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We have seen both our grown sons in the last couple of weeks. Quite a feat as they are busy young men. It is interesting their respective personalities- some things are similar to each other and us and some are not.

Both boys are pretty organized with their lives, not just the logistical organization of home and scheduling, but the organization of learning, growing, self-improvement. While they both are very active, they seemed to have a good balance on work/life.

Our one son is probably a little more scheduled than his brother. He has set timers on his computer to remind him of the different tasks in the morning. “workout”; “breakfast”, “shower”. Mh first thought is “oh no. a schedule?” (For as organized as I am and as often as I write a schedule, I find that I am too much of a free spirit to actually stick to a schedule.)

But for him the schedule gives him freedom: he doesn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. He has wiggle room in his schedule so he is prepared for interruptions. I liken it to Financial Peace University. One of the goals of having financial peace is that one doesn’t have the extra stress of unpaid bills and worry over money. There is a freedom in knowing that things are generally covered and their is a freedom to have wiggle room and be financially generous.

As we were talking through a current scheduling dilemma I am in, he suggested- “1% Mom. Just do 1% or one thing extra each day. The idea is to slowly build into change.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

I have been saying this for YEARS and while I have practiced it before, in my overwhelming state of a packed to-do list of responsibilities, I had forgotten. I liked having someone else give me “permission” to break out of my norm and try something new.

So, I give you permission to break out of your norm or rut or whatever place you feel stuck. Try 1 %. Just one thing extra or different each day. It might be a small change to a bigger goal or it might be just something new you want to try.

I am giving it a try. For this week so far (as I write this it is three days in- not a routine yet), I have been able to stick to a small change in my schedule: write my journal pages first thing in the morning. And I have noticed that some of the other routines I have wanted to do are falling into place as well: daily yoga stretch, three hours of concentrated writing. Once again, when we prime the pump for change, it starts a flow of other change.

What about you? Where are you stuck in your life? What can you do to unstick? What would be your 1%?


Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be.

~Lady Sarah Ashley portrayed by Nicole Kidman in the movie "Australia" . 

Sometimes I have to remind myself that just because things are so, doesn't mean it has to stay that way.  It is so easy to get discouraged and settle for how situations are.  When we do that it becomes a vicious circle: we are not happy with ourselves for passively allowing things to be. We then get more discouraged so we become more passive and don't even feel like trying which gets us even more discouraged.  We don't have to do that.  We don't have to live in that cycle.

For change to happen, a person, government or ideology has to be uncomfortable: the uncomfortableness of being where you are, makes you move.  Our two Jack Russells are examples of how this works with their daily "discussion" of finding the best physical spot to lie down.  Generally our male, Marley will be all settled in a spot.  It is in that exact location that Millie, the female decides she needs to be.   In order to make Marley move, Millie will sit in front of Marley and bark continually in his face.  He will just turn his head away and pretend she is not there.  Unfortunately, Millie can keep it up indefinitely with the result that Marley will eventually leave and she can move into the now unoccupied spot.  Marley gets to the point that his litter mate is making life too uncomfortable for him to enjoy his nap so he will leave and find a new location. 

Personally, we may not have someone barking in our face, but we may become so uncomfortable with a bad habit, a difficult job, or an unhealthy relationship that we decide to change our current position and have to move figuratively or literally.  

Politically, I think we are in the same type of spot.  I am concerned that terrible policies are being written and that no one is speaking out against injustice or speaking up for those who do not have a voice.  It seems that we (I am in that collective too) are complacent with what is going on in our government.  If we are vocal,  we are not being heard.  Where or how can we speak to be heard over the incessant barking of our leaders?    Are we uncomfortable with what is going on politically?  Are we ready  to "move" in order to be heard or at least to speak up for others? 

Spiritually we can be in a wallowing place of inertia. Places where we are just stuck in muck- feeling bad about ourselves and allowing that feeling to draw us under.   We tell ourselves that the Creator isn't happy or interested in us.  The father of lies likes us to think that way. He wants us to be settled with that "reality".  Just because we are in that place doesn't mean that is it is so.  God wants us to be out of that place, to move towards Him where He can tell us the truth: He loves each one of us and wants the best for us. He has created you and me for a purpose and with a plan.  Somedays I have to begin my way out of this funk by renewing my mind through scripture.  One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."   The other day I was wallowing in the muck of self-pity and was getting tired of my own barking thoughts.  I had convinced myself that I was an outsider to every group in which I am involved and that I had nothing to offer. I had to change my attitude and the only way I could do it was to repeat these verses.  I had to tell myself that my mucky thoughts were not true- that God was present in my life, I have purpose and that I did belong to a community of friends. 

