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Resting Lesson: Capture Commitments

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Capture Commitments

October was my month of rest. November was a complete catch up-where everything landed that I did not do in October. December was exams, Christmas and family. It was my hope that in January, I would have some intentional time to sit with my passion planner, journal and carefully create and organize my goals for 2016. The first month of the year was a blur of snow days and school trips and suddenly I looked up and it was February.

Last week was my first week to be with myself and get my mind wrapped around reality. The first step in creating a life of rest is taking stock of what is already in our lives.

Right now I have 28 sticky notes with various commitments that I know about today. For the record, this SHOCKED me. I thought I had only committed to about 3 things this year. I have said no so many times, I thought I had plenty of freedom to say yes. Because my life is connected to my husband and my kids are still very much reliant on me-their commitments directly impact or even become my commitments. So, things are happening exponentially. By the time everybody gets home this afternoon, I will probably have four more sticky notes up there.

Some of those commitments are scheduled-like a training that I will be attending. Those dates are on my calendar, but this commitment also included buying plane tickets, reserving a hotel and registering for the conference. There will also need to be time in that week for packing and many details that need to be worked out with my family in advance. So that one commitment has a lot of little things in it even though the training itself will only be for those three days.

Some of these commitments are ongoing-like grocery shopping. One of my jobs is keeping our kitchen full of everything we eat on a regular basis. We all eat the same things for breakfast, lunch and snacks. And I try to have a few prepared things we can eat for dinner when we are home.

5 of my guiding principles when it comes to commitments:

  1. This week IS next week: If I am too busy/too tired/too surprised by the unexpected this week to commit to this thing, I will be too busy/too tired/too surprised by the unexpected next week. Most of us live in a fantasy that next week will be different. As in, “I will be perfectly organized next week, no one will be sick next week, I will finally be finished with this project…so sure! I can do that next week.” The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Unless we are being intentional about making space for our next commitment, next week will be end up feeling exactly like this one.
  2. How do I want to be when I do this thing? My goal in being well-rested is to bring my whole self wherever I am. This means being thoughtful in preparation, being present with who I am with or in what I am learning. It means not being late or anxious because I am stuck in traffic. I don’t want to feel angry, resentful, or guilty because I have overcommitted myself.
  3. Just because I want to, doesn’t mean I can: In the past, I pretended that I had time and space for anything that was important to me. I thought with enough determination and grit, I could get it done. The problem is many things are very important to me and just because they are important doesn’t me I am capable of doing them. I am delighted to enter this year being intentional about these commitments instead of adding more.
  4. Owning my choices: The idea of capturing my commitments is empowering because I am connecting my reality to my ideals and taking responsibility for what I have and what I will commit to as opposed to feeling victimized by the next request or opportunity. It is also a HUGE reality check. This is my life, it’s time to own it, and accept it.
  5. A 50% Margin: In reviewing the past five years of our lives, my husband and I finally surrendered to the reality that we have a very high level of unknowns in our life. Every single month of the past five years had an unexpected expense of $500-$2,000. We kept thinking next month would be different….for five years. The same is true of our time. Every week MANY THINGS comes up that we could not have anticipated, planned or prepared for. Now, we anticipate the unknown. We know at least 50% of our time is committed to that which we do not know. It is like a time and energy fund that is just waiting for us to spend it. While it will always be annoying when our dog throws up just as we are walking out the door, it is not the thing that tips me over into crazy town. When the coat is left at school, when the computer is not working, when that text breaks someone’s heart, when someone has a fever, when the engine light comes on…It’s all our life, not an interruption to our life.

Assignment 1: 

Get out your sticky note and in your bold writing put ONE commitment on each sticky note and find a place you can stick them so that you get a compete picture of what and where you have committed to at this time in your life.

Depending on your current circumstances, you can get a snap shot of  your commitments for this week, this month or this year.

What are your guiding principles?

How did you decide you were going to commit to what you have already committed to?

What commitments are you ready to let go of?

What can you un-commit to today?

What things do you want to finish out this cycle, but not re-commit to next month/year? 

Which of your commitments brings you the most energy, excitement, growth and contribution?

Which of your commitments drain you? 

Which of your commitments is a challenging part of a bigger commitment? 

Where can you create margin in your schedule? 

Which of your commitments would you like to be more committed to? 

 

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Rest Clarifies Work: Part 2

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Work that makes me feel live

I had dreams, I had visions. Good things were happening and I was ready to dive into my professional life with a full body flip and twist. All I wanted was complete saturation into MY WORK. Mission statements, personal and professional philosophies, business plans…they were writing themselves faster than I could capture them.

Spurred by the messages of Essentialism and The One Thing, I made a decision to simplify everything else so that I could fully and completely show up for my work-get the advanced trainings, do research, network, build a brand.

I did not anticipate that both of my of kids worlds would start spinning in different directions and at a pace I couldn’t keep up with. And even more significant, that all of the change on top of even more change would cost me a level of health and energy I had taken for granted until it was not there to support me anymore.

