These last days of 2020 seem the hardest. It’s a good reason to return to the keyboard – to put words onto the page instead of getting lost in my emotions. Be here. Be now. I try not to give myself a hard time. It is cloudy and oppressive. I stand up, pick up and straighten a few things. I look out and see the children playing outside at the daycare, one house over. It is good to see and feel their energy. I put the kettle on. I damp mop the livingroom and kitchen in the meantime. I make a cup of black instant decaf. I welcome the change of taste.
There, I’ve gotten a hold of myself! I didn’t let myself drift off into the wave of what should I call it – lassitude, boredom, listlessness, anxiety, hopelessness, depression? A medley, a stirfry of negative energy/emotions. I think I’m just being human. Who can honestly say that they haven’t been feeling any of these? Perhaps it is an overworked phrase but we are in hard times. We’re in the muck of Covid-19. It is not the first in the history of the planet. It’s only one of many but it could be the beginning of the end of us. So let us learn from it, shall we?
There’s no use crying over spilt milk or locking the barn door after the horse is gone. We must work together to make our world healthier and safer. How will you contribute? The first step forward is not to deny we have a problem. I have done that. The next step for me is not to feel hopeless and defeated by my and our world’s problems. There are good days, not so good ones and then there will be bad days. No two days are equal. But I can choose to do my best for the day I’m in. I can trade up with one paperclip at a time.
It is afternoon. The day is still cloudy as can be. I have managed to stirfry something for lunch, do the dishes and make a list for my errands. I could not find my car or house keys. My head is as heavy as lead. No point in a desperate search. I used the guy’s keys. At Freshco I picked up my prescription and a few things for my mother and myself. It was a long wait at the cashier line. Someone was having a coupon issue. I waited with patient forbearance. I was silent behind my mask, breathing in and out. I was through in due time. I did a little meandering through the mall in search of something. Strange to see a coffeeshop with tables removed and bottles of sanitizer on an empty table. Strange to see people having coffee in such surroundings.
It is now late afternoon. My mother was happy with my delivery – super fresh daikon, pasta, bananas, grapes, pasta and 2 Hawaiian pizzas. I took her some of my baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and cookies, too. She was delighted with the steamed Chinese buns I gave her over Christmas. She said that if I added a bit of sugar to the dough, it would be just perfect. There was a time when it was my mother who gave me home cooked stuff. And I couldn’t say no. Now the shoe is on the other foot.
It is the day before Christmas and not a preparation have I made. Perhaps this year I have stripped off all vistage of the holy season. I am bare naked, without pretense. Aren’t we all this year? Is it such a terrible state to be in? I feel that now that I am bare bone, I can start to cloth/build myself in truths instead of lies and hoaxes. I hope you don’t think I’m being blasphemous. I am not anti God. I am not anti anything. I am back in the desert searching for myself. I have left it for too long.
So now it is Christmas Day and it is almost over. How can you tell I have short attention span? It’s been really short these days. My mind is going every which way. I feel this inner restlessness and agitation. It is not the best time for deep philosophical diggings like what is the meaning of Christmas or do I believe in God. Maybe those answers will reveal themselves in quieter times. For now let’s just chill, which is just what we did last night. We went for a moonlight ski after supper and a glass of chokecherry wine. It was a beautiful night. The streets were quiet and lit up. Everyone was home. We could see them through the windows. I heard It Came Upon a Midnight Clear playing in my head.
It was the best thing that we did. We had the park almost to ourselves except for a father and his kids tobogganing on the hill. It was beautiful and serene in the dark of the evening. We had enough lighting from the street lights, the houses around and the headlights on our toques. It was good to rest those serious troublesome thoughts of mine. I was busy concentrating on the physical act of staying upright on two sticks. I am getting better and more confident. I will never become a fast or an olympic skier. But I am learning to have fun. I will leave my deep thoughts and writing for another day.
