have goals on multiple fronts?

And yet, wise readers and friends will remind me that I also spend quite a bit of time feeling frantic and frightened. There's too much to do and too little time to do it in. In spite of my lists and my plans, I don't want the only possible solution to be an absolutely rigid daily plan, allowing, say, for reading from 5:42 until 6:00 a.m., at which point I make my breakfast, read the news, and then take my shower at precisely 7. I've made those lists too, but I subvert them immediately. I need more room for spontaneity than that, apparently. Anything less and I get fidgety and worried -and there's a sub-grade fear that I carry around. That's not a good way to live, either.

Gentle friends respond to that feeling of angst with concern; the right answer seems to be "slow down." That translates, though, as an inadvertent hegemony -women perpetuating the cultural requirement that we should dream less, hope for less, accomplish less. It feels like the message is "it's unseemly to want so much." I know that no one intends that message. I appreciate that it's my own little head translating concern into a justice issue -and the wrong side of a justice issue, at that. I'm accusing no one. Of anything.

But I do need some velocity. And need is the right word. I have a LOT of things to do before I meet my maker, and I'm just getting started. Maybe the answer isn't slowing down. And it's pretty clearly not frenetic forward motion. Can one make great strides, with great intention? I have deliberately stepped back from many obligations this semester, in order to think about questions like this. I need to lay the groundwork for the changes to come, and I need lots of energy for that work.

Might there be a difference between "one step at a time" and "all in good time"? (That assumes, of course, that you can cancel out the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West saying, "all in good time, my pretty. All in good time.") I want it ALL, I'm a little embarrassed to admit. I know, from hard, hard experience, though, that rushing things doesn't work. When the time is right, the next step feels easy -or at least possible. I don't mind (much) being gentle with myself and letting things unfold. But I want to start a lot of things right now. I want full days and lots of forward motion and a kind of focused frenzy.

You know what it is, actually? I just realized. It's Csíkszentmihályi's concept of flow that I'm looking for -that feeling of complete absorption that arises when you're working right at your edge of competence and comfort. And mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have all been reported to increase a person's aptitude for flow. As I feel frantic and fidgety, doing more of the right thing (as in a yoga class) might be the ticket. Must muse.....

But for now, I'm going to post, since this has been in the "draft" stage for three days.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Envelope Please.....

The competition was ferocious, but this year's Math Rat Award for Gratuitous Cruelty in the Divorce Process goes to.....

the husband of a friend of a friend. My friend in this saga has a child with an unusual childhood cancer (who is doing well at the moment, thank you for asking). While in the hospital hovering over and tending to her daughter, she met another mom with a similarly-aged child with the same cancer. They became fast friends in their time of terror.

So, okay.... the children are in the hospital because of low or no-count white blood cells. The parents of the children are hovering and waiting and worrying. Except for the husband of my friend's friend. At this point, he is sneaking off to be with his mistress.

Seriously? Dude? Everybody's terrified here. Zip up your pants and go be a dad and a partner. Keep your promises at least until your child gets better. Then, if you have to leave your wife, be a grownup about it.

The award? A wheel of karma. These wheels may be slow but they grind exceedingly fine. And yes, I aw aware that I may have cooked my own karmic goose for posting this, in this way. Yet, I continue to be amazed (appalled) at the sense of entitlement that seems to be available to men as they try to justify untoward behavior.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Pleasure is All Mine

I say that. I wonder if I mean it.

When I say it, I mean that I'm celebrating the good things about living alone. And there are many. If I want pink ruffly dishes I can have them. If I want to leave lights on in rooms where I am not, no one sighs that sigh. You know the one. I can cook and eat what and when I like. I can have kittens. I can go for adult beverages on Thursday nights and try to drink shots in one drink. (I did it for the first time last week. And it's one shot per week, so don't go getting worried.)

I have many people around. Even though the house is far from ready -whatever that would even mean- there are frequent guests here. I am not lonely. In fact, I find myself craving the quiet times, too -which is a new thing for me.

