Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter morning musings

Last night Rob the Plowman came to clear my driveway once again, and this morning it is once more snowing heavily – arrrghhhhh! There is a plus side, though – it makes the decision to retire in a small town rather than on country acreage that much easier, as no way could my pension stretch to cover the amount that snowplowing has cost me so far this winter, and no way could my arthritic spine cope with the shoveling of said snow. Clarity of goals sometimes comes through arbitrary obstacles at unexpected times.

And so I have learned my limits of physical activity and I am making peace with the idea that I will not always be on this beautiful five acres, that I will one day have neighbours whose voices I can hear over the fence and whose houses obstruct my view. Such is life – we grow, we change, we adapt. There will always be trails to hike and beaches to ramble and parks to visit. I will still get my outdoor fix, and so will the dogs.

I have also learned something else, these last few weeks of nonstop cold and mountainous snowfalls – my creativity depends upon my ability to be outdoors, to meditate surrounded by nature, to breathe in the fresh air and admire the view and feel the sun or wind or rain on my face. It is difficult to write when I feel closed in by four walls. In fact, it is difficult to do anything creative.

Yesterday I frittered away my time doing nothing much of anything – napping on the couch, brushing the dogs, finishing a book (Sue Grafton’s “T is for Trespass”) and starting another (Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers”).

But inactivity leaves me antsy and restless, so today I will resort to a technique I use when I have work to do but can’t seem to focus: a good old fashioned timer. I call it my “20-20-20” game: I set the timer and do twenty minutes on one project (today: sorting and reorganizing the attic), then reset it for 20 minutes on another project (today: organizing and revising lecture notes) and then reset it for 20 minutes of free time (which might be reading, or napping, or surfing the internet, or even housework – but something that I choose to do and feel like doing at that particular point in time). I can manage to do any task for twenty minutes at a time. When the cycle is completed, repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat until (a) the day is over, with some sense of success and accomplishment or (b) I get on a roll with either of the first two projects and feel driven to continue with it, at which point I discontinue setting the timer and just work.

I have found that when I feel too tired or lazy to do anything, it is often because I have done nothing. Forcing myself to do something productive lifts the gloom ‘n doom clouds away and energizes me. And so that is my plan for this second day of 2009.

May you have a productive day, everyone…..or a restful one, if that is your pleasure.


Anonymous said...

I love the timer idea Jean. I'll have to try it.

Black Jack's Carol said...

Hm... food for thought. I wonder if that plan, or some variation of it, might work for me.......

Jean said...

One other trick of mine, when I am discombobulated, is to keep a "Done" list, instead of a "To Do" list. As I complete each little task (wash dishes, make beds, balance chequebook....) I write it on my "Done" list for the day.
A "To Do" list is so intimidating, and I never get through half of it, but a "Done" list shows progress and productivity. And the beauty of it is that you can jot down each task in as small an increment as you want - (for example, instead of writing "Laundry" on the To Do list, I'll write "Put first load of laundry in washer" on my Done list.......whether or not it ever makes it to the dryer, let alone to the closet after, is inconsequential. A task was "done" - I accomplished something! By the end of the day, I'll often have thirty or forty things on my "done" list - something to be proud of!