now, later, or not at all…

 

summer_beach_2-t2

Hi, all you folks out there lying on sunny beaches working on your tan, or breezing about in exotic settings, camera in hand, or simply sitting at your favourite cafe sucking back a slow summer latte.

Ahh, summer.  Isn’t it great?

Last year at this time I had extravagant expectations of knuckling down and reaming out our house from stem to stern, decluttering everything in sight (including – gasp – my normally inviolate bookshelves), washing everything within reach of my trusty sponge, and eventually presenting the world at large with – Ta Da! – a spotless, tidy and beautifully-decorated home à la House and Home magazine.

Whatever was I thinking!FALSE ALARM

I may already have mentioned that I’m extremely good at ignoring housework. In a flash, I can find any number of reasons why I simply cannot do it on any given day.

So although having a pristine home seemed like a worthwhile goal, the idea of having to sort through junk and scrub finger marks off walls (not to even mention the agony of deciding which of my beloved books I must part with) quickly paled.

Okay. All right.  In actual point of fact, the grand plan died a sudden death almost as soon as I thought of it.

cleaningThe ugly truth is this: apart from the kitchen and bathroom, I just don’t care if the rest isn’t perfectly clean.  We’re two people, so how filthy can it actually get? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.  I know the answer; I just don’t want to think about it right now.)

As a sort of evolutionary compensation for my lack of housecleaning mojo, I’m a tidy freak, the urge to sort and put away being far more satisfying to me than that whole cleaning thing, which must be an acquired taste – or possibly genetic.

Queen Of Maids -Dust-2Tidiness, I’ve realized, goes a long way toward creating the illusion of immaculate cleanliness to the casual eye (as long as our guests don’t look too closely, of course).  Furthermore, I’ve decided life is getting way too short at this stage of the game to be fretting about whether or not my walls are pristine or there’s dust on my china cabinet.

What did happen last summer was that I began writing a book. I wrote, and wrote…and wrote, and by fall of last year I had half a book ready for editing.

And half a book it has remained since then.  Gathering dust.

StrengthWhat happened? you may ask.  Well, to make a long story short, Life is what’s been happening here at Fort Hay: daily issues and unexpected emergencies and tough times; and both my Dearly Beloved and I trying to deal with the ongoing issues and emotional ups and downs of chronic illness and caregiving and the constant adjustments involved – you know, those kinds of things that are part of the yang downside to Life’s smiley yin upside.

All that.

And when those tough times roll through your life, pretty much all you can do is put your head down and keep on keeping on as best you can.

Needless to say, sitting down for a few hours every day to write has been off the agenda for a while.  And by now there’s a lot of dust on those pages.

But that’s Life, isn’t it.  The yin and yang of it.  The good and the not-so-good.  We’ve all been there – at least no one I know has managed to breeze through life totally unscathed.

Weebles
“Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down!”

The thing is, Life can be wearing, energetically and emotionally if not physically. Physically, I’m one of those 98-lb. weaklings (okay, definitely not 98 lbs., but you get the idea.)

Emotionally, though, I’m pretty much a Weeble. Remember Weebles?  We Weebles can take a good deal of Life pushing and tipping us, and we just bounce back.

A couple of weeks ago I came up for air and discovered that the writing urge had not, after all, gone belly-up inside my brain.  Following that revelation, I found myself deep in thought:

Susannah, you’ve got two entire months ahead of you.  All other things being equal – and just supposing you manage to get your act together – you might possibly be able to carve out a couple of hours a day to write.

Who knows, you might have the second half of your manuscript finished by fall, at least ready for editing.  

writing deskAnd only last week I finally said to myself, by George, Susannah, you’re right!  I think we should give it a go.  

Okay, I replied, I’m game.  Let’s clear the decks and try for a regular writing schedule.  It’s better than dragging this manuscript around in our brain like some kind of Ancient Mariner’s albatross, right? 

Absolutely, I said to myself, giving me a wee pat on the back because after all, it was a good solid decision, and I was feeling a bit smug about it.  (I’m nothing if not persistent.)

I immediately set about tidying my writing work space and preparing to jump back into it.  I had my work cut out for me with a September deadline, and I knew I’d better get right at it.

Now, the problem with being a Weeble is that it can take us Weebles forever to notice that there are times when we’re wearing out and really can fall over, no matter what the ads used to say.

fallen weeble
Sometimes even Weebles can fall over

Which means that when our noses finally hit the ground, we’re always surprised.

Colour me surprised….

The good part is that from my location on the ground, I’ve discovered a few things:

Turns out it’s high time for the work monkey I’ve carried around on my back most of my life to disappear. I have to stop feeling guilty if my day isn’t filled with “useful” activities.

My DB’s been trying to get that through my head for a long time, and perhaps it’s finally begun to sink in a little.

For a while, this particular Weeble doesn’t want to be tipped and pushed hither and yon by Life and my own outdated rules.  I want to let go of schedules and deadlines I have to meet, even if they’re my own deadlines.  I don’t want to have to be running around (except for doctors’ appointments, which we can’t do much about anyway).

