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.



26 comments:

  1. Love the dot to dot comparison. (I also love that dot to dot book! Where did you find that?) Such a universal theme for women ... at loose ends with little rhythm when finally it's all about you! These dot to dots you've started will fill the well. Keep dotting!

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    1. I found it in a catalog called Bas Bleu. Interesting stuff for writers and readers. Dotting on.

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  2. Midlife Roadtripper.....I love how you write...it is truly inspiring. Best of luck in your dot to dot adventures. Cheers, Nessie

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    1. Aw, I'm flattered, Nessie. Continuing to dot.

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  3. It's grand to start again, with purpose. Nothing dotty here.

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  4. I love your dot to dot way of approaching what you'd like to do. Nicely done.

    I had no idea there were more sophisticated dot to dot books out there. I could easily see Hitchcock and Marley before you labeled them but thought that Dali was Vincent Price.

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    1. I didn't know it was out there either. Found it in one of the 500 catalogs I receive before the holidays. Bas Bleu. Can be found online. Indeed Vincent Price. Took me a while with that one myself.

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  5. Whiledot to dot would bore me, I do like the analogy and it sounds as if you are onyour way.

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    1. I would have thought it might bore me, too. But seems to almost become an obsession. Perhaps the spark I needed. And, yes, hopefully on to way -- to somewhere good.

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  6. I find I like to still get up early, it allows me quiet time by myself to get personal thoughts in order. Watching the sun rire has a nice feel for me. I didn't care to sub, it just started my day with what I didn't like, a phone calI. I have never seen those books, and will look for one. I miss book stores one could roam in, drink sweet coffee and enjoy the evening away.

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    1. Yes, subbing was indeed not fun. By the end of my time, I had just a few teachers I worked for and they set me up beforehand. Never was good at those morning phone calls.

      Yes, book stores. So easy to get lost and enjoy.

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  7. I think life is full of seasons and it sounds like you are ready to enjoy this one. I'm glad, you put in good service, but now you can do the "me time."

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  8. A thought provoking post. I can see that a complex dot-to-dot book which produces an interesting image when completed would be a mind stimulating and satisfying activity and I like the comparison with taking small and regular steps to achieve some goals. All the best with yours during the coming months.

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  9. I sincerely wish you well in your dotty world. It's hard to let go of things in our lives that we've done forever, and to find another more satisfying way. There are many teachers in my community of friends who finally came to the same decision as you: time to let go of substitute teaching. It sounds to me like you've got a plan that will take you to the next level. I do hope you do those two blog posts a month, because I'll get to enjoy them! :-)

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  10. I didn't know there were Dot to Dot books for adults either! Loved your "connection" to everyday life planning and routeen by connecting the dots. Brilliant! Even if one has to backtrack this way you not running in circles!

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    1. Nope, not good at circles. Makes me dizzy. Connecting to myself. Working for me right now. Thanks for your comments.

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  11. I'm so glad you have your daily dots and a few extras to play with. Subbing does, indeed, sound like Zero Fun--reminds me of when I used to do temp work. You're never in charge of your own schedule, for sure.

    Reading, writing, and exercising? Heavenly days.

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    1. Yes, reading, writing and exercise. Tough life, but someone has to do it. Taking an adjustment to no schedule though. Working for me though.

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  12. This is just totally inspiring! I love the way your mind works. Interestingly, you are still teaching, right here at your blog. :)

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    1. I find your comment most interesting. Thank you for the compliment.

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  13. I'm following you from dot to dot...it's a trip! You have a fun, inventive mind full of twists and turns yet always coming up with something solid and reasonable...godspeed on your dot-to-dot journey...

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  14. Thank you. I appreciate the comment as I pretty much shoot from the hip and never quite know how it will all turn out. Hoping to connect it all at some point in my life.

    Peaceful thoughts coming to you, Becky. I'm very sorry for your loss.

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  15. Most interesting. I wish you well. I like organization and logic applied to major life changes. There are no guarantees but you seem pointed in the right direction and goals...:)

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Let me know what you think. Every word you write, I appreciate.

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