WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

WHEN THE WRONG ONES WILL DO

WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

MAKES ME HAPPY

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

AWARENESS...

STAYING AWAKE TO THE REMARKABLE IN THE ROUTINE

AWARENESS...

Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

dog sitting

dog sitting

I just went through another software conversion at work. I think this was my seventh. The first four were manufacturing conversions, while the last three have been order management and warehouse conversions. Anyway, it’s been stressful. I’ve been working long hours, some weekends and this week I will have the post-conversion, new users, unusual situations we didn’t test for, stuff to deal with.

I am burned out.

And I’ve been having weird dreams…

Dream #1: I was in a restaurant with my son and Steve. They both sat down at a table, but there was a woman standing with her back-side inches from the remaining chair at the table. I managed to inch the chair over towards me, holding onto the back of it. I was about to walk to the front of the chair to sit down, but the woman, the one who had been blocking my way, sat down instead, as though I’d been pulling the chair out for her.

Dream #2: I was standing with my bike at the pedestrian crossing near my home. This crossing is the bane of my existence, taking forever to allow pedestrians and bikes to cross and when the light finally does change, you have to be careful not to get hit by cars running the red light. In my dream, someone walked up beside me, grabbed my bike and rode away.

Dream #3: My friends and family were in a boat crossing the ocean while I was swimming behind them. I was holding onto a shark’s tail because I was tired, and the shark just happened to be there. And I was hoping he didn’t notice that I was hitching a ride and turn around and eat me.

Do you think there’s a pattern there?

This burn out has made me lose my usual curiosity and enthusiasm to try new things and look for the normally unnoticed. I can barely force myself to take a photo. Nothing seems like anything I want to remember. And the artistry of studying light and texture and shadow to get a certain effect eludes me. Everything around me appears gray.

And writing… what is worth writing about? And who will want to read it anyway? And once again, is anything going on that I want to remember or dive deeper into by writing about it?

Which has got me thinking…

Something has to change.

I can’t keep up this pace. Oh, I suppose I could. But I don’t want to.

And I can’t live in a gray world where “creation” feels completely foreign and beyond me.

So I’m beginning a year long experiment to make changes in my life that I believe will simplify my daily routine and create a more sane existence.

I’ve got some pretty engrained bad habits. I don’t expect to develop a new way of being overnight, in 30 days, 40 days, or even 6 months. I’m in this for the long haul.

Hopefully, it will be one of those successful experiments. But to be a real experiment, there should be measurable results. Stuff like:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • More time spent nurturing old friendships and creating new ones
  • Less rushing around and feeling frantic
  • Not compulsively eating or drinking to relieve anxiety or to rev back up when I’m exhausted
  • Less losing stuff because I don’t have time to put things away, have too much clutter to dig through or I am too tired to remember what I was looking for in the first place

Words like “decrease,” “more” or “less” aren’t very precise measurements. But I’m not going to worry about that right now. Or try to do this perfectly. Or try to change everything all at once. Because if I did, my list would be something like this:

  • Lose seven pounds
  • Improve my photography
  • Write every day
  • Submit an essay or story once a week
  • Bike 100 miles a week
  • Take the dogs to training classes to make them into model dog citizens
  • Start a yoga class
  • Join a meditation group
  • Redesign my website
  • Learn how to handle my horse trailer so I can go trail riding again

Anyway, you get the picture. I have this tendency to go over board.

I’m not going to do that. Because that wouldn’t be change. That would be the same and not at all what I want.

Okay. I’ve rambled on long enough. What I should have said is simply, there’ll be some change in my life, as well as on my website, which will be my lab, my playground, and where I record my observations.

And it will all be done with shorter posts. I promise.

dog sitting

shadow

Arizona sunset

I’m a bit behind in my writing and photography. I’ve had three topics in mind to write about and a slew of photos from my trip to Arizona to edit but I haven’t had the energy to do anything with any of it. To force my way out of this brain-dead silence and lack of caring enough to start, I am starting. No promises of brilliance or even a nice story arc from crisis to personal growth.

If I was writing in chronological order, I would start with the story of my trip to Arizona. But no, I am starting with a more recent event as it is most fresh in my mind. Given that my mind resembles cheese with mold covering it, I am picking my least moldy section of thought.

Last Friday and Saturday, I took a writing class with Lidia Yuknavitch. The Loft, which is our local Twin Cities writing haven, had invited Lidia to do a reading on Thursday night and to teach the class that I attended.

The Friday and Saturday class was called “The Erotics of Writing.” The title frightened me as much as Lidia Yuknavitch did. During the reading and class, I soon learned that Lidia was no one to be afraid of, but before meeting her, all I knew about Lidia was what was between the covers of two books of hers that I’d read — “The Chronology of Water,” which is her memoir, and “The Small Backs of Children,” which is one of her novels.

Her writing both drew me in with its imagery and rawness and repelled me with its explicitness. Her writing seemed to come from somewhere unadorned by needing to smell and look and be perceived in a certain way. Her books are not in chronological order and they don’t follow the usual formula of having everything wrap up nice and neat by the end. Isn’t that a bit more like real life? Which may be why we long for our books to be more tidy.

cactus

I won’t quote the words from Lidia’s books that ripped me open. That would reveal more about myself than I’m willing to tell. I’ll just say that her books touched a raw something in me. Like this paragraph from “The Small Backs of Children,”

“For the opening, you decide to move in slow motion and black-and-white. An excruciatingly beautiful girl gone to woman, walking. A girl who has toppled over into woman, her lips already in a pout between yes and no, her torso and ass breaking faith. Moving down a tree-lined city sidewalk. Fall. Her coat pulled up to the flush of her cheeks. Her hands stuffed down into pockets. Her hair making art in the wind.”

