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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Today is May Day, which in pre-Christian Northern Europe (and beyond) was celebrated as Beltane – one of the most festive and holy days of the year.

I find Paganism and Wiccanism (is that a word?) very appealing in many ways. For one thing I am fascinated by the ways in which our lives are shaped by ancient traditions, rituals and stories in a multitude of ways that we are not even aware of, and rarely think about (except for historians – they think about that stuff all the time – which is very cool). 

For another, something about the narrative of a female-focused (or in some iterations a religion that at least did not view women as the lesser, weaker, or inferior “sex”) religious tradition that was brutally suppressed and supplanted by a male-dominated one, rings true to me on a deep, almost bodily level. I sense resonances of this “truth” everywhere, in my daily life as a mother, wife, daughter and friend, in my complex and often contradictory relationship with nature, history, and capitalism, and perhaps most problematically, but also the most suggestively, within my academic life (for who is Donna Haraway if not a pagan-marxist-feminist-scientist-truthsayer subverting the dominant system from within – she speaks the “truth” to power in order to reveal and expose those who claim that power is truth).  

I understand that it is the nature of oppression and suppression that much of the “original” practice of paganism has been lost (although it was undoubtably diverse to begin with – encompassing many different traditions and beliefs) and that as a consequence much if not all of the tradition has been recreated by its contemporary believers and devotees. And that is as it should be and that is how it is with all religions – they are living things that both shape and are shaped by societies. But I do find much of contemporary Wiccanism and Paganism off-putting. It isn’t even the deeper philosophical and psychological debates that I might have with the practice of “magick” (and that is a topic that I need to explore more deeply within myself before ever even attempting to post about it). It is, I’m ashamed to say it, more about the aesthetic – the fantasy novel, flowing hair, wild woman of the wolves, aesthetic of it all that I can’t truck with. 

Isn’t that terrible? But I can’t deny it – the iconography of the whole “witches” thing just isn’t me. I see the appeal and I’m not dumping on those who love and embrace it, but just as I will never be a gortex-wearing kayaking, mountain, outdoorsy person (although I love the outdoors – in my own way), I will never be a embrace the “goddess within” kind of gal.  And I am of two minds on this shameful secret. On the one hand, I wonder if my aversion might point to some part of my psyche that I’ve sealed off from myself – in my self-identification as a “serious” scholar – in other words, has the inner-critic taken over? On the other hand, part of me just says who gives a f*ck? After all, it’s my spiritual path. And like I said, I have no problem with those who find meaning and beauty in that universe. Plus I truly believe that our lives are more than our intellectual minds – symbolism is important – and if something does not resonate with us on an aesthetic level it is not touching our spiritual self. 

But I do want to renew and explore, in a meaningful way, my spiritual connection to the earth, to history, and to the cycle of life and I also want to share the wonders of ritual and celebrations – of holidays and the seasons – with Buddy. And while I will continue to celebrate Christmas because I love it deeply and it is a part of who I am and where I come from, I am intrigued and drawn to the idea of going “back” to the roots of many of the seasonal holidays that we still celebrate – and the Pagan “Wheel of the Year” seems like an excellent place to begin. 

So this weekend, I will be doing something with Buddy that I did with my mother as a child, we will be making simple May Baskets and picking wild flowers and leaving them on the doorsteps of our neighbors. And perhaps SG and I will find another, more grown-up appropriate way, to celebrate Beltane as well!

In thinking about this topic I tried to find a few links to ubran-modern Wicca and Paganism. I haven’t had a chance to explore further, but here are a few of the many interesting and promising links that I have found:

Ah… and there are many many more. Obviously an area that deserves further study!

 

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Teaching+Being Sick = UNorganized Homemaker

And let’s not forget that being a homemaker is not my primary job. Unfortunately, no one besides me (and SG) is going to do it, and the lack of organization in my home life continues to plague me. Plus no one is forcing me to undertake this experiment, so I should stop whining and just get to it.

