Category Archives: Compulsions

Controlled Chaos

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The other day in a comment to another blogger, I said something on the order of how I think life is cyclical.  We go from the intuitive state of children to the increasingly rational world of the adult and then, as we retire and age (or age and retire, depending on how anxious we are to do so) and get on to the next stage, we start evolving back into the state we were in as children.  We perhaps start to forget details of the present in favor of remembering vividly details of our past. Our present seems to fall into an increasing sense of disorder as our past comes back with a strange clarity.  In the farther stages of dementia, this seems to be true as well.

Judging by the fragmented comments made by my sister who is experiencing the journey of Alzheimer’s, she seems to be going backwards through her life.  In her mind, she was for awhile once again married to a husband from whom she had been divorced for twenty-five years.  A year later, she was talking about her high school boyfriend as though he was waiting for her; and this year, when given a baby doll, she sat rocking it and calling it Judy.  Eleven years older than me, I’m sure she was remembering me as a baby.  More proof of my theory, because she has had three children and five grandchildren since she rocked me in that long-ago rocking chair, most of whom she doesn’t remember.

All of this speculating is a roundabout method of preparing you for what I really want to talk about, and that is the topic of “chaos.”  As we age, our rational mind seems to give way to intuition–forgetting details like what we are driving to town to do or what we came from the bedroom to the living room to find. Instead, we wander from task to task as we get distracted by whatever our eye falls upon, much as we did as children.

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In a similar fashion,  objects collect on the table-like headboard of my bed and on my night tables. Have you ever seen the room of  a teenager?  A perfect example of chaos.  Dirty clothes and caked ice cream dishes are swept under the bed, dirty clothes are in piles mixed in with the clean ones delivered by mom a week earlier, magazines, electrical equipment, soccer balls and school books all seem to be placed in the same category and spread evenly over the surfaces of the room.

The bedroom or playroom of a toddler or child seems to follow the same organizational plan:  Leggos, the detached limbs of G.I. Joes or Barbies, coloring books, plastic kid-sized furniture, trikes, blocks, kiddie computer games, unmatched socks, clothes outgrown months ago, plastic trucks and assorted game pieces from kiddie games cover the floor as though organized by a tornado into the perfect organizational plan of a child: chaos.

So it was in the house of my oldest sister.  Every year, more piles appeared in her bedroom.  Her kitchen drawers were a jumble of knives, jewelry, old electrical receipts, diamond rings, half full medicine bottles, plastic lids to butter tubs, photographs, drawings her children had done twenty years before, unused postal stamps and corroded batteries.

When I visited a few months before she went into a managed care facility, hoping  I could facilitate her staying in her house for at least another year, I reorganized her house–– putting labels on all her drawers.  In the bedroom, I sorted out a tangle of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.  In doing so,  I discovered  23 watches–all dysfunctional.

“Betty, why do you have so many watches?”

“Oh, they all stopped working.”

“Did you exchange the batteries?”

“Oh, you can do that?”

Now I look at the boxes of slides and photos of the art work of my husband and me–sorted and condensed from four boxes  into two boxes, then abandoned unfinished when I needed to use the dining room table to entertain guests. Now the unresolved mess resides between the bed and the closet in my bedroom. Sigh.

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There are junk drawers I’ve been shoving things into for 15 years thinking one day I’ll sort them.  Boxes of miscellaneous papers I packed up 15 years ago to bring to Mexico still sit untouched in my garage.

Like the rest of the universe, having come from the chaos of childhood, I seem to be returning to it and I wonder what the solution will be.  Perhaps, as many of my friends have, I will start shedding the accumulations of a lifetime and simplify my life so there is less in it to be transformed into chaos.  Or, perhaps as has been my pattern for the past 15 years, since divesting myself of most of my possessions to move to Mexico, I will continue to collect thousands of little items for my art collages, dozens of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings–even though I wear only a few favorites.

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Perhaps I’ll continue to buy the books of friends, the paintings of talented Mexican artists, huipiles from the market, woven purses and alebrijes from beach vendors, gelato makers from the garage sales of friends.

