Monday, June 29, 2015

Mindfulness and the heat

At the beginning of our current seemingly endless heat wave, I was in much cooler San Jose at a workshop. I was distressed to see on the weather app on my phone that brutal heat was coming our way. Like most Portlanders, I don't have air conditioning. Typically we get a heat wave about every six or seven years and it lasts 3 or 4 days. That's about the same frequency as we get a lasting snow storm.

But this was looking serious: 90s as far as they could predict, or worse. I mentioned this to my friend Margaret, also from Portland, who was at breakfast with me. She listened to me and then said, "But you're here now and it's quite cool and comfortable. You're okay in this moment."

I love how she reeled me in from future projection back into my present moment.

I did come home to heat. This is day 8 of it with 7 more forecast but I'm holding to Margaret's advice. At this moment, in my home, it's about 80. I have a fan blowing on me and I'm quite comfortable. I'm okay in this moment. And that's the only moment there is.   

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Another impact of tidying up

A number of years ago, I learned the term drainers from author Cheryl Richardson for those projects we never get around to. The name comes from the feeling we get when we see those projects. "Ah, yes," we say, "I should do that one of these days" and the energy to do so just drains right out of us.

One of the side effects of the Marie Kondo tidying up process has been having the drainers I still have become more obvious. When you have a lot of clutter in your visual field, it's easy to pass right over the things that need repair or attention. But when that clutter has all been discarded or put away, those drainers are much more evident.

For me, this is a good thing. I want to free up the energy that's stuck in those messy computer cords, the bags of stuff to go in the car to Goodwill, that  purse that needs repairing. I'd like to be drainer-free one of these days soon. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This explains a lot-- Part II

Zeldin's comment, which I posted a few days back, has really stuck with me. Freedom is tiring and trying and most people can't sustain it. They fall back into some form of slavery because it is safer and easier. While this may sound counter-intuitive, it makes a lot of sense to me. There are many forms of slavery and in our culture, many of them show up as addiction.

We are enslaved to shopping, to TV, to eating, to drink or drugs--all to avoid the difficulties of being free. We are enslaved to debt, to safe, low-paying jobs, to abusive partners. I find myself struggling with the idea of having no big problem. I've had some of form of active addiction for so long that to imagine life free of that is very, very difficult. I know the answer lies in embracing the challenges of freedom. Something to think about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If you've read my latest novel...

When Your Mother Doesn't, I'd very much appreciate a review on amazon. While amazon is controversial for some of us, having a lot of strong reviews is really helpful not only for sales but for my editor to convince her boss to buy more of my writing.

Here's the amazon link: 

And if you haven't read When Your Mother Doesn't, here's a link to the first chapter:

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Taking August off and practicing now

After some conversations with my more regular clients, I've decided to take August off from paid work. This is a very radical step for me, as I am a workaholic and not in a fun way. Work and productivity have been central to my identity as long as I can remember.

My mother taught us a Puritan work ethic: work was noble and valuable, as was being financially independent. Idleness was suspect. Life was happier if you kept really busy. As a child, you don't realize your parents have their own demons to avoid in the best way they can and that they pass on those forms of avoidance.Boredom and anxiety are two of my demons, and work and more work have been successful ways to keep them at bay.

On the advice of a couple of my friends, I have begun practicing for August. A leisurely Sunday afternoon spent on my porch swing with a good book and petting Mr. Sam. Stopping work at 5 pm on a weekday. Not getting on email first thing in the morning. Showing up for work projects at 10 instead of 8 in the morning. I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

An Intimate History of Humanity

I'm in the middle of reading Theodore Zeldin's An Intimate History of Humanity, a fascinating book published in 1994. This book had been on my shelf so long I have no memory of how I got it: a purchase, a loan, a recommendation? But when I purged all my books a couple of months ago, I hung on to this one and it came up in my to-read stack last week so I plunged in.

Zeldin is a kind of historical sociologist. He's interested in how we relate to each other and how that contemporary relating is influenced by the past. How conversation came into being, how sex and cooking are related, how love is an unfinished revolution, for example. He interweaves historical discussion with the lives of contemporary women who live in France (not all are French).

Many of the ideas are very thought-provoking: homosexuality has not always been taboo, why friendships between men and women are problematic because of the kind of conversations we want, how a military and then economic basis for society impacts sex and marriage.

I'd love to talk about this book with someone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Traveling and the Magic of Having Tidied Up

If you've been reading this blog lately, you know I'm a big fan of Japanese professional tidier Marie Kondo and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I did her program and it really did revolutionize my home and my relationship to my stuff. Now I want to say a few words about that and its impact on travel for me.

I never quite understood why packing for a trip was a relatively brief activity and unpacking seemed to go on for a day or two. But since I "kondo-ed" my apartment, unpacking has also become a relatively brief activity. I've traveled three times since I did the tidying up and each time, it's been very simple to put everything away.

I think this is true for two reasons. First, everything in my home now has a home of its own. It has its place and I know where that is. Second, I so much like having surfaces clear now that I'm eager to experience that again and so everything goes back where it belongs. A nice side benefit of tidying up.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pretending to not be old

Lately, I've noticed that more and more I am pretending to not be old. It isn't so much in how I look, though I keep my hair dark and my extra pounds keep my wrinkles plumped up so my skin looks younger (and I inherited my mother's lovely English skin). No, the pretending has to do with how I move.

Of course, there's the diminishing synovial fluid in my joints that makes me just generally stiff if I've been sitting for too long. And my ability to get up off the floor unaided, which wasn't even all that great when I was young, just disappeared some time back. Perhaps worst of all, low back and S-I joint problems that 20 years ago made it painful to sweep the floor (who needs to do that anyway?) now make it difficult for me to walk long distances or stand for long periods.

Some of these issues I can readily admit. But I noticed myself this morning forcing myself to walk briskly up the stairs from the garbage cans to my apartment without hanging on to the handrail because my young neighbor was watching. I think this may be a kind of vanity that I didn't know was coming. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This explains a lot-- Part I

From Theodore Zeldin's An Intimate History of Humanity:

It is important to remember
that it is tiring, and trying,
being free; 
and in times of exhaustion
affection for freedom has always waned, 
whatever lip-service might be paid to it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A meaningful idea

I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.
Abraham Maslow

Saturday, June 6, 2015

One of my favorite thinkers

We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Howard Zinn

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Poem #159

There are some nights
I don't sleep much
days I can't work

My demons get restless
and I wander
from piller to post
task after task

My focus is fuzzy
my sense of self
shaken not stirred

They pass, of course,
these moods

I try hard to like them
to see them as respite
for the hard-driven me
who feels the hot breath
of the end of time
to see them as restoring
me to sanity
when the opposite feels true

It's all my life
all of this

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Taking a radical step Part II

After agreeing that I would seriously consider the month off, I left Anna's office in a bit of a daze. I found it telling that I wanted to stop for ice cream on the way home (I didn't stop). The feelings of excitement and terror alternated and I tried to settle into work. After talking with a couple of good friends and some rumination, I could see that this was exactly what I needed to do.

I don't think I could have made this decision so easily if it hadn't been for the money program and all the things I've learned and the transformation of my relationship with money. Because of that, I can make this decision not based on the money I won't be earning. I can stay out of scarcity, look at the real numbers around money in my life, and make the decision from sufficiency and my emotional and spiritual needs. So I've contacted my steadiest clients and am working with them to figure out whether July, August, or September would be best.

The emotional trepidation is still very real. The last time I had a month off from work was August 1989 and I was drunk for all 31 days. It was a nightmare of sickness and insanity. And I've clung to steady work as a centering force in my sober life since I got sober in September of that year. I am not concerned that I will start drinking again, but I am both curious and a bit frightened of what I may experience. Wish me luck!