Winter doldrums

Winter doldrums appear to have set in for me. The writing I want to do I do not do, and the writing I do not want to do isn’t getting done either. Several projects have stalled until I find the energy and inspiration to get them started again.

  • I want to write the second part of my post, “Your body is a temple of God.” I have many ideas of what I want to say, but they seem to be crowded together rather than lined up in an orderly fashion.
  • I want to finish copyediting my “Christ in Genesis” series and publish them together as one ebook (linked, of course, to the “free books from Salvageable” page of this blog). I have the text gathered into one document, but I cannot seem to make myself read it one more time for further improvements.
  • I want to do a “childhood memories” post to follow my four posts on sugar, detailing the first and longest addiction of my life with reflections on how we make addicts of our children.
  • I want to write a post about the so-called Synoptic Problem, a discussion of similarities and differences among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (This is prompted, in mark, because during my daily devotions I have been reading Augustine’s “Harmony of the Four Gospels.”)
  • I want to comment again, in a curmudgeonly way, on the bad drivers I encounter on a regular basis.
  • I also want to comment in a curmudgeonly way on the way some people mistreat the opportunities entrusted to them to preserve the history of their families or organizations with photographs.

When I have trouble writing, the trouble is never caused by having nothing to say. I have too much to say, so much that my thoughts sometimes become stuck like a group of men in a comic movie trying to go through the same doorway at the same time. Even so, mood and attitude shape the way that I write, and so far this month my mood has been sour–not depressed or fearful, just sour–and my attitude has been motivationally challenged.

Other projects have also lagged. The house still needs a good post-Christmas cleaning. I’ve not practiced the guitar in ages. I need to organize my financial papers, discard those that are no longer relevant, and be ready to file my taxes once my W-2s have arrived.

I have managed to pursue one project that is out of the ordinary. Being a highly sensitive person, I thought I might be qualified to tune pianos. I got a book on the topic for Christmas one year, followed by the basic needed equipment the next Christmas. I toyed with the family piano, but a tuner can learn only so much from one piano. For that reason, I asked two congregations for permission to learn by tuning their neglected pianos. Even after receiving permission, I was hesitant to get started, thinking that in my inexperience, I might make things worse instead of better.

The last two Saturday afternoons, I have finally started working on one piano that was badly out of shape. Several keys did not work at all. When I took the panels off the piano, I found that several mechanical parts had fallen to the bottom of the piano. One hammer is broken and needs to be replaced, but I got the rest of the keys working. After that, it was time to start tuning.

Both Saturdays I have gotten about half-way through, only to discover that the tuning was not succeeding. Without being too technical, piano tuners rely on certain intervals (distances between musical notes) to tune a piano, while using other intervals to check their work. When I was about half-way done, I started checking my work and found mistakes that have to be corrected. I ended up stopping at that point–one can only listen to notes and intervals so long before losing sensitivity to pitch.

Possibly, the piano is drifting out of tune on its own, since it is in such bad shape. Another problem is that, as I become more tired, I sometimes turn the wrong peg–instead of correcting the string I want to correct, I’m putting a nearby string out of tune. With determination and perseverance, though, I will get this piano somewhat into tune and then move on to another piano.

Winter doldrums can be defeated. They can be attributed the need for rest after an active holiday season, to lack of sunshine, and to reduced exercise (with the weather a handy excuse). Even a brief walk outdoors on a sunny day, an occasional dose of Vitamin D, or a new hobby can provide mental energy and incentive.

And, while we’re in the neighborhood, what ideas and topics would you like me to address in future posts? J.

Mrs. Dim’s new hobby

It’s been a while since I have complained about my neighbor, Mrs. Dim. As a matter of fact, she has taken up a new hobby this summer to go with her compulsive lawn and garden maintenance. Mrs. Dim is now a carpenter. She has set up a table saw and a power sander in her garage, and now she can be noisy even when rain is falling and she can’t blow leaves around her yard.

I have no idea what she is building. The work has been going on all summer. Is she making new kitchen cabinets? Replacing carpeting with wooden floors? Rebuilding the entire house from the bottom up? Or has someone told her to build an ark? She has visitors by from time to time, and I’ve started to wonder if she is taking in work just so she can run her table saw more often.

Recently I have learned that “Highly Sensitive Person” is a recognized category—it appears to be treated more as a personality type than a disorder, which is fine by me. Like other HSPs, I am sensitive to odors, to loud noises, to bright lights and bright colors, and so on. Long before I knew that there was such a thing as an HSP, I was already making decisions to avoid uncomfortable situations. No fireworks or rock concerts for me. No car or motorcycle races. Even a trip to the movies is rare, because they have the volume so blasted loud.

How then does a Highly Sensitive Person cope, living next door to a Highly Noisy Person? Even her usual speaking voice is turned up to eleven (because ten isn’t high enough for her). With the windows closed and the air conditioner running, summer has been tolerable. Now as we approach the middle of September, we will have more afternoons and evenings with the windows open for the cool fresh air. I am planning coping strategies even as I type, but I will welcome any suggestions from others.

Coping Strategy # 1: Play music. Every time the mower, trimmer, blower, or (now) the table saw is in use, I will throw on a CD and try to cover up her noise as it invades the house.

Coping Strategy # 2: If possible, leave the house. Go to the library. Go for a walk in the park. Go sit by a body of water. Just get away.

Coping Strategy # 3: I’m stuck. I really can’t think of any other way of dealing with this problem.

Mostly likely someone will suggest that I speak with her about the problem. How do I do this? Do I say, “Mrs. Dim, I am a Highly Sensitive Person, and you are a Highly Noisy Person. Something has to change.” I’m sure her first answer would be along the lines of “put up and shut up.” If I point out that she spends too much time tending her lawn and blowing leaves off her porch, I’m sure she will say that I spend too little time tending my lawn and getting rid of my leaves. If I mention that it’s hard for me to concentrate on reading a book when she is making her assorted noises, I suspect she will tell me that anyone who wants to sit and read must be lazy and undeserving of any consideration.

People are not all the same. We have to tolerate a lot of differences to get along in this world. If I would rather suffer in silence (Oh, for a weekend of silence!) than confront Mrs. Dim, then I guess I must also accept the fact that she is never going to change. Unless, of course, she adds another hobby. Knowing her, it will probably involve a drum set, bagpipes, or both.

J.