Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A New Paradigm

All of you know that since I retired I feel as if I'm wasting time. Lately, when I count the things I've been doing, I almost start to think it probably isn't wasted time at all. I've come to the conclusion that this is one of those timey-wimey thingys that Dr. Who talked about. Bear with me as I elucidate why I'm in this state of mind. I apologize if some of it seems repetitive.

For more than three decades, I worked to a schedule. I got children up, dressed, and off to school or some function. I cleaned house, cooked meals, did dishes, made clothing for three people, remodeled rooms, refinished furniture, and went to church three times a week. I also read copious amounts of books, taught myself to crochet, and wrote in my spare time just for fun.

I went to college (in my 30s) where this continued while carrying a full load as a history and journalism student. I learned to structure my time and use a calendar during this phase and it was a habit I carried into the workplace upon graduation. A short war came during that time and I dealt with teenagers and an absent husband. I went to work and for 20 years I continued the pattern, but I sewed less and stopped crocheting.

My husband became sick and there were bouts of work and hospital time. I got sick and I still worked and took care of my home and cooked, cleaned, and did laundry. Children came and went with spouses. I read when I could and wrote when I could. Then, my spouse died and I learned that I had to kill bugs for myself, take out the trash, cut the yard, trim hedges, repair broken windows, handle car repairs and plumbing issues ....on top of my income producing job. There was also drama from grown children, a grandchild, but I stopped reading as much. Still, I managed to get it all done, although some things took longer than I'd have liked.

My own illness forced me to quit my job. Suddenly, I couldn't get anything done. Laundry piled up. Housework seems beyond me. I need repairs I can't do. I can't carry things that I used to be able to carry. I can't sweep or mop for long. But thanks to the riding mower, the yard still gets cut. Writing is going better, but I know that one bout of an RA flare will wipe that out. Compared to the amount of work I used to do, I'm basically useless, at least, that is what part of my brain tells me.

I needed some validation so I glanced back over the last month to see how much time I've wasted. I use apps to keep track of my time these days, along with that trusty calendar. Rescue Time and Grammarly give me reports showing how I've spent my time. The goal is to reduce waste.

Grammarly reports that from June 1 until July 5 I wrote 38,356. I'm stunned. I can't believe that, but it also includes Gmail, Facebook, G+, Blogger, and any items I responded to online. I rarely use it for writing on my computer because I have to upload it. I don't do that. But that's a lot of writing.

Rescue Time clarifies this in terms of time. On writing programs: Blogger, Open Office, and Scrivener I spent 39 hours. I'm pleased with that but it could be better. My goal is a minimum of 2 hrs per day. I've only managed to average 58 minutes per day. On Social Networking sites: 36 hrs. I have to reduce this even more, although, RescueTime calculates that I've averaged only 30 minutes a day. For July only, I've spent 8 hrs on writing pursuits and 7 on social networking. This doesn't include Gmail.

For June/July: I've also crocheted one Barbie dress and one throw. I'm working on a second throw and a dish towel. I've read about 4 novels. I read my Bible for about an hour in the mornings. I have done laundry weekly and have gotten better at putting it away (I hate putting laundry away). I wash dishes every day by hand ( I hate dishes). I've cut the yard weekly. I've watched a lot more t.v. but while I'm crocheting, not just mindlessly sitting. I never did that anyway. I always read a book during commercials, but there are no commercials on Netflix.

I've walked 1.5 miles about 4 times in the last month. I've had two writer's meetings. I'm working on 30 short stories in 30 days, and the anthology story. I'm preparing a workshop for the writer's group meeting in 2 weeks. I spent a day taking people to doctor's appointments.

It all looks good on paper, doesn't it? Yes?

No. When I look at this the Alpha part of my brain tells me I'm not doing anything important. Alpha says I should get the rooms painted. I should clean every day. I should consider getting a part-time job so I can do something besides sit in the house all day. It tells me I sleep too much, even though I'm severely fatigued and in pain. Most days I need a nap of about two hours. Pain is not an acceptable past time. If I got up and moved around I might not be fatigued. Life is too short to waste in that fashion. I need to exercise more. I'm spending too much time on writing and a writing group and not on really important things, like fixing drywall and painting walls. If I went to work I'd have the money for paint. I might even be able to pay someone to paint for me and allow me to do more real work. I should probably volunteer for something, too, you know, to make me a better person.

Yes, this is a real conversation. Stop looking at me like that.

Now, the Beta part (for want of a better term) says I'm constructive. I'm creating useful items for other people. Throws for gifts, doll dresses for Sarah, dishcloths for gifts and myself, study guides for the church school. I can write all I want at last. I can go to lunch with people I like and who seem to like me. They come to visit me, too. I can run a writing group. I can walk when I want, even in the rain. I can take a trip if I want to visit family (well if I had the money, which Alpha says I'd have if I found a job).

