Out With the Old on the New Moon

This morning I wrote “Cleanse – ask me” on Jen’s list for today.

(Public school would do well to teach kids how to cleanse.  I feel a rant coming on.)

I’m not talking about pore strips or burning sage, although I do like both.  I’m talking about cleansing or purging stuff to clear up energy.

I read just enough in astrology to be both intrigued and confused about what happens when planets are retrograding or going direct or lining up or whatever it is that they do that explains the weird energies flowing through our little house.  It turns out that tonight is a dark (new) moon and the perfect time to purge/cleanse/get rid of whatever needs to be gone.

The gurus say we can purge in whatever fashion we choose – bedrooms, kitchen drawers, garage shelves, digital media, books, photos, letters and *gasp* relationships.

If you know us, you also know we tend to move a lot.  With each move I purge.  It’s a great way to leave behind any energy that we don’t want to take with us.  (I do not recommend moving as a way to get rid of bad energy, but sometimes it is necessary.)  We purged a lot in the last move, but there’s still a lingering trace of something that does not feel right.  I can’t define it.  It isn’t a note with a certain handwriting, or a gift that should have gone to Goodwill.

At this point in the day, it isn’t practical to start a full-scale purge.  For the record, I’m not ready to give up my cookbooks even though I rarely open them and tend to grab the iPad to find a favorite recipe.

For tonight’s new moon, my purge will look like this:

pitch the yogurt with the October 2017 date;

clean the cat box – thanks, Jen;

sweep the floors and spritz some cypress oil throughout;

put the donation stuff in the back of the car;

clean out my work inbox;

purge my default setting of focusing on what could/might go wrong;

and put some of the thoughts swirling in my brain into this post.

If you’re wondering, Jen doesn’t need to purge anything.  She is my inspiration for cleaning and purging.  Her bedroom looks like a minimalist board from Pinterest.  It’s serene, inviting, cozy and hip – all the things I aspire to be, but won’t be, because apparently I need to have my kids’ artwork and mementos covering every square inch of this house.  I put it on her school list because she’s fun to do things with.

I know what they say about clutter and feng shui and energy, but for me, the bigger issue has to do with my default setting – my inner curmudgeon.  For all the times I shout about our charmed lives, my inner cranky girl needs to remind me that things could still get messed up or go wrong.

Tonight I’m purging her voice, and I’m keeping the cookbooks, and the drawings from when my kids were three.

Letting Go and Hanging On

Did I tell you my back quit hurting?  (Not to make it all about me.  ; )

I talked about chronic back pain on the other blog, where I also wrote about listening to the body when it screams at us (pain!) in an effort to get our attention.

I distinctly remember when the pain started – three months into the last relationship.  (Hello, RED flag!)  The pain ebbed/flowed/annoyed me through that relationship, the breakup, living at mom’s (sorry, mom, but you know what I mean), and through starting a new job at an office that was not a good fit.

I knew the back pain was about stress.  I thought I could push through with yoga, valerian root, whiskey and walking.  Sometimes those things helped, but the pain was still there, waiting to get my attention when I refused to see the stress for what it was.

I started at a new office the beginning of December.  Two weeks ago, I noticed my back had quit hurting.  I didn’t say anything to the kids because I didn’t want to jinx it.  I kept doing the yoga.  The holidays gave me an excuse to drink whiskey.  (In case you’re wondering, I have never combined whiskey and valerian root, though I’ve been tempted.)

Recently, I lifted a heavy object, as a test.  I anticipated a stab.  I thought for sure my back would scream at me.  And, nothing.  No spasm.  No twinge.  Nothing.  I was able to put away the artificial tree without so much as a wince, except I did feel a little guilty about putting Christmas away so early.

I figured I was safe in telling the kids that my back pain was gone.  I did, and didn’t jinx anything.

 

All of this makes me think about resolutions and, conveniently, it’s the time of year when we might take stock in where we are and if we are happy – or at least not miserable – with where we are.

In 55 years, my success rate is abysmal when it comes to resolutions, partly because I rarely make any.

I’m not perfect.  I haven’t got it all figured out.  But I do a fine job of making myself feel bad without adding failed New Years’ resolutions to the mix.

I prefer to look back over the year and decide which things I will let go of and which things I will hang on to.

 

I will hang on to noticing when something does not feel right.  Whether it’s a conditioner or a brand of coffee, a book that seems too violent in the first 40 pages, an acquaintance that drains more than enriches, or a crappy pair of jeans that I never feel good wearing – I will let go of what isn’t good.

