Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: Good Things About Coming Home from Vacation

When I saw this weeks Ten on Tuesday topic, I was like a 2nd grader sitting stick-straight in her desk, hand overhead, frenetically waving "Me! Me! Pick me!!!!" Having just returned from a 3-month working trip (not a vacation, but lots of opportunities for fun nonetheless), this topic will be easy-peasy for me. :) Here goes.

1. Sitting on my couch, cuddling Dazey (my dog).

2. Waking up in the middle of the night in need of something other than water to drink and being able to walk into my kitchen in my pajamas to get a glass of ice-cold juice from my refrigerator

3. Sitting down to watch TV and picking up a remote that I can operate almost in my sleep, being able to easily scroll through my favorite channels, and being able to pause a program any time I want to go grab a snack or use the ladies' room because I have a DVR (I think that's what it's called).  I realize that's 3 things, but they're all tv and tv-remote related, so . . .

4. Eating 3 meals a day at home.

5. Sleeping in my own bed on my own wonderful mattress.

6. Sitting in my metal glider on my front porch with a glass of iced tea, waving at my neighbors and watching people going about their business in my planned community.

7. Being able to work on any of my various projects as the mood strikes me when I have some free time.

8. Watching the St. Louis Cardinals on television.

9. Walking around inside barefooted (ever since I read an article about all the stuff found in hotel room carpeting even with daily vacuuming, I wear slippers or something when staying somewhere else).

10. Being back in my routines after a break from them.


Monday, April 28, 2014

What's the Point?

I have always been passionate (I use bold here because the mere word doesn't express it strongly enough) about writing. Passionate about the art and mechanics of selecting words, stringing them together, manipulating the strings to fit my purposes, tweaking those strings, and then going back and fixing all the errors I committed during the stringing and tweaking process. As a result, I began keeping a journal at a very early age. Beginning with a black-marbled composition book and graduating later to whatever blank book grabbed my attention from a shelf as I walked by, I've been passionately journalling for 40+ years.

Before I go on, I want you to stop and think about something -- not someone -- you are passionate about. Perhaps for you it's knitting, or maybe it's golf or running or painting or cooking or reading cozy mysteries or . . . well, I think you've got the idea. What activity are you passionate about doing?

Do you ever get tired of doing it? Have you ever realized one day that it's been a while since you've engaged in that activity you were formerly so passionate about? And did that realization fill you with a sort of sad, resigned, ho-hum feeling?

That's where I've been with my own passion (journalling) for a few months. I could explain away my waning desire to write on a variety of things. My job is mentally (even emotionally) quite taxing and more active on a physical basis than most people would think.  My trip to England provided me with little time and energy for writing, and since I've returned I've been swamped with the stuff of daily life, preparing for my upcoming (fingers crossed) move, etc.

But I've been equally taxed and equally busy -- even more so -- at other points in my life. I've been in my current career full time (except for a few years when the children were small) since 1980, and I've run a household and had little children, then school-age kids, and then teenagers at home to keep up with. The fact of the matter is that my passion for personal writing has waned to the point that my lifelong daily journalling time has become a once or twice-a-week chore that I do almost begrudgingly.

I'd been pondering this strange set of affairs for several months, but I simply couldn't figure out why I felt such a strong sense of lethargy when it came to journalling (or for this blogging); finally, right after I returned from England, I realized that because I love to write, I had created a life in which I did as much writing as possible.

I had chosen a career that allows me to spend a large part of my work day (and night) writing lesson plans and other course materials, responding (via my own written comments) to student-generated texts,  and taking notes as I read published texts and work-related materials.  Outside of work, writing dominates my life as well. Throughout every day, in addition to any journaling and blogging, I also: add appointments, notes, tasks, etc., to my Filofax (paper journal); jot down items on my "gratitude list" -- a small notebook I carry with me everywhere; update my prayer journal -- a section in the pack of my planner; write emails and letters/cards to friends and family; jot down notes from whatever nonfiction text I'm reading; and complete other odds and ends writing tasks. In short, I was performing the physical act of writing most of the time every day.

Like the proverbial plumber with leaky faucets at home, by the time I finished all of my "necessary" writing, I craved a break from the activity as a while. I couldn't quit my job-related writing or updating my prayer journal, etc., but I knew some things could change and had to change if I was going to continue journalling (and blogging). First, I searched for and found a fantastic electronic planner that does exactly what I needed and that functions more efficiently than my Filofax (i.e. less entering of information, etc); I downloaded it to my ipad mini and have found in the past three weeks that I love it as much as I ever loved my paper planners. I consolidated my prayer journal and my gratitude journal into one, and I am scrolling through emails and facebook pages much faster, stopping less often to respond or to post. Real progress was being made, but I knew a larger change needed to be made, and I had no idea what that larger change might be.

Last night, I opened my journal and wrote, "I can't believe it's been a week since I've written. I used to write every day, sometimes several times a day. Heck, when I shopped for a new purse, I chose one big enough to toss in my journal -- I wanted it with me for those precious moments here and there that I could carve from the day and write a line or two." As always, as I continued writing, I got into the rhythm of writing, and I began writing more automatically, less stiltedly, with less internal censorship or editing. I wrote one last sentence and stopped, appalled by what I had written: "WHY am I still keeping a journal?"

That's a good question. What is the point of writing in a journal that nobody else will ever read . . . of writing in a journal that, quite honestly, I don't want anyone to ever read? I've always written for me, for the joy of the act of writing; later, when I married and had children, I wrote down things I knew I wanted to remember, that I would someday use to journal on the pages of the scrapbooks I would lovingly create for my son and daughter. Primarily, though, I continued to write because I loved to write and because a journal was my primary outlet for writing.

