Saturday, June 26, 2010

TIME FLIES

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. ~C.S. Lewis


I’ve just returned from Canyon, Texas, where the Writer’s Academy was held on the West Texas A & M College campus. One of the things that was emphasized over and over by the instructors was the wise use of time.


I’m well aware of time. It is a valued and selfishly guarded commodity of Neal’s. He will give you anything he owns, he will write you a check, but when it comes to time he is Ebenezer Scrooge.


Me? I’m oblivious of time. I have no idea where it goes. When Neal asks me about my day I can remember how busy I was, but I can’t pinpoint why. I start many things, but do not have evidence of finished things. This is one of my many weaknesses. And this past week, I’m reminded to do something about it.


One suggestion made at the Academy was to keep a “time diary” in the same way a dieter keeps a food diary or a budget diary and figure out what we do with our time. We may find we spend more time in front of our televisions than we realize.


Another suggestion was to look at a calendar and budget time on it. The instructor said to print out a calendar with large squares. For the days one has to work, mark through the portion of the square that represents the hours for that day. For all the chores or appointments outside of the workday, mark those with a different color. Then try to schedule “fun” time somewhere on the calendar. That is important to mental good health. It was suggested to try and schedule appointments on certain days to keep from filling the week up. I do that already. Since I live outside of town I make all my appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays to keep from burning gas.


Other suggestions:


• Make a list of things needed done in the order of importance and feel the satisfaction of marking them off when finished.


• Let the phone pick up messages and answering them all at one time. In other words, don’t let the “ring” rule!


• Learn to say “no.” Have a nice little answer already prepared and memorized. Something like, “How nice of you to think of me. I’d love to help, but I really can’t at the moment. But thank you for asking.”


Time is something we all have in equal increments. Wise use of it is what makes some seem to have more than others and, oddly enough, takes pressure off of us whereas time misspent adds pressure on us.


This week, keep an eye on your use of time and spend it wisely.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

THE BALM OF SILENCE




True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.  ~William Penn



            Hi everyone! I’m in Canyon, Texas, attending the Writers’ Academy at West Texas A & M.  I’ve already enjoyed the peaceful paths under tall, spreading, elms.
My soul is quieted.
I’m a writer and I love words and expression. But honestly, a constant diet of spoken words will frazzle the soul. The talking heads on television compete with the radio voices for our attention. We listen to music lyrics, hear machinery, talk on the phone, answer questions, give presentations, play video games, talk with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
            Constant reminders of the oil spill, the failing economy, war, terrorists, and politics grate on my mind. I keep clenching my jaw and the muscles in my shoulders tighten. By the end of the day I’m worn out.
            The cure? Silence.
            I believe noise is a habit. The first thing I do when I start supper is turn on the television. The last thing I do before going to bed is watch television. Talk, talk, talk. Words fill the air.
This time last year I went to a Meditative Retreat in Connecticut, led by Jeff Pratt. We went to Mystic, CT (anyone remember the movie Mystic Pizza? It was there) and he told us to spend three hours walking around the little island we were on and say nothing. The first hour was easy. The second made me nervous. But the third is when peace broke through.
Some time this week why not turn off the television, the radio, the video games, the computer, the iPhones, iPads, for that matter, all the iStuff! Give yourself an hour of silence. Turn off the ringer on your phone and let it take a message.
I know it is strange to think about not being instantly available. However, I remember the days before cell phones and I assure you that you and your caller will survive. At the very least, put it on vibrate and only answer if absolutely necessary.
            You may be wondering what you would do for an hour. A few suggestions are: take a walk, read a book or a magazine, create something artsy, sip something refreshing while sitting outside watching nature, meditate, journal, listen only to instrumental music or the songs of nature.
            At first this may seem uncomfortable, but keep it up. Be kind to yourself. Quiet your spirit and rest.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

SEASONS OF LIFE

My dad, Charles Diehl, and me enjoying our respective seasons.

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” ~ George Santayana

My husband, Neal, often counsels others about the seasons of life when they express frustration in their day-to-day circumstances. He learned about life’s seasons just after getting his doctorate. In graduate school Neal was a well-oiled machine focused on finishing school. His schedule dovetailed beautifully with each class, work, family, research, and writing.

Then he graduated and everything changed—his schedule, his routine, even his focus. This presented a problem because he tried to keep everything the same, and frankly, none of those around him moved fast enough—especially me. He felt as if he were beating his head against the wall trying to deal with people and circumstances.

It finally occurred to him, life has its seasons. Each season is set. It gets cold in the winter (for most of us anyway) and we put on coats. It gets hot in summer and we put away our coats. To resist a season and wear a coat in hot weather is foolish. He realized the season of his life had changed and he was resisting it.

Do you feel anxious about life, do you feel like you are beating your head against the wall? Are you frustrated by your circumstances? Maybe your season has changed. Seasons can involve many things:
·      Graduation from school
·      Marriage/Divorce
·      New babies
·      Teenagers (ack!)
·      New job
·      Empty Nest
·      Aging
·      Retirement
·      Health
·      A move of any kind
·      Death of a loved one
·      Dealing with hardship
·      Any set of circumstances that are different.

The secret of embracing our current season is to “modify and adjust.” For instance,  I’m in the middle of middle age. I get frustrated having to wear “readers.” I own countless pairs but I’m like a squirrel that buries acorns and forgets where they are. I could complain that up until the age of 53, I could see just fine. But you know what, I can’t now. So, I’m going to have to adjust and find a place to keep my glasses or buy stock in the reader glasses biz.

Keep reminding yourself that every season of life has its own joys and its own sorrows. Focus on the practical things you can do to “cooperate” with the season, instead of trying to live it the same way as you did in the previous season.

This week, identify your season. Mine is a season of new, but challenging, opportunities. I’m being stretched by responsibilities that I’ve always been glad for others to shoulder. Now it is my turn to grow. It is a little nerve-wracking, but I’m modifying the way I think about my abilities, and myself. I’m adjusting by taking small steps forward.

How about you? I’d like to hear about your season, its joys and challenges, and what you are doing to modify and adjust.