So let’s return to the chipper world of Deniece S and her organized home and family (hmm, that sound sarcastic…or bitter. I’m not really either, maybe just feeling a little inadequate).

Truth be told I’ve been skipping around a bit in the book, thinking about different aspects of home organization and family management, so this installment is not quite as methodical as the previous ones.  

To start with, I was working my way through the core principles, which include decluttering and grouping which I discussed in my previous posts. The next is. 

Be Motion Minded

Here Mrs. S (as I like to think of her) sings the praises of Taylor and workplace efficiency experts, which makes me a little suspicious in that Taylorism and the rigid systems it has inspired have caused a great deal of de-skilling and de-humanizing of the workplace in the last century. However, setting aside the issues of alienation from one’s labor for the moment, her principles in terms of home organization are sound and reading the specific recommendations reminded me of a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design in NYC at a time when they were having an exhibition on designing the home for accessibility and ease. In this exhibition there were two kitchens – a “big” one and a closet (NYC apartment sized) one that had been designed by students at the Rhode Island School of Design. The kitchens were designed in such a way as to minimize lifting and stooping and to be honest, they kind of blew my mind. There is, of course, no reason why the standard tall fridge, stovetop with oven underneath, and high and low cabinets must be the model for most kitchens, but because they are I had never been able to conceptualize anything differently. Mrs. S., I suspect, would be very intrigued by this project, and that suspicion makes me suspect that she and I might have some common ground after all.

  1. First she advocates storing items at or near their point of first use. Seems obvious but actually takes some thought. Based on this idea, SG and I have a plan for our kitchen and dining area that, once we get around to it, should improve the flow of the two rooms and keep us out of the other’s way (the kitchen is very small and is basically the hallway between the front and back of the house).
  2. Second, she argues that it makes sense to store things in such a way that you do not have to take many steps to retrieve the items you need and complete your task. Honestly, while there is always room for improvement, there is nowhere in our house where one must take many steps to retrieve anything! 
  3. Third, she is a fan of one motion storage – particularly for items that you use a lot. This principle makes a lot of sense to me and I’ve tried to put this principle into effect in both the bedroom and the living room – particularly when it comes to Buddy’s toys and clothing.

More on the “groundwork” of decluttering and re-ordering the house in the next post.

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This week I am still on DISCIPLINE (and likely will be for a few more weeks) and so let’s turn to the next quiz question:

I’m good at controlling perfectionism, realizing that some things are good enough.

Actually, I am pretty good at controlling perfectionism. My advisor thinks that I have a problem in this area and that I tend to overwrite and overthink everything. But I think that the core issue is really procrastination and a difficulty with follow-through – I have problems finishing what I started.

I think that the reason for that (the procrastination) is a combination of fear of failure and fear of success. Now I know it sounds crazy that I would be both at the same time, but at heart I am afraid of change. But it is clear that I have screwed myself in some ways as a result – the research was done 3.5 years ago and I could be finished and employed by now. And now I will be on the job market (after an unsuccessful attempt this year) in the worst year in recent history for getting a job, let alone an academic job. So I have issues. But perfectionism isn’t one of them. So on to the next question:

I avoid putting things off or waiting until the last minute.

Yeah. I gave myself a 1 on this one (1-5 with 5 being totally agree) so, as noted above, I clearly have a major problem with procrastination. 

She points out that it doesn’t matter if you check off 9 of your 10 tasks on your To Do list, if the 10th is the one that really matters. She writes:

Your work as an employee will consistently outpace your coworkers’ work if  you spend your time focusing on the critical few tasks that lead to the highest performance, value, and output.

That sounds a bit dog-eat-dog but I sort of appreciate the ruthlessness implied. No silly Men-in-Black “to be the best of the best of the best, SIR” mission statements for her. Let’s rewrite that for the “almost finished” Ph.D. and job candidate:

Your attractiveness as a job candidate will consistently outshine other candidates’  attractiveness if  you spend your time focusing on the critical few tasks that lead to the highest performance, value, and output. 

