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.

Change is…

Change is stressful.

Even when it is a sought-for or hoped-for change, like welcoming a new child or moving into a new home.

An unwelcome change, such as serious illness, accident, or death of a loved one, is even more stressful.

Over the last several years, we’ve gone through the illness and death of my mother-in-law and my mother, the welcome addition of adult children and our first grandchild to our home and the pain of them flying away, and the crowding out of pursuits that used to occupy us. All of this personal change overlays the ever-shifting sands of tumult in the US.

I can attest that change is stressful.

People keep telling me to breathe.

After the stress of the first Christmas season without my mom, I decided to give myself  breathing space in the form of a mini-sabbatical, still attending to my vital tasks while allowing myself time to go to the movies or read or write or whatever else I felt like doing that day.

Of course, participating in Just Jot It January fit right into that plan!

As I’ve been reflecting on these last few weeks, I am starting to formulate what changes I need to make going forward. Knowing that there will still be a fair amount of day-to-day uncertainty with our family life, I won’t attempt a strict schedule. I do plan, though, to be more deliberate with my writing practice. No, this does not mean that I will post every day for the rest of the year as I have been for Just Jot It January, although I do hope to continue posting without some of the major breaks I’ve had to take in the past.

In the area of writing, I do need to be more deliberate about editing and publication. I find the publication submission piece particularly daunting. There are hundreds of literary journals and magazines and small presses that specialize in poetry and it is difficult for me to figure out to whom I should send my work. Because submissions typically charge a reading fee, you want to invest in those publications that are most likely to be interested in your work. I tend to be overwhelmed by the choices and the specifics of differing submission procedures. I need to summon the energy to undertake these less fun not at all fun aspects of the writing process to get my work out to the public.

Oh, and I need to start doing some open mic and/or group readings. Reading in public, even with a small group, takes a lot of energy and courage for me, but it is very important for poets to do.

I also need to make a dent in reading the huge backlog of poetry journals, chapbooks, collections, and anthologies waiting for me. I will probably never catch up.

Years ago, I had a few dozen blogs that I read on a regular basis. I was a frequent commenter, as well. Even though I know this is what every good blogger should do, I don’t think I can go back to it, choosing instead to concentrate on poetry. I am committed to continuing Top of JC’s Mind, but I will spend the bulk of my blogging time writing posts and responding to comments. I will continue to read some blogs, but it will most likely continue in my current haphazard fashion. I know that means I will gain followers only slowly, but I’m not a big stats person. I do want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to all my readers and followers! I am humbled that you choose to spend part of your time here.

I also used to spend a lot of time reading and responding to emails. I was on a lot of mailing lists – against fracking and for environmental advocacy, for progressive political principles, for increasing social justice, for some specific candidates/officeholders, for reform of the Catholic church, and so on. I have cut back on a number of them and have lately taken to deleting a lot without even opening them. I will keep a core of them, because these issues remain important to me, but I will try to be intentional about which I read and take action on.

Sadly, singing has faded into the background. I never thought this would happen, but the seeming demise of my long-time chorus has taken away my usual Monday night rehearsals and rehearsing at home during the week. I don’t have ABC here anymore for impromptu renditions of “Old McDonald” or Sesame Street songs. I should be doing vocal exercises and sight reading practice every day to keep my voice in good form, but I don’t have the heart for it. Maybe, someday, I’ll feel like singing again.

I may limit evening activities to poetry gatherings, choosing to be at home with family otherwise. I’m sure there will be the occasional evening event that will draw me away, but I want to spend most evenings at home. In part, this is to spend time with B who works long days. Even if we are just watching television or reading or doing puzzles, it is comforting to be together. Additionally, given my own introversion, it takes a lot of energy to be in groups of people. It’s difficult to summon that energy at the end of the day.

I am also trying to make some changes that impact my physical well-being. I am trying to eat more thoughtfully, exercise (a tiny bit) more, and sleep longer at night. Rather than trying to make drastic changes, I am doing little things that send me in the right direction. I think that is a more sustainable way for me to proceed.

The other area that I hope to make some changes is making time for friends. This is not totally under my control, as many friends have their own busy lives, but I think if I actually make a call or send a note, we have a better chance of getting together, whether in person or by videochat. I cherish all my friends and feel their support, even when we aren’t able to get together, but I need to turn some of our vague “let’s do lunch or breakfast” into actual times and dates.

That’s a lot of changes to make, and, therefore, a lot of stress.

