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My Life In Three Parts

If you read these pages with any regularity, you know that I’m in the process of going through all my crap, downsizing, getting rid of stuff and reevaluating where I want my life to go. It’s been interesting seeing how far I’ve come in some areas and how far I haven’t come in others.

Since I rarely throw anything out (until recently), I’ve come across lists of New Year’s Resolutions or Goals & Achievements going back decades. Sadly, there is a sameness to them.

Some of these have dated back to the seventies. There are three major themes running through these rather sad lists and with them, I can boil my need to improve life into three major categories: my health (weight), my finances and my clutter. Everything I feel I need to change or improve in my life falls under one of these three categories.

I could probably pare these down even more, since these all seem to be connected. But then everything in life is connected, isn’t it?

For example, I like to eat out and do it way more than I should for both my pocketbook and my waistline. One of the main reasons eating out is so desirous is that it’s too hard to fix something myself, because my kitchen is almost always a mess. My lack of housekeeping skills falls under “clutter” because I don’t know what I have, I have no clear counter space to prep food and I don’t know where things go, hence the crowded counters.

I buy things I don’t need, in and out of the kitchen, because I can’t find what I already have. I end up sitting and watching TV and snacking while I do it because I don’t have the cleared up space to work on art or craft projects. I have too many scrapbooking supplies to actually do any scrapbooking.

So what am I doing about it?

Slowly but steadily I am going through stuff, getting rid of stuff, and finding homes for stuff.

I’m making an effort to finish what I start, be it dishes and laundry or that hooked rug I started decades ago.

I’m getting off the couch more often, resulting in more exercise and less mess.

I’m really trying to be aware of what I’m doing, so less mindless eating, less binge buying, more seeing what’s around me.

Most importantly, I remind myself that this is a process and a journey. It took me 65 years to become this person, and most of her is pretty awesome. I’m working on the not-so-awesome stuff, three categories at a time.

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I’m Bored

Since I was a child, I’ve always had a fear of boredom. I’d take a typewriter–the big, black, weighs-a-ton type–on vacations. (My father, apparently, was very indulgent.) There was always something I wanted to write. Always another project I just had to start RIGHT NOW! Always another book to read.

Always something.

Maybe it was because I was an only child and learned to entertain myself at a very young age that I always had to have something to do. That and the fact that if I uttered the words, “I’m bored,” my mother would make me do something I really, really didn’t want to do (clean my room, for example).

As an adult, the only times I can recall being bored was at work when I didn’t have anything to do and wasn’t allowed to pull out a book to read. Or at a social function where I wasn’t comfortable, didn’t know anyone and couldn’t politely pull out a book to read.

I can sit still for long periods of time enjoying the images inside my head. I love the worlds in there. I love the people! They always say and do exactly what I want them to. It’s refreshing.

I people watch. People are a commodity I never run out of. It’s hard to avoid people. They’re everywhere! And they’re interesting, especially when I don’t have to talk to them and can just observe.

I’m not much of a talker myself, more fallout from only childhood. I’m the listener. Small talk may be an art form, but it’s not one I do well. I avoid it whenever I can. It goes hand in hand with avoiding most social functions.

Now that I’m retired, I’m much less apt to be bored than I was when I worked. There’s always something to do, most of it fun. I usually get to do what I want when I want. I’ve gotten over the guilt of not keeping house well (now that’s boring!) and pay someone to do it for me.

With all that being said, I find it troubling that so many young people seem to always be bored. I see it on Facebook all the time. Pleas from some twenty-something to their friends to come take them out, come entertain them.

I don’t get it. There’s always something to do. And it doesn’t have to cost anything. If you’re bored, go to a library. There, for free, you can check out books to read, movies to watch, music to listen to. Take a walk, that’s free, too. Find a park bench and sit, watching people or squirrels.

Volunteer somewhere. There’s nothing like helping someone or something to take you out of yourself. If you’re a talker, talk to someone you’ve never talked to before. Find out their story. Tell them yours.

Write. Draw. Color. Clean. Plant something. Weed something. Cook something.

I think my mother was right: Only boring people are bored.

Don’t be boring!

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It’s Not Easy Being Bad

I had an epiphany last night while standing in the front yard urging my dog to poop.

I really hate not being good at something.

On the surface, that sounds like a good thing, but it’s not. At least, not for me. In actuality, it’s paralyzing. If I’m not good on the first try, I tend not to keep trying. While some folks might use that hatred of not being good to improve: studying, practicing, learning, I huddle in misery, bemoaning the fact that I’ll never be able to do calligraphy, regardless of how much I spent on books and pens.

Because that’s what I tend to do. Some new I want to pops into my head, so I go out to whatever store there is to buy all the materials I’ll need, plus bunches of instruction books. I bring them home and look at them. They look back. I try them out, cringe, and put them back in their packages. There they sit, collecting dust, staring at me accusingly until, years later, I drop them in the donation box to go out with the next pick up.

