Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: essentialism

Routines and Habits

This will be my last post on this wonderful little book! Re-reading this has reminded me that, while I do still have some great routines and habits built into my day, I’d forgotten why I need them and had lost my motivation to keep building on them. I’m happy I finally got around to reading it again. It feels like I read it just in time, like maybe it was waiting for just the right moment.

“But if we create a routine that enshrines the essentials, we will begin to execute them on autopilot. Instead of consciously pursuing the essential, it will happen without our having to think about it.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This is similar to the concept that The FlyLady uses to get all the housework done. I found her website over fifteen years ago and it changed my life. Seriously. Housework can be overwhelming for anyone, add in three kids, two dogs, and a personality like a squirrel on crack, and you’ve got a situation that might end up with someone calling CPS because that house…wow…children should not be subjected to that. She helps you set up routines, easy ones, that get the essentials out of the way so that you can focus elsewhere and enjoy life instead of slave away.

Coming into this book with those skills under my belt, made it easy for me to see where I could be applying essentialism everywhere else. Morning, afternoon, and evening routines are easy to create and stick to when I’m only focused on what I can actually do to make life better, instead of wildly going from one thing to the next and then losing my mind when a curve ball comes screaming in over the plate.

My list of essentials is short. I’m often accused of shirking when people ask me to take on new responsibilities, but only I know how much energy and time I have to spend. If it doesn’t fall under one of my essentials, and it feels outside my sphere of influence, I let it go. If it doesn’t get done, I suppose it didn’t need to be done.

I cannot and will not feel guilty that I’ve created a world for myself that doesn’t make me look like a busy bee all day every day. Yes, I have a lot of time. I have read, I write, I cook from scratch, because I made my life that way so that I can.

Now…if I can only make my mind work that way as well. That is what brings me to the next book I’m reading, The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel.

Go back to my first post, “Essentialism by Greg McKeown” to read more quotes from the book.

Mistakes and Buffer Zones

Mistakes and buffer zones. Greg McKeown has some wise words for us to carry into the new year, but first…

Happy Birthday, 2022!

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do feel like it’s a new start. Something about everyone celebrating one more revolution around the sun at the same time is energizing. I mean, the whole world does it on the SAME DAY! You can’t say that about Friday’s or the first day of any month.

How did you spend your New Year’s Eve? We went into town and brought Popeye’s chicken home for dinner along with a big bottle of rum (and yes, I sang “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum..” on the way out of the store). We snuggled up on the couch with chicken and…mmm…biscuits…and watched “About Time” on Netflix. Party animals!

On any given evening we watch one or two series episodes before bed, but since it was a holiday we decided to watch a movie. But which one? Flipping through titles doesn’t help and the descriptions…well, they just don’t grab me. I wish they would play a couple random movie trailers that you cannot skip before everything else I watch, unrelated ones, not something similar to what I’m watching or the same trailer over and over like they with commercials on other channels.

Last night, we chose “About Time” because the title looked like it was funny and cute, different than what we usually watch, and it turned out to be so beautiful I cried and laughed and cried again the whole way through. I’m tearing up just writing this right now! So, if you haven’t seen it, go watch it. You will NOT regret it. It’s the perfect movie to start the year with.

PS If you’re reading this, Netflix, please find a way to help us see a better assortment of movies to watch. ‘What’s Trending” and “Based on What You’ve Watched” butters no parsnips!

And now, without further ado, some brilliant insight from yours truly. Two more of my favorite quotes from my latest read.

mistakes and buffer zones

“There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

How’s that for an idea? If we drop the ego guard down for a moment, after every mistake we make we can think, “I’m am now wiser than I was. Yay, growth!” Much more useful than, “Well crap, I made a mistake. I must be stupid and I need to hide it better.”

“The only thing we can expect (with any great certainty) is the unexpected. Therefore, we can either wait for the moment and react to it or we can prepare. We can create a buffer.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

mistakes and buffer zones

By “prepare” he doesn’t mean have enough money, be smart enough, plan what’s going to happen and be ready. He means prepare yourself, be emotionally ready for anything.

