Adjusting daily ritual

Orchard yieldI was realizing today that I’ve stopped doing a lot of things that were somewhat routine in my life. All of these new rituals have cropped up and have been replacing the old ones.

For instance:

– Can’t remember the last time I wrote in my journal (I’ve been doing my daily thanksgiving card, though, since January 1).
– Haven’t been reading nearly as many novels (blame that on all the dog books).
– No more yogurt or sugary cereal for breakfast (thanks, Lent!).
– No exercise (OK. I have no excuse. But I have been walking a lot more!)
– No fiction writing (I’m going to blame that on the weekly challenges. And on being lazy/uninspired).
– My Bible/prayer time has become increasingly spotty (no excuses for that).

I miss my real journal, though. I want to start keeping that again. I also miss feeling like I actually had muscles in my legs, instead of just limp fillets of skin stretched over bone. These habits ought to be reinstated. My sisters are very good about keeping goals and meeting them on a daily basis. I’m not sure how they do it, but they are both exceedingly accomplished.

Part of the problem might be this resurgence of my obsessive personality. All other notions and long-term aspirations (such as saving up to buy and learn how to use a DSLR, making my calligraphy business more professional, and going to grad school) have taken a back seat to my current urge to get a dog. Somehow I’ve tricked my brain into thinking that it won’t be that bad to have to wait a year. The Year of Patience! Right?

Still. I feel restless somehow. Like I should be doing something else that I’m not.

That said, the warmer weather is making me feel more alive than I have felt all winter. I’ve been taking long walks with Liz’s Golden Retriever, Bo, and finding excuses to walk downtown as often as possible. It was a long and dreary winter here in the Virginia mountains, but I finally feel like we’re coming out on the other side.

In other news, I’ve been reviving my love of Neko Case, Patty Griffin, and Gillian Welch, because I feel like they are appropriate for the landscape in which we live. My route to work is not especially lovely, but it does provide incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains on the drive to and from the office. I am always grateful for the glimpses it provides and when Patty Griffin is crooning in the background, it’s just perfect. This is a beautiful country, folks. You should come visit.

Buzzing: Inheriting the family “crazy”

I want to BE this woman. Source: BBC.

Mental stability has never been one of my strong points.

This does not mean I am prone to hysterics or wild bouts of unpredictable emotion. From the outside, you would never know that I was psychologically shaky or possessed. I like to keep it quiet; my neuroses are pleasantly hushed.

More recently, I have been thinking of my brain’s inability to calm down, to move on, to focus as an inherited trait. Mental disturbance runs in my paternal family. It follows a spectrum, from clinical mental illness/borderline genius to sociable obsession. As far as I can tell, I’m definitely on the lower end of the intelligence slide with the manifestation of my instability rooted soundly in friendly obsessions.

My father is an interesting example of this murky family phenomenon. He is highly intelligent and extremely humble about it. As my grandmother likes to say, “You’d never guess that he was actually smart.” He jokes around and plays with the maturity of a 7-year-old. Yet he has three master’s degrees, in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and robotics; Mom says he was just a few classes away from his Ph.D. (but then I was born and ruined everything). He worked on an algorithm for years to figure out how to combine tracts of land in auctions; he solved it and was the first person to do so. He worked on the team in Boca Raton that built the first personal printer.  He programs computers in his sleep. Like his four siblings and parents, he has this genius thing working for him.

But he also is obsessive. I was thinking today that I am like him in this way. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit the genius bit, but I definitely picked up his inclination for obsession.

This is what I mean by “friendly obsession.” A sociable or socially normative obsessive personality, as manifested in my family, means that you have a tendency to get locked into one idea, hobby, or task and you are unable to let it go for a given period of time.

This is how it worked with Dad. Every few months or so, he would discover a new talent of his and make this new talent his whole life, his central pursuit. For example, he decided, when he was 30, that his new hobby would be tennis. He started playing tennis every day. He bought a device to string his own rackets. In a few years, he was playing semi-pro and winning state tournaments. A few years later, it was piano. He went out an bought a glossy, beautiful baby grand piano and plunked it in his office. He taught himself how to read music and started playing the piano every night. A year later, it was guitar. He bought five guitars and taught himself how to play them (and me, eventually). Then it was model airplanes. Then it was complex building and landscape projects. Then it was hockey. And so forth.

You see this obsessive trait played out in my paternal family. For my grandfather, it was bodybuilding. For my grandmother, it was shelter dogs and Dobermans for a while; now it’s NASCAR. For my uncle, it is his prized fleet of motorcycles. Everyone has their THING.

And I have mine. You know what it is without me having to say it again. In my own cycle of life obsessions, I don’t remember one being this powerful and affecting to my daily functioning. But there you have it. When I was young, I was obsessed with writing novellas and performing historical plays. In late elementary school and early middle school, my obsession with dogs began. Naturally, that one hasn’t died out. In high school, I was obsessed with guitar. College distracted me from this obsessive tendency for a solid four years, although it manifested itself in the continual drive to achieve and make straight A’s and write excellent papers.

Now, almost a year out of college, I find the obsession creeping back. It’s the more predictable, stubborn type. It leaks into my dreams and my solitary moments. Dangerously, it crowds out all other disciplines and interests. For Guion’s sake, I try not to talk about it (“it” being dogs, of course). This is going to be a long year, this Year of Patience. To keep my spirit aloft, I have devised a series of monthly goals (more drawn-out and relaxed versions of my Weekly Challenges) to keep me distracted from how long I have to wait for a puppy. It will be good for me. This is my new mantra.

Essentially, all you need to know is that I am an ideal candidate for becoming one of those Crazy Dog Ladies. You know the type. High-waisted jeans, outdated hair, fanny pack full of liver treats, screen print T-shirt with a cameo of her favorite breed? Yeah. That’s me at 50. Or earlier, if I’m not careful…