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Schnorkies, Fireworks, and Learning to Freakin’ Sit Still and Be Happy

2012 July 9

I had no idea what a twitchy, restless, antsy little bastard I am. I mean, I knew I was one, but I had no idea how bad it was.

This past 4th of July, I had to forgo my husband’s first performance with his new band to stay home and attend to our neurotic little Schnorkie, Scrappy Doo. (She’s really just a hobo-looking mutt, but we call her the fancy designer name because it makes her feel special. Or so I like to believe.)

Scrappy is a fearless little Napoleon who will take on dogs 3 times her size with no hesitation. She recently prison broke out of her crate by bending two bars clean off, despite the fact that she has only her back teeth left (due, we’re assuming, to several other prison breaks from the puppy mill she came from). But when thunder or fireworks hit, Scrapper becomes a paralyzed little ball of fur, trembling so fiercely and ceaselessly that I begin to worry she’ll eventually shake herself to pieces. And our neighborhood is like Vietnam on the 4th. (And the 3rd, and the 5th, and the 6th…Damn kids…)

So while the husband was off rocking, I was stuck in our bedroom (the only room with an A/C unit to drown out some of the noise) from around 6:00 till midnight, attempting to keep a traumatized little pupper from having a nervous breakdown.

I was prepared to handle her psychological distress. I wasn’t expecting the distress it would cause me, too.


A Hustler Don’t Relax, Bitch! (Oh Wait, You Mean I Have No Choice…?)

I am always in motion. It’s just the way I do. I’m high-strung and fidgety and have a productivity complex that probably warrants evaluation by my crazy doctor.

When I have any “me” time, I use it to Get Things Done. Even though I usually try to complement that GTD with something indulgent like putting on my favorite show in the background, I never just Sit the Fuck Still and enjoy it. I can’t watch TV without simultaneously checking my e-mail, clipping coupons, or tidying up. I don’t sit down and read a book for more than a few pages unless I’m trying to kill time in a waiting room. I even have to use the 60 seconds I spend swishing around my mouthwash productively: brushing my hair, clipping my nails, restocking the toilet paper tube, whatever I can find.

I never do one thing and one thing alone. I never give myself any real “down time”–and I no longer know how to appreciate it when I do. I realized this when I was sentenced to forced down time on the 4th.

Since the only way to keep Scrappy calm(ish) in the midst of a fireworks attack is to cuddle up close and continually pet her, I decided the best way to while away the evening as I did this was to enjoy one of the girlie movies my husband would never watch with me. I decided on Anne of Green Gables since I’m re-reading the series this summer (in small, multitasking doses) in an attempt to inspire a little more joy and optimism in my life. I popped in DVD 1 of the 2-DVD set, sat back in the comfy A/C’d room with my especially appreciative puppy, and prepared to have a lovely evening of pure, unadulterated “me” time.

It took me nearly half of the first DVD to finally stop feeling restless and frustrated. I felt like I ought to be doing something useful instead of just sitting there. I had blog posts to write. I had homework to do for the copywriting class I’m taking from the legendary Ash Ambirge (what WHAT!). I had coupons to clip, and things to tidy, and a sewing pile I’d had no desire to touch for months but that suddenly seemed incredibly attractive due to its un-haveable nature.

It was ridiculous. Here I was free to fully immerse myself in the glory that is Anne “Cordelia” Shirley, my dearest of inspirations, with nothing else to do but cuddle a puppy (the horror!)…and I felt frustrated doing it. I felt like I was wasting my time, when it was quite frankly one of the nicest uses of my time I’ve made in while, if only I could’ve let myself enjoy it.


Announcing: The Summer of Anne (spelled with an “e”)

By the end of the evening, the magic of the Anneish philosophy had swept me up, and I was able to totally lose myself in the lovely world of idealism and beauty that never fails to make me love life again (and wish I could live more like I do). But I had to get through a real amount of discomfort to get to that point. And that’s just plain not right.

So, I am challenging myself to something this summer (or the remainder of this summer): I am making this The Summer of Anne (spelled with an “e”). That means:

  • I am going to learn to have moments of stillness. Instead of flying to take care of chores the instant I get home, I am going to sit down with the crossword puzzle I always enjoy and let myself actually “unwind” for once.
  • I am going to try to be present in whatever I am doing at the moment. If I’m hanging out with my husband, I am not going to fret about the work I have to get done later on, and I am not going to sneak peaks at my e-mail whenever he gets up for 2 minutes to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. If I’m working, I’m going to try to be as Zenfully mindful as I can of the simple satisfaction of getting something done and doing it to the best of my ability.
  • I am going to read the remainder of the Anne series consciously, absorbing as much as I can of her attitude and then trying to put it into practice in my daily life. I am going to notice the weather and the nature around me, and revel in its ever-changing beauty. I am going to temper my times of hard, devoted work with times of childish play and daydreaming. I am going to remind myself to be more swept up in the good things, more appreciative of the world around me, and less distracted by all the buzzing and static in my head.
  • I am going to taste food. I am going to feel the breeze. I am going to appreciate that this day is the only day I have, and I am going to live in it, with as much gusto and as much love as I can muster up after many years of being out of practice.

Stay tuned for updates on how this all turns out. (Putting on my new Anneish philosophy, I will say that I can’t see what’s around the bend in the road, but I love the delicious potential it contains.)

