Be. Do. Have.

Priorities. Do you know yours?

Think about it.
It’s easy to live life turned upside down, to focus on the wrong things.

Culture tells us to have, have, have.
Or maybe the message that resonates is do, do, do.

Have the biggest and best, the most, the most talked about, the most envied.

Do the most exciting, the most unusual, the most adventurous, the most noteworthy.

It’s all about who is the most popular. We took the old competition from the playground to Instagram and Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest followers.

Do and have focus on the externals.
But it’s the internal that’s important.

Who are you? What are you? Do you know? Are you living in integrity with your values? Are you living up to your aspirations?

Have you done the work to BE?

Being is harder to do well than doing or having. You can experience (do) and accumulate things (have). But to really BE… aaahh…that’s inside work. You have to grow from within, and you have to do the work for yourself.

Of course you’re going to do and have as you develop, as you move through life. Impossible not to.

But I’m talking about priorities..where’s your focus? I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

On the adult path, it’s easy to get caught up in doing, and having.

You want to nurture a career, or you’re trying to be a successful entrepreneur. Maybe you’re busy with a family, or some other personal calling. It’s so easy to be enticed by having…having a nice home, a great car, all the things that say you’re successful, that you’re living the life you deserve.

The crazy thing is, it can take so much work to keep life going, when it’s consumed by the externals. You get lost in trying to get ahead, and staying current with the latest trends is often just a merry-go-round of keeping up.

Latest styles, newest apps, hot new phone, social media followings, kids in all the right groups, moving ahead with the job.

Exhausting.
Stop. Be still and listen.

Listen to yourself. Are you in there? We are human beings, not human doings.

Did you forget to be? Just be.
When I think of being, I sense stillness. I hear quiet.

There is self-talk. Reading. Growing.

When I let myself be, I sit with a cup of tea and nothing else. No phone. No laptop.

No distraction.

I am being.

When you give yourself time to be, you order your life from the inside out.

I can hear you now…all the busyness of living is crowding your thoughts. You’re thinking, even as you read, how impossible to carve out time for self, for quiet, for being.

My friend, I’ve been there.

Been so weary at night that just going to bed felt like winning the lottery, a prize to savor at the end of a long day of mothering. A long day of giving. A long day of othering.

I know what it’s like to need every last-minute of sleep, because there just aren’t enough to begin with, and getting up early to nurture self seems too hard, too much to face at the beginning of another day of living outside of self.

I know what it’s like to run so long and so hard that you finally feel like a shell, given out, needing to replenish but hardly knowing where to begin. Because there’s always more you need to give, even when you don’t have it yourself.

When I began to run dry, early in my years of mothering…it wasn’t a lack of love, but a lack of time to be…I had to learn the old wisdom.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You have to feed yourself first, in order to have strength to care for anyone else.

When I began to know this…not just intellectually, but deep within my spirit…I made some changes.

I started taking time to read again. How had I let that slip away?

I found time to write, a simple journal of thought, intention, hopes, and dreams.

I found time to play. I got intentional about saying yes to things that would take me out, would give me a change of pace.

It was slow at first.
But at last, I had a sense of being me again. I wasn’t just doing, or having.
I was being.

Rushing through life at the speed of busy, overwhelmed, always thinking of what’s next…that’s no way to live.

It’s counterintuitive to do less in order to be more.

But that’s what I needed to do…what I had to do.

Now, years later, I know the lesson well.

When I feel myself slipping back…getting caught up in the doing, and especially in the having, I reach for being.

Being quiet. Being still. Being myself.

There’s only so much of me to go around, and if I deplete my store of me, I won’t be able to be the wife I want to be, the mom, the daughter, friend, writer, doer.

When I overdo, I am undone.

The art of being doesn’t require lavish amounts of time or money.

It does require regular time. Sometimes money.

But mostly, being requires planning. Some thought, intentionality.

When my priorities are in order, life flows smoothly. I can do for others without losing myself.

I don’t need to have more stuff in my life to make up for not having a life.

Be. Do. Have.