But I can be such a disappointment, as my ex-husband will surely agree. Have I taken on too much? Was there always this much to do and I just didn't notice because there were two people working at it? I'm supposed to be feeling joy and success and pride, aren't I?

The pleasure isn't all someone else's, but lately I'm not sure it's all mine, either. Just do the next right thing. Never give up; never surrender. All that stuff we say when we know we don't mean it. That's where I am tonight.

It'll pass. Knowing that -if I've learned nothing else in the lsat two years- is a kind of bliss.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Our Little Sock Summit

I have to be the worst photographer anywhere. Ever.

But we had a good little time last night, in my still messy, still not enough furniture home. But I just decided I was happy to share what IS here, and these knitter-friends are good sports of the highest order.

Gary learned to knit and has quite a respectable little red square to show for himself. And, he left a beer in my refrigerator. What's not to love about a guy like that? That's Joan, teaching him.
Note to self: those curtains are worse than you thought. It's time to let them go.

The Earlville kniters (and crocheters) came out in style. And they were totally brave about moving furniture around and working in my quirky-to-say-the-least kitchen.

I took a terrible picture of the DeKalb knitters, and there was mass rebellion when I posted it ;) Imagine them, if you will....

And if Cillian doesn't get off my knitting, I won't be able to finish, much less felt, his bed. Although, apparently, it's already a bed.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Worry Much?

There was panic a few years ago, but you guys talked me off the entirely metaphorical ledge. On the other end of the drama there's the fretting and stewing I do about choosing the right dress or the right word of the year. Even I know that's silly and that it's not really worrying me. Then there's worry, and that's been occupying rather a lot of my psychic space these days.

Reasonable? Unreasonable? I really couldn't say. Things might, in fact, go badly, and my worrying will be proven true. Those of us who are worriers think that, on some level, our worry holds the universe together. What, I ask you, will happen if I stop worrying about my children???? It's not the only thing I do with (or for, depending on your perspective) them, but it's one of the services I provide.

Yet, as I stared at the ceiling for most of last night worrying -and most emphatically NOT sleeping- I realized two things. First, while I worry about anything and everything, I worry most uselessly and repetitively when I feel powerless -frequently about a particular thing. So the thrashing around about many little things is to hide the really big thing I can't/won't/don't deal with.

OK. There's probably a solution for that.

Then... worry is sort of the antithesis of the word of the year. I don't want to get all The Secret-y about this, because there is so much absolutely dangerous crap in those ideas I'd scandalize myself by allying with them. But, let's try this line of thought. With our words of the year, we say to the universe and our subconscious, "here's the dream." I'm working toward.... this. It might be balance or zest or courage or architecture, in my case. We know -really, we do- that the universe might provide something quite different. But we're saying that we are opening up space for this new perspective or focus in our lives. To borrow from my latent Catholicism, we are co-creators of our reality.

Now -and bear with me, here- couldn't worry do the same thing, only backwards? With all the time that I spend fretting about the jillions of things that could go wrong, am I not a little bit guilty of using that power of co-creation thoughtlessly? I throw these thoughts out into the universe, my subconscious hears them, and sets about creating exactly that scenario? Establishing a word of the year is a mindful process. Worry is mind-less, in a big, big way.

So... what to do? I need to acknowledge the things I'm feeling powerless about and claim the power that is authentically mine in those situations. There are things I can do to change the powerlessness (to some extent) and there are things I can do to create an entirely new situation. These are long-term plans. Right now, I have to ride out the storm and live toward my word of the year, actually. Build the infrastructure of this new life not so that you have perfect control (what is that, anyway?) but so that fewer things terrify you.

And I need to be mindful. I need to pay attention to where I put my thoughts. I need to do more than that, of course, but that would be a good start. When I was most panicked about my life, you all encouraged me to think of one small thing I could do to move forward. Tiny was entirely acceptable. (You're a great crowd!) The second one of those repetitive thoughts happens, I can replace it with "What is this trying to teach me? I am powerful. What can I do about it?"

If nothing else happens, maybe I'll get some sleep.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Getting a Little Trashy

Literally. The trash.

