Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quackin' Up

Recently, I was at a lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, enjoying a week of relaxation with family. One night, as I was standing on the dock, a flock of ducks swam by. I didn’t think about the fact that they might be looking for food (nor, as advised, did I intend to feed them anyway) until out of the blue one popped his head up and attempted to bite my toe. I was shocked by the sensation of this critter’s beak on my foot and immediately recoiled. What in the heck was he thinking?
            I like ducks (in fact, as a child I had a pet duckling by the name of Peep Peep…that is, until my father spirited him away to a lake in the town park where, Dad claimed, “Peep Peep would be happier”). I enjoy watching ducks swim by, quacking away. Their feathers are lovely, and even if they are looking for food, they seem quite friendly for the most part (I’ve heard that swans, on the other hand, can be downright nasty). But there was something about this duck’s attempted toe nibbling that disturbed me. It just didn’t seem like a friendly-duck thing to do.
            Later, thinking about the experience, I decided that it wasn’t the duck attack per se that was so troubling: rather, it was the fact that I was totally unprepared and unsuspecting. I simply hadn’t anticipated that a duck would try to bite me (mosquitoes, I was ready for!).
The more I thought about this, the more deeply I realized that the duck nibbling reminded me of other experiences in my past when people have metaphorically bitten my toe (or my head) off for no apparent reason. And I realized that rather than being physically painful, there is nothing more ouch-causing than the experience of being yelled at, blamed, criticized, or disparaged for no good reason. There are situations in life when, of course, we expect to be snapped at (overdrawing the checking account, for instance). But there are also occasions when a friend, partner, child, parent, teacher, acquaintance or possibly even a bank teller, waiter or sales person says something so nasty and so unexpected that it simply takes your breath away, and you are speechless, hurt, and completely deflated, not by the words themselves but by the sheer inappropriateness of the surprise attack.
I guess the best thing to do in these situations (whether duck, spouse, or friend) is simply to let it go. Remove your foot, garner up your inner strength, and move on. Most likely that duck didn’t mean anything by it, just as most likely the bank teller or your kid was simply having a bad day. No need to take it to heart (or toe).
Still, I will feel a bit wary of ducks from now on. And I certainly will never go near one when I’ve just had a pedicure.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Stop the Presses!

There’s an old newspaper phrase we used back in the day when a hot story came in at the last moment or we had to make a dramatic correction in a story already being printed. “Stop the presses!” meant that the printing machinery needed to halt immediately so a change could be made. Sometimes, I think, we need to “stop the presses” in our lives, too. Just sit back, and take stock of all that’s going on before we proceed any further.
            Vacations can be good for this (I was just on one). So can illness (as long as one survives). The birth of a baby will do wonders (though the presses must be started up again soon, if only for the birth announcement!). Deaths, of course, are also effective for stopping everything in a hurry. Everyone understands when you drop out of sight for these reasons. But really, no excuse should be necessary.
            Last week, when I was up in the mountains, I didn’t write at all. I didn’t network or blog. I didn't review any books or read anything that required me to take notes. I watched my “kids” (now grown men), kayaking and swimming. I chatted with family members. I observed the sunset, the ducks, and the bass circling my toes. And while I was not doing all the things I normally find so utterly necessary, I realized once again—much like when I was very ill, or after my mom passed away, or when I gave birth—that life goes on quite handily when I retreat. Our presence, our work, our perpetual effort is not really needed at every moment. (Not condoning slacker-dom, but even when one plays music there are “rests.”)
            Sometimes, it’s okay to stop the presses. No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “It’s okay to cry.” Well, it’s also okay to be still…to stop, drop, and breathe. I was reminded of that simple but essential fact last week. Just thought I would "share."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Re-Charging Batteries

Time to re-charge! Taking my sister's dog for a boat ride (go, Mindy!), swimming, osprey-watching, cooking for the family, dining out, sleeping late...and some writing and yoga... relaxing, renewing and re-being. Back soon...depending upon when the charging is "complete!"

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Moon, New Projects

Since another New Moon is upon us, I decided the other day that it would be a good time to de-clutter my home office and make room for some new projects that I’m about to begin. This may sound simple enough, but though I’m not exactly a hoarder, I do tend to hang onto objects--letters, books, photos, papers, and bits of nostalgia like the plastic necklace I was given one year by the Queen at the Renaissance Faire. (Hey, you just never know when a plastic blue necklace bestowed by the Queen is going to come in handy!)
            I will be the first to admit that I do have a bit of a clutter problem, and that I’ve never been good at letting go of material objects like stuffed animals and flip flops. I’m not sure why some people are experts at this (I have friends who regularly de-clutter and are loathe to hang on to anything that is not immediately useful), and others who, like me, are equally loath to say good-bye to a perfectly good if bent paper clip or a butterfly candle (that, in my case, can never be lit because it was once a gift I gave to my mother).
            Although I’m aware that all this clutter is a) not useful b) distracting and c) possibly even somewhat harmful in terms of its impact on my productivity, I still find it difficult to tackle the project of de-cluttering head-on. Yes, a shelf here and there, a drawer now and then. But to face the overwhelming, well, let’s call it what it is—disaster-- of my workspace is quite daunting. And so…I usually simply close my eyes to my surroundings and write.
            After all, writing, not de-cluttering, is my passion. But there comes a time when one must look one’s self squarely in the eye, and ask, “Does that towering pile of books that you never read really serve you well?” or “Does that collection of old diaries really have a purpose?” Or…"Why the decaying macaroni picture that your kid—now 30—made when he was three?”
          To welcome and make space for the new-- I’ve been told by the yogic sages as well as by others who call themselves "professional organizers"--we must let go of the old. Still, I find it a challenge to determine whether all clutter is equally useless, or whether some—like the aforementioned necklace—may one day rise from the dust and ashes to inspire a blog.