Simplify

     I have been at loose ends since I finished my twelve weeks with Power Thoughts. Since then, I have been contemplating my health goals, my life goals, reconsidering my boundaries, reading, and rereading.  I have started Joyce Meyer’s 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life, and I am amazed at my tendency to compliciate my life, and make things harder than they need to be.

     The ideas that are most helpful to me as I regroup are:

  • Spend more time at home
  • When in doubt, don’t
  • Enjoy (don’t fight) your circumstances
  • Our lives are cyclical–like seasons

The health goals that I think I can keep are:

  • Get more sleep
  • Make an appointment for a massage
  • Walk the dog!
  • Take more bubble baths
  • Eat dark chocolate
  • Find a puzzle game I like

This may seem like a frivolous list, but…the best goals to make are the ones I can keep!  The goals above speak to exercise, stress relief, brain power, and healthy indulgences (the anti-oxidants in dark chocolate).

One Road to Personal Peace

     After reading the chapter about Power Thought #9, I pursue peace with God, myself, and others, I realized that I really needed to work on having less personal turmoil in my life.  I live a lot of my days frustrated, rushed, and upset–at myself, because I am not doing everything I think I should be able to do.  Crazy, huh?  Well, it’s hard to see sometimes

     Recently, as I was about to head out to another activity, I realized how much I did not want to go, how much I dreaded it.  It was a “hobby” type class that I’d signed up for and I was determined to follow through with it and future classes because it was supposed to be fun, darnit!

     As I accepted the fact that I did not want to go, that gave way to the thought that I did not have to go.  I could back out.  I could quit.  I do not think it’s a great thing to commit to something and then quit, but in order to build more peace in my life, that’s exactly what I did (as graciously as possible, mind you).

     So, I learned that one very concrete way that I can pursue, establish, and maintain peace with myself is by not overbooking myself.  There may be a part of me that thinks I need to be busy every minute with a productive task or activity, but that’s not what I really want, that’s not what makes me happy, and I will always rebel against it, in some way or another.

     In order for me to be at peace with myself, I have to have downtime.  I have to have a couple of days (maybe on the weekends?) when every second is not scheduled.  This give me the chance to be flexible about my day, get things done that have to be done, and still have time to read, or write, or bake, according to my mood.  So, to add the concrete action to the power thought:  I pursue peace with God, myself, and others.  I pursue peace with myself, by keeping a lighter schedule and giving myself time and space.

He Makes My Soul Prosper

     God makes my soul prosper by providing me with rest and relaxation–something I had never even considered a need, let alone a need that God wants to meet. 

Recently, I have been having unusual fantasies.  Normally, my fantasies are about finishing our house, getting a better job, my  husband having more time off, me fitting into my skinny jeans—that sort of thing.  But, all last week, I kept thinking about having twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep, having a day or even several hours to do whatever I wanted, alone. 

It’s odd how when you’re a child, you might get those two full days of freedom—the weekend, but as soon as your adult, it just doesn’t happen.  The weekends get crammed full with run-off from the work week—laundry, house cleaning, grocery shopping, bill-paying, gift shopping, errands, and the unending necessity of cooking and doing dishes.  Sigh.  Before I started teaching, I took a day of annual leave on occasion, simply to have eight hours of time to myself.  As a teacher, I can’t just take a day off whenever (or ever), and I feel the stress of not getting that time. 

Part of it is my fault.  I am not sure what happened, when it happened, or how it happened, but I have trouble letting myself relax.  Deeply ingrained in my make-up is the rule be productive.  I feel like I have to knock out the “to do” list.  I must make progress.  I must be constructive. 

Well, this can only go on so long, and then I SNAP.  Usually, my snaps are not that dramatic.  I eat too many cookies, cry a little, a sleep it off.  To avoid those kinds of meltdowns, and also simply to remember who I am and what it’s like to have fun, I am trying  to have an unproductive day of whatever here and there, or at least a few hours. 

I did it today, and I want to do it again!  I can’t imagine the bliss of having a real day off every week.  Today, I just limited the items on my “to do” list to very simple tasks that would be easy to achieve.  Then, I moved the excess items to next week.  Ahhh…a day off. 

