Sunday, 29 August 2010

Pareto in the Attic.

There has been a lot of interest and a certain amount of disbelief about the keyboards in my attic. I do not exaggerate; well, not all the time, and for those of you who urged reduction of the collection, here's an recent photograph.
My musical son came home for a day and a night.
The charity shops did well, as did a local school running an after-school music club. Now there is this modest collection, plus one or two others lurking in a spare bedroom. I haven't really counted.

'The Pareto Principle' fits well. Eighty percent of the stuff in the attic was owned by twenty percent of the people living in the house at the time the collection was amassed.
Now something like eighty percent has been assessed as superfluous, twenty percent remains. As there is now only one person living in this house there remains eighty percent of other peoples' belongings filling twenty percent of the attic.
There is a lot more room in the attic, even with the eighty percent.

Pareto did some interesting work. Eighty percent of effects come from twenty percent of the causes. Twenty percent of pea-pods contain eighty percent of the peas. People wear twenty percent of their clothes eighty percent of the time, eighty percent of our phone calls are made to twenty percent of our friends. Which indicates that we get more of a buzz out of dealing with our enthusiams, and focusing on those activities which give us the best outcomes, which, in turn, is hardly suprising.
When we get it right we get eighty percent of our happiness and satisfaction from twenty percent of our activities. That includes being able to see a bit of floor space in the attic. Deeply satisfying, as was my time with my son. Very satisfying to do something together, even as mundane as visiting the local rubbish tip.
Perhaps in retirement we could boost that a bit and get a ninety/ten result, except that it is impossible to measure happiness as a percentage of anything.

But the most profound aspect of Pareto's work tells us that eighty percent of the world's wealth and resources are controlled by twenty percent of the population. If that.

P.S. For those of you keen on circuit bending - here's my son

Sunday, 8 August 2010

On Reflection.....

A little while ago 'Pohanginapete' responded to a comment I left on his blog.

'Often I've thought,' he wrote, 'that the turning point in a person's life must come when curiosity no longer outweighs reflection; when we begin living in our own history we begin the process of no longer creating it.'

Oh, cor blimey, gadzooks, what a wake-up call!

He was not to know that I had spent the previous five weeks in a welter of self-pity, recrimination, reflection....wallowing, in short. Living in the past, trying to see the past in a different light, wishing I had done or not done this or that - and then this or that would not have happened, or would have happened differently.

Oh yes, the perils of recollection.

How do you downsize, ridding your life of clutter, without the attendance of a life-time of associations? Everything I touch in this house triggers memories. Three and a half years since my husband's death and I finally take his unworn shoes to the Oxfam shop.
The practical de-cluttering is hard enough; but then there is the emotional.

Finally, I can be ruthless with personal papers and letters, but I have to read them all, just to make sure that I haven't missed anything important, any memories my sons might want to record.
The reading brings laughs and smiles and terrible shocks; for life was not always as I thought it to be. Sad things, once read cannot be unread, just as regrettable words, words spoken in anger and frustration cannot be unsaid.
With the best will in the world, we are isolated individuals, and there is an inevitable point when apology is no longer possible, and history cannot be revised in a more favourable light.

I can make copious contributions to the Oxfam shop. I can shred papers. But how much interior mental clutter must I retain?

In this situation it is relatively easy to use distraction as a means of avoidance.
I'm quite well versed in the processes of bereavement, I can acknowledge its stages in myself. I hope I can be of some help to others. I work for 'Cruse Bereavement Care'. I can occupy myself, stay busy, think of others.
Distraction has its uses.
Usually, in the past, my thoughts wriggled through a cacophony; family noise, work noise, trying-to-shop-in-lunchtime noise.
Now they bubble up from silence.

This, for me, is the turning point in life. The silence.

I realise I wrote about this when I first started blogging 'here'.
It remains a challenge, greater now than ever before.

I work on creating new, meaningful history - as opposed to distraction.
I ask my younger son, now that he has his own house, to come and remove the twenty four keyboards he still has in this attic (I do not exaggerate, he does something called circuit bending). He asks why, and I say I might want to move. He is somewhat shocked.
I tell my older son I'm coming to visit him. He lives in Kazakhstan. He promises me a business class ticket.

I cannot help but live in my own history. I would never be able, nor would I wish to discard it, but, hopefully I can build on it.