“But I’ve Always…”

stressing out above computer

Young children in my classrooms resisted when asked to abandon the familiar or the anticipated: a substitute teacher at the door, a field trip canceled by bad weather, math after recess instead of music.

They protested these unforeseen changes: “Why didn’t you tell us you’d be gone?” “But you said we’d go to the post office today.” “We always have music now.” One year a second-grade girl seemed unsettled by my appearance: “You’re wearing the wrong shoes. You always wear red shoes with that dress.”

Sometimes, when faced with change, I act like my indignant students. If Joel suggests we relocate the TV, I gape at him with dismay then wail, “But it’s always been against the wall.” I also argue with myself when I think about altering my habits or behavior.

Recently, I’ve struggled with the idea of writing less.

The notion of cutting back the amount of published writing I do first popped into my head when I wrote a post about the rewards of dithering. I wondered if meeting the demands of my newspaper deadlines and self-imposed blog schedule took too much of my time; if my must-do writing limited other activities I enjoy: immersing myself in a book, knitting hats no one will wear, writing poor poetry, and gazing at sunsets of gauze and crimson.

Recently, Joel said, “I’m going to the hardware store for some paint. Why don’t you go too? It’s a nice day. We could ride out to Loudy Simpson Park and take a look at the river.”

Head buried in my writing, fingers flying on my computer, I said, “I can’t. I have to get this column finished. Sorry.” As he drove away, a verse from “The Pasture” by Robert Frost crept into my mind:

“I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long.—You come too.”

Though this poem is widely interpreted as Frost inviting readers to explore his poetry, I’d always thought of it as a depiction of a strong relationship between two people who like one another’s company.

Normally, I would have accepted my husband’s invitation, but this day, feeling pressured, I chose writing instead.

On the other hand, I have to write; it is essential to my life.

I knew I needed to find a balance.

Another bit of poetry encouraged me as I contemplated changing my routine: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

So with Dr. Seuss and Robert Frost holding my hands, I decided to adjust my blogging schedule. Beginning with this post, I’ll blog on the 1st and 15th of each month, rather than every Tuesday. I will read, enjoy, and respond to the blogs of others as I always have, but during the weeks I don’t blog, I will be indulging in the delights of dithering.

The struggle to achieve balance in our lives is universal. It is  also unending.

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68 thoughts on ““But I’ve Always…”

  1. While I will miss reading your blog each week and enjoying the memories that are brought to surface, I’m so glad that you are going to take time to “smell the roses”. Enjoy the trips to the park, the book you’ve wanted to finish and the plain “delights of dithering”. It all sounds heavenly.

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  2. I still have something to look forward to. Balance is an ongoing exercise and things tip back and forth and things have to be adjusted when other things grow/shrink. I think the key is knowing when you feel out of balance. whenever I think of balance, I’m always reminded of the Moody Blues – “Ride My See-Saw” I won’t link to it, but you know…

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    • I do know that song, Dan, as you knew I would, and it fits the spirit of this blog perfectly. I floundered about for two months before realizing my growing stress was a balance problem. I like your notion that imbalance grows as different aspects of life grow and shrink. So true.

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    • Well, in this one instance I got it right, but life is a continual search for balance, don’t you think? Thanks for your good wishes.PS: I just visited your attractive website and am intrigued by your teas. I’ll be back.

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  3. I blog once a month for that very reason. And I’m thinking about adjusting that schedule. The only pressure I have on me is the pressure I put on myself. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is never a good excuse to keep doing something. If everybody thought like that, we’d still be running naked and living in caves without fire, because that’s the way we did it last year.

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  4. I like to write. I don’t consider my blogs “published” writing. I consider them “dithering” and I think my readers see them that way too “Well, let’s read Martha’s dithering” — I hope so. In fact, over the last few days as I’ve negotiated with a publisher for the first time, I’m pretty OK with never publishing my writing (except myself). It’s strange. I think it’s residue from having so many demands on my time, life, heart, feelings for so long. I’m continually surprised at the contrast between what I always imagined I’d want to do/be and what turns out to be the case — Emerson said we should be guided by the word “Whim.” Here, I’ll share it with you. “I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the doorpost, Whim. I hope it is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannot spend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company.” (Self-Reliance)

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    • Thanks for the Emerson quote, Martha. It says so much in so few words. I’ve added it to my quote list. It’s worth pondering. Later this afternoon I think I’ll put in some dithering time by visiting an old friend, Mr. Emerson. I’ll add that I found a sentence in your comment as worthy of contemplation as Emerson’s quote: “I’m continually surprised at the contrast between what I always imagined I’d want to do/be and what turns out to be the case.” Once again, in the words of my students, “Me, too.”

