When Horizontal Space Disease Spreads to Your Calendar (It Isn’t Pretty)

The other day I went for a walk with a friend who has been spending time meditating and going to Buddhist retreats, and I felt a bit of envy. Inner peace? Yes, please!

(Courtesy IndiaMart.com)

But I know myself too well to think I’m going to take up any of those habits now, in middle age, when I can barely get myself to Quaker Meeting. Instead, I’m finding ways to turn my own weakness–Horizontal Space Disease–into a strength.

HSD is my #1 disorder, according to my Mate. Its symptoms: I see an empty horizontal space, and–according to him–I instantly need to cover it with something. Books. Laundry. Flowers. Little caches of rubber bands, paper clips, and batteries for guitar tuners. (Hey, that stuff is USEful.)

Over the years we’ve found a good compromise: certain areas of the house are fair game for my stuff, others are kept shipshape. So this is NOT a Wing house picture.

(…although they do have nice stuff…(Courtesy Sugar Pond, Wikimedia Commons)

But something of mine I’ve noticed is looking a lot like this photo these days: my schedule. It’s a cluttered mess.

A typical day generally involves the following:

2:30 or 3:15 a.m. rise, depending on whether I’m riding or driving to work

8 1/2 hour workday at the bakery

mini-power nap (20 minutes) before heading off to writing group, or music practice, or a meeting for some community organization

ride home, OR drive home to power-walk or do indoor workout

dinner/catch up with The Mate

study Spanish/practice music/catch up on correspondence/see how those spinning plates are doing–anything crashed yet?–good, keep spinning, and…time for bed so you can do it again tomorrow!

Understand, I am NOT complaining. Just noticing. Noticing that life feels a tad hectic these days. So the other morning, I used my starry morning bike commute to list all the ways I can keep myself feeling in charge of my schedule, instead of the other way around.

  1. Start the day with a poem, preferably about nature. It puts everything in perspective before little things start assuming too much importance.
  2. Use my drive or ride to air-journal about what’s on my mind, or to sing, or to call up memories that bring me joy.
  3. Use my power-walk to do the same, or, if I’m riding the indoor bike, listen to a thoughtful podcast like On Being.
  4. Even when I have a lot to do in a short time, I try to move my body deliberately. It’s amazing how un-rushed that makes me feel.

Could I clear my calendar, quit some groups, attend fewer meetings, do less? Absolutely! But I don’t WANT to. I like my full life. Just got to find a way to live comfortably with my “disease.”

Any HSD/Calendar fellow-sufferers out there? What are your remedies? Please share!

 

 

 

 

Shutting Up Now: How Long Can You Be Quiet?

When’s the last time you spent a quiet day?

I don’t mean a day of rest, drinking coffee and reading in your favorite armchair. I mean a day of NOT SPEAKING.

I know, right? Here’s an embarrassing truth about me: even when I’m alone, I talk. Aloud. A lot. I’d like to pretend I’m holding a conversation with my dog, but…my dog is not present when I ride my bike or go on a long drive. And I’m still yakking producing fascinating monologues.

So it was both a relief and a challenge to attend, this past weekend, the silent retreat held by my Quaker Meeting. It wasn’t even an entire DAY–just 6 1/2 hours of silence, the last hour of which was allowed to be punctuated by people who wished to share the insights that the previous 5 1/2 hours had delivered.

 

(Courtesy Matisse)

(Courtesy Matisse)

I spent my time alternately walking out to the rocky nature preserve near the retreat house, staring out the window, sitting on a giant lichen-covered rock, and writing, writing, writing in my journal.

Oh, and eating. Quakers are master potluckers.  But even lunch was silent, broken only by the occasional crunch of chips.

To say the day was refreshing would be a massive understatement. It was an ENORMOUS gift (as I know, in my old teaching life, I would never have used up an entire weekend day for something like that, much as I needed to). It was weird–especially walking while keeping all my “air-journaling” conversations inside my head for once. It was wonderfully social, all communication held to smiles and nods.

And it was too short. At the end of the 6 1/2 hours, I didn’t feel the need to break the silence. I almost wished we could have finished up, including all the dish-washing and vacuuming and figuring out whose coats were whose, in quiet communication, like the rest of the day.

I’m Word Woman, OK? So for me to wish to step away from words for so long…well, that tells you something.

So I’ll come back to my first question: when’s the last time you were quiet for a long period of time? What does silence do for you? Especially those of you with children still in the house, do you have a way to find any silence in your day? What do you do with it? We’d love to hear.

Nostalgia Does Not Equal Depression? Wow, Thanks, Association for Psychological Science.

This (not) just in: I’m not depressed. 

No, I don’t mean to imply by that double negative that I am, in fact, depressed–what I mean is that this is NOT breaking news. I read a piece of old newspaper, ok? Sometimes old newsprint comes into play when I clean up the bakery before closing, and this one article caught my eye…from, I guess, 2009. (Don’t worry, it was a CLEAN old newspaper.)

The article said that the Association for Psychological Science had just announced that they no longer considered nostalgia to be a symptom of depression.

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/media/releases/2008/sedikides.cfm

My reaction? The bloggable version? “You don’t say, Sherlock.”

I love to live in the past. I’ve kept an active journal since October 1975, and I love reading back on it. (Also a great way to win arguments, btw.) I can lose myself in photo albums, the digital or “real” kind. Hell, I can lose myself in a single photo.

Music? The other day on the highway, the Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why” came on the radio. I turned to my husband. “This song was playing when we first drove up to the Grand Canyon,” I informed him. That happened in 1980.

Smell? Walking along a country road in Vermont last month (where we went for a wedding), I caught a whiff of billygoat. Instant mental picture: the old goat barn of the field station at Duke University where my dad did his research. Late 60s, early 70s.

Helen and Gretchen 2012

I also love the recent past. There’s this game I play–OK, high trust, I’m letting y’all know right now how anal I am–called “A Week Ago.” While on a long walk or bike ride or drive, I will challenge myself to remember something that happened exactly a week ago. For example: “Had so-and-so over for dinner, and had my music lesson.” “Was driving home from the airport.” I can usually go back a whole YEAR doing this, but I limit myself to six months. Hey, I’m not a complete nutter.

I’d like to say I play “A Week Ago” as a strategy to stay as mentally alert as my 103 year-old grandmother was before she passed away, just in case I inherit those genes. But the truth is, I simply enjoy it.

And anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m the least depressed person they know.

However, lest you have your doubts: I also enjoy the hell out of anticipating the future. And the present? Aces with me. In fact, I think I’ll get back to it right now.

How about y’all, though? Living in the past? Does that bring you joy, and if so, in what ways? Or can you get stuck there? If your past contains sorrow, do you still find some joy in thinking about it, or does avoidance work better?