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  • simoncloud

    I wish you well! Because your brain seems to operate just like mine, I need to share with you that at the age of 66, I was finally diagnosed with ADD…enabling me to now do a bit of relaxing and staying in the moment. It’s an ongoing learning process. Love your pupper!!! …and your blog!

    • Karen J

      Hi Simon!
      Yeah – the idea that “I’ve had ADD all my life and never knew it” has made/is making a HUGE difference in how I approach all kinds of stuff in my life, too!
      What set me off down that path was the book “You Mean I’m NOT Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!” (Kelly and Ramundo). Even without a diagnosis, I immediately recognized much of my own ‘thinking-and-doing (or not) style’ was way more complicated than most peoples’, that it’s Okay, and that I do more and better when I’m mindful of those differences! :)

      Big Hugs and Bright Blessings ~
      Karen J

      • Cordelia

        Three cheers for you, Karen! I recognized my bipolar disorder in a similar fashion, after reading Sylvia Plath’s journals and realizing that her thoughts were operating along the same patterns mine did. Being aware of the way your mind works is a huge release–it lets you accept the way you are while still learning how to overcome it.

        Best wishes to you on your own journey! :)

        • Karen J

          Thanks, Cordelia! I AM making strides, but keep getting that “Are we There yet??” voice in my head. Gaakkkkh!

          • Cordelia

            I know that voice well. Tell it you *are* “there.” “Here” is the journey. “There” is just speculation.

            (That either deserved deep finger snaps or a roll of the eyes. Can’t decide if it was wise or just cheesy.) :D

          • Karen J

            I vote for Wise ~ Thank you! :)

    • Cordelia

      Thanks, Simon! I’m not sure if I can clinically be diagnosed with ADD, but I have most definitely trained my brain to work in a manner that could easily be compared to it. I’ve gotten so used to multitasking, and worrying, and struggling to keep moving that I often feel like my brain is a little hamster on a wheel, running so fast that the wheel gets away from him and he just spins around at its mercy.

      I’m go glad you’ve finally gotten to the bottom of the way your own mind works and wish you the best of luck as you learn to work with it. I’ll be right there with you, striving for relaxation and presence!

      • Karen J


        as they say in forums-speak, ‘cuz it feels like you could use rereading this today, sweetie! {{{Kelly}}}

        • Cordelia

          Have I ever mentioned how much I love my readers? Well, I’m gonna mention it again. You are the best. This just started my day off with a huge smile. :)

  • Chrysta Bairre

    I love this post!

    First I want to say my dog Kaylo was terrified of fireworks and buying him a Thundershirt helped immensely! As did giving him a doggie sized dose of Benadryl (veterinarian approved) to make him sleepy.

    Secondly, I have so much love for Anne Shirley and reread the books and rewatch the movies every few years.

    Lastly I want to share one exercise that has helped me be present is to observe all of my senses when I’m feeling restless. What do I hear, see, smell? What adjectives would I use to describe myself, the room I’m in, and what I’m doing? This practice really helps me just be in the moment.

    Good luck on your present journey!


    • Cordelia

      Thanks, Chrysta! We’ve considered the Thundershirt but somehow never got around to getting it before the 4th hit. Scrappy was actually considerably better this year than she was last year (to my great relief), so I’m hoping that the more comfortable she gets around us (she was brand new last year), the easier it will be for her cope with things. Although the Benadryl is not a bad idea, either…

      The senses of feel and smell are especially powerful for me as I try to be more mindful. Our senses of sight and hearing are so overloaded on a daily basis, but very rarely do we stop to feel the carpet under our feet or smell the fresh cut grass on the air. Learning to be more aware of these neglected senses is definitely going to be a big part of my quest to be more present.

  • Jessica Lawlor

    Oh man…I am with you. As I read your blog post, I was blowdrying my hair. Can never just do one thing at a time. I’m working on it too. It’s certainly a difficult challenge to just get in the moment.

    • Cordelia

      Ha! That totally sounds like something I would do.

      It isn’t easy to un-train yourself from that kind of an m.o., but I sincerely believe it’s possible…and I have proof that it’s *definitely* worth it! (Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.)

  • Tracy

    I don’t know if I’m A.D.D. either, but I sure act like it. I have too much I want and have to do and I resent the have-tos, but feel guilty about spending time on the want-tos. The end result is a terribly frazzled me since I’m not as productive as I’d like and I can’t let myself relax. Totally hear you. Unlike you, I’m totally anti-multi-tasking. But I have such trouble prioritizing that I end up trying to do multiple things at once most of the time anyway even though it never works for me. Must learn to prioritize, then focus on the priority. My new plan is to try to determine the amount of time I can reasonably be productive, focus on the have-tos during that time with a reward of free time (real do whatever I want free time) after that.

    • Karen J

      @Tracy – Another ‘brain-trick’ I read about recently (where? I don’t remember!) – Shift your thinking about the have-tos to “I GET to…”. It changes your attitude towards those chores and daily maintenance items, and can make it easier to just ‘get ‘em done’.

      • Cordelia

        Karen (and Tracy): Check this out. That philosophy summed up exactly. :)

        • Karen J

          Thanks! Yep – that’s precisely the ref I was talking about!
          Bright Blessings, C ~