Brian Eno News Twitter (not the real Brian Eno, apparently) posts a random artistic strategy* nearly every day, and the one I saw today was: Disciplined self-indulgence. Well, I don’t do “disciplined” very well, but when I make an effort, my self-indulgence is off the charts, so here it goes.
So, first: a bit of news. Hokkaido’s state of emergency ran from February 28 until March 19, which means that as of Friday (a public holiday celebrating the equinox), we are free from government requests to stay inside.
To tell the truth, though, I didn’t feel very much of a difference, because despite my best efforts, I’ve managed to get a sore throat. So, aside from work and a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the three-day weekend, I wasn’t out and about to feel the celebratory mood.
I’d say the crowd at the grocery store was slightly busier than usual, and I saw more party food in the baskets than I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks. Toilet paper is in plentiful supply and variety, but masks and rubbing alcohol are still off the shelves in the stores I visited. I’ve got elderly at home, and I’m no spring chicken myself, so I think I’ll keep up the restricted contact as long as the rubbing alcohol is still flying off the shelves. I’ve got to go into work Monday and Wednesday, and then I can really indulge in a week-long soak in my family’s germ pool.
My mother-in-law is socializing. There was a meeting of the senior citizens club yesterday, and today she went to clean graves with her brother and sister-in-law. I hope she’s OK. But what am I going to do? Ground her?
Second: what would you do with a thousand dollar? (Cue: Barenaked Ladies, “If I Had a Million Dollars.”)
A lot of governments around the world are thinking about directly sending money to citizens and/or residents as part of the relief system. Of course, if you need it, you should use it. That’s what the money is supposed to be there for.
And if you are in a good place, but you have family or friends who are struggling because of the pandemic’s effects, a no-strings gift would be a great gesture.
I’m sitting on a cushion meant for my year of freelance experimentation (which starts April 1), so I feel I’m fine, and my family and my friends are all doing OK, too. It seems like a really good time to donate to those free services that I use all the time. Wikipedia and the Guardian newspaper top my list. I visit their websites almost daily, but I’ve been worried about letting them have my credit card information. It’s a good time to bite the bullet and donate and subscribe. Do any of you have advice for donating without giving the receiver a lot of financial information? Or email? I wish I could just mail them Google Play cards in an unmarked envelope . . . .
Pouring money back into your community is also a good idea. I like the idea of strengthening institutions so that if I’m in a bad place the next time we have an economic crash or other modern plague or pestilence, others will be in a stronger place to help me. Women’s shelters, orphanages, food banks and the public library are four places that immediately spring to mind.
Third: I have to do better at learning to forgive myself. At the beginning of the three weeks, I had big (but vague) plans to Do All The Things. Allie Brosch said a lot of good things in her 2010 post about trying to become responsible. And at least one line is strangely prescient:
“I prepare for my new life as an adult like some people prepare for the apocalypse.”
That’s me: I always prepare for things like an apocalypse is coming. On February 28, I renewed my vows to get my house clean, commit to a writing schedule, play the ukulele, be a loving mom to my four pets, and make my daughter’s spring break a productive and fun time so she’ll want to come back all the time. Oh, and study up on all the Japanese words and phrases regarding the coronavirus, because I’m sure it’ll come up on the test in the future.
I will say this much: I got a lot of good cooking done, and my daughter helped me clean some of the things. And I blogged! Blogging has to count for something, although I’m not sure what.
Well, that was then. This is now. The first weekend of Not Being in a State of Emergency. AND, Persian New Year, a time of new beginnings. But every time I think of what I’m going to do, it all creeps in again – I plan to Do All The Things, and re-set 20 years of cluttering and bad habits over the course of 10 days.
Stop and reset. Use the Oblique Strategy from Twitter.
Disciplined: Breathe. Choose ONE of the things. The others have waited 20 years, and can wait a few weeks more. Self-indulgence: But it’s OK to play the ukulele when I think about it.
I think the first thing I’m going to do is write out a flexible schedule that I can follow. It’s so easy for the days to blend into each other, so my schedule is going to have to be interactive. On one side of the sheet, I’ll write the planned itinerary. On the other side, I’ll write what actually happened. At the bottom, I’ll leave space for a doodle, and a gratefulness and achievement comment section. And my goal for the first week? Just to track the time. How am I spending it? What is getting done?
Finally, I do want to set one more goal.
(Ugh, can you feel the Do All the Things creep? I sure can. But . . . I really want to do this.)
I finished reading A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe, which seems to be an account of his uncle’s experience during the London Plague of 1664-5. I don’t know how fictionalized it is, but since it’s told in first person, it feels very real.
So many things about our current pandemic fit into the same parameters – how we treat our neighbors, quarantined people who don’t want to be quarantined, stockpiling (and Defoe’s really useful list is flour, supplies for beer-making for “all the casks in the house” IIRC, and a huge wheel of cheese. I’d feel so much safer with a huge wheel of cheese in my house), and the plight of the poor, the caretakers, the people who keep urban society rolling, the medical workers and the government officials. The role of charity is particularly sobering to think about.
I gained so much perspective on our current troubles that I’m looking for another plague book to read. I’ve settled on The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio for this week. I know next to nothing about the book, and I’m not sure how my translation is going to work – I tried looking at Penguin Classics and also stuff from Oxford, but every time I switched to Kindle, I got a different edition and/or translator. I finally went with a Digireads book “Faithfully translated by J.M. Rigg,” so I hope that will do the trick. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to look for a hard copy, I guess. (It’ll take MONTHS for it to arrive, though.)
I have been promised a bit of smut, though, so there’s that to look forward to.
Check in if you please, with your own random thoughts. I hope everyone is safe out there, and that the problems have not shook your foundations too much.
*Oblique strategies are a set of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. The set, published in 1975 for creative people, have a general nudge that can be freely interpreted by a blocked creator; some suggest different directions, some, like “disciplined self-indulgence,” create a new frame of reference to set the work in. WIPs are meant to be changed. They are saved somewhere in your computer or your handwriting, right? So it can’t do any harm if you are really blocked, because you still have the original. What I find useful is that the strategies can give you a bizarre sense of permission to push the boundaries. I wrote about them briefly here, with other block-busting tips.