Quirking

Marking the distance yet to cover when your arrival time has elapsed. How close can I get?
Noting how many more steps yet to complete a recipe before your spouse returns. How far can I get?
Washing clothes and putting them back in drawers before it’s been a week since you first took them out. How anal retentive can I get?

Perhaps we all have such markers, paces we put ourselves through – though we might never know because not many would admit them. For fear of – sounding crazy? Mental? OCD?

I actually asked my therapist once if I was OCD. She said there are such things as OCD tendencies or even an OCD personality without an actual OCD diagnosis. One way to tell, she said, if whether such routines disrupt our way of life. If they stop us from all the other bits of living we could be getting to because they take up too much time – or if we cannot even begin living if we don’t first complete them.

So I may not have full blown OCD, but I have my quirks.

Not being fully free of a dinner party until the platters, teacups, tablecloths are all clean and back in their original homes.
Reading library books in the order they were taken out of the library.
Impelled to leave pieces of projects out, where they will taunt me, until I’ve completed them.

My mind works in weird ways. Segmented. Compartmentalized. Whatever part of it that is responsible for my control freak tendencies has trained me to believe that physical limits lead to overarching control. What a quirky rule of thumb. And I fall for it mind, heart, and fingers.

Liminal and Beyond

“The Waiting Place . . . [a most useless place]

for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to come or go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

 

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.”

As I was waiting for the will to write a positive blog entry today, these lines from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go rang through my head.

I’m waiting.  For the end of PMS.  For the washing machine to finish its cycle.  For an expected tradesperson to show up.  My husband to come home from work.  My children to stream up the stairs and into the corner in which I’m hiding (which took one more line of typing, by the way).  For this new place in life to feel ‘normal’, to reach some sort of stasis.

Well into On Moving by Louise DeSalvo now, I’ve read about “liminal life – the life that is neither here nor there . . . These difficult-to-live-through interstices, I’ve read, are necessary for growth: the psychic spaces where the old self is shed and the new one begins to develop (DeSalvo 72).

A few weeks ago, I said that I felt I could become my authentic self in this house.  I didn’t realize how much the move would shake things up though – both our physical possessions and my own psychological foundations.  Everything can’t feel just as it did in the other house, though, because then I’d fall into familiar routines and frustrating ways of being.  Now’s the chance to fix things that are broken.  Discard things that are hindrances.  Create new ways of living and doing and being that improve our life, not just get us through it.  I wouldn’t have done that in the comfortable nest of my other home.

On the flip side, I cannot ignore the pieces of myself that will remain no matter where I am, those rituals that will follow and sustain me wherever I go.  DeSalvo said, “I’ve been waiting to ‘settle in’ before I start writing.  But writing will help me ‘settle in’.” (DeSalvo 88)  Just as there are certain beloved objects that will travel from home to home and comfort with their mere presence, so must I make time to practice these rituals that will soothe me.

I cannot wait for everything in my home to be set up perfectly before I roll out the yoga mat.  I cannot avoid writing until the perfectly appointed writing desk sits in its nook.  I cannot avoid ‘living’ while I run through my unpacking/set-up list.  If I ignore those foundational elements of myself that will indeed make anywhere I live a home, the window of liminal time will close and this chaos will become my life.

No more waiting.

This is not ‘the waiting place’.  These are the living rooms.  This is home.  It’s time to start feeling it.

Incommunicado

Being unavailable, unreachable, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Tomorrow afternoon marks a week we’ll have been in our new home.  Only three people know our new phone number.  Only two bill collectors have found us.  I’ve been on Facebook once and haven’t logged onto WordPress at all – let alone post!

Today as I walked home from retrieving the girls at their new bus stop, I felt that my necessary reentry to the world was coming.  Inevitable.  I can only use the boxes around me as an excuse for so long.  Though I still do not have anything hanging in my closet because I don’t feel I’ve sufficiently de-furballed it (their special cat friend left me many presents).  I still do not have things packed into the bathroom cabinets because I haven’t disinfected them yet.  I still don’t have routines and patterns and familiar places to put things.

But the world does not care.  The world will not let me milk this life-change for all it is worth like the sleepy, hazy period that is life with a newborn.  Eventually I’ll have to answer the phone.  Eventually the beep of a text message will wake me from my reverie.  Eventually I will while away an entire evening checking for updates, statuses, and pictures of cute kids.

And while I’m dead-tired and sick of putting the kids to bed and starting another round of housecleaning, I haven’t missed checking multiple e-mail accounts and social media accounts and staying in constant contact.  I got a lovely snail mail correspondence from a dear friend.  Two wonderful friends of mine brought a ‘housewarming’ lunch.  And legions of family and friends trooped in to help us set up our new home.

Funny how we seemed to survive before we were attached to technology.

Next Stop: Transition Town

Ironically, the section of the book I’m reading right now is all about transitions.

To ease the transition of moving for our children, I gathered a thematic collection of books to borrow from the library:

  • Fred Rogers’ Moving (classic – right down to the 80s fashion in the photos!)
  • Mo Willems’ City Dog, Country Frog (we are going from city to country – though I didn’t expect the heartbreaking twist!)
  • Our House by Emma and Paul Rogers (inspired my daughter to suggest leaving a time capsule; guess it translated my idea of legacy and different chapters in life)
  • Moving by Michael Rosen (the cat giving his family the cold shoulder b/c of the move didn’t quite get across the positive vibe I was going for, but I guess it shows that even ambivalence can be won over with food!)