In the right order, it all flows. As it should.

It’s great to do, and wonderful to have. But you need to be, first. You need your foundation…clarity of thought, rested spirit, values and priorities in order; enough reserve of yourself that you have something to give to others.

It’s a hard lesson to keep hold of. I have to right myself on a regular basis, reset, retrace my steps. But having done it now… oh, a few thousand times, over the years… I know when I’m off balance again, and how to restore order.

You can apply the same formula to many things. My new site, for instance, follows Be. Do. Have.

First, the mission of Story Revisioned is to be a resource and a lighthouse to others. (BE)

Second, the goal is to offer products that are valuable for anyone who wants to go beyond the wealth of free resources available for the taking. (DO)

Third, the dream is to create a community of readers and followers who share their stories of ups and downs, failures and successes, the how-tos and the nitty-gritty; and to build a platform that is transformative for participants. (HAVE)

The goal is to help: one person, a hundred, a thousand, or a million. And if that’s possible, it will grow out of being, before doing or having.

The Book…

Kindle Ready Front Cover JPEG_6122666

 

Like many, I struggled with questions of purpose for a long time. My epiphany…that I am in charge of choosing my purpose…was profoundly meaningful. Crafting a statement of purpose is rewarding and fulfilling. It can provide direction and insight for many life choices, and help us see ourselves more clearly.

As I worked through my process to find answers, I made notes, and from those notes, wrote a book, Choose Your Purpose, Love Your Life http://amzn.to/1sv2Wa3

You’ll find questions, answers, tools, stories, and more in the book. I invite you to read, and to choose purpose for yourself. You’ll never look back, I promise!

Design your life plan. Using the guidance and formula I share, you’ll be more than successful; you’ll be satisfied. And that’s a very fine thing, indeed.

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Thanksgiving grace

Thanksgiving is here, the one holiday of the year that is, by name and spirit, inspired by the grace of gratitude.

We gather, we talk, we prepare, we eat. Oh yes, we eat. It’s the beginning of butter season, and all things good.

We list the things we’re grateful for. And for most, the list is some version of a litany of the important people in life…spouse, children, family, friends; important pillars of life…health, home, job; important attitudes of life…thankfulness, forgiveness, joy.

I feel all that, and more. I am so grateful. But today, “more” is my special focus.

This year, “more” is all the uncertainty and upheaval the past few months have brought to my life.

Uncertainty doesn’t sleep well, doesn’t feel comfortable. It has become the knot in my stomach, the question behind all my plans.

“What next?”

And yet, even as I sat and gathered myself this morning, sitting hard against the wall by my bed to focus my thoughts, start my day with calm and quiet, I knew: the coming joy is rooted in this time of in between, this period of lostness.

I’m walking in the valley of indecision so I can choose, and choose wisely.

These are the days of hard questions: what do I want? What is essential?

The voice in my mind answers: my partner is essential. Family is essential. Faith is essential. The rest…the where or how or the timing of the choices…window dressing that puts the pretty bow on the real gift. The real gift is the people, priorities in order, values in place.

Knowing who I am, whose I am, who I am with, and who I love are the bedrock essentials. Nothing else matters…not where I live, or how I earn income, how big my house is, how often I travel. Because I know the answers to the essentials, I can take a breath, step back, let the details sort themselves in good time.

It’s easy to get that confused…to take the people and relationships for granted and treat the externals like they’re most important. I can admit I’ve done that, acted like all the “big” decisions were the drivers of life. They’re not…they’re context, but they’re not the heart of the story.

This year I’m not hosting the holiday feast..the trappings of my physical life are in a Public Storage unit in Washington. I don’t have all the externals together…no decorating for Christmas this weekend, or gathering family for the perfect Christmas card pose.

Family is scattered, and I don’t have the pretty bow to wrap us all together.

But I know the answers to the questions of heart, the essential ones that frame the rest.

