Thursday, February 02, 2006

Busy, busy

I am looking out the kitchen window watching my six-month-old German Shepherd puppy dig to China. Cassie desperately needs something to do, having spent way too much time in her crate yesterday. Her much older brother, Toby, steadfastly refuses to allow her to chew on his heels. He plays with her more than I have ever seen him play in his nine years with me, but really, enough is enough.

I have been busy, too, trying to organize my office, trying to meet the needs of my clientele as they churn through their resolutions to change their lives and start new business ventures—this is a busy time of year for us—and also trying to re-establish the blessed rhythm of my daily routine.

In a wave of synchronicity, I have been encountering all kinds of advice that people like me need to pay attention to daily rhythms. For people like me, too much difference day to day is dangerous, causing anxiety, stress, binge eating, and flaring temper. My personal daily prescription for happiness consists of seven or eight hours of sleep; a diet rich in high quality, low fat protein, vegetables, and whole grains; an hour’s walk and then some more activity; laughing and talking to someone I love; good productive creative work; and a romp with the pups and some time writing. Now it appears that science supports what I have found to be true for myself, at least for people like me.

Who are people like me? Introverts. People who react badly to too much stress. Women who tend to gain weight around the middle. Middle aged women. That’s about as much self-disclosure as I am up for, but there are many people who are like me, and there are enough who are not like me that my daily prescription is not universal. I have had to learn to be firm about my requirements for my life, even in the face of skepticism and downright disapproval.

So, as much as I loved traveling, it is not for me, or at least not often. And as much as I loved living and working there, New York City became like an addiction to a highly enjoyable, ultimately toxic and fatal drug. My soul craves the peace of rural Vermont. Here I am healing.

Busy times intrude. From time to time, we all have to rise to demands of others. Holidays are a challenge, and loss—however carefully anticipated and prepared—takes a heavy toll. Too much clutter overwhelms me. Meaningless chatter is toxic to me. But the sweet repose of a quiet life beckons, and I am grateful for every day I have it.

Too many days are spent in mindless chatter, and really, why should I bother? There is a reason the puppy is named Cassandra. It is to remind me that people will make their own choices, and that no matter how I rant, they are unlikely to believe what I say. Now I practice saying what I think, then letting people absorb my message. More and more often in this new regimen, they come back to ask my opinion. It is easier on everyone.

The puppy has work to do, but it is not the excavation project that she has undertaken. Her real work is to distract me, to drag me out for walks and romps, to help me live a happy life. Toby’s life work, not assigned but chosen by him, is to love me. They both do their jobs well. I can never repay their joyful industry. A romp or a walk every day is just a start.


Jola said...

I'm relating a lot to your post, although I'm not sure I'd label myself an "introvert." I love and thrive on good companionship, though I do need a lot of time to myself to destress and process. I have to think of a better description. Maybe for me it would be "introspective."

Anyway. Your post reminded me of two books I read some years ago, which I've just plucked off my bookshelf. Have you ever read "An Unknown Woman" by Alice Koller, and her sequel, "Stations of Solitude"? It's about a 37-year old woman who having completed her Ph.D. and living in NYC, is unsure what to do with her life. She rents a house over the winter in Nantucket, with her new German shepherd puppy for company. It's a painful, raw memoir of self-discovery and loneliness and affirmation and finding the courage to be herself. I couldn't put the books down when I read them and related to Koller strongly. I think you would too.

I wonder whatever became of her...

Karen said...

I think I have both on my shelf somewhere. As I recall, I like her writing very much.