Slow Living: Baby Steps

 Pixabay image of snail on a camera lens housing

I opened the blinds this weekend and the most gorgeous butterfly (or moth?) I have ever seen was perched on my window frame.

It was clearly designed to look like dried leaves, and I know that sounds drab, but let me tell you, this thing was exquisite. I’ve never seen a stained glass window or painting this intricate and amazing. The Mighty Monarch doesn’t hold a candle to whatever this anonymous beauty was.

And my first thought was to scurry off and get my tablet to try to take a picture of it.

Fortunately, before I got too far scurried, two thoughts collided in my head:

First, I remembered that I’m trying to be more intentional about savouring moments of beauty rather than missing big chunks of them in my efforts to hold onto them.

Second, I remembered the myriad pictures of the fawns out in the yard, or other beautiful things I’ve tried to take through these (roughly second story) windows, and I thought “You know the picture’s not going to do this justice; you could just stay here and enjoy the beauty instead of running around the house looking for a camera.”

So that’s what I did.

 

And thank God, because in just seconds, the butterfly decided that my window screen wasn’t comfortable, or remembered an appointment, or whatever it is that prompts art to meander on its way.

I could have missed most of this tiny miracle while searching for my tablet, or taking countless frustratingly bad photos.

Obviously this is an itty-bitty-baby-step in the grand scheme of living a slower, more present, more abundant life, but it’s a step, so I wanted to celebrate it.

I wish you a small, beautiful moment of awe this week!

Be well. 

Got Elections?

Happy Tuesday!!!

Don’t forget to vote, if you have elections this year!

Be well.

 

A New Year! Make Resolutions You Can Keep.

It’s New Year’s Resolution time!

I love the fresh-slate feeling of a new year.

It’s like the first page of a delicious new book.

I love slowing down a bit in the final days of the year to reflect on the months just past, and ponder those just coming.

And I LOVE New Year’s Resolutions!!

I was therefore rather shocked to learn that many people hate them! It took a while, but I finally traced this startling revelation to one curious fact:

People set resolutions for things they don’t want to do.

 

Oh sure, maybe they want to look the way they think they’ll look 10 pounds lighter. But they don’t want to eat differently, or go to the gym 8 days a week, or run ten miles before breakfast each day.

So they don’t. At least, not after February 19th.

Yet another Resolution FAIL. And they feel guilty about that. And worse about themselves. And this does not help at all with the extra 10 pounds!

Especially if they drown their guilt in Ben & Jerry’s.

What an awful way to start a year!

A big list of misery! Who needs that staring them in the face at the start of the next glorious chapter of their life?!?

I’d be unhappy too!

So here is my patented, nearly fool-proof, indispensable method for making New Year’s resolutions that you can actually keep:

Make resolutions you actually want to keep.

Really.

If you want to lose weight, but you HATE the gym, and you definitely have no interest in changing your diet, don’t set those as your resolutions!

Instead, make resolutions to increase things you DO love.

Things that add to your life, but perhaps get pushed aside in the hurry of the day, the stress of the week.

Or things you think you shouldn’t get to do until you meet some imaginary goal or conquer some arbitrary quantity of shoulds.

Devote your New Year’s Resolutions to things that build your soul, not things that are already crushing it two weeks before the year officially starts!

If any of those gets you moving a bit more, or forgoing a 15th cookie, fine; but that should not be the motive.

What do you not make time for that you delight in when you get to do it?

THAT is the thing that sustainable Resolutions are made of!

So resolve to make time to drink coffee at a proper coffee shop.

Or walk in the park.

Or watch chick-flicks or action-adventures once a week.

Whatever your thing is.

Maybe you’ll resolve to talk on the phone more. If that is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Maybe you’ll resolve to train for a powerlifting competition. And if THAT, really, and truly, is what feeds your soul, GO FOR IT!

Or what is something you have been longing to try?

Not an “I know I should starting doing that.” but a “Man, how I wish I had time for that.” ?

THAT is the thing sustainable Resolutions are made of!

But don’t stack the deck against it!

If you’ve never tried painting, or horseback riding, or origami, don’t resolve to master it by February, or do it 6 days a week for the rest of your life.

And definitely DO NOT buy a horse.

Resolve to try painting.

or to get an origami book from the library and see if you like it.

or to schedule a trail ride at the local stable, or ask a horsey friend to show you what it’s all about.

Resolve to set aside a little time each week just to inch closer to trying it, if you need to! 

Then, even if your new passion turns out to be not your cup of tea, you’ve kept your resolution perfectly! GREAT JOB!!

CAUTION! Be sure you are adding things that you really delight in!