I have a special fondness for one basket vendor who sells the lovely baskets made by his family in Guerrero. I have them in every shape–square, obelisk, round, rectangular–as well as every size from coin purse to three feet tall.  Yet I keep buying them because I admire his perseverance.  For the fifteen years I’ve been here, he has traversed the carretera from Chapala to Jocotepec, laden front, back and to each side with these baskets.  He wears five straw hats piled neatly one on top of the other on his head.  Baskets nest within other baskets or are threaded onto a long cord and worn diagonally over his chest.

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He is a a master of organization–and to query about any basket as one sits at at table in the Ajijic plaza  will invite his ceremony as he divests himself of baskets to display them.  Soon the floor around your table will be covered in so many baskets it seems impossible that one man has been carrying them up and down the ten miles between the towns on this side of the lake–all day and for years long before I moved here.  His is an incredible sense of organization that is the opposite of chaos, and in admiration, if I am unable to persuade visiting friends to buy his baskets, I always buy something myself.

Back home, I fill one with outgrown underwear, another with scarves, another with old keys and padlocks I may one day need.  It is as though his organization rubs off on me as I fill baskets, instilling some order into a life potentially chaotic–but at the moment held within the confines of normalcy.

Ten years ago, my other sister opened my junk drawer in my kitchen and declared, “There is no excuse for anyone to have a drawer like this.”  Because I know of no one who does not have a drawer like that, I was somewhat surprised, and was especially surprised because before her visit I had more or less organized my junk drawer.

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But now I look around and realize I have a number of those drawers.  In spite of the basket vendor’s good example, my sense or organization seems to be veering toward having a special drawer to thrust categories of things into: batteries, items of clothing, kitchen tools, jewelry.  Controlled chaos––the way of the universe and certainly the seeming course of our lives. For some of us, at least.

(If you are dying to make out exactly what is in these drawers, clicking on the photos will enlarge your view.  Snoopy!)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/chaos/

Lunch Date (Old-Fashioned Attention): JNW’s Prompt Generator

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Lunch Date

One thing I’d like that I will mention
is a bit of old-fashioned attention.
The kind with no device in hand
is the kind that I can stand

better than the sort with texting
minds caught in “before” and “next”ing
and not a thought for whom you’re with
until I’m sure that it’s a myth

that I’m the one you want to see,
even though you have invited me.
For though our table is for two,
you bring so many more with you–

every relative and friend.
Your texts to them just never end.
Our tete a tete‘s become absurd.
I never get to speak a word!

So there’s one thing I’d like to state.
Please cancel our next luncheon date.
The next time you desire a munch,
just take your iPhone out to lunch!


My prompt was “Old-fashioned Attention.” To get a prompt or see more JNW Prompt-Generated posts, go HERE.

Needless to say, there will be no sequel to this lunch date, but to see posts about sequels to movies, go here: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/missing-seqeuls/

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Disinclination (Sleep Phobia)

Disinclination (Sleep Phobia)

I hate to give the day up.  There’s so much left to do.
I like the sky when midnight black is its only hue.
No interruptions on the phone. No meetings, no last chore.
It’s days that contain all the rules.  Days are such a bore!
At night I watch Doc Martin or read the blogs of others.
It always would be dark outside if I had my druthers.

I resist sleep when first it comes knocking at my door.
I put it off and fight it, sometimes ’til three or four.
At night it seems like such a shame to waste my life in sleep,
yet in the morning I find those convictions hard to keep.
When the alarm bell rings if I could choose, I find I would
go back to sleep, for suddenly my bed feels really good!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.”

IMHO

 The Prompt: IMHO–Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.

IMHO

I gave up reading the news years ago. I just got too depressed when I did so. Certainly, stories filter through and then I hear the pertinent details or look them up online, but gone for me are days spent listening to and watching repetition after repetition of the same facts, many later found to be untrue or exaggerated.

