Monthly Archives: July 2012

Squeezing in the Time

I’m in a funny situation. A project I’ve been pushing through for over a year now (really, it’s been kicking around in one form or another for almost 18 months) is starting to take off.

Which is wonderful to the point of occasional giddiness.

However, it means I have a lot less time for creative pursuits.

Which doesn’t exactly make me happy.

Instead of having two or three hours to play a couple of days a week, I’m in meetings. A lot of meetings.

But I don’t want to stop creating. I know that not making things, not writing, not painting, ends up being unproductive and hurting everything else I’m working on.

I’ve decided the answer, for now, it to take lots of vacations.

 Little mini-vacations.

To block off an hour, even thirty minutes a couple times a week where all I need to do is write or paint. Just to play.

I was worried when I first came up with the plan. How on earth was I going to make that time really count?

I mean – it can take me that long to get going on a chapter some days. Or get my craft project out and arranged. Or… well, it just didn’t seem like enough time.

But it’s the time I have.

So, I started thinking about what I do to prep for an actual vacation.

  • I make sure that I’ve answered every email that’s in my box.
  • I make sure that whatever loose ends I have outstanding are tied up, or reasonably deferred to when I get back.
  • I check and make sure I’m current of bills and finances and stuff.
  • I do a quick run through of housework, so it’s not a disaster to come home to.
  • I prep everything I’m planning to pack over a few days.

None of those things take long. All of them can be done in bits and pieces over a day.

And if I use the same procedure for clearing the decks for that mini-creation vacation, I can focus on my work.

Clearing the decks

  •  I can schedule my vacation time before hand, so I know when I need to have everything ready, and I can guard that time from other encroachments.
  • I can get out my paints beforehand.
  • I can do a little world building, and let it be percolating before I’m ready to start.
  • I can review my chapter notes to see where I left off last time.
  • I can make sure there’s nothing else poking me from the back corners of my brain, distracting me and slowing me down.
  • I can have a menu of options of projects to choose from, so I can easily pick up whatever I feel drawn to without having to feel stuck.

So when I do have time, I’m set up and ready to fly.

 What do you do to make your creative time count when you feel like you’re too busy?

Replenishment

Today has been a hard day. Nothing particularly wrong other than a busy week, and apparently I didn’t sleep well last night.

I half remember disturbing dreams and couldn’t shake them off this morning. And Sean asked if I was ok, that’d I’d been nearly thrashing through the night.

All in all, not terribly restful.

Tomorrow I have yet another big meeting in a whole month of meetings, and I still don’t know if my baby project will be welcomed, or if I need to do yet more gentle adjustments to make this fly.

So, today has been a jittery, agitated, tummy uncomfortable sort of day, and I need for it not to be. There’s still plenty of work to be done, even if I’d rather just go back to sleep.

Thank goodness for having left myself instructions for what to do in case of days like that.

I’ve had water. Lots and lots and lots of water. I had extra calories at lunch, but made sure that they were still nominally healthy. I resisted the temptation to go out and let someone else deal with the cooking, because I know I’m extra sensitive to being in public places with noise when I’m overtired.

I put on my Bach Fugue CD. Thank goodness mp3 albums don’t wear through like the tapes of my high-school days. I need this CD every time I’m stressed. Have writing to do and can’t pull it together? Put on the CD. Car just spun out in the snowstorm and nearly went over the edge? Put on the CD. I suspect the super mathematical rhythm is what soothes me, but I don’t really care. It works.

Still, after everything, I felt agitated, fussy, and unable to focus. I didn’t even want to write about what was bothering me.

And finally remembered the trick that always works.

I ran away to another place and time altogether.

I read a book.

  • Read a chapter, made a list of everything that needed to happen today.
  • Read a chapter, broke everything down into the smallest possible parts.
  • Read a chapter, do ten minutes of stuff from the list.
  • Repeat.

Realized I was done with the list before I was done with the book. There wasn’t really that much that just had to be done, but I couldn’t get a grip on it.

Reading gave me enough distance from just feeling generally crappy to be able to analyze what was on my plate, do the basics and a little more.

I’m still tired, and looking forward to a more restful night, but at least I’m not worried that the day was a complete waste and that I’ll be unprepared for tomorrow.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how much I need writing. How the act of story telling, of plotting and planning is a part of me. I should put just as much weight on how much I need stories to feel whole as well.

What works for you when you’re run down and a nap just isn’t in the cards?

A Gentle Revolution

I’ve been thinking about the Declaration of Independence of the United States. There’s a section just past the pursuit of happiness bit that’s been sticking in my brain.

Here’s the whole thing:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And here’s what I’ve been noodling on: If we have the right and responsibility to seek a better form of government if the current form of government is destructive of, or just isn’t supportive of the pursuit of happiness… what does that mean for us as individuals?

