My first reaction when life turns on a dime is to swing into action and do something, anything to fix the problem. Yesterday was one such day and I reacted as I always do, with rapid fire decision-making and jumping in to make things happen quickly. In the cold light of a foggy fall morning though, I realized that the adrenaline charged decisions I have made in my life were not always the best ones. And even if they were a good choice or perhaps the only choice, I wouldn’t know because I never took the time to weigh the options, to look forward to the consequences and make a calm, reasoned decision. That is my goal for today.
First I need to breathe, and find the inner calm I know exists when I turn off the fire alarm reaction and look directly at what I am facing. I suspect that the impulse to charge off in one direction or another is in part a way to avoid looking the dragon in the teeth. The next step then is to look at the dragon. What is the very worst that can happen? And if it is the very worst, what will I do to adjust to that reality? If I am to do something now, what does that look like?
I have received advice over the years when confronted with any choice to look at the short-term and then the long-term. How do the choices I make today to cope with what may very well be a short-term crisis affect my long-term goals? The cusp of this decision rests on the essential question of my priorities. In the end, how do I want this to look?
Instead of making lists of things to do, which was my plan of attack; I will instead look at the options and weigh them against the goals I have for myself and the shared goals of our family. Once I have a clear picture of our priorities for the coming months and years I can decide which option makes the most sense today and then down the road.
In many ways this crisis at a crossroad is a good thing and I suspect I would have been less likely to take the steps to really analyze the most critical choices if not confronted with the need to stare hard at the components. By taking the time to sit with my life picture I will take yet another step towards choosing my life path instead of it choosing me. Ah, I feel better already!
There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Calvin to Hobbes ~ Bill Watterson
Some days it feels so good to put the to-do list away and take time to do nothing in particular. Of course we still breathe and eat and sleep, so we aren’t actually doing nothing, but the delicious extravagance of unscheduled time is a luxury many do not often allow themselves. We feel the need to be doing something, anything, that we can look back at and say, I crossed that item off my list. As we go-go-go we then impose that on our over-booked children as well. How many times has your child had to choose between one activity and another because there just wasn’t enough time to fit everything in?
Teaching our children the art of appreciating down time, simply sitting and observing and taking in the world around them. A trip to the park that does not involve soccer, or elaborate preparations; just a walk down the block to swing or not, to mosey rather than hurry, to just slow the pace to know how that feels. We owe it to our children to teach them the value of quiet that does not involve study, but just the simplicity of being.
At each stage of life these moments of doing nothing seem hard to find. But in the end, will it matter if the floor was swept 1000 times or 1000 and one? One can always find something to do, but it may also be an excuse to avoid paying attention to the quiet. Discovering the inner peace that comes with mindfulness and the sheer joy that comes from free spontaneous play are gifts we give our children when we allow them to do nothing at all. And in that nothing grows imagination, observation, love of the natural world and the ability to be self- entertaining.
We all deserve our down-time, our doing nothing moments. Breathe and jump in a pile of leaves.
I plan to use this space to create a journal of my life in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, but more importantly to put out some essays that have been languishing in notebooks or making brief but not thoroughly fleshed out appearances in my daily thoughts and conversations. Stand by for a little of this and a little of that!