Friday, January 07, 2011

Eleven Things

I stole this idea from my pal and former colleague, Erin. She, in turn, was inspired by her husband's niece, who listed eleven things her life does not need in 2011. I thought it was a great idea, so, with Erin's permission, I nicked it.

So here, in no particular order, is my list of eleven things my life does not need in 2011:

11. Expectations
Which does not mean hopes or aspirations. THOSE are the lifeblood of healthy emotions. What I'm talking about is counting those proverbial chickens before they are hatched. What I'm talking about is Cathy the Poptart, sitting in a little closet of a dressing room at the Euclid Tavern in Cleveland, OH, between sets, reading a biography of the Beatles and thinking that, finally, she has discovered what she wants to do when she grows up. THIS band. THESE songs. It was the Poptarts' next-to-last gig. What I'm talking about is sitting in my office, envisioning a growing retirement account, four weeks of vacation, and the means to travel to all those places I'd been dreaming about traveling to now that the college expenses are relegated to the past, only to pick up the ringing phone and be summoned into the small conference room to receive a scripted and woodenly delivered "we value your decade of work for us, but times are tough and we had to make difficult decisions" speech... THOSE expectations. Because when one does not have control over all aspects of a situation, expectations are rarely met. Which leads all too often to...

10. Negativity
Because you know, even if the the factors that dashed those expectations of yours are completely outside your control, the likelihood is great that you will blame yourself anyway. At least, if you are me, you will. And that really should change, for no other reason that negativity tends to feed on itself and grow and infect everything like a staph infection. The staph infection know as...

9. Self-Pity
And yeah, it's one of those strange but truisms that blaming yourself goes hand-in-hand with that too-often-unanswered question, "But, why ME?" Even though that connection makes no logical sense whatsoever. And that combo will pretty much assure that you will never find out the answer. If I can avoid entering the "Why ME?" zone, I may be able to make some headway in vanquishing...

8. Procrastination
Look back in this blog to last January. See that entry about getting the guest room/office/junk room painted? Well, despite the new coat of paint and the additions of a wall of bookcases and an armoire for the computer, the room is STILL a junk room. In fact, now more than it ever was before. And the master bath? The one that was a DIY casualty even before we bought the place 11.5 years ago? The one that's been slated for a to-the-studs demo and reno for, well, 11.5 years? And that novel that took me 14 years to finish--the one I've been meaning to revise for lo, these last couple of years? Oh yes, time flies. Right away from us. I need to try to wrangle it. Or at least manage it. And this applies to all aspects of my life, but probably, right now, most of all it applies to...

7. Clutter
What can I say? I grew up in the clutter castle of Magnolia Ave. I'm used to organizing by piles, although I'm well aware that such a method is not the most effective way to live. And I'm a magpie. I love the sparkly things, and the more the better. I may not actually WEAR that flashy rhinestone flamingo brooch or that multicolored sequined collar, but I sure like knowing they are in that overstuffed jewelry box. I have no idea to this DAY where I'm going to hang the pastel-hued chalkware plaque of Our Lady (complete with small pink nightlight and attendant ancient electrical cord), but when I saw it hanging in a booth at an antique mall during a Wisconsin treasure hunt, I knew I had to have it. And don't get me started on the books, the CDs, the books, the DVDs, the books, the VCR tapes, did I mention the books? I have to pare back. See also item 8.

6. Excess Avoirdupois
This is the perpetual "do without," isn't it? And yet, it never seems to go away. I'll try. I always try. I've spent most of my adult life trying. In the past, sometimes, I've actually tackled this problem and banished the extra pounds--for a while, at least. But I cannot and will not starve myself. Whatever else it takes to get fit and healthy and achieve a respectable BMI, it will take some time. Slow and steady wins the race. Eye on the prize. And all those other well-intentioned clich├ęs. But one thing I CANNOT do any longer is allow my embarrassment over the size of my ass and the existence of my extra chin(s) stop me from doing things I want to do.

