Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chaos Theory

Yesterday started badly; my right knee osteoarthritis still in flare, left knee stiffer than usual, feet painful, a twinge and slight swelling in one ankle where it had 'clicked' the other day as I put the hens away, and sciatica. As I leaned on my walking stick, I realised I also had delayed-onset muscle soreness from dancing with fan veils on Monday night, and my arms and upper torso muscles were complaining (because you skimped on your cool-down, tut tut!). It was no better after the morning physio exercises and a hot bath, and it was all I could do to get out of the house to go to the first session of a course I'd signed on for.

Painkillers throughout the day seemed to make very little difference. Although I was comfortable when sitting down, standing up was agony.  I awarded myself several brownie points for going to the recycling centre and emptying my box (including a few points for putting the box in the car as I clattered out that morning). I would have loved to go for a swim after the course, but by then it was too late to go to any public sessions, which stop late afternoon and restart in the evening, in time to clash with the class I was going to teach. Cue more painkillers, icing gel, knee support and a warm up to help things along.

After class, I demonstrated a couple of exercises and had a bit of a roll around on the underfloor-heated floor at the community learning centre.  I came home knackered, drank half a litre of water, did a quick flower and a crochet block centre, and slept for six hours straight. (I've only been managing three before waking recently, so that was a big improvement!)

I got out of bed this morning and noticed how much better my knees were.  Wow! I remembered having the same effect after contemporary class last autumn.  There must be some link between easing the tension in the back muscles and the stretch in the quads and IT band that I get from the rolling, twisting moves on the floor, and the pain in my knees.  Rolling around seems to release something. I should do it more often, even though it only offers a few hours of relief.

There's a problem with that.  This cottage is pretty small and, at the moment, completely and chaotically untidy.  I had to have words with myself last weekend about the state of it.  I don't mind untidy, but I dislike dirty and I've been letting things slide (again). I started the week promising myself that I would do at least an hour a day of cleaning, decluttering, tidying (excluding dealing with the hens and cats), even if it was in microbursts of a few minutes at a time. It has been hard going, not because there's not plenty to do, but where to start when you want jobs which you can break down into small chunks without leaving even more chaos until they're completed? In need of some inspiration and motivation, I had a quick search on achieving a clean and tidy home.

I was intrigued by The Flylady. Are you living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)? Yes, that's me! So I read on, to find a step-by-step plan starting with Shine Your Sink. Sorry, but no.  It's an old, scratched sink. I don't think it's possible to get it to shine like a new stainless steel sink and I am not going to try, let alone do it on a daily basis before I go to bed. Step two, get fully dressed in the morning, right down to lace-up shoes and if you don't wear shoes in the house, buy some just for that purpose. No. I do get dressed (although I have pottered around to the barn in my pyjamas and gown to let the hens out a couple of times) but I draw the line at wearing shoes all day, every day. Create a control journal, sign up for emails, remind yourself by putting Post-it notes on the bathroom mirror, set a bed time, put out your clothes for the next day ... hey, whatever works for you, but for me - no, no, no, no, no. She's right about the paralysis brought about by negative self-talk, that getting into a state didn't happen overnight, so it will take time to clean and get organised again, the need for some self-discipline, and I like that FLY is an acronym for Finally Loving Yourself. However, this and a couple of other blogs I saw are centred around family life. If I had a family to organise, I would do things differently. I could still do things differently, but I can please myself.

There's no real mystery to being clean and organised about the house. It just takes motivation, time management, consistency, some cleaning products and a place for everything so you can put everything in its place. In terms of starting conditions, the latter is fundamental and something I don't have, but am working on.

I was feeling pretty bright as I got dressed, let the hens out, fed the cats, had breakfast, dealt with laundry (one load up to dry, next load sorted and in, last load folded), paid the bills, did the washing up, tidied a few things, made the bed, threw out old receipts, did some filing, vacuuming ... and realised how badly the constant pain and fatigue affects me on a daily basis. With only low-level pain and without painkillers, this morning I realised what my other fundamental starting condition is; a lack of pain and fatigue.

As I washed up, I looked out at the garden, a stalled project from last year, and thought about doing something out there.  Working in the limited space with limited access and where everything seems to need moving and depends on something else being moved first is like trying to do one of those sliding block puzzles.  I was never very good at them. It's a bit like that inside the cottage too. Where to start? Perhaps with some bramble bashing while I tried to figure out the next move. Moving the ferns needs to be done soon, before their fronds grow and unfurl. Fibonacci spirals opening to the self-similar, iterative patterns of natural fractals.

Still tickled by the CHAOS acronym, I mused about sensitivity to initial conditions, complexity and fractals and started thinking about Chaos Theory.  Chaos is usually defined as a state of disorder. Chaos Theory, on the other hand, is not really about disorder, but about the way in which complex systems are affected  by  initial conditions and external influences, such that small and seemingly insignificant differences can result in widely varying, apparently unpredictable and random outcomes. (This is just as I understand it, which is to say, not very well.  If you're a scientist/physicist/mathematician, please feel free to comment and correct me!). The more complex, the greater the number of influences, the more unpredictable the outcomes. But there's often a natural balance, just enough predictability, an underlying order, so that predictable patterns emerge within things which appear to be random and unpredictable.

Perhaps Chaos Theory applies here. Depending on starting conditions and various influences, (like how much I'm out, how bad my knees are, how creative I'm feeling, how long before I run out of energy, whether the sun is shining or it's pouring with rain, possibly even what colour T shirt I'm wearing ...), repeating patterns and pockets of order appear in the apparently random disorder.  Neither completely ordered nor disordered, it's the edge of chaos, requiring flexibility and adaptability, and generating creative inspiration.

Spirals, leaves and flowers, randomness and patches of order ... yes, freeform crochet would be the solution for my flower garden scarf.

[If you've read this far, thank you for sticking with me during this blog equivalent of thinking out loud!]

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