So, this prompt is one that sent me out into the news Internet, looking for a story. The first one that came up was of the French pilot who it seems deliberately sent his plane careening into the Alps, killing everyone on board. Then I found a story about Korean twins, separated at birth, who never even knew of each other’s existence but who found each other over Facebook. Then a story about a woman who transforms abandoned Bratz dolls that look like hookers back into dolls that look like little girls.

Then back to President Obama’s Iran negotiations, a small girl born with two heads, The Voice finals in Australia, a letter of thanks gone viral, written by the mother of an autistic child to a businessman who had put away his papers and played with his seatmate for the 2 ½ hour flight. I flipped through dozens of other stories on the way: about the royal family, dogs, cats, a cow furnished with prosthetic legs and saved from slaughter. This hodgepodge was heartwarming, heartshattering, overwhelming, and two hours later, I had still not chosen a news report to write an op ed piece on.

I guess, instead, I will write it on how the internet seems to be substituting for our lives. This flood of information furnishes the vicarious existence once limited to The Soaps: The Edge of Night, Another World, General Hospital. I still remember the day Joan Lenzi came running into our room in college, tears streaming, shouting “Laura died, Laura died!” My heart flipped over in dread as my mind searched madly for a mutual friend named Laura, only to discover, once Joan had collected herself a bit, that a character on our favorite Soap had just departed our after-lunch afternoon.

No more skipping Astronomy to experience the next vicarious thrill. Without Laura, who was Luke? With no further excuses to skip, I dropped Astronomy, insuring the necessity to attend summer school to catch up.

Now it is harder to avoid excuses. When one internet heroine or villain passes from sight, there are ten thousand others to take their place. Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, OkCupid, Match.Com, Christian Singles, Pinterest, Blogster—ad infinitum. There is so much to fill our lives and furnish excuses for what we don’t want to do that it is no longer really necessary for us to assemble a life around ourselves at all. So long as we can somehow manage to feed, clothe and house ourselves, the rest is available online.

When I suffered a debilitating migraine lately, the first to know it were internet friends. My Skype near-romance phoned my oldest friend, now rarely communicated to other than through Skype or online Scrabble games. She talked me down from a near-panic attack and I eventually fell asleep. The next morning I wrote about it (Here) and had a flood of sympathetic comments from blogging friends. Another friend who lives in the town where I live Facebooked me the name of a medication that might forestall future headaches. No neighbor arrived on my doorstep with chicken soup or offered to feed the dogs, but cyber friends gathered round, giving me that warm feeling formerly reserved for a down comforter.

I had to look up IMHO before I wrote my response to this prompt. It’s a term often used in the past by my Skype near-romance. But every time, I forget this initial-speak. It’s as though life has been shortened enough. Emails have become Tweets and emoticons have replaced phrases of opinion, affection, disgust or frustration. Hyperlinks replace restatements and hashtags replace the social organizations where we used to gather for coffee or a coke and a good old-fashioned in-person gab session.

In my humble opinion, everything is finally short enough. If we become any smaller, we are going to implode. Computers now fit in the palm of one’s hand and I’ve heard of technology where one day they will be implanted into our eyeballs and transmitted to our brains. At that point, what do we become other than human robots? Perhaps it is all a plot by the machines of the world to be the next step of our evolution. Perhaps what the most far-out science fiction writer once imagined has become our world. In my humble opinion, we have gone far enough. We are able to know too much by doing too little. Experience too much by doing nothing at all. The time has come where observing life is more interesting than making it happen. Time to stop!!! But that is just “my humble opinion,” expressed as a full statement—railing out against this too-short world.

Note: Once more, my NaPoWriMo and Daily Prompt subjects seems to have intersected, so to read my other short post today, go HERE.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/imho/

Now, Voyager

                                                          209a3984-32bf-375b-99f0-3a7c774a75b0      Now, Voyager

I love transformation movies: ugly ducklings turned beautiful, wallflowers who become the belle of the ball, villains turned saviors, shady ladies turned good girls, wild horses tamed.  If you can name one famous example of each from the movies, you win the prize, but for me the top entry in the first category would have to be Bette Davis in “Now Voyager.”

I’ve always been surprised that they haven’t done a remake of the film, but on the other hand, I don’t think they could probably equal the romantic pathos of the dowdy, overweight, aging and submissive spinster Bette Davis, living with her dominating mother, her one rebellion–cigarettes sneaked on the sly.  As her mother slips the noose of control ever tighter, Bette is “saved” by a nervous breakdown and a visiting psychiatrist who persuades her mother that she must be sent to a “rest farm” where the transformation takes place.

The resultant makeover, sea voyage, love affair and. . . but wait . . .  I’ll tell no more, for if you haven’t already seen the film, it is a must-see and I don’t want to issue further spoilers.  As a matter of fact, if you have seen it, we should both probably see it again.  The last time I saw it was in VHS form ordered from Amazon twelve years ago and yes, I still do have a VHS player hidden away somewhere in the highest reaches of my house.

At any rate, I have been diverted by the film review when my real intention was to talk about the title and plot itself and the significance it has in my own life; for I, too, seek a transformation.  Just once I would like to be that stunningly glamorous, thin mysterious stranger who turns all heads.  Yes, superficial, but I’ve always thought it would be fun to experience being that woman who could have any man in the place.

For too many years, books and movies seemed more real than the world around me.  My boring existence in a small town could not be all there was to life.  Surely, if it were, then all those exciting books and movies would never have been written, for where would they have come from except from the patterns of other places and other lives that contained more possibilities than a small dusty town in the middle of South Dakota prairie?

Yes, I did eventually voyage off into life and I found places more exciting–more in line with my own interests.  And although I had love affairs, married the man of my dreams, had careers I felt adequate at, traveled to exotic climes and never had trouble making friends, at age 67, I have still never been the femme fatale of my childish and teenage and middle-age dreams. I have made starts and even accomplished some of the goals.  I’ve lost weight, found the perfect haircut, bought more stylish clothes.  I’ve gone to clubs and danced unabashedly, joined internet introduction clubs, gone to singles parties. But still, at my best, there is some quality lacking in my makeup–some ineffable clue that I am available, sensual, smart and fun to be with.  What is it?  My entire life I have wondered why, with a few notable exceptions, I will invariably be the last woman at the table asked to dance. For years I believed it was because of my weight and at present that may be so, but even at my skinniest, there was some signal I sent out that made me unapproachable or unappealing or uncharismatic to most men, and as old and wise and introspective and analytical as I have become in my middle-to-old age, I do not know what it is.

Have you ever known someone who is doing something wrong and who just can’t get it right?  Everyone knows what it is but no one tells them, for fear of hurting their feelings.  And so they go on in life, never quite getting what they want and not having a clue why that is.  Why don’t we just tell each other?  It would be so much simpler.  But, the truth is that we probably would not listen even if our friends told us.  We would find excuses. We would not believe them, no matter how many people told us the same thing, because there seems to be some radar causing us to become who we are–strengths, talents and faults all combined.

A complete stranger sitting next to me at a banquet once said to me, “You don’t need that!” when I reached for the dessert held out to me by the waiter.  I was astonished, insulted, irate.  I wanted to take two desserts and put the bastard in his place! But the truth was, maybe he was that one person in my life who decided to tell me the truth.

Today when I got up to let the dogs out and give them their morning meal, I saw the dusty blistered card of diet pills on the kitchen island.  I broke one off and swallowed it with a long drink of water.  Perhaps I’ll start again that journey towards sylphdom.  I’ll lose dress sizes, get a facelift to deal with the resultant sags and wrinkles, fit into sexier clothes, go back on OkCupid, meet another stranger grown familiar through words over the internet.  Maybe it’s still not too late to be an object of desire. Or, perhaps I’ll just write about it.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/642826/Now-Voyager-Movie-Clip-I-Met-A-Doctor-In-Rio.html

The Prompt:Silver Screen–Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the title of your post. Now, write!  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/silver-screen/

Strangely enough, this post also ended up answering today’s prompt so I’m posting it there as well: But No Cigar–Tell us about a time things came this close to working out… but didn’t. What happened next? Would you like the chance to try again, or are you happy with how things eventually worked out? https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/but-no-cigar/