I’m a naturally reactive person. I get very excited, very easily, and my emotions can run away with me. That’s great when things are going as I had hoped, not so much when I’m surprised by something I didn’t want. My space between stimulus and response has been microscopic.

Meditation has helped me increase that space. Like driving, the more space I have between me and other cars, the more time I have to reflect and then respond. This coming year, I hope to increase my buffer space even more and then (wait for it) remember that it is there so that I don’t jump to react at the first sign of a problem, like that guy that slams on the brakes when he sees a yellow light a mile ahead.

Ok, so here we are at the end of my first post of the year 2022. I debated whether I should skip the quote commentary and create a special post just for New Year’s Day. I do have my 2021 reading stats to share with you. I know you’re dying to know! But I decided to stick with the flow and combine things a little.

I’m still working on one more post about Essentialism. I finished reading it yesterday and this morning started reading, “The Path of the Human Being: Zen Teachings on the Bodhisattva Way” by Dennis Genpo Merzel this morning. It sounds like a great way to start the year off, don’t you think?

Go back to my first post, “Essentialism by Greg McKeown” to read more quotes from the book.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I started re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown on Wednesday morning and finished it today. I did a quick search of my blog and found that I first posted about it back in March of 2019. It wasn’t as long ago as I had first thought. Odd because I didn’t write the date that I finished it inside the cover and I thought I started doing that routinely more than three years ago.

These are the little things that get under my skin. I believe that I am habitual, that I’ve created systems and rituals that I never fail at, but then I find things missing, like this date or not finding a receipt in the file it should be in. It feels like catching a glitch in the matrix. Unsettling.

Anyway…letting it go.

My search also found that I mentioned adding the book to my 2020 TBR pile back in January of 2020. And here I am…just now getting to it. Time flies faster and faster. I’m starting to stress out again.

Breathe.

I chose this as my final book of the year for two reasons. The first is that I’d like the reminder to keep things simple. Now that I’m on my own most of the time (the kids are officially out on their own), I need to rethink and refocus, again. The second reason is, admittedly, it’s a short and light read that I knew I would finish before the end of the year. This way I can start a new book on New Year’s Day. Perfection! Yeah, I’m like that.

Because I like to post about what I’m reading “in real time,” I’ll play a bit of catch up today so that I can get to the fun 2021 Reading Review that I plan on posting ASAP! This will be a “new read” post and it will include two quotes. Three posts in one!

This book was originally written for professionals, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, etc. I am not one of those people. I’m a housewife, but I think the principles apply to anyone. I’ll apply these ideas to the things that I do when I’m writing these posts: books, housework, family and friends, and craft projects.

“There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism quote

I think we all know this instinctually but our response to it is less than ideal. What we usually do is notice it and then spend the rest of our lives scrambling to get as much in as possible. And then, like dragging everyone through Disneyland by their ears to get the biggest bang for your buck, we destroy ourselves, our peace, and our family’s happiness.

This book advises a different tactic, one that I adopted the day that I realized that I can’t read ALL the books that exist. I also can’t support every relationship in the world, eat all the food, make all the projects, or do all the upgrades and remodels that are possible for my house.

Instead, we can find a way to whittle it down to the essentials, do those first and do them well, and forget the rest. Otherwise, we’ll kill ourselves chasing in every direction and never get anywhere.

“No matter how busy you think you are, you can carve time and space to think of your workday.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

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Now, I don’t work outside my home, but I do have responsibilities and there are things that I want to do, so one day I sat down and wrote out all the things I would want to do daily, weekly, and monthly, along with the time I believed it would take to do each. I also have a running list of long-term projects. Then I calculated how much time was in a day after sleep.

