Beautiful diversity

One thing I love about the spring is the flowers. Just walking along my street there is a plethora (don’t you love that word?) of different blossoms. The pig face is in full bloom this year and the delicate white flowers look like they are made from rice paper. There is a bush that gives huge flower heads – as long as my arm – and each covered with tiny purple flowers. Daisies flower in profusion opening with the dawn and closing at sunset. Some trees are covered with small compact blossom, some with large, flowing, pendulous blooms. Reds, oranges, blues, purples, whites, pinks, it’s glorious.

I know nothing about gardening, and I don’t know the names of the plants, but I love walking past all the flowers on my street, enjoying the different scents, and the different sights. It lifts my spirits.

Imagine if every flower was the same? I know what flowers are for – they attract insects so that the plants can be pollinated. Each of the flowers I see attracts insects. They don’t need to be as varied as they are. I’m sure that something with more uniformity would get the job done. But there they are, a motley haphazard collection of diverse and assorted flowers. 

I love them.

Look, you know all this. You’ve heard this sermon before. Isn’t it wonderful that we are all different? You are special just as you are.

Last week on the podcast we heard from Christina who has seven daughters. In a couple of weeks we will hear from Catherine who, by choice, has no children.

I love working at home in my own office with no one around, but Moz loves going in to school, surrounding himself with teenagers, having many conversations through the day.

My sister Catherine does an awesome job of being positive and joyous on social media, brightening people’s days with her posts. My friend Annette doesn’t even have a mobile phone. She is never online at all.

And so it goes.

It is so easy to feel guilty because you are not like someone else. Especially when you see them doing such a great job of whatever they do. I don’t know how we convince ourselves that we are valuable and have something to contribute whatever the thing is that we choose to do, but today I’m giving it a try.

Today I want to encourage you. You do you.

Be the beautiful flower that you are.

Brighten the world, or challenge the world, or comfort the world, in your own way.

Let’s be a garden full of beautiful flowers.

Partial Solutions

Do you have a dream? A really big and beautiful dream? A dream that you feel like you just can’t start working on yet?

Maybe it’s a book you want to write. A book you will write, just as soon as you can set aside a space in the house that is just for writing, and take uninterrupted holidays and spend a month or so dedicated to your magnum opus.

Maybe you want to invite people over to dinner. And you will. Just as soon as you get a dining table that can fit more than four, and can afford a new couch to replace your ratty old one.

Maybe you dream of running a marathon. And you’ll start training just as soon as you can block out an hour of each day to go for a run. 

Maybe you want to travel. But right now you spend every weekend at home watching TV because you can’t afford an international adventure.

Maybe you want to go into missions, but you’re worried about how you’ll finance your retirement if you leave now, so you’re staying at your job waiting until your superannuation is at a sufficient level before you take the leap and go.

Christina and I have a bit of a chat about our big dreams (among other things) in this week’s podcast. I’m finding that I’m becoming very enamoured of the idea of ‘partial solutions’. (I first heard that term on Tsh Oxenriders podcast, Simple.)

Whatever the dream that you have, I’m sure that there’s a perfect solution that will allow you to achieve that dream. And you may have spent hours thinking about that perfect solution, polishing it up, gazing at its beauty. But all that time and effort has not brought you any closer to achieving that dream. And in some cases, it might have pushed you further away.

Here’s a beautiful scene we found on a weekend adventure.

How about you start thinking instead about a partial solution?

Maybe you can start to write your book sitting on your bed in the last fifteen minutes of the day.

Maybe you can invite people over to dinner despite your small table. The kids can sit on the ratty couch and you and the adults can take the table. You won’t be so worried about stains if the couch is already ratty, and you can all relax.

Maybe you can pack some runners and go for a walk in your lunch hour at work. Or if you have kids, you can walk them to school. Maybe you can only get out for ten minutes; it’s better than nothing, and my experience was that a ten minute walk kickstarted my fitness routine much more effectively than a half-hour run that was never taken.

Maybe you can pack the car and go for a Saturday adventure. Just a day out, right where you live. A bush walk, or an investigation of a small town you have never looked at before. 

Maybe you can share your faith with those around you, reach out to people where you are, just like you would if you were living in a foreign country.

And here’s a thought, if you’re not putting partial solutions in place, then maybe you don’t actually want that dream after all. Maybe you just like the idea of it. Maybe it’s time to really examine your priorities and find out what your dream actually is.

What dreams do you have, and what are you doing to move towards them?

When you look at your life do you already see a partial solution in action that shows your heart for what you want to do or be?

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 Blessed

adult-birthday-birthday-gift-360624
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

This week’s podcast guest is Celeste. Celeste and her good friend Priscilla visited our church some years ago. They came from Argentina as missionaries. They blessed us immensely. However, I felt guilty throughout their visit because I didn’t have much time to spend with them. I didn’t get to see them very much at all. I didn’t have them over for a meal or anything like that. In fact, though my daughter spent a bit of time with them, I felt like their whole trip passed in a blur and I pretty much missed it.

