What’s on my mind lately (Sept 2018)

Summer is more or less over. It passed quickly for me. Summer is when I feel most alive, because it’s such a sensory, sensual time of year. So much to see and do! And here, I don’t mean anything grand as much as the connection to the outside world, the natural world – sun on your skin, breezes in the air, hummingbirds, dragonflies, and butterflies. Water; pools, oceans, rivers, lakes, tall cold drinks of it. Rain nurturing the flowers, the vegetables, the perennials. Baby animals; birds, squirrels, chipmunks, ducklings, fawns. Windows open, long days, blue skies, summer clothes. It’s my time.

Beyond the pleasures of the natural world, more activities are possible and people tend to congregate, slowing down to relate, be it in formal settings (picnics, parties, weddings, festivals, reunions, etc) or casual ones, where they’re just more willing to interact when their paths cross.  (They’re not cold-as-shit hustling to their next destination. Or maybe that’s just me.)

I’m immersed in both my micro and macro lives. In the micro, I’ve continued on my path of mild self-improvement in 2018.  I have but two more lake visits to finish off what I planned.  I am reading – books – again. Nonfiction has dominated. I hadn’t planned that and somehow vaguely thought fiction would be the bulk of it but that’s not how it’s been. Maybe because I feel (or felt) this need to jump-start to mind, I’m drawn more to nonfiction. Not sure. I still have this nagging sense of trying to catch up, to read books I missed. I continue to be taken aback – chagrinned – that I’m picking up titles from years ago, ones I never read. I’ve switched back and forth between older and newer books.

As a middle-aged person, I am very, very interested in keeping my mind sharp as I age, for as long as I can. Not only do I love reading, but I miss challenging my mind. The years in which the internet has been in my life have changed how I spend my time and where I put my focus. Many good things have come to me because of the internet, but I lament those I dropped or gave less time to. I’m working to remedy that primarily by reading but not only.

WordPress – blogging and interacting with other bloggers – still is very important to me. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: WordPress is one of, if not the most valuable way I spend time online. It isn’t frivolous. It isn’t a waste of time. It isn’t a mindless diversion. It isn’t something I have nothing to show for after participating. WordPress has depth.

Oh – I’m off coffee for the last 3 (almost 4) weeks. I was a moderate but habituated drinker. I drank some coffee every day for decades. For many recent years I’ve had no more than one cup per day and frequently less than that (I always start with only half a cup but sometimes allow myself a tad more).  Because of how I’m wired, even one cup packs a wallop. I never drink coffee out. I hadn’t planned to give it up but I got sick for a couple days and didn’t drink it (or eat anything much either). Once off it, I decided to see how it would be to try to stay off. A main reason is I want nothing between me and my sleep. Residual coffee can affect a person many hours after drinking it and I have to figure, with my makeup, that must certainly be true for me. Quieting my busy mind to sleep soundly all night is a struggle. Yet I know that sleep or lack thereof rules my personality. I don’t take anything stronger to help me sleep than an occasional Valerian (an herb) and I don’t want to. I miss coffee – the little ritual and the little buzz – and can’t say I’ll stay off but right now, I feel like I’m doing something good for myself, particularly when I replace it with a healthy drink.

Giving myself permission to treat myself well is the singular best thing I’m doing in my life at this moment. It’s a struggle and does not come naturally to me. But I’m better, undeniably so.  I’m a bit more generous with myself. I’ve stopped taking crap from other people and I’ve mostly stopped from taking it from myself. This is an ongoing theme.  Other people might not like it – the ways I consider myself improved – because it may not be to their advantage (if they’re looking for advantage). I’m less tolerant, waste less time, and don’t offer as much, and not as quickly, not where it isn’t merited.

Also– I’d like to believe that when you start living better and treating yourself better, the people who aren’t interested in much the same no longer enter your orbit or if they do, they don’t stay or you don’t keep them. And– you’re freed up to draw people who also are choosing or trying to live better lives, who want meaning and substance and validity. And please know, if you don’t know me, that I’m not talking about any kind of fake, quoting, affected, pollyanish, faux, passing, insincere, flash-in-the-pan, b.s. but those things which are genuine, true, and withstand time. Give me the people who are headed up, not spiraling down. And if my theory is wrong, well, I’ll just keep putting my energy into myself because I’m damn sure a far way from being anything near self-indulgent.

I have pushed myself and importantly, I have something to show for it. That’s how it feels.

So far as the macro world, let me give you an analogy. When Barack Obama was elected president, I told a friend that I felt like a kid does when their father is behind the wheel on a family road trip; safe and in good hands, free to sit in the back seat, look out the window, play games or look at books, relaxed and unworried. Now however, I feel tense and constantly vigilant with this new fellow behind the wheel. The car is careening around on mountainous roads, speeding and out of control. I am stomping the floor boards trying to hit the imaginary breaks in the back seat, gripping the arm rest fiercely, as if that would do any good. Road rage with other drivers could escalate on a dime and lead to something very ugly. I can’t take my eyes away.  I know this won’t last but I’m afraid of what could happen before there’s a new driver.  I have never felt quite this way about a president before.

