Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Monday, April 5, 2010

Done for the Week: Time to Tweak this Feature

It's the kind of morning we live for in my neck of the woods.  Sunny, almost shorts weather.  I've already slept two full hours past my alarm, on a day jam packed with tasks and obligations.  A day all too likely to be "filled with surprises."  

At 5:30, my face in my pillow, I made a deliberate choice to turn off the bleating of my now old-fashioned clock radio.  I'm not sure I should be trusted with such decisions at that hour, but it seemed at the time that facing the day with a bit more rest was a good idea.  

I'm moving towards thinking more long haul with the changes I'm trying to make.  I am looking at how to deal with old bad habits in a way that will stick.  And my recent frenetic pace is probably not going to get me there.  

Reading M. J. Ryan's book This Year I Will. . . has given me some new ideas about using this weekly Done List to get where I'm trying to go.   Last week, I introduced a goal for the coming week.  Starting this week, I am going to assess my progress on the previous week's focus goal; renew or replace that focus goal for the coming week; and identify in the done list my most important accomplishment of the previous week (in red below).

Done List--Week of Mar. 29-Apr. 4

  1. Finished This Year I Will. . . :  How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True, by M. J. Ryan; Remembering the Wilderness:  Poems by Sara Rath
  2. Took my blood pressure daily
  3. Survived two part-time jobs for another week
  4. Attended 2 meetings; scheduled 1 more
  5. Published 5 blog posts
  6. Meditated 2 times
  7. Succeeded in napping resistant 2 year-old twice
  8. Returned to running after 5 weeks off with mega-virus; surprised to learn I am still closer to 5K than to couch potato--I'm going to call it Week 7 (again)
  9. Committed to 5K race in 3 weeks
  10. Finished my part of long-term pain-in-the-neck project in time to leave for New Orleans on Tuesday
  11. Played teenage son in basketball, lost 3-2 with handicaps
  12. Attended interesting Tenebrae service on Good Friday as part of brave new spiritual exploration
  13. Improved relationship with husband 
  14. Went toe-to-toe with frustrated boss, and held my own
  15. Determined that it's time to retrench, and commit less time to volunteer work
  16. Experienced lightening of depression
In my completely subjective opinion--and no other opinion is needed for this purpose--the most important "done" thing on this list is item 8, returned to running.   Its significance lies in the incredible lift it gave me to fight through the fear and discouragement, to lace up my shoes and get back on track.  Literally.  This breaks a cycle of abandoning goals when circumstances conspire to mar the perfection of their accomplishment.  Since all goals are similarly vulnerable, changing this pattern is big.  

Last week's focus goal was to meditate 5 times.  My progress toward that goal is highlighted in green in item 6 above.  Clearly, 2 is not 5.  But neither is it 0.  I confess that I considered trying to cram in three more meditation sessions yesterday, or modifying my definition of meditation to include some trance-like states I did "achieve."  But M. J. Ryan persuaded me that there is merit in tracking my real behavior, and learning from it--without judgement.  

In comparing some of the things I have been able to do more consistently to my spotty record on meditation, I see two things:  first, that meditation is more subtle than, for example posting a blog, or running, or reading; and secondly, that I have not yet succeeded in finding a routine time to meditate.  When I was meditating more regularly, last fall, I had fallen into a practice of meditating immediately after lunch.  A colleague suggested to me that doing it before lunch would alleviate the distraction of digestion, but for some reason the call of midday hunger often proved too much for my fledgling inner buddha.  And lately, lunch itself has been imperiled by my frantic efforts to stay on the ramped up treadmill of my days.

This week's focus goal is to meditate 5 times, while on vacation.  My plan is to take 20 minutes after lunch each day, wherever I am--tomorrow I will be either at O'Hare or on a plane.   Both great, if challenging, places for this recovering flight-phobic to concentrate on breathing.

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