Aspirations and Inspirations

Been a bit quiet… not just here, but it feels like everywhere in my life. I have been thinking a lot about being the kind of character I want to be, drawing on things I’ve done in the past like Working With Mary Sue and things I’ve read recently like Deb Castellano’s new book.

When I first started on Deb’s book a few months back, I started a pinterest board called #aesthetic, where I’ve been filing away things that appeal to me on a “yes I want to be the person that wears/owns/does that” level. It’s been an interesting challenge, since when I was Konmari-ing, there was a strong emphasis on facing down the aspirational things you own. Konmari says there’s no point in owning things for the person you feel like you should be or want to be rather than the person you are.

There’s a lot of truth in that, especially the “should be” part. Don’t feel obliged to own tools you aren’t comfortable using, books everyone says you should read, or things like that. Evaluating whether the things in your life are there because they’re serving you is important.

At the same time, though, aspirational things can go two ways. Yes, there’s the unhealthy one where you’re buying things you never use because you’re not the kind of housekeeper who’s going to keep up a Pinterest-worthy dry erase family calendar, or the crafter who has time for elaborate stained glass projects in your tiny apartment, or even the person who remembers to put the matching decorative pillows on the bed every day when you make it. This is the equivalent of having clothes in your closet for after you lose weight, but without any concrete plans for weight loss. They are made of spun sugar and guilt. They only sit there and make you feel bad. Why am I not a better housekeeper, crafter, parent, spouse? Fuck that. Trash the fucking decorative pillows. Trash the ritual that makes you feel silly instead of sacred. Burn all of that guilt and expectation to the ground.

The other thing you can do with an aspirational thing, though… and I suppose this would be the point where the aspirational thing gives you joy… is bring yourself to it’s level. I want to be the kind of person who cooks, who crafts, who makes his own tools. I joke that my aesthetic is solarpunk maker, but there’s no reason I can’t be that weirdo in real life. I still need to go to work and take care of the kid and all that but even when my neurochemistry is kicking my butt, I feel better when I do stuff. Even if doing the barest minimum of stuff feels insurmountable, I feel better having done it. There’s satisfaction in a clean house, in mending clothes, in making things. In doing some tiny part to make better choices.

So I have two options. Wrestle the joy from something, or admit it doesn’t fit my life and let the expectation go.

I have been using NaNoWriMo as a sort of test run for finding joy. I struggle with hobbies because I want to throw myself into them, but I also want to do everything at once, and then executive function steps in and I do nothing. This is not optimal, obviously. NaNo was a good excuse to focus on just one thing for a couple of weeks and not feel bad about everything else, telling myself everything else would have a turn also.

I am not going to win NaNo this year. I did write some stuff, though, and I’m writing a blog post for the first time in almost six months. I played with some various tools and ended up back at 750words, where I used to write years ago and drifted away from. It’s simple, I can log in anywhere, it auto-saves and there’s no extra bells and whistles and game mechanics to distract me… plus there’s a motivation to write daily but no real sense of failure if I don’t. If I can keep it that way, it’ll work well.

Halfway through the month, I went to Wordstock looking for inspiration and I found it in the Laika exhibit. Not writing but I found myself wanting to get back to dolls, to sewing, to miniatures. So writing is good solid practice but it doesn’t quite fit into all the small niches of my life right now.

What’s next then? Well, #domagick’s theme for December is meditation, and I’ve got some magical stitchery I’ve been plotting out, so I’m thinking meditative needlework is a good way to go. I’ve got time to do some research and I have a project in mind to start so that’ll be fun.

House Work: Laziness and Self-Perception

A fairly common scene played out over the weekend. We left the house to do a bit of yard sailing and errand-running around nine. Got home around noon with a box of candle making equipment I paid a dollar for at a moving sale (anybody have any good recommendations on where to learn candlemaking?) and a crock pot (still in the box, from that same sale).

We’re looking into using a combination of slow-cooked recipes and batch cooking to reduce the amount of cooking required after work. Between Amber’s chronic pain and the fact that I work until 8 and she has to be in bed at 10, even a recipe that takes half an hour takes a lot of our evening.

But anyway, we got home from our errands. I booted up the computer and messed around for a while, and took a nap. I started dinner but didn’t feel like getting up when the timer went off, so Amber served. I apologized for my laziness.

She looked at me like I was being ridiculous, and pointed out that I had done two loads of laundry and one of dishes, cleaned the bathroom as well as the kitchen counters, neatened the bedroom, watered the plants, and swept in addition to starting dinner.

I had failed to count all of those things, either because they used appliances (laundry, dishes) or because they were jobs that I didn’t consider myself “good at” and therefore I assumed somehow that since I probably hadn’t done them perfectly, I didn’t really do them. This is a thing I am going to need to work on if I’m going to be the proud householder Mara wants me to be.

I am pretty sure I come by my neuroatypicalities honestly and at least partially genetically. My dad was finally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years ago. When I was in high school, he was laid off, so he kept busy around the house. I used to come home from school to find the kitchen smelled so strongly of bleach than I couldn’t eat in it. He would rake the leaves in the wooded areas of our property. And there was never any making him happy. I could spend an hour or two cleaning my room, but it wasn’t ever clean enough and I never had enough space to put everything away to his satisfaction. I did all my chores and never heard about it unless I messed something up or did it wrong, which was often.

But I can’t honor anything with my housework if I don’t see and appreciate it for the work it is. I need to be more cognizant of the fact that I do it. I need to make sure I’m doing it well if I’m worried I’m not. I need to enjoy the feeling of a clean house, rather than seeing housework as something I do merely to avoid the nagging feeling that I should go straighten up the living room in the middle of the night.

I should do it with joy, or at least with confidence. That’s my goal.

Wealth and Worth: My Ideal Self

(Before I start… Hail Mara! Only a few small changes have already resulted in small rewards – last week brought Amber a temp job right after we re-did the altar and this week we got some additional benefits once I added a water offering. Small scale shoaling seems to be working, anyway…)

This post was inspired by number 5 on my list: move your set point.

Deb has already written a couple of great posts about the importance of moving your set point in the direction of More Fabulousness. Deb’s Ideal Self is a little more in-line with Amber‘s than mine, I have to admit.While the direction she’s going is in many ways my opposite, though, the points stand.

Picturing my ideal self tells me where my set point should be, even if it isn’t there yet. Amber and I have been doing a lot of talking lately, and some planning for the future in broad strokes. At one time we both thought we wanted to remain renters in the long term, to stay childfree, and basically to remain mobile and adventurous, always ready to move.

Well, first it occurred to me that I hate moving. I moved every year with my ex, and before that twice a year in college. I’m tired of moving. Then both of us realized that our hobbies are not really suited to apartment living. I want a forge. She wants a floor loom. We both want a garden. Our current studio doesn’t even have a patio. Suddenly we’re quite a distance from our goals, aren’t we? And that’s not even mentioning that we want to pursue adoption.

Right now I make enough that we get by, but we don’t have a lot extra. Not enough to get the bigger apartment we’d need to adopt, anyway. Amber is looking, but I don’t need to tell you what the job market looks like. And I don’t want to do this forever.

My ideal self is a metal sculptor and a blacksmith, not a paper-pusher, with a big garden and space to experiment with solar power, woodworking, and other stuff. Now, “dressing for the job you want” is not really an option – welding masks are not really acceptable under dress code at work – so that part will require some thought. But in my off-hours? Sure. And the important thing is not actually the dressing (though I’m going to give that some further thought) but the way I act.

(Incidentally, I hung a pair of my own paintings in my office. I’ve gotten several complements on them. I think that qualifies as a start.)