What the hell, I wonder, is wrong with me?

I can’t be alone in this, can I? Surely I’m not the only person with 27 how to quilt books sitting on her shelf who’s never made a quilt. Surely not.

It’s the same with writing, although I’m getting better at putting words to paper. I’m a little more confident in my writing skills than in my sewing. Or drawing. Or gardening. Or dog training.

Famous journalist Gene Fowler once said that writing was easy. You just stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. He wasn’t wrong.

Anne Lamott, a writer I adore, says the key to writing is to put your butt in the chair and write lousy first drafts (or words to that effect). Sounds easy, but it’s not.

It’s hard to be bad, to let myself be bad. I find myself focusing not on the words, but on their effect. I worry about what font the publisher will use, and if I’ll have lost weight in time for the television interviews. I have imaginary conversations with the actress who I know will be begging to play my protagonist on the big screen. I worry about which network will pick up the series.

Anything to not write that lousy first draft.

But hey! My poop-induced epiphany has given me hope. Now that I’m looking at my dysfunction, maybe I can change it. Maybe I can convince my self what my brain already knows: that if I keep trying at whatever it is I want to do whether it be writing or quilting, I’m likely to get better.

I may have to lock the doors and close the blinds to do it, but do it I will.

 

Gene Fowler is the author of Timberline. Anne Lamott’s newest book is Hallaluja Anyway.

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Letting Go

Decluttering, I keep telling myself, is a journey not a destination. I keep thinning out things and seem to be making progress, but then I come across a stack of miscellaneous papers and folders and everything comes to a screeching halt.

In the most recent stack I came across old insurance information that my late husband had from when his mother and uncle died. Shredded, but not before I cried a little.

There was a half a dozen or so pictures drawn with glitter and textured paint by a couple of grandkids, the youngest of which is now in her mid-20’s. Set aside; maybe I’ll frame a couple of them for my studio.

I found lots of empty file folders, both letter and legal size. Those went in the office supply pile. When I finally get through everything, what’s obscenely excess with get donated to a local school. They always need that stuff.

The last thing in this stack, and the hardest to deal with, is embarrassingly silly. A plastic envelope full of glossy, 8×10 photos of characters from a TV show that went off the air sometime last century.

I loved that show.

I just recently made myself get rid of the VHS boxed sets of seasons 1-5 of that show (season 6 sucked). I hadn’t watched them in decades and no longer have a VCR hooked up. Plus, they took up a lot of space. A shelf in my bedroom is now freed up and I no longer have to dust the damned things.

The tapes were hard, but Lordy, the lobby cards (I think that’s what they’re called) tore my heart. These are of actors playing characters I was obsessed with for a time. But I gave them up, at least most of them.

Just like the kids’ drawings, a couple may get framed, if I still have frames left after everything is hung the way I want it and if there’s wall space in the studio. What I’m not going to do is keep them on a shelf in a dusty plastic envelope. I either honor my obsessions or I let them go.

Letting go, if not also a journey, is at the very least a process. I’m processing.

 

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Music Makes Me Cry

I started listening to music again, even though it makes me cry sometimes. In years gone by, I listened to music all the time. Music was a major part of my life. Since my husband, Jessie, died, not so much.

Being of child of the 70’s, the Top 40 was the soundtrack of my life.

Although my late husband and I had very similar musical tastes, his was far more eclectic. While I run towards blues, country and classic rock, he encompassed acid, jazz and hip hop as well.

At one point, we had three copies of Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Same with Carole King’s Tapestry. We’d each brought our own vinyl copies to the relationship and later added the CDs as well. Can’t have too many copies.

Several years after his passing, I thinned out the CD collection, getting rid of most everything I didn’t personally listen to. Couldn’t let go of Bob Dylan or the Beatles, though. I don’t listen to them much, if at all, but they were too much a part of him to let them go. Yet.

And nearly a decade after his passing, I still can’t bring myself to tackle the vinyl.

The simplify and downsize part of me says, “If you haven’t listened to something in the past 20 years, it’s time to let it go.” But I can’t. Not yet.

Music was such a large part of our life together that almost everything I listen to brings up a memory. Memories make me cry.

We both worshipped Kris and Hank. They both make me sob.

In the past few days, I started listening to John Stewart again. He was a huge part of my 70’s life. I’m finding his political songs just as relevant today as they were when I was a teen. Funny, but not in a humorous way. I have tears running down my cheeks by the end of Wingless Angels. It wrecks me that in nearly 50 years, so much has not changed.

I’m hoping, I think, for some kind of cathartic cleansing. Instead of avoiding the memories and tears, I’m facing them. As someone once said, if you find yourself in hell, just keep going.

As for the getting rid of stuff, I’m giving myself permission to wait.