Before I Die

I have thinkerly days sometimes. Usually when the wind blows wild and I feel restless.
Today is the perfect culmination of thinkerly conditions.  Fall is like that.
I spent some time thinking about what I want the last week of the 31 days project to hold, now that we’ve looked in my closets and discussed what’s in the pantry.  Where to we go from here?

I think we’ll spend the next week going outside the box of house keeping and talking about what to do with life once we’ve eliminated the things that weigh us down and steal from us.  Clearing our homes is just the first step, there is a life to be lived after that, and maybe its time we examined more closely what sort of life we want that to be.

A few months ago I watched this inspiring talk. It entered my mind again today in all my thinking. It’s the perfect prelude to what’s coming next. I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch it. It’s worth your six minutes.

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Divided

I do not have a multi-tasking personality.  In fact,  I don’t actually believe that multi-tasking is an effective way to accomplish anything since we aren’t being fully mindful of any one thing at a time while we do multiple things.  However, there are people who can juggle multiple tasks and ideas well, whether or not this is a healthy way of handling life. I am not one of those people. I do best with one task at a time, one person speaking at a time – which means I often feel verbally overwhelmed in a house with three teenage girls – one area of focus at a time.  This is one reason that participating in the 31 Days project makes writing easier for me. It allows me to focus on one thing to write on at a time for a set period of time. I’m not distracted by a million shiny ideas in my own head and on other people’s blogs.

On the other hand, writing for thirty one days straight has taxed me far beyond what I anticipated.  Stretching is good; I am enjoying it. I hope to continue to write with as much enthusiasm and momentum once this project is complete.  What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of time writing and organizing my blog would take once I began.  Some days I have spent hours on the work, which again isn’t a bad thing.  But, before this project began I wrote a post about something that is weighing heavily on me still: Creating Space.  Three weeks into October I must confess that I have failed miserably at reducing my unproductive online time. Perhaps even abysmally.   Instead of creating space for creativity by limiting online time, I have allowed my online time to increase proportionally to my creativity at the expense of things I am not willing to trade. I have justified it, obviously, by directing my attention to how well this project is progressing and how much I am enjoying it.

Fortunately my friend, Angela reminded me that I can (not) do all (the) things.  I don’t know why we need permission to turn off all the voices demanding our attention, but sometimes we do.  I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of excitement about this project and let many other things, important things, fall off the wagon making it unbalanced, and making me ill-prepared to handle my days.  In short, I’ve been multi-tasking and doing none of the many things as well as I would like, as well as I know I can when I give the proper focus.

I’m confessing this here for two reasons. First of all, I read back over these posts, and it seems like they are written by someone who has it all together.  I don’t.  But I do have a vision of where and who I want to be and how I plan to get there.  It looks good on paper, but I am far from perfect in the execution.  It’s a learning and experiencing process. You may need to know that. Secondly, confession lends accountability.  There’s a finality to words on paper (or the internet, I suppose).  People ask me about what I write. They want to see if the things I spend so much time writing about really are producing the life changes I believe in.  Another friend reminded me that I said, “I only have one today in my whole life.”   Lately I’ve done very well with talking about living a focused life, and not so well with actually living it. I want to change that now, today.

I’m not stopping the 31 Days project.  In fact, I’m hoping that re-narrowing my focus will allow me to continue to produce articles about change, intentional living and hope far more consistently just as I have for the first three weeks of the month.  I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten my intentions, I just got divided in my focus for awhile. Now, back to the business of enjoying life.31 days button

Life Outside the Box: 5 things we’ve learned since turning off cable

We’ve been without cable for almost ten years. Even before it was cool to get rid of cable we were  that family, the one who decided it cost way too much for way too little material value.  It all started rather accidentally; we’d had a satellite dish several years, but when we moved into a new place, there was no signal without putting a fifty foot pole in the yard. We weren’t interested in that. The cable monopoly in our town was ridiculously expensive, even the 487 movie channel package they kept insisting it was the best value. So we delayed, and didn’t do anything, and waited and finally, we just decided we didn’t want it. After all, by now we were used to the space, so why bother? For a short time we could still watch one or two local networks with our rabbit ears, but once the switch to digital signal happened, we had nothing. It was like the stone ages, before stations ran programming on the internet, before Netflix, before Hulu.

Since that time we’ve accumulated a nice little stash of movies (which we keep in one of the CD albums for maximum space advantage), and we’ve learned a few things:

1) Commercials really are one the single primary sources of greed. Ten years ago our children would have been 3, 4 and 5.  Yes, we let them watch kids’ channels. Yes, they wanted every single item they saw advertised. But once we stopped showing them all the very exciting things they were missing, they stopped wanting so much. Christmas became more enjoyable, sometimes even a challenging us to generate ideas for gifts to share with the grandparents.  Trips to the store weren’t filled with constant begging for toys. Hunky and I stopped thinking about buying new things simply because they were shiny and exciting.  If we don’t know what we’re missing, we aren’t missing it.

2) We let outside forces of little importance dictate the schedule of our lives.  I realize this problem is more outdated now with DVR and On-demand, but at the time, it was epidemic. Life without a television schedule opened our minds to the question if we had been allowing television to dictate our lives, what else had power over us without our realizing we permitted it? One slight drawback to delayed viewing was the three days we absorbed Season 1 of Lost watching almost nonstop, episode after episode, for the whole twenty-four episodes, but we watched it on our terms! No network told us to do that!  We sometimes lack discipline even today.

3) Media takes away our ability to think for ourselves. When someone appears polished, sounds intelligent and oozes sincerity, we want to believe they have our best interests at heart.  We conclude that the story they are telling is true and accurate.  I realize the fact that every media outlet operates from its own personal bias is no longer revolutionary ideology, but at the time it was amazing to me.   It made me relearn critical thinking and sifting through various sources for threads of truth.  I hope that by limiting television influence we are passing the same abilities on to our children. This world needs more free-thinkers if we’re ever going to change anything.

4.) Television isn’t reality. Even if it’s “reality television”.  Have you noticed the level of dissatisfaction in developed nations is higher than it’s ever been? We have more than we know what to do with and still we can’t seem to find happiness. Maybe it’s because we expect problems to be solved affably in twenty-four minutes or less, or that we haven’t slept with eleven hotties in the last two weeks nor have we been in even one high speed chase.   No, sometimes life is boring and we do the same thing day after day. Sometimes problems don’t wrap themselves up in a neat little package no matter how long we wait. Sometimes there is mess that just keeps going.  We’ve forgotten the things that make up actual reality while watching people fight for immunity in someone else’s imaginary world.

5.) We’ve lost the art of being quiet and still.  I remember a time when I would run the television for noise in the background. Seriously, as though there wasn’t enough noise in my life. We like to feel important, needed, on-top-of-things, so we tune into an endless stream of information, sound bytes, news reels and entertainment.  If we let our minds simply be still and quiet for a few moments, who knows what madness might break out in our heads!  Over time one of my favorite things has become stillness. Rather than my mind whirling and churning on the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, it has learned, over time, to simply rest, to let thoughts gently sift and settle. This isn’t something that’s popular, but in an increasingly hectic world ,it is something that it desperately lacking. Our ability to tune OUT and be still in necessary to our creativity and mental and physical health. Unplugging ( the internet too ) allows our brains to move in slower patterns that the world of media has all but eliminated, and we are suffering because of it.