April 1, 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Last night I had a very vivid dream in which I was driving along a narrow country road in the dark of winter. It was a lonely road and I wasn’t sure where I was going. After a while I felt sure that I had gone the wrong way and should be on a different road, so I turned my car around.
 

Car on a lonely road on a winter night.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

When I woke up, it felt like my subconscious mind had sent me some kind of message about changing direction, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I didn’t know whether the dream was telling me that it’s time to change something I am doing in the present, or whether it was reflecting anxiety about possibly making a wrong choice in the future. So I decided to turn it into a blog post and ask for suggestions in the comments.

Readers, have you ever had a wrong-way dream, and what did you feel that it was telling you? How did things turn out afterward? Did you realize that you had made a wrong choice somewhere and then make a change of direction in your real life? Or did you decide that you’d had the dream because of worrying about a future choice you would have to make?

March 29, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

This week’s task was cleaning up the bookcase in the room that was the kids’ study. Rather than just calling it the kids’ study, I’ve decided to use a past-tense description because that helps me to imagine the beautiful sitting room I’ve been visualizing is already here in the present.

Some of the books are definitely worth keeping, such as a hardcover set of Harry Potter and the delightful Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke. But others, well, not so much. All those paperback teenage novels my daughter read 10 years ago will soon find a new home at the thrift store. And although reading the tongue-twisters in Dr. Seuss’ “Oh Say Can You Say?” was great fun when my kids were little, it should have been given away with the other picture books long ago.
 

Stacks of children's books and other bookcase clutter. 

Oh say can you say—there were books piled on books, in deep dark dusty nooks, random heaps stacked up all over like a lawn with weeds and clover, getting ever fatter till they made a clutter splatter! Cleaning up the bookcase made the fatter clutter splatter better.

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

Even though today has been cold and gray where I live, with occasional rain and plenty of thick clouds hanging low, the signs of spring all around are making it look brighter anyway! All the green growing things are waking up from their winter sleep. There’s a pale green shimmer spreading over the willow hedge as the leaves start to open, and the rosebush next to my mailbox is sprouting little leaf buds. And after last week’s cleanup of old dead flowers, I can see lots of bulbs coming up in my front garden.
 

Green tips of bulbs coming up in my front garden. 

“The bulbs in the secret garden must have been much astonished. Such nice clear places were made round them that they had all the breathing space they wanted, and really, if Mistress Mary had known it, they began to cheer up under the dark earth and work tremendously. The sun could get at them and warm them, and when the rain came down it could reach them at once, so they began to feel very much alive.”

— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911)
 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Everyone makes mistakes. Usually they are harmless and teach us useful lessons. We all know that—but even so, we still can’t quite manage to leave our old mistakes in the past. Random memories of things that we did wrong many years ago, and that everyone else in the world has totally forgotten, just pop into our heads for no reason and leave us feeling bad.

When we look at those old mistakes more closely, often it turns out they’re just silly. For instance, when I was a kid, a security guard at a supermarket told me to get out because I’d been standing around the comic book rack for an hour reading werewolf comics, without buying any of them. Well, okay, the security guard was right that it wasn’t a library; and buying a donut from the bakery counter, which gave me sticky fingers while reading the comics, didn’t put me on the best-customer list either. Still, there’s certainly no reason why stuff like that should bother me 40 years later—much better just to remember how yummy the donut was!
 

Donut with multicolored sprinkles.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Instead of feeling like we’re criminals because of unimportant past mistakes, we need to take them more lightly and forgive ourselves for them, just as we would forgive anyone else who had made a trivial blunder. Even with real crimes, after a certain number of years the limitations period expires and the crime can’t be prosecuted. There are good policy reasons for this—physical evidence decays or is lost, people’s memories get fuzzy, and it’s not at all clear what really happened.

