Habits for the New Year

One of the things I decided to do this year is consistently set aside time for daily reflection. I didn’t really set New Year’s Resolutions, but rather decided to form a few low pressure habits that I felt would help me to center myself and develop clarity.  One of the biggest problems I have is feeling like I’m being pulled in too many directions. Some of those feelings come from the fast-paced culture we live in. Some of them are self-imposed. It’s hard for me to know where to focus. 

I’ve been trying to read through the entire Bible for years. I’m up to the book of Luke. Last year was going to be my year to complete it. I even listed it as one of the books on my book club challenge under the religious book category, but I didn’t finish it. This year I’ve decided to keep working on it, but to keep it low pressure. I’ve decided to read it for at least 10 minutes a day then pray/meditate for 10 minutes a day and finally journal for 10 minutes a day. That’s not very much, only 30 minutes a day. I can do more if I want. Sometimes I’m sure I will, but the point is to establish consistency, to establish a regular pattern of reflection, and see what comes of it.

The first day I did it, I ended up reading Luke Ch.18:1-8, not for any particular reason other than it was simply the next passage in my Bible. It was a parable about an old widow who visited an unjust judge to ask him to avenge her against some adversaries. I’m not sure what the backstory was. That information wasn’t provided. But the bottom line is, she wanted justice. The judge wasn’t really interested in her. He actually blew her off, but she was persistent. Eventually, he realized that she was not going to go away and would continue to seek his help. So in order to avoid the nuisance, he acquiesced and gave her the justice she desired. The moral was that if an unjust judge who cared nothing for that woman would help her due to her persistence, how much more would a God who loves a person and actually cares about him/her do for that individual?

Ok, I thought. If I’m going to pray about something consistently, what should I pray for? I thought of three things I wanted the most, not possessions or anything like that, but three things I wanted most for my life; and I decided to include those things always in my prayers and meditations. Where it goes remains to be seen, but already I can’t help but notice…some signs of focus. I was able to shut down some of the internal chatter by simply asking myself, If I were to ask God for three things…what three things do I want the most?

I’m interested to see where this will lead. Time will tell.

Change

via Daily Prompt: Savor

Life is full of changes. My job was recently complicated when one of my leads resigned to take another position. A new team was put in place and I found myself in the position of being one of the most seasoned members on that project. Now, I’m perfectly capable of leading. I’m even kind of good at it, but I still don’t always look for excuses to lead. I love mentoring, but being the leader is a different ball of wax. Being the leader requires more commitment, more stress and frankly, less freedom; and if I’m going to be perfectly honest about myself, freedom is one of my favorite things in the whole world. So it’s a struggle. As per my normal reaction, I’m trying to find a happy balance with the situation.

In addition, my baby sister has decided to move to California which is literally on the other side of the country. I’ve been scrambling to get some time with her before she goes; and I’m already thinking ahead to my first visit, which has been difficult to pull together due to conflicting timelines.

Last night, our large family came together and we took her to dinner. There were seven small children total in our group so I imagine the restaurant is still nursing the wounds of that trauma 🙂 (Needless to say, we tipped our waitress very well). Afterwards, my sister and I stood outside of the restaurant and talked to one of my brothers and his family for about 45 minutes then she and I went for a drink with a couple of her friends.

As we stood outside of the restaurant, I looked up to see the sky in all its glory as the sun set behind the clouds. A sense of awe and freedom and gratitude washed over me as I stood under the sky and talked to my siblings in the parking lot. Afterwards, my sister and I went out and extended our visit.

Sometimes, life takes twists and turns and we don’t know where it’s taking us. I was talking to a friend a while back. She was looking to make some changes in her life and was overwhelmed by how she should do it.

“I have a tendency to get bogged down with the big picture,” I said.

“Me, too!” she answered.

