Monday, August 25, 2008

Spatially Challenged

So, I know I've been silent for a few days, here, so I just thought I'd pop in and let you know what I've been up to. I have a new passion...knitting. Not socks and mittens and booties kind of knitting, but elegant cobwebby lacy shawls kind of knitting.

You know, the sort of knitting that takes years of practice and oodles of talent.

You know, the sort of thing I don't have.

In spades.

So the other day, armed with
1. an extensive set of knitting needles (given to me by my husband's mother, who prefers crochet),
2. a pile of worsted-weight yarn in rainbow colors left over from various abandoned crochet projects (I can crochet, which makes this whole thing doubly frustrating),
3. several books promising me that I would be knitting scarves, jumpers and various undergarments in no time, and
4. a burning desire to knit,
I opened my book to the page for absolute beginners and prepared to cast on (where you get your first row of stitches onto the knitting needle).

And here is where my inability to translate two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional movements of yarn and needles trips me up. I cannot follow the damn pictures. All those squiggles of yarn going every which way...I tried three different methods and couldn't figure out any of them.

In desperation, I called my mother. "I'm a complete moron!" I wailed.

"No, you're not," she said. "Let me get my needles and yarn and I'll talk you through it."

Five minutes later, I had my first thirty stitches cast on.

It feels dreadfully awkward, though, so I'm sure I must be doing something wrong. Of course, what my mom told me is the "right handed" method, which is the way she knits and the way all my books demonstrate. And me being left handed, I wonder if I'd be better off doing it left handed...but although the books show how to knit left handed, they don't show you how to cast on left handed, and I'm so spatially challenged that I can't translate right handed instructions to left handed...

So at the moment, I am feeling extremely useless, awkward, stupid, and slow, and I'm starting to wonder if I ought to just give up my dreams of delicate, fussy lace and go back to crocheting pot holders.

Oh, well, at least I've managed not to stab myself with a knitting needle.


Writing Prompt: Mastery of anything takes time, and too often we are unwilling to put in the time and practice it takes to master something. Is there anything you would like to master but have not tried because you feel it would take you too long to learn? What's really stopping you?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Taking a Break

Friends, I will be taking a break for the next couple of weeks. I have a whole lot to do with getting the kids ready for school, and I am feeling the strain of a long summer with little time to myself. I will try to get around to your blogs now and then, but I probably won't be posting much for the next couple of don't panic! All is well!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Fun and Llama Poo

The dreaded sniping has begun. This summer was going fine up until the last couple of days, but now, as we enter the home stretch (three more weeks til school starts), the kids are suffering from an overdose of togetherness.

I suppose it doesn't help that neither one of them is particularly social. My son has always found pre-arranged playdates to be agonizing, and my daughter would prefer to spend time by herself creating things or with one special friend, who, unfortunately, is in day care most days.

So they end up turning to each other for company (they are only 22 months apart, so their interests and abilities are pretty well in line with each other). This is a good thing, as long as they are getting along. But the last couple of days have been a strain...particularly on me. I value my quiet time, I value my solitude, and in the summer, I get very little of either. And it's worse when they are arguing all the time.

Example: We have a whiteboard hanging in the family room. It's used for showing the kids how to do math problems, practicing spelling words (you'd be amazed how much more fun it is to write the words on the whiteboard than to write them on paper!), and explaining complex concepts to them. It's also used for drawing whatever anyone feels like drawing. Yesterday, The Barrister drew a rather lovely llama on the whiteboard, complete with cute little hooves and funny little llama ears. Little Mouse thought it would be fun to add some llama poo to the picture. The Barrister took exception to this sullying of his art, and an afternoon of sniping at each other was begun.

This morning, the sniping started before breakfast had been consumed.

Twenty-one days and counting...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reflections on the Moon

Last night, after a quick thunderstorm had cleared the air and the clouds had moved out, I went out into the front yard, perched on a rock and stared up at the moon. I have always felt drawn to the moon, but it is a very subtle sort of feeling. I feel certain that our bodies, made of so much water as they are, must be subtly affected by something that is powerful enough to influence the very oceans of our world.

We have uncovered so much of what is hidden, and now we probe the secrets of the cosmos itself...I wonder how we will feel when it is all laid out in cold hard numbers, and all the mysteries are gone. Will the lives of those future people seem empty and hollow because there is nothing left to marvel at? Or are there some mysteries that we will never solve?

I think it would be better if there were. I think humankind needs mysteries.

Writing Prompt: What mysteries do you find yourself drawn to? Why do you think you are drawn to them?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Feel Like a Terrible Parent

I feel like a terrible parent. Aren't I always supposed to know what to say, what to do, how to make it better? As my kids grow older, the number of things I can make better seems to be dwindling rapidly...

About half an hour after I had tucked her into bed tonight, Little Mouse (who is eleven) drifted into the family room where The Chief and I were relaxing with a movie. She was clutching her two stuffed dogs, Polly and Ester (her names, not mine), and a little green beanbag frog she calls The Flying Frog of Doom. She folded herself into my lap and began to cry.

"I keep thinking about how one day I'm not going to be here anymore, Mom. And I won't be able to feel anything or think anything, and it scares me."

I put my arms around her and kissed her head, glancing helplessly at The Chief. I never know what to say when she comes to me with this particular fear. My gut reaction is to hold her tight and say whatever I have to say to make it better. But I cannot bring myself to feed her candy-coated platitudes to preserve her innocence a little longer. Besides, she's a pretty smart kid...I have a feeling she wouldn't believe me anyway. She blew the lid off the Santa Claus racket at the tender age of four...

