I just returned from a week-long vacation. If you're a freelancer or creative entrepreneur (which I assume you are, since you're here reading this) I'm sure you can relate to the power of a much-needed vacation. My work week never seems to have a beginning or an ending. It's a continuous stream of projects, family, life, business planning, business getting, business meetings, emails and the actual working too. I'm not complaining. I like it that way most of the time.
The vacation was a special 18th birthday trip for my daughter and we chose Arizona because by daughter is really into rocks. We stayed in Phoenix with friends, saw the red rocks of Sedona, marveled (like, tears down my cheeks marveling) at the Grand Canyon. We ate delicious tacos. We drank copious amounts of water (the desert IS dry!). We bought t-shirts, patches and stickers at every tourist spot. We sat in local coffee shops and sketched in our trip journals. It was awesome. I didn't think about business much. I'm pretty good at being "in the moment". I felt both peaceful and stimulated there.
Yesterday we flew through the sunshine, dove through the clouds above Cincinnati and landed back home to where it was rainy and cold. My head was literally clogged up due to my receding head cold and I couldn't unplug my ears. I was happy to see my husband and remaining two kids who picked us up at the airport.
I entered my house, and had the, "Oh yeah, THIS is my life" moment. I immediately saw the dirt and dust that is omnipresent in the corners of my house. I looked at the unplumped throw pillows. Saw the salad bowl I'd made last week was still in the refrigerator. Pet the dog who smelled and needed a bath and a brushing. I saw that the leg of the couch was flaying out at a dangerous angle again. The Easter decorations were still up. The kids had run back up to their rooms to converse with the universe from their phones. Sigh. Travel-weary, I dragged myself upstairs and put myself to bed even though I wasn't tired because of course I had just now adjusted to the 3 hour time difference.
I felt like I had crash landed back into my life.
In Phoenix, we stayed at the home of a childhood friend of mine. Her house is a modern ranch with an open floor plan. The couches are comfy and well loved. The front yard has a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree, both in glorious bloom which perfumed every step in and out of the house. The back yard has a small pool, fragrant lavender and rosemary plants, some tall palm trees with cross-hatched textured bark and palm-like bushes (I'm from the midwest; I don't know what those are called). I would sit on the cushioned patio furniture during the 70 degree mornings and just breathe. Sometimes I would sketch. It was my choice.
It's not just the house and the perfect spring Arizona weather that was relaxing. It's the way my friend and her husband live that was so relaxing. The father and son would get up at 6:30 AM to start the day slowly; making lunches, talking, having coffee (dad), eating cereal (son), reading. By stark contrast, in the mornings at my house, the kids get up 10- 15 minutes before they need to run out the door. Despite the fact that each child has an alarm clock built into his or her attached-to-the-body iPhone, only one actually uses it to wake up. The others yell and argue about sleeping, not sleeping, waking up, not waking up, showering, not showering, lunch, being ready, getting off the phone (kettles calling the pots black). I avoid the mornings at my house. I hide in my room and cringe, keeping my eyes shut and waiting for it to end.
At my friends house, there is order. Things get put away. There aren't too many things to begin with. They seem to have just what they need, and not much more. Dinner is delicious and simple. She hikes and exercises every morning. The kids jump on the trampoline at night. They do their homework at the island in their kitchen which opens to the family room. Music plays, not the television. There is a need, and it is filled; gently and efficiently. No muss. No fuss. No angst about appointments made and missed. No whining about going to sports lessons. No badgering each other about time and food and what the other person did or didn't do. There seems to be so little conflict. I feel like I have mental conflict in every moment of my own life.
I can hear my sweet friend protesting as she reads this, "It's not utopia here, you know! We struggle with the screen time management. We struggle with school issues. The kids don't always go to bed when we ask." I'm sure it's true, because they are all wonderfully human. But my goodness, they are SO FAR ahead of where I am. And so much closer to where I want to be. I'm not jealous. I'm not whining. I'm just seeing it now.
Looking with the Beginner's Mind.