And I am so grateful. I have my Thanksgiving list. And when we go around the table to say what we’re thankful for, I can acknowledge: the uncertainty, the question of “what next?” points me to the deepest joys. The very not knowing becomes a gift to show me: security is in the intangibles of my life, in the people and the love that isn’t tied to an address, or a piece of furniture, or an orderly path.

So yes, today I’m celebrating that I have no permanent home at the moment, just a permanent mailbox address. And I have no vision for where I’ll be next year, just a vision of who I’ll be with. I have no forecast of my annual income for 2015, but I expect to cover all the usual needs of life.

I’m in between, and I’m grateful. I may look lost, but I’m not.

I’m full of expectation, full of anticipation. What turn will my story take now? And how will my choices and my life lessons be a light to shine for others?

Happy Thanksgiving! May you all know “who” is on your list when you go around your table, or you recite to yourself the joys of your life. When you know who is important to you, the rest is just glitter.

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Chooser

I often write about the challenges of life at my stage: empty-nester, part-time worker, full-time budding entrepreneur, wife, mom to young adults, grandparent, daughter, friend. The intent is to share the struggles and epiphanies I’m having with the hope of helping someone else who’s struggling too. I haven’t got it sorted out! Life is a work in progress, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m a slow learner, and a late bloomer. But here’s what I know today…

It’s good to be home! I know, it’s a common theme with me. Two weeks out of town for vacation and a family visit, and then two weeks working at the Metlakatla clinic, and I’m done. At least for the next three weeks. These are mine to enjoy at home.

Home is complicated right now. We have a house in Ketchikan, which I love, but we’re spending limited time here these days. Between time working in Metlakatla, and time out and about for personal reasons, days to putter around in my own little nest are hard to come by. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, most of my life has fit the norm…parenting, working, raising children, and though the location changed a few times throughout the years, the basic pattern was set.

A couple of years ago, Rob backed out of full-time practice with the promise to himself that he was done with that lifestyle. Too stressed, burned out, and exhausted to do full-time medicine any more. So now he works part-time, and for the moment, that’s in three different clinics in SE Alaska.

We tried the arrangement of me working in a full-time position and staying with the house, and him out and about, working, coming home, leaving again to work, coming home, leaving again…it was wearing, and lonely, and not what either of us signed up for. But for Rob, the variety is good. He enjoys moving about a bit. The change-up of the routine is good. And I’ll be honest, he’s not wedded to home and stuff as I am.

I like my stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money accumulating what I have. I love to putter about in the kitchen, using the gadgets and tools I have to try new dishes. I love pretty linens on the bed, comfy furnishing that have a look of warmth and tradition. I love the books on my shelves and the art on the walls. It all speaks to me, of people I love or a mood I want to evoke.

But that isn’t what comforts Rob. He’s a wanderer, and a nomad. Through much of our marriage he lived life in the traditional way, because that was the model we knew, and we were raising kids. But that’s changed, and with the empty nest has come new freedom. Freedom for both of us, in different ways. It has freed us financially, to some extent, and it has removed the need to keep a stable home base for growing children.

So now what? I’ve written about making the choice to leave my full-time work. It was two years ago in January. I’ve already lived a semi-nomadic life two years. Some of it has been amazing. Some of it has been fun. And there have been moments of weariness, times when I said, over and over in my mind, like a litany, “I just want my life back. I just want to go home.” Those moments have been few. But they have been part of the tapestry.

This week I said, as we sat over a late breakfast, looking out on the Tongass Narrows from our front windows, that it was good to be home. That I miss my things, that right now, I live a crazy life that keeps me on the run, and often somewhat adrift. Rob looked at me and asked, “Why is that?” I was in the process of answering when I got interrupted, and we never really finished the conversation. But I can finish it. I can give the answer.

I’m living a crazy life right now because I made a choice. I made a choice to match my lifestyle to what was working for my husband. He didn’t demand that I do it. He didn’t make it a requirement of the relationship in any way. I made the choice, and I’m committed to the choice because I realized, after trying to do it differently, it was all or nothing. I couldn’t keep a foot in both camps…happily married and living alone for weeks at a time. It wasn’t good for the relationship, and to be honest, I got almost no pleasure out of my things when I had them all to myself. Things do not replace people. And though I knew it in my head, it wasn’t until I found myself living that reality, that I knew it by heart.

