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“What have I done that I am proud of today?” I’ve decided this is a good self-talk prompt and an even better action prompt if, at 2 in the afternoon, the answer is “sat on my chair Having Many Thoughts.”

The answer to the question today was “scrubbed the strange swath of mold the northern siding on the house.” Also, scraped, chiseled, and scrubbed the bird’s nest from above the door. Also, because my Happiness Project friends recommended it, I put out pillows on the porch swing because the FlyLady says we are in Zone 1, improving the entrance. One last entrance item… plugged the little holes in the window molding with spackle that have been bugging me since 1994. For those of you who haven’t tried coming in the door on the northern side of the porch, a kamikaze sparrow had taken up residence there for the past month or so. As you approached the door, the bird would come sweeping down causing you to swear, back up, or squeal revealing your true nature and fortitude. For whatever reason, my sister and I found the chicks – five of them – dead on the porch over the weekend and no mother to be found. Hmmm.

I also got barfed on at the vet today and posted this status proudly on my facebook account.

The outstanding happening of the day, I think, was logging onto the paperback swap website (link provided by Hank, Thank you!) and poking around. After I looked down my nose at all the paperbacks I didn’t want to read (note to self—add snobbishness to list of faults), I saw a title that caught my eye. It was “She Got Up Off the Couch.” Since I had spent a good part of the morning painting and Having Many Thoughts (I am painting again—11 x 14 abstracts in blue, green and gray), this was a title that had some weight to it. It had momentum. It was positive and significant and intriguing. It was something I could do.

The ingeniousness of the thought that I could Get Up Out of My Chair was the impetus for the scrubbing, scraping, pillowing, and spackling. Amazingly, I felt much lighter once I was moving, causing me to contemplate a corollary to Winton Marsalis’ aphorism “there is no freedom in freedom. There is freedom in structure.” Now, also, “There is freedom in motion.”

The book, She Got Up Off the Couch is written by Haven Kimmel who wrote a Girl Named Zippy, which I loved in another time, in the Before time, when I led PTA meetings and cub scouts and rang bells in the handbell choir. I’ve kept Zippy all those years, part of the permanent collection… If I read her again tonight will I find an old friend or will the loss of the “me” that found her first break my heart? It’s a cowardly question. How about if I read her with gratitude, and also — buy the next book.

EWR to DFW

It is midnight and it is good to be home.  Tiny, Mighty Max has been returned to me sprightly and well (thanks to Hal). 

I had a little crisis going on this week involving a bald man with a mucous condition.  For four days we worked closely at a small conference room table.  Every 60 seconds or so Mucous Man would bark with a kind of guttural, throat clearing sound that a) really amazed me,  b) broke my concentration and c) eventually made me gag.  I felt terrible about my squidgy insufferability, but I had to do something.  I stuffed earplugs in my ears and iPod buds in on top of those.  I turned the music to Grunge and Hack!  Cak!  Gak!  I could still hear him.   I was desperate to find a way out.   What could I do?  Ah!  On the second day, I found an unused office and proceeded to set up camp with my laptop.  It was rude but necessary. 

At long last, Thursday afternoon (go home day) arrived and after a ride to the airport and 2 extra hours at the Admirals Club (the standby on an earlier flight strategy having failed), we boarded our plane and I was happy to be free of the nice but Mucousy Man.  After a slow-moving reversing event in which 25 people were backed off the airplane so that 6 of us could gate-check our rollerboards,  I slid into my seat (last one on the plane!  Again!) and in front of me were not one, not two, not three but FOUR bald men.  Was this God with a sense of humor?

Possibly.  But wait!  Beside me was a man wearing a sweater vest.  He seemed to be – picking his nose?  No, biting his nails.  No, nose.  Back to nails.  Now teeth.  Scraping the teeth with the finger nails while reading the newspaper?  Yes. Now licking his forefinger so he could turn the page on the newspaper, another lick, another lick.  Now rubbing his finger quickly and aggressively over and around his nose like a bunny rabbit.  Ok, back to teeth scraping now.

God, I will never put my hand anywhere near my face in public ever again because the woman sitting next to me might have to clamber over the airplane seats, flee up the aisle, and crouch like a screaming banshee while she pulls her hair out and pounds her misery-loving  skull.

Authenticity

I’ve written some posts this week that didn’t get posted. And, I had a weird experience today where I got feedback from a follower which tempted me to think twice about admitting what is in my bloggy little heart. So I’ll just tell you and be done with it: today I was sour, bleak, jaded, impatient, and intolerant. I can see the end of this assignment and I’m barn-south to finish and be done. Now, is that any way to treat your life?

At lunch I roamed the big, bright cafeteria with table after table of fresh, luscious, healthy food all displayed in lovely, ice-laden buffets and thought “what is wrong with me?” I just couldn’t generate any enthusiasm for it. Appreciation, yes, acknowledgement, yes, but not enthusiasm. Doesn’t enthusiasm mean, literally, “with God?”

So back to the editing. Some of my followers are – forgive me – QUITE hunky dory straight with God, while I am on the outs with Him. I fear that they, the Hunky Doriers, will judge me harshly for the fact that God and I have our backs to each other in a circular holding pattern. It is the silent treatment between us: I say nothing, He says nothing. Now that I think of it, it’s not much different than when we are on good terms… that is: I say something, He says nothing. I’m ashamed, I think, of the nothing of our relationship. I enter my hotel room at night and just stand there stunned in its still, discordant beige flatness. Actually, I think I experience God in the same way that I experience Ryan Michael (now): a Great Absence. Silence.

Yesterday’s word of the day was Order. It was a repeater, since I had meant to use it Monday but didn’t. Order was a good word… it helped me move my mind along, keep to the task at hand, track to my to-do list. It promised neatness and clarity. It had a nice misty small goodness to it.

