Saturday, October 25, 2008

Risky Behavior

For literally decades, wherever I've worked, be it at home, a cube farm or a classroom; I've had a quote from some unknown wise person posted where I could see it frequently. "Those who risk nothing, risk much more." It has always had the feeling of a bone-deep truth to me and thus, it is surprising for me to realize how reluctant I have been to follow through on this perceived truth.

Until the last few years, throughout my adult life, I have, in fact, done the exact opposite and avoided every sort of risk. I chose the security of a lifeless marriage over the risk of financial instability and emotional solitude. I never dared to risk social censure by saying no to requests that I did not want to agree to. I never had the audacity to ask for what I truly wanted, needed. My hopes and dreams were locked tightly in the cage of "Someday" from which they would never escape or be released to take flight.

Then came the much vaunted awakening of my fortieth year. And the first of the risks took form. I abandoned the lifeless marriage, accepting the financial instability that was sure to follow. And agreed to the emotional and physical solitude that I had so much dreaded. Still a fledgling at the art of risk, I thought I had risked enough. I thought wrong. More, much more, lay burbling beneath the surface, waiting for me to catch my breath.

I was still thinking in the old, acceptable patterns, not even imagining that I would bolt even further from the permissible norms. I settled into a nice respectable job because one must have a job with benefits and not entertain pipe dreams. Even if that nice respectable job eats you alive and makes you weary of life. One simply cannot do without health insurance and a 401K. So on I slogged.

Then, came the day when accepting the unacceptable became impossible. And I quit the job. Without a replacement in sight but knowing that I had to walk away. It took three long years for that awakening to occur. So I leaped without a net, thinking in vague terms that I would find "something" or do temp work. Anything but stay where I was.

I still hadn't quite got the risk thing. A partial risk is no risk at all. It's an all or nothing proposition. Fortunately, it only took about a week for me to figure out that I wasn't done leaping. Due to some residual income and a generous subsidy from my mother, I am now taking the largest risk of my life so far. The risk of being a writer and, more importantly, the risk of being fully myself. Perhaps, I should be fearful. But the life I led for my first forty years has made me dread another forty years of the same respectable, "normal," unfulfilling existence. I don't want to be an old woman sitting in a rocker who could have, would have, should have dared to live her true life.

My great grandmother used to ask the question, "When you get to be old, do you want to regret what you did or what you did not do?" Clearly, I have finally, at long last, embraced the risk of failure and regret for the chance at being fully myself.

And, although I've only just now removed the training wheels of risk taking, I am curious about what I will risk next.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Rationalizations and justifications

Because I "only" had 5 projects awaiting completion, I decided it was time to cast on for a pair of fingerless gloves. I ran a very comprehensive rationalization of why I could delay the works in process even further and, I am happy to say, it was successful.

The cables on the sweater's sleeve require me to pay attention and I'd rather do something less thought consuming. The shawl pattern is fairly mindless but it is going to take a long time to finish. The seams on the cardigan need to be taken out and put back in, which requires full daylight to see well. I didn't want to haul the sewing machine out to bind the quilt or finish the blouse. And, (major point here) my hands felt cold as I was typing on the computer. Obviously, diving through my yarn stash and patterns was necessary. On hand were several small balls of Shetland wool and a pattern for fingerless gloves just begging to be started. So start them I did.

And as I contentedly worked away on my satisfying little project, I wondered why I felt the need to rationalize anything.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that completion of something is a virtue that must be achieved before another something can be begun. But why do I (and seemingly others) make that assumption? And is there any truth to it?

If meaning lies only in the completion of a thing, then perhaps the assumption makes sense. But, that doesn't seem to be true to me. The hours of knitting, sewing, and writing are full and complete in and of themselves. The thought, creativity and devotion of each stitch, each word or each action exists in its own moment regardless of its ultimate disposition.

Each project, action, relationship has its own seasons, whether to be started or finished or perhaps put aside. Like plants in a garden, sometimes one needs more attention than another. As the ultimate mistress of them all in my life, my task may be to help them along, each in its time, rather than to try to control the phases. To make way for what calls in the moment.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Backwards Glance

The kids were warned, both at home and at school, to stay away from the woods. Something bad would happen if they entered the woods. No one said what that bad thing would be. No one told any stories about bad things that had happened there. But everyone knew that something bad would happen.

A black top road ran alongside the school and the athletic field, straight towards the woods. At the tree line, it changed from black top to dirt. It was a rutted, axle-buster of a road and no cars were ever seen going in or coming out.

