Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Dpchallenge’

If you could be given the option to never sleep and also never be tired, would you take it if it meant you’d also never dream again?”

First, I must apologize for skipping yesterday.  I would love to be able to write that it was Russian Christmas and I was off celebrating, but the truth is, I was down with flu.  Apparently it’s true that this flu season is so bad, you can still get flu even if you’ve had the shot.  (It was still Russian Christmas.)

Now, to our muttons.  It’s tempting to say “Yes” to the prompt.  I mean, 24 hours in which to get it all done!  Imagine what you could do with the eight extra hours!  Not to mention that the idea of never dreaming again has enormous appeal, considering that the only dreams I ever have are nightmares.  My last nice dream was over 20 years ago.

But all things considered…no, I don’t think I would take it.  For one thing, I really doubt that I would be any more productive in 24 hours than I already am in 16; I waste enough time as it is.  (Facebook, anyone??)  And where would the pleasure of a really rainy night be, if I couldn’t spend it lying in bed, listening to the whisper of rain all around me until I fell asleep?  Not to mention the delicious feel of snuggling down under a quilt and finding just the right spot to burrow in…

Okay, I’m a sleep hedonist, I admit it.  But the truth is that we have been designed to need rest.  I’m married to someone who seriously thinks that rest is sinful – because it’s non-productive – so he pushes and pushes himself until evening, when he collapses into his easy chair and passes out.  Then, two hours later, he wakes up and goes to bed.  The sad part is, for all his “productivity,” it’s all there waiting for him the next day.  That’s the nature of work.  It is never done.  Just think of laundry.

And maybe that’s the difference between us.  Because I do the laundry, I’ve come to realize that work really is never done, and that in order to have any kind of life, you have to drag yourself away from it, you have to take your rest.  There has to be a time in your day when you put your feet up and read, or work a puzzle, or focus on doing something creative – restorative – regenerative.  Otherwise, what’s the point in calling yourself a human being?  You’re nothing more than a machine.

And nothing gets the point across more immediately than the need to sleep.

Which, now that’s 4:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour, I’m going back to.  Sleep tight!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Another prompt from Plinky:  “Tell us about the role that faith plays in your life — or doesn’t.”  Which can easily be combined with yet another:  “What is your favorite holiday? Why is it your favorite?”

This latter prompt was sent out just before Christmas, with the obvious inference that most people would write about Christmas:  the presents, the family time, the caring and sharing, the music, the tree, take your pick.  Don’t misunderstand.  I love Christmas, too; the classical music written for Christmas is incomparable, and there are arrangements of traditional carols that make them suitable for playing on classical stations.

But Christmas is when I most miss living in Europe, where it is a much more family-oriented celebration, and it’s when I miss the Polish traditions I was brought up with:  My husband not only is not Polish, but not remotely Slavic, and Slavic customs of any kind are alien to him.  Not to mention the consumer-driven – and I do mean driven – hysteria that grips the entire USA, best illustrated by Straight No Chaser’s “Christmas Can-Can” (pardon the ad at the beginning of the video – I don’t know how to edit it out).

So Christmas, much as I love it, will never be my favorite holiday.  Most people who read this blog will, I am sure, understand why I  say that that affection is reserved for…well…”Easter.”

I put “Easter” in quotes because what most people understand by the word is not what Easter is actually about.  Say “Easter,” and most people will relate it to the Resurrection of Christ, in one form or another, either traditionally religious or, as my son recently informed me (in tones of shock, I am grateful to say), “zombie Jesus.”  This whole zombie thing was out of hand even before that particular take on it.

But Easter is actually a pagan holiday,  the celebration of the feast of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ioestre, the goddess of spring and fertility.  When I read that, I finally understood the point of that ridiculous Easter Bunny:  What’s more fertile than a rabbit?!  We did the Easter Bunny when I was growing up, but even before I understood the association, I found it pointless, so the Easter Bunny never visited my own children.  By which they missed out on a lot of candy, sure, but at least they never ruined their teeth, and they got to celebrate, in all its glory:

Russian Easter.