Now that I have described her home, it will come as no surprise that my friend is a dedicated practitioner of mindfulness. Her business is called M2 Wellbeing, which is an awesome mobile mindfulness studio: an RV decked out with cool blue and comfy meditation seating. There are only 5 of such things in the whole United States. It's so super cool! Look at that hilarious brain meditating on the side of the RV (below).
She mentioned that during my visit that she enjoyed seeing things through my eyes. She has lived and hiked there so long, she wasn't marveling at the textures and shapes created by the distant mountain landscape, the structure of the vegetation stems and blooms like I was, or the magic of having delicious fruit growing from a tree in her yard. She said it was what the Buddhist's call, the "Beginner's Mind", or shoshin. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.
My crash landing back into my chaotic home is similar to viewing the desert with my beginner's mind, but from a more abruptly negative perspective (which is actually okay too). After the vacation and time experiencing another way of living, I could see so clearly my own life and what choices I make to create the chaos in it. So much of my life is good and I can see that much of it is still not where I want it to be. I WANT to make some changes because I want to be more productive, peaceful and engaged.
Intention and Action
With all the busy-ness of life, it is so difficult for me to decide what to do next and how to finish it to completion. Hell, I can't even make a phone call without finding my self ten minutes later scrolling through my feed on Instagram, the call never made. There is something interesting I noticed while writing this post that I think is one big factor in my chaotic life. It's this sentence:
"I hide in my room and cringe, keeping my eyes shut and waiting for it to end."
Here is an example of the mental dialog that was going on in my head while my eyes were closed tight this morning:
"I should get up with the kids like Susi does. But I want to sleep. I've been traveling. I will have to work for at least 10 hours today so I deserve this rest. Did Oliver get up? I wish I would have taken his phone away last night when I thought about it. I should be more consistent. Did anyone let the dog out of his cage? Is the back door open for him to escape? I should get up and do some work before I have to go to Costco. What should I work on? I've got two big projects coming up, how am I ever going to work on them? I didn't hear anyone brush their teeth. Why is it so difficult to brush teeth in this family? Oh good. The front door closed and everyone is gone. Oh no! Now it's starting to pour. Poor Natalie is walking to the bus stop and getting soaked. I'm sure she didn't bring a coat. I should have gotten up like Susi does and then I could have helped her out. She wouldn't be soaking wet all day at school. I'm such a bad parent. Why do I not get up earlier and take care of these things? I'm tired! I'm not ready for my day! I don't know what I should do first!"
Does that sound familiar to something that goes on in your brain too? That was a lot of energy spent feeling like a crap person, and berating myself for not doing what I really wanted to do: to get up and get things done without fuss. That is not the best way to start out my day, I can assure you. It's not leading to an intention or an orderly arrangement of tasks. It doesn't create a sense of peace.
Are you waiting for things to change?
I am. I'm just passively hoping that the world around me will change in my favor. I'm so often avoiding what I need to do because I've convinced myself that dealing with it succinctly and efficiently is bad, or uncomfortable, or just something I don't want to do because it's just plain yucky or hard. And then everything gets tangled, complicated, argued against and worse, it doesn't get done. It just rolls around in my brain like a burr, getting caught up on every good thought or every forward movement.
So Today I Practice
Today, I'm going to make this small adjustment to that old, useless, energy consuming dialog: I WANT to do it. I want to get the mundane or tricky parts of life sorted fast because it leaves me time to think and to breathe and to enjoy.
What Would Susi Do?
There is a popular Christian phrase, "What would Jesus do?" and I've adjusted it through the years to remind myself to emulate people who I think are really awesome, or brave or wonderful in a way that I'm not at the moment. If I'm feeling like I'm not good enough to take part in a big project, I think, "What would Mike do?" Or, if I'm feeling scared and need some brute bravery to push on, I think "What would Claire* do?" Or if I'm fading away from finishing a project, I think "What would Vanessa do?" After this past week, I'm now I'm adding, "What would Susi do?" when I need order and peaceful practices in my life.
If you're a person who loves routine, please send me your good energy! If you're a person who struggles to find order in your life too, join me. We can practice this together!
P.S. I am talking about Claire Fraser from the book, Outlander. It doesn't matter to me if the person is not real. I'm calling on their very real awesome qualities.