Guess what? It’s not a cliché. There really aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week, or weeks in the year, to do all those things. I had some work to do to pare that down into a reasonable amount of stuff. Greg McKeown relates it to organizing your clothes closet and he’s spot on.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I typically get a little reflective around this day, don’t you? So here I am thinking, looking back on my journal (thinking I should do like I said I would and make dates with myself to reflect and refocus more often) and wondering. What did I accomplish this year? I have lots of things that happened, but only a few things that I personally accomplished thru my own actions. That needs to change. Or does it? I’m not sure yet.

Like the author says, I need to clean out my closet and rethink the purpose of my wardrobe. Today it begins. I’ll get the housework done, pick up my mail, and then sit down with my journals, my calendar, and my reading log to see where I’ve been, and then plan out where to go next. Life is moving way too fast to just sit here being sad that I can’t do it all and finding myself doing nothing.

Want to read more? Hop over to “Mistakes and Buffer Zones” for a New Year’s message and more quotes. And to “Routines and Habits” for my final thoughts on this great book.

True Nature, Driving, and New Podcasts

As you have probably heard, I love listening to podcasts while I drive and yesterday, I tried out a couple new ones to share with you. One got me a little closer to that idea of the true nature of things that “Returning to Silence” was getting at.

Understanding the true nature of things while I'm driving.
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

What’s Essential hosted by Greg McKeown

I picked this one because I loved his book “Essentialism” and plan on reading it again. I’m not sure if the podcast will add more to my understanding than the book does, but it was worth a listen.

The Daily Stoic

I’m a big fan of Stoic philosophy and have been studying it passively for years. As a highly emotional and reactive personality, it has helped me learn better ways of dealing with the world. Most days I wish I were better at it, but I’ve come to accept my progress for what it is. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I am making headway, no matter how slowly.

I added this one to my repertoire because my sons started listening to it. Side note: there is nothing in this world as awesome as your kids picking up and getting into something you’ve been interested in for years.

This podcast is short and to the point, just a little something to think on as you start or end your day.

And then there is this one, the one I really want to talk to you about.

Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta

I’ve been leaning more towards Buddhist teaching for some time now, not for its spiritual aspects (although that’s pretty interesting), but more for its teaching about human nature. I’ve found guidance and support by reading and trying to understand this teaching.

Listening to this podcast is an extension of that effort and I liked it to much that it will stay in my rotation for a while. It added to the thinking I’m learning in the book “Returning to Silence.”

Speaking of that book, I had some gems to share from it today!

“People usually depend, consciously or unconsciously, on the conceptualizations of the world.”

Funny thing…that’s exactly what the second episode of Secular Buddhism (#150 Buddha Nature) I listened to was about!

He told the story of his Buddha rock, a stone he had painted at a monastery and kept in his house and then in his yard. The rock was supposed to remind him of the Buddha Nature, the weight that keeps us grounded, maybe an anchor. Moral of the story was that it was the nature of the rock and his connection to it, not the painting on it, that was supposed to be the reminder.

We all do this to everything around us, every day. Everything we see and experience in this world, we label and categorize. This person is fat. That person is rude. That tree is tall. That thing hurts me. But those labels are not the true nature of those things. When we can see past the descriptions and labels, we can begin to see the reality, the connections, and more.

It reminds me of, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The true nature of what we see and experience isn’t what we label it with.

If you want to read more of my posts about “Returning to Silence,” go back to my first post on it called, New Read: Returning to Silence. You’ll find a list of posts at the bottom of the page.

Unachievable Goal – Understanding the World

Unachievable goal? Maybe. But it is still the reason I read, write, question, and explore the world around me.

“I am a man committed to understanding the world and how it operates, all the while knowing that I haven’t much chance in succeeding in this endeavor. What I do know is that the world is too rich, too various, too multifaceted and many-layered for a fellow incapable of an hour’s sustained thought to hope to comprehend it.”

