A few words on whimsy

Hiya! I know,  it’s been a while since I’ve written here.

There are reasons! Since coming home from ConcCoction I’ve been BUSY. Focused. Working hard on revisions to Sharp Edge of Yesterday and the new book/new series Ghost Town

…Yeah, okay, so I’ve been distracted by Dark Life Things ™ and reading a bunch and also I went on a 7-day cruise that was scheduled before the DLT meteorite crashed into the roof of Chez Herkes (metaphorically speaking. We are well. All is well. It’s all resolved, just sad, and…I’ll blog about it eventually.)

I realized while staring at the amazing blue of the Caribbean waters that Spouseman & I hadn’t had a recreation-only vacation in three full years. Cons, yes, but those are fun work. Family visits, yes, but those are…family fun. This was an actual getaway.

Now I’m back  and feeling re-energized, with 76k words of Ghost Town and 2  new scenes of Sharp Edge under my belt. (amazing how much writing time is freed up when I don’t have to think about shopping, or meal planning, organizing, scheduling, or cleaning…and I don’t mean the doing of those things necessarily, it’s the *thinking about* them that I find creatively exhausting. )

ANYway. I’m filing the experience under “Holy wow, I never expected to get to do this in my life, but geez, it was fun!” Someday I will get around to sharing cruise pictures for vicarious travel enjoyment, but it will not be this day.

Please enjoy this picture of  Spouseman & my favorite wedding present. Not the most needed/practical one, nor the one we used most right after the wedding (the bath towels gifted to us by one of my dorm mates hold that place of honor) but it’s the gift we hold dearest, going on 33 years post-ceremony.

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Yes, a kind woman from my church congregation hand-sewed it and gifted us with a quilted stuffed animal. (St. Paul’s Episcopal church in Richmond Indiana. Altar Guild, represent!)

The toy came with a card and some cash (which helped pay our rent in that first lean year of our first scrappy decade) and in the card was written the most important marriage advice we received, hands-down:

“Always keep a little whimsy in your life.” 

We’re still plugging along, me & Spouseman, and we still have Kitty to remind us that whimsy makes the world a better place.

That’s all the all for now.

 

Let’s talk routine.

I have a lot of routines. When it comes to life, I’m a calm weather and flat roads kind of woman. I like my time to be thoroughly-scheduled, predictable, and straightforward.

No, that isn’t right. That’s a wicked lie.  I loathe schedules.  I abhor (SUCH A GOOD WORD) pre-planned, calendared-to-the-minute activities, and I hate having to be any given place at exactly any given time. Time Management is right up there on my list of Least Favorite Things.

There’s nothing I love more than a long stretch of unstructured time to enjoy without obligations or commitments hanging over my head. Being able to dive into whatever I feel like doing (WRITING, mostly) for long, unmeasured periods, secure in the knowledge I’m not shirking any responsibility or failing any expectations–that is the purest of pure blisses.

The clock is my enemy.  I am that person who is always late (except when I am ridiculously early because I don’t dare miss out on whatever reason I have to be punctual. Think airline flights, bus & train departures, events that close their doors at the start of shows, etc. Yeah.)

But I digress. Routine is the topic, and the reality is that my life has to be very, very, VERY rigidly structured, because holding fast to processes is the only way I can carve out those huge, juicy blocks of time. I do what I must to get treats I chew up like big wedges of watermelon or a personal fruit pie.

(Me, a full 9-inch cherry pie, a spoon: that is also a real thing)

ANYway. If I don’t cling to all my hated-but-necessary routines, my ability to create…goes *PAF* like a soap bubble. Being interrupted in the middle of my get-up routine can derail my whole day, for example. It LOOKS like I’m aimlessly puttering around the house, but the aimlessness has an aim–it’s settling my synapses and getting clutter out of my space and thus out of my mind. Ditto for coming-home routines, and even the global routine of having daily routines. It’s why I loved regular-schedule retail work: infinite variation & constant novelty bounded within a rigidly structured routine.

I read a lot of Erynn Brook’s blogging and tweeting about ADHD because she gets into the nitty-gritty of living with a brain that works its own way, norms be damned, and I see my life in the stories she tells.

No, seriously. She had a thread about arranging living space to compensate for distraction and sensory overload, and it was like she was walking through my house. Eerie. But also fun. That kind of affirmation is a fleecy blanket of comfort. It reassures me that my many weird quirks about the maintenance of my physical and temporal environment arise from deep places and serve a purpose.

(Purpose: keeping me functional in a world that demands Things Get Done Just So and Right Now, which is NOT how my brain is set up, on top of all the compromises I make to keep my pesky body from breaking down faster. That’s a whole ‘nother post.)

Some folk consider my has-to-be-done-this-way quirks as petty, tyrannical neat-freak tendencies. Others think I’m a judgmental perfectionist who measures their spaces and systems by my own. FULL DISCLAIMER: I neither expect nor want anyone else to live the way I do. Hell, I wouldn’t live this way, given, y’know, a different brain & body. But I work with what I have.

So.  Why am I writing about this? Because blog.

