A Thing Worth Doing

I must have heard the saying young. “A thing worth doing is worth doing well.” Being an average first born, full of rigid idealistic perfectionism, I thought this was an excellent saying, and strove mightily.

The trouble is, I got older, and met people who were better than me at everything. Well, no one person was better than me at everything I do. But there are better cooks. Better self-hair-do-ers. Better writers. Better violinists. Oh god. The violinists that are out there.

I was a violinist in training. I had huge aspirations. Confronted with so many violinists who were so much better than me, I quailed. I was doing a worthy thing, and I wasn’t doing it very well at all. I was solid, very solid, at a regional level. But I was at camps with internationally awesome rock star violin gods, and I lost my nerve.

A few years later, I quit. I  couldn’t play well enough to meet my own (semi-arbitrary) expectations. No matter that I had personal evidence that practice improves the situation. I didn’t have the guts to face the personal failure, so I quit.

But then I got older, had some kids, faced down the shocking levels of daily failure that motherhood brings. A lot of things worth doing weren’t getting done at all. So I started doing the worthy things halfway, half-assed, halfhearted. Sometimes, weeping.

But the worthy things are getting done. And that is better. So I say to you, a thing worth doing is worth doing badly. It’s worth doing with a tear and a sigh.

It’s worth failing.

A thing worth doing is a thing worth doing.

So yesterday, I opened my case, and apologized to my violin, and tried again. Godspeed in your journey, dear reader. Do the worthy thing.

 

A Few of My *~Absolute Favorite~* Things

It being the Monday after Daylight Savings Time starts, I think it’s fair to say that work  weighs even heavier than normal on company employees today.

That being said, the following lyrics are not really about my job.  But they might well apply to your job.

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well as any children or readers with a more sensitive conscience than mine.  This post contains somewhat strong language, along with a sarcastic refrain, and you may wish to cease reading here.

For anyone else, join me in song:

Meaningless meetings that swallow up mornings
Random-ass deadlines that come without warning
Waiting for Red Bull to give me its wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Idiot systems for logging my hours
Longing for co-worker-Force-choking powers
Clawing my face off each time the phone rings,
Just a few more of my favorite things

Lead gave no feedback regarding my graphics
Please just accept that I’m not telepathic
Dreading each comment the editor brings
These are a few of my favorite things

When I’m crying in the bathroom,
When it’s all quite shit,
I think about nothing but our health insurance
So that I don’t up and quit

Clients: I can’t care enough to go woo them
Tasks went undone since no one said to do them
Tripped up by all these invisible strings
Just a few more of my favorite things

Failure of process: it’s sadly systemic
Nit-picking needlessly: also endemic
Waiting for 5 when the quitting bell rings,
These are a few of my favorite things

Training is but a disorderly jumble
One day I’ll choke as I swallow my grumble
Praying for patience before my fist swings,
These are a few of my favorite things…

Paycheck is smaller than what we agreed on
Tired of having my dignity peed on
Straining to bear Fortune’s arrows and slings
These are a few of my favorite things

When I’m crying in frustration,
When it’s all quite shit,
I simply remember my comp’ny insurance
So that I don’t up and quit!

A Glorious Cooking of Onions

A variety of things (onions, and a new poetry writing group,) have set in course a poem.

The challenge issued was to write sestina, which is a 39 line poem that varies six words as line endings in a specific pattern. It seemed like a highly difficult task to me, so I chose the coward’s way out. I chose to be facetious and focus on one simple, ordinary and pleasant experience: sauteing onions on a rainy day with the doors open.

I am not sure why the mingling smells remained with me so strongly, but I wanted to try to capture them, in words if not a bottle. Which, again, set the thing into a position of higher challenge than I intended. Smells are so hard to describe! Can you even recall a smell after it is gone? Is there such a thing as smell-memory?

