New Thoughts for the New Year

There is so much good writing out there, and it seems like everyone was inspired to write at the end of the year. Here are some excerpts from some of the favorite posts I read.

Life Isn’t a Calendar, by Jenna McGuiggan, a writer, editor, and creativity coach. You can find her over at The Word Cellar.

The calendar days are tidy squares lined up in orderly rows, everything numbered to provide a false sense of linearity. It tricks us into thinking life is this way. Choose a word, set an intention, make a goal. Move forward, declare DSC_0044accomplishment. Make another list and tick it off step-by-step. But life is not a calendar or a list or a ladder you can climb rung-by-rung. Life is the ebb and flow of ocean tides, the sunlight and dappled shadow of forest paths, the contrast of white snow on evergreen boughs. Life is the overcast sky of winter that blurs the line between day and night, and the long June days when golden light seeps well into the night. Life is now. It’s the driveway that needs shoveling, the dishes that need washing. It’s the candles you light, the books you read, the tea you drink, the people you kiss. It’s the lists you make and the ones you forget. One step forward, two steps back, and three to the side for good measure.

In three days I’ll turn the page to another year, but I’ll know that this is just one way of keeping time. There are other ways to make sense of things, to pay attention to what matters.

The Art of Letting Go, by Lisa Lorden Myers, an author and fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue sufferer who works passionately to help others cope with chronic illness.

It’s funny how determination and will power can be so difficult to apply to the goal of doing less, instead of doing more.  We may know how to commit ourselves to goals and work to achieve them, but can we have similar determination to rest and to heal?  Can our will power be devoted to “letting go”?  Perhaps the New Year is a time to re-focus ourselves less on doing, and more onbeing.

Healing requires no resolutions—it requires only that we live each day the best way we know how, listening to our bodies, and nurturing our souls.

The Top Ten Resolutions Nobody Will Keep from Toni Bernard, author of How to Be Sick and Psychology Today blogger.

Every year I torture myself by making New Year’s Resolutions that I don’t keep. So, as a public service, in order to save you the trouble of letting yourself down yet again, I offer the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions that Nobody Will Keep:

(she lists 10, so be sure and read the whole article, but my personal favorite is #9)

Number 9: I will maintain a positive attitude.

I learned from another Psychology Today writer that this is known in the therapeutic trade (of which I’m not a member) as “the tyranny of positive thinking.” Hurray! It’s okay not to always be positive. I think I’ll toss this resolution out straight away.

I had the privilege of interviewing Toni last year. You can read it here.

Rilke Always Says It Best, posted on Barbara Storey’s blog, Storeylines: One Person, Many Lives

And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious and great things.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

I hope the first week of 2013 treated you well!

Busy Be Gone

Brene´ Brown recently posted this on her Facebook page: “It’s so easy to buy into the idea that if we stay busy enough the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us. When they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums.” This clearly resonated with people.  1,183 people liked it and 80 people commented. I replied, “Great idea, but I might be too busy to go.”

I love her writing, but sometimes Brene´ uses such big concepts, I’m not 100% sure what she means. I definitely relate to the part about busyness, but I’m not positive what it means about the truth of our lives catching up with us. Maybe I’ll figure it out as I’m writing. Maybe it will be a separate piece.

In my post, The Grass Always Grows Where You Water It, I wrote: “It’s May 1st, and I usually would have already had my monthly goals mapped out in my mind (and on paper). But not this month. I’ve been busy living, so that’s a good thing!” I also added that I wasn’t even worried about not having any formal goals. Well, I lied. I’ve been scared out of my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of not being busy, and I wonder if I’ll turn into some sort of sluggish sloth!  What if I never set another goal again?

Busy has always been a good thing in my family. It means you’re being productive. My family is of German descent, and I think it’s a cultural thing. During weekly Sunday phone calls, my mother cheerily told me to “Have a productive day.” In talking with another woman of German heritage, she said her mother said exactly the same thing! She also told me about a German word,  sitzfleish. It literally means the virtual flesh that exists between one’s behind and the chair. Figuratively, it refers to the ability to persist in one’s work, the patience that can endure anything, and the idea that work is more important than play.

