I’ve been a SLACKER!

Okay, so I thought I would post weekly but life has overtaken me!  It all started innocently enough when I was volunteering at my community garden with the Library Kids In The Garden project and got to know the Master Gardener, Colleen.  From her I learned that I did not need fencing to have my own garden, that I could make a compost bin from items I had on hand and thought I would burn (eek) !  It went from there.  So now I have a quarter plot at the community garden and one about the same size here.   The one here is my writing slacker excuse du jour.  First I had to haul railroad ties from else-where on the property, uphill of course!  And I had to mow down the grasses and weeds; oh, and build my compost bin from old broken down pallets that remained from  when the house was built and thus pre-dating me.  And, and, and….created a writing furlough in my mind.

Did I mention the rose bush?  I found myself busy and productive, the good stuff; but yet again leaving my life’s passion in the dust.  I am over and over regrouping to find that balance in my life.  It seems I live on a teeter-totter rather than a balance beam and I need to find a way to migrate to the better location.

Tonight is my first step in finding balance, which means that I cannot leave my passion for writing behind; I must make room for things I value such as the gardens and library; and lose the time wasters.  Distractions are so easy to come by and so hard to set aside, but that is my goal.  Identifying the distracting elements and focusing on the productive ones.

You will find me circling back to writing more, but maybe a bit about gardens, kids, the library, composting and weather instead of the more philosophical topics, but then again all of those things can generate a bit of philosophy or at least some homespun wisdom.  Like all things in life, blogging evolves and we shall see where this goes.

Stay tuned……

Deciding

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he told me. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” ~ Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson

And I believe it is true for people as well.  In this graduation season many graduates  face the next step in their lives with uncertainty.  If they have not already committed to a job or further education, the possibilities seem endless and it is overwhelming to think about the choices.  This is one of the times when thinking in the negative is helpful.  To eliminate the things one knows for sure are not options is the first step in  the narrowing process.  Each of us can use this technique to help refine our decision-making.

My home and the nine acres surrounding it always have a list of things that need doing that would strike fear in the heart of my former suburban self.  On any given day, it is easier to start with deciding what not to do.  Mother Nature is the guiding force more often than not in the process of elimination.  Choosing a task compatible with the weather often cuts the outdoor list in half.  The wear and tear on my less than youthful body is another consideration.  If the day before was extremely physical, I immediately set aside heavy work projects the following day.

Deciding what not to do falls into two categories, what not to do right now, and what will never be done.  Just because the option presents itself does not mean that it is worthy of further consideration.  Allowing oneself to toss out the unworthy and unworkable, clears out the mental clutter a bit.  If it is simply a question of not doing it right now, assigning the task a priority ranking and placing any related items that must happen first in front, the action list begins to emerge.  Use this for anything from making large life choices to planning the spring yard cleanup, the idea and process is the same.

The point is to refine one’s focus to a manageable list of options and be able to weigh the relative value of the particular choice.  Thinking of our lives as a product development project allows us to step back and to leave behind consideration of options that do nothing to further that development.  When faced with open-ended questions, starting with what not to do can in fact point us directly at the answer of what to do.

Picking up the Ball

Going back through all of my posts has had an unexpected side effect…a severe case of “when did I lose track of that?”.  Although going through the ninety posts is slow going; I find I need to re-read each one to pick words that are somewhat reflective of the topic to use as tags.  I covered the first twenty or so and I know it will take longer as I go, the posts grew in length over time as well.

The first topic I lost track of was the “spin”.  Taking the negative or gloomy perspective and finding the positive, upbeat view.  Everything  from finding joy in a long gray day to finding the humor in an awkward encounter seems to have slipped away a bit.

Specific resolutions like Creativity Day and getting the filing under control – the work table for creative projects is now buried under all of that filing!  Some resolutions were kept and the one I hang on to as proof I can do this is writing daily.  So I will give myself a gold star on that one and pick one resolution to add in for the next ninety days. (Hey, I’m a slow reinforcer, most people it’s a month to six weeks, me, far more.)  So I will deal with my pigeon of discontent (as opposed to the Bluebird of Happiness, thanks G. Rubin), which is the filing.  It is not simply a stack of papers that need to go in folders, it is an entire shift of past years to boxes (need to buy one), make new files and purge the old, then put it all away.  But, once done, I am resolving to put the paper in the folder without it ever hitting the “to be filed” pile.  When I look at what has prevented me from doing this I realize, beyond it being a less than “fun” task, my perfectionist streak gets in the way as well.  The folder “needs labels” is the fattest, because I like printed labels, not hand written.  I will accept that it is important to me and make the time to print labels as needed, rather than “later”.

So here I am again circling back to mindfulness; paying attention to what is really happening or keeping me from attacking a project or task.  One of the huge benefits of putting things in writing is being able to look back as a check-up, to remind oneself where we were, where we thought we wanted to go, and hold that up against one’s current location.  There will always be some slipping, life happens, and all of our good intentions may lose some of their priority, but the good news is, with reminders, we can pick up the ball again.

It’s A Riot

Of birdsong that is!

Last spring I was so lost in the gray days that seemed to stretch on forever that I would just look outside in the morning, sigh, and prepare for another nothing day.  But choosing happiness, I look out at the gray day, step outside and tune in to the natural world.  The birds are returning at a furious rate and the songs have gone from a symphony to a battle of the bands.  Stepping out on the deck I breathe in the cool mountain air, laugh at the cacophony and allow myself to feel the world around me reawakening.

