Habits of Doing, Brooding, Striving – Being

Lately, I’ve been enjoying Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Most recently, I read a chapter about habits of doing and/or brooding vs habits of being.

“The habit of being—the exultation in the present moment—is an exquisite concept, one that could enrich our lives beyond measure. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

The challenge I face is not between doing and being. I’m simply not a “woman who does too much.” I don’t have trouble saying no to people, I don’t willingly take on more than I can handle. I don’t fill up my days with activities, running from here to there because I can’t stand to sit still and be alone with myself. I am quite comfortable with not scheduling too much.

In fact, I am easily overwhelmed by having my plate too full.

(I’ve noted before, my inertia is basically at rest.)

But I do have a problem with trying squeeze activities into my “down” time.

It’s my desire to be accomplishing goals that require work without an outward appearance of “activity” that stresses me out so much when actual activities show up on my schedule!

For me, the dichotomy is between being and striving.

Striving is bad for my health both mentally and physically.

See, she mentions two habits that get in the way of a habit of being.

  1. Habits of Mindlessly Doing: Running from activity to activity throughout the day while missing the moments that comprise those activities.
  2. And Habits of Brooding: This involves thought processes of projecting into the future or dwelling on the past, instead of experiencing the present moment.

This is where my striving problem lies. I’m always striving towards some “future” self, some progress I’d like to attain for myself, rather than letting that progress take shape organically out of the successive actions taken in the present moment.

I could benefit from a practice of being in the moment while I’m “doing,” and indeed, the more I’m in the moment instead of constantly worrying about what I wish I were accomplishing, the happier I am.

It occurs to me now, that what I’m really talking about, beyond mental processes, is a compulsion to multitask!

For example the more I allow myself to enjoy the leaves and the beauty around me while on a family drive or a family hike during the changing seasons, the happier I am.

Usually, I’m trying to pack something “productive” into that drive by catching up on reading or knitting, because it’s a rare moment when my husband has the wheel and I’m not hauling the kids to and fro trying to pick up groceries or some such. And, by the very nature of being strapped into their car seats, they are not tripping me everywhere I turn and tugging on my clothes saying “Hey mommy? Hey mommy? Hey mommy!!!”

You know what I’m talking about, right? 

The problem is I am often still required to attend to them during that car ride anyway, and those interruptions ratchet up my tension levels each time. Not to mention, we live among mountains, and I nearly always end up a bit car sick as a result.

Not good for anybody.

This striving I struggle with would be classified as a habit of brooding, focusing on the past or the future, thus, as Breathnach notes, robbing the present moment of its harmony, beauty, and joy.

So I’ve made it a priority to stop striving, to stop trying to attain something beyond what I’m presently doing. That striving sneaks itself into my family time, since each passing moment seems to me like the only time I have in the world!

I’ve made it a priority to stop striving during this short time that my kids are so small and so needy.

Now as for doing, for me personally, that’s another story.

I struggle with having strong aversions to doing certain things and that affects my productivity and quality of life.

Translation: I don’t do a lot of things I need to or would like to be doing.

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Cleaning
  • I mentioned Cleaning, right?
  • Decluttering
  • Writing
  • Getting out the sewing machine like I’ve been meaning to for several years
  • Socializing with real people
  • Trying new things …

For me, practicing mindfulness, being in the moment, during activities that I loath or fear, really helps me to detach from those negative feelings and perhaps even find a place within myself to enjoy what I’m doing.

….what if, as curators of our own contentment, we deliberately cultivated the habit of being: a heightened awareness of Real Life’s abundance? The habit of being is a grateful appreciation for the good surrounding us, no matter what our circumstances might be today.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

What do you think? Are you a mindless doer, a brooder, a striver? Do you miss the beauty and joy of the moments of your life because you can’t just be?

Reframing Life: A Meditation On The Home

My two-year-old sincerely loves all things musical – Recently we’ve discovered that this includes The Lawrence Welk Show.

My husband took this photo yesterday as we were working on getting dinner on the table. He had been about to shut off the TV after playing the toddler Pandora station for awhile and it landed on The Lawrence Welk Show on PBS.

Sebastian saw the horn, looked up and him and said, “I love it, daddy! I love this show!”

We sat back amused and allowed our kid be exposed to the music of another era, while daddy made dinner and mommy worked on her blog.

Sebastian Watches Lawrence Welk

I love this picture because my husband took it and there is not one thing I would change about the composition – which, I must admit, is rare.

For once I can’t say, “Next time try not to get the counter top full of clutter right behind his head.” Or, “It’s better if the light is behind you.” Or, “See how the light fixture looks like it’s sprouting out of his head.” (I got this photo pickiness from my mother, in case you were wondering why I should be such a nag.)

The timing was perfect, too. How awesome is that Geritol ad at the top of the screen?!!!

Here is a rare snap-shot of a day in our lives in which I feel that we really do live that unattainable, magazine-perfect life. Outside of the shot, the rest of the house is steeped in the clutter of the weekend, and of my recent trip to Target to get toilet paper, diapers, and La Croix sparkling water.

