That were a no

I think I may have assimilated to the Midwest.

As in, learned how to do Midwestern Nice.

I’m stunned, because I still think of myself as a blunt westerner, with an overlay of New England taciturnity, for whom “No” is a complete sentence.

However, I just got an e-mail from an e-bay seller offering me a similar item to one I had purchased earlier, and my quickly-typed response went something like “Thanks for thinking of me but I avoid white because I am such a stain magnet. It’s so nice of you to offer, though!”

I’d sent it before I realized that nothing in my reply said, clearly, “No, I don’t want it,” or “No, thank you,” or “Thanks but no, thanks!”

And now the end of Cold Comfort Farm is playing in my head, where Flora gently turns down Reuben’s offer of marriage and he says, “That were a no, were it?”

Spam au chocolat

Ganching: I commented on Saturday the 13th, and it showed up right away, then disappeared.

However, all seems to be well (w/r/t commenting) chez Carolbaby—hope you’re feeling better by now!

Everybody else: sorry I haven’t been around these parts. I traveled to see family, came back shortly before the Tour de France started, and have been trying to do all the work I didn’t do in June while keeping up with cycling events. I keep missing Six on Saturday because I get confused about what day it is. I took pictures in my sister-in-law’s garden; now I’m back, I ought to take some of my own. The day lilies are doing well, and sweet peas are out. Two shrubs are dying off branch by branch, and I’m not sure what their problem is, but it worries me when I’m not totally preoccupied with the Huge Honking Translation or a conference paper possibly related to The Book.

That’s the summary version!

Pseudo-science and Rational Woo

First the disclaimer: I don’t believe in astrology.

However, I recently took a trip down memory lane that has to do with astrology. It started when I was reading an old thread at the Chron fora on which an astrologer was posting in ways that people on the thread seemed to find useful—more about working with symbols and archetypes than with predictions, sort of like reading Tarot cards in terms of what the symbols mean for the person getting the reading rather than as they’re generally interpreted. On a whim, I plugged my birth date and place into one of the sites that will give you a full horoscope, what house all your planets are in, the whole nine yards.

The results surprised me, because they were not what I have believed for the past more than forty years.

See, back when I was in junior high, I was quite “into” astrology. I don’t remember if I believed it, or what sparked my interest. Possibly there was a fad for it among my friends; perhaps one friend was annoying about interpreting everything in terms of sun sign, and I decided to find out more as a defense. I mean, obviously not everyone born under Virgo is going to get run over by an egg truck today. What I do remember is that I got books from the library, and read up on both the principles and the techniques, and then, to the best of my ability, calculated my horoscope with all the planets and houses. This was long before the internet, significantly before the computing power now available meant that inputting date, time, and place could instantly spew out all the details. It was also before my math skills were as developed as they later became.

So there I was, at the age of twelve, struggling with the tables and conversion factors in one of the books I’d checked out, and determining that my rising sign was Leo. I liked this result very well, not least because of my fondness for felines. I’m sure that doing all the work was useful in various ways. That is, on the social front, it no doubt allowed me to participate with authority in junior-high conversations (though I don’t remember this part—I try to forget as much as possible about junior high school). Certainly this was child-led education, in that I found something that interested me, went to the library, did the reading, did the math (to the best of my ability), and wrote up my results in a way that pleased me. If I neglected my school homework to do it, well, tant pis; I always have been one to do more of what interests me than what I have been assigned.

The results of my recent whim show that my rising sign is not Leo, nor is my moon where I believed it to be. So much for my long-ago efforts. Looking at what I’m “supposed” to be like according to my new horoscope, I scoff. Definitely a pseudo-science. But! What are the effects of believing, even for a short time, even only half-consciously, that you have certain characteristics? What effect on my adolescent psychology did it have, to believe (or at least, put about to my credulous friends) that I was self-aware, ambitious, faithful, authoritative, energetic, creative? Those are good things to believe about yourself, wherever you get the ideas. It’s hard, at twelve, to have established much of a personality or track record (or so it seemed to me, at the time: friends who knew me at 8 think I’m pretty much the same person now as then!). I spent a lot of time feeling like I was just not-quite at a lot of things I wanted to be better at, so it was helpful to have a horoscope assuring me that I was going to make it, eventually.

So now I wish I had disregarded all the tables and details of my actual birth and just cast for myself the best possible horoscope, the perfect forecast of the person I most hoped to become, and believed in that until I had a track record to believe in. This is what I call Rational Woo: “Sometimes in order to get where your rational self wants to be, you need a little woo-woo. Of course you know the odds against you: will your novel even find a publisher, let alone become a best-seller that will let you move to New Mexico and write full-time? Ha ha. Will your academic book really change the face of the discipline? Uh-huh. Will your dissertation even get you a job? Um . . . .