If I learned anything about myself during the time that we lived mostly apart, it was that a lot of my pleasure in homekeeping and cooking comes from the relationships around me. If I’m cooking dinner for the two of us, or for a crowd, I enjoy every piece of it: planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, eating. Even the cleanup is a validation of time well spent, and spent with loved ones. If I’m by myself, I have little-to-no interest in any of it. My enthusiasm dries up. I lost weight when we were living apart. I hated to go to the grocery store, because it wasn’t for anything fun…it was just for food. And what’s the fun in that? And pretty rooms? They just don’t mean much when you wander through them by yourself, trying to enjoy the never-disturbed perfection because there’s no one around to move anything out of its place.

Why am I saying all of this? Because it’s important for me to acknowledge…this crazy life I lead is by choice. I could be home every night, in my bed, eating at my own table. But that’s not the priority of my life. In a few weeks I’ll be in a different setting, camping in the RV again. I’ll have time to write; work on my baby business that’s slowly coming to life; I’ll do some work for the Met clinic via phone and email; and all of that will fit between the plans of the day that Rob and I make together. Because that is my priority. And how can I be ungrateful for that freedom in my life? If this time looks chaotic…if it seems like we’re always on the move…well, we are. It won’t last forever, I’m sure of that. There will be a time when we make different plans…when we move nearer family, and we settle again.

But for now, this is my choice, and claiming it, owning it, helps me avoid the victim mentality when I have one of those moments of just wanting to be home. I am not a victim or a martyr to Rob’s choices. I have made my own. It feels good to recognize: if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, I wouldn’t have some of the opportunities that are on the horizon. I wouldn’t be in the process of developing a design for a logo and business card and a new web site. I wouldn’t be a budding entrepreneur at the ripe age of 53. I wouldn’t have the freedom to work from home, or from the RV. I wouldn’t have the flexibility to make my own commitments. And the reality is, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity and the financial stability to step out on this ledge.

And if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, and into my crazy life, I wouldn’t have the joy of seeing and doing the things that I seen and done in the past years, with the man I chose.

Life is complicated. But it helps if you know that you’re where you are by choice. So I’m a chooser. I’ve learned to choose love over things, experience over money, and freedom over security. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be traditional to be normal; that you can walk a different path and still get where you need to go. And I’ve learned that although head knowledge is good, there’s no replacement for understanding something from the heart. Because the heart gets final say; and if my choice has passed the heart test, I’m on the right path.

Dinner for two…

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.”

The fine art of “slugging”

I think we’ve invented our own term for one of the things we do best, Rob and I. We sometimes say we’re slugs, when we have a lazy day around the house. Somehow that mutated to “slugging,” although I think we may be the only two people using that term to mean what we mean.

The fine art of slugging…and lest you think I exaggerate in calling it an art, let me assure you that it does rise to that level of perfection…is not really about being lazy, or having a day of non-productivity. In fact, almost the opposite is true. But it is the kind of productivity that matters. A slug day is NOT about getting home chores done, or running errands all afternoon. No, slugging requires mental effort, not too much physical output.

A good day of slugging can begin early or late. We’re early risers, morning people at heart, so we’re typically out of bed before 6:00. Coffee for me, tea for Rob, and market watching, email, news, reading. But no loud noises are allowed to disturb the quiet of this hour.

After a bit (the best measurement of time) one of us is hungry. Breakfast signals a break to talk, share, catch up. If we’re at home, we sit in front of the windows in the sun porch, watch the traffic on the water. Sometimes we make a plan for the day at this point. It can be weather dependent, or there may be an errand that has to be fitted into the day. But our best slug days are lengthy stretches of “a little of this, a little of that.” Usually one of us has something we’re researching online. One of us fiddles with plans for lunch or dinner so we know what to expect in terms of timing, or if we have to include a market outing before evening.

And always, after the early morning quiet, we have music going.