It was so nice to get up without being in a rush to get somewhere or do something.  The morning had a completely different feel.  I took a bubble bath, and used my fancy Bath and Body Works sugar scrub, and drank my coffee in the tub.  Then, I went to a local craft fair with my husband’s mother and aunt.  I bought my niece’s birthday present, and the ingredients to make my step dad’s birthday cake.  I mailed a package.  There endeth my productivity.  I indulged in a banana split for lunch because I’d been craving ice cream.  Then, this afternoon, I lounged on the couch with my dog, and watched not one, but two chick flicks—Nanny Diaries and Post-Grad.  I snuggled under a hand-crocheted afghan, breathed in warm, puppy smell (I know it’s strange, but I like it), and felt luxuriously well cared for. 

Still, I was going to have to get myself together at some point and fix supper for my husband…Then, my cell phone rang.  It was hubby asking if I wanted to cook or if I wanted him to pick up something on his way home.   Ha-ha!  I did not have to cook or do dishes.  I believe that this was a blessing, a treat, a God-given day!  I have never really thought of my desire for time alone to relax as a need, but I think God does.  I am seeing more and more that God sees me and my needs holistically.  His care for me does not begin and end with food and clothing.  What a gift this day has been.  My needs have been abundantly met, by God.  I wonder if it would be possible have time off like this on a regular basis.  Definitely something worth praying about.

Power Thought #8:  God meets all my needs abundantly.

6 Ways to Stop Fearing and Fighting Your List

     Dealing with this week’s Power Thought, “I will not live in fear,” has revealed to me one of my fears.  Most days, I work through the day in fear of not getting everything done.  As you can imagine, this makes it very difficult to enjoy the day because I end up feeling like I am in a race against the clock to get all of my work finished.  I am working on overcoming this thinking, and taking on an attitude of faith.  My method of overcoming is a combination of acknowledging the truth and some practical changes in the way I set up my days.

  1. I acknowledge that my times are in God’s hands.  He does not expect me to do the impossible in a day, and he wants me to enjoy my life.
  2. In the morning, I pray for wisdom about my day.  I pray for God to help me to understand what the right priorities are.
  3. I pray that I will not be so rigid in my scheduling that I can’t enjoy an unexpected visit or conversation, or help someone out with a favor or joining a friend in a spontaneous errand or lunch.
  4. Practically speaking, I am disciplining myself to keep shorter to do lists.  This is a process.  I usually make a list the night before of everything I want to accomplish the next day.  Then, I mark out the things that aren’t true priorities.  Sometimes, the next morning, I mark things out.  I have a tendency to overload the list—so it takes a lot of paring down to get a manageable list. 
  5. Finally, I am making an effort to plan something joyful into each day.  This is hard—I know it shouldn’t be, but I struggle to come up with ideas.  And of course, just as with the “work” type tasks, sometimes I plan something fun, and the circumstances to make it happen just aren’t right.  Today, I gave myself an at-home pedicure, and I planned to being watching Glee.  I received the first season for Christmas.  Sadly, the picture kept messing up, and it actually cut out in the middle of an episode…with that in mind…
  6. Have a back-up plan, and be flexible.

Eating Too Many Dove Chocolates? Five Easy Ways to Take a Better Break

     For me, eating too many Dove Chocolates is a sign.  It is a sign that I need a real break.  I am not very good at taking breaks or at finding balance between Productivity and Relaxation.  I usually eat a little chocolate on my way back to the computer or the project or buy myself a little something while I am running errands and try to pass that off as a break or self-nurturing.  What a joke!  When I woman needs a break, she loses her sass, spirit and spunk, and tries to feed her soul with junkfood and shopping “treats.” 

     The real break, or the most desirable treat is time.  How about a couple of hours to do something fun?  Something that isn’t productive at all?  This is scary to me.  It means I might not get to mark off everything on my to do list.  Yet, ignoring the “I need a break” signs leads to frustration, anger, and for me, extra pounds.   You could also add on stress, and more frustration and anger, etc. etc.

     So, even though my Productivity isn’t as great as it might have been in previous years, I am recognizing the fact that I am a whole person–not a robot, and that means that my peace and contentment are more important than getting things marked off the to do list. 

