Day 6 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. It is too early to take a break and skip a post. I will plod on. Over the winter I had taken a beginner’s watercolour course. I learned that the foundation to a good painting is a good drawing. Therefore, my choice for #the100dayproject is to do a daily drawing. According to Malcolm Glaldwell, if you practice one skill for 10,000 hours, you’ll have a good chance at becoming an expert at it. I’ve done day 53 now. I haven’t counted how many hours I’ve put in. Somewhere in the last while I felt I made a somewhat breakthrough.
Practice does make for better. I started out doing everything so carefully, measuring and making a grid. I used a pencil and eraser. I wanted perfect. My drawings turned out well but I felt a bit stifled. I couldn’t start without my grid and measurements. This was the opposite of what I used to do. Before taking any classes, regardless of whether I was using watercolours or acrylics, I drew with my paint brush. No pencil and eraser. That made me scratched my head. I wondered how I did that. They weren’t great paintings but they weren’t terrible either. Some of them were actually pretty good for index card paintings.
I decided to give up the pencil and eraser. I did pen drawings. No eraser needed or of any use. No rulers, no measurements and no grid. I just put down a mark with my pen and away I go. I scratch here and there, adding lines. Somehow it all comes out ok. I astound myself sometimes. I guess I must have more confidence when I know I can’t erase. I better make good or know how to fix it so that it comes out ok. And adding some watercolour sure makes the drawing come alive. Besides putting in the hours of practice, it helps if you have good paint and good paper. And you have to love the object of your creation. When a photo grabs me, I know that I can draw it. Those photos usually hold a story or an emotion. They speak to me and spill onto the page in ink and colour.
It’s Saturday morning, September 25th. It’s sunny and warm – 17℃. I should be happy but I am quirky and irritated as hell. I am living in the moment of how it is. I had a restless sleep, waking up every couple of hours. Things creep under my skin, unwelcomed as they are. I am pissed at the ineptitude of our government, the stupidity, ignorance and selfishness of anti-maskers,anti-vacs and conspiracy theorists. How can we go from stringent restrictions for Covid to have them all lifted on July 11th? There was no easing in period to see what would happen. The outcome was quite predictable given that the variant was already in our midst and that it is much more contagious.
It is Sunday morning, September 26th. Another beautiful sunny day at 16℃. It is 20℃ in the greenhouse. It’s pretty fabulous for this time of the year. My cucumbers and bittermelons are thriving. I’ve lost count of how many and which of the little starting cukes I have pollinated. The tomatoes and peppers are still going strong. I am really surprised at all the new growth. This is my therapy room. I feel better the moment I step into it.
I am feeling a tiny bit more cheerful, having gone to bed super early last night. I had a good sleep the first 3 hours. Then it was awake every 2 hours. It’s like my body was on alert, waiting for something to happen. I’m not fretting over it. It is what it is. My kitchen drain is still not free flowing. I will give it till after the weekend and the bottle of enzyme is finished. A professional plumber might be in order. Somethings you can’t be stubborn about.
The other day I noticed how difficult it was for me to focus. I had trouble even looking at a flyer. I see the pictures but the information was not travelling to my brain. I’m buggered! I need to get my mind back. This time I am working on not going down the same old paths. They haven’t been too successful. I’m resisting looking for and reading another self-help book/video. What I need is action and practice. What do I need to do? What is my next step? What comes to mind is first is:
I need to clear my mind by: not multi-tasking, doing one thing at a time
stop wasting time scrolling through social media, googling for needless information
I think that these two things are enough for me to work on and chart on for this week. I will get better results if I am mindful and not overburdened. These last two mornings I am mindful, noticing that it doesn’t take any more time or energy if I put things back neatly where they belong instead of just tossing them to wherever. In fact it saves time and energy. A light bulb moment. I am a slow learner!
