On April 8th I took an online break of sorts. I had a lot of household, personal and family stuff going on and needed to stop, re-assess and get my priorities in order. Though I was still casually perusing and commenting as I felt so inclined, I had refrained from posting photos to IG and articles on my blog as well as tapped down on how much time I was spending on YouTube. My viewing history there was proof of why growth in other areas of my life had stunted and boxed me into a corner.
What was happening on the home-front made me realize even more just how precious and short time really is. That every moment counts. I needed to capture these moments as they happened, expand my pursuits, tighten my boundaries and make use of those back-burners. I had to realize that ‘tomorrow is another day’ for what wasn’t truly important and reserve ‘today’ for what truly was.
What really caused that last part to sink in was a wonderful movie I watched called ‘About Time’. A young man, upon his 21st birthday, finds out from his father that all the males in the family can time-travel – backwards only – when they reach 21. One of the very last bits of dialogue from the movie was this…..
“And in the end I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I’ve even gone one step further than my father did: The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”
This helped me define the difference between ‘getting through the day’ and ‘living it’. That no matter what was tossed at me, there were always bits of hidden joy and reasons to be grateful woven in. I had never really thought about my day in those terms. It was always something I got up and went out to tackle rather than sit back, appreciate, capture and document. I didn’t want another day going by with my head buried so deep in what was expected of me that it would be nothing but a blur the next morning. Pulling away enabled me to discover my own way of doing this. It also allowed me to rid myself of hang-ups I thought were a waste of time when, actually, they were surprise outlets for creative moments and personal growth.
Here’s what had happened during my break and what I learned as a result:
Passing of family members: In the span of 3 weeks, my husband lost 2 uncles and I lost an aunt. All were 90 or older and lived full, rich lives. My husband and I talked about how we are now at that age where our parent’s generation will start to pass on. He had already lost both his parents and mine are almost 86 and 89. Most of my cousins – my generation – have already lost a parent or two. However, when my aunt died, something inside me really set off the warning bell as she was my dad’s older sister. “When will it be his time?” I couldn’t help but think over and over. And in addition to that, I already lost one cousin last year and another has stage 4 cancer while his older brother is battling Altzheimers. That’s my generation! I realized so much that I had lost disconnecting with my local cousins after we all got married and started families. Which brings me to the next point….
Re-connecting. When we were younger, no matter the weather, my mom bundled us up and dragged us to all the aunt’s houses on Christmas Day. I always saw my cousins on a regular basis. But then we all fell in love, got married and got submersed into our own lives. Proof of their existence was an annual Christmas card that usually consisted of a photo of their kids and pets. At the gathering following my aunts funeral I just didn’t make polite conversation with whoever was at my table – watching the clock for an appropriate time to get up and go. Instead, I got up and walked around from table to table. We had meaningful talks. We exchanged cell phone numbers. I dusted off my rarely used Facebook account and friended them. And then hub and I brought up possibly hosting a cousin’s picnic over the summer to where everyone lit up and spouted off what they’d bring. I felt that family connection that had been consumed by my day-to-day life. Once our parents are gone, we are all that will remain. Family hasn’t had a more important meaning to me than it has been these past few months.
Expanded My Interests: My YouTube history had more planner videos in it than I care to admit. Odd, since the beginning of the year, I’ve been using the same planner and system and have been very settled and content with it. I had pigeon-holed myself by concentrating on one area of importance of my life that I had closed myself off from other ways to grow. So I deleted my history (well, I did leave a few faves there!) and embarked on a quest to expand my interests, strengthen my mind and enrich my soul. For those who follow me here and on Instagram, I will be embarking on my first container garden this spring/summer. Although I did view several gardening videos for research, I had stumbled upon a book on vegetable gardening from Goodwill. Although I get a better idea from visual examples, reading always sinks in better. It also allows me to take my time as well as give my eyes a rest from the computer monitor/cell phone to ‘truly’ disconnect. My increased knowledge has caused me to discover what’s been growing in my own backyard all this time (see wild onions below!) In addition to gardening, I’ve also been investigating more recipes, the canning process, Excel spreadsheet shortcuts, HiiT workouts and creative/bible journaling.
Capture & Document: I have a bookkeeping client whose wife is an interior decorator as well as has a showroom. She asked me to take over her monthly bookkeeping and met with me right after my hiaitus. She recently added some beautiful stationery items for sale in the showroom, such as Field Note-sized notebooks, Baron Fig notebooks, natural wood pencils, handmade fabric pen/pencil pouches and desk accessories. She also carries consigned items for other retailers. One of those items was a traveler’s-style notebook that caught my eye. It was a brand called Linshi Tasks and came with lined, monthly and unlined inserts as well as a plastic zippered pocket/card holder insert. The call to ‘journal’ that I hadn’t felt in a while immediately crept up as soon as I saw this beautiful leather creation. She extended me a discount and I bartered the balance via my bill.
Since then, my long-suppressed creativity had unleashed. In my quest for simplicity and minimalism, I had rid myself of a lot of stationery items (washi tape, colored pens, stamps, stickers) I had thought were weighing me down. But paring down also eliminated a lot of choices for creativity. Fortunately, what I did keep was a decent variety. Rather than feel smothered by stuff, I’m embracing what I have left as tools to capture the moments of the day and document them in my beautiful new journal. I even found a set of watercolor paints buried in the supply cabinet at the office. All these years I had no idea they were there (or even how they got there, considering I’ve worked there for 17 years!) My late afternoon work break has proven to be the time I’m ‘called’ creatively to play in my journal. I look forward to it rather than it be something I ‘have’ to do.
The traveler’s notebook really is beautiful and makes a lovely companion for my Filofax Pocket Malden which I’ve been happily using and been very content with since the beginning of the year.
Rediscovering Magazines. Pre-internet/phone, I used to have subscriptions to a bunch of magazines I would devour weekly/monthly. Now I only read them while my tootsies are soaking in warm soapy water or while color is processing my hair. Rediscovering my enjoyment of analog media has it’s rewards. It forces me to relax with the television off, enables me to focus, allows me to disconnect from the computer and cell phone and also provides some great fodder for my new journal.
Finding clever ways to re-purpose things – The amateur gardener in me got carried away when it came time to begin germinating my seeds indoors. Gardening can be quite expensive so I wanted me entre into it to be as cost-effective as possible. germinating seeds in empty eggshells, yogurt/butter/cottage cheese containers, Home Depot buckets and plastic storage containers from Goodwill. I’m rummaging through my own recycle bin! My absolutely favorite re-purposing: used coffee k-cups, foil cover removed, grounds rinsed out and inner filter removed positioned around an empty container from a store-bought ring/bundt cake. Filled with potting mix then 4 tomato seeds, spritzed with water then put the dome cover back on for an instant mini-greenhouse. Result: seeds sprouted within 4 days!
Appreciate more/complain less – This is where I need true maturity. In the past year, I have slowly begun to embrace doing without and trying to live as frugally, yet purposefully as possible. Just because I’m at a certain point in my life where I think I ‘should’ have this or ‘should’ve’ done that by now doesn’t make me a failure. Comparing myself to others and using what they have/accomplished as a measuring stick for my own successes is unwise. Someone who appears to ‘have it all’ on the outside may not have it so together on the inside. True happiness and contentment is found first by looking at what you already have and thank God for being blessed with it. Coming to terms with that acceptance, appreciating what hub and I have built and not grumbling about what we should have by now has taken away a mountain of stress and provided surprising opportunities to work with what we already have and turn it into something new and exciting.
A quick example: We found an old, cast-iron well pump buried at the base of our wooded backyard years ago and just left it there. Of course, every year (the old me) would complain about it, thinking it junked up the back yard. This year, hub finally hoisted it out, cleaned it off and spray painted it before securing it at the base of our apple tree. A piece of junk I had complained about turned into an opportunity to beautify our front yard instead.
Strengthening my faith : Our first attempt at a refi went south because the appraiser thought the water we had puddled in the backyard where the above ground pool had been removed over 10 years ago was due to a drainage issue. Even though hub told her it was not, she still noted it in the appraisal, which dropped the value significantly, thus reducing what we needed as a cash-out amount. UGH! So, we are on attempt #2, however the funds we needed to take care of some short-term debt – as well as for hub to use for the final amount of repairs on the building he’s readying for rent – will not be available for another month or two. It’s put a financial burden on us to cover on our own, but we are both believing that God is going to send us the perfect tenant who will agree to the rent and terms. I’m not going to stress out. He will provide as He has promised. We will continue to do our part by being good financial stewards and leave the rest up to Him.
Failures. My first attempt at sowing seeds indoors in soil-filled eggshells went south. Maybe I’ve should’ve done a bit more research on using heat mats for germination – such as…..not putting the egg carton DIRECTLY on the heat mat. Yep – done gone and cooked the seeds good and proper. They were three different kinds of tomatoes and iceberg lettuce. Ah, well, thank goodness I had a lot of seed left in the packet. If at first you don’t succeed (or, in this case, succ-seed – lol!)…..so, I tried again, this time using cucumbers. Since I wasn’t using seed starting mix (which is lighter for the tender sprout to push through), I found an article on how to prepare the organic vegetable potting mix I had. I removed any solid particles then sifted the mix through my hands to break it up to make it as airy as possible. I lightly packed the shells, sprinkled the seeds on top and rather than push them down, I just added another teaspoon of mix over them, not pushing down, then sprayed with water. In less than a week they sprouted. However, the carrots on the other side did not so….back to the drawing board on those. Oh, and in the far right corner are corn seeds I sprouted using the paper towel method and then planted into re-purposed butter, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese containers. As for the sweet potatoes? Total example of my failure to properly research. I had begun rooting them in water in order to produce tubers to plant back in January. For almost 3 months…..nothing. So I went online to find out what’s what and found out that I had them in upside down. DOH!
What’s important is that I did not allow these failures to cause me to give up. I just kept trying until I got the results I wanted. And I’m not just applying that to gardening.
Time away is good. And not just as in a proper vacation, but one you can take right where you are. When you feel overwhelmed with the pressure to deliver, sometimes it’s good to just pull back, disconnect and focus on the tangible things in front of you that can bring you unexpected joy and add another layer of substance to your life 🙂
Till next time,