Category Archives: Impossible dreams

Best Laid Plans (1)

UPSwampAbout a year and a half ago, I started cleaning out my mother’s house, and almost immediately learned that keeping stuff “because I might need it someday” or “because it’s too good to throw out” is a bad idea. Clearly, it’s time to dejunk my own home – but I had to finish my mother’s first. Days and weeks and months went by, and my husband and I kept filling up trash cans and lugging dozens of big black trash bags out to the end of her driveway to be hauled away. Over and over, I thought we were almost finished; we never were. As soon as we cleared away one mess, we found another hiding behind it.

But at last, when 2014 was almost over, the end seemed in sight. And I had such great plans. I knew exactly how I was going to spend the winter – at home, cozily busy indoors, discarding piles and piles of my unneeded, unwanted, unloved junk. Bags and boxes on top of bags and boxes, out the door and gone with the trash collectors. And when spring came, I was going to look back on months of accomplishment and look forward to a new, streamlined life.

So much for plans.

The trouble was, even after a year of work, I still didn’t realize how cluttered my mother’s house was. There was still stuff behind stuff, all sorts of stuff, three different types of stuff. Some of it, my parents valued but I don’t have enough room to store it or any desire to own it – but maybe someone else would. Then there were perfectly good things I don’t think they realized they had, like half a dozen can openers, ten or twenty or thirty years old (judging by the price tags), still in their original store packaging. (These first two categories were easy; they could be given away or sold.) And finally there was stuff, lots of it, that they might have valued once, and shoved out of the way someplace or other, and never touched again while it deteriorated and became unusable.

And I had no time or energy left to tackle my own mess. Instead, this house got more and more cluttered as we brought home boxes of papers – as many boxes as the back of the car would hold – that I didn’t have time to sort through while we were at my mother’s house.

So much stuff, and so little of it any use to anybody.

Advertisements

Will This Work, Part 4 – Amazing.

I’m amazed, anyway.

Last fall, mostly out of curiosity and also because I got really tired of the seams in my socks chewing into my toes (handmade socks don’t generally have those seams across the top of your foot), I decided to see if I really could knit a pair of socks.

At first, I wasn’t sure the cuff was big enough to let my entire foot through. (Fortunately, knitting  st  r   e   t   c  h es.)

SockHeelTurnThen I came to the part where the sock needed to make a right-angle turn, because that’s what feet do. The directions made no sense, no matter how many times I read them. Knit a heel flap? What’s that? Turn the heel? Turn it into what? It was all obviously impossible. But I was halfway done, so I might as well just keep going, row by row, doing what the directions told me to…and all of a sudden

RedSockSideViewI had a sock! And a while later, I had a pair of socks. And they’re so very very comfortable that I might just wear them every day if they weren’t the kind of wool you have to handwash and let dry lying flat (which takes a couple of days).

I wanna make some more socks!

Yesterdaily post: Talents I wish I had…

(With thanks to the one and only Rarasaur. Without her, I would have overlooked this WordPress daily post suggestion – “tell us about a talent you’d love to have, but don’t” – entirely. As it is, I’m only a day late…)

Oh, there are lots of things I wish I could do effortlessly. Draw. Run. Make my hair do what I want it to do. (We’ve come to an understanding, my hair and me. I  wash and brush it as needed and let it do pretty much what it prefers, and it sits on top of my head and points in various directions and smirks.) But none of those is the biggie, the talent I long to have and never expect to master.

If I only could get organized. (To the tune of that song from the Wizard of Oz, you know, the one the scarecrow sings. Or maybe each of Dorothy’s buddies gets a verse of his own. If I were organized, I’d know, wouldn’t I?)

PeterthegreateggBut I’m not organized. I tackle all sorts of things…I write, I blog, I take photos, I bake, I knit, I, I, I get interested in a lot of stuff. Shiny! The world is so full of a number of things, as that poet, you know, Whitman, or Stevenson, or Plath, said. And I want to play with most of them.