It’s in the noticing that something doesn’t feel right, that I learn to let go.

I will hang on to paying attention to my intuition, and let go of the stuff that does not feel good.

 

For Will:  I plan on letting go of worrying.  The worrying feels bad.  I’m tired of communicating those worries to the Universe, and to Will.  I know he is tired of hearing about it, too. (This one will be difficult, and all you seasoned parents are laughing at me because you’ve told me that, as parents, we are never done worrying.)  But, I will stop voicing my worries to him, and I will hang on to letting him know how much I care.

 

For Jen:  I will most definitely hang on to this connection we have, but I will let go when she strives for more independence.  Is that even possible?  I guess we’ll find out.

 

For me:  I will hang on to trusting myself.  I will trust myself to say, “No, thank you,” when something doesn’t feel right.  I will trust myself to let go of those things that do not make me wholeheartedly say, “YES!”

Oh, and I will let go of guilt (stop laughing!) and hang on to letting it be about me, once in awhile.

 

It’s going to be a good year!

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

Commitment Issues

I’ve got a 25% More! bottle of conditioner in the shower.  I am tired of the smell of that conditioner.  I’m ready to move on.  I want a new scent.

That doesn’t mean I have commitment issues, does it?

I’m not being silly, here.  I mean it.

Can commitment issues be detected back in junior high when I couldn’t decide between Flex or Prell, or Levi 501s or flares?

Wouldn’t it make sense that if you hesitate to commit to a deodorant, then you probably won’t commit to a relationship, either?

 

(I’ll have you know that I am a frugal person.  I’ll continue to use up that annoying bottle of conditioner, even if I use too much each time, and it makes my bangs greasy.  Maybe I could bribe Jen to finish it, or use it for shaving my legs.)

 

I’ve noticed that usually men are said to have commitment issues.  Why do women want to commit more readily than men?  (When I first typed that sentence, I wrote, ‘Why do women want to be committed more …’  Freudian?)  After all, don’t we do most of the work of relating in a relationship?  It occurs to me that if I am commitment-phobic, it’s probably because I’m tired of doing all the relating.

 

In my defense, I have a cutting board that I’ve owned since 1987.  I’ve lived with that cutting board longer than anyone I’ve had a relationship with, including my parents – even if I count the times I moved back in with my mom.

That makes me laugh.

Should that make me sad?

That cutting board has survived many moves.  It is the perfect kitchen tool – the right shape, reliable, dependable, and the right size.  If only I could find a ….

 

I once received a gift of a glass cutting board.  (Ironically, it may have been a wedding gift.)  I hated that thing.  No one can convince me that cutting boards should be made of glass.  I’d swear the chef’s knife would wince each time I’d attempt to slice an onion on it.  I’d rather drag my nails across a chalk board than cut on glass.

That “board” was a well-intentioned gift.  Should I have stayed committed to it?  I think, NOT!

 

For that matter, why must I defend myself for being hesitant to commit?  Why do we applaud the capacity to commit without evaluating what it is that one commits to? Whether it’s an office or a cutting board or conditioner or a relationship, if it isn’t a good fit, isn’t it best to forgo commitment and make a change?

Would a sense of frugality dictate that one ought to stay because of the investment already made?  That’s a sunk cost!  Move on, already.  (Except for conditioners which, one could argue, aren’t really necessary, anyway.  Besides, one is no better than another, but most of us seem to think we need conditioner.)

 

How about we commit to life?  I say we commit to experience.  Commit to change and process and the journey.  (Even if the word journey is used too often.)   So what!  I commit to getting as much out of this journey as possible.

I commit to me!

And apparently this annoying bottle of conditioner.  And flares and 501s, and my beautiful cutting board, but not deodorant.  You can’t make me.

 

 

Yet Another Post About Self-care

As you stand at the kitchen counter eating toast and chugging coffee while paying the electric bill, the clock on the stove says you need to be in the car in 15 minutes if you are going to be at the office on time.  You still have to figure out what to take out of the freezer for dinner, run the curling iron through your hair, feed the cat, take out the garbage, finish the 15 year old’s school list and wake the 19 year old to remind him that he promised grandpa he’d mow the lawn today.

You’ve been up since 5:30 making lists, crossing things off lists, and doing the work you can from home.

What doesn’t get done this morning can be done on your lunch hour, unless you’re lucky enough to work far enough away from home that it isn’t practical to drive home for lunch.  In that case, I want to be you.

