OUT OF MY ELEMENT

Last week I played the role of an urbane, cosmopolitan women living in a 1939 high-rise apartment on Connecticut Avenue in the heart of Washington, D.C. The building, eleven stories and sporting art-deco aesthetics, had the amenities I’ve seen in movies: doorman, concierge, mailroom, cleaners, workout room and pool, elevators.  I was there at the invitation of a long-time friend (I’m learning that the phrase “old friend has negative connotations). As any respectable city dweller we walked miles everyday. She is in shape for it I am not. When absolutely necessary we took the Metro, city bus or the train. Only once was I in a car and that was transportation home from the theater. Amazing experience. Amazing town.

I rode Amtrak nine hours both ways on my trip and really enjoyed the ride.. I  upgraded to business class and it made a huge different in comfort and service. While in D.C. I saw sites tourists don’t often explore. In the city four full days, and with a savy guide, I went through: The Building Museum, which itself has amazing architectural features; The Capitol Building; The Botanic Gardens; The National Cathedral, which is as interesting and beautiful as any in Europe (plus we had tea in the tower after the tour)and The National Zoo, on a cool day when all the animals were moving. On my last night we dined at a great restaurant and then attended the play “Blithe Spirit” with 89 year old Angela Landsbury.

So what is the point of this travelogue? My life has been lived in suburbia. I drive everywhere, live in a neighborhood of other families with schools, shopping, churches and parks close-by. My walks are within the neighborhood, usually with my dogs and never to get to a destination. I have no sense of direction and slowly learned to navigate the small town I live in-though I still get lost occasionally.  I have deliberately developed a calm peaceful lifestyle full of security and predictability.

I came home from my short jaunt to the big city exhausted, happy, full of new experiences, new ideas, new information and challenged to be more adventurous here in my hometown. Every weekend my friend reads the papers and circles the events she would like to see. Daily she goes out into the city to explore something new. Every week I read the local paper and notice events I would enjoy seeing. I very seldom follow through and attend any of them.  I’m not sure why not but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I start doing something new, something out of my comfort zone.  This town may not be Washington D.C. but there are certainly things to explore and learn here.  I know because I read about them in the paper.  Let me know if you try something new.  We may just find out we like adventure.

DEFINITIONS ARE IMPORTANT

Today I present the first annual “State of Stewardship” report for 2015 as it pertains to managing my time. Further reports will follow(I hope) about money and health management. TIME – the one gift I get each day I cannot work or scheme to get more of – 24 hours, that is all! Each midnight today disappears. No do-overs.

Stuck on this topic for several days I finally saw that my definition of good time-management was productivity. It is the measure I have always used: how much I do, how busy I am and how stressed I am tells me if I’ve made use of the time I have. I was reminded by a reader (Mickey, mybashfullife.com)that activity is not the same as productivity. How much we do is not a reflection of how well we do it. How much we do is not a reflection of how valuable we are either. The woman who has the longest list of activities and appointments is not the winner. Quality, not quantity, in the use of our few hours a day, is the yardstick to measure by.

My new definition of wise time-management is: The use of time in activities that improve the health of my mind, body and spirit; enrich relationships; meet the responsibilities I have for myself and others. This is a work in progress, but far better than the old definition.

So, how am I doing? I am PAYING ATTENTION! Amazing how much that helps to choose what to do next. I must know what I am doing with my time now, before I can change what I do with my time. Knowing what my priorities are guides my decisions. Do I take a walk or a nap? Paying attention helps me decide which is better for my health in that moment. Do I eat cake or carrots? That one’s too easy. But, you get the idea. I have to know where I am before I can get to where I want to go. AND I HAVE TO KNOW WHERE I WANT TO GO!

Where are you now? Where do you want to go in a specific area? How will you get there? Start by Paying Attention. Let me know how you’re doing.

STUCK

Do you ever get stuck? Half-way through a project you just hit a wall? You get all the material for a new idea and it sits on the kitchen table (or in a closet) untouched? Well, I’ve been trying to write about STEWARDSHIP, my word of the year, for ten days. I want to review my progress at better managing my time, money and health, but the words are not coming together to convey what I want to say. So I scrap that draft and try again. Right now I am ready to give up and try a new subject- but I’m wondering if it’s really the topic or me?

When I think about this “stuckness”, I remember other times in life I have been stalled, immobilized, apathetic about activities I once had great energy for. I discover this pattern repeats frequently – I start something and soon it is unfinished, a thing of the past, in a bag somewhere. Writing is at the top of my list of activities I love to do, want to do, begin to do and abandon. NOT THIS TIME!

I will overcome the inertia. I will break the pattern of decades. I will write and post today. I will:
1. PAY ATTENTION-recognize the momentum has been slowed or stopped. Acknowledge I am STUCK.
2. FIND THE REASON-am I bored, too busy, lazy, distracted, is it too hard, not fun any more?
3. FINISH ANYWAY- No matter what the quality, or reason,the only way to break this habit is to finish what I
start and not start anything new until this is complete.

So, there will be one or more posts about how I’m progressing, or not, with my time, health and money management. Maybe I’ll find I don’t want to write because I am not doing as well as I hoped. We’ll see.

SNOW DAY

I have a fireplace in the great room of my home (a southern term for family room in Cali). It is the center of activity when winter arrives, and before that, anytime the temperature drops below 50 degrees. I’ve even be know to open the back door so I could turn it on. This morning  I got out of bed and robotically  performed my usual routine; robe and slippers on, let dogs out, coffee on, feed dogs, drink coffee. One thing was different – I  immediately turned the fireplace on. Last night we had 6 inches of snow.

As I mentioned in a previous blog my fireplace is, by some standards, not real – no wood, no crackle, not much heat and no ashes. For me those are the criteria that make it the perfect fireplace.  It serves as a focal point all year as I decorate and redecorate for each season, special event and new picturse.  It is my staging area.

My fireplace provides the ambience of warmth, calm, glowing, cozy, come sit-a-spell hearth and home.  The pleasure of a fire never diminishes for me whether it’s inside or at a campfire.  It is like sunsets, babbling brooks, fall colors, forests, gardens, puppies and babies.   Today I will stay inside and relax in front of the fire.  In a few weeks (hopefully) I will get excited about sunshine and rising temperatures, budding trees and blooming flowers, going outside in flip-flops and short sleeves.  But TODAY I will live in this moment

LITTLE BOY BRAVE

Today a good story. Last fall I went to Disneyworld with my daughter, her husband, daughter and son. It was the first time for all of us. For months we had talked, planned and been on http://www.disney.com. My grandchildren made lists of all the rides they were going on-together. Oh, the adventures they would have. Side-by-side they would try it all.

My granddaughter is twelve and born to take risks and try new things. My grandson, eight, is cautious, thoughtful and often fearful. Our first night was in the Magic Kingdom and the test was Splash Mountain. I, of course, no longer go on rides that are any fun, so I waited while they braved the line for their first adventure. All the way through the line there was excitement that had been building for six months, waiting for this night to arrive. There were also recorded messages and talk from other people about the step drops, drastic curves, darkness and other sundry scary moments on the ride. At the ride entrance my grandson decided he wouldn’t go on and he and his mom waited with me.

The next day another test-Tower of Terror. This time he didn’t even get in line but waited with me. For forty-five minutes he and I waited in somber silence for Mom, Dad and Sissy to return. When he saw them coming he ran to them, grabbed Mom’s hand and proclaimed his decision to go on the Tower Of Terror ride, NOW!

According to my grandson it was “awesome”. He was grinning with dimples I had never seen. According to Mom he shook and stared and wrung his hands through the entire ordeal. As the ride ended he said to everyone in the car, “Did anyone else think that was an awesome ride?”, as he threw up his hands in victory.

GOOD JOB my BRAVE BOY!

WAITING for SNOW

The weather app has predicted snow for two days. The time it is due to arrive changes every several hours and I am impatient. I wait, recheck the weather, watch the sky and hope. It’s certainly cold enough – been freezing for four days. Excited! Snow!

I’m sure this eager anticipation of snow, ice, driving conditions, school closures, shoveling and slush sounds bizarre to those of you who live in, or moved from, places where it really snows all winter. But, I lived in California until I moved to North Carolina six years ago. No snow there unless you drove to the mountains which I never did because I don’t drive in snow, don’t ski or snowboard, nor do I like the cold.

Here it is different. Like events and people, who arrive infrequently and do not stay too long, snow here is welcome to me. I stock up on food, turn on the fireplace (gas not real), get a couple books and wait. That is what I am doing now. Once the snow begins to fall, I take snow days until the ice is off the roads. I take pictures, gaze at the beauty, eat comfort food, coax my dogs to go outside and thoroughly enjoy every amazing and beautiful minute.

Snow days come only once or twice a year and they really matter to me.

MINUTES MATTER

In our culture there seems to be a belief that more is better: money, possessions, activities, friends. Quantity and size seem to trump quality and peace. One thing we cannot get more of is time. What we have is what we have.

What we lose when we adopt a lifestyle of striving for more is the enjoyment of what we have in front of us. We pay attention to the big picture and minimize the value of the details. Focused on getting everything done we miss the small fleeting moments that provide the joy and satisfaction of each day.

It takes less than a minute to take six slow, deep breaths which slow everything down and calm mind and body. I love starting my day with my coffee and dogs outside on the patio. Even when it’s chilly I bundle up because being outside calms and prepares me for a day when I might not sit down for awhile.  It takes less than a minute to take six slow, deep breaths which refocus mind, body and spirit. Petting or cuddling my dogs only takes a moment and the physical contact is healthy -like hugs. Looking carefully at a rose, smelling jasmine, sitting under a shade tree. warm sun on your face, watching the flames in the fireplace or children at the playground are all free, quick joy fixes.

Many of the activities that could bring joy to our spirit are ordinary parts of everyday that we have come to take for granted. Someone in your life has a killer smile you don’t see; a laugh you don’t hear; a touch you don’t feel; a kiss you don’t taste; clean hair you don’t smell; nearness you’ve lost appreciation for.

BUT, it takes a deliberate decision, and intentional action to see joy. It is not hiding from us – it is just waiting for us to look. Go find joy today. It takes only a minute and a little goes a long way.