At the end of their trip the church threw them a farewell party. Somehow I managed to make the time to attend that. And for some reason I felt it was right to give them a gift. Just a small gift of  money. I wrote a card, put the dollars in, and gave it to them at the party.

They were a bit taken aback. They told me that they were on their way home now, the trip was over, and they didn’t need the money.

Tithing

I’m used to getting that reaction, people are not used to being given gifts and they often don’t know how to react or don’t want to take the gift. But the thing is, we put money aside to give to people. This is money we will never use on ourselves. Sometimes we give it to the church, sometimes to visiting missionaries, sometimes to a charity organisation. We give away about 10% of our income.

This doesn’t make us special. Tithing, or giving 10%, is a Jewish law, and Jews and Christians through the ages have given their tithe, and often given offerings on top of that. I’ve heard of people who give 90% and live off 10% of their income.

 In fact, if you’re having money problems and you come to me for advice, the first thing I suggest you do is tithe. It’s counter-intuitive. But it’s one of those laws of the universe. Your money management will go more smoothly if you put aside 10% to give away. 

God doesn’t ask us to test him much. Almost never. But he asks us to test him when it comes to tithing. In Malachi 3:10 he says, ‘Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’

A quick aside, I am not talking prosperity gospel here. I am not saying give money and you’ll get rich. I am saying that if you give your 10% as a sign that you trust God to provide, then he will provide for your needs. And he’ll bless you in other ways as well. And this story that I am telling you (yes, I’ll get back to it) is one of the ways that God has blessed me through my giving.

Had I failed?

When I got home from the party I felt a bit strange. Why had I only given this money at the end of the trip? Was this just another failure in being part of the church response to these beautiful two girls? Should I have given the money much earlier? I felt bad, but what was done was done. I got on with life. I forgot about it.

I forgot about it until Celeste reminded me in this week’s podcast. She tells us the end of the story. And I’ll share it here too.

Perfect timing

Just before Priscilla and Celeste flew out of Hobart, they found out that the flight from Sydney to Argentina had been cancelled. They had to spend a night in Sydney and then catch the next flight out. And the money that I gave them covered the cost the hotel room for the night.

It had been right to give them that money at the end of their trip. It was a necessary gift to cover an expense that they hadn’t seen coming.

When I heard Celeste tell me this I had truly forgotten that I had even given the money. And when I heard that it was me that God had used to provide for their needs I was truly blown away. I had done the right thing. I had heard God correctly and done what he asked. He used me to provide for these girls. What a blessing! To them, for sure, but also a huge blessing to me!

There is joy in receiving a gift, and there is also so much joy in giving.

Let me challenge you. Test God. Give 10% of your income. Find out just what an amazing blessing it is to give.

Do you have a joyous giving story? Or a story where someone has met your needs at just the right time? Please share with us in the comments! Let’s encourage one another.

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 Very Important Question

care-chair-contemporary-305566
Photo by Daniel Frank from Pexels

This week’s podcast interview is with Michelle, a dentist. Talking with her reminded me of a teaching session I attended recently at the Bishop’s training event, Shaped.

Rev Stephen Carnaby talked to us about going to the dentist. You can hear the talk here, and it’s really worth listening to because of how specific he is. He talks about having a black spot on his tooth for a while, and then how suddenly half his tooth fell off. OK, so it’s all a bit painful, but in a schadenfreude way it’s also hilarious!

Stephen says that after his tooth fell off, he started going to the dentist regularly (believe it or not) and the dentist asks him every time he goes, ‘Have you been using dental floss?’

We all know that question. I suggest that if you don’t know that question, you’re not going to the dentist regularly enough. If this is you, and you live in Southern Tasmania, let me know and I can put you in touch with Michelle. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job on your teeth.

I’m also sure she’ll ask, ‘Have you been using dental floss?’

Flossing is something we all know we should do. But it’s time consuming, it’s sometimes painful, and it’s uncomfortable. And it’s difficult for us to see the benefits. We only find out if it’s been helpful when we take our annual trip to the dentist (or every ten years, depending on who you are).

But there are so many things like that. Even if we just look at our physical health there are many examples.

Exercise. I know it’s supposed to release feel-good endorphins. I don’t get that so much. I exercise in faith that it’s doing me some good. The results come much later.

Eating well. It’s much easier to eat junk food. It’s tasty, it gives you an immediate reward. But healthy food, well, you need to eat it for a while before you develop a taste for it, and the rewards come later.