My friend thinks I have tenacity. That is true and good in some cases but not so in others. I really love the challenge of developing a physical skill that I don’t have a natural ability for. I feel such an envy and yearning when I see how easefully someone can hop on a bicycle and ride off, even a young child. Meanwhile, I had to struggle and struggle to master the confidence and skill to be at ease. Perhaps the struggle is the draw. I do not like easy, not even crossword puzzles.
Today I felt I was actually skiing and not just shuffling along. It’s a glorious feeling to finally feel the flow. Just to be clear, I’m not flying along by any means, but I have the feel of being comfortable on two sticks. I was pushing and gliding some at a good pace for me. I made it around the loop and back 2 times. I am making progress. Practice makes for better.
So that was yesterday. My thoughts do not flow so easily or smoothly sometimes. My fingers hesitate and stutter on the keyboard. I’m okay with it. I’m being more mindful, paying more attention. I’m not running off at the mouth without thinking and feeling. I’m taking the time to know the whys and wherefores of my feelings and actions/inactions. I learn that it is what self care means. I have to clear my inner clutter before I can clear my outer one. I have to quiet my outer chatter before I can quiet my inner one. I’m working hard on all fronts but not too hard. And that is called self compassion.
I am still very much a novice at self care. I get easily distracted by anything. I’ve just come back to the keyboard from a wild goose, time wasting chase. The important thing is I came back. I’m going into week 4 of Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s A Year to Clear. I’m still with it, a day/one paperclip at a time. Slow is good. It gives me time for the habit to take hold. I’m still reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, page by page, chapter by chapter. I am resisting the urge to skim, to read ahead. I’m practicing savouring, experiencing and feeling it all. So far, so good. I have this impatience, to race ahead to the heart of the matter, paying little heed to all the details leading up to it. I don’t like to take the time to cross my t’s and dot my i’s. I don’t bother to savour my coffee/tea/wine.
I’m taking time to bother now. I will make a grand adventure of it. I have made a start. It feels good to have space and order to work in. It is relaxing not to have to dig through piles to find something. I feel wonderful and in control when I clean up and put things away after I’m finished working on a project. I can. I can. I have the tenacity. My heart wants spaciousness.
Feeling kind of flat another blogger wrote. I’m feeling that way, too. I can’t blame it all on Covid-19 though. The feeling comes upon me now and then, for whatever reason. I will not exert myself trying to find the reason. It comes with the mysteries of being alive. I will bear it and get with the program. But I am really irked and bombed out with all anti-mask and conspiracy theories and rallies in our city lately. I will try to tap it out of my system.
I have alot to get out of my system. I feel stressed just ordering supper online. We decided that we would do Christmas meal early this year since our Chinese restaurant is closed from December 22 onward, not opening till the 26th. I have trouble deciding from the menu. We’re taking some of the food over to my parents. Will this or that be ok? Too spicy? Too tough? Too many meat dishes? Etc. Etc. I sound like the Yul Bryner in the King and I. That wasn’t the only decision and order I had to make online today. But I got it all done. I also ordered the New Balance Sports Slip 900 walking shoes after much hemming and hawing. I have bad feet. They need support and my slippers gave none.
You can see that decisions or shall I say indecision can cause a lot of angst and anxiety. It eats up alot of time, too. I feel a bit besides myself after this workout. A ski would have been much more beneficial and enjoyable. I skipped another day – to rest my feet. But I shall resume tomorrow. The guy went this morning. He informs me that, indeed, the city had groomed a trail in our neighbourhood park. So Santa does exist after all. Shame on me for being such a humbug. I felt even more contrite listening to the story of the Amazing Kreskin on CBC radio. Did you know that he sends out thousands of Christmas cards every year? If you make it onto his list, you will keep getting them forever as this CBC radio producer has. This is a much nicer story than the ones about Covid-19, anti-maskers and the cospiracy theories.
Talking about masks, I’ve made my second one. It was much easier than my first but the elastic part still poses difficulty. Practice does make better. I shall make a few more, varying cloth patterns. I don’t think we can discard them any time soon, seeing the numbers for today is still high – 3 deaths and 226 new cases. I know, it’s just a hoax. I wonder what the Brits say about that. I bet no one is laughing.
Postscript: Supper is over. The food was delicious. But it was still hard – picking up and wiping off everything. Then dividing out the dishes and taking them over to my mom’s. It was worth it though. At least I tried and it gave my parents something to look forward to. I do understand why it is so difficult for some people to mobilize themselves to do something, anything. It is damned hard from get go – deciding that I would do this supper for my parents. Then phoning them because then I am committing. And THEN I had to make good my offer. This kind of thing will be hard for me forever. It would be easy not to do anything. I will continue to do something forever because I am a living being.
The other day I wondered why I am still so caught up with all my stupidity on my clutter. I have been retired for 7 years and I am still writing on and on about the same things. When am I going to stop? It feels rather bizarre. I feel my life unlived. I need to stop. Right now! I can hear Caroline Myss‘ voice shouting. Stop it, right now! But you know that I won’t. I have committed a year to doing Stephanie Vogt’s A Year to Clear.
I haven’t made great progress. I am taking those ‘baby steps’, a phrase I hate with a passion. Let me rephrase it to little steps. No point in using words and phrases I do not like. It is important how we talk to ourselves. It could make or break us. I AM making progress. I feel my path clearing before me. It’s like being on the ski track. I am getting to be a better skier, too. Not speed wise though. I’m still mincing along, like a Chinese maiden of yore, on bounded feet. I’m using less effort and steadier, though I did tumble straight off today. I landed flat on my back. My head thudded in my soft snow.
Our failures lies not in our falls but in not getting up. I rolled onto my side. Got my skis out from underneath me. Bent my knees toward my chest and got up almost gracefully. It is very satisfying rising with my boots still attached to my skis and my feet in my boots. Hooray, I am risen! I will have to practice in leaning forward more. I am still falling straight back, right on top of my skis. Amazing! And the day was so beautiful, the trees casting shadows in dappled sunlight on the snow. The dogs across the back alley barked as we circled around the park. I did my usual 2 to the guy’s 7.
It is almost the end of the day. I am tapping and waiting for supper. My sourdough chocolate chip cookies are in the oven after the roast came out. It’s not the baking and roasting that is labourous. It’s the dishes and cleaning up after. I did a whole mess of washing dishes, pots and pans today. I made Chinese steamed buns this morning. Then there was lunch and the cookies. I try not to think of how much work or time it all takes. I said to myself, OK, it’s a process. Do one thing at a time. There is no rush. No need to count how much you have accomplished. It works pretty good. I got into a flow, washing one dish, then two, a pot, a pan and so on.
Now I need to set an intention to sew another mask tomorrow. I have the pattern and material ready and set out.
I think I am uncomfortable with the emptiness of spaciousness. Hence all my clutter. It’s not that I am a hoarder. It’s not that my house is jammed full of stuff. I have pockets of stuff here and there. My desk, diningroom table, sewing table, coffee tables…There’s a common theme here. Tables! Things do not get thrown out or put away. I have an inability of finishing tasks. They are sitting out, waiting for me to come back. It is the same way with a trip. I love the tripping but I don’t want to get to the end. It’s when I get there, what will I do? That is the discomfort, the emptiness, the unknown. Then the unknown is forced upon me because a trip does end.
How silly is that fear and whence did it come? There are no answers to some questions so I shall not waste time mulling it over. I let the feeling come and work through it. Now when I start something, I try to finish it in a reasonable timeline. I work on it with simple tasks. When the dishes are done, I dry and put them away. I hang up the laundry after it is finished. When it is dried, I take them down, fold and put them away. I haven’t made great strides but I do feel a change. It took a lot of effort at first. The inclination to leave things for ‘later’ was so strong. It’s much easier than. There’s almost a pleasure in completing a job and doing it well.
I have the same aversion to ’empty time’, too. It is uncomfortable/strange to do nothing. I am always doing something, reading, writing, drawing, cooking…..It’s not that I can do nothing now. I just do fewer things. I do things slower. I make more time for slow walks, slow baths, sleeping in a bit. I’m getting back to more how I used to be. I used to be able to sit, sip tea and just listen to CBC radio and do nothing else. There was time for my brain to rest. There was time for me to feel the pleasure of just being. Now I am almost afraid of empty time and spaciousness. It is time for recovery and retrieval.
I’m in my irked and frustration mode this morning. I am comforted by Stephanie Vogt’s (of A Year to Clear) confession that she is a pack rat. In other times, I would have dismiss her ability to help people to clear and declutter their lives. Now I know that personal experience not only looks good on a resume. It actually works. You have to be there to truly know the whys and wherefores. I love the sentence: Yes, clearing even a single paper clip or hairball has the potential to change our lives. It certainly does! It reminds me of the one red paperclip story of Kyle MacDonald. He started with one paperclip and traded up to a house in one year’s time.
I’ve tapped away some of my ill feelings. It’s a good way of starting the day. Sometimes I’m held hostage by my emotions. I have nobody to blame but myself. I can choose/change – an action, emotion. It’s up to me. I’m holding myself accountable. It’s not always easy but I can build up my resilience, one paperclip at a time. I’m working on slowing down my brain by reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I remember having read it during one lonely hot summer when I was in high school. We didn’t have a library in town. I bought it in the town drugstore. You can guess there was a dearth of selection. Why a drugstore carried Charles Dickens was hard to fathom.
It was a difficult read. I’m not sure I grasped the story at all but one cannot forget the opening and closing lines. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. ‘ Then there’s Madame Defarge. I only remember her name. I don’t know what peaked my memory and interest at this time. Where do thoughts and memories come from? At any rate, I am surprised to find I am enjoying the read. It has much more substance and the English is far, far better than my usual thrillers. It is also calming for my brain. I hope it is growing new dendrites.
I think my brain has reached its maximum work capacity for today. We put in time downstairs, clearing a few paperclips on my sewing table. It was hard work. I didn’t know where to start. I had to be the coach and the athlete. Start here! Do one thing. Then another. Believe you me, I had a thundering headache after but also a sense of accomplishment. Tomorrow will be easier. And maybe this summer we can drive out to Kipling and see the famous red paperclip and the house that is now a cafe.
We are getting into the heart of December. The nights are longer and darker. I slept in to almost 8 am. My blackout curtains and all the fresh air from cross country skiing are helping, too. The sun is out, pale and cool. It is -11 Celsius outside and -6.1 in the greenhouse. It is almost 10:30. I think I have given up on having homegrown lettuce for now. I might just stick my tray of lettuce seedlings under grow lights. If I’m really keen, I can investigate the hydroponic Kratky Method. I could have lettuce in 5 weeks. Better yet, I should just stop fussing and use this time to rest, read, ski and all that leads to self care and rejuvenation. I should take the lead from the bears and ‘hibernate’ through winter and wake up, hungry for life and adventures. In this case, hibernation is the feeding of my soul.
I am heeding my own advice, not fussing too much. It is almost 7 pm. I am waiting for supper. We eat like the French – late. I took a rest from skiing today. My parents have been on my mind. I took out some Chinese books for them from our public library a few days ago. It’s easier to visit when I have something to give them. It’s easier to have a reason. It’s difficult to just drop by these days. I’m out of the habit, thanks to Covide-19. It’s good news that the government have approved the vaccine and that it is due in Saskatchewan by mid December. I’m not so sure that we will get out of the woods just like that though.
I shall not dwell on that but on things that I can do. I am entering week 2 of Stephanie Vogt’s A Year to Clear. She begins it with an old Sious saying: The longest journey you will make in your life is from your head to your heart. It is so true. Self confessions are the hardest. Posting a photo of myself when I was about 7/8 for Susannah Conway’s December Reflections, I felt the child in me for the first time. It was a very strange, wondrous and homecoming moment. My insides cried for the child that was me, for not having known her then and for not being with her. But I can rejoice now. I have found her. December is a good month to get acquainted. We are in darkness. There are no distractions.
