Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ye of Little Faith


Wow...Sounds great. Sort of unbelievable to think that you actually made it. Like all the obstacles and such that kept coming up ...let alone the human part of being a human being and all those issues.
Well...congrats. I really hope you have a great time. You sound like an 8 year old totally ready to "play house" with a vengeance .....GO!!!

Danny, you have not known me long enough.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time. On my occasional visits back to San Francisco, while living in Mexico, I'd run into acquaintances and tell them what I was up to. They'd say, "Wow, you SAID you were moving to Mexico, and then you actually DID it." Like this was something extraordinary.

How unfortunate, not to mention an evil omen for society in general, that so often it IS extraordinary when a person does exactly what they say they're going to do. So often, talk is just blather. People throw propositions into the currents around them, simply to test the response. It's why I've declared an indefinite moratorium on collaborative projects--repeatedly I'd get involved in something, meet with other 'collaborators,' go home and assiduously do exactly what I'd said I would, then turn up at the next meeting to find that everybody else had just been talking. And were perfectly prepared to talk some more, as long as this was all that was expected of them.

But enough of carping. It is nearly impossible to carp when you wake up here:

and the view out the window looks like this:

My darling sister knows me extremely well; she saved all the fun jobs for me. After I got the kitchen clean I was in a dilemma as to which room to attack first--the garden room, which I am converting to a painting studio, the Zen bedroom above (which I am keeping in its Zen state for now, although it requires an almost inhuman restraint on my part. I like simplicity in theory, and I am a big fan of desert camping for its mind-cleansing effects, but in practice my taste tends more toward the baroque) or the Library Loft.

After about half a day of chaotic multi-tasking, the Library Loft won out, because it was the biggest mess and had the most latent potential. It's about half done, now--I got most of the useless junk semi-sorted and stashed somewhere else, the bookshelves arranged, the desk set up with Internet connection, and a theme and some artwork decided upon. Then I took a break to blog. Sitting at a cute little desk in a cute little loft with this view at my right elbow, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to start writing a Stephen King novel, or something.

About this issue of Obstacles, though. Danny, you have got it all wrong. According to the World View of Serena, obstacles are not obstacles as such; they are clues.

You see, I see life as a combination mystery novel and five-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. It is not something I have control over, but something I can possibly influence, by the choices I make in response to it. Additionally, I choose to believe that there is some inner guiding harmony that links it all together. I could very well be wrong about this, but believing that it's all just some random chaos that is out to crush me produces immobility and despair, and thus is not productive.

So, my process in getting myself a month's working vacation in Maine went something like this:

Clue: Feeling of overwhelming Big City burnout.

Clue: Massage practice falling off in summer, due to client base feeling same Big City burnout.

Clue: Sister moving into rambling farmhouse in Maine, requiring help decorating such, and also some company.

Hypothesis: Perhaps spending the month of August in Maine is the way to go.

Clue: Car requires several repairs before long road trip.

Clue: Laptop hard drive crashes; flaky repair service in Queens does not repair it before August 1.

Clue: Potential subletters for August 1 are all shameless flakes; one of them unilaterally re-scheduled an appointment, without consulting me, because he had a job interview in Brooklyn the next day, and didn't want to come all the way out here twice. (And he wants to LIVE here?) Another hemmed and havered for two weeks, and finally called me July 30 and said "Is the apartment still available?" Another said she loved it and would probably take it and disappeared.

Clue: Best friend calls from Wisconsin and says she'll be in New York from August 1-9.

Clue: Sister going to Austin on business from August 1-7.

Hypothesis #2: Perhaps I should postpone my trip until after the first week of August.

Clue: Responsible-seeming person asks to sublet my apartment from August 17-September 18. She is a biochemical engineering Ph.D. student from Cleveland; her boss, a surgeon, informed her that these were the dates she was to look for a job in New York. We talk on the phone for 45 minutes, and she's a go.

Conclusion: Trip to Maine conclusively scheduled for August 17-September 18.

Results: Got to spend lovely week with best friend; got car and computer comfortably overhauled; had plenty of time to clean and organize apartment; have apartment expenses covered for month; get to spend time in Maine in absence of summer tourists.

In addition: Ph.D. student gets housing to suit her needs; friend of sister's, visiting first week in September, in desperate need of bodywork; other, perhaps unknowable, benefits may arise from this concatenation of circumstances. Who can tell? It's a mystery.

Do you see, Danny, how perceiving something as an 'obstacle' is an unnecessary value judgment which merely increases one's stress? Whereas if you take the attitude that any seemingly unwelcome information may be a vital clue as to the direction of the upcoming path, everything works out?

Beliefs, I maintain, are merely tools. You can choose to believe something, act as if it were true, and observe the results. If the results are uniformly chaotic, chances are high that your chosen belief is a crappy tool. If the results are increasingly harmonious, the more you let go your judgments and follow the clues--well, that works for me. Of course, working hypotheses are subject to modification any time they cease to be effective. This is just good science.

Additionally, I'd like to speak to this business of guidance. One of the reasons that it so annoys me when people talk about 'what they're going to do' merely to observe its effect on others, is that this, to me, is a back-asswards way of making decisions. You cannot trust a person who is not operating from his or her core. A person who depends upon the approval of others in order to determine a direction is both unreliable and unhappy. I regard my own inner certainties and inner aversions as the biggest, most non-negotiable clues of all; any external input may affect the peripheral choices I make, but they won't affect the overall direction.

Thus, when I know that I am miserable in the city and I need a friggin' vacation, I will find a way to take that vacation. It might have involved, worst-case, availing myself of the unconscionable amount of credit that foolish industries persist in throwing at me; it might have involved curtailing my trip; it might have involved a precipitously permanent departure from the city, if nothing else transpired. But there was never any real danger that I wouldn't do it.


danonymous said...