I cuddled her close and I told her that no one really knows what happens because no one has ever come back to tell us about it. And that part of what is so scary about the whole thing is the not knowing. I glanced at The Chief again--Come on, say something helpful!--and started telling her some of the different beliefs I have heard about and read about. Then I told her that she wasn't always going to feel this way. That as you grow older, you start to accept the idea (do you? Or are you just too busy to worry about it much? I haven't quite figured that one out yet!). And that once you have a family of your own, you worry about it more in terms of those you leave behind than you do for yourself (that part is true...but at eleven she's got a way to go before she gets there!).

We talked a little bit about heaven and how that might work, and then The Chief told her that he found the idea of heaven quite worrying, because of all those people watching him go to the bathroom or take a shower. Then he did a wonderful imitation of his grandmother--complete with folded arms and glasses perched on the end of her nose--watching him and making rude comments.

Little Mouse went back up to bed laughing, but I always come away from these conversations feeling completely inadequate, and longing for the days when all that was required to make her world better was a cuddle or a diaper change. Those days were a lot harder physically...but at least when she was a baby, I could fix everything.

Writing Prompt: Write about a situation you have been in where you wanted to fix something, but knew that you either couldn't or shouldn't. Did you try to fix it anyway? Or did you leave it alone? Why?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Family Feud

My in-laws are Italian. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be an excuse or an explanation, but they are at it again, trying to stick me in the middle of a family feud. And it's a tough situation, because, as usual, I have the empathy to understand both sides.

It's funny how families own mother would never dream of enlisting one of us kids to side with her in an argument with the other, but my in-laws seem to thrive on conflict. Whenever a disagreement arises, no one is allowed to remain neutral for very long...and however you really feel about a situation, whomever you express sympathy to first feels they have you firmly on their side. I've learned through painful experience that it's better to keep my mouth shut and let them get on with it.

So here's me, keeping my mouth shut.

Wonder how long that'll last.

Writing Prompt: Being stuck in the middle is never an easy place to be, especially when you can empathize with both sides of the situation. How do you handle family conflicts? Do you allow yourself to be drawn in, or do you withdraw and let them sort it out?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pandora's Box

"Instead of elders, we now have elected politicians who speak with corrupt and self-serving voices; instead of fragrant local wisdom we have homogeneous civil law and institutionalized religion to guide us." --Caitlin Matthews, "The Celtic Spirit"

I often find myself yearning for a different time, a simpler time, when we lived in harmony with the turning of the earth. Although technology has done much to improve our lives, in many way it has also impoverished us. The society we live in is driven by the holy dollar, and there seems to be very little room here for the idea of the "common good".

Our media-driven culture teaches us from infancy that the most important people in our world are those who have everything and look good...not those who have the wisdom to guide us and have lived in the world long enough to speak from experience.

We live in a world where human connections are transient, fragile, and even unnecessary. Families are separated by oceans and divorce is easy with no real consequences.

I'm not saying the world was perfect before all this technology came along. I think that in many ways it was a harder, grimmer place. But I think there was much more of a sense of family and a sense of community.

We may have gained a lot in our technological achievements, but I think we have lost a lot, too. We have an entire nation full of lost people with empty lives, many of them popping antidepressant medications because they know that something is wrong...they're just not sure what.

I'm not sure what the answers are, though. All our technology is like Pandora's Box, and there's no stuffing it back inside and slamming the lid shut once it's out there. Perhaps part of the answer lies in listening to what's really in our hearts and stop letting other people tell us what we think.

Writing Prompt: What does your heart tell you about how to live an authentic life? What kind of life resonates with your inner self?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have so much power over us. They shape our self-concept, mold our identity, because in the ways that count, we are what we believe we are.

So it's important for me to decide which story I want to believe about my "bipolar" adventure. That "manic" episode I had that was so out of control, that drove me to a psychiatrist and into chemical restraints...which story do I tell myself about that? Which one is my truth?

Do I tell myself that it was bipolar disorder? That the mood swings I experienced from ages 19 to 40 were due to that? But there is no family history of bipolar....depression, yes, but not bipolar. And I'm not even having mood swings any more...haven't had any for four years now...even my psychiatrist is calling me an anomaly. So I don't think that's the right story.

Do I tell myself it was just me letting off steam after having been trapped at home with infants for 7 years, and finally tasting freedom? A partying mid-life crisis sort of thing? But that smacks of complete irresponsibility, something I've never been known for. Knowing myself for what I have been for most of my life, I cannot quite buy into this story, either.

Do I tell myself that I had bipolar symptoms due to my ingesting large quantities of aspartame? That seems to make the most sense of any of the stories. But somehow there seems to be something wrong with this one, maybe it's a cop-out, an easy way to absolve myself of responsibility for some of my behavior...

It all seems so clear in retrospect, doesn't it? I should have done this, I should not have done that...

I need to tell myself a new story that will not make me feel like crawling under a rock or beating my head on the ground for being so stupid...problem is that I'm still not sure what the real story is...and upon reflection, I'm not so sure it's about figuring out the story at all...because the past is immutable...what happened--happened. I can't change it now. What I can change is how I look at it. My perspective.

So maybe it's about acceptance rather than story...I need to:
* stop beating myself up...the past cannot be changed, much as I might like to change it.
* accept that I probably had a toxic reaction to chemicals I was putting in my body because I didn't know any better.
* accept that modern medicine--especially psychiatry--does not understand nearly as much about the human psyche as it thinks it does.
* accept that I did the best I could with the information I had.

Whew...that's a lot of acceptance there. But I think that's what I'm needing. Acceptance.

Why is acceptance so hard?

Writing Prompt: It seems that it is much easier to accept things about other people than it is to accept things about ourselves. What things in your life are you still trying to accept? What do you think makes acceptance so difficult sometimes? What can you do to make acceptance easier?