Sometimes we plan things we don’t do. We think we’ll get moving and go do a workout. Go for a picnic, or a walk around the lake. Or we think we’ll start an afternoon project. And sometimes we do. But not always. That’s the beauty of a slug day. If you’re doing something that holds your interest, or having one of those rambling conversations that wraps around one thing and leads to another, and another…it’s ok that the afternoon plans don’t materialize. Part of the charm is the flexibility we allow ourselves.

The key is that you have to be in sync to do this. You can’t be on two different clocks. If one of you is on whirlwind time, and the other on island time, you’re not going to have a day of slugging. You’re not going to wonder, late afternoon, where the day went. And you have to know that spending a day like this together is guilt-free. This is just as important as painting the bathroom or doing the laundry or bathing the dog. Actually, it’s more important, because not only is it a mental change of pace, but doing it together is the thing that makes it special. I can never do this successfully without Rob. Inevitably I let myself get busy with the ought-to, have-to, need-to lists. Slugging together means spending the hours together, sharing a bit here and there, pausing to exchange a glance, a smile, a thought.

The best slugging is really unplanned time. Like many of the good things in life, it just sort of happens. About the only thing you can do to set the stage is to clear your calendars so that you don’t have obligations that interfere. After that, it’s just one of those things. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. But when it does, you have a day of magic, out of nothing at all. Just time together, a little music, simple food, reading, talking, laughing.

Slugging…I highly recommend it for your mental health, your love life, for feeling satisfied with life. It’s relaxing, but more than that, it’s fulfilling. And the nice thing is, doesn’t cost a penny, doesn’t take special equipment, doesn’t take more than your time and your heart.

What would I take?

I’m sometimes inspired by other blog authors. It’s amazing what a variety of topics people blog about, some of a serious nature, some funny. There are how-to blogs, travel and cooking blogs; parenting and relationship blogs. Some are written as essays. Others have a kind of gritty reality that can be a little unnerving if the subject matter is also gritty.

Now and then I run across a reference to a website that I have to check out for myself. I recently found a website, http://theburninghouse.com/ that poses the challenge to readers: if your house is on fire, what would you save? After you sort that out in your mind, you gather the items and make a photo and submit, along with your list, to the site.

I scanned a few of the entries. As you might expect, the items in some lists seemed randomly chosen. In others, there were the more the practical and sentimental objects most people would select. The photos are interesting. Do you think you could put into one photo the MOST important things (not including people or pets, this is about STUFF) in your home?

I challenged myself to work through this exercise. Not only would it be useful, just in case my house should be on fire and I happen to be around to secure my items to save; but also, thinking it out would help me to assign priority and value. Surely that would be worthwhile.

Turns out, not too much made my list of the essentials. I would grab my purse (has all my cards, id, planner, phone); my iPad; some favorite portraits of my children and family; my jewelry; my recipe collection that has the handwritten and tried and true treasures I’ve accumulated over my adult lifetime; my Bible I’ve had since high school; important documents; a few favorite old books; and a handful of items that I have sentimental attachment to…a few things from family, and from my kids’ childhood. That’s it. The furniture I love, the decorative items, clothing, framed art, kitchen stuff, china, knick-knacks…it’s all good, all meaningful to me. But would I save it from a burning house? No.

So what is really important? Mostly, I would save the things that represent the people that are important in my life: my husband, my children, my family. The portraits and few items that I would save for sentimental reasons are important because I can’t replace them…portraits of my children from years ago, or my wedding, or of family that is no longer here. The books are writings that have been old friends to me for many years, that have taught me and sustained me. The jewelry that I own is not so much valuable as it is meaningful: each piece was given to me by my husband or my parents, or my children. The recipes are full of memories of people who have shared with me, and who have had a place in my life.

Now, to collect everything and make a photo…what would you save? I challenge you to think it through. Hopefully no one has to find out the hard way if this is truly useful…I certainly don’t need a house on fire to help me know what’s important. But it gives context to the question, and gives me insight to myself as I walk through the house and craft my answer.