Focus, I don’t got it. If only I could just set most of my mental toys gently but firmly to one side and concentrate on the most important. I’m not so sure that would work well, though.

Faberge+egg+main Imperial Easter EggHow do you cope when you’re working hard on a project and reach a dead end, a puzzle you don’t see how to solve? Well, I need to concentrate on something completely different – then my mind wanders off exploring and comes back with solutions to unrelated problems. When I force myself to drive grimly straight ahead toward one goal, I wind up exhausted, depressed, and incompetent. When I keep juggling, sooner or later one of my problem balls hatches like a Czarist jeweled Easter egg…shiny!…and hands me an answer.

Memory of Azov egg

Maybe my best plan is to treat my mind like my hair: just learn to live with its quirks.

The clock is ticking…

…only fourteen and a half hours left of 2012. Sorry, fourteen and a quarter.

All right, let’s try for realistic plans for 2013. One thing I’ve finally learned over the past year (and about time, too) is that there’s a limited number of minutes in a day to get things done, and a limited amount of mental and emotional and physical energy to use for doing them. So it seems like a good idea to tackle only one large new goal at a time.

The two things that have to continue are writing and providing support for my mom. I’ll certainly continue with the weekly 100-word challenges – they’re fun, they’re good practice, and I enjoy seeing what other people come up with based on the same prompts. I’ll go on blogging regularly. And, above all, I’ll keep chipping away at the boulder of book-length fiction, trying to sculpt it into finished work of my own.

What should I tuck into the corners of the day around that central core? Probably the thing I want to do least: clean the horrible house, because the inconvenience and irritation of living in this mess is getting to me. And what that needs to start with is getting rid of lots and lots and lots of stuff – we own too many things to organize them all.

Once the mess is under control, I can free up time for regular exercise, something I’ve neglected lately. And make sure I’m eating good food, not junk. Will I lose weight? Probably not, but I’ll be healthier.

And, since at least one New Year’s resolution should focus on something you want to do, I’m going to finally make time for knitting experiments – trying out odd stitches and construction methods that I’ve read about here and there. Blog posts, yes, there will be blog posts. With pictures.

(And also, I’ll go on looking forward to posts from the many varied bloggers I follow. Some of you have become online friends, and all of you brighten my day. Thank you so much!)

Only one more day of 2012!

We’re staring 2013 in the face.

I don’t usually write about my problems here, mostly because I don’t have much that’s fresh and insightful to say about the subject. But the end of the year seems to be the traditional time to evaluate our lives and make plans to improve them.

And what did I accomplish in 2012? I started off with grandly overambitious plans – “finish writing at least two books; be thin; live in a tidy house; rebuild my savings account; learn to draw; and, for the heck of it, finish several reading challenges.” It’s been a sobering year.

My house is as messy as it’s ever been, possibly worse. I’ve gained five pounds. I don’t have the free time to concentrate on drawing. The reading challenges petered out midyear, largely because I found other topics to post about, so I don’t really care about that failure. Have I succeeded in anything?

My main accomplishment, one I didn’t realize I was facing a year ago, has been to keep my mother out of the hospital and the nursing home, living quasi-independently in her familiar house with her familiar belongings and as many of her familiar routines as she feels up to bothering with. And it’s stressful for everyone involved, and pretty time-consuming.

But what about my January pipe dreams? Well, there’s writing. Writing fiction is something I’ve made progress on. No, I haven’t finished two books in the past year. In spite of my high hopes a month ago, I haven’t even finished one; it turns out that my mother now gets very upset by the prospect of Christmas (with all the things she feels she ought to do and can’t do), so upset that soothing her leaves me emotionally drained for most of the day. So that will have to be factored into future plans: December is a washout.

Even so, I’ve learned a lot – partly by participating in Friday Fictioneers and the 100 Word Challenge for Grownups – about writing: structuring plots, developing characters, keeping a story moving. Well before spring I really should have the current fantasy-in-progress rough draft written. (Pause for cartwheels.)

