Essentialism

“When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people–our bosses, our colleagues, or clients and even our families–will choose for us and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

My life is sometimes not my own. It’s my own fault. I have several apartments that I look after. There is always something that needs to checked on or repaired. Tenants have reasons why the rent is late. The short term stay apartment has to be ready at a moment’s notice. There’s always the pool to vacuum, plants to water, decks to wash. It’s never ending. I can go from one task to the next and not stop. The big maintenance projects, well, they’ll just have to wait for another day. If I don’t watch it, my whole day is consumed with solving little things and not getting to or being too tired to start the things that I really need to do as well as things I want to do.

Life is like that. We go from one thing to the next and one task to the next without really thinking about it: I have to do it. And gradually the day is done and I haven’t accomplished but half of what I wanted to do.  Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests that if we are going to get to do what we really want then we must begin by deciding what is important to us. What is it that I value? What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals and where do I want them to take me?

Few people take the time to sit down and make this evaluation. As it often goes, we spend 80% of our time doing things that are not important to us, not essential,  and 20% of our time, if that, doing what is. Everyone will ask us for our time and our talents. There are always going to be little fires to put out here and there. It would probably be a better solution to discover the source of those little fires in the first place.

Essentialism often means saying, ‘No!’ I can’t be everything to everyone. Yes I want to be the nice guy and help out but if it’s not important to me and if it’s not my responsibility, I have to ask myself, just why I am doing this? If it is taking my focus away from my priorities then I can say no to joining yet another committee, or going organizing another office function. And yes, the first time I give a firm no! I may ruffle a few feathers, especially if I have always been the one to say yes. But sticking to the essentials will allow me to use more of my time to on my priorities.

I would rather do one thing well than divide my attention and try to do several things just okay. Perhaps that’s the reason why I am running around trying to solve a whole lot of little problems. Rather than let work, friends, and even family decide where I want to focus my energy, I purposefully and deliberately choose where I will focus my energy.

Essentialism won’t solve all the challenges in life. There will always be things that broadside us when we least expect them. But if we have the majority of our lives organized then the chances of it knocking us of our balance are much less. In the end it will help me to accomplish much more.

What’s important to you?

Solitude

“People who take time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve.” John Miller

In my disease I spent a great deal of time alone. I also spent a great deal of time feeling lonely. And I spent a lot of time wishing it wasn’t so. I hadn’t completely isolated myself.  I wasn’t barricading myself in my room and hiding under my bed–yet. I still went out occasionally, but not really to socialize, more so to get what I needed. I preferred my own company and loathed it at the same time. I wanted friends but didn’t want them around me.  Addiction is full of contradictions.

I have always known that I need time to myself. It’s how I process my thoughts. I am an introvert and I know I need to be alone to recharge. My energy comes from silence. I need my Fortress of Solitude in order to restore myself. It’s not being alone and wishing I wasn’t. That’s loneliness and loneliness is an ego driven downward spiral. The times when I feel lonely are the times when I would rather not be alone. I can solve that. I can pick up my phone and chat with someone or go down into town.

Solitude is a time for repair of the body, mind and soul. My cell phone is in another room and away from the temptation to pick it up at every beep or burp it makes. I prefer the ambient sounds of where I live when I am in my solitude, but some may like some relaxing music. I like to have a notepad nearby should a thought pop into my head that I know will slip out as quickly as it came if I don’t write it down. I can use my solitude to read. I can use it to think. I can use it to meditate. In solitude I unplug and detach from life.

Solitude, used in this way, is a contradiction. When I am in solitude I am making and restoring connections. I connect with myself. I use my morning time to analyse how I am feeling about myself and life. I use it to think about what is important to me. I believe that it’s important to think about things, mull them over in my head, question my beliefs around a particular topic. I need to do that for my writing as well as for my sanity.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Sometimes solitude takes planning. Depending upon your life, you may need to schedule this time alone. In my readings of the past year I’ve learned that people who are successful in many aspects of life make time for solitude because they know how important it is as part of their creativity and drive as well as in maintaining balance in their lives. They do this as part of their daily routine as well as taking vacations from their job whether it’s an afternoon away or a sabbatical year. I really ‘need’ that time in the morning from 5:30 to 7:00 and I see the difference when I don’t get it.

I live a fairly quiet life but even so, I can fill a day with odd jobs and tasks. I am conscious of the amount of time I spend on social media, watching TV (How did we survive before Netflix?)  and the ubiquitous cell phone with all of its apps and time wasters.  I need to unplug from the business of life in order to tune into what’s really important and I’ve learned that I can’t figure that out on the fly.

I need my solitude.

A Break in Routine

For many of us, the holiday season is a very trying and tempting time. It’s a time when we get together with a lot of others: family, friends, perhaps strangers. There are a lot of parties to go to and things that one simply ‘must’ do. It can all be very overwhelming.

A lot of the stress comes from the extra people around. We are creatures of habit and we like things to remain the same, but with others around, our flow is interrupted. It causes us to think and react differently than if we didn’t have all of those people around us. In situations out of our routine, it is easy to fall back on only patterns and habits. This is especially true of family. We have years of practice at pushing each others’ buttons.

We can survive the stress of this time of year by concentrating on the things that we can control. As much as is possible, stick to your regular routine. There is nothing wrong with scheduling your day to include time for yourself and your sanity. Keep going to as many meetings as you usually go to, or more if possible. This will keep you fresh and on point in your program of recovery. You need not justify your attendance. It’s what you need. If they don’t understand, it’s not up to you to explain.

Keep up your practice of meditation. Having others around the house may cramp your style. Perhaps someone is sleeping in the room where you usually meditate. Maybe there is more noise in the house than you are used to.  Take the dog for a walk, go to the corner store for something, and when you’re out of the house, take time to be quiet and get in contact with your Higher Power for a moment or two. Get up earlier if you don’t see that you have any other time. It matters not how or where you do it, but do it.

So many parties are concentrated around this time of year and it’s expected that we attend. I’ve discovered that a call ahead, asking the host if there’s something we can do to help them set up is very appreciated. Remember they could are also stressed. The ‘arrive early and leave early’ recommendation is very good advice: there are often a lot of temptations at seasonal parties. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t need to put yourself to the test. No one has ever blamed me for leaving early and once I am gone, I know that no one will miss me either. And more often than not, I am told the next day that I was very wise to leave when I did.

Keep that routine in your life as much as possible. Keep your balance. If you have to, break the time down into increments. Give your sponsor or other program members a call. They are probably going through similar situations and could use the distraction as well. You will get through this stressful situation. Know that this situation is temporary. If this is your first time going through this in recovery, know that you will get through it and you are not alone. We all have to make our own unique plans for keeping it all together during a change in routine. Soon January will be here, the decorations will come down and your routine will get back to normal.

Happy Holidays!

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