Beany’s comment in the last post got me thinking . . . I find it treacherous as well as tantalizing to push to the perfectionist edges. I also find perfectionism is so misunderstood. My non-perfectionist approach to so many traditional themes like tidiness or personal fastidiousness can make me feel I have escaped my mother’s form of perfectionism. That is the type that means hours to select clothing, to put on one's make-up, fuss with hair and all the rest to present oneself to the world. I my life . . . never happened. She is also kept a really shiny clean home. I like clean, but am not so good with routine.

I am also not a perfectionist when it comes to spelling, punctuation, math or geography. All of these make me only mildly uncomfortable or embarrassed in a world where the bar is set so very low. My vocabulary is considered extensive in these days of the Idiocracy, yet . . . I consistently speak with sound effects to fill gaps of unknown or momentarily forgotten words or names. This has gotten laughs for more than 25 years, though it doesn’t keep me very vigilant.

When it comes to arts, crafts, sewing, cooking, construction or other manual / domestic skills I am content to hit the general direction where I am aiming. Besides lacking practiced eye-hand motor acuity, I just don’t have the patience. In theory I want all things around me done well and true. In theory I want to gain skills from doing things well. In practice I am amused and delighted to dive head first in to projects I don’t really know fuckall about; that is, how to do things correctly. These are gross generalizations as I have achieved skills over my long life and my muscle memories can serve me well. I guess I am saying that I don’t let lack of perfection stop me.

Where my perfectionism hurts me is primarily in my self-acceptance. The counterpart is this is judging others with my particular weaknesses more harshly. I believe in being discerning and expecting quality. It is very difficult to know where the line is these days. I feel there is so little accountability for anyone’s behavior and this leaves me frustrated. I am too often over-reactive and judgmental inside and in my proclamations. This is an ongoing struggle. My balance meter bounces all over the place. Balance is often subjective – like my trailer’s levelness. The image at the top from Dependable Renegade fits. Right? I am chasing my shadow here because I think it is too close. I had a couple times today and lost it. I suspect I'll mention it again.

By the way . . .

I have been cheered to see comments on this blog. It means that I have visitors despite posting so infrequently. I have probably said it before; I would really love to spend each day blogging. I find it immensely stimulating and challenging. It allows me to live in my head, where I have spent most of my life. I confess that hours and hours can go by when I am writing, thinking, planning, designing and imagining. I have had spectacular success in my life I believe with translating the stuff of my dreaming into practical realities. I love the first snatches of an idea that keep popping into thoughts, then radiating into little connections with the world around me. These connections come with images, conversations, emails, news and old memories resurfacing. This is a delightfully serendipitous period when an idea or notion is on the mental equivalent of a back burner.

Sometimes I get carried away and grab the seed of dream and put it through an analytical regimen too soon. I create spreadsheets with outlines, variables and yes/no, what if and other arguments with myself. I can throw things at a timeline in a heartbeat. Yes, I can ruin something by doing this before the time is right. I did that at the end of this last year with my idea of 10:10 or 10 projects in 2010. It was mapped and articulated beautifully, but it was too soon.

See, another thing is my one-track nature. Since I was a kid I have had this approach of concentrating on ‘one big thing’ at a time. I don’t start dozens of things and move from one thing to another. When I commit to something, that is what I am doing. This reminds me. I celebrated my 7th anniversary this week of not smoking. I am proud of this and bring it up because I quit with this kind of intensity of focus. Quitting smoking was the most important thing on the planet for me in February 2003. That said, I also made starting the habit in 1964 a lifelong commitment it seems. I’m amazed at the more than 30 years of commitment to that vile habit. My self-disgust fueled the decision in 2003. My sister was quitting and I gave myself two weeks (why waste the cigarette cartons I had on hand) before going cold turkey.

