iLife 2

I went to practice last night at my coach's new club.  Everyone was so welcoming, it felt, indeed, like coming home, even though I had never been there before.  It's been a hard winter, so much to live through.  My eyes are still healing, but I can see well enough to drive.  My sinuses seem to be cleared up and I've gotten over the worst of the Levaquin.  My whole body feels like it has been decluttered, just like our home.  And then my new iPad showed up yesterday, so now I can take pictures of my family and friends.

It feels like I should have so much to write about, so many things coming together all at once, but I'm struggling here.  Partly it is the after-effects of last night's insomnia: my coach's new club is a fair old distance away, which is going to require me to take a whole new attitude towards (gasp!) driving on the freeway, so when I got there, I wanted to fence as long as I could.  I didn't get home until nearly 11pm last night, all fired up from having been able to see my friends and really fence for the first time in months (not counting competitions).  And then there was my new iPad to play with.  My husband bought me a beautiful interactive "book" about gems (oh, what was he thinking?  Doesn't he remember what happened when he bought me that book on shoes?!).  And, of course, I had to figure out how to transfer my old iPad ("iPad Original") to my son.  I slept maybe two hours last night.

And yet, something magical happened in the middle of the night as I lay there on the couch, playing with my Photo Albums on my iPad.  I started looking at photos of myself taken over the past five or six years and I realized something amazing: I have never in all of that time been fat.  Not when I weighed 30 pounds (at least) less than I do now, not now.  Not in the photos that we took three years ago on our trip to England and Belgium, not in the photos that my friend Marie took of me at tournament after tournament over those years.  And, therefore, not now because I am (gasp!) wearing the exact same clothes.  It was like seeing a whole different person from the one that I had thought I had been.  Why?  Why was I now able to see what my family and friends have been able (or so they tell me) to see all along?  Not a fat, unattractive, friendless frump, but a beautiful woman surrounded by love?  Perhaps it was just elation at having gotten to practice last night, but even that is a watershed: something has changed.  Somehow, I can see things now that I had never been able to see before.

I wish that I could explain how I got here.  Have I had a conversion?  It would seem so, but if so, it has not involved any particular event.  Perhaps the whole past year should be counted as a event, but even then, the transformation has been hard to pin down.  As often as not, just when I think that, for example, my husband and I have worked through something particularly difficult in our therapy such that it should be (ha!) fairly smooth going from now on, our next session will find me in tears yet again, raging at something that I can't help but admit is true but which I don't want to change, not yet, not just because our therapist has suggested I should.   And yet, something has changed, most definitely.  A large part of it, I am certain, has to do with the writing (or translating) schedule I have given myself.  Lo and behold!  Almost everything that Dr. Silvia promised about how keeping such a schedule would work has; above all, I seem to be much less anxious about all of my work now that I am making regular progress on my translation.  I even had several very promising discussions with potential editors when I was at our academy conference last month.  And, it seems, it has given me courage to take another look at all of the other work that I have accomplished over the last ten or so years (i.e. since getting tenure) and to realize how amazing it is.*

Decluttering our apartment has definitely helped, too.  Again, it is a matter of balance: not holding onto things that you don't like, want or need just because you feel some obligation to take care of them; not holding onto habits and practices that don't give you any pleasure; not taking on responsibilities at work just because you feel obliged or, heaven forbid, grateful to your institution for employing you at all.  Who knew that one could achieve so much clarity just by going through the old linens?  Our hallway is no longer a storage bin; the vacuum cleaner is put away in a closet at the end of the apartment, not sitting there out in the open every time you walk past; the boxes of Lego bricks are stored neatly in shelves, not piled up in the entryway.  Even better, if I see something in our home that I don't particularly like, I feel no obligation whatsoever to argue myself into keeping it.  Just because I bought it does not mean that I have to keep it for the rest of my life, even if--as is so often the case with things we don't really like but haven't gotten rid of--I've only used it once or twice.  As I told my friends on Facebook,"The secret to a happy home: don't think of it as decluttering, think of it as tithing."  So what if you have barely used/worn/played with it?  You have plenty of stuff that you use all of the time.  There is no need to keep the stuff that you don't.  Just count it as a gift that you bought for a stranger and pass it on!

I feel like there has got to be some symbolism in the fact that I can see (understand, recognize) these things now that I can (physically) see more clearly than I ever have in my life, at least since I was a child.  Would I have reached this point without emptying out my very ability to see and having to put back into place all of the things that mattered to me one at a time?  This is the advice that miss minimalist gives on how to declutter a closet or a room: start by taking everything out.  Okay, so in the past four or so months, I stopped doing my yoga because my wrist was hurting so much; I couldn't go to fencing practice because our coach left our old club and I couldn't get to the new one without being able to drive; I kept walking my dog because, well, dogs are pretty clear about when they need walks, but otherwise, I kept almost nothing of my old practice schedule.  Which, truth to tell, was probably a good thing: it had gotten out of hand; I was living in order to keep to my schedule, not using the schedule to help me live.  It was like being owned by one's things: nothing could be thrown out, nothing could be skipped.  My husband complained that I was being inflexible, and I was, but not for the right reasons.  I just didn't want to give anything up because I was convinced that I had to keep everything that I had "bought."

Except that I didn't, as the past several months have shown.  What I needed to do was to look at what really mattered, what I wanted most in my life.  Which included writing, but not writing as a punishment or something that I "ought" to be doing for eight hours a day.  Which included yoga, but not three classes a week.  Which included fencing, but not out of fear that if I missed even one practice, I would never be able to fence again.  It was all or nothing in my head: "Either I'm writing all the time [a psychological and physical impossibility] or I'm not a writer at all; either I'm able to do all of the advanced poses that I used to be able to do in my twenties or I'm not a yogi; either I practice four days a week or I have no business thinking of myself as a fencer."  Lies, all lies, nearly as deadly as all of those other lies the demons have taught me.  In fact, I don't need to write/do yoga/fence every day any more than I need to hold onto that shirt or book or piece of furniture I don't want.  I had been confusing discipline and dedication with, let's face it, hoarding.  I was like Gollum with his Precious, terrified, incapable of letting go.  Until my body forced me to by getting so repeatedly sick.  Plus I couldn't see and was tired all the time from needing to heal.

And guess what?  It was okay.  Indeed, more than okay, just as it was okay to throw out those old knickknacks and the blankets we never use.  I have started doing a minimalist yoga practice in the mornings, just 25 minutes plus corpse pose; I have promised myself to make at least one practice a week at what I guess I can now call my new club (do I really belong?); and I am keeping to my writing schedule of a mere six hours a week, during which time I have accomplished more on a research project during the academic term than I ever have, without feeling like I am falling behind in anything, including my preparation for class.  And what do I do if I start feeling anxious again?  Look for something else that I can throw out.  I need to declutter my clothes next.  Who knows what I'll be able to see then?  Something good, I suspect.  Something amazing.  Perhaps even the face of God.

*See above, on how I've been convinced I was fat.


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