Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

Luck

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The fun part is how new this word is 🙂 Just the word though, the concept and controversy regarding luck is millennia old.

And now for the analysis, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up 🙂

I am lucky. Very, outrageously lucky! It always appears to me that I do not control this luck, that it is somehow outside of me despite it happening to me. There is a good measure of self-fulfilling prophecy in there. I am by nature an optimist and my natural state of mind is happy. So it stands to reason (and to rationalists 😛 ) that I should feel lucky and thus influence my actual life in that direction. That’s fine, I don’t actually have a problem with this kind of self-fulfilling prophecies. And I recognize them when my intentional actions are actually part of whatever is happening in my life. Like choosing a pathway, listening to my intuition, stumbling over the right approach with a person based on many years of experience.

Where I actually talk about luck is where my actions, while intentional in the context I made them, have far-reaching consequences that no amount of intuition would have been able to predict. Like when I took my husband’s car one day and had an accident. My husband’s car escaped unscathed, but the accident would have seriously damaged my car… which said husband was taking to the mechanic, who lifted it and discovered two bald tyres.. I don’t want to know what would have happened had those tyres exploded on the big drive we had planned for the weekend… yes, it had been my suggestion to take my car to the mechanic in preparation for the big drive, but I couldn’t have predicted the accident, now could I?

So I am lucky. I have been lucky all my life. It really doesn’t mean that I win the lottery (small prizes, yes, when I can be bothered to play – rarely. That is chance, not luck as I describe it. It also doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to me. They do, and the effects are no more and certainly no less than for anyone to whom bad things happen – that would be everyone. Some of my personality traits (optimism, happiness, also an ability to see the good in situations) make it easier for me to deal with the bad stuff. But I don’t think that has much to do with the fact that I have become accustomed to hearing at least once a week from various people about how lucky I am. I have to pay attention. That is another factor, I notice how lucky I am, I feel it and I therefore act in possibly a more confident way which in turn opens more doors and makes me aware of more opportunities. But I am no more likely than others to get that job I have been looking for. Again, that has nothing to do with the luck I am describing.

Another thing is that feeling that luck comes from outside of my control, actually from outside of me. Like a gift. So I do no subscribe to the “don’t say you’re lucky or your luck will disappear” theory. On the contrary, I often acknowledge my luck. There is maybe a bit of superstitition in there, a reversal of that theory I described above: if I don’t acknowledge my luck it will disappear. I like to think that I am courteous though, so I acknowledge gifts 🙂

Fun analysis remains so if it’s brief. I am not complaining or try to understand my luck – no interest or benefit for me. I am intersted in the limitations (ah, that lotto ticket!) and grateful for the gift. I am also aware that I need to share it with others. Perhaps one gloomy day when things go wrong from the beginning, when you get discouraged and upset at “meaningful coincidences” (Jung’s definition of “luck”) that don’t coincide, I could come and tell you that things are going to get a heck of a lot better… and, knowing me, I will be right!

PS. Little bad things, when they do happen, always come in threes… I could have a bit of fun with that analysis, eh? 🙂

Disorganized

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Now I am really disappointed with myself for missing two things, an important one and a possibly important one. The first was an event the little one participated in, Peace Day. I apologized and I think I may have been forgiven. It was total forgetfulness. I did not write it down to remind myself, so I will not beat myself over it (what with me being human and all that).

The possibly important thing was not forgotten, that was sheer procrastination. It could have led to a change in my life, so I had to think about it and the reasons for that procrastination. Part of it was, of course, life: I have plenty of time; I need to research this a bit more; I need to talk to someone about it. The other part though is a lack of purpose. A bit of burnout, a bit of disenchantment, a desire for change but without the urgency. So the result is more of a live each day as it comes rather than striding confidently in the direction of my dreams.

That’s not necessarily bad, but it does mean that I am not making the changes to my life that I deem necessary. I don’t act on the opportunities that present. I observe the status quo without giving it either direction or meaning and as a result I feel even more disempowered. Do I like it? Let’s not joke about it, I dislike it but, apparently not intensely enough to matter.

Sometimes the best I can do is let it grow, accumulate, until the dislike turns into a call for action. I know I am capable of that, I have done it many times.

I was wondering if I should really push myself harder and just get it done earlier. I thought really hard about it, not just overthinking it, but actually trying to figure it out so that I may use it as a template for other periods in my life. Would I benefit from doing it and, if so, how would I go about pushing myself harder? In other words, how not to be a procrastinator?

The answer to the second question, “how would I go about it?” is reasonably simple: talk to people as opposed to making the decisions alone. I use it sparingly as I am very impulsive so I rush into things. Making decisions alone takes a longer time (and, as you read above, patience is not my strong point) but chances are the decisions will be more considered.

The answer to the first question has a bit more nuance. Yes, pushing myself would benefit me (no one likes a procrastinator) but it would deny time its value in life. Some things need to be done slowly, in the fullness of time, for the right reasons. In effect, in answering the second question I answered the first one, too.