We all live our lives by rules.

Not just the external laws and regulations of whatever external government we happen to live in, but our internal government.

We may consciously know some of our rules. But there’s so many others that we’ve picked up without really thinking about it, from our parents or our culture or lovers or teachers.

Do this. Think that way. Don’t expect too much.

Work hard. Get more done.

Play nice. Don’t let the other guy get the first shot.

All of it. Every last thing that we’ve absorbed, whether they’re conflicting or not, whether we truly agree with those statements or not, shape how we live, how we act.

But do those rules work for us?

Have we created an internal government that produces and protects and nurtures happiness, or is at the very least conducive to the pursuit of happiness?

What if we very consciously made the choice to examine our rules, our internal government? Piece by piece, looked at the guidelines we’ve allowed into our lives, and decided if they worked for us?

And what if those rules, that government we’ve absorbed doesn’t work?

Can we pick new rules, test them out, see what works?

Experimenting.

People fuss about being consistent. Finish what you start. Don’t change horses mid-stream.

But why not dabble?  Try a new rule for a month. Experiment with ignoring a long held one.

See how it makes you feel. Document, record, try it again. Try something different.

The Declaration of Independence started a revolution.

What if you could start your own revolution, but a gentle one. A re-evolution of your beliefs and inner rules to create a government that worked for you.

What would you change first?

Explorer’s Log #6:

In which we record the adventures and celebrations, both great and small, of the previous week.

Having a holiday in the middle of the week meant I kept being lost as to what day it was – but I’m not complaining! On Wednesday when the university was closed we took the jeep out to the end of a road we’d started exploring a couple years ago, found a wonderful little church that we’ll have to go back and photograph, and then found an entirely new road. And didn’t get lost!

Because of fire and drought, fireworks were super restricted this year, which the malamute appreciated. She’s not entirely happy about thunder, and fireworks are right out. So it was a quiet dinner on the grill of turkey burgers with basil from the yard and corn on the cob – which really just needs to be a summer staple in this house!

And we finished our free time by finally looking at photos from trips from weeks ago – its been that busy.  I’d forgotten how much fun I’d had taking pictures of dawn clouds reflected in the lake we camped at.

We finally got a little rain – hopefully it will be enough to keep our local CSA going. Not just because we love the fresh veggies, but because we really like the family that runs it. I know farming is hard everywhere, but out here – I just can’t imagine it.

The weekend felt like it snuck up on us – only two days in the office, then back out!  A bit of a whirlwind between a feral cat trap neuter release clinic (88 cats sterilized!), Sean’s dad’s birthday, and heading to Santa Fe to see this week’s offering from the Studio Ghibli festival. I’d never seen Princess Mononoke in the theater before. Very much wow!

 

And somehow in all of that Sean decided it was time to learn two new pieces on the mandolin, and start composing. Because he’s a nut. But now I’m glancing over at the dulcimer… as soon as things slow down, it’s time for me to start practicing my Christmas carols. Because yes, I’m that slow.

What adventures did you have this week? Large or small, we’d love to hear them!

Pursuing Happiness

Tomorrow is Independence Day in the States, and the phrase is right there in the Declaration of Independence: “pursuit of happiness.”

But what does that mean?

And what does it mean when we’re not happy?

Does it mean we’re doing something wrong? That there’s something broken inside us that needs to be fixed?

It can sure seem that way.

A friend of mine grew up in a church that believed that happiness was a sign of god’s love. And that if you weren’t happy, it was because things weren’t right between you and god. I’d bet a lot of people made sure to be seen smiling on Sundays, no matter how they actually felt.

Most people wouldn’t agree with that belief now, but our society does seem fixated on curing you of unhappiness, and as quickly as possible.

Take deep breaths. Take yoga. Take a pill.

I believe happiness is important. Really, really important.

But happiness doesn’t have to be full-on, full-time ecstasy, with beams of joy radiating from your eyeballs. We can find happiness in little things.

I don’t believe everyone has to be happy. I don’t believe everyone has to WANT to be happy.

People have a right to their emotions. I don’t think we allow ourselves or others that right often enough.

Chin up. Stiff upper lip. Smile for the photo.

It’s a right to the pursuit of happiness. Not a mandatory condition.

And if we could accept the whole range of emotions, instead of trying to force ourselves to only feel the positive ones, that would be a kindness. A kindness to ourselves, and to those around us.

And if we can’t have happiness, perhaps kindness will do.

We talk about a lot of things here…

Being gentle with ourselves, and the importance of small adjustments towards alignment.

Experiments in happiness and what does adventure mean, anyway?

What can happen when you say "Yes" and what might be waiting outside your front door.

And of course, why pretending to be a pterodactyl is good business.

 

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