I’ve certainly had a lot of sitzfleish in my life. I’ve prided myself on being able to plow through work and sit there until the job is done. And I’m not knocking the value of being able to keep your butt on the chair. It’s a skill that has served me well over the years, especially spending oodles of study time earning a doctorate and pounding out four books.

For me, busy has been fun. It has often meant being fully focused and engaged, in a state of creative flow.

My problem is that I take it too far. I don’t know when to stop, take a break, get up from the computer, walk around, stretch, move, breathe. Can you have too much creative flow? Sometimes I think so. I can get so immersed in what I’m doing that I forget to eat—and that’s saying something! (Maybe there’s a book in there…Write Yourself Thin.)

Ethan Nichtern, a popular Buddhist teacher, talks about the Tibetan concept of coemergence. He defines it as  “the ability of any particular phenomenon or experience to manifest as either wisdom or confusion, helpful or harmful, a weapon or a prison. So busy is not good or bad, it’s what we do with it.

I’ve never been good at finding balance in my life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. Greg teases me about it all the time. For example, when I want to change the thermostat in the house (and being a middle-aged woman that is about every five minutes), I ask him, “Are you hot or are you freezing?”

If there’s one good thing that has come from my chronic pain, it’s that it’s making me more mindful of my work habits. I simply can’t work for as long as I used to. But I’m still fighting that fact. I usually don’t notice I’ve worked too long until my body screams at me.

Hmmm, I’m sensing a new goal…start listening for the tiny whispers.

***

We have a great covered patio, and I think I’ve sat outside more this month than in all the months we’ve lived here combined (about 5 years). I’ve been watching birds build nests, listening to them sing, and feeling the breezes blow. I’ve enjoyed sharing this time with Greg, my college-age son who has been home more, and of course, Lily and Larry. As I’m sitting here finishing this, I see 7  Goldfinches, an Indigo Bunting, two Cardinals, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and two Wrens who live in the birdhouse you’ll see pictured below. I’ve named them Henry and Harriet. They seem like a great couple! I wonder if they’ve done much decorating in their house…

There’s no place like home.

Windy day!

Trying to get Lily and Larry to pose.

We’ve had enough of this!

The Grass Grows Where You Water It

I saw this saying, “The grass grows where you water it,” and it speaks to how I’m feeling today.

It’s May 1st, and I usually would have already had my monthly goals mapped out in my mind (and on paper). But not this month. I’ve been busy living, so that’s a good thing! I’m loving my writing class, and I’ve chosen to spend my extra time soaking up all that goodness. I also went on a blogging binge last week and posted something Monday through Friday. Whew!

But (I know, there shouldn’t always be a but)…I’m having trouble focusing on more than one thing at a time. In February, I did great when I followed Sharon Salzberg’s 28-day meditation challenge. In March, I focused more on my physical health, managing my chronic pain, and have made some significant diet changes (you know, I reluctantly joined the free-range chicken/organic produce/supplement-popping club). In April, I immersed myself in the Alchemy writing class. In the meantime, I’ve let the meditation slide, although I’m managing to keep the dietary changes intact. I’ve found that when I focus my attention, I’m quite capable of making changes in my life. Yet I have trouble maintaining the changes, especially while trying to introduce new things, as well.

photo by Omega Man, Flickr CC

Does anyone know how to keep everything going?  I think I need one of those really long soaker hoses, so I can keep everything watered at once.

Although I don’t have my May goals to share with you, I want to tell you this. I’m being much more self-compassionate.  I sensed it and felt it, but I wanted proof. I retook the self-compassion test and compared it to the results when I began this project (you can find the test here). My scores show I’ve made significant strides in each of the areas measured. I’m really grateful and excited about that!

I’m not even too worried about not having any formal goals this month. I’ll probably start meditating again, because as Sharon Salzberg says, you can always begin again. I don’t even feel guilty (HUGE change) for not meditating. That’s just the way it’s happened. I’ll keep working on my health and exploring ways to manage my pain. I’ll definitely keep writing. And a huge thank you to everyone who keeps reading The Self-Compassion Project. Happy May Day!

photo by Greg Markway