Attempting to Slow Down the Input Rate

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Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

“Input!”

“Johnny 5 is alive!”

That’s the scene that runs through my head as I listen to a podcast on the drive to my dentist appointment. I can’t just waste time driving, must have more input!

I want to do something with all the information that is thrown at me but I honestly can’t organize what I’m getting well enough for daily use. I can’t maintain forty strong daily relationships. I can’t read ALL the books. I can’t comment on all the posts I find interesting. I can’t read all the articles or see and laugh at all the memes. There are other things that need to be done. Groceries to buy, laundry to do, meals to be made. Not to mention words to write, creating more input for others!

But my words have to relate to something, don’t they? I do need some input to process. I can’t just cut myself off from the world and think that I’ll still have something to write about. One has to have the brushes and paint, the clay or metal, the seeds and mulch, the fabric to quilt!

Quilting. Now there’s an interesting train of thought. I know a lot of quilters and something they all have in common is the problem of collecting fabric. It becomes a habit and an obsession to some. They go back to the fabric store to get thread or a piece they need to finish a quilt and while they are there they notice a nice new pattern, a sale on pretty solids, or an eye-catching collection of fat quarters and they pick them up thinking they’ll use it someday on something. Time goes by and their sewing room becomes piled high with fabric for future use. When they go to make a new quilt, they look at that wall of fabric and are overwhelmed by it. None of it seems useful. None of it catches their eye for this piece. The best pieces are bunched up and hidden behind less appealing pieces and then end up forgetting what they have. So they go to the store and buy all new fabrics, ones more easily accessible and organized by color and pattern.

I’m starting to think information overload is the same thing. I have a project in mind on one hand and a huge pile of information on the other. The whole time I’m trying to sift through the information I’ve already collected, there’s more input every moment. A text from a friend, an email from a blog, a new book is coming out, Facebook and Instagram feeds, not to mention family members wanting to call and share their lives with me. It’s all good stuff. It’s all positive (or can be, I tend to block out the ugly as much as possible). How do I filter and organize it so that I know what I have and where to use it?

There are a couple of things I’m going to start doing. My phone is my gateway and I’ll admit I do have an issue about being unreachable for any amount of time. Maybe it’s a Mom thing that I’ve latched on to, but if my phone is off or out of reach, I can’t relax. What if one of the kids needs me? The truth is that no one really NEEDS me that badly. My kids are grown and while they may want to talk to their mom in the middle of the night, it can probably wait until morning. And they know if it were an emergency, they could call their Dad because his work phone is always on. My phone will stay on at night just in case, but when I get up in the morning, all notifications will be off until I’m ready to communicate with the outside world. I’m not an emergency room doctor. I’m just not that important and that’s not self-deprecation. It’s reality.

Social media is another big input I have and I’m so addicted to it in the best ways. I’ve found so much joy there, so much connection with the big wide world. It inspires me to see all the awesome stuff, all the wise words, all the wonderful people that make up this planet. The trouble is, like a wonderfully written book that I can’t put down, I keep going back to it every chance I get. And unlike a book, I don’t need silence and focus to just pop in and have a look around, so I tend to spend quite a bit of time there.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the trouble is that it adds to my stash of information in big ways. I save clips from articles, memes, comments, all to use in the future. Maybe I’ll write about that. I could add this to my story. This looks like a good place to visit. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by it all and nothing else gets done. I look like a zombie slobbering “input” instead of “brains.”

So I need to limit my time there and save my energy. I’ll try to check in only while I eat breakfast and lunch for now. Sounds pretty wishy-washy, I know, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never been one for hard and fast rules. Sometimes an afternoon of mindless scrolling and laughing at people’s antics is what I need. I’m not going to deny myself, but I will promise to be more mindful of what I’m doing.

And last, but certainly not least, my newest habit of “going to my trailer” to write. My phone doesn’t come with me. I make sure my husband knows where I am, not that he would worry and come looking for me if I went missing for a couple hours, he is working too after all, but I would sit with anxiety thinking he might. Every day, whether or not it is quiet in the house, I’m going to be there for at least an hour and half. There are no dishes to do, no pet antics, no bookshelves to peruse, out here. It’s just me, the laptop, my notebook, and a cup of coffee. I’m training my brain to see the trailer and think “work time.” And so far it’s working nicely…except when I look around me and think, “We need to go on a road trip in this baby!”

