distractions

Reining in My Wild Heart

You know that feeling – like change is coming, but you don’t know what it is?

It’s like a humid summer day, and you see the gray and green storm clouds billowing on the horizon. You know a thunderstorm is coming. You can feel the electricity in the air, you can sense the barometer change. Part of you dreads the storm, but you love the thunder and lightning. It’s beautiful and exciting. You know it will bring relief from the humidity, but you hope it doesn’t turn into a severe storm, or worse – a tornado. And my heart is the tornado – wild and unpredictable.

peter_and_harrison_ellenshaw_a_very_blustery_day__97423__19383-1312387649-1280-1280That is how I’ve been feeling this past month. What started as “Tut-tut, looks like rain” is shaping up to be a blustery day, in the words of Winnie the Pooh.

And the difficult part is that my life has been in flux for over a year. First being open to the idea of change (for us, it was moving across the country), then waiting to see if the change would happen (the interview process), then the actual move, only to find out that more change might be coming (another interview process and more waiting).

But this change on the horizon, this beautiful and terrifying storm that is coming is in my heart. Before I attended the Storyline Conference (a conference where you create a life plan so that you can live a better story), I could sense a change in the barometer, I could feel the electricity in the air. Storyline served as a weather report. A confirmation that yes, a storm is coming. A storm that will shake my core and water the seeds that have been planted.

A storm that might even stir my life and heart like a wild tornado.

Regardless of what is happening in my life – where I am living, where I am working, how I am feeling emotionally – there are things I am needing to do. Things I NEED to do, to weather the storm. To water the seeds that have been planted so that they can grow and be harvested.

This morning I was reading Shauna Niequist’s devotional “Savor“, and she talked about having a theme for each season. My theme for this season is ‘work’. Ugh, I know. That sounds so boring, and, well, like work. But hear me out.

There is work I need to do to plant and nourish the seeds that need to grow in my life and in my heart.

To be honest, I have spent much of my life avoiding the hard work of my heart.

Yes, I am great with the passion – the big, emotional, explosive, exciting types of work. But I am weak in praxis – the daily practice and structure that provides a foundation for seeds to grow, and be nourished, and produce good fruit. In some ways, I feel like

I am being called to the mundane in order to build a foundation for the extraordinary.daisy-712892_1920

I am not sure what this will look like, but it’s becoming more clear each day. I believe it is going to involved these things: As you read this, if you know me, you may think,”Oh my gosh, she has gone off the deep edge!” I tend to agree. I have gone off the deep edge, but I think it’s something that has been needed for a long time

to rein in this wild heart.

  • Creating a spiritual framework to provide structure for growth – I want to learn about the church liturgical calendar, and start keeping a daily office. For those of you from the evangelical persuasion, this basically means having a daily quiet time and learning about times of the year like Advent and Lent, and how that can shape one’s spiritual discipline.
  • Starting and ending each day with mindful breathing and meditation on God’s word, to focus myself each day, and to manage anxiety and distractions. (This also means NOT starting and ending my day on my phone or computer, which has become a habit for me.)
  • Writing each day, first thing in the morning, while my mind is clear. Putting on instrumental music with no words, finding a peaceful and comfortable place, clear of distractions, and practicing the craft of writing every single day.
  • Searching for spiritual direction and mentorship: I am looking to learn from those who are further down the road than I am. I am considering a silence retreat at a monastery close by (I know, you are thinking NOW SHE HAS REALLY LOST IT. I agree, I can’t even be quiet during yoga class.) I am also looking at working with a spiritual director. To be honest, I heard this idea and it spoke to me, but I am not even sure exactly what that means. I am still doing research on what is a spiritual director and how does one find such a person? Maybe I will build a prayer labyrinth in my back yard. Send for the white coats now. 
  • Closing in my circle – focusing on the 12 or so most meaningful and significant relationships in my life, building deep connections with those in my closest circle, those who will gather around my death-bed (I’m not anticipating that this will happen anytime soon, but those relationships take time and great care).
  • Limiting my time on social media. Yes, I know that is how we all connect during these times, and I know that it can be a good thing. But I also know myself, and the difficulty I have with balance. So I am still contemplating what that will look like.

