Sunday morning praise

Raining today…again…always this time of year it seems.

Rain drops keep falling

Rain drops keep falling

But instead of looking out the window at the raindrops and feeling the gloom seep in, here’s a better way to begin my day:

I hope the sun is shining wherever you are. But if not, maybe this song will inspire you to feel around in the nooks and crannies of your spirit and remember, or discover, what is well with your soul.

I have to do that…consciously, deliberately….think about, write out, contemplate the good in my life. It’s easier to acknowledge the bad, the disappointments, the frustrations. Because those things bubble up without effort, needing my attention, demanding time. Or at the very least, demanding worry and angst.

I write a list of my life’s good things, and I don’t have much to catalog that’s perfect. That list will be for another life, another life time. But I record the small victories, the abiding sweetness, and that’s what I celebrate today. I offset sadness with joy, fear with hope, and the paralysis of uncertainty with movement of action. Any positive action is better than sitting still, wondering what to do next.

  • A dear loved one is struggling with illness, likely to be in the grip of final struggles. I am grateful for the time we have to be family to each other.
  • My search for direction continues. I am grateful that each opportunity comes when I least expect it. I’m learning new skills and find new inspiration every day.
  • I wonder…are we fiddling while Rome burns? The government theater on stage is disheartening, discouraging, demeaning. How has it come to this? I remember that there are good people everywhere. You just have to open your eyes to see. Hope here! Integrity and gratitude grow out of character.
  • Just when I’m feeling discouraged about life in general…Stephanie calls to tell me that baby Jack has his sixth tooth! Children are renewal of life, and I have two precious little ones to celebrate every day. 

    The little guy

    The little guy

  • Relationships can be thorny and challenging. I’ve had my time in that hole. I find support every day from my husband and partner in life. We don’t always agree, but we’ve learned to hold fast to the good.

Holding fast requires daily investment. What am I feeding myself today? What words do I practice?

I write about this often because I need constant reminders. I’m a positive person, but I struggle against the battering ram of daily life. And isn’t that the common plight? We are all hope-seekers, longing for reassurance, for comfort, for the peace of knowing: it will be alright. Sooner or later, all will be well.

Holding fast is hard. But doable, one challenge at a time. And the key is having a grateful heart every day.

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”     ~ Melody Beattie

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The luxury of time

I could spend some time here!

I could spend some time here!

 

There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

What is the luxury of time? My own definition…no rushing, no scurrying about. Time to linger over coffee, or a decadent dessert, or a long conversation, sitting in my rocking chair, looking out over the water. Time to be. The luxury of time is not a treat of the every day. I sometimes encounter it on a Saturday morning, or evenings, after dinner is done and my day is settling about me.

Luxury is usually associated with possessions and money. A study I read suggested that beyond a basic level of comfort, more money, more stuff, doesn’t really create more happiness.

But time. Now there’s a luxury that money can’t buy. Or sometimes it can, but often it doesn’t. Often, more money means less time.

 

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~ Carl Sandburg

 

I come from a long line of doers. I am hard-wired to make lists, to find pleasure in things done. Stillness has been an acquired taste. Because the value of stillness isn’t to be found in items neatly checked off, I was once suspicious of it. Was I wasting time if I produced nothing visible? But I learned. I learned that I can rush getting errands done, or chores finished. But I can’t rush being.

Dreaming and planning and creativity require time. Time to think, and time to produce. But more than that, bountiful time is a state of mind. I find when I match my pace to the rhythm of intention, I’m more at ease. I find my stride with the day’s demands. The best way to have more time is to be thoughtful about  the spending of it. Like any resource, time can be depleted, wasted, frittered away. Carving out opportunity to replenish myself requires careful planning. I plan and organize time so I can be frivolous with it elsewhere in my week.

The reward of the hustle-bustle is the slow and easy.

I’ll admit…a little luxury goes a long way, and I can enjoy that pleasure in almost any form: luxury of place, or of food, or beautiful views. But luxury of time…now that’s the real thing.

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” ~ Bill Watterson 

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.”

