Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Unicorn and a Goal of Five

I like telling myself bedtime stories. 

Yeah, I know that sounds silly but, as a person who has a great deal of difficulty in getting to sleep, I've learned that if I tell myself long complicated stories with lots of details I will eventually become drowsy.  Typically I repeat the same bits of the stories over and over again because the details will help me nod off but also because I don't want to end the story.....if I do, I'll have to start a new one and that will leave me sleepless for a week.  Some stories will go on for months while there are endless revisions and re-tellings; there are other stories that I have come back to time and again for years.

Do you wanna know what the stories are?  Well, sorry, I'm not gonna tell you.  If I did, they wouldn't work so the secrets must remain mine to keep.

There's one thing I'd like to share, though, and it's something that I learned from a character in one of my stories.  Believe it or not, I can actually find out new stuff from someone who only exists in my own head! 

This fictitious elderly gentleman is a reliable person who is known for giving sage advice on making goals, and he tells the same thing to his employees as well as his family.  It's a simple plan to make a list of six things only.  Not four, not seven, not ten.  Six. 

The plan for the six goals works like this:  the first three items on the list should be things that you are reasonably capable of doing and that you can accomplish within the near future.  Working on those three things will give you a sense of ability so that you will comfortably be able to move on to other tasks.  The next two items should be more difficult and they will require more time to complete; you might even need to learn new skills or have to study to get the necessary knowledge.  Working on those two things will help you to become stronger and to find more faith in your will to achieve.  These first three goals will be constantly updating and changing, so you should expect them to be in flux.  The next two will necessarily remain longer on your list.

The sixth item is unlikely to change.  Ever.  It should be very, very difficult to achieve and the time it could take to accomplish is unlimited--indeed the sixth item may never be fully within your grasp.  It should be your deepest hope and your sweetest dream.  And you will call it your Unicorn.  You can have only one Unicorn.  Never more than that.  This will give you focus and keep you on course.  Although you might elect to tell others your first five goals, the Unicorn must remain a secret hidden in your heart; if you tell anyone, the Unicorn loses its power.

I've been thinking about the goals lists for the character in my story.  But I never really connected that to my own need (and admitted inability) to set goals for myself.  So in one of those silly Aha! moments that I tend to have while I'm chatting to myself alone in the car while driving to the Post Office, it suddenly came to me that perhaps I need to try to maintain a Unicorn and a Goal of Five.

Consistency has always been my hobgoblin.  I never do anything the same way twice.  When I make lists of things to do, I immediately rebel and turn entirely to stone.  Although I am utterly inconsistent, incongruously I am also deeply persistent.  The two sides rub together in me in the most irritating ways but I wonder if the charm of the Unicorn could work on me.  After all, it's a gift from my own imagination. 

Will I tell you if this works for me?  Probably not.  But I am sharing so that you can try it out for yourself if you like.  Maintaining a bit of whimsy along with some common sense seems like a wise way to face the world.

Life is good.
Go chasing after a Unicorn.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Gift of the Unexpected

Aphasia is simply a fact of life for me and has been so since I was about 27, and I forgot how to read.  When you're a PhD candidate, this is not a good thing.  Not at all.  My life as I knew it was over, and I had no choice but to do differently.

Ever since, I forget easily.  I turn my back, walk away, and it's like something has never been.  This can be a problem when it comes to things like laundry left in the washer or dirty dishes waiting in the sink.  I've even walked away in the middle of a meal without realizing I had do so.  I'm not ignoring things.  I've forgotten, quite literally, that they were even there.  It's more than a bit frustrating to find a proverbial trail of breadcrumbs from the unfinished duties of my days.  But there they are.  And I have to be honest enough to say that this sort of situation will remain unchanged as long as I am here on this planet.  Eventually stuff gets done.  (This is no complaint; merely an explanation--what I deal with on a daily basis is something most folks never have to know personally, and thank goodness for that.)

But sometimes there's joy in forgetting and finding again.  And this morning it made me laugh.

I should explain first that I've been plagued by the dustiness of my bedroom.  It's autumn; that's when I clean house.  Now I know that spring is the traditional time for cleaning but I believe that tradition is rooted in Northern climes where dust and detrious collects during the winter months while the house is shut up to keep the heat IN.  Here in the Deep South, especially here in South Mississippi, we have little winter (perhaps six weeks) and a great deal of summer (about nine months).  So it is autumn when I want to push the summer's accumulation out the door because the house has been shut so long to keep the heat OUT.  It makes sense when you think about it.  Plus autumn cleaning prepares home for the holidays.

