Tag Archives: organisation

Here we go again

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I’m superstitious about new year, and doubly so when January 1 falls on a Monday. So it bugs me that I’m not more excited about this one.

No resolutions. Not one. For the first time in my life as a self-aware human being, I am not starting a new diet … giving up a bad habit … launching a new budget … changing how I dress … or in any other way aiming to do, think, feel or be anything other than the person I’ve been for the past 363 days.

No, I’m not depressed. That is, of course I am, but I take mind-altering drugs for that now, so any downward-pressing sensation in my brain/heart/lungs/gut is merely the detritus of feelings past, best ignored until it leaks through a crevice, trickles into a crevasse, and drips into the primordial soup that nourishes my crocodile brain.

crocodile brain

I’m just … Oh hell, this is the year I turn sixty, so naturally I’ve been doing what many of us do when it dawns on us that the road ahead is shorter than the one behind: I’ve been reconnecting with old friends through Facebook. And I keep bumping into people who are living my life – mine – the one I staked my claim on back before all this adulting started. They went ahead and figured it out – lost the weight, acquired the poise, managed the money, got the stuff, rose as unstoppably as bubbles in a glass of champagne.

Meanwhile I frothed out of the bottle and splashed onto the table.

See, I’ve always thought of myself as the maverick, the joker, the outside-the-boxer who would one day ascend to my full amazingness (by methods undefined probably involving writings of passion and brilliance, but also acts of courage and, of course, wisdom) and astonish everyone who ever didn’t invite me to parties or wrote “could do better” on my report card.

Turns out that instead of a maverick I might be merely disorganized. Turns out that while I’ve been concocting a work history so random that it makes prospective employers flinch and back away, my non-maverick former fellows have, step by patiently consecutive step (or maybe by many wild leaps – how would I know?) made pictures, earned PhDs, transformed communities, invented medical techniques, won awards, walked with lions, built businesses, climbed mountains, published books.

I’m not proud of this part but I’ll tell you anyway: it made me angry. I felt bitter, dissatisfied with my life. Every story I haven’t told, every place I haven’t been, every challenge I haven’t met, every opportunity I’ve fumbled – that was all I could think of as I compared myself with these new old friends. I felt like a mouse in a corner while they were Smaug on his hoard.

Smaug hoard.gif

To summarize, I’ve been sitting on 2017’s butt and glowering, while 2018 and sixty and a lifetime of wtf-was-that? hurtled down upon me like a drunken locomotive, and really if one’s crawling beggar-like up the steps to Death’s door, dreaming up yet another set of new year resolutions seems … well … a little pointless. (As does unmixing metaphors. Consider this bit as the verbal equivalent of Smaug’s hoard.) I decided I wouldn’t bother to think about it.

But one has to think about something.

So I’ve been stocktaking, wandering through the cluttered warehouse of my life.

Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t have a warehouse. At best, I have a storage unit. And I don’t “wander through it” – I clamber over the old suitcases and cardboard boxes in which I hoard my stash. Heaps here and there are evidence of past efforts to sort, organize and discard old dreams, hopes, plans, ideas, assumptions. I kick them aside and keep searching. This is not a time for sorting; it’s for appraising. Is there anything here of value?

I find concepts unpacked, half-assembled, and discarded. Stories unwritten, half-written, written but untold. Relationships left out in the weather and faded beyond recognition. Promises I never decided not to keep. I find lists – so many lists – to do lists, goals and action plans, names of people I said I’d pray for, great books and extraordinary places. I wonder how much of my life I’ve spent writing lists. Everything I find tugs at me, whispering “Finish me! Fix me! Read me and check things off!” but I yank myself away. Not now. This time is for assessing. Is there anything here that’s complete?

The process is exhausting. I long to find a saggy old chair, wrap myself in a comforter, and lose myself in a book. But not this time.

This time, I look.

And here, and there, and also over there I see the gleam of treasure. It’s not where I thought it would be. It’s not what I planned to collect, yet here it is.

I’ve raised a girl and set her loose to change the world, her way. I’ve made a school and out of it built a family. I’ve strung together words in ways that make me smile. I’ve said “until death do us part”, and I haven’t killed anyone, and we’re still holding on. I’ve taught, and I’ve learned. I’ve been afraid and stood firm anyway. I’ve pulled a lot of dogs out of sad and sent them back out into happy. I’ve planted trees that grow. I’ve loved when I’ve been empty. I’ve forgiven every hurt. I have seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. I have been, and I still am.

And I’m not dead yet.

So what thoughts have you carried with you into this new year? 

 

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The quantum effects of pantry organization on marriage, and vice versa

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Himself is spending a week in Sacramento with his family, so naturally I have been spring-cleaning. (It’s spring in South Africa. That’s good enough for me.)

So this evening, after a leisurely day of procrastination, snoozing and reading a most excellent book (which I will tell you about in more detail just as soon as I finish reading it so watch this space), I am now tackling the most dreaded task of all: The Pantry.