On your lunch hour you schedule appointments, return emails, check in with the kids to see how they are doing on their lists.  You make sure you have enough milk for tomorrow morning so that you don’t have to stop at the store on the way home.  Then you realize that you are out of spaghetti, and you’ve already taken the sauce out of the freezer.  Before jumping in the car to head back to the office, you rummage through the pantry and find some macaroni.  Spaghetti sauce and macaroni make goulash, for the win!  You still don’t have to stop at the store.

 

It’s the small victories that get you through the day.

 

After work there will be World History, polynomials, and helping with the sewing of the Halloween costume.  You will discuss what kind of tires his truck will need for winter and where to find the money for tires.  You’ve checked the forecast and know that snow is coming, so you’ll need to move firewood into the garage.  You’ll have to make a couple work calls that you were supposed to make earlier in the day.  Oh, and then there’s cooking dinner, too.

You stop for a second to check social media while the water comes to a boil for the macaroni.  You see a post about how important it is to take care of yourself – more on that tired old line about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first.  Your eye roll is audible.  You think to yourself, “Who has time for self-care?  If I take time to take care of myself, how will everything else get done?”  And then you realize that you take several minutes a few times a day to check in on Facebook, and kick yourself because those groupings of a few minutes here and there could easily turn into a solid half-hour of self-care.

As you pour the bag of macaroni into the boiling water, you picture yourself lounging somewhere for 30 whole minutes.  It feels icky.  It feels self-centered.  It feels like you don’t deserve it.

As you stir the macaroni and turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, you picture your kids taking time out of their day for some self-care.  Maybe she sketches or plays with the cat.  Perhaps he grabs a pole and heads for a fishing hole or plays pool with his friends.  It occurs to you that you wouldn’t think they were being at all selfish.  You would be glad to see them making their mental health a priority.

As you take turns stirring the sauce in one pan and the macaroni in another, you realize that they won’t learn to make themselves a priority if you don’t show them.

INFJ at the Office

Congratulations!  You got the job!

You were nervous about the interview, but you aced it because you’re good with one-on-one conversation.  The worst part of the process was waiting for the call that would tell you whether or not you were accepted for the position.  You made yourself sick with worry.  You even practiced how to answer the phone and how to talk without finishing their sentences.

When they called to offer the job, you tripped over yourself saying something like, “Oh, no!  I mean, that’s great!  I’m sorry.  Yes? No!  I’ll take it!”

The first day was nerve-wracking what with all the introductions, but now you are several weeks into it and you’re over the bumpy part of being the new person.

The coffee doesn’t suck.  The parking isn’t bad.  You can bring your lunch without feeling like a dork.  It’s not a bad place to spend the day.

But you are an INFJ, so there are issues.  This doesn’t surprise you because you are, well… an INFJ.

 

You care about your co-workers.  You remember birthdays.  You always ask how their weekend was.  You inquire of his mother’s recent surgery.  Your co-workers like you.  That’s a good thing, but that also makes it difficult to get your work done.  You are the first person they come to when they want to be heard.  They vent to you about each other, and they run new ideas by you.  All the while, management applauds your newbie efforts at teamwork, turning to you each time a new project needs coordinating.

And there you sit on your lunch hour doing all the work that you can’t get done because everyone comes to you with their stuff.

Plug along, INFJ.  You’ll find a way to be there for your co-workers and still get the work done.  It’ll take time, but you are organized.  Be patient with yourself and your co-workers’ needs to come to you. You won’t likely change this dynamic, so understand it and use it to your benefit.

 

Your integrity is unmatched in the workplace.  In the beginning, you’ll look up to your boss.  You’ll respect management.  After a few months, though, you’ll be reminded that everyone is motivated by different things.  (Remember this from those MBTI tests?)  You aren’t motivated by money.  Just about every one of your co-workers is motivated by money.  While they might tell you that customer service is their priority, you will learn that it is not.  You will feel the need to remind them that if they made customer service a priority, the money would follow.

They come to you to be heard, dear INFJ.  They do not want to be preached to.  They think your priorities are endearing, but they don’t begin to understand why you aren’t motivated by money.

Save your breath.  Keep working hard.  Be the quiet team-player that you are, even if that means that some days you’ll end up working through your lunch hour.  Remind yourself that we are all motivated differently and that it is possible to respect them, even if you don’t understand their priorities.

At the end of the day, you’ll be respected for doing your job well, and clients will seek you out because of your excellent customer service skills.

 

The Map

Margaret had spread a blanket in the grass.  Basil was unfolding the map and placing it on the blanket.  Gladys put boulders on each corner in an effort to keep the wind from stealing the map.  Margaret started cutting the pie. 