5. Anger
Let's be honest: This is intimately tied to items 11, 10, and 9. It's the source of so much sadness and frustration and hopelessness. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to be angry when your hopes are dashed, when people let you down or downright betray you, when you are three rows from the end of the sweater and you notice that you dropped a stitch nine inches below. Anger has its place. But to hang onto it is to assure a plunge into negativity and self-pity and, ultimately, grinding depression. Of course, ridding oneself of deep-seated anger is not an easy or a pleasant task. I pledge to my best to feel it and then let it go.

4. Envy
I once wrote a song called "Envy." I arranged the chorus with harsh whispers of "En-vy" as the backing vocals. Very effective. Envy's easy. It's easy to envy the friends who travel all over the globe. The freelancer who scarfed up the golden gig. The acquaintance who dropped 60 pounds and 20 years. And so on. But envy itself is nothing but destructive. It is poisonous. And it most severely poisons the person who is envious. Away with it!

3. Regret
Regret isn't such a bad thing, as long as you can learn from it and move on. If you don't, though, it just leads to all those other bad things I've already listed. I mean--I STILL think about (on occasion, not CONSTANTLY) the weird altercation in which I became embroiled on the Muni Metro N Judah car in San Francisco during an evening commute at least a quarter of a century ago. I wasn't even responsible for it--I just happened to become the target of a guy who freaked out because the car was so packed. He blamed me for the crowding--I think because I was reading a book and to him the extra space taken up by my arm, bent at the elbow, and my book was the last straw. He pushed, shoved, yelled...I didn't say anything to him. I just gave him one of my patented eye-rolls (guaranteed to infuriate) and did my best to remove myself from the situation, moving away from him as quickly as I could and wedging myself and my book elsewhere, as he continued to rant and rail. To this day, even though I KNOW I did the right thing by not engaging him in a screaming match, I regret not having just the right comeback to shut him up. Even though I don't have the slightest idea what that comeback might have been. Now, how silly is THAT? So consider what other, more problematic regrets I have lurking... regrets I really must finally let go of.

2. Inattention
Don't get me wrong--I'm a BIG fan of day-dreaming and wool-gathering, and I'm not about to give those pursuits up any time soon. They've been a part of my make up since before I can remember. They loom large in my legend--well, at least in the comments section of my elementary school report cards. Every single one of them. Every single six weeks. However, inattention is something different, I believe. It's a product of being overly tired, overwhelmed, or just plain played out. But it can lead to a lot of mistakes--some larger than others. And when they lead to a mistake that just can't be undone, however small that mistake may seem at the time... I'm going to try to be more mindful of many things. Of all things, really.

1. Indecision
Akin to item 8, and often an excuse for same. It's just easier to let things happen than to expend the effort to MAKE them happen. But consider the consequences: If you can't or won't make decisions for yourself, someone or something will ultimately make them for you. And they may not be decisions you like very much. Face it: With decisions come responsibility for those decisions--very weighty. But ultimately, if you want to be in control of your own life in even the smallest way, you have to be decisive.

And so, in lieu of resolutions, I'm going to be mindful of this list and see what that brings.

Happy, Hopeful New Year!

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Blogger G. W. Ferguson said...

(looks around)

Where's the "Douple-Plus 'Like'" button?

Sweet screamin' Jeebus, these are exactly the things I wrestle with on a daily basis. Yes, I know, they seem to be part of the human condition, but I'm not exaggerating when I say "all eleven, every day." Would that I could find a magic wand blessed by the Sacred Hand of Hermione Granger which would remove them immediately, esp. 10, 9, 5, 4, and 3. Since this is unlikely, I suppose I, too, need to call 'em out by name and send 'em to their room(s) whenever they act out.

3:12 AM  
Blogger Cathy VanPatten said...

Ah yes! If only those spells they taught at Hogwarts really worked!

Thanks for the props!

9:28 PM  

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