From “The Personal Essay: A Form of Discovery” by Joseph Epstein

Lately, though, I’ve felt more overwhelmed than usual. There’s just so much coming in from so many directions that I have no time to process and reflect. I find myself needing to take several steps back, limit my exposure to the world, and refocus. What is currently most important for me to focus my energy on? What/who needs my immediate attention? I’ll tell you right off the bat what’s not…any present moment’s crisis outside my home.

Yes, I know…pandemic…forest fires…election…my high school friend’s cat…my ex-co-worker’s girlfriend…my distant cousin’s dinner plans… I’m sure they are all important to someone, but I just can’t right now. I need to start smaller. I need to focus here at home.

Myself. My family. My home. That’s what comes first during “SHTF” times, most times actually. Like Mark Manson writes about, there are only so many fucks to give, only so much energy each person has to deal with what life throws at them.

I’m limiting my input to books and a small group of friends and family. Social media, other than posting my reading quotes daily, is gone. My output focus will reflect those inputs alone for the foreseeable future.

“It is unlikely that many of us will be famous, or even remembered. But not less important than the brilliant few that lead a nation or a literature to fresh achievements, are the unknown many whose patient efforts keep the world from running backward;…”

F.L. Lucas “The Value of Style” quoted in Joseph Epstein’s “Heavy Sentences”

And that quote is why I write here instead of simply in a notebook at my desk. It helps me keep my mind right, which helps me run my life in more peace, and in the long run, helps my family and closest friends run theirs. While I’m at the work, I might as well share my discoveries here. You never know whose hands it will land in.

Am I Productive? Or Am I Just Coasting Through Life?

The feeling is overwhelming for a housewife and stay-at-home mom. It feels as though everyone around you is doing something big. Everyone else is living productive and satisfying lives while you waste away, folding laundry, making beds, and chasing children in an attempt to keep them from running out into the street or generally making a nuisance of themselves.

As you all know, my active parenting days are coming to a close, and I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering what is to become of me. I feel like I’m being put out to pasture. The feeling of retirement is especially poignant for a homeschooling parent. My career is at an end people! What am I supposed to do now?

“Relax and enjoy it!” I hear people say. Please, people. I’m 47 years old. I can’t spend the next 30 to 40 years watching Netflix and reading books…or can I?

Today, I saw the following graphic on Mark Manson‘s Instagram feed and became exasperated. Live consciously doing WHAT, Mark!? Ugg.

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After a short grumpy session with my husband, and actually listening to his encouraging words for once, here’s what I came up with.

1. Do fewer things.

I got that. Over the years I have cut back and then built up and cut back again. It’s hard to find the sweet spot, that place where I’m doing only what is essential to me, not too much and not too little. In general, I only take care of and focus on, the things that make me who I am. Finding out what those things are has taken me most of my life.

2. Do those things deliberately.

Yep. I have a list that keeps me on track. I make sure to do those things regularly. When I ask myself, or others ask me, why I’m not doing more for…whatever it is…I can look at that list. My dance card is full. Each day is filled with my essentials.

3. Do them to completion.

Something I struggle with that from time to time. When I’m consistently not getting something done, I have to ask myself if it just doesn’t fit in my schedule or if it’s turning out not to be important to my bigger goals.

4. Share them with others.

Here is where I’ve run into a brick wall lately. Share what with who?! I mean, come on. I’ve been a housewife and stay at home mom for the last 19 years. What exactly is there to share? “Look I dusted and vacuumed the living room!” and “Nice laundry pile, right?” I don’t create. I don’t add to the GDP. I don’t produce anything.

But then it dawned on me. I have been creating something very important every day for the last twenty years, a happy, healthy, and organized home. My positive attitude about that work has waxed and waned over the years, the same way it did when I worked outside my home. That’s called being human and having emotions, but it doesn’t mean my work is pointless or not worth sharing.

So who do I share that product with?

