Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why I Have Remained Silent

I've not written on this blog for most of this month. Part of me says that this is self-sabotage because now I can't even claim to have kept with my goal of writing on the blog regularly for the whole year (I came so close!).

The other part of me says that it is because I've come to feel that this is a futile gesture--the blog had become a place for me to indicate that I still hadn't changed anything about my life. I have remained the same uncertain woman who looked at her 41st birthday and didn't know how to accomplish my goals. My house is messy. My novel unfinished. I have a stack of projects that I say I want to do but I spend my days not working on them. I have panic attacks and and unemployed. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to my 42nd birthday with any great joy. I won't be the person I said I wanted to be a year ago.

I realized that writing in this blog was not helping me to reach my goals (other than the goal to write in the blog). I decided to take some time off (and figured that it wasn't like anyone would miss me, since I have few followers).

Unfortunately, it wasn't the blog that was keeping me from my goals. I remain the same person I was before. Nothing new has been accomplished. Sure, I rolled down a hill (it was fun! it was also on my 41 Things to Do List), but otherwise the time has resulted in few accomplishments.

Breaking bad habits is a hard task. I have years of inertia and fear built up. Breaking through this has been difficult. I have desire to do it but apparently not enough willpower.

I'm going to try again and I'll check in again soon with my report. I will definitely write again as my birthday nears (at the end of March). I want to be heading down the correct road when my birthday rolls around, even if I haven't found my destination.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February: A Chinese New Year and Another Clean Slate

Yesterday was the Chinese New Year. It is now the year of the Rabbit. While I am neither Chinese nor sure what Rabbits have to do with my year, I am taking this as an opportunity to start fresh.

January 1 is a time when many of us make resolutions, think about changing our lives, and otherwise see it as a clean slate to make a new life.

Back in January, I decided not to do resolutions because I was already spending the year trying to change my life.

If you have read any part of my blog this year, you'll know that I've had a hard time making any progress. I'm all good intentions with little follow through (or I get side tracked and the progress fades).

I decided yesterday that I would take this Chinese New Year as a sign that it isn't too late to change. I can still make a difference in my life and accomplish my goals. I just have to put some honest effort towards getting things done.

If you feel like your January resolutions have been getting a little dusty, do as I plan to do--take this Year of the Rabbit and start off running with your resolutions again. Sometimes we need more than one chance to get it right.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Monthly Evaluation: Birthday Countdown!

The end of January is already past, and since I was out of town, I did not do my normal evaluation of my progress. Perhaps it is for the best, since I've spent most of these months simply explaining how I've not made much progress and then setting goals for myself for the next month.

Not much different this time, I think.

I am less than two months until my birthday and all I've managed to prove with this year is that habits are really hard to break. Having been one type of person for 41 years, I am having difficulty being a different kind of person for my 42nd year. I wanted to improve some of my flaws, particularly the procrastinating and disorganized part, and find a career/life for myself which I could be happy with, but I continue to be unemployed, messy/disorganized, and procrastinating.

It is very discouraging to find that good intentions are harder to turn into good, consistent action. I am excellent at planning to change. The problem, for me, is always in the execution.

In the same way, I am excellent at planning novels, but the actual job of writing them seems to be much harder to maintain.

Even things I really want to do (my novels, my 41 Things To Do list, etc.) are pushed off. I have started so many projects over the past few months but can point to hardly anything I've finished.

All I can do is hope that my increasing frustration with myself and the upcoming deadline will force me to get myself into gear and get some things done.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Age: Observations of a Retirement Home

I just spent a week at a retirement home with my grandmother. All around me were people over 80 years old. I was left with a sense of gratefulness for the health and time I had left in my life. The people I observed at the home were weak, shaky, and had major health problems (or signs of mental issues).

Every afternoon and evening men and women with shaky hands and wobbly walking came down to the dining room with canes and walkers. There were many more women than men, because like my grandmother they have outlived the men in their lives. My grandmother speaks of being left behind--all of her siblings and friends are dead. Even some of her children went before her. She is lucky to be as healthy as she is, but she is slowing down too.

Looking around each day, I found myself wondering what my life would be like in later years. Would I be so lucky as to make it to this age? Would my husband be with me? Would we have our mental and physical health? Would we end up moving into a home like this one? It was terrifying to think about me future and wonder how my life would be when I reached 80 or 90 years old. Since I don't seem to be capable of having children, I'll be alone unless my husband is with me.

We'll be tottering down the hall, hopefully together, clutching our walkers and going to play bingo or bean bag softball. Somehow, it is not quite what I had thought of my life being like, but looking around last week, I thought it could happen--whether I want it or not.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Week Break

I am about to leave town for a visit to my grandmother. I'll be out for about a week and the ability to connect to the internet may be sporadic, so I will not be writing in this blog during that time. Next Friday I'll return, hopefully with a clearer sense on what I am going to do in Feb and March to meet some of my goals before my birthday.