Somehow, the thing did not end up being as silly and tongue in cheek as I had planned. I do like it, in general. But it needs to be distilled – a sestina is not quite the right form. What other form should I try?

Continue reading

Lateral Thinking

I enjoy thinking about thinking. It’s not epistemology; I’m not thinking about knowing. It’s not a branch of neuroscience; I’m not thinking about biological processes. It’s not philosophy; I’m not thinking about thought.

I’m thinking about thinking. I think about how one thought leads to another and by old habit, long usage, or logic, one thought follows another to arrive at another thought, and so on. It affords opportunity to find holes in the fabric of consciousness, to locate the germ of humor, to question assumption, make new discoveries or fall asleep. All of which are admirable goals.

When I’m under the weather, this happens naturally and subconsciously, revealing well worn misunderstandings that have hovered for years just below the surface.

“A home is just a house without a cat.”

This sentiment baffled my mother and it fuddled me that it baffled her. I’m a cat person. She’s not. I read the meaning as it was intended by the fellow cat person who made me the cross stitch. “A house isn’t much of a house without a cat in it”. 12 years later, I realized my mother read it as “A home is not a home if it has one of those forsaken demons in it.”

Admittedly, this is a sentiment that would benefit from some reconfiguring. However, it’s delightful to note how to thinking people got two different meanings from the same set of words.

“Call me whatever you like, just don’t call me late for dinner.”

To which I always thought I was being quite clever by answering “oh hey, late-for-dinner.”

Yesterday, I was dopey, one quarter sick, and being nice. Quite a lot of exertion. I read this on a friend’s facebook post, and because my usual thought processes were inhibited, suddenly understood.

“Call me whatever you like, just don’t be late in calling me for dinner.”

Or, more succinctly

“Call me whatever you like, just don’t call me late for dinner.”

 

 

A Gymnosperm by Another Name

Here is a poem by C.S. Lewis.  It’s one of my favorites, kept in a folder to be deployed when necessary.  I’ve posted half of it before, back in 2011, but recent days have demanded that I bring it out again, so I thought I’d share it around.

Gymnosperm comes from the Greek for “naked seeds,” so there you have it.  Whether Lewis had conifers in mind or not, I can only wonder.

The Naked Seed

My heart is empty. All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up. In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
— No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
— Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

 

Here’s the thing.  My heart doesn’t feel empty.  It’s full of thoughts, of considerations, of half-filled timetables, of a plethora of worries: my job, my car, the friends I don’t write to, the friends I do write to, my parents’ health, my brother’s wedding, etc., etc., etc.

But it isn’t full of what ought to fill it, this heart of mine.  The longing and the love which should fill it and flow from it: they are a mere trickle.  To borrow another of Lewis’s metaphors, the gas tank is empty, or else full of the wrong thing.  I can feel the transmission seizing up, or whatever it is that transmissions do when something’s wrong.  Slipping, I suppose.  Not getting into the correct gear and getting stuck in neutral!  That is surely me this past fortnight (or two, or three).

Lewis is, as always, more eloquent than I; in this poem, he is also more hopeful than I tend to be.  Who will save me from this heart full of death?  Thank God for the heavens remembering when the seed forgets!

I Expect a Guardian!

Book Group Thing has started back up, and with
it, a stream of winding Harrius Potterdiscourse on more diverse topics than our ostensible subject, Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy.  A tangent on book-thievery and book-reclaiming prompted me to bring up Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis, which is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Latin.

“How did the translator render the spells?” wondered my fellow bibliophiles.  “Some of them are already in Latin, yeah?  How do they get set apart as spells?”

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much to the characters, does it?” said I.  “Instead of thinking of the spell as Nox, they just say, Night!  Or [instead of Expecto Patronum,] I EXPECT A GUARDIAN!

Which prompted a bit more laughter than I expected, and more thought on the Patronus Charm than is typical.  Not everyone reading is a Potterite, so here’s a brief description: a Patronus is a sort of offensive shield, a silvery animal-shaped guardian which is the corporeal form of a happy memory or thought.  It launches itself at both Dementors and Lethifolds, holding them at bay if not driving them off.

