Alyse In Words

DIYing the Next Part Of This Life


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Bird Food for Thought

Days 49 & 50:  Little opportunities have been coming like small waves–the kind that thrum against the shoreline of a lake when something has stirred the waters.  Opportunities for happiness or kindness or to behave differently than I might have before keep gently rolling forward and nudging at my feet.  I don’t know if it’s a product of aging or learning, but the heights that seemed important to scale, the unidentified thing or pleasure of great magnitude, even the grand gesture of gratitude do not seem so important to me.  There are so many views from a rise in the road or a foothill climbed with a friend that is just as satisfying as an Everest.  So many chances to embrace handfuls of pleasure and give away nuggets of gratitude.  I know what I prefer, even if once more it is not the norm.

I spoke with Heroic Keith (of car repair fame) and told him how much his efforts on my behalf meant to me.  He stammered a little and I reinforced just how much his kindness coupled with being good at his job really meant. I could feel him smiling through the phone and I was glad that I didn’t let the moment slide by.  I had two sticky conversations with people whose circus and monkeys had shown up.  I listened and had empathy and didn’t offer to fix anything for them.  I was glad I was able to let the moments slide by.  When I finally arrived home to wagging dogs, I had my moment of gratitude for the day.  I filled the bird feeder and the suet cages and scattered some peanuts for good measure.  And I said thank you, thank you, thank you to what or whomever was listening.  Some cultures say that birds carry our messages to the Universe.  If that’s true, then perhaps a woodpecker or chickadee with a full belly carried off my message into the night.  It may not be a grand gesture but it feels just grand to me.


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Dust Bunnies, Coyotes, & Repairmen

Days 46 & 47 – Let’s just say the past couple of days have been about a little more and less talk and definitely more action.

I am finding some of the planning parts of this exercise in practicing contentment frustrating.  I made a great list.  And what I can tell you is that in the unseasonable warmth I got a lot done–just not items on the list.  Some of them are half done and a few of them I have already reviewed this morning and wagged a mental finger at myself about.  Here’s what I’ve learned over the past couple of days:

  • Dust bunnies beneath furniture, like the bunnies wintering in my shrubs, procreate.
  • I sometimes need to remember to stop:  In order to keep my son on my insurance, papers needed to be run around to offices so that representatives from KP could write out information already in KP’s computers to confirm to other members at KP that conditions still exist. I tried to fix this.  Every door slammed shut as they reminded me that he’s an adult.  I nervously handed the paperwork over to my son and he got to spend about 2.5 hours of his day off driving from office to office until someone relieved him of the paperwork.  It’s not my job anymore.
  • It drains every bit of my energy to deal with money-snatchers.  I spent about an hour with a garage door repairman in this conversation:
    • You quoted me $219.00 on the phone.
    • Well, this will cost about $675.00
    • You quoted me $219.00 when we discussed this by phone.
    • Well, I could do it for $459.00
    • I don’t want to waste your time. I thought this would be $219.00.
    • Well, I could do this for $250.00.
    • Does that include taxes and the trip fee?
    • (Eye roll) Yeah, okay.
  • Pushing past my comfort zone is not as uncomfortable as it might appear once I start seeing some results.
  • We all move at different speeds; even slow motion is forward motion.  I have a neighbor whose husband died nearly 3 years ago. She has been surly and rude. She has kept her dead spouse’s truck like a shrine in front of her home. On Friday I dared to speak to her because, to my surprise, she has adopted a dog–a blind dog.  We talked for a minute or two and she actually said something resembling a lighthearted remark. A part of me danced on her behalf.
  • As soon as I sort of figured out how to shop for one, my son started spending more time here.  My groceries have vanished.
  • It is both good to have a tribe and okay to allow yourself to lean on them once in a while.  Around 4 AM I woke up to whimpering and howling.  It took a few seconds to realize it was a pack of coyotes somewhere on the mesa talking to the moon.  I looked at my dogs.  They were alert with faces pointed toward the window and in a single motion simultaneously swung around, ran from the room, and quieted the neighborhood.  They returned as a pack and surrounded me once more. I thought about how easily the world would turn if we as people could come together like a retriever, a boxer/pit and a miniature dachshund, recognizing that we are all part of a tribe no matter our differences.


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A 9.2%-er

44 Days In – According to The Statistical Brain Research Institute (these guys sound reliable, right), each year about 5% of all of us set out to learn something new as the new year begins.  Only 9.2% out of all the people who set a goal actually achieve it and it’s the really strong ones who make it about 44% of the way to goal.  Well, these guys may be reliable but they’re pretty depressing.  I couldn’t find anything about how many people get antsy and want to get things happening while skipping some steps to get there.  I am not ashamed to admit that there have been instances in which I turned to the final chapter of the book in order to reassure myself that I have outwitted the author by page 82.  Of course that moment of triumph lasts just about a minute and the joy of reading the rest of the book is tarnished.  Forty-four days into this I have hit the place where I am frustrated with my turtle-like progress and I want my house, brain and life de-cluttered  as of yesterday. I did some reading about de-cluttering in a 30-day challenge.  The theory is that if you rid yourself of one item on day one, two items on day two, and so on, by the time you reach day 30–and toss out 30 things that day–you will have rid yourself of 500 items.  I have spent the last few days trying to gear myself up for this plan, thinking that it will speed things along.  I am pretty sure that me trying relieve myself of extraneous possessions using this methodology would be more terrifying than binge-watching all of the Halloween movies.  I would be great on days 1-10 and then get side-tracked, procrastinate and tell myself on day 21 that I’ll just catch up by tossing out 102 items in one day.  Enter the Scream Queen.

