Saturday, March 30, 2013

Learning and decluttering......

      During the third three-hour sessions with the kindly decluttering supervisor, I realized that, while I had exhibited enough to be put on a tenure track, and enough to actually receive tenure in an Art Department, and have had a few self-portraits shown at MOMA twice, I’m of no real importance as an artist and it’s fine to toss out copies of emails recording the negotiations for two exhibits in Lawrence, for the Bread and Roses strike centennial last year. Certainly it was interesting to work on those videos and the drawing piece, about 100 more-or-less 4x5ish pieces of Reeves BFK.

     I was happy to drive up there on route 28, a meandering road that avoids the highway I’m phobic about. I liked the people I met and thought I did a good-enough job with the interviews, that they’re useful in the history center archive. Maybe someone will watch the DVD’s in some form or another 50 years from now and maybe the folks who I interviewed will watch theirs some years from now and feel pleased about who they were, what they were doing, in 2012. But I’m hardly important enough to keep all that correspondence.
     Now, that was an important realization and will make a difference in the tossing out and decluttering process.

      And, when I woke up this morning, I knew that I’d truly absorbed the lesson of ‘large, bold, black letters on each file folder’ and understood that folders containing related information should be put near similar files. That’s such an easy concept that my decluttering advisor probably has no understanding that I needed her time and her patience for me to finally absorb it. No de-cuttering book, magazine or article  could have taught it to me. I needed a real human, standing here, going over all this stuff, taking out her Sharpie and lettering some folders, for me to understand, absorb, the concept by the next day.

     I’m sure it’s hard for this nice woman to walk into the house and see that I’ve not finished one room before I’ve wandered on to the next. That there are still unsorted piles, visual blobs, in rooms that she’s helped me tackle. Most clients must want a finished product…all surfaces cleared, no piles in corners, a closet door that will close. But what I want is to learn how to think.

     So, our time in the kitchen and so-called living room didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know – get rid of what you don’t need. But my two sessions in this workroom have taught me the concept of like-with-like and how one might keep files in a way that would prevent the necessity of shuffling through all the labels, faint as the printing is, to find the one I want. Invaluable.

     It really doesn’t look as if there’s been progress. And she might well feel discouraged. In fact she probably has to tell herself, ‘Well, she’s paying me and I can’t force her into finishing what she clearly doesn’t want to finish.’ Though there has been progress between sessions, it never puts paid to one room.
     Hopefully she understands my sense of humor as I grumble along, annoyed that she wants me to find places for the last four unidentified bits and bobs, as she calls them, before I careen into another basket of stuff that’s been sitting on the floor, under the table, for eons.

     She mentioned a coffee table, or something low with a drawer (another concept -- drawers,) that I might buy since she identified my ‘spot’ for working which involves dropping books and papers, envelopes and pens on the floor and keeping whatever is important on a small-low stool – my checkbook and the still life for whatever watercolor I’m mucking away at.
     She is sure that I will understand that the floor is not a place to keep things. And I’m sure that I won’t because it’s so convenient. So, we’ll have to see whether I’m capable of grasping that. Capable of buying something that’s knee height and serves as nicely as the floor does.

     I did pretty well, physically, while she was here. And was careful to lift only one very heavy basket because I was so eager to tear into it. I actually asked her to lift two others, which I felt bad about, why should she lift the symbols of my disorder, but they were smaller and my sciatic nerve was already angry.
     I was capable of carrying a box (a box, does she know how valuable boxes are and how hard it was to let go of that box?) to the car filled with a few things she’d volunteered to take to Goodwill, including the white chamber pot with a small chip that I bought when I taught workshops in Maine a hundred years ago. Why on earth did I buy something as odd as that, as absolutely unrelated to anything I was interested in? I bought it the way I bought old photographs of people I didn’t know, photographs that I’d never look at and had no reason to want except that they were inexpensive and it seemed like the thing to do. I was a photographer, right? A photographer with no general interest in history and no understanding of the early photographic processes, no less.

     I’d taken a Tylenol before we started and planned to take on four hours later. A card table that my friend Lorna was getting rid of was set up in the room because I’d understood, after it took me almost three days to get over our last three-hour session, that bending down to sort things on the floor was truly impossible. And when my back began to hurt, after about twenty minutes, I tried to think of ways to stop aggravating it. Fibromyalgia or resistance to this whole process? It’s not important to know why the aching starts so quickly since that’s an old problem, one I’m used to handling.
     However, by the time I got back upstairs and was actually making myself a healthy dinner (hard to believe,) I had to hold on to the stove, then the kitchen doorway, squealing in pain. Full-blown misery, the kind I often experience if I’ve taken a walk and then gotten right into the car. Terrible. But it doesn’t take long to go away. And I did eat and actually do back exercises.
     I was able to go to an early meeting of Weight Watchers this morning, only to find that I’ve gained THREE POUNDS in one month. I’m a bit achy, but not feeling nearly as bad as I did two weeks ago after our three-hour session. Maybe we can do another session next week. Hopefully.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


 When we met, my girl might have been three and their first son  might have been a year...give or take a bit.

