July 06, 2015

#365 Quote, Child at Play

July 5, 2015 

Seven minutes until curfew, it seems unlikely I'll make it tonight.

Today's quote and meanderings are in response to Day 3 of the Dare to Excel Challenge from the Tracking Wonder team. So, newsletter readers, meet the dare-ers, and likewise. Today's nudge is below, and I encourage you to flip back through the pages of your memory album, toward the end of your first decade and ponder these questions for yourself.

Take a few minutes to remember a time when you were nine - or around that age - when you felt free to be your best. Feel an exact moment in time and place. Are you outdoors or indoors? How does the air feel? How do you feel in your body? What are you uniquely doing or making? Who are you with and how are you uniquely relating to others?

Looking back with full compassion toward yourself, what 1-3 adjectives would you use to describe your younger self at her or his best? These are your 3 Young Genius Qualities.
How can you bring some of those young genius qualities forward to this project?

Here's how I've been remembering it lately. But since I have this preponderous notion lately that I can't trust my own memories, any fact checking is greatly appreciated. I remember myself as a shy and quiet kid. As blond as the days were long is Southern California. Easy to entertain, able to keep myself busy. Maybe industrious is a good word for it. If I had to boil it down to three adjectives, I would only evaporate it down to four:

  1. messy
  2. engineering
  3. focused
  4. alone
I remember sitting on the blue carpet of my bedroom floor, back leaning up against my bed frame. Daylight outside the shutters, but me happily re-arranging the stickers in my sticker album. You know, the kind with the glossy pages so that your stickers were endlessly repositionable and could be re-grouped in any categorization you preferred. Animals! Feelings! Vacation! Friends! Holidays! I loved those stickers, and I loved the flow state of sitting with the book open in my lap, creating order (and re-order) out of non-existent chaos. Just me, my rules, my plan, my vision (my sticker collecting empire).

I climbed the persimmon tree with my neighborhood best friend Megan. She was a month older than me, but a lot shorter, and we were in the same grade at Catholic School. I always thought she was cooler than me. In fact, I spent most of the time thinking everyone else was much cooler than me. We attempted a tunnel to China in her backyard, always with an eye out for arrowheads - mostly only uncovering golf balls. We swam in her pool and pretended beach towels were stand ins for parachutes when jumping off the diving board. I can now tell you they are not. I was afraid of sharks because I thought they could swim through the pipes from the ocean to the pool. I remember most being stuck inside my own head with this question on repeat: Am I doing this right?

I'd climb one of the trees outside the bathroom door on the slope down to the street. These were not really climbing trees, per se - but I felt like tree-climbing was a quintessential kiddo activity, so I should do it. I brought a book, and I liked being off the ground. 

More than anything, my best moments were alone moments, my unique engagement with others was not engaging with them. I dove into a hand-lettering and font book. I focused through a calligraphy summer school class. (What kid wants to take calligraphy at summer school? This kid.) I had big ideas I wanted to put into existence, weird fountains, landscaping small parcels around the yard, painting my bedroom walls with quotes and flowers and tiny tchotchkes from the local antique stores. After I was gifted a full length mirror that hung on the back of my bedroom door, I would stay up past bedtime wrapping my flannel tartan plaid bathrobe around my body in different high-fashion configurations. I enjoyed memorizing vocabulary. 

And messy. I think that's an adjective true to my most core nature. Not dirty. Not grimy. Just not tidy. I could (and still can) tell you where every single tiny item I own is. It just might be drowning inside a desk drawer among half-sharpened pencils and homework assignments and paper clips and notes passed in class and that darn sticker album. I excelled at starting projects. I also excelled at getting distracted and moving on to another project. More so, it was hard for me to stop. It was hard to put down the marker or stop whatever I was doing to come for dinner or leave for practice. I just always wanted to keep doing. I was not so interested in the stop-doing-in-order-to-clean-up. [Side note, this may explain why I don't subconsciously add buffer time into my schedule for things like putting projects away. It also may explain why I can sometimes be just a smidge chronically late. "Putting things away" meant cramming it all into drawers and closets until the surfaces in my bedroom looked clean. This is how I have always operated. I still do today. (Exhale!)

