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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Maybe it's a New Jersey thing.  A polling group based in Asbury Park is reporting that nearly 70% of the 1000 Americans they surveyed will be staying in tonight.  But though we won't be staying home in New Jersey, you can add me, my spouse and one of my sons to that list. 

In recent years, I have gotten better at handling the Christmas ballyhoo, the lead-up that begins in late September in some environs, the ambient shopping frenzy, the holiday hype, the relatives, and the post-Christmas let down.  But I still feel guilty and slightly pathetic when the ball drops in Times Square and I'm not there.  And don't want to be.

I guess I feel that my family can pretty much hold a candle to anyone's in the way we celebrate the ultimate family occasion--the first in this annual double feature.  We indulge and lavish just enough, but not too much.  We sing, we deck the halls, we wax nostalgic.  We give to others.  And most of all, we show our love and are happy to be together.  Pretty much the essentials of the Silent Night thing, as I see it.  

But New Years Eve seems more about social engagement, something my troop struggles with a bit.  My husband works in another city.  My teenagers are homeschooled, and currently unemployed.  My social group consists of individual friends, a church and a community organization that are mine and not my family's.  It has been a few years since my husband and I were invited to a New Years Eve party.  And mostly that's okay.  But I feel like it shouldn't be.

I miss dressing up, a little.  I don't really miss yet another opportunity to overeat, or to watch others get sloshier, and ever less witty by the hour.  Somehow the "fun" often failed to materialize at the parties I have attended.  

New Years Eve has taken on a different kind of significance to me, and is most meaningfully passed with people I love--the short list.  So we will lift our glasses right here.  I am making biryani, and attempting cardamom bread.  Midnight will find us feeding scribbled feelings, habits, and mistakes of the past year into our backyard firepit, and taking a phone call from our absent household member.  We can see the city's fireworks from here, and hear the church bells.  

And tomorrow morning I will get up and keep on keeping on, knowing that this demarcation may be all in our minds, but it is not without importance. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010--The Year in Rearview, Part II

At the risk of being trite, I am putting together this little list of things I accomplished in 2010. I hope it doesn't read like one of those dreaded holiday letters.  But frankly, I need the encouragement.  For me, 2010 was a year of change, a year in which I got off some dimes, just did it, and put some things to bed.  What follows is the B side to yesterday's lament.

Some Stuff I'm Happy I Did in 2010

  • Maintained my new blog, meeting all but one deadline, and publishing 264 posts (as of tomorrow).
  • Trained for and competed in two 5K races and my first sprint triathlon.
  • Finally learned to breathe efficiently while swimming freestyle.
  • Loved and supported my kids through some tough times.
  • Did my first public poetry reading in many years.
  • Revived some old friendships.
  • Made significant progress on repairing my house and cars.
  • Began a regular yoga practice.
  • Faced down my blood pressure phobia for a time, before faltering temporarily.
  • Resumed writing Morning Pages.
  • Learned some new web skills; designed and maintained new website.
  • Worked hard in effort to bring much-needed jobs to my community.
  • Wrote 15-1/2 chapters of novel's first draft.
  • Finished reading 100 books; still slogging through several; abandoned a few.
  • Attended an online meditation retreat, maintained my own meditation practice, and kept my meditation group going.
  • Provided significant support to struggling nonprofit, and began learning to say no.
  • Survived a difficult year emotionally, holding my own with depression and anxiety.
  • Spent lots of time playing with my grandson.
  • Made it through most of the 14th year of my 2nd marriage, still friends.
And now, I have some more holiday celebrating to attend to, and my final 2010 post to dream up.  My countdown clock has already pronounced this year 100% complete!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010--The Year in Rearview, Part I

As I wade into the day this morning, I am made aware that the world around me is in an end-of-the-year mood of reflection.  Those in a position to know, or to think they know, are weighing in on the events of the last 363 days.  For example, Yahoo's Year in Review; and Twitter's; and YouTube's.  Or this from CNN.  Those so inclined can revisit the year's top movies, books, sports happenings, political remarks, and financial occurrences.  And for those like me who shield ourselves from negative messages, Esquire puts a positive spin on its look back, compiling, for the waning 2010, "One hundred and two reasons to celebrate, with videos."

