Setting the intention

I began today with a little yoga.

Scratch that. (Yes, I did do yoga, but…) I woke up late, to the strident sounds of the geriatric felines, yowling for breakfast and crying in blind confusion like a fussy infant, respectively. My head was fuzzy and I felt like I was being pried from a glorious dream world. I went to bed just a little too late last night, after knitting and baking most of the evening, and drinking just a touch too much wine. Knitting and alcohol are an odd couple, but somehow they seem meant to go hand in hand.

Despite the wrath of grapes, not so gently beckoning me to stay in bed, I knew that if I didn’t do at least 20 minutes of yoga this morning, my day would be a long, slow, drag into the evening. It’s post-Solstice, so the days are finally beginning to lengthen, glory be! But there are lots of long, dark winter nights remaining, and getting a move on by 10 AM on Christmas Eve Day didn’t seem like a very noble time to begin, so best to find some way of redeeming the day. Onward!

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Although I’ve never written out a formal bucket list, I can tick a few things off this year:  (re)learning to knit; living in the Pacific Northwest, if but briefly; actually contacting grad school programs I might be interested in, visiting a few campuses, and even attending a couple of information sessions; reconnecting with old friends in a tentative but at least more deliberate way. I promise myself this last one every year, and yet I often fall disappointingly short. I’d say my effort this year probably deserves a grade of B- at the very most.

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A good portion of this year has been largely unfocused for me, or at least one eye has had decidedly blurry vision, while the other was set firmly, resolutely on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ve still felt a nagging panic creeping up on me, even when I slack with determination and resolve. It often feels too late, too late, too late. Like I’ve missed the damn boat on adulthood, while the rest of my peers defend PhD dissertations, advance in their careers, get married, have children, and buy houses and new cars, whilst accumulating savings and padding out a retirement fund (what’s that?). I don’t like to think of myself as a jealous person, but it’s a challenge not to indulge the whiny feeling of thinking of yourself as left out sometimes, and feeling both guilty and resentful of others, as much as yourself. If you want to avoid that sense all together, pro-tip: deactivate your Facebook account right now and don’t look back.

And now, what? I’m stuck in permanently stunted neo-adolescence? Though when I do feel like an adult, I often think “this isn’t too hard, but it’s kinda overrated…” I imagine many people feel that way, even far past middle-age and through late life. And at some point, you stop giving a shit, or perhaps learn to embrace it all, just the way it is, just the way you are.

I’ve drifted a fair bit, out of sheer exhaustion and partly overlaid by my ever-rebellious nature. Procrastination is just self-sabotage anyway, as they say, but sometimes I just want to fully, unapologetically indulge it, and this year I faced it full on. Not always kicking and screaming, but sometimes. That’s not to say I don’t feel accomplished in any way. I extricated myself from a place and a bevy of people and situations that were truly bringing me down, and I feel good about that, even if it’s been the long, slow road, and it was daunting to imagine and fully realize, and I’m just beginning to get there, wherever that is. Not to say that I left a place that was awful. It has its merits, it just wasn’t for me, though I’ll always be happy to come back for a time and I’ll be just as happy to depart again. That’s how I’ve always felt about the valley: visit regularly, leave often.

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For so much of this year, I’ve teetered on the brink, balanced precariously between falling farther and hurtling ahead. At darker mental moments, I’ve envisioned ending up a homeless, heroine junkie shaking a rusted soup can with a frayed label, asking for change on the corner, looking like a rumpled gutter punk with pit bull attached by frayed rope. The good news is I have it a little more together mentally most of the time than to fall into that, and I don’t have a penchant for opiates anyhow. And I like comfortable beds and indoor plumbing a touch too much to become that manner of street-savvy vagabond, so I’m willing to make the requisite sacrifices of my free time and so-called freedom in order to earn a living, even when it at times requires doing something I’m not supremely fond of.

I’ve hesitated to settle down, for, and in, far past what might be considered reasonably allowable, though. It’s created some amount of havoc in my personal and financial life, and led me to question my own stability or sanity or fortitude at certain moments, but I’m finally in a place where I can proceed without feeling plagued by leaden feet and a foggy head, today being an exception due to lack of sleep and a touch too much wine. I am beginning to feel like I got my mojo back, and that I can say it without feeling like I’m lying to myself. In the past month, I’ve sent out more – or at least as many – job applications than I have over the course of the entire year, and I’m determined to get there, and to move forward toward a few reasonable goals. The first step was leaving the valley and getting out of the sink hole that my life there had begun to feel like.

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Starting small with knitting has actually been a huge boon, too. It’s meditative and creative, and uses muscles and parts of my brain that seemed at risk of atrophy. I won’t say I’m very good at it yet, but I enjoy it immensely and it’s something I can see doing for years to come, and even as a way to connect with people, too. I can envision using it in a therapeutic practice, as it’s a kind of contemplative action that helps focus the mind and diffuse nervous and anxious tendencies. It’s satisfying in the ways which I find cooking to be fulfilling and relaxing. And while I know I spend far too much money on exotic ingredients – especially considering current budgetary constraints – and will happily indulge in the purchase of gorgeous, sensuous yarn as well, no one can argue that either vice is an entirely frivolous or harmful thing.

These are little ways and things for me to help change my behaviors and reroute thought patterns, and so far they’ve helped me immensely in unexpected ways. They represent small actions, but the impact feels huge. When I learned to carve spoons, something I miss dearly, yet somehow never find time for (How often do I find myself sitting around a fire pit anymore, for hours at a time on a daily basis?) I felt much the same way. It was constructive and left room for creativity, yet it was practical and undeniably satisfying small motor work that yielded a gratifying result. Plus, there’s a steep enough learning curve and ever room to learn new things, while repeating similar motions over and over, honing and perfecting with each turn of the knife or motion of the knitting needle.

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