Creature of habit

So what tricks do you use to jump start your day? Or smooth your transition to evening? Spending a week recently with Stephanie and Matt, watching little Riley, and recalling the years of juggling children with life’s demands, I thought about how my routines have changed. Not sure how I can feel as busy as ever, but that’s life.

So here are my top 10 tips for getting out the door and having a productive day:

  1. Get up early! I try to get up by 5:00. When I build extra time into my morning, it doesn’t throw me off to have a second cup of coffee or to check my email. I don’t have to have the extra time to dress if I’m in a rush. But my days are much smoother if I have some quiet time up front. Worth the loss of an extra half hour’s sleep!
  2. Have a plan before I walk out the door. If I have things to drop off (dry cleaning, etc.,) I leave it at the front door, or put it in my car the night before. I list what I need to do so I don’t have to rely on memory, especially if my to dos include appointments.
  3. Take lunch. I usually see this one referenced as a strategy for saving money. You know, the encouragement to save the lunch money that adds up over a month’s time. But that’s not my incentive for eating in. Mine is two-fold. We have a huge parking problem at work, so by staying put, I don’t have that issue to deal with in the afternoon. And more importantly, I use the lunch break at my desk to check my email, make a quick call, or balance my check book. Just taking a few minutes to deal with some personal chores during the day frees evening time later.
  4. Keep lists, whether digital or on paper. Keep phone lists, grocery lists, errand lists, gift lists. It is always surprising to me how long it can take to get around to making a simple call or two if I don’t write it down as a to do. And I have to have reminders for grocery needs, birthday gifts, etc. When I see it, I do it.
  5. Leave a breadcrumb trail at work for the next day, especially when you’re out for the weekend, or for a longer period of time. I can’t tell you how often this has saved me. I keep a running to do list of work projects, deadlines, and chores, on my computer, just as I do for my personal life. I still sometimes forget something or get behind, but I have very few dropped balls using this low tech system. Other low tech ideas: I leave notes to myself on my chair at work. If I have to move something to sit down, I know I’ll see it in the morning. Or I put a note, print outs for a meeting, etc. on my keyboard. And if I need to take something home with me at the end of the day, I put it in my path out the door. Again, the concept is: if I have to step over it to go home, I know I’ll see it. 
  6. Streamline errands. I try to limit my grocery run to once a week. This cuts down on impulse spending and keeps that chore to a minimum. I actually like going to the grocery store. But I don’t need to do it every day. I especially try to limit errands after work, and I particularly limit my errands in the winter months. When it’s cold and dreary, I just want to go home. Batching errands on Saturday instead of spreading them through the week is better time management for me.
  7. If I don’t have a social commitment in the evening, I come in and do two things right away. I take off my makeup, and I get coffee ready to brew for the next morning. I love having most of my evening routine done long before bed time. And I love having hot coffee in the morning with no additional effort.
  8. ALWAYS do dinner dishes as soon as dinner is done. This is a rule I keep almost religiously. If I allow myself to get sidetracked, I find myself doing dishes at 10:00 o’clock at night, or whatever time we finish the movie, or game, etc., and I HATE that. I also hate seeing last night’s dishes when I get up in the morning. Best solution: as the old catch phrase goes, “just do it!” And then, (I realize this my not be possible with kids in the house) close the kitchen for business, except for beverages. Helps with late night snack cravings, and there’s no second round of dishes to do later.
  9. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. This should be an easy one, but apparently for most Americans, it is quite the challenge. So I challenge you: choose your bed time, rather than staying up until you fall over. Take control of yourself, and definitely, if you have young children, take control of them. The best gift a parent can give to themselves (IMHO) is some quiet evening time after kids are in bed. (Good for the kids to have structure too.)
  10. And finally, this is all easy stuff…but the key to making it work is to make it a routine. If you don’t have to think about managing your time, if you automatically write things down as you think of them, or follow a regular pattern for the beginning and end or your day, you’ll find that the small tasks that underpin your day become ingrained. And as your habits become routine, they begin to support you. You’ll find yourself more organized with less effort, and sometimes, you may be surprised that you can operate so automatically, you don’t even remember doing some of the things on your list. That’s ok…better to be able to do the mundane things of life with little to no thought. There are plenty of bigger things to put that brain power on!