The main reason I find this all so interesting is because (roughly twenty five years later) I deeply recognize how core these feelings are to me. Now. Still. Core and center in the way that to try to change their essence is like trying to squish a large, floppy stuffed animal into a very, very tiny box. It's just not going to fit, and even if you can fold the flaps down and tape it up, there will be pieces of stuffed animal oozing out of the seams somewhere. I'm learning how to love and embrace the messiness, as long as I dedicate regular weekly time to picking up (and things go in the recycle bin now, not just stuffed in drawers). To letting, to encouraging, myself to swim with the flow and all of the brain-pleasing it brings. As long as I set a timer (and don't have to pick up after myself) when it's time to change clothes and leave the house or farm or office for whatever-comes-next. And as I wrote yesterday, allowing myself to relish this intentional alone-ness of living in the middle of no where, as long as I always remember I am gently and deeply cradled in a vibrant and loving family of care near and far.  

I can finally just embrace the fact that I am messy, without beating myself up for not being able to be a tidy person. To find the good in messy, and thread out the parts of tidy that are most important to me too. To recognize that it's OK that I always need and want and thrive on having a project (or two or eight) to engineer at any given time. That my brain is a soccer team of gerbils and hamsters on a treadmill and they just keep going and going. To learn how to capture and synthesize the good work of the brain, and how to put it to sleep when I really do need a break. And, to realize, to really realize that I can make this life whatever it's supposed to be for me. To recognize that if what I really crave and long for and thrive in is access to a state where I can be focused and open in solitude, that I deserve to create a life that fosters this.

I'm just going to give in to me, and accept the mess and the solitude and the way it feels so good to focus so luxuriously on reading or learning a new skill or translating an idea into a real thing in this world. I accept that these are the things that make me tick. That make me feel like me. That I don't have to be ashamed or defensive about the way I am. Just accept, and share and (in the case that I ever share space with someone else again) always make sure I get a room or a closet that's mine - so I can shove those pencils and written pages and scraps of paper and feathers in there so as to not drive my co-habitant insane. This is who I am. Accepting it, learning from it, working with it - working with me - is how I'll bring my deepest, bestest self forward into this project (aka, life). Oh, and lists, there will be lists.

[P.S. I'm realizing just how much of a problem I have with having fun. I think this fits in to the industriousness of my childhood self. Or, that my type of fun doesn't look like typical fun. Calligraphy anyone?]
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Things I saw on my drive home in the dark: a coyote hunkered down in the unfurling purple clover along the side of the road, a young dear crossing the street nonchalantly in front of my car, same with the black cat and the endless lightning bugs all over the place.

Oh, and the lightning bugs still seem to be performing with the Grateful Dead, instead of of the ballet. Maybe my hypothesis from last night is wrong. We'll see.

And, the dog refuses to come inside for the night. I think she's committed to tending to the chicken in the chicken infirmary in the yard. Plus, the breeze is much cooler outside than in. And I think I hear baby raccoons.
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Things that caught my attention today
  • Last week's Brain Pickings newsletter (solitude and owning your story)
  • To The Best of Our Knowledge this week about Healing Trauma including Irritable Hearts (on my to-read list). I've listened to it three times today, and once before I was fully awake this morning.
  • Memory and Forgetting, Radiolab. This may explain why I don't trust my memories. Well, this and other things.
  • Still, the Marc Maron Terry Gross interview from back in June. (Not the post president interview interview).
  • Today's Archive
No proofreading tonight just giving into my nine-year-old-self.
Huge hugs,
- - - - -
From the archives, so they don't get lonely...
April 30, 2015
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