Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2016.02.10 — A Poem and Some Life-Changing fushigi*s


A poem and a nice bunch of fushigis that continue with Marie Kondo and her ideas on how tidying up has the magic to change a life.

I wrote a poem,last week for the Goodreads group WSS / Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company. The subject was Cabin. Here it is:

Living Truthfully

This is solitude.
From the city I have driven in comfort to sit
way out here,
the car a few feet from me,
in comfort and safe.
I am restless, pace within the well appointed walls
look out the different windows, hoping to see nothing
but my reflection,
and instead I see the lights of the other cabins dotting the lakeside.
I sit. I bounce my foot. Shake it. Cross, uncross and recross my legs.
I stand. I sit.
I pick up a book, one that used to evoke the idea of peace in me,
but it sits idle in my hands, my eyes unable to focus on the words enough
for them to be meaningful parts of a sentence.
I put the book down.
I decide to shower, but before I finish taking off my sweater
I change my mind.
Maybe a walk, but it’s raining outside.
I dither, remembering the childhood pleasure of getting wet and delightfully
muddy.
Where’s that book?
The one about finding joy in embracing your inner child?
What a perfect time to read about that!
I begin to look for it
And find, instead
That I am distracted
by the things I’ve brought that are not
books.
Fancy letter writing kit, paper, envelopes pen.
I look at that puzzled, unable to think of anyone to write to.
An old and unused water colour set. Really?
Film camera, in error. I have no film.
Two shavers, one that no longer works.
I stop.
Where am I?
I look around and remember that I have come to here,
this busy and popular cabin resort,
to find solitude in a cabin.
I walk to the window and look out,
and see the lights of the other happy-looking cabins dotting the lake.
This time I see two people,
in silhouette
walking drunkenly along the shoreline.
I can hear the low unintelligible mumble of their voices.
They stop, turn to face each other
and begin kissing and stripping off each other’s clothes like tomorrow
would never be coming.
I turn away.
I sit. I pick up that book on living truthfully. After a few minutes, I set it
down.


And last week I spent time with an old friend and work mate, KT. During our conversation, I mentioned the amazing and fantastic and life-changing book that came into my life, fushigi-like, a few days after I accepted, with full intention, that I would be packing my books and getting ready to move. With that clarity of intention had come the real challenge and puzzle of how to deal with my library. I guess, from the Goodreads library feature, that it is comprised of about 1400 books. The book that came to my assistance at just the right time came via my getting introduced to the KonMari way of folding clothes. That folding clothes would need a method was a puzzle, and some of what Marie Kondo said about cloths and energy and joy caught my ear. And so with some googling I discovered Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In it I learned how to keep and discard books, as well as all my other possessions. And how to fold clothes and why that doing that well is an important part of expanding joy in one’s life.

So that was a nice little fushigi. (See my blog 2016.01.28 — On Joy, KonMari (Marie Kondo) and Softly Folding Fushigis*.) But it gets better. During our talk I told KT about this book, and it turns out that she knew about it because someone around her had told her about it, just a few days earlier. Nice tiny little fushigi.

What gets really interesting for me was that a part of our discussion was about personal growth and awareness. And this is one of the most important parts of Kondo’s philosophy. And it has been a cornerstone for me, too. And so I cited to her my favourite passage from The I Ching, one I have had pinned around me for more than twenty years:

When we are faced with obstacles that have to be overcome, weakness and impatience can do nothing. Only strong individuals can stand up to their fate, for their inner security enables them to endure to the end. This strength shows itself in uncompromising truthfulness with themselves. It is only we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self deception or illusion, that the light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized. This recognition is to be followed by resolute and persevering action, because only when we meet our fate resolutely will we be able to deal with it adequately and overcome the obstacles.

My edit, to remove gender bias, from I Ching. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981. Tr. Richard Wilhelm & C.F. Baynes. Introduction by C.G. Jung. ISBN: 069109750X, #5 Hsu p.25, my emphasis.

And that set up a beautiful continuation of the Kondo fushigis! Later that night, I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and read the following:
[W]hen we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.
Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.

The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past [my emphasis]. Many times when confronting my past during the tidying process, I have been so ashamed I felt like my face was on fire. My collection of scented erasers from grade school, the animation-related trinkets that I collected in junior high school, clothes I bought in high school when I was trying to act grown-up but that didn't suit me at all, handbags I bought even though I didn't need them just because I liked the look of them in the shop. The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. it is dangerous to ignore them or to discard them indiscriminately as if denying the choices we made. This is why I am against both letting things pile up and dumping them indiscriminately. It is only when we face the things we own one by one and experience the emotions they evoke that we can truly appreciate our relationship with them [my emphasis].