A week or so ago, I gave the bedroom a good going-over with a damp dustcloth, from the ceiling fan down.  Picture frames, door frames, all those fiddly little edges that antique furniture tends to have, all the little bits and pieces that I enjoy displaying on every available surface.....as I've said before, I'm no minimalist.  I like stuff.  Lots of stuff.  It makes me happy.

The problem was that I ran out of energy before I ran out of places that wanted dusting and, recovering as I still am from walking pneumonia, the rest of the cleaning had to wait.  This morning I didn't want to wait anymore--the dust bunnies in the corners and under the bed were showing their teeth. 

The bedroom is small-ish (about 9 X 10.5) and this house is very short on storage so the space under the bed serves as a prime place to keep boxes full of sheets and blankets and curtains.  The boxes I keep under my antique cast iron bed (the base of which is fully a foot off the floor and thus offers excellent space for storage) really haven't varied for twenty years or so, and that's the only reason I recall what is in them.  That's why I was surprised this morning to find more than 4 plastic bins under the bed.  There was also an opaque tote of some sort--big and quite heavy.....but what was it?  I didn't have any idea and certainly no memory of having placed it under the bed.

I peered inside.  Green, the sort of avocado green that was popular back in the 1960's.  That's nice; I like avocado green.  Satin.  Also nice; I've always loved satin stuff.  Brocade embroidery of delicate wispy leaves in deep gold; very pretty and something else I adore.  But what was this green thing exactly?  I had no idea.  And then light finally dawned when I fully opened the container:  it was an eiderdown!  A truly vintage German eiderdown!  It was the real deal, not like those new "down" blankets that are just tolerable and not really warm.  This was meant to be weighty and wonderfully warm for winter.

When I helped my German-born friend pack up her house last year prior to her move to Alabama, she was down-sizing seriously to move into a single room in her daughter's home.  Eiderdowns require space to store, and she knew her square footage would be severely limited.  Her family, she said, wouldn't be interested and wouldn't value it, so she gave that precious heirloom Eiderdown to me.  And I promised to keep it safe.  Well, I have kept it safe.....but I also forgot it.  And that's why it made me laugh out loud for joy this morning.  I'll be using that Eiderdown this short winter.

Friendship keeps us warm in more ways than one.
Life is good.

 Although I tried, I could not take a picture that would do this lovely Eiderdown justice so this simple snap will have to do.

And So I Return.....

We all, sometimes, need a vacation.  A time away.  As my mother used to call it, "a time out of mind" where we think of other things. 

I have been resting. Peering through layers of sediment to see what they might mean--cutting the head off the snake was a start, and there's always more work to do.  No matter how old we grow, we must continue learning. 

Although I can't change my life, I can change myself.  And I know that no one can truly begin all over again.  But we are presented with bright possibilities with every sunrise.  We must not waste them.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Time to Cut the Head Off the Snake

So I haven't been writing as much lately.....I like to write, clear the air, chase out the cobwebs.  But it feels like I've mostly been complaining a lot and that's not something I generally approve of. 

We've all got trials and troubles.  We've all got losses and crosses to bear.  The current trend seems to be that we should all blare our agony across the wide world.  But I don't like that trend.  And I most certainly don't care for it when I do it.  The fact of the matter is that I only vent here because there's nowhere else to do so and because no one in the real world is listening (which can be really much more painful than you need to know).

There comes a time to cut the head off the proverbial snake, and I've been trying to make decisions about a variety of those matters in my life.  It's hard to know what to do.  So I make no promises, and I'm still trusting God.

For now I'll keep writing here because some folks appear to be reading (heaven only knows why).  Maybe I'll try to be more organized.  Maybe I'll even follow some sort of theme, although it's very unlike me.  It's my nature to be persistent rather than consistent but, hey, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made"  (Psalm 139:14)  so I'm just fine the way I am even though my health doesn't work so very well.

This past week has been tough (pneumonia hit me as I thought it might).  This past week I've received a little good news but also more bad.  This past week I haven't felt remotely motivated or capable of anything. 

But I refuse to give in.

Here's what I think:  Even if you can only do one single thing, then that's the place to start.  Find a place and take a stand.  It's okay to fail; but try anyway--at least you learn in the attempt.  Keep walking forward; don't look back (or at least don't look back too much).

I said this elsewhere this week and, unfortunately, no one took account of it (although there are many in that place who are in need of the thought).  It's an old saying but I believe it's worthwhile:
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

So, it's time to cut the head off the snake. 
That snake is called Complaining. 

We draw energy to ourselves through our beliefs and our actions and our words.  I need more sweetness in my life.  I need more light.  I need hope.  While there's not a lot I can do about what others do and say, I am in charge of what I produce.  And I want my works to speak well of me. It all starts with my own heart.