No two days and mornings are the same. I’m not the same any two days. I want to be full of vim and vinegar every day. I want to bounce out of bed every morning with joie de vivre. It’s not that I got out on the wrong side this morning. Not at all. I felt quite alright but then felt stuck after breakfast. I was very annoyed but somehow there was no flow. I felt the stagnancy and meaningless of things. Is it a by product of Covid-19? I’m tired of all the related news of numbers, cases, deaths, vaccines, anti-maskers, conspiracy theories. Round and round in endless circles.
Forgive me. I am just ranting, letting off steam. My brain got into a glitch. It got a little derailed. I was thinking too much. Nothing and everything changes at the same time. I wonder why that is. Enough thinking already. When there is no flow, I have to work to create it. Instead of sinking into despondency, I can make a gratitude list. Instead of thinking of what I don’t have, I can think of what I have. I can make a list of what I have done instead of feeling lazy and useless. I can fill my bucket with happy thoughts and moments. I can change my thoughts, therefore my feelings.
I can make it simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s a practice of pushing forward and onward for this 4th day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.
Wednesday and I am wandering the hallowed halls of learning. I feel more at ease amid the crowd of young people now than when I was young. I feel oddly out of place among my peers. Am I denying that I’m of age? Am I a wanna be? Seems like I’m always out of step with the world. I’m the sore thumb that sticks out.
Yes, I guess I do want to be a wanna be. That’s the reason for taking this class on Buddhism. I want to know how to be happy and content. I want to know how to go about the world, to feel peaceful with myself, to have a purpose, to be kind, generous, to have all those positive attributes and none of the flaws. I know that’s asking too much so I try to quell these desires and quiet my mind.
I wish that I could come to my keyboard a little earlier in the day. My mind would have been sharper. But it seems that I have to live my day before I could find the words. So now I try to do the best I can, to focus and impart the lesson I’ve learned, the jewel of my day.
I’ve noticed lately that I have terrible trouble with focusing. It’s been getting worse and worse. Sometimes I don’t hear or is it that I can’t listen? My mind is always somewhere else out there – even when I’m ‘meditating’. I realized today that I could use this class to bring my mind back – to this moment, to the classroom, to all what the professor is saying. It won’t be easy. I have to make it a practice.
It is late. Time to say good night to day 22 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.
Some days, I yearn for all my yesterdays when I was young and mellow. I like the idea of being starry eyed and hopeful with the whole future ahead of me. That’s what the adults tell us. Now, I am one of those adults. I do not have that whole future ahead of me. Instead I have the limited edition. Does that make it more valuable? Whatever and however it is, it’s best I use that time to spend it in meaningful joyous splendour instead of lamenting for yesterdays.
It’s easier said than done though. I have spent at least half my life time languishing and sighing like a helpless damsel in distress. Habits die hard. They surface and resurface like sewer from a manhole. It’s bit difficult to put a lid on it. I keep trying. My efforts have not been in vain. I have made progress, small but still rewarding enough to keep me on track. I am walking down a new street now and not the same one with the manholes.
Days have passed and I’ve neglected being here but I’m still on track. I’m being mindful – doing the practice and reading the manual, page by page, not skimming nor skipping ahead. I will probably have days when I will falter. I will probably have days when I will skip. But then that is the practice – coming back again and again when I do. I have not faltered with my Jesus stitches. I am making very good progress, stitch by stitch, day by day. That is all I can ask of myself.
When the conversation stops, it’s difficult to get it going again. That’s what I’m experiencing – here and in other places. I’ll see if I can get it going again. This stretch of October days has been sunny and warm. My energy and spirit have benefited. I’m doing more and complaining less. Hallelujah!
Having said that, I am feeling overcast by the news. Not watching or listening doesn’t make the bad stuff go away. It’s better to be informed than hiding my head in the sand. That way, I can make better decisions. It is not easy, though, to be in the here and now – watching the migrant caravan trying to gain entry into a better life, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the political scene and Donald Trump in the United States. None of it is uplighting. It is what is happening.