The girl ran down the road, past the school and the athletic field. She headed straight for the place where the road went into the woods and kept right on running. She ran as if the Devil himself were on her heels. Even though she knew Grandma would never come this far.

Once she got to the dirt, she slowed to an easy walk. She was much calmer now. The trees had closed ranks behind her, hiding her. She snuggled into her favorite spot, under the hickory tree next to the berry thicket, and escaped into its comfortable embrace.

After a couple hours listening to birds and watching clouds, the girl slowly and reluctantly rose and began to make her way out of the woods, walking towards the place where bad things really did happen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Comings and goings

With the unexpected advent of Rupert, I found myself thinking about all the other entrances to and exits from my life. The only constant is that they happen and, with few exceptions, they happen unexpectedly.

Some enter as a soft rain which starts almost unnoticed and ends just as indistinctly but, in another sense, has endured in the grass and flowers it nurtures. Others enter as a driving hail storm that flattens everything it hits and then abruptly moves on. Still others are the sunshine of a spring morning, gently warming and lighting for a time. While there are those that are the moon, variable in strength but constantly there.

The past several years have been primarily about exits. Most notable have been those strong storms that have uprooted large swaths of my forest, large trees and small shrubs both. There have also been sandcastles washed away by the tide and spiritual rocks that have been overturned by the waves. All followed by a blank landscape and fields left fallow.

There have been frantic attempts to sow new, generally inferior, seeds with disappointing yields. There have been endless months watching and hoping for new growth only to have the seeds wash away before they could take root. And there has been a seemingly endless feeling of being trapped in a bog.

And yet, the rabbit has brought a new awareness of the landscape. There have been new entrances in my life, like mist which can be sensed more than felt. They came in quietly, gently and unnoticed during prevailing storms; deepening to something more substantial with time. There have been surprising reentries, which raise an awareness of the turn of the seasons; returning every year the same and yet different. The worst of the storms have passed and, like crocuses in late winter, new connections and fulfillment are slowly poking up. And all of these have given me an inkling that more change is afoot. Invigorating coolness has replaced harsh sun and heat. Violent storms make way for fertile rest. And perhaps, someday, the fog of loneliness that weaves through the forest of my life will be dispelled by the gentle breeze of love.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Of bunnies and dust bunnies

Last weekend, I was attending the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. My entire ambition for the day consisted of meeting a few on-line friends in real life and to stay within my very restricted yarn/fiber budget. But, I hadn't counted on the fateful meeting that was about to occur.

While we wandered through the animal barn, I was mentally stocking my fantasy fiber farm. In very short order, the dairy goats that already occupied that mythical place were going to have to be segregated from the pygora goats that absolutely had to be added to the farm. I rejected the notion of sheep, despite my abiding love affair with wool. Buzzed right passed the alpacas and llamas. I obviously like the idea of them better than the reality of them.

Then we came to the bunnies. Their intrinsic cuteness vibrated through the entire area. Children and adults both were more animated in the bunny section. I oooo-ed over the lop-ears. I ahhhhh-ed over the angoras. And I almost escaped, ready to buy yarn, when the very nice lady said, "The little one is free." Within 30 seconds, she had opened the cage and I was holding this little runt of a rabbit that they were calling by the insulting name of "Hamster". I heard the tale of his being number eleven in the litter and kicked out by his mom, then being adopted by another mother and raised by a girl in 4-H. I was sunk. In nothing flat, he had let me know that his real name was Rupert.

I threw on the coaster brake long enough to wander around the festival a bit longer and even eat lunch. But, despite a lot of very desirable fiber on offer, I was on a bunny mission. So, I peeled off and went to collect Rupert.

Bear in mind, I had no notion as I got up that morning that I needed or even wanted a rabbit. I had never even contemplated a rabbit in my life. So it was a bit surprising to find that my weekend had quickly become bunny-centered. A cage, bedding, food, toys; all had to be procured. The apartment suddenly became un-bunny-friendly and had to be tackled. As the week progressed, cleaning up after Rupert led to increased cleaning everywhere. Now the evenings include the joy of watching a 9-week old bunny bound around the living room, skidding on the hardwood floors.

So, what might it mean that this little rabbit has found me? I'd been wanting a pet for over a year but I'd never considered a rabbit. I was fairly certain that I wanted a parrot. Is it true, I wonder, that people, animals or events come into our lives for a reason? It feels like it may be true. But those reasons could be anywhere on the spectrum from hellish to sublime. Whether Rupert will turn into a lesson in further responsibility or undiluted joy, I do not know. I suspect it might be both.