What about you?  Do you find yourself stuck?  Uncomfortable?  Ready to move?  If not, what would it take?  Do you live in the reality of what is, is how it will always be?  Or do you believe that just because it is, it doesn't mean it should be?  How do you go about moving into that reality? 

Open Or Closed To Change?

As I write this the house is shaking, the walls are rumbling and there is abounding general organized chaos.  We are having some home maintenance projects done.  Currently there are two men standing on scaffolding outside my bedroom window, chipping and drilling around our fireplace chimney and another drilling and chipping away at an outside former garage door which would lead to my office if we hadn't permanently shut it. 

Our chimney and furnace flues need repair.  It is a question of safety.  We do not want any chimney fires nor carbon monoxide problems.  We are also having an unused and probably never to be used outside door bricked in.  In fact, from the inside, the door is covered over by book shelves and cannot be opened. We also will be redoing our basement space so that it will be a usable family room and redoing our outside deck so that the new deck footprint makes sense to our use of the space and will repair damaged wood.  In addition I plan to paint the living room and dining room this winter. 

Whew.  A lot of delayed projects and planning.  I am trying to be organized and smart with how we go about this set-up.  Should I move all the books from the office to this corner or will I have to get into that corner before the project is complete?  Where do I put the items from our basement?  In the dining room or living room?  Will I be painting those rooms before that basement project is finished? If possible I am trying to prevent moving boxes over and over again.

As you see, we are going through changes to some of the rooms and features in our house.  Some are quite necessary like the chimney and furnace flues.  We do not want fires or poisoning.  Our door project is necessary since the door frame is starting to rot.  We will never use that as a door, so why not make it one continual wall of brick and never have to worry about rot again. Our basement redo and our deck redo will help us when the time comes to sell our home.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the extra rooms and the redone projects.  The repainting of the living and dining room are ways for me to freshen up the space without having to do a major redecoration.  In some ways it is not a necessity but rather a want.  Again, it will be a good feature for selling but also allow us to enjoy the current fruits of our labor. 

All this disruption makes me think about change; the reasons and how I handle it.  

Sometimes change is necessary for our safety and wellbeing. We have to change our diet or increase exercise because if we don't, inevitable diseases might happen.  Change happens too when situations occur outside our control. We may experience a family death or chronic illness and we just have to go on and figure out how to move forward and live into the new "normal".  

Other change takes place because our circumstances no longer require what we used to do. Once our children were old enough to chew and swallow food, we no longer needed to give them pureed food. If we had continued to do so, they most likely would've developed significant mouth and digestive problems.  Like our no longer used door.  If we kept the door, there was potential for all sorts of problems- rot of the surrounding door frame or critters living inside.

Change also takes place for growth and development. In my tennis game, if I want to improve my serve I will have to make some changes to my grip, my stance, my ball toss and my contact with the ball. With a good serve, I can develop into a halfway decent player but I must change some things that I currently do.  It is not a necessity.  Currently I play and have an enjoyable time but if I want to play at a different level I need to make some changes. 

In whatever circumstance of change I find myself, I still have an option if I will be open or closed to that change. I find that if it is a change that I initiated, e.g. painting the room, I am more likely to embrace it than a change I feel has been thrust upon me, e.g. fixing the chimney.  Which is rather silly when you think about it:  just because I didn't initiate or think of it on my own, doesn't mean that it won't be beneficial to me.  I can think of people who have had to change their diets from unhealthy eating to healthy.  Most times they will grumble as they go through it, but once it becomes a part of who they are, the general consensus is that they feel so much better. 

Of course, when change happens without any warning, it is extremely difficult to be open to it.  And it would be insensitive of me to say that we should be.  I really do not have any answer for the type of change that occurs through sudden death and loss.

But I am wondering if we learn to be good with change in other situations, when those sudden ones occur, we can draw upon the knowledge of what has worked in the past. 

Reminds me of the time as a child I attended a music convention with my mom.  One of the workshops included a time for singing through the newly arranged/composed choral works that were available for ordering. I remember being flabbergasted that once the director raised her hands all the attendees sang in their respective parts and it sounded great.  No stopping for correction or wrong notes.  I asked my mother how could everyone sound so good?  To which she replied, "But we are all professionals and can read music."  Those in attendance had never seen the music but they had the foundational elements of reading music and singing techniques so that they could get through a choral piece without too much difficulty. 

