Monday, May 16, 2011

halfway through the month

And I have used my credit card on eight out of fifteen days. Wow! So much for "no credit card" month!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It is very difficult for me to keep track of all the decisions I make. I have started my style sheet for my dissertation. It includes rules like these:
  • no contractions
  • .3 inch tab
  • indent first lines of footnotes
  • level 1 subheads: bold type, centered, sentence-style caps
  • ragged right margin
  • dictionary: Merriam Webster 11th ed.
  • check punctuation for correct usage (en and em dashes and colons); serial comma.
  • check footnotes: terminal period? full citations at the beginnings of chapters?
  • call out promises and recollections: do I fulfill the promise to come back to item A? Do my vide supras match up?
  • check verb tenses. All match?
I should make a style sheet for my life, too:
  • no sugar before noon or after five
  • may not skip exercising for two consecutive days
  • may not use cell phone if I have consumed more than 1.5 alcoholic drinks
  • may not eat barley for more than three consecutive days
  • may not eat beans for more than two consecutive days
  • clothing must cover knees
  • monthly clothing budget may not exceed half of monthly rent amount
  • must pay bills before they are due
  • must be out of bed before 8 am
  • must eat vegetables every day
My rules are solid. What I need is an editor who will impose deadlines.

Friday, May 6, 2011

changing my environment

Last weekend I had a spring cleaning kind of weekend. I did a lot of housework, all of which was necessary and satisfying. The best part of the weekend was cleaning around and behind the oven and the refrigerator. I unplugged the fridge, pulled it away from the wall, and cleaned it all up. I vacuumed the floor, sucking up years of dust, a pile (?!) of cat food, and several cat toys. I found two corks from forgotten bottles of wine (were they even mine?). I vacuumed the back of the refrigerator which had grown fuzzy with dust, cat hair and cooking grease. I scrubbed the floor beneath the refrigerator.

I moved the oven away from the wall and swept first, discovering charred kale, a burnt mushroom, layers of borax, and a wooden spoon. Then I vacuumed, and then I scrubbed.

I've been avoiding just these tasks for some years. I've been afraid of them, worried that what I would find around the oven and behind the refrigerator would be disgusting, possibly even frightening. It wasn't. It was only mildly embarrassing--I waited so long, and for what?

Now my kitchen is wonderfully clean. It is a pleasure to stand in front of the stove. I have not dreaded getting out of bed so much these past mornings. I feel more relaxed at home, even in other rooms.

The relief I feel in having a clean kitchen has had an effect elsewhere. I am prepared to overhaul my outline for chapter three, for example. I am prepared to let go of Northanger Abbey and, just maybe, to take up Antony and Cleopatra instead. I'm sailing the Pequod to Egypt. I don't think I could have done so if my kitchen hadn't been clean.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

the dubious pleasures of self-knowledge

One of the memoirs I read just after Christmas (the first book I bought for my kindle) was Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I liked it a lot and check up on her blog every now and again. On Wednesdays her blog posts offer tips or a quiz.

There is one quiz I keep taking, hoping for a different result. The result is always the same. The quiz is "do you make other people unhappy?" and my result is always "yes."

I've given Sara Maitland's memoir about silence a lot of credit for my increased solitude this year. That book did indeed help me to acknowledge my own need for solitude, silence, and reflection. However, I should credit Rubin's quiz for this solitude as well.

It isn't that I don't enjoy being around people. I do. And things are much more comfortable when I spend time with people one at a time, or in very small groups--I come much closer to earning a negative answer (a positive result) when I spend time with people in that way. This quiz has given me a way to interpret something I had sensed but had a difficult time understanding or discussing, and this increased awareness makes me more reluctant to spend time with others. I may be able to see that I have a negative effect on group dynamics but I don't know what to do about it. If I can't provide the antidote to my own poison (a somewhat harsh metaphor, but work with me), then it seems that the kindest action is to withhold the poison in the first place.

I think this realization still smarts a little. I know in my head that any one person cannot be everything or have every good attribute. Eventually I might be able to accept the necessity of this solitude and perhaps even to enjoy it.