Moving “house”: The summer of doing things differently

I’m at my parents’ cottage alone. I came for a little solitary writing time while my kids are still away at camp. Parental life – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, backpacks damp with yesterday’s wet bathing suit, compulsory laundry, homework, missing shoes, missing forms, Lego underfoot, random complaints, yelling, disrespect, disregard, perpetual feelings of failure and filial love that mutates by the minute, will resume within days.

I brought sardines like I did the last time but haven’t opened a tin – nor have I written very much. It seems to have turned into a reading retreat. I have blown through half of the Elegance of the Hedgehog. Not a bad use of time really. In fact I may read it twice while I’m here.

In the moments away from Elegance I think about what constitutes waste, and the snotty hierarchy of activity I’ve loosely constructed over the years. The list might include card games not played with my kids, soap operas, soap making, darts, bowling, paint-by-numbers, polishing ones car, fashion magazines. Is there anything inherently wrong with these things? Do my own fritterings rank higher? I should be jealous of anyone who without glancing forward or back, is focused on things that bring pleasure (and don’t hurt anyone). I suck at that.

My epiphany, as I revisit lists that constitute judgment of other people’s lives, in good part to make myself feel superior, is that sitting in judgment is a waste of time and should be included on the list along with fretting, stressing, regretting, avoiding, self-loathing.

Truth: I’ll never stop judging, but maybe I can judge less judgmentally.

This is the summer of doing things differently. The idea – a collaborative one - came during a wonder-full, slightly tearful discussion with my beautiful friend Lola, at the end of our five day visit in early July, while driving the roads of New Hampshire toward Logan airport.

Complaining of the need for broad overhaul of mental, professional or relationshipal status or behavior is also a waste of time fit for the list. Lola and I struck a loose agreement – one thing a day done differently - anything. Not life–altering, but day-altering, hour-altering even.

The commitment was not to lasting change – like abs of steel or quitting smoking, or eliminating dairy, but to doing something otherly – even once. No reporting required.

I haven’t tracked my differences, but I feel them in my gut – shifting habits and responses taking up a bit of space. A bit.

I’m not going to regret my day with the Hedgehog.  That’s today’s change.

I know I won’t flush my system of wasteful thinking just like that. There’s no juice cleanse-equivalent to eliminating the toxic sludge of counter-productive thoughts from my mental colon. Maybe it’s better to chip away at it.

My piece finished, I turned back to the Elegance of the Hedgehog and found this, right where I'd left off reading.

Something moves house inside me – yes, how else to describe it, I have the preposterous feeling that one existing living space has been replaced by another. Does that never happen to you? You feel things shifting around inside you, and you are quite incapable of describing just what has changed, but it is both mental and spatial, the way moving house is.




I love it, Aviva, I sense a huge tired snail shell slipping off my back. The sun is coming in!

Lovely post, in the spirit of T.E.o.t.H.- an equally inspiring read.


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