July 01, 2002

Addendum 7-1: Searched Google for "household hints stain remov*" and got this academic essay on little known women poets of the Renaissance.

Other recent absorbing surfing included:
Memo to Media Monopolists (echoes that excellent NY Times magazine article on the dinosaur thinking of the music industry, was in a special issue devoted to music.)
Information Monopolies (by Representative Bernie Sanders)
The First Amendment: We can all get sidetracked in abstractions and situation-specific ethics, but this page from the American Library Association reminds us what it's all about. The amandment, commentary, and links. Great information to bookmark for the Fourth of July.
The Patriot Act. Congress jumped on the security bandwagon post-September 11 with this broad legislation. Forget hearsay and rumor, read the act yourself and check out the excellent links.
The ACLU's Patriot Act page. More analysis from those watchdogs of civil liberties.
The FBI wants to track your web trail
Intellectual Freedom. What is it? How is it being compromised? What is being done?

So I'm cleaning the place. This seems picayune, perhaps, when I'm unemployed and not making art. But I've been going full tilt for week now, with perhaps a week to go. This is only a 250-square foot space. Perhaps about the size of your living room. And I have the detritus of my entire life here (minus, okay, clothes, books, cds etc. with ex-bf in Berlin, a set of dishes and glasses and several boxes of childhood books and college papers in my brother's attic, and college books and toys/momentos at mom's). And two of us live here. Was supposed to be a stop-gap situation, but we could pay three times this amount in NY for the same amount of space, so the choice I made 9 years ago now that this apartment was a good starter place in Manhattan has sort of become the only place I'll ever have in Manhattan.

So I wasn't getting a job, despite several interviews, and I was in some sort of limited thinking/ limited activities/ limited space deadening loop. And I was almost distraught with the chaos and squalor and not being able to lay my hands on anything or throw on some music or find a given piece of paper. Very self-dramatizingly I announced I was Giving Up on Everything. My s.o. expressed his concern by bringing me an incomplete set of Tony Robbins' Personal Power 2 cds, which skipped in my computer cd player which has been broken for over a year, can't find the install driver disc in the damn piles of crud. Tony is very enthusiastic, and if you're really depressed you just want to shout "shut up! shut up! shut up!" There are also homework exercises, necessitating keeping a "success journal" which reminded me of all the lists of resolutions, brainstorming, journal and useful-info notebooks, and computer files which were meant to move my life forward.

I started browsing on Amazon for get-out-of-rut books. There are a staggaring array of books to help one live more fully, communicate more effectively, operate more efficiently, feel more authentically, prosper more prosperously, organize and clean without freaking out, live in the now, seize the day, give and receive, breathe and be still. It was a slippery slope, as each one I looked at linked to like 5 more and I opened 'em all in separate windows and simultaneously read excerpts from like 20 books on procrastination, dreams deferred, habitual ruts, the poverty mindset, and the like, each of which seemed to begin "You've bought many books and attended many seminars but nothing seems to work. But this system..." I limited myself to the number of books that cost equivalent to one therapy session. They should arrive tomorrow and I figure I'll have like 6 journals-and-exercises regimines going as I evaluate my internal stories about money, time, success, space, decisionmaking... I can't wait to manifest and free myself of old models and stuff and plans to live in the now.

But meanwhile, prompted by the sort of perfect meltdown that only severe PMS, 90-degree heat, unemployment, and a blissfully unconcerned packrat cohabitant can induce, I began tearing the place apart last Saturday. I was nominally looking for the coffee grinder, which, three days and heat exhaustion later, cohabitant admitted he had taken to another geographic location. At that point, I would have asked myself why I always become involved with charming sadists were I not that very day on the lesson in Personal Power 2 where Mr. Robbins cautions that your infinitely cretaive mind will answer the questions you set it, and if you ask "why does this always happen to me?" you'll end up with more answers that drive you to despair.

