Tag Archives: intention

Regular ol’ me, struggling daily to live with intention

I didn’t write yesterday. I intended to. I even kind of planned to. But I didn’t write. I got to the end of the day and the thought of writing consumed me for my last waking hours.

I did just say that I planned to write, but I didn’t really plan. I didn’t set a time, book an appointment with myself, get up earlier to get in some “me” time, or take a quiet moment for myself in the evening.

Instead, I worked from early in the morning. And when I took a break, I did things that were easy and distracting. (Right now, crocheting baby blankets is easy and distracting, methodically lulling me into a sense of doing something.)

But I didn’t think about what I’d write or plan what I’d write. I waited all day for inspiration to strike. I waited and read the news feeds and reports about coronavirus and shutdowns and declarations of states of emergency. I wanted that feeling like I had something to write about, that spark. But I didn’t sit down and write because when I did think of something to write, I was busy with chores, cooking dinner, wrangling my kids, washing dishes, etc., and when I finished those things, I had lost the spark. So I just waited for it to come back.

I know that to create a regular writing habit, I have to set the intention, make a plan and stick to it. I’ve read extensively on the subject; how writing regularly makes writing regularly easier. It’s the same with exercising. And I managed to create that habit last year, and I’ve stuck to it. And it’s easier now than it was when I started, and each day it gets easier, not just going down to my basement where my little home gym is, but also doing the exercises themselves. I have built stamina and strength and stability that would not have happened had I been hit or miss in my exercise schedule. So why is it so hard to do that with writing? I like writing more than I like exercising.

Time to introduce the “don’t break the chain” concept.

So, every day from today I will mark an X on the days that I write, with the intention of not breaking the chain. I believe it was Jerry Seinfeld who first said this was his method to getting more jokes written down.

I did it with my exercise routine and it worked. I also have to note here, though, that I am gentle with myself. I try my best not to break the chain, but some days are better than others. Some days I can work out at top capacity. Other days, I can barely walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes. That’s OK. I still put an X on my workout calendar. And writing will be the same. But what I want to point out and emphasize the most here is that I’m just a normal person who does not have it together, who is pretty lazy by my own definition, who procrastinates constantly, and who has almost reached middle age and, though I count myself lucky to have a good job, nice house, and a wonderful family and friends, I don’t feel that I did much to put those things in place.

I read often about hacking or engineering our lives, putting methods in place to be the best you, and I’m intrigued by these things. Can a regular, normal, mostly unambitious person accomplish great things? Or are there really people out there who are great to begin with and see their purpose and set their plans in motion based on their innate greatness and the rest of us are just filling up space on the planet, mostly happy, making the lives of our loved ones better even though we’re not great? Can we be great? Can we apply those methods so often written about to our lives and make our lives great? What does that look like?

What do you think?

Living in a new land must be hard

I’ve always had a deep respect for anyone who picks up and moves to a new land, whether because they have to or because they want to.

My mother left her home province when she was just a teenager and moved to a much busier place than she was used to. She followed her brothers and a sister, so she did not arrive alone. But she did arrive cut off, for the most part, from what she left behind: family, friends, the only way of life she had known.

My husband did the same about 30 years later. He also followed his siblings to another, busier province in search of his future. He did not arrive alone and he was not as cut off as the generations who came before him. But he still faced a new way of life, albeit not as different as what he’d come from compared to my mother 30 years before.

Having grown up in a province that offers me everything I could want, it has never occurred to me to leave. I’m not really an adventurous person. I’m mostly content with staying close to home. And if I’m completely honest, the unknown is scarier than I mostly want to admit. And so I have a deep respect for my mother and husband who both made a conscious choice to uproot themselves. I grew up here and continue to stay here because of their long-ago choices.

I was recently chatting with the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, She and her family moved to Canada a short time ago and, as we were chatting about mundane things, it really hit me how very different and potentially difficult her life might be. I don’t know what prompted her to move her family to Canada or why they chose Canada, but while chatting about my daughter’s birthday party, a school book club and other very common things to me, it occurred to me how very different life here is for her.

She has had to learn a new government system, understand a new education system for her children, become accustom to a new language, new shopping habits, new products, new weather patterns, new foods, new customs and traditions, and her children are learning things at school about this country and not the country they came from or their roots or their traditions, and all while keeping their own language, customs and traditions alive for their family. That’s a lot to manage.

In our chat, it struck me that she has had to adapt to a whole new life all while managing the same parenting, work, family and social issues that I deal with. What must that be like?