I am preparing my own list of things I put to bed over the past year.  But today I am watching the last grains of sand slip heedlessly through their narrow glass passage, and feeling the import of those things I have not finished.  I am fighting the impulse to slam into some ultra gear and speed through a few more projects before midnight on Friday.  As of this moment, the year's countdown timer in this blog's sidebar informs me that I have 2 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 59 seconds, no 58, no 57, . . . to get it all done.  But since my other strong impulse is to give in to holiday week lethargy, it's pretty clear that I'm not going to go out with a bang in late late 2010.

2010 will not be the year I published my first book; finished cleaning and organizing my basement; re-conquered my fear of blood pressure cuffs; travelled to Ireland; mended the rifts in my step-family; ended my dance with procrastination; achieved buddhahood; reclaimed my gone-wild yard; found the key to my sons' futures; achieved my ideal weight; produced heart-stopping poetry; gained fame as a blogger; unsnarled my family's health bills and insurance communiques; brought my marriage back to its former glory; healed my frayed emotional state; or learned how to grieve for my father.  And the 2 days, 12 hours, 53 minutes and 32 seconds, no 31, no 30, . . . left are not nearly enough to advance these goals.

All that's possible, or sensible, I guess, is to keep moving forward, or in whatever direction looks like forward at the moment.  And to keep dropping those drops into the bucket.  And to try to see these artificial time allotments as little signposts, or mileage markers along the way, rather than as yet more deadlines.  (And we all know how much I love deadlines.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life Management 101--Possessed by Our Possessions

This Tuesday feature is currently exploring Laura Stack's Find More Time:  How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It.  This week, we consider Chapter 5, "Mastering the Fifth Pillar--POSSESSIONS."

In this chapter, Stack focuses on the ways in which our possessions possess us, and what we can do about it.  We begin, as with each of the eight pillars of productivity, with a self-assessment related to this troublesome area.  (You can find the entire productivity quiz on Stack's website.)  Mine revealed that Possessions is my second weakest pillar.  Coming from a long line of clutter clutchers, this doesn't surprise me.  I obtained my embarrassing score by rating each of the following ten quiz items as:   1) to no extent; 2) to a little extent; 3) to some extent; 4) to a considerable extent; or 5) to a great extent.  My responses are in red.

To what extent do I . . . 
  • Have a systematic plan to get and stay organized.  [2]
  • Eliminate clutter and resist adding more.  [2]
  • Keep my briefcase, tote, or purse organized and clutter-free.  [2]
  • Maintain clutter-free drawers and closets.  [2]
  • Organize memorabilia such as photos and keepsakes.  [2]
  • Keep kids' toys, clothes, and books organized.  [1]*
  • Set up and maintain my kitchen in an organized fashion.  [2]
  • Keep my car organized and clean.  [2]
  • Set up an effective office space in my home.  [2]
  • Keep my house neat and tidy up daily.  [2]
Stack's advice on what to do about all this dysfunctional behavior is a little overwhelming--perhaps even cluttered.  For each item, she generates a long list of tips and tricks.  If I were to implement her suggestions, I would:

1.  Institute a six-week approach "to begin conquering clutter" [emphasis mine], consisting of six weekends, each with its own designated project, such as closets, paper, storage and fix-it--all of which would take me more like six years.
2.  Discard unhappy reminders.
3.  "Stop being an information hog."  (What?  Throw out my carefully assembled collection of magazines, culled from grocery stores and subscriptions, and purloined from waiting rooms?)
4.  Get rid of 25% of my "recipes, books, tools, self-improvement tapes, Internet bookmarks, sporting equipment," and so on.
5.  Jettison things I don't like.
6.  Stop buying things just because they're on sale.
7.  "Label and limit."
8.  Get rid of one old thing for every new thing brought in.
9.  Not give clutterizing gifts to others.  (My daughter enforces this.)
10. Always put back what I get out.
11. Clean out my purse and my briefcase, and keep them that way.
12. Organize my drawers, using trays and dividers.
13. Use baby food jars for storage.  (I don't buy baby food, and never did.)
14. Store office supplies away from my work area.
15. Have only one junk drawer, and keep it organized.
16. Donate useful items I no longer need.
17. Reserve closet space for only this season's clothes.
18. Use bins and bags for sorting laundry, mending, give-away items and dry cleaning.
19. Buy less clothing items, of higher quality, and keep and wear them for a longer time.
20. Organize clothing and accessories by color, and type.
21. "Organize photos into boxes."  (Most of mine are stored in cameras and phones and various computers--and in one large drawer in my china cabinet.)
22. Designate boxes for keepsakes.
23. Cull and organize children's art.  (I lost this battle a long, long time ago.  My eldest child finally did it for herself.)
24. Establish a baby book for each child.  (My "children" are 33, 19 and 17.  I started one for each, and have by now probably forgotten much of what should have gone into them.)
25. "Create a school memories book for each child."  (For two of my children, this advice conflicts with #2 and #5.)
26. Keep children's things in their bedrooms.  (They're teenagers.  They keep themselves and their friends in their bedrooms--along with most of my dishes--and strew their things around the house.)
27. Organize my entryways.
28. Organize library materials.  (I actually do this one.  Especially since unintentionally "purchasing" a periodical that vanished irretrievably before I even read it.)
29. "Sort clothes and hand-me-downs."  (I keep trying, but we still have more clothes than we could all wear in a year, and too many that fit none of us.)
30. Don't give kitchen space to low-use items.
31. Purge unwanted kitchen utensils and other equipment.  (She probably would even have me throw out the broken coffee-maker my husband is keeping.)
32. Organize pots and pans and other frequently used items.  (I have done this, but only one of my male roommates has figured out my system.)
33. Keep counters clear.  (As my son would say, this is an area of "epic fail" for my household.)
34. Don't keep food we won't eat.  (So simple.  Why didn't I think of that?)
35. Routinely clean out the refrigerator.  (I am trying to do this with our new fridge--but old, bad habits die hard.)
36. Return items to the same place after each use.  (I get a solid B here, but my housemates? Not so much.)
37. Use organizers to corral belongings in my car's back seat.  (You mean the whole thing is not just one giant in-box?)
38. Use a center console for holding purse, gloves, cell phone, drinks--all that stuff that currently occupies my passenger's lap and the floor of my car.  (I haven't yet found one that fits in my stick-shift, center hand-brake Subaru.)
39. Get a caddy for holding things in the passenger seat.  (Where my passengers are usually sitting.)
40. Similarly organize my car's trunk, the dry cleaning I'm transporting (who can afford dry cleaning?), the dog, my CD's and trash by purchasing the appropriate product for my car.  (No less than eight organizational gadgets and gizmos are recommended for my vehicle.)
41. Organize and equip my home office for success.
42. Put items closer to where they belong, when I don't have time to put them away.
43. Use the stair steps to store items, and prompt their return, rather than running up and down the stairs repeatedly.
44. Decorate simply, so that cleaning and straightening don't take so much time.  (My dog already discouraged the use of numerous throw pillows, by chewing on them.)
45. "Devote a few minutes a day to putting stuff away room by room."  (A few minutes?  She's kidding, right?)

I recognize much of this as sound directive, but I think the state of this crumbling, tilting pillar of mine calls for more of a duct tape approach.  I don't have time to find all the time I could find by attacking this problem wholesale.  But I do plan to spend a bit more time perusing this list to identify two or three quick fixes I might employ, and to work my way up from there.

Next week, Paper--tied for my worst pillar.  I can hardly wait.

* Since my youngest “child” is 17, I rated myself on how well I have: managed the storage of their outgrown things; taught them to manage their own things; and kept up with the visiting grandchildren’s wake.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Done for the Week: Up to My Ears in Eggnog

Another Christmas come and gone.  Another solstice/full moon/lunar eclipse, the last of which was 372 years ago, put to bed.  Something about these infrequent events makes us feel the passage of time.  But living our lives intentionally, I think, is the only antidote to the regret that can wash over us as the year comes to a close.  As Marie Beynon Ray says,
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand ... and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.

Here's how I used my moments last week:

Done for the Week:  Dec. 20-26
  1. Continued off-season race training; biked three times 
  2. Succeeded in getting husband to gym with me once
  3. Finished The Groves of Academe, by Mary McCarthy
  4. Continued reading The Zen Path Through Depression, by Philip Martin and continued adding to my library stockpile
  5. Took week off from supporting transitioning nonprofit
  6. Worked my two part-time jobs, with more hours due to holiday week schedule
  7. Published 5 blog posts
  8. Wrote 7 Gratitude Journal entries
  9. Wrote 3 Morning Pages
  10. Meditated 5 times
  11. Got electrician back to install re-ordered wall oven
  12. Marked the once-in-many-persons'-lifetimes confluence of the solstice, a full moon, and a lunar eclipse by sleeping through the night (It was cloudy here, anyway.)
  13. Purchased new bathroom lights,  spoke with electrician about post-Christmas installation
  14. Watched our two favorite basketball teams play 4 games, with son and husband
  15. Foraged for food at the grocery store several times
  16. Attended two yoga classes
  17. Survived spouse's return after four-week absence
  18. Walked my dog three times, including Christmas Day family trip to the dog park 
  19. Gave significant but subtle support to two teenage sons stalled on the "launchpad" 
  20. Finished Christmas shopping, and facilitating kids' shopping, by late Christmas Eve
  21. Spent happy, peaceful Christmas day with my household members
  22. Had enjoyable Christmas dinner and gift exchange at my daughter's
  23. Participated in traditional family day-after-Christmas bookstore venture, with gift cards and 20% off!
  24. Reconvened my meditation sangha, after two week hiatus
Again last week, my focus goal was to "put first things, if not first, at least earlier in the day. . .  and to figure out what those first things might be, on any given day."   At the present time,  blogging, meditating, exercising and adhering to my novel-writing schedule constitute this category of "first things" on most days.   My related achievements are highlighted in green, and again reflect progress over the previous week.  I made a particular effort to step up my meditation, motivated by the increased stress of the holiday week.  Conspicuously absent from the list, for the third week in a row, is any time spent on writing my novel.  The disruption of schedules which comes with annual celebrations and preparations for same wreaked havoc with my authorial commitment.  

This coming week is another of those non routine times that I find so challenging, to my psyche as well as to my overall productivity.  My step-daughter and her family are in town, my grandson is still off preschool, my professor husband is between semesters, and my teenaged sons are still without jobs, and imposed structure.  For this week, I renew my resolve to post five blogs, exercise four times, meditate six times, and make the time to resume writing the novel--before I forget what it's supposed to be about.

The most important "accomplishment" of the past week was unequivocally the wonderful Christmas Day spent with my family.  Over the years, we have had our share of difficult holidays.  In our large and insufficiently blended family, crises often erupted on or around these emotion-fraught occasions.  We were slow to learn the lesson of lowered expectation amidst the Hallmark hype.  And some of us were not especially mature, as is the way of childhood--and parenthood.  But this year, everyone in our small household stepped up their game, showing love and thoughtfulness and generosity and gratitude and grace under fire.  It was a joy to be the mother and the wife of these men I live with.  With or without the trappings, it is this gift I would wish to keep always.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stopping for Magic

Turns out Christmas will come anyway, despite whatever balls (and keepsake ornaments) we may have dropped in these days leading up to it.  It won't be perfect.  But it will happen.  And as it so often does in movies and song, the magic we attribute to this time will heighten feelings and experience.

As I write this, my extended family is celebrating a new baby, born yesterday.  A distant friend is posting updates on Facebook from labor and delivery, having survived the last harrowing weeks of an over-40 pregnancy--too much like my own last incubation. 

A friend is mourning her son, not two months dead.  My husband awoke at 5 a.m. this morning, thinking of his father who died on Christmas Eve, decades ago.  And I am missing my dad, more this year than before.

My husband is home.  Our tree is up.  The last late-night online shopping delivery has arrived. My children have graduated from passive holiday audience to fellow makers of the occasion, contributing their outdoor lighting skills, and their thoughtful gift-giving, hatchet-burying and culinary talents.

