Monday, November 4, 2019

Monday, Against the Self-Critic. . . Try a Little Tenderness. . .

I'm finding it shockingly easy this Monday morning to be hard on myself. So I'm mustering a little resistance, and you're my witnesses. Let's be kind to ourselves, shall we?

Hard on myself? A plethora of noisy inner voices that acknowledge I do a number of things fairly well, but make it clear that's a failure. Far better to focus on any single competence and aim for some kind of greatness rather than spread mediocrity around. See? Nasty, right?

It's very true that I haven't had/found/made enough time lately to push my manuscripts ahead, and that if I grab an hour or two for writing, I'm more likely to spend it here. It's also true I haven't settled into drawing or painting for even a sustained hour for at least a couple of weeks.

But why this push to a certain kind of accomplishment? Why not trust that gathering happens, that fallow is productive? I spent 60-some years picking up the certificates and the diplomas and the degrees, and if I want to go sideways or in circles or even just sit very still for a while, that's okay. Might be better than okay.

Ditto for blog direction. If random and haphazard is where I find myself, why not trust that eventually, as Kim Stafford claims, "coherence is born of random abundance."

This past week, the Random Abundance has included a ferry ride to visit a friend, a 15-kilometre bike ride to a favourite destination where we walked a few more kilometres to see the salmon spawning--and had the bonus of watching a mink land a fish she'd just caught. We saw a brilliant performance of two contemporary ballet works -- gorgeous! I had a French class and we took our Italian class. We checked out stunning ceramic work in an exhibition in which "21 Artists Explore Gender and Relationships in Clay." Started and have almost finished knitting the second sleeve to my wildly striped sweater. And I stretched my body back into alignment with some great music in the company of several other bodies all guided by a generous and encouraging trainer.  Walked along the waterfront at night, city lights shining back from the dark liquid surface, holding my guy's hand (both of us wearing our leather gloves against the frost). . . .

Distractions against creative achievement? Or if I could learn to live more fully in the moments, would that be the creative achievement?

Oh, you know, the usual Monday wittering and maundering. . . .

Leaving the words for the pictures now, here's what I wore for that ferry ride and lunch with a friend. Black turtleneck (thick cashmere, so delicious against the chill, even if the colour is sombre) and black merino knit pants. . . .
 which I flashed up just a bit with these Katy Biele-embroidered earrings, my metallic shoes, and my orange watch strap. . .
 And a few photos, gratuitously
 Some of the moments. . . .
 Do you gasp at the world's beauty? And then foolishly try to catch it on your iphone?
 Too often, I do. . . .

This sun clock at the lakeside park we visit regularly (Burnaby Lake Regional Park) is surprisingly accurate, and the November shadow is demonstrably long. . . .
 Random, I know. . . .
Abundance, yes. . . .

Coherence? Perhaps not yet. But I'm aiming. . . .

Happy Monday -- your comments or waves encourage me to continue wittering and maundering here -- so think carefully ;-) Is that really what you want to do?

23 comments:

anonymous said...

I, for one, am very happy with your wittering and maundering. I think it can be very satisfying for the one doing it, as well as for those of us who get to share it. Why does everything need to be a major accomplishment? It's the playing around that yields creative insights.

slf

Smithposts... said...

You caught my mood pretty close today...self critical! Why don't I get everything done??!!

I love the twists and turns of your blog, always interesting, never boring. Often when reading your blog I say to myself, "yes, yes she knows those feelings, someone else is out there with similar thoughts. I too am glad you often turn to your blog to write!

Anonymous said...

I haven’t commented before but I would just like to say that I love your blog just the way it is. It is real, I never know what you will come up with but it is always interesting. Sometimes we just need to take life as it comes. I am slowly learning to be kinder to myself. Maryann

Susan B said...

It's so easy to measure ourselves against some arbitrary standard. But a life lived fully and well, being in the moment and reveling...isn't that what ultimately matters? And I'd say you seem to be excelling at it.

Anonymous said...

