Good Intentions

 I’m a woman who loves her routine. I actually prefer to think of it as ritual because that word lends a more sacred connotation to those predictable activities that anchor my day. Over six decades of life on earth, I’ve developed a good number of these daily rituals, and the older I get the more embedded in them I’ve become.

After my last post about growth mindset and overcoming the fear of trying new things, I began to consider ways in which my daily routines might change for the better. I felt a faint shiver run up my spine at the mere thought of it, but soon realized that I needn’t write any such changes in stone, I could simply experiment and see how it worked out. 

My thought process on the subject led me to set some Intentions for myself - a word I much prefer to the word Goals. You know how some words just irritate you? Goals is a word that irritates me. As does the word Discipline, another one often used when discussing self-help and life improvement projects.

But Intentions? I like that word. It seems to fit me and my personality. Where Goals and Disciplines feel like they’re imposed from the outside, Intentions are more personal and individualized. The idea of Intentions implies an independence of thought and a freedom from adverse consequence. It give me a positive and encouraging vibe. 

So how about those specific Intentions of mine?

Two of them went into effect back in August when I removed sugar from my diet and added daily strength training into my home exercise program.  As a result I’ve lost 10 pounds and firmed up some flabby places. I feel stronger and more energetic. My original intention was to try this until September 1, but it’s worked so well I have no intention of changing it!

This month my intentions again are two-fold and interconnected. First, I am determined to free myself from a social media habit that borders on addiction. Social media eats away at my time, at my attention, at my ability to focus and - most importantly -  at my creativity. As an example, one of my life long rituals is to spend about an hour each morning with coffee and reading. That time often leads to writing ideas, which get transcribed into morning pages, and later into blog posts or other things I may be working on. Lately, I’ve allowed the world of social media and online news to sneak into my morning routine. I’ve realized that as soon as I log onto the internet all my writing ideas go up in smoke, my brain starts jumping from one topic to another, I waste hours of time and then have to scramble to get through my to-do list for the day. 

New routine? No social media until after the aforementioned reading, writing, and exercise are done.  I set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes to go online while I eat breakfast. After that, the iPad goes away until 5:00 when I give myself another 30 minutes to go online while dinner cooks. I’ve taken all the social media apps off my phone with the exception of Instagram because I find that to be a kinder, gentler forum with fewer distractions.

In conjunction with this intention comes another very important one:  WRITE EVERY DAY. At least 250 words of something. Morning pages, a blog post, part of a new book I’ve started working on. But WRITE.  I’m keeping written record of my progress, and rewarding myself at the end of every week I stick to the program.

That word intention has another meaning which appeals to me. In medicine, intention describes the way in which a wound heals. The first intention healing process occurs when a wound closes via natural contact with its parts. Second intention healing occurs when the sections of the wound are too wide or deep to come into contact naturally, so over time the body will create a new layer of skin to bind the wound together. 

Sometimes our own habits, even our beloved daily rituals, can unknowingly create wounds in our lives and spirits. We do things that damage our physical bodies, our mental acuity, our imagination. The world has evolved in such a way that it’s easy to indulge in activities that at first seem worthwhile and pleasurable, but are actually harmful or even dangerous. When that happens we must take time to create a new layer of habits to heal the damage. 

At my current stage of life, I have the privilege of being able to set my own schedule. In the current political climate, I’m learning that with privilege comes responsibility. But that applies to my personal life as well. By taking control of my time and being deliberate about the way I spend my days, I regain a sense of control over my own life at least, a feeling that’s been missing as the world around me tilts more and more off course every day. 

 Maybe my little intention setting program is pedantic. But change has to start somewhere. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I might as well experiment with some good intentions and see what happens.

 

Setting Your Mind to It

Last week my grandson received something called a Growth Mindset award at his elementary school’s Friday morning assembly. He’s only been in kindergarten three weeks, and I’m not sure he quite understood the reason he’d been called to the front of the cafeteria to have his photograph taken with the other recipients. Nor did I, his 61 year old grandmother, have any idea what a Growth Mindset Award was about. Was this peculiar to his school, one known for its progressive ideas about education?

My daughter in law explained that growth mindset was a very important concept in schools, especially in their district. “It’s about believing you can learn new things,” she said, “and not being afraid to try."

Ordinary Days

A late summer morning, the grass thick with yesterdays rainfall. I’ve slept through the night for the first time in over a week, surprised to find myself wakened by the classical music radio station we’ve set as the alarm on our ancient Sony clock radio.  1:30 am, 2:30 am, 4:00 am. For days in a row, my eyes pop open and somehow I just know there will be no return to sleep. “What happened?” my husband always asks in the morning. “Why couldn’t you sleep?"

“If I knew, I’d do something about it,” I said, snapping at him because I truly have no answer, and I don’t like not having the answer.

My life is mercifully ordinary these days. There are no sick parents, no sick dogs. There are no deadlines, no imminent performances, no piles of unpaid bills. My mind has been filled with all these things at one time or another for the past decade, and they have often made sleep elusive.

But not now, not this minute. Right now, everything is quiet, calm. Peaceful. Ordinary.

Life Goes On

It’s almost September, and soon the inevitable school bells will ring. September always feels like a new year to me, even though I no longer work in school or have children in school. September heralds the start of something, a time to make plans, buckle down, get busy. A time to learn something new. No matter how old we are, there is much to learn. I got a new car last week, one with so many digital bells and whistles that I find myself spending quite a bit of time sitting in the driveway with the owners manual in my hand, studying and learning how to operate them all. 

Although there is no owner’s manual for life, we each find our ways to make it through. For me, writing has always been my way of figuring things out. Sometimes I don’t know what I think or feel until I write about it. For most of my life I did my writing in private, but the advent of the internet allowed me to share my thoughts through words. The connections I’ve made have become an integral and vital part of my life.

Eclipsed

Next Monday, August 21, most of us here in the US will be able to see the effects of a solar eclipse, a rare occurrence, at least on such a wide scale. As the moon obscures the sun and the sky darkens for those few minutes during the middle of the day, we’ll be confronted with nature’s awesome and timeless power in an absolutely irrefutable way, for despite all our technologies and advances, we can not yet control the movement of the solar system.

It’s impossible to ignore the parallel between the impending solar eclipse and the current social and political events here in the United States. It feels like a shadow is moving across this country, a shadow born of intolerance and anger and unrest and dissatisfaction and fear surrounding the Trump Presidency.