 

I am going to spend the next few weeks praying, writing, meditating, getting wise counsel. I am anticipating a start to a new season in my life, and I had thought January 1 would be an opportune time, but then I read that the church calendar begins at Advent, which this year is November 30. So I have some contemplating to do in the next few weeks. And for the first time in a long time, I am excited to do the hard work, to build the foundation, to plant the seeds that bring change.

To embrace the mundane in order to build the foundation for extraordinary.

To rein in this wild heart, so that I can love extravagantly and purposefully.

And as much as I’d like to edit the hell out of this essay, I just need to push publish and move on.

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SQUIRREL! Are You Chasing Distractions?

On my search for balance in my life, I found that there are multiple areas out of balance, and it’s hard to know where to start. So I asked myself – WHAT IS ‘IN MY FACE’ THE MOST? What are those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance?

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Just like the distractable dog, Dug, in the Disney-Pixar movie ‘UP’, I  often end up chasing squirrels.  Squirrels are distractions, or for me, anything that is moving or shiny, or seemingly more fun or interesting than the task at hand. (Or just not as boring.)  Please notice that I am not saying that I am just distracted by these things, I am actually chasing these distractions.

Let me explain: When I am distracted by something, it might look like this: I’m in the middle of a conversation and I get a phone call. I’m reading a book and the dog wants to go outside. I become distracted by those things.

The issue I am talking about is much bigger that just being distracted by something. I can deal with that in a matter of a few minutes. The real problems are the distractions that I’m chasing – that I purposely CHOOSE to run after. The squirrels that I’m chasing may be different from the ones you choose to chase. Those things that keep me from my goal for hours at a time.

Here are some questions that help me to determine the distractions in my life:

  1. What do I choose to do during my unproductive time, or my down time?
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects?
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project?
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’?
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time?

First let me say that just because you enjoy doing something on your ‘down time’, or as an escape, does not mean that it is necessarily a bad thing. But I know myself. In my first post about my search for balance, I wrote about my tendency for all-or-nothing. For instance, some people might enjoy reading a book to relax during their down time. However, my natural tendency is to read a book from cover to cover, and ignore anything else I should be doing. Sometimes the ‘good’ things we chase are distracting us from the BEST things.

So as I look at the questions above, it’s really not a mystery. I think each of us knows what distractions we chase that may be causing some imbalance in our lives. But I’m going to go ahead and answer each of these questions – maybe I’ll learn something new.

  1. What do I choose to do during my ‘unproductive’ time, or my ‘down time’?  Watch tv, binge watch something on Netflix, read or post to Facebook, eat, sleep, go to happy hour with friends, go on internet rabbit chases into the wee hours of the night (searching or researching something that lasts for hours but goes nowhere), go on a blog reading spree
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects? see above
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project? see above
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’? see above, plus plan a trip or go to Disneyland
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time? all of the above

Okay, so no surprises – I didn’t identify anything new. I know that each of these areas are distracting me from healthy balance in my life, and I also know that many of these are out of balance in and of themselves. All of these activities are acceptable, especially in moderation. I don’t do moderation. At least not yet.

In honor of my new search for balance, I’m stopping here. I would love to stay up for hours and dissect each distraction, looking at the positive and negative aspects of each, and what would balance look like in each of these areas. Black-and-white thinking: pros and cons, good and bad labels, all-or-nothing. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to go to bed without making a table and categorizing each distraction.

(And dammit. I just remembered that I wanted to write about coherent breathing first. I wrote about distractions, and now I’ll be accountable to do something about them.)  Ah well, each in it’s place. Good night for now.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton