I’m still pondering how I got to be so fearless all of a sudden. Did I suddenly become a wise crone when I turned 60? I doubt it. A lot of things I do contributed to it. Now, I know everyone attains their wisdom and maturity differently, but I also know that I learn a lot when I read about other people’s journeys (probably why I like blogs so much, now that Facebook no longer has as many interesting personal updates). Memes schmemes.
So, I’ll be sharing what’s worked for me over the next few days or weeks, and you are welcome to take what works for you and leave the rest, as we used to tell mothers at La Leche League meetings.
Let’s take a walk
I can remember thinking I was a slothlike slug, because I never was very good at vigorous exercise. I sure was over-generalizing! Looking back, I see that I was, and still am, a big walker. I walked miles and miles while I was getting my university degrees. I have strong memories of exactly how far it was from the Foreign Language Building to the Engineering building on the University of Illinois campus, especially when it was below zero outside.
Then I had kids. Walk walk walk (also a lot of bike rides). Walking on trails. Walking at football stadiums. Walking.
Then I started working in office buildings. The only way I can survive is to take a walk most days. That’s where I do my best thinking and pound away my concerns.
Get ready for some heavy introspection! In the past couple of years, a big change has come over me. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on how the way I interact with people and the world in general has changed for the better. I’ve been wondering what the heck sparked the welcome change, and whether I could even describe it other than “I feel better now.”
I come from a “nervous” family, and always have dealt with anxiety, which coupled with being an “extra sensitive person” could be a real hindrance to someone like me, whose goal is a relatively calm life with relatively little stress.
After decades of trying to deal with my lovely symptoms through meditation and self care, I finally got some therapy, which was very helpful and healed up some of those deeply rooted issues from childhood.
When I finally tried some medication, I noticed that the background buzz of anxiety went down just enough that I could really work on some of the other things that were holding me back, most of which were fears created by myself:
Fear of making mistakes
Fear of trying new, hard things
Fear of displeasing a loved one
Fear of rejection (the big one)
That’s a lot of fear. Those are pretty common, I know, but they sure were intrfering with that peaceful mental state I was aiming for. So, I worked on it.
I’m still trying to make amends for upsetting folks who are into KonMari. I threw away a box today. Just kidding.
Really, I wanted to say how much more joy my ranch office is giving me today, because I have been reunited with my old friend, the Owl Clock. It’s not really a very old friend, but it brings back such happy memories to me of the most fun vacation my husband and I ever took together, back in 2014.
We did one of those Viking river cruises on the Rhine River that you see so many ads about. Well, it turned out to be absolutely fantastic. We loved the pace of it, we met friends from England who were perfect (Lee and the husband sat and enjoyed the scenery in the cities where we stopped, while the wife and I had a blast shopping and exploring). And there weren’t too many people for Lee, and we had a small suite he could escape to. It worked.
Our favorite place was the Black Forest (it turns out we both have ancestors from that area). We loved the traditional farms, the crops, the trees. Ah. And we even loved the Tourist Stop that apparently every tour makes, to a little center where you could buy glassware, steins, and of course, cuckoo clocks. The minute I saw this owl clock (which was next to a rather kitschy Harley Davidson clock with moving motorcycles), I knew I had to have it. The hand-carved owls and pine trees were very different from most of the other clocks, and the little own that comes out and says “Who-who” (nope not cuckoo) charmed me to no end. I love owls, even if they do eat the chickens.
The clock got shipped to our house and held a place of honor until we sold that house to move somewhere smaller. We got it to the ranch, but it took a while to get it re-installed. Thanks, Lee! And we even found the weight that keeps the time right, which of course the dogs managed to find and take outside.
What else? A tapestry and a chair
I just wanted to point out two more items that sparked my joy today (oh wow, I am using that term). I had to re-hang my Navajo-style weaving, because the Owl Clock took its place. When I touched it, I had great memories of the weaving class I took in Colorado with my friend Chriztine, and of the amazing teacher we had, Lynda Teller Pete. By the way, she and her sister have just published a new book, Spider Woman’s Children. I highly recommend it if you are a weaving fan.
I realized where I was sitting when I was looking at the clock and little tapestry. I was in the same chair I sat in with my dad, ever since I was a tiny child. I remember this chair my whole life. One of my earliest memories is of watching Lassie, squeezed in next to Dad in the big green chair, and crying because I thought something bad was going to happen to Lassie or Timmie. Dad explained that Lassie always came back.
Later on, with different upholstery, this was “my” chair in our family room. It always had a pile of books, some knitting or embroidery, and a beverage next to it on a very ugly table (now it would be a chic mid-century modern table, but I hated it).
Still later, after Mom passed away, Dad had the chair recovered in some bargello-like blue and green fabric, and I ended up with it at my house. The upholstery matched NOTHING in my house, but there was no way I’d change it, because my great Uncle Doc had done the work (this uncle raised his 7 siblings and took care of his mother, Granny Kendall, after my grandfather lost his life in a tragic bar fight accident, where he was just trying to help…which explains Dad’s feelings about guns).
When we moved out of the Braesgate house, I finally had it re-done in this perky yellow print. That chair has been busy!
What in your surroundings sparks joy in you today?
A couple of days ago, I was talking to my younger son and his partner about how our family has been able to overcome a lot of challenges lately and seems to be pulling out of our ruts, doing what needs to be done, and beginning to thrive. We spent a few moments marveling at our resilience.
It feels strange, but good, to be dealing with what comes at us, moving forward, and using the lessons learned to do better. As for me, I have stepped up to a couple of work challenges that I’d never have been able to do if I hadn’t stumbled, fallen, and gotten away from situations where I didn’t feel supported or able to grow.
Encouragement comes from odd places, and for me, I get a lot of it just looking around at the natural world. In my Austin house, I am always surprised to see how many of the plants that were placed in our artificial setting with no warning have adapted and thrived. They are my role models!
I was especially happy to see the little palm tree bloom. I have had that plant…oh, since I worked in my nonprofit job. It always struggled along in my previous house, probably not getting enough light. It’s gotten happier and happier since I’ve had sunnier spots for it. I may even have to replant it! The lesson I learn from the little palm is that you can survive lots of things, but to thrive you need a supportive environment, people who care for you (and fertilize you, literally or metaphorically), and a little sunshine.
And another thing
Mother Nature nudged me again this morning, too. When I woke up, I couldn’t see a thing outside. I was a little disappointed to not see a pretty sunrise, but yet another day starting out with dense fog.
Then, when I was heading off the ranch to go to work, I glanced to my left and saw a shimmering display of dewdrops on a beautiful spiderweb. Silly me. It’s a beautiful morning; I just have to have the presence of mind to SEE the beauty.
Now I can thrive. I hope you can find the things and people around you that will lead you to be able to thrive where you are. That’s why I keep certain objects around. Small reminders to breathe and stay grounded are a good start. Get yourself a rock! Thrive!
Unless you are buried under a pile of your own possessions, you have no doubt heard about the latest person out there telling us how to live our lives, you’ve probably already gotten tired of hearing how wonderful it is to tidy and purge from the beautiful and didactic Marie Kondo.
I am genuinely happy that she is bringing her special brand of joy to so many of my friends and colleagues. She’s perfectly poised in this era of minimalism, simple living, and all that kind of trendiness. And I understand very much how important it is to feel in control of at least something in our lives these days, when we sure don’t feel like we can do much about world events, jobs, and our families/friends. And there’s nothing wrong with organizing your stuff so you can find it (right, yarn closet?).
But, as I see everyone blissfully getting rid of things that don’t bring them joy, it occurs to me that there is most assuredly a range of people’s attachment to “things” in their lives.
I have stuff. Yes, I do. I am on the spectrum at the end where people find comfort in the memories that come up when they look at things around them or draw inspiration from beautiful things they’ve gathered. Sure, I could pare some things down, but I am a former academic. I’m not going to own just 30 books. Geez. And by gosh, I love Supergirl and if I want to look at her, that’s my issue.