In true procrastinator fashion, I will join my husband shortly in planning tomorrow's menu and making up one last shopping list, before heading out to the grocery store to join the throngs.  

But in this moment, I want to breathe and to, in my yoga teacher's class-closing words, "fill [myself] up with gratitude for all that [I] have, and all that is yet to come."

Whatever our traditions, and in the most universal sense, 
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From Me to Me: A "Gift" I Keep on Giving

Dr. Timothy Pychyl, whose credentials are much more impressive, and whose blog Don't Delay, for Psychology Today, is much headier than mine, recently wrote a post entitled "Is Your Future Self Getting a Bad Deal?"  In it, he considers questions raised by Christine Tappolet in her chapter "Procrastination and Personal Identity," in the edited collection of essays The Thief of Time:  Philosophical Essays on Procrastination.

Tappolet uses the example of leaving the dishes for our future selves to wash, and argues that to do so consistently is to demonstrate a lack of concern for that heir to the crusted, stuck-to-the-countertop messes. [1]

Pychyl counters, in part, that we may reasonably expect that our future selves will have a greater capacity to manage the task than our exhausted present selves.  He likens this kind of procrastination to being willing to accept help from another when we are overwhelmed.  And he suggests that one way to alter this habit, if it is proving excessively burdensome for future self, is to develop and act on empathy for that future self, much as we might for another person.  I recognized myself in his observation that many of us will burden ourselves (present and future) in ways we wouldn't think of doing to someone else.

In her pre-vacation post this week, Gretchen Rubin (For anyone still living under a media blackout, she is the author of The Happiness Project, and the blog that gave birth to the book.) mentioned writer Anne Lamott's practice of referring to herself in the third person as a means of self-protection.  She cited this example:  “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”

In a similar vein, I'm thinking it may help me to negotiate my procrastination tendencies to, well, actually negotiate with my future self.  Bringing the transaction into consciousness would force me to consider the impact of the implicit shifting of tasks from Today Me to Tomorrow Me, to weigh the relative capacities of each of these entities, and to exercise compassion toward both.  It would also promote a better accounting, and a fairer overall distribution of work to each party.  

There is, of course, the issue of progressive selves, and of determining whether my Tuesday Self or my February of 2011 Self should be recruited to deal with the chore I postpone today.  The calculus might become prohibitively complicated.  It might also cause a fracturing of self, ala Sybil.  

But it is an idea I intend to explore further, waking as I do this morning to some hangover items on my rolling to-do list, passed on to me without consultation by the selves of yesteryear.  (In my mind's eye--or the eye of the mind "I" occupy today--I have a vision of a bucket brigade, stretching into infinity, passing the bucket/buck from hand to hand, but never addressing the fire. . . .)

[1] I should note here that when I leave the dishes for another day, I sometimes delude myself as to the likelihood that another family member’s future self might step up to do them.  It happens with just enough frequency that blind hope enters into my calculations, to an extent dependant on my mood on any given day.  So I am reimagining Tappolet’s dishes as a work task that only I can do—but one that, like the dishes, becomes more irksome and requires more labor the longer it is left.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Cast of Thousands, Each One Significant

Some of us are old enough to remember the heart-stopping daffodil scene from Dr. Zhivago;  spring, and life, returning after the ravages of the Siberian winter and war.  The artful cinematography drew the eye into the multitudes of blossoms, the profusion of glorious yellow, to a symphonic backdrop.  After what Yuri and his loves and his countrymen had been through, only this surfeit of daffodils would suffice.  

The scene came back to me this morning as I contemplated my fear of redundancy, and of being derivative.  This fear overtakes me especially in bookstores, and libraries, where I am surrounded by the words of others.  I encounter it, too, when confronted with the zillions of blogs dealing with issues of procrastination and productivity.  I know that I am not alone in the feeling that my little creations don't much matter against the scale of all that has been written.   

But if I look to the daffodils, I see that there is room for all that each of us can be, and make. We don't ask each individual flower to justify its blooming.  And we rejoice that when each one fades, there will eventually be others to gladden us.  

So if others write, and have written, and will write, it means nothing to the value of my work.  And I am not off the hook, after all.  My particular life can only be nurtured or neglected by me, for my own reasons.  And it is worth what it is worth.

