Thursday, March 15, 2007

Back to Basics (carrots or potatoes)

Here is a dilemma: you have a small amount of money in your pocket, enough for either a bag of potatoes or a bag of carrots, but not enough for both. You have to choose. It’s been a few years, my kids were quite young and I probably chose potatoes. Those were the days. £20 would get a week’s worth of groceries (for a family of four) if you stuck to Safeway’s Savers. The baked beans, if anyone is interested, were rubbish. The sauce was anaemic and the beans shrunken. The egg yolks were grey. Someone must have tried very hard to make the Savers products nasty so as to teach people a lesson for being hard up. I learned how to make a hundred different things with a packet of red lentils. It’s ok now. I can get potatoes and carrots whenever I want, and Heinz organic beans.

My problem now is how to spend the small amount of energy I have. The Safeways Savers equivalent would perhaps be to couch potato in front of the TV most of the day. Crap on nourishment and taste but passes the time. I haven’t yet done this as my attitude to TV is the same as some people’s to drink; that it’s ok to have after 6 o’clock. Of course this may change. But at this point, after twenty odd years of M.E. and being nothing if not realistic, I still wake with that crazy bit of expectation still intact and shiny as a new pin – that today I will achieve something. It’s like a puppy straining at the leash for the chance to get out and run. Who has the heart to shut it away? Not me. It’s the nature of the beast, this preposterous vitality of unquenchable desire and expectation. Life, bloody hell.

So back to potatoes or carrots. It seems I can, even in a relatively good space, only do one “thing” a day. Creating a poem, workshopping, teaching a class, are all “things.” It’s why I’m having a gap year. Putting a post on this blog also can be, if I spend time thinking about it. Reading a book (for a sustained period) is. Shopping in a supermarket is. Having lunch with a friend. Of course I have become an essentialist. Unnecessary shopping I have already talked about elsewhere; I don’t do it and it pleases me to make a virtue of a necessity.

This is nothing new, so no sympathy please, I howled at the moon a long time ago – and still do when the fancy takes me or when I feel my neck and ears grow hairy. But I am open to some Good Advice, if anyone would like to share. I’m not an efficient organiser which is good because that means there is room for improvement. I like lists (see below) but never do ones that are particularly useful. I did do a timetable experiment once that involved scheduling in absolutely everything (including when and for how long to eat lunchtime sandwich) the night before.

I know what you’re going to say: why not rotate? Carrots one day, potatoes the next. Why didn’t I think of that?

P.S. Thought I’d bowed out, but I seem anyway to have made it through to the Battle of the Blogs final – here, if anyone is still interested, not sure that I am though it was fun for a bit and I appreciated the votes, especially as they weren't all from my mates (ok some were but not that many!) - and I’m rather enjoying Leesa’s blog.



You are hurting me now, RTS. This will now be stuck in my mind for TOO long. Potatoes or carrots? I need to go and lie down and think this one through. I may be gone for quite some time.

Wait there.

Reading the Signs said...

ok - but judging from what I have seen on your blog, you strike me as the sort of man who knows a thing or two about vegetables. Time-management too, perhaps.


Oh, I know plenty about vegetables, yes, but I was unaware that this post was actually about vegetables. Maybe I am just far too cunning for my own good - I doubt this, somehow - but I have seen this post as a challenge posed of how best to spend one's time.

Have I taken leave of my senses, Senorita Signs?

Anxiously awaiting an expected humiliation,

Political Umpire


Reading the Signs said...

Let potatoes and carrots be symbolic, Mr.P.E., but do not let them weigh, it is an ongoing challenge - just interested in others' strategies. (what is Mr. Umpire doing here - and snicker?).

I am doing about 3 "things" today. Breaking own rules - one of my strategies.

cusp said...