I think what gets to me with all these fads and trends and gurus of the day is that they really try to make people feel guilty for being different from them. Why? Some folks like three curated objects on each surface of their home. Some people want to look at 24 Starbucks mugs that remind them of friends and adventures. Like anything else, becoming attached to or detached from stuff really only gets to be a problem at the extremes.
When you can’t walk in your home or yard, you may have some mental health issues to deal with. And if you just have a chair and a bed (yes, I knew someone like that), at the least hospitality is difficult.
So, I say unto you, my friends: if your stuff makes you happy and you can move from room to room, enjoy your stuff. Get rid of things that make you feel icky or have bad memories attached to them. Just follow your own instincts, the norms of your culture, and what’s right for your family. Don’t blindly follow some overly perfect guru from another culture (by the way, in the Shinto religion of Japan, inamimate objects have souls and everyone has inherent goodness, perhaps even collectors like me).
Share your thoughts. I like hearing what YOU think about tidying up and magic, and the opposite.
I was not correct to blame Kondo for some people who are perhaps over zealous in interpreting her ideas. Please read the comments for some reasons why I’m saying this.
Also a friend didn’t comment here, but on her Facebook wall, and she was right that Kondo never said 30 books. I succumbed to Fake News.
One of her friends kindly posted this quote, which I do indeed agree with:
“As you reduce your belongings through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you. You will feel it as clearly as if something has clicked inside your head and said, “Ah! This is just the amount I need to live comfortably. This is all I need to be happy. I don’t need anything more. … The click point differs from one person to another. For a shoe lover, it might be one hundred pairs of shoes, while a book lover might not need anything but books. … As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you’ll see what your true values are, what is really important to you in your life. But don’t focus on reducing, or on efficient storage methods for that matter. Focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards.” -Marie Kondo
I still get weary of extra tidy people acting like they’re better than the rest of us, since we each get to do what we prefer. But Marie is OK. Like Emily Latella, I must say, “Never mind!”
Here’s a doggie who could use your thoughts for a while. Our poor Brody always seems to get the bad end of his brotherly altercations with the other dogs (mostly Harvey; they are so well matched that they have never been able to decide who’s number one).
Last week they had their monthly battle while I was in Austin, so I missed it. Lee said Harvey bit Brody on the foot, causing it to bleed. He got that stopped, but Brody still can’t put weight on his foot. Of course, the day the vet was in town happened to be the day Lee was stuck at the ranch because of the rain.
We’re pretty sure he has a broken toe, and since you can’t really put a dog toe in a case, we are just treating him with pain killers and rest.
Well, we try to get him to rest, but he has figured out how to run and jump and perform all his usual antics on just three legs. We went on a long walk yesterday, and he even took off after a rabbit.
Unfortunately, Carlton, the very white dog, also took off after it. The rabbit went through the spring that’s been flowing again since all the rain started the past few months. Carlton came back very strongly resembling a dalmatian. He had fun, though.
A bonus horse story
The horses had less fun in the mud. There is a spot near where they usually eat that has mud like a foot deep. Both Apache and Spice have slipped in it and nearly fell. When Spice did it, she ran off, splattering Sara’s back with another dalmatian effect! Nonetheless, we have found the water hazards that have popped up are great horse confidence builders. Apache is always really proud of himself when he gathers his courage and marches across a big puddle.
I’ll get those photos taken and continue with the arts and crafts series next!
Let’s recover from my downer of a post last time by looking at a beautiful animal that can defend itself, good old Alfred the Anatolian Shepherd.
I walked into the living room at the ranch last weekend to see Big Al stretched out on the new couch, and he looked so beautiful and peaceful that I couldn’t bring myself to ask him to move.
He’s looking pretty good other than a couple of burrs in his ears, and is feeling so good now that he is on a daily glucosamine and pain medication regime. It makes me so happy to see him romp and play with the other dogs. Something that large acting like a puppy just has to make you smile.
Since he’s feeling better, he’s a lot more patient with the younger dogs, and will sit there and bat at them as they crawl all over him, like a very patient elder statesman.
He isn’t all that old, probably a bit over 2 years, but his size and dignity lend him a kind of gravitas.
