Mystery of time


Gretchen Rubin

“The days are long, but the years are short.”
― Gretchen RubinThe Happiness Project
I love this quote. It expresses my feelings exactly! My days, though not often stressful, still seem long. I’m tired at the end of them, and I frequently feel that I didn’t accomplish all I’d hoped. In particular, my personal projects lag behind my expectations.
And yet! The weeks, months, and years fly by. Everyone notices. “I can’t believe it’s already May,” I hear, as I walk about the hospital. The year is already scheduled out. I’m working on September’s call calendar for the primary care clinic. We already know dates for vacation through December. Soon Rob and I will be discussing our work availability for fall months. Where does it go? And how does it go so quickly?
I remember my dad saying to me that time seems to speed up as we get older. Well, he was right, and I suppose most people recognize that reality. There’s some magical element to time. For little ones, it does move slowly. Excruciatingly slowly. I’m long past that stage. The years are short.
Well, there’s no changing it. I suppose the only thing to do is accept, and be ever-more thoughtful about how I spend my long days, and my short years. This is one of those realities that everyone knows, even acknowledges, yet few address. I think most of us just move through life. I have moments of great clarity. And then I get lost again, caught up in the day-to-day.
Here’s to the long days. May they be productive for us all! And here’s to the short years, which we cannot lengthen. May they be memorable! And thank you, Gretchen, for stating so succinctly, so profoundly, what we all know at heart:
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
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Overbuyer or underbuyer?

I’ve had a different pace this week. After sitting in training sessions all day, by dinner, I’m done. Not much creativity left, and not much energy either. Fortunately, I brought some books with me so I could shift into a different gear and relax in the evenings.

My book strategy is two-pronged. I have downloaded digital selections, and a couple of printed books, to cover those times when I can’t have my digital source open…part of flight time, or when my battery is low. Choosing to download a book rather than buy a printed copy is somewhat random for me yet. But I think I’ll continue to find that it’s good to have multiple options.

I have about a dozen books in progress at the moment, everything from technical how-to manuals to more philosophical works, and then one that’s easy reading, on a seemingly simple subject. But I’m finding it surprisingly thought provoking. I’m reading The Happiness Project, which I’ve referenced in earlier posts. The author, Gretchen Rubin, says she was happy. But she believed she could have more happiness, and she worked through a variety of month-long experiments to test her theory that changing certain behaviors and attitudes could add up to an increase in satisfaction with life and generate more happiness for herself and those around her.

Gretchen set goals for a year long project, and each month she tackled a different aspect of living, with strategies to improve behavior, habits, and mindset. I’ve picked up some tips, and about half-way through the book, have plans for my own project. But most of my ah-ha’s have more to do with method than with concept.

One month Gretchen focused on her relationship with money, and some of her insight resonated with me. She recognized that some people are overbuyers…buying multiples of things, buying gifts to have on hand for future recipients, buying well in advance of need. Underbuyers are the opposite, of course. Underbuyers buy in small quantities, and tend to have more of a “just in time” mentality. There are pros and cons, whichever camp you find yourself sitting in.

Imagine my surprise to recognize I’m an underbuyer. Being an underbuyer is not the same thing as being frugal. It means you are comfortable having a four pack of toilet paper in the cupboard, rather than the Costco size package of toilet paper rolls. It means you buy gifts when they are due, and for a specific recipient, rather than stocking items to have on hand. It means that you buy when you need, rather than out of impulse. At least this is my definition, culled from Rubin’s discussion.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, if your buying style is creating issues…storage overflow, or running out of necessities, you might want to determine which style is more you, and then adjust choices that are tripping you up. The point is not that one style is better than the other. It is about making your life work and being more efficient in how you buy. I also think this is an area of money management that is less about how much you spend, more about how you spend. Example: you may actually spend more for less product by buying at the last minute, or in smaller quantities, rather than buying in bulk, for a better price per unit. Or you may create distress for yourself or family members by running out of some necessity before you restock. Conversely, you may get a great deal on food items at a grocery sale, but if the items go out of date before you use them, did you really save money? Or do you find yourself paying for storage space to store all the great deals you’ve picked up?

I immediately recognized overbuyers in my family. There are benefits of being an overbuyer, the most obvious one being that you don’t run out. You are your own supply closet. And overbuyers tend to have more options available at their fingertips without having to shop for specific items. I seldom have all the ingredients of a recipe on hand without planning ahead. But overbuying also feeds clutter and waste.

The important insight for me is to think about habits from multiple perspectives. This question initially seems to be about money, but it is really about management of resources: time, space, and family needs, as well as money. No part of life is one-dimensional, and this is no exception.

The other realization I had is that if you are efficiently organized, either habit can work for you. Overbuyers who efficiently use their stock of food or other supplies won’t lose money tossing out dated product, and will manage their storage space to advantage. Organized underbuyers won’t run out because they have a list of what they need to replace.

If this sounds like too much thought on a subject that should be simple, just think about the extreme consequences of these behaviors. Underbuyers tend to cut things close, to wait till the last minute. Overbuyers probably have it, but may never find it. And in the most extreme cases of overbuying, you can see seeds of OCD behaviors that lead to traps like hoarding. That’s an extreme, but a scary extreme to consider.

So, I’m going to do some thinking about how I buy, and how those choices are impacting other aspects of my life. Maybe I can find the happy middle ground, neither running out of toilet paper at an inopportune time, nor needing to build on a wing to store my bulk buys.

Hide and Seek

I’m in gathering mode. I’m learning. What a challenge it is to reinvent yourself! I have a stack of books by my bed, I have more downloaded on my Kindle, and I’m finding new resources online through blogs and websites. Information overload! All this reading makes it hard to produce. One of the cardinal rules of writing is to write. Stay with it. Once again, I find that my blog has been on the back burner.

I like to think I’m a multi-tasker extraordinaire, but maybe I’m not…I tend to get a bit sidetracked by what I’m reading, get lost in the maze of discovery. I’m researching the process of writing a book here and here; reading about life mapping here and creating passion in life here; learning more about blogging and the digital world, here; and looking for mentors and events to broaden my horizon here. I’ve also picked up a couple of books that are (deceptively) simple “how tos” for increasing happiness here and getting along with others, here. More about these later.

I’m learning new programs, taking my conversion to Apple to the next level by working through the Pages and Numbers programs.

And I’m working relief for PeaceHealth clinics and taking on some project work on a contract basis for another organization. I feel a bit like I’m back in college, having a day job, and coming home to start a mental second shift. I’ve been ramping up to this for a while, but transitioning away from a full-time position in January has upped the stakes. I have a bit more freedom to concentrate on my own projects, but also more risk. I have to admit, I miss the regular check already, although I love not having to think about my leave balance when I make plans to travel.

All this makes me wonder…what’s really next? I committed to this path last summer…well, at least I committed to leaving full-time work at the new year. Hard to know where all of this will lead. I get conflicting messages. There’s the belief that if you don’t script out your life (life mapping) you’re in danger of wandering aimlessly without focus or clearly defined purpose. Some believe that your passion and your career work should be intertwined. Some believe that your passion does not necessarily reflect your skills…that your skills and your gift are not the same. I read something a few days ago that said that we don’t have to search for our passions, they find us. Just like we don’t have to work to know if we like a certain color or taste or music. We just know. That seems right, and yet, I don’t know. What I’ve learned is that the thing I’ve had the most passion for in my life, mothering, is now largely completed, at least in a day-to-day, hands on way. So while I’ll always be a mom, and I’ll continue to find joy and fulfillment in my evolving role as a mother, that is not going to be my life’s work at this stage.

Then the questions begin. I’ve always loved to bake. Maybe I have the seeds of a restaurateur in me. Or maybe I’m destined to help others find their own path, as soon as I’ve figured out the formula for myself. Or maybe I’ll find a way to become a writer and get paid for it. That’s the really sticky part. I’m looking for something I love, something I feel passion to do. And I need it to feed me…emotionally, professionally, economically. Sounds like a tall order. And yet, these stories are everywhere: people magically falling into something they love to do every day, and getting paid to do it.

Well, I’m sure this will continue to be a theme for a while. So far I have more questions than answers, and the gathering phase is only beginning. I think of all the clichés: if it’s worth having, it’s worth waiting for; it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be worth it; never, never, never, never, never give up.

So off to work, then home to do some more work. Reading. Searching. Reinventing. Really, how can we expect kids just out of high school to know what they want to be? It’s a challenge at any age, unless you happen to be one of those blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) individuals who are so defined by their particular talent that they are compelled to be a painter, musician, author. I need a new category. Guess I’ll have to invent it myself, I’m not finding my particular passion in the standard line up.