Today’s word was Free. I think I am too free. I’ve said before that losing Michael knocked my identity out of orbit like a (freakishly) loose electron. Enough.

Rein me in, God.

Lockup

A while back, I was wrapped around the axle on a certain work assignment.  Early one morning (we’re talking 4 a.m. early), I’d gotten myself up so that I could read/exercise/blog in my hotel room before I threw myself at the unsolvable project for the day.  What I read was http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/7-simple-ways-to-clear-your-mind … where I got the idea I needed to “untangle my mind” and “teach myself what I needed to know.”  The fruits of my labor would be mastery, happiness, confidence, re-enforcement, and contribution. The whole thing would work best when paired with compliments to others!   What?  That’s what I wrote down, anyway. 

Ways to untangle your mind

1.            Dump the brain (e.g., morning pages).  Has anyone tried this?  Last fall I burned through 100 pages of notebook paper at 4am for a month of mornings and, as I recall, the only happy insight I had was coming up with the answer to the question “why do I like to paint frogs.”  Then I stopped painting them.

2.            Take deep breaths to calm yourself.  Maybe this works for you?

3.            Go for a walk to get some temporary distance from your thoughts.  Nope, my thoughts come right along with me.

4.            Draw a picture to show what thoughts are on your mind.  Uh, my mind looks  like the untidy insides of an abattoir, so no.

5.            Describe your desired end state and then work backward.  Hmmm.

6.            Talk it out with another person.  Bah!

7.            Ask for help from an expert.   Gak.

I actually did 5, 6 and 7 later that day.  But of the list, I like 5 the best.  It’s what they taught us in tech school:  start with the end in mind.    (Did I mention I was terrible, keep-your-day-job TERRIBLE in tech school?)

My chances of flowing about the world with a clear mind are on the low side, I believe.  But I am striving to speak kindly to myself about it. 

Comments and input please? What works for you when you need to clear your head?   

Hugs to all,

Cathy

Team Mia Saves Max

In the continuing vein of “I really shouldn’t have done that,” Max the Maltese (whom the tall attractive but not interested man said was “even cuter than Mia”) got sick on Sunday afternoon.  He, Max, hadn’t really been eating effectively on Saturday (his day of arrival) and I hadn’t paid attention as closely as I should.  Max mingled cutely at the food bowls with the other two dogs; he made crunching sounds and motions, but his little teeth weren’t accomplishing much.  By Sunday afternoon, he had that tell-all lump of play-dough way about him which is a little dog running low on blood sugar.  I whipped up some sugary baby food in the blender, did some plastic syringe spritzing between his teeny little jaws, and a few hours later he pepped up again.  Good… but I had to get on a plane the next morning.  And his babysitter was to be the Lovely Young Teacher, a 19-year-old student working full-time sans experience tending tiny sickly pups.  Oh boy.   Plus, the girls (Molly the dachshund and Mia the Yorkie) were also picking on poor Max.  They bowl him over and he yipes like a mama’s boy.  What a cutie.

 It was an anxious afternoon… should I cancel my trip?  Could I? Should I take Max to the vet?  Could I find a backup sitter?  Could I take him with me?  Ah!  At the end of the day, I constructed a nursery in my dining room (goodbye Perfectville) where the puppies could be cozy, warm and dry and have separate food supplies.  I arranged for my ex and his Eye-Poppingly Georgeous Girlfriend to babysit while the Lovely Young Teacher unpacked boxes and went to school.  We all settled in and I hoped for the best.  

I shouldn’t have done it (brought Max home) and it will take a village to pull it off … the little dachshund is like a tank but this fragile little pup is all delicate bones, feathery fluff and trust.   Team Mia is now fully engaged in Project Saving Max. 

My ex, who’s not a reader of this blog, doesn’t get a funny name.  Thank you Hal for rescuing me … again!

Is More Better?

Have you have ever had the feeling you’re making an ill-advised decision during the exact moment you’re making the bad decision?  A sense of reckless desire and plunging ahead; “I want what I want and damn the consequences?”  This is how I ended up with puppies – two puppies, a Miniature Dachshund and a Maltese — over the weekend.  They are outrageously cute and good companions I think for my Yorkie but – really.  Instead of an old lady and her cats, I’m turning into the old lady and her dogs.  As an ex- and two Lovely Young People have already pointed out, I am turning into my mother for whom I assure you, more was not better. 

Yesterday we had our semi-monthly Happiness Project meeting and I took a look at my recent non-tracking and resolutions non-progress.  I noticed that I’m not able to maintain a sense of personal mission and trajectory when the going gets tough.  I want to throw more effort at the difficulty, even while I can see looking back that some situations are neither solvable nor salvageable and a lighter touch would have made the ride more bearable.  More effort does not equal better results.

Thanks to FaceBook, I heard last week from a childhood friend (Julz) and an ex (Hank), both of whom found their way to my blog and directly into my heart, which is what I post here.  I reached out to several high school buddies, said hello and queried the status of other lost ones.  It made me wonder about this looping backward, why we do it, why the past is more comforting now than it was when we experienced it.  Are more bonds better?  Is the known more heartening than the not-known?  Like human connections, does faith increase only when you set your trajectory toward “more?”

It is raining outside and silent inside the house this morning.  There is fresh coffee brewing.  An armload of puppies crowds sleepily on my lap.  For today, anyway, more is good.

Home

Home, flying home, driving home, hefting luggage along the bumpy sidewalk in the dark of night, stopping to face my garrison of redbuds, closing my eyes and breathing in the dusty scent of rain.  Eyes closed, turning, crickets chirping, frogs croaking, the familiar drone of a motor running.  A house like a hug.