Saturday, February 28, 2009

More about making progress

So, today was a serious book day. I spent all morning sifting the remaining 25% of the total, which took hours. I was able to list a few more. I have 144 listed, 5 purchased and off the list.

The entire process feels like molting. Molting is something that often comes as a surprise to a human primate, because we have no fur, really.. yet, most animals molt, and I think we do too, although more in a symbolic, non-conscious way perhaps. I tried to explain this recently to someone.
Apparently even primates molt, so I don't see why it would be outside the world of symbolic or even otherwise non-conscious expression of the human neuromatrix. I think another metaphor would be ripened compost - if it can't decompose any more, it either needs to support growth (die to itself while helping transform something into something else -birthing) or else it needs more scraps to take apart (feeding). If it doesn't move somehow, back into a flow, it is a waste of perfectly good nature. Human lives are long but still all too short to be wasted on regret or stasis. That's how I've always lived the one I've got, at least. A molt: when one's life no longer fits one comfortably, time to move it to a new sleeping nest. It's the human primate way.
Molting seems to be a not-very-enjoyable process for everyone who does it. Insects are at their most vulnerable as they push themselves out of their cocoons. Snakes have to strip themselves out of their own skins by first slashing their face skin on a rock. Birds look absolutely awful when they are partly molted. Dogs shed. Cats shed. Monkeys molt. It's a price critters have to pay. They don't look attractive while molting, and they must feel quite itchy and preoccupied. This all feels familiar to me on a mental level just now.

Last night, while in a wound-up, sleepless state, brought on no doubt by being preoccupied with trying to hold it together on the surface while feeling like everything is falling apart inside, and writing about it, sort of.. I wrote, regarding the mountain of books, "No one wants them - I can't even give them away.

Ha. What a difference a day makes.

I had noticed that whenever I put out a few loads of books they did seem to vanish fast. I accepted that. The neighbourhood is full of dumpster divers patrolling at all hours of the day and night, looking for anything they might be able to sell. This morning I took out a few bags full, went back in, came back out with a bag of garbage not five minutes later. Much to my surprise I found a car parked with its doors open, and a woman and two teenage girls merrily chattering and rapidly scooping up the books, putting them into the car. "Good" I said. "Someone is taking the books." She was about 40, very smiley and merry. "Oh yes, I've been finding piles of books here every day for the last three days. I've been coming over to rescue them! I love books! My mother loves books! I just live over there.." and she gestured across the alley.

So, it turns out that she's lived across the alley from me, a single mom raising her daughters, for years, since before I ever moved into my place. I told her I had a whole pile more and that she was welcome to them. Together we lugged the books over to her place and stacked them on the floor. About 6 round trips with my two plastic baskets and two cloth shopping bags for her. She was ecstatic. She was planning to go to massage school now that her children were nearly launched into life. Many of my discards were books she wanted but would have had a hard time affording, perhaps. Plus, she knows people who know people who can sell them for 50 cents each, or whatever, to raise money for battered women's projects, at used-clothing stores, etc. So hey, letting go of this burden is a good thing that benefits this very nice, nurturing woman and her social network, and helps feed her dream of being a self-sustaining body worker person in some community in the interior some day. It's all good.

A woman I know commented to me recently that I was good at manifesting. I said, "Well, I don't believe in that. But I do believe that situations do emerge, which require resolution, and that resolution of situations is a natural phenomenon." "Oh," she said.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Making progress

The story of this month of February was the story of climbing back up out of winter, fighting off inertia, figuring out how to start a seller account on Amazon and plowing through my biggest problem first - what feels like thousands of books, but which only add up to.. well, maybe one thousand. Which is still a lot of books to deal with.

I soon found out that I couldn't become a seller on As a Canadian I do not have that privilege. I'm restricted to Okie-doakie. As I started to list I realized there was absolutely no point in listing any book for anything less than $20. It costs nearly that much to mail a book somewhere. One has to buy mailing boxes or padded envelopes, some bubble wrap to keep the book safe, etc. Postage varies according to how heavy or big the book is, but rarely will come in under $10.

I learned some things fast - like that I was going to have to face the fact that it would be necessary to toss out most of them. No one wants them - I can't even give them away. Unbelievable. This took some getting used to. I'm ordinarily a resilient person, but these books were my friends, lovingly collected over at least a decade, most of them read or at least scanned, all of them worth another go, some of them worth a great deal more time spent lingering lovingly over their content. It created great disquiet, having to get started on the painful job of deconstructing my library collection. I never expected I'd ever move again as long as I lived, you see. I thought it was safe to start letting things like books accumulate. I had no idea I'd become seasonally affectively disordered to the point of being E-ffectively disordered as well. And realizing the situation and that I had to escape it.

