The Labor of Learning to Set Limits

Oh, Outlander‘s finale was grand indeed, but it was so . . . final. I thought I would follow it with at least one thorough blog response, but it proved too overwhelming to face fully, and the sorrow of finality echoed forward. Besides these, another emotional factor had already begun to influence my viewing prior to the last episode of the season–increasing disappointment with the essence of how Starz has adapted the central story relationship of Jamie and Claire. All together, these zapped my motivation even to start sorting.

My disappointment helped me realize that the other thing I needed to do was take a break from “obsessenaching,” which, for the uninitiated means fanatically obsessing like, with, or about Sassenach*, aka Claire Fraser/Caitriona Balfe/Jamie Fraser/Sam Heughan and the whole Outlander lot. I could see my life was straying farther and farther from any semblance of balance. I was having a series of dreams invaded by actor Sam Heughan.

Now, the only reason I feel comfortable enough to admit this, despite finding it rather embarrassing, is that my obsession has made me privy to the obvious fact that many, many other fans’ obsessions with Sam (as must be the case with most handsome stars of the large and small screens) are far more serious and crippling to those people. I am happily married after all and do not hang my self-esteem on whether or not a celebrity re-tweets or responds to my comment. Undoubtedly, dignity and cool would fail me were I actually to meet said celebrity, but never mind.

Although, like many women of retirement age–of which I am not yet technically one for decades to come (hopefully)–I have more “free” time than most people, I have yet to earn the privilege of actual retirement. Based on where I have indulged my pleasures, I’ve come to see: It is this privilege that allows so many Outlander fans of 20+ or 2 years’ duration to indulge their fanaticism.

In my compromised youth, I still recognize the imperative of making life count for something. But without religion, robust health, paid profession, or penchant for routine, I figure some kind of inner drive needs to take the role of holding oblivion at bay for an independent-minded yet provided-for married woman approaching middle age without children. I believe one can really save only herself.

I did take a break of sorts. I put away my Outlander images collection. I stopped re-watching season 2 episodes. I stopped using Twitter altogether, let alone allowing notifications of Sam’s and Caitriona’s latest tweets. I was helped in this by the need to reduce the use of my phone while it showed signs of dying.

But with a new phone came renewed vigor and curiosity about technological capacities, i.e., gadget toys, and soon, I was right back in it. I justified this by the notion that I wouldn’t want to be out of the loop right before our big trip to Scotland. Still to happen, that trip in itself is a direct outgrowth of my Outlander obsession. I have no small hope of bumping into the cast and crew during season 3 filming this fall. I continue to “interact,” i.e., tweet, with the likes of the show’s consultants, producers and other reps. I receive regular notifications of tweets from slightly more than a few of them.

A married couple who are friends of mine just returned from their own Scotland trip, and I made sure to ask them all about it. I have scoured the travel guides, in print and online, compiled details on the sights selected for our itinerary, and delegated GPS setup to the hubby. We’ve bought street maps, new clothes, new shoes, RFID-blocking wallets, international driver’s licenses, travel insurance, theater tickets, steam train tickets, sightseeing passes, a detachable Bluetooth keyboard for my tablet, and a new rain coat for me. I downloaded 30 some apps for use before and during the trip, including the UK Highway Code, a bus tracker, weather apps, general news and sightseeing apps, one for each hotel and other vendor we’re using, and Scotland tourism apps. I’ve been planning our trip since May, and there are a slew of tasks still on our list, but it’s finally almost here.

I am excited, to be sure, but also worried that I won’t have the physical strength and energy to tackle even half of the itinerary I’ve tentatively planned for us. I tried to be realistic and arrange alternatives for things to do each day, but at least one day will be a real doozy with a full-day Outlander tour followed by an evening play, and we’re going largely DIY with all this, including renting a car for most of the trip. I also worry that my poor track record with packing sensibly will plague this voyage, too.

