Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Imposing structure

For most of my time as an adult, I've had a push-me/pull-you relationship with structure in my life.

I grew up with external structures - school, lessons, band camp, summer play rehearsal schedules - but few internal structures were ever imposed.

The result was that I cultivated an aversion - or maybe just a bad attitude - towards internal controls. I had the cookie when I wanted it, took the day off if it felt right and did the dishes only when I found I couldn't stand not having the sink available to me.

I threw my clothes on the floor, rarely tidied up after projects and couldn't get rid of all things I was waiting to "get to." There was no one there to answer to, no reason to make the effort, so I lived a cluttered, messy life ruled by a lack of internal control (read: "spoiled").

I have spent the past 7 months or so in the company of someone who is 89% internal control, and it's been transformative for me. His home is sparse and clean, and I feel a marked change in my stress:calm ratio when I arrive there.

Realizing what a change the environment had on me, I brought what I've learned into my own home.

As you know, I started my own active de-accessioning in spring. The immediate result was a home with fewer things precariously stored. This means that the things I want to get to are less of a hassle, which means I get to those things more - which is its own reward. And there isn't a rumpled pile of whatnot taunting me from the precarious place I pulled whatever it was out into the light of day.

It's been like a reverse Diderot Effect, instead of upgrading my environs to match my dressing gown, I have begun - almost unconsciously - undertaking actions that build upon this new structure.

I now make my bed daily and hang up my nightclothes.
I transformed my living room into a knitting and sewing space - decorating with the tools and materials of textile play - banishing knick-knacks and replacing the souvenirs of the life I wanted to have lived with the artifacts of things I actually experienced.

The mental quiet coming from all this change is growing exponentially, and unlike other changes of habit and lifestyle, these seem to be more organic and easy to take root - like volunteer shoots that pop up in a garden: unexpected, appreciated, and eventually cultivated to thrive.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A short stay in Michigan

This weekend I went on short (but highly enjoyable) mini-break in Michigan.

The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso was holding its first Steam Fest - which is one of those odd things that you find out about in 1 of 2 ways:
1: You are - or are related to - those who actively seek out steam engines (I fall into the category of the latter - although having been acclimated to the sound of a steam whistle by age 8, I was just as likely to yell "Steam engine!" knowing full well I'd be hastily tossed into the car to chase it as far as we could.)
2: You went to college with the person who coordinated the event and can't escape its presence on Facebook.

I fall into both categories, actually.

It was a bit of a last minute decision to attend, and because the event was in a smallish town with accommodations sold out in a 50 mile radius, Ann Arbor was the city of choice.

We stayed at a wonderful B&B called Vitosha - The bike at the door was indicator enough that I would enjoy my stay...

The room had a view of the courtyard from the charming veranda...

We reached the festival and were quickly swept up in the sights, sounds, & smells of steam...

After we got our bearings - we took a short excursion that was pulled first by a diesel - then back by a small steam engine.

Of course, we had tea...

I think I may be returning for a fall excursion with my parents - once lured by the siren song of a steam whistle, it's difficult to escape it's grasp.