Letting some of it trickle out while trying to soak it all in

Monday, January 7, 2013

Travels and travails

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty. -The Coda
Uncle Sam introduces Henry to night vision goggles.

Initial hesitancy finally gives way to appreciation.
 I knew I left that coat someplace.
 Brighter than Alaska
 Grandma and Ingrid were instant friends.

 More sand than in Alaska too.
80 years and three generations between these same colored eyes.
Just chillin
Accidental Utah brownies. 
We found my childhood teddybear. Ingrid kept him safe. 
Since Grandma's memory has started to go Grandpa has become the caregiver. I've never felt such a strong spirit of love and dedication. They hugged and laughed every day.
Ingrid took this picture of Henry and Rachel. Fun sister or squash me sister?

Even before this trip there was a lot of stuff needing checking off at work. Being behind becomes really problematic when you realize that it’s going to take more than a frenzy of productivity to catch up. An all nighter isn’t going to dig you out, and your subconscious knows it. You are too far back to sprint to the pack and draft. If an evening of brutal typing isn’t going to meaningfully reduce the problem, why not instead listen to Manu Chao and have a mint chocolate chip ice-cream cone? After all, some work does solve itself when you neglect it. Right? That’s when I start yearning for freedom—which for my child mind still means winning the lottery or marrying a baroness.

“Can you imagine how you’d feel if you could just be done with work and clock out?”
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if you didn’t have to work? You could write songs all day and open a free bike shop.”

Past procrastination and well into delusion. When the payoff is so many weeks ahead, I’m much more likely to write a blog post than a dissertation.

“When you’re this far behind, it’s either abandon ship or change how you live.” I told myself a few days ago. So I read Frank Herbert’s final novel, Chapterhouse: Dune. Herbert writes dialogue like other authors write combat sequences, and after only a few pages of vibrant conversation, I realized I wasn’t going to get any work done until I finished the book. Besides, it would refresh and give me a new psychological perspective on my research. Right? And then, sure enough it did. In a chapter preface, a line from the Bene Gesserit Coda: Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.

As someone who has tried both approaches I certainly feel that’s true. But do wisdom sayings really change us? Can they provide our flabby self-control the special fitness plan it needs to actually meet goals and keep commitements? I see people around me who fulfill their potential. I read stories about them. Are they genetically distinct? Relatives of Stephen Covey? Or is it that they have better bits of encouragement on their fridge magnets?

Our Sunday school lesson yesterday was on different approaches to modifying behavior. Is it most effective to focus on do or be? We read Lynn Robbins' recent talk, "What manner of men and women ought ye to be?"

"Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am."

I want things I can check off. Tasks which won't have to be revisited. But if I can reallocate energy spent yearning for a carefree existence towards cultivating a love of work, then I will be free (and not so darn behind in everything). Stop yearning for a break and enjoy the toil. The break will be sweeter and the toil tastes better too.

A bit of wisdom from a poster in the halls of AGU.


  1. I don't know if this comment is related more closely with doing or with being, but speaking of fridge magnet encouragement: I have recently pestered my roommates with various forms of the sentiment "Everything Is Connected." Stickers, a papier mache garland for a Christmas present, notes written on the bathroom mirror with a marker. "Why?! Why do I need to do this now?" Hush. Because it's connected to something else. "Why do they need me to be this kind of person?!" Shh. Because it means something, now and down the road, that you are.

  2. I've always enjoyed your thoughts. That's about it. I also love the childhood teddy bear and the same eyes. Thanks.