Or Pascha, as it’s referred to religiously.  After seven weeks of a rigorously-limited diet, accompanied by a daunting schedule of services during the seven weeks – the last of which is Holy Week, with services every evening, each lasting several hours – the whole thing is topped off by a celebration that begins somewhere around 11:00 p.m., and lasts until somewhere around 4:00 in the morning.  There’s really no adequate way to describe Russian Easter.  Following the lengthy recitation of Old-Testament prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah, the priest and the entire congregation sweep outside the church and circle it three times, symbolically searching for the body of Christ.  Finally the priest will pound on the closed doors of the church.  Since everybody is outside, of course there’s no answer, and so he turns to the congregation, all standing there with lit candles, and calls out:  “He is not here!  He is risen, as He said!”  Then he opens the doors of the church, everyone streams in, and the celebration begins with a joyous peal of bells, rung in accordance with rubrics that are hundreds of years old.

Every light in the place is turned on – this, in addition to the dozens and dozens of candles and oil lamps that are lit and will remain lit for the entire service.  The choir bursts into the Paschal Canon, a lengthy liturgical poem written in celebration of the Feast.  The priest walks around and around, censing the entire church and congregation with incense – and I have never seen a priest who didn’t look the picture of pure joy at this point.  Every verse of the Canon ends with the refrain, “Christ is risen from the dead!” and the paschal hymn is sung innumerable times:  “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life.”  You have to hear it.  It’s like a great roar of defiance at death, and although at this point most of us are dropping from exhaustion – you actually do revive when singing this hymn.

After the service, the priest will bless food that people have brought from home – specially prepared food, kielbasa and butter and horseradish and eggs, all dyed a deep red – and everyone sits down in the parish hall to feast.  Yes, at four in the morning.  This is a time to celebrate!  Christ is risen from the dead!

People have commented, off and on, about how interesting my writing is – at this point, my writing feels wooden.  There is simply no good way to describe this Feast of Feasts, the joy, the energy, the sheer life force.  Orthodox churches are filled to overflowing, literally, for this Feast.  You have to see it, you have to be there.

And yes – to answer the first prompt at the very beginning of this post, I do believe it.  It is the center of my life.  “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” the Apostle Paul writes to the Jews (Hebrews 10:31), and although in this passage the context is one of fear and judgment, there is another meaning to the word “terrible”:  awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping astonishment, the kind that makes you look around to make sure that the encounter isn’t meant for someone else because, you know, what would God want with me?!

When that happens, faith is no longer necessary.  You know.

Read Full Post »

“‘Start as close to the end as possible,’ suggested writer Kurt Vonnegut.”

Today’s prompt is brought to you by Plinky, only it was December 15’s prompt, and I hung onto it in my inbox because I thought what a great end-of-year post it would make.  Unfortunately, the end of 2012 saw us up to our necks (figuratively) in snow, so I’m only now getting to it.  Hence, the title of this post.

The rest of the Plinky prompt was to “write something that does that without spoiling the ending.”  See, this is why this kind of prompt doesn’t work for me as a writer:  I never know the ending of my books.  If I were a mystery writer, I would need to know the ending so that I could litter my writing with clues for the reader, and if I were writing non-fiction I would have to keep the point of my text in mind as I wrote.  But I am neither; I write about fictional relationships, and people’s growth within those relationships.  And even when people’s lives appear to have an ending, they don’t (or else, why bother calling yourself a Christian?), so how can a book about relationships really have an ending?  One episode can end, but the people live on and on.

One of the characters in my favorite television show, NCIS, is an author as well as a federal agent, and one of the episodes dealt with a book he was writing:  Someone was getting hold of his copy and committing murders on the basis of his book.  Towards the end, his boss tells him that he needs to find the killer and let him know how the book ends.  “I don’t know how the book ends!” exclaims the writer, and that pretty much describes my style of writing.