There are several occasions where Harry or other characters conjure a Patronus; the spell’s use becomes ever more frequent in the later books, as war descends and Dementors appear more and more often.  I wanted to focus on three particular occasions of Patronus charm use:

– In the maze Harry goes through to reach the Goblet of Fire, he meets a Dementor-shaped Boggart.  Driving it away isn’t quite the same as driving away a real Dementor, but the mechanism is the same: he concentrates on getting out of the maze and celebrating with Ron and Hermione, something that hasn’t happened, but which he hopes for.

– During battle in Deathly Hallows, Harry attempts to conjure a Patronus but cannot summon up any happy thought whatsoever.  Luna prompts him with “We’re all still here; we’re still fighting.”  It costs him more effort to conjure than it ever has before, as the situation is so grim, but Harry’s Patronus still bursts forth to stand guard.

– Harry uses one to drive away a lot of Dementors near the end of Prisoner of Azkaban.  In his words, “I knew I could do it this time, because I’d already done it – does that make sense?”  In this event, he focuses not on a happy memory, nor a positive thought, but on his certainty that the Patronus will save him because it already has in his other-time’s experience.

Dementors as Rowling wrote them aren’t a foe we ever meet with; that said, it is Monday again, and we have our own battles to fight, be they e’er so humble.  Where a happy memory may not get us through, our hopes may; perseverance may; or faith may, the assurance about what we do not see.

There are occasions, even in the Muggle world, when our happiness is drained away, when we feel as though we will never be happy again.  What happy memory or hope is your guardian against Dementor-like feelings?

The Lost Art of Decorative Drooping

I’m feeling quite melancholy. Blame it on the taxes and the impending flu. So if sickness or Spring Money Madness gets you down, go droop over a flower somewhere. Most places have an arboretum.
Drooping is a forgotten art. Since it’s been out of style for about a hundred and fifty years, here’s a quick tutorial on Drooping.
Find a flower.
Lean in
Cradle the flower in your hand
Stare vacantly at the flower
Contemplate mortality
Say something Poetic* (originality a plus, but quote a master before succumbing to driveled cliches)
Sigh repeatedly
Repeat as necessary.
There you go. Very cathartic. Much better than shouting off mountain tops.
*in case you need something poetic, brief and easy to remember to droop with.

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.

~Robert Frost

Tempus Fugit: Music for Monday

It’s October 15th, y’all.

I’m not sure what to do about that.

See, I typed “Mond” into Microsoft Word this morning so that it could auto-complete “Monday,” and then hit the spacebar and Enter so it could auto-complete the month and date.  Jolly good of it, because sometimes a girl just can’t keep up with the calendar; routinely I miss Tuesday turning into Wednesday and inevitably am bewildered by the arrival of Thursday.  Somewhere along the way, I blinked, and here we are at the ides of the month.

Last night I got back from visiting Ryan (I just saw him.  Well, in September) before going to a wedding (wasn’t I just at a wedding?  Oh, in June?  Ahh, yes) in Chicago (where I’d recently visited.  “Recently” meaning “in 2009”).  In 48 hours I’ll be leaving work to get on a plane to Sacramento, where I fully expect the days to fly off as leaves in the wind, and next Monday arrives as suddenly as a meteor is drowned again in darkness.

Sorry, sorry.  Originally I meant to be encouraging, but the closest I can get is putting on some tunes.  Here’s one from Bud Powell:

Or, if you are more encouraged by Super Nintendo music, as I am, have some Chrono Trigger; it, too, is much concerned with the passage of time:

Fret not, my friends.  Sure, the sands of time are swirling past you, but look on the bright side: it’s not like you’re Jasmine or anything.  Besides, in a matter of days it’ll be Christmas and you’ll catch a bit of a rest!