Day 345: Tune Out

Sure, I suppose a lot of what I have written in the past year has been about “tuning into” the moment. Tonight was definitely all about tuning out.

We are living in a smallish house now–smaller than our old house, at least. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find some quiet. But tonight, I seemed to find quietude in the midst of all of the hubbub.

My oldest child was upstairs in the loft, playing his guitar. My other two children were rolling about and laughing, in the thick of some play. The house was alive with noise and life.

And there I was, in front of the fire, spread out on the couch and reading. I could hear the sound of my children, but the noise was anything but distracting. I read on, enjoying my time by the fire, and at the same time enjoying the sounds of our home.

Come to think of it: maybe I did title today’s entry incorrectly.

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Day 344: Kindle

It’s gotten cold again–down to the mid-20s tonight. I had some wood already split, but I decided to swing an axe for a little bit anyway, thinking about that old adage: he who chops wood warms himself twice.

I brought in the chopped kindling, along with some “windfall” branches I’ve been saving underneath the porch for starting fires. And in a few moments, I had a roaring fire going.

My youngest was still doing her homework. She moved up onto the couch by the fire, and I sat next to her reading my book and lending help, when needed.

The fire is still going, but the evening is wearing down. I put my book to the side just long enough to write these few words and to reflect on how grateful I am for nights like this.

And all it took was a little kindling.

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Day 343: Solo

First, I have to acknowledge the amount of privilege that goes with tonight’s post:

  • The privilege of living where I live
  • The privilege of having an income that affords meĀ  the opportunity for recreation
  • The privilege of having a wife and family supportive of me taking time for myself

As I mentioned in passing, this past Sunday I took the kids skiing for their first time–and for my first time in a couple of decades. Everyone really enjoyed the experience, and with a ski slope less than a fifteen minute drive from our house, I suspect that we will be making a number of return trips.

And today was my first.

I stopped by a local used gear shop yesterday and found a pair of skis older than two of my three children–but my size, and in good shape. And as luck would have it, the shop also had a pair of boots in my size. All in all, I outfitted for the price of a new pair of climbing shoes.

Tuesday night, all three kids have been going to a local gymnastics gym. Usually, I would stay home and cook dinner, and my wife would do the shuttling back and forth. Today, though–with some snow flakes flying in the air–I suggested that I might want to leave the kids and dinner to her, and spend an evening on my own, on the slopes.

Which is what I did.

And it really felt good. It’s not as though I never take “me time,” but for whatever reason, today I felt the desire to spend the evening on my own, doing something challenging, but fun. And I absolutely appreciated the triple-privilege of what I was doing tonight.

But I also appreciated the cold, the relative solitude of a near empty slope at night, and the rush of wind.

Simple living? I’m not sure, given the cost and the infrastructure that goes into maintaining a ski resort. But one thing is for sure: like climbing, the act of skiing forces my attention into the now.

So maybe that’s what I was really looking for tonight….

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Day 342: Sweep

It’s been happening again–that slow but steady creep of entropy. It starts with the little things. A mail order catalog that’s left on a counter, instead of ending up in recycling. A stuffed animal that worked its way out of a bedroom and onto the couch. That sweatshirt that no one has worn for a couple of days, draped over the back of the couch.

No, I am not Type A when it comes to housekeeping. It isn’t the “lived in” look that gets to me–it’s the fact that after a period of time, I just stop seeing the mess. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Or more importantly: that doesn’t mean it isn’t having an impact on how I’m living in the space I call my home.

So today was a day for a clean sweep. I literally started in one corner and moved my way out, tossing papers, hanging coats, folding clothes, etc.

It didn’t take too long, really, but the effect was immediate. Suddenly, our living space seemed less haphazard.

Of course, it’s an ongoing process. By the time the kids were in bed, I could already find signs of undoing. But that’s OK too, I suppose. It was worth the effort, and worth the ongoing effort.

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Day 341: Pass

Only 24 days left, so perhaps this will be the last time I’ll have to pass on a daily entry.

I haven’t actually counted up how many entries I’ve posted that have basically said: “I’ve got nothing.” Not more than a week’s worth, I think–which isn’t bad, I know, but each time I’ve felt a bit guilty.

But here are the facts: I had a great day taking the kids out for their first day of skiing, and some time about an hour ago, I completely crashed out on the couch. Now I’ve woken up, just in time to head off to bed.

And going to bed seems like the right thing to do right now, rather than spend too much more time on a blog entry.

So that’s it for today!

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Day 340: Unplan

For all that I claim to be a spontaneous individual, I sure do spend a lot of time planning things in my head. Big things, little things. Work projects and family fun. And so on.

