Sunday, February 06, 2022

The Little Things

Two months ago today, Dec. 6, our contractor tore out our kitchen - no appliances (except the refrigerator that got moved to the dining room), no cabinets, no countertops, no running water.  We had been told we would be without a kitchen for 3 weeks.  We knew it would take longer, but we weren't expecting it to take over 8 weeks, but it did.  Things still aren't back to normal, but as of Friday the kitchen now functions with cabinets (that still need some work), countertops, a working stove, and running water.  When the countertops went in on Tuesday I actually kinda hugged them and said to my husband, "I never want to be without countertops again."  

When you have to go for an extended period of time without the things that you normally take for granted, you really appreciate them once you get them back.  I know that remodeling is a luxury that many people wish for and don't get to do.  And for that, too, I am thankful.  But living through this whole process (which still isn't finished), has really made me come to appreciate the little things in life.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Be

"Be" is a very simple word, but it's a word I've been thinking a lot about lately.  Hozier has a song by that title with the following repeated lyrics and they keep going through my head:

Be, be, be, be, be
Be as you've always been

And while I don't really want to be as I've always been, since how I've always been seems to be anxious, fearful, and self-doubting, I do think that the idea of just being who you are and how you are is a good idea.  In my case, I interpret that as simply allowing myself to behave in the way that comes naturally to me instead of trying to be like I think others want me to be.  It's harder to do than it sounds.

Another way I've been thinking about the word "be" is being something as opposed to simply "acting" that way.  Today I was looking a list of things to do in order to put other people as ease.  The last item on the list was "be interested."  And it struck me that it is important to actually be interested, not just act interested.  I know people who are willing to act interested in other people and what they have to say because they want to be polite, think it will get them something, or want the other person to like them, but unless you actually are interested, it is just a form of manipulation or deception.  Honesty is important to me, so I feel like it is important to either change your mindset and actually be interested, or just be honest about your lack of interest and move on.  

And this goes for other areas, too.  You may act patient, but really be quite impatient.  You might act easy going, but really be uptight and anxious.  In these cases, you aren't really doing yourself, or anyone else, any favors.  You are just giving a false impression of who you are to the people around you.  You are also denying your own needs and not giving others the opportunity to meet, or at least account for, those needs, because they can't see what they are.

So ultimately I've been trying to remind myself to just take a deep breath and be.  That's all I have to do - just be.  That should be good enough.  But like I said before, it's harder than it sounds.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Growth and Expectations

My two motivational thoughts for today:

Growth is incremental not exponential.

Perfect is not an option - do the best you can as often as you can.

Maybe later I'll add pictures and make them into motivational posters.

Friday, January 28, 2022

On Expectations

I've been thinking today about expectations.  In the YearCompass that I still haven't completed, it says that before you begin filling it out you should let go of your expectations.  Ever since reading those directions I've thought off and on about the role of expectations and what it means to let go of them.  It seems like a really hard thing to do.

For me, I feel like expectations have had the tendency to cause me fear, anxiety, and disappointment.  They have also lead me to give up on things without even trying them, because I just assume that it won't work, won't make any difference, no one will like it, no one will care, etc. etc. and the list goes on.  If I do allow myself to have hopes or higher expectations, that can and often has led to disappointment.  

I've been thinking today that while it is likely impossible to completely rid oneself of expectations, it is probably a good idea to try to minimize them.  To begin to try to re-frame my thinking away from expectations (which I think of as prejudging the outcome of a situation before it actually happens), I need to focus on my goals and my actions and leave the evaluations until afterward.  That seems like a more productive approach.  You don't know how it will be until you've done it, and you really have to focus on experiencing it while it's happening in order to really know how it went anyway.  If you get too caught up in your expectations they can cloud your judgment and affect your experience.

Also, when your expectations are about how other people will act or react, you are really setting yourself for disappointment and frustration.  Yes, sometimes things will go just like you hoped, but often times they don't.  You think that someone will really like something that you do, but they hardly seem to notice.  You think a comment will get a particular response, but it doesn't.  You think a person will laugh at your joke, but it falls flat.  You have to remember that you only control your own action, you can't (and shouldn't try to) control other people's actions.  Make your plans and set your goals based on what you can control, not on what you can't.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

So, what are we?

So the other day I was on Facebook and saw the old Kool-Aid Man meme - is he the liquid or the jar?  I thought about it for a minute, but then moved on without too much mental energy lost - doesn't really matter to me either way.  Then the other night, after my shower, I was noticing all the hair on the floor (and walls) in my bathroom and I started thinking about how our bodies renew themselves. This brought me back to the underlying question attached to the Kool-Aid Man question, are we, as humans, our body, our mind, our spirit?  If we are our bodies, but our bodies renew themselves, what are we really?  Does any part of us remain constant throughout our whole lives?  This took more mental energy.