If you can find the answer, let me know because I often feel that I am banging my head against a brick wall ---- or my potatoes and carrots ---- and ending up with a Russian salad rather than a whole cooked vegetable. Mind you, after a week in bed with a fluey cold I now feel as if I AM a vegetable. Wish I could be something more exotic that a root veg, ..... like an okra. Funny really, because round these parts, the less interesting inhabitants of local villages are called Suffolk Spuds. Maybe I am just less interesting....... :-((


Snicker - it is a disgraceful thing, surely, but Political Umpire was only brought here (unwittingly) in the event that I had got things wrong. Less than eagle-eyed readers would have seen him sign-off that last letter and simply thought "what a fool that man is". They would have been wrong to think such a thing of the lovely Umpire, of course, but it would have allowed me to maintain my crumbling veneer of cleverness and, frankly, guru-like wisdom.

So, yes, snicker indeed. Bad Englishman, bad.

Relief. The carrots and potatoes are symbolic, then. It is almost a shame, though, because the answer to that particular and literal dilemma is almost painfully too easy to answer: no idea - stop beating beating yourself up trying to make non-choices. That sort of thing, RTS.

As to the other thing, know my answer already, surely?

Anyway, I'll be back later on to give a thrilling account of my own time-management strategies. Oh yes I will. Try to stay calm as you anticipate this most brilliant happening, RTS. It's a big ask, I know, but simply do your best.

See you soon,


Dr. Liezl said...

Ok, well several things I want to say about this post--first of all--does howling at the moon really help hairy ears? I only know about a different dilemma called--loo roll or tea bags. Here's how it goes--if you're really skint and running low on these items, which should you buy if you can only afford one? Well, advice given to me, is to buy loo roll. The logic behind this: if someone comes to visit you and you're out of loo roll you can't really give them anything else to wipe their arse, however, if you don't have tea bags you can always say you've just run out or else borrow some from a kindly neighbor. How does this help Signs, I'm not sure! I just know that I can get you lots of free good DVDs to pass the time if you do want to veg out. Otherwise, the only things I've found that help are making one of the 'things' something that gives me energy--studying a language course is one of mine, strangely--then it fuels the battery a bit for the next thing. Another one that works for me (works meaning it doesn't seem to take energy away) is indeed to watch telly, but something really really funny. After an hour of laughing I always feel energized. Must go howl at the moon now...

Reading the Signs said...

cusp - sorry about the cold and all but okra is a nasty slimy thing so do not wish to be that. Your Russian salad image is very good indeed, I like it so much I will probably steal it. I am posting this comment in the small gap between "things."

Reading the Signs said...

I am calm, Mr. P.E., but this is the closest I've been to consulting a life-guru, and I've already had powerful advice from dr. liezl. I think I know her from somewhere and this is a cleverly-constructed alias, but I will pretend to be ignorant. She works hard on her alter egos.

You are a wise man Mr. P.E. and your "no idea" idea is spot on. liezl - the loo roll and tea bags dilemma (as if I needed another) has given me much to ponder, but I think "arse" is a bit coarse for the blog of a classy dame. I let it pass in the circs. I will be round to borrow DVDs. I do not like "Friends". Give me Borat - something like that. High fives!

nmj said...

Signs, it's so idiosyncratic the way we pace ourselves so i'm not offering you any tips (all i know is i panic when there is too much on and end up cancelling things cos i can't cope with the worry, i hate to let people down so would rather cancel than fail to show ...also i can't have events (even if that is just coffee) two days in a row, it's too much, ideally i need two days between events/seeing people...that's why visiting my nephews, though joyous, fills me with anxiety, it will be not just physically exhausting, but also mentally, being with people every
day...and, yes, big supermarket shops rule everything out for rest of day.

i love your 6pm rule about tv, i am exactly the same...even in my most ill times i never watch tv during the day, it is death for your soul - i feel quite noble that i've never succumbed.

Reading the Signs said...

- all I'm watching these days is Life on Mars anyway, and a half-hearted nod at News Review.

