All the time in the world

 

I’ve just been reading (actually, listening to, but it’s the same thing) a brilliant book by Shauna Niequist called Present Over Perfect. (Incidentally, did you know that you can borrow audiobooks from the library here in Australia using the Libby app? It’s brilliant.)

In this book Shauna talks about her journey from frantic to simple. From busy to quiet. This is totally my groove, in fact, she starts her book in the same way I started My Year of Saying NO, by explaining how she wanted to tell us just how busy she was so that we wouldn’t think she was just weak, and how she decided not to because everyone’s busy is different but it’s still busy.

As I’ve been listening, I’ve been realising that I will always need to be reminded to slow down, to say ‘no’, to listen to my body, to rest. My addiction to busy-ness is real and it’s something I need to keep tabs on.

But there was one line, when Shauna was talking about prayer, that really jumped out at me. Here it is:

God has all the time in the world.

teapot and cup

Sometimes I can think of God as a very busy man up in heaven, keeping tabs on everything. I marvel at his ability to listen to so many prayers at once, and I limit my prayers so as not to take up too much of his time.

This is not a well thought-out position, it’s more a gut feeling. When I think it through I know that it’s not the case.

God made time. He exists outside of time. If he wants more time, he can just make some more.

I remember watching a program with Brian Cox where he was explaining space-time. He had a nice animation of a sausage-shaped thing all made with lasers and he told us that it was a representation of time, and for some reason he poked sticks through it at angles. I can’t remember why now. But that image of time stuck with me. If you put us in the sausage, walking along our timelines linearly, God is outside, like Brian Cox, able to interact with any moment in time.

This means that we can talk with God whenever we like, and however often we want to, and for as long as we desire. We are not ‘talking up his time’ we are not ‘getting in the way’. When God wants to spend time with us he doesn’t have to clear his desk or cancel appointments. He’s there for us, whenever we need him.

That’s why the Bible can say things like, ‘pray continually’ or ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. It’s not that God has a bunch of secretary angels filtering out the prayers so that only the important ones get to him. He has time to listen to every one of us.

He has all the time in the world, and more besides.

Then my brain flips the other way and says, ‘Well, if he has so much time, then his time is not precious, his spending time with me is not a sacrifice for him, and I’m not special’. (My brain is amazing at coming up with stupid ideas, let me tell you.)

The thing is, God did have to sacrifice so that I could have this precious gift of time with him. He didn’t have to sacrifice appointments with others, he didn’t sacrifice money-making time, or task-performing time.

What did God sacrifice?

Everything.

His life.

The whole lot.

Cross

That’s what we celebrate this Easter and every Easter. The sacrifice that God made so that we could be friends with him. More than friends, children.

His children.

His brothers and sisters.

So that’s my message today. It may be a reminder. For you it may be news for the first time.

God has all the time in the world, and he has given everything so that he can spend that time with you.

May you have a special Holy Week, and may it include lots of time spent with God.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

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Defending from chaos and whim

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Last week I quoted Annie Dillard from her book The Writing Life, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.’ She goes on to say,

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.

I love schedules.

A friend said to me last week that her daughter really needed a schedule, that she needed to know what’s going on, that she doesn’t cope well with changes of plans. I’m so like that. Even if the change to my plans is a pleasant change, if we’re now going out to dinner, or have people coming over (and I’ve been really bored), I still struggle to come to terms with the change.

Moz is much more spontaneous, so we worked out what to do with that. We decided that Saturdays would be our spontaneous day. We have a plan for spontaneity. Planned adventures. We don’t always go on an adventure, but because I’ve planned beforehand that we will, if something spontaneous happens, I’m ready.

Some schedules are printed out firmly on pieces of paper, or highlighted in a calendar app. For other people, they just know that first they will do this, and then at around midmorning they will change to doing that. It’s sitting in the back of their minds, almost subconscious, but still giving their lives order.

My life is changing right now, I have more work on and I need to fit more things into my week. It’s not an unwanted change, it’s more that life’s gone back to the way I thought it would be in June of last year.

The last few weeks have been nice and slow, I’ve been working on my own projects, my writing, my blog and podcast, and figuring out marketing. I have had a couple of regular deadlines—blog on Monday, podcast on Wednesday—but also a lot of flexibility.