What I find is that people live inside my head – a whole family of them, plus peripheral characters.  Periodically, they have a story to tell, and I’m the lucky duck who gets to tell it.  Every once in so often, I’ll think of something that happened to me, or an anecdote I’ve heard, and think, “That’d be a really neat thing to have happen to So-and-so.”  But So-and-so doesn’t think so, and that’s when I get writer’s block.  Then I have to go back to the point where the writing was going smoothly, clear everything else out of my head, and let the character do the talking.  I can edit, once the character “powers down” for the session; but there’s actually very little creativity involved.

Not knowing the ending is how one of my characters who started as a stereotypical “dirty bird” became the guy who saved the day, while someone I had intended to be a true gentleman turned out to be the worst sort of cad.  Meanwhile, the hero of the story is just trying to keep his head above water throughout the book!  This is how I stay engaged in my own tales; if I don’t know where it’s going, neither will the reader, and if that’s what keeps me writing, then – theoretically – that’s what will keep my reader reading.

One more writing-related anecdote (which I freely admit I may have told before, but it describes the writing life so perfectly):  A writer wrote of accompanying his wife to church one Sunday, and afterwards, the pastor said to him, “You need to get out and meet more people.”  “At that particular point in time,” wrote the author, “I was intimately involved in the lives of no fewer than eight people, all of whom lived inside my head, and meeting more people was the last thing I needed.”

I can relate.

Read Full Post »

Aptly Named

At what time of day do you feel the most energetic and productive?

Oh, dear.  People are going to hate me for this.  My only excuse is, I was born at 6:30 in the morning, and have never gotten over the impression that 6:30 – or 5:30, or sometimes even 4:30 – is the right and proper time to get things done.

Which is to say, no matter how groggy I am when I get out of bed, by the time I have completed all the necessaria of daybreak, I am up and at ’em and rarin’ to go!  Just ask my poor, long-suffering husband.  He is by no means a night owl, but when he gets up, he stumbles out to the kitchen, puts on the kettle, and makes coffee basically on auto-pilot.  If I have wakened before him, and am full of whatever I found in my inbox or on Facebook, I will leap up to tell him and be met with “Shhhh” before I have uttered a word, by which I understand that he is not yet ready to face the day.

This can have its problems, however.  Back when we were a Normal couple – that is, before he was retired, when he had a place where he had to be by 8:00 a.m. – back then, he would be out the door by 6:30 or 7:00.  I would have been awake since 5:00 or so, and, fully breakfasted, would be ready to get into my own workday, putting on laundry and completing the basic housework chores before I set foot out the door.  Now that he is retired, I can’t get anything done before 9:00 a.m. – and by that time, my level of productive energy has already begun to decline.  By 11:00 a.m., it will be gone completely, and I will be good for nothing but needlework, reading, or fooling around on the computer.

I have schooled myself, over the years, to put some effort into producing a pretty darn good evening meal; but I am secretly greatly in sympathy with the way things are done in Europe (big surprise), where they eat their main meal in the middle of the day.  If I had my druthers, I’d get the meal prep done in the morning, eat around noon, and have the dishes out of my hair by 2:00 the latest.

So I have come to accept that I am wired differently from pretty much all of America.  As a young woman, before I was married, I was the world’s worst date – I’d be ready to go home by 10:00 p.m., and heaven help you if you found me still awake at 11:00.  Then I met a guy whose last name was Lark.  There actually are other reasons I married him.  But if I had thought about it, I would have seen the handwriting on the wall the moment I heard his name.

Read Full Post »

“What is your favorite way to recharge when you feel drained of energy?”

There’s a reason this blog is called “Muttonings,” and there’s a reason I post as “Mrs. Mutton.”  It has everything to do with sheep, to wit:  Somewhere around 1977, I suddenly got into knitting in a big way.  Up to then, I had divided my time fairly evenly between knitting and cross stitch, but in 1977, my daughter was two, and the thought of those little fingers and eyes around sharp, pointy objects was too horrific to entertain; so I turned to the less-sharp pointy objects known as knitting needles, and for many years afterwards, knitting was my sole handwork.  In fact, my son, born in 1979, has never known me to do anything else.

