Do You Do What Feeds Your Soul?

September 30, 2015

Photo courtesy Stefanus Martanto Setyo Husodo

“Paying close attention to those things that bring us joy is critical to creating a life that we love. Whether it’s making things, hiking, studying, or working with people…if it feeds our soul, gives us energy, transports us out of time and into a space of flow…we are meant to do more of these things. These gifts help make us the unique individuals we are. These gifts energize us, nurture us, and move us to a place where the fullness of our joy spills over to others. I wish I could banish the guilt most of must feel over spending time doing the things we enjoy!”
—Kathy Davis, Scatter Joy


When You'd Rather Go Back to Bed

September 28, 2015

It’s a gray Monday morning. It’s still hot and humid. My Tampa Bay Rays are playing the last few games of their season, trying to avoid being last in their division. It was too cloudy last night for me to see the lunar eclipse, which I had been looking forward to. Today I just feel generally grumpy. I have plenty to do, but I’d rather go to bed with a stack of books.

On days like this, I remind myself that these are not real problems. Having no place to sleep and not enough to eat, those are problems. But when I feel grumpy, it doesn’t make me less grumpy to be told I have no reason to be grumpy. Instead, I’m kind to myself, working into my day some of the simple pleasures I love most. For instance, today I’m enjoying:

A Pumpkin Spice Latte, purchased with the last of a gift card from my son.

A good cuddle with her:

And her:

A literal stack of books from my library (I went overboard on the hold requests):

Into every life, gray Monday mornings fall. We can weather them better if we have a few simple pleasures easily available to fortify us. What are some of your favorite ways to cope with a gray Monday?

168 Hours

How Keeping a Time Log Boosted My Happiness

September 25, 2015

Since 2012 after reading 168 Hours, by Laura Vanderkam, I’ve periodically used a time log to get a sense of where my time goes each day. I track my time for one week, and I always find it eye-opening. This time I took it one step farther by asking myself the three questions Vanderkam suggests we ask when evaluating time logs: What do I like about my schedule? What do I want to do more of with my time? What do I want to spend less time doing?

What do I like about my schedule?

I am incredibly lucky to be in charge of my schedule. I don’t go to an office every day to work for someone else, and since my son is grown, my days no longer revolve around his school and activities. My appointments and obligations are mostly ones I’ve chosen. I have the flexibility to experiment with my schedule, shuffling blocks of time for various activities: writing, errands, exercise, barn time, household chores and so on.

What do I want to do more of with my time?

I want to write more and read more. Since I’ve decided to get serious about my writing again, I’m shooting for 20 hours a week spent writing, marketing, and educating myself on either topics I want to write about or ways to improve my writing. I want chunks of time for reading during the day instead of waiting until evening when I’m too mentally tired. I want to add an occasional artist’s date to my writing schedule, not in addition to the time I’ve allotted for writing, but as a part of it—filling the well.

I also want to spend more time walking outdoors and with Tank when the weather finally cools off. That will require some shifting of working hours.

What do I want to spend less time doing?

Watching TV. I enjoy watching a few shows and the occasional movie with my husband, but I find that I keep watching when our show finishes and suddenly two hours (or more) has gone by.

Cooking and working in the kitchen. We eat at home 99 percent of the time, and I do most of the cooking. I don’t love cooking, but we want to eat healthfully, so I try to make most of our meals myself. I spend a great deal of time (at least a couple of hours a day) in the kitchen, between making meals and cleaning up after them. How can I simplify our meals and clean up so that I’m not spending so much time in the kitchen?

Understanding how I actually use my time (rather than how I think I do) helps me work better and play better. I realize how much control I have over my schedule, and I’m reminded of how productive I really can be, and that yes, I do spend time doing things I love: playing with Tank, reading, eating dinner with my husband every night. My time log is a snapshot of a full and interesting life—and that makes me happy.

Tracking your time can be a huge help if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels or you have no idea where your time goes. Evaluating the results of your time tracking can help you see what’s working well, what isn’t, and if there are any unnecessary activities sneaking in. If you want to try time tracking, you can download Vanderkam’s time log here

What do you want to do more of with your time? What do you want to spend less time doing?

Jane Hirshfield

The Drumming of the Woodpecker

September 23, 2015

Photo courtesy Joan Greenman

Introduction by Ted Kooser: In this fascinating poem by the California poet, Jane Hirshfield, the speaker discovers that through paying attention to an event she has become part of it, has indeed become inseparable from the event and its implications. This is more than an act of empathy. It speaks, in my reading of it, to the perception of an order into which all creatures and events are fitted, and are essential.

The Woodpecker Keeps Returning

The woodpecker keeps returning
to drill the house wall.
Put a pie plate over one place, he chooses another.

There is nothing good to eat there:
he has found in the house
a resonant billboard to post his intentions,
his voluble strength as provider.

But where is the female he drums for? Where?

I ask this, who am myself the ruined siding,
the handsome red-capped bird, the missing mate.

Poem copyright © 2005 by Jane Hirshfield from her forthcoming book “After” (Harper Collins, 2006), and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. American Life in Poetry ©2005 The Poetry Foundation Contact: alp@poetryfoundation.org This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.


Adventure Is Easier Than You Think

September 21, 2015

Photo courtesy Amanda Sandlin

This weekend I watched the movie Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s book about her experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in an effort to put her life back together following personal tragedy. While watching, my first thought was: I couldn’t do that. I’m just not physically and mentally tough enough to undertake a three-month, 1,000-mile hike through the wilderness by myself.

Good thing for me, I don’t have to. Instead of feeling inadequate, I remembered I have absolutely no desire to try grueling challenges like hiking the PCT (and I’m also blessed not to be coping with the amount of trauma and drama Strayed was). 

My adventures don’t need to look like Cheryl Strayed’s, or yours, or anyone else’s. Adventures don’t have to be big, scary undertakings to be adventurous. Adventure is not one-size-fits-all. Little adventures—everyday adventures as I call them—add immeasurable happiness to life. While bigger adventures may be more life-changing, everyday adventures (the new class, the trip to the beach at sunset, the visit to the farmer’s market, or watching for the next “blood moon,” for instance) are much more accessible to most people.

Adventures, small and large, are important because they open the mind, build confidence, and give the remembering self something to savor. When we stop waiting for the next big adventure and start incorporating everyday adventure into our lives, we’ll be happier for it.

Make a list of everyday adventures you want to try—and come back here to share with us!