Nearly 20 years ago, seven other ladies joined me in a year-long discussion group centered on Cheryl Richardson’s Life Makeovers: 52 Practical & Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week at a Time. Each week’s reading includes a short essay, a Take Action challenge, and a list of resources for further study. It’s a manageable way to effect change in your life even if your schedule is as congested as mine always seems to be.
Our little group was cobbled together by pairings of associations. We each knew at least one other person in the group, but we met others for the first time at our first luncheon. Within six months, we’d formed a tight-knit association that provided a solid base of support as we each experienced substantive life changes. It has remained intact over the years despite a scattering across the country.
This year, I decided to go through the weekly lessons one last time on my own before sending it off to the library resale store. (I’m gradually thinning out my bookshelves as part of my long-term downsizing effort.) Most of the lifestyle adjustments she recommends have been integrated into my life. Some are active long-term projects. And some stubbornly refuse to yield to her good advice.
As a case in point, I just finished reading the chapter entitled “The Benefits of Boredom.” She notes that in an adrenaline-fueled society, it can be really challenging to slow down and do nothing – especially if you’re someone who has become inured to being on-the-go all the time. Sitting still and doing nothing can be really uncomfortable. And yet it’s that quiet time that promotes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
I’ve written posts previously on the deleterious effects of sustained stress on the body. I’ve also written several posts on the positive impact of a regular practice of meditation. I understand intellectually why it’s not helping me to operate with such a congested calendar all the time. I really notice it when I’m in the thick of an overbooked schedule and make promises to not let myself get caught up in it again. And yet, I find myself in that position repeatedly. A good friend has told me that she’s going to partner with my husband and call for an “intervention.”
Clearly, I don’t like the do-nothing feeling. That’s why I’ve had such difficulty settling into a meditation practice even though I know it would be good for me. But my circumstances also arise as a function of excitement over opportunities that present themselves. For example, I’m presently singing in two choirs and have a small role in a musical theater production… on top of work, parent care, book group, entertaining, and the usual household responsibilities. But I’d kick myself if I didn’t take advantage of them while I’ve got the energy and resources to do so.
That being said, life managed to give me a wake-up call last week. I received a traffic citation by mail for exceeding the speed limit in downtown Beaverton. In fairness, I didn’t realize that the 4-lane road on which I drive repeatedly has variable speed limits depending upon one’s proximity to the main downtown area. (Lesson learned!) But the message that I’m rushing around entirely too much has gotten through loud and clear. It’s time for me to take a step back and make more intelligent decisions regarding how I spend my time.
In truth, I have plenty of time for self-care and quiet contemplation if I would just pay closer attention to how I spend it. I can say “no” to things that are low priorities. I can watch less television. I can put placeholders in my calendar for soul-nourishing activities for which I do not feel rushed in their pursuit. I can pace myself with respect to the performing arts opportunities so that I’m not booked solid in the evening. And I can opt for activities that might be fun for my husband and I to enjoy together… now that he is retired!
The holiday season brings both joy and a bit of craziness to most of our lives. This year, I’m giving myself the gift of peace and a promise to take things a little easier next year.