Sunday, January 03, 2010

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.

1 comment:

Lisa :-] said...

I've been having the same kind of crisis with my writing, and I'm not the academic you are.

I think part of the problem has been that most of my writing is associated with my (several) blogs, and I have let myself realize how small my voice is in that cosmos of noise. I just have to get to the point that I ignore that, and write again for the joy of it, no matter where the words go after they leave my brain...