Are you a good switch or a bad switch??

I was watching a video this morning about simplifying life, trying to figure out where I put that idea down and walked away from it. I’m curious how other people put life goals into words, and this person had a thoughtful, practical list. What stood out for me was her term for something I’ve struggled with the last few months. I guess I could have guessed there would be a term for it. Task-switching.

It’s not multi-tasking. I don’t. I can’t. I used to. Nope. I’m remembering to drink my tea in between sentences here, and that’s as far as that goes. Task-switchers do one thing at a time, but they jump around too much, too fast, too often. My task-switching mind is frankly out of control and wearing me out.

Part of the problem is the gig economy, even though I like/love my jobs. I try to designate days they will occupy, but the emails crossover, the meetings jump the fence, and my own thoughts run screaming from job to job out of habit. And each switch requires putting aside a ton of thoughts and knowledge before picking up, however briefly, a whole other huge set of thoughts and knowledge.

This is not conducive to creative time and space, is it? Nope. Each job has a variety of tasks and projects, did I mention that? It’s all cramming my brain like that hall closet no one should ever, ever open. Like the ship’s cabin scene in the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera. (Watch it if you haven’t. Have a laugh at the highly organized absurdity. Any similarities between it and actual lives is intentional and to be noted.)

As we switch into February, I am going to focus on cutting out the task-switching. This is probably going to involve doing less for, and thinking less about, my jobs, and yet still insisting to myself that I am a good enough person. That’s the other part: I’m driven to task-switch by inner messages I should not listen to.

It’s also going to involve a good switch in perception. Did you ever suddenly realize that your perception of something was creating an actual obstacle in your life? I realized recently that I never reward myself for writing practice, because I perceive my practice AS the reward. For getting everything else done to everyone else’s satisfaction and in their best interest, thus justifying the writing time I am then too tired to enjoy. Whoops. May I just say that? Whoops.

Because Blizzard

Because when there is a blizzard and you have to style your plants, there is a blizzard and you have to style your plants.

Because when a Buddha postcard, books, and an old panda are creatively involved, they are creatively involved.

The two tomatoes grew from market produce. The snake plant was adopted from family. The palm was left in the building basement. All other plants are the children of two cuttings I happened to get from a volunteer gig in the early 90s. Shells from Peabody’s Beach, Middletown, RI. The goldfish is a wind-up toy.

Creativity can be just to please yourself.

Creative Echoes

Photo by me!

One of my favorite things about being an 18th-century geek who works in an 18th-century building is the time there alone my job requires. I love to share King’s Chapel’s history with visitors, and to write about it, but doing my opening/closing tasks in a meditative state of mind is also wonderful. The building gets a chance to show me the small, quiet things about itself, its little pockets of Creativity.

Here are two examples sourced in the beautiful work that craftspeople did long ago.

The huge original beams that cross the crypt ceiling were trees that sprouted in the early 1600s, perhaps the 1500s. Those who shaped these beams straddled them and took steps backwards as they worked with their blades. The visible marks show a lovely wave pattern that still evokes their hands and bodies at work.

Many of the small panes in the fairly majestic windows are original to the building. Being hand-made glass, they have inconsistencies in texture that make each a piece of craft. At certain times of day in certain seasons, the light coming through onto the pew walls (beautiful pieces of woodworking in their own right) collects and displays the character of the panes in bright patches of pattern.

Photo by me!

Firsts for the First

I’m thinking about creative first lines for the first, naturally enough for a bookhound. What are the most famous first lines in English? I guessed three. Of course, there’s the one that makes reference to its own place in the book, “In the beginning…” Then there’s “To be, or not to be…”. While not an official opening line, it is the first line of the speech.

I also guessed “T’was the night before Christmas…” That one got me started thinking about time in first lines, and, of course, “Once upon a time” may be the most well-known beginning there is. I assume many languages have their version of it to turn to. It’s interesting that two literary classics begin, or almost begin with it. Poe’s “The Raven” at least starts “Once upon”, if only to plunge us into, not a time, but a timeless “midnight dreary” where Life and Rationality get crept up on by their opposites.

James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, despite being a modernist classic, does begin “Once upon a time…” because the main character’s uncle is telling baby Stephen a story about a little boy and a cow. If you’re a Literary Geek, this is kinda funny.

Of course, Dickens left the timestampers in the dust with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”. A lot of first lines like to pin down time, as if this is the information we want and need first. A personal perennial favorite is: “In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.” How dull, really. But he will shortly meet an unusual person who might look like Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch or my friend Donald. This will shake him up a bit and liven the storytelling considerably.

For the sake of my friend and fab fellow blogger, I have to add to this category “Captain’s Log, Stardate series of numbers I’m sure the Trekkies have sorted out into a calendar”.

I suppose marking time– sunlight, seasons, writing deadlines– is a survival tactic as old as our ability to do it. I almost don’t dare write that I hope today is a marker pointing in some good directions, but I suppose Betty White would want me to do it. And then to say swear words and laugh a lot and say/do something kind.

Another first line I’ve known nearly forever came to my mind, and I’ll end on it. It sounds dire, asking a heavy question rather than offering safe information to hold on to: “‘Where’s Pa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother…” It’s the first line of Charlotte’s Web, and it doesn’t begin to hint at the wonder, writing, Love, and “the glory of everything” to come. I think it’s the first line I need today.

Its author, E. B. White, is a favorite of my dear friend Bob Colonna, to whom this first post of 2022 is dedicated with all my spun-silk love.

(The photo is E. B. White and Minnie.)