Napkins can be anything: paper, cloth, recycled brown, printed party, big, small, tiny, thin. They can be made of denim jeans or the seat of your car or your own skin when your hands need assistance. Napkins can be made of water in your shower when you are wiping the sweat of a workout or a long day off of your skin. Napkins accept substitutes: tissues and paper towels and toilet paper and decorative guest bathroom towels can do their job just as well--and sometimes better, if you find your mess to be especially delicate or maybe very stubborn, and require a special attribute and talent offered by each stand-in. A piece of clothing draped across the shoulder or chest of a mother, lover, or good friend can be a great napkin, especially when your mess is very heavy and tender. Sometimes napkins are kind words that fall to kitchen floor on top of your mess, their graceful descent to the ground hesitant yet committed. Sometimes those words cover the mess and soak it right up into their fibers, its absorbency complete like juice on paper, the result a strange thing of beauty. Sometimes the mess is so big and dense that the napkins can't quite clean it up; instead, they even disintegrate into the mess, hardly distinguishable from it, and you can't tell if they were an initiation of or a response to anymore. But, hey, at least they tried. Napkins really try to do their best, you know.
26 January 2011
So, my friend and new mentor Sonia has a better idea for me for 2011: daily writing prompts. We've talked together about how I do like to write but frequently fail at actually doing it(much like how I like to run, hike, row, eat healthy, floss...), so her suggestion was to provide for me daily prompts, word associations, assignments, etc., for me. I will devote 10 minutes to each prompt and just write and see what comes out. I might even write down some of the ones I kinda like a little bit on here. I may even edit them beforehand, but no promises. See, MUCH better idea!
So, as a kick-off, here is today's prompt un-edited, so please enjoy with merciful eyes:
"...brings me gladness."
*The way a candle's flame can dance so effortlessly in an absent wind--fully knowing it's vulnerable and fragile existence, boldly moving and beckoning, nonetheless.
*The audacity of most of nature to do the same.
*The way a poem put to song can move my soul to tears and uplift my eyes.
I am often in a place of gladness when I don't quite know I'm there--in those times when I am lost in the marvelous wonder of the naturally mundane. Or maybe when I marvel in reflection of the wondrous mundane moments in which I am swept gently and fail to see as they occur. Perhaps when I am immersed in the most painful nostalgia of these moments that I am actually most whole, for the gaps and spaces carved out by missing and memory are filled with fountaining gladness for them. It is truly a bodily place to which I am brought, never beckoned, because if I was called towards a place of gladness, I would never come. I would approach it with trembling hands and an unsteady resolve, doubting that this is the right place--a place so wonderful and mundane and simple. Oh, so simple.
22 January 2011
I couldn't find a way to make this a 2011 goal, unless it was something like "be ok with your ennegram personality description", so I'm just going to do a post about it anyway. This is the most accurate "personality" test I've ever seen--it describes me nearly perfectly, and I've been able to pin-point most of my friends' types fairly easily and with skilled precision. You should take the test here: http://www.9types.com/ !
I've also seen a version that describes one's personality type by what they need. For example, I am Type 4, which is "The Need to Be Special". (It's a lot less narcissistic than it sounds, but only a little bit.) I like this rhetoric better, because, to me, it seems that a communication tool that centers on the understanding one's own needs and, in turn, enables one to understand the needs of others would foster a relational environment of self-acceptance, honest discourse, increased patience, and non-contingent love and affection. Which, hey, who doesn't want that? (I realized that the preceding paragraph dangerously treads near the parameters of the "children, clouds, and puppies" clause, but I am a Type 4, and that's just how we roll sometimes.)
19 January 2011
13 January 2011
Tonight I was washing the dishes that had piled up in our dishwasher-challenged kitchen, and, without thinking, I placed a fragile ceramic bowl on a top of a pile of equally fragile drinking glasses in the sink. The result was a noisy avalanche of breakable dish-ware collapsing in on each other, followed by an outburst of expletives from my mouth. Our victim, a single water glass, was crushed into pieces--just like it's brother from last night. That's right: I broke two glasses in two days while washing dishes, a fact that wouldn't be so frustrating if my casualty rate was not so high. Over the past six months of living in this house and owning this glass set, I've managed to break 2/3 of the contents, usually while washing dishes with extremely soapy hands or from unintentionally crushing them under other dishes.
The reason I'm even dwelling on this small event is, for one, I'm going to have to buy a new dish set soon; but also because it illustrates my constant frustration with myself for getting stuck in certain lifestyle patterns that I find obnoxious, ineffective, or down-right debilitating. For example, I am rather unorganized with my things and my living space is rarely in an orderly state. I am cluttery and procrastinate on cleaning up (Confession: I haven't washed the outside of my car since I've bought it in August). I don't floss. The list of parts of my lifestyle that I am frustrated with yet never seem to change can go on and on, but the point is that I can't seem to break the habits. I either will attempt for a few days and get overwhelmed, or consider the odds of success that are stacked against me and quit with a little dignity intact.