Okay, seriously. It came to mind, and thus is flowing onto the page because I keep getting knocked out of my routine, and that has Consequences. I have a whole set of compensations regarding travel and socializing, two things I love to do, but can only do to certain limits. And since I just got home from travel, those things are on my mind.

When life crashes hard into my routines, like say, when I go on a trip or go out to dinner with friends, my life routines are thrown off not only for the Time Of Upheaval itself but potentially for days afterward. And I didn’t realize that was what was happening for most of my life.

So I’m developing better processes and routines to compensate for getting back to normal. Travel itself is all routine now. 15+ years of business trips. For the other situations, I’m learning it’s easier when people come into my space than when I go out, and the less organized the occasion, the less it winds me up (“let’s hang out for no real reason” is infinitely less stressful than planned dinners, f’rex)

But in every case I am still learning to compensate for just how ridiculously much creative time & emotional stability I have to pay for experiences.

I used to think the brain fog after business trips came from pure physical exhaustion, but the last two years have taught me it’s my brain that needs a variable amount of rebound time and relief from all responsibility.  If I go through my coming-home routines without upheaval and let myself meander without pressure to produce anything, I will predictably get back to normal writing routine in 1 to 5 days.

If I don’t let that process happen naturally, if I push onward attempting all normal routines until the next weekend, I end up physically ill.  Talk about incentive to take it easy, right?

Scheduling, time management and task organization are like living things.  I know from the outside it often looks like they’re my besties, but look closer.

I have harnessed them to my will,  and they serve me well, but they are a troika of wolves, not a team of fast horses. They need more than cooling down after every run.  I have to unharness them and let them go off hunting, or they will turn on me and chew me up.

That’s what I came to write, and there it is.

 

 


Image by reyesdf on Pixabay

 

It’s nippy out there.

The air temp was up to a balmy -15 °F when I took my walk today. That’s before wind chill. The wind chill has been at “OH HELL NO” since last night. -15 marked the high point between -24 last night, and -23 projected for tonight. -50 wind chill anyone?

Yes, I went outside in that kind of cold. Yes, on purpose. Yes, without a job location I had to travel to reach, or a pet who needs walking, or any other external justification.

Why? Why not? Being able to do things like stroll around in the killing cold by choice remind me how lucky and rich I am, relatively speaking, and how grateful I am for so much in my life.

Also, if I don’t get my body moving and keep moving at a steady pace for at least 30 min a day, I hurt, but I could do enough walking indoors to cope. Not easily, and going around and around inside the house is boring as hell, but hey. I have done it.

But given the choice between boring laps and going out into the deep freeze? No contest.

It was a fantastic hike and meditative too. I spent the time focusing on my breathing rhythm, maintaining awareness of my body’s position, location, and surroundings (the whole world changes in incredible, beautiful ways when it’s super-cold)

..at least, that’s what I was doing when I wasn’t concentrating on ways to keep my glasses from frosting over.

I’d been out about a half-mile when I realized why I was enjoying myself so much. Dealing with weather like this is a lot like swimming. You’re deliberately exposing your body to a medium that will kill you if you’re immersed in it too long, but with the right gear, training, and effort, the experience can bring you a satisfying thrill.

When it comes to gear, I have tons. Decades worth. I ruthlessly toss or donate clothes that wear out/don’t get worn, but cold weather kit keeps well. And scarves? Well. Textiles are my dragon hoard.

My winter coat is literally designed for Antarctica– it came from someone who went on a cruise trip with a company that uses old Russian icebreakers. It has a patch on it and everything.

My closet is packed with thick, plushy hoodies & warm socks and so on. I am spoiled for choice.  I not only have sleek, soft long underwear comfort-rated to sub-zero, I have fleecy versions I can layer over it and under my outerwear.

Hats? Ear protection? insulated gloves with mitten covers? Scarves and ear bands to keep everything but the eyes safe from wind chill? YUP.

And boots with thick soles to keep my toesies in a dry, temperature-controlled environment are my year-round standard.

Basically, I was all set for today.  Note, please, none of my stuff is new. A purple wool scarf my friend Jody found for me and the sparkly red scarf gifted to me by my other friend Tess are the  youngest pieces in the ensemble. Some of the long underwear is old enough to drive, and I think the coat is old enough to vote.

But it’s all good gear, so when I wrap up to go out in the killing cold, I am covered top to toe in cuddlesome coziness and feel super-rich and thankful for every protective piece.

I’ve had training too. Nothing rigorous, just enough to make me comfortable navigating a populated neighborhood.  There were many lessons in cold weather survival in my youth, plus I’ve done a lot of independent study since then. (hello, I’m a writer)  Knowing when to stop is a key skill, and listening to my body saying “enough!” is a thing I have learned well.

Once I find some goggles (frosty eyeglasses are a real PITA) I will be able to easily handle hikes on days far colder than this one. Goggles have been on a vague quest list for years now. Since Polar Vortexes are likely to be a recurring issue, I think I will make a point of hunting some down before next winter.

Because it really was a lovely walk today, and I want to do more.

By the way, if anyone is wondering, no,  I wasn’t the only one out there. I wasn’t even the only person out here without a dog on a leash. I spotted one hardy soul out running, and no one was even chasing them.

Was there a point to this post? I don’t know. But we’ve reached the end of it.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.