Hoarding Inner Peace

Recently, I had the experience of entering a house that was so crowded with stuff that not a single flat surface was free. It was really hard to move in there. I don’t know if these people are hoarders, necessarily, or a family with small children living in a space much too small for them, but nevertheless, it was my worst nightmare. I didn’t get a feeling of home sweet home in that place as much as I felt overwhelmed and stressed out.

Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but my brain seems to interpret clutter as the physical equivalent of noise. This place made me feel like I was in a heavy metal concert, seated right in front of the speakers. My instinct was to get out as quickly as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m the neatest, most organized person in the world. No, I have my fair share of clutter. But this place made my home seem minimalist by comparison. My home is functional. There are tables where one can actually sit down and eat a meal. There are counters where vegetables are chopped. There are floors that are visible and walkable. One doesn’t have to climb over things to navigate the space. When I get home at the end of the day, it feels like a sanctuary, not a prison.

I would not be able to rest with so much stuff around me. I would feel no inner peace. I wouldn’t be able to think, let alone feel comfortable. I’d feel as if I had no opportunity to unplug from the world. I need that.

I’m doing my best to get rid of stuff. My husband and I rarely exchange gifts, even at Christmas. We’d much rather have experiences and create memories.

If I’m going to hoard something, I’d much rather hoard inner peace.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

#MakeaJoyfulNoise

It was 7:15 pm last night and I was sitting alone on my drawbridge, contemplating this strange new world in which we live. One in which we are isolated, even in a crowded city like Seattle. I was feeling lonely and sad.

Then my husband sent me a link to an article entitled, Seattleites encouraged to make ‘joyful noise’ tonight in appreciation of front line workers in coronavirus pandemic.

It was asking people to make some noise at 8pm that very night. Play an instrument. Sing. Bang some pots. Anything to support those frontline workers. What a delightful concept.

So, being on my drawbridge, I decided to set my alarm and blow my horn for 15 seconds at 8pm. It was exciting, somehow, to express myself in the face of this pandemic. I blew my horn for Paula and Steve and John, all friends who work in health care. It was glorious.

But then it was kind of a letdown, because I didn’t hear anyone else making a noise. But wait. I turned off my heater and opened the window. And there it was. Pots and pans! Cowbells! People were coming together!

Crazy how a president can divide us but a pandemic virus can unite us once again.

I hope this becomes a nightly thing, because this is the best I’ve felt in weeks! I hope all the bridges will blow their horns at 8 pm. I hope all the buses will toot. I hope people will shout from their balconies.

We’re still here! We’re still here! We’re still here!

we are here

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Things I Block Out

Every time a car drives over my drawbridge, its tires make a thu-thunk sound as they hit the expansion joint. I must hear it 20,000 times a day. But I don’t, really. Not anymore. It’s as routine to me as the sound of my own breathing, or the squealing of the mini-fridge.

It makes me wonder what else I block out. I sure wish I could block out the sound of my dogs barking when I’m trying to take a nap. And to block out the sound of Trump’s voice, I have to turn off the television or the radio entirely. Otherwise it’s like nails down a chalkboard to me.

I just sat here for a few minutes and tried to listen, really listen, to everything going on around me. It’s not as easy as you’d think. It requires focus, and that’s not something I’m particularly skilled at. It’s sort of like meditation in reverse. Letting everything in.

And jeez, it’s a noisy world we live in! All manner of mechanical humming. Engine noises. Snippets of conversation. The wind and rain. Sirens in the distance. The sounds emanating from my own body. The impatient tapping of my foot. Music. Televisions. Airplanes. Distant train whistles. Joggers’ feet. Seagulls crying.

It occurs to me that much of what we block out is generated by humanity. That’s kind of ironic. The world would be a much quieter place without us.

I think it would be extremely cleansing to take a vow of silence. Cleansing, but impractical. Which is probably why I block so much out in the first place.

It’s all about preserving one’s sanity. Life, only filtered. We may have to live with the impurities, but we don’t have to dwell upon them.

http _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_2_26_Old_brick_wall

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

What Price Patriotism?

As I write this, the Blue Angels are roaring past my bridge, making the windows rattle. I must admit that it’s a spectacular show. If you haven’t seen these Navy fighter jets perform, you may as well. You are paying for them. We all are, in one way or another.

According to this article, these jets cost US taxpayers 35,577,000 dollars a year. That’s quite a bit of cash just to promote the US Navy and make us all feel proud to be Americans. Imagine what an impact that would have on the homelessness or hunger or public education crises in this country.