First in line is my family, the people I support with my “work.” The house is clean, the laundry done, the yard in good repair, there’s food in the house and dinner is ready. Sure, that’s good, but what about my attitude? What if I am happy and at peace, proud of my work, and excited to be the support team for them? How awesome would that be if my husband came home to a happy wife when he was done working? Wouldn’t it be better for my sons to see a proud Mom when they were done with classes or home on vacation? It might make their lives a lot easier if I were more satisfied with my own work, instead of coming home to, “But all I did today was pull weeds and do the dishes!”

Second, my blog and social media feeds. This life we chose, housewife and mom? It’s pretty damn rewarding. It’s fun. It’s satisfying. And we can be proud of the work we do in the background. All kinds of businesses have background people, support crews. That was the kind of job I did before I had kids and I was damn good at it.

Home and family are no different. My husband works in the world and brings home money. My children are making a way of their own in the world. Me? I have always been the support for that, something they don’t even realize they need until it’s not there.

Attitude about your work can change everything. I have been productive. I have been and still am filling a need in this world. Now that I’m not so busy with little kids, finding ways to share it with others outside my home through this blog and my social media feeds has become my new outlet, a way to encourage other people in their journey. I’m hoping I can do more of that as the years go by. Who knows where it will take me!

It’s Friday! Oh…wait…

And…it’s Saturday morning that I’m finally making myself take a moment to sit down and at least do my Friday post. I’ve been feeling a bit like a teenager, hormonally pulled and exhaustedly lazy at the same time. I think I’m ready for a vacation. Luckily for me, that is exactly what’s coming up for us!

So, let’s get to this!

Thing I learned: I thought that I was over being affected by other people’s opinions of me, but then found myself trying to behave in ways someone else believed is the best way to behave instead of being myself and accepting that some people will not like it and those people are just not my people. Wow. That’s a damn long sentence! Self, you are you, and you need to be ok with the fact that you are not everyone’s cup of tea! That doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not YOUR people. Keep being you in all your crazy, talkative, open and honest ways, and the people that like that will be attracted to your orbit. It’s going to take time. Some of those bodies are way out in the galaxy!

Thing I’m reading: This is dumb but I’m kind of a book snob. I tend to reject books that everyone else is reading just because everyone else is reading them. Not cool, I know. What does it take to get me to read a popular book? A cute boy told me to. That’s what I was talking about earlier, teenage behavior. I’m about three hours into the first Game of Thrones book and I’m really liking it. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, so it goes fast, and it has a lot of feeling. I have hopes that it will prove a bit of depth as I read it, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with an exciting adventure that you don’t necessarily want to experience again!

Thing I heard: My oldest son came home from his vacation in Germany this week and we’ve been catching up. We spend a lot of time talking, that boy and I. He’s very intelligent and I love his take on the world around him. We homeschooled and we live rurally. We’ve been home-centered, I’d say. This past year, since just before his seventeenth birthday, he has been out in the world gathering experiences on his own in big ways. Funny thing; he’s always been one to jump into things with both feet. He goes from knowing nothing of it to moving comfortably in it, no matter what he tries. It’s been the same for him leaving the nest. It’s like talking to a worldly man, a young, optimistic, and proud man.

As we sat at the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of toast and cheese (Euro Breakfast), he told me something profound. “Mom,” he says, “someone told me a few years ago that if I had gone to school, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s of some kind. I did not agree at all, but the more I talk to people and work with people, I’m starting to see that I really do think differently. It isn’t that other people are dumb or that they don’t know how to do things the ‘right way’, it’s that I just see things in a different way. And that’s ok. They do it their way. I do it mine. We can help each other.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. It was a long conversation. All our conversations are long. We love to philosophize over breakfast. I just about cried. This was exactly why we wanted to homeschool the way we did. I wanted my kids to grow up naturally. I wanted them to grow up secure in who they were as individuals, doing things the way they felt was best for them specifically, within a family that loves them. The theory works. He is not sheltered and afraid of the world. He does not hide away. He does not go with the crowd unless he wants to. He’s a wonderful young man and ready to take on the world.