The plan: Write one hour. Edit up to one hour. Post after lunch.

That’s how I’m going to make this writing shit work. I’m not aiming for complete solitude or hermitage. My goal is to slow down the input to the point where my poor brain can process and use the information or at least store it in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

I’m also not aiming for perfect or beautiful. My goal is consistency and focus. The more often I can sit down and create with focus, the more likely something beautiful will be discovered.

Here’s to some new habit building! Let’s see what happens!

And The Stars To Guide Me

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Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

“However much we may admire the orator’s occasional bursts of eloquence, the noblest written words are commonly far behind or above the fleeting spoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astronomers forever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to the inspiration of the transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.”
From Walden by Henry David Thoreau

This. Wow. This morning, sitting there with my book, distracted like a squirrel by anything that moves or makes a sound, I read this.

I wasn’t enjoying Walden very much until this chapter, Reading. And then I almost cried. He spoke to my soul with this chapter, from 100 years in the past. And that’s exactly what he was trying to say.

How can we relate old written words to our current tech-filled, fast paced life? Read this book and you’ll know. He writes of the telegraph, the train, newspapers, and city life as we would of social media, world travel, mainstream media news, and city life. Ha! And his point still stands.

Do we really have that much to do? Are we overwhelming ourselves and forgetting what it’s like to be human? Are we so filled with “business” that we lose site of the real point of our lives?

This morning, I got up from my reading to make breakfast as I usually do and thought, I should go back to eating better. I haven’t been feeling as healthy as I should the past few weeks and I know it’s mainly because I’ve been skipping a good breakfast and starting my days with coffee and toast or cereal. I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and looked at the vegetables, eggs, cheese, that I had bought the day before.

“I don’t have time to cut up veggies and then make eggs.”

I don’t have time? Why? Because I have so many pressing responsibilities? Because I have to be at work? Because I have babies to feed and love? No. I don’t have time because I want to get back to the distraction of scrolling through social media feeds. I’ve lost track of my priorities.

I’m not condemning social media, fun, or friendships. I’m not saying sell all your possessions, quit your job and live off the land. I’m saying make time for what you really want. And to do that we have to start with knowing exactly what it is we want.

For me, that means deliberately setting everything else aside for a while and going back to basics, maybe even spending some serious time in solitude, to reflect and refocus. When I’m quiet and undisturbed from the outside, my mind begins to settle down and the real thinking begins.

I need to go back to my stars and stop looking at the clouds for direction.

Unproductive?

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A Bad Example

The picture above is the perfect example of how I get so frustrated. I’m terrible at focus, doing one thing at a time. I’m angry my breakfast doesn’t get in my mouth…probably because I’m not left handed and should put everything else away and eat. I’m actually not reading two magazines at once. It’s just one was already open from last night. My phone is right there and I’m interrupted by texts from friends. And my journal…Lord help the poor soul that reads those when I’m gone. My son walked in and gave me a strange look. That’s when I realized what I was doing and when I told him to take a picture so I could post about my insanity!

I seriously wonder how I’ve made it this far in my life without getting completely lost. I guess if you don’t have an ultimate destination, you can’t really get lost no matter how far you wander…and my mind really wanders!

It seems to me that we’re all too busy. Whenever someone asks me what I did this morning, I usually talk about my morning routine. It’s taken me years to develop and it has really just evolved into more the past couple of years since my sons have come into young adulthood. Suddenly my days aren’t filled with laundry, food, and rides. I have more time for the other things I want to do, but what is it that I want to do?

I’ve felt a bit lost, wondering where to start looking for new things to fill my time, how to feel “productive”. I guess it all boils down to what I want, but then it always has.