There are days when I can barely cope with the things that I have to do to move my family and myself forward, and I’m doing those things in an environment that I am used to and around people who are essentially the same as me, with no language or culture barrier. Layer those very basic and simple daily activities on top of having to do it all in a foreign country where everything is different than what you grew up with and where your natural support system is reduced or non-existent. That woman has my respect.

I chatted easily with her, enjoying her company, all the while in absolute wonder at how gracious she was as she apologized that her daughter could not make it to my daughter’s birthday party. I don’t know what her life is like. I don’t know what it’s like raising a child in a country where I didn’t grow up and facing different expectations from my child because her friends get to live differently. I can’t imagine it’s easy. But I have the deepest respect for her efforts and a new intention to get to know her better.

The tsunami off the coast

For about three weeks now, I’ve been feeling the slight rumblings of what I think will be something terrible.

It’s like the ground is shaking ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly and very deep down.

I can feel the tilt in my world; not noticeable enough for anyone else to feel it. No one is asking if I’m OK. But I know it’s coming.

It’s far off the coast right now, roiling and boiling in its darkness. It’s deep; it’s dark; it will be all-encompassing when it comes. It will move things that I have put in place and wash away things that I need to have. It will probably flatten me and drag me around and injure me and suck me under.

It starts small. A forgotten task on a to-do list. A chore that I keep putting off. Later mornings, sleepless nights. Ignored reminders and skipped meditations. More junk food and less good food.

The bad habits creep back. The good habits start to slide. I spend more time angry and negative and less time upbeat and hopeful.

I can tell it’s coming by the books I choose to read: Atomic Habits by James Clear, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson. I’m trying to ward off the storm. I’m trying to find my way back inland before the tidal wave hits the beach. I’m not succeeding.

I’m buried up to my knees in thick, wet sand and every step is a full-body effort. The fear that I won’t make it to high ground in time slows me down even more. It soaks through my brain like the spray from the ever more violent ocean. The tectonic plates that I can’t see, the ones that form a stable foundation for my ocean, are starting to shift and push against each other. They come alive in revolt because I’ve not been doing what I promised to do. I’ve not been building on my solid foundation. I’ve been tired and weak and whiny. I’ve been letting my foundation slip. And the slipping will cause a tsunami.

I see small breaks in the clouds as rays of sun shine on the dark ocean. They brighten those spots and I feel that if I can just get to them and bask in the sun for a bit, I can help calm the ocean before the tsunami builds way out there and crashes over me, dragging me around and tearing me away from solid ground.

The tsunami is coming.

But the tsunami can be calmed.

I will meditate every morning for at least 10 minutes right after I workout.

I will write one page every morning before I log in to my computer.

I will drink green or herbal tea instead of coffee after I have one coffee each day.

I will snack on fruits and veggies each day.

I can calm the tsunami.

Life takes over when it is not lived with intention

There was a time when all I could think was “life takes over.” I remember saying that to my husband when we first started dating. He didn’t quite understand what I meant. But, adding me to his life, he soon found out.

It does take over. I can’t stop it. I can only try to keep up. The tag line of my life was “running ragged and trying to keep up.”

Children added to that feeling of being steamrolled and not being able to do enough or breathe enough or grasp enough of the moments as they slipped through my fingers like sand.

For as long as I can remember, my mind has been busy with ideas. Like bees swarming inside a hive, making their honey, buzzing out into the world and collecting more pollen, my mind has spent so much time collecting and recording but not really absorbing or parsing because there was too much. Unlike bees who know when they have brought back enough pollen, our minds keep reaching out and gathering and collecting more ideas, more stories, more data. It’s not entirely our faults. Our world is saturated with information; it comes at us from every direction. One can only cope if one is intentional about the collection of information. What do we really need to know? We will each answer that question in our own way.

The name Life Takes Over was right for this space when I recorded my harried and hectic life as a young mother raising two kids and learning how not to miss the special moments. It is still the right name, because if we’re not careful, life takes over and we’re left trying to keep up.

My purpose in this space now is twofold:

  1. To let the beautiful and brutal parts of my life take over, to let them be instead of controlling and fighting them, to share reflections about that journey; and
  2. To create the right intentions and live intentionally so that I am not left feeling that life took over and I am running ragged and trying to keep up with it.

My first intention is to reflect on my day each evening. I’m doing this by doing Homework for Life, which is an exercise I read about in Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks.