Friday, November 30, 2018

Prioritizing Life

If you are like me, you find yourself saying that there is too much to do in too little time.  You get caught feeling overwhelmed and at times defeated by the amount of tasks on your to do list and scheduled appointments on your calendar.

It's a problem. 

I certainly have been struggling recently. And, it is nothing new; it is the same old refrain. The same old trap of. . . but then I got to thinking. . . trap of what? What is the problem?

I'm still thinking through this, but so far I have come up with a few ideas on what the real problem is. Because there will always be things to do. There will always be 24 hours in the day. There will always be urgent tasks and tight timelines, surprises that derail you and moments of accomplishment that make you think such a busy life is a good idea. . . or, at the very least, manageable.  And, BOOM I find myself getting caught in the same cycle.

So, what is the real problem? 

I have come to understand that prioritizing is key. All you have to do is figure out what is most important and do that! Haha! Easier said than done. There is no single recipe for a great life. Each individual must decide what is the most important. And, not just once, but repeatedly. Year after year, day after day, moment to moment.

My trap is the trap of mistaken thinking that I can sort it all out once and then be done. But, life isn't about figuring out one answer. It is the process of negotiating all of life's challenges, embracing the challenge (and even the suffering) as it arises. It is a constant exploration of valuing and re-valuing our ideas, our beliefs, our commitments, our habits, our everything!

So, rather than prioritizing something in your life. Perhaps the freedom is found in prioritizing the process of re-prioritizing. Perhaps the most noble thing we can do is to take time to "figure things out." Prayer, meditation, long walks, a movement class, they are all examples of opportunities to step out of the stream and listen deeply into our experience. Prioritizing life is prioritizing the experience of sorting through things intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually. This takes time.

The most important thing we can do, and the thing we must put before all else is the time and space to reassess, reflect, ruminate, seek guidance, listen for clarity. 

Prioritizing this process however can be difficult. The best long term is to routinize this process with regular, weekly experiences, practices or rituals. This allows space for us to continually and consistently revisit our priorities and values. But, in times of crisis, we give up our recuperative practices as luxuries. How do we communicate to ourselves (and to others) that we are prioritizing life by selecting recuperative activities?

Well. . . I am still working through that one. . . but for now I will say:

"I am prioritizing life."

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Problem of Sunny California (It's not what you think!)

Life comes in seasons. Just as we acclimate to a new ways of being, a new pattern, a new schedule, a new way of life, the season changes. This is the nature of all that is. This is a great thing, a needed thing, a maddening thing. But, these seasons will come, and they will go. Unless, that is, you live in Southern California.

Don't get me wrong. I love living in this beautiful state with its heavenly fall and spring, it sunny winter days and fantastic summer nights. But, as most people know, rain is a seldom occurrence in this lovely (most often dusty brown) land in which I live.  So, there is no need to slow down and retreat. There is little climatic cause for returning to the warmth of a house or the glow of a fire to wait out a storm or sudden shift in weather. There is no reason to slow down and to allow the seasons to guide us. So, we go, go go!

Why not?! Right?! Right!

Our societal expectations do the same. Slow down? No need! The sun is shining so you go about your business (your busy-ness) at all costs. We begin to equate ourselves with our doing-ness. We calculate our worth according to dollar signs, and we continually wonder what else is out there to be done, checked off the list, completed, accomplished, achieved.

The problem in Southern California is that we can usually expect the weather to be at least reasonably good. A outdoor wedding in November? Sound ideal!

So, when things shift, the whole world is thrown into chaotic flux. It might rain!?!

But, the truth is, I'm not really talking about the Cali weather at all. I'm talking about the So Cal experience of life. The shock that occurs when we just aren't up to what we set out to do. How do we exit the fast paced flow of the life we have created for ourselves?

I'm not exactly sure. I just know that in the world of go, do, be, we must make space for the unexpected storm. 

Let's put it into perspective. What are we here to do? Are we here to deny our fragile nature at every turn? To push away the hurts and/or needs that exist within our ancient genetic codes? For the sake of always being sunny? Simply because we can?

Here is another twist. Our seasons come and go according to our inner worlds, and yet we exists in external structures that require us to be present, active and engaged for a given number of hours on given days (Hello! 40 hour work week!). For the tortoise running in the race, this steady pace is fantastic. Always fulfilling the regular, defined, expected commitment. No more, no less. But what about those of us that have natural highs a lows. Heck, women who have their monthly cycle! All humans have an inner rhythm; we each have our seasons. So, when are we as a society going to own the ebb and flow? What could that look like?

I grew up in Montessori school. I continually realize just how formative that experience was for me. I could work at my own pace (in fits and starts, in bursts, in long burns). As long as I did my work, I then had the freedom to do whatever I wanted.  But, life doesn't work that way. In order to function we must interact with others and as part of that we make contracts. We have to be committed to people; Our survival as individuals requires that we are able to plan and accommodate and contract as needed.  We benefit with we are able to apply and appeal and appease. 

We have to be on teams, and we are better for it in many ways. So, it is not an all or nothing manifesto I am proposing. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I know that sometimes I can be amazing. I can produce with speed, agility, vision, and focus. And other times, I am stumble, feel groggy, overwhelmed and down right irritable. Does it even out? It might, but when you work on a schedule (project to project, performance to performance, semester to semester), it doesn't matter. It can't matter, because the funding ends, the curtain goes up, the grades are due.

So, what can we do?

We do what we can. Watching the seasons change inside of us (even if they aren't changing around us). Exclaiming with a sense of curiosity and wonder, "Oh wow! I could really use a break. How incredibly interesting?" Then we take a breath, drink a cup of tea and get back to it. Sitting with the storm inside of us as it rages, thunders and sputters lighting with disagreeability. 

Then, one day we feel good again. For no reason. It might take a day, it might take a week, it might take a year. The ebb and flow of life will change as it always does. To everything there is a season.

This is just a season. "Oh wow! I could really use a break. How incredibly, incredibly interesting?"


PS Forgive spelling and grammar mistakes, I just needed ot get this out there. Maybe I will find time to edit it. Maybe later. . . maybe not.