This is my favorite room in our house. It is also the smallest after the two and a half bathrooms, which may be part of its charm. It was the first Bruce painted (light pink and dark green trim quickly converted to a lovely blue with white trim) when we bought the house, yet it is the spare room over the garage and the one we use the least. This morning it was my refuge with Carmen the dog whilst the cleaners assaulted the dust and grime in my office space and bedroom, and whilst a sudden snowstorm swirled around outside.
My latest divinity school class (mid-February) was on how to handle congregational conflicts and I found one of the preparatory assignments particularly illuminating. And although I have a post-lecture paper to write before the end of next week, two books to finish reading before the end of the week after that, and am in the midst of tax preparation and the whirlwind of reaping the rewards of recent speechifying (which generated a modest amount of new interest that requires care and channeling), I am feeling compelled to do a little navel-gazing in the form of a blog entry. So here goes.
Maybe this is a female problem. Or a problem of females raised in our culture. Or maybe it’s specific to those of a certain age, or ethnicity, or a certain upbringing or personality type, or some other subset. I suspect it is more widespread than any of that and I’m sure I’m not the first to ponder it aloud or otherwise, however, I do not believe males have quite the same issue.
For example, and I’m not nitpicking or blaming here as I think it’s rather a good thing, my husband does not feel any guilt that I know of when he sits down and picks up a guitar and noodles around on it for half an hour or when he turns on the Wii and rids the screen of little viruses playing Dr. Mario. He is a disciplined guy, he’s home from work and the stuff he needs to get done is done and so he plays. He recreates. I cannot do that. Not guilt-free anyway. There is always something that needs to be done. Dinner prep or clean-up. Laundry. Work-related stuff. Something. Taking time for self-care, or just playing for a solid block of time, is … fraught. I’m not saying it is or isn’t a fault of mine, but I suspect it might be problematic.
Which is something I discovered whilst trying to complete this assignment: “Spend time on three separate occasions during the four weeks before class begins, doing something for your body or spirit.” I attended a yoga class, and experienced great difficulty pushing what I could have been doing with that block of time out of my mind during the class when I was supposed to be centered on my breath. I scheduled an hour-long massage, and nearly canceled it three times when seemingly urgent potential conflicts threatened to complicate the timing of the appointment, and allowed at least two of those to crowd into the before and after of the event in such a way that … really an hour was all I had thank you very much, and can we get on with it and get it done? Which rather negates the power of a massage a smidge, don’t you think? Last minute fluctuations in my family’s schedule and unexpected weather kept me from attending two services of morning prayer before I finally was able to incorporate one into my week, my third of the three separate occasions I chose.
It should not be this difficult to do something good for myself, right? I do believe that if I do not love, accept or care for who I am, I cannot begin properly to love, accept or care for others. Nor can I appropriately accept others’ love, acceptance of or care for me. Intellectually I know that very well. Deeper knowledge, however, the cell-level knowledge deep in my bones that allows me to act like I believe it? I never learned that. This preparatory assignment confronted me full on with that bit of knowledge.
These are the thoughts with which I begin March, the month of my birth. Will I have a handle on all that by the time the 29th comes and my odometer clicks over to 52 (gasp!!)? I suspect not.
What I hope to have by then are a completed Bohus sweater I can wear, a repaired Noro/Debbie Bliss cardigan, and a Jared Flood/Shelter lap rug/shawl. Because that’s recreating for me, and taking care of me. I’m also making a hard and fast appointment once a week for gentle Anusara yoga with a teacher who cares for me, knows me well, and is a fellow knitter. And another hard and fast appointment once a week for morning prayer, half an hour with a group of like-minded believers.
And for my 53rd year, beginning 29 March, I’m challenging myself with the joy of knitting a pair of mittens a month. Because I’ve got the capability and I’ve got the yarn and patterns all kitted up and ready to go (collected in a box and labeled w/ necessary needle sizes even!), each month with a different challenge or theme to keep it interesting and my skills improving. Dinner might be a little late and the laundry might not get done. But there will be mittens. And a few blog entries about knitting them. Twelve, at least. And that’s another thing I can do for me. And I think, I hope, I’ll be a happier person for it.