Controlling the Chaos

My current project of decluttering my life is already producing the effects I wished for. With each thing I discard I feel freer and lighter. This isn’t confined only to the material possessions I’ve kept through the years, it also includes outdated, ill-fitting, or otherwise unnecessary ideas and goals, but it begins with the material world and filters on through the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Funny how that works. I’ve always maintained that our outer environment reveals the condition of our inner state and, this cottage, with its doilies, figurines, lace, and old family chotchkies revealed my need for a home life I enjoyed growing up. It’s been nurturing and safe, but I’m ready to step out from that womb. I’m not saying I don’t like the cottage style, I’m just tired of it. It’s holding me back and it no longer resonates with who I’m evolving into, and who Nettl and I are becoming as a couple. Oddly, when I was younger I adored the grandma look, but now that I’m of the grandma age, I want a more active look. As I said to Nettl one night last week, “I don’t want the ‘Arsenic And Old Lace’ look anymore.”

I have about two weeks to get this place ready for the new furniture and as you probably have experienced in your own life, when you pick out a new sofa you notice other things that need to be replaced. Suddenly, the drapes are tired, the coffee table is out of place, and the walls are no longer crisp. Fortunately, our current wall color, a warm café au lait, works well with the new colors, which are taupe, tan, and espresso, like this Peppered Tones palette, minus the blue. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I wasn’t looking forward to painting these two rooms again. But buying the right paint really paid off. It hasn’t faded, chipped or washed off a bit since we rolled it on nearly eight years ago. Now, that’s great paint!

The most arduous part of this project is emotional, though. Thoughts of Oh, look. Mom’s doilies! and I remember when we bought this! flood my mind, and I’m forced to decide which box something is destined for: “Keep on Display,” “Store in Attic,” “Donate to Habitat,” or “Trash.” You have to be mentally and emotionally ready for this kind of decluttering; it isn’t something I’d advise you force yourself to do. You’ll know when (or even if) you’re ready when the urge to feel unencumbered  outweighs your sentimentality, and when your peace of mind is crowded and pinched by the things you’ve been holding onto. Whether it’s an idea, a habit, a relationship, an attitude, or a table, you’ll know when it’s time to let it go. If it happens at all. I mean, it’s not mandatory for everyone in order to maintain their happiness. For me, it is. I’m done with the pain, the drama, the fear, the xenophobia, and the chaos of modern life and I’m creating a private world where curiosity, the arts, intellectual pursuits, wanderlust, and the celebration of our diverse and magical world can be celebrated. As above so below, as without so within.

Physically, the hardest part is redoing the gallery wall above the piano in the music room. I’m already taking down the Baroque frames and now irrelevant images, which I want to replace with photos of our travels, book-related events we’ve attended, and our musical performances. All that frilly filigree? Gone. Likewise, the larger wall in the living room is undergoing a radical change. Three framed pieces are being moved to other walls to make room for a grid of black and white photos we’ve taken through the years. Not photos of people, but of architectural elements, storefronts, and other interesting things we’ve shot here in Stillwater.

Mostly, my work right now consists of cleaning out the debris and clutter I’ve accumulated in myself through the years. The physical part of this project ends at the close of the day, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts continue.

Hm. I wonder how my inner self will relax once my outer self is planted in the recliner we’re buying…

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You Need to Laugh More

Maybe it’s because this blog just looks so black and white, so straight and hasn’t a proper title indicating what my writing style is that some of my readers don’t pick up on the fact that almost everything I say is rather tongue-in-cheek. If you know me personally, or have been around since the days of my old blog, then you’re well-acquainted with my brand of humor. I may have to change the look of this place, however, to give newcomers some idea of what’s in store for them. But here’s a pret-ty solid rule of thumb: if I’m complaining, I’m most likely embellishing the actual situation or my life in general, and things aren’t half as difficult as I make them sound. I appreciate your concern for me, but really, I’m OK.

While contemplating the general style of my personal humor, it occurred to me I might need to do a little research. Do I even know what kind of sense of humor I have? Do you know what kind you have? First of all, I ran into a lot of sites containing long lists of the different types of humor, but these weren’t about how we approach life, they were about comedy.

