Trading Up From Lesser Things

Anyone who knows me well is not surprised when I disappear from social media for long periods of time.  I am an introvert and there are times I simply can’t handle the input of what the world puts out.  At the beginning of this year, I made some intentional changes.  With those intentional changes came some unintentional ones.

More than twenty years ago, I read Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity for the first time.  I reread it every few years as a reminder.  And at least twice a year, I reevaluate what’s on my schedule.  For a variety of reasons, it has gotten pared down significantly over the years.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

– Gandalf – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

If you believe your life has a purpose (and I believe that all of ours do), then doing the most with what you have becomes a priority.  We all have the same number of hours in a day or week.

What am I doing with those hours?  What distractions eat away my time and energy?

I’ve asked myself those questions many times.  At the end of last year, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the coming year.  All those things require time and energy.  More to the point, if I really wanted to accomplish those things, then I would have to consciously choose to NOT spend my time on other things.  It might mean disappointing other people because I would not be living within their expectations for me.

And so my experiment began.  As I began to focus on the things I wanted to accomplish, other things naturally fell away.

I carefully choose how to spend my social time.  As an introvert, this is a natural survival instinct.  However, since the beginning of this year, I have guarded my time and energy so carefully that I find that I now leave my house approximately one day per week.  There was a time when my work took me away from my home office more frequently.  Circumstance and choice now allow more freedom in my schedule.

I rarely spend time on social media.  However, I do get notifications for posts of a few family members, close friends, and groups that are highly important to me.

I am intentional about the time I spend on sources of news or entertainment.  Some days that is more than others, but it is always with the knowledge that time spent there can not be spent on other things.

For decades now, this quote has come to mind when I am presented with a choice:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Source: seafoam media

As we grow up, we learn that life is about choices – including what will get our time, money, and attention.

I’ve known this for a while, but here’s what I have learned to an even greater degree:  When I limit the number of sources and frequency of things asking for my attention, I physically feel better, I think more clearly, and I have a deeper sense of peace.

It’s not just the nonsense of life and the crazymakers of the world that drain my energy.  Sometimes, even good things drain me.  Sometimes, I have to abandon good in favor of better or excellent.  Sometimes, fabulous things (a.k.a. blessings) drop into our laps.  But generally, it results from an environment created by choices.

Trading up from lesser things does not happen by accident.  It comes from intentionally choosing to let go of the lesser and embrace the thing of higher value.  It comes from asking: Is its value worth what it costs you?

By giving myself permission to spend my time and energy on the things I am most passionate about at the moment (and permission to release the things that are of lesser value for me right now), I am more productive and happier with the quality of my work.  That is no small thing for a perfectionist.

I encourage you to find the balance in your life that works for you.  Many people will have an opinion about what your priorities should be.  But if you take some time to get quiet and you are honest with yourself about what you value, it will become clear which things in your life have little or no value for the journey ahead of you.  Why carry the extra weight just because everyone else is?  Or because someone else thinks that you should?

Travel light.  Trade up from lesser things.

Until next time.

~~EJ

Children are listening. What are they being taught?

I have remained silent for a while now.  Not for lack of, but rather

Too many thoughts; too many things to say.

Too many things happening inside me and in the world around me.

 

It is highly likely that I will have more to say at a later date.

But for now, just this:

 

Love your neighbor.  Love your enemies.  Love one another.

Do justice.  Love mercy.  Walk humbly with your God.

If you must hate something, hate injustice in all its forms.

 

Children will listen to our words and observe our actions.

Carefully consider what they may be learning.

 

 

medley of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (from South Pacific)

and “Children Will Listen” (from Into the Woods)

sung by Mandy Patinkin

 

Until next time.

~~ EJ

Pause. Balance. Live.

2015 FL beach color correct crop

Well, I certainly did not intend on taking a month-long break after setting up this blog.  What is it they say about the best laid plans?

After my previous post, I went on vacation for 10 days.  Here’s the summary:

  • stayed in an amazing rental on a beach in Florida,
  • left the sliding door open to hear the waves as I fell asleep,
  • awoke to an ocean sunrise,
  • got a great natural pedicure every day from the sand and salt water,
  • and I reveled in spending every moment with the love of my life, who also happens to be my best friend.