Most of the Time: A Serial Tale, Chapter 2

Well, again, today’s prompt is one I’ve already done, but the prompt I did yesterday involves taking the first and last line of a favorite book and using the last line as the first line of my writing and using the first line of the book as the last line in my piece.  I did so and the results, if you haven’t read them, you can find HERE.  I then asked readers to provide the name of another book and its first and last lines so I can continue the story.  I’m going to continue so long as people keep providing me the first and last lines.  More info about that is at the end of my Chapter 2.  So, here goes Chapter Two:

Most of the Time

Chapter 2

Nothing is an unmixed blessing. The fact that my frequent trips to the firing range furnished me with an easy out any time I wished to leave the house carried certain penalties. For one, I had no permit to carry a concealed weapon, so if I was planning on really going elsewhere, I had to figure out where in the house to stash my guns so Peter would not find them and start wondering why I would be going to a firing range with no guns. It was not an option to leave them in the car. I may be irresponsible in some regards, but gun safety is not one of them. I will not carry concealed weapons. Nor will I take the risk of anyone breaking into my car to steal them.

As careful as I am, I’ve been known to forget to lock the car. What if a child were to enter and find one of the guns and, thinking it was a toy, discharge it? So it was that I purchased the lock box that I kept in a special compartment, also locked, under the gardening box behind the lawnmower shed. I had it made specially, and it was so cleverly contrived that it was impossible to see that there was a secret slide-out compartment under the large chest that held clippers, shears, weed whacker, gloves, various lawn fertilizers, garden pest sprays and powders and about a thousand Daddy Long Legs that had decided this year to use it as their main clustering spot. A padlock secured it against any child getting into the poisons or any prowler making off with our tools, but there was a crack big enough to permit access by spiders, tiny frogs, and this year’s infestation of Daddy Long Legs.

I slid my fingers into the crack on the side of the secret compartment that allowed the lock to pop out, unlocked it and slid my Ruger Mark 4 into the small tray that ran along the left side of the compartment. There was plenty of room for several rifles or shotguns in addition to six or more pistols or revolvers, but it would have been overkill to pretend to take more than one firearm on a day when I had no intention of going to the range. It would be easy for me to sneak a small pistol into the house. Not so easy to deal with smuggling an item as large as a rifle if Peter happened to get home before I did.

I clicked the tray shut, heard the automatic lock snap in place, then turned the key to position the deadlock. Free at last! I sprinted to the car and spun out in my excitement to be off on another adventure. “She cleans closets by night, comes out of the closet by day” ran through my mind, picking up a melody as it repeated itself. No song had written itself in my mind for a very long time, and even this silly line began to acquire a validity that I might have disregarded if I hadn’t felt so elated to once again have the company of my muse. Even so, I had to admit the line didn’t have much of a chance as anything outside of a C&W refrain, but I’m no snob about music. I’m open to pretty much any kind of music that comes to me.

Peter hates it when I hum. He gets this irritated look, first, and if I continue in spite of it, his usual line is, “You’re humming again!” After twenty years of being cutting short by this line, I still feel put down every time he says it. “I am not farting!” I used to say, “—or snorting or coughing without covering my mouth. I am simply revealing my happy mood, not to mention my creativity. It’s an original song I’m humming, Peter. It’s part of my expression of my art.”

Those sorts of arguments didn’t make it much past our first year of marriage. It took me less time than that to learn that such unburdenings of my soul had absolutely no effect on Peter. The next time I hummed, the look he shot me was no less lethal. “Old women hum tunelessly under their breaths,” he once said during yet another putdown. “Can’t you save your humming for private moments?”

