A Point in Every Direction*

Monday, April 18, 2011

The heart of my life can be found in my home office. This is where I spend the most time of the day. I am just steps from the master bedroom as Dave sleeps longer and longer through the daylight hours.

I look around and see that right this minute this room is a mess!

I didn’t come in here more than a handful of times during the weekend. Friday was our daughter Leah’s 24th birthday, so I delightfully spent the day preparing for a family gathering. Saturday and Sunday I decided to just stay away as much as possible from my office. I needed a break. I checked email and posted short quips on Facebook, but that’s about all. Oh, and I created a life matrix on Dave’s life, but from the laptop computer while chatting with him in the bedroom. As I summarized to him, “Your life in a spreadsheet!” What can I say? I’m a list maker. I must get the facts systematically documented.

But this mess reflects my state of mind. I am surrounded, literally, by multiple aspects of my life in piles of to-do, to-don’t and wishful thinking. On my desk there are three phones within reach: personal cell phone, business cell phone and the home land line. The weekly calendar is opened, covered by a flyer on Spring Recycling Days, a reminder to clean out the garage this week as big items can be placed on the curb Thursday by 6 am. New samples of Storybooks for Healing workbooks await approval for production. Idea sheets, program notes and master plans in my business of grief and writing dot the nearby shelves. A mini DV player sits on the desk along with over six hours of video taken during the past few weeks of Dave’s music jam sessions. Listen, edit, create. Six hours of video can yield many hours of work. This desk space does triple duty as I rotate a flatbed scanner or the in/out box as needed. Layers of home, work, Dave are intertwined.

The floor is home to stacks of sorted items all around my desk chair like a moat keeping out the enemy. There’s a group of magazines Dave no longer reads that should be canceled. (I’d like to think I would read them but I don’t.) There’s a pile of financial and healthcare planning papers that require one more decision, signatures and mailing or filing. I can see mail that has been opened and ready for action needed –is it a bill or something for Dave? Each stack is askew, fanned out, to see what lies beneath. Yet I have to go through the stacks again and again to remember. This is not very efficient at all. I try to check off each task as items are moved to new waiting station or a bin for completion, but new things, new piles, keep arriving.

There are boxes, packaging and purchases awaiting return. One tall skinny box leans against the wall. It contains a set of pussy willow lights to be used in home décor. I thought it could brighten a corner, bring a sense of life and springtime into our home. As I slid out the lights of the box for use weeks ago there was a warning: Item may contain toxins known to cause birth defects or be harmful. Apparently this is toxic only to Californians because this is the only state listed on the warning! The product is made in China. I stopped stringing many holiday light displays because of the lead warning that comes with inexpensive lights sets, made in China. How can I knowingly expose myself to such risks? Especially cancer risk? Why are companies offering such things? Do I just were gloves, wash my hands and enjoy the soft glow emitted from these products? Do I think because I live in Washington I won’t be harmed? This box sits in limbo, undecided, a reminder of inaction. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

No common areas of the house are like this. In fact, I find myself clearing out shelves of the pantry and garage, streamlining wherever I can. It could be seen as a ritual of sterilization having been well taught in my first years working in hospitals and medical settings.  Part empty nest / part impending death / part emergency ration stock, the perishable items will not be replaced once expired. Cases of food stuff are bought in singles now. I find lots of expired bulk foods that were staples of our larger (albeit just the three of us) lifestyle. I could hardly get to Costco often enough to keep Dave in Starbuck Mochas for his daily fix three months ago. Now I have two cases to pour down the drain and rinse the glass before it goes to recycle. Same with Pepsi, Sprite, Ramen Noodles (OK, those were old and Leah’s comfort food!). Like the empty car space in the garage, I am slowly disappearing things, the lifestyle of old, and keeping only the lifestyle of Joan.

Dave is still here, but not his habits. We both are narrowing our surroundings. What has been us, a union of compromise and overlapping tastes and compatibility, does not need much consideration anymore. I am taking on all the piles of responsibility for home, work, financial, healthcare, and future. They give me purpose but sometimes overwhelm me. Today I will spend some time cleaning up the heart of my life – decluttering my office –  so I can concentrate on the most important task of simple living and loving at hand.

* “A point in every direction is the same as no point at all.” ~Harry Nilssons’ The Point.

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