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  5. I cannot deny the good Dr Suess’ advice, and now will vacuum on Tuesdays, when I get home. And look forward to your wisdom twice a moth. And know you remain a click away. I have always interpreted “You come To”, as an invite out of the city, which is, in a odd way, cocooning. To get cold feet and a snot nose, to re-connect. Take care, Janet, great post.

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    • I had forgotten the delightful word, shilly-shallying. Thanks for restoring it to me. I hope you’ll soon be settled in your new house and find you are well supplied with “dithering, dawdling, and shilly-shallying” time.

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    • So good to hear from one of my favorite bloggers, Read on. I’ve always considered you open to new challenges, not stuck with the way it’s always been, because of your willingness to travel, take risks, meet new people, and experience new cultures. I’ve wished I could be less set in my ways and more like you.

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    • Dither on I shall, Troy, though I don’t know if it’s strength I’m exhibiting or just giving in to a wish for more free time — something I never thought I’d be short of when I retired. Either way, thanks for your supportive and kind words.

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  6. I don’t know how we got so busy! Blogging certainly takes a lot of time out of the “dithering” schedule, but it is essential, and not necessarily a choice. I get up early to blog, sometimes 4:30 a.m. That way, I can write undisturbed, for hours, until my “other life” begins, and I have to do a variety of things—cook, accounts, walk, as little housework as possible, and so on. I understand your decision to cut back, but will miss your regular posts!

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    • I can’t see myself getting up at 4:30 for any reason, Diane, I am such a slug-a-bed. But I do identify very much with your routine of doing “as little housework as possible.” (A phrase which gave me my chuckle of the day.) I’ll still post regularly, just not as often; and I’ll continue to visit you regularly.

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  7. Finding balance is so hard! I struggle with it every single day. It’s important to enjoy the living and those we love but not give up too much. I applaud your efforts. Enjoy your dithering!! Sometimes its in the dithering that our creativity is renewed – so really its kinda like working – you just don’t know it at the time.

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  8. I think in this comment you expressed what I really want: the time to let my mind wander free so my creativity is refreshed and my writing can, perhaps, move in new directions. That free-floating, idea-producing time is what has been missing and thus created my imbalance. Thank you for understanding so well.

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  9. I look forward to the different regularity of your posts, rather that than no more from Aunt Beulah. Your writing is so well rounded and polished that I cannot imagine that you will ‘dither’ with anything other than sophistication and panache. Enjoy 🙂 Linda

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  10. Wow, I agree with every sentence in this post except for one—the one about you “writing poor poetry”. I’ve read some of your poetry and it’s wonderful!
    And this post is wonderful too. I’ve struggled with so many of these same thoughts. And, with the recent death of my father, I’ve realized all over again just how short life really is.
    Not that you need it, but you have my full permission to explore and enjoy other ventures and adventures during your breaks from blogging. I’ll look forward to your twice-monthly posts!

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    • We are of the same mind about so many things, Rita. And, actually, I’m pleased to have your approval and understanding of what I’m trying to do. As for the poetry, I have much more difficulty writing it the way I want to than I have writing prose to my satisfaction.I’m looking forward to more practice time.

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  11. I will certainly miss reading your weekly posts, however I completely understand the need to pull back from things at times. Enjoy your breaks from writing.

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    • I knew you would understand, Katie. I felt an immense sense of relief when I sorted through the contradictions in my mind and decided I would go to a twice-a-month blog. In that instant, feeling a pressure lift from me, I knew I had made the right decision.