My purpose in all of this life-changing simplicity was to create free time. I imagined that after I got all of my ducks in a row, I would live this calm, centered life where my children drove off to school every day and those precious hours were mine all mine to write, to meet with people, to learn, and to create a something wonderful. I wanted to give my whole heart to building up this new company.

Something broke inside of me in the beginning of September. I have tried to write about it from the beginning of this blog, but only because I am just now able to sustain an entire day without a nap, can I see how extremely exhausted I was.

During this season of rest, it was important to me that I not use my health as an excuse or a boundary. I was very intentional to say, “I need rest.” instead of “I am sick.”

I rested all day because I did not what my kids to come home every day to a mom who was asleep all of the time, so I slept as much as I could when they were gone and by the time they were home, I had enough energy to, at the very least, be vertical.

I did not say I was sick or that I was having health issues because I did not-even with my language and thoughts-want to become dependent on not being in good health as a way of taking care of myself.

I also didn’t realize how bad it was until it started getting better.

There were months that I bled more days than not and after a trip to the store or a phone conversation, I was scared I was going to faint. Some days, I felt a hundred years old. Some days, I was scared I was dying. Curiously, I even felt ashamed for not having taken good enough care of myself to be depleted on so many levels.

It was not only humiliating and humbling to be so weak but it was also heart-breaking.

Several years ago, one of my friends had a skiing accident and cried her eyes out when she heard her bone crack, not because it hurt so bad, but because her dream of running a marathon would not be realized, not that spring, maybe not ever.

There is so much I wanted to do and overnight what I hoped to accomplish seemed impossible. What I planned to do with a day took me weeks. What I hoped to accomplish in a year might take me a lifetime. Time was no longer my primary limitation, energy was.

My health has become my top priority. And I am feeling better. Of course, I still need occasional naps, but in addition to healing my mind and my body, this season of rest has changed my perspective of these precious wakeful hours.

Now, I want to do what I must do because it is what I am here to do…you know, like flowers bloom and birds sing.

The joy and thankfulness I have at being alive, being here, having the energy to participate in this beautiful life has changed my dreams, my vision, and my mission.

In the beginning of this season of rest, it quickly became obvious what had to be done, nothing more and nothing less. That is my first definition of work: what we have to do to live.  Make the money to pay the bills to buy the food and cook the food, wash the sheets, fill the car up with gas, get everybody where they are supposed to be, etc.

This is the work we must do to take care of ourselves and those dependent on us. 

While I have found gratification and meaning in the ordinary doings of our life there are also things bubbling up inside of me which I cannot stop. They fill me up with promise and come out my eyes and ears and mouth. This deep level of rest has tapped into a deeper place inside of me that is more certain than ever before of what I have to share, to give, to learn, to express.

This is the kind of work as what makes you feel alive. This is the privilege and thrill of being human, getting to participate in the sacred, playing in real life.

Like those summer mornings when I was a kid and the whole day was laid out before me for roller skating, biking though the neighborhood, working on the forrest fort with my brother or exploring that serene spot by the creek that I was certain God tucked away just for me.

When we lose a connection to the inherit sacredness in being alive, we only experience work as labor. We spend our days getting through it to start over again the next day. In our exhaustion and numbness, we lose meaning. Even if we are doing what we know is important work (curing cancer, teaching, healing, parenting, creating jobs), if we have lost ourselves we also lose the humanity necessary to experience meaning in any part of our lives.

This work I must do is not a business plan, it is not writing or painting or making my first million. It is just happening.

I can not NOT do it.

It is who I am, how I am, what I say, what I do, where I go, who I find myself with, what I hear or read and it is a thrill. Everyday has become an adventure. I am doing what I must because it has to be done (making life work) and in all the spaces in, around, over and under I am doing what I MUST because it is what I was made to do.

As a well-rested person, I can see and hear things I’ve been too busy and tired to notice. In my desperation for rest, I lived in a rhythm of work-crazy-hard and then crash. I was too tired to love life, too tired to enjoy that creative opportunity, too weary to have that conversation.

Before this season, I believed there was work and rest.

But my work wasn’t really working and my rest wasn’t refreshing.

Netflix and wine is certainly a wonderful way to turn off after a day of intense labor, but it is not restorative.

This kind of work as participating in creation is a type of work that is all the re’s-restorative, refreshing, revitalizing, recreational, and every bit as reenergizing as a good nap.

In my affair with rest, I have fallen in love with work, both types: the sacredness of the ordinary tasks as well as the art of the work I must do because I am the only one who can and I am not throwing away my shot.

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Rest Clarifies Work: Part 1

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Work To Live

It was almost exactly four months ago that I started my 30-Day Extravagant Experiment with Rest. While it was quite a counter-culture practice (I was always uncomfortable saying that I needed to rest instead of meeting a colleague for coffee, delivering some snacks to the school, or missing a friend’s birthday) it was also not much of a choice.

I was getting weaker by the day and there was nothing this gal had to offer anyone until my tank was filled up again. There was so much left to explore in this big beautiful world but my energy was running out well before I could write, create, have a conversation with my kids, make dinner, plan a romantic get-away, or be generous in any way.