I've heard from some personal and quickly-internet-researched* sources that my instinct to retreat from any attempts of changing my habits might be a little biological: it seems that at age 25, the human brain reaches it's peak weight at 1450g, and then slowly starts shrinking. After that, it starts to loose an average of 2g per year, and increases even more when an individual reaches their 80s. The reason I even did a half-ass attempted at googling this information is that my friend had mentioned to me one time that when adults hit 25, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to establish and integrate new habits into their lifestyles, due to the aforementioned brain shrinkage.
August 14, 2010 marked the 25th anniversary of birth, and apparently the dawn of a new era of ceasing brain development. I'm not sure if this shrinkage perspective is helpful for me to deter from being self-deprecating over my frustrating and annoying habits, or strikes in me a sense of impending doom over my apparent inability to change. In truth, I rest somewhere in the middle, so this year, in order to avoid inevitable death by brain shrinkage, I resolve to..
#7-Fight Aging, one habit (or lack thereof) at a time
Despite any research, I know that I have a healthy brain and am able enact and establish new routines that are enriching and beneficial to my lifestyle. However, the empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that I will have to do so with a little more work and intention than I was previously able to, back in the "good ol' days" of my teens and early 20s. Of all of the habits that I don't have that I would like to adopt is maintaining a more organized and orderly living space, in order to avoid the onset anxiety that occurs on occasion when I am surrounded by mess. Living inside of a task-oriented, money-making, busy lifestyle leaves little room for integrating any additional habits or rhythms, so it does feel a little daunting to try to meet this goal while still maintaining space and peace. I guess the best way that I can think of to approach this is to adopt a little philosophy that I heard from my yoga instructor called the "one-minute rule" (or something--I may have just made that name up): do it immediately if you can do it in under one minute. Sort of a proactive front-loading approach to a whole lifestyle overhaul.
What I like about this idea is that it focuses on the small: if I think about how my entire dresser is extremely unorganized and full of bunched up items of clothing, I feel a little debilitated by the greatness of the task. Thus, the dresser is forced to survive in the constant open-drawer, strewn-clothes way of life that it's been alloted. However, if I take one minute to fold a few shirts in one drawer here and there, then eventually the chaos will subside and the balance of my dresser restored. I won't necessarily get everything organized all at once with this approach, but I will successfully establish a new sustainable habit, even if means I'll be folding those clothes minute by minute well into my 80s. At this point, I'll take anything that promises a little more organization--maybe it will inspire me to finally sort through my moving bins and store them in the garage. I wish I was kidding about that.
*I do not propose that this article holds any scientific nor factual authority in and of itself, but its validity seems reasonable due to the peer-reviewed article that it cites. Also, my friend who told me about this is really smart and knows her stuff, so it must be true.
Last month, I decided on a whim that I am going to stop washing my hair with shampoo. I first considered it awhile ago, when thinking about how unnecessary it is to wash our hair so frequently, and to purchase so much shampoo and conditioner comprised of chemicals, only because a clever marketing campaign in the 1970's succeeded in integrating the habit into our social psyche. And I am a sucker for being stubborn and rebelling against clever marketing campaigns, for better or for worse. I wish my anti-commercialism is what drove me to say "screw the 'poo", but such is not the case: the turning point, I have to admit, was when I broke out in a thorough rash all over my upper body due to an allergic reaction I had to herbal shampoo I was experimenting with.
At the end of the day, it would've been difficult for me to stop using shampoo or alter my grooming ritual, because I really care about what my hair looks like. And, the best thing is, I can make my hair do what I want it to do, when I want it to do it! My very specific, mousey-brown, curly-waveyish, thin hair can change to any color, any length, or any texture in an instance at the whim of my mood at the moment. I have ultimate power to immediately change something about my hair if I don't like it, and that's not a power distributed to many of the other elements that comprise my appearance--or, my life in general. Though it may be a facade, my control over my hair often signifies an ultimate control over everything--that I have it all together.
So, why did I relinquish that power to flippant fancies of my hair follicles and scalp pores? Well, I felt like it was worth it: it was worth letting go, experimenting, and letting my hair be what it naturally wants to be. A few friends of mine use baking soda to clean their hair twice a week or so, sometimes with an apple cider vinegar rinse, so I decided to follow suit. And I will never go back, because for the first time since I can remember, I actually like my hair. The curls are more bouncy, the strands are less limp, and the shape looks less like the ears of a Cocker Spaniel. When I got out of the shower today, I pulled my hair back, and thought, "this feels healthy". I don't know if my head exhibits all of the signs of a healthy scalp, but to me, I can feel its health in my hands. I can feel its vibrance and strength. I have given my hair the freedom to do what it wants to do--what it is wired to do.