Not everyone will like Lidia’s writing. There were sections that I thought, “Too much” or wanted to turn away from. But I didn’t. Because there was recognition there, and I couldn’t look away.

When writing directly about something is too difficult, Lidia suggested in class that we come at it figuratively. She said that often writing that way gets closer to the truth than writing about “what happened.” For example, in “The Chronology of Water” Lidia wrote about collecting rocks to tell the story of a stillbirth. It’s a matter of looking for the sensory truth of an event instead of just describing the actions, she told us.

desert rock and plant

One of the exercises we did in class was to write about a secret our body was holding. Once we’d done that, we were to write about the secret the secret was holding. The point being that often we have blind spots right next to what we know and if we can find those blind spots and write about them, we will find the deeper story, the deeper truth.

We did several free-writing sessions during the class, responding to prompts that Lidia gave us that urged us to write from our bodies. For someone like me who doesn’t want to be in her body, whose body often betrays her with panic and pain and fatigue, this wasn’t easy. Sometimes, trying to be in my body and think from that point of view brings on shortness of breath, spasms and a coldness that makes my whole being tighten in shivers. But the thing about Lidia and the students and the space we were in — it felt safe to at least give this a try.

One of the exercises we did was to close our eyes and scan our bodies for the place that was calling for attention in some way, a place where our minds lingered. Once we had found that place, we were to write about it or write from the viewpoint of that part of the body. Lidia talked about why it’s important to bring our bodies into our writing. She said it is important to tell our story the way we see it and feel it.

shadow

When we did that exercise, it was my stomach that I landed on. It is often the place where I feel my emotions and where my muscles are drawn tight like the tension a bow feels when the arrow is pulled back.

I wrote about how I used to dare boys in the neighborhood to punch me in the stomach. It was my way of proving I couldn’t be hurt. One of the paragraphs I wrote was,

“Her mouth opened in a silent scream — a Hitchcock girl on a muted television. Then came the folding, the doubling over that forced the air out of her lungs in a woosh. Being tough was no longer the point of this game. She didn’t know it yet, but she was preparing for the rest of her life.”

We so often are told that the only way to deeply experience life is to buy our experiences. We see commercials that trigger our senses instead of going out into the world and discovering all the sensual experiences that are free for the taking. Imagine if you were in your body fully experiencing life all the time? It would be too much, so it’s probably good it’s not possible. But still, the idea of trying to do this throughout a normal day is intriguing.

Phoenix-10-3

dog by Mississippi River

dog by Mississippi River

“Ooh, she may be weary
Young girls they do get weary
Wearing that same old funky dress
But, ooh, while she gets weary weary
Won’t you try some tenderness

You know she’s there waitin’
And anticipatin’
For the thing she’ll never, never have
Oh, no no
Ooh, while she gets weary
Won’t you try, oh, try some tenderness

“Try a Little Tenderness”  – Three Dog Night

Weary… Is someone out there fortunate enough to not feel such a thing? If so, I want to know the secret. Is it youth that has energy? Three Dog Night sings that young girls do get weary, so maybe not.

Or perhaps retirees that get to follow natural sleep patterns and go to bed and wake up when it feels right aren’t tired. But with age, well, comes age and interrupted sleep patterns, so maybe they aren’t energized either.

Perhaps it is people who follow some suppliment or health regimen or do yoga and/or meditation that feel rested. I’m giving all of those things a try, plus massage, and I do think they are helping a bit. It hasn’t been long enough to know for sure or give up on them yet, which would be my usual pattern. I’ve vowed to give these practices a year’s trial.

untitled-31

This tired I’m feeling is like a deep in the bone marrow kind of fatigue. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say it is soul-exhaustion. Or more accurate yet perhaps, that it is coming-out-of-winter weariness.

My body and brain resists taking in anything more. Facebook and Twitter depress me with the volume to scroll through. Emails fill my inbox unread. Blog posts I bookmark to read are replaced with more recent blogposts until I have a stack of about one hundred “intentions.” I myself write blog posts and take photos that sit, unshared.

My thoughts feel tender-footed. They want to soak in a pan of warm water, with epsom salts preferably, waiting for tendons to relax and let go.

Is this all just me? Tell me it’s not, even if you have to lie.

dog on Mississippi River

Not to sound morose or overly dramatic, but there are some moments that it seems I can literally feel myself dying. Of course, we all are dying in a way as we age. But generally, we don’t FEEL it — the body going cell by cell. Oops! There goes another one!

bicycling

Maybe I’m just not used to being so limited by my body. It has generally felt strong and capable. But the creaking and groaning have escalated to a volume recently that I find difficult to ignore.

horseback riding

Neck and shoulder pain are old news, although there are days now where I can’t manage to even turn my head. And now hip pain has joined the chorus, creating a clamor of the sort of decibel that is rocking my world. It’s not even pain in the hip joint but at the top of the hip bone and sometimes the ribs. What the hell is that?

I have gone from “I can do okay with this pain” to “This is bullshit!” followed by “I just want to go back to bed.”

dog in the woods

And yet, I remain on my feet, moving, because there’s that dying feeling, which is followed by thoughts that there’s not much time left, and I don’t want to waste what remains by sleeping and babying my aching body. And in reality, movement is the only thing that brings relief.

Walking the dogs. Bike riding. Horseback riding. Anything that takes me away from a chair, a desk, a screen.

dog walking in the woods

I don’t have any great answers to this dilemma of what seems to be two undeniable and unchangeable facts: 1.) I support myself and my animals with a desk job. 2.) My desk job is causing me pain and weariness.

For now, I’ll keep trying to give myself a little tenderness.

horseback riding

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