Now, though, I have this blog. Perhaps the two -- the personal journal and blog -- have become less enjoyable because of the cumbersomeness of keeping both. Perhaps the blog has rendered the personal journal redundant. Perhaps the need for a private place away from conversations with my husband and children and students in which I could hear my own voice has been replaced with a need for a social network -- even a small virtual one -- in which I can express my thoughts.

I closed my journal last night, went downstairs, and  placed it in one of the two large plastic bins that hold the journals I've kept over the years and that have escaped periodic minor attempts at purging.

Perhaps some day a new, gorgeous blank book will beckon from a store shelf and I'll bring it home and begin journalling again. Who knows? For now, though, I'm content to strip away one more activity, one more daily to-do from my life and to live a bit more simply, more authentically. Because that, for me, is the point.

What about you? When's the last time you examined your daily routine and your daily to-do list and considered if there are any activities or tasks that you neither need  nor really want to do? Perhaps, like me, you'll find that you do some things out of habit or a misplaced sense of obligation. Maybe it's time to cull an activity or two, giving you the opportunity to add something new you've been wanting to try or to expand the time you have available for other, more beloved activities. I hope you'll take the time to share your own thoughts with me, either via the comments (below) or by email (aliferedesigned@yahoo.com). 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Baby Step

I've shared before that my plan is to downsize tremendously and to live totally debt free. For me, the two go hand-in-hand and form (with my spiritual beliefs) the foundation for living authentically. While I know I've come a long way, I am still far from being the world's most patient person. Between my own nature and the relentless reminders from the calendar that time is zipping by far faster than I want it to, I often long for the ability to snap my fingers and instantly be living the simplified life I long for.

Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. Yes, you read that correctly; I crossed through "unfortunately". When I first wrote this blog entry I went on to in that vein for awhile -- why I'm chomping at the bit, the advantages of being able to make instant changes, yada yada. Then I took a lunch-and-reading break, and it hit me. Having to wait awhile to live my "dream life" is not "unfortunate"; in fact, taking only baby steps can be wonderful. I sat back down at the computer and deleted 99.5% of my post. Instead of lamenting the snail's pace of my life changes, I'm going to share why I'm celebrating the baby steps I'm taking.

First of all, smaller decisions are easier for me to make. The choices don't seem so overwhelming, and I don't freeze in the face of unknown, seemingly-gigantic consequences. Additionally, small actions give me the freedom to take a step in what I think is the right direction and then pause to see if that action has positive (or even just neutral) consequences. If the consequences aren't favorable, they are almost sure to be minor and can be corrected fairly easily.  I won't have gone too far down a particular path to change course. Of course, small steps give me time to adjust to each change. As much as I love brand new, exciting situations, I've come to realize that even positive changes on a grand scale take their toll physically and emotionally.

So baby steps it is. And the next step began the week I returned from England, when I accepted an offer on my house. Putting the house on the market was a fairly big step, but it was made easier because I signed the listing contract right at the busiest time of the semester, when my mind was more on work than on my housing situation; when the semester ended, I was busy with Christmas and with preparing to go to England. Between all of the things going on, I rarely even thought of the fact that my house was on the market. The last 3 months it was listed, I was out of the country -- free from realtor calls, wondering what potential buyers thought, etc.

I arrived back in the states on a Saturday to an offer. Thankfully, my realtor and the potential buyers understood that I was unable to give it much thought right then, and they graciously gave me some time to settle back in. Six days later, we had a contract. I may not be moving very soon, though. The buyers just listed their current home, and the contingency contract calls for their house to sell first. I'm very much at peace with that and am confident that everything will continue to work out as it should.

Now I'm taking even tinier baby steps to prepare for the move. I've begun selling (more) things I don't need or use, and I'm considering ways other than a garage sale to move a larger quantity of items with the least commotion and stress. No matter what strategies I decide to use, I'm going to relax and enjoy the baby steps to the best of my ability!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten on Tuesday: Things I Like to do Outside

When I first read this prompt yesterday, the skies were sunny and temperatures were in the high 50's; doing something I enjoy outside seemed quite possible. Several hours later, the temperature had dropped considerably and, as I sat in a restaurant enjoying dinner with a colleague, I heard someone at a nearby table say, "Oh my goodness, it's snowing!" And it was. Snowing. All thoughts of doing anything outside fled my brain. Needless to say, I am not a fan of cold weather. So today, instead of doing some of the things I enjoy doing outside, I will have to settle for listing them. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though, and hoping to be doing each of these things very soon. So here you go -- things I like to do outside:

1. Spend an afternoon or evening cheering for my beloved St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium with my daughter and/or son.

2. Visit an amusement park with my son and daughter.

3. Relax on the beach. Walk on the beach. Be on the beach.

4. Relax on my vintage metal glider on my front porch and enjoy a cup/tumbler of hot/cold tea.

5. Play bocce ball.

6. Walk. It doesn't matter where -- my neighborhood, a path or trail, community or city streets -- or what time of day.

7. Watch a high school football game from the bleachers on a Friday night in Autumn.

8. Relax on my raft in the middle of a pool with the sounds of children playing in the background.

9. People-watch from a sidewalk cafe and write in my journal.

**and no matter which of these I'm doing -- or maybe something else entirely . . .

10. Simply be in the moment.