Still, I’ve never prepared so well, for so long, and so . . . obsessively for travel as I have for travel to and around Scotland. The excursion will be the single longest vacation my husband and I have ever taken. We’ll likely get through it somehow, but I do hope the experience proves to be worth all the time, money, and work invested in it. Who knows when the chance will come again?

The good news for balance is that I continue to think about it and make efforts at routine productivity. I still tutor weekly, and I’m still writing, in spite of my unplanned hiatus from this blog of late. I’ve been working on a novel since the July Camp NaNo (see my previous post about Packing for Camp), and now that fall approaches, I anticipate pursuing it through November, the official National Novel Writing Month I’ve participated in for the past five years.

[Note on the future of this blog: I’ve refrained from going into details about it here, or doing much posting at all, for fear of disrupting my momentum. But I must admit that it doesn’t take much to do that, and more often than not, blogging about my writing projects has injected new life into them rather than shut them down. So, I guess, besides tales from the trip, I can feel confident in having more to write about at Philosofishal going forward.]

There are other positive signs of balance to acknowledge as well. I have carried the bulk of responsibility for planning our Scotland trip over time, but I haven’t neglected all household management in the mix. I’m in the process of reassessing my autoimmune conditions treatment plan, I’ve begun a new financial investment project for us, and I’ve started walking regularly, mostly for the trip but also to combat high triglycerides, excessive computer sitting, and chronic pain. More goals are also brewing.

Perhaps I’ve been more balanced and productive than I give myself credit for. My limitations have not been as limiting as I believed. It’s just that some health challenges have a special, enduring talent for disappointing long-held expectations. So it has been for me, and so follows the need to keep adjusting those expectations, embrace joy where I can, and continue to set reasonable limits, especially on my propensity to obsess.

Setting limits for oneself is about awareness, love, and the will both to refrain and to reach for better. The good that comes from setting good limits can shatter perceived limitations. What once seemed impossible becomes not only possible but proven. Making wise limit setting a habit then means acknowledging that proof and using it to fuel future action.

Know_Your_Limitations_Then_Defy

Easier said than done.

To make it doable, I think I’ll work to visualize myself going through something like a par course or speed dating session with my various tasks and projects. (Picturing actual juggling just intimidates me.) No one can go, go, go forever; we all need rest after running the course. For me, though, the emphasis is different because chronic health issues make restfulness from sleep a fantasy and daily rest rather void. For me, maintaining and strengthening balance largely means remembering to change the status quo: to get up, move from one foot to the other, keep moving, take a brief rest, and repeat the cycle.

Learning to prioritize and set limits on the consumption of time, while it imposes its own limits, is my greatest challenge and experiment.


  • For more about the term “sassenach,” see:

Outlander | Speak Outlander Lesson 1: Sassenach (video featuring Sam Heughan, lead actor, and Adhamh O Broin, Gaelic Consultant for the show) | STARZ (2013)

Dictionary.com definition of “sassenach”

“Scots Word of the Season: Sassenach” by Maggie Scott | The Bottle Imp (date not specified)

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On issues raised by post “Journalist Sentenced to Die For Insulting Muhammad”

See the link to the article at bottom.

With the passing of the one-year anniversary of the three Al Jazeera staff members’ jailing in Egypt for simply doing their jobs, and with increased targeting, kidnapping, maiming, and death of journalists around the world in 2014, press freedom, free speech, and censorship are very much on my mind. Source: “Journalism Is Not a Crime,” December 29, 2014, on Al Jazeera America.

A few prime examples of contemporary attacks on freedom: Unknown but suspected government muscle in Russia currently perpetrates a brutal campaign of near-fatal beatings against journalists who question the regime or Putin connections. Mexico remains plagued by drug cartel/government efforts to intimidate, eliminate, and otherwise silence journalists who print anything the criminals dislike.