“None for me, Margaret.”

“Gladys!  Why must you insist on worrying about your waistline.  There’s really no point in that now, dear.”  Margaret handed a plate of pie to Basil.

“Old habits die hard, Margaret.””

“Thank you, Margaret,” Basil poured the coffee.   “This one’s map is a bit confusing with lots of detours and rarely a straight line from point A to point B.”

Gladys took a sip of coffee.  “She must have been an indecisive one, I figure.”

Margaret laughed.  “It certainly makes for an interesting journey that way.”

 

Just then Jon came up.  “What are you guys doing?”

“Oh we’re just enjoying another map, dear.  Pie?”

“Sure, Margaret.  I love your pie.”

Basil pointed at the left side of the map.  “Look here.  We see a relatively straight line that represents birth to about the college years.  Just that one detour when she quit college briefly, but I see she got back on course at this point.”  Basil traced his finger along a red line.  “But it’s here that we see the line veer way off course.  I wonder why she thought that was a good idea?”

Jon put down his fork and looked at the map more closely.  “Looks to me like that detour taught her how to appreciate art and creativity.  I don’t see how that was a bad choice.”

Gladys pointed at a fork in the road.  “What do you figure happened there?”

Jon looked at Gladys like she had a third eye.  “How else would she have gotten those awesome kids of hers?”

Margaret nodded.  “You are so right, Jon.  And look at that spot.”  The red line appeared to be broken and a new red line started an inch away.

Jon sat back and looked at the other three.  “That was a major detour.  The one that saved her kids.”

Jon moved the empty pie plates to the side and crouched over the map.  He pointed at a juncture and said, “This is where she learned some of what she didn’t want.”  He pointed to another spot and said, “This is where she learned what she would not accept.”  He put his finger on another bend and said, “This is where she reinvented herself.  Again.”  Moving his finger further, “Here she decided she didn’t need to like football.  Turns out she never did, she just thought she was supposed to.”  They all chuckled.  Margaret said, “I never did like football much, but I liked the sound of it playing on a Sunday afternoon when I was baking.”

Jon pointed again, “Here she started a new career right after rejoining a previous segment.  It’s almost like her route made a circle.”  Margaret said, “Oh!  Isn’t that when she and her kids moved back to their old house?  That was a fine course correction.”

Gladys looked up from the map.  “Wouldn’t she have gotten to where she was going quicker if she’d taken a more direct route?  What if she’d avoided all those detours?”

Jon smiled.  “Don’t you see, Gladys?  If it weren’t for the detours, she wouldn’t be who she is.”

 

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  —  J R R Tolkien

 

 

 

If Walls Could Talk

“They’re back!  Did you see that?  They’re unpacking!”

“Do you think they’ll be staying?  Oh! I hope so.  I’ve missed them.”

“How come they’re switching bedrooms?  How come Will gets the bigger room?”

“Haven’t you noticed?  He’s too tall for a twin bed, and there’s no way a queen would fit in his old room.”

“I suppose that makes sense.  He’s too big for the blue bathroom, too.  What’s she been feeding him?”

 

“Look at Jen!  She’s gotten so tall.  Where’d her long hair go?”

“Is she stirring paint?  I hope so.  I’m so tired of this brown.  Some new paint would cheer me up, cheer me up almost as much as seeing those familiar faces again.  They look happy.  Dontcha think?  Are they glad to be back?  Do you think this is a good thing?”

“There you go worrying again.  Just look at them!  Listen to them laughing!  Listen to the way they banter and giggle and tease each other.  They’re glad to be back.  I can feel it, can’t you?”

“I guess you’re right.  I feel the energy shifting in here.  It’s familiar.  I remember this feeling.  This is good.”

“Hey!  I like the colors Jen picked.  This will be fun and new and lighter.  Out with that brown.”

“I thought you liked the brown?”

“I did.  But now it’s time for a change.  Nothing wrong with a change.  You’ll get used to it.  You always do.”

“Where’s Nina?  Is that a new feline?”

“Didn’t you hear?  I heard Jesse say something about missing Nina in this place.  That one’s called Pansy.”

“Does Pansy ever leave Jen’s side?”

“Nope.  I think that’s the point.  I heard Will’s getting a canine.”

“Yay!  A dog!  That’s so good.”

 

“Look!  Will’s mowing the grass.  Can you hear the yard?  Even the yard is glad they’re back.  I’d swear the grass is smiling, even as he cuts it.  Oh!  That’s good.”