Two days between events is interesting. I'm sure that's what I should be doing but can't seem to. Today I have plugged on with several things. I know I'll pay, already am. But I've had a whole chunk of doing nothing, you know how it gets. Between you and me, I'm unlikely to find a "better" way, but I like to think about other strategies from time to time. I'd really love to know about your writing schedule when you wrote the novel, nmj.

nmj said...

ah, writing the novel: i started it probably ten years ago, it was a long short story and an agent picked it up & said you must turn it into a book, i was afraid i wouldn't have the stamina & so i started, but ever so slowly, most i could do is 8 hours a week, but often i would do zero, sometimes two hours one day, then nothing for five days or one hour a day for a week, and lots in bed with took six years to finish, but i cried a lot of tears thinking this is killing me & why am I doing it? (because i had to to stay sane). i often wished i could dictate it to someone who would type it for me! and now i've had two years away from it. and now someone wants it!

ze dr. said...

arse is a good word! it can be classy in its own way... you obviously haven't seen mine

Reading the Signs said...

nmj, brilliant news!

dr. - I'll take your word for it!

and that's two exclamation marks in one comment. Not good.

Steiner Boy said...

Hello again, lovely RTS, I’m sorry it has taken me so long to come back here. My watch stopped and I completely lost track of time. It may have been my head that stopped, actually, but the results were pretty much the same. Hardly an auspicious start considering the matter at hand, it seems fair to say.

I just need to correct something first. If you look near the top of this page you will see that I boasted wildly, and with seeming self-assurance, about my knowledge of vegetables. I almost stand by that claim. My “knowledge”, such as it is, may be useless to other human beings, however. I am familiar with the different squeaks, say, that carrots and courgettes make when they hit hot oil. Courgettes are more readily resigned to their fate, whereas carrots squeak briefly of defiance. This is true, whether you like it or not. It also happens to be overwhelmingly pointless to know – unless you are interested in reassuring the carrots and praising them for their fight. Unfortunately, I am very interested in doing just that.

So I may just have jumped the gun and misled you, slightly, whilst idly proclaiming my knowledge of vegetable matters (onions actually think they can win, by the way, pretty hostile crowd at times – just saying). So that’s that cleared up, anyway. Although it would be nice to imagine you listening out for these sounds – it takes a while, but once you have heard it, you’ll always be able to pick out the babble of individual vegetables as they cook. It doesn’t leave you. (I am sounding as mad as an apple; I can feel it. Oh God.)
Moving quickly on… know already, RTS, that I enjoy doing nothing. I’m sorry about this, but I want to put the final paragraph of an answer I gave you elsewhere, right here:

“….I adore doing nothing. I’m trying (with limited success) to bring my girlfriend round to my way of thinking. Turn off the TV. Sit down. Noooo…put that book away. Don’t speak. Just be. Just be yourself and try not to be afraid. You're doing fine. You don’t need to be doing something all of the time. And who the hell was ever appointed to decree that doing “nothing” is not doing “something”. It IS doing something; it is called doing nothing. And that, let me tell you, is really quite something…”

I regret to say, RTS, that I really quite like those words (disgraceful, I know).

I should just mention, I suppose, that most days I like to read, make up songs, write, cook something utterly divine, talk to any passing animals (v. rewarding sometimes), teach my dog stuff, play chess - alone, agonise over God knows what and occasionally tend to my blogs, amongst other things. I am lucky to be able to do this without suffering the exhausting consequences that must assail you each and every time you complete just one such activity – give or take a crushing blackness or two.

Sorry – before I forget: “Someone must have tried very hard to make the Savers products nasty so as to teach people a lesson for being hard up”. That was a very funny line.

Where was I? Yes. But none of this gets in the way of doing nothing. I feel no guilt or shame or nagging sense of unease that I should be doing “something” when I’m doing “nothing”. In fact, I usually get far more done whilst doing nothing than I could ever hope to get done whilst busily doing something.