2015 FL balcony view crop

In other words, the things of my daily life grew strangely dim.  It was lovely to put my life on pause for a short time.  I did not want to come home.  But home I trudged, with a wicked chest cold as a souvenir.  I think I have finally caught up on email, laundry, and other things that had piled up.

I’ve been reading lots of things lately – while on the beach and then at home, sick in bed.  I have been ruminating and meditating.  Thoughts have been percolating and germinating.  So many – strike that – too many things to say.  I’ll have to press pause and come back to those ideas after more time marinating.

That’s twice now that I have used the word “pause.”  Did you notice?  Or did you (like I am prone to do) fast forward, skimming past the middle to get to the end?  Whether you choose the term “mindfulness” or prefer to talk about “being present” – the concept is the same.

Please allow a brief interruption here.  My brain has cued up Paul Simon’s famous lyric (which is the classic recipe for “Feelin’ Groovy”): “Slow down.  You move too fast.”

Moving on … If we use the analogy of viewing television (not that I am advocating watching our lives go by as opposed to truly living – but for the sake of making a point…), there are several ways we go through this life.

WATCH LIVE:  To watch a broadcast live is to participate in a community event.  Even if you are alone on your couch, it is a simultaneous shared experience.  Connection and interaction with people is important, even if it is via technology.

WATCH ON-DEMAND:  It is sometimes necessary to do things when they are convenient – schedules just get too busy.  Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves by slowing the pace of life and watch our favorite programming in a way that allows us even more control – such as pause, fast forward, rewind, and stop.

PAUSE allows us to control the pacing of things further – not that we don’t want to see/do/experience something, we just need to determine when.

FAST FORWARD allows us skip something that is either unnecessary or unpleasant.  Let’s be honest – sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s our way of avoiding what makes us uncomfortable.

REWIND allows us to re-experience something.  This can also be either good (recalling happy memories) or bad (dwelling on painful or unhealthy memories).  Either way, it is an attempt to live in the past – which when you think about it, it is only possible to live in the present and move into the future (which then becomes the present and all too quickly becomes the past).

STOP allows us to bring something to a halt.  The upside is that some things need to end.  We are better off without them.  However, when we are fearful of change, we may hit stop when what we really should do is hit pause, take a deep breath, and then take the risky leap and hit play again.

RECORD allows us to take mental snapshots to file away in scrapbooks of memories.  At this point, do I even need to say that this can either be good or bad?

2015 blog pic -- pause play stop

The important thing is to actually live – participate in your own life.  I am reminded of the scene in the movie The Holiday when Eli Wallach leads Kate Winslet’s character to the following realization: “You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life.”

Sometimes active living means knowing when you need a vacation and giving yourself permission to take a break in order to refresh.  It also means challenging yourself to do new things.  It is vital to keep the balance between those two things: challenge and renewal.  In music, it is the balance between tension and release.  There are opposing forces everywhere: push and pull, lead and follow, sound and silence, light and shadow, the wind up and the pitch, the crest of the wave and the trough.

Tune in next time to hear me ramble about … whatever’s on my mind.  It could be women’s issues or neuroscience – since it is Women’s History Month and Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Or it might be something else entirely (like the movie review I am about to edit).

Mr Rogers closing theme

Until next time.

~~ EJ

Life = big canvas = blank page

My mind sees a page.   It’s lying blank and white.

~~ from the song  “Can’t Close My Eyes” by Jan Krist

fb cover photo -- Danny Kaye quote

We humans are creative beings.  It is in our very nature.  

Fill the silence with sound.

Fill the blank page with words.

Fill the blank canvas with shadow and light.

Allow the clay to take shape.  

Allow the sculpture emerge from the marble.

As we create, our lives will be filled with wonder and delight, joy and fulfillment.

Many wonderful things will take shape … and emerge before our eyes.

” … that you are here; that life exists, and identity;

that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?”

~~ Robin WIlliams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society