After writing this, it occurs to me that our brains are wired this way over time. We are not born drones.  We're created as playful beings and we come into the world wired for learning play. We spend the next 20 years playing and learning, generally with great joy and excitement.

Gradually, the  playing stops and we learn some more. We learn we have to work. No one is happy about this, by the way. Most of the joy and excitement begins to drain away through the holes in our head. Still, if we want to be able to play, less frequently, we have to work more frequently. So, life and college rewires our brains to this new concept of work. We work more so we can have more toys but less time to play.

We find we must structure our days to fit around this phenomenon called work so we can function effectively. We throw ourselves into it with verve and can-do spirit. We get calendars and clocks, something we had no use for in childhood. We sync our brain to these items by getting up day after day, at the same time and going to the same place day after day. We check the calendar to be sure we aren't missing something. We become slaves to time. And if something goes wrong - the clock breaks down, the calendar gets lost, our spouse dies, or we lose our jobs - we lose our sense of purpose and direction. We become zombies who can't function without a handler. We're worn out and old and no longer remember what play is.

That's where I am. I've realized that I have to start over and rewire my brain to a new paradigm. This is traumatic. Really, it is not a good feeling at all. In fact, my brain is resisting the process. I don't know how to not to do things. The old construct states that for adults, play is non-productive. It does not contribute to the betterment of individuals, society, or the world. Play is wasteful and directionless. To be a real person with value, you must work. You must produce to be useful and you must do it forever.

It is a very difficult process to rewire your brain to do something you spent years teaching it not to do. With each project, I have to tell myself that what I'm doing has purpose and value. I've been trying to adjust for seven years to a new way of life without my spouse. It has been hell. Really. Now, I am forced to readjust that life once more, to something else.

I'd really like to just sit on the beach.

That'd just be a waste of time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Winding Up the Week

 What a busy week it was this past week! I finished two crochet projects. The throw I was working on for someone's birthday. The throw is made with I Love This Yarn from Hobby Lobby with a size I hook. The pattern is one from a book of 61 different squares for a sampler. I just picked one and made it bigger. I've used that book for several items I've made by simply picking one of the squares.

I also made this little thing at the left. It came out so lovely that I want to do another one. It is a dress for Sarah's Barbie doll. I think next one will be white and a long version. I also have a pattern for a Victorian travel outfit that I'd like to try.

I have to tell you, this is tedious. Yarn is much easier to crochet once you know how. Although, I learned to crochet on thread, it has been years and it was more like the stuff you make wash cloths out of. I don't recommend you start with this particular kind of thread.

The variegated thread is size #10 and the needle is 1.7 mm. Yes, that is very small.  The thread is just a bit bigger than quilting thread, which is slightly larger than sewing thread. The needle... I think a pen head about the same as size as that hook. I took my time and finished it over the course of a couple of weeks. I was so thrilled with it, despite the numerous errors I made and which I can immediately find. You could too, but not in a photo. Still it is for play and not a showcase.

I started a new project last night while watching t.v. with Mike. It will be another throw, made with Red Heart Yarn in with several colors. It is an interesting pattern I found online and wanted to try. They made a baby blanket with it but mine will be larger at least as large at the one pictured above. This new throw is going to also be heavier.

Red Heart yarn is a bit scratchy and I don't like it. They do have a huge variety of colors but it is really not a cozy up yarn. I don't mean it is impossible to have next to you but there are now other yarns much more cozy against the skin. Most are competitively priced, are far softer. When my batch is of this rougher Red Heart is gone, I probably won't buy anymore of it. I did recently find a Red Heart yarn that is softer than their most common yarn so if I can find the colors I want, I may try that. I bought one super sized skein in white to try.

I also made a personal blog challenge 30 Shorts in 30 Days. I'm done three so far and this is shaping up to be fun. I even made a button to put up when I'm done.  I'm also working on my anthology story for the writing group.

I'm trying to get my ceiling replaced. I've got mortar joints that need repair and I'm waiting on final estimates for both jobs. In fact, I got the last one for the mortar joints today. So, I hope by the end of the month those will be done. Mike and I have to tear out the ceiling next week in preparation for the new one.

I will be going to Arkansas the last week of this month to pick Sarah up and bring her home before school starts. I've missed her but I dread having to get up at 6:30 every morning. Time is just moving so quickly. She'll be 9 in less than two months.

I'm going to get done with this post now and go work on the new crochet project. This coming week, I'm hoping to organize some things and become a bit more productive. I want a schedule back in place before Sarah gets back. It will keep up both on track.

I posted my 3rd short story of the month called The Fourth. I hope you've all had a great 4th of July.