Coherence is born of random abundance. Had read that quote a few times on the side bar of your blog page. Perhaps the random, myriad assortment of skills you have, gathered together, will flow in the direction of coherence, continuously, if you continue to create, which you seem compelled to do. It certainly seems from my vantage point, that that is what is occuring or you. Isn't it possble that continued, scattered, random effort, will nourish the coherence through the acts of your various strains of creative output?
Was just telling my sweetheart on the phone last night, (while he has stayed back to work on a project in London), of all your exceptional skills: the verve with which you and Paul engage to learn languages well enough to call upon them when travelling, your ability to recognize and name, properly, garden plant and tree, the paino playing to a standard where you had a piano/music academy while managing to bring up 4 decent, kind, thriving people who want to still spend time with you, your job as a professor which you trained for while raising a family --and often doing it yourself while Perter words hours away; how you overcame your sketching and creativity childhood based fears in those types of arts-embraced it, studied them, improved by leaps añd bounds by plugging away at it all diligently. Oh, and there is the wizard-like skill of making sour-dough bread that impressed my sweetheart most; we have read the art of sourdough is a delicate one and he loves it.
Many strings to your bow; even more avenues for you to choose to explore in your creative quest, now that your schedule is more your own: no tyranny of the ferry to your island's schedule to torque yourself around, no lesson plans or marking of papers over holiday breaks. Thus the abundance, that while it may seem frustratingly, to you, as if it is too random, may be the building blocks that are
leading you and your artistic,artful, output to the state of coherence.
Not to mention the writing of your memoir/manuscript, your facilitation of what goes on here, artful efforts for sure. The knitting creations of extraordinary stañdards; your unique eye for photography. These are not mentioned just to maķe you feel better about the abundance of skills you definitely possess; just an idea that all the raw talent, with your persistence and drive, which appear to be your middle names, are quite possibly marching you in the direction of coherence. It is quite possbile it is nearly in sight, right around the next corner.
I, for one, know I am awed by your complex, varied and abundant skills and your drive to have to explore and express, Coherence, here you come.
A.in London

Taste of France said...

I think you have a very interesting, productive and rich life. It makes me happy to read about it.

Annie Green said...

Morning wave from the sofa here in damp, grey but strangely beautiful Yorkshire after a night of tipping rain. I hear you, strength 10. One of the best things about the modern techno world is that I can now walk along talking to myself in public and it looks as though I am on the phone, instead of maundering (great word) like a mad person. Sometimes the inner critic needs vocal admonishment. Sometimes a gentle pat and back to its basket. Tiring old sleeve-tugger, never leaving the mind in peace. I would add that it is sometimes the thing that gets me off the sofa too. Trying to find a way to live in peace with it. That's probably the best we can do. Keep writing, keep expressing yourself, keep wearing great jumpers. I will still be checking in. It's nobbut mithering, as my northern family says.

Eleonore said...

I hear you. Often I envy people who excell in one field and seem to know exactly what they want to do in their life. But does that make them happy? I don't know. And anyway, who decides where "greatness" starts, and by which criteria it is determined? Not to mention the question whether "achievement" is what matters in life. No need to number yours, A. in London has done that in a most impressive way (see above). But I should like to add that making the world a better place may be one criterion by which to measure how time is spent. And you certainly do that, among other things, by creating and maintaining this online community where kindness and mutual encouragement prevail.

materfamilias said...

slf: Thank you! It's so helpful to have kind and thoughtful and convincing voices join me in pushing back against those messages.
Smithposts: Isn't it ridiculous, the power those voices can have? Easier to fight them off when we have a few virtual hands to hold. . . Thank you!
Maryann: What a great first comment! Welcome, and I hope we hear more from you as you're comfortable.
Thanks Sue! Too easy, especially considering those arbitrary standards were absorbed when we were much younger -- we should know better by now ;-)

Maudie said...

Also being prone to the inner critic, I sometimes remember to care for myself as I would a friend. Stops me in my tracks - I would never be so unkind to another. Why oh why did I ever think it was acceptable to talk to myself this way? Waiting for the wisdom!

materfamilias said...

A in London: You're too kind, really, but thank you. I like the room your assessment leaves for trust and/or patience, for letting the "coherence" arrive in its own time. . . .
Taste of France: I do have a good life, thank you! And I'm glad reading about it here makes you happy -- as does your writing, for me.
Annie Green: I love when you quote your northern family, my large paternal family being from (and mostly still) there. . . Yes to the "gentle pat and back in its basket." That's a great image and perfect for the situation.
Eleonore: So kind of you, and I'm amused to say that your comment about "making the world a better place" echoes a conversation I had with an old friend and a passing acquaintance yesterday morning about my declared skepticism about the possibility of one doing that (à la Margaret Mead's oft-quoted statement: "Never doubt that a small group. . . ." My optimisim/idealism and my curmudgeonly despair apparently oscillate, and I'm reassured that you can see my positive side. Thank you!

Sylvie said...

Hi from Nantes ! I discovered your blog very recently and I just enjoy reading it. Lovely clever things to pond ! IThis also helps me improving my English (I confess I have to check words in my 🇫🇷🇬🇧 dictionnary more than once ! You are so talented !! Wish I could do half of what you accomplish in such a clever way...😘 Sylvie

Lisa said...

I feel like I need to fly to Vancouver. Not because you need me there but because for me to adequately communicate my feelings about this, to say nothing of my thoughts;), and to hear more from you, I'd need to be with you in person!

I'll just say, in brief, I have found retirement to be about figuring out what is the point of me. And what in how I'm constituted I can change, and what I cannot. For me the drug is not becoming accomplished, per se, it's Accomplishing. I have no doubt that you will sort this out, talking thoughtfully to inner voices and finding the path that is the point of you.

Anonymous said...

