Monthly Archives: August 2014

It’s Getting Late

I’m being robbed — of TIme.  It’s slipping away in the night, never to be seen again. Sometimes I stay awake, pondering how I can prevent its escape.

Newton’s first law says “every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” Yes, I know Time is not an object and yes, I know I’m twisting the laws of physics.  But I believe Time should stay constant — forever — not speed up as I get older. The relationship between Age and Time is apparently one I don’t understand.  I certainly never ran across explanations of this phenomenon in science textbooks.

As we age, our energy decreases, we move with less speed, ordinary tasks take longer, and we’re slower to recover from travel and illness and good times.  To be consistent with the natural conditions of aging, Time should slow down to accommodate us. But no, it speeds up instead, going faster with each passing year.  It’s absolutely not fair.  It’s certainly not how I would design my corner of the universe. But alas, I’m powerless to change its pace.

I keep finding gaping holes in my knowledge and experience.  Some deficiencies have been there a long time, some I’m just now seeing, some never seemed important until now.

The more I write, the more I need to learn about writing,  The more piano lessons I have, the more I need to learn about music theory. The more Beethoven I play, the more I want to know how he created such music.  I see photos of colorful French macarons and I need a day or two to create them myself. The more contemporary writers I read, the more I realize I haven’t read the dead writers of great literature.

I like living on the edge of new learnings and experiences, but I need Time to slow down. I need more years for all the learnings I seek.  It’s not that I was a slacker in my earlier years, but every day I find new knowledge gaps. I’m running as fast as I can yet I gain no ground on the deficiencies. Even my best time management strategies and efficiency methods are not enough to make a difference. The next three decades won’t be enough for all I want to learn.

So, what’s a person to do?

  • Choose intentionally what to pursue, knowing there will always be way more than you can accomplish
  • Live the moment, so as not to miss birds at the feeder, the first nip of fall, or words with a friend
  • Relax into your life.  Breathe.  Savor this Time.  Now.

Until next Tuesday…





Are You a Misfit?

In my first grade class a small group of girls always played Black Beauty at morning and afternoon recess, using their dress sashes for horse reins, galloping among the rocks and trees on the school yard. I used to hang around the group’s edge, wanting to play their game, hoping to be included.

At my elementary school there was one classroom for each grade — so I was with the same kids all the way through eighth grade. First grade friendships were secure for eight whole years.  Only when we went to different junior high schools, did liaisons get reconfigured.

In high school there were other exclusive groups:  cheerleaders, advanced studies students, honor roll students, majorettes, girls clubs, girls with dates, girls with no dates. I’m sure my school experience wasn’t much different than yours, though my perspective is definitely female.

While writing my memoir, I’ve pondered the strong desire to fit in, to be like others, and to meet cultural or societal expectations.  I’ve finally figured out what caused me to do the things I did, why I made certain decisions, and how I chose specific paths. Answering my own questions only generates more — perhaps for you to ponder:

  • Did everyone feel like a misfit in school?  Even the popular kids?
  • How did the desire to fit in direct our behavior then — and now?
  • How have we compromised ourselves in an effort to be accepted by others?
  • When, if ever, do we say, I’m doing my own thing, even if others think I’m strange or weird or just different?
  • Whose drumbeat are you in sync with?

I’m reminded of a high school comment my son made many years ago.  He told me he wasn’t sure if the kids at his lunch table liked him or not.  Then he said, “But that’s their problem.”

And I’m reminded of a fifty-something woman who said her seventh grade teacher dismissed her personal essay without even reading it.  Ever since then, she’s believed her words don’t matter.

Some of us embrace our uniqueness early.  Some of us figure it out much later in our life.  Some of us are testing the waters.

I still have more questions:

  • Have you given up your first grade behavior, or your seventh grade belief, or is it still hanging around?
  • Are you still trying to prove yourself to someone, even if they’re no longer in your life?
  • What thoughts and behaviors stifle your growth, keeping you safe and secure, just like always?