But I think the key is to just take the next step. We can be aware of the big picture, but most of the time, we won’t be able to just jump to the end. We just have to take the next step and savor the good times along the way. Make the most of a visit when the opportunity presents itself and always glance up to see the sunset.

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Deep Breaths-Revelation

Yesterday, I got into a bit of a snit. I sat around the house too long, paralyzed with competing thoughts over what I should do with my day; then I felt remorse for not accomplishing anything. I also ate too much yesterday. I think I was trying to fix my inner agitation with food, as if it were some kind of hungry beast that could be pacified and would quiet down if I fed it. Finally, and I mean FINALLY- late in the afternoon- I left the house to run some errands.

 

This segued into a walk at the park. I had to push myself to do it. My belly felt full which is not conducive to exercise. I was like a snake who had fed on a rodent and couldn’t move, but I pressed on. As I pounded the trail, the fresh air and the music on my phone started to pound out my agitation and regret. I felt myself loosen up.

 

On the way home, I toyed with the idea of driving down to the beach. I took a route home that would carry me past the beach and as I approached the turn off, I felt my car going in that direction. I arrived just in time to see the sunset. Everything started to melt into the revelation that I always have, time and time again, when I am outside looking at God’s wonder.

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The world is still moving, whether I am or not, and it is still beautiful. We can’t change the past, but as long as we are here, we can keep on going to meet tomorrow. So glad I found a way to remind myself of that.

 

 

Better

This week for the first time, I met my new children’s lit critique group. I submitted two pieces for review: a nursery rhyme about a little girl trying to find a matching pair of shoes and a short story about two cats learning to live with one another. My group loved the nursery rhyme but schooled me on stress syllables. They ripped apart the story of the cats but they liked the theme of the story. I came away with hyperlinks to stress syllables, two book suggestions and a reminder of how far I have to go before I craft my stories into the best stories that they can be. My response? I’ve purchased one of the books on Amazon, I’m reading up on the subjects of stress and meter and I’m planning revisions to my stories. In the end, both the stories and I will be better for it.  

So much of our lives, in every area, are spent growing whether we want to grow or not. At work, computer systems are constantly being upgraded and new people always need to be mentored. Once you reach a level where you can mentor someone else, watch out, because that means you qualify for more responsibility. With additional responsibility comes additional correction which is stressful (not to use that word again), but without the correction we cannot get better. I’m learning to think of getting better as growth instead of a sign that I’m not good enough, and I’m learning that no matter how much I grow, there will always be hard work to do.

This morning, I was lazily sitting on the couch drinking my coffee when I heard a vehicle pull into my drive. I looked out the window and it was my father. I wasn’t surprised. On springtime mornings, he frequently arrives unannounced with his pickup truck, trimmers and weedeater in the back, to offer assistance in my yard. I pulled on a robe and walked outside, cup in hand, and smiled.

“I guess this means I have to get dressed,” I said.

We spent a couple of hours working in the yard. I rode my  lawn mower, and he did the weeding and trimming. At lunch, I got us a chicken salad from Zaxby’s, and we sat on the back porch and ate together. The time he spends working in my yard is for both our benefits. I need the help in the yard and he knows it, but it’s also something that we do together. And there is reward in the end. The yard cleans up nice and visually rewards us for our efforts. As for us, well, we are better for it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Pause

I’ve been a little anxious lately. Nothing serious. It will pass. As you know, life ebbs and flows. At some point, probably soon, this anxious little river I’ve been sailing down will turn a corner and flow into a happy place once again. It is spring, after all.

It’s not one thing in particular that gets me down, rather just the piling up of life. The house isn’t clean enough. The lawn is starting to need maintenance. It’s hard to find the time to write. The list goes on. It becomes overwhelming at times, even paralyzing. Maybe it is because I want a lot from life?

I bet you know the feeling. It’s a challenge to squeeze in the cleaning, hobbies and relationships on the weekends before you have to go back to work on Monday and commit 40 hours of waking time to someone else who, thank goodness, is willing to pay for it. But that is almost everyone’s plight.