I rolled down the window and bellered. Top of my lungs. Top of the morning. I’d reached open country and there was no one to hear me with the exception of the crows and passing motorists, none of whom even turned their heads to check me out. I was noisily invisible. That was comforting, actually. I really enjoyed being the thing overlooked in places where I knew I didn’t belong. I would soon be that person again in whatever place I chose to enter next. I headed out for the industrial part of a very large town merely twenty miles away from the house I called home. That was far enough in this hugest of towns. I had never once run across anyone I knew on one of my little sorties. These little adventures were the dessert that kept me true to the restricted diet I was on in the other ninety-some percent of my life. I was going to have fun. Even if it killed me, I was going to have fun while I still remembered what fun was.

As I pulled off the four lane onto a long straight gray street, I could hear the buzz of the telephone lines, the maddening drone of a weed whacker, the electrical current pushing the street lights off and on, the rhythmic turning of cars whizzing by, the mashed together sound of people talking, TV’s and radios blaring, When I rolled up my window, all of the noises went away; but as I pulled to a stop in front of a little lowlife dive and opened the door, I could hear its neon sign doing its own cyclical hum to join with all the other sounds. “Ninny Ricketts Place” the sign announced without the benefit of apostrophe, and it joined in the humming mesmerizing chorus of that whole grim landscape until the buzz in the street was like the humming of flies caught between glass and the window screen, with no place else to go but here and no way to get there even should they determine to go.

To See Chapter 3, go Here.

Yesterday’s Prompt: Choose a book at random from your bookcase. Use the last sentence in the book as the first sentence of what you write. Then turn to the first sentence of the book and use it for your ending sentence. (I used the ending line of the book I chose as my title, which actually is the first line of a book to my way of thinking. Hereafter, however, I will use whatever prompt I’m given as the first line of the next section of the story.)

Today’s Prompt from Patti Arnieri: My suggestion is from “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (otherwise known as J.K. Rowling). First line: “The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies.” Last line: “Nothing is an unmixed blessing.”

If you would like to suggest a book for me to use the first and last lines of for tomorrow’s writing, please give the title of the book, the author, and the book’s first and last lines in the comments section of this posting. Remember that I’ll use the last line as the first line of tomorrow’s posting and the first line as my last line. Who knows where this tale will wind? If no one gives me tomorrow’s prompting lines, the rest of the story will never be heard, and perhaps that is a good thing. C’est la vie.

P.S. If any of you would like to accept this same challenge, just watch to see what beginning and ending lines I use and use the same ones. If you are a day behind, no problem. It would be interesting to see what varied stories occur given the same beginning and ending lines. Please post a link to your story or poem on the page it corresponds to in my blog—i.e. the one where I make use of the same beginning and ending lines.Will anyone accept my challenge? Sam? Macgyver? Laura? John?

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

I lie in bed, flat on my back, head raised by pillows,
computer raised to eye level
by a wadded comforter over bent knees.
I listen to raised voices in the village down below,
the staccato of an inadequately mufflered car revving up,
a hammer falling on wood, birds in the coco  palms.
A pianissimo chorus of dogs spread
over the surrounding hills swells to a frenzied crescendo,
then falls silent but will swell again.

I have dropped obligations
like clothes shed for a lover.
My Saturday morning pool aerobics and zumba,
I slipped out of years ago.
Group luncheons hang from doorknobs and chair backs.
Committee meetings lie sloppily abandoned in the hall.

I have retired from the running of the world
to run my own small universe on paper.
Saturday morning is my brainstorm session
with “Me,” “Myself” and “I.”
“I” suggested feeding the dogs,
but they are quiet now, so
“Me” suggested we let them lie.
“Myself” laid out some words to dry
in the heat of the fire of our communal
inspiration, laying them smoothly on the page,
rumpling up others in her fist to send them sailing
to join the crumpled singles event invitations in the corner.

This slow Saturday morning dressing of pages
and stripping them bare
is a sort of ceremony celebrating seizing time
and making it my own.
Pages  fill up with passion, angst, anger,
irritation, joy, laughter, camaraderie.
There is more than one word for each.

Imagine such control over your world–
not having to live the world of any other.
If you could have any life you wish?
Imagine a Saturday morning  building it.

 

The Prompt:  Me Time–What do you like to do on Saturday morning?  Are you doing it now?