So I suggest that when memories of old mistakes start bothering us, we should apply to the Court of Conscience for a statute-of-limitations dismissal of the charges—complete with a formal order, as below:

DISMISSAL ORDER
IN THE COURT OF CONSCIENCE

WHEREAS, the Defendant stands before this Court charged with Making Mistakes while Being Human; and whereas, this Court finds that all of the facts alleged in the Prosecutor’s Complaint are outside the statute of limitations; NOW, THEREFORE, this Court ORDERS that the charges be, and hereby are, DISMISSED, and that the Defendant shall go free.

Signed, Judge of the Court of Conscience
Today’s Date

March 22, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When it comes to closets, I have both good news and bad news for this week’s post. The good news is that the extra room in the basement where my daughter put her stuff when she graduated from college last spring is now at least semi-tidy. There’s no more stuff obstructing the doors to the closet, and its contents have been mostly tamed. The bad news, however, is that there is another whole closet full of clutter in the upstairs room that was originally the kids’ study.
 

Closet in my kids' study upstairs, full of board games and miscellaneous junk. 

When we moved into this house, the closet was for board games and school backpacks and project materials, and it was kept at least somewhat organized for the first few years. Then it devolved into a colossal mess. That light blue cloth thing toward the bottom of the heap? It’s a bedspread that came with some sheets I already took out of the basement closet and donated to the thrift store a few weeks ago, not realizing that we still had part of the set upstairs.

I have plans to turn this room into a sitting area—it faces southeast and is especially nice on sunny summer mornings. I want to replace the old brown carpet with a better-quality green, dispose of an old desk and put a nice new couch where it was, get a suitable end table to put next to the couch for teacups, buy a smaller glass desk to put on the other side of the room, paint the walls, and buy new artwork to hang on the walls. Then it will be a lovely place to sit and write blog posts and stories. But, first things first: Out with the clutter!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

I did some spring cleanup in my front garden by pulling last year’s dead annual flowers—snapdragons and alyssum. I generally leave them in the ground over the winter because they sometimes can survive if the weather is mild; but although this year wasn’t as frigid as last winter, it certainly didn’t qualify as mild either!
 

Dry remains of last year's annual flowers after pulling them. 

I believe that touching the earth can make us feel more in touch with nature and, generally, better nurtured. So, although I often wear gardening gloves to avoid getting my hands scratched or irritated, I didn’t wear them for the few minutes it took to pull the dead flowers. I wasn’t outside very long because it has been chilly and windy the past few days, but it felt good to get out there anyway!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I haven’t felt in touch with my creative self recently, even though I’ve posted about the same number of blog entries. When I have a few quiet hours on a weekend and sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, instead of feeling inspired to create stories I’m likely to start reading a novel instead, or maybe just daydream about how I’d like to redecorate my house and plant new flowerbeds in my backyard.

That’s when the nagging voice at the back of my mind starts up again, asking where are all the stories I ought to be writing? When I examine that question more closely, it strikes me as the wrong question—or at least an incomplete one, packed with assumptions that don’t seem to be tethered to anything in present-day reality. And we all know what assumptions make of us, don’t we?
 

Donkey standing in a field.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Unpacking the assumptions gives rise to a lot more questions than what seemed to be there at first. Where did I get the idea that I was supposed to write stories whenever I had some free time on a weekend? Most likely, that came from letting myself get too busy several years ago. Well, okay, I’m not too busy now, so why are those feelings of pressure still there?

Besides, I never had a strictly regimented writing schedule where I produced a specific number of pages at the same time every day, unless you want to count the time I wrote a vampire romance novel while waiting at my daughter’s physical therapy appointments after she had a knee injury in high school soccer. So there’s no particular quantity of stories that I can reasonably assume I ought to create in a week or month or whatever, given the fact that my past experience has been nowhere near that predictable.

Some of it probably has to do with cultural attitudes, in that our society tends to dismiss writing stories as an insignificant, silly hobby. That leads to worrying (often subconsciously) that if we haven’t done much with our stories lately, then maybe the naysayers are right and our creative work will never amount to anything. And if we have an especially prolific week or month or whatever, it gives us the idea that if we’re not sustaining that level all the time, then we’re not doing our best and something must be wrong.