My hope, the one that I held on to and let go of a hundred times during my month of rest, was that this time of recovery would enable me to be able to eventually access my own resources with an energy that felt like really living.

I don’t have a passion for rest, I have a passion for life.

And I wanted to be awake for every moment that belonged to me.

Sometimes you can only understand one concept in contrast to it’s opposite. For example, it is very difficult to define truth but everyone knows what it means to lie, so we understand what truth is because we know when we are lying.

The same thing happened to me in my intensive study of rest. While I was immersed in learning the lessons of rest, I couldn’t believe the clarity I was gaining each day about work.

My work.

Let’s start with my family. First of all, I have always worked along side raising my kids. They were always right there beside me, playing, helping, learning, or unpacking their little bags of educational toys while I worked. I often talked about my private practice as being the baby of my family, but it was the baby that was going to stay with me after the big kids went off to build their own lives. I lived with the tension of rarely having a family dinner and never getting certified in the most up to date professional trainings. I was okay at everything and mostly at peace about it.

One of my misunderstandings about life was that I would set up a foundation-create a home, set up a business, raise my kids, they would become more independent every day while my husband and I became more stable.

Suddenly our life started unraveling.  Overnight, everyone required more maintenance and care then ever. There are many reasons for this: some things changed for us financially, our kids high school careers morphed into two new, for real, careers. All of us needed our own personal assistant. So we tried to work harder, make more money to see if we could hire more people to help us make this life work.

One day my son came home from play practice around 9:30pm. I stumbled out of bed to see him for just a few minutes. He was starving and exhausted. He stood in the middle of the dark and dirty kitchen and kind of yelled, “There is nothing here for me to eat. I just need someone to help me.” In the rawness of being a teenager, he was asking for support.

My husband and my kids are the most unconditionally loving humans I have ever known. They know me well. They accept me with all of my limitations. They are my safe place in the world. They are home. They are the ones who give me a break when the rest of the world is breaking me.

Because they love me no matter what, I gave to other people, other places, other relationships, other priorities what belonged to them. I realized if I quit my business then no one would need a personal assistant anymore because they would have me.

My children’s success in life is not dependent on me having parenting properly. So many amazing humans have evolved from absolutely terrible family situations. I don’t pretend I am the make it or break it secret to my kid’s success. My children will be capable, generous, responsible and kind adults regardless of if I kept on at the rate I was going.

I changed for me.

I realized I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to share space with these two people and every day they live under my roof is a gift. I made the surrendered decision to accept the responsibilities and roles of parenting teenagers as my primary work.

It is with a great deal of humility that I say taking care of my kids is my priority right now. It’s obvious, right? We can all agree parenting is important, but I have been very scared of finding my identity in being their mom. Fear of losing myself in their world has kept me from fully being in their world in the ways I can.

My lessons in rest have settled something inside of me. I am significant and I belong period. Not because of anything I am or do. This nourishment of my own needs has released me to be and do what MUST be done in order for us to live instead of what I was doing to feel significant in my own life or others.

This new priority is completely unknown and undefined. Yesterday it meant picking someone up from school at 9:30am, figuring out how to get lost luggage from Starbucks to FedEx, navigating a complicated relationship issue, rescuing some dry-clean only sweaters from the washing machine, making sure there was money on the lunch card and watching a very special episode of Parks and Rec.

The only way I can do this job is by creating extensive margin in my days and reserving tremendous amounts of energy for this “on call” work. Yesterday, I kept my schedule clear believing that I would be able to focus on my other work (Part 2 of this series) and in the end I only had one hour I could call my own. If I did not have this shift in my reality, I would have been very frustrated and annoyed at what my kids needed and what I did not accomplish.

Other things that fall in this category are basic chores, upkeep of everything, finances, transportation, all things adult. Even if I did not have kids living at home, real life is maintenance. I can’t imagine ever loving to pay bills, go grocery shopping, cook dinner, or going to the dentist but these things must be done if I want to keep my teeth and sleep in a warm bed at night (or in the afternoon:).

Anticipating a day of rest means I MUST do what MUST be done. I can see these things clearly when I am honoring the ancient ritual of rest. What should be done, what could be done and all of the distractions I rely on to numb my overwhelm, fall into the background of my days when I am doing what I must.

I can look at myself in the mirror and say, I gave what I had to give today. I showed up for life the best I knew how.

And, ya’ll, my best* requires a lot of rest.

*I will also be writing a whole post on my definition of best. It is nothing remotely Type A or Oscar-Award wining and does not include any medals, not even bronze. I am the only one who can define or know this is my best.

P.S. I have tried to stay as close to my story as possible when writing because that is all I have to share. But I must leave my circumstances for a second and say that parenting at every stage of development means different things for different people.

Keeping a roof over your kid’s head and making sure they have food and safety is a MUST. Most people have to work big and small jobs to make that happen.

Until this recent season, I was able to contribute to my family at a higher level when I was developing myself and doing what I was good at outside of their lives.

We have complex and ever-changing realities our strategies for finding rest and clarifying work will be different. None of us make these decisions lightly and, with my whole heart, I honor the choices you are making to bring your best to your world.