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?

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?



How Exercise Pulled Me Out of Another Season of Depression

It happened again.

I had another several weeks of depression. It always seems to come around a time when I had hoped to start blogging again. So I don’t, because it’s just going to be day after day of the same thing.

  • I’m extremely overwhelmed by everyday tasks.
  • I find basic housework dreadful and energy sapping. It is a gigantic weight on my shoulders.
  • It seems like clutter is piling and piling and it is severely oppressing me. (Though in reality it’s being managed – it isn’t growing.)
  • I cry every day.
  • My brain is in a continual fog and I cannot write.
  • I can’t imagine ever accomplishing anything creative and “meaningful” with my life.
  • I’m short tempered with my husband, my mother, and my toddler.
  • I cry more because I feel like a terrible mother. (And daughter; and wife…. And sister; and friend.)

But I’ve continued to exercise a few days a week despite this and I’ve learned that that is the most essential piece to my mental health.

At my lowest these past several weeks, exercise didn’t make me feel any better and just sapped my energy. But I did it anyway.

Most of the time though, it makes my entire day better.

  • I’ve started to feel those endorphins that my husband is always talking about.
  • I think it helps with the insomnia and with quieting my intrusive negative thoughts.
  • It makes me feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed about the chores and the clutter.
  • I am able to adopt that healing attitude that life is not a race.
  • I accept that my life is not currently designed around deadlines and social engagements.
  • It doesn’t matter if I finally get the Christmas decorations that are sitting in a pile in my office put away downstairs this week or next week – or here is a crazy though – ever.

It doesn’t matter.

Exercise makes me more confident. I feel more secure about the state of my home – take me as I am world! I feel more at home in my own body. I feel better about my creative ideas. I feel like there will be time to make my ideas come to life. My thoughts aren’t such a jumble that I feel hopeless that I will ever accomplish anything creative or fulfilling again.

Because of exercise I believe I can weather this storm and arrive again in another season of creating, growing, and improving my life.


Oh, in case you are wondering, the reason I am even able to fit exercise into my life at all with winter weather and a toddler, is the new Gold’s Gym in town. Like the Stroller Fitness class I was invited to when Sebastian was 10 weeks old, and where I met my best friend in town, it has saved me.

I love the classes! I love the protein shakes! I love the childcare room!

I love meeting my good friend there and working hard together while our children play together. I love running into just about everyone I know there. I was never a big “gym” person until I tried this one. No joke, I thank the universe for bringing a Gold’s Gym to my small town.