Sometimes I forget to pause and regroup mindfully. That is ironic because when I get overwhelmed I always end up pausing one way or the other, anyway, whether it be with purpose or just by sitting on the couch and watching Hulu marathons. The difference is that one pause has purpose and the other is a waste of time (If you take it too far, that is. ..nothing wrong with a Hulu marathon from time to time).

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I’m listening to a book right now called, “Why Time Flies” by Alan Burdick. In the book, the author examines time: its origin, our relationship to it, our comprehension of it and scientific methods of measuring time.  I think sometimes that my comprehension of time, simple and limited as it is, produces anxiety. It puts me in a position to worry about time. I try to bargain with it and stretch it out, all the while wasting it. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who does this. That is a paradox, isn’t it? It’s as if we need time to create structure, but then some of us turn around and rebel against it as if it is an authority figure. It’s a love/hate relationship. I love the days when I’m able to accomplish a lot with my time, but I hate feeling bound to accomplish too much with my time. I hate it when lazy days drag on too long and I have nothing to show for them, but on the other hand, the most joyful moments in my life have occurred when I was oblivious to time and completely in a moment. In a moment when I paused and found purpose.

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I  googled the term “pause with purpose”. Not surprisingly, I’m not the only person who has thought of this phrase.  My google feed was filled with businesses, yogis and life coaches who were all trying to push their plans to pause with purpose. Everyone is looking for the sweet spot.
I think I feel myself starting to turn that corner now. Maybe all I needed was to pause and write it out 🙂

Anchors

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Yesterday, I took half a day off work to watch my nephew participate in a Fun Run at school. I arrived moments before the race, just in time to see a young, athletic woman with a booming voice and a microphone announce each class.

“Mrs. Smith’s 2nd grade class is lining up for the race!” she boomed. “Let’s put our hands together for Mrs Smith’s class!”

The spectators clapped. The children ran to the starting line like a football team at the Super Bowl. They smiled and waved to friends and family. After the children were in place, we put our hands on our hearts and listened to the national anthem. Someone at the starting line held up the American flag. Then the race started. Loud music played over the speakers. The announcer encouraged the children, told them to have fun and directed them to stop periodically for water. I stood on the sidelines with my brother and my mother to watch for my nephew as he made his laps. I loved seeing the enthusiasm and excitement on his face, and on the faces of the other children. They ran with determination and some of them were grinning from ear to ear. Teachers and loved ones on the sidelines gave them high fives and snapped their pictures with cameras and cell phones.

A while back, I learned the term “emotional anchor”. It hit me that moments like the run- moments of freedom, support and accomplishment-are the moments when we drop those anchors.

After the run, I still had some time before I had to go back to work. I ate lunch with my mother then we walked at a local arboretum. As we leisurely strolled the paths at the arboretum, we discussed the topics on our minds. We took pictures of flowers and fountains and sculptures. We enjoyed the serenity of the Japanese garden and watched a woman and her child feed koi fish in a pond. We perused the flower beds to discover that the arboretum had planted clover, turnips, garlic and other vegetables and herbs.

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We found two beautiful orange Adirondack chairs and relaxed in the breeze and the shade as we talked. “This has been so nice,” my mother said when it was time to go. “I don’t want to leave.”

I agreed.

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As we left, she shared her childhood memories of the arboretum. When she was a child, the property that now belongs to the arboretum was her elementary school.

“There is where we had band.” She pointed to one door that now leads to offices inside the arboretum.“Over there is where the parking lot was,” she pointed across the way. “There were huge magnolia trees in the parking lot.” She looked around with nostalgia. “I had a wonderful teacher…I was happy here”.

More emotional anchors.

We hugged. She left to finish her day. I drove home, recharged and peaceful, to complete my work day. I will have to say that those four hours off were definitely time well spent. Anchors for me, I guess.

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