Friday, April 30, 2010

re-acquainting myself with my inner penny-pincher

Holy spending, Philosophotarian! Someone needs a budget and fast! Where is the hero who will save me from my spendthrift ways?

Since mid-January, I've been very consistent with exercise. I am currently armed with a reading plan for the next ten weeks. Now, it seems, I need to strengthen my discipline in another area of my life: my budget.

I have been allowing myself quite a few splurges: I've ordered a lot of books from Amazon lately (those I don't feel too badly about); I had that little spree at the Gap (underwear! slacks! pajamas! I've been wearing these things all the time. still ...); then there was that indiscretion at Lush (it smelled so nice! and they gave me a goody bag! and a lady has to exfoliate!); let's not forget yesterday's decadent debauchery (strawberry-rhubarb cocktails that weren't too sweet! and "Miss Iowa" is back at Uncommon Ground! and one must eat while imbibing); there are groceries going bad in my refrigerator as we speak (I would have cooked last night, but I was out all day).

Looks like I need to go on a Cash-Only diet. I'll probably start by giving myself $100/week (starting next week). That's for everything: groceries, fun, I-ran-late-so-need-to-buy-lunch-out emergencies, cat food, toilet paper, clothing, makeup - everything. I can certainly get by on about $25-30/week on groceries, especially when I plan my menus. This will leave me with about $70/week for everything else. What I don't spend, I'll set aside, in a separate jar or something. At the end of next month, we'll see how much I have left.

In fact, dear readers, I will keep track of my spending this month and report at the end of each week and at the end of the month. With the money I hope to have left over, I'll plan, right now, to put some into my savings account, spend some on books at Amazon (I'll just put that money back into checking), and then see where I am.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A 10 week reading list

I'm trying to convince my mother to let us plant a lilac bush in her backyard next year. She doesn't need a whole lot of convincing, to be sure. But I may as well be honest and admit that I want the lilac bush just for me (like I want her to keep the rhubarb just for me, too). I'll go up in future springs and, in the privacy of someone else's backyard, stand like a swooning drunk, eyes closed, breathing in lilac perfume. I want white and light- and dark-purple lilacs, planted in a scented cloister to build the seclusion she'd like.

In the perfect world, we'd plant lily of the valley all along the sides of the house, too. Maybe just one side. Then I could fill tiny bud vases with the delicate lily-bells and large matronly vases with branches of lilac.

The house at which my family lived before moving to the house in which my mother now lives had lily of the valley planted along both sides of the house, and there were two lilac bushes. I think they were my favorite part of spring. Here in Chicago, I see lilacs around the neighborhood (and someone had lily of the valley, but I don't recall where any longer), but none of them are mine - I can't go around sniffing strangers' lilacs! Neither can I steal branches under the cover of midnight, nor pluck fragile fragrant bells.

Maybe in Exile I'll console myself with a fortress of spring-scented purple and white. If I must be banished for a hundred years, bearing heavy sleep and solitude, I may as well dream in a cloud of lovely color and perfume.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I could be a dandelion

I think I want all of these lovely sounding scents. How could I fail to swoon over one called "In the Library"? How lovely does "Russian Caravan Tea" (one of my favorite teas anyway) sound? If I surrender to the desire to possess any, the first on my list will be "Violet Empire."

I still have about 6 ounces of my Prada fragrance. And many vials of blended oil perfumes from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (their site is so much fun to browse! and the descriptions are so lovely! and the bottles so pretty!). And scented lotion (my current favorite is Karma Kream - orange blossom and patchouli smell so happy together). I am not experiencing any shortage of fragrance options. Perhaps it is that none of them feel (smell) just quite right. Perhaps they don't evoke just the right feeling, bring to mind any perfect moment. The scents I have, though lovely, are somewhat untethered to memory and so none of them feel necessary.

I should get out more. Do more. Have adventures. Visit more neighborhoods, cities, countries, worlds. Somewhere, in one of those worlds, I will find a scent that smells like home and I'll take a deep breath and move right in.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Divine Uterus Part I

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to
myself in a dark wood for the straight way was lost.
Luckily, I knew what that wood was,
so powerful and strong that the thought of it renews my wonder!
One less learned than I might have thought
that this place and its memory were so savage and
bitter that only death is perhaps more so.
I knew that I had encountered the door to my
uterus, strange and wonderful labyrinth of dark
and mysterious power.
I really cannot say how I entered there, so full of
sleep was I at the point when I abandoned the other way.
While I stumbled at the entrance, my eyes darkened by
the dark and red light that pulsed beyond the gate,
before me one offered herself to me who through
mystical silence seemed faint.
When I saw her in the great wilderness, I cried out and
begged her aid "whatever you may be, true woman or shade!"
She called herself - some utterance not translatable into
human tongue, the sound of which calmed my human fear.
"You must enter deep into your womb if you wish to leave
this dark and fecund place. There is no way out but in and
no way up but deeply down."
My heart sank at her words and I cast my eyes about within
the darkness that enfolded us.
She spoke, and then she moved, and I followed after her.

