Monthly Archives: December 2007

A New Year

So here it is.  The dawn of a new year. Time for reflection, time for setting goals, time to clean out the file cabinet and set aside the old year.

2007 was a good year.

We got a dog, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Her name is Jook, and she is a great companion. sleepyjook.jpgI call her my treadmill, and we actually went for a run yesterday. She’s goofy and a lot of fun.

We took some good trips: to visit family in Weeki Wachee and Key West Florida, I went to Tucson for a weekend, and to Lopez Island. Al went fishing in Canada and duck hunting in Montana, and we both spent some time on the Rogue River. We also went to Whidbey Island for a writing conference and to Bainbridge Island for some quality goofing off.

My daughter and her boys moved back to Oregon, much to my delight, and identical twin grandsons were born to my son and his wife.

I got my BA degree and began graduate school.

Work has been good for me, and retirement has been good for Al.

My mom died, of course. That wasn’t a highlight of the year, but it certainly was significant.

On Tuesday I will clean out the filing cabinets, and finish–as much as possible–the financial updatings for the tax year, box it all up and have fresh file folders ready for 2008. This is one of my favorite rituals of the year.

And speaking of the new year, we’ve got some good things slated. A trip to Hawaii, first, to get out of the Oregon rain and into the warmth and sunshine. I’ll go back to Tucson for a weekend to visit my friend Maggie. Al and I are going to explore Alaska in September, and of course he has his usual jaunts to Canada and Wisconsin to hunt muskies and to Montana to hunt ducks. I expect our health to stay good and our gratitude for so many things–but especially that–to grow every day.

And now, to the real question: Resolutions.

I hate resolutions. I could aspire to a lot of things that I’m not and have never been. All I can do is my best every day, and so that is my resolution. To be me, every day.

And that’ll be good enough.

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Keeping My Balance

Keeping balance in my life has always been a challenge.

I either overcommit or I have too much free time. I either eat too much or not enough. I either exercise too much or not enough. I either… well, you get the idea.

In some areas, I’ve learned moderation. For long projects–writing a novel, for example–I cannot sprint. Slow and steady. One word after another. One page after another. Two pages per day if that’s all I can manage without outpacing my creativity. Some people lock themselves away and emerge three months later, sweaty and disheveled, manuscript in hand. I can’t do that, nor do I want to be that type of person. I’d rather get up, do my page count and live the rest of my day as a normal person.

But in other areas, I find balance to be very difficult. It’s easier to be balanced when the husband and the dog depend on me for certain things at certain times.  During the holidays my time is so carefully scheduled that balance is easy to maintain. There’s no room for imbalance.

But today? Too many options. Too much free time.

I remember a co-worker one time talking about frittering away every morning, which was why she was habitually late to work. I couldn’t imagine it. I was, and am, neurotically punctual. To be anything else is an insult to whoever is left waiting.

But now… now I’ve learned the art of frittering, and need to rein that in a little bit.

Don’t I? Or have I earned the right to fritter for the first time? Can I just idly play computer games or sit and do nothing but stare at the wall?

Maybe I’m afraid that my frittering will get out of control. And for me, that’s a valid fear, since I’ve always had a problem maintaining balance.  But maybe that’s what I’ve needed all this time, too, just a little free time alone to… waste.

Hmmm…. Seems naughty.

I might try it.

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Filed under Discipline, time, Writing

A shoe confession

I bought Birkenstocks.

I have lived in Eugene for 22 years, and have regularly made light fun of the tie-dye wearing, patchouli-oil scented, Birkenstocks-wearing Eugene woman in her denim jumper.

And now I wear Birkenstocks. I can’t believe I ever even tried them on, but once I did, I never wanted to take them off. I bought them last summer (see? It’s taken me this long to come out of the closet about it) and I said, “People wear these without socks?!?” Well, yes. All summer long I wore them without socks and my feet were never so happy.

Now that it’s winter, my dilemma is that I don’t have enough cute socks to wear with them.  My sock drawer is full of white sports socks that I wear with my tennis shoes.