To get this into context, when Himself and I launched our cozy barque upon the halcyon seas of matrimony, I simultaneously embarked on the great adventure of Keeping House. I mean, all by myself. No domestic assistance. Yeah, I know, but I grew up on the privileged side of life in South Africa, so I was pretty clueless.

Anyway, one of my first projects was to acquaint myself with the contents of my Beloved’s pantry, because this seemed a sensible way to learn what the man liked to eat. The kitchen was quite small, so the pantry cupboard was maybe 18 inches wide and six feet tall, and just a little deeper than the length of my arm … or maybe it connected with some kind of alternate universe, because you would not believe how much strange and terrifying stuff came out of there! I don’t actually remember all of it myself – this happened 16 years and many cupboard reorganizations ago – but I do remember finding an enormous quantity of Top Ramen, and four open but apparently full containers of oatmeal.

I tossed the Top Ramen, of course, and I lined the three older containers of oatmeal up on the kitchen counter, and I packed everything else away in an orderly, logical sort of way – you know, jam and peanut butter together; canned beans, tomatoes, soup and tuna all in their individual stacks; rice and pasta on the same shelf; and so on.

And when he came home from work I said, in tones of wifely inquiry, “So … do you like oatmeal, or don’t you? Because you buy it a lot, but you don’t seem to eat it.” And he explained that he usually disliked oatmeal but that every now and then he felt the urge to eat a bowlful, and he could never find it when he wanted it, so he would go out and buy some and have it the next morning for breakfast and that would be his oatmeal urge satisfied for the next few months.

I believe (although it was a long time ago) that I trilled a wifely sort of adoring giggle at his manly helplessness (yeah, that’s how long ago it was) and tossed out the old oatmeal. Because, you see, I just knew that from that day forward our pantry cupboard would be a model of orderly perfection, containing everything needed for delicious and healthful meal preparation by my sweet wifely hands. (Look, I was a late developer, okay? It just hadn’t occurred to me that acquiring wife status wouldn’t instantly transform me into Polly Homemaker, aka She Who Loves To Cook.)

What I did not know, but have since learned, is that Himself absolutely insists on Putting Things Away. Which, in husband-language around these parts, means opening the nearest cupboard door and shoving, with complete disregard for the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which clearly states that two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time. (I got a bit sidetracked looking this up and learned that this principle doesn’t apply to bosuns – a bosun apparently being something Schrodinger’s cat dragged in. So, granting Himself the benefit of the doubt, and also remembering that he spent many years aboard various ships and may in fact have known a few bosuns in his time, he may be onto something after all – except that I have now cleaned those pantry shelves most thoroughly, and I am very damn sure there are no bosuns in there.) Getting back to my original point, my far more logical and energy-efficient approach to keeping things where they should be is to put them down in a convenient, visible, horizontal location, and then pick them up and take them with me the next time I happen to pass by in the direction of wherever they actually belong.

Anyway, 16 blissful years of joyously learning about each other’s little quirks, and here we are. Darn, I wish it had occurred to me that I would absolutely have to blog about this, because I would have photographed the pantry before I unpacked it. Instead, here are some pictures of the work in progress.

This is what the mudroom looks like, after the pantry cupboard vomited all over it

This is what the mudroom looked like after the pantry cupboard vomited all over it

Pristine pantry shelves awaiting ... No bosuns or mouse shit here!

Pristine pantry shelves await. No bosuns here!

I would have sorted everything as I removed it, but honestly it was a lost cause. Empty storage containers, mouse traps (also blessedly empty), a diverse range of comestibles (including dog food), cleaning products and household hardware were all scrambled together, interspersed with a liberal scattering of mouse poop. Gah! This project is way overdue!

One hour later …

Aahhh! That feels better!

Aahhh! That feels better!

Okay … I’m not quite ready to share another picture of the whole mudroom, but this was a good evening’s work. I can sleep easy now!

So what mysteries and horrors have you uncovered in your pantry cupboard lately? Do you think your stuff behaves differently when you observe it? Talk to me!

Day 10 – I quit

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What I want more than anything else right now is to achieve self-discipline. Quitting might seem an odd way to begin focusing on that goal, but a key aspect of self-discipline, as opposed to imposed discipline, is that it should be meaningful.

For me, daily blogging is not meaningful. It’s a dead bore – largely because I’m so darn fixated on thinking about something to write about that will justify hitting the publish button, that I don’t have time to think or do anything that’s actually worth writing about. Enough! Henceforth, I will aim to write a little every day, but to post only weekly, on Wednesdays.

Mainly, though, I want to begin establishing some other disciplines, or habits. And this is a challenge, because although being up and moving is easier and less painful, it’s still hard. My energy levels are still frustratingly low; I really thought they’d be better by now, but although my head is generally clearer and I have periods of reasonable energy, I get tired quickly. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re carrying around a whole extra person.

Anyway… I’ve made a list of stuff I need to do every day. Mostly it’s housework and a few outside chores. There’s some desk work, including writing and income generation, so that when I need to sit down I can do so without wasting time. And there are some activities I do just for joy’s sake, like training Argos.

Little by little, I am reconstructing my life, incorporating a richness than I’ve not been able to allow myself for … far too long.