It seems that my 42nd birthday is fast approaching. I know that I was fairly depressed last year when 41 came around because it felt like my life was just drifting along. I had no sense that I was getting anywhere in life. Unfortunately, this year has shown me what my problems are but has not found solutions. I know how I am keeping myself from achieving my goals but that knowledge hasn't changed my ways, as of yet.

As I get closer to the end of my self-appointed quest time, I need to start defining what it is I want and how I am going to get it. And then I actually have to go out there and do it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roots: The Need for Place

As a child, we moved every two years. Strangely, even though that hasn't been true for me since 1980, I still define myself by this fact. Growing up, I didn't really feel like I had a home. I'd barely get settled somewhere, make friends, etc. and we would be moved again. The military does that to families. We always moved two weeks before Christmas, which didn't help matters any, either.

As an adult, things and places mean deeply to me. I surround myself with family heirlooms, hang on to sentimental items, protect my home, and resist change. I also look longingly at the one place where I feel like I have roots--the family property out of state.

The property mostly doesn't belong to us anymore. We have one small corner of it but the rest was sold off years ago. Still, my great grandfather bought the area around 1900 and my grandma was born there. My family visited every summer (to the piece which was still in the family) because it is on the river and became a summer vacation spot. It is near where my grandma currently lives so we visit her and go to the cabin. That's how I spent many summers, at least for a week or so each year.

Next week, I'll return. The cabin now belongs to my mom and her sister. I recently found out that my aunt doesn't want me to inherit the property because I live out of state and would not be able to care for it. The idea of this property going out of the family is hard for me. My aunt has no children and neither do I. We are the end of the line for our family since I'm an only child. There is nobody to keep the place.

I don't live near it but I always thought the place would be mine. I was the only grandchild, after all. The place was roots--a constant which would be in my life forever. Now I forsee a day when it won't be there, for me or for anyone in our family. It's weird how a place I've hardly seen as an adult can mean so much to me.

I define myself based on that location. It is the center, a place I can point to and say "I belong." The problem is, maybe I don't belong there. It's a hard thing to face, the loss of a center, a defining place. I feel a bit adrift. I think I need to think about how I define myself more closely. I've discovered, if you tie yourself to places, it can lead to problems.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Disorganization Strikes Again

Disorganization has caused problems in my life in two major ways recently.

First, last night I broke my small toe. It happened because of the clutter in the living room. Something was out of place and I ran my foot into it in the dark. It hurts quite a bit today.

The second problem involves a project I have been working on. I've been behind on it as of last week and caused my boss on the project to be worried. She is now trying to figure out ways to keep better track of my progress. She should not need to do that because I should have had better progress. Instead, I've been fiddling around and wasting time, and not getting things done when I thought I would.

These are not the only times that my disorganization has caused me problems. What frustrates me is that I am worried it may not be the last time.

I need to learn from mistakes and improve.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cute Shoes: A Breakthrough for Me

Yesterday I took a gift card from a family member and bought some much needed shoes. I got a practical pair (the sort of things I always wear) but I also bought one pair of silly little sandals because I thought they were cute.

"You may be saying, so what? You are a woman and you bought shoes. Pretty normal." Actually, for me that was a bit of a big step.

You see, I really hate shoe shopping. I have very few shoes, and when I do shoe shop it is always for practical shoes. I own a pair of comfortable tennis shoes and then two pairs of comfortable black flats with big cushy rubber soles (my everyday shoes). I have a few others which I seldom wear but bought years ago because I needed them (a pair of white heels I wore two or three times with a specific dress for an event, etc.), but I've never liked shoes.

In my list of "41 Things to Do Before I'm 42" I included a line about buying a pair of sandals that were fun. Now I've done it. I have a pair of shoes I really love which may not be great walking shoes but I can slip on for short events for fun when I want to feel special. They aren't that fancy and were actually pretty cheap, but the important thing is that they are totally different than anything I usually wear and I adore them. Having that sort of positive feeling about footwear is weird, but I'm going with it. It's so nice to try something different and indulge myself a little.

I know that the first time I wear them out, I'll be excited just to have them on. Footwear never excites me so it is nice to experience what so many women apparently do--the simple joys of feeling special because of something like footwear. It's silly and I'm not going to be like some women and buy 60 pairs of shoes, but I think that one slightly impractical but fun pair of shoes is a good thing for me. I can't wear practical loafer/flats in simple styles and one color every day for my whole life. It's a boring way to live. Sometimes we have to stretch ourselves and try new experiences. This is my small gesture towards that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Native Hue of Resolution

In Hamlet's famous speech about "To be or not to be" there is a line that "the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with a pale cast of thought with this regard the currents turn awry and lose the name of action." "Thus thinking doth make cowards of us all." (quote from memory)

In January we see a lot of people whose "native hue of resolution" becomes pale and loses the "name of action." Every year people plan big for the start of a new year, and by the end of January these people are back to the same as last year.