But slowly… ever so slowly… I’m beginning to acquire some nice Birkie socks. And then, when I cleaned out my mom’s dresser, I found three pair of adorable hand-knit socks that I knit and gave her years ago when I was on a sock-knitting kick. I don’t think she ever wore them.

The problem for all Eugene Birkenstocks wearers, is, of course, the Oregon rain. I go back to my old standby tennis shoes, because I hate getting the toes of my socks wet. I’m sure there is a closed-toe style, but I’m not ready to be one of those Eugenians who has a whole closet full of Birkenstocks. One pair at a time.

Baby steps, as they say. One foot in front of the other.

One finely-shod foot, I might add.

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Podcasts – My New Favorite Thing

I love podcasts.

For those of you who aren’t in on it yet, (and I’m a sore late comer to the whole digital revolution, myself) here’s the deal: Go to iTunes and download the iTunes program. It’s free.

Once on your computer, the world is yours. You can copy all those CDs collecting dust in the living room to your computer. Then you can sell all those old dust-catching CDs that you bought years ago on Half.com and get rid of them. Now that all the songs you want are on your computer, you can make CDs to listen to in the car that don’t include all those tracks you hate. You can buy songs from iTunes for $.99 each instead of buying the whole damn CD that includes all those tracks you don’t want. You can buy a lot of other stuff on iTunes that I don’t know about yet, because I have an old iPod, not one of the fancy video ones.

I do love my iPod, though, especially when I’m on the treadmill at the gym or working in the garden. Sometimes I want to rock out (Queen!), sometimes I want to listen to something soft (Aaron Neville), but lately I’ve been listening to free podcasts of This American Life, Car Talk, and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. These, and a zillion other podcasts are free! One of the last real bargains in the world.

I love NPR. Love it. We listen to Morning Edition for at least an hour every morning before getting out of bed. True, we tend to snooze through most of it, but we get lots of good information that way. We especially like Weekend Edition.

Anyway, that’s the only time I listen to the radio, so I miss all the good shows, like the aforementioned. Well, now I can subscribe to their podcasts via iTunes. They download automatically, and then I can put them on my iPod or burn a CD so I can listen to them in my car.

Heaven.

Today I got a $50 gift certificate to iTunes. Yay! One of my favorite gifts! I’ve already bought David Sedaris’ latest book, downloaded it and written it to disk so I can listen to it in my car. Tomorrow I’ll buy a couple of K.T. Tunstall songs, and then Al and I will go shopping online for more. Probably another book to listen to.

My favorite audio books so far have been “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (not for you, Margaret, it would give you frightmares), and “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. Both riveting adventures. But those, you have to buy.

Podcasts.  One of life’s little digital pleasures.

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Out of the fog

Whoa. I’ve been some place weird.

I got annoyed about something last Wednesday — that’s over a week ago — and the annoyance just would not go away. I can’t even remember what I was annoyed about. But I didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to answer the phone, didn’t want to work, didn’t want to play with the dog. I didn’t want to do anything except be alone and be annoyed.

Is that depression?

The concept of being depressed is pretty foreign to me. I mean I’ve seen short glimpses of it, but hoo boy, if that’s what I went through last week, I want no part of it. And why did it come on me like that?

Pressure, I’m certain, was part of it. I had a 30-page research paper to do, the holidays are here, and I was behind because I devoted six weeks to my mother. So I was backed up on everything and stressed to the max because of it. One by one, those things began to resolve themselves (the tree is up, the paper is in the mail, the shopping is done, work is caught up, I’m back to the gym, etc.) and each time I ticked something off my list, my mood lightened.

And then there’s also the possibility that this was a little residual grief. It appears that just because the tears are no longer standing by, ready to gush at any inappropriate (or appropriate) moment, doesn’t mean that the process is finished. Grief is amazing.

Anyway, I’m back.

And look! It’s Christmas!

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Filed under Stress, The Holidays

Fragmented energies

I need to get my mind right about the holidays.

In a normal year, I really enjoy Christmas because I keep it low key, I’m organized and well prepared, I can enjoy shopping because I do it early and keep it conservative. Christmas cards are fun to write and fun to get–they’re little kisses on the cheek to and from friends I rarely see.

This year, I’m out of control. I devoted the last six weeks to my mother, and now I’m behind on everything and freaking out. I have Christmas cards in four different places in the house, in four different stages of completion, and can’t seem to find the time to coordinate and consolidate. I have a paper due for school, and the almost-finished first draft does not hold together and makes no sense. I’m behind schedule in work. My house is a wreck. My dog no longer gets walked regularly and I’ve put on weight. I have obligations that I have had to slide on, and all that makes me grumpy.

The holidays are prime territory for an alcoholic to go crazy. I learned in AA that Thanksgiving, Christmas,  and New Year’s are just days on a calendar. There’s no need to go overboard. I took that advice to heart, and I have never gone overboard. I fix a nice Christmas dinner (for only 9 adults this year — that’s no big deal), give little gifts to everybody (mostly cash this year — everybody needs it, it’s one-size-fits-all, and nobody needs more junk), and put up minimal decorations.

It’s just that I need another month before Christmas arrives, so I can catch up on everything.

Life isn’t going to slow down after Christmas, either. Well, Al will go hunting with my brother, so that will give me some alone time and I will probably make progress on all fronts, but then winter term starts, and I’ll have two more papers to write, there’s our winter vacation, and then tax time, and then, and then, and then…

No, I’m not going to get more time, so I need to get my mind right.

I need to understand that devoting six weeks to my mother and her affairs was the right thing to do and the top priority.  I regularly get Christmas cards from unorganized friends into the New Year and I don’t mind. If that happens to be me this year, so be it. Christmas is a season to be enjoyed, not endured, and if I’m enduring and not enjoying, then I need to spend a little more time contemplating the reason for the season. The paper will get written — good grief, I can write a little research paper. I just need to carve out the right amount of time and get it done.

What I really need to do first, right now, is get organized. My lists have lists and I don’t do well with that.

So my resolution for today is to take an hour and get myself organized. I’ll consolidate my lists, put everything first into perspective and then into priority. I’ll enlist Al’s help in a calm and appreciative way, and then I’ll put my head down and take down these tasks, one at a time.

Nobody knows how many Christmas celebrations we have left. As I well know, those sitting at the dinner table change every year. This year my mom’s chair will be empty, but then we’ll be enjoying the twins for their first Christmas.

I really don’t want to lose this celebration to my own silly craziness.

So I won’t.

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Justifying a Resentment

I have a big ol’ nasty resentment.

I’ve carried it for a couple of years now. I know that I shouldn’t have resentments, and in fact, my twelve-step program says that I run the risk of getting drunk over a resentment.

But it is just too juicy to let go. Every time I feel wicked, I conjure up this resentment and chew on it for a while. I imagine all types of scenarios when I confront this person and let ‘er rip. I have the power to make that person feel small. To cry. To feel bad for ever.

Tasty.

But then as I drove home last night, a hundred miles through a raging rain and windstorm, I realized that I would never confront that person, because to do all those wonderful/horrible things of my fantasy imagination would be injurious. And purposefully injuring someone–justified or not–isn’t in keeping with my idea of living a spiritual life.

It spreads no joy. It bears no spiritual fruit. It is, in fact, anathema to my life’s purpose.

So I’ve given it up. If I’m never going to do the damage I so ached to inflict, what’s the purpose of carrying around the resentment?

What makes this blog-worthy to me is that I would risk 27 years of sobriety over this stupid resentment (a small risk, and yet…), but when I realized that holding onto it not only retards my spiritual progress, but might, in some small way, retard the spiritual progress of our planet, I suddenly found it easy to let this resentment go.

I am much lighter today.

And I have started to think about that person in a completely different way, too. That can’t help but be a good thing. 

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Filed under Joy, relationships, Resentment