In this season of underground regeneration, I will work on trusting that we are heading toward the light, that growth will occur, and that our individual beauty is enough. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Life Management 101--Indecision, Incompletes, and Insufficient Focus

Chapter 4 of Laura Stack's Find More Time:  How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It--the current featured resource of our Life Management 101 Tuesdays--is entitled "Mastering the Fourth Pillar--Pests."  Stack's book is organized around her 8 "Pillars of Personal Productivity," which means we are now halfway through our time-finding journey.

In her consideration of "Pests," Stack is referring, not to Wikipedia-defined pests, as in 
an animal which is detrimental to humans or human concerns. . . .  a loosely defined term, often overlapping with the related terms vermin, weeds, parasites and pathogens. In its broadest sense, a pest is a competitor of humanity; 
but rather as
the time-wasters and robbers that keep you from being able to accomplish your goals. . . .the 'termites' that eat away at [the] foundations [of our productivity]. 
So who knew "Pests" would be my second best pillar?  (Which means I'm relatively good at dealing with them, not that I am good at having them.)  Maybe it's because I've had so much practice in this area.  My "Pests" score consisted of the numbers associated with my responses to ten related items within Stack's Productivity Quiz.  (If you're curious about your own productivity scores, the quiz in its entirety can be found on Stack's website.)  I rated each quiz item on the following scale:  1) to no extent; 2) to a little extent; 3) to some extent; 4) to a considerable extent; or 5) to a great extent.  My responses are in red.

To what extent do I . . . 
  • Confront problems head-on and make decisions quickly.  [2]
  • Complete tasks I start; don't let projects stall.  [3]
  • Keep interruptions from wasting my time.  [2]
  • Create shortcuts to get things done quickly.  [2]
  • Combine activities and routines.  [3]
  • Make good use of down time.  [3]
  • Turn off the technology when with my loved ones.  [3]
  • Know and avoid my biggest time wasters and distractions.  [3]
  • Make productive use of driving or commuting time.  [3]
  • Eliminate aggravation and save time when traveling or flying.  [3]
To be honest, I had some difficulty figuring out the classification scheme that led to these issues/behaviors being lumped together in the "Pests" category.  And once again, I did not encounter in Stack's elaborations any suggestions that were new to me.  I am beginning to think that the main value of this book is the opportunity to conduct its assessment, and to take a clear-eyed look at where my stumbling blocks are.  Like, all over the place, apparently.

The author describes herself as having been focused on efficiency and productivity since childhood, when her "Air Force brat" existence had her pulling up stakes every year or so.  She recounts the routines she developed for packing and unpacking, for making an instant home in each new bedroom.  She has taken this life-long learning and turned it into a business.  But while her lists and calendars and control mechanisms may work for her, it is starting to seem a bit too nervous-making for me.  

For example, in Chapter 4, Stack takes care to differentiate "combining tasks" (Good) from multitasking (Bad).  In her view, 
multitasking . . . is switching back and forth quickly from one task to the other.  Combining actually means you are doing two activities at the same time.
In my view, whatever you want to call them, both make it difficult to be in one present moment, both raise my blood pressure, and both lead to exhaustion.

Her list of time-wasting activities includes some of my own worst time-sinks, but also some things I consider extremely important to my overall quality of life.  (I'll let you guess which are which.)
  • Television
  • Hanging out around the refrigerator
  • Lolling through the dailynewspaper
  • Checking e-mail as it comes in
  • Surfing the Net
  • Staying in bed too long
  • Playing with your pet or a neighbor's (!) pet
  • Taking personal phone calls
  • Running for coffee
  • Taking naps
  • Dealing with home deliveries
  • Doing home chores while you should be working
  • Running errands one at a time
  • Reading junk mail
  • Socializing
  • Letting guests overstay their welcome
  • Working in your home office when you should be with your family
  • Scheduling too many personal appointments during work hours
  • Shopping
I did relate to what she had to say about ignoring one's family in favor of technological devices.  But I am particularly sensitized to this issue by an iPhone addict who has very recently (yesterday evening) returned home from a long absence, and who just this morning expected me to share his attention with his little hand-held friend.  (It is not escaping my notice that I am especially enamored of productivity advice that seems to apply more to my husband than to me!)