I was interested to see this line of yours: ”I still wake with that crazy bit of expectation…..that today I will achieve something.” Hmm. It is the word “achieve” that bothers me here. I’m not trying to be needlessly contrary, but are you sure, RTS, that you’re not just allowing the judgments of others to colour your own? It seems awfully like you’ve fallen into the trap of believing that these strange benchmarks of “achievement”, which so many people appear to unthinkingly accept as being worthy or true, have also now become your own standard. Why?

What strange patterns of thought lead you to believe that creating a poem, say, is more of an achievement than sitting quietly and exploring and enjoying your own mind? You’ll know, of course, that many poems can be created in this manner. The only difference, as far as I can see, is that other people will be unaware of them. If you can tell me why this should matter, I will be astounded.

People beat themselves up too much, always striving to be seen to be getting on and “achieving” something worthwhile. I am very aware of the fact that I probably seem pretty strange, but this nevertheless strikes me as stranger still – where is the sense in allowing the (false) benchmarks of others to dictate the terms of your own? I just don’t get it, and never have.

But but but, I hear you cry, “it’s the nature of the beast, this preposterous vitality of unquenchable ….expectation”. No, it isn’t. Not for me, anyway. This just seems like a sure fire way of setting yourself up for crushing disappointment, and is very far away from being the (innate) nature of my own beast. If my tombstone were to be engraved with the line “oh well, at least he thought about stuff a lot” that would seem like a pretty sweet result. Obviously, I‘d be pretty hacked off at being dead and all (depending on my mood, I suppose, at the time of The Great Withdrawal), but still.

I think it would be fair - essential, even - to point out that I have absolutely no idea what I am going on about any longer. I have totally lost the plot, if I ever even had it in my possession in the first place. This answer is so long, so all over the place, that it makes me feel weak.

So, yes. Choose carrots or potatoes, choose both, sweet Signs, and choose either without much ado. When you’re going all carroty, you’ll doubtless feel fine because you will feel that you are actually doing something. I have a hunch, however, that when you embrace the (hallowed) couch potato state of being, you will find it next to impossible to shut out the noise of the carrots as they squeak their touching defiance. It’s all good. And there is no such thing as nothing. Only something.

Personally speaking, I think you’re doing just fine. Go easy on yourself.

Your Life-Guru and most disconnected loony friend,

Steiner Boy

(Don’t for the love of Jesus watch daytime TV, though – that way leads to an impoverished soul. Better to sit watching the thing when it is turned off, anyway. You’d be surprised at the very high quality of programming that will come your way. Makes the license fee seem worthwhile.)

PS. Who is Dr Liezl? I’m frightened.
PPS. Okra is magnificent. So watch it.

Reading the Signs said...

I dunno but this all makes me a very happy sign-reader, Steiner Boy (not a suitable name for a lifestyle guru, but it will do for now). And can I just say, before I forget, that I love the idea of carrots squeaking briefly of defiance, indeed the whole imagining of the vegetable communications.

I can't disagree with anything you say (apart from the okra, no, I will never feel its magnificence however much I watch it)and your life sounds rich and good, but - yes, I do feel under pressure to achieve. It comes from within and is to do with being a late, a very late developer and feeling a strong impulse to use any gifts I have and, above all, to "contribute" (something ms pants talked of so eloquently in one of her posts).

On the other hand, we also serve who stand and stare or lie and dream or even watch the dust motes in the beam of light that filters through wooden slats.

You're a wise man and true, SB.

Steiner Guru man? said...

You see, this is why it's probably ill-advised to enter into a discussion with someone prone to dark spells - that would be me, Signs.

I've done it again, haven't I? Blab blab blab....and then nothing. Silence.

So sorry (again) for simply upping sticks and buggering off. I came back too soon last time, it seems, and blackness was still pinning me down. Not shaken it entirely yet, true, but am slowly working my way round to visiting the people I like. Sometimes even the tiniest things seem unbearably hard to do.

It is as well that I actively enjoy doing nothing or I would be well and truly fu....not in your space, Signs. No. Bad Guru. (Incidentally - is this name more apt? Or do I still need to strive for something more weighty, wise-sounding, omniscient, dare I say - handsome?)

