The Fullness of Life

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Recently, my son was ill with an upper respiratory infection and had been complaining of ear pain. It seemed prudent to have him seen by the doctor so off we went to have the experts take a look. Since my son isn’t easy to rouse in the morning, I was pleased to have left a little wiggle room in our schedule before our appointment time. Except…I drove right by the entrance to the parking lot! And on the return trip after we turned around for another shot, I drove right by it again! 

Now, it’s easy to miss the entrance to a building when you’re distracted or perhaps unfamiliar with where you’re going. However, we drive by this particular medical building all of the time and I knew exactly where I was going. Furthermore, there were no other places we needed to be or that I had in mind as an add-on once the doctor’s visit was over so I should not have been so distracted. And what’s even more bothersome is that I wasn’t even aware of my distraction until it happened a second time.

That moment in time, when I realized I had checked out again, was a harbinger moment for me. What was I doing? Why was I letting it happen? Why was my mind so busy and where was it going without my permission? Assuming this was more habit than happenstance, I also worried about what other things I had missed as I traveled elsewhere in my mind.

I had just enjoyed a 3-day holiday weekend with no shortage of ways to fill the moments. And yet, my “to do list” was no shorter for it. And apparently the clutter in my mind hadn’t enjoyed a visit by the cleaning crew either. What had I accomplished in those hours of freedom from the demands of work? What relationships had I strengthened? What had I done for my own health? What knowledge had I gained? How did I let my life become so full of distraction?

Initially when I think of the phrase “the fullness of life,” it has positive connotations for me. It evokes images of time spent in the company of loved ones or enjoying moments of solitude engaged in our own quiet pursuits, nurturing ourselves and others. However, in this instance, “the fullness of life” brought forth concerns about the “noise” that makes up so much of our days.

I acknowledge the need for income producing work, for clean clothing, for meals to nourish our bodies, for interactions with others. These aren’t necessarily “noise” in and of themselves, but they can become so if we aren’t mindful of their place in our lives. If we don’t engage in them with some sense of purpose or intent but rather, go through the motions mindlessly or in a harried rush because we haven’t allowed space for them, they can certainly become noisy, distracting, and energy depleting experiences. Those moments spent in the company of others or engaged with our own pursuits can be life enhancing or burdensome depending on how disciplined we are about protecting our time and managing the expectations we have for ourselves or that we allow others to have for us.

And with that, my new mantra for life goes something like this quote from one of my favorite authors:

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.”

~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Let’s Get Physical!

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As I’ve been contemplating the things in my life that are working, or not, one of the things I’ve determined needs a major overhaul is my health. It needs to become a priority! Because I’m so drained mentally these days, I’ve found that the fuel I give my body has become mostly an exercise of putting something, anything, into my mouth just to get through the day. There’s no real thought involved. It’s an act of survival, pure and simple. And let’s not talk about my exercise habits. What little I had to begin with have gone into hybernation. What can I say? I’ve become a lump of stress and emotional fatigue. It’s not good!

Being the fiercely independent sort (no one wonders where my boy gets his will!), it would not be a stretch for me to attempt to “go it alone” in my effort to change the trend here. But, since there are many things calling for my attention and it would be easy to become sidetracked, beginning today I have engaged in the 30-for-30 Day Challenge here: http://www.tanyamarkul.com/30-for-30-day-challenge/. What I like about this is that it only asks for a 30 minute commitment to physical activity for 30 days. That sounds manageable. I think I can do it. And so I will try.

Two things I’m hoping will happen as part of this challenge: 1) To develop a habit of regular exercise; and 2) That this will translate into more conscious choices about what I eat. Since the goal is to become more healthy, exercise is only part of the equation so I need to focus just as much energy on my food choices as I do on movement. This gives me the framework for one and will hopefully trickle into a natural improvement in the other over time.

I also hope that this endeavor will pave the way for me to engage the guys in physical activity. Specifically, the PB would like us to run together as a family. (You can imagine how Hubster and I groan at the mere thought!) I’m not a natural runner and my exercise-induced asthma is a strike against me here. However, there’s this charming young man who longs to spend time doing this together and I’m willing to do what I can to try and make it happen for him. In the end, I know that we can benefit from this in many ways: reduced stress and/or counteracting stress by virtue of the natural endorphins released when one exercises, enhanced energy and health as a result of using our bodies more deliberately, and potentially, stretching our relationship in new ways by sharing one another’s company while overcoming challenges. It’s all good, right?

Okay, let’s do this! Ready. Set. (Oh man, I hope I can do this!) Go!

 

On Challenges

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In recent weeks, I have been the subject of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as well as a challenge on social media dubbed “The Gratitude Challenge” and/or “The Happiness Challenge.” In all instances, I have opted out. People who know me to be both positive-minded and charitably inclined may be surprised by this.

With regard to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, my stance is related exclusively to the fact that what I see happening is more often a “herd mentality” than a genuine connection to the concerns of ALS. It’s not that I am immune to the cause. In fact, just last year, at my organization, we lost a very significant member of our team to ALS. My coworkers and I watched this man decline over the course of a year from an apparently healthy man to someone who needed a cane to walk, then deteriorate further  to reliance on a wheelchair, and then ultimately to life in a hospital bed with a respirator. In the final months of his life, our family participated in a meal train to provide the family dinner so that they could focus their energy on being together and attending to the critical emotional and physical journey in which they were engaged. Many other things were done by our “community” to support this family – things like charity walks, yard work, and lunch with the spouse just to listen, etc.  It was personal and we engaged it in because we understood what ALS meant to this family and our community as a result. While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is raising lots of money for the cause, I’m not so sure that it’s raising the level of awareness that is assumed. That is, I think that there’s a bandwagon effect happening in that folks are enjoying the process of publicly participating in it and in challenging one another; however, I wonder how many of those donors have made it a point to also learn about ALS and have a genuine appreciation for the cause. And so, since I want to live my life with authenticity and intent guiding my actions, I have opted out of the challenge and will continue to contribute to this and other causes in a more private and personal manner.

As it pertains to the challenge to consider my life and post items that reflect an attitude of gratitude, my motivation for not participating is one of resisting that herd mentality once again but there’s something markedly different influencing me here as well. The reality is that I am a big proponent of staying mindful of all of the things in our lives that make it wonderful, even in times of struggle. As such, I could easily have participated in this activity. However, over the past year and one-half, I have been engaged in a job that, frankly, often feels like it is sucking the life out of me. The scope of responsibility is too vast and the resources available to me are too lean, leaving me always rushed and weighed down with unfinished business, looming deadlines, frustration, and occasionally a feeling of incompetence. This bleeds into my personal life in the form of extra hours worked but also in the form of fatigue and a disinterest in engaging with others because I am pulled in so many different directions by so many people at work that when I am home, all I really want to do is go into a cocoon of silence and “just be.” Because we relocated for this job, this has also been a period of much social isolation for not just me but for my family overall. So, right now, I am faced with allowing the status quo to continue or to examine my life critically to identify what needs to change and how to affect that change in order to create the life I want. And so, rather than focus on the many, many blessings that I could easily espouse, I have chosen right now to intentionally sit with my discomfort and turn a critical eye on my life. This is my challenge. It is important work and I don’t want to take my attention from it in order to meet a well-intended challenge posed to me by my dear friends. I trust that, in the end, they will honor and respect my decision.

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