10 November 2007

Fundamental personal changes

Please bear with me in this post. Ironically, it is about chaos vs. order, but it is vary chaotic in its organization. I have not posted for a while here (big shock, huh?), but it isn't from a lack of thinking about it. Primarily, I have just been spending far less time on the computer in general. This last summer, I decided that my family would benefit from more structure in our lives, and less chaos. I started by simply adding a walk to the mornings. My routine then was to get up, start the laundry in the washer, make breakfast, hang up the laundry and go for a walk. The kids then had the rest of the day to do as they pleased, which usually meant arguing or fighting or being random balls of chaos run amok in the house. I then started taking them outside and actually sitting out there with them the whole time for a few hours each day after lunch. This of course meant I could not turn on the computer at 10 am and spend the rest of the day here surfing and researching. I had to actually sit outside. Now don't get me wrong. I love the outdoors. I just never felt fulfilled doing nothing, and nothing meant not actively thinking with my brain. I didn't know how to really enjoy the moment and just live. I read about living, I daydreamed about living, but I didn't actually live. It is kind of scary now that I think about it. I had noticed this tendency to not live a few years back, but I didn't know how to face the problem. I had always lived inside my head, from the time I was 4 and learned how to read. I read avidly. I even had a job where I could read a novel while I ran my machine (not that I was supposed to, but I was tucked away and had a great view, so I could hide my book if someone was coming). I could put away a short novel in one 10-hour shift, a longer novel could take up to 3 or 4 ten-hour shifts. Even when I wasn't working, I was reading. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I subscribed to Harlequin, and had an ample supply of "bodice-rippers". I would read an entire book while my husband was gone to work and I had nothing to do all day except watch TV or read. Goodness knows I couldn't do housework. Not for lack of capability, but for lack of knowledge. So I spent a good 25 years living in my head. When I was 28, I learned about Rudolf Steiner, and his warnings against living in one's head. But I didn't know any other way to live. Living entirely in my head, I didn't do any real living. So my venture to sitting outside while the kids played was "capital B boring." Then I read Sharon's post called Knitting for the Apocalypse, and decided that I could do some knitting while I sat outside. The weather was gorgeous, I was skilled enough at knitting to do it with my eyes shut, and I could feel like I wasn't just sitting there. Actually, my first sitting outside project was weaving the rug I posted about a few months back, but I quickly got bored of that and gave up before I considered it done. It was "good enough." After spending several afternoons outside, I noticed that I didn't feel so drawn to the computer to read my 300+ daily emails as soon as I got up. Reading was no longer my raison d'etre. I started getting other things done around the house. The first time I noticed a shift in my functioning was when I finished knitting a pair of socks for Eirik and was shocked that they were done that quickly. Every other time I have crafted something, my purpose for doing it was to get it done. I wanted to skip the doing it and just have it done. This often meant that I took shortcuts, finished it when it was "good enough", or just plain quit the project altogether. So I finished the socks and thought, Now what? I found a ball of yarn that I had bought last year to make mittens for a local charity, but I never got around to making any. So I decided to make some mittens. My first pair took only 4 days, and could easily have been done in 2 or 3 if I had committed more time to them. By this point, I was getting on my computer after dinner, and only occasionally turning it on earlier in the day, ostensibly to check the weather. We had also started the school year, and had a more structured day. I got up, started the laundry, made breakfast, started the kids on their chores, hung up the laundry, went for our walk, laid the baby down for a nap, and did lessons before having lunch and going outside. Now, I spend more time doing things around the house and far less time on the computer. It is rarely turned on now before the kids are in bed at 7:30, my email is down to 50 or less usually, and about half of those are usually from Freecycle rather than any discussion lists. I get my blog subscriptions via email, so I don't spend time checking all the blog websites to see if there is anything new, and I only have a small handful (not even) of websites that I visit on a regular basis because they don't have RSS feeds. Sometimes I will look up something specific, like when I wanted a recipe for Pumpkin Soup, and on those days I can get a bit more lost on the web. But usually after those few routine computer stops, I play World of Warcraft with my husband, and that is the extent of my computer use.

