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Feb 8, 2015

Making a Case for Boredom

As I get older, I find myself getting distracted more and more.  Maybe it's just that there really is more to think about... say, I knew of 1,000 ideas and objects and feelings when I was 5, and now I know of 100,000.  Those numbers may not be right, but you get the gist.  Does distraction come because there's just more to distract, or am I more distractible?  The culture in which we currently live seems bent on presenting everything in cliff-notes sized bites that can be machine-gunned at us out of whatever platform we happen to be exposed to, or voluntarily expose ourselves to.  Not all, but many parts of our surroundings do not lend themselves to focus or intent.  Many parts of my self do not either.

I just went to 5 different websites while trying to write that first paragraph.  Case in point.

That being said, I was glad to read an article recently that makes a strong case for a state that's been classified, likely unfairly, as negative.  No, New Jersey, I'm not about to defend you here (although someone really should... I mean, the armpit?!?... that's just mean).  

"Boredom makes us look inward", says a professor quoted in the article.  "It creates a fertile state for creativity and self-awareness and can even motivate you to help others.  Plus, learning to cope when there's nothing to do is an important (and vanishing) skill."  Do you ever find yourself in line, like I do, and whip out your phone?  Is it a need to look important?  Is it because we feel we have so much to do in life that wasting that 30 seconds or 2 minutes or what have you seems a crime?  Do we feel more purposeful for "using" every available opportunity to task or multi-task?  

In the "kid's" section: "We all need to learn to sit still with our thoughts in an unstimulating environment and not freak out."  Kids, yes; but that sentence starts with we all, and our children are going to have a hard time learning this if we don't model it.  That vacant space is not a dark abyss, it's a open canvas.  

So here's to more of this and this.  Go get bored silly, folks.

Dec 31, 2013

2013 - Some Perspective

- downside up -

I was going to sit down and plan this post out... you know, rehearse and edit a smidge before I deemed it ready to go... but it's drawing close to the time we trek down the road to our friends/neighbors to snack and play and struggle to stay up until midnight... so there is just this.

I have been away from this space for some time now.  I haven't even been reading the blogs I "follow"... but in the meantime, a lot has happened - some externally, some internally.  I'll attempt to sum up here.

In 2013, I let go of...
a fear of not trying hard enough.  At least in some respects.  I think I had an idea that it wasn't right to give up on a job, that I needed to know what the next step would be before I could move on.  But... I quit.  I allowed myself to think I had given it all I had and still wasn't happy with it. And, thanks to a slew of gracious and good-natured family and friends, I did not become homeless and I didn't starve.  Odd jobs popped up left and right, which lead into a nannying stint for two months, which brings us to...

I learned... (bullets behoove us here)
  • not to trust a toddler when they say they're potty-trained "enough" to use the toilet on their own
  • how to walk away when a child is crying instead of napping (I'm not evil... I just learned the hard way the fine line between actual need and manipulation)
  • that the job search process is grueling, and long, and ridiculous, and long... and I had it good
  • toddlers say the funniest things
  • I really do like the healthcare field
  • that I have the most peace when I let go of the reins... or the handlebars... or the helm; choose your metaphor
  • I really like my sweets mixed with spices - chai, for example, or salt with chocolate... or chilies with chocolate
  • to be more comfortable with "30"... and with myself

I loved...
  • the appreciation of little people.  I was the bearer of food and hilarity and comfort, and I was appreciated for it.  Such a simple exchange, and overall, a fun one
  • seeing my family come together in hard times
  • renewing my love for reading
  • being more aware of what matters most
  • witnessing the love of friends getting married
  • new connections and friends

I'm looking forward to a new calendar year, bringing with me the perspectives and experience gained thus far.

Best wishes to you all for a wonderful 2014.

Apr 21, 2013

Thoughts | Pauses We Don't Choose & Saying Goodbye

{california, may 2012}

It's been awhile since I've written in this space.  I wanted these thoughts to percolate and permeate and penetrate before I shared them... I also wanted them to be just right.  However, if we hold off doing/saying/being things until they're perfect, we'll never do/say/be.  I need to remember this more.  

Hopefully the following lines will help you understand why I chose to "hole up" for a while... there are some "pauses" in life that we don't choose, but they can be altogether good for the soul... thanks for your patience.

The Process of Saying Goodbye

Is an end a pinpoint?  A period to finish a sentence?  Or it is something longer - like the grand finale at the fireworks show, or the sun setting so slow it seems to be moving through a substance much more viscous than the backdrop of the air we breathe?

Four years ago this past 7th of April, we started to say goodbye.  Her unexpected death would take a little piece of him too, for though he was already showing signs of dementia, he knew she was gone... her absence in that old farmhouse practically shouted.  Even his mostly-deaf ears could hear.  Sixty-one years with someone... a part of you has to die too... how could it not?  So many memories that, even if he forgot some, which he was apt to do at 87, there'd always be something there to remember about her.

We kept him at home for the next seven months.  He cried less for her and more for the things he was losing.  He said goodbye to the freedom of driving, to being able to walk to the cow-yard out back, read the headlines of the newspaper, to being able to walk around the house without help... everyday things we take for granted - and thus, we said goodbye to some of the familiar things we knew about him - the way he talked to his cows, his trips to Pennsylvania, talking about football and the news...

Then pneumonia came to visit and he went to the hospital and stayed.  And stayed and stayed.  We said goodbye to him walking altogether, and slowly, very slowly along the way, to him recognizing us on each visit.  He got transferred to a nursing home and would be there for over three years.  Along the way, we grew to be familiar with less and less communication: it was a good day when he'd light up upon seeing you walk in the room, when he'd say "good!" when he got his beloved Tootsie Pops, or he pushed back with those still-active farmer muscles when you'd exercise his arms/dance them around.

Then, those last few weeks this March, we said goodbye to much communication at all - more pneumonia took away phrases and "stories" and left raspy sounds of pain and confusion.  He could still squeeze your hand, but most days was too tired to even get to the chocolate part of the Tootsie Pop - highly abnormal.  He was transferred back and forth from the hospital to the nursing home several times that last week, and we knew that time of a final goodbye could be coming soon.  One month ago tomorrow, on a Friday night, my brother and his wife met my mom and I at the nursing home.  When we left, B said, "Sleep good buddy".  I didn't physically say goodbye.  No one did.  But we wore that heavy thought as we drove home that night because the possibility was so real. 

When the call came shortly after we arrived home, it was still surprising.  There were tears - some sad, some of relief.  Several days later, when the bugle sounded out taps, there were more tears.  There lie what he left behind - the body of a father, grandfather, uncle, farmer, soldier, believer... and Tootsie Pop aficionado.  Witnessing and being involved in the long slow decline had not completely prepared me for that moment, but I also recognized that the process of saying goodbye would still continue - that it didn't end when I placed the rose on the casket and said, "goodbye buddy" - it's still happening now.  When, on Sundays, I think about my week and when I need to be at the nursing home and realize I won't be going...  When I walk into the farmhouse and am just greeted by a shy little cat...  When I hold my cousin's new baby, a namesake to my grandfather and late uncle...

No matter how quickly or slowly someone leaves us, the process of saying goodbye is extensive, maybe for our dear sakes.  For processing, for healing, for letting the love percolate and permeate and penetrate.

{Gramps, October 2012}