But that’s going to have to change.

I’m not sure quite what the schedule is going to look like yet, but if I don’t have one, there are a couple of options for what’s going to happen, and neither of them are nice.

I might just panic. Say yes to every job and then work stupid hours to make sure the jobs are done by the deadlines. I have done a little of that in the last week and editing from 7.30 am until 9.30 pm is not how I want to spend my days.

I also don’t want to live in an emotional panic-state at all times. I want to be calm. To be able to make sensible decisions, not fear-ridden disasters.

The other option is that I will never get to my own creative work. It is much easier to do others’ jobs first and put mine on the back-burner.

As I said, I only have a couple of deadlines, they are self-imposed, and the worst that will happen if I don’t meet them is that I will be disappointed and slightly embarrassed. However, if my editing job for the big company is not complete by their deadline, then I might lose my position there and that would not be so good.

So that makes me shove my stuff to the end of the list. Do all the work for others first, and do mine if I get around to it. Which may be never. Because there is always resistance to doing creative work—if it’s not someone else getting in the way, then it’s me telling myself I’m too tired, or I don’t have great ideas today, or it would be better to nap, or eat chocolate while watching Netflix (in the name of research, of course).

So I’m hoping that over the next couple of weeks I will find myself a schedule that works. A schedule where I know how much time I am committing to the new work I have, and how much I am committing to my own creative work. That I will use that schedule to help myself sit down and do the appropriate work at the appropriate time, calmly, knowing that the hours I have put aside are enough for what is required. And hopefully, a schedule that has time set aside to be spontaneous too, to work, and rest, and play, and all in the right amounts.

It will always need tweaking, I’m not even pretending I’m going to get it right, but I think I need something anyway, something to order my days, a ‘peace and a haven’ set into my time.

How about you? Do you like schedules? Are you more of a spontaneous person? How do you keep track of your time?

This is a bit of a process blog, a blog that is helping me to figure out how I am feeling right now. I hope it helped you to process too.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

How do you spend your days?

sunset

 

This week I will head to the third funeral in as many weeks. This week’s will be harder, I think, than the other two, because the other two friends were at least ten times older than little Ned who passed away on Friday from leukaemia.

But regardless, it’s hard to say goodbye.

I have a few thoughts.

The first is that I am grateful for my faith. For my God who became human, died, rose again, and triumphed over death. I believe that death is not the end for any of us, and I look forward to seeing my friends again in heaven. In fact, I am already rejoicing, with tears in my eyes, at the thought of little Ned meeting up with our friend Frank and once again enjoying shoulder rides and playing trains.

The second is that I am grateful for the arts. For the TV show I just watched about someone dying from cancer that gave me the outlet of tears. For the book I am reading on pain and suffering that helps my mind to cope with this awful situation. For music, that unlocks the tightness of my chest and gives my pain wings. For the poetry that gives me the words when I have none of my own.

Thirdly, I feel that it is a good thing to remember that each of us will die. We don’t know when or how, but we can think now about how we want our lives to be remembered. The Good Book says, ‘Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.’

It is easy for the days to slip past without us noticing. In fact, when my kids were little it was only the fact of them growing up that made me realise just how quickly time was passing. If we remember that one day this will all end, it helps us to spend our days more wisely, reaching out for meaning and purpose.

Annie Dillard says, ‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.’

We don’t know how many days we will have. We don’t know if we will live six years, or sixty, or more. But let’s strive to live each day the best we can.

Consider the Ant

Surprising-Science-multicolor-ants-2
Multicoloured Ants from the Smithsonian Magazine

The Good Book says, ‘Consider the ant,’ and I have been doing a lot of that lately. Our house seems to be overrun with them. We have flying ants coming in through our windows and crawling ants coming in through every little crack in the walls.

No, I’m exaggerating. But we do have two major ant incursions.

One in the downstairs bathroom, and one upstairs in the kitchen.

We’ve been using Ant Rid to deal with them. The first thing that happens with Ant Rid is that the ants get all excited and they ALL come to eat the bounty that you have provided for them. Then, so the advertising tells me, they take the poison back to their nest and it kills off the queen and you’re rid of your ant problem.

