Sunday, February 9, 2014

One Good Turn

I've been having a really nice end-of-the week because, when I arrived home on Thursday after the ice-storm, I discovered that my neighbors had cleared my driveway for me with their snow blower.

This was beyond wonderful.  I had to do my porch and that snow was quite heavy, what with the sleet and the ice all mixed up in the process.  And it was much colder outside of course.

And they did the WHOLE thing.  It's a two-car driveway.  They didn't just do a section so I could park--they done cleared it.  So instead of gritting my teeth after a four-hour drive, parking on the street and thinking, "Okay, let's go do this...," this is how I felt instead.

And no, these are not the neighbors I shoveled out earlier last week.  And these are not the neighbors who plowed me out in the previous large storm several weeks ago.  It's a totally different set.

I love having so many great neighbors.  It just makes you feel better about the world.

To celebrate, I went out and bought myself some self-striping yarn to make a nice bright pair of socks. Yes, I'm still working on the dark blue ones--I'm on the home stretch with those.  But a bright spot in a cold winter deserves a bright spot in a cold winter, so I splurged on some hand-dyed yarn from a local artist, and this was the result.

It's a sport weight, 100% merino wool from Quaere Fibre, so it knit up quite a bit faster than the blue ones I'm making, which are in fingering weight wool (6 sts/in for the former, as opposed to 8 sts/in for the latter).

The color is "Botanical Garden."

So, a little less than six weeks into the New Year, and one of my New Year's Resolutions has been met to such an extent that I'm now slightly addicted to knitting socks.  And really, if you check out this Pinterest board, you can see why.

I wasn't sure if I'd want striped socks, because I tend to be a bit more sedatedly socked than that.  But this could be the start of a new trend for the future because I really love the pink toes and the little splotches of green on the heels.

And they really are warmer (finally!  my toes are no longer cold!) and more comfortable.

Yes, they'll need to be hand-washed or at least put in the gentle cycle, but hey, if I make 7-10 pairs, I can have a week's worth of socks, that need to be washed... once a week.  That's totally do-able.  And if it guarantees me this little slice of heaven that is the phenomenon of hand-knit socks then I say, bring it.  

I also found a wonderful recipe for cream of spinach soup.  (In a previous life, I was in fact Popeye.)

I read a book that wasn't very good, but I don't have the heart to diss it, because they author's heart was totally in the right place.  I know that sounds odd, because I usually diss whoever about whatever, but in this case, I won't.

I also won't include the title or author, though, because I don't want anyone to think I'm recommending it, because I really just can't.

But the book talked about how technology and social media have distanced us from things of value in our lives--we no longer focus on simple, face-to-face interactions and connections to people, objects, and processes.

The author points out that, although we all seek happiness, we regularly make choices that are counterproductive to any kind of happiness.  And as a result, we end up overbooked, overweight,  stressed out, and depressed.  We're consumed by distractions.

The night after I read this, I was channel-surfing, and I happened upon a show (granted, it was a Hollywood gossip/entertainment show) that spent five minutes instructing all of us in the art of "taking a good selfie."

Okay, unless we're talking about a hand-knit-sock selfie (see above), this is a truly pointless activity.  The point of taking pictures used to be to commemorate something: a moment with family, a beautiful scene, what have you.

Selfies are basically YOU, narcissistically taking a picture of YOURSELF, cropping and shopping and filtering it so that you look far better than you ever do in real life, and then posting it on Facebook or Twitter so you can prove (to a whole lot of people you probably don't even know) that... what, exactly?

That you're home alone taking pictures of yourself?  That you're out in public taking pictures of yourself (and ignoring the world around you)? And that you're doing so without a shred of humor or irony?

I prefer Edward Munch's selfies: "Self Portrait in Hell."  Or "Self Portrait with Malaria."

Selfies can easily seem like harmless fun (and to some extent, they are), but the point is, there is no point: it's an essentially meaningless activity.  You're no better for it, at the end of the day, and neither is anyone else.  Selfies are put up on social media and their subjects then just wait for the influx of (empty) compliments: "nice pic!" "you're so pretty!" "SEXY!" "wow--you got tan!"

And if there aren't enough resulting compliments--and the irony is, no matter how many there are, it will never quite feel like "enough"--people feel a little depressed.  So they return to social media for another fix--an activity that, in the end, fixes nothing.

I'm not going to cite all of the many, many studies out there that show that spending lots of time watching TV or interacting on Facebook and Twitter lead to depression and irritability and a sense that one's own life is not as interesting as everyone else's.  They're out there.

So the point of this book was that we need to regain our sense of focus by finding "focal activities": things that really require us to engage with the world around us in a productive and self-affirming way.  Cook something.  Make something.  Sing something.  Build something.  Read something (something longer than an online article).

Take a walk.  Take a run.  Visit a friend--NO, don't text them, VISIT them.  And when you do, don't text anyone else the entire time you're there.  Stay in the present and don't drift off into the vagaries of cyberspace.

Because at the end of the day, this may very well be why people lack a sense of accomplishment and suffer from insomnia.  If we aren't using our energy in ways that help us recharge, it's no wonder we end up feeling drained.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."