There are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die. The choice is ours. But I personally believe it is far better to face them now. If we acknowledge our attachments to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us. This process in turn helps us identify our values and reduces doubt and confusion in making life decisions. If we have confidence in our decisions and launch enthusiastically into action without any doubts holding us back, we will be able to achieve more and more. In other words, the sooner we confront our possessions the better. If you are going to put your house in order, do it now (181-4).
What makes this a double interesting fushigi is that one of the points of KT’s and my discussion was the problem or challenge KT was having with having recently received a very large amount of family stuff she’d inherited. The family’s ‘treasures’ had overwhelmed her home, and to a greater extent, overwhelmed her ability to process them. As the sole child from her extended family, she was stuck with having received many family ‘precious’ items from various branches of her family, not just dishes, but also letters and personal histories. Precious to the family, but not to her per se, and which left her unable to decide what to do with them.

And one more fushigi element. During our long talk, KT mentioned with deep love her appreciation for her eighteen year old truck, how well it has kept her safe in bad weather, and allowed her to carry things. She positively glowed when talking about it. Earlier I’d read from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up the following:

Appreciate your possessions and gain strong allies

One of the homework assignments I give my clients is to appreciate their belongings. For example, I urge them to try saying, 'Thank you for keeping me warm all day,' when they hang up their clothes after returning home. Or, when removing their accessories, I suggest they say, 'Thank you for making me beautiful,' and when putting their [purse] in the closet, to say, 'It's thanks to you that I got so much work done today.' Express your appreciation to every item that supported you during the day.

I began to treat my belongings as if they were alive when I was a high school student. I had my own cell phone. Although the screen was still monochrome, I loved the compact design and pale blue colour. I was not an addicted user, but I liked my phone so much that I broke the school rules and slipped it into the pocket of my school uniform every day. I would take it out occasionally to admire it and smile to myself. Technology progressed and everyone was getting cell phones with colour screens. I hung onto my outdated model as long as I could, but finally it had became too scratched and worn, and I had to replace it. When I got my new cell phone, I hit upon the idea of texting my old phone. It was my first replacement and I was probably feeling quite excited. After thinking for a moment, I typed the simple message 'Thank you for everything' and added a heart symbol. Then I pressed SEND. My old phone pinged immediately and I checked my texts. Of course it was the message I had just sent. 'Great. My message reached you. I really wanted to say thanks for all you have done,' I said to my old phone. Then I closed it with a click.

A few minutes later, I opened my old phone and was surprised to find that the screen was blank. No matter what button I pressed, the screen did not respond. My cell phone, which had never broken since the day I first got it, had gone dead after receiving my message. It never worked again, as if the phone, realizing that its job was done, had resigned itself from its post of its own accord.

Of course, I know some people find it hard to believe that inanimate objects respond to human emotion, and it could indeed just have been a coincidence. Still, we often hear about athletes who take loving care of their sports gear, treating it almost as if it were sacred. I think the athletes instinctively sense the power of these objects. If we treated all things we use in our daily life, whether it is our computer, our handbag, or our pens and pencils, with the same care that athletes give to their equipment, we could greatly increase the number of dependable 'supporters' in our lives. The act of possessing is a very natural part of our daily life, not something reserved for some special match or contest.

Even if we remain unaware of it, our belongings really work hard for us, carrying out their respective roles each day to support our lives. Just as we like to come home and relax after a day's work, our things breathe a sigh of relief when they return home to where they belong. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have no fixed address? Our lives would be very uncertain. It is precisely because we have a home to return to that we can go out to work, to shop, or to interact with others. The same is true for our belongings. It is important for them to have that same reassurance that there is place for them to return to. You can tell the difference. Possessions that have a place where they belong and to which they are returned each day for a rest are more vibrant.

Once my clients have learned to treat their clothes with respect, they always tell me, 'My clothes last longer. My sweaters don't pill as easily, and I don't spill things on them as much, either.' This suggests that caring for your possessions is the best way to motivate them to support you, their owner. When you treat your belongings well, they will always respond in kind. For this reason, I take the time to ask myself occasionally whether the storage space I've set aside for them will make them happy. Storage, after all, is the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings (168-171).
And is not her experience with her cell phone also a fantastic fushigi, given that fushigi is Japanese for ‘mystery’ or ‘magical event’?

And there have been many more small fushigis that have come from this amazing book.