The downstairs ants have stopped coming, which is nice. But the upstairs ants, they are pretty persistent. There must be a lot of them in that nest.

We keep feeding them, more and more of the delicious Ant Rid. They keep crowding around, making nice neat circles around the drops of golden goodness. We’ve even been making patterns with them — long strips of ant rid, or crop circles. It’s fun. As I say, I’ve been considering them a lot.

When I think of those verses, Proverbs 6:6 and Proverbs 30:25, I tend to think about the busy bustling ant. I think that the verses are a call out to me to be busy. To work hard. To keep going back and forth, storing up food, doing what I’ve been told to do. But that’s not entirely what those verses say.

They say that the ant is wise, it has no commander, and it has little strength, but it stores up its food in the summer; gathers its provisions at harvest.

There is a time limit implicit in those words. The ant doesn’t work hard all the time. It works hard when it is work time, ‘at harvest’, ‘in the summer’. It stores up food then, so that at other times, when it’s not time to work, it will be able to rest.

Our kitchen ants (they are almost pets now) also work hard when the working is good. But when the sun is out and shining on the wall, making it too hot for them to climb up, they rest. At the moment, as I write this, the ants are gone. There are just little puddles of ant rid sitting on our bench and waiting.

But when the sun moves to the west, they will be back, once again busily collecting the food for the nest.

So even for the busy ant there are periods of rest and periods of hard work.

And I think we can apply this to our own lives too. There are times when, even though we are small and weak, we are called to work hard. But around those times, we need to allow ourselves to rest.

Work and rest. It’s a rhythm. Let’s dance to it.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

More Time-Gardening Thoughts

Garden

I’ve had some really lovely and thoughtful responses to last week’s blog. They came from people who actually garden (unlike me) and therefore they had insights that I didn’t have. It’s amazing what some actual knowledge will do to a metaphor! So I thought I’d share their wisdom with you.

One friend had been weeding her garden just before she read the blog. She wrote, ‘… as I pulled out big weeds I also started to pull out a “wanted” plant that I had forgotten was there (hidden under many weeds for quite some time!). This made me think about the things that restore me and bring me pleasure that sometimes get hidden, or pulled out because I forget I enjoy them.’

I agree with her. Some seasons in our lives are so busy that good and fun activities just get pushed out, or hidden. Sometimes we have to leave them for a time. When the busy season passes and we find we are able to clear our schedule a bit, it’s often tempting to continue to leave the good things out too. We start looking for clear time with nothing in it.

But I find that often clear time isn’t really what we need. If we have ‘free time’ we can fill it with TV, or surfing the web, or scrolling through social media. All good activities in moderation, but often these activities don’t leave us feeling refreshed. What we need instead is rejuvenating time. Activities that are creative, refreshing, enjoyable. Time spent playing an instrument, or going for a bush walk, or reading, or painting.  These activities may take a little effort to get started but they are more refreshing in the long run.

Do you have a hidden activity that you need to clear space around so that it has time to flourish in your time garden? Is there something you used to enjoy that you’ve almost forgotten about, that you would like to start doing again?

Another long-standing friend has sent me a list of thoughtful questions:

What if you COULD have a substantially set-and-forget garden/life where you built up the soil, the substrate, then applied, first aged compost, then fresh mulch?

Firstly, the odd weed would appear instantly out of place, green chickweed against brown pine-bark, for example.

  • What would that look like in life?  What would be the aged compost?  The mulch?
  • What areas of your “garden” need deeper mulch … perhaps some shade-cloth during the withering summer?
  • What areas are going to need additional fertilisation or water to fully enable the growth of what you’ve already planted?
  • Would attending to this thoughtful preparation mean that the “weeds” would be so easy to identify that they never even took root?

My friend says that the ‘aged compost and the mulch’ in our time garden is provided by identifying our core values, and our vocation or calling. If we are aware of these deeper intentions in our lives then we can measure tasks and possibilities against them.

He says:

Anything that comes along “looking” good and worthwhile, can instantly be measured against these priorities: 

  • Would letting this demand on my time bring me closer to my true self/ vocation/ calling… or take me away? 
  • Does this offer/ request really relate to who I really am… or is it something merely “worthwhile” – but not for me?
  • What have I planted in my garden previously… that has never prospered, never grown, and is merely surviving unproductively?  Does it need removal?