I firmly believe it is important to develop the ability to dream and then to move back and forth from vision to reality and back again. Then, it is critical to stop designing and start doing too. Once the idea’s time has come, it is time to move on it and make it real. For me it is a reason for excitement and for getting up to greet the day. My last decade has shown me the flip side of my life spent primarily in my head. I am not as fit and strong as I want to be. In order to do all that I want to do in my life’s last chapter, I must be in better shape. Turning off the computer and getting outside was the theme all last year. I had to make myself NOT get into blogging mode. 2009, let the sun shine was only nominally successful. I am definitely stronger, fitter than I was a year ago. But, damn it, I wanted to be my 40 year old level of strength and fitness. Hell I wanted the great energy bounce I felt just 7 years ago after quitting smoking when I worked with a personal trainer for 6 months. I felt over the moon then and I want that level of energy, strength back.

It is going to be a longer than I’d planned on the spreadsheet or in the daydreams. Some life patterns are resistant as hell it seems. And let’s not forget for one instant how multinational forces spend billions to keep Americans in front of our television/computer screens, behind the wheel, in the shopping malls, at the supermarket or watching sports. I am not alone in my behavioral decisions of sloth. Along with the rest of the developed world, I have been systematically stripped of my identity as a responsible citizen in exchange for the designated role as ‘independent’ consumer that leaves the physical work to others.

Stepping out of my comfort zone takes some real will. As of today I am officially retired. My first social security check hit the bank. This long awaited day brings such peace of mind. Now, I just need to remain healthy. Back to the move away from the comfort zone, I look at my simple life and realize I don’t have anything that demands I push myself past my limits to gain physical health. I wish I enjoyed recreational pursuits. I never have – except maybe camping/canoeing as a girl. I don’t think I really enjoyed my bike in any memorable way. It is just what we all did as kids. I’ve been known to say I was born without a recreation gene. As a kid at the swimming pool I was most constantly absorbed in seeing if I could swim the width of the pool under water. Always the goal, the mission, the task at the forefront it seems.

Losing self consciousness and just being is a process I am aiming for now and have been for awhile. I want to move out into the world each day with my own two feet and do things with my body, my hands. Physical engagement as pleasure is an idea I have. Along the way I regress. I am sick this week and exhausted. I am eating easy food like sandwiches while indulging myself with chips and dip (yogurt and fresh onions anyway). I need lots of nutrients instead – but I balk because my kitchen is in my living room and meals are a pain in the ass.

The fun is the musing, the dreaming, the planning and the writing. Welcome back my friends. Let’s hang out for awhile.

The Work of the World is Common as Mud

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

Leveled and Re-Roofed

This is the 'before' picture of my home when I first bought it five years ago. I have shown photographs of what it looked like inside after I remodeled at move-in, but not much of the exterior. I'll have to get more pictures taken when this rehab is done.

Yippee! After ten months of my own foot dragging, local government bureaucracy (and lots of funny business) and finally with contractor patterns of ignoring all but the squeakiest wheels - my rehab project is under way. Last week the crew demolished my raised bed planter (boo hoo) and cleared all obstructions around and in front of my trailer to get underneath and level it. Level is a subjective term. Really, the add-on was a bit off true, so the trailer is too. What they did is give the trailer some really solid footings and tie-in to the add-on. It was harder than they'd figured it would be.

Today two guys spent 5 or 6 hours clearing my roof of old parts, lights, flashing and pipes before putting down tar paper and a color-coordinated (seriously) modified bitument rolled product. It pleased the hell out of me to see the rust, terra cotta colorations - that matched my homes paint job. I also got two new roof vents to let in air and light. The process was miserable though. The smell of the heated bituman product just felt toxic. It stunk like crazy. I had to go hang out at my son's place.

All that is left is the installation of my two big garden windows at the back of my trailer. They are supposed to be in next week. I will have to redesign my kitchen to accommodate these larger windows, but it is worth it I think. When it is all done I'll post a photograph.

Quote of the Day

The notion of objectivity in news is pure bunk. “In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk,” the former New York Times columnist Russell Baker wrote.