No. Just no.

This is what I know so far:  If I want to be a 9.2%-er then I can’t skip steps.  I can’t slack off and not take steps either.  And for bonus points, I won’t whine about it but will find the fun in it.  This may not be a very flashy philosophy but it will get me there.

 


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The Anatomy of Autonomy

Days 42 & 43 – I wrote nothing last night because I stared at the blank page for 15 minutes and gave up.  No words came.  Not much sleep came.  It was a strange night.

Today was all about cupid, over-priced roses and a huge opportunity to be discontent.  We put expectations about our own worth in the hands of other people and measure the words and actions of people in our lives based on our own interior yardsticks.  Frankly, it’s a mess.  It’s a mess in which I have participated.  I have had dating and romance, marriage and divorce, sex and sexlessness, and a secret affair.  Through it all only one relationship has been continuous–the relationship with the woman in my mirror.  I have seen the woman who tried to fit into a mold created by someone else.  I have seen someone who was chaste and reckless. Today I see the woman there who is autonomous–not alone or lonely–someone consciously choosing to acknowledge her foibles and her strengths.  I am not good in a relationship with boundaries and definitions written in stone.  Lindsey Buckingham wrote, If I could, maybe I’d give you my world.  How can I, when you won’t take it from me?  You can go your own way. Call it another lonely day.  I am not the woman Lindsey wanted.  I don’t want someone to hand me their world.  I want to make my own way, live my own adventure, own my failures and victories.  When I remove the discontent that someone else’s standards create, it’s not a lonely day.  I choose my life and how I live it every day. And there is love there.  Dog love. Friend love. Old lover reminiscence love. Smile from a stranger on the street love. The axiom says you must learn to love yourself before someone else can love you.  Is that the goal?  Learning to accept your own body, soul, warts, and wonders all for the sake of pairing up?  I accept myself.  Not every day is a self-love fest but there is peace and grace, laughter, music and kindness.  There is dancing in the kitchen. There is bold grey in my hair. And I am content with this.  It’s true that I didn’t receive a dozen roses today.  But I have grown a sturdy cactus that continues to bloom–prickly and remarkable all at once.

 


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The C Words

The 41st day of practicing contentment – There are a few other c words needed when talking about contentment.  One is courage–I find that I get overwhelmed when I think about charging head-on into tackling some of the chores around here.  I was determined to get up early, do a lot of sweeping and dusting, prep some food for next week and pirouette on toward Monday.  I swam in the shallow end of this goal pool today.  Kind of cleaned, sort of got things ready for next week.  And that’s because I chose a compromise.  There’s accomplishment in having a tidy house and being prepped for the week ahead, but I think it’s more important to be in the moment if you can.  I went with a friend to a local animal shelter and was able to watch her be more happy than I have seen her in ages.  Her dog used to go with her every day to the office, on errands, and home to offer canine opinions on what movie to watch that evening.  About a year ago her dog passed away and today she filled the dog-shaped hole in her heart.  I got to watch.  It looked a lot like that time lapse photography they use to show flowers blooming in the desert.  I wouldn’t trade that moment of dog-finds-woman/woman-finds-dog for all of the dust-free coffee tables I will ever own.  These are steps in the journey–finding the courage to create the continuity between compromise and…I’m searching for another great c word but it’s late and I am kind of tired.  Luckily, I have Winston Churchill to fall back on:  Success is not final. Failure is not final. It is the courage to continue that counts. 

 

 


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A or B

37 days into learning about and practicing contentment:  Today I had a brief chat with a friend about liminal beings–what it means when someone is liminal.  The easiest definition is that it’s someone or something able to exist in one or more spheres.  Herons are my favorite example–they are fully at home with one foot in the water and one on land or one foot on the land as they embrace the sky.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel as if I had one foot here and another foot on a completely different foundation.  Some of that comes from knowing that perfect days are a gift–and that every day is a gift if you will allow it to be.

Someone asked me shortly after the US election how I could possibly seek contentment when the world is so topsy turvy.  I have asked myself the same question and I come back to one answer:  I choose to be. It’s that much of a struggle and just that easy.  I have no control over the choices anyone else makes. I cannot force anyone to believe or behave in a way more aligned with my ideas. So, I choose to control me. No matter what is spinning out of control around me, in my space, in this moment, with the situation and people in front of me, I  choose peace and kindness.  I’m not amazing. I’m not Wonder Woman. I can’t fix or force anyone else.  I just have a choice.


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Checking the Mail

36 days – 2.6.17 – I figured out an two amazing benefits of failing to procrastinate:  1) Fear of doing things and putting them off tends to lead to Falling Piano Syndrome.  If you are unfamiliar with this condition, it’s when you walk around creating worry about something and you put off really dealing with it long enough to make the worry a reality.  And then you act very surprised when a piano falls from the sky squishing you like bug against the hot pavement.  So, I’ve officially stopped thinking that the only thing that comes in the mail is bad news and bills.  2)  If you open your mail in a timely manner, sometimes you find checks with your name on them and $175 you weren’t anticipating falls on your head instead of a piano.  Failing to procrastinate is good!