“He cuts the grass a lot faster than he used to.”

“No kidding.  He’s a man now.  He’s not a boy anymore.”

 

“Jen still does her art!”

“You mean painting the walls?”

“Not just the walls, silly, she still draws and paints on paper.  I can’t wait to see what she draws next.  I’m so glad they’re back.  Now we get to see what happens to these kids.”

“Do you think they’ll stay?”

“I hope so.  They had it real good here.  They’ll have it good here this time, too.”

“I heard Jesse say she’s never moving again.”

“Oh, no!  Will’s leaving.  Look at him!  He’s walking out of the garage.”

“He’s got a fishing pole!  Don’t worry.  He’s heading to the river.  He’ll be back.”

“Yeah!  He’ll be back in time for dinner.  Just watch!”

 

It turns out you can go home again.

 

Life as Art

She’s been a painter since she first dipped her fingertips into tempera.  Over the years, I’ve seen her work evolve.  Her early work was more realistic – good, strong, proportional and deliberate.  Now, as she’s matured, I see more of her soul in her work.  The colors are richer.  The light has depth.  I can see she’s more confident in her style.

I got to introduce her to Jen and Will.

We stumbled through the small talk about how crowded the art show was, how many years had she been doing this, and Gee! how about the weather.

Once the awkward was out of the way, Jen shared how she doesn’t like the pressure that comes with a commissioned piece.  I know she was relieved to hear that this artist felt the same way.  When working on a commission, it’s as if the Universe is standing by, ready to put the brakes on the flow.  You could be tuned into your playlist, in the zone, broad brushstrokes creating magic, and suddenly you remember that you have to please someone with this piece.   *Cue the sound of screeching brakes.*  Now the process isn’t full of ease.  You become overly critical and self conscious.  The harsh words line up to whittle away at your confidence.  “They’ll hate that color.  That’s not what an owl has ever looked like.  Who said you could paint?”

Side note:

When you are passionate about something – the kind of passion that happens when all you want to do is think/talk/breathe about that thing – find another who is passionate about the same.  Talk of that thing together.  Feel how the air is sweeter and your lungs fill all the way up.  See how when they mention something that you’ve experienced, you feel like you are now a member of a secret group.  Finally, you belong with others who speak a private language that not many others understand.

If your kid is passionate about something, and you are privileged to watch her engage with another who is passionate about the same thing, then you will get a glimpse of why this passion lights her soul.

 

We talked of style changes.  We talked about color and layering and subject matter and technique.  We talked about when it’s hard to create – commissioned pieces.  She told of the few times she gets inspired and starts a piece in the late afternoon, finishes the next morning, and has this crazy desire to look over her shoulder and ask, “Where did that come from?”

She laughed about how she might dislike something she’s created, only to have someone call her, months after they’ve seen it, to tell her that they can’t quit thinking about it, and ask if it is still for sale.  She could drive herself nuts trying to figure out why that happens, or she could just keep painting.

I asked how she would describe the evolution in her work.  She mentioned that when she looks at older pieces, she’ll either be horrified or amazed.  “Who painted that?  Or, wow…  that’s good!  Really good!”  She grinned as she said that her work has always reflected her different moods.  “You can tell when I’m in a happy place, or when I’m in a funk, based on the colors I’m using at the time, but I don’t really know what explains the evolution.”

We thanked her for taking the time to share with us.

 

The three of us talked of our favorite styles as we walked back to the car.  Will wants to learn to print larger photos.  Jen likes the miniature watercolors.

As I drove across the bridge, I started making comparisons between painting and writing, and that led to life.

I thought of the different chapters of my life as different artists.  There was the Jackson Pollock phase in college when I tried everything I could think of to see what would stick.

I enjoyed the single mom’s version of a Norman Rockwell when the kids and I were on our own and enjoying a simple rhythm and a set routine.

Then, of course, there was a brief period that I would categorize as The Scream.  Okay, maybe more than one period.

Several years remind me of a Russell Chatham – pleasantly hazy, comfortable to look at, evoking a certain mood, and not sharp enough in detail to make me want to look away.

If we are lucky, we evolve, like the artist’s work.  Many times, we look back and we’re shocked by some of the “work” we’ve done.  Other times, we may be pleasantly surprised.  Like the artist, we often don’t know what explains our evolution.

 

When you look back over the years, what comes to mind?  Can you think of a particular artist’s style that represents a group of years, or maybe a single year?  I’m betting we all have our own version of The Scream.

We are all works in progress.

It’s good to think of ourselves as works of art in progress.