I need routine, to be active, to learn, and to be creative. These are my vaccines for depression. My morning routine goes something like this. The cat bats my nose, if that doesn’t work, she jumps on me. I pet the cat and talk to her, make the bed (she helps), feed the cat, do chores while the coffee is brewing, and take a cup up to the funky roof garden with the cat tagging behind. We soak up some sun. I flip through old Sunset Magazines.
Lately I’ve been wondering if it might not be time to settle down in a small town in the Southwest and have a garden, provided, of course, that I don’t die of the pandemic here in Mexico.
While I mull this over, the cat chases bugs.
Then we put on music (the cat likes Atomic Kitten) and run around the house. Sometimes I chase the cat, sometime she chases me. She is nearly a teenager. Her legs are impossibly long, but her body hasn’t caught up yet. She reminds me of a small shack on stilts in a Louisiana bayou.
Around and around we go. The cat tracks around corners, leaning into it like a biker. Yesterday, she spun out and ended up facing the opposite direction. She was clearly confused as to how I had disappeared without a trace. I clicked my tongue. She jumped straight up and executed one of those mid-air cork-screw turns cats and skaters do so well. I turned and ran.
Around and around.
When one of use throws in the flag, I go online while the cat goes back to sleep at the foot of the closet – her current favorite hidey hole. Clearly, sleeping most of the day does not cause depression in felines.
Afterward, there is no structure. It’s like that Chinese juggling act with plates on the top of bamboo poles; whatever plate is about to fall off gets a twirl. Occasionally, a plate comes crashing to the floor and breaks into pieces, making me cuss like a Marine while the cat looks on disapprovingly.
This is the second of five submissions I made to the Gallery for the upcoming exhibition.
The backstory follows, in both English and Spanish.
Dance Like the Wind
Like a painter, she drew filigrees of ochos in her red shoes. “Close your eyes and dance with me,” he commanded. She obeyed, surrendering to his desire. With her eyes shut, she listened to his body with her body. Something moved in the space between them. Then, in a breathtaking flurry of steps, they crossed the floor, swept by music like surfers on a wave.
This is the passion of tango.
Bailar Como El Viento
Como una pintora, ella dibujaba filigranas con sus zapatos rojos. “Cierra tus ojos y baila
conmigo.” Le ordenó él. Ella obedeció, rindiéndose a su deseo. Con los ojos cerrados,
oyó el lenguaje de sus dos cuerpos. Algo se movió en el espacio entre ellos. Luego, en
una asombrosa ráfaga de pasos, cruzaron el piso barridos por la música como surfistas
en una ola.
Esta es la pasión del tango.
These 30-day challenges work. I am on day 3 of a 30-day drawing challenge and day 3 of a 30-day meditation challenge. Nearly back in the saddle after moving, the holidays, and the flu!
They told me not to raise my hand so much when I knew the answer because boys didn’t like smart girls; that mathematics, engineering and science was something boys did; that I “had a lot of imagination” when I said I was going to travel around the world (said by the family doctor while patting me on the head); that women didn’t make good “hard scientists” (by way of a greeting the first day on the job); that my primary purpose was to be a wife and mother; that I should quit my job, but if I worked, the housework was still my responsibility; that if I didn’t believe in God, my life would end badly, and; – within the past 12 months – that independent people were hard to love, men were intimidated by me, and finding a partner would be very difficult because I was too accomplished (three separate comments, the first one from a woman and the last two from men.)
Know what? I just laugh and let it go in one ear and out the other. I must have been eight when I figured out comments like these were about caging someone in. I remember thinking in that doctor’s office, “This man has no idea who I am. I am going to travel around the world and that is that.”
I don’t do cages. Never have. And life is great. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. So forget what you were told to be and be who you are. Kick those voices out of your head. Make your life your greatest work of art. PS: It’s OK to be afraid. Fear is my nearly constant companion. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
People often think of creativity as major breakthroughs. However, according to the class I am taking creativity exists on two levels; with each level representing a different type of creative problem solving.
Big “C” creativity makes giant leaps for humanity, and include such milestones as the polio vaccine and space travel. Here is an example of a “Big C” that changed my life.
I came across Mihály Csikszentmihályi’s work while I was a doctoral student in the 90’s. Two decades earlier, Csikszentmihályi had become fascinated by artists, especially painters, who got so lost in their work that they would disregard their need for other activities such as eating or sleeping for long periods of time. Csikszentmihályi’s research focused on understanding the phenomenon experienced by these artists. His flow research and theory of flow were used by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers in developing their theories.
Flow, also known as being in the zone athletes, is the mental state where someone is fully immersed in an activity. It is a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment of the process, usually with a resulting loss in ability to sense of space and time.
Flow is a balancing act between the level of skill and the level of challenge. Not challenged enough, you’re bored; out of your depth, and you’re stressed out. The interesting thing is that your competence grows the fastest when you operate at the edge of your ability. In other words, the flow channel is not flat; it changes, always requiring us to find our new edge. Csikszentmihályi’s research shows that an individual’s capacity to overcome challenges in order to achieve goals not only leads to optimal experience, but also to a sense of life satisfaction.
Mihály Csikszentmihályi’s research changed my life. I have surfed the edge of the flow channel for years. When I get too big for my britches, I dial it back and reduce the anxiety, but I always play the edge.
“The zone” is where I live.
I am always looking for ways to save time, so during boot season I don’t sort socks; I just pull two out and put them on because nobody sees them anyway. I used to have a boyfriend who got irritated by my mismatched socks. One day I came home and found that he had gone into my sock drawer and matched them up for me.
It was very touching.
I started to wear matched socks to make him happy. (All relationships require compromise.) Then, one day, he told me that my socks were supposed to match my outfit.
It was a fashion epiphany. He showed me my sock drawer, which was now sorted by color.
Since I am always looking for ways to save time, I got rid of my boyfriend.