A New Home.

For the last few months, I’ve been so busy that I lost control of most things. I managed to keep up my running a bit, but I haven’t been on my bike since early September.  I haven’t worked out weekends the way I normally would. I’ve worked them instead. I had my head so buried in work that I cancelled trips that mattered to me and fell behind on bills. I just flat out dropped the ball on paying stuff and had to – more than once – get caught up and pay penalties.

Yesterday, I met a big deadline and was suddenly, almost magically, able to look around again. I got caught up. I made my lists of things that needed doing – lists that had nothing to do with work – and started tackling them. First, I made sure all my bills were paid. As of yesterday, I am officially no longer delinquent on anything. Then I turned to the matter of my house.

I’ve lived in my house just over three years. When I moved in, there were some things that needed to be done. I needed to replace the kitchen floor because the tile was cracked in various places. I needed to  replace the kitchen counters because they had buckled a bit and the prior owner had screwed parts back down. I wanted to add a bathroom in the master. When I first moved in, I was hesitant to spend the money because I had just switched jobs and felt some uncertainty. Then I put off the work, mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d stay here very long. I thought I wouldn’t. But now, it’s clear to me that I’m here for a good while, so the work has begun.

Already I’ve had new counters installed in the kitchen. (Thank you, Dad.) I ordered tile and am waiting for an appointment to get the floor work done. I have an appointment on Thursday with someone about the bathroom. And I’ve ordered windows to replace some of the old, cracked windows that need to be updated. I’m not sure of the time frame exactly, but I suspect that by the end of the year, it’ll feel like a new home. That will feel good to me.

The other big thing I did was look at my commitments – the things outside of work that take up my time. I stepped down from…everything. I am no longer on any board or committee. I’ve been stretched for a long time and, as much as I loved all that I was doing, it was too much. Little of it was getting done well. It was a bittersweet thing for me, but I needed to let go. I needed to reclaim my time so I can be more intentional about where I put my focus.

So I’m down to work, writing, training and people. Not necessarily in that order. Or maybe exactly in that order. I haven’t figure out that part yet. It’s only been a couple of days. I’m moving into what feels like a new life and making myself at home every way I know how.

A Poem.

This past weekend, I had intended to travel to Maryland to see Mary Oliver and Billy Collins, but work and forecasts of Sandy altered those plans. I ended up having a quiet weekend at home. On Saturday, I didn’t leave the house except to go to the grocery store, and on Sunday, I worked and spent a couple of quality hours in the company of friends. I’m sad to have missed two of my favorite poets in what felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I’m thankful for my safety and the opportunity to just be this weekend.

After this much needed weekend of rest, I’m feeling like a poem. Maybe I should offer one by Mary Oliver or Billy Collins, but as luck would have it, I came across a new poem – new to me anyhow – on Facebook this morning.  A friend posted this one by Veronica Shoffstall, and I thought I’d borrow it. I looked it up online to see where the breaks are and how really this was intended to be formatted, but every version I found was different, so I don’t know.  So forgive me, Ms. Shoffstall, if I’ve lost the structure. But thank you for the words. I know at least one dear friend who might benefit from them today.

After A While
After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning, and company doesn’t always mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses are not contracts, and presents aren’t promises.
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today.
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden, and decorate your own soul
 Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure, you really are strong, you really do have worth.
And you learn, and you learn
With every goodbye, you learn.

A Good Idea.

This spring and summer, I spent a great deal of time reading. During the last few months, I’ve had little time to read, so I stalled on even starting Book 6 of Harry Potter, and my pile of new books has continued to grow because I buy books even when I don’t have time to read them. It’s a nonsensical habit, I know. But I buy books. They are my weakness.

This weekend, I flew to Portland. Time on a plane is a great time to read, so I did.  I finished Chrissie Wellington’s memoir on the flight out and started a collection called The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers, on the flight back. The Eggers collection is the 2011 edition and includes all kinds of writing on subjects relevant to 2011. Some of the works included are Best American WikiLeaks Revelations, Best American Lawsuits, and Best American Wifi Network Names, most of which are amusing. It also includes a number of more thoughtful essays and stories that appeared in 2011. I only got about half way through the book, but it’s engaged me.

The piece that prompted me to write is one called “Solitude and Leadership” by William Deresiewicz.  It’s a speech, the text of which can be located here. I can’t figure out its relationship to 2011, but I’m glad it was included in this collection. The author talks about the importance of solitude – of “slowing down and concentrating.” Here is an excerpt:

Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.

Window wisdom.

I’ve been rushing from one thing to the next, trying to workout, trying to keep up at work, and trying to rest. Functioning on four hours of sleep this morning, I’m not terribly clear headed and could go on and on about things being hectic blah blah blah. But that’s not what gave me pause today.

I was reminded this morning that sometimes we take – I take – everything much too seriously.

I carry a particular badge of honor daily.  It’s a sticker on the rear window of my car that says 140.6, which is the number of miles traveled during an Ironman. That sticker has lived on my car since June of 2008 when I did my first Ironman, and it’s how friends and family identify my bright blue FJ Cruiser from all the other FJs out on the road.  Before that sticker, people would often call me with random questions. “Were you driving down Mopac at 9 this morning?”  “Were you at HEB at 9 last night?”  “Are you stopped on 290?  I see a car like yours two cars ahead of me.” I put the sticker on my car, not to make it more easily identifiable but because I wanted that sticker for months before I earned it.  I wanted that sticker desperately.

Driving through town, I see lots of stickers that identify various distances that people have accomplished – 26.2, 13.1, 140.6, 70.3. These are our badges of honor. We taken them very seriously, until of course we are faced with something that disarms us in the most charming way:

Message received.