some assembly required

As I wrote about Saturday, I’m not doing what I expected I would be today, arriving in London, UK for a month, with two weeks in quarantine and two visiting family, including meeting our newest grandchild JG.

I had spent weeks making arrangements for the trip, letting lots of other things, such as writing blog posts, slide. Instead, I spent a lot of time on the phone and online covering personal and family obligations for the four weeks of the trip plus the two weeks of quarantine required by New York State when we returned. I, along with B and T, also spent hours and hours organizing and cleaning the house to be ready for my sisters to stay here to be on hand for our dad, known here as Paco, while we were away. I had planned time to work on my poetry collection while we were in quarantine. I also had some reading and blogging work lined up.

And now, I need to figure out how to organize myself for the next six weeks.

And in general.

Again.

Still.

In my experience, the thought that I can organize my life and have things go according to plan is an act of hubris or, perhaps, folly. Over these last decades, my life plans have seldom unfolded as envisioned. Things happen. Priorities change. Plans get abandoned or put on hold. This is not a complaint, but an observation.

I know I have limited control, yet I somehow feel the need to make a plan when I sense there is a turning point, or, at least, a juncture when circumstances have changed.

A consequence of the household re-organizing we did to get ready for my sisters to come house-sit is that, for the first time in almost four years, B and I have moved back into the master bedroom, which we had given over to daughter E when she moved back home for almost three years while waiting for her spousal visa to be approved in the UK. The nearby room that had served as ABC’s nursery has now become B’s at-home office; his office building closed in March due to the pandemic and no one knows if or when it will re-open. My desktop computer is now in a guest room upstairs, opposite where T’s room is and has been throughout all the rest of the configuration changes. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are more organized than they have been in years.

I suppose the first part of my plan should be to keep things clean and organized, which would be an ongoing chore as I don’t enjoy cleaning and organizing. One of the things that made the task of getting ready to leave so daunting was the psychic strain of dealing with sorting and packing cards and other memorabilia from the last few years which included my mother’s final illness and death and E and ABC living with us. In truth, I will most likely never have a minimalist house, especially as we are storing things from both my and B’s parents’ homes and our adult daughters’. Some of it may migrate to E and T eventually…

But I digress. There is some hope that I can use our new configuration to my advantage, such as getting used to writing sequestered with my desktop rather than my laptop in the midst of the household.

The larger issue may be to de-clutter my mind. Over these last few years, when intergenerational care responsibilities have been my primary focus, I have gradually been shedding more and more of the things that used to occupy my time, such as extensive research and commentary on environmental/social justice issues and on women’s equality in the Catholic Church. I still care about those things and keep up on them to an extent, but I have let my membership in a lot of the related organizations lapse as I attended to in-person responsibilities. Admittedly, my email inbox is still overflowing with news – and requests for money – from too many entities, but I’m hoping to whittle down further after the election to free up more time and brainpower for other things.

It’s not that I don’t still care about these issues. I am heartened by the convergence of social and environmental justice issues that has happened this year and I will continue to lend support, but I will do it through a few select organizations with which I have a special connection, such as NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby that I joined in observance of the Jubilee in 2000. I am also heartened by the witness and energy of the Millenials and Gen Z in this convergence of social, racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice and will gratefully support their leadership with what experience and wisdom I can offer.

I’m hoping that 2021 will bring a new administration and Congress to Washington that will restore functionality and care for the common good to our national government. The last four years have been disturbing and exhausting and keeping up with the news has become an obsession and a time sink. I’m hoping to get back to a place where it doesn’t take so much energy to keep up with the news so that I can concentrate on writing and other mental work.

One of the very immediate conundrums is that I have to wrap my head around being at home on election day this Tuesday. We voted early last Monday and I had myself mentally prepared to be in London, five hours ahead as the election results began to come in. Instead, I think I will be staying up late Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday, as results begin to be reported. We all know that the vote count will take several days, but the early numbers may allow some states to be called on election night. I’m hoping that everyone – the politicians, pundits, and public – will stay calm and that there will be an orderly transfer to a new administration and Congress.