When I got married, I wanted my home life to be my focus, not my career. I spent more time at home after work. And when my sons were born, I wanted my children to be my focus, so I spent more time with them instead of my job, my friends, and other things. As they grew and we decided we would homeschool, my focus changed to providing them with the support they’d need to experience and learn new things. These were all my choices. I didn’t have to. I could have spent more of my time at work. I could have decided that it was more important to have “me time” and gone out with friends. But I chose what I wanted. And I wanted a close family.

It all sounds so smooth and thought out when I write it like that but really it was a huge mess of daily adjustments and a metric crap ton of self-doubt.

What is it that I want now? What is my goal these days, to be a decent person, to love those around me, to write what I’m thinking and feeling and share it with you?

Sometimes I feel incredibly busy and overwhelmed, and then I look at other people’s lives and wonder why I can’t take on as much as they do. I know everyone has a different tolerance for how much they can put into a day or week. We’re all wired for something specific. The complication is finding out what works for us personally in a world that seems to think what works for one would work for anyone if they just “did it right.” We can’t spend our lives comparing ourselves to others. It gets us nowhere.

Then there are days and weeks that go by that leave me feeling so unproductive. What does that even mean?

Why do we worry so much about being productive? Some of us just get lucky and never get so behind that we have to quit and start over. Some of us make enough good choices to be able to not worry about the bad ones. Some of us had a decent start. And then there are the others, the unlucky, the slow learners, the left behind. What about them? Is your life worth nothing if you don’t produce anything tangible in the end? What happens if you don’t end up with a stable family, a place to live, a good career, or a thriving business? What if you make mistakes you can’t fix? It all seems like a game, one you can lose.

The truth is we all die in the end. We all lose eventually. Life is not a game to win in my opinion, it’s a movie to watch, a book to read, an experience. What if we just enjoyed that experience, no matter where it led? What if we stopped worrying about creating anything but ourselves? What if we allowed others to do the same? What would that look like?

It’s Friday! Again!

Ok…well…that week got away from me!

What stops me from spending time with the words? I’m not sure. I tend to be a bit flaky at everything, honestly. I swing from highly organized and productive to “Lucifer” needs to be watched and there are Cheez-its to eat and Coke to drink! There is little middle ground. This week, I let it happen and decided not to be mad at myself. And here I am.

I still did a lot of stuff this week. I helped my son with a couple things. I worked in the yard. The groceries were bought. I made dinners. The basics are covered. It was just that I was fascinated with Facebook this week and talking to some new people. I did a lot of thinking, too. And I finished a book and started a new one.

Here’s my Friday Wrap-Up. Hope yours was awesome!

Thing I learned: Sometimes our emotional growth injures others unintentionally and maybe we should be a little kinder to each other.

Thing I’m reading: Started reading Mark Manson’s “Everything is Fucked” and it’s awesome. In his interview with Aubrey Marcus, he said he’d piss off people with this one. He was right. I was pissed off. How dare he?! But…I’ve learned to keep an open mind and see where a writer goes with his outrageous thinking. Even if I don’t agree with him in the end, I’ll have learned something interesting, something to take with me.

Thing I heard: “We are only as needy as our unmet needs.” – John Bowlby. I read this on Instagram this week and thought of my kids. We “radically unschooled” our kids. That’s a whole can of worms to open, but it’s related to that quote because I learned something from raising my kids this way. When people of all ages need something, they act out in ways to get it. Not all the ways people act out are positive. Yes, we need to learn positive ways to get what we need, but sometimes it’s good to understand the negative ways. People aren’t evil. They need something. Many of us don’t even know what we need, let alone how to ask for it.

Thing I want to do: Stop being so stinking insecure!! Ugg…I’m a mess sometimes. I want so desperately to be able to say, “This is me!” and not care if anyone notices. Instead, I say, “This is me!” quietly in the background and if anyone responds I smile. It no one reacts, I duck my head and wonder if they didn’t hear me or they are politely ignoring the weird woman. I only want to be seen and heard if everyone agrees I’m awesome. I’m terrified of being ridiculed for my crazy ass ways. It’s not very conducive to growth!

Oh! And a picture of the week…

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It’s me! Feeling cute! Part of working on the insecure part…liking myself!

Have a great weekend everyone!