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  12. I know how you feel as I too have felt pressured lately to get other stuff done instead of doing some art journaling that I was enjoying. Its over two weeks since I went to my art space because I feel guilty. And yet this pressure I put on myself. !!! Of course it is the silly season, plus spring here so everything is growing weeds as well as flowers and lawns have to be mowed. but she says drumming her heels on the floor I want to play in paint again 🙂

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    • I love this comment, Lynne. It made me chuckle and helped me understand I’m not alone in my dilemma. Thanks for reminding me it is the silly season and some of the stress I’ve felt is certainly related to that; but, knowing I didn’t need to have a blog ready for next Tuesday freed me to truly enjoy dragging decorations for a Christmas tree in from the garage and rearranging the furniture to make room for it.I hope you find time to play in paint soon because I enjoy the results when you post them on your blog.

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  13. Janet, you’ve inspired me to re-think the balance in my own days. I’ll miss the Monday evening anticipation for your Tuesday morning post, but I’m thankful you’ll continue to share your wonderful writing.
    Our friend Ernie once told us he was “just dithering” and we asked him how he could tell the difference between that and his usual day. He, and all of us, laughed with loud guffaws. Nobody enjoyed their personal time and dithering more than Ernie. He’d be proud of you.

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    • Oh, Ernie! I had forgotten that incident, but I can visual all of us — his groupies — and hear our laughter, his being the loudest. I like thinking he’d be proud of me. Thank you for telling me and for being such a faithful, supportive reader.

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    • Such kind words, Shelley. I’m happy to hear that my writing appears to flow effortlessly. The irony is that I work hard to make it read that way. Work is probably the wrong word; to use, though: I love revising and rewriting until I simplify my words and eliminate the extraneous — most of the time! I’m pleased that you will continue to read my words.

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  14. Janet, let’s meet at Loudy on a snowy day with our snow shoes and wine in our packs and “dither” away an afternoon! I have made 9 knitted hats that I know the grandchildren may not wear but they are making me happy…the hats! I think the chance to be less structured and “dither” away time is absolutely essential at this point in life! See you in 10 daYs.

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  15. I was glad you said you’d normally take up Joel’s offer. It’s not good to close yourself off to the spontaneous fun things. I think it was in ‘The Artist’s Way’, that Julia Cameron says one must keep filling the well to fuel creativity, so a bit of dithering will do you good. Enjoy those extra hours, Janet.

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    • I like Julia Carson’s thought that”one must keep filling the well to fuel creativity.” Thanks for sharing it with me, Christine. This week, knowing I had only a column to fine tune, not a blog, brought me renewed pleasure in simple things. I think my well was in need of refilling.

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  16. Since I’m new here I won’t know the difference! It was so great to talk with you this week. Let’s not wait so long next time…

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  17. I’m glad you are reassessing the pressures you impose on yourself, Janet. I love your posts, but I do understand life is there to be lived! May yours be a full and rewarding one!

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  18. Yes! YES! Y E S!!! Contrary to everything that I’ve been reading (and also contrary to what certain individuals in my life have been “strongly suggesting”) we need to write for OURSELVES and if that means blogging every OTHER Tuesday, than blog every other Tuesday and go with Joel, in between times, to the hardware store and ice cream store and beach and snow shoeing and…It doesn’t mean that writing isn’t important to you/us, it’s what defines us and makes us who we are…it brings us joy, but it can also be a “burden” of sorts, when it becomes another “to do item” on our “endless to do list” in the course of a day. You and I think so much alike, Janet, that it’s beginning to get scary….I think you’re my “twin sister”! Enjoy the time looking at hammers and nails, for Pete’s sake, and go out for a cup of hot chocolate with a friend!!! I’ll enjoy myself reading your “previous submissions” in between Tuesdays… (I don’t seem to be getting your “current posts” on my “follow list”, any way, so I’ll just check in on my own every week.) YOU’RE retired, girlfriend! YOU make your schedule to please yourself. Enjoy the blessings of the season. (I’ll “write you a pass and sign it”, if you need permission.) 🙂 (((Hugs!)))

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    • You absolutely understood where I was when I wrote this post, Lucie. Your “It doesn’t mean that writing isn’t important to you/us, it’s what defines us and makes us who we are…it brings us joy, but it can also be a “burden” of sorts, when it becomes another “to do item” on our “endless to do list” in the course of a day,” captured the essence of my thoughts. If I didn’t have a number of years on you, I’d think perhaps we were twins, sadly separated at birth; but I’m quite certain we’re twins in spirit. And thanks for the permission slip. Only a former teacher could understood its freeing qualities and use it as wisely as I will.

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