     One of the struggles here is that due to my lack of experience at giving myself breaks, I don’t  always know what to do.  However, I have gathered a few ideas.  They usually come to me by thinking, “What did I used to do for fun?”  I think back several years, and then I have something to try.  Here are a few of my random suggestions:

  1. I love to put my feet up, and snuggle up on the couch and watch a show or a movie that is just for me–something that feeds my soul–not  necessarily something that my husband or friends would watch.  It’s my choice.  Today, I took a break and watched two episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  How wonderful!  (I also remembered as I was watching that both Melissa Gilbert and the actress who played Nellie Oleson published autobiographies last year; I might enjoy reading those books…)
  2. Play with the dog or dog.  Create a toy from a “found” object outside or in the house.  Most of the time while I am working, I ignore Scout the Dog’s attempts to get me to play.  At some point though, I realize, he’s right.  I really do need to throw this toy for him.
  3. Make something little.  Some really tiny creation.  Sometimes, when I am working a lot, my brain is so tired that I just want to do something different.  I don’t care what it is.  I want to make something, but I don’t have the time or energy to start a big project.  A few simple things to try:  bake some cookies (use the bought cookie dough), make a sign with a favorite verse or saying on it, embroidery a tea towel, make a simple pin or necklace.  Art doesn’t have to be big and grandiose!
  4. Get outside with your camera and takes some pictures of anything that catches your eye.
  5. Take a nap.  If you can’t fall asleep, focus on your senses.  What do you hear?  What was the most beautiful thing you heard all day?  What beautiful thing did you see?  What do you smell?  What was the tastiest food you at that day?  What was the best texture?  I find that focusing on how my body is experiencing the moments of my day gets me out of my robotic mind-mode and helps me feel rich and grateful for the whole of my life.  Also, in focusing on the senses, you may stumble upon an idea of a poem, something you want to photograph, or simply something you want to share with an special person.

Hooky Days

    Technically, I am on “vacation.”  This is winter break, or actually Christmas Break, and I have a nice long one since I teach college.  Despite this, I still feel the need for a hooky day! 

     Perhaps when I tell people (or admit, is more like it) that I get almost four weeks off for Christmas, the envision me sleeping until noon, lounging in bed reading and eating chocolate, going to lunch and the movies, and spending my afternoon shopping.  The reality is that even when I am “off” like today, I still get up at 5:30 a.m. with my husband, make his lunch, start the coffee, and feed Scout the dog.  I get dressed.  I pray and read my Bible.  This morning, I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning out the fridge, doing lots of dishes, and putting Christmas decorations away.  Then…get ready…I balanced the bank statement!  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

     Here’s the deal–whether you work outside the home or work inside the home, there will always  be lots of work to do.  We all need a break from that at times.  I find that since I started back to teaching and got married three years ago, it is much harder to find a day to play hooky.  I don’t miss school unless I have some kind of emergency.  That leaves me weekends and holidays to play hooky, and when you still have to fix supper and do dishes…where does one find this magical thing called a hooky day?

     I’m not sure, but I am intent on figuring it out.   I used to take a hooky day and celebrate it by sleeping late, taking a bubble bath, going out for coffee and a pastry when I got hungry, and getting a new book or picking up one I hadn’t had time to read.  I have spent a lot of hooky days reading and enjoying the pleasure of a day without responsibilities.  I have also spent the time going to a movie by myself, watching DVDs of a favorite TV show, or getting my hair or nails done.  All fun and nurturing activities.  The point is to do what you want to do and what you feel like doing.  Once, when I was just worn out from having a lot of draining people in my life and feeling like I was “‘going” all the time, I made a point to stay in for an entire weekend day.  That was a big deal for me, because I am typically, on the go-go-go.  I spent most of the day on the couch in my pajamas.  I had a fire in the fireplace, a book my a new author, a movie to watch.  In the early evening, I made bread.  I lit candles, burned incense, and played some soft music.  It was a lovely way to get quiet oon the inside and enjoy my own company.  This may be awful, but during a time in my life when I was extremely, let’s say over involved in church, I would occasionally have a hooky day which involved lots of rest, playing music and making homemade soup.  After I was replenished, and rested, I was able to really be present at the evening service.

     I think that a hooky day now might just require a bit more planning.  I will have to tell my husband the night before that I am going to sleep late, and just go from there.  It has gotten tougher for me to ignore all of the “to-do’s” in my head, so it might be best to have some kind of a plan, and for the plan to include getting out of the house.  I have very high hopes for a hooky day this week; I will let you know what happens.

In case you have never had a hooky day, by the way, and are wondering what the benefits of this seemingly frivolous activity might be, let me tell you:  the benefits are many.  I just don’t feel right if I don’t get time by myself every once in a while to do something I want to do.  It makes me feel rich and enjoy my life more.  I think it makes me more creative and happier and even thinner!  (Yes, thinner.  The theory is that if I don’t get time to myself, I get anxious and feel frustrated and reach for a handful of cookies).