Another assumption in need of deconstruction is that I ought to be writing stories, rather than engaging in other creative efforts such as writing nonfiction entries on this blog—which in fact I’ve been doing quite regularly. Why do I feel that I’m not doing enough unless my creative work includes stories, in particular? What gave me the idea that I can best express myself through fiction? That’s not necessarily true—or at least, it’s not necessarily true at all times. Maybe I’ve been doing more good for myself and my readers by writing nonfiction posts that spark reflection.

Because stories are drawn from real life, maybe those daydreams are telling me that I need to recharge my creative energy by getting out and doing more in the real world. Maybe they’re telling me to spend some time discovering the right questions!

March 15, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

While going through the clutter in the basement, I found a clock that I had never used. My mom put it in a box of stuff she gave me several years ago, and I never did anything with it. At first, I thought that I might put it somewhere after a while—and we all know how that story goes.
 

Old clock with analog face in clear plastic case. 

Really, what’s the point of a freestanding clock in 2015 anyway? We have clocks on our computers, our phones, our kitchen appliances… and I wear a watch, but nowadays that’s just jewelry because we are constantly surrounded by things that display the time. It’s no wonder people in today’s world are always in a hurry, with so many clocks staring at us wherever we go.

It’s a chore too, keeping all the clocks that don’t automatically set themselves displaying the right time. After the “spring forward” time change just last week, I’m even less inclined than usual to want another clock somewhere in the house that would have to be set manually. For sure, that wouldn’t fit my goal of creating a peaceful home environment where it’s easy to relax!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

Although Tuesday was a dark and wet day here, the winter-yellowed grass in my backyard looked brighter than usual, as if it couldn’t quite contain the energy about to burst forth in spring growth. I took a photo showing the soft reflections on the wet wood of the deck and the grass beyond. At this time of year, even though it’s cool and rainy, just looking around outside gives me a feeling that the world is full of potential.
 

My backyard and part of the deck on a rainy day. 

I found myself thinking that a few hundred years ago, I probably would’ve been a farm wife in a little village somewhere, walking around in the mud all day in handmade shoes and perhaps running short of food by the end of the winter. So there’s certainly no reason to complain about today’s easy chores, such as driving to the supermarket and then putting the groceries away in the refrigerator and pantry!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I don’t ordinarily attach long subtitles to my blog posts; but if I did, this one would be subtitled “How to Manage Your Brain like a Kindle.” I’ve often thought that what we encounter in our everyday lives goes a long way toward shaping the world as we perceive it. Though we may not think much about what’s in and around our homes and workplaces, often the small details have more subconscious impact than we might expect. Clearing away physical clutter can leave us feeling that life in general has fewer obstacles and is easier to navigate.

The same principle holds true for the clutter in our minds. We’d rather not have useless old worries and bad memories taking up space in our brains, but somehow we end up mentally tripping over them anyway. In meditation, we might picture ourselves calmly breathing out the stale negative energy, disposing of mental garbage in an imaginary bin, or something similar. Those are tried and true methods handed down for many generations. In the modern world we also have plenty of computer metaphors available—an imaginary Delete key, a data dump, and so forth. It’s often said that the computer age is changing how our brains work, and I am curious as to how computer-inspired meditations compare to the old-fashioned variety.

My latest exploration along those lines is to picture my brain as a Kindle. Rather than having all the books in view like an actual bookshelf, a Kindle (or other ebook reader) generally contains only the items that are currently being read, while everything else in the owner’s library is stored in the cloud. That way, the Kindle’s home screen does not get cluttered. After reading a book or other item, it’s quick and easy to take it off the Kindle by selecting “remove from device.”
 

Kindle Paperwhite showing "remove from device" on the screen. 

Recently I’ve been making an effort to do the same with unwanted thoughts—when I notice them popping up, I do an imaginary “remove from device” and send them back to the “cloud” of whatever does not need my attention in the moment. This approach seems well suited to dealing with past drama such as rehashing old arguments. I remind myself that I’ve been finished with this story for a long time, and then I reinforce that message by picturing its removal. Maybe I’ll find a worthwhile lesson in it someday, but for now it can just go back to the cloud with everything else that’s not currently useful.