As I sifted through the on-line card catalog, I extended my search to books for me.  I think originally I was looking for books on the logistics of moving, tips and tricks.  Maybe.  Who knows?  I’m all over the road lately.  But in any event, I found two titles that sounded interesting.  The first, Moving On by Sarah Ban Breathnach, caught my eye because I’ve had Simple Abundance on my shelf for years.  I figured the universe might be giving me a nudge if I was seeking books on moving and here was one by the woman who first introduced the idea of a gratitude journal to me.  Though I know her other title to be more of a self-help, for some reason I expected a memoir on the rigors and epiphanies of moving.  There are personal anecdotes, but it’s also about finding one’s true home regardless of physicality; being comfortable with one’s space in the world regardless of where she calls home.  The idea of home and making the space within those four walls enjoyable is tackled, but it’s really more about letting go of excess baggage to make room for that enjoyment.

Ha, ha, ha.  So funny as my days are filled with purging and packing.  I am totally in limbo.  This home no longer looks like my own as the boxes begin to outnumber the intentional home décor.  My new home is still occupied by someone else.  So I’m hanging out somewhere in the ‘twain’.  I can’t do any of those exercises she suggests for finding what works about your home because I don’t know which one to focus on!  I know the chaos that surrounds me right now certainly isn’t working.

So I get about halfway through this book and reach the section on transitions.  A major thrust of it is that we actually make these difficult times even harder for ourselves by refusing to let go, go with the new flow of things, honor the past and appreciate the future.  Who, me?  I hate change.  There are some people who have wondered if I want to move.  Yes, of course.  And another scared, change-hating part of me, says, this is so freakin’ hard.  I lay in bed one night and realized I’d have to leave the blades of grass I’d stenciled onto the walls of our first nursery (affectionately known as the grassy knoll).  So between the stress of actually making the move a reality and the mental and emotional preparation, I probably do come across as a little ambivalent at times.

But not because I’m not looking forward to settling in our great new house and setting up shop, exploring the community, meeting people.  It’s just because I’m apparently really good at setting up roadblocks on the way to transition town.

And so this is where another highly appropriate quote from Moving On comes into play.  Ban Breathnach shares the words of Mary McCarthy, who says,

“There are no new truths, but only truths that have not been recognized by those who have perceived them without noticing.”

Ha!  If that does not describe me in nearly every aspect of my life, I don’t know what does.  How often have I relearned something I’d already known?  How often have I ignored what needed to be done though the answer was staring me in the face?  Human frailty, I suppose.  That damn weak free will.  We know what’s best and yet take the easier, more convenient, if insanely repetitive and possibly destructive, path.

I know I need to focus on the amazing truths on my doorstep.  A rich life lived in this beautiful little house with many pleasant memories to pack.  A lovely, airy, hope-filled home waiting for us to fill it with sights and sounds and silliness.  I know I can be my authentic self there.  I know this transition will make me stronger and truer.  It’s just a hell of a lot easier to feel it when you’re at the other end of the journey.

 

In a somewhat related vein, the other book I chose to read is a memoir: On Moving: A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again by Louise DeSalvo.  I have yet to read it.  I’ll let you know what epiphanies that unveils ☺

What books have helped you and your children make a successful transition when moving?

Same $*@#, Different Day

There are times when I wake up in the morning and don’t know what day it is.  It takes my mind a minute to focus and remember.  I can blame a lot of this on lack of sleep.  My body feeling like its packed inside a bag of cotton balls, it’s no wonder my head is foggy.  But I think most of it has to do with the repetitive nature of my days.

Don’t get me wrong – I love routines.  I actually get a bit batty without them.  Anxious people like me do not like the unexpected (except surprise gifts on Mother’s Day – much to my husband’s chagrin).  I’m much better at fitting everything in if I have a set list of objectives and time frames within which to do them.

I’m thinking you can wear routines out though.  Without variety, you ain’t got no spice, right?  And life right now is looking pretty bland.  It’s the first week off winter vacation.  The weather’s cold, actually wet and snowy for once this year, the kids (and I) struggling to get back into the groove of wake-ups, waffle-making, lunch-packing, teeth-brushing, coat-wrestling, out-the-door running.

This morning, Thursday, I woke up saying, Thank God I don’t have to go anywhere besides drop-off and pick-up.  Four days into the week, I’m already so beat-down, I could barely crawl into my sweats.

I suppose I could approach this the way Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day, righting all the wrongs the second, third, fourth time around.  I could go to bed earlier tonight so I wake up somewhat refreshed.  I could make Bella’s lunch after dinner so I don’t have to scramble in the morning.  I could plan something new and different for tomorrow to break the monotony.  But in real life, unlike the movies, we don’t always get the moral of the story.

Sometimes we get so worn down in our ruts that we can’t see up over the rim.  And we wake up in the morning to the same day, essentially, because we’re dealing with the same shit.

But I’m thinking maybe this is nature’s way of getting us to embrace change.  We get so sick of ourselves and the monotony that we’re thrown off the track and forced to forge a new one.

It’s times like this that I find the pages in my cookbooks that aren’t yet dog-eared.  I purge all that clothing I’ve been meaning to give to good will.  I seek out friends that I’ve been meaning to make plans with.  I try some long-forgotten yoga pose.  I stretch muscles I’d forgotten I had.

All of life is cyclical.  Like the tides and the lunar cycle, today and its attendant shit are bound to come around again.  But in between, there will be moments of shock and awe and the sublime.  I’ll just have to remember not to get caught out too far when the tide comes back in.

So I’m sure I’ll find something exciting to get me through this low point.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and remember what day it is.  Until then, you’ll have to excuse me, I have another load of laundry to do.

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