Finding a new orbit at 3 am

I woke up with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” blasting in my brain.

… Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on …

Although it doesn’t happen often, this is not the first time my sleep has been interrupted by a song. It happens when I get overwhelmed by all that is going on in my life. Usually, my first reaction is to rationalize the situation. “Oh go back to sleep,” I tell myself, “When this event is over… or that issue is resolved… or whatever… there will be time for (fill in the blank) and for (fill in the blank).”

My internal dialogue continues… “But what I’ve been doing is necessary… It is important… I have responsibilities…”

And yes, this is true. Good works are necessary. It is important to fulfill obligations. Living up to responsibilities is what adults do. But at this stage of my life, is it time to reassess what this involves? Is it time to take on less?

The singing has stopped, and a whispering voice has taken David Bowie’s place … it suggests that maybe I should consider making a few adjustments. Truth be told, the voice inside my head is not whispering… it is screaming at me… quite stridently. It is not suggesting, it resolutely maintains that I am not behaving in the most necessary, important, and responsible way. The voice insists that I allow for more unhurried, unstructured time in my life.

It urges me to think about spending more time with my family and long-time friends. It asks why I don’t carve out more time for writing, painting, cooking healthy meals,  and exercising more. It tells me I need to do what matters most to me AND to those I love.

My priorities seem to be askew… and no one but me has caused the imbalance. I like being involved.. it’s a good thing, but I need to set limits. I guess I’ve come to a fork in the road.

It’s time to consider changing my orbit.

… This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today …

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your bearings?

… Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do …

Hm-m-m-m-m-m-m. I will celebrate my 65th birthday in a few weeks… The time has come for me to listen, trust, and heed the voice in my head.

… I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go …

The time has come for some gentle changes in my life.

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16 thoughts on “Finding a new orbit at 3 am

  1. Dear Joanna — I know just what you are concerned about. The daily demands on us are numerous if we are caring and conscientious people. I go through this all the time. I have to make choices how I spend my time. Writing, exercise, my animal family and my human family come first – not always in that order. I have had to make many sacrifices in the friends area and the ones that don’t understand, well, I can’t do anything about that. I try to give as much time to them as I can. But being a writer right now is my priority. It’s my second career after being an artist. The thing is, whatever I am doing, I try to give my full attention to that while it’s going on. Some things will have to fall by the wayside. We just can’t do it all. — I have the same problem as you do about not being able to sleep at night. What I did was buy a Kindle. When I can’t sleep, I turn on my Kindle and get lots of time with books that I don’t have time for during the day. And the light doesn’t disturb my husband — Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, especially from those closest to you. — It’s about making the right choices for yourself and being honest with yourself that what you are doing is really what you want to do. — I wish you all good luck in restructuring your time. I enjoy reading your blog. xoxo Alex

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    1. From time to time, we all need to “restructure our time”. This is certainly not my first… now will it be my last, I’m sure. But it is wonderful to have friends who understand. BTW, I have my Story Angel next to my computer… always. What a beautiful gift she is…

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  2. Of course we all reassess priorities, some more skillfully tha others, but you are wise to heed that little screaming voice you hear and walk away for a moment or two. It will all be there when you’re back. And you needn’t go to Canada to get that time ‘off’ that is really time ‘on’. Safe travels

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  3. No one can manage to do ‘everything’. It is just not possible. I retired 20 years ago at the end of this coming September and suddenly gave up juggling teaching English to high school students, being ‘den mother’ to at least 200 off-shore ESL kids who had no other significant adult in their lives in Canada (not always the same 200 which meant keeping track of which parental figures had come and which had dumped their responsibilities and flitted off home), supervising the 18+/- teachers in my department, dealing with a principal who was incompetent in his job and also a nasty bully, the superintendent was fine, but the school board had its agenda, we had no contact for 18 months and none in sight, and the Ministry of Education came up with a new plan every time the government changed. The last one before I left was that the teaching load would be 6.5 classes instead of 6. No advice on how this should/would be managed. The principal was too inept at timetabling to arrange common lunches or a common prep period for the two teachers sharing a class. For my teaching partner and I ‘planning’ was in 4 minute snatches as we moved between classes. Looking back, it’s amazing that we didn’t all go insane. After being off for 21/2 months due to stress caused by the antics of the principal, I announced a policy of ‘one worry at a time’. My teachers had to prioritize and wait their turn; the kids soon caught on were wonderful. Then the government of the day decided to cut costs by encouraging expensive, experienced teachers to retire at 55 with no penalty. I jumped off the Ferris wheel and ran. We were heading West down the highway three weeks later. Sometimes you just have to let go.

