On finding Quiet


Through my job with Americorps/MathCorps, I have been involved in a course call Designing your Life. It is a course taught at Stanford University using a book and workbook written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I have been doing activity logs for the journal we keep. All of my activity logs have been about tutoring at school, and I am supposed to use them to evaluate my flow and engagement through the week. I personally cannot stand answering rather bland questions in short, boring blurbs, so, instead, I feel some writing coming on…

*flow – People in flow report experiencing complete involvement in the activity, a sense of ecstasy or euphoria, great inner clarity, total calmness, or the notion that time is standing still. A really satisfying career involves a lot of flow states–dyl

I do find some flow when I am in the midst of the tutoring sessions, when the students are finally focused, but it is always short-lived because the sessions are only 30-45 minutes long, and it takes way too long to get them settled. Part of that is my fault as I enjoy the kids, and we chat about their days, but then they would rather continue chatting than work. Getting and keeping them focused and on task is exhausting. Most days, I am in bed by 6:30 pm or so, because I have nothing left. This is frustrating and definitely unfulfilling.

I am an introvert by nature. I used to be very shy, painfully so, unless I was in my element. After I got sick, that shyness was gone! In fact, for a couple of years as I coped with the brain damage, I had no social filters at all which at times was quite hilarious for my family. I am now comfortable talking to anyone, but I am still an introvert. I still need major re-charge time. I work full-time for MathCorps, and I have come to the conclusion that it is too much. I am overdone by Friday, and I often feel resentful that I have done nothing for myself. I have felt that resentment many, many times in my life, but until now, at this point in my life, I have never identified it as I do now…energy sucking work/ activities/ events/ social obligations make me feel hopeless and then angry.

I happily admit that I have been very inspired by this job. Seeing how important an adult can be to these young students has been eye-opening and rewarding. I care about them in ways I didn’t expect at all. I have learned so much. Feeling needed and necessary has been a shot in the arm, but I am starting to feel that energy waning. I know I serve a purpose that is very necessary, not just as a tutor but also as a positive adult in the lives of these students, but there is not enough here for me. Yes, I am at heart a teacher, but I thrive in the creative realms of art, theatre, dance, writing…not in the academic realm of math. I have always loved math, and when I am teaching the kids, I am enjoying myself, but it does not feed me. Knowing I serve a purpose for my students is of course gratifying, but it does not challenge my artistic, creative mind. That’s why I get bitchy: when the challenges fade or disappear, I get bored and do not want to do it anymore. There is a part of me that tells me to grow up and deal, because I made a commitment to this contract. I will honor that commitment, but I am not sure that I will do this again next year. I might do this part-time, because it is good for me to interact with these kids, but I am not sure.

I ended up being at home last Thursday and Friday. I was not coping well physically or mentally. I talked to my sister K many times. We discuss things until they have been drained of blood in order to understand why we do what we do. One of our longest running conversations has been about why we do not follow through on our ideas. The writing for this course, especially for the life-view, has opened doors in my brain about that very thing. We both seem to feel that we are somehow silly for wanting to follow our artistic inclinations since we also need to be able to pay the bills. Identifying that simply working to pay the bills is devoid of any satisfaction has helped us both start to change our thinking. Can our creative endeavors sustain us financially as well as creatively?

Turns out that K and I have talked about “flow” and what that means to us ad nauseum, and we both want it back in our lives, so I made a decision to just get busy with an idea we have. It was daunting, and I had to push myself through the process, but I created an end product and felt great about it! And then, because I was in a motivated state of mind, I finished another project, designing and digitizing a logo for a friend’s business. Talk about FLOW!!! I was both excited and exhausted by Sunday night. I want that to continue.

When I started this course, I understood it to be a way to find a new path to follow forward. What I discovered this weekend is that perhaps I already have the skills and knowledge, the experience and perspective, to go forward with one new idea, and go forward with another that was part of my life for 17 years. I slowly stopped producing my designs because my life was a shambles. I thought that my art, my work, could sustain me, but not only did I become bored (death knell!), I also had nothing inside my head and heart to draw from. Perhaps I am ready to try again, but something needs to be different and I do not know what that is or how it should be different. There is always another riddle to solve.


As I re-read the beginning, I realized where part of/all of (?) my resentment comes from when dealing with energy-draining activities: I have always instinctively known we should be able to claim time for ourselves to take care of ourselves, but I/girls/women was/are taught that others must come first. Feeling that I should have that right but being told/led to believe that that makes one selfish has always been a source of guilt, and sooner or later, that just makes you angry…but you are not supposed to be angry about something like that, you self-involved, egotistical wretch!!