Personally, I’m hoping that I will be able to spend more time writing. I promise that will include some blog posts, although I’m sure I will never be the on-topic, on-schedule blogger-type. I most want to write more poems and do revisions to produce a new version of my collection that centers on the North Adams MA area where I grew up and to which I have returned as a member of the Boiler House Poets Collective. Optimally, I’d like to have it together by spring so that I can do a manuscript review with my poet-friends. I also need to do some more submissions for my chapbook. Rejections have been coming in and two contests that I had planned to enter this fall have been pushed back, so I will need to hunt out more opportunities. I should also send out some individual poems to journals; I’ve been ignoring this for the most part over the last several years but need to get back to it.

I suppose I’d better plan some time for writing holiday cards and letters…

I also need to factor in time for essential shopping and errands for our household and for Paco. The pandemic and the supply chain problems it has caused have made shopping a major undertaking. It has also changed the way I help Paco, as I try to minimize time indoors his senior community’s building. Eventually, when there is widespread vaccine use, I’ll be able to resume regular in-person visits, but for now I am trying to deal with most things by phone and quick drop-offs.

I don’t know whether or not I can make some semblance of a schedule for myself or a plan to better work toward these goals. I had some hope as I started to write this post yesterday, but now I have all the uncertainties of the election, the pandemic, and personal life swirling about in my head.

But, hey, here is a long blog post about to be published, which is in line with my goals, so….

Progress?

Stay tuned.

And send good vibes.

Resolutions, goals, and plans

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts over the last few days with people stating their New Year’s resolutions. I admit that I am not a New Year’s resolution person. If I need to make a change, I prefer to start when the need arises.

I’m not especially wedded to January first as a date. Which reminds me that I wrote a poem about it

Some people chose to list goals rather than resolutions, but even that sounds too cut-and-dried to me.

Jay Dee, at the end of this Authors Answer post, asks what are our plans for 2016.

Plans are something I can get behind. Plans to me are more dynamic and able to be adjusted or revised as needed. Plans don’t have an expiration date.

My writing plan is to put together my first poetry collection.

Those of you who followed my saga of the Mass MoCA/Tupelo Press residency/workshop know that I had hoped returning to my home locale in its new phase of life would spawn a chapbook. Midway though the residency week, I realized that it needed to be a collection rather than a chapbook.

I have a provisional title.

A schema for organizing the sections of the collection.

And some poems that I have already written that will fit into the collection. Others are drafted but need revisions, workshopping, and more revision. Others are still barely ideas and there may be still others that become necessary to write to fill in gaps in the timeline or to balance the sections.

I am planning on marshaling my local resources, Sappho’s Circle and the Bunn Hill Poets, for help with workshopping individual poems. As I get further along in the process, I will probably afflict commandeer invite several writer-poet friends to critique a section or the whole collection. Other people are so much better at pointing out what doesn’t make sense or what is out of order than I am when I am so close to it.

I am ecstatic that our residency group, the Boiler House Poets, will have a reunion this fall. I definitely plan to enlist their help, although I’m not sure in what capacity. It will depend on where I am in the process in the fall. I may need more workshopping help, or organizational assistance, or help navigating the submission process, or may need some more art poems to balance the final section so that I would be generating new poems during the residency that would need feedback.

To me, that is part of the beauty of a plan. It can change and grow as needs dictate.

I know that many people would say that plans need to be written out with checkboxes and timelines and deadlines or things won’t get done.

I do understand that logic, but I can’t force myself – or my poetry – into that kind of straitjacket.

My life experience has featured too many unexpected events to carve any plan in stone.

Too many things can happen.

Too many things have happened.

I am confident that I will assemble this manuscript, but it doesn’t feel safe to me to say it is a 2016 goal or worse – shudder – resolution. It is a plan with roots in 2015 which will grow in 2016.

The fruit will ripen when the time is right. Whatever number gets attached to that date is not mine to say.

It’s not in the plan.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more about it here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/04/just-jot-it-january-4th-dachshund/

JJJ 2016

 

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