In Search of the Flexible Life

My husband and I are looking after my youngest sister’s three kids this week.  Her oldest is nine, and there are a five and three-year-old in the mix.  Then, of course, we have our own three middle-schoolers.  Add to that #Snowmagedon2015, an emerging flu-like croup among those younger than thirty in the house, and blow-up mattresses that keep leaking air, and you’ll start to get a feel for things.

Actually, in all honesty, it’s been smooth sailing–in spite of a very real potential for madness.  The fact that my husband’s school was cancelled for the entire week was a blessing because it meant that he’s been home helping out.

Also helpful is the fact that most kids like plain, ordinary days and a sense of routine, especially young kids.  We’ve been able to keep things very Netflix, Lego, and peanut butter sandwich around here, and there’s been a serious lack of chaos, all things considered.

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Something that had me (selfishly) worried, though, was the fact that I’ve made goals for myself this year, daily disciplines that require repeated, focused attention.  Any change in routine means that I could derail on them at any point.  And since it’s only February, and the disciplines are still new, I might have a painful time getting back into them whenever normal returns.  I hate pain.

In times past, I would have told myself that a week of six children and snow and sickness meant temporarily forgetting about making any progress in personal disciplines at all–  that to do otherwise would only mean setting myself up for frustration and failure.  But I’ll be 37 this Saturday, and something about being three years away from 40 has made me want to figure out how to be open to serving others while still keeping up with my own stuff.

Easier said than… I know.

However, I figured out that I could exercise on the elliptical for ten minutes while the youngest kids dump dominoes out on the floor in the same room.  I told them that if they stay near me, and share the trains with one another, they can keep on enjoying this extremely special privilege–but only when I’m on my machine.  Happily, it’s working out, and so am I.

Since I can’t wake up early without all the kids joining me in my bed, I have taken to writing in the afternoon when the youngest boy naps.  I sit in the room with him, cross-legged, silver Mac on my lap.  He tries to talk to me for the first ten minutes or so, of course, but eventually fades away to the tapping of the keys.  Unexpectedly, I discovered that I am writing as much this week as I did last week.  And the bonus is that my little nephew is thrilled to have someone with him while he rests.

Finally, I’ve switched to reading my Bible at night instead of in the morning.  I don’t prefer doing it this way, but the thing is, I’m managing to keep it up (I desperately need it) while still giving love and attention to those in my care.  In the end, this is more important than doing it at the “right time.”

What I’ve learned this week is that I can do more than I think I can if only I’ll be flexible and resist an all-or-nothing mentality.  Of course, I’m asking God to sustain me daily, and he graciously is.  One of the ways he’s helping me is by giving me the strength to go with the flow.  Another, though, is by helping me to find pockets in the day when I can practice body and soul care.

The upshot is that, so far, I’ve been able to love my people and take care of myself.  I’m calling it a win-win.

How do you keep going when things get crazy?

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A Little Yes

It’s February.  I told myself I’d introduce my 2015 goals slowly so that I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed and quit on them.  It’s mostly worked and I feel like I’m making progress,  except with the working out thing.  Somehow I haven’t been able (willing?) to make it happen.

I talked about getting a pedometer so that I could track my steps. As it happens, though, I feel crazy doing laps from one end of the house to the other in order to up a step count.  Then, too, I have no intention of going outside.  That left me wondering whether I needed to splurge and purchase a machine like this.  It’s always been my tried-and-true form of exercise in the past.  I even owned one in India and used it every, single day.

I finally bit the bullet and bought one.  Yesterday I got on it for the first time for ten minutes.  Ten minutes was all it took for my bronchial tube to feel as tight as one of those coffee stirrers in a hospital cafeteria.  When I finished my “workout” (I’d managed to log just over a mile), I was basically doing Lamaze to catch up on oxygen.  My daughter looked at me and said, “Good job, Mom?”  She seemed unsure whether to say more.

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Now, ten minutes is nothing, right?  Really almost not worth putting on my ancient running shoes for.  And it was ten minutes of hurt, adding insult to shortness of breath.  But the thing I’ve come to realize is this:  all worthwhile achievements start out as little yesses that look like nothing much and hurt a little (or a lot).

So today I will get back on my machine.  I will play my radio station on Pandora and set my timer for ten minutes again.  I’ll do this for a week without lengthening the amount of time I work out.  Next week, I’ll make it fifteen minutes, then twenty, until I’ve reached a length of time I think is beneficial.  I’ve learned that the key to establishing better fitness is not to despise these early ten minute sessions, not to try to speed through them to get on the other side of a goal.  They’re necessary to establish habit and endurance.

