Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Q is for Quiet

I know how to be quiet. I enjoy it. I need it. Not everyone is comfortable with it though, and sometimes I find myself feeling a need to talk not because of my own discomfort but from what I sense is someone else's discomfort. I remember an incident in high school where I was with someone not comfortable with the silence. They said "You're not talking." To which I replied, "Neither are you." The difference was that I was okay with it.

There is a difference though, between silence and quiet. Sometimes I can be silent but I'm not quiet on the inside. Maybe my silence is an attempt to quiet my mind. I have to be careful sometimes not to get lost in my own thoughts and my own world, my own observations. Unlike some, I observe a lot but don't necessarily narrate what I see. There are times, of course, I'd like to be more narrative in the present. Maybe my hesitance stems from feeling like my take on things is always just a little "off" from the mainstream.

A quote I've always liked is:
The best way to find out things, if you come to think of it, is not to ask questions at all. If you fire off a question, it is like firing off a gun; bang it goes and everything takes flight and runs for shelter. But if you sit still and pretend not to be looking, all the little facts will come and peck round your feet, situations will venture forth from thickets and intentions will creep out and sun themselves on a stone. . . .from The Flame Trees of Thika by Elizabeth Huxley

I know there's a time for questions and a time for noise. I know you don't always get the answers you want just by sitting there. But there's just something about that quote that I like. Something about when the time is right, it all comes together.

Monday, September 24, 2007

P is for Point-Counterpoint

For my next class, one of the assignments is to bring a definition of counterpoint. Well, that should be simple enough. After all, counterpoint is not a new word to me. Our contemporary choir at church is named Counterpoint; some of the music we listened to Saturday was referenced as counterpoint; counterpoint is typically thought to be connected to music and most of us are familiar with the political opinion debate termed as Point-Counterpoint.

Then I started reading about counterpoint and my mind started spinning.

Chou Wen-chung describes it as "the play between deliberateness and swiftness, and the constant expansion and contraction in the relationship between ink and space." I have always thought the phrase "disciplined freedom" said it all but, wow, this guy takes it several steps further. You have basic strokes as a principal tone, then the initial caps are the auxiliary tones; boom, a flourish and you have operatic vocals.

Rise and fall, sparse and dense, delicate and stressed, straight and slanted, thick and attenuated, vertical and horizontal. It is all rhythm and movement.

I just thought I knew about counterpoint.

Friday, September 21, 2007

o is for oh my gawd . . .

which is what I'm feeling lately with all the stresses and pressures that are piling up on me right now. To itemize them (and I've done it) makes it seem like "what are you whining about -- it's just work and a couple of trips" but it feels like so much more. And I mean literally "feels" -- the weight of it all makes my chest heavy, my eyes drawn, my arms weak -- and I keep pushing forward because that's what I do. I remember oh so many years ago when I was teaching school and got to a breaking point. It was the end of the school year and I just had to walk away. Friends ended up picking up the pieces for me. My best friend left me a note that said "You bend like a willow but you will never break."

I'm bending, I'm bending, I'm bending . . .

Friday, September 7, 2007

N is for Nothing

Why is doing nothing so difficult? I guess because it's an art form and like any art it takes practice. Doing nothing is not watching TV or listening to music, it's really just doing nothing. Sitting. I would probably say it's even different than meditating since meditating means not thinking or trying not to think. There used to be a popular poster in teacher's lounges -- "Sometimes I sits and thinks. Sometimes I just sits." That is doing nothing.

I've been busy my entire life but never thought of myself as a workaholic. I wasn't "working," I was just doing. However, as I read the meditations from Women Who Do Too Much, some of it really hits home. Sometimes I blame it on my mother, who would holler at me when I was a teenager sunbathing --"Don't you have anything to do?" I've grown up to love multi-tasking and find myself getting better (or worse) at it the older I get. It just seems so efficient.

But there comes a time when I long to do nothing. I have a hard time giving myself permission for that. Doing nothing is difficult enough; doing nothing without feeling guilty is even harder.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

M is for Memory

I didn't know what to use for the letter M. There was a tug that said it should be for McAlister, which is my family name, but after last night's "discussion" with my sister about our childhood and being aware of how differently we remember things, M is definitely for Memory.

So, how accurate and reliable is our memory? I've never put myself out there as having a stellar memory, whereas my sister touts that as one of her strengths. Many times she's right, but there are also times she absolutely is not. I know I've read that there is no significant correlation between the feeling of certainty that a person has and the accuracy of the memory. That, of course, has no significance in a family discussion because memories are so subjective. I think memories get dreamier or darker as time passes, depending on the mood and how we want to remember it. My sister's memories of her childhood are just that -- her childhood. My childhood was different and my memories are different. I know this, but in the middle of an "I remember . . ." discussion, it still hurt me to not be included in her memories of events that were so rich in my memory. Maybe it stung so much because at this point, we are all that remain of our family and for me to be excluded in that way made our lives seem disconnected when right now she's the only connection I have to family.

This is one of those over-analytic posts that serves as a brain dump and is not intended to serve any purpose.