Thing I want to do: Do less. I need to take some time to make a list of essentials. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.” Here’s the thing. We can waste money if we like because we can make more, but we can’t make more time. I only have so much time in each day. I cannot waste it on unessential things. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything. It’s time to take stock again and pare down. This time it might be painful. I’ve done it before and thought I had it down to the bare minimum, but I don’t. Since we’re going on vacation, just the two of us, my husband and I, in a couple weeks, I think I’ll use some of that time on the road to do that work. Without the regular distractions, I can focus on what I want to accomplish. I’ll treat it as if we’re going on one of those fancy retreats! We’ll “go dark”! Yes!

And the photo of the week is…

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A baby bird! We saved him! My husband saw him flopping on the porch so I picked him up. He couldn’t even stand in my hand, so tired. He sat in my hand for a minute, I put some water in my hand to see if he’d drink it, he closed his eyes a bit, and suddenly looked more alert. He flapped and flew up to a creosote branch. I looked him up on the internet and found he was a Bushtit and most likely a fledgling from nearby with his mom waiting to feed him.

Have a good week everyone! Don’t worry! I’ll get this writer’s life more under control pretty soon!

Hibernation

In case you come across this blog and wonder…hmm…looks like this woman just isn’t writing anymore. Maybe she fell off the planet or gave up the ghost. That’s not the case! I’m hibernating. Actually, I’m focusing my energy right now on something else. I’ll get back here. Trust me. Subscribe and you’ll be one of the first to know what’s up!

Random Thoughts

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So…not getting much done on the writing front, but at least I’m keeping my journal!

I’m reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown and hearing him talk about conscious journaling is pretty awesome. You’d think I’d be the master of journals by now, but I learned one interesting thing, go back and read them every 3 months or so and look for the lead, the headlines. I’ll be making a date for that! I’ve gone back and read journals before but with no real purpose/focus and I go back too far and get overwhelmed, or depressed about how little has changed. If I make a date with myself to do it every three months, like a tune up, it’ll be short and focused.

I need to start scheduling time to just think as well. Quiet time daily, maybe longer time weekly or monthly. I’m always keeping myself too busy. I’m afraid of sitting still, being bored.

Eating habits have gone out the window since my mom is here. She’s a bad influence! LOL! But why not have fun like a vacation and get back to work on Monday?!

It’s nice having her here. We always have lots to talk about. And I love that the boys are here, home from work and school while she is visiting. She gets to see them in their natural habitat instead of under the stress of visiting or vacationing.

Back to a journaling thing. A blogger I follow posted a long journal entry about her husband’s heart attack. That woman is amazing. She’s always kept that blog and even now she keeps going. She isn’t looking for sympathy or likes. She just knows that a lot of people care about her and her family and wanted to keep us all updated publicly so we don’t bug her with questions. She keeps notes all the time and puts them all in the blog post, expanding on them when needed. It’s just another example of how much we can learn from other people’s every day experiences. I wonder…should I do something similar with my blog? Write the book, yes. But I tend to not post for a week because I can’t think of anything I think is spectacularly insightful. Can I decide that for others? Or should I just write what I’m thinking and doing and let others find it, read it, and decide for themselves if it is helpful for them?

I keep a lot of little notes on my phone, ideas I think of, quotes, websites I want to revisit. Most times I never get back to them. But what if I built it into the end of my day to sit down and write those here. Every morning, I freewrite this journal already. It usually consists of my plans for the day, what happened yesterday, or some thought I’ve been pondering after my morning read. But that’s where it ends, in a computer file.

I’m thinking about coming here after dinner or just before and pulling out my phone notes from the day, recapping our adventures, etc. Like a wind down. Then editing it all the next morning and posting it.

My blog is always so scattered. You never really know what will go up here. I try to keep a schedule, post certain topics on certain days, but that’s just not my style. It feels forced. Stick with me as I try to sort out my thinking.

This may take a while.

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