Maybe, in the end, 2015 is really about my learning to appreciate the wobbly, feeble beginnings of things, to keep saying little yesses, one day at a time. Because without beginnings there’s nowhere to go.

What about you?  Do you find yourself hating the beginnings of new habits?  Do you wish you could skip to the “this is easy” phase?  How do you keep going when you aren’t there yet?

How January’s Going (Setting and Meeting Goals One Month At a Time)

Today’s the last Monday in January.  We’re almost finished with the first month of 2015, and are about to head into the shortest month of the year that, incidentally, lasts forever.  I’m checking up on myself to see how the old goals are coming along. Mine are smallish but I still need to keep track of them if I hope to meet them.

A mini-report:

I’m still not exercising.  Not unless you count getting up from a seated position.  I do that sometimes.  To help me incorporate more movement in my day, I plan to get a pedometer in February.  Does anyone have any suggestions on which kind is the best?  I’m thinking this one might be good.

I’m getting up thirty minutes (sometimes an hour) earlier every day.  I’ve been doing this the whole month of January, except on weekends, thanks to my supportive husband, who nudges me awake when his iPhone goes off in the morning.  I plan to make getting up an hour earlier my actual habit this week and into February.

Sadly, I have not been notably nicer to the kids this month.  I keep forgetting to give them positive feedback in a calculated way (of course, when I write it like that it makes the idea seem cold and false).  If I don’t make myself a note to compliment them more often, though, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should.  I need (more) improvement in this area.

I’m reading my Bible almost every morning.  I have a reading plan and I’m sticking to it, though I do get derailed on the weekends.  Also, while my focus is improving with practice, I still find myself reading a chapter about the early church and wondering what we’re going to have for dinner.  Still, onward and upward.

I’m writing like crazy in the morning.  I said I would, and I am.  This category goal seems to be taking off this month.  I don’t want to look too closely at it as I’m afraid it’s like touching butterfly wings.  I’ll just say, it’s going well.  Moving on…

That’s it so far.  This month hasn’t been perfect, nor will February be.  But keeping track of my goals helps me see where I need to apply more attention and intention.

What about you?  Did you set any for this year?  If so, how are you doing as you work to meet them?

Little Changes in 2015 to Minimize Resistance

It’s January, as if you didn’t know.  I’m hopeful, as is always the case at this time of the year, and one reason is because I’m satisfied with how December went down. The kids liked their presents, we went to concerts and church programs, hung out with friends, helped people, and spent time together watching whodunnit movies.  I sat by the fire, ate quality chocolate, and listened to Christmas music until I stopped liking it.

It was good.

Furthermore, I stand by my decision not to do a lick of school with the kids for the entire month.  See, I hadn’t really planned it, but we ended up having eighteen, yes, eighteen overnight guests in the month of December.  This is crazy-sausage, especially for someone who’s an introvert.  But it happened.  And, the thing is, it was wonderful, better than I could have imagined.  It wouldn’t have been, however, if I’d had a lot of cherished plans that kept getting way-laid.  In that case, I would have been excessively crabby.  As it happened, I was only normally crabby.

Now, on to January:  Long ago I gave up on making big, sweeping goals for the new year.  It’s not that I don’t hope certain things will happen in the next twelve months, or that I don’t see the need for improvement in some of my habits.  It’s just that I don’t make big changes very successfully unless utterly forced.  Which sometimes happens, but still.  So I make little changes, or try to, and I sneak them into my life so that my subconscious barely notices.  I don’t start implementing them all on January 1st.  Instead, I add one at a time, little by little, all through the months of January and February, or for as long as it takes to make them habits.  This way, it feels like I deal with less Resistance.

Some of my little goals for 2015 include (in no particular order)

  • A little bit of (boring, so boring) exercise, every day.  Not just because of the thigh issue and the thirty-seven years old thing but because I struggle with depression.  Exercise helps.
  •  Getting up one hour earlier–which is to say, early, period–so that I can get in more time to write before I start the school day with my kids.
  •  Being nicer to the kids.  Specifically, I’m going to work on praising something about each of them at least once a day.  I forget to, with all the teachery correcting I do, but it seems to make such a difference when they hear me say something complimentary.
  •  Reading my Bible more consistently, with (hopefully) deeper concentration.  Gonna try not to find myself at the end of a chapter with no idea how I got there.
  • Finally, (a few of my writing goals are still in formation), posting more consistently on the blog.

That’s it.  No marathons, no enormous reading lists, or herculean educational efforts with the kids.  No more goals at all, in fact, unless someone drugs me and performs a lobotomy.

What about you?  Do you make small, medium, or large goals for the new year?  Or none at all?