Things that really feed your soul; NOT just the things you usually do to compensate for your poor soul’s hunger-induced fatigue!

So, if surfing channels or scanning Facebook all evening REALLY is what feeds your soul, resolve to devote one or more evenings to that GUILT FREE! Write it in your calendar!

BUT. If that is just a filler because your soul needs downtime and isn’t getting what it REALLY loves, then resolution time is about TAKING BACK YOUR DOWNTIME!

Sure, we’ll all still do the mindless surfing from time to time, but make your RESOLUTIONS about the really good stuff.

Sacrifices will need to be made from time to time, but make those after you’ve built up a reserve of delight by succeeding with resolutions you WANT to keep!

You may be surprised to see how intentionally increasing the delight in your life also begins to iron out some of the wrinkles you do not delight in – like those extra ten pounds, or the garage clutter, or the eating more vegetables.

Be well. 

 

Okay, but what if you really, really, do have to make a change even though you really don’t want to? And RIGHT NOW, for whatever reason, is the time you have to make it? I’ve written about that too. But only for use as a last resort!

Preparing for the next.

It is the very last Friday of 2017!

Did this year go the way you expected it to?

The way you planned?

Or was it a bit of an adventure – whether positive or negative?

Mine was a bit of both.

Interestingly though, nearly everything that ended up how I wanted it to, did NOT get there the way I expected it to.

Good or bad? I have no idea.

So, I’m just going to be grateful for the blessings, and do what I can to keep walking the right path in 2018.

That started before the holidays, with reviewing the last. That didn’t show me that I did a stellar job of meeting my every goal, but it showed me where I made progress, where I can learn from the process, and where the process needs some changes.

Next is some pondering, prayer, contemplation.

What DO I want this bright, shiny new year to look like?

What about my life right now is a good idea, and what needs to change?

What ARE my priorities, 12 months further on in this life of mine? Have they changed? Stayed the same? Have I changed?! (Spoiler alert: undoubtedly!)

AND THEN: New Life Resolutions!!!

These are also New YEAR’S Resolutions. I just realised a few years ago that each time I make an intentional change for the better, I am also creating a new life for myself.

Sometimes it looks very, very similar to the previous life – and that’s okay! Sometimes it’s a pretty radical change.

I’ve learned a few key things about this process:

  1. I can’t ‘do it all’, and certainly not all at once.
  2. I won’t get most of it done if I don’t have a written record to keep me focused.
  3. If I choose to focus on what really is important to me, I end up happier and healthier than if my time just sifts through my fingers.

Clearly, then, prioritising what matters, and creating resolutions that help me get there is a good investment! And, as everybody knows, my attitude toward new years resolutions is focused on success.

Which will almost certainly require some ‘Winter Cleaning’.

I have never really understood the concept of ‘Spring Cleaning’. I suspect this is because I grew up in a place where it is not unusual for it to be 75 degrees at Christmas, and where 90+ degrees in February is not unheard of.

As you can imagine, houses don’t necessary get closed up for the Long, Cold, Cruel Months of Winter.

(True story: Have been to a Christmas party where the hostess turned on the air conditioning so that we could all sit around a ‘cozy’ holiday fire without suffering heat prostration.)

Whatever the reason, I always thought that Winter Cleaning made so much more sense.

  • You’ve put one year to bed, and you’re just opening up that next year.
  • If it is wintery AT ALL where you live, you’ve got plenty of time indoors to look around the place and see what needs renewing.
  • Also assuming you’ve been locked inside at all, you have a little more time on your hands than during other seasons.

I may be crazy there, but that is just how it has always seemed to me. Mostly, I like clear ends, and clear beginnings, so putting things in order at the start of a new year has always just felt right to me.

Anyway, Winter Cleaning involves letting go of some elements of the past that don’t work in this new life, and making sure that whatever stays is in good working order.

Whether that means fearlessly tracking dust-bunnies to the depths of their lairs under the refrigerator, or changing up my morning routine doesn’t matter – what matters is that the process, and the outcomes, fit my healthy future and make my home a better home.

And, as every process should, THAT requires a Next Right Step.

As I mentioned earlier, I can’t successfully do everything at once.

But I still try!! For years (and years; so many I’m embarrassed to think about them), I have weeded out, and prioritised, and reiterated the truth that focus is key to success; then I have tried to make meaningful, lasting progress on 53 goals at once. Usually within a week.

I don’t know what to tell you. Intermittent Temporary Insanity? That beats Chronic Pernicious Stupidity, anyway. Whatever the cause, been there, done that, and back again.

