Saturday, September 15, 2018

The no-TV challenge

I've been deep in thought lately and shifting some things. It seemed a good time to challenge my friend Pam to a week of no TV. While neither of us is what we would call a big TV watcher (no daytime shows or commercial TV), we both get sucked into series on amazon prime or netflix. And an hour can turn into three very quickly. I've been justifying my longer and longer watching with the fact that I do needlepoint while I watch, something productive. But I'm still on my butt for all those hours and receiving rather than generating.

We both went into the experince with some trepidation (aka withdrawal). I hate imposed restrictions (tell me I can't eat or drink after 7 for a lab test the next morning and I'm dying of thirst at 7:10). But it was more that we were unused to thinking for ourselves in the evening. So the first two nights were uncomfortable. But then it became the new normal: deciding what I was going to do. Read? Write in my journal? Tidy up something?

In my list-making fashion I started one on things I'd been meaning to do when I had time. Well, now I had time--another two to three hours in the day. Most of the activities I chose were quiet ones and I kept it spacious. But I found it peaceful and satisfying. I'm now on Day 13 (my friend went back to watching on Day 7). It isn't a struggle now but seems more of a choice, which is what I was looking for. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Ode to a Fifth Cat

Warm nights Josie
likes the screen door
propped open
She never ventures far
unknown trauma
in her young life
keeps her close
and the other three
of my companions
come and go too
when the nights are warm

Last night I left PBS Mystery
for a cool drink
from the dark kitchen
and as I crossed
the dining room
I saw a dark shape with tail
move under the table
and out the porch door
Thought it was
my tabby Sam
but he lifted sleepy eyes
from the Trader Joe's box
on the carpet

I moved then to the kitchen door
and she stood there
on hind legs
Her masked face clear
in the streetlight
I asked her politely
to move on
and after a moment
she trundled down the stairs

They eat kibble with their fingers
Raccoons do
And while I don't begrudge her
an easy meal
from an open door
on a warm night
we'll be keeping
the screen door closed now

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Rethinking what I live from

As I rethink my use of time in this transition from work-focus to the next stage, I'm beginning to rethink what I live from. In 7 Habits, Covey talks about the dependency pitfalls of various centers of life.What he says makes sense to me. If we live "from" our family, our marriage, our work, then when something happens to those things (someone dies, kids grow up and leave, we get laid off), our center crumbles and we are lost. But if we center our life on the principles that most resonate with us, they never leave us.

So one of life's important tasks is to consider the principles or values that most resonate with each of us. Maybe it's kindness or generosity, maybe it's faith or compassion, maybe it's truthfulness or integrity. A quick web search will show you a list a mile long. But most of us know deep down what our values are. They resonate with us when we act from them and our conscience pings us when we don't. So the shift is not so much in identifying them but in putting them at the center of our decision-making, what I call the filter.

Part of retirement from me is moving away from a work-centered life. In our culture, it's so easy to create that. It gives us identity, it gives us structure, and for many years, both as a professor and as an editor, it gave me meaning. But that's not so true any more, so I'm feeling called to reorient to values: generosity, kindness, peace of mind for myself and others.

What values are at the center of your life?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A great quote from Joan Chittester

Joan Chittester is a radical nun in her 80s. I love this quote from her book, The Gift of Years.

"Holiness is made of dailiness, of living life as it comes to me, not as I insist it to be."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

7 Habits of Highly Effective People 25 years later

Like many people, I read Stephen Covey's seminal book when it came out. I was in the middle of changing careers from college professor to freelance editor and some of his ideas were very helpful to me. A few weeks ago, I saw that amazon was giving away the 25th anniversary edition for free on Kindle so I got a copy.

In rereading it, I can see that I first read this as a success manual for working and that I interpreted "highly effective" to mean "highly successful." I don't know if using his ideas made me more successful or not (although I've had a good career as an editor) but I found his ideas thoughtful and helpful.

But now I'm rereading it for another purpose and I'm seeing that "highly effective" has a much different meaning for me now 25 years later. I'm not looking to be successful anymore except at living so being highly effective really speaks to me and I'm able to see all the references in his book that are about relationships and living a principle-centered life. I'm glad to have this resource for my inquiry.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Circling retirement

I'm getting serious about retirement. I've figured out the finances and how much work I'd need to continue to do to cushion my already pretty simple life and it seems quite doable. So I'm thinking about the kind of life that I want to create in this next phase of things when my relationship with time will change.

I've watched my friends and acquaintances enough to know what I don't want: a gazillion volunteer projects that become the new work schedule, the trip after exotic trip of the chronic traveler, and least of all, hours and hours of daytime TV. I know that I want more time to paint, that I have many more books to write, that I want to do good in my community in some way. At the same time, I want to get even more comfortable with a spacious schedule and learn to be in the unfolding of time rather than in the managing and controlling of time.

I'm looking forward to this inquiry as I look for a path and not a prescription. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Asking new questions

Much of our verbal interaction relies on familiar and safe questions, the classic being "How are you?" This is such a familiar question to all of us that we don't even really answer it anymore. Not with any considered thought anyway. We say "Fine" or "Good." We ask ourselves and others equally familiar questions. What do I want to eat? Waht should I wear? What am I going to do next? I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with these questions. They're often appropriate and helpful. But learning to ask ourselves different questions, new questions can lead to a different quality of life. Here are some new questions I'm asking myself.

Do I need to rest now? As an addict to productivity and a to-do list, this question has become vital to my well-being. Instead of racing on to the next project, I ask myself if I need a break. Do I need to go out and walk around the block? Do I need to spend some time with my cats? Do I need to go out to the porch swing and read a chapter in whatever book I'm reading?

Will saying nothing be a better choice? By nature, I'm a fixer and an idea generator so if you've got a problem, I've got a suggestion. But I'm learning to listen without responding. I can have those great ideas and not share them. If you ask me for one, I can give it to you, but much of the time, I know we all just want to be heard, not fixed.

What would be most satisfying to do next? As a food addict, I am always on the outlook for ways to be satisfied that don't involve eating. I'm slowly learning to monitor satisfaction through activities and interactions with others. I'm creating a repertoire of things that work for me and a key to this is to make that a priority.

Will this choice increase my peace of mind? I've written about this before but asking myself this repeatedly during the day is so helpful, from accepting an invitation or a work project to getting something out of the refrigerator. Peace of mind is my filter.

What new questions could you ask?