These are great questions, really worth thinking about. I’m going to take some time to consider them and I hope that you will be able to do so also.

I would love for you to join the conversation and let me know your thoughts as well. You can email me at ruth@ruthamos.com.au or tweet me @aquietlifeblog or find me on Facebook at Ruth Amos Author.

succulent garden

Weeding Your Time Garden

succulent garden
This is my succulent garden. Ironically I had to remove a large weed before I took the photo.

I have a new metaphor for time management, and I’m not sure if I’m going to use the metaphor very well, but I’ll give it a go.

Time management is like gardening.

Now, if you’ve read my short story The Useful Plants then you might know just how much I like (or rather don’t like) gardening. But I have a little bed of succulents near my front door that I take care of so I know something about it.

The thing I’ve noticed about gardens is that you can spend time on them, pull them into shape, prune and weed and tidy, and they look wonderful. But if you then think, ‘The job is done’ and leave them alone, the weeds creep in, the plants get overgrown, and the garden becomes messy again and require a lot of work.

This is the gardening cycle that I have experienced in my lifetime. But I know that the frustration is my own fault. Because the better way to deal with a garden is to work in it regularly. Head out there every week. Pull the weeds while they are small. Tidy up a little. And then, and this is important, spend time out there enjoying the beauty of what you’ve created.

So I hear, anyway.

But I know for sure that the same principle applies to our calendars, to our time management. You can set up the best system in the world, but it is not a set-and-forget situation. Over time little bits creep in. Extra jobs appear. Worthy activities find space. And suddenly you’re living in an overgrown mess, running from one thing to the next, head spinning, feeling really busy.

And I think the main point of this metaphor is not to be surprised that this happens. It’s just the second law of thermodynamics in action: The entropy of the universe is always increasing. Things tend towards disorder and randomness. It’s the way it is.

So we should not be surprised that the schedule we planned in January is now out of control in March (as mine was). Instead, maybe it’s easier to accept that and then deal with it, than to worry about it getting out of control again. Like the weeds in the garden, it’s just going to happen. We just need to be prepared.

We need to regularly head into our time garden and weed. We need to check where we’re at and make sure that our priorities are being taken care of first. We need to make sure there’s space in the schedule for rest, and space for time with those we love, and space for time with God.

And then, and this is important, once we’ve tidied out time garden, we need to take the time to enjoy its beauty. To rest in the rest. To appreciate the calm. As Eugene Peterson says, ‘Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time’.  We can have a totally clear schedule and still feel busy. It’s better to enjoy the restful activities that we’ve built in, to really be present when we go for an evening walk, to actually concentrate on the book that we’re reading, rather than to be always thinking about our incomplete to-do list, having the worry whir away in the back of our minds even when we’re supposed to be resting.

I garnered this metaphor from an excellent book I read last week — Off The Clock by Laura Vanderkam. This is the most people-centred time-management book I think I have ever read. It doesn’t tell you how to structure your life to shut people out so that you’ll get more work done, instead it suggests ways of making the most of the time that you have so that you feel less busy (and still get the work done). I cannot recommend it more highly.

So happy gardening everyone! If you’re in Australia I hope you enjoy and make good use of your 8-hour day holiday, especially if the good use is resting. And if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere I hope that the advent of spring helps you to think about your time garden and how you can make it just as beautiful as the blossoms that no doubt are coming out now.

Do you like gardening? Are you surprised by the creeping disorder of the universe? What do you do to keep your time schedule under control?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

The Story of Your Life

Corrections

I’ve been doing a lot of editing lately, of my own work, not of others’. I am preparing a book of short stories for publication, I’m preparing a book of transcripts of my podcast, and I am also working through the first draft of my new novel and making it stronger and better.

I don’t really like editing, going back over my work, figuring out what to cut out and what to leave in, changing this, adding new things here, removing whole paragraphs there. I would like everything I write to be perfect the first time. To make a decision and for that to be absolutely the best one. To not have to change anything.

Ridiculous, right? Writing doesn’t work that way (oh the irony, I had to rewrite this very sentence). Everyone’s first draft is messy.

