Distractions From Life

Nothing like the birth of a baby to prevent you from writing for nearly a year. Since this was not my first child, you would think I would remember the challenges of having a new baby in the house. Now when I have a few minutes to spare I don’t think about writing. I think about eating, resting or just falling asleep. These are the things that new mothers do (or dream about) because the rest of the time they need to constantly focus on keeping the baby happy. Or at least not crying. Well, how about not crying too loud?

Motherhood has its ups and downs. Today as I look at my 10 month old Jacob I see so much of his father in him. His smile. His laugh. His plentiful hair. He is so much that I am not. He is innocent. He has very simple needs and I have the feeling he doesn’t worry like adults do. He really knows how to live in the moment. When he needs something he needs it now. Now you understand why babies cry all the time. Living in the moment seems so easy for children while adults spend time planning, organizing, and worrying. It is no surprise that so many people have depression due to all the worrying. Why can’t we just live for the now?

It seems our brains, although powerful, can also lead us down paths of thought that are not healthy. The mind is capable of so many things yet most days I would like to turn it off parts of it. Why can’t I just do a task or eat a meal without having all sorts of other thoughts going through my brain. I just want to enjoy a quiet moment and most of the time I can’t. Your brain is like a computer that shows one program on the screen while other programs are running in the background. Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realized you didn’t remember driving that last stretch of road? Somehow your mind wanders to think about other problems instead of focussing on the road. (Like keeping the car on the road is not a problem?)

Lately I have been so busy with one task after the other I haven’t had much time to think. No time to worry. My only concern was whether I had enough milk and food to feed my baby for tomorrow. Now I see that still was not living in the moment because I was worrying about the future! Our darn brains. I understand why we watch too many movies and television shows. Watch others makes us feel like we are living in the moment (albeit someone else’s moment) and this distracts us from our own worries and fears. How do we force ourselves to live more in our own life and worry less? How do we prevent distractions from impinging on our critical moments in life. The giggle from a baby. A hug from a loved one. These are moments to cherish and should not be interrupted by the solving of a work problem in our head or worrying about what we are making for dinner tonight.

I sit peacefully on the sofa in my living room with my eyes closed. I take a deep breath in. I listen to the sounds in my house to try to focus. I hear the whir of the washing machine, the almost inaudible hum of the television and the sshhhgg of the dishwasher. All the sounds seem to mix together, at least until I hear baby Jacob and his quiet whimpering. Again he needs something and my focus is back on him.The baby has forced me to live in the moment.  The only other thing I have done lately to live in the moment was to write this blog. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t plan it. It wasn’t on a to-do list. What can you do today to  live in the moment without distraction?

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Fun-day Monday

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Having the day off today was nice. The weekend was busy, but a nice kind of busy. I was able to escape from work more this weekend than I have in the last few months. I enjoyed getting time to totally focus on something besides work. A regular 2-day weekend just doesn’t seem like enough time off. A 3-day weekend is just slightly better. What I really needed was a full 2 weeks, but that is not always feasible.

The extra time this weekend allowed me to clear my mind to establish new norms in my thinking. Sometimes ‘getting away from it all’ is less about physically getting away and more about mentally getting away. Trying something new or unusual brings your mind to a place where it can focus. This weekend’s escapes included a hike at McDowell Mountain Park, a birthday party at the Phoenix Zoo, and lunch on the patio at Chelsea’s Kitchen. What I realized today, is that there is always more work for us to focus on, but not always more time to enjoy family. Maybe it is time to put focus and emphasis on things that do not always include work?

What did you do this weekend for your mental escape? Did you get to spend the time with your family?

Clearing Clutter of House and Mind

Over the last few weeks, something has really started to annoy me. Clutter. Everywhere I look there is stuff. Some is post-holiday accumulation (i.e. cards, gift boxes, and toys), while other collections have appeared on their own in the form of papers, magazines, books and even clothes. The piles everywhere are causing me stress. I know I shouldn’t let the physical clutter impact my mind, but it has. It has seeped into my brain. Now I can’t stop thinking about eliminating the clutter so I can have a clear mind for more interesting and fun endeavors.

The first step in eliminating clutter is figuring out what you need, and what you don’t need. Seems simple, but it isn’t. I decided to start with my clothes closet. I counted 15 pairs of shoes, yet I couldn’t find a reason to toss any of them. I moved on to pants, shirts, and dresses. Again, I need them for something, even if it is for an upcoming painting project that hasn’t happened in the last 5 years. At what point does the urge to eliminate the stuff overpower the need for it?

Since my clothes closet was not fruitful in providing bountiful items to ditch, I readily moved on to the garage. Surely there are things that must go? I was amazed to find 2 boxes of books that haven’t been touched in at least 3 years. I am afraid to consider how many times one box was moved, as it contained my college textbooks. Since I graduated in the last century, I know it was moved 5 or 6 times. At least. Why I didn’t sell them back to the bookstore upon graduation is beyond me. Back then (showing my age here) we didn’t have e-mail, e-books, or even the internet, so I am sure I thought it was a good idea to save them, in case I needed them. As I pulled an engineering book from its box, I noticed the title “Technical Drawing”. The first few pages were frightening. There we explanations about pencils and how to draw proper lines on an engineering drawing on paper. Clearly these books were not suitable for a yard sale. I might need to donate them to a museum, along with my collection of .5mm mechanical pencils.

Why was it so hard to let stuff go? Waiting certainly didn’t improve the situation, as my college textbook example demonstrated. Suddenly it seemed best to swiftly redirect unwanted goods to someone who might actually want to use them. As I opened box after box and sorted through papers and tools in the garage, I felt a weight lift. The weight of years of accumulation of stuff that suddenly, I felt I was able to let go. My reading of “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama last year finally impacted me. I realized the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to lose. Items take up valuable space in your house, and in your mind. As long as you have what you need on a daily basis (food, clothes, and running water) then all the other stuff is really extra isn’t it?

After my garage sale next week, I look forward to continuing my quest to remove clutter and simplify my life, not just for my house’s sake, but for my mind’s sake. Once my physical space is clear, I may actually be able to focus on the space in my mind. Like the overgrown weeds in your lawn, sometimes you end up with clutter over growing your life. Managing the space so it isn’t cluttered, is a necessity. I look forward to 2011 focussed more on life and less on stuff, because you can always bring you wherever you go and your stuff doesn’t define you anyway.