And for a while, I don’t want to think about anything deeper than what we’re going to have for dinner this evening, or whether or not to watch The Agenda on TVO with my DB.

I have no particular desire to go anywhere.  What I want is slow, relaxed mornings on the deck with DB, coffee, the radio and a book; occasional guests and conversation and laughter; naps when I need them; and lots of time spent doing whatever happens to turn my crank on any particular day – including nothing at all, if that’s what I choose.

I want to see what it’s like not to feel guilty if I don’t do anything “useful” in the course of a day.

As Life rushes me headlong toward my 71st year on this planet, it’s time to let go of all the self-inflicted shoulds and must-dos I’ve accumulated over the years.

I’m aware of the possibility that inside of a week I’ll be champing at the bit to get back into the fray.  But somehow I don’t think so.  I have a feeling I’ll want to hang around here on the ground for a while.  So far it’s cool and comfortable, and there’s this really good book I want to read….

Namaste,
Susannah

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10 Comments

  1. Funny. I just kind of wrote about this. It’s not always so obvious when we have reached a different place in life. It’s difficult to identify — never mind let go of! — old habits that we think are us. As for writing — it’s a purely elective activity even if you’re Stephen King.

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    1. Yes, that’s it exactly, Martha. Add a touch of WASP early training, and you have all the makings of a difficult transition to a less “useful” life. It was a complete joy to me to leave the world of working for a living when I retired; what I didn’t realize was that I took some old beliefs along with me when I left, and it’s more than past time to move on. [I retired years ago, but I’m obviously a slow learner when it comes to myself.] 🙂

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      1. Holy cow, Martha – I just read “Taking Aim,” and I couldn’t get over the synchronicity of it. A beautiful post, beautifully timed. Thank you, my dear, for the unfailing depth and richness of your blog posts. I truly enjoy them.

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  2. Love it Sue, it’s a big challenge but I’m getting pretty good at avoiding guilt about not accomplishing anything of value added. Sometimes difficult when Alec starts the morning conversation with “what’s on your agenda for the day”. We are both well, the tail end of family visits for the past three weeks. Leaving a dirty house with 7 unmade beds and sandy floors on Monday. Katherine, friend Sarah and 2 grandkids leave Sunday afternoon so no time to cleanup. A little more dust will have time to settle in the two plus months we will be away. We have been here for twelve years now with minimum work but the place needs freshening up. A new coat of paint in most rooms and all the woodwork but for now it soon time to head north into cool weather I hope. Take care and have a great summer. Hugs Deany

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    1. I definitely have to work on the guilt part! You made me laugh; Ian asks the same thing, although he’s usually happy if the answer is Nothing!

      I hope you find cooler weather up north. At the moment, we’re heading into humid, 33-degree F. weather, which apparently will feel like 40 degrees. If Georgia’s hotter than that in the summer, no wonder you’re heading north, although living on an island must make it a bit easier to take. As for me, I’m still looking for a mountaintop to move to, because that’s waaay too hot for me!

      Wishing you and Alec a happy summer holiday with friends and family.

      Hugs,
      Sue

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  3. Susannah I wish you’d stop stealing all my thoughts! So much of your post is ‘me’ too. Love your thoughts on housework and that keeping things tidy gives the impression that the whole place is far cleaner than it is! I do that too, because I decided a while back that dust does not matter in the great scale of things. I’d much rather be out on my motorbike or writing. After all I’m heading for 69 and who knows what time there is left. Years ago I started to question why I felt compelled to do certain things, and where those ‘I should’ type thoughts originated. Then I decided to step out of the box and not follow the herd – to be free. Sometimes it’s challenging to be different. To allow the dust to get so thick you can write in it!
    I do hope you get your book finished. After we retired here to the woods in France I wrote two books and had so much fun doing it. I have a much shorter one all ready to publish but just haven’t got around to it – the dust gathers again!
    Love your Weebles analogy. You take as much time as you jolly well want. Sod the schedules, dump the deadlines, and gag your inner critic! And of course be Mindful and watch those ‘I should be … ‘ thoughts, and stomp on them when they arise.
    Have a lovely lazy time. I’m about o have a blogging break for a while, I want to put some time into learning more French, and doing a bit more exercise.
    Namaste
    Jude x

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    1. Hi Jude! At the age of 69, it’s about time we’re free to do what we please. I thought I was, but there were some “should” habits I didn’t even realize I was lugging around – hence the post.

      I’m enjoying your new blog very much. It looks as though it’s going to be a travelogue with pics, and that’s right up my alley. Given my present role as caregiver, I don’t travel physically, but I definitely do it vicariously on my computer, and now I’ll be able to enjoy your travels in France. Or maybe not right now, but when you get back into it. Have a happy summer!

      P.S. Talk about stealing thoughts: I’ve been thinking of refreshing my French too; it’s been many years since we lived in Quebec.) Great minds… 🙂

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