My devotion today asked, ‘If your life was a book, what would you need to edit?’

When I think about the themes I want my life to convey, the story I want to tell, are there things I need to cut out, or things I need to add to communicate that story better? Are there decisions I made that were right at the time but that need to change now? Are there hangovers I’m holding on to because I really loved them five or ten years ago but they don’t apply to my life now?

One of the big editing tips in writing is, ‘kill your darlings.’ In writing our novels we often love certain scenes, conversations, or even characters. They are our darlings. But the truth of the matter may be that those things are weaknesses in the overall tale, they need to go, they need to be cut out.

I’m wondering if there are ‘darlings’ in my life that I’m hanging on to that are making me weaker. Attitudes or decisions, or even material goods or activities that need to go now to bring the story of my life to a stronger place.

Is it the same for you?

Often authors can’t see for ourselves what these things are. That’s why it is so important to employ an editor to look over our work. The editor is not emotionally involved in the situation and can be a bit more ruthless when it comes to cutting out deadwood. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear the editor’s advice. But you know that they are working with you towards the same goal – a stronger piece of work, better able to convey the story, the theme.

And the same applies to our lives. Sometimes it is helpful to have a mentor or a coach, or a good friend, who can help you look over your life and see where things could change to make you stronger.

If you think of your life as a book, what is the story you are telling? And is there editing that needs to happen to make your life tell its important tale in a stronger way? Do you have an ‘editor’ that can help you make the hard decisions?

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

A tough day

I have to admit it. Yesterday was a tough day.

Not the first half. The first half was great. Just the last half was tough.

I have to go back a bit for this to make sense (though I’m so tired, I’m not sure that making sense is on the agenda).

On Tuesday I flew to Canberra. I spent the week meeting up with longstanding friends from as far back as grade 6 (lost in the mists of time) and spending time with my lovely daughter Jess. I also managed to do some writing, which was very good, working on the first transcript book for the A Quiet Life podcast.

On Friday, Moz and Caleb joined us and we all prepared for the wedding of good friends on Saturday.  You know, those friends who are almost family. Who are family, really.

The wedding was gorgeous. Mel was a gorgeous bride, Pete a handsome groom, but more than that, the joy that was there in the room was delightful. And the people were so great. It was a fun night. Lots of chatting, lots of dancing, good food, excellent speeches.

Late to bed, not so late to rise, checking out of the motel, heading to brunch with Jess and hearing her news and stories from her recent visit to Panama. All excellent.

Then we hit the airport.

I told Moz and Caleb that I was just going to put headphones in, listen to a podcast or five, and not relate to anyone for a while. I had done the extrovert thing, I had socialised all week, I was ready to stop.

Our plane from Canberra was delayed. When we finally got on the plane I was sat next to a lovely lady from Ireland who loved chatting to me. I listened. She really was a nice person. (After take-off we both read books so I didn’t have to chat the whole way).

Once we got going I had a look at our boarding time for the next flight (from Melbourne to Hobart) and started to get concerned about making it to Melbourne in time. My neighbour was also concerned about making her connecting flight. She was in more trouble than us though, she was heading back to Ireland. She had about an hour to make it to the next terminal and get on the flight. I hope she made it.

We didn’t. Our next plane pulled out of the bay as we pulled in.

We were flying with an airline whose name starts with V and goes well with the name Mary and they were really good to us. Sure, they didn’t hold the flight for us, but they booked us on another one, and they gave us food vouchers that were very generous and exit row seats once we got on the flight.

They just couldn’t get us on a flight until 7.40 pm.

So we waited.

The new flight was delayed as well. By over an hour. And even when we got onto the new plane it was delayed another 10 minutes because something was broken, I’m not sure what. None of the three of us were with-it enough to hear the announcement by that stage.

We got home before midnight. Well past pumpkin time for me though.

So it was a very boring afternoon. Not what we wanted. Not what we planned.

But it could have been so much worse.

The thing is, all three of us decided that there was no point in being angry or upset.