Looking forward.
I hope you will to.
Life is good.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mindfulness and the Minimal Effort of Avoidance

A few months back, a short bypass road opened up in my little town.  (Actually I live outside of town but that's beside the point.)  That bypass takes a mile off my journey to the PO, so I use it more often than not.  And I use it because I save a mile.  Now that might not seem like much but this is the math that goes on in my head:

1 mile X 5 days (average number of PO trips per week) =
5 miles X 4 weeks in a month =
20 miles = 1 gallon of gas

Thus, over the course of a year, that means that I earn the equivalent of a full tank of gas (mine only holds 12 gallons) with the minimal effort of avoidance (i.e. I don't drive through town the way I used to).

It's good to review to see where you can save on small stuff that adds up.  It's a simple matter of choosing to be conscious and conscientious about your actions--like not leaving the lights on in a room where no eye needs to see (besides the cost of the electricity, there's also bulb life to be considered--wear it out faster, and you have to replace it sooner).

Waste worries me.  I try not to fuss about what other folks do but I can't help seeing it. 

Once I watched a woman toss a pretty red calculator in the garbage because it wasn't working.  I asked her if she minded if I reclaimed it.  She was surprised but said she didn't care.  There were batteries at home that I was pretty sure would fit.  They did.  Ten years on, I'm still using the calculator she threw in the trash for the want of a ten cent battery. 

Last week I watched someone throw two pretty red (red again, that color captures attention) apples in the trash because each had a thumbprint-sized bruise.  I was aghast but held my tongue.  She saw me looking.  Although I hope she was embarrassed by her action, I figure that she probably was not.  What could you do with bruised apples?  Cut the bruise away and make applesauce (less than five minutes, max, including microwave cooking time).  Make a couple of apple turnovers.  Make apple muffins.  Or, if the bruises were bad indeed, rough chop the apple and put it in the undergrowth for wild creatures to feast upon or to compost gently.  I would do nearly anything other than toss it in the trash but in this case, I decided it was best to mind my own business.

There's much I want to do that I cannot because I am just one person.  There's much I wish that I could say but I hold my tongue--that's avoidance, too, for maintaining the energy for living.  All any person can do is to try to the best of her own power and to be aware of what is going on around her.  One person cannot save the world but each of us can improve upon our corner of it.

I'm gonna keep trying.
Life is good.

.....by the way, the view of the sky from the access road was so spectacularly beautiful (kinda reminded me of the skies in that famous El Greco painting of Toledo) when I went to the PO this morning, that I pulled into a turning lane to snap a picture.

Look at the wonder all around you and rejoice.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Even Though It May Seem That Way.....

Beg pardon:  I am about to vent; if you don't care to read, just move along.

If you saw a person in a wheelchair, you wouldn't insist that they run up a flight of steps, would you?  If you saw a person wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane, you wouldn't ask them to paint your portrait, would you?

It's understandable that if a person has a disability that you can see, you will automatically make an adjustment of your expectations.  Sometimes those adjustments may be a bit off the mark but still you'd mean it kindly, wouldn't you?  And you'd be trying to do the right thing.

But what if a person looks perfectly normal but has a disability that is not immediately apparent?   You might ask them to do something that they can't and you'd undoubtedly be told that it was impossible.  That's fine; the disabled person would be requesting respect.  And you'd give them that, wouldn't you?

See, you're being perfectly reasonable all down the line. 

Now, what if an able person who is fully aware of a disabled person's inabilities coerces (or even forces) that disabled person into doing something that will aggravate the disabling condition?  That is cruel.

That's the position I was in recently.  
And, for the record, I'm NOT the able person; I'm the other.

My family always taught me to step up and do what had to be done, no matter how hard it was.  I was expected to put forth more effort than anyone else.  It was, in fact, demanded of me.  I can hear my parents yet in the back of my mind, snapping their fingers and telling me tersely to "pony up!"  To this day, it is my knee jerk reaction to do what cannot be done, never to give up, never to give in, to destroy myself if necessary in getting the job done whenever someone else expresses a need.  I pony up until it kills me.

Yeah, life isn't fair.  I'm sick right now with a fever and suffering the nasty symptoms of MyalgicEncephalomyleitis.  And this is due, in part, to my inability to say no or to give into my own exhaustion (yes, I'm owning that).  And it is due in large part to someone else's failure to recall that I cannot merely find a lever to move the planet all by myself.  These are people who have known for years that the stability of my health wobbles on a very thin thread indeed.  But I don't think they've ever believed it because I look like I'm perfectly healthy when I'm really very much not.

