April: A Sense of Integrity

Not that I was enormously lacking in integrity before April – used car salesman I am not.

Used Car Salesman

This is more about recovering a true you-ness, something like what I mentioned in this post.

Synchronicitously, (is that a word? it is now) I keep encountering these two quotes from e.e. cummings of late:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

e. e. cummings layout

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

This is in some measure related to the Christian teaching that your truest self – the one God sees when he looks at you – is who he created you to be, not who you have so far made of yourself.
This chapter, then, is about the recovery or even discovery of that truest self – not all in a rush, but slowly, peeling back the layers of damage, time and grime until the masterpiece beneath is revealed.

Painting damaged by fire

So, other than the Reading Deprivation, of which I fancy you have heard enough to last you a lifetime (it’s certainly going to last me) what did this chapter involve?

The first task was to imagine your ideal environment. Booooks… Then you were to find an image (or make one, if, unlike me, you have more artistic ability than a meerkat on bad acid) and put this in your writing area. Ditto for your favourite season.

So, my little writing nook (the product of an unofficial Artist’s Date with furniture-moving) is now embellished with a cosy hobbit kitchen and an autumnal canyon-scape.

Four Seasons by Alfons Mucha, circa 1895

Also a picture of my Censor, which I keep on the floor – got to keep that voice in its place!

Then I had to go back and forth in time. “Describe yourself at eighty.” Frankly, I have no idea where my life is going and I doubt it’ll go that far, but if I do make eighty I bet I’ll be one of those acute old ladies who says what she thinks you need to hear and doesn’t mind how excruciatingly embarrassed you are by it.

And then memories of being eight. Not much came to mind, and I was a little hazy as to the actual year (I might have been seven) but I remember having purple and green dragon slippers with pink mohawks, and wearing jammies the colour of lemon meringue pie.

And speaking of pie, there was another look at the life pie – as munted as ever, and definitely needing work in the area of work. World's Ugliest Pie
As Task 9 asked, “Look at one situation in your life that you feel you should change but haven’t yet. What is the payoff for you in staying stuck?”
Well, in this case, the payoff is pay. Man does not live on bread alone, but it certainly helps.

My Extended Artist’s Date plan (Task 7) starts with a morning going the rounds of the second hand clothing shops, moves on to a leisurely lunch followed by a walk on the beach and winds up curled on the couch with a hot chocolate and a classic movie.

(Poll: would you say that “Plan a small vacation for yourself… Get ready to execute it” means
a) plan it and then do it
b) plan it, and then await instructions to carry it out
c) plan it, and then prepare to shoot it at dawn?)

I also wrote an Artist’s Prayer (Task 6) which I shall likely soon share – and hopefully start remembering to use.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Time the Ever-Rolling Stream

I had a few things on my mind to write about, but none of them quite amounted to a post. What-I-thought-after-reading-part-of-a-book-on-writing-but-not-a-review-yet; Annoying-things-writing-teachers-say-that-make-you-feel-guilty-and-defensive-because-you-know-they’re-right; and Something-or-other-else-that-escapes-my-mind-and-therefore-probably-wasn’t-going-to-be-that-interesting.

What I can’t write about is all the writing I’ve been doing.
It’s not so much procrastinating as Doing Other Stuff. I have my hobbies – mostly sewing in summer, knitting in winter – and occasional scraps of social life. Plus of course housework and those pesky needs for food and sleep that keep showing up. Not to mention the Dreaded Day Job.

If only the Dreaded Day Job featured such elegant desk work.

But the main problem is the mornings.

I’ve mentioned before now that I am not by any means a morning person. And yet I have made the habit of getting up half an hour earlier of a morning to get some writing done.

OK, so that was the theory.

Strangely enough, it’s not the getting up early that’s the problem. When I feel sluggish I just remind myself of those smug Marines and I drag myself out of bed into the sort-of-dawning day.

It’s the getting things done that isn’t working.

As I frequently heard in my younger days (and we could fill a blog here with annoying-things-mothers-say-that-make-you-feel-guilty-and-defensive-because-you-know-they’re-right), Work Expands To Fill The Time Allotted To It.

So my hard-won sleep-deprived time is not turning into writing time.
Where am I losing it?

I get up, I get dressed, I brush my hair and put it up, I observe the Community Obedience, I eat breakfast, I pack a lunch, and that’s it.

All this used to take me from 7:15 to 8:00, when I’d venture out onto the path outside my door – which according to Mr B. Baggins could take me anywhere, but nine times out of ten (all right, ten out of fourteen) takes me to work.

These days I get out of bed at 6:45, and all the aforementioned takes me to about 7:45 (leaving at 7:55 because I now walk to work).

How does half an hour turn into ten minutes? How????
Either there’s something disturbingly quantum going on in my house (losing a minute of time every time I go through a doorway??) or I’m squandering it somehow.

san remo cathedral by firewind 2

So, my little squandees, how do we combat the loss of time? (Besides getting those doorways checked out.)

Basically there are two choices here: (ok, three, but I’m ruling out going back to bed on Marine grounds) work harder or work smarter.

If there’s one thing I like less than getting up early, it’s getting up early and rushing around like a headless chook, so smarter it is.

I’ve already come up with the time-saving devices of laying out my clothes the night before, and subduing three feet of gnarly hair while I wait for the kettle saucepan (kettle defunct) to boil for that all-important first cup of tea. (Yes, my hair has feet in the mornings. That’s how bad it is.)

The problem, as with so many of my flashes of genius, is that I don’t remember to do any of it, particularly the next morning as I stagger around in a befuddled daze trying to figure out how many socks makes blue.

Devising a way to make sure my future-self remembers something my present-self has thought up is a conundrum which seems to require time-travel until you realise that this is the way humans normally function in time.

Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5

And then it’s just depressing.

So how do I do it?

Am I going to have to leave letters for myself on the kitchen table, like some Hollywood-simplified version of sustained memory loss? (Yes, I have seen Memento. No, I am not going to tattoo “Brush hair while water boils” on my arm. Or anywhere else, for that matter.)

Perhaps if I’m very lucky, I will only need to leave messages for myself until the habits form. 40 days, they say – that gives me til Easter. (Perhaps a henna tattoo would be sufficient.)

Now all I have to do is remember to set things up for myself the night before, which means doing it before I get tired, which means going to bed at a reasonable hour – just like your mother always told you.

So, time the ever-rolling stream having rolled the best part of the evening away, I’d better go and get on with it.

Only time will tell whether I’ll remember tomorrow to boil my hair in clothes while waiting to lay out the saucepan.