But an unwritten novel is guaranteed not to be published; the unwritten academic tome doesn’t stand a chance of changing anything; the unfinished dissertation will most certainly not get you the job that requires dissertation in hand. You can’t ensure your own success, that is true. But you can most certainly ensure failure. So you have to at least meet the bar of finishing whatever it is.

And so it’s time for the woo-woo that will let you shut off the voices and the doubts and get on with it. . . . It’s your fantasy life: let it be rich, productive, and comforting. Whatever keeps you doing the work, moving the project forward every day, taking baby steps if that’s what you’re able to do.” So I said seven years ago.

Right now, I want a horoscope that tells me I am a hard worker who sometimes needs significant down-time to let thinking happen in the background; that I can come roaring back from this slow period to knock out a lot of good work quickly; that my trip to visit family is going to go smoothly and be a refreshing change; that the next two months of this summer are going to be excellent for me in many ways, so long as I just keep truckin’.

What a fool believes? Whatever. If I say I have Leo rising, then I have a nice protective lion leaning over my shoulder to help me out, okay? Cat is my co-pilot! I can wake up from a nap and instantly nab a mouse! Cats never doubt themselves. They are perfect just the way they are. So I’m sticking with Leo as my horoscope-totem-whatever.

Wonderful spam

I’m wondering if my comments are for some reason getting caught in spam filters, or just getting totally lost, at both Ganching’s and Carolbaby’s sites. They have different hosts, which makes this even weirder. Or maybe they just don’t love me and I have been blocked. Sniff. If that is the case, I will just go in the garden and eat worms. But I still admire you both!

Six Saturday things

Not garden things this week, plus I’m a day late, so I won’t link to the usual Six on Saturday host.

Six food items I bought yesterday, and what I did with them:

1. Strawberries. Washed and eaten plain.

2. Baby lettuce. Salad.

3. Four pounds of rhubarb, washed, chopped, turned into compote and frozen.

4. Swiss chard, washed and steamed in the water that remained on its leaves.

5. Ginger root. Some went in the rhubarb compote, and I chopped the rest fine, put it in a jar, and poured sherry over it for future use. And had a glass of sherry while I was at it.

6. Sliced turkey. Went with the salad.

Items 1-4 were from the local farmers’ market, and 5-6 were from Trader Joe’s. I walked to do these errands. I was so under-slept that I didn’t want to get behind the wheel of a car. The day was sunny and warm, but not too hot or humid. I was in the sort of state where I’m fine if I keep moving, but intellectual activity isn’t happening, so I stuck with laundry, cooking (made a stir-fry for Sir John), and a bit of gardening.

Finally I’ve caught up on sleep, though my hours are still skewed very late (by my standards: admirably early by Sir John’s!). I’ll see what I can do about that, this week.

Nothing of interest

Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker, on films about writers:

“It’s not as if writers do anything of interest. Unless you’re Byron or Stendhal, a successful day is one in which you don’t fall asleep with your head on the space bar. An honest film about a writer would be an inaction-packed six-hour trudge, a one-person epic of mooch and mumblecore, the highlights being an overflowing bath, the reheating of cold coffee, and a pageant of aimless curses that are melted into air, into thin air.”

May 20, 2019, “The Write Stuff,” pp. 85-86, at 86.

Six on Saturday: Newly Sprung in June

With that title, obviously I’m starting with a red, red rose (1):And I’m going to sneak the Sterling Silver rose in here, as well; the Lamb’s Ears that surround it are budding:2. The volunteer clematis seems to be blooming in two colors, unless there’s another volunteer that joined it this year:3. Close-up of the hydrangea that screens the garage:4. Spiderwort:5. Chamomile:6. Lavender:One thing I like about this garden is how many of its plants have pleasant scents. There are a lot of herbs in the front. Once there was creeping thyme, which got choked out by the oregano, but I have bought some regular thyme (haven’t found a creeper) to put in somewhere. I also have lemongrass, though I’m thinking I’ll keep it in a pot so I don’t mistake it for a weed and pull it back out. And that makes me think maybe I should just have a potted herb garden, with the thyme and maybe some cilantro, as well.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator! I look forward to getting over there and seeing what other gardeners are looking at today.

Another one finds a home!

In May, I trapped/neutered/released two cats, both the Glendower look-alike and another, when I set the trap again just to see what happened. The second was a tabby with white feet.

Yesterday I got a call from the local shelter about cat #2. Some people have been feeding him for about a week, and were hoping to adopt him. Their kids love him and he gets on with the cat they already had. First thing this morning I went down and signed paperwork relinquishing my claim on him so he can go home with his new people.