Pondering such questions can keep us awake at night, can fill pages in our journals, and have the possibility of bringing insight to our journeys.

Do your work — carve out your own niche.

You will be a perfect fit.

Until next Tuesday…






A Rearrangement of Books

I moved into my current house one year ago.  During the unpacking I asked my daughter-in-law to organize my books.  Based on pictures in decorating magazines, I instructed her to arrange the books by color. While this process was actually simpler than sorting by author or genre or subject or alphabetically, it still consumed much time.

 a few of my shelves

a few of my shelves

The living room books now make a decorative statement:  rows of blue books, green books, red, orange, yellow, brown and purplish books. White books were banished to my study, due to lack of color.

My challenge this year has been to find any particular book. Remembering the book’s cover is yellow, I go looking on the shelf with all the yellow books, only to find it’s not there.  I’ve discovered that the spine color is not always the same as the cover color — I never noticed that before.  Now I have to broaden my search to the other shelves.

When I locate a book by Henri Nouwen, for example, I expect all his books to be on the same shelf — like they used to be.  Not.  Books by the same author have different color covers and spines.  Henri Nouwen is on nearly every shelf in my living room and study.  Perhaps that’s a good thing because I rediscover other interesting titles during my search.

Last week I searched all the shelves three times for a book I knew had a black cover.  I was 90% sure the spine was black as well.  Walking on Water was hiding in a pile of books from my previous research; their spines were turned sideways and out of direct view. I’d dismissed the stack because I was sure the book wasn’t part of that project. Had I put the it back where it belonged I would have found it on the first try.  Operator negligence.

Occasionally I’ve considered putting the books back in their familiar arrangement, but it’s too much work.  Besides I like the colors — and I love the challenge.

For me, this book locating adventure feels like using a different part of my brain.  Initially, I’m slow in the search, always taking more time than I expect. With practice I’m getting better.  I pay more attention now to what my books look like.  I focus on their like-colored neighbors crowded next to them. Before, I didn’t need to remember their spines because I had other clues, like subject or genre or author, to direct me to the right shelf. My universe shifted during last year’s unpacking and organizing.  I’m still adjusting.

It’s good to shake things up once in a while.  Change the routine.  Forget how things have always been.  Try something new.

Life expands when we see with new eyes, when we discover things in unexpected places, when we pause to notice the ordinary, or when we challenge ourselves into a new learning.

Be daring.  Rearrange something.

Until next Tuesday…


The Gift of Persistence

When people ask about my hours of piano practice, I usually say, “I’m not a gifted pianist.  I’m merely persistent.”

When I was a young child my mother was often frustrated with my persistence.  She called it determination, competitiveness, and stubbornness, probably bordering on bullheadedness, if the truth be known. I was always trying to do things that were too difficult for my years.  Mother’s attempts to simplify the project only increased my desire to push ahead, to accomplish exactly what I had in mind. To myself I said, “Don’t tell me I can’t.  I’ll show you!”  Those were not wise words to say to Mother, but my attitude drove me on.

Persistence, determination, stubbornness — they’re all related.  I’m not going to quibble over their intricacies. I’m interested in the results they produce.

Like pianists whose musical gifting is obvious early in their lives, persistence has always been my gift.  Had my persistence plugged into my early piano playing, perhaps I too would be a concert pianist.  But alas, my persistence focused in other directions then. Now it propels me through memoir writing and further piano study.

For me persistence is believing I can do better than I’ve done before.  Give me some instructions, mentoring, or guidance and I will progress, perhaps at a snail’s pace, but give me time and I will get there.  With consistent practice I can now play a musical passage that was impossible three weeks ago. With study and critiquing, writing and rewriting, I now understand scene writing and storytelling, a world unknown to me several years ago.

Will I be an Andre Watts or Marcus Zuzak or Maya Angelou?  Probably not.

Can I put words and notes together better than I could last week or last year or last decade?  Absolutely!

Use your persistence to show up and do your work.

Until next Tuesday…