At times like this, I wish I could shake the ick off of my whole body the way a dog does with water!

When K and I talked yesterday, I told her that I had been hit with this urge to stop thinking so much, to shut up and just be. Listen patiently. Or don’t listen. Just be quiet! Something else hit me this morning as that urge to be quiet in my head came upon me again…the chatter in my head gets in the way of “hearing” what is actually in there. Or maybe it is the universe speaking. I do not know, but maybe that’s the point. We don’t know and all the chattering in the world will not help us know, so shut up and see what comes out. Or doesn’t. I suddenly see meditation in a different light.

Maybe sometimes we should stop striving and just be. There is relief in that thought. Maybe believing in myself means to trust my own soul to release the thoughts, the ideas, and the epiphanies when I am ready. Another meaning to attach to “chill-the-fuck-out!”

Fuck Empty-Nesting!

I thought as we got older we were supposed to be better prepared for the next curve balls life fires at us? I would not say that I have handled everything over the past 20 years with grace and aplomb, and yes there were definitely moments when I was thrown (hard) by those proverbial loops, but I did not expect to find myself slamming up against as many completely mystifying, unseen walls as have come my way this year, especially over the last month.

Last week, I woke up one morning in full-blown hopelessness. Wtf? I spent the morning messaging my young chicks group (that is what I have decided to call the group that has evolved with 3 of my high school friends since in my mind, we are all still 17 yrs-old and hot as hell), and we talked about feeling useless, lonely, worried for our children and our aging parents…and finally, one of them says, “I think it is the empty nest syndrome.” Oh.

I thought I understood what it meant, that you just had to re-adjust your days, figure out how to just do for yourself and stop worrying about your kids. Lies. All lies.

It is this sense that there is nothing to get up for in the morning. It’s going to bed to read at 5:30 pm, because I don’t know what else to do with myself. Even my knitting is not keeping me up as it feels monotonous and terrifically unfulfilling at the moment. It is having to force myself to feed the dog and cats since they really won’t feed themselves. It is digging through the pile of clothes on the bench at the end of my bed to find something to wear, because I have not done any laundry ’cause no one else needs any…though I will wash underwear with no problem, thank gawd. It is not doing any grocery shopping since I go to Caribou Coffee in the morning to get my tea and a sandwich for lunch, and I just graze on snacks when I get home from school (tho, the snacks are running low now). It is wanting to be entertained by new shows and movies that fail miserably.

It is waking up and very matter-of-factly asking myself why I am here and then having that feeling follow me all day long like PigPen’s dirt cloud.

My Oldest Diva is an artist, and she does drawings for Halloween for #mabsdrawlloween every year, one a day. This one is for 10/4/21. She writes: “Night Circus✨🖤. Being a whole circus is hard work.” My inner drama queen is trying hard to create a circus for myself.

Actually, this drawing is making me feel better…I am imagining myself in this poofy skirt changing my attitude!

Now that I am working again, I find myself looking at/watching the adults around me at the school. Except for a few male teachers and the principal, all the rest of us (teachers, tutors, paras, admins, etc) are women of all ages. As I watch everyone go about their business, I wonder what they are thinking. How do they view themselves? How do they feel about what they do? That woman seems to focus outwardly with a smile on her face. The 3 women who just went by seem to be completely inside their own heads. That one is frazzled. That young one looks frustrated. That one looks shell-shocked. That older one looks bored out of her mind.

I wonder what I present to an outside eye.

Do they all have constant chatter in their heads? What does that chatter say? Is it kind, judgemental, cranky, funny, warm, brutal, loving, cruel? Are they aware of the chatter as chatter, or is the noise a low hum in the background like a power line buzz that is no longer consciously acknowledged?

I read something a few months back that made a case for that noise not being who we are. That noise is not me. That noise comes from a place that is afraid of silence. Silence must be filled, so let’s fill it with a voice that constantly reminds us how inadequate we are. How often we screw up. How often we are wrong. How often we are sub-par. How we are less than, unworthy, stupid, failing, ugly, fat, decrepit…

It struck me that our “inner voice” is so often, if not always, so fucking awful! Why? Why isn’t our first instinct to be kind? Why is it so ugly and abusive? My inner voice is a gawdamned bully! Why?

I started to really think about this idea that my inner voice is not ME. There is a part of me that finds that to be utterly stupid since the only one in my head is me, but then another part of me got quiet. It was a head-tilt moment. I stepped back and imagined that voice was a demon from another plane of consciousness who was just looking to create negative lightning bolts. Ooooo…not me. Something else, but not me. Could I stop listening? I imagined stepping around a corner so the demon thought it was alone…and there was silence.