One of my many New Year's Goals is to get re-organized in the "green" department. I have too much trash, plain and simple. For one day, I am going to embarrass myself and admit what goes into my kitchen trashcan. I'm quite sure that there are other possibilities for much of it. (I just threw coffee grounds into the trash, for instance. I know better. I really do.) And then I'm going to figure out a plan for reducing the pile.

Today's list includes:
  • coffee grounds and filter
  • kitty litter
  • the kitty litter box -whoops
  • a pillar candle that had finished its useful life
  • the remains of a loaf of bread that I had made before leaving town for Christmas
  • the wrapper from a stick of butter
  • the plastic bag the bread had been in
  • a piece of wicker that broke off the laundry basket
  • the box that my bath pillow came in (clearly recyclable)
  • a dryer sheet
  • the plastic bag that the brown rice came in

Ok, the sad truth is that the kitty litter, the wicker scrap, and the candle are probably the only things that needed to be in there -and even there, there are changes that could be made. But, now we know the baseline. There's nothing to do but start from here.

One change. One little change. That's all I have to do today.

Careful in Choosing your Word of the Year

As I have mentioned, my word is "architecture." I want to build the foundations and the systems that will support and fortify this beautiful new life I imagine. To that end, I have intentionally chosen to have a slightly slower semester in order to have time to tend to the infrastructure. Somehow, I assumed that meant that I would start the year in a clean, beautifully decorated home, either wearing an apron and wafting cinnamon about as I baked in my newly re-organized kitchen or sitting in my new (orange!) home office, wearing my school-girl glasses, and thinking great thoughts. The cats would no longer shred my curtains or shed on me or my furniture. I would never run out of milk, and the laundry would all be folded. I would be calm and welcoming at the center of the home, moving gently from one task to the next right task, certain that all would be accomplished in its appointed time.

I've always been a fan of mythology, because truth be told, this is more like the reality.

Seriously, this is not how I planned to start the new year. Start as you mean to go on, and all that. It all began with 13" of water in the basement. Apparently, while I was away, there was a sump pump failure. I do acknowledge that it had been making odd noises before I left, but in the horrors of finals week I forgot about it. Alas, mechanical problems rarely heal themselves, and in the midst of a midwestern blizzard, when no one was home to tend to its consequences, the sump pump failed and the deep part of the basement filled with water. Fortunately, my new furnace is not in the deep part of the basement.

But it's not just the sump pump, of course. I have set aside this time precisely because the systems are not in place for me to do many of the things I need to do. For two years I have been fixing some problems and working around others. Yet mostly, I have been working toward other goals -a slightly new career path, finding out who I am in the midst of a life debacle.... These were essential (and in the end, delightful) tasks, and they could not wait while I figured out where, in the best of all possible worlds, the baking bowls should be stored or while I cleaned and primed walls that had seen 15 years of growing-up-boy with only cursory attention.

So, the systems of life, the underpinnings (and quite literally, the stuff in the basement of my home) received little attention. I somehow assumed, though, that assigning this time to tend to these questions would immediately result in calm. Moreover, I assumed that the answers would be quickly discoverable. Neither turns out to be true. I have to think about why a particular task is not working in order to understand what might fix it. Which in turn means confronting the consequences of, in some cases, decades of working around the problem.

It goes like this.... WHY are you not writing when you say you will? It could be that you are, indeed, a lazy good-for-nothing, or that you have no ideas. But let's consider other possibilities. Do you have a place to do it? Do you have the tools you need? Are there too many tempting distractions in the place where you write? What would fix THOSE problems??? I have to acknowledge the emotions, and wonder why I ALWAYS go to "you're a lazy failure" as the most likely explanation. Then I shut that voice up and consider the possibility that there may be other explanations. Then I have to figure out what those solutions might be, understanding that if I fix the problems and STILL don't write that it's either not really a goal or I really am a lazy good-for-nothing who would rather watch hulu than think. So, the risks are kind of high. But they're high either way, I suppose.

So, in truth, while this semester is lighter in one category of my life, it will be a while before the pace slows down and my environment becomes more filled with grace and ease. I am almost sure that I can make that happen, but the situation is a little out of hand here at the moment.