Atypically, I am furious--absolutely incandescent at the unkindness, the thoughtlessness, the lack of respect that put me in a position that made me unable to say "no, I cannot help you."  I'm not a person who gets angry often (and almost never on my own behalf) but I am enraged.  To be fair, I am as angry at myself as I am at others.  So, I am venting here.

I'll get over it.  But I'll have to spend rather a lot of time resting until I do.  This is time I cannot afford to lose because I have much to do and the Christmas listing season is in full swing, plus I need to have another yard sale to make money to pay the bills.  Hopefully I can get past the pneumonia that is threatening to erupt.  In any case, I feel utterly helly.

It's hard, so hard, to do everything alone.  But it's much, much harder to be misunderstood.  I'm not lazy.  I'm ill.  I wish I were not.  I wish I could be like other folks.  I can't.   This condition is genetic.  I do what I can to keep things under control.  And I don't remind people all the time that I can't do things (although maybe sometimes I should).  I'm tired of being brave and toughing stuff out.

I'm just tired.
Life is still good.
.....but not so very nice right now.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A New Feline Friend?

When my folks bought this property years ago, the previous owners had abandoned two cats that we took responsibility for because it would have been unkind to do otherwise.  There was one we called Dash (because that's what he did best:  run away) and the other we called TUC (The Unknown Cat:  we knew we were feeding a second cat but it was years before we ever actually saw what he looked like because he avoided us so).  Dash eventually disappeared but TUC, after a decade on the run, finally became a much-loved kitty and we were devastated when he died of old age. 

But, before TUC went to his eternal reward, he bought us his wife and her kittens:  Gracie (a Russian Blue; ie Gray C[at]) and her three sons, Tiger (Maine Coon mix), Boris (in need of a tough name as the runt of the litter), and Bubba (dumb as a rock, poor dear, but a very good brother).  We cared for them all of their lives, too.

And there have been many, many, many others because people have had the awful habit of dumping unwanted animals in this neighborhood and many of them (mainly cats but also dogs, a rooster, geese, ducks, fowl, even a horse) have found their way to my door.  But it is most often the cats I've been able to care for:  Ebenezer and Moon and three following generations of their family.  Then there were Tinker, Winnie Esmeralda, Genevieve, Tom Good and Tuppence Dear, Peck, Ira Haze, Texas.....many, many, many.  I quit counting but I didn't quit naming.  Every cat needs to be called something, and the name should be kind wherever possible.

For the past couple of years, a pair of brother cats have been marauding the neighborhood and they've mainly pestered my good neighbors.  They call them the "beige" cats--true enough, they are beige.  I suspect that they are sons of Henry the Navigator, a lynx point Siamese who wandered the local landscape but never found a mooring.  Certainly the brothers bear some of the markers of the breed.

The good neighbors' cat Smokey and their new puppy Sandy are very accepting of one of the brothers but not the other.  The second brother is crippled in a hind leg and he fights viciously with any other animal--and reasonably so, if you think about it, because he has to work harder to protect himself, so he offends rather than defends.  Gotta admire a cat who makes the first strike to distract others from noticing he's in a poor position to win. 

Siamese were originally bred (as I understand it) to be temple guardians.  They are fierce fighters, even more than many cats are.  So the crippled kitty is within the breed profile as well as being within common sense of self-defense.  The neighbors call him Gimpy.

When I was talking to Mrs. neighbor the other day, she happened to mention that Gimpy was creating serious havoc with the puppy who utterly despises him (while casually ignoring his healthy brother).  That's when I admitted to Mrs. neighbor that I had, on a few occasions, put food out for the crippled kitty.  Now my good neighbors have mentioned that they would prefer I did not feed strays, so I have respected that wish and I have not fed any since they took my Texas to the pound (yes, he was being overly aggressive for territory and I did agree to this).  But I had not been able to ignore this lame beige kitty whom I'd find hungrily hunting through the vegetable peelings I toss into the undergrowth, so I took him a bowl of kibble sometimes.

Surprisingly this born-feral kitty seems somewhat calm with me.  At various times (even when not offering food) I have spoken to him and have made the appropriate feline signs of respect and liking.  He has never come near.  But he does happily empty the kibble bowl after he feels sure that I've walked far enough away.  Even more surprising is the fact that Mrs. neighbor approved of me taking over with this cat, so I agreed to make a project of him.

No pictures yet; that will take awhile.  Very probably a very long while, if ever.  I don't know if I can help this kitty.  But I do know one thing for certain:  I absolutely cannot and will not call him a derogatory name.  So, the other day, the crippled kitty became Byron (a name that seems apt if you know anything about the famous poet).  And, you know what, the cat approves.  When I speak that name, he lifts his head and looks me right in the eye. 

Welcome, Byron.
Life is good.
Let's hope it gets even better.