Friday, January 30, 2015

Dot to Dot

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. 
John Dewey

A few weekends ago I spent my time with a pen, a Dot to Dot book, and two pairs of reading glasses so I could see the dots.

You may recall these books from your childhood. Dot to Dot provided a good way to learn our numbers. A good way to stay focused and find a means to an end, to follow the progression and discover in its completion a recognizable picture.

A colossal waste of time for an adult, some might think. Especially since in order to complete this venture, 1000 dots need connection.

But since I quit substitute teaching last October, I've spent my time slowly deciding how to spend my time. Even though I didn't work everyday, it was enough to discombobulate life. Not knowing exactly which days I might work didn't allow me to create any patterns. To develop a rhythm.

Instead I hoped for Mondays off as that day often proved my most productive. One where laundry, grocery shopping, something else on my list and some form of writing (often only a half page in a journal) came together. Often some form of exercise. The promise of a new week, perhaps. Hopeful for maintaining that level of energy throughout the week.

That never worked. By Tuesday, I was either ruing my decision to accept a job and forcing myself into bed at a decent hour so I could fight the alarm clock in the morning or preparing for that in the next two days and angry that my lists would just grow. Always uncertain how to spend my time that was so short. Mad that when I came home from school, I had no desire to tackle anything. My energy exhausted. My nights spent sitting in my chair. No desire to pursue my lists or anything else.

Where before my purpose for working out of the home had been to contribute to my children's education,  I only went now for the very few bucks it added to our coffers and out of dedication to those devoted teachers I met along the route. Dedication to the middle school PE classes (which meant I didn't have to feel guilty not going to the Y after six periods of Kickball.) Dedication to the special education students who knew me. That when I came there wasn't a disruption in their days as I was someone they didn't have to mess with or fear.

But I found no joy in Substitute Teacherland.

It was past time for that decision and I didn't regret it for a moment. With the holidays before me, it was easy to manage my days. To clean my house. To prepare for family meals and events. To arise in the morning when my body said it was time. To do exactly what I wanted, along with what had to be done, on my own schedule.

I wanted to attain a point where I had no commitments (other than to my husband) so I could determine how I wanted to commit myself. I hoped I might begin to get a picture in my mind of what was important to me. How I wanted to spend my time in the next few years. My goals.

Yes, it was all about me. Finally.

After putting myself through college, my husband through college, moving around the country for my husband and our family's livelihood and beginning a new career each time, raising three kids, volunteering thousands of hours, and then returning to the workforce by scoring essays and then substitute teaching, it was finally all about me.

I liked it.

With that freedom in hand, I was inspired by my weekend of completing Dot to Dots. I decided to take a dot to dot approach as to what came next as I'm easily overwhelmed. Like by that UNFINISHED NOVEL that has followed me for years. Or the two-tiered filing cabinet of FINISHED/UNFINISHED essays in need of a good culling.

Or all the scrapbooks and photo albums I want to construct. The cupboards and drawers in need of decluttering. The compost bins I want to refresh from 16 years of stagnation. The garden that needs more than a "That Will Have to Do" effort.

My Dot-to-Dot weekend didn't only proffer a few completions.

Twisted Alfred Hitchcock

Bob Marley - His music makes me happy

Would be difficult to figure out Salvador Dali's work via dot to dot.
It also tendered a plan for my goals. As each personality became distinct on the page, I understood only by connecting the dots did I get to that recognizable stage. That for my life, I required the same connection.

I began.

Dot 1.  In the pages of my journal. A commitment to three pages every day. Something that I did for years, but fell by the wayside either because life was going too well or not going very well at all. After I check the New York Times on my phone to make certain the world still exists, I pick up my pen and spew three pages of my thoughts. I also paste cool pictures and articles I've come across or quotations I've jotted down on slips of paper and left around the house.

Dot 2.  I write a one page story or essay in a notebook. Sort of like a timed writing, but I limit it to one page, unless the story runs over.

Dot 3.  I read a short story or essay.

Dot 4. Some form of exercise. Either a walk, a visit to the Y,  or a series of lunges, squats, weight lifts, crunches, etc.

With those four dots embedded in each and every day, I progressed to Dots 5, 6, 7 and 8.  I went to a matinee. I bought tickets to Stevie Wonder - on the floor! I sent off the first few pages of my novel to a contest I coordinated long ago--just to make certain I still knew how to present a manuscript. I planted some peas, radishes and spinach. Just a few rows of planting as I'm not in any hurry to inundate myself with those tasks. Just enough to get some dirt under my fingernails.

That is as far as my Dot to Dot life has expanded and so far I return to those basic four each day before I find my place and go from there. I long ago learned that if you do something for 21 days in a row, it will become habit. I strive for that habitat.

What dot comes next I'm not quite certain, although committing to two worthwhile blog posts a month is definitely a possibility. But I've been around long enough to know that sometimes you lose your way and connect the wrong dot. That life can change in a moment's notice and we have to backtrack. That's just life.

In the meantime, I'm having no trouble entertaining myself.

Dot to Dot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

To Be Read - The Double Dog Dare

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. 
Douglas Adams

When the beautiful disorder of Christmas retreats into boxes tucked in the closet, I view my home with new eyes. Floors are swept and vacuumed, the mantle and tables dusted and free of the past year's collected clutter.  I relish the minimalism. The possibility for something new to fill the empty spaces.

Empty spaces which upon further perusal reveal an inordinate amount of books -- all over the space.

I ponder my piles.

This basket.

This stack.
That shelf.
Plus the ones behind the above.
Crap, I forgot the ones on my Kindle.
The ones I'm currently reading.
On the end table, a book of Mary Oliver poems, a Dorothy Parker reader and my Book Club book due this Thursday (forgot about that deadline.) Also to add to the stacks, an upcoming book from a bad bet I made on the Cowboy/Lions game. (You had two and a half minutes at the end of the game to score, Lions. Just saying.)

Blogger James Reads Books  offers up a yearly challenge/dare in regard to unread books. He calls it the TBR Double Dog Dare. For the first three months of the new year, only books on your To Be Read shelf can land in your hands.

I'm in. Thinking I'm a good candidate. Double Dog Dare be damned.

I will avoid all trips to the library, favorite bookstores and late night perusals of what's up at Goodreads and Amazon. No distractions.


And I'm never distracted.

What's on your reading shelf?


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