I keep thinking maybe this is what it's like to be old and facing demise. One has a lifetime of treasured moments that one simply cannot share with anyone anymore. One has lost one's ability to do so. Maybe one's life has gone up in a house fire, along with all the pictures. Maybe one loses one's own mind, and the memories have deleted themselves. Maybe everyone in one's particular circle, including family members, is horribly killed in a war or something, and one finds oneself alone in the world. Now, picture yourself having to be the one to deliberately destroy these relationships, be the agent of one's own severance away from the minds of so many others, be the bad guy. Every time I picked up a book, checked it out to see if it was worth any money on Amazon, then put it onto the Keep, Sell, or Toss pile, I felt like I was killing or saving or selling another of my own friends. Only about 1 book in 10 is worth any money, therefore worth listing. I am keeping only about one book in 40. (This is the grief talking.)

It wasn't all bad though - what a happy surprise to learn that a single ortho text I had (and had absolutely no attachment to) was unavailable except for a few listed as "used-good condition", for around $600. I laughed out loud! I listed mine for $100 (I have no idea what I had paid for it new) and it was snapped up within hours. A really old (decades old) joint physiology text I lugged around through several moves sold - I'll be sending it off tomorrow. It's Vol 2 - Vol 1 and 3 are still for sale.

There are other surprises. Some books I bought for 4 or 5 dollars used are worth much much more these days. Alrighty then. They are listed. I started this venture a week ago, and have sent off 5 books so far, made about $200. A side benefit is that I stared a special account for this and have learned to do online banking now. (I feel so modern. It's the pride talking.)

Every day I haul out the less fortunate to the back alley, two bags full. I have two nifty bright colored shopping baskets I bought long ago on a trip to Central America. They are made out of some absolutely indestructible plastic woven into bright stripes and have sturdy handles. I use them for recycle containers usually, but now they are for hauling books I must discard. I still have three large stacks of books to go through, each one as tall as my waist. I've managed to get rid of two half height bookcases about a yard wide. My neighbour snapped them up to hold shoes in her hallway. I'm about three-quarters through the book mountain. (This is the relief talking.)

This whole chapter of life is very much about relief mixed in with regret. It makes me realize that in fact, it is entirely within the capacity of the human system to be able to feel two conflicting emotions, fully, at once, and stretch oneself enough to be able to contain both, and find whatever it takes inside to plow along, move forward anyway. Even if it feels like swimming through quicksand. One simply says to oneself, You can do this. It won't be much longer. Think how much easier life will be once you live in a sunny climate again.

So, by now if you've been reading along, you may be thinking, strange woman, bonded to her books instead of to a family or to other people. Well, in fact, I think I must have seen this whole parting thing and the pain it brings, way in advance, long before I ever experienced any of the joy bonding to others supposedly brings, while still a child. Generally, I've seen that the parting part of intimately relating seems to last a lot longer and be a lot less pleasant than the joining and developing part. At least in my experience. Therefore I have always had a cautious heart - never let it get too attached to any person. Enjoyed friends but never got overly attached. But books - books and cats - those were different stories entirely. I have been very incautious about bonding to both. Both are still capable of breaking my heart, right to this day, when the inevitable parting comes. Perhaps one day I will learn to not be so attached to them either.

My fantasy is to move completely unencumbered by "stuff." Have everything on my computer contained in a couple flash drives. Move into a new space with lots of windows and never again accumulate. Bare walls, bare floor. Painted plain white.

Truth is more like I'll still have boxes of stuff to move. But it will be like the old days when I was a student - just a few boxes: some changes of clothing, some kitchen stuff, some personal things, photos, and maybe 4 boxes of books, the laptop. But no furniture. Sleep on the floor for awhile. Buy a new desk top computer at the other end. Read books online instead. Live light.

Other bits of progress: I have a real estate agent at the other end, and one at this end. I have a good reliable fix-it guy to handle minor repairs here, to help me get my place impeccable-ized. A young woman walked into my PT life and wants to work in my place. I might have even found a buyer for the practice, although it will take a good thorough investigation first. I would take these things as "signs" that I'm on the right track, if I believed in such things. It doesn't seem to help me sleep soundly at night, every night, however. Plenty of tossing and turning and that upheavaled feeling. I swear it feels worse at this age than it used to, way back a couple decades ago.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Humans, the neotenous primate

Deric at Mindblog posted about this essay by Alison Gopnik titled Never-ending childhood.

"people will have to learn more and more. The best way to make it happen is to extend the period when we learn the most — childhood."
"We may remain children forever — or at least for much longer."
"Humans already have a longer period of protected immaturity — a longer childhood — than any other species. Across species, a long childhood is correlated with an evolutionary strategy that depends on flexibility, intelligence and learning."
"Children get to learn freely about their particular environment without worrying about their own survival — caregivers look after that."
Well, ideally anyway... I think it's debatable. Lots of children all over the world now wander in streets having to be self-sufficient far too young. They get "old" far sooner than they should have to. Meanwhile, "chidren" elsewhere live and grow up to and through sexual maturity in socially reinforced and rewarded bubble zones of childhood and postadolescent protection, until they reach middle age.

The essay ends with,
"When we are all babies for ever, who will be the parents? When we're all children who will be the grown-ups?"
Exactly. Who indeed.