The painters have been and powerwashed the house. It looks awful. We're having a few people over tomorrow, and I hope they all close their eyes until they're well inside, because -- wow. A lot of the paint came off. It looks like a hovel. The painters will be back to scrape tomorrow, too, so I expect this is a "will get worse before it gets better" situation. Still, this hovelness represents solid progress: the house is getting painted. Which is definitely what we wanted.
And I smell like strawberries and blueberries, hazelnuts and oats and spices, and that's a good thing, too.
A few weeks ago I read an article in New Scientist about how people who make a point of "counting their blessings" or "thinking happy thoughts" at regular intervals are actually less grateful/happy/etc. than those who do so at irregular intervals. I've been thinking about that on the one hand, and on the other hand I've been thinking that I really do believe in the power of the schedule, the to-do list, the calendar. And I've been trying to reconcile all that, and the focal point of it has been that I would like to play the piano more, and I would also like to avoid adding one more thing to my weekly to-do list.
Here's what I've got so far: I think that some things are better off for having the room for spontaneity carved into one's life. That being grateful for good things is good, but that allowing oneself the mental breathing room to notice them as they come up, not just alternate Wednesdays at 2:00, is important and useful. And that it's much, much harder to set aside space in one's life as a flexible thing, as a spontaneous thing. It's sometimes hard to carve out half an hour to walk in the park and appreciate the waterlilies on the lake with one's dog, but it's even harder to do it in the abstract, to do it without writing on the schedule, "5:30 - 6:00 appreciate natural world and affection of pet, 6:00 - 7:00 cook and eat dinner," etc. So in the case of the piano, maybe I'm right to get in fewer half-hour sessions but do them when I truly get the urge -- because practicing the piano is not something I'm doing for a career in musical performance, or for a serious amateur group with other serious amateurs, or to keep a promise, or for any other reason than that I kind of want to. For other people, playing the piano is the thing that should make the daily schedule no matter what, and writing or baking or other things I do a lot can be "just for the love of it." Maybe. At least that's the way I'm thinking of it now.
It strikes me as pretty counter-cultural, though, the idea that more regular gratitude, isn't necessarily better. Surely scheduling some positive virtue for daily exercise has to be better than leaving it to whenever you feel like it, doesn't it? Apparently not always. Or apparently room to mull things over is a value that adds to other values, a virtue that adds to other virtues. I already had come to part of this conclusion with my paper journal: that while it is noticeably good for me and good for my writing if I write in the paper journal often, scheduling it as a list item makes it less effective. Finding the space for it with less sense of obligation -- making the space for it among the other things I want to do -- or making the space to notice that I want to do it -- seems to work better. And, not entirely incidentally, to be more fun.
I'm not giving up on the to-do list; I'd go nuts. I'm just still working on the balance of it.
I'm also wondering how much of the cascade of genuinely fun stuff to write in this book -- last night's work notwithstanding -- is the result of having had sufficient mental space to mull it over.
Well. We'll try that, I guess.