During the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, this year, local police handled members of the press poorly, whether by intervening or blocking their access excessively or addressing them abusively. The United States stands as 46th in the world in press freedom, and that is not good enough.

Sources for above facts: “Killing the Messenger,” a special re-aired news program, and other stories aired, December 29, 2014, on Al Jazeera America.

Only the free can truly fight the silencing trends by becoming and remaining aware of them and by speaking out even more. Attacks on journalists and news organizations are attacks on everyone’s freedom everywhere.

One approach to the fight is through funding. Consider giving to high-quality, freedom-seeking organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Some U.S. entities that I give to include FIRE: Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Institute for Justice (IJ), and Reason Foundation. See the Charity Navigator, a sort of BBB guide for donors, to evaluate organizations’ effective and efficient use of received funds.

Included here is another of many more examples of free speech’s suppression: Journalist Sentenced to Die For Insulting Muhammad.

May the new year bring all of us greater freedom and, thus, greater capacity for peace, joy, wisdom, and creativity.

The World Cup: Never Final

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Final match plays today at 3:00pm EST, about an hour from now, at the Maracana stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America, Western and Southern Hemispheres, Earth, our solar system, the Milky Way Galaxy. Here.

I’m told you can see the Milky Way, and its gradual tilt overnight, somewhere in the corn fields of Iowa, and perhaps in rural regions the world over. This way is a symbol of constant change and perceived constancy, a swirling path we travel within while ourselves rotating on an oscillating axis and revolving around a sun that rises and sets in this galaxy, just as it does on our planet.

Another setting, another rising have brought us to this day: A global, month-long sports tournament and exhilarating spectacle, recurring every four years for twenty World Cups, once again climbs to a pinnacle and, with the greater speed of gravity, descends to rest dormant–though beating and breathing–in the imaginations and emotions of the everyday lives of fans young and old, spectators old and new.

Courtesy of The Daily Mail - dailymail.co.uk

Courtesy of The Daily Maildailymail.co.uk

Yet the intense work scarcely hesitates, restarting the same process, until the next fourth summer in the Northern Hemisphere (winter in the Southern, as it has been in Brazil).

We live our lives by cycles, by seasons of all sizes and types, returning to familiar states of being, forever saying “so long” to others. A drilling down into the crust of this earth exposes the layers of cycles of our many pasts, in the bones of our ancestors, and some descendants, and in the strata of the living, pulsing planet.

What a rare and wonderful blessing, to feel the security of knowing one’s rightful place in time and space. So few living human beings may luxuriate in such a sense of rightness, and the feeling, like all feelings, is fleeting. How precious these moments in experience.

That they may be shared and collectively enjoyed from time to time amplifies the rightness into greatness, expands elation into rapture. Win or lose, we experience the unmistakable richness of high and deep emotion fused into an undeniable, unified energy.

Together–across the sectors and lines of city, region, country, continent, ocean, and hemisphere; through the boundaries of language, culture, neighborhood, street, household, stadium, and playing pitch–the unity of a common love of futbol, team, and player penetrates.

Sense of place in the real world

View from our upstairs foyer window

View from our upstairs foyer window

My husband and I recently attended an information session about his company’s relocation of several employees to the Orlando, Florida, area. As native and long-time Ohioans, we are reluctant to move. Part of this has to do with inertia. We’re here, we’ve pretty much always been here, we’ve bought a home, our parents are here, we know this place and its surrounding spaces, and we’ve grown to like much of it, to love some things, and to be proud of its being ours. Besides, we’re great ones for progressing at a glacial pace when we do set our hearts on a goal, and the company demands precipitous action.

But there are many other reasons why this specific destination does not appeal, the details of which matter less than the overall effect–the prevailing feeling our thoughts of Orlando create.

Beyond this fact, I have realized that there is something particularly important about staying put in a place you enjoy as the world increasingly expands in the virtual direction. The physical space one occupies seems to become less important the more we imbed ourselves in online cultures and communities, but I would argue the opposite. The more one “lives” online, the more important an enjoyable, comfortable, and vibrant off-line residence becomes.

