Monthly Archives: January 2016

For the moment

“For the moment, the sky is fine.”

I found this quote months ago in Lempriere’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk. A difficult read for me until I came across this simple sentence: “For the moment, the sky is fine.”

I’ve been pondering as the cold and snow and storms disrupt so many lives — mine included. I’m not complaining; I’m better off than many. I’m retired. There’s no place I need to go in the snow and ice and cold. The mice are enjoying my pantry stash of crackers, chips and chocolate. I have woolly socks and blankets and hot chocolate.

Even so, my week is not at all what I expected before the weather arrived. Most things on my calendar have been cancelled; some have been rescheduled. These empty days have erased all my normal excuses for not writing or practicing or reading or exercising.

Sometimes — when life takes an unexpected turn — we can’t seem to move. We lose our direction. our engine stalls and refuses to start. We fret, we stew, we rant, we rave, we sometimes lash out at innocents — because we just want life to be as we planned. In a sense, we have an adult temper tantrum — we want what we want — right now!! This moment is certainly not fine, and definitely not enough!

So how do we get from “not o.k.” to “fine?” How can we ever say

for this moment, the snow is fine

for this moment, the rain is fine

for this moment, being housebound is fine

for this moment, mice in the pantry are fine

The concept for attitude change is relatively easy, though it takes practice. We have to consider what this moment is — even though it’s not one we chose. Your previous hopes and plans are irrelevant now. This is the moment you have.

Look closely at your moment, dig deep into it’s center. Be grateful for the tiniest things you find in your looking and digging. Perhaps it’s a cup of tea, or a photo on the fridge, or a pen to write with, or ears to hear wind blowing snow, or warm socks on cold toes. Savor it in all its possibilities — and be grateful.

And the moment will be fine, perhaps even abundant.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

Hurry, Hurry . . .

You know, as we all do, that our world values speed and busyness and multi-tasking. Just to keep up with the expectations of bosses and families and organizations.  We have to be accomplishing at a rate that allows little space for daydreaming, self-assessment, or pondering.  Woe unto those who look like they’re not doing anything!

“Only the amateurs hurry,” says Ann Voskamp, author, wife, speaker, and mother of 6 kids. Surely her life is full to overflowing of stuff that can make a sane person crazy.

Rather than focus on the details of such a life, I want to consider her comment in light of the work we do.  “Only the amateurs hurry.”

Only the amateurs

  • rush to be a best-selling author before they’ve learned to write well
  • rush to be a concert musician before they’ve done years of daily practice
  • rush to be a gourmet cook before they’ve learned the basic techniques
  • rush to be a renowned artist before their studio floor is covered with mistakes
  • rush for acknowledgment before their work is ready

And no matter our level of experience or accomplishment, there is no rush to success, no shortcuts — just steady, unhurried work and practice.

Just last week three things Illustrated this point.

First, after handbell practice, a fellow player said, “I just like to hear the beautiful music. I hate it when we stop to practice certain passages.” Really.  Really?  But there is no beautiful music without practicing to get it right.

Second, I went to my piano lessons feeling good about two pieces in particular.  Perhaps I was a little smug or innerly cocky.  And then I played for Dr. B — and the playing was not what I had hoped, certainly not my best.  He showed me how to drill for improved technique. I was discouraged; it seemed I had to go back to the beginning, Square One, and begin again.  That’s not exactly true, because I already knew all the notes, but my technique was lacking.

Third, Charlie and I were discussing her current writing: long talking about this word vs. that word, this story structure vs. that story structure, slowing the pace vs. bogging down in the details.  She’s a careful writer, wanting to get it close to right the first time, rather than rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.  Loosely quoting she said, “I’ve either got to give this work my best effort, or put it away and do something else.”

There is no substitute for intentional work. For slow and steady practice.  For the passion to improve.

Don’t hurry for what isn’t yours — yet.

Show up.  Do your work.  Then you can own it.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

 

Fritters

I’m a sucker for great pastries — croissants, danish, cinnamon rolls, fritters — especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings, or as a treat when my work is finished.

Why am I even thinking, or worse yet, discussing fritters when many of us are on our annual January diets? But stay with me for a few minutes.

“I’m feeling overwhelmed,” I complained to a friend,  “with too many projects and not enough time.  The only thing is — all my projects are self-induced so I can’t really complain.”

But time management is an on-going challenge for me.  I suspect you may have similar struggles.

“Perhaps there are some things I can do to free up some time that is getting frittered away,” I told her.

You know those time wasters — computer games, TV shows, unintentional naps — I’m sure you have your own list of time fillers for boredom, weariness, or avoidance.

“Time fritters,” I continued, “now that’s an interesting concept.  Like apple fritters or corn fritters — items that are dusted with powdered sugar and savored with coffee.” Immediately my brain began to ponder fritters, twisting and turning, thinking about their purpose and function.

An apple fritter is totally engaging.  I see its golden brown exterior studded with bits of apple. I smell the cinnamon.  I run my fingers across its pebbly surface. I hear the crunch as I bite through into the creamy interior. I watch the powdered sugar fall like snow onto my black shirt. I taste the warm inside, letting it stay in my mouth a long time.

Yes, a fritter is a good thing, a very good thing.

So can a fritter be something besides food?  Perhaps.

Let’s consider a time fritter —  not a time fritterer or waster — but a scrumptious time fritter.

A time fritter, first of all, is intentional:  step away from your work and be present in a separate moment. Let everything slip into oblivion. Secondly, a time fritter is experiential.  Allow the moment to engage your senses. Let your attention go beyond your ordinary seeing and thinking and touching and tasting and hearing. Because you’re on fritter time, the sensations seep into your brain and soul and and psyche.  You are more now than before you began this time fritter.  You have savored and heard and paused to look deeply.

It was just a moment — a fritter moment.

Now you can return to your work, new and refreshed.

Until next Tuesday . . .

Turtle Living

I’m not one to make resolutions for the new year.  Instead, I create improvement plans throughout the year — when the need arises.

However, several years ago I made one resolution:  read more books.  Specifically, I wanted to read one book a week.

Each time I finished a book, I noted it in a little blue journal.  At the end of 2012, the first year of my plan, I discovered I’d only read 18 books — way less than the 52 I’d hoped for.

Every January I renew my plan of reading one book per week.  Progress has been slow, but there is progress.  Below is my chart showing the number of books read and percent of increase over the previous year.

YEAR   BOOKS   % INCREASE 

2012     18

2013      20               11%

2014      25                25%

2015      29                16%

Have I reached my goal yet?  Absolutely not.

Am I reading more books than I used to?  Absolutely yes.

Is reading one book each week a reasonable goal for me? Maybe.  Maybe not.  I’m not a fast reader — and life often gets in the way. But more important to me is making progress, whether or not I reach my goal.

In my professional life I learned that what we measure is what we attend to.  Because I decided to track the number of books I’ve completed, my reading has increased — 61% since I began the project in 2012. You can see my list of books on the new BOOK LIST tab I’ve added to this site.

Slow and steady makes a difference.  Focus on the steady — whatever you decide to measure.

Until next Tuesday . . .