I have the always inspirational Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui (so clear, simple, and well written), so I began. One of my main problems is the Everything Syndrome, which becomes a logistical reality in such a tiny, crammed space. It's like one of those Chinese puzzles where if you move one thing, you have to move everything because there is only one bloc of space to accomodate motion. So while I'd like to limit myself to, say, the bureau, the winter clothes in the bureau must be switched with the summer clothes in the shelf above the door, which can only be reached by a chair that doesn't fit in the entryway so that the hutch must be moved... By Monday I had stacks of stuff over head height piled in chairs and against walls and every storage space was crammed and nothing was truly "junk." I was sobbing and throwing things and called my mother at work. This was after I called Mitsu the night before for some Buddhist perspective (which was calming and generous. Mitsu emphasized that while the books and teachers who emphasize we create our own realities and urge us to focus and visualize to the better do have some insight, the larger picture is that things are not as they seem. It's not that we are making a bad reality, it's that we are not seeing what's really true. Mitsu said that being alive itself, just surviving as a human, is infinitely complex and miraculous, and that the difference between a life like, say, mine, and that of the most successful happy person imaginable is only like 2%, not 100%, and that difference is just a slight attunedness of balance and a more true seeing of the what-is. Thank you, Mitsu.)

My s.o. is becoming a Buddhist. Unfortunately he's still at the newly-converted level that is less enlightened than smug. "I'm not attached to these things," he claimed calmly, as I implored him to help me with the high shelves, do some vacuuming, and stop equating 'cleaning' with putting his gigantic cd collection back in its cases and reading old art magazines. (Thus triggering my fantasy that the easiest way to clean clutter and free up space in my life would be to load all his junk up in a huge box and call Goodwill.) This reminded me of another ex-lover I called once who calmly informed me that she'd started therapy and was now happy to report that she'd gained the insight that I was totally fucked up and everything was my fault. "And how long have you been in therapy?" I asked. "Three months," she said. "Uh-huh. Well, next year you learn that it's all actually your fault," I said. I really hate the newly converted; they're such fascists.

So, without any live human support and with the helpful books in the mail, I relied on emails from wonderful friends (H says "get the fuck out of there!") and Flylady; a website/mailing list that someone posted to a publishing web board in a discussion about creative blocks. I highly recommend it. It seems like something I'd ridicule. I mean, I get emails that tell me to " fix your face" or "hug your dear husband." It's for overwhelmed housewives and it's got that slightly Christian, slightly cutesy (lots of abbreviations) tone. But the woman is really, really nice, you can tell, and the best thing is when she shares testimonials from people who are doing it and they're so damn moving, people are facing so much in their lives and doing the best they can. And although it's all about keeping house without letting that run your life, what it really teaches is how to partialize daunting tasks and let go of perfectionism and let the beginning be now. It's kind of Zen that way. Every time I get an email that says, "You are not behind. You can jump in whereever you are," I feel like someone gave me a repreive.

Another thing that's come up is a little less self-judgment. There are some objective things that make things hard. Like that I have to schlepp stuff to a laundry instead of doing loads each day. Like there are several things, like the coffee grinder, that I did not "lose" because I'm so fucked up. Like the at least 20 degree slant to my floor which makes things (and me) fall over and makes home yoga unbalanced. Like no money for little repairs or dry cleaning. Like an apartment the size of a postage stamp that necessitates climbing on furniture and contortionism to reach the books, the videos, the records (move couch, move stereo speaker, move albums piled on top of album rack, select record, put everything back, play). And the upshot is I don't think I'm that disorganized or procrasitnate-y; I think that logistics make some things unpleasant, and then daunting, and then a cause for self-blame and regret.

I'm not going to get into my whole riff about junk mail except to say that I'd be willing to spearhead a class action suit against direct mail campaigns. Direct mail puts corporate America's desire for growth by way of me buying their products and sevices squarely in my lap; it forces me to contribute to needless waste, it takes my time and energy and attention to sort and separate and remove my identifying information (can't just pitch it in the mail area, have to take it upstairs and sanitize my identity from it), it masquerades as bills and checks and legitimate busines correspondence, and it contributes greatly to my sense of chaos.

But I defy anyone to fail to kick-start their project, clean their house, or do the damn dishes, with the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs playing Crazy for You (over and over) and FlyLady's supportive email coming over the transom.