    ‘One worry at a time’ is a very useful strategy. It’s amazing how many useful strategies people can come up with if they have to wait their term. I highly recommend it.

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  4. I also love the “one worry ay a time” advice. Certainly applicable to my life., although, happily, it has been some time since I quit trying to solve the world’s problems. It did rather shock me, however, to realize I put “Have coffee with friends” on my to-do list for this week! Imagine having to remind yourself to schedule such a thing. The good news is that I did schedule it and am so looking forward to breakfast with two friends I rarely see but cherish deeply. Thanks, Joanna, for another blog that helps us all focus on what’s really important. Alice, your story reminds me that, even in Canada, public school education has its bumps in the road.

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  5. Geez, Joanna, your posts always instigate, then provide, such space for thought. When I was a kid with an AM transistor radio, laying in the top bunk of my bed, I used to listen to that song again and again. It always disturbed me, a little. And the line that always saddened me was “and the papers want to know whose shirts you wear” as if the really important stuff, the Major’s courage, his changes, his steps, were not as “newsworthy” or interesting as the superficial stuff.

    Bowie really captured so much so perfectly. As does your post. When listening/reading, it is impossible to not have the immediate awareness that one is HERE “sitting in/floating ’round my tin can”, flying solo, me alone (lonely?) responsible for my choices, my decisions, my everything.

    You suggested once in a response to focus and choose, that time goes by quickly. I live by that now, along with that constant question “Does it give me a spark of joy?” (from “The Magic of Tidying Up”). Grateful for your advice!

    Do you ever feel that you are 65, 55, 45, 35, 25, even 15, all at once?

    “Planet earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.” Whoa. “Planet earth has the blues”—I never understood that before in the song. While this trip down memory lane gives me a grin, and fills me with hope, I must admit lately I am often feeling….hope challenged. And like you say, good works are necessary, but we must take care of ourselves……and often we are doing more than we realize in the service of others. We can be so hard on ourselves. And if we don’t put on our life-vest first, we can’t help keep others afloat. Remember in “Magic Made in Mexico” you offered (paraphrasing from memory, hopefully close to accurate) “I learned that it’s not so much ‘how can I change the world, but how may I serve/help?’”

    I’m suddenly reminded of that John Denver song “It’s About Time” (“It’s about time, it’s about changes, and it’s about time”)—-here is a link, just in case it may be of value to you right now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzPpOYYDR-k

    Your post has haunted me—like the Bowie song used to– for days since I read it. I never realized what a profound song “Space Oddity” is. Thank you. Hope you find some enjoyment (and peace) in your new orbit.

    (sorry if this is a repeat post…it looks like the first try didn’t take)

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    1. Hello Harold… what a great comment. I love Bowie’s music and “Space Oddity” is one of my favorites. Have you heard the Chris Hadfield’s version? I like it as much as Bowie’s… I’ll write more soon.

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      1. Hmm…not sure why youtube did that, I mean TRACK 13 from the album, “Sometimes Just the Sky” (though the whole album is so dang good). You might have to scroll through once there?

        Also, the Chris/BNL song may come up different as well from the copied link. It is called “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) in case you want to search. Enjoy.

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  6. Joanna, you gotta hear this song:

    (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sometimes Just the Sky)

    No, I had not heard Chris’s version. But I just joined the 40 million folks who already had, thanks to you. Grateful for telling me. So thankful when a kind soul shares something I completely missed. It is a GREAT version, agree. Another song/video came up after, and I think you might like it in case you didn’t catch it before, it’s Chris with Barenaked Ladies!! And a great song! (Do you love BNL, such good people!!!)

    (Is Somebody Singing)

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  7. I hope you both enjoyed the concert. Is there anything as great as sharing live music with your child? ( I recently saw Ricardo Montaner with my son. So good!) Thank you for turning me on to Fernando Delgadillo. Have been making my way now through his albums. Wonderful! Grateful. I bet the concert was very special.

    Music sure transcends and unifies, yes? My son showed me these two clips. Thought you might like them, just for fun. 🙂

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    1. We did enjoy the concert a lot. We sat outside in a hacienda garden… how cool is that? Fernando Delgadillo interacts with his audience and everyone who was there was energized by the show. And of course, sharing time with Carlos was the best part of it…

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