Even now, I am not immune.

BUT, I have found that my best shot at beating the Monster of Too Many Directions is to outline my next right step, or steps. If nothing else, writing them down lets me at least see clearly when I’m trying to do the impossible.

For this week, the next right step is prioritising what I want to focus on in this coming year so that my resolutions are useful, realistic, and truly in line with my fullest life.

What are you up to this week?

 

Be well.

 

New Life Resolutions 2018

Happy 2018!!!

How is your year starting off?

 

Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?

What are you planning to focus on as you begin the journey that is this year?

My year is starting pretty well.

The weather outside is frightful, which I find quite delightful¹.

It’s been gloriously quiet, which means, among other things, I’m relatively sane at the moment.

I have one job in progress, one proposal being considered, and one proposal to write, so that’s a hopeful way to start a new year!

And, I STILL got to take two long holiday weekends in a row!!!!

And in that lovely couple of near-retreats, I have definitely made resolutions!

1. Strength before steps.

I LOVE my Fitbit!!!  Probably to unhealthy levels.

And Fitbit has made a HUGE difference in my life. I went from walking no where near 3 miles a day to regularly walking more than 6.

But that takes time. A good deal of time. And since time doesn’t stretch, that requires cuts SOMEWHERE. Like strength training. And Yoga. Ballet. Pilates.

So, this year, I’m re-seeking balance.

Oh, I’ll keep racking up steps, just not QUITE so many. Instead, I want to rack up some muscle cells. And stronger bones and joints. And make sure all that new infrastructure is nice and flexible!

2. Set the tablet on my yoga mat each night.

My house lacks programmable thermostats. So, each morning I jump out of bed, turn on the heat, scurry back to bed, and start the morning, with tablet in hand, while the house approaches a liveable temperature.

Once my BibleGateway and Evernote facilitated devotions are done, I can easily check email. Then FB. Then the BBC news!

And I can easily find that an hour has disappeared from my life.

During a busy stretch of work, I started leaving the tablet out in the main room at night. It made my mornings much more intentional! That is a practice worth building upon.

3. Move from pleas to praise.

For the last couple years I’ve been learning about the value of praise in life circumstances.

Re-learning, I should say. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had a good grasp on this once, then just completely lost the plot.

Since the LifeWreck, alas, a huge amount of my time and energy has gone into pleas: Help me! Rescue me! Heal me!! PLEASE…

Important stuff, yes. And fully Biblical.

But now I feel it’s time to … expand? solidify? a practice of PRAISE in my life. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop praying, doesn’t even mean I’ll stop pleading, I’m sure! But it’s time to expand my horizons.

4. Nix the negative weasel words!

I’m big on truth. And I’m VERY literal.

This isn’t always bad, but it isn’t always ideal either: if I don’t have a 100% guarantee that a future event is set-in-stone certain, I’m not comfortable accepting it. You’ll be noticing the potential problem here.

Right now I am living in a truly great situation, but absolutely none of it includes a clear, certain, path for the next year, let alone the next five, or ten.

So I feel obligated to temper EVERY positive statement. Every statement about the future.

Well, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay in my current house … Who knows if I’ll be able to keep working for myself … Or earn enough to survive…

These statements hold truth, but not all of it. And they aren’t particularly helpful. They don’t drag me QUITE back to expecting the worst, but they don’t exactly fuel me for the fight, either! I’m at no risk of forgetting that my current life is uncertain, so there is no need to inject that into my every conversation!

So, this year, negative weasel words are OUT!

5. Live even more according to my values

There are reasons I wanted to be able to work for myself. There are reasons I wanted to work in writing and editing. There are reasons that I wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest.

And I have every one of these amazing blessings today! 

But in many ways, I am not different than when I had a full-time 9-5, with a commute, and lived in an environment that was regularly stealing my health.

This makes no sense!

Until you remember my strong reluctance to embrace any possibility that isn’t set in stone. I think I feel that, if I’m not completely financially secure, and I don’t have work scheduled out for 18 months in advance, I can’t start living my ‘real’ life yet.

But that isn’t true.  I may never have as good an opportunity to enjoy the life I live, and to explore the life I want to live, as I do now.

I suspect it’s blatant sin to not appreciate it, and fully embrace it, regardless of how long I’m here in this season of blessing! 😀

So, that’s me! Keep me accountable!

And by all means, share what you’re focusing on this year!

 

Be well

 

¹Of course, it’s not as frightful as in the Northeast, and that makes all the difference! Nine degrees, or God forbid, -9, is far too frightful for me.

My 40s, clouds, and drizzle are PERFECT, thank you very much!!