Monday, September 15, 2014

I know I haven't been posting much here...

I've been posting a little more on my other blog as I work through my existential crisis surrounding "middle age" and "empty nesting".  To whit:  what am I going to do with the rest of my life, now that my primary role is no longer "mommy".

I've been back in school, getting another degree (which I'm worried might be a total waste of time) and working a lot on my art.

I've been recovering from an annoying respiratory illness.

I've missed out on the things I usually blog about : Won't be going to the state fair or the balloon fiesta this year because of financial considerations (ah, don't get me started on the college and their issues with my financial aid!) and took my kids grocery shopping tonight and missed Alligator the Entertainer (a one man band who seems to have quite a following in my 55+ community)

With the car back on the road I feel more myself, and able to get back to church services (I go to a UU church where the pastor is a secular humanist) and I'm looking ahead to a number of activities this month, including the Ren Fair, the Climate Change March, and possibly the Heart of New Mexico Fiber Gathering.

Other than that I've just been puttering around the apartment, fine tuning it to my needs, and just trying to decide where to go from here. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Looking back, looking forward, and knowing where you are.

There's an interesting discussion going on over on a friend's feed on FB. It has to do with the concept of touchstones or anchors, things that bring you back to a certain thing... a goal, memory or feeling.  And it's funny to me, because it's so opposite of what's usually posted there, which is a lot about living in the now.

The thing is, when we read articles or posts, we're often getting only a part of the solution... one tiny aspect of what we're looking for.  We read about the importance of living in the present, not comparing "you to you", or knowing that "anxiety is living in the future".

But that really neglects the holistic fact that we are creatures living in TIME.

The past has given us knowledge and experience, and while it's not helpful to dwell in what we've lost, even losses have lessons associated with them.

The now is an interval between what we were and what we will be.  It's the one REAL thing, because it's immediate, and it's the one point where change can come.  We can only make a change when it's NOW.  We can PLAN to make a change in the future, but until that future arrives and becomes the NOW, change doesn't happen.  We can always, for example, start our diet NEXT Monday.

And the future is where we want to be.  It's where our goals are, our dreams are, and it's the direction that we're headed. It'll be the new now someday, and today will be the past.

So let's take the analogy of riding a bus.

When my car was broken down, I'd have to take the bus to go shopping.  I got on the bus nearest my house.  The first (now) time I did it, I wore sandals, stepped on a lot of goats heads, got there too early and baked in the sun until the bus came. I rode the bus to the station where I transferred to my other bus (after a long wait) and finally got to my destination (Walmart).

The next time I did it, I'd recalled the past, but not lived in it.  I took the lessons I'd learned but without feeling the misery and pain.  I wore sneakers rather than sandals, left the house later, got off the bus at an earlier intersection with the other bus rather than riding into the station (which allowed me to catch the bus that pulled out moments before my bus pulled in) and had a delightful trip to the store.

We learn from the past, plan for the future, and that makes the more successful and comfortable now. We need to keep in mind all three: where we've come from, where we are now, and where we're going.

Now there are all sorts of tricks to keep us mindful of those things. What Weight Watchers calls "anchors" (something that triggers a memory or feeling related to a past event), there is the practice of "mindfulness" (the action of bringing thoughts back to awareness of the immediate) and there are inspirational pieces (posters, jewelry, etc) that have messages relating to the future.

But those novelties wear off when they're no longer novel.  Having been subjected to a workspace saturated with those inspirational posters so popular in the late 80s, I know that after a while they just become part of the background noise.  Also, little novelties like the bracelets (or I used colored hair bands) to remind you to drink water (you moved one band from one wrist to the other each time you drank, so as to keep track of how many glasses you drank, and how many more you SHOULD drink) wore off pretty quickly, and just became a nuisance.

There are also things I see every day that used to hold powerful meaning for me that I don't even see anymore because they've "worn off".  There's a reproduction pre-Columbian pot that I bought at a museum in Los Angeles which became a symbol of my need to be good to me and address my own wants and needs.  Last time we had a garage sale, it was out on a table.  Right now it's on my bedside table, and, since I have  a cold, I'm using it as a temporary space to hold my dirty Kleenex I use overnight until I get up in the morning and throw them all out.  A year ago that would have practically been sacrilege.

My own "touchstone" photo to remind me of
my personal growth and progress in art.
The center photo is one from my "memory box"
For me the things that hold the deepest meaning are not the things that I become so familiar with that I no longer see them.  Instead I have a "memory box"... a photo file box the size of a shoe box, that holds all sorts of things that have meaning or multiple meaning.  In it I have a letter my autistic daughter wrote on a train to Florida.  It was the first time she said "I love you".  I have two kazoos from the original kazoo factory in Eden, NY.  I have a plastic duck beak shaped duck call from the Great American Duck Race.  I have patches from all sorts of places I've visited, pins from when I was a zoo docent, or for various causes I've supported.  I have a birthday card and a mother's day card from my eldest.  Old metro tickets, library cards from across the nation, and a smattering of odd photos that probably would make no sense to anyone else but me.

And there are times I go back to that box for memories and feelings, both the good and the bad, from my past which remind me of lessons learned to get me into the future.

I do not wear a bracelet that says "brave" or "stronger than you know" or "WYCWYC" or "wwjd".   because for me, that wears out... becomes meaningless with repetition.  I know people who wear religious jewelry and other talismans.  The closest I have to that are what I consider "uniforms".... clothing or jewelry items I wear for a specific statement, and/or to remind myself what my power is in that situation (although, for example, if I wore my business suit every day for every occasion, the sense of power would be stripped from it).

I'm not big into making things into symbols, however, and I don't feel that it's beneficial to look at one object, one direction, or one time period... that we must live our lives in their totality, taking inspiration from a number of experiences, goals, and yes, even physical objects and memories, without dwelling too long in any of them.  Because the past is gone, and while the present is real, it's fleeting, and ultimately the future becomes our present.