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Do the important thing

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If you're like me, then 2017 already feels like a long time ago. Your eyes are looking deep into the new year, and you've got more to do than you know how to manage. Your days are crowded with too many tasks and too many commitments. And what you really feel like doing most days is to crawl under a duvet and wait for the weather to warm up.

How do you stay on course when you're feeling the stress and the time crunch? You might think it's all about managing your time better. If you just stick to those 15 minute increments in your crammed agenda, you'll get everything done. You've probably got an app for that, or maybe a book or two with different systems for staying on task. But if all that was working for you, you would not be reading this.

You're reading this in the hope that one more post will give you one idea that actually works so you can keep your head above water and stick to your plans for the new year. And I'm going to give you just one idea: …

Celebration is a choice, not a calendar alarm

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I made all the cookies in the picture, although I had some help decorating the gingerbread men. From the frenzy of your holiday, year-end preparations, you might look at this and think "there's someone with a lot of time on her hands."
In fact, I don't have much time. this year, I decided to make some. I made it by making cookies, by volunteering, by wrapping presents, by spending a half day being a tourist to enjoy Christmas in my own city. I made time, knowing that there is business to be done and that I will be up far too late getting all my marking done before January 3. I did it because this year, I am choosing celebration.
Are you old enough to have forgotten how many days you worked too late, got up too early, and ached with the fatigue of carrying everyone else's expectations?  Me, too. This year, I am choosing celebration.
You can choose celebration, too. You can choose to do one thing today just because it brings back a good memory or makes you feel go…

It's about time

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HURRY UP  PLEASE ITS TIME (The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot).
It's the time of year when you can feel the clock ticking right down to the bone. The end of the year. A time for preparations (for the holidays, for the new year) and accounting (for whatever needs to be done before the year ends). A time for hurrying.
I am feeling the pressure more than I usually do, because my work schedule is unusual this year and I won't get the time for reflection and connection that I value in December. If I am to reflect and connect, I will have to do it on purpose, with plans and perhaps with less sleep than I would like. Hurry up, please.
By the time we realize that things are changing, they are often changed. Relationships, habits, and situations are always shifting, and often they do it just outside of awareness. As the year ends, we look around  and do the math. When was the last time you saw that friend? How does your progress compare to people who aren't around you now? Are you getting…

You have to practice if you want to go in the deep end

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I'm beginning to feel like this sign is everywhere.  This week, a marketing expert I respect wrote that people want smaller and smaller chunks of information. To provide value today, package your stuff in little boxes. 
I started out studying poetry, where a few words can be used to tempt someone to dig deep for meaning. Sometimes small packages open up in the reading. 
I even like teaching people to notice and explore the surface. At the beach, skimming along the surface can be fast and fun.
But remember when you were a kid at the pool? It was a big deal to swim well enough to be allowed in the deep end. You only got there by working and risking. You could only brave the heights of the diving board when you were capable of navigating the depths of the water.
When you want to be one of the big kids, you have to break through the surface and explore the air above it and the waters below.

How do you play a waiting game?

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When we had small children and busy schedules, my husband would say "cherish dull moments."

But moments can stretch and become uncomfortably long. I teach in a system that has been on strike for about 5 weeks. The end may or may not be in sight, and even if it is, the results of the waiting are unpredictable. For me, it is not a matter of life or death, but it does impact my ability to plan for my business and my life. I don't know if I'll get paid again or when. I don't know how I will manage a too-heavy schedule with few breaks. I don't know when I will decide it's time to make a change, since life is risky either way.
Does this sound familiar? On any given day, many of the people you encounter are playing a waiting game for something not quite predictable and possibly unpleasant. While I've been waiting out the strike, I've been observing the way waiting influences my states and choices. Here are three things I have been doing to stay focused …

Pick five words that describe the way you want to experience your life

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The people who study emotions tell us that there are six basic emotions: joy, surprise, fear, anger, sadness and disgust.  If you believe them, then most of your emotions are unpleasant.  This is how people have written about emotions for hundreds of years: as if they pull us down into the mud. The better way to live, the reasoning went, was like Spock in Star Trek. All decisions would be made better by reason alone.

Now we know that people with no access to emotions have a hard time making any decisions at all. It turns out that emotions are a complex signalling system that allow us to know very quickly that our brains have recognized a pattern that might help us or harm us. You can see how all those negative emotions might be useful in this way: they are an early warning system that might allow us to avoid danger, or at least to recognize it when it's all around us.

This is important if you believe that the goal of the human being is to persist, to stay alive. It's certainly…

How to keep your head

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We're one day away from Halloween and you're probably surrounded by images of heads that have become separated from bodies. If you're lucky, you're not also surrounded by coworkers who are losing their heads.

Since you probably already know how to lose your head (at least under pressure), here are three reminders of how to keep it: Your head should be continuous with your body. That means staying aware of your physical needs for food, rest, exercise and touch (yes - I said touch. People are social creatures and a hug will often reconnect a lost head).Your  body and your head should be moving in the same direction. You need to walk your talk when you want to keep your head. Integrity is a sure way to reconnect the head you are afraid you are losing.Phone a friend. Better yet, go find a friend and talk in person. Putting your concerns into words will stabilize them and telling them to a friend will add both comfort and perspective. When you're losing your head, it…