How it gets done.

May 31, 2020 § 5 Comments

This post has been sitting in draft form for months. It is a relic of the “normal” we lived prior to Covid-19.

In some ways, we have achieved the heightened awareness the post suggests, something we often only gave lip service to before the pandemic.

“Getting it done” often begins with a list:

Bathe the dog, pickup a dozen eggs, lose thirty pounds, finish reading the book started last summer, bake bread, call my sister, write that memoir….

The “how” of “getting it done” will fall somewhere between the following two choices:

1.You juggle. Everything on the list will get done incrementally. A little here, a little there. You move fast and leave each project with an I.O.U. and an apologetic, “Hey, I’ll be back,” and hope no task hits the ground before you can catch it again.

Upside? If you’re good at juggling there is rarely a big mess to clean up, and you don’t disappoint anyone–at least not completely.

Downside? Completion of each task comes with, at best, a moment of relief before you rush on to one of the other projects keening for your attention.

2. The single-project strategy: I will sit in this chair until I write ‘The End’ on this damned memoir! All other projects can pout, twiddle their thumbs, even wither and die because, for me, there is no other project.

Upside? The payoff is huge. You’ve slain the dragon! This calls for a ticker tape parade! A new national holiday!

Downside? You look up, and all your other projects are sickly and wilted, and those who have a stake in those other projects, or simply wanted a decent conversation, are good and ticked off. Still, for some there is only one project and it is worth living for, maybe even dying for: martyrs and saints, writers and artists, scientists and dictators—the rest of us have spouses, bosses, friends, and lists that natter at us too loudly to be ignored.

But neither strategy solves the underlying problem.

Time.

Time is the get-it-done problem that can never be solved. Time, a river that flows without end, is infinite. We, the list makers, are not. We, ourselves, are items on a list of a higher order and we will, one day, be crossed off.

As finite beings we have limited time to get anything done. Perhaps we should expend a little of that limited commodity to question the whir that keeps us in constant motion. Perhaps we should sometimes set it all down and do…nothing.

This idea can cause panic. Americans are a get-it-done people. Whether in increments or in one long march, we define ourselves by what we accomplish. The busy person seems far more important than the guy sitting on a bench enjoying the warmth of sunlight on his face.

Still, let’s entertain this idea as a third strategy.

3. Don’t get-it-done. Don’t do anything at all. Just be.

Sit still and feel the sun on your face and call it only, the moment.

You won’t vanish. You won’t depreciate in value. And you won’t sit quiet for long before you are, once again, doing.

But sometimes…sometimes…it is better to be the rock in the river, the rock that simply is, as the river rushes by.

The weight we carry.

September 1, 2019 § 3 Comments

Does time have weight?

Do we store it in our bones,

or carry it, unwieldy,

in our arms?

*

Is it the accumulated

weight of time that

wears us out,

makes us old?

*

I wonder…

can we set that burden down,

travel light again like

a child who lives

in the splendor of right now?

*

Can that newness be

snuck up on and captured

like a firefly

in a jar? « Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing off a limited menu.

January 15, 2019 § 4 Comments

 

At first, life is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Stuff yourself!

There’s plenty more in the kitchen!

 

 

But time and mortality begin to take

options off the table.

 

So far it is just friends and family members—

Ones who are older.

Older than we are anyway.

 

We watch them peruse a narrowed menu

and feel sorry for them.

But the day will come when

we too will have to choose off a limited menu,

one that won’t disagree with who time

and circumstance and our own

I-am-immortal behavior

have made us. « Read the rest of this entry »

Safe in this moment.

September 16, 2018 § 4 Comments

You are safe in this moment.

If you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading my blog post.

Everything is fine. Neither fight, nor flight needs to be called in. No action is required.

So, take a conscious breath…and let it out slowly.

But maybe you are only fleetingly in this moment, the words on your screen registering intermittently because much of your brain is occupied with scouting ahead, scanning the future for that gray speck you just know will be trouble when it gets here.

Your body, which has a hard time distinguishing between present and future danger, responds, not to the words you are reading, but to what you are imagining. Muscles tense, your heart gallops.

When that looming threat fails to materialize, you will probably convince yourself you’ve robbed that bad thing of its power by calling it out, by naming it.

This mirrors the magical thinking that assured you, looking under your childhood bed was what turned monsters into shoes and dust balls.

Chances are, you had nothing to do with containing the perceived threat, which was probably not a threat at all, but just a blot on the horizon as random and transient as a cloud shadow.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The second age of wonder.

April 22, 2018 § 5 Comments

When we are young and new to life everything we encounter is unexpected, interesting, inexplicable, mesmerizing.

We live in a constant state of wonder.

The discovery we have hands, that water can splash, that sand yields to toes, that faces that vanish come back in response to the magic word “peekaboo,” that grasshoppers hop, all amaze us.

In our early years wonder has our full attention.