At least, it will be stress that leads to positive change.

Fingers crossed.
*****
The prompt for Linda’s Just Jot It January today is “change.” Join us! You don’t need to use the prompt – I seldom do – because anything counts as a Jot. Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/24/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-24th-2020/

intention

Other than One-Liner Wednesday and Stream of Consciousness Saturday, I don’t usually follow the Just Jot It January prompts, but today’s prompt is “intention”, which sparked my interest. If the prior sentence makes no sense to you, you definitely need to visit Linda Hill’s blog, Life in Progress, and check it out!

It was my intention to try to re-organize my life after so many changes in 2019.

Or maybe I should say “organize,” given that I can’t actually remember the last time I felt that my life was organized.

This is definitely not the first time I have felt that I should (re)organize. In truth, I have had multiple junctures in my adult life – when my daughters started school, or moved away from home for higher education or work, or when Grandma moved nearby and we weren’t trooping back to Vermont so frequently, etc. etc. – when I thought I would re-organize and have a schedule and maybe make progress on long-term goals.

Somehow, it never quite worked out.

I know that this sounds like either an excuse or a complaint, but it is not meant to be either.

It is a recognition of the vicissitudes of life and how priorities need to be reshuffled to meet a new challenge. I chose to prioritize caregiving over other possible activities – and caregiving is seldom a follow-the-schedule sort of thing. Unfortunately, my extended family has suffered an unusually large number and variety of diagnoses, some of which took years to pin down and some that are difficult to treat. I’ve spent time supporting friends who have had cancer and died at a much younger age than we had hoped. I’ve spent major amounts of time volunteering to address emerging community needs.

These choices were all intentional, but they meant postponing or jettisoning personal goals. There were times earlier in my life when I thought I would have my musical compositions published and might return to paid work as a church musician. Circumstances, including orthopedic problems and a crisis that tore my church community apart, intervened and those dreams disintegrated.

Serendipitously, my music losses made room in my life for more writing, albeit in a somewhat haphazard way. My blog and my poetry have shoehorned themselves around major caregiving challenges in the twenty-teens. My dreams of submitting poems for publication on a regular basis and of having a book in print by sixty turned out to be unattainable. I suppose the book part is still a possibility, but it is unlikely because now, at 59, neither of my poetry manuscripts is currently in shape to submit.

Which circles me back to my intention to organize my life…

It is true that my caregiving activities are lessened now, but they are still there and somewhat unpredictable. Something that I have said often over the last few years is also still true; sometimes, the problem is not so much lack of time as lack of brainpower. I definitely can carve out more time for writing now, but I don’t necessarily have the brainpower to do it effectively.

I’m tired.

I guess that, sometimes, when you have run on adrenaline and/or cortisol for a long time and then you stop, your mind and body don’t just jump back to normal function. (I’m not sure that this is medically true, but it is my current way of understanding how I am feeling.)

A week ago, while writing for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, an idea floated to the surface that has kept coming back to me. Perhaps what would be most useful right now is not a schedule, but a sabbatical.

I had intended, early this year, to do revisions on a few individual poems and to assemble my chapbook manuscript for critique by my local poet-friends, so that I could submit to contests and publishers in the spring.

Now, I am feeling that I should not put that pressure on myself.

Maybe I will rest for a while and then feel rejuvenated and creative and I will be able to work on it.

Maybe I won’t.

I just feel too tired to force the issue.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! You can follow the prompts or not as you wish. Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/05/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-5th-2020/

SoCS: anybody’s guess

I’ve heard that there are people who have detailed calendars, with squares filled out for each hour detailing activities that actually happen.

My own days are more along the lines of “anybody’s guess.”

To be fair there have been times in my life when things unfolded in a predictable way, but most of those times were when I was younger and on a school schedule. In adulthood, things have been much more fluid.

At the moment, with a two-month-old granddaughter in residence and my parents in need of extra help, it isn’t any wonder that days seldom unfold in an orderly fashion. But, if I am being truthful, most of my adult life has not been highly structured. I haven’t had a regular work schedule because most of what I do is family-care oriented, volunteer, or creative work.

I have often thought about trying to establish a more set routine, often revolving around after X happens, things will settle down and there will be a routine, but usually Y, Z, AA, Q, and something else intervenes, and I am back in the realm of “anybody’s guess.”

Maybe, someday, I will join the ranks of the routinized.