Every time I felt the frustration rising I chose not to allow it to overtake me. I chose to stay calm. To laugh, occasionally (it was a bit of a bitter laugh, but still). To just let the time pass. To be grateful for the food vouchers and the little bit of window shopping distraction. To be grateful that Moz and Caleb were there and that we could chat and play games on our phones and look after each other’s bags so that we could go for the occasional walk (I made my step target by the end of the day). Really to be grateful to be ‘suffering’ from such a completely first-world problem.

We just waited.

Now, I’m not saying that we were full of joy all afternoon either. We did not smile and laugh our way through. We didn’t cheer up the whole airport terminal or stage an impromptu evangelistic event. We just waited.

But the afternoon could have been so much worse if we had chosen to be upset and angry, frustrated and grumpy. We could have snapped at each other, and at the airport staff. We could have cried and whinged when we got the information about the further delay of our already-delayed flight. But instead we chose to help each other through and be as patient as possible. And that means that the memories of the afternoon are pleasant rather than painful.

So that’s my little take home from this one. Sometimes it is better to choose to be happy and grateful. Sometimes just that little choice rebounds on you and makes your day better.

I hope that in the little things you are also able to choose a wise response this week.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a nap.

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Celebrate Life

I have used my sister’s photos because they are lovely and because I don’t have enough photos of Mum! I need to fix that. So thanks Cath 🙂

On Saturday my mother turned 75, and I think that deserves a celebratory blog post.

There are so many things that I could say about Mum.

She is a concert pianist and we could go into how much work that requires, and how she sacrificed for it, and how she managed to look after us children while still doing the practice and playing the concerts. How by doing so she set an example to us that we could work hard and achieve our dreams.

She has a heart for others and is always reaching out, not just to people who can give back to her or make her feel good, but she also sacrificially gives her time to reach out to the unloveable. Sometimes it drives us crazy as a family but at the same time, what an example!

She is full of wisdom and I love to meet with her for coffee once a week and just pour out whatever I’m going through and get her listening ear and her excellent advice.

All these things are good. But the thing I want to concentrate on today is the joy with which Mum approaches her birthdays.

Mum is almost exactly 30 years older than me so I must have been ten years old when Mum turned 40. But I can remember distinctly the way she almost danced around the house. ‘Life begins!’ she crowed, ‘Life begins!’ She refused to let that milestone get her down. There was no grumbling about being over the hill or about life being over now. She chose to embrace her age. To celebrate it.

And it’s been the same with every milestone birthday. This year’s 75 is no different. ‘I think it’s worth celebrating being on earth for this length of time,’ she said to me. And I agree, it is totally worth celebrating.

We live in a culture that idolises youth. We want to look young, we dye our hair to remove greys, we undergo plastic surgery to get rid of wrinkles. We get concerned about thickening waistlines, about slowing bodies, about failing memories.

I remember being down on my 27th birthday. I realised as the day approached that I was definitely closer to 30 than to 21 and I didn’t like the feeling. That was a while ago now and I look back at my 27 year old self and laugh at her worries.

What is that magic youthful age? Are we all trying to look and act like we’re in our twenties? Is it acceptable to be 35? Is 40 the birthday when we realise that we’re old, on the way out?

Isn’t it ridiculous? We are all living longer and longer. If we write ourselves off once we pass 30 then we will spend 70 years of our life, and maybe longer, thinking we are less-than. Putting ourselves down for something we have no control over.

Let’s change it up. Let’s do what Mum does and celebrate every birthday, every milestone. As we go on in this world we have the chance to experience more, to learn more, to enjoy more. We have the chance to let go of the things that hold us back, the bitterness, the unforgiveness, the anger. We can grow in wisdom. We can give more to others. We can enjoy who we are, and love who we are becoming.

So I’m really celebrating Mum’s birthday. I’m so glad she’s my mother and so grateful for the joy and wisdom that she pours into my life. And I’m so glad that she’s celebrating too.

I hope that when I’m turning 75 that I follow her example and approach my birthday with the same joy and confidence.

 

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Preparing for Success

This is the blog post I was thinking of writing when the fires got intense here in Tasmania and I chose to write about that instead. I’m glad I’m finally getting it out now. It’s a bit late because I completely exhausted myself on the weekend helping to cut down the trees that were overhanging our house and I took a day to recover. I’m all recovered now, so here it is!