Wait, wasn't I talking about chaos vs. order? Oh yes. Sorry, the chaos isn't completely gone. What I have found lately through knitting is grounding. Knitting is a very base activity. It is a very rhythmical process, and I can literally do it with my eyes shut. I had always been curious what people meant by grounding, and I finally know. Knitting is literally a no-brainer. I can give my brain a rest, and get something productive done at the same time. A few days ago, I spent one day standing in the kitchen (my haven, my solace, my refuge) knitting a slipper for Rowan and reading _The Long Emergency_ by James Howard Kunstler. In addition to the normal daily activities of cooking and cleaning and refereeing the kids, I got one entire slipper knitted and 100 pages read. I decided that I am going to read this book before I have to return it to the library, unlike some books I have borrowed. The next day, I read and knitted less. I got about 2/3 of the other slipper knitted, and not nearly so many pages read.

Terry is making us a new trestle table, and it has been quite the experiment. I never realized how much care had to go into designing a table so that it would be stable. The first time he built it, we had to flip it over because we had assembled it upside down on our existing table. I suggested flipping it end over end onto the floor. As soon as its weight was on the end on the floor, that end collapsed and boards fell everywhere. Terry was mightily angry, so I put it back together myself. Then we flipped it over sideways and it stayed together. But it still rocks and I don't trust putting anything heavy on the ends, like my sewing machine. This process of building in the house has been very hard on me. There have been boards everywhere, and tools everywhere, and often times I could not maneuver in the house because it was so full. Disassembling the old table and putting it away helped greatly, but now he has brought more boards home to improve the design so it is more stable. I have boards all along my living room floor, and to top it off, I brought home new chairs from Freecycle yesterday. We had been seating one child in a folding chair that was falling apart, and when the chairs were offered up, it said there were four of them. When I showed up to pick them up, there were six. Our house is tiny to begin with, so when you add a gigantic trestle table (5'x7', it will easily seat 10-12), several 8' and 10' boards and 6 kitchen chairs that won't stack because they all have arms, there is no room to move. I found myself getting very frustrated this morning and asked the kids to take the chairs out onto the patio. They won't be hurt if it rains, which it isn't supposed to do for a couple of days, and Terry said we will finish the table tomorrow, so hopefully I can restore my world to order again after that is done. Being able to sweep is bliss.

I am craving order far more than I ever have before. Oh, I always desired order in my life, but I only gave myself chaos. I couldn't stick to any semblance of order for more than a couple of weeks. The fact that I have done so now for several months astounds me. I am less tolerant of chaos, and I have been getting frustrated much more easily at disorder. I actually cleaned my room yesterday. I have this urge to just take everything and ruthlessly get rid of stuff. I need less clutter, and I need more order. I am leaving behind my title of Queen of Chaos, and although I have a long way to go to become the Queen of Order, I am starting on that journey. I am learning to live in the moment, and when the day comes that I can no longer get on the computer due to the coming economic and social collapses, I will not be completely lost, wondering what to do. I am never bored anymore. It is nice.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

My therapist talked with me about things that are calming. Being a person prone to panic attacks, I needed to find things that would settle me without medication. Knitting is actually one of those things that automatically settle people down. Pretty much anything that's automatic works. Musical instruments, etc.

In that last couple of years, I have taken to taking time to lie on my bed and just imagine. I relax every muscle. I thinking about the things that I might dream of. Taking time to have that internal life has allowed me to have an external life. School, activities, work, etc. I definitely empathize with what it's like to live inside your mind.

You hit on something that I think is critical. You didn't clean your house because you didn't know how. You nicely framed how critical parenting is. If you don't have adequate parenting, you don't easily acquire those critical life skills. I think parents should be asking themselves, "what do I need to teach my child?"

Good blog. *smile* I always look forward to your blogs.