I’ve never been a big fan of stand up. I much prefer spontaneous humor over someone’s ability to deliver a pre-written, memorized, and well-timed anecdote or joke. There are exceptions, of course. I really love Ellen Degeneres and Billy Connolly, but nothing can make me seriously Laugh Out Loud like watching the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on YouTube. The newer roasts aren’t funny to me in the least, because they’re so mean-spirited. There’s no sense that these newer comedians even remotely like each other whereas the older comedians’ “taking the piss” out of each other just oozes with genuine affection.

But back to defining one’s personal sense of humor. Here’s a little list, borrowed from Psychology Today and tailored to suit my purposes…

Put-Down Humor
This aggressive type of humor is used to criticize and manipulate others through teasing, sarcasm and ridicule. When it’s aimed against politicians, it can be funny and mostly harmless, but in the real world it has a sharper impact. Put-down humor, such as telling friends an embarrassing story about another friend, is a way to deploy aggression and make others look bad so you look good. When challenged on their teasing, the put-down joker often turns to the “just kidding” defense to avoid responsibility even as the barb bites. Wankers. There is no evidence that those who rely on this type of humor are any less well-adjusted, but it does take a toll on personal relationships. I don’t like put-down humor, usually, unless it’s delivered by Don Rickles, but even he can make me cringe. In the wrong hands, it’s nothing but a form of bullying.

Taking The Piss
This less aggressive type of humor is used by friends through good-natured ribbing. It actually means they like each other. Often, someone will say, “If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t tease you” or “I don’t waste my energy on people I don’t like.” I like this kind of humor as long as it isn’t hurtful or masks a secret dislike, but I don’t often practice it for fear of being misunderstood and inadvertently hurting someone.

Bonding Humor
People who use bonding humor are fun to have around. They say amusing things, tell jokes, engage in witty banter and generally lighten the mood. These are the people who give humor a good name. They’re perceived as warm, down-to-earth and kind, good at reducing the tension in uncomfortable situations and able to laugh at their own faults. Ellen DeGeneres embraces her audience by sharing good-natured, relatable humor. Her basic message is, “We’re alike, we find the same things funny, and we’re all in this together.” This is probably most like my humor than any other on this list. Nonetheless, bonding humor can have a dark side. After all, a feeling of inclusion can be made sweeter by knowing that someone else is on the outs. President John F. Kennedy and his brothers often invited a hated acquaintance to vacation with them. They’d be polite to his face, but behind his back the brothers united in deriding the hapless guest. Not my cup of tea at all. This is what I call “clique” humor, something I’ve been victim to on too many occasions to name. This, too is just bullying. You can have it.

Self-Deprecating Humor
In this style of humor, you make yourself the butt of the joke for the amusement of others. Often deployed by people who are eager to ingratiate themselves, it’s the familiar clown or “fat guy” playfulness that we loved in John Belushi and Chris Farley—both of whom suffered for their success. A small dose of it is charming, but a little goes a long way: routinely offering yourself up to be humiliated erodes your self-respect, fostering depression and anxiety. It also can backfire by making other people feel uncomfortable because it may remind others of their own tendency toward self-criticism. Farley, who died at age 33 from an overdose, had a streak of self-loathing. “Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself,” his brother wrote after his death. The bottom line: excelling at this style of humor may lead to party invitations, but it can ultimately exact a high price. There’s nothing funny about self-loathing, or laughing at someone who suffers from it.

Laughing At Life
When we admire someone who doesn’t take him or herself too seriously, this is what we’re talking about. More than just a way of relating to other people, it’s a prism that colors the world in rosier shades. Someone with this outlook deploys humor to cope with challenges, taking a step back and laughing at the absurdities of everyday life. This is my second style of humor. “If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I would have committed suicide long ago,” as the saying goes, and this kind of humor is the very foundation of my existence. If you can’t get this about me, you’re never going to get me. Sorry, but dem’s da fax.