Or you could say that as a procrastinator I just found good excuses to procrastinate

Fine, I will give you that. I will say I am just going through a phase, taking some time out, and get back into it as soon as feasible. Work, parenting, assignments, gardening, travel, friends… my life is full and that’s the way I like it. Now I just need to live it a bit more efficiently. What to start with though?

Ah, I know…

Body

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A mystery word… oh goody goody, I like those 🙂 For such a finite object, so widely probed and explained, so much taken for granted, isn’t it ironic that we don’t know where the word comes from?

Now I will try my very best to stay away from the mind-body problem. Not because it’s not an interesting one, but because it gets complicated and mysterious so very quickly and I am simply not trained enough to follow through all the arguments. It would be interesting to try a Socratic discussion on this with good friends over a glass of something and see if we get to the Forms Plato was talking about.

But for now I want to focus on the body. The poor sister, when it comes to philosophy and religion, one of the main objects of study when it comes to human centred science.

Funnily enough, once you start paying attention, rather than taking it for granted as explained above, bodies are discovered to be very complicated, too. You just try to imagine 11 systems working at the same time with a lot of overlapping and minimal intrinsic faults, then tell me the body is a simple matter. At the same time I am fascinated time and time again, with true evolutionary curiosity, by vestigial features, by fail safe systems, by fossil records of limb development and by annoying little things like snot and hair.

But the most fascinating thing of all is, indeed, the way the body good-naturedly accepts commands and tries to fulfill them. Please see above, I am not going to even try to figure out the relationship between the brain, the mind, the spirit and the soul, whatever those last three may be. Sometimes not knowing has to be accepted, much as it frustrates me no end 🙂

When I say commands I do not necessarily mean those I link to survival, like eating, sleeping, defense and reproduction, although they are amazing in and of themselves, and especially when seen in the context of the entire biosphere. I mean those that sit higher on Maslow’s pyramid, static as it is. Our brains command manners, education, bizarre behaviour and entire cultures and our good little bodies speak, act and change accordingly. We also do this to other animals – did you know that certain breeds of dog cannot reproduce anymore without human help? Oh, but the little darlings fit so well on a human lap!

You’d think our bodies would reject some of our commands, if only because they go against survival. Do they? Do they? Well, not really, not until it’s too late to matter. Our bodies obey whether that means they live or die… that is beyond weird!

We usually learn to control a portion of our body functions by 3 years old. We spend the entirety of our life at least marginally dependent on this body. We tend to mistreat it, expose it to diseases, subject it to all sorts of activities that it is not specifically designed for (high heels? office chairs? pierced ears? uplifted mammary glands?) and still it will keep going, finding ways around and forever trying to act and to be used.

Ah well, better indulge it in a bit of gardening 🙂

Anticipation

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Not surprisingly, it comes from Latin. Also not surprisingly, it is related to expectation and hope and prediction. Surprisingly though, originally it referred to action, not passive waiting. I like this kind of words 🙂

I was considering today the difference between expectation (discussed on this blog in another article) and anticipation. The difference, I think, is at the above-mentioned action level. Expectations are sometimes inspirational, sometimes a pain in the neck, but they are concepts and ideas only, and as such they can hurt you more as it’s difficult to neutralize them. Anticipation, on the other hand, is very active, very specific and a lot easier to use than expectation. Let me explain by using at least two examples (what we would consider a positive and a negative one).

Stage fright is the most common example of negative anticipation. We worry ourselves sick, of course, if we are normal (people being in front of a group of others who are not their kin, that they can’t see well and who are not smiling in welcome – and we’re supposed to enjoy it? Ludicrous!). In other words, we have expectations of how we need to perform, then we anticipate us stumbling, forgetting the words etc. Those scenarios drive us to distraction, but more than that, unless we find a way to limit them (rituals, mindfulness, repetition…) they will come true.

That leads me to the positive anticipation, like that used by professional athletes and others for ages! Visualizing yourself winning the race, or even just running, has clear effects on the body and the mind. It is obvious we can use it in so many situations. And if sometimes that feels like cheating, just remember that negative visualization is cheating as well! That is, of course, a knee-jerk response. The way I prefer to say it is that we are thinking the future into existence, and we might as well make it a good one if we’re going to so much trouble 🙂

That leaves me to cover the most common type of anticipation, which is mostly both negative and positive. I refer, of course, to desire. Please feel free to read as much as you wish about it, to describe it as best you can, to try to reign it in as much as your belief urges you to. There are few things in this life that will move humans to greater action faster than desire. It can make us go through the entire gamut of emotions a human being can experience, including some that by rights should not even exist – sick with joy, anybody?

The feeling of rising out of the initial darkness, the escape from routine, the longing for meaning, all of them are encompassed. We truly do not know how strong we are until we deal with this particular type of anticipation. We also do not realize how complicated our lives are and how many obstacles humans create for themselves until we experience desire.

