For those who don't know me well I LOVE CHRISTMAS, but as I cruised into Christmas 2023 I found I was behind on all the things I set for myself to do:
Sending Christmas cards,Our 'Wrapping Up' retreat,
Putting up Christmas decorations,
Buying Christmas presents,
Creating a family calendar,
A neighbourhood gathering in Mayfield and Fosterton,
Cooking for people,
Going to a Carols event,
Get to a church service Christmas Eve,
Doing a Fosterton Retreat end-of-year newsletter.
Image from Pixabay and was published prior to July 2017 under the
.Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license
Yes, my end of year expectations can seem extensive, but I give a pep talk by reminding myself they are less than in the past- truly! But I was way behind and running to catch up.
So, what did I do?
I moved past berating myself (why do we think that might help?), gave myself permission to not "do everything I always do" and went back to the core, asking:
What really matters to me?
What is important now?
Which things do I want to do and still be content?
The result? Some people missed out on Christmas cards, only 1 gathering was organised, the family calendar was created (although I missed the deadline for the special rate by 20 minutes-oh no!), there was no Christmas tree in our home- I know! Those who know me will realise how big that was. And society as we know it did not collapse.
However, I could, (and did) play my Christmas CDs, in the car and the house. People I care the most about; close family, grandkids, aged parents, in-laws, all got presents. And while I wasn't at the nearby Carols in the Park for the whole evening I made it for enough.
I have been known to miss out on sleep, night after night, rather than take things off my 'to do list'. But I have changed, and it's not just age. Why & how?
News flash! It had become apparent some years ago- that the world did not need me to keep it running, When spreading myself too thin, I am unable to give deep attention to the things that matter most, like relationships, artmaking, and Fosterton Retreat. Family relationships deserve nurturing with energy rather than what was left over from all my 'doing'.
Over the last year or so focusing on my PhD research and creating artworks for it, showed me what strength was needed to narrow things down, even for a time, in order to go deeper.
One thing I found helpful in re-shaping myself has been Greg McKeown and his work on "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less", encouraging us to do less, rather than more. When I first heard an interview with him I wondered if it was just encouragement to be selfish from another white, middle-class male, who had an education, a large income and an easy life.
While he is some of those things (white, male and educated), he also spoke honestly about the challenge of one of his 4 children being diagnosed with a neurological disorder during the covid pandemic, when they were so restricted in lockdown in the UK. I paid more attention.
In another interview he spoke about being influenced by the Viennese psycho-therapist that Max and I have been greatly influenced by: Viktor Frankl*. I paid even more attention.
Going further I found a great online visual summary of his book "Essentialism: The Disciplines Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown by Verbal to Visual
As a person who has a tendency to do more rather than less I was impressed by his concepts and way of presenting; so I signed up for his weekly emails. Did I read them religiously every week? No. But a number of his small offerings gave me ideas that kept me going, especially through the final stages of writing my thesis and book.
Some of the simple ideas which grabbed me were:
· We can't say yes to everything- I've tried and he's right. And saying yes to something means saying no to something else, so give it good consideration before saying yes.
· Deliberately create time and space to withdraw to go deeper.
· Play is important- it is also an antidote to stress but allows us to make better decisions.
· Only plan to do today what you can repeat tomorrow- there's a good story about 2 ships heading to the Antartica. One went flat out when the weather allowed, resting when weather was poor. The other ship set an amount to travel each day- whatever the weather, which could be maintained. This ship arrived in good time, with the crew in good condition. They visited, explored and returned quite healthily. The other- the crew was not so good. They struggled with the exploring and were in poor condition on their return.
As I write this for you, readers of our Fosterton Retreat news I realise how important it is for me to re-visit this for ME. These things I have learnt, practiced and over Christmas/New Year somehow lost sight of- again.
When Max began building the Wild Labyrinth, he set himself the goal of 3 rocks/day. He didn't tell me he had started and by the time he had built the core part of it, it was a great surprise, looking good and hadn't been onerous. So here's to 2024, focusing on what is important now and carrying just 3 rocks a day!
Happy New Year Bronwyn
*Frankl a survivor of the holocaust had written his theory about our need for a meaning outside of our own self interests and while in prison camps saw it in practice. After the war he wrote Man's Search for Meaning. You can watch an animated summary of Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning by Read And Grow
Spoiler alert: We think his work is so good Frankl will be the focus of another blog sometime.