The score for the year? I guess I’m keeping up with the absolutely essential top-priority things. Almost top-priority, not so good. Tomorrow I’ll inflict a post on you about where I go from here.

(On a different subject, I just got home this afternoon from a two-day trip – my husband and I decided to give each other a mini-vacation for Christmas. I think I’ve caught up on all the comments people made on my posts while I was away; I know I have dozens and dozens of your posts to read. I’m looking forward to them, but it will take a while to get through them all. You may still be getting comments in February 😉 )

So how am I doing, halfway through the year?

Recently Marge Katherine over at Inside Out Cafe (the home of No Comfort Zone) took stock to see how far she’s come toward meeting her beginning-of-2012 goals. How about me? Have I been bold enough to thrust my snout beyond the edge of my comfort zone and sniff the strange breezes out in the wide wild world?

Well, yes and no. Life caught up with me, as it so often does, and elbowed me into spending an unexpectedly large amount of time propping up my mother so that, for now, she can go on living (pseudo) independently. I remind her to take her daily pills; I nag her into keeping her doctor’s appointments; we (my husband and I) pick up her prescriptions, buy her groceries, pay her bills…it doesn’t end. And taking charge of her life certainly puts me far, far outside my comfort zone; but it hardly counts as one of the goals I wanted to achieve for this year.

Beyond that? I’m learning to be thrifty myself, and more usefully, I’m involved in a couple of projects at church to extend what help we can to people who don’t have enough. My house is as much of a mess as ever, but the outdoors is doing pretty well. And as usual, I’m fat.

Best of all, I’m learning to write. Daily blogging helps; so do the weekly writing projects at Friday Fictioneers and the 100 Word Challenge – both of them exercises in concise, vivid storytelling. And at last, after way too many false starts – I’m an expert on how not to finish a novel – I’m bulldozing my way through inventing a world with its history and politics and economics, and telling the stories of people who live there and have problems that I think are interesting.

Visiting a world I made up out of my own head? Now, that’s a worthwhile trip beyond my comfort zone.

Still Struggling to Prioritize Projects

Dance with spinning plates2(js)
And feeling pretty overwhelmed, too. So many things I want to do; so many things I have to do; so many things I’ve promised to do. The promises may have been too optimistic, but there are people trusting me to keep them. The “have-to-dos” may annoy and frustrate me, but neglecting them is, in various ways, self-punishing. (For example, if I don’t floss my teeth, at best my dentist will scold me again, and at worst I’ll have to face gum surgery.) The things I want to do – well, you could argue that they’re just self-indulgence. But what if they’re the things I am uniquely talented to do? What if they’re among the things I’m here to do?

That crashing noise you just heard was the spinning plates falling off their sticks and shattering. Again.

Time to reach beyond my comfort zone and try a new approach, and fortunately I stumbled across one recently. I was innocently reading CHo Meir’s blog Coffee, Cats, And Yarn when she started talking about much the same problem – though, having spent time as a paramedic, she formulates it in terms of triage. Now, I’ve heard of triage as a way of sorting out injured people to decide how best to use limited resources to treat them. Generally, it’s described as a three-way sort. There are the people who can’t be helped; at best, they get pain relief. There are the people who will recover if they get treated immediately, but will die or be permanently injured if they don’t; they get most of the time and medicines and treatment. Then there are the people who are suffering at the moment, but will recover whether they’re treated right away or not. It sounds grim, but simple.

As CHo Meir describes triage, it’s not quite so simple – but more useful. She says that you have to keep re-evaluating the situation. Yes, start by putting your resources to work on whatever needs immediate attention. But remember that other problems or projects might get more urgent after being neglected for a while. Take the time to recategorize everything regularly. Make sure nothing important gets ignored so long that it becomes a crisis.

“All things need your attention in the course of a day, just not at the same time,” CHo Meir sums it up. And this sounds like it may be exactly the kind of approach I need.

We’ll see.