A couple of weeks ago I was the guest on a podcast. It’s a writing podcast called The Prolific Writer and I was interviewed about my writing life, my methods, my influences and so on. You can hear it here if you’re interested.

The host, Ryan J Pelton, lives in the centre of the USA and it was fun to line up times and dates and find something that suited both of us. I got up a bit early; he was interviewing me from mid-afternoon the day before.

I listen to Ryan’s podcast all the time. It’s one of the podcasts on my list for inspiration and advice for my writing life. I was incredibly excited, as you can imagine, to be a part of it. And I was a bit hopeful that I would find a new audience for my writing as well. An audience in the USA. I was hopeful that maybe I’d make some sales through it. That maybe I’d become ‘successful’.

Now, this brings up a whole swag of ideas. What is success? What does that word mean? What does it mean to me? What does it mean in different circumstances?

In one way I am already successful. I’ve written and published two novels and a self-help/memoir, and I have another three books on the way. If finishing a book equals success (and in my mind it does) then I’m successful. I have also successfully published a blog for four years and I have successfully produced a podcast. This counts. It really does.

But I’m afraid I want more than that. I actually want a large audience. I want to make a living from my writing. That has been my goal since 2010 and it is still my overarching goal. And I am not near that yet, folks. Not nearly there.

So I went on the podcast with Ryan, I answered his questions (some I answered well, some poorly) and at the end he told me that the interview would be live on the Saturday and I suddenly got butterflies in my stomach.

I suddenly realised what my idea of ‘success’ would mean in my life.

When we look at successful people, whether they be authors, sportspeople, movie stars, politicians, or celebrities of any kind, I think that most of us feel we have the right to judge them. We have the right to criticise their words, their clothing choices, their mistakes from 30 years ago, their life choices now.

I realised that if I get the viral audience that I think I want, it will give people the right to discuss (with me or with each other) what I should have said, what I should have written, what I should have done. People will feel a certain ownership of me and will see my flaws so clearly and wonder why I am not dealing with them myself when they are so obvious.

Now people will hopefully see good things as well, and be blessed and uplifted by my words. But I know that I can easily find myself being more critical of famous people than I am of ‘normal’ people and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that to happen to me.

Because I am still me. And no matter how many people follow my blog, and how many buy my books, I will still be me. Still stuck in the fog of figuring out who I am. Still unable to clearly see my own path. Still unable to see the splinter for the plank, the wood for the trees. Sure, I have some bright rays of insight, but each day I just go through the day like any other person, and selling more books or having more followers will not make my life any easier to live.

I thought through this for a while, then I had a chat with Moz and things became a bit clearer for me. Firstly, I realised that in a way I am already there. I already live parts of my life in public on Facebook, Twitter, and on this blog. I like to do that. I like interacting by text. I like writing deeply about my life here, and in my books. People read my work and feel like they know me. And to an extent they really do. And so far, people have been very kind.

So in one way I can’t ask, ‘Do I want to live in public?’ because I already live in public. I’m already there.

Secondly, the people who read my books now are mostly people who live near me. My friends and family and church family are reading my stuff and talking with me about it. If they feel like they know me better, then that’s good. If someone over in the USA feels like they know me better, it’s not going to lead to more awkward conversations in the supermarket. I already have those 🙂 I don’t think it’s going to get worse with a larger audience.

And finally, I can choose to inflate or to mitigate the problem. I can choose to write something controversial that will attract a viral audience, but will also attract strong criticism, and attract the trolls. Or I can choose to quietly write whatever small wisdom has been given me, and slowly grow an audience that is kind and gentle, my tribe. And that is the path I choose. I want to be friendly, comforting, a big sister to talk with. I don’t need success at the cost of losing what I believe in.

It’s two weeks now since the podcast interview went up, and unfortunately massive success has not yet come my way. So all these thoughts, in one way, look a bit foolish now. But I keep hearing from my mentors that being prepared for success is just as important as being prepared for failure, and I’m glad I went through the thought exercise.

We’ll see what comes my way in the future.

If you’re undertaking a project, or starting a business, or even just in your life, have you thought about what success is? Have you defined what it is that will make you feel successful? Have you prepared yourself for what you’d do if that actually happened? I’d love to hear about it.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

If you would like to support this blog and the podcast then you can head over to Patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!