A benefit of blogging is being able to compose on the computer, rather than in notebooks, which has been my customary practice.  I still keep a journal at hand when I am reading just to jot down quotes or ideas that strike me, but I am able to move to the computer and do the real work here.  As a result I am continuing to refine my workspace and bring together the items that allow my creativity to flow on to paper.  This has been such a fun and exciting process, it keeps me focused on my goals and I look forward to the time I can spend on my projects.

Today is my WordPress class at the library, hopefully I can get some tips on making this blog more interesting and connected with the rest of the blogosphere.  If not, I will run home and sign up for the adult education classes offered this spring.

Words to focus on today: mindfulness, joy, learning

Creativity Day

Yesterday was a day I wanted to devote solely  to creative pursuits.  Sunday seems like such a good day for that; generally a slower day anyway, and doing something fun that gets my creative juices flowing is a great way to prepare for the week ahead.  Since organizing my space is a must for me, I created a new space in a bedroom under a south-facing window.  I hauled an incredibly heavy table from the garage and set it up.  I located all of my various tubs of craft supplies, paints, glue guns, drafting supplies, on and on.  For once, I did not go out and buy a single thing before I got started using it. I painted my coffee canisters, repaired small broken items, and laid out some ideas for decorating my Adventure Box – (sounds even better than activity box, I think).  It was so focused and relaxing at the same time.

Resolution:  Spend Sunday on creative projects and laying out future projects

Monday however, is my administrative day.  It seems at the end of the day when I think about what is coming up, on Sunday I always come up with things that I have to do on a weekday, such as calling businesses for appointments and such.  Before I went to sleep I made a list of calls, five, to get me started this morning.  I am so excited, this week’s calendar is busier with planned events, a class on WordPress tomorrow, Wednesday a presentation on a trip to Ireland, and Saturday a Celtic dinner dance to round out the focus on St. Patrick’s day. I am especially excited about the WordPress class as I look at other blogs and am inspired to do more.

My first personal Commandment for my Happiness Project:

Do not let others define you – be you from the inside out

Nature note:  Snow last night, maybe a 1/4″ but fully covered everything, so from looking like spring yesterday, this morning it is a winter wonderland again.  It will get above freezing later, then back to early spring, which in Montana is a bit more like “sprinter” a little of each, the forecast for the rest of the week is just about the same.  Being fully present in the moment, with concrete daily goals, makes this transitional season something to celebrate rather than tolerate.  Spring forward!

Loose Ends

I realized last night that in my enthusiasm to do new things, and find my happiness in everything, I have started more projects than I have the time to devote to them.  Today I will wrap up a few loose ends to allow myself more time to devote to the things that truly make me happy – happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy. Today will be a day of less fun tasks that will lead to greater happiness in the long run.

  • Finish vacuuming the rest of the house with my new vacuüm – that means the baseboard, the window sills, everything!
  • File or throw away every computer related CD & instructions – just do it!
  • Create order for my books in progress – too many
  • If I stumble upon something that I can wrap up in fifteen minutes or less I will do it now.

 I know that spring in western Montana is a little of this and a little of that but it may be on its way!  Last night we had rain, such a soothing sound that I slept with my window open enough to hear it.  This morning there was a dusting of snow but the sun is out and it has melted in the sunny spots already.  Another beautiful day in the neighborhood!

On mindfulness, I bought a little notebook to track all of my food and beverage consumption, which I will decorate to make the un-fun a little more so.  I need to pay more attention to what goes in my mouth, and knowing I have to commit it in writing may slow me down some.  I found an acronym from someone  who had been in rehab; I think it is  a healthy tool to use to bring oneself back to mindfulness in the present.  Ask myself:

  • H – Hungry?
  • A – Angry?
  • L – Lonely?
  • T – Tired?

And then use a mindfulness technique to become fully present while sitting quietly with eyes closed:

  • S – sense – what do I feel in my body? Cold, eyes tired, back hurts, blister…
  • I – image – what do I see with my eyes closed?
  • F – feeling – what emotions am I feeling right now?
  • T – thinking – what am I thinking?

By the time I go through HALT and SIFT I may have lost the urge to mindlessly graze – one can hope!  Time to start my terrific Tuesday – I can hardly wait to see how much I can finish today.

Order from Chaos

As part of a larger personal project I found myself tackling the garage yesterday.  No small task as the weather conditions needed to be such that I could pull out all three vehicles; the truck, SUV and ATV/snowplow and leave them out all day while I regained some order.  Once I had a fire in the wood stove to warm it up a bit, the cold garage being another deterrent to this project, I began the process of primarily just putting things away as most of them have a permanent location. All of the storage and shelves were inaccessible when the garage is crammed with vehicles and I had started stacking items near the door.  Once order was restored and the garage swept, things I discovered:

  • I have projects in progress that had been forgotten
  • With a little reorganization I can put most things away when the vehicles are in the garage
  • There are packing materials that belong in a distant storage shed, that for the moment is impossible to get to due to the snow
  • That the garage does get nice and warm with the stove going
  • A warm garage motivates me to work on the projects in progress
  • I love the satisfaction of putting things in order

Another sunny day – this one will be in part for errands that take me out of the house and I will see other humans – yea!