In 1982, I became acquainted with the knitting philosophy of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  The woman was an utter genius at combining art, math, and practicality, and her chosen medium was wool.  Not just generic yarn – wool, “from the simple, silly sheep,” as she put it in one of her books.  It was largely due to her influence that I gradually became a Wool Snob, and began accumulating wool yarn to such an extent that my family teased that I was becoming a sheep.  These days I have stuffed sheep, pictures of sheep, sheep calendars, books about sheep…well, as you can see, the thing has taken on a life of its own.

So I am “Mrs. Mutton” (actually, that is the name of one of my stuffed sheep, who began life as “Ms. Mutton” of the famous brokerage firm, E.F. Mutton, until my husband rescued her from a life of Ms.-ery), and the odd pronouncements I mutter to myself have become known, locally, as “muttonings.”  All of which I offer as background to my favorite way of recharging when I am drained of energy.  Which is only partially with knitting.

There actually is something very, very soothing and mindless about repetitive hand motion.  Mind you, there is nothing relaxing about learning to knit; like any other unknown activity, it’s very stressful to learn.  But the rewards of sticking with the effort are completely disproportionate to the effort involved in learning the craft; you can actually knit your way to lower blood pressure.  And while your hands are occupied, and your brain either goes blank or focuses on the intricacies of, say, Aran knitting, other, more convoluted knots are unraveled.  I daresay that many a mental-health issue could be successfully treated by teaching patients to knit.

But as I say, recharging my personal batteries is a two-pronged process.  Knitting – or counted cross-stitch – is one prong, having something to occupy my mind that is completely unrelated to whatever it is that’s sapping my energy.  The other prong is classical music.

I’m not talking about the Bombast, or the Searching-for-the-Lost-Chord kind of cacophony that has become associated with classical music.  That stuff has its place (I guess), once you’ve become accustomed to the very different tempo of classical music, so much slower and more thought-infused than what currently occupies most space on the airwaves.  But if you want to relax, or if you’re really new to classical music, you want Baroque – Vivaldi, say, or Handel.  Or Bach, who wrote the music that is the title of this post, Sheep May Safely Graze.  Bach’s music covers every range of emotions, from utterly sublime to rollicking fun to just plain funny (his Coffee Cantata begins with a father grumping, “Ain’t it a fact that our kids give us a hundred thousand different kinds of heartburn,” or the eighteenth-century Germanic equivalent thereof).  And Vivaldi is such easy listening that a friend of ours once joked that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 425 times,” there being 425 works listed in the “Ryom Listing,” the most commonly used catalogue of Vivaldi’s compositions.

Knitting to the Oldies.  Works every time.

Read Full Post »

“Which daily tasks take up the most of your energy?”

It’s a funny thing about getting older.  You never realize it when you are young, but when old people talk about “not having their get-up-and-go,” they’re actually talking about losing energy.  Now that I am in my sixties, I look back on the things I did when I was in my forties – full-time job, night classes, plus keeping house for a husband and two teenagers – and I shake my head:  How on earth did I do all that?!  Nowadays it takes me all morning to do chores that used to take an hour.  And the one that wipes me out the most is…making beds.

When I was young, I was taught to make my bed as soon as I got out of it, and I did this for years.  It was one less chore to clutter up my mind, and the bedroom always looks tidier and more serene with a bed that’s been made up.  Then I began married life in Germany, where you Just Don’t make your bed before airing it out thoroughly.  And I mean “thoroughly”:  People sleep beneath duvets, those puffy feather-filled comforters that are always covered in a big envelope, and first thing in the morning, the window is opened and the duvets and pillows are hung out for at least an hour.

(A funny aside here:  When my daughter was a child, I took her to Saturday school to learn German.  One of the mothers had just returned from a two-year sabbatical in Germany, and couldn’t stop talking about how grateful she was to be back in the States.  Since I was aching with homesickness – no, I’m not German, but the whole way of life had really clicked with me – I couldn’t imagine why she’d be grateful to be here.  Her answer:  “Those women and their featherbeds!  Every morning, at punkt seven o’clock, every window in Stuttgart would bang open, and out would come the featherbeds.  You could set your clock by the way those women hung out their featherbeds!”  Oh-kay.)