There seems to be so many things wrong in our world. It seems so wrong that so many people are living in abject poverty while the wealthiest one perfect of the world’s population owns more than half of the world’s wealth. It seems so wrong to build a wall to keep out the poorest and most suffering from having a chance to better their lives. It seems that we live such hippocritcal lives. While the world condemns Saudi Arabia on its human rights, the U.S., Canada and the UK still have arms deals with the country. Will they continue?
This is not the conversation I want to start but how could I not? I come from a country whose human rights record is questionable. I have my own personal memory bank of my native country’s violence. I remember the sound of a firing squad in my childhood. You cannot speak out against Chairman Mao. You cannot breathe a negative word to a wrong person. My mother had to be a witness to such an event. She kept her eyes on the ground, she said. The victim was a teacher who spoke out of turn.
My eyes tear at the memory now. Then, I was but a child with no understanding. It’s distressing that not much has really changed. But maybe it has. With the technology and communications today, we are aware of what is happening everywhere. It is not ‘over there’ anymore. It is here, right in our livingrooms. There is nowhere to hide anymore.
Conversations are difficult to start and maintain. The flow takes practice, practice and endless cups of tea. Solutions and relationships can be the outcome in the course of sipping tea and exchange of words and ideas. It does take effort and courage or foolishness. It could be the latter for me. I cannot live in silence of non response and proper ettiquette. I often speak without wisdom.
Another most beautiful Autumn morning. Yet, I feel the discomfiture of the season, or is it just me? I am a bit obsessed with sleep or rather the inability to sleep. It’s a bit of a vicious circle of chasing one’s tail. I’m trying to ‘chill’. That in itself is a bit of a tail chaser, if you know what I mean. I’ve decided my best course of action is to do what I do on a normal day – before all this tail chasing.
I’m not completely sleepless. I have been falling asleep. The trouble now lies in when nature calls. I wake up and tend to business. Coming back to bed I start to worry about getting back to sleep again. Sometimes I can still my thoughts of worrying and fall back to sleep. Last night I couldn’t. But I still got 5 hours. Good enough. That’s what I lived on mostly through 30 plus years of shift work. Tonight I will have my hot chocolate with nutmeg.
It was breakfast at 5 am with a bit of reading. Sheba came and nudged me for hers at 6. Soon enough it was time to head to the pool for my Saturday morning swim. In the pool, I’m reminded of how much progress I’ve made. I’m slicing through the water with my back crawl. So what it’s taken this many years? Malcolm Gladwell said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at a skill. I’ve spent only a fraction of that. I have time and room to improve.
Practice does make for better. I’ve spent the past year striving consciously to do something different every day to change – to see and feel differently, in a better way. It seems such a struggle and it never ceases. I guess it will one day but until then I drawn to struggle for the excellence of living. I wonder how many hours there are in a lifetime. How many areas of expertise can I achieve?
It’s been 2 months since I’ve last sat here. I’m fighting the urge to rise and make myself another cup of tea/coffee. It’s uncomfortable being in this space again, trying to tap, tap out the letters, words, thoughts. The space is bigger, wider. I’m a little lost, sloshing around, trying to find and touch the boundaries. I’m like the little seedlings starting out. They/I like the snugness of a small space. Our roots/limbs to feel the sides and edges. I like to think I’m more pliable though. I can s-t-r-e-t-c-h, reaching for the stars. I can grow. I have grown, haven’t I? There! Now I’ve earned that time out for that cuppa before continuing.
I have my cuppa decaf. Somehow I feel better having something to sip on. It’s better/healthier than a lit cigarette on an ashtray. That’s my old self – a cigarette before/while doing. That’s one way I have grown – physically healthier. I’m leaner and less mean, thanks to my three times a week aerobics class and a swim once a week. The mean part is mostly in my mind. I don’t think I’m a mean person but I always fault myself for not being kinder, for being such a grump and ranting so much. I still have those feelings sometimes. I no longer mind my inability to be ‘kinder’. I’m kinder to myself. I rant because I’m not one for status quo and don’t rock the boat. How can things improve that way? I’ll be like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, waking up to the same day, same tune on the radio every day.