And let’s not overlook the other, less visible impacts. The approximately 8000 gallons of jet fuel burned during a typical Blue Angels show is creating quite the carbon footprint. And there’s no easy way to calculate how much extra fuel each car in the area has to burn because it has to detour or idle due to traffic snarls caused by these shows. And then there’s the increase in boat traffic as vessels compete for the best view. The noise pollution alone is off the charts, and don’t forget the garbage produced by the crowds. And then there are the terrified pets, and the anxiety suffered by people with PTSD.

I’m not saying that Americans need to live lives of extreme austerity. I just happen to think there are other ways we could celebrate that don’t come with such a high price tag.

http _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_8_81_Blue_Angels_on_Delta_Formation

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Late Night Symphony

Have you ever been so tired that it felt like your mattress was hugging you? You sink into it’s soft embrace and feel a sweet relief like no other. It makes you wonder why you ever resisted bedtime as a child.

This night was one of those nights. It had been a long day at work. The annual Seafair in Seattle always brings out a lot of boats, which translates to a lot of drawbridge openings for me to perform. That, and it was brutally hot. The control tower is poorly insulated, and the window AC was not keeping up. It was so hot, in fact, that we had to hose down the bridge because the metal had expanded so much that we couldn’t raise it without risk of damage. And to add to the drama, it was septic tank pump day. So I had a lot of comings and goings, openings and closings. And poop smells.

And, also due to Seafair, my commute home was even worse than the usual nightmare. Nothing says Seattle like being able to put your car in park on the interstate on 5 separate occasions on your way home. I had mixed emotions about coming home, already sweaty, to my hot house and my hungry dog, but I knew one thing for sure: I wanted my bed. Desperately.

After throwing open every window and turning on every fan, and then feeding Quagmire (who always acts like he’s starving), I made myself a sandwich so I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven. Then I took a cool shower.

When I finally climbed into my beloved bed, I lay there, flat on my back, feeling like a bag of wet cement. I stared at the ceiling. I doubt I could have saved myself if the house caught fire.

Have you ever been too tired to sleep? Yeah. Like that. I was in a stupor for a good couple hours, I think, based on the number of times Quagmire came to check on me. I just lay there waiting for the sun to stop torturing my time zone.

Finally, around 9:45, I managed to reach over and turn off the light, and roll over onto my stomach, which is my preferred starting position for the journey at hand. Quagmire curled up by my hip, which, I have to say, is the most comforting feeling on earth. Sweet, sweet rest.

Oh, how to describe what happened next. Actually, I was at a loss, so I Googled “the sound a jackhammer makes”, just for you. Apparently the official spelling is:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …

I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I speak with a certain amount of authority because it was happening less than half a block from my bedroom window. At 10 pm.

Please tell me. For the love of all things holy, who runs a FREAKING jackhammer in a residential neighborhood at 10 pm? Who?

Surely this wouldn’t last long, I thought. No one could possibly have the NERVE to keep this up for any length of time at this hour.

Wrong. It lasted all night long. All. Night. Long.

Interspersed with that sound was the distinctive sound of heavy equipment backing up.

Beep Beep Beep Beep…

And for some reason two trucks were signaling each other by horn.

Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot.

Apparently the double toot was a signal to back up, because no one, of course, could be bothered to used a two way radio. Oh, no. Of course not. So what I got was:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …
Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot. Beep Beep Beep Beep…

All. Night. Long.

And I wasn’t the only one suffering. At one point I heard my neighbor shouting at them. For all the good it did. And another neighbor went outside and started blaring HIS horn. I’m not sure about his thought process, but I definitely related to his frustration. I think if any of us owned pitchforks or torches, it would have been mayhem.

Meanwhile, I was in a fog, desperately rummaging through my unpacked boxes in search of ear plugs. I never found them. I tried putting a pillow over my head. I closed all the windows, despite the heat. Even Quaggie started to get desperate and began to bark and moan. I may have even shed a few tears. I can’t remember. If I got a total of two hours of sleep, in fits and starts, it’s a miracle.

When I left for work, they were still at it. And they didn’t look even halfway done. I fantasized about crushing the jackhammer beneath the wheels of my car. They are completely repaving a road that, in my opinion, was already in excellent shape.

I’m buying ear plugs on the way home tonight. And maybe a pitchfork. If this goes on for two nights in a row, no court in the land could possibly hold me responsible for my actions.

torches

Cheer me up. Buy my book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Becoming Part of the Silence

A friend of mine recently posted this quote on her Facebook page:

In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.
~ Robert Lynd

What a lovely sentiment. But it’s harder to do than it seems at first glance. Most of us live in a world full of noise without even realizing it. I know I block out the traffic sounds when I’m at work, and I can’t even remember the last time I took note of the hum of my refrigerator.