In other words: FINISH the damn DISS and get some articles out for publication!

I think that the following mantra sums it up:

My (Brain) Work Must Come First

I should probably have that tattooed – backwards, so I can see it in the mirror – on my forehead.

She then has tips for specific issues:

Is the task overwhelming?

Umm, yeah. So she recommends breaking it into smaller pieces. Tried it, doesn’t really work for me – the big project still looms and stuns me into paralysis. 

Is the task distasteful?

Well, yes, in the sense that it is so daunting and overwhelming and soooo much is at stake. She recommends that you schedule a five minute work session with yourself, but that you have to sit down and work for those five minutes. Good advice, as I mentioned before, once I get started it is fairly easy for me to keep going.

Is the task trivial?

No.

And finally:

Is there no accountability in completing the task?

Well, that used to be the case, but it is getting embarrassing at this point. Plus I have missed so many self-imposed deadlines that my advisor has sort of lost the faith. She was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised to receive my introduction today. So I have new deadlines and here they are for all the world to see (if anybody cares to look):

  • Chapter 4 to advisor – April 11
  • Chapter 5 to advisor – May 4

Yikes! That is going to be tough. But I am resolute. Once those two chapters are in, we will talk further deadlines.

So what is my task for this week? I need to work at least one hour every single day on the dissertation.  Of course will aim to spend many more hours per day, especially since I have the week off, but I will only commit myself to one hour per day. I need to finish grading and prepare for teaching but I will make sure that I will not let that overwhelm my life or even one single day. Instead, My Work Will Come First.

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Book One: Leave the Office Earlier

The TaskWrite first thing in the morning (after dropping Buddy at daycare).

EvaluationTwo out of four days isn’t bad. On Wednesday I did end up writing for a good chunk of the day, so I’ll give myself credit for upholding the spirit if not the letter of the law. On Thursday I had that interview for the adjunct in the morning and was in a tired funk in the afternoon and took a nap so I fell down both in the spirit and in letter.On Monday and Friday I did work first thing in the morning and got a lot done on both days. And I turned in the introduction so I have a real and tangible result for all my work. Which feels good. But kind of scary.

Further Thoughts: Even though I wasn’t quite up to getting started first thing in the morning everyday, the important thing I gleaned from this mini-experiment is that it is the getting started that is the hardest part for me. Once I am writing, I can keep writing. Sometimes I even want to keep writing. But I dread writing and I allow myself too many get out of jail free cards. Sometimes the answer is to be harder on yourself, not easier.

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Book Two: Confessions of an Organized Housewife

The Task: Do some decluttering, based on her discard/sort system and some of the variations.

Evaluation: I haven’t made much more progress on this front this week. I think that decluttering is an ongoing project that will probably not be done for a long time for us (I am going to say that it will get done some day). As a follow-up I’m going to set a specific goal for this week, which is to sort through the linen closet and the bathroom drawers.

Further Thoughts: I am trying to keep the overall message in mind, even if I don’t have a ton of time to actually implement everything. And that message is that being organized means more time to do the things you want to do and love doing.  Also, it is an ongoing, incremental process. I always want to wave a magic wand and have a completely organized (and clean) house. Not going to happen, and certainly not overnight.

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Book Three: Collect Raindrops

The Task: Keep a eating journal, be more aware of what I eat, talk to SG about a CSA.

Evaluation: Like the decluttering, changing eating habits takes time. I did keep a food journal and had some more successful days and some less successful days. I also did two shopping trips without Buddy, which was much better, I took more time to think  about what we needed (and was able to use my list without little hands grabbing at it) and still got out in less time then when I take him with me. And SG is excited about the CSA so I just have to remember to follow-up.

Further Thoughts: I will try to keep up the food journal for another two weeks and then review it to identify any sticking points.

Now on to week two!

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