I like to think I’m more conscious, being in the present moment. I like to think I’m more of a responder instead of a reactionary. That was/is my biggest goal. It has so many benefits. I’m not so angry or resentful. I sleep better. I have more creative energy but I have to tell you it is work every minute of the day. I remind myself – ok, don’t take that personally. Don’t fly off the handle. Breathe, observe and respond. It becomes easier with practice. Everything becomes easier and better with practice.
Practice makes for better. It’s a good place to stop. I like challenges. Everything is a challenge to me. And I grumble about the hardness of all that. But the grumbling is me trying to find that comfort zone, that snugness, the space to breathe in and out and to start again. What I know for sure is that we have to start – again and again, discarding what doesn’t work, keeping the good stuff.
It’s a bit cold here in our desert but we are soothed by its stillness and quietness. Our hearts are gladdened by the brillance of the sun. It beckons Sheba and I out the door and down that yellow brick road. It is not always paved with gold nor lined with friendliness.
We try to take things in stride – brave the chill, the rudeness and mean shouts behind our backs. We try not to respond in kind. But I did hold up evidence that we are responsible dog and dog owner. We pick up after ourselves. So what is your problem that you bang on your window and send your kids out to scream at us?
No matter. My temperature did not rise. I did not come undone. And there was a friendly witness who gave us smiles and Sheba many pats on the head. Jesus came to rescue us in the desert. He helps those who help themselves.
I am buoyed by my new found calmness. The hard work has paid off. I am nearing four weeks of practicing being in my body, in the now, accepting things as they are. My uncertainties and fears have lessened. I tremble no more. I am recovering parts of myself lost along life’s highways and byways. I will be finished the course when I come out of the desert. How sweet it is – NOW.
There is always something to be grateful for – even in anxiety and sleepless nights. You suffer in both, sometimes unbearably. Never a stoic, someone who can keep a stiff upper lip, I seek for relief relentlessly. It is no surprise that I have a whole library of self-help books. By now, I could write my own. I should start making notes. What I know for sure is, there is no permanent fix. But you can learn from each episode and make it easier for your next time. It’s still about doing your best and then letting go. Perhaps, you might find me too direct, up front and revealing. But what/who does that hurt – admitting that I am human and flawed? I am with you all in the milieu catastrophe of life.
In the middle of a sleepless angst, I rose from my bed one night and migrated to the kitchen. I made a cup of ginger tea and cuddled up under my Hudson’s Bay blanket with an old friend – Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. I’ve read it a time or two and have practiced some of the exercises in it. You know how we human beings are. When the going gets tough, we are so serious and dedicated. Once the crisis is over, we stray and then abandon the practice altogether – till the next time.
This is my next time. I’m doing the practice again – of sitting and watching my breath for 15 minutes. The first time was not too bad, being the first. I was full of resolve. I can do anything in that state. I felt some discomfort the 2nd time. My thoughts strayed. I wanted to water the plants. I wanted to make soup. I wanted to get out of my skin! I breathed and felt the rise and fall of my belly. The 15 minutes passed.
Today is my 3rd day. The 15 minutes are easier. The mind wanders. I accept it. It is what it is. I have 4 more days to complete the week. Then it is 7 more weeks, working up to 45 minutes of formal meditation, of watching my breath. Can I do it? Yes! Yes! Yes! It is worth the effort to come out from under the thumb of my misfiring mind. If I don’t try, it won’t happen. I can always do my best, whatever it is on any given day.
Miraculously I am myself again. It is as if someone has put the patches on my chest and defibrillated me. I am at ease. It is as if it never happened. It’s like a bad dream, a nightmare. I shake my head and wonder what the hell had happened. It matters not. I pick myself up, dust myself off and truck on down the road. Life goes on. So do I – not quite an EverReady battery.