"Do you have a profound need for beauty in your life?"
After I quit working for a company that manufactured custom footwear I needed something to do with my life. There was an opening at the school my daughters attended for an After School Care Coordinator, I can't remember if I was approached by someone who knew the director or the director herself, she had celiac disease and I had gotten a lot of advice and wisdom from her. She was someone I greatly respected and I'm going to be reading out to her since I want her to sense that she is appreciated and her words of encouragement remain with me today. If she is the heroine we must have a villain. I won't share the details of how she came to be my nemesis, she was a very by the book person; dull, lacking in imagination, and as colorless and drab as the activities she had scheduled for the children. The program evolved and I'm still angry that some of the changes I had made were scrapped because I felt as if they were helping the children learn, grow, and promoted nurturing of their developing bodies and minds.
Most of the other adults viewed outside time as something to suffer through, I very strongly believe that after school, work, or a structured task or event there is a need for decompression. Rather than give the children a specific amount of time to run around and play I let them do their thing until I saw evidence that they were ready to go back inside. There was one of me and I enlisted the older children to help the younger ones with things like zippers on coats, and fastenings on boots. I abandoned the notion that girl children should have to do this kind of thing at the exclusion of the boys and used a buddy type system to make transition times shorter. For a while we had a problem with lining up when I told the kids it was time to go back inside. Yelling and screaming at people has never seemed particularly effective to me, I brought everyone inside, asked the kids why they weren't lining up, and after we had arrived at some reasons why this was a problem and some possible solutions I had them write apologies to me.
Most of the children were sincerely apologetic, I received a memorable and touching apology from a girl I really liked. She was often there very late and I did things with her that the children who left earlier didn't get to experience because she had a maturity level that could handle more and I trusted her to understand why she was receiving that kind of treatment. Another child who frequently stayed late was much younger, most of the time he wanted to play with Legos, she wanted to move, he wanted to sit still and build things. Most of the time I believe that people know what they want and need and should be allowed to have that kind of freedom and control, however it isn't always possible to let everyone do what they want if there are conflicting agendas. I tried to let them have a say without abandoning my authority. If there was a compromise such as fifteen minutes in the gym and fifteen minutes in the classroom I would ask them if they felt that was reasonable and went from there.
We had coloring sheets and art supplies, most of the time my boss had an art project or craft for people to do. I've never been a very crafty person, normally can't stand that kind of thing, but it was better than the coloring sheets that the kids had already seen and done. The program instructor was the third grade teacher, she had told me to feel free to use things in her classroom as long as they were put back when I was done. I was grateful for this and took a look around to see what I could find. One day some of the children were playing with tiny plastic horses on the rug and I had an idea. I told them it was time to sit down, held up some of the horses, and said that these animals needed a place of their own and it was up to the children to use the art supplies and their imaginations to help the horses. This was a project I did with them and I wish I still had these creations today.
One of the boys resented the project. He told me he was done and I asked if he was putting the horses in the desert since there were a couple of scribbles on his page and not much else. I was trying to show him that I thought he was capable of more, he took the desert idea and ran with it, we started talking about what a horse in the desert might face and by the time he was done he had an impressive series of threats for these horses that ranged from windstorms, brush fires, and a stream of polluted water since the people who had been camping there had left behind a lot of their garbage thinking it wouldn't matter since they couldn't see the horses that were running from the fire that would need a place to stop and drink. Most of the children were more traditional, when most of them were done I gave everyone a chance to stand up and explain what they had done with their space.
Another time I was watching the kids during Christmas break, the kids were tired and sugared up from holiday parties. I didn't have very many of them so we sat around the table together doing whatever we wanted with the supplies I had laid out which is one of my favorite ways to expose people to art. This time instead of having the children talk about what they had made I had everyone pass their project to the person sitting next to them and had that person say what they liked best about the creation someone else had done. One of the youngest children was the second person in line, I expected him to say something simplistic, but he surprised me. Two of the children I had a lot of trouble with were there that day. Something must have been going on at home because they were both difficult in the way that very troubled children are, I knew there parents, but not well, one of the least pleasant aspects of that job involved an incident with the daughter and it still bothers me to this day.