Well…it’s a habit that has stuck with me (one of many).  I won’t say I’m so fanatic as to get my bedding out the window by seven o’clock – for one thing, in the winter in New England the sun doesn’t rise until seven-thirty at the earliest, and I like it to be fully up before I put things out in the frost, or dew, depending on the season – but every morning by nine the latest, I drag the featherbeds off my husband’s and my bed and get them out for at least an hour, and usually, until the afternoon.  I used to yank them off and whisk them out the window.  These days, I drag them off and carry them through the hall and kitchen (we have a one-story house) and hang them off the back porch.  Then I put the pillows next to an open window so they can air, too.

By the time that’s done, I need to sit down and restock my energy.  I tell myself that this is because I’m so short, and lugging those featherbeds all through the house, holding them up so that they don’t drag on the floor (yes, I fold them in my arms – that’s how short I am), is bound to take the stuffing out of me.  But the truth is – I’m getting old.  And, as the saying goes, “My get-up-and-go has got up and gone.”

Read Full Post »

Let’s see if I can do any better at this than I have in the past two months.  To be fair, I did spend November writing a novel, as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in case you’ve ever seen the reference and not known what that was about).  And December is, well, December.  Everybody’s busy in December.  Even Scrooge – gotta close out the books for the year, you know.

The theme for this month’s National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) is Energy, and I’m all worn out just thinking about it.  However, on the theory that a new year means a new start, I’m willing to take a new shot at this.  So, the first topic of the month:

From where do you draw your energy?”

It depends on the task at hand.  If I’m cleaning house, for example, I draw my energy from doing the worst task first.  I can certainly see the rationale behind leaving it for last – you could get so wiped out from doing the worst first that you’d have no energy left over for everything else – but for me, getting that out of my hair makes everything else seem like such a breeze that I get it all done.  Leaving the worst for last would sap my energy just thinking about it.

If it’s anything to do with desk work, or office work – organizing, paying bills, keeping track of finances – that in itself gives me an energy boost.  I can’t believe what a born Office Worker I am; most people I know hate, loathe, and despise office work, and will do anything to get out of it.  So why is it so difficult for me to find a volunteer job doing office work?  Any time I hear of volunteer opportunities, they’re looking for people to spend time with other people, a guaranteed energy drain for me.  (Can you spell “introvert”?)  Give me a pile of envelopes to stuff or to label, and I’m happy for the rest of the week.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that we can’t spend our time doing everything that comes naturally to us.  Those puzzling and bizarre people called extroverts do, eventually, have to sit down and do some office work, unless they can find someone to pay the bills for them.  And those of us who thrive on solitude, peace, and quiet eventually do have to have something to do with our fellowman.  Or, as Linus (I think) once put it, “I love Mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!”

When there’s no other choice but to interact with flesh and blood – that’s when my religion is most helpful.  Orthodoxy not only encourages us to see others as icons of Christ, it actually shows us that that’s the case – during every service, the priest or deacon censes the people in front of him.  Since you only cense holy things or holy people, his doing so illustrates sharply that each of us standing before him is an image of God Himself.  Take that awareness out into the world, and people become…not so pesky.  More of an opportunity to serve Christ.

I’m aware, of course, that most religions see service to mankind as a necessary part of their practice.  But there’s a huge difference, for me anyway, between being exhorted to do so and being helped to do so. Having somebody tell me, “Go forth and serve the Lord” tells me that I’m supposed to expend most of my precious energy on somebody who will not only not appreciate the enormous effort I have to put into meeting his needs, but will gladly leach all the energy out of me altogether.  Being shown that I and all the others around me are icons of God illustrates to me why they are worth the effort and expenditure of my energy.

And that gives me all the energy I need to do it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »