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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Only the Essential Facts of Life

Heya Blog People,

A sad part of writing full time is that one has great difficulty doing it and something else. This one anyhow. No music, no walking on the treadmill and writing, very little movement. I get up every so often and let the dogs out or do some thing that must be done (usually refilling the teapot) but the time I spend writing is mostly just spent wiggling my fingers around and talking to myself.

To be fair, I only write for a small fraction of my day (a third maybe- sometimes more sometimes less.) I could certainly work in thirty minutes of exercise. Probably I should vacuum more frequently too. I could fill up every non-writing waking hour with movement. And cleaning. 

But I don't. 

At least, I didn't.

My daughter has decided that we are too sedentary and it's time to make exercise a priority. She's right, of course. For her I will do this thing I despise- exercise just for the sake of exercise. I have high hopes that it will spark some kind of untapped fitness mania that will overcome my desire to not overwork these old bones.

So far all I have is sore knees and asthma. 

But I get to spend time roaming the neighborhood greenways with my kid. That's pretty fun. Walking on public paths behind private houses is interesting too- you get to see the messy side of peoples' lives and also many, many old Christmas trees. Of course if one has a good imagination one also sees poisonous snakes, lurking malefactor shadows, and possible shallow graves pretty much everywhere. These lazily imagined, dangerous potentialities make  walking so much more interesting. 

Nature, though I am allergic to all of it these days, is wonderful. It's all good. Well worth the effort. We have slacked in the hiking department since we moved south because it's so darned hot here all the time. And also bugs. And snakes. And poison everything. I'm glad my kid won't broker any excuses anymore because I miss being out in the woods. And exercise is important. 

Plus, and this is super sappy but true, it's really nice to spend actual time with my kid in these last few months of her childhood even if a lot of it is spent hearing about how we can't just come back at Christmas and pick up a still green tree from the neighbor's old Christmas tree pile, or how a compost pile is not a lazily dug final resting place for a neighbor we haven't seen for a while. I think she's going to miss me next year when she's in college.

Yours,
M.B.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Heya Blogpeople,

We have been having trouble with our internet here at Hubris House. It isn't an excuse for not posting- I don't actually need one. No, it's more the circumstances surrounding the internet trouble that are interesting.

So I am a keen observer of all things outside the windows in my office and kitchen (the same view just from different floors) because this is where I spend the most time doing things that require me to wish I was outside (writing and washing dishes). 

One prominent feature of my view is the pole that holds my internet cable. Since I live in a place where heavy snow isn't a problem we have an... interesting cable installation. At one point the cable is only about six feet off the ground- the roof of our glider swing holds it up sometimes. Er, to be fair, the back yard is about 20 feet lower than the house- maybe more though it could be less; I'm not great at estimating height. It's a very steep hill for a wire to stretch over a long distance. That's where I was going with that.

Being a keen observer of things I noticed that (a) our cable developed a slouch that made it fall off the glider roof and (b) squirrels- very fat and obnoxious members of the species- liked to climb the wires and chew on stuff at the pole and (c) when the wind blew or it rained heavily we lost internet service.

Over the last month or two I called the cable people fairly regularly and tried to explain the problem. Our conversations were polite, as I try to be as friendly as possible when talking to others, but the conversations were very frustrating and not at all productive.

"Yes, I'm having trouble with my internet. I was wondering if you could send someone down?"

"Did you have the automated system send a restart signal?"

"Yes but it didn't work."

"I can see that your modem is connecting and reconnecting. You need a new modem."

"Actually I don't- the modem is fine." And it would go on like that until the wind blew just right or the cable dried out and we had internet again. For whatever reason they wouldn't send anyone.

Then it started going out all the time. I called the cable company and insisted that the problem was out at the pole and they needed to send someone to actually look at it. The last time I called I spoke to someone in the local office.

"Sir, I need the internet. I make my living from it and I can't get paid if I don't send stuff out."

"What do you do?"

"I'm a writer." I hate saying that because the conversation that follows can go in any direction.

"What do you write? Have I heard of you? Let me look you up." Then I explained that I'm pretty much invisible on the internet because I work in print media. I didn't mention that I also haven't worked for a while but whatevs. I listed out my publications and their websites in case my stuff has actually made it online then said something dumb about focusing on fiction. He was very excited. 

"When you are famous I can say that I fixed your cable and helped get your book published." People always say this kind of thing. It takes a village to sell a book I guess. Frankly my village seems to be slacking a bit, but.

"You have to actually fix it first," I reminded him. I can be very focused.

"I'll take care of it but, just so you know, it's a problem in your house. I don't think it's squirrels but you're the creative type, bless your heart." And he laughed condescendingly.

I was pretty sick of the guy by the end of the conversation but he did send a cable guy down to look at the cable.

Actually he sent a fleet of cable guys down. Not kidding or exaggerating. Every damned cable guy in the area showed up at my house.

"Don't put this on the internet," the head cable guy said to my husband as he shot a photo of the fleet. C promised that he wouldn't. "We like to help each other out." C just nodded- I assume. I was trying to keep the dogs from lunging at them (they keep treats in their pockets and the dogs really like treats) and couldn't really see beyond all the fur. 

Within the space of about five minutes they discovered that squirrels had eaten through the cable wires at the pole.

And now, thanks to an art appreciating customer service rep, I have the interwebs.

Also I was right. Ha. And it isn't actually that unusual for squirrels and chipmunks to eat wire insulation. I guess it's like rodent chewing gum until they chew an electric wire- then it's like being fried but they don't often live to warn their buddies bless their hearts

M.B.




Monday, March 4, 2013

Be Excellent

Knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it are two different things. 


This has kind of been the theme at Hubris House lately. Not in a moral sense- in a "I want to be X so I need to change Y" kind of way.* Knowing what you need to do to solve a problem/ change a situation is one thing.Taking the giant leap- the life changing humongous dive- required to actually make the change is another.

An interesting little facet of this life changing leap thing is that it takes a while to do it. Maybe we hop a bit, make a couple doomed little skips into our new lives- get our toes wet in the sea of change- then retreat. We of the Hubris persuasion need to try every possible other option before we commit to the scary new changes that need to be made. But we make the changes (in our own time,) meet our goals, run into the edge of another body of water and  start all over again. Veni vidi vici rinse and repeat, dude. 

Choosing to make the leap is often the biggest challenge in the whole life changing process- for the most part the rest is a tumble down a rolling, prickle covered hill (not writing though- that's like rolling up and down a mountain chain but maybe only for me). Change is a process and a lot of stuff has to happen to get a person to the leaping part.

Oddly, and I'm always shocked by this, many people won't change at all. I mean, in a way I get it- Why bother? Change is difficult and failure sucks. Life goes on whether we try really hard to be better or not. Just do what's easy and, in an attempt to make yourself feel better, castigate those that try, but fail, to reach their goals in (what you consider to be) a timely manner. Giving up or not even trying in the first place can be a kind of comfort blanket knit with soft fuzzy "if I wasn't so lazy I coulds" and "I know I could do it if I trieds" and some nice knobby "someday I wills" edged with sparkly "I don't have the time fors". 

That blanket is easy to knit and it gets bigger every day. Before you know it there you sit, huddled in your pretty comfy blanket on the shore. Once in a while you scoot a little closer to the water and just as often you scoot back. We all spend time on that shore and possibly start a maybe-someday blanket of our own. There's lots of company there and everyone is saying the same thing: Later. Maybe someday. I don't want to fail. Where's the remote? 

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But you should never lose sight of the big goal- the shiny everyone-says-it's-impossible goal- that shimmers just there on the horizon. Aim for greatness- worst case you hit pretty-goodness which is, like, way above where you started. Plus it gets you off the shore- you don't want to be there at low tide and all anyone ever does is talk and knit. Which actually is a lot less fun that you'd expect. Knitting outdoors is fraught with complications. Anyway.

This blog exists, in part, to let you see that greatness (or pretty-goodness in my case- at least at the moment) doesn't just happen. You have to take potentially painful and scary leaps into the unknown and you have to let yourself fail. You have to understand that you can only aim to be better than you were but if you keep getting better all the time you are *that* much closer to being great. Just doing something to improve your life  gets you off that unchanging shore and into the sea with the big fish.

Quit accepting what you do as "good enough." Take a chance, get out there and fail spectacularly at something that really matters to you. Keep on failing, faltering, crashing, until you succeed more than you fail. Try to be great at something because, when you give up on greatness, apathy takes you and drags you around by the hair. It's never good when that happens. Or you get stuck on that weird shore on the sea of change. Neither option is all that appealing.

Going outside what feels comfortable and safe isn't easy and it isn't always fun- sometimes it's flat out terrifying- but what kind of life will you live if you keep doing the things you've always done? Don't let failure be your comfort blanket. Don't let failure stop you from trying. Don't let failure define you. Don't do it, not even when it really, really hurts.

I went through a time in my life when all of my friends were 75 or older (I was a very young housewife and these wonderful women were home during the day and had time for me- unlike my peers who were in college and busy doing not-kid-friendly stuff). The one thing they all talked to me about was regret. Some had few regrets and some were plagued by them, but none of them wished that they had taken fewer chances in pursuit of their dreams. Not a one. These incredible people told me to stop talking about maybe someday doing something and to get my ass in gear and actually do it because time keeps moving even if I don't. And now I'm telling you. Be excellent. You only get one chance at this life blogpeople, make the most of it.

M.B.

* The kind of change I'm talking about is the kind that needs to happen in order to become something. It could be the lifestyle changes needed to lose a lot of weight. It could be the habit changes needed to become a successful something (student, writer, dog groomer- the specifics don't matter). For most people little changes (boxers to briefs, dark roast to light, Mac to PC) aren't that difficult. They don't require giant leaps of anything though I know that these are big life changing events for others- in that case they are what I'm talking about too. Mostly though I'm talking about following your dreams and taking charge of your life but that's kind of twee so maybe you should just infer it from the text.**

** I also ignore the journey after you leap. I mean, okay so you decide to change, you make this leap into a metaphorical sea of change and then what? Dude. The rest of it is your thing and not mine. You can read this blog to see the crap I run into but your goals are different from mine. Your successes and failures are going to be different. Your journey is going to be different.