Until then, I will just keep guessing – and keep flexible.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “guess.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/08/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-1217/ 

 

Aaaaaahhhhhh!

For years, I had been enjoying a monthly massage from my friend Catherine, who is a fabulously trained and talented massage therapist and aromatherapist.

We used to live in the same town, but even after she moved further away a few years ago, I kept up my appointment schedule with her.

Until spring of 2016, when things got too complicated and unpredictable to plan a half-day away for myself.

Now, in 2017 with things a bit more predictable, I arranged with Catherine to have a massage this morning.

I feel so much better!

Months of stress and driving and helping to pack and move boxes and furniture had taken their toll on my back and shoulders. I can move more easily now and don’t have knots up and down my back and across my shoulders.

I made an appointment for February, too. I’m hoping to get back on a monthly schedule.

I am at least trying to take care of myself, too.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/12/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-12th17/

jjj-2017

 

re-jiggering

Facebook is not so subtly reminding me that I haven’t posted for a week. (People who are on Facebook are cordially invited to “like” the Top of JC’s Mind page here.)

I had made the mistake of making a plan for the last week. After getting daughter T on the plane to Hawai’i to visit daughter E, I was going to spend a lot of time writing, both here at Top of JC’s Mind and in continuing work on my poetry collection, in anticipation of needing to take a writing break beginning on the 17th when Nana was scheduled to have a diagnostic heart catheterization, part of the continuing saga of the fainting episode in April.

As often happens, life laughs at my plans…

The day after T left, Nana developed shortness of breath and wound up in the hospital with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Fortunately, treatment improved her symptoms a lot and she was able to head home within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the episode precipitated  a further delay in the heart catheterization, now pushed back to August 31st.

Not much writing got done in the last week, but I am tempting fate and re-organizing.

I’m pleased to report that I wrote a new poem this morning to fill a hole in the first section of my collection. The poem is about Nana and her father, so it was nice to be able to talk to her this morning and gather some more information that I needed.  I have sent her a copy to review and will plan to workshop it with my poetry group when next we meet.

Yay! I managed to accomplish something in my plan!

And I am writing this post!

Two things!

Crossing my fingers that things will stay calm in the coming days  so I can get some more creative time in before my planned break beginning August 31st.

Or, if something does come up, I’ll just re-jigger again.

I’m really getting quite good at it…

 

 

SoCS: hitting the pause button

It’s been a busy couple of months. Ummmm…maybe more than a couple. OK – 2015 was a busy year.

This weekend, I just want to hit the pause button and rest. Not worry about planning anything. Being anywhere.

Just be.

Soon enough, it will be Monday morning. My husband’s 6 AM conference call with his colleagues in India will be back on. A lot of other obligations will be back on the calendar. I know. I spent a good chunk of yesterday copying dates onto a 2016 calendar. I’m still old-fashioned enough to keep a paper calendar rather than an electronic one. Well, two paper calendars. One on the dining room side table near the phone. Yes, landline. Still have one of those, too. The other a pocket calendar in my purse.

All those obligations waiting for my attention, starting Monday, January 4th.

But this weekend, a pause to catch a few more moments of unstructured time with B and T. Maybe a nap. Or a fire in the fireplace. Some hot cocoa with the last of the Christmas cookies.

Who knows?

Just being.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is: “pause/paws.”  Join us! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-jan-216/

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http://lindaghill.com/2016/01/02/just-jot-it-january-2nd-pausepaws-socs/

JJJ 2016

SoCS: too much stuff

I have too much stuff to do.

There is a lot to do between now and the end of the year with lots of family visiting and holiday preparations and decorating and baking and card writing.

There is my University Chorus concert next weekend, so we have extra rehearsals scheduled this week with the orchestra.

I have three poetry meetings in the next two weeks, two with Sappho’s Circle and one with Bunn Hill Poets.

There are also the usual chores and appointments and shopping and meal prep and what-not.

Meanwhile, what I really want to be concentrating on is solidifying the experiences from the poetry conference last week.

Theoretically, I could do everything at once, but too much of it involves an amount of brain power that I can only muster a few hours a day.  I need to trust that my brain can keep working on poetry while I am accomplishing other things, that I can continue to glean lessons from the conference somewhere in the back of my mind that I will be able to bring to the top of my mind later when I have settled the holiday stuff and can return to some semblance of normal life.

Wish me luck…
*****
The prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “stuff”.  Come join us ! Find out how here:  http://lindaghill.com/2015/11/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-nov-2815/

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