Now the question remains: should we give in to desire? And what about love? Where does love fit in with it?

Anniversary

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Yep, Latin again 🙂

Not as interesting, maybe, as other words have been, but anniversaries (at the turning of the years) are on my mind these days, and it seems appropriate I write this on the leap year justification day.

Once we get past Latin fractions in Roman numerals with English pronounciation (ouch!) anniversaries are about time, both perception and flow. It is about the past, and the memories associated with it.

I find anniversaries useful, convenient even. If we change, that change can come from outside (life happens, and it is rarely under our control) or inside. This type of change we can control up to a point, and it is here that we can act. And if we try to act (change is an action) then we change in response to the past, to memories, to time.

The way it happens for me is that I live my life in the present, with my assumptions and my judgements and my choices. I recognize the source of some of those, as do all of us, mostly in childhood but always in the past. Memory being selective it has already filtered out for you the routine and mundane and retained the needful to know, however obscure. But on anniversaries I have licence to actually remember how that selection has been made, and why. And remembering, as Christopher Robin implied, is not quite the re-telling of a story, and is not as vivid. Time has put a veil on the colours and one can, as I do, try to look beyond them to the full picture, with context, and from a different place on the time continuum. This where change can happen, when you look at a picture not only from your own perspective but from a time perspective. This detachment allows responsibility to shift, understanding to develop, acceptance to follow. One may find, as I do, that sometimes it was also my fault that a relationship ended. Other times it becomes clearer the action that started all the consequences one faces at present. I try (hard!) not to get into “what if” insofar as regret goes. Lessons for the future, yes. Beating myself over the past, no.

Time is said to mellow things out but what I find is that time clarifies things, and it is only by being in a different place that you accept them, therefore they do not have the power to hurt as much. If you have remained in the same place, that mellowing doesn’t actually happen. It is in the travelling on the continuum, it is in the change that detachment grows. And by detachment I mean distancing per se, in time and space. The re-telling of the story is allowed to become a remembering, and as such make space for other stories.

It is an interesting thing, that celebrating anniversaries implies the present you thinking about the past you to maintain the hopes for the future you. It is also interesting that anniversaries, when change can happen if you let it and sometimes if you will it, are actually celebrations of stability.

Whether joyful or sad, anniversaries fare better if there is a ritual, a protocol, pomp and ceremony if this is your style. The remembering has to happen and people love and live their life by the symbols they determine. So whether is is a present, or a toast, or a party, a declaration or a wink, it helps the past, always trailing in the wind of the future, to be present.

An opportunity for change…

Decision

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In the limbo… hang on a minute, I use this phrase without even knowing the roots of it, just the colloquial meaning… quick, Internet to the rescue… goodness, some Catholics really have too much time on their hands, and the Witnesses’ doctrine is quite merciful in a Gordian sort of way…

As I was saying, in the limbo that stretches from intent to action, choices are fighting it off with societal and environmental weapons to become winners. In other words, decisions. Choices are quite general, really, to begin with: to act or not to act. The more they are thought about, weighed and tumbled over in our minds, whittled in both numbers and generality, they start to become potentialities. And then we figure out the ones we can live with, rarely more than three, and we enter the realm of practical ethics. You can argue that intent has its place there too, it’s just that intent is a thought and no more, while decisions are a lot closer to action than most of us care to examine.

In a magical sort of way, decisions can only be defined at the precise moment of action, until then they remain choices. I am sure we can all think of a choice we had every intention of putting into practice that has been changed at the last possible moment, changing therefore the entire world with it. And when you think of it this way, it’s no wonder some are never making any decisions, remaining paralyzed at the choice level or alternating between possible choices until the very future is confused.

A soft spot of mine has always been for the choices that will become decisions. You know what I am talking about, for the theory above has a hole the size of Antarctica in it… or does it?

Let’s say my intent was to go to university – thanks, mum! The choices are many, but the decision has been made way, way before I even started to notice boys. The choices remain what they are, choices, but a streak of “happenings” make sure that most will never see daylight. A vocation. A teacher. A failure. Meant to be?

Between the time the decision was made, until the time the action was taken, five years. A long time in limbo for such an earthly thing as university, don’t you think? A bit far from the “magical” action that’s supposed to define a decision, isn’t it? And yet, who’s to tell that a decision doesn’t act like a rope between the boat of choice and the land of action? I could have changed my mind at any time… couldn’t I? Well, no, vocations don’t change easily, although they do allow several choices within. That teacher removed several of those remaining choices by his actions. And then I failed, so the first choice I had made was no longer available, leaving me with second best by default. Decision.

Resentful, disappointed, defensive, I was all three. My pride… ah, my pride was smarting! And then, discovery. I was meant for the second best. I would not have liked either the first or the third choice. I was now even closer to my vocation than I could ever have hoped. I had five years more to realize this. Decision.

And when I look back, I remember sitting by myself, waiting for the food to arrive and thinking, wishing, yearning for a particular boy…