I started to laugh. Every time I take the demon’s power away by stepping out of sight, the silence first makes me smile, and then I laugh! Is it relief? Why does that strike me as funny? Not a clue, but it has made me question what our first instinct really is? The lack of chatter in my head allows me to breathe and smile.

I have read that all life moves toward balance. We are surrounded by systems, biological and otherwise, that are apparently working towards equilibrium, yet all it takes is one glitch, one foreign body to throw it all out of whack.

I have also read that all life moves toward decay and chaos. Life expends energy as it moves until the day there is no more energy to be found and death ensues…except that decay itself gives off more energy to feed something else that for a bit maintains balance until it too begins to decay.

So does that mean balance, equilibrium is unsustainable? And even though death and decay are a given, they can sustain something else in its own balance for a brief time. So, what the hell are we striving for?

Popcorn mind…and no closer to knowing how to go forward now that those who have needed me are moving on into worlds and lives that they have created. It is as it should be.

Eye-rolling - Wikipedia

Trying to think of a non-dramatic title…

…is that dramatic?

I have been contemplating starting to write again for quite a while now. Tried to come up with a nifty title for a new blog, but everything I thought of was either already taken (as in, really not that creative) or just embarrassingly silly. Then it occurred to me that I had a perfectly good blog that has been part of my life for ~20 years, and “Taoknitter” has become a part of me (not that I can knit the Tao any better than when I chose the name. It keeps me humble.)



I am still alive.

I write that for my own benefit…and holy fuck if I don’t suddenly feel tears making my eyes burn!

Not sure where to start. Just like everyone I know, life over the past 1 1/2+ years has been an unexpected, brain numbing, extremely unsettling experience. And then there is the continuing disaster that is the idiot-who-shall-not-be-named that “led” this country for 4 years. I tell ya, when Covid 19 hit, I was truly undone. I was terrified, immobilized, panic-stricken, overwhelmed, shocked and, at times, hysterical and unsure why I would want to remain on this planet. I did not actively seek to exterminate myself; instead I started drinking way too much, especially when there was no job to go to anymore because of Covid. This caused me to have an accident that required me to call an ambulance…and after being told that no, I was not in danger of dying, I sent the EMTs away and crawled into my bed in embarrassment (after I called my sister K at near midnight first). I woke up the next morning, called K, and announced that THAT was the end of THAT. No more drinking. She sighed in relief, admitting that she had resolved to tell me that herself.

That was well over a year ago now, and it really was the end of that. I can now clearly see that drinking was just a way of hiding from my extreme fear and feelings of hopelessness about not only my life, but my country. Fucking existential crisis of some magnitude (and here let me point out that I KNOW I was/am not the only one). I slept a lot. I read obsessively about quantum physics and the nature of reality. When my brain was roiling from trying to understand the incomprehensible, I compulsively read hard science fiction (mostly of the apocalyptic type) that led me back to more books on quantum physics…yes, I was trying to find a way to understand and control my concepts of the world, the universe, and my reality. Did it work? Dunno. I do know that I talked K’s ear off!

I do not know what I would do without my sister K. She is my rock, my voice of reason, my champion, my confessor, my sounding board, my collaborator, my mirror, my comedy partner, my unpaid therapist, my commiserator, my bullshit monitor, my shoulder to sob & lament upon…and I can only hope I am some of that for her. She deserves a medal for diving head first down all of those rabbit-holes with me.

There were also difficult journeys to be taken with my diva daughters: one that knocked me upside the head, one that found a new path, and one of which was absolutely terrifying and that still continues but seems to be on the upswing at the moment. I learned so much. So very, very fucking much. I am not who I was which is a damn good thing, but I also seem to have found parts of myself that I lost/ gave away/ buried/ annihilated during my marriage. (Yes, dramatic. I am trying to learn to accept the innate drama that is buried in my genetic make-up.)

There has been lots and lots and lots of therapy. And continuous reading. And I will admit to self-pitying navel gazing occasionally. I really never thought much about what my life would be like when I hit 60 years-old. It was never really something I worried much about until I got here, and then I was rather stunned by how shocking and violent its arrival actually was.

So, I find myself in a place I did not expect. I am teaching again. Not in the arts at all. I shall be tutoring 4-5 grade students in math. Full-time at the intermediate school literally around the corner. Such a wonderful, sharp turn in my life. Back in undergrad, when I chose my path in the arts over the one in the sciences, I told myself I could re-visit my passions in the sciences later in life…and here I am.

And I feel more awake than I have perhaps ever been.