08 August 2006

Running in Circles

***This is another of my “finding more happiness” posts so no knitting to report. Just wanted to start with my caveat about writing like this. Nothing is wrong. No need to worry, mom. I’m just trying to make a few lifestyle and perspective changes and I’ve written up some of my journals into more presentable blog entries to share with a few friends who are trying to make similar lifestyle/perspective changes. Just a set of thoughts I’m throwing out there…***

Do you ever feel like you’re a little hamster, running away as fast as you can to keep your little circle spinning? Perhaps you’re a juggler, trying to keep all those pesky little balls up in the air, moving in a circle about your head? Or maybe you’re the trickster at the circus, running to and fro to keep all the plates spinning atop skinny, wobbly sticks?

The thing that’s struck me about these metaphors is that things are just spinning, moving in a circle but never going anywhere. The plates sit flat on their skewers if you’re really, really good, but they aren’t actually producing productive movement. But boy are you tired from running around trying to keep it all going.

This feeling of endless sprinting without actual movement has been part of why I wanted to think more about happiness. The “happiness” that I’m trying to encourage in my life is largely made up qualities such as calmness, peacefulness, being in control or at least feeling like I’m in control of my progress toward something, even if that’s just progressing on this path of life that I’ve undertaken. Maybe I’m just holding onto pipedreams, but I have this hunch that fulfillment is intimately connected to finding a state of peace with the demands of life. Lately, though, I just keep trying to keep the plates spinning, trying to keep up.

Isn’t there more to life than keeping up?

What about enjoying a nice, big dinner on those plates… which, of course, are Homer Laughlin china from one of our antique hunts of yore. And hey, I like my dishes… all 30 sets of them. It was actually a set of china that got me to start the blog. I found a great deal at Goodwill and wanted to share pictures of the spoils with the fam.

Anyway, those dishes… that I bought last summer… where are they? Currently busy getting dusty in the cabinet. I’ve yet to have time to wash them, put them on the table and serve a summer-y meal with cutesy little flowers and petit fours as I’d dreamt when I brought them home. I have a lot of those dreams, plans and schemes. Yet it seems it’s always plans that get started and don’t get off the ground around here. How often do I say, “I’m gonna…?” How often do I say, “I did…?” Not hard to do the math on that one. The “gonna’s” win hands down. Yet, it’s not for lack of effort. I really try to make the “gonna’s” reality, but somehow, I never pull it off.

That’s the thing with running in circles…it’s not productive and it’s repetitive. I can run and run, but I’m just back to where I started. And each time around, I’m a little slower, a little winded, and very frustrated. So the more I run, the worse it gets. The worse it gets, the more I try to make up for it, get things together, try to make a fresh start.

But so far my “fresh start” is simply to change the pattern of china that’s spinning atop the sticks.

I undertake some new motivational scheme. Maybe I switch my job as an adjunct teacher or a secretary or an office person, shuffling between G.A. and T.A. and M.I.A., hoping that this semester, this year, this is going to be the time that I get it all together. Or maybe it’s a new goal at the gym. This workout plan will be the one that transforms my body into the lean, mean hottie machine that makes all my worries about dates and clothes go away. Or maybe the ticket is the relationship. This will be my knight in shining armor with a trust fund and a penchant for adventure. Even when I’m trying to be realistic about my plans, it’s more of the same. I caffeinate, suit up, and just know that this weekend I’m going to get the apartment clean, finish a draft of this chapter, polish off a knitting or quilting project and set about my perfect life. But really, it’s just changing my china pattern. The plates are still up there spinning.

I’ve known for a long time that I worry too much, try to run around and please others too much, always feel behind, and so on and so forth. I just can’t figure out how to get the plates from atop those spindly little sticks to the table. And putting a meal on them… hey, at this point I’d settle for take-out leftovers with a plastic spoon.

So, I need a new metaphor. I want to sit down and enjoy my plates… and the meal on them. I love reading the posts over at
Posie Gets Cozy. I love seeing the pictures of her dinner parties and her recent post about preparing those meals really captured the dream that I want to pursue. But how to make this dream a reality rather than just another place setting spinning in the air?

Inevitably, it seems that I’m going to be dealing with some broken china.

How do you institute change, especially one that’s got more to do with giving up than adding to the demands of life? I can tell myself over and over that my priorities are simple right now. (1) Finish diss. (2) Be healthier. (3) Have a cleaner, neater, more organized home. Seems like there are three plates. Let the quilting one fall to the ground for now. Maybe I can drop the dating plate for awhile and use Saturday nights for writing. Or maybe if I switch out the “run a marathon” exercise plate, which is really more of a platter, with a tiny little “take a walk every day” saucer…

Or maybe I just let everything crash to the ground and start over with a mosaic of broken pieces… Yeah, a crafty project… because I need another one of those…

Logically, I know the answer is to work daily on a little bit on each of my three areas of greatest concern. Simplification is a matter of making choices and then living by those choices. It promises ease of mind, professional and personal rewards, and potentially even time and energy for other, more enjoyable activities. So why is it so hard to save these plates and let the rest fall?

The difficulty especially makes no sense since I know that ultimately, those dropped plates won’t shatter into a million pieces. I can always start quilting more after the diss is finished. I’m certainly not planning to enter a convent so dating will always be an option, and likely a more enjoyable one when I feel like I can enter into a relationship without the strain of an uncertain professional life and a negative body image. And that marathon… people run their first marathon at all ages.

The only answer that I seem to come to is that those “other plates,” the ones that aren’t so important, are actually preferable in a non-logical way. They promise immediate distraction and potentially, immediate reward. Maybe they’re not really plates but teapots, gravy boats and berry bowls. Really, we need standard dinner plates. But in antique collecting, aren’t the side pieces much more appealing? Who wants to pursue a standard dinner plate when some frilly little piece with lots of curves and frou frou can be had? Who wants to work on a dissertation, which will need much more than a day’s or weekend’s or year’s worth of work, when a trip to the mall promises a whole new look for fall in only a few hours?

So I run around the table again, spinning all those plates one more time. As summer starts to fade into the frenetic pace of the academic year, I can feel the tension levels rising on campus as people make copies of their syllabi and new students try to figure out where their classes are, the school supplies are stocked in all the stores and I’m trying to finish my tasks before I go home for the summertime visit. I’m reviewing my list of summer goals and realizing just how few have been checked off and if that’s a problem of my list making or my working tactics. Likely, it’s a bit of both.

I suppose this means I’m ready for the plates to break. Better go find a broom in case this gets messy.

1 comment:

Lone Knitter said...

Sounds like we're trying to hold up the same plates! Don't worry about not having that knight-in-shining-armor because he's not very good for the "picking-up-the-house plate" once you get him!

Thanks for the sock suggestions! All very helpful. I'm actually a bit excited to start these manfeet socks.

And let us know about biscuits and gravy!

And one more thing--I have a few blogs I read too and it's not so much about my reading them as it is about my dreaming about the perfect looking lives these blogs seem to present. I wonder if I'd feel better about myself if I stopped looking at these blogs for a while. Are they good for me, or are they like looking at fashion mags for me? I don't know.