With the Daniel diet I’m getting my body into shape. No of course I haven’t quit the diet – do you think I’m nuts? It’s no fun and I’m pretty sick of it, but I’ve survived the first 25%; just one month to go and I can adopt a less restrictive approach to eating. I’ll be controlling my diet for the rest of my life, of course, but it won’t always have to be this stringent.

Anyway … the body is coming right. Now I want to expand beyond my skin and pay a little more attention to my immediate environment.

At the back of my mind is the knowledge that I’m still neglecting the most important task, which is to focus on the spiritual … but I’m just not ready to do that right now. It’s too easy to start out praying and end up navel-gazing. So I’m just trusting in God to wait for me for a little longer.

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for staying with me!

Your turn. Are you happy with the shape of your life right now? What techniques help you live to the full each day? Read the rest of this entry

Look out!

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You know that feeling you get directly after you leap from the penthouse suite of a really tall hotel? Well, okay, nor do I – I have zero experience of penthouses. But efforts to impress aside, I’m talking about that feeling you have as you’re plummeting gracefully toward the planet, and you wonder whether this was really what you wanted to do.

And then you think, “Oh heck YEAH – because I … can … FLY!”  And you do, and it’s just totally wonderful.

That’s how I feel right now – the plummeting part, that is; I haven’t quite got the hang of flying yet, but I will. Any minute now.

This particular leap of faith actually began about a week ago, when our annual lightning storm took out my laptop and left it disheveled, drunk and disorderly. I, being no stranger to CID (catastrophic interruption of deadline), very calmly went all to pieces, until it occurred to me that I should maybe contact the technological genius who rescued me the last time this happened, if only I could remember his name. As it happens, at the beginning of this year I quit doing that thing you do with your fingers to ward off the evil eye every time someone said “You need a smartphone”, and went out and got one. So I didn’t need to remember his name – all I needed to remember was how I might have described him. I typed “Geek” into my clever little Android and up he popped, in all his Transylvanian mysteriousness. (Well, I think it’s Transylvania. Somewhere in the Balkans, anyway. Of course, now he lives downtown in Smallville Eww Ess Aye, and he wears jeans and stained tee-shirts instead of a black cape – but he still speaks in strange tongues and performs arcane works of magic.)

To cut a long story short – mainly because I don’t know the words required to tell it in any detail – he took Ye Olde Laptoppe apart, sneered at its inferior Lenovoness, pronounced it not worth saving, and presented me with his old Dell Latitude, loaded for bear with the full Office Professional suite, and Windows 8.1.

Which brings me to the point of this story. The thing is, I am what marketers term a “slow adopter”.

And I am cool with that. In my world, blackberries are for eating, and wii is spelled with two Es (and never in polite company). I still remember pouring contempt upon the wild-eyed dreamer who tried to tell me I would ever need anything more than the 11MB on my first hard drive computer. Don’t get me wrong – I love science fiction, and I have no doubt that matter transmitters, antigravity and fat-dissolving chocolate are just sitting in a forgotten petri dish somewhere waiting to be discovered. But I don’t necessarily need to own the latest marvel of technology. (I mean I don’t need to own much of the stuff anyone has discovered so far. I do in fact rather urgently need either a matter transmitter or a time machine.) You can keep your Nook and your satellite TV and your Hybrid. As long as I have a good book, a tree to sit under, and a broomstick to get me where I need to be, I’m fine.

Except when techno-magic whomps me upside the head … oh man, that is a whole other story.

Enter 8.1, hot on the heels of my new smartphone. Scatter some fairy dust and show me The Wonder That Is Outlook. And I get it! I do! I can get my shit together! I can be organized! I can become someone who is on time, never forgets a bill, and has a pristine filing cabinet instead of a heap of cardboard boxes stuffed with unopened envelopes and bits of things that need to be fixed. I too can have an office that looks like this…

oval-office

or this…

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instead of this…

Not the Oval Office

So, being a woman of action, I started Outlook up, patted it on the butt, and told it to get its little old self busy synchronizing my email accounts.

Three-and-a-half minutes later, Himself blasted into the study, demanding to know just what I was doing to consume an entire gigabyte of whatever it is that keeps us online and hurl us over our monthly limit. “Oops!” I said, and hastily turned off my computer – that being the only way I could think of to shut Outlook down. It turns out that when Outlook syncs one’s email accounts, it downloads the entire contents of said accounts onto one’s computer.

And you thought the mess on my desk looked bad.

Well, that’s when I did it. I jumped. I finally, once and for all, acknowledged that there was absolutely no way I was ever, ever, EVER going to answer all of those emails. Or file them. Or, in fact, do anything at all except pile more emails on top of them. And yes, there may have been treasures in there – love letters, even, for all I know – but they are gone, gone, GONE. I spotted a few folders that looked as though they had chunks of good stuff in them so I saved those, which brought me down to maybe 1000-or-so emails. I don’t know how many I dusted off into the space between pixels, but it was something between 10,000 and 25,000.

Who needs anti-gravity? I have thrown off my chain and I’m flying!