I can only recall experiencing total silence once. It was at Mesa Verde National Park. That complete absence of sound was really brought home to me when I saw a raven fly past. I could hear the beating of his wings. I’ll never forget that feeling of awe.

This summer, I’ll be spending several days camping with a friend in the mountains of British Columbia. I’m really looking forward to it. I suspect we’ll not only be off the grid but also off the beaten path. I look forward to gazing at the stars with no light pollution, but more than anything else, I can’t wait to be immersed in the silence. It will be like entering a warm bath on a cold, raw day.

Some people are made uncomfortable by silence. I adore it. It embraces me like an old friend. I only wish it were a little less elusive.

Silence

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Peace and Quiet

As I write this, a construction crew is tearing up the pavement on my bridge. It’s long overdue, and I’m really looking forward to not having potholes in my parking space anymore, but still, they are making an ungodly racket. I’ve actually had to resort to wearing earplugs, which is making it quite a challenge to hear boats when they request a bridge opening.

Peace is closely linked to quiet for a very good reason. I’m finding it really hard to concentrate due to this hullabaloo, and even harder to write. I’ve noticed I’m shaking my leg again, just like I did throughout my teen years. That’s evidence of an unsettled spirit.

If you don’t have quiet, you can’t think clearly. If you can’t think clearly, you make poor decisions. Poor decisions rarely lead to peaceful outcomes. At least that’s been my experience. If you ever want to see me contemplate violence, just let a neighborhood car alarm go off at 3 a.m., and let it continue to blare until the battery runs out. That’s pitchfork and torch time, as far as I’m concerned.

I always used to think that big cities were more crime-ridden than small towns because of the concentrated population. Now I’m beginning to wonder if it has more to do with the fact that in the country you can actually hear yourself think. Thinking people are less apt to break laws.

You’ll never see anyone meditating on a construction site. It’s not an ideal place to practice Tai Chi, either. Maybe if I calmly repeat, “Bye-bye, potholes,” as if it’s a mantra, while taking deep cleansing breaths, I’ll exit this experience with my sanity intact.

IMG_2251-2440.jpg

A Passing Relationship with the Great Scareball in the Sky

Unless you’ve worked the graveyard shift like I have for the past 12 years, you are probably unaware that there is a whole other civilization out there, right under your nose. If you are even remotely cognizant of our existence, you probably think we make big money, but I’m here to tell you that most of us don’t. We’re the people who come out after you’re long asleep and do the things you don’t want to do. Without me opening that drawbridge on the intercoastal waterway, though, interstate maritime commerce would come to a grinding halt. You wouldn’t want that, now, would you?

And then while you are awake and going about your daily business, we’re most likely at home, behind blackout curtains, desperately trying to sleep, and cursing the fact that your daily business seems to make so much freakin’ noise.

There are approximately 15 million of us in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We tend to be loners, because social butterflies don’t last long in our world, as friends who want to spend time with us soon realize that it’s a logistics nightmare, and the odds of meeting new people are slim at best. Dating? Forget that. Who’d put up with our schedule?

There are all sorts of statistics about graveyard shifters. I read somewhere that we tend to have 42 percent more traffic accidents than the general population. I can believe that. I’ve woken up at stop lights on too many occasions to deny the possibility. Our health is severely affected as well, in the form of restlessness, fatigue, decreased attention and disruption of the body’s metabolic process.

Studies have been done about the disruption in circadian rhythms, and how it impacts cognition and makes us more vulnerable to disease. I know for a fact that my brain function is impacted because when I take a vacation and switch back to a normal schedule, it’s as if my mind comes out of a fog.

I’m quite sure I accomplish much less at home than the average person, because my whole reason for being has become the desperate pursuit of sleep. I can’t remember the last time I got more than 5 hours of sleep at a stretch. Something always disrupts my efforts. If it’s not the phone, it’s garbage pickup. If it’s not garbage pickup, it’s a lawnmower. If it’s not a lawnmower, it’s the Jehovah’s freakin’ Witnesses, who tend to get a reaction that they haven’t counted upon. Dogs barking. Construction work. And at my last address, I swear to God, the local high school marching band used to practice in the park across the street. That was when I began to understand why people become so attached to their assault weapons.

tired

Working the graveyard shift has changed me. I’m afraid I’m going to turn into one of those cranky old women who refuse to let the neighborhood kids retrieve their basketballs from the back yard. But at least I have come by it honestly. So if you see me, looking pale and unhealthy, squinting at the big scareball in the sky, please be kind. I’m just a tourist in your world, and I barely speak the language anymore. I’m just happy to have a job.