Good morning Serena, lovely to hear you in the midst of a fit of life. (This being said sincerely and with not a hint of sarcasm, really). Yes. I agree with you.
And..... (rather than but). I never think of obstacles as a bad thing. Perhaps what I call obstacles is the same as something you call...well...something else. These are not, to me, things that are meant to stop one but rather part of the terrain to be navigated, and upon navigation, lead to ...well new terrain (i.e. obstacles). I am well known in a limited circle to throw everything into a tizzy when things remain calm ( or inertia-ridden) for too long. While I always dreamily thing about a state of stopping and standing still, I rarely...very rarely...find myself in that state.
I have been going out to COney Island almost nightly. Odccasionally I sit in a lifeguard chair and just watch the water and watch the stars. Most often, I am enticed to take a dip. The water has been almost still late at night. One could float and stare up and not be jiggled or disturbed by water movement or tides. I actually have been using Coney Island as a place to allow myself to STOP. wow. So unusual for me. ANd it is not something that comes easily. It has enabled me to find and develop little bits of Patience.
Also very unusual for me.
Serena, I never doubted you. In anything. I am always just watching to see how you turn in the world and what outcomes you lead yourself into. I do that with me as well.
In a sense, I think we are all travelers and as such, is there any gaurantee or predictable outcome?
I AM very happy to see you ensconced in Maine. YOU really made that happen. Like the "talk, talk" you mention that people do, most people would have talked talked a trip like yours as well and never have it materialize.
collaborations.....well...I love collaborations but it is VERY rare to partner up with someone where the process works for both parties.
But the few collaborations that I have been able to pull off have been magnificent sources for learning, experimentation and discovery. I feel very lucky. And then there is a huge void of collaboration because good ones seem to be as rare as the oasis in the desert. Few and far between.
When I collaborate, I usually rev up my solitary work a few notches just to stay balanced and bring who I am to the "pow-wow" so to speak.
Wonderful house you are in.
Nice to read your moments.
PS...Sunday nite, August 27, the planet MARS will be at its closest to Earth in thousands and thousands of years, and will not be this close again for Millenia. That means that no one living has ever seen this, and no one living will ever see this again. Nice.
The comment I read said, that with a 78 power telescope, we will be able to see Mars as the same size as the moon. Sounds like planetary handicapping but...what the heck. Hope you can see it.
Maine? Are you able to catch any of the lights of the Aurora Borealis?

serena said...

Hey Danny!

I hate to disappoint you, but the Mars fly-by is an urban legend. We are evidently in Aurora territory, but according to my brother-in-law, we're not in an interesting sunspot phase. He says we probably won't get any good displays until the year after next.

I can't believe I've already been here a week. Ack! Next year I will stay two months, or three. The frogs alone are worth a week of in-depth study.

jackadandy said...

Serena, we are very alike in some ways, it seems.

One Way: I am invariably shocked by people who don't do what they say they are going to do. Despite decades of exposure to this kind of behavior, I still don't get it. If I'm talking about doing it, either I will actually do it, or the consideration of doing it will be the journey in itself, with its own important (and measurable) results.

Two Way: I am also a major clue-follower, although I suspect I'm a bit more crabby and obstinate when I first encounter an obstacle than you may be. I usually have a 24-hour get-with-the-new-program period. Then I'm fine.

Serenade those frogs, they're waiting for you!


danonymous said...

Serena, my dear, no Mars fly-by? And it was such a major "news" issue on Aol. Oh well.....oh AO-well!!!! Sigh. Fortunately, two items save the day.
Item one: Sunday nite....it will rain in NYC (AOL weather prediction) so one will not actually be able to see this phenomena/non-phenomena.
Item two: You probably remember that I am not overly fond of the truth....biased ball and chain that it is.... and so can ferret out what I need with great satisfaction.
Extra unaccounted item: I have gotten so much mileage already from thinking about this Mars episode that the truth of it by now is irrelevant in my life anyway.
Life is great, Huh?
There may be a prince among them and you may decide to move to maine. I will miss you if you do.

serena said...

There may be a prince among them and you may decide to move to maine.

Not bloody likely. At least 98% of the boys here have a beard or dredlocks or both. They live in cabins with privies out back, or yurts, or houseboats. I am too much of a princess to put up with this.

danonymous said...

Then I guess you will find it hard to fall asleep there ...and if you look, you will see it is because they put the pee under the bottom mattress...yechhh.
Stick with the frogs.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'm one of those people who says they're going to do things and then doesn't do them. It makes me feel really awful, too. Sometimes I'll say I'm going to do something and then actually do it just because I couldn't stand explaining to people that I didn't. Other times I'll be thinking of doing something and I won't tell anyone for fear I won't do it and then I'll have to explain why.

The trouble is, when I say the things I do, I'm totally sincere at that moment. But my state at any given time is mostly independent of anything else going on in my life -- I live most moments as if nothing led up to them and nothing will lead out of them. I basically don't have the brain power to spare on thinking of things as causal chains all the time. So when I'm talking to you, that's all I'm doing. Nothing else.

With that disconnect, it's easy to say things I don't mean or plan to follow up on. At the time I'm totally open, honest, and sincere. But when I step back into the flow of my life, some things get washed away.

The fact is, I spend a good part of my time heartsick over things I said or did or didn't say or didn't do years and years past the expiration date of the actual event. Stephen King once wrote that writers remember the scars. That's me: I remember the scars and how I got each one, and most of them were self-inflicted. There are days when I'm simply crushed under the weight of all my failures.

So the next time someone doesn't do something they said they would, maybe consider going a bit easier on them. Because they may have hurt themselves more than they did you.