Halfway through Find More Time, I confess that I still haven't.  But I remain hopeful. 
Next week, Possessions--my lowest-scoring pillar.  Maybe I'll locate some extra hours lurking there. . . 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Done for the Week: Home for Christmas

My husband didn't make it back yesterday, as we had anticipated.  Apparently, Europe got more snow than they knew what to do with--literally.  You know it's not good when the first email you see upon waking Sunday morning displays the subject "Bad News," and goes on to detail chaos, long lines, threatening future forecasts, and no solid idea of when/if its author will ever return.

My sons and I put the unwanted additional separation time to good use, getting our tree up and decorated, and finishing a number of household rearrangements, cleaning and repairs.  But we are ready to be done with holding down this crumbling fort without assistance.  

Below is what I can remember accomplishing during this whirlwind week.

Done for the Week:  Dec. 13-19
  1. Continued off-season race training; biked three times 
  2. Succeeded in getting one son to gym with me once
  3. Finished The Deepest Blue:  How Women Face and Overcome Depression, by Lauren Dockett 
  4. Continued reading The Zen Path Through Depression, by Philip Martin, and Undoing Perpetual Stress: The Missing Connection Between Depression, Anxiety, and 21st Century Illness, by Richard O'Connor; and continued adding to my library stockpile
  5. Took steps to resolve problem with not-for-profit organization, and to limit and focus my ongoing support
  6. Worked my two part-time jobs
  7. Published 5 blog posts
  8. Wrote 7 Gratitude Journal entries
  9. Wrote 5 Morning Pages
  10. Meditated twice
  11. Saw my therapist
  12. Attended Solstice celebration, sans snowbound spouse
  13. Attended Jobs Rally
  14. Attended Community Meeting on Jobs Emergency
  15. Attended Transitional Jobs meeting
  16. Attended Board meeting
  17. Participated in several transcontinental skype calls with absent spouse
  18. Arranged for furnace repair, thereby restoring heat to our frigid home
  19. Got electrician here for aborted wall oven install; ordered correct size and arranged return of too small model, and of electrician
  20. Ordered replacement bathroom mirror and glass for dining room table  
  21. Took my son out for (nonalcoholic) Happy Hour
  22. Watched our two favorite basketball teams play 4 games, with son 
  23. Foraged for food at the grocery store several times
  24. Survived fourth week with absent spouse
  25. Survived spouse's return Survived spouse's aborted return, when Europe was snowed in
  26. Did lots of laundry
  27. Gave significant but subtle support to two teenage sons stalled on the "launchpad" 
  28. Made a significant dent in Christmas shopping
  29. Got my husband's car's muffler repaired--for less than half the original astronomical estimate
  30. Paid monthly bills
  31. Got our Christmas tree up and decorated
Last week's focus goal was the same as the previous week-- "put first things, if not first, at least earlier in the day. . .  and to figure out what those first things might be, on any given day."  Last week, I determined that these first things (highlighted in green above) are generally blogging, meditating, exercising and keeping to the routine I've established for making progress on my novel.  This past week was a slight improvement over the previous one.  I maintained my Monday through Friday blogging; I exercised three times--one time more than the previous week; and I managed to meditate twice, even though my sangha did not meet for the second straight week because of site conflicts.  My novel-writing time, however,  fell victim to my grandson's cold, which prevented him from attending preschool, and thus me from observing my writing routine.  

This coming week culminates in Christmas, with all that implies for disruption.  My focus goal for this week?  Same as last week.  And again, I hope to continue to improve.  At this rate, I'll be holding my book party in a nursing home.

Last weeks' most important accomplishment, in my view, was resolving the previous week's crisis/dilemma concerning the nonprofit I have been deeply enmeshed with for the past couple of years.  I have high hopes that my future role(s) in this organization I continue to care about will be more limited, and more appropriate.  

This coming week will begin with a delayed reunion.  I imagine the adjustment will take up its share of these last few days before Christmas--as in the day my husband will "be home for."