Anyway, I'm not sure if you will even see this (belated) "response" so I had best not blether on too much.

I am very happy to see that you seemed to find reasons in my previous answer to feel cheerful. Very, very happy. Makes me feel a little like skipping, in fact (v. un-guru like behaviour, though, so shall resist temptation).

The "contribution" thing. Yes. That's a bit of a tough one. I suppose it all depends on how connected you feel with the world, really. Why do you feel you are not contributing if no-one else sees or knows of your endeavours? Who has to see your efforts to make them feel real or worthwhile or worthy, even?

How could you ever be sure that you were not, in fact, contributing, by merely sitting quietly and wondering about it?

Works for me, Ms Sensuality, but then I'm a freaking head case.

Warmth in your direction,


Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Guru TPE, how very nice to see you galloping around again on your horse, refreshing the parts of peoples' blogs that no-one else reaches! Ah, remember the old Heineken ads? You are right, Mr. Guru, both in what you say and in the many different names you choose to adopt to suit the particular moment - yes, have been enjoying all, (well some of, still catching up) the exchanges and name changes over at anna mr's.

Thing is, I don't feel I need to write things in order to feel worthy or worthwhile, when I think of it, no. I just feel there are things I've come to do, that I'm here for - deeds to accomplish (I won't need to explain to Steiner boy what I mean) and writing is one of them. So pressure come. But do any of us live in perpetual bliss on the earthly plane? Even gurus, I see, wrestle with the darkness.

Warmth to you too, TPE, be seeing you.

The Periodic Guruman? said...

Well, I happen to feel that anyone claiming to be in a permanent state of bliss is probably not someone I would be interested in engaging with on any level. To be happy all the time is to walk through this earth without once opening your eyes or mind. Be v. suspicious of such people, Signs, for it is dangerously likely that their heads are empty and all of their cares are witless.

Guru has spoken. Word.

Okay, I'm going to need to stop this - beginning to like being a guru TOO much, for shame. But yes, I am very prone to dark spells, you're right. Sometimes I really rather enjoy the opportunity these things give me to explore the hopeless realms of black. In fact, I actively relish it. Most of the time, however, I just feel like yelping in agony.

I am usually quite particular in my woes, fussy even - the actions of other people being a source of exceptional and lasting discomfort. I just don't really "get it" and have inordinate difficulties processing incoming information that deals with the often hateful actions of various people around this weirdy-biscuit world.

That would be fine, too, except that I keep on needing to seek this stuff out and try to look at it again. A grimly unclever move for a guru suffused with latent darkness. Ach well, even gurus can be stupid, it seems.

The real kicker, however, is that I find the alternative even worse, more terrifying, bleaker yet. To NOT think about these things seems like the most criminal dereliction of moral duty imaginable. We need to look. We have to.

So yes, I suffer from black spells, but the good thing is that I get to blame other people for it. Don't think I don't, Signs.

I hear you, Signs - you feel there are things you need to accomplish. No problem. Yes, this will bring pressures, too.

But feeling pressure, like sadness, need not necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, what a waste it would be to not at least sample a slice of these brilliantly varied emotions that remain at our collective beck and call.

Personally, I remember I used to really enjoy feeling pressure. For example, at university I would have to wait until the morning of the day that an essay was to be handed in before I could even consider starting it. I had it in my head, sure, but relished the kick of pressure to get the thing down on paper.

In exams, I would need to wait ever longer before beginning to write, too. First ten minutes, then twenty. I came seriously unstuck by waiting for over an hour on a two hour paper, it's true - but you will struggle to see me care about such a thing. Mind you, I didn't try it again. Twenty - thirty minutes became the preferred waiting period. And then I was able to feel and enjoy some pressure.

