The Balance Between Order and Entropy

22 03 2008

Katara       Back in ’03, I was in my second year of teaching, and while I was enjoying my new career, I found I was having increasing trouble concentrating or focusing on anything other than those things in which I held a deep interest.  I’d had this problem my whole life, but it seemed as if it was getting worse the older I got.  Three years prior, when I was Assistant to the Registrar at Agnes Scott College, it got so bad that I went to a doctor and got medication for Adult ADD.  BIG mistake.  GINORMOUS.   Yes, the drugs stopped the channel-switching in my head and allowed me to focus on important things like getting bills paid on time and keeping track of important papers at work.  However, the drugs affected my creative spark.  Damn near killed it dead!   As a freelance writer with deadlines, this was clearly an issue.  I stopped taking the drugs and decided that I would try to do what I’d done as a teenager–find ways to distract the little channel-switcher in my head long enough to do those boring but necessary tasks of which all responsible people should be capable.

My answer was what it had always been and what it continues to be:  music.

One of the most odious tasks in the universe is washing dishes.  I hate to do it.  I have always hated to do it.  The only other thing that comes even close to that level of hell is cleaning the bathroom, and I would much rather scrub the toilet and wipe down the shower tiles than  stand at a sink and scour pots.  Unfortunately, my mother is a clean-freak, so every Saturday at around 10 a.m., the cartoons got switched off–well, back when we had Saturday morning cartoons that didn’t suck!–and my first chore of the day was washing the breakfast dishes and cleaning the kitchen.  Then it was on to make the beds–not just mine but my parents’ as well.  (Incidentally, my parents have been happily married since February 1964.  However, my father snores like a freight train.  Thus to preserve connubial bliss, my parents keep separate bedrooms, though they do tend to sleep together more in the winter months.)  Dishes washed and beds made, it was off to tidy and dust my room, the living room and the den, and clean the master bathroom.  At the same time, my mom worked on cleaning my dad’s bathroom (because he demands a “no-wire hangers!” level of clean in his shower), dusting everything else in the house, and vacuuming the floors while dad worked on lawn maintenance or other property-upkeep sort of tasks.

Now, I’ll grant you, as an only child, I probably had more chores to do than most kids my age.  However, what I had to do wasn’t all that much.  I was certainly not in indentured servitude.  Nonetheless, Saturday mornings were agony for me.  There were so many more interesting and productive things I could be doing with those precious hours of weekend free-time!  I could be reading.  I could be doing homework! (Yes, I actually loved school!)  I could be practicing piano, singing, making up dance steps in my basement, knitting, crocheting, sewing something!  The idea of taking even one hour out of the week so as to not live in a pigsty was incomprehensible to me.

Then my parents bought me a Walkman.

This thing was a revelation!  Although now it seems like it was akin to carrying around a small brick, at the time the Sony Walkman was a marvel of technology.  Go, Go, Gadget Power!  I didn’t have to move my huge boom-box from room to room and annoy my parents in the process with the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Bauhaus, The Smiths and The B-52s–though my mom admitted that they, at least, could carry a tune in a bucket!   All I had to do was clip the thing onto my waistband (sometimes a belt was required, ’cause it was heavy), pop the earphones on, and presto!  Self-contained music!  Of course, I was often singing along with my favorite bands, but mom and dad seemed to think that was preferable to the loud guitars and drums.  The magic in the box, though, was that it pacified the channel switcher in a way I’d never encountered before–truly, in a way that music on the stereo couldn’t do.  It was the earphones.  They blocked out all the other distractors and let me focus on the music–which was far more interesting than folding laundry or dusting nick-knacks.  Suddenly, those two hours of housework every Saturday weren’t wasted time.  What had taken me three hours to do before the advent of the Walkman now took about an hour and a half!

And that’s how I find myself, at age 35, iPod synched up and charging and ready to get me through a morning of dish-washing, floor cleaning and laundry.  I still hate housework, and here in Japan, they don’t believe in automatic dishwashers, so I’m forced to wash every single utensil I use.  Seriously, I have never appreciated the Maytag Man more in my life!   There are times when the balance between order and entropy swings dangerously in the chaotic direction, but then again, balance is never about standing still.  It’s about constant motion to keep everything on a moderate level.

I like to joke about the Triangle of Possibility as it applies to my life at home.  I can write/knit/sew and go to work, but the cleaning won’t get done.  I can go to work and clean, but the writing/knitting/sewing won’t get done.  Or I can clean and write/knit/sew, but I won’t go to work!  Since not working is not an option, the pendulum swings between my creative endeavors, which I love, and keeping house, which I loathe with the white-hot intensity of a thousand burning suns!  My challenge is forcing myself to give equal time to all the important things in my life–even those that are boring but necessary.

The music helps a lot.





New Home

20 03 2008

For those of you who followed the link on my LiveJournal, here’s my new blogging home.  No, it doesn’t have all the sparkles and bells and whistles that LJ has, but I find that I like the simplicity of the format and the relative “quiet”.

Today is Vernal Equinox Day here in Japan, so I have the day off.  It’s a gorgeous day, though still a little on the chilly side.  I’ve thought about taking a walk up to the park today, just to see what there is to be seen, though it does tend to get crowded on holidays.  I wanted to go out to the Aoidake Onsen, but damn them, they’re closed on public holidays.  What the heck is up with that?  That’s when people can actually go to the onsen!

Anyway, I’ve become fascinated by knitted lace (as if I needed one MORE craft thing to add to my list!), but I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to start any new projects until I finish the ones I’m currently working on!  Therefore, it’s 62 more rows until I finish the right sleeve of my Sahara sweater (pattern from StitchDiva studios).  I also need to finish crocheting the sleeves of my lacy sweater (free pattern from Lion Brand yarns) so I can put that one together and crochet the upper yoke.  Maybe I can get some of that knocked out today…