It has to do with time limits. With the preponderance of time devoted to Web- and computer-based pursuits, those few spare moments interacting with nature’s tangible elements and the earth beneath one’s feet are made more precious for their scarcity. It’s now less about fear of leaving the comfort zone and more about using the physical realm as a stabilizing force for the balance of life.

Considering this, the average reader may think it’s a no-brainer to move to a warmer climate where more time can be spent outdoors easily for a greater portion of the year than in Ohio. Not everyone is a warm-weather person. Some of us need variety and certainly cooler temperatures for more of the year than occur in the subtropical south.

During and after the presentation, I carried myself through all the attractions and detractors of a life in central Florida. For every appealing aspect there was an equally unappealing factor. The attractions are rather obvious with a little thought and tourism research, and it is not my purpose here to flex my vacation-spot promoting muscles. Perhaps the greater curiosity, or puzzle to some of you, are the downside elements. Without further ado:

  • too high of average temperatures
  • too high humidity during warmer months
  • no hills, hillside meadows, or mountains—I need a dynamic topography
  • too much sun—I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m not a sun seeker; I’d prefer not to start looking my age or older
  • no familiar temperate zone trees—I dislike palm and other southern trees
  • floods
  • hurricanes
  • sink holes
  • no basements—it’s just wrong
  • no snow . . . very sad
  • noseeums, other biting midges, and a high count of mosquitoes
  • large cockroaches
  • no land access to northern states—I’m a Yankee snob, what can I say? While I’m at it, country music and southern accents
  • the thought of Disney World annoys me
  • no familiar wildlife, especially back yard and park birds—see 2013 inventory post for the importance of this to me
  • few placid, swimmable lakes and streams; I’d rather not swim with alligators and large snakes, and I’m not an ocean person
  • a smaller house for a higher price
  • our parents live here—actually a significant problem for our sweet but high-maintenance dog; we would probably have to give her up or put her down (not happening for something like this!)
  • most of my husband’s extended family live in Ohio
  • I would miss my new writer/artistic friends and old friends in the area; I don’t make new ones quickly
  • all our other extended family and friends live much farther away from Florida than from Ohio

It seems like a substantial, compelling list, but that’s only half of the story. The other half concerns all we’d be saying good-bye to. However long the list of cons, however significant the individual negatives, it boils down to the attitude of not wanting to budge just so my husband can keep a certain job with a familiar company. We’re doing alright; we need not feel beholden to the corporation and this opportunity. But I’d much rather revel in the things I love about living in Ohio.

There is still so much to see and do, so much to discover, and so many enjoyable things we already do.

As much as we complain about Ohio’s weather, it is quite preferable to the constantly either freezing or sweltering northern plains, the rain-soaked northwest, the ice-storm laden mid-south, the tornado-plagued central plains, the horribly hot and miserable deep south, including Texas, and the excessively dry parts of the southwest, especially where forest fires and juniper pollen abound. We’re allergic to the juniper, and I need green deciduousness around me from spring to fall. The plants and trees are so pale and dark out west.

I wouldn’t mind Virginia and its surrounding areas so much, but the only other place I would enjoy living would be the New England and New York region. I lived in Massachusetts during college, and I have visited New York City several times. I have also been to Virginia and Florida.

But Ohio is home. I didn’t know how good I had it as a child when I would go biking around and beyond our neighborhood, playing soccer on lush green fields, camping and exploring as a Girl Scout, and boating with my family on the Ohio River, Berlin Lake, West Branch Reservoir, and Salt Fork State Park. By high school, I grew restless to escape my small town, and I am glad I went away for college. During college, my resistance to the place of my upbringing grew, but eventually I made my way back.