Judging from this list, I’ve discovered that I possess a combination of Bonding Humor and Laughing At Life humor. I suppose the former might be the outcome of exercising the latter: in both the so-called real world  and on this blog, I laugh at my life in an effort to show you we’re all in this together and that we can’t take life too seriously.

Now, go thee hence and laugh at something while I try to figure out what I want to change about the look of this place!

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My Life Is A Page-Turner

turn-the-page

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother writing fiction; my own life has never been uneventful. From profound trauma to exhilarating ecstasy this trip has been a page-turner from the moment I was born. Really. I can’t remember ever feeling bored or under-stimulated. In fact, so much has happened in my life, both good and bad, I often have to take a rest from things to find my center and regain some degree of balance. This is one of those times.

Amid devastating losses and amazing expectations I’m pretty much reeling just now. I’m keeping my balance though, and consequently, the ride hasn’t been as bumpy as times in the past. And that’s my own doing, damn it. I try to live mindfully minute-by-minute, to deflect negativity and project positivity, and to respond rather than react. I’ve had my days of flailing around like a wounded animal, snarling, biting and clawing at everything and everyone regardless of if they’re friend or foe. Maybe I’m too old now, but I don’t have the energy for that kind of limbic cortextual panic anymore, and when I encounter it I have to turn away and move outside the circle of danger. It’s not easy, but it really isn’t all that hard, either.

So what am I doing to turn my page? I’m going to spend less time on Facehugger and more time doing the things that bring me peace. I’ll spend an hour over my morning coffee keeping up with people there, but the bulk of my online time will be spent blogging. If my friends want to spend more time with me they will find me here and we can talk via comments. Or they can text me, phone me, or even drop by! I’m still available.

Meanwhile, work on my two CDs (yes, I said two!) is going really well. I’ve finally reconnected with my own music and, despite everything, my energy levels are pretty stable—as long as I remain mindful of my body and its limits, and treat it gently. I recently posted a quote in Fb that read, “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.” As someone who has battled chronic illness since 1998, that makes a lot of sense to me. Now there is no battle. I’ve finally accepted that I will never again feel like I did when I was in my 30s. Duh. So be it. I’ll move on, accept being 64, and love it. I feel better than I might at my age and for that I’m extremely grateful. I have no life-threatening diseases and apart from the Hashimoto’s I’m in good health. I have everything to be thankful for. Are things perfect? Hell, no. There are some things that are downright shite, but I don’t focus on them. We’re working on things and with this early spring and all its promise, I look forward and smile. With so many good things happening in my life, I think this is the best way I can express my gratitude.

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Ain’t Gonna Worry No More

wrong storyI’ve learned a valuable lesson about Life, a lesson in lessons. Guess what? All of those lessons you didn’t learn when you were younger will eventually present themselves to you again so that you have the chance to prove you learned something during your journey. Not all lessons are meant to be learned and perfected at the time they come to us, you see. Some are just clues that they will come back around for you when you’re older. Isn’t the Universe generous and patient? I love this lesson. It’s as if it’s saying, “You have time. I won’t forget you.”

Since about 1990 I’ve been trying to learn about walking away. About letting the dead bury the dead. Recently, the lesson came back and I was at last ready to learn it.

So here’s my bucket list. It’s not full of places to go, stuff to acquire, or grand, white-knuckling adventures; it’s more about the quality of Life I’ve always envisioned for myself:

  • Finish my CD and get it out for purchase
  • Finish my trilogy (1/2 book to go)
  • Begin performing at house concerts and small gigs
  • Go to London with Lynette
  • Move to the country where there’s a thriving arts community (somewhere out of Oklahoma!)
  • Make some friends there who are vital, creative, positive, and growth-oriented
  • Continue creating some awesome things!

What this comes down to is less online time and more creative time. I’ll be putting a lot of my Facebook time back into blogging, where my creativity flourished before social networks reared their opiated, distracting heads. So count on more frequent posts here and more news about my music and writing, as well as the usual cottage life news. I’m really excited! And with that I’m going offline to work on my CD.

In the meantime, enjoy a little Peter Case.

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