We can do everything but maybe not at the same time :-).It seems to me that you are exception Frances,you do everything and you're excelling in it (my point of view!).
The most important thing is to slow down sometimes,take a look and simply enjoy
Dottoressa

Anonymous said...

Frances, just reading the comments above should put a huge smile on your face. What a community you have created. It is
truly impressive. I now have to use the word maundering every day....
Ali

Pondside said...

So much here, Frances. Perhaps I'll come back to comment again, or perhaps I'll leave it for an in-person discussion. Since retirement I've found myself going in 100 different directions (okay, perhaps 20 or 25). My mother, my children, husband, house, garden - all of them in ways that I'd not anticipated or even looked forward to at all. There has been little time for much beyond walking and knitting. Reading, I have done only on holiday. I think that things will sort themselves out and that I'll figure out what it is I want this retirement to look like, but for now I just go with the flow. Thinking about it too much feels (too much) like beating up on myself.
I hope you are able to be easier on yourself today. When I look at you I see a woman living life fully - so engaged with family and friends and in LIVING that she is an example of retirement as renaissance. Why should you be defined by one good thing when you are so wonderfully engaged in the exploration of the abundance available for you to explore?
Now stepping away from the podium - to be continued, I hope.

Anonymous said...

You sum up a life of many accomplishments. I find retirement is not necessarily for accomplishments (like you, I've been there and done that) but for enjoyment and just being. Seeking out pleasure and enjoyment. For me, if something does not make me happy, I drop it and move on. The options are endless and there is really no deadline. Pressure free. Enjoy the moment. Your blog is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging an exchange of views. Susan

Diane in Chilliwack said...

Your writing inspires me. It is engaging, self-effacing, transparent and vulnerable. I feel I have known you forever, yet there are so many layers to yet unfold. I selfishly appreciate when you choose to write here, instead of somewhere else, so that I can vicariously live in your neighbourhood. I love your choice of photographs to share; I admire your skills with pen and paintbrush; I am in awe of your knowledge of flora and some fauna. Please do not stop maundering and pondering. The vagaries of our minds need to be stoked with others’ thoughts as they twist and turn. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

Mary said...

Meandering maundering sounds pretty good to me. Coherence can be overrated. Kindness works. Especially when applied to oneself.

(See, even I achieved meandering maundering in that paragraph.) :)

materfamilias said...

Bonjour Sylvie! et Merci. . .
Lisa: Yes! Do it! Or I must go south again some day. I imagine such a good, long, meandering conversation about this. . . . Although I'm not sure I'll ever "sort this out": rather suspect it will be an ongoing negotiation with my several selves until we're finally quiet for good ;-)
Dottoressa: Yes, this is the important thing, and we're learning, right?
Ali: I am smiling, thanks! (and I imagine you are too, knowing where you are at the moment)
Pondside: I think that part of what's happening with my voices is part of falling into the rhythm of retirement -- which has been, I see retrospectively, longer to establish than one might imagine before stepping out of the paid-work stream. As you're finding (and I'm sure you anticipated), the first year or two or three fill quickly with those family and personal obligations you were straining to meet before retirement. . . I'm finding room, increasingly, for all those activities I've long wanted to pursue, but now they're all knocking on my door at once! ;-) . . . I do hope we get to have the in-person conversation before too long. . . .
Susan: Thanks for the kind words -- I'm so pleased to know you enjoy the blog. Sounds as if you've got retirement well in hand. . . It's such a privilege, isn't it?!


materfamilias said...

Diane in Chilliwack: Hello neighbour, and thank you for the heart-warming (validating, really) words. These made my day!
Mary: and we can have alliteration, Meandering, maundering Mary ;-)

Paula said...

I have only left a comment once, a long time ago asking for your chocolate chip cookie recipe. Please don't change a thing. Know that there are probably a lot of people who read and enjoy, but may not leave a message. Always waving back.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

As sometimes happens, you write something which really strikes a chord. Three years ago I did a hugely respected writing course as a present to myself. It was residential and inspiring and extremely challenging. I was exhilarated to be treated by well known writers as someone with a talent to be taken seriously. I was discomforted to have it made very plain that I should be working towards publication. It took me a while to come to the understanding that this wasn't what I wanted and I still have occasional attacks of feeling that I have failed or wimped out. But at some level what I want from this stage of my life is time, family and variety, after years of spending my time on work and children. So I learn Welsh and Spanish and speak some of both but am gloriously fluent in neither. I do my yoga and I run, but I'm quite stiff in one and slow in the other. I read a lot, but not Dostoevsky which depresses me. I cook and eat and spend time with my grandchildren. I look back at my mothers life and sometimes feel that she was invisible: a career when most women of her generation stayed home, but no Nobel prizes, talents for many things but a major talent for making people feel happy. It is, as someone else says here I think, perhaps the life which is the work and the legacy is probably our children and grandchildren taking that capacity for life and love forward. Maybe it doesn't leave much trace, or maybe it's the only trace that matters.

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