Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hurry, slow down...

Since I turned sixty in January, I seem to have this conflict going in me all the time: Hurry up/Slow down.

I need to hurry up and accomplish things like get my work published, sell my cards, de-clutter my house so my kids won't have to do it, travel everywhere, experience new things. I'm mature, but not too old to still be daring. I've still got my brain (although I am forgetting things and have a little more trouble recalling details). I'm in pretty good shape physically and have started working out several days a week.

And yet I need to slow down too. I don't have to lead a discussion group on every great book I come across. I don't have to organize trips for everybody or plan the family gatherings if I don't want to. I don't have to do laundry every time it peeks over the rim or wash the dishes before they hit the sink. What if I only had a year to live (like a couple of my friends); what would I slow down to do?

I'm stuck between feeling urgency to get things done before it's too late and giving myself a well-deserved rest. On my day off, I look around my house and think of the drawers and closets full of stuff that needs to be given or thrown away, and then go to the deck and sit in the sun doing nothing.

My life has never been about being balanced; I've always gone ninety miles an hour. Maybe it's time to find the right balance between hurrying up and slowing down. Taking up and giving up in equal proportion with a little discernment about what really makes me excited. More of that subtracting and adding, I guess. And I've always been good at math.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rocking Chair

Sometimes lately, since my dad died, I feel lonely. I don't exactly know how this loneliness is related to his death, but it is somehow.

The other night I spent some time thinking about it, and I put my mind to what would make me feel better. This beautiful photograph of my grandfather and me came to mind. I remember sitting in his lap while he sang "Red River Valley" and I felt so comforted.

A few days ago, I was missing my dad like crazy after accidentally (are there accidents like this?) playing a message from him on my voice mail. In my workroom, I have a rocking chair that was my grandfather's, and I went down and sat in it and rocked for a while. Again, I felt comforted.

I have lots of people around me, physically and symbolically, so it doesn't make sense that I would feel alone. I'm pondering it from the vantage point of the rocking chair.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Open Windows

On a morning like today in the 1950's and 60's, our windows would have been wide open. Few of us had air conditioning and it was so refreshing to go through our day and night in the fresh air and occasional breeze that came through our screens. At the beach, in the height of the summer heat, ceiling fans circulated the steamy air, cooling our sweaty faces and sunburned bodies.

I don't feel free to do this anymore.

This week alone, I've gotten notices from our community watch about vans of people selling magazines and steaks, several break-ins, cars stolen from driveways. One neighbor told me that thieves used her ladder to break in an upstairs window.

I don't want to live in fear. And I wonder if there's more crime or more dissemination of information.

When crime is in your neighborhood, every person becomes suspect. The teenager with his cellphone taking pictures. The car full of faces you don't recognize. An untidily dressed walker.

I want to get up in the morning and push my windows up. I want to see the slight wind ruffling my curtains. I want to hear the birds in the bush making a fuss.

I want spring to come into my winter-worn rooms and autumn to take away the heat of the summer. I want to leave my house open when I drive away for a few hours and come back to find it as I left it.

People only steal things like TVs, I tell myself. They aren't interested in the pictures or pages of short stories or family videos. They might take a ring or my camera full of photographs or a jar full of coins. But it's only stuff.

And yet, I leave on an errand or to go to work and reluctantly close the windows and lock the doors. It's one of our greatest losses, I think, the ability to leave our windows open.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cleaning Up

“Sim­plify your life so that you do not try to fill your time with more than you can do. Start by list­ing your activ­i­ties. Then prune the list, strik­ing out any­thing that is not truly nec­es­sary and any­thing that is not beneficial.”- Eknath Easwaran

A few months ago one of the elderly members of my family went from being able to get around pretty easily to sitting slumped in her chair every day in a fog. After a consult with her doctor, he took her off all her meds and started adding them back one at a time. Now for the most part she is chatty and mobile.

That's sort of what I'm doing with my life right now. I felt burdened with some of my obligations and obligated about some things that were feeling unproductive. Basically I have stopped everything and am adding things back one by one.

What I've added is working out at the gym, setting up a web site (link to come soon), concentrating on my photography rather than my writing for now. What I've deducted is most of the things I do at night. I've found that I'm not as energetic late in the day as I used to be, staying up until all hours of the night. Now I want to do things mid-morning through the afternoon.

I'm also taking a break from all the outside things I did with my writing. I quit both my writing groups and have put more workshops on hold. This is the one thing I'm feeling a little uneasy about. I have quite a few stories that are one revision from being finished and I have a stack of places to submit. Until I get those out of the way (in my brain) I'm going to have a hard time concentrating on the book I have in mind. I know that I can add a group or put together a workshop if I need it though.

I'm increasingly aware of this "last gift of time" that I'm being given. I want to make the most of it, and figuring out what making the most of it looks like is hard. Almost weekly I hear of someone with weeks or months or a year to live and I find myself contemplating what those words would mean to me. Not morbidly, but just thinking about what would be important and what wouldn't matter. And trying to put those conclusions into practice now.

The adding and subtracting I've done so far feels right. I've got challenges but not too many, creative endeavors that don't feel like work, and time. I'm content and that's enough for now.