Monday, April 24, 2017

Some Every Day, No Matter What...

For the month of April, I am participating in Rebecca Barrett-Fox's writing challenge. I sent in $20, with the agreement that if I write 400 words a day, five days a week, for four weeks, I will get the $20 back. Now that I have completed three weeks of the challenge, this is what I've noticed.

I've joined a group of participants who largely have a wider writing experience and responsibility than I do. Some are doing research, writing books, teaching in colleges or universities. I, on the other hand, want to learn to write daily. I don’t have a project to work on other than my blog, which does not need daily updates. 

Without a project, I began this challenge by sitting down each day to a blank screen and doing stream of consciousness writing about whatever I was thinking about. It was scary. I don’t have profound or meaningful thoughts to share every day. I began with a lot of doubt about why I was audacious enough to sign up for this.

But as the days passed I caught myself noticing topics I wanted to think more about. Sometimes I'd have a conversation that I wanted to process. Something I read might trigger questions about life. Or other times, life might hold so much to think about that I'd need a place to record it. Sometimes a memory would come to mind. One week I wrote four days straight about some neighbors whose land we used to farm. 

As I’m writing these thoughts into my google document, I begin to understand myself better, and to gain a bit more clarity about the emotions and reactions I’m having to my experiences. So there is the first plus. 

The second is just the truth. It doesn't matter if  I'm a writer or if I have important things to say or if there is anything of value for anyone else to read. It is $20 dollars, which isn't much, and I only lose it if I don't follow through on the challenge. I'm starting a habit I've wanted to start for a long time, I'm starting it for free, and isn't that enough? So no more angst about this!!!

The third builds on the second. Even if I end up writing nothing of value, I now value writing enough to set it into my regular schedule. I have to make time for it, so beyond the $20, it has value for me in the time I invest. Whether I have a project or not, I need to be writing. Period. So there will be words daily, and I will send them in, whether they are part of a project or not, whether they help me understand life or not, whether they are drivel or not.

And fourthly, since it takes time, less time is spent doing something else, like Facebook, or Netflix, or other time wasters. I'm trying pretty hard to not let it cut into my 'people' time, although there have been a couple of nights I've gone to bed late in order to send in my words for the day. So mostly inadvertently, some of my vices are getting less time. This seems to be an easier way to reduce time wasters than guilt. Maybe a choice to do something is more motivating than a choice not to do something? 

So far I've only found one problem, and it isn't with the challenge.

I’m writing on my computer, but I have not decided on a way to organize these writings. 

Every year I try to go back through my current journals a couple of times, usually at the new year, and also the week of my birthday. Doing this gives me a sense of the direction my life has taken, the lessons learned, gratitude for graces I've experienced, validation for painful times, recognition of things I wish I'd done differently. It is an important part of how I go through life.

When I go back to review my life from the last year, these writings for the challenge will not be in my journal because they are on my computer. It is much easier to send a word count from my computer than from my handwritten journal.  I want to keep record of these thoughts as part of my learning and growth. I need to find a way to organize it to be easily accessible. It needs to happen soon, before it is too overwhelming.

If you are interested in the challenge, it is opening up now for the May challenge. Deadline to sign up is April 30. Instructions are here.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Spice it up

Chuck and I have been married nearly forty years. Our lives have never been dull. But excitement is not the only ingredient for a thriving relationship. Sometimes the excitement (or maybe the stress) would push the relationship into the background until suddenly it became obvious that the relationship was falling by the wayside while we attended to whatever was most demanding in our lives. Tyranny of the urgent was sometimes the best description.

So we learned by mistakes and by better choices that especially in the struggles, time for nurture of the relationship has to be carved out. And really, at least for us, when is it not intense struggling with one thing or another? Rarely is there a time without some kind of crisis. So we have chosen to find space for our relationship.

The crazy thing is, even the nurturing things can become routine and boring, no longer renewing to the relationship. And that is where we find ourselves right now. We love each other. We are in intense times, like always. And the ways we wind down and spend time together have become so routine that although they are comfortable, they are also a bit boring.

It can take a while to realize that the things that always worked are not working as well anymore. But that is normal. At any rate, there was a day when we seemed to both be recognizing at the same time that we’d slipped into a slump.

Because we’ve been married nearly forty years, we don’t take for granted that time will move endlessly forward for us. Life is now pretty obviously time sensitive. So we sat down and asked ourselves the question, what can we do now that will bring joy and new life to our relationship?

The first answer we came up with was the one we acted on last week.

At least once every three months we are going to go somewhere or do something new to both of us...create a completely new memory. We set a date and I offered to come up with the plan.

In the last year I’ve noticed my facebook friends posting pics of places they visited in Kansas. There were pictures of prairies, natural formations, interesting foods, musicians. One of those places was the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve.

Stone barn at the Tallgrass Prairie

I was looking for a place we could be outdoors, because Chuck loves being outdoors. I wanted a place we could bring the dog, because Fritz needs to get used to being calm in new environments. And I wanted a place close enough that we could get there, enjoy it, and get back home in one long afternoon. The Tallgrass Prairie fit all the requirements.

Prairie with visitor center 

It was so lovely. Overcast skies allowed the temperature to stay comfortable for a long walk, and the lack of even a breeze made the songs of the meadowlarks unmistakeable around us. Fritz carried our water in his backpack as we ambled along trails that took us to places where the trail itself was the only visible sign of human presence.

We relaxed and talked about fun things and hard things. We pondered questions about faith, and about human nature, and about less weighty topics...such as whether we can judge how far 100 yards are so that we can be sure to stay at least 100 yards away from any buffalo. We pointed out the things we could see and hear, and made sure to notice. At one especially quiet moment we heard Prairie chicken hens calling and clucking. It was magical.

Today we are back to living in the midst of important things to think about and respond to, but with a better view from having taken a step away for ourselves yesterday.