Time passes and the kid gets cool. Wonder, as available as ever, is often met with a shrug, a quick glance. Wonder requires us to stop. Stare. Forget everything else.

Frankly, we are too busy for wonder. We’ve seen it all before. Unless it comes with huge pyrotechnics we put any potential source of wonder on the slag heap of been-there-done-that.

As if it were an illness, we have built up an immunity to wonder.

But as we get old wonder comes slowly back. It catches our eye, briefly at first, but over time our attention turns inexorably toward it, until wonder pervades almost everything we do, see, hear, taste, feel, think. My husband says it is as if wonder invites us back in. Or maybe we are the ones who issue that invitation.

All I know is that sometimes wonder is so present I can almost fly on its wings.

Why? « Read the rest of this entry »

Age before beauty.

October 21, 2017 § 9 Comments

My husband, Ray, says there are no ugly young people, an exaggeration, but not a whopping big one.

Consider what the young have going for them. Smooth skin, and if it is tan, their skin has not yet begun to pay the price for that glow. Wide eyes, the lids fully open. Straight backs. Limber joints. The young body exhibits an appealing ease.

But old is beautiful too.

What I write next is mostly for women, the sex afflicted with the expectation of beauty.

This post will come as no surprise, but sometimes we only question the things we take for granted when we say them out loud or state them in print.

Physical attractiveness is not an absolute requirement for guys. Funny is just as good. Athleticism or smarts; those work too.

And for those with young-buck good looks, with age these attributes are seamlessly replaced by a growth in stature and authority, a good job.

I don’t know whether this is because women are more broad-minded than men, more willing to judge worth based on a range of positive qualities, or because men, as members of the dominant sex, have used their power to write the terms of their own attractiveness.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Five things I know, and how I know them.

September 27, 2017 § 7 Comments

1. The old are like Russian nesting dolls.

All the earlier selves are hidden inside the one you see, still there, preserved.

But unlike those wooden dolls, each of the selves hidden inside that old body is different.

One has skinned knees.

A second is reading a Nancy Drew book.

A third wears a prom corsage.

Another holds a baby in her arms.

I wish I’d known that when I was a kid seeing my grandparents as only that, grandparents. Inside each of them was a kid as young as I was, and on the outside, a kid as old as the one I would become.

I know about these hidden selves because, much to my surprise, I am old. And young. And everything in between. I am every one of those dolls down to the tiny one at the very center.

2. The inanimate is just the animate holding still.

Existence is an addition problem. It is the sum of everything.

Each rock, feather, man-made object, holds the life force.

It moves like a cloud shadow across the landscape but we are too distracted, too human-centric to notice.

We, the kinetic, the perpetually in motion, are not attuned to it, but if we become aware, the inanimate befriends and anchors us, it puts our insignificance into perspective. Feel that force and we understand that we are just one more number in that long, long addition problem.

I know, because I feel the life in the rock I rest against, and in the favorite sweater I wear year after year. Still my whirring self, and the company of all that is surrounds me.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Worry…worry…worry…then repeat.

November 26, 2016 § 11 Comments

worry

Worry doesn’t knock. It knows where you hide the key. Stumble out of sleep and, if it hasn’t climbed into bed with you, you will find it in its usual spot at the kitchen table, leaning on its elbows.

Might as well pour it a cup of coffee.

All day long worry steps on your heels, messes with you. It makes sure the car cranks like it isn’t going to start. It does, but not before adrenaline spikes. It sends text messages. It writes newspaper headlines. It keeps you distracted, ensuring that you misplace your glasses.

Worry runs the same movie over and over in a continuous loop behind whatever else is going on. It never serves popcorn.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Not grouchy. Just old.

April 24, 2016 § 7 Comments

catfishI glanced around the meeting room table.

Every one of the women gathered to discuss library business wore a catfish frown.

 

Catfish can’t help it. It’s simple anatomy, but as a young person I assumed the human face was mobile, and that facial expressions revealed the emotions within.

If so, I was in trouble. New at running a public library, I read the frowns of those women-of-a-certain-age as disapproval.

I hadn’t reckoned with the way age creates unintended facial expressions including the, “Hey kid, get off my lawn” glare, the “Life is one long disappointment” slump, and the face-at-rest frown.

« Read the rest of this entry »

The little things.

October 3, 2015 § 7 Comments

Once in a blue moon, cha-ching,  you win the lottery, fall in love, visit Paris! Think back, when was your last breathless-with-amazement day?

That long ago, huh?

Ordinary days are the substance of our lives. Those of us with a glass-half-full temperament find a wealth of little things that make us happy.

While the big-ticket sources of human joy are easy to list, I bet the small sources of happiness are far more idiosyncratic,  like:

pocketPockets.

Almost anything I need will fit in one. When I’m unsure, pockets provide a place to hide my hands. Although modest, pockets provide warmth, utility, and comfort. « Read the rest of this entry »

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