But in this photo, I’m not bothered by the out of place kids toys, the old Turkish rug that doesn’t match anything, the crumby blanket that covers our crappy couch, the new curtains that still have creases in them from the package, and that I hate but we can’t return. Etc, etc, etc.

In this photo I see our house as an outsider might see it. A comfortable place to be at home with family. Watching Larence Welk to boot!

This photo has been a reminder for me to be truly grateful for life and the home that we share together as a family.

I love it because it’s aesthetically pleasing to me: I love, love, love the composition. It stands on it’s own as a photograph. (Old-school photography, before digital cameras, was the first art form I fell in love with.)

I love it because it was such an amusing moment in our lives. A moment that made my husband and me smile together and appreciate the wonder that is our son. That despite us being sleep deprived, him being on-call all weekend and trying to get dinner on the table, and me feeling uncomfortable and swollen with pregnancy, allowed us to step into another frame of mind and enjoy our family time.

I’m planning to use this whenever I need a lift and a smile this week.

My new meditation on the home:

As I look around my house this week I’m looking through the eyes of the photograph. Our house – even with the bits of clutter that I’m always battling on the counter tops, with all toys and books and things that the two-year-old tornado is always depositing all over the floors in all of the walkways, with all the clutter that gets shuffled from place to place because it doesn’t yet have a home – even with all this stuff, our house is still a comfortable, happy home when you step back and look at it from the right point of view.

This week I will look at our home from the frame of mind of love, comfort,  togetherness, and amusement,  not with that critical eye that infects my everyday battle with domestic chores.

Choose Your Mood

Yesterday I took my lemons and I made some lemonade.

I did a little thought experiment that allowed me to have a better day than I would have otherwise, having gotten up on as wrong a side of the bed as possible.

I’ve written about my troubles getting enough sleep before. The first struggle is getting to sleep on time. The second struggle is staying asleep. Insomnia runs in my family. My mother, my aunt, and I all deal with it.

Now that I’m five months pregnant, I’ve got the old pregnancy insomnia.

Some people do fine on very little sleep. I do not. It makes me feel emotional and depressed.

The other night I got to bed relatively late again. Then my son woke me up crying at 3:30 and I could not for the life of me get back to sleep. Just when I felt I was finally dozing off again, and indeed dreaming, my husband’s alarm went off.

Now I felt like crying.

When I told him I’d been awake for hours he kindly got out of bed without pressing snooze (he’s an incorrigible snoozer) but it was too late. I wasn’t going to get that last half hour of sleep either.

This was my day to get things done while my son was at school! He goes to preschool two days a week and I had already spent most of Tuesday resting because I was just feeling completely wiped out that day – a sort of five-months-pregnant-sick-day.

I couldn’t bear to waste another day that I could be catching up on blogging and housework and dreaming big dreams for my self.

I felt the familiar tug. The depressed feeling. The negative spiral of thoughts. I felt like I might just cry all day long. Like I’d never make it through the day doing anything of value.

And then I stopped myself. I took a deep breath and I decided to be positive.

I thought, What about those times in your life when something really exciting is happening (like you have house guests you haven’t seen in years or you are going on a trip) and you pop out of bed despite being tired?

Couldn’t I just pretend it was one of those days?

What if I just got up today and enjoyed being alive?

What if I was excited to watch my son wake up and say his first adorable words of the day?

What if I was excited about catching my gym class after dropping him off at school?

It didn’t go of completely without a hitch. Right before I got out of bed my husband was tiptoeing out of the room to go on his morning run and I rolled over and complained to him,

“Sebby woke me up at 3:30 and I just couldn’t get back to sleep after that.”

“Aw. Sorry babe. Maybe you can take a nap today.”

(Here is where I lost it for a second – let’s blame the pregnancy hormones shall we?)

“Sure, because that’s how I love to spend my whole day!” I said as the tears welled in my eyes and my face began to crumple up in the cry-face.

I threw the sheet over my head.

“I know. I know it’s hard when you’re tired, but you will feel better if you exercise.” (I had already mentioned when the alarm went off that I didn’t know if I could go to the gym like I always do on Friday.)

I nodded, we said our “I love yous,” and he left for his run.

And I continued with my plan. I got straight out of bed, put on my gym clothes and got Sebby dressed, fed, and to school, and was five minutes early to my gym class.

And the class was awesome! Some days I feel pretty tired when I’m in class, given my condition, but yesterday I dug in and it just felt GOOD. Afterward I ran into a friend and I was able to help her out with her audition video to be a spin instructor at the gym – that never would have happened if I’d stayed home.

The rest of the day was pretty good. I felt much better than I had on Tuesday. I stayed positive. I did some organizing that needed to be done and set some goals.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t super-productive. My head was a little foggy and blank all day.

But I just went with the flow of the day I was given by circumstance. I accomplished what I could, I let go of the rest till another day, and I stayed in a pretty good mood all day.

I chose my mood. 

Have any of you ever had an experience like this? Do you think some people just do this naturally, without giving it a second thought?