I do feel that most of the time our call to change is not an overt situation but rather a series of subtle, little moments which add up. If we can try to be open to change, we are more resilient to whatever comes our way.   All of us can practice developing resiliency in our daily lives.  It is a skill that can be developed which can help us when we are faced with various types of change.  In his book Resilience: A Change for the Better, Daryl R. Conner outlines five characteristics of resilient people. They are positive, focused, flexible, organized, and proactive.   I thought we might want to explore those five areas in the next couple of postings.

What about you? How are you with change in your life?   Are you embracing change or are you kicking and screaming wanting things the way they were? What types of changes are you experiencing?  A necessity?  A want or desire? A "have-to"?  A thrust-upon-you, didn't-ask-for-this type? Do you want to change?  

Before we go any further with exploring change and resiliency, think about your past- were you open or closed to change? 




Sisyphus Syndrome

Have you ever felt like Sisyphus?  In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the incorrigible king of Corinth who was condemned to hard labor for all eternity.  His task was to roll a stone up a hill only to have it roll back down once he reached the summit and his energy was spent.  

Not that I am calling you incorrigible. Rather I wonder if you feel like Sisyphus as you go about your life. Like Sisyphus and his ever-needing-to-be-carried boulder, do you feel the heaviness of the burdens of responsibility coupled with the futility of repeating the same thing time and time again?  Do you feel like Sisyphus as your life repeats itself with worry, lack of sleep, too much to do in too short amount of time and with life situations and decisions spinning out of control?

Sisyphus  by Titan, 1549.  Museo Nacional del Prado. This is a photograph of a faithful production of a 2-D work of art. 

Sisyphus by Titan, 1549.  Museo Nacional del Prado. This is a photograph of a faithful production of a 2-D work of art. 

There are many people whom I know and love who suffer from the Sisyphus syndrome.  The syndrome begins mildly by agreeing to carry a small responsibility such as a few volunteer days, a couple of social outings, membership in a group or class, a change in work schedule, an increase of job responsibilities, a commitment to assist friends or family.  Before one realizes it, one has come down with a full case of the Sisyphus syndrome;  extreme tiredness, exhaustion and feelings of futility due to the repeated carrying of boulders of responsibility which never seem to get placed or resolved.

I think all of us at one time feel the pressures of a heavy boulder/burden.  We carry it all by ourselves, up a steep hill only to watch it roll back down. Try and try as we might we can never get the boulder to stay in place.  Our burdens never seem to be lifted, if anything there appears to be more burdens to carry.  If we are not careful the boulder can smother us on its descent. 

What to do about it?  Is life a Sisyphus situation?  Can we ever break the cycle? Can we ever feel that we have shouldered our burdens and have now earned a place of reprieve or rest from that particular one?

I think it takes some soul searching and some answering of tough questions:

Do you want to continue life as you know it?  Just like the pattern of Sisyphus, life will continue as it always does.  That is one of the universal laws of motion: a body in motion stays in motion.  We will continue the path we have chosen unless we choose differently.  Do you want to stay on your current path?  For how long?  For this week?  For this month?  For this year?   For the next five or ten years?

How do you want things to be? We may truly want to be busy, to volunteer, to work, to have an active social life.  We may want to carry the boulders of responsibility. The question becomes what would be the ideal?  How many boulders can we carry?  When can we lay them down? What type of balance do you want in your life? 

How will you go about changing?   How will you go about moving towards the way you would like life to be?  Can you make some small changes in your life, e.g. only participate in one weekly group, that move you toward your ideal? 

  • Perhaps ridding yourself of the Sisyphus syndrome means that you have to make bigger changes.  If it is your job that is making you feel that life is futile, can you prepare for changing jobs?  Updating your resume? Finding out what other types of jobs are available? Taking classes or training that prepares you for a new position?
  • Perhaps it means you have to ask others to share the boulder/burden.  Delegate tasks. Ask for help. 
  • Perhaps it is saying no.  "No, I cannot volunteer on the PTA membership committee at this time."
  • Perhaps it is prioritizing for the next three months.  "I need to concentrate solely on x,y,z and cannot take on any other responsibilities."  Or it might be that there are things that you have to do but in order to do them, something else has to be let go.
  • Perhaps it is not taking on any new tasks until the latest project is complete. 

There is a quote that is misattributed to Einstein:  "Insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result."  Whether Einstein said it or something like it, it doesn't take a genius to know that repetitive worry, stress and feelings of futility will only lead to a life of misery.  I would encourage you to stop the madness and break free of Sisyphus syndrome.