I know, I know - these are small (and personal) examples of pressure compared to what you are talking about, but the fact remains that pressure need not be debilitating or overwhelming or frightening. It's just another feeling, that's all. Use it to your advantage, feel the rush of the thing - and fly. And all feelings are good, however bad they may sometimes feel. Can you begin to imagine what it would be like to not be able to feel anything at all? That would be the time to start worrying, Signs, not a moment before.

Yes, I was led to believe that you had been looking in on the orgasmic tragedy unfolding at anna mr's house. She is simply brilliant, to my mind. I hope you join in, too - we have maybe slightly lost the plot, I feel, but I'm not sure that this matters.

Failing that, I'll know where to find you. Here, have a Heineken, Ms Signs, and allow yourself the chance to feel refreshed. You deserve it - and maybe even need it?

With an entirely knackered mind, but always ready to serve you,

The Mentally Deficient Guru of Clonakilty

Reading the Signs said...

What amazes me about you Mr. guru-by-all-manner-of-names sir, is the way you go into things without holding back. I would say more in response to all you have put if I too weren't a bit knackered, but really all I want to say is that it's been lovely reading. The thoughts of TPE would make a good book, to my way of thinking.

Seen Ms P's novel extracts? I responded but not sure it came across in the way I intended, which is a pity as I think she's done great.

Anon, Mr. P.E.

The Periodic Englishman said...

Seriously RTS, don't encourage me. I already now see this book of wisdom before me in my mind's eye; an excitable throng of readers and believers throwing rose petals at my feet as I softly glide around town, any town, all towns - quite probably on the back of a golden donkey with wings - gently quoting from the revered tome as I pass through their lives and beyond, with a majestic and mesmerising presence that has simply never been seen before. Not for 2000 years or so, anyway.

So please be careful about what you say when I'm around, okay? Things can quickly get out of hand - and quite probably out of focus, too.

But that was a very nice thing to say, thanks. Unfortunately, no, I've not seen the extract from Ms P's novel. I hope to soon, though. I've only "managed" to get to you, Anna, Political Umpire, NMJ and Ms Melancholy to date. I'm slowly pushing the circle outwards, however, and hope to goodness I'll feel able to engage (okay, PRAISE) Ms P very soon. I feel as if I'm flitting between a collection of safe houses like a reformed criminal in the witness protection programme. No I don't, that doesn't even really make any sense. I'm just taking it easy, that's all, touching base with the people who touch me. I have Ms P in my sights. She'll be thrilled.

I'm sure any comment you left for her was splendid, RTS. I am heartened, however, that you seem to be in some doubt about whether your words have hit the mark. I thought it was just us mere mortals who chewed our hands with nervous regret once leaving a comment in space. Feel our pain, Ms Sensuality, and know that you have just passed through hell.

But you seem to be having a bit of a rubbish time of it these days, poor you, with your illness and tiredness and all that goes with it.

You do know, don't you, that you are under no obligation whatsoever to respond to these loony interventions of mine? I can see that you always try to greet your visitors, which I love, but you'll need to believe that I won't be taking any offence if you fail to respond to me here. You need to take it as easy as possible, Ms Signs, and I am more than capable of talking to myself - as you will probably know.

I'm trying to restrict the number of posts I talk on for the next wee while, because I fear I will lose track again and I don't really like leaving conversations- but when I pass by here I can easily drop in, say hello, and you need never get out of your chair, okay? That's me, Signs, waving through your window. Look. Helloooo.

Don't leave any valuables lying around the garden, though. I just might take something, I don't know. I've been feeling funny lately, certainly.

Healing thoughts right back at you, Ms Signs. I'm choosing to believe in such things, today.

Warmly, happily, skippily, loonily, gently down the hill.....

your strange intruder,


Reading the Signs said...

Strange intruder - I heard a strange rustling in the garden last night and thought it must be you. That persian vase in the flower bed is not valuable any more (if it ever was) because of the chip in it. But you will, I hope, have taken a spray or two of cherry or apple blossom, to which you are welcome. Take care -
and watch it.