In the end – or the middle or wherever – it always comes down to controlling what you can control. Doing what you can to make your life and the lives of the people you care about, good or better. To draw meaning from the ways you spend your waking hours, however that might be. What’s important to you? This is what I ask myself, this is where I constantly direct (and redirect when necessary) my attention. They say we have many competitors for our attention now. I am susceptible, at times too easily distracted. I’ve gotten better at noticing when it happens and pulling myself up short: Do I really care about this? Is it important? Is this a good way to spend my time? Why am I getting involved in this?

A key part is not letting other people’s priorities become my priorities. Not unless I choose it. EVERYBODY WANTS YOU TO TAKE UP AND INVEST IN THEIR CAUSE. Be it with your attention, your time, or your cash. And I DON’T CARE. More often than not, I just don’t.  People who know nothing or very little about you are so certain that what’s important to them – whatever they’re promoting – should also be important to you.  It’s hard to get away from this so long as you’re a nice member of society and continue to interact with others (which I am and I do! Maybe on my own terms but still).

So, I guess it’s fair to say I am liking where my head is at but I do have some gripes. Or I have some gripes but I am liking where my head is at. I can work with this.

20 thoughts on “What’s on my mind lately (Sept 2018)

  1. Kate Crimmins

    This is certainly not a short thought! Every year I think I’ve come so far only to realize that I have more work to do. This is true especially with people. Fighting off the “friends” who want to pull you in their causes and fights (no matter how altruistic they are) is an on-going process for me. Every time I realize that I lost, I learn a new lesson. That’s a good thing. I hope your summer has been good. Mine has been disappointing and I’m angry with myself that I allowed the stupid weather to reign in what I wanted to do.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I think this post was percolating in my mind for awhile. I know what you mean about “no matter how altruistic” people’s causes are. There are so many worthy causes; but I just don’t want other people foisting theirs on me. I think it’s good to keep checking it with ourselves about our progress (I have less reason to kick myself than I used to so that’s something). The weather HAS been an unpredictable pisser.

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  2. Becky Ross Michael

    Interesting introspection, and you seem to be very in-touch with your feelings. I think much as you do on many points. I haven’t given up coffee, yet, though:) I’m still working on the communing with nature part, since I no longer have my own outdoor space. It’s important to me, however, and I need to figure this one out. Your blog reminds me that it’s essential to set clear goals!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks Becky. Having specific goals this year and a list to write them down on (I love writing them down!) got me excited about it. I really never thought I could give up coffee, even my miniscule amount. I often remind myself I’m never sorry after spending time in nature, even little bits, like taking a walk.

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  3. autumnashbough

    I think it’s tough when your friends are so passionate about a cause they are personally offended when you aren’t as passionate or don’t donate as much money or time to it. It’s hard not to feel hounded and pull away.

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  4. Pistachios

    Your blog definitely adds a lot of depth to the domain of WordPress. The way you reflect on your life and your actions, and then also make the changes you feel necessary, is both admirable and inspiring.

    I’ve actually been drinking more coffee these last few months (used to drink hardly any but now will have one cup on most days). I’ve significantly cut down on alcohol though, so I think I’m doing ok overall… Have been thinking of cutting down though. My caffeine response is quite variable

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you – that means a lot coming from you (I find you and your blog inspiring too). Both coffee and alcohol are such “social lubricants” – when they are eliminated (or cut back), it really changes things, at least that’s what I’ve found. You have plenty of time, but by the time you’re middle age (as I am), it’s really recommended to ditch the caffeine because of bone loss.

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  5. markbialczak

    Congratulations on the success you’re feeling with working on yourself this year, Colette. The results are as important as the journey, in this case.
    I particularly like your presidential analogy here. Yes, indeed, our daily national ride is fraught with tension!
    Finally, I’ll pass along a saying our director at the library shared with me this year during a little talk about the rocky situations that can occur in the workplace. I forget this morning the historical reference she told me it originates from, but she says it helps to think: Is this the hill you want to die on?

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I’ve heard that quote, Mark. I always equated it with “picking your battles”. The thing is that sometimes you don’t know until you’re halfway into it that a hill or a battle aren’t worth the trouble. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself “Will this matter in a year?”

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  6. battlewagon13

    Our opinions on things are roughly the same obviously. The careening feelings you get, the pressure to contribute to things you really don’t want to contribute to, all of that is felt this way as well. I think as we get older we tend to not care as much about what people think (which in fact is a good quality) until we skip into senior life where it becomes a negative as we often become hostile at the stupidity of others. I could certainly feel that brewing as I tried to get off a plane tonight. I mean people really are, as a general statement, basically idiots. That doesn’t help anything.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I know. I know. I don’t work in a traditional office environment so at least I get to avoid all the money-grubbing (give to this and that) and pleas for extra services (who can work this weekend?) that goes on there. I couldn’t stand it. I don’t aspire to be a hostile senior crank one day but on the other hand, I take less guff every year. I THINK, Tim, that making sure you have decent interactions with people you enjoy is probably one of the best ways to counteract all the idiocy (not-so-decent interactions) that comes for the ride. It’s my current theory anyway.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks for weighing in and saying so! There’s a certain degree of helplessness…. You can fasten your seatbelt, hope, and do what you can to help get a new driver as soon as possible.

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