Day 26: The Hurrier I Go

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I’m sure you’ve heard this Lewis Carroll quote,

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

There’s a certain point at which that becomes true. Not that I am encouraging dawdling or procrastination, but hurrying hurts and usually winds up hindering our progress. Oops! I spilled something in my haste. Or, now I need to apologize for snapping at my loved one because I’ve made myself miserable trying to live at this breakneck pace.

We weren’t meant to flit and speed from one place and activity to another with no rest, no time for reflection. Here is a definition of the phrase “hurry sickness” coined by doctors Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman:

“a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”

This article on how to overcome hurry sickness takes a good look at the problem. We need help! As a culture, many of us don’t know how to relax or slow down, even if we only have a few pockets of time every day.

We have forgotten how to love stillness and silence, how to sit with ourselves alone and just be, how to fully enjoy a walk, appreciate the preciousness of a loved one’s smile, drink in the exquisiteness of a sunset, how to be silly and laugh long and hard, and how to look for joy in the ordinary. But we can slow down and become full of wonder again.

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This time of year, you’re probably looking ahead at the next two months wondering how you’ll get through all the activities associated with the holidays. I used to just square my shoulders and tell myself to hustle more.

And I would go through it all feeling panicky, breaking down into crying jags, yelling and being sharp with my words. And then apologizing for my unacceptable behavior. I just couldn’t handle the constant go-go-go, combined with baking like mad, lots of entertaining, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts and trying to make it all magical and perfect for my kids and anyone who came to our home.

I wanted the peace I attempted to give everyone else. I craved space, simplicity, and the beauty of delighting in small things.

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After a bunch of years doing it the hard way, with the help of books or articles I read and voices on slowing down, like Ann Voskamp’s, I am learning to change my holiday style.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself before plunging into the season:

If I could arrange my holiday season any way I chose, what would it look like?

If I wasn’t concerned about anyone’s judgement about how I did the holidays, what would I say yes to and what would I say no to?

Who is most important to me and how can I focus on showing them love this season?

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Here is an old book that I love called Unplug the Christmas machine: How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted. It touches on typical roles that women and men take on during the holiday, four things children really want for Christmas, a simple Christmas, Christmas revival, the gift of joy, and it includes a handy resource section with recipes and alternative gift ideas. Of course, it feels dated, but it also feels wise and warm and cozy. Some of the resources may be outdated, but use the internet to find something comparable. This version is out-of-print, but amazon Marketplace has copies available.

And if you’d rather have the in-print version, that’s Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season:

The other book I’ve read over and over is: To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration. Although I’m not a Catholic, I incorporated several of the traditions listed in this book to enrich my own and my kids’ holiday season. This book actually takes the reader through the entire church calendar, but I’ve used it for Advent and Christmas, primarily.

And finally, a sweet out-of-print old-fashioned book called The Child’s Christmas. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this one, but it follows a fictional Victorian family from Advent through Epiphany. It tells of all their traditions, what they ate and played and did, what gifts they gave and received, how they celebrated. I read it to my kids when they were seven and three.

I hope we can all find comfort and joy this year!

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Day 25: Dracula and Ukulele Duets

 

The highlight of today was that my kids came over. I saw their faces, heard their voices–what they said or didn’t say. They ate dinner at our table, jumped in surprise at the Halloween bowls that snatched at their hands and laughed at the red-eyed Dracula rising from his coffin, screaming and cackling while scary music blared in the background. After dinner, Ella did homework and Judah and I played Canasta with Alan. Judah won! Then he and I went in the library where he took up residence in my hammock swing while I played “In the Bleak Midwinter” on the ukulele. Then I gave him one ukulele, I picked up the other and we played together. Judah’s so musical I knew he’d pick it up right away and he did. We played “House of Gold” by Twenty-one Pilots and the Brother Iz version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. So much fun!

Do you ever evaluate your day and look for a common theme? Here is a rambling poem-ish for today.

If I held up my hours like precious beads

clear, opaque, shining, rough

unique, ordinary, startling, dull

and wondered what held them together

my heartbeat and breath, here as long as I am

my emotion, hot and quick like lava or cool and dark as a cave

and all the nondescript in betweens, what would it be?

It would be me–all of those facets found

at edges of tears and full blown smiles,

frayed, tense times as well as moments light and tranquil.

My thoughts, feelings and what I do with them

Giving or withholding grace, kindness, help, a listening ear.

Moving with another’s mood, finding where the pauses are and holding the silence

living the uncertainties and sadness, bringing encouragement to a downtrodden soul

being myself and loving out, loving deep, loving into and through

the things I’d rather not remember and what I’m most proud of

there is an art to being alive, to being. So I will keep being me.

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Day 24: All Day Short

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The iPhone woke my sleepy self up at 7 this morning. I’m never a morning person, so knowing the misery of rising before the sun in the dark and cold was affecting most other people in our time zone, especially my kids getting ready for school, made it slightly easier.

I had an 8AM hair appointment with Penny, my dear friend who has done my hair since I was nine years old. That means during the mid-eighties’ perm rocker look, the early nineties’ spiral perm, the drastic short cut when I was eighteen and everything since then.