Thus, my goal #6: Feeling Health, which often derives from just listening to the whispers of your body and allowing it to function as its meant to function. Though images of long, shiny, beautiful hair is advertised right in front of my nose all day, my hair does not like products. All of the expert nutritionists out there can tell me what I should be eating, but only I know what my body wants and needs, and often its not low-fat dairy or processed power bars. And, my body knows that it does not like be run down by a busy day, and will make sure I remember that when it demands more sleep the next morning. I have to learn to not feel guilty about my body, or my hair, not looking like or performing to some standard that I think it is supposed to. Instead, I must listen to my body, and give it what it wants--which turns out to be baking soda washes for the hair, minimal makeup for the face, and lots (and lots) of kale for the digestive system. This year, I will give my body the permission to be healthy in the way that it was created to be (which seems to be retaining curves and rather frizzy hair). Rather than singling out parts of my body to fix and manipulate, I will put down the pieces, step back, and let it do its thing. And when I do that, I am always, always satisfied.
And in case you were trying to imagine what my hair used to look like frequently, here's a nice visualization:Note the ears.
10 January 2011
Hello! I'm not sure if it's terribly clear in my previous posts, but my "goal"/"resolution"/"practice" for this year is to daily reflect on how the rhythm of my life is supporting my ultimate goal for 2011, which is to give myself space and peace. Some of these reflections will be concrete things I want to start
doing, or are in the process of habit-forming; some are things that I've learned through observing myself, the rhythm of life, and the lives of others; and some things are hopes for change in how I see my life and the world--perspective-alterations, if you will. I'm blogging these reflections, as
I would like my friends in the blogosphere to join me in this process so we can learn, discover, and reflect with each other. Sound good?? (I'm also excited to hear what some of you have resolved to do in 2011, and why, so please share!)
I'm super behind on daily reflections for this year since I decided what I wanted to do on the 10th. However, since I am giving myself space--
which also includes space from unnecessary expectations and guilt for not meeting them--I plan on just adding as many as I want in each post, and trusting that I catch up eventually. And if I don't, oh well. Here's my reflection/goal for today:
#5 Get rid of stuff, but don't throw it away
One of the smaller goals I decided that I wanted to try in order to give myself space and peace is to reduce the amount of clutter in my house, car, and work space! I've realized that I don't have a fighting chance of reducing the amount of clutter and noise in my mind if I'm constantly looking at junk and mess piled up around me. So, I've resolved to: 1) Better organize what I do need or want to keep by putting them in aesthetically pleasing storage places (whatever works as an incentive, right?); and 2) Get rid of stuff I don't use!! I'm the epitome of the proverbial pack-rat: I have "craft boxes" piling up in my closet that are just full of paper scraps I've been saving for years on the off-chance that I might want to use them make a beautiful collage some day. I have yet to even be inspired to make a beautiful collage.
Luckily, a possession purge is quite an achievable task--just set aside a weekend afternoon and scour through the junk with militant persistence, fill up those trash bags, and mission accomplished! The only thing that keeps me from liberating myself from my stuff is this pesky guilty complex I have about creating waste. Part of the reason that I save things is because I convince myself that I will find a crafty and clever use for it someday, and therefore by saving it, I will single-handedly reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean that congregates here. Obviously (though sometimes not so obviously to me), the accumulation of things does not imply the reduction of waste--in fact, it signifies the exact opposite. So, this year, one by one, I am going to go through all of my boxes and drawers and storage containers and start getting rid of my stuff.
However, I still have that pesky conviction that throwing stuff away to amass in a landfill is not a just way to treat the earth nor its inhabitants. There are things that need to be thrown away (paper scraps, for example), but what about all of the items that I own that are in perfectly good condition and are just unloved and neglected? I've donated many a thing to thrift stores or friend's garage sales, but for some reason, it still feels like I am throwing things away, just now dumping them on Goodwill or on the lawns of others rather than in a landfill.So, I've resolved to give away as many items as I can on Freecycle, an on-line network of local individuals who seek or are willing to give away various items, reducing the waste from things thrown away and the waste that is made from the production of new products! What I appreciate about Freecycle is that not only am I able to give away things that I don't need, but I am able to meet other's needs and requests while having a personable interaction with the people with whom I am exchanging goods. I've had the opportunity to help a woman in my area get supplies she needs for a home economics class by giving her old pots I was not using. I've also been able to get rid of an old hat I purchased for $5 at H&M and never wore (because, well, I don't like hats) by giving it to another woman who happened to want one in the very same style. I've e-mailed with these women, spoken on the phone with them, and meet them in person as I handed them these small items. I really appreciate Freecycle for its facilitation of bringing community and goods together in a manner that requires no economic exchange. Rather, it facilitates a different type of economy--one that centers around genuine human connection and community, rather than currency.
I would really encourage everyone to find, get rid of, and contribute their goods on their local Freecycle. Our local group operates through a Yahoo group, but it might run differently in your area. For more information, check their website: http://www.freecycle.org/.
Happy exchanges! :)
09 January 2011
#2: Learn to feel and accept the distance between myself and my desires, while acknowledging the sorrow and vacancy that fills it.
#3 True comfort cannot come from finding any derived meaning in a situation, nor through determining any intrinsic blame. I'm learning that comfort cannot be forced or found, but simply welcomed when it arrives. Until then, I can just make sure that I keep getting up in the morning and make my coffee and breakfast, knowing that I'll live to see the end of the day--and that it might even end with sharing dinner with a friend.
(Also, #4--re-design blog so it looks incredibly awesome--check!)