I'm no better. Last birthday I made big plans; I started this blog to help me keep track of them. Instead, this blog has become the place to go to explain why I haven't made the progress I intended. The "pale cast of thought" has taken over and I am stuck in this currents that have gone awry.

What it becomes clear to me is that it is really hard to change bad habits. I am a procrastinator and making improvements to this, even when they would really help my life and the projects I am procrastinating on really matter to me, is HARD. I fear failure and I can't fail if I never try. That's certainly part of it. I also find it hard to resist easy temptations, like the internet, books, and TV. I'm a sucker for narrative, in all forms, so I get caught up in stories.

The problem is that my own story is unwritten--both my novel and my life. I will get nothing done if I don't become less like Hamlet--I need to DO, not just think.

I am not alone in these problems. In January I've never had more company, in fact, but somehow that doesn't make it seem any easier.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Things We Take For Granted

We don't think about a lot of things around us that work day in and day out. I don't give much thought to my toilet, for instance. I use it, when needed. I clean it, periodically. However, if the thing breaks, as it did this week, it is really all I can think about. We have a one bathroom house. If the toilet has a problem, it will affect everything you do.

In the same way, I don't think about my teeth that much. I use them all the time. I clean them twice a day. However, I don't generally think about them when I am using them. Saturday night, however, the crown on my back right tooth came off. Try spending until Monday afternoon with an exposed nerve in your tooth and NOT think about it constantly. I couldn't chew on that side, drink things without straws, laugh or yawn, and if I gasped in surprise (as I did at one point yesterday when my husband snuck up behind me and put cold hands on my arm), I will end up gasping in pain immediately afterwards. I could hardly concentrate on anything but my tooth (and the sound of the toilet running--because something is broken).

There are so many small things in our lives which make life easier, better, and in some cases possible at all, which we generally take for granted. Only when they are broken do we pay attention to them.

When my tooth is fixed in two hours, I'll be grateful for my teeth. For the first day or so of use without pain, I'll be thinking about my teeth, but that's probably all the sustained awareness I'll manage before going back into more normal ways.

We simply cannot sustain the awareness (and, indeed, the wonder) of all the things we need to live. You know, our ability to walk is a miracle? Being able to breathe is amazing! Our eyelashes are incredible devices. However, I could not function in life if I paid attention to these and other details of life.

In the same way, I can hardly manage to maintain enthusiasm for toilets, the internet, and electricity everytime I use them. I will notice and miss them when they are gone, of course, and I am glad that I have them (and recognize that there are people without these things), but no one can maintain gratefulness for the little things all of the time.

I guess I need to remember that when things like this happen--when something breaks--that this is a reminder to me to be grateful for them. This has to happen for time to time so that I will know how very lucky I am that for most of the time, I don't have to think about these things.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

12th Night: Christmas Decorations Coming Down

I always feel sad this time of year. I'm removing the decorations from the tree, taking the wreath off my door, and soon will be taking down the pretty lights hung outside.

It's the end of the Christmas season, a new year has begun, and I must return my house to its normal state.

I like the month I have my decorations and will miss them for a few days. I guess I've always been a sucker for twinkly lights and nostalgia--both of which this season has plenty of, it seems.

Generally I take this time to dust, rearrange decorations, and think about how I want my house to look for the new year. All the while, I carefully pack away beloved ornaments and look forward to their return in December.

Tomorrow is Epiphany or Twelfth Night and Christmas will be over. I'll be sad, but I'll be ready to start the new year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Anniversaries: of years and marriage

We've just reached a new year and many people take this arbitrary moment in time to start fresh and new--to look forward and backward and make promises to themselves.

Many years back in our history, someone decided on a calendar system which was adopted in Western Civilization, and now on this anniversary of the start of the year, we act like we've reached a special date--one that requires self-improvement, fasts, and organizing.

In the same way, we often treat real anniversaries as a special marker to act differently. I'm approaching the 15th anniversary of marrying my best friend. Much like with the new year, I find myself thinking about our life and our future, as well as looking back at the past.

Like a new year's day, this marker, although in some ways almost as arbitrary (after all, we'd been together for longer, including 2.5 years of living together while engaged), still seems significant enough to warrant resolutions.

We're going to celebrate with a quick trip up the coast by train to a restaurant. It will be pleasant and not too expensive and gives us a feeling of taking a trip without the cost or the multi-day excursion.

I'm also finding myself sentimentally thinking of the past and wondering what life will be in the future. I know that there are some things I'd like to change about myself, including in our relationship--doesn't everyone have some problems?--but generally we are pretty happy. I do feel sad about our childless status, but frankly there are signs that this may not be physically possible for me anymore so unless we adopt (unlikely what with cost, age, etc.) I think this will not be in our future. I'm adjusting to that. I always put it off, figuring it would be in my future. Now that it isn't, things look different--generally good, but different.

We never know where we are going in life. We can plan and resolve and think, but life is what happens while we are doing those things. We can only try to be our best and see if we can make it to the next anniversary.