 I had traded friends with a then friend. She got P., I think, and I got J. who is married to E. and who were, and still are, my exemplary married friends.  Lucky me.

She and I sat in their kitchen in a Park Slope brownstone that they were renovating, drinking coffee, until one of us had to break the conversation to pee. It was heaven. Often I snuck over there to Brooklyn when my daughter was in daycare, on days when I wasn't printing in my friend Will's darkroom on 9th Street. He was teaching me what would make my becoming a teacher possible...excellent darkroom practice, the technical skills I probably wouldn't have absorbed from a less patient, kindly teacher. And J. was teaching me about writing with her patient reading of so much of what I wrote...reading and commenting.
 They moved from Brooklyn, to Beirut, to the environs of Washington, D.C. and most recently to Providence. Where we imaged we'd see each other more often.

She's become wonderfully busy ... I say wonderfully because the organization she's joined has surely benefited from her prioritizing skills, her clear-headed ability to sort through problems and her low-key, well-honed ability to sort out difficult problems and set a tone that makes conciliation possible.

But she's very busy. And I'm busy, too, though not as focused on one specific set of problems, with specific goals.
 As always, I roam all over the map, getting myself tanged into projects and problems. Getting tired. And thinking that even getting on a train to visit them is too much trouble. "I have to think about it" which means that I have to decided whether I've recovered from whatever mess I've gotten into that's knocked my muscles into screams. The latest has been the de-cluttering which is combined with .... and ....and .....and .......(all things that needed to be done, a book to be read, notes to be made, questions to be thought up, photographs to be taken, a meeting to be chaired....and so on...)
 I couldn't believe how easy it was, how pleasant the train was and how quickly those hours at their house went by, that my friends are still my friends....comfortable, talkative, as if we had seen each other just the other day, been talking over the phone constantly instead of occasionally. I had to pinch myself to imagine this is possible and to stop myself from feeling endlessly guilty about how detached I've distant........

 What a cake, hazelnut and dark chocolate. And coffee............. (in addition to lunch.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie and Clutter

Susan T. Landry has conceptualized and supervised the design and up-putting of the new website,   
Puuleeeze check it out. It was a huge amount of effort.
And looks really smart!       

I wormed my way out of contributing much to it any of that extensive labor, though I do present one of the two memoirs and ask the writer of it a few questions. And that takes me about three days, not totally including how many times I read the book. And I'm retired and only involved in the mischief I make for myself. I can't imagine how Susan has managed. 

One thing I've done, in part because a friend sent photos of her neatly arranged closets and clean desk, is to hire her childhood friend, newly retired and taking up advising on decluttering. She's a very cheerful person and the seven hours we've spent together so far has brought results.

However, it takes two and a half days to recover from three hours of de-cluttering supervision. There are undoubtedly many reasons why.

One could be that the concept of putting like-with-like is so foreign that my mind fizzles in trying to absorb it. Paperclips and envelopes of differing sizes, a stack of new, white 8 and ½ by 11 and another recyled sheets I print on the back off. Two shelves. 

Of course, that the stapler and staples probably should be on those two shelves, also, instead of in the square basket where I shoved them after tossing out a great deal of other oddments.

And pens? Where should they go? 

Or it could be the internalized fight with my mother, carried on since she died when I was twelve and erased her from my conscious mind, preserving only dimly felt instructions – 
be a good girl, which might have translated into being a good woman which I never was, 
don’t sit on your spine which I’d always done, alas, only in this advanced aged realizing how right she was, 
your eyes are bigger than your stomach 
and whatever she must have said about the state of my room which had three closets, two built especially for my things (there was another closet for hanging dresses and blouses and storing shoes,) under the eaves, with a window seat between. 

After her house was sold and almost all her belongings disposed of, I must have vowed not to create a home for myself, and since I had to live somewhere, I’d remain uncomfortable in chaotic surroundings. What an old battle. And I’m seventy-three!

Of course, my body is always cranky. Fibromyalgia. Something aches, my shoulders or neck, small muscles along my rib cage ping occasionally just to alert me of their presence. And my haunches are full of misery.  So, climbing on the chair to reach high shelves wasn’t helpful. Would using a stepladder have helped? I never thought about the one propped against the wall in hall, waiting for someone to replace the fire alarm battery.

And allergies. By the next day, I had a deep, aching cough, still lingering.

Five shelves. A very small section of this workroom tidy looking, at least. Two trips to Home Goods to buy baskets and one to return some. 

 Profuse apologies to James and the Cuban in London and the pie lady for not reading blogs at all. I imagine sometime I'll get back to doing's not that I don't appreciate your writing and want to read it, it's just........................ I'm tired.