He does great work keepying the coyotes at bay (and they do like to get close), and at the same time, he’s very kind to the cattle behind the house. He knows he is protecting them.
About the Cattle
I just have a little aside about the other dogs and the cattle. Brody the cattle dog and Carlton the extremely white fellow love to chase cows. Well, the ones we have behind us now have been there for many months, and they are wise to the dogs.
When Brody goes after them like a rocket, they turn around and look at him like, “oh, him again,” eventually herding HIM back to the fence, where he barks as if he’s in command.
And the cattle have developed a game with Carlton. He will chase them back about twenty feet. Then they will chase HIM about twenty feet. Back and forth they go until someone gets tired. The cattle are really obviously playing, which usually they don’t do once they get to a certain size.
I know the dogs aren’t supposed to make them run, so they will be more marbled, but these are mama cows who get to hang around a long time. They can have a little fun, I think!
Yes, look up and you can see all sorts of new things. I need to tell myself this often, since I spent an awful lot of my time looking DOWN, to see what kinds of plants, bugs, odd items and such are below my feet.
But, by always looking down, I realize I do miss a lot, like the tin ceiling in my favorite restaurant, Dutch Towne. Or, like I found out last night, I miss the patterns cast by the mod light fixture in the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut the past few months.
It’s a good thing I looked up last night, since I won’t be going back to that location again.
I decided to see what I could see by looking up at my Austin office. It’s one of those open offices with unpainted concrete floors and no drop ceilings, so you see all the infrastructure. That’s supposed to appeal to millenials, you see. They like the industrial look, I’m told.
I have to admit you see some things that you can have fun using your imagination on. I keep wishing they’d put a model train track on these long tracks of wired that go all over the place.
And the giant air conditioning duct that makes the very loud “white noise” we enjoy daily looks like it would make a very nice pillow.
And while I admit that I looked straight ahead to see this, I keep wanting to turn the acoustical foam tiles in the recording studio into a game board.
So, if you are somewhere that doesn’t excite you visually, just look up! There may be a pattern, a shape, or an object that sparks your creativity right over your head.
Sunday I needed to play tech support for my Master Naturalist and artist friend, Pamela. I love the detective work aspect of figuring out why a computer doesn’t work.
I’m happy to report that I got her frozen computer unfrozen and set her up with WhatsApp so she can talk to her friend in India.
Then I got to have fun looking at her art-filled home and garden. One highlight was verifying that yes, you can see the Hermits’ Rest from her house.
You can also see the huge black scar across the land that a new pipeline is making. That thing goes through the whole area. At least land owners get compensated. As I recall, these companies make big efforts to put things back the way they were, judging from Lee’s dad’s old farm.
After looking around outside I toured Pamela’s art studio and gallery, where there is much clay, tools, and a kiln where she makes beautiful pottery. Her work has both humor and grace to it. So, of course I love it and had to get some.
I’ll let you all know when her gallery re-opens! She’s renovating it now. You can find her work in the cute shop in Rosebud, too. Yes, Rosebud is a real town near Cameron. (Aside: I write much shorter sentences on my phone, so this text seems a little disjointed. I promise to use my computer for the next post.)
Like I was saying yesterday, it’s never dull around here! The people are both fun and fascinating. I’m so glad to be at the Hermits’ Rest.
A great part of living in a small town is community theater, which Cameron is great for. Jonathan Deal and the rest of the Milam Community Theatre board have been making some changes, but it’s still fun!
We went to last night’s performance of “A Fairy Tale Christmas,” which was cute as the Dickens. Dickens is capitalized because the play mixes the Scrooge story with fairy tales. I wore my Bah Humpug sweater.
Lee and I kept introducing each other to people, my Master Naturalist friends and his Rotary friends. And we knew most of the adults in the play. The child actors were all very good, with the smallest boy showing real talent.
Mandi made a great pig, and the pigs even brought me and my sister up to dance. The highlight, though, was Mandi’s dad, playing a hip hop King Midas. Hard to explain but hilarious.
There were cookies and cocoa, plus Santa photos afterward. Kudos to the team who worked on this cute play.