Penny’s salon is in the Village of Interlaken. When I walk up the steps toward the salon, I feel like I’m home. Almost as if my grandma was nearby–that kind of home feeling. It’s comforting and laid back. We chat about all the important things. We laugh and we even cry once in a while.

No crying today though. Just positive conversation with her and her husband when he stopped in for a minute. I left with my hair feeling silky and smooth. The day’s beauty was in full swing–color exploding everywhere as the trees danced around in the wind, the sky a crisp fall blue, and the sun making everything pop.

The rest of my day was a collection of nothing much. I searched for a certain color of blue fabric that a friend wanted so that I could make her a couple of pillows. And I didn’t find anything. I’ll have to email her a couple of other options. I looked at Etsy for supplies and searched online to find out how we could have mugs and clocks made up of Alan’s images so we could resell them. I texted with a few friends.

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As the sun went down, I ran outside and messed around with my camera, which I’ve never really bothered to learn to use properly. Then I went in, turned on all the Halloween lights, and made dinner: lemon-pepper flounder, baked sweet potatoes and a salad with miso-tahini dressing. (And yes, you got that right. I’m eating fish again. My body just needed a change.)

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I guess I did a lot of what Charlotte Mason called, “Masterly Inactivity”. I felt pretty useless, but my brain and body needed the relative rest and are gearing up for lots of new creative endeavors in the coming days and weeks.

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Day 23: Crafting a Journey

Today I ran errands. OMG, it took five hours. I tried to get everything done, including all the craft supplies and the grocery shopping at three different places. Driving from Interlaken to Ithaca, I drove behind a pickup truck the entire way.

At the local fabric store, a very sweet woman cut my fabric for me, but took twenty-five minutes doing it. She talked about her own craft business and her divorce and how happy she is now. After the initial hello, I settled in for a good long listen. Maybe I have that kind of face? People want to tell me things. It was ok, but my progress was slow.

After all the stops, including Wegmans where I saw my parents, and two Trumansburg stores, I crawled home following a huge, red, belching dump truck going ten miles under the speed limit.

What I listened to the whole time in the car was this On Being podcastKrista Tippett had a conversation with Mary Catherine Bateson, who wrote Composing a Life, which I’ve never read but want to. She is also Margaret Mead’s daughter. I first really looked into Margaret Mead’s life in the fictional book Euphoria that I read last year. She talked about how our life can be an art form.

These deep and rich conversations help me evaluate my own way of living and give me tools to explore the questions about whether or not my life is going in the direction I’d like it to. Am I composing or arranging my moments, these fleeting days and nights, in a manner that I can be proud of? Am I generous and kind? Do I take time for the important relationships? Am I developing my character and not giving into selfishness and being blindsided by my natural tendencies and biases? Am I growing and enriching my soul with nourishing practices? Music, instruments, books, art all come to mind for me.

It’s late and there are fifteen teenagers partying outside this room, so my thoughts are jumbled and I might not be making much sense. But, check out that podcast, if you haven’t, and OnBeing in general. And please share what you think about it.

Day 12: New Book, Old Movie

On Tuesday, while eating lunch with my friend, I brought up the subject of transition. We discussed the discomfort, the unknowing, the misgivings and the reinterpretation and reinvention our own identities as we launch into the unfamiliar.

We all know we can’t progress or grow without transition. It’s necessary for life. But some days, the determination to take on the challenges, the exhilaration of the new, the anticipation of our destination fade into oblivion and we feel exposed, afraid, alone and are certain we’ve made a terrible mistake. Couldn’t we return to our old shell, our old nest, even if it was a bit too small?

That was me today. All the gremlins came back with a vengeance. All the things I need to learn and accomplish had me paralyzed. I couldn’t think clearly and decide on which tasks to tackle. After our music practice, I snuck up to bed for a nap, feeling guilty that I hadn’t really done much. Exhaustion weighed me down, so I slept for a half hour.

When I woke, I cracked open Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir and read “Read this Introduction”. I’m so glad I listened and read it. She explains that memoir isn’t linear, isn’t clean-cut and doesn’t gloss over the minutiae of life. Instead, it lingers on the tiny details beneath the surface.

And she shared some words which lifted me out of my overwhelm and took me downstairs to make brownies for the kids and coconut lime rice because I’d craved it all week.

“Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It’s not a diet to become skinny, but a relaxation into the fat of our lives. Often without realizing it, we are on a quest, a search for meaning. What does our time on this earth add up to?” (p.xxi)

Alan seemed to need a bit of cheering up today too, so we made Margaritas to go with the blackened portobellos, grilled chicken (for him and the boys), salad, delicata squash and the rice. After our candlelit dinner of yumminess, we cleaned up and watched The Corpse Bride which I had never watched. What an interesting, sensitive, dark and sweet tale. When the movie finished, we watched all the extra features about the making of the film. We were floored as we took in the amount of work and attention to detail, patience and level of excellence that was necessary for the film. Our spirits were lifted and I, for one, felt like my personal challenges were actually not as daunting as I imagined earlier in the day.

What is inspiring you this week?

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