After I got divorced I tried to do more of that kind of thing with my own children. We put together puzzles and that's something I want to get back to again. I'd like a table for puzzles and part of me is kicking myself for selling the one that I had which would have been really nice, but it's not exactly what I want, I have an idea in my head and I'm pretty sure I'll know it when I see it because once I set my mind on a solution to a problem I have, it's usually pretty good at uncovering what I think I need. I have a basket of different games we can play, we have cards, story cubes, Pass the Pigs, and other things along those lines. I wanted a routine that we would stick to and for a while I stuck with it no matter how much the girls argued and tried to circumvent my ideas. I believe in the power of habit, I read a book called The Creativity Cure and a lot of the methodology in there made sense to me so I tried adopting it.
You can read the book for yourself, here's my down and dirty synopsis of the plan (full disclosure - I never finished reading this book - I got to the part where they laid out the game plan and that was enough for me). In part one you write whatever is on your mind as sort of a brain dump. I can't remember what order these next steps are in, maybe it doesn't matter. Part two involves some sort of physical movement; dance, yoga, walking, hiking, biking, swimming, etc..., in part three you do something with your hands; chop vegetables, knead bread dough, work with clay, knit, you get the idea. Part four involves you doing absolutely nothing. I have a guided relaxation CD and am going to dig that out again because this was particularly helpful to me. Part five takes you back to whatever you wrote in the first exercise. This time you consciously create the future you wish you had as in; even though our heroine is depressed and angry, she was able to put a wholesome and appetizing meal on the table for her family.
Several years ago a pediatrician I know suggested starting your New Year's Resolutions earlier than everyone else because by the time January rolls around, you're already a month into whatever it is you were trying to change or do. I follow a nurse practitioner on Twitter who has a Do Not Do list as a reminder to ask herself whether the things she's doing actually need to be done and I like that idea although I think I'm already pretty good at that. I used to be a huge reader and one of the habits I want to get back to is waking up early and picking up whatever book I'm currently going through. I have more books than space and that's been on my mind lately. I've given so many away that I feel like I need to hang onto what I have, but this is only a good strategy if these books have actual utility and aren't just sitting on shelves gathering dust.
I have a deep and profound need for beauty in my life. There are times when I feel physical and mental pain because something is so wrong to me, then there are other times when I want to freeze time and memorize the scene in front of me so I can take it out and examine it more thoroughly later. A gift my father gave me was the ability to appreciate spatial relationships between things. When I wanted pictures hung I would point to a spot in the wall, I can measure and diagram, but I can also skip these steps and come out at about the right place since there's something in my brain that must be calculating these things automatically. I used to have three pieces of Oriental art and a part of my heart is still wounded that these are gone. I hung the largest on the wall in my front hall, we had an arched cut out in our living room so it gave a viewer the idea that the picture was framed by the walls and the frame it had on its own. I love cranes, everything about that picture worked and I received a lot of compliments on it.
One of the things that hurt me was having other women over to give their opinions on what should be done to our house. A girlfriend of mine helped us choose carpeting and paint when we first moved. Years later his cousin came over and suggested we paint our kitchen a hideously depressing shade of taupe. These women had a certain sense of style, but it wasn't mine, it was Pottery Barn plus Target, I didn't care for the decorating styles either of them had since they seemed to dismiss proportion and perspective entirely by choosing furniture that didn't scale to the room where it was arranged. They had no sense of timelessness, things were bland and costly instead of being unique and really giving whoever entered a sense that they were in a room where everything from the ceiling fan to the rug on the floor contributed to an overall sense of character and mood. Home is a sanctuary to me and I had countless people tell me how comfortable they felt whenever they were at our place.