I have found by turns satisfaction, delight, annoyance, and depression in my area of residence. Whether northeast Ohio has changed in the wrong ways or not changed enough, I know I have changed. I take fewer things for granted these days. But it’s the people I live among that make this place home.

I communicate with many of them online to some extent, but the chances to see them in person are what I seek and relish most.

Blogging me a good “what for”

As a first-time blogger, I am learning that there is a difference between starting a blog and starting to blog. It is easy to lose myself in the technical setup considerations as a way to avoid the writing process. I am grateful not to be able to say for exactly how long I reviewed possible interface themes before settling on one. While not quite a Luddite, I certainly have a complicated relationship with computers. And while I am no stranger to the Internet and online memberships, I do not have a Facebook page–yet.

I prefer to attempt the creation of a balance among aspects of life, between types of activities, meaning, for those of you who may not comprehend the idea, that not all of those activities are computer or device based. But the key word is “attempt.” Working online as a tutor and being a writer who tends primarily to use a laptop both help deter me from endless surfing and other virtual pursuits, but I am far from feng-shui-Buddhist-yoga-yin-yang zen.

Still, my main purpose in starting a blog is neither to improve my tech savvy nor to find my true center. I just want to write.

Write about . . . ? I do have some ideas. Among them, feminist re-education/recovery toward simultaneously greater ambition and greater self-acceptance, my ailing sweetheart of a dog (I already have plenty of material for this), poetry/essays on random topics, the musings of an educator in limbo, the experience of tutoring online, exploring some conflicts and unions of science and religion/philosophy, observing nature (I’m a birder), my new novel writing journey, or my The Artist’s Way journey. But I guess potpourri could work, just writing whatever comes to me regardless of theme. Some topics I’m interested in writing essays about include the merits of academic matriculation vs. lay learning, books and movies (thoughts or reviews on), and finding balance in an altered existence, perhaps dealing with particular, highly personal struggles.

I have long been wary of becoming entrenched in an irrevocable online presence, internally sighing at the accumulation of each new instance of username and password, fearing because I don’t really understand how online profiles and accounts work, how much information remains permanently floating in the electronic ether even after believing oneself to have cancelled or closed an account.

As an English teacher, I am aware of the double irony of both fearing what I fail to understand and writing online about my reservations concerning online activity. Personally, I believe we are all incurable hypocrites in at least a few ways whether we’re aware of it or not. Fundamentally, though, I eschew any sense of shame in my hypocrisy because I know it is human nature, and though I am a perfectionist by nature and long practice, I know I am not, nor do I wish to be, perfect, or superhuman.

There was a time when I wished for the latter, well beyond the childhood in which that wish took root. As a former recipient of chronic girl-gang bullying since before I hit a double-digit age, I understand well the desire to take on escapist powers of, say, invisibility or a force field shell, or even a steady generator of the perfect come-back to any insult or provocation. Trust issues thus issue forth. And here I am, exposed on the Internet, vulnerable to new attack and subsequent rupture. Part of the wariness of online exposure stems directly from the defense mechanism of wanting to remain unknown.

Both a natural performer and a highly sensitive shell-turtle, I seek the balance and the sense of freedom to express myself without fear of the destructive potential consequences. Living out loud has seemed for years to be a dangerous form of rowdiness rather than a satisfying form of self-declaration. I have sought psychotherapy in the past, and my preferred approach has become an amalgamation of self-help. Seems I fear disappointing even strangers who would be my therapist.

So, although it isn’t very original, this blog will serve as a mode of recovery, and discovery, of all the forbidden parts of myself that I have quashed or rigidly restricted over the years. I still have ambitions, I still want . . . something, and I am here in large part to identify and acknowledge those aspirations, if not plunge headlong into their pursuit.

“The first step is awareness . . .”

Seed pods in glass jar, C.L. Tangenberg; ebony pencil on paper, November 2013

Seed pods in glass jar, C.L. Tangenberg; ebony pencil on paper, November 2013