This makes my day. In fact, it makes my week. Maybe the month! I love it when cats decide they want to come in from the cold.

I’ve seen not-Glendower once in the last few days. Since he likes to hang out with a neighbor’s indoor-outdoor cat, I hope that eventually he’ll find himself a home, either with that neighbor or with someone else. He’s very pretty, and once the testosterone is out of his system, he might calm down enough to let himself become someone’s cat.

Six on Saturday: Reds

Last week, purples predominated. Now for red!

1. Barberry. We saw one of these last week. My garden has a total of four barberry bushes. Most of the largest one died last winter, so I have cut it back severely, and still have one large branch with a few red berries to cut up and put out with the yard waste pickup (for communal composting/mulching, as appropriate; I don’t have enough space for my own compost heap).

       

2. Pansies, overlapping with the barberry in one of the pictures above.

3. Unknown: miniature Japanese maple? Plus some snapdragons.

4. Roses, just coming into bud.

5. Clematis. More red-violet than red.

6. Coleus? From a pre-planted bowl I bought.

Six on Saturday is hosted here: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Sources of inspiration

Grumbles and procrastination clearing; forecast offers a chance of further improvement.

A lot of my grumpiness has to do with facing a very old R&R. I want to be done with it. I wish my past self had just done it right away. But when the reviews came in, my past self was struggling with the MMP, and then the series editors put both feet down about the Huge Honking Translation, and what with one thing and another, including my promotion application last year, years have passed. Not without efforts toward the R&R, but now this is one of the contributing factors: I have layers of notes and outlines to review as I try to figure out what the plan was, and the mass of material is daunting.

Since I finally spent an hour re-reading these, I’m feeling more like tackling the thing and getting it over with.

I’m also looking over my shoulder, suspecting that making the effort will (by Sod’s Law) bring down the Translation Editors or some other type of interference with the work.

Yesterday when I was procrastinating/looking for inspiration, I found a couple of helpful posts. One is from a gardener. The advice sounds a lot like any planning process, but it’s useful to see that people in other areas have the same problems and solutions. Here’s what Jen in Frome says at https://doingtheplan.com/2017/04/21/planning-and-doing-the-plan/

  1. Do Stuff. Take small steps frequently to get more good things thriving . . . . Lots of little things done each day adds up to a lot done over the month.
  2. Review. Note down what was done and when, and keep observing and thinking about what’s working out and what’s what’s not.
  3. Plan. Check what’s done so far against what’s hoped for in future, and set out a few next steps to get a bit closer to your goal.

Another is Kameron Hurley on working through fear and writing fatigue, here: https://www.kameronhurley.com/lets-talk-creativity-fear-losing-magic/ Hurley says, “Much of the time I feel I’m spending “writing” is actually time I spend feeling guilty because I can’t write, or because I feel that what I’m writing is utter shit. That’s not “writing” time. It’s my time with The Fear. So much of my writing time has been taken up talking with The Fear that I couldn’t figure out why shit wasn’t getting done. It certainly felt, emotionally, like I was working REALLY HARD. But arguing with your fear isn’t working. Feeling bad for not working isn’t working. Being angry about not working isn’t working.”

Yes, and no. Arguing, feeling bad, and being angry are certainly a lot of emotional labor. Doing them doesn’t necessarily “work,” as in, make it possible to get back to work. But it doesn’t help to pretend The Fear isn’t happening, either. I wound up negotiating with mine. I put on the music I usually use for grading, spread print-outs all over my desk (so I had to see them), and set a timer for ten minutes. That was all I needed to get into the task. When the timer went off, I was annoyed and immediately re-set it for 25 minutes, and made a lot of progress in that time. I needed the short time to start, though, because 25 seemed like way too much time for demon-fighting.

Am I embarrassed about having this sort of work problem, still, again, at my stage of career? Hell yeah. I also hope that admitting to it, publicly if pseudonymously, may help some other people who might be having the same problem. You can get past it. Sometimes you can go years without The Fear. But it’s also a thing that comes back with the right triggers, the right combination of factors, the wrong encounter with someone who pushes certain buttons. The only way I’ve ever found to deal with it is Virginia Valian’s: make the task smaller. As small as you need to. Ten minutes. Five. And be kind to yourself, because the piece of work is not really the problem. It’s all the emotions that have got tangled up with that piece of work. They might be big things that need therapy, or they might be ghosts of something you cleared up long ago, or they might just be bad habits.

If it’s not a good day, if The Fear is happening to you, if you’re procrastinating, give it five minutes, write down what you did in that time, and come back to the thing tomorrow. That’s all. Five minutes, and a note about what you did in the time.