I miss having a house where I could play around with what I liked and seemed to work. When I moved I sold a bunch of things to a guy I work with and his wife. Another piece I miss seeing is the pear painting, but I thought if anyone needed a picture of a pear it was a produce manager and I know they were grateful to have received that from me. I hate going to my mom's house since she lets her husband decorate and anything he likes gets hung up or displayed which is a very different concept than being eclectic. I once found this great book that had a quiz to help you identify your decorating style. I'm eclectic so I have a mission style desk next to my trampoline, palm, and the basket where I store extra bedding. It doesn't sound like it would work as well as it does, things flow and this is how I live so there's a measure of practicality a lot of places don't have. Most people have bought into the idea that their home needs to reflect magazine elements rather than figuring out what works for them in terms of functionality.
I'm struggling to understand why I have as much trouble with my mom as I do. My dad had too many books, but he had a way of displaying things he owned in an eye pleasing manner. My mom's place is much cleaner than his ever was, but he had a way of keeping things tidy and organized that she lacks. I'm just furious for some reason and I can't seem to get to the bottom of this. I think it's going back to this sense of control and competition I often get when I interact with my mom. I once listened to a great series on control, the theory was that people will go to great lengths to avoid being controlled, and will even harm themselves to try and get away from type of incarceration. My cheat code writings weren't really meant to be taken too seriously, part of me wants to understand why my mom affects me the way that she does. It's like she read my cheat code list and purposely set out to do the opposite of whatever I laid out there.
Instead of caring for her plant and following the instructions so it will bloom and be healthy, she wants to shove it into a freezing cold corner and then when she discovers it's half dead from lack of sunshine she puts it in the center of her patio door so it gets scorched. I fear doing this to my own children as well, like I'm refusing them water they need and then drowning them when I notice that the soil around them is bone dry and devoid of nutrients. It's making me really sad and I don't know what to do about this. It feels like sand is falling from the top half of the hourglass and I can't keep up with what needs to be done before these children turn eighteen and are out on their own. Habits are a pretty good predictor of where someone is headed. Whenever I say I can see someone's future, that's usually what I mean although not always, sometimes it's a reflection of the potential I see in them.
To end on a positive note, one thing I'm proud of doing was getting my checking accounts back in order. I have a main checking account, a main savings account, and sub-accounts beneath those that have labels like: Jessica Auto, Jessica Fun, Jessica Housing, Jill Savings, Jane Savings, etc..., I used to have enough money in Jessica Housing to pay my rent ahead of time. That safety net was huge to me even though it was largely psychological. Today I'm happy to report that I replenished my savings account, transferred money to the girls, and repopulated every account I have so the minimum balance in each is at least fifty dollars. My utility bill will be coming out of my housing account so that balance will drop after that, but my paycheck will hit before then so I think I will be okay. I can't wait for the day when my car insurance bill drops, it still rankles me that I'm paying for a mistake he made, but that's a discussion for another day.
Another thing I did was hang onto the cash my daughter gave me to drive her to and from school. I'm going to spend half of that on the girls and use the other half to do something nice for myself. I'm going to get back into the habit of rewarding myself for things I've done and I'm proud of myself for that. I used to skip this step and whenever I do I feel cheated in some way. I need that type of recognition. I need to get back into the habit of asking myself what needs to be done, and then determining a reward that feels appropriate to me. I've been immature about this, a friend of mine helped me with this concept, I used to do this more often and I know I can get back into it. I just need to sit down and do some more planning. Thankfully my book today discussed the need to set aside time to do that and I'm going to put this on my calendar as a task that must be done each week, with daily tweaks that arise.
I feel good today despite being anxious and nervous for some reason. I think it's just that the holidays stress me out and I let memories of the past hold me back from enjoying what is and could be. Something for me to think about and reflect upon, not that I ever have a shortage of that in my life. Today I'm glad I'm the type of person who strives to understand myself and others. I didn't realize I needed a discussion on profound beauty, art, music, photography, sensual delights, things that are done well, what separates the good from the great from the timeless from the thing that is ugly, yet stirring. Everyday elegance is important to me and I'm going to do some thinking about how to incorporate more of this into my life on a daily basis because that will feel like a treat and a reward to me and I believe it will motivate me and inspire me, at the very least it will improve my environment and that's a key to me as well.
P.S. It's neat to read about people who tend to see the world the way that I do. I'm grateful to my friend for showing me this new way of seeing myself and others.