I did a little (very little actually) looking on the internet, and found out that there are just a few things that we carry with us for our entire lives without them being replaces.  It seems that materially, we are our central nervous system, our tooth enamel, and our eye lenses.  If you happen to be female, you don't get more eggs either.  Even our heart muscle, which was once thought to be permanent actually slowly replaces itself over time. Since a person can live without there teeth or without eggs, and science can now replace the lenses in our eyes, it seems that we are basically our central nervous system.  Maybe that means that we are our minds, after all.  Everything else is like George Washington's axe, we've had to replace the head and the handle a few times.  I find that kinda interesting.  Okay, that's all, carry on.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

2021 Reading list

 Here is my very short list of books I read in 2021.

  1. Undercover Kitty - Sofie Ryan
  2. Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett
  3. The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
  4. The Garden of Eden - Ernest Hemingway
  5. A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
  6. Timequake - Kurt Vonnegut
  7. Going After Cacciato - Tim O'Brien

So only one series book this year, which is not really a bad thing.  I begin to get a little burned out on series after a while.  They become so formulaic and predictable.  The main reason I continue to read them is for the small threads that the authors weave through them to keep the reader interested.  After a while it gets to be too little to hold my interest, I'm afraid.

Waiting for Godot was one that I read because I'd always heard of it and wondered about it.  My husband and I read it together.  He said that he's glad I pulled him through it.

I decided to read The Sun Also Rises because I had started it in high school and not finished it.  My husband is a retired English professor who did his dissertation on Hemingway, so I've always felt bad about not having read Hemingway.  Together we read the three Hemingway novels on the list and I think it was good for both of us.  I really enjoyed reading The Sun Also Rises this time around.  I only made it about 4 chapters in on my first attempt all those many years ago, and I really didn't understand what was going on in the novel back then.  Now I get it.  The other Hemingway novels were really good, too.  I know that Hemingway gets a bad rap these days, but his writing really is very good.  We also read some of Hemingway's short stories, but I didn't keep a list.

Timequake was not what I expected, because it wasn't really a novel in the traditional sense.  It was more just Vonnegut throwing out ideas - some in the form of story synopses and some just as simple musings.  It was still interesting.

Lastly, Going After Cacciato is a story that my husband used to teach and suggested that I read it.  I enjoyed it, too.  O'Brien sort of blurs the line between reality and fantasy in an interesting way, while also telling a very powerful story about his experience in the Vietnam War.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Retrospective, of sorts

Yesterday I got my second Pfizer Covid 19 vaccine shot.  So in either 2 weeks (via CDC guidelines) or 1 week (via Pfizer guidelines) I will be fully vaccinated.  That is good news and I am thankful for that.  But I can't decide what that really means for me.  After a year of life being on hold, what activities will I actually resume?  What degree of "normal" will I be comfortable with and how soon?  I really don't know and I don't know how to know.  That got me thinking about the past year and the future.

By chance, I happened to watch a video this afternoon that really just had an affect on me.  It actually brought a little tear to my eye (full disclosure, if you know me, you know that's not especially hard to do).  The video was of Hozier singing Bridge Over Troubled Water last June in a dark, empty stadium with a socially distanced orchestra playing.  And while I still ultimately prefer the original Simon and Garfunkel version of the song, to me, this version just seemed to so embody this past year - the darkness, the emptiness, the distance, but also the message of the song, that you have someone there for you in the darkness.  It was just very moving.

I can't help but wonder, when I look back on this time in my life, how will I remember it?  If my grandchildren ask me what it was like to live through the Covid 19 pandemic (because they will likely all be too young to really remember it for themselves), what will I tell them?  I would love to be able to show them that video, and maybe I will be able to. There has been a lot of darkness and uncertainty, with more yet to come, I'm sure.  But there have also been points of light.  While we lost my mother-in-law to Covid in January, we also found out we are going to have another grandchild this coming August.  While we have lost a whole year of being able to visit with one granddaughter, and much fewer visits with our other granddaughter, my husband and I have grown even closer than we were before the pandemic started.  In many ways we've been able to return to what our relationship was in the beginning, when we first met and fell in love, and that has been a wonderful blessing.

Also, one year ago yesterday, I wrote a post about putting the pandemic's death toll numbers in perspective with other causes of death.  According to the New York Times, as of today the US death toll stands at 541,037, which puts it within the estimated range given a year ago, and stands at slightly less than the 2017 total for cancer deaths.  Somewhat interesting to look back at, for whatever it's worth.