Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

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Systems Failure

In January I tried an experiment on this blog. I hadn’t blogged much in the last year, and I decided that instead of getting hung up on long think-pieces that I had the ideas for but never finished writing, I would try to post something very short — a photo and a few lines, a poem or a quick thought — every day.

I did this, not quite every day, but nearly every day in January. I did this along with some other small personal disciplines I was trying to keep to: a short devotional reading every day, a few minutes of private journal-writing, a yoga routine. Again, I didn’t do any of these things every single day in January, but I did most of them, most days. And then, in February, I just … stopped. I have not done any one of these things on any of the (so far)  9 days in February.

On top of that, I also stopped working on any my several creative writing projects that I’d been working on during January — haven’t written a word on any of them since February rolled around.

This is typical of the best of New Year’s resolutions, systems and plans I put into place any given January … they often run out of steam by the time February comes around. This year, though, there were two additional factors. 

First — and you may have lived through this, seen it on the news, or picked it up from my January blog posts — on January 17 we were hit with a snowstorm of historic proportions, followed by an eight-day State of Emergency during which we were instructed by our government to leave the house as little as possible, except for shovelling and, after a few days, going to the store for essential groceries.

This was actually a great week for me in terms of all my little personal disciplines and my writing — I got ahead on my projects (without that inconvenience of having to go to my day job every day), did some yoga and journalling and devotional time every day, and posted my little pictures and passing thoughts here on the blog. With an unexpected week’s vacation, I was doing so well

Then it was back to routine, finally, on January 27 … which was when I started finding it hard to get back to my routine.

But it was OK. I was still doing OK. Everything was harder and a little weird, driving to work between massive piles of snow over icy roads, helping my son get his car fixed after it died in his driveway during the storm (and couldn’t get fixed because the garage couldn’t open during the SoE), getting my classes back on track after six lost schooldays … but it was … OK. Ish.

Then, last Saturday (that’s Feb. 1 for anyone keeping track) my back started to feel … twingy. It does that occasionally. Not very often. I had a sudden, unprovoked attack of severe back pain way back in 2007, and it got better after about a week. Ever since then, every few years, I’ve had a few days of mild back pain and no problems in between.

This was … unexpected. It was like back in 2007 in intensity and long-lastingness, and I spent all of last week feeling … well, disabled. I went to work, but I couldn’t do much after work. I definitely couldn’t do yoga. I could sit in a chair, or at a desk, so there’s no reason I couldn’t have gone on writing, and journalling, and posting to my blog, and doing devotional readings. But … I didn’t. 

All my routines, all my to-do lists … everything fell by the wayside. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that my ability to do things — something I get a lot of credit for, of the “How does she manage to do it all?!” variety — is entirely based on all my systems, external and internal, remaining intact. I need the illusion of being in control.

The snowstorm exposed how reliant I am on external systems for things to be “normal.” The ability to get out of the house, to drive my car, to shop at stores that I expect to be open. To have reliable electrical power (mercifully, we didn’t lose that much during the storm week, but it was always a threat).

My week of back pain (getting better, thanks, but not entirely over yet) revealed how much I rely on my body to work properly. To let me do the things I want to do easily and without pain. 

The real test of what a person can accomplish, I’m pretty sure, is what they can accomplish when the systems don’t work. How disciplined and focused they can be when systems both external and internal don’t function they way they’re supposed to.

I’ve always suspected I might not be great under those circumstances. That’s humbling, and makes me feel vulnerable. 

Right now, I am not making any grandiose plans for February.

We’ll see how February goes.



Welcome to Canada

If there’s anything that says “Canada in January” more clearly than the four-foot snow wall in front of my house with Tim’s coffee cup stuck into the snow next to a hubcap someone lost driving down the icy street … I don’t need to see it.

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