I spent about six hours in my car today–three hours down and three hours back for a sport competition. I think I must have been too groggy to be thinking of much on the drive down, but this evening, all I could seem to do is look ahead.

Not that there isn’t a time and a place for putting some forethought into schedules and projects. But really–what great plans did I need to lay out in my head this evening?
Not a one.

And what’s more: it wasn’t even planning really. More like projecting: tomorrow, this is what I will do; next week, I will be doing so and so; tonight I will write the following on my blog. And so on.

So somewhere halfway up the mountain, I suspended all planning for the rest of the day.

Granted, it was probably around 9:30pm, but better late than never, right?

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Day 339: Reverse

Ever since we dropped off our daughter at the local rollerskating rink for a Girls Scout event a couple of weeks ago, she has been begging to return. So tonight, we did.

It’s probably been two decades–at least–since I’ve put on roller skates. I think I went ice skating once, maybe two years ago, but I am pretty sure I was in my teens or twenties the last time I went on wheels.

And you know what? I had a lot of fun. I was somewhat surprised that my body seemed to recall what to do on skates, even after all these years. But I did notice something.

Throughout the night, the woman on the PA system kept calling out special periods on the rink: fast skaters only; couples only; backwards skaters only; and so on. Twice, she asked everyone to come to a full stop, and then reverse directions–instead of skating counter-clockwise, we reversed and skated clockwise.

No big deal, right?

Even more amazing than my body’s ability to remember how to skate: simply reversing directions threw me off entirely. I can’t say what it was, but suddenly, every move seemed tentative, unnatural–and on the brink of catastrophe.

By the second round of “reverse skating” I was feeling a little more confident, but the experience really got me to think about how subtle changes can yield big disruptions. But it also got me thinking about how being uncomfortable isn’t always such a bad thing. It did feel good to skate with ease, no doubt. But at the same time, skating through the awkwardness had its own kind of satisfaction.

Now let’s see what it’s like getting back on skis after twenty years!

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Day 338: Mix

Tonight brought another opportunity to mingle.

I know it sounds like such a trite and superficial thing-mixing and mingling, but tonight, that’s what I did. I had my first chance to socialize with colleagues from across the entire university in a setting that allowed us to talk about our children, our families, and our pasts. I got to share aspects of my daily life with people who have, up until this point, only known a single facet of who I am (and the same is true of what I knew about most of them). What’s more: over the past few months, I have been on opposite ends of the table, literally and figuratively, with some of these individuals, but tonight, we had an opportunity to move beyond our work roles and talk as one human being to another, not as “administrative units.”

I really enjoyed having this little window into the daily lives of my colleagues. No, I don’t think I made any tight and fast friendships tonight, but that wasn’t really the point. And perhaps it was only “small talk,” but it’s good to appreciate the little things too!

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Day 337: Apportion

Today’s post is another one of those “sufficient unto the day” entries.

I’ve had a full day, with meetings running back to back from 9am onwards. And tomorrow looks like it will be about the same. But my day’s worries are not quite over.

I’ve got a smidgen of reading to do before my 11am class, which leaves me with a choice:

Carve out a little bit of time tonight to do that reading, or get up extra early tomorrow morning and do my reading then.

I’m opting for reading tonight and sleeping in the morning. And that means I’m cutting short on tonight’s entry.

So, off I go!


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Day 336: Chew

I ate an apple today. At least I think I did.

I had to walk cross-campus for a late afternoon meeting. I remember biting into the apple just as I was passing the walkway that leads up to the library. It was a Pink Lady–tart and sweet and with a lot of crunch. I remember how good that first bite tasted.

And the next thing I knew: I was standing in front of the administrative building with an apple core in my hand.

Sometimes I think my missteps are more valuable to me than my little victories. I can think of a number of instances over the past 11 months in which I would catch myself doing the exact opposite of what I would consider deliberate living, and then try to correct my actions.

Today was one such instance.

I’ve always maintained that it would be an unrealistic goal to expect that somehow I would manage to spend every moment of every day in mindful observance. That said, I would like to think that with practice, I could slowly become just a little more aware of my daily life, as I’m living it.

Like eating an apple, for example.

And of course, at any moment I can practice that awareness.

Like right now.

I’ve poured myself a cup of tea. And apparently, I’ve already drank down half of that cup. So I stop, take a moment, and take a sip. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

In many ways, this whole year has been that sort of progress. I practice. I fall out of practice. I catch myself, and then I bring myself back into practice.

I guess what I’m really doing is practicing practice!


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