These may not be the best of times. It certainly is the strangest of times. Most of all, it is the only time we have. I’m trying to find a way to make the most of it. I’ve been a little frustrated, irritated, a little angry, a little up and a little down, feeling the whole kaleidoscope of emotions. Today I’m feeling more at ease and relaxed. I’ve come through the clouds though it is a cloudy day. No sun at all but it is a mild December day. It is -1 degrees Celsius. It is cooler in the greenhouse, -1.6.
I’ve been frustrated with my clutter, my inefficiency. It seems I’ve been working at it for years. Or have I? I’m probably just spinning in my tracks, going nowhere. I have Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s A Year to Clear on my Kindle app. Maybe it’s time for me to open it and follow it daily. The chapters are in weeks and within days. Surely I can tackle a single day at a time. It will be good training for my errant brain. I really have difficulty concentrating and doing things step by step in order. I often skip the middle of the book and read the ending. I am impatient. I can’t tolerate/enjoy the whole process. Often I don’t make it back to read the whole story.
I’m practicing on being more patient, tapping slowing and patiently on my keyboard. Sometimes my thoughts race ahead of my fingers. It’s torture to proofread but I will start to do that from now on. I’m good at figuring out computer glitches. I tap here and there until everything works. I can’t tell you how or why though. That’s what my brain is like – a mess of synapses snapping away. Order inside and out is what I desire. I will put that down on my list on my Notes app.
The day has progressed into evening. I will shut it down soon. I have opened A Year to Clear. I will take the time to work through the days and weeks. I am taking this week to relax into the process and to reflect on what it is that I want to clear and what to keep. It is not just about stuff. My mind is as cluttered as my dining room table. I will take it slow and easy. I have a whole year ahead.
The prompt today for Susannah Conway’s December Reflections is: on my wish list. It caused me pause for reflection. Have I ever wished for anything? None that I can remember for eons and eons. Oh yes, There was a time when I was young with hormones and desires. I think I yearned for romance but not with a house, picket fence and kids. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them. They just hadn’t enter my mind. Neither did I think about how to get the romance. I just wished and sighed. It took some time for me to realize that nothing comes out of just wishing and a-hoping.
As I’ve said before, I wasn’t born into the Christmas and Santa Claus story. I’ve never had a wishlist. I don’t have one now. It would be a good exercise for me to make a list of what I really, really want. It would be really, really tough. It was easier when I was a child. I wanted to ride a bicycle. I wanted to learn how to swim. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t then. Maybe it was because we were new immigrants and didn’t have enough money. But in high school my dad bought me a blue 1954 Ford. It had an automatic transmission. I was not a good driver. I kept flooding it. A bicycle would have given me more joy.
I guess I did put those 2 items on my adult wishlist. I’ve learned to ride a bike and how to swim. I am not excellent at them but now have a few bikes and bathing suits. Having a list isn’t all that important. Knowing myself is. I’m not interested in acquiring things as much as I want to acquire skills. Cross country skiing wasn’t on top of any list. They’ve been in my closet for 30 some years. I wasn’t really itching to bring them out. The guy brought them out into open. I said I would give them a try.
The snow fell and fell and the Covid-19 numbers climbed and climbed. Sunday’s Covid stats was pretty scary – 4 deaths and 415 new cases. Today’s – 1 death and 274 new cases. It’s best to stay out of the gym and into the park. Staying upright on those 2 sticks gave me a sense of purpose. Falling down is no humiliation. Getting up is a triumph. I feel like Rocky/Sylvester Stallone on skis. I’m not gliding smoothly along – yet. It is something to work toward. Having goals/wishlist is most desirable in maintaining mental health.
I’m happy to return to this space to tap out a few words, ideas and maybe some inspiration. It’s very grounding to put thoughts to words and to see them march across the screen. Nothing can happen in a vacuum. Action is needed. You need to rub 2 stones to create a spark which can light a fire.