Several weeks ago, I discovered my days go a lot better if I start them with writing instead of with email. My general thought process has been “let’s just bang through these emails real quick before getting down to write.” Two hours later, the emails have sent me off into a flurry of activity to find, investigate, file and respond, and I am too tired and scattered to start the hard work of creating anything.
Thing is, getting through those emails doesn’t give me the same gratifying sense of accomplishment as writing, or creating anything, does. I love the intense focus I feel when putting pen to paper (or pixels to screen). I love that, when I’m done, I feel a sense of completion — closure, if you will.
So many of the things I do these days don’t have that feeling. They don’t promote focus, and they are never truly finished. There will be thirty seven more emails tomorrow, no matter how empty I get the inbox today. There will be more dishes in the sink five minutes after I get the kitchen clean. It leads to frustration and a lack of sense of accomplishment.
So now, I start with writing on the weekdays. I blog here, write for the magazine or do a freelance piece. I’ve also cut down on my freelance work, as much as it pains me, because between work, freelance, volunteering and parenting, I was beginning to feel like I was trying to cram three full-time jobs into the space of one, and I was scattered — doing a little of this and a little of that all day long, rarely finishing anything to satisfaction.
I hate the feeling of doing so much stuff I’m not doing any of it particularly well. The principal who went out on a limb and hired me for my teaching job back in the early 2000’s once said of our curriculum it was “a mile wide and an inch deep.” It rang really true with me, because I felt like I was being asked to cram more and more stuff into the children’s heads, without really getting into the meat of anything.
That metaphor can be expanded to everything we do. So much stuff is trying to grab our attention, it’s easy to run around all day long and never give your full attention to anything. Meditation helps with this problem, but it is truly a practice. You might not feel any differently the first time you do it, but if you keep it up, you start to notice better focus and more calm “off the mat” as well.
There are a few free meditation apps that really help me. I have several, because I refuse to buy a subscription, so I just use the few free ones in each app. Even just three or four minutes per day seem to help. I don’t meditate on the weekends, though. Weekends are for kids’ sports, birthday parties, cub scouts and sleeping.
So, I’ve cut down and prioritized, and I’m feeling calmer and more satisfied with my life now. Oh yeah, and I also went up on my meds, so I can’t take all the credit for the new, chill me. I never know which comes first; do my habits start to slip, so I get depressed or do I get depressed and so my habits start to slip? Either way, they feed each other. It would be disingenuous of me to pretend it was all lifestyle change when I’ve had a fair amount of help from chemistry.
I can’t seem to end this post; I just keep rambling and no clever one-liner is bubbling to the surface, so I’ll just stop. The point is, if you feel crazy/depressed/dissatisfied, maybe try simplifying your life, and if you try that and it doesn’t help or if that seems like an insurmountable task, maybe visit your doctor.