tales from urban dilettantia

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Theme Post: 2017

A new year sees the end of one theme, and the beginning of another.

In 2016, I chose ‘Share’.  I’ve reflected on it over the past few weeks, and worried that I’d chosen a ‘soft’ theme – one that simply involved ticking some boxes.  I shrugged off the things that I’d managed to share, and instead made a  list of the things I’d failed to share.  And when I communicated this to others, they pointed out that I was stuck in my usual routine of magnifying the bad and diminishing the good. 

Here’s a picture of some of my thoughts on ‘Share’, and my first forays into 2017’s theme, ‘Control’:

A picture of 'Share' (2016) and 'Control' (2017).
 

Control’ scares me.  It’s a theme I’ve been avoiding for years, skirting around the edges of it and looking away.  But I’m coming to admit that I believe that, without maintaining tight control over everyone and everything, I’m nothing.  That everything will come falling down.

This is a profoundly unhealthy way of being.  It ignores both reality, and the sovereignty of others.  And it’s something I think I need to tear down – not something that can be chipped away at gently.  Hence, ‘Control’ scares me, because I’m obsessed with it, and can’t yet envision what life would look like in the absence of that obsession.

Here’s another picture I made about it, after a bit more thought and some more conversations:

 

A picture of 'Control' (2017).
 

I think there will be more pictures, and there will certainly be more reading.  I’m not sure where this will all lead, but I hope it is somewhere better than I am now.

I Hoard Stuff

I hoard stuff. Anyone who has spent much time in my space will know that.

When I look at diagnostic surveys and photographic guides, I find I fall solidly into the ‘you might want to think about getting some help’ category. It’s not reality-television-bad, but it’s bad enough to hurt.

To provide some context, here are a few of the things I have done.

  • Completely lost a room. At least twice. I forget how many times.
  • Avoided having people around without preparatory time to haul piles into spare rooms and close doors.
  • Spent months letting the laundry pile up, buying new underwear instead.
  • Was repeatedly too scared to tackle what’s in the fridge, or in the sink, or in mysterious boxes.
  • Failed to open mail. Piles and piles of mail. (You know what? They send you loads of warnings before they cut services off.)
  • Failed to do my tax for years on end, the paperwork being lost in my piles of clutter.
  • Lost a bunch of clothes when it rained inside and I just…left them there getting rained on.
  • Never cleared my gutters (hence the inside rain).
  • Climbed over piles of things to get to the front door.
  • Slept on half of a double bed, while the clutter napped ominously on the other half.

Now apparently ‘admitting you have a problem’ is half the battle, but I’ve been admitting that for years and you know what? Admitting you have a problem doesn’t open boxes, plug up inside rain, or magically grant access to abandoned rooms.  And, at least in my experience, it doesn’t make you feel much better about yourself either.

Thankfully, I know other people who have done this hoarding thing too. Brilliant, beautiful people who are great friends, great professionals, great human beings. And I know that they are no less great friends, great professionals, great human beings for having hoarded. And on occasion, some of them have been kind enough to let me help them sort a little of their hoard, and I am honoured by that.  It is a hard thing to let people see the piles of stuff, and even harder to let them see one’s emotional reaction to tackling it.

Personally, I’ve fought my hoarding as well as I’ve been able, which hasn’t been all that well a lot of the time.  Occasionally, I’ve had frantic bursts of energy and hired skips and filled them.  From time to time, I’ve bravely emptied a handbag, typically discovering a muddle of medication, old receipts, and oozing nail polish at the bottom.  I’ve researched treatment approaches and developed excellent organisational techniques…and then failed to apply them.

But this year, I think I may be turning a corner. I hope.  I’m taking a new medication for some of my other issues, and it seems to be moderating my hoarding behaviours too, complementing K’s gentle life coaching, and the patience and absence of judgement offered by both my partners.

It seems nuts to think a small pill at night could keep the laundry under control, get dirty dishes into the dishwasher, pick the clothes off the floor, or start chipping away at the deep clutter – the drawers, cupboards, and containers that have been abandoned to their mysterious contents. But it appears that it may well do so.

Just got to clean those gutters. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just got to stop the rain.

Sharing-Share

As promised in last month’s post, here is the mindmap for my 2016 theme, ‘Share’, along with a couple of mini maps about things that block or enable sharing.

They’re all dodgy phone photos, because the perfect is the enemy of the good, and because holding off until I manage to post beautifully scanned, cleaned-up versions in late 2023 won’t achieve much.

 

2016 'Share' Map

2016 ‘Share’ Map

 

Four central questions, or bundles of questions, popped up while I was working on the map.  I don’t have answers for any of them now, but I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll be closer:

  1. How to manage overcommitting? How to say no? What not to share? Boundaries?
  2. But who wants to hear?
  3. What does sustainable sharing look like?
  4. Why does this scare me so much?

 

Share Enablers

Share Enablers

 

Share Blocks

Share Blocks

 

2016: Share

Before I die I want to...

Once a year, every year, I choose a theme.

It’s usually no more than a word. A guiding thought for the year to come. A subject of inquiry. A standing piece of advice for life’s decisions, big or small. Once, it was ‘sovereignty’, once ’hearth’, once ’capability’. I think once it may have been ‘balance’, and once ‘the small’, but my record-keeping is somewhat lacking.

So, once a year, every year, I choose a theme. But ‘choose’ isn’t quite the right word. It implies a range of possibilities, when in fact it is a matter of a single idea, bubbling to the surface. Almost always, it emerges when Ju and I meet to discuss the year just gone, and the one to come.

This year, somewhat to my surprise, my theme is ‘share’. I am surprised because it seems more outward-looking, more engaged with other people, and more open than any introvert-who-just-wants-to-be-left-alone could be. Consequently, I have found myself stubbornly pushing back against the idea.

Sharing time? I don’t have time!

Sharing energy? I don’t have energy!

Sharing stories, experiences, food, friendship, space? Did you hear what I said about time and energy?

Evidence that I have found a fitting theme.

As usual, perfectionism – ever my companion – intervenes. It appears self-evident that I need to conduct this inquiry on a grand scale, at no cost to all the other things I do. That somehow (if I’m a better person, a kinder person, a healthier and stronger and more organised person) time and energy will rain from the heavens and all will be well.

This is – self-evidently – ludicrous. I have learned and forgotten and learned again that the only way I do things well is incrementally, in tiny, successful steps. (I recorded this knowledge many years ago on The Map of Win which hangs in my hall, but I still forget and re-learn.)

And so, some tiny sharing possibilities.

Write here again – just a little. Nothing epic, nothing grand.

Help organise Cary’s open-house breakfasts at The Workhouse (instead of just showing up at best).

Process and upload just a handful of a three-year backlog of photos to my Flickr.

Give a tiny gift.

Make a date to appreciate a friend’s new house.

I will – as usual – make a mind-map soon to explore the idea of sharing more broadly and deeply. And this year, I will share it here.

 

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@dilettantiquity is interested in an unreasonable number of things, including the wide and wonderful universe, happiness, well-being, wine, optimal human experience, non-violent communication, complex systems, existential nihilism, rationality, technology, grassroots organising, cacophony, music, creativity, learning and love.