The day was departing and the damp and fertile air was
releasing its potency beyond the gates of the cervical city.
I alone prepared myself to undergo the journey which
memory will depict.
O muses, O high wit now help me!,
I sighed as I entered upon the deep, savage journey.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lists of True Things

About five years ago I descended into the lowest emotional abyss of my life. I was overwhelmingly sad most of the time. When I wasn't sad, I was terrifyingly numb. I was very much afraid that I would never feel any better than numb and that the sadness would continue to grow. Sometimes, on particularly bad days, when I felt consumed by feelings of worthlessness (because I would never get into a Ph.D. program, would never be funded for my studies, would never get a job, would never be qualified for a job, would become just like my mother, would never be loved, never be in a healthy, loving relationship, would be alone and lonely and incompetent and unskilled for the rest of the rest of the rest of my life), I would write Lists of True Things. On these lists I would write things like:

I am not hideously ugly
I am not stupid
I am not incompetent
I am capable of washing dishes
It is September
I am twenty-four
I have a master's degree
There are still leaves on the trees

It wasn't important to write things that were very deep. It was enough for them to be true.

I haven't written a List of True Things in a while - not since that year I think. My lists contain other things and are written for other purposes: to remind me of what it was I was meant to be doing, to organize a future I hope to have, to plan a menu for the week or the reading for a month.

It would be untrue to say that it was writing these lists that pulled me up and over the edge of that precipice. It was that and a whole lot of other things: that was the year I stopped using hormonal contraception, the year I began working toward my master's degree in philosophy, the year my father died. Perhaps not taking contraceptive pills acted as a placebo that helped me to focus on feeling healthy again. Perhaps being accepted into a philosophy program (not Ph.D at that time. not funded) both occasioned and quieted different kinds of professional/academic doubt. Perhaps the fact of my father's death (sudden, alone, friendless) jolted me into ordering my life to avoid ever becoming anything like him.

List writing is a near meditative practice for me. When I write lists, I think only of the list. Sometimes I write lists of recurring words in my writing. Sometimes I evaluate the positive/negative connotations of those words. Sometimes I make lists of furniture to buy, clothes to find, colors to combine. Sometimes lists of picnics to have, or books to read or things to learn to do. I make lists of what I have done, what I will do, what I must do and what I won't do.

Most of these lists have not been saved. Perhaps I will begin saving them more frequently. I'll put that on a list right now...

Friday, April 9, 2010

slipping from the wagon

Since defending my dissertation proposal, I've taken an unintentional break from productivity. I've been spending more time with friends, more time reading things for pleasure, more time at my mother's house, and more time in the office, checking in dissertations and theses for May graduation.

I'm struggling to regain balance. I have still been exercising (though this week I've only logged about 2.5 hours on the exercycle so far), but I haven't been cooking. I haven't been making my coffee most mornings; instead, I've been buying my coffee at the cafe down the street. I've been resisting my alarm clock. Drinking much more alcohol (still in moderation - much more than practically none isn't quite cause for alarm!)

Now that my proposal is defended and my project is (mostly) approved, I can organize my time differently. Rather than cloistering myself, I can build in some time every week to see friends. I need to better plan for it so that I still cook, exercise, keep up on housework and consistently read and write.

These past few months I wrote myself To Do lists every evening to keep myself on track. Sample:

Make tea
Read 2 chapters Nussbaum
Read 2 chapters MUW
Read 50 pp Golden Bowl
Eat dinner
Trash out

"Make tea" carried just as much weight as "2 chapters Nussbaum" and was just as satisfying to strike from the list. These lists were useful - rather than sit on my sofa and wonder what to do next, I simply consulted my list and did what was most appealing (or least unappealing) at the time. By the end of the evening, everything had to be accomplished, no excuses. I got a lot done this way.

I've been slacking on the list-making lately and this might account for my diminished productivity. When plans come up or change, it is difficult to put them on the list or to figure out how to restructure the list so that I can get work done and remain flexible enough to have a bit of a social life.

To Do:

Resume list-making