Sleeping. You can stay up and binge-watch Netflix and get those constant dopamine shots in your brain, or you can go to bed. The first few times you get a solid eight-hours sleep you might feel dopey in the morning, or you might have trouble getting to sleep in the first place. But after a while you’ll start to feel the benefits. You’ll start to feel more rested, more energetic. But you have to put in the effort first.

Other difficult and uncomfortable things

Flossing-type activities are also helpful for our spiritual and mental health.

Stephen talks about reading the Bible. How it is so useful and helpful to us, but only if we take the time to do it.

I have been reading about prayer, and again, if you put time aside and actually do the praying, it is beneficial. You can do it once every now and then (like flossing on the day of your dentist appointment) and it will be of some benefit. But if you pray daily, put time aside, invest in prayer times, it will be of much more benefit.

If you are not a Christian, this principle still applies to you. Taking the time to read good books, to think about the larger issues, to spend some time in silence and solitude, these things are beneficial. Especially if practiced regularly.

These are not easy things to do. They are uncomfortable. They are time consuming. They can even be painful at times. But I think that the benefits are huge if we make the effort, take the time, do the flossing.

How am I doing in all this? Well, I am nowhere near perfect here. But I am reading the Bible more each day, and taking more than five minutes to pray. I’m making an effort to go for a daily walk and listening to an audio book while I do that. I’m menu-planning a bit more so that we buy takeaway a bit less.

And you’ll be pleased to know that in preparation for this blog post, I flossed my teeth this morning. Did you?

Smile
The cheesiest smile photo I could find.

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!

Can we have it all?

out of officeYou know, we can’t do it all. Not all of the time. None of us can.

Sorry to start the post with such a strong pronouncement, but I’m hoping it’s not too much of a shock for you.

I think that each of us wants to have every area of our lives sorted out beautifully all the time. Each of us is striving for:

  • Good family relationships
  • A satisfying career
  • A healthy body
  • A vibrant spiritual life
  • An exciting social calendar
  • And the ability to eat unlimited amounts of chocolate

But it’s just not possible to be there in that paradise at all times. No, not even that last point.

Not even if you quit your job and start your own business from home. Even then it’s impossible to have all of it, all of the time.

There is no silver bullet. And believe me, I’ve spent a fair bit of time searching for one.

This week’s podcast interview is with Professor Matt King, and I asked him about his work-life balance. I know that in academia, the pressure to work long hours is intense. And Matt is trying to balance that with a young family and some ministry opportunities as well.

He said something really wise.

He said, ‘I’d prefer for some parts of my career to be diminished than to just respond to the pressures of being more, more, and more. … At the moment, my personal research is taking a hit. … It’s about priorities.’

So there’s a difficult path for each of us to walk. Which thing do we compromise on right now? Which thing do we concentrate on? What is the aspect of our life that needs special attention, and what needs to be dropped lower on the list for the time being?

Perfection will come, but not until the next life. For this life we are stuck in an imperfect, fallen world and that means making some hard decisions.

I think I may be worse at this than a lot of people. I love being needed. I love it when someone sends me a text and says, ‘Can you help out?’ Whether it’s ministry or editing or just being there for a friend, I love to help out in a crisis. But this means that my schedule fills quickly, that my life gets too full, and that I run out of time for myself, for my family, for my spiritual growth. I need to continue to learn that sometimes it is important to say no.

As I write this, I am frantically working on getting all my jobs finished so that I can take two weeks of holidays next week. I haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time, so I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m intending to book this type of holiday into my schedule regularly, even if that does mean saying no to some editing jobs, or saying no to some ministry opportunities. It’s not easy, but it’s very, very important.

How do you set your priorities? Do you feel the pressure of being ‘more, more, and more’? How do you deal with it? Do you take holidays?

 

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!

When a To Do List is the Worst Thing To Do

doing your best

I got up on that awful Monday morning, got dressed and ready to go, and sat at my desk to begin my day’s work.

First, I wrote out a list of things that I needed to accomplish in the week. I usually write that in my bullet journal. I write about the projects I’m focussing on and the tasks that need to be accomplished. So the list has things like:

Write DM3 (that’s the latest novel in the Deadly Miss series that I try to write something in each day – that’s one of the project-type tasks)

and

Book car in for a service (a task that doesn’t really relate to any special project)

Then I turned to my day planner. This has the day divided into hours and I can plan my day with it, using the tasks I’ve written in my bullet journal. Having the time allocated to certain projects or tasks usually helps me to work when I need to, and to not put too many tasks into any one day.

Usually it helps me to get my work done.

Usually.

On this particular Monday morning, I finished my list in my daily planner, looked at the day and the week, and realised that I wouldn’t get it all done. Again.

I had been through many weeks like this, where there were just too many tasks for the time available. And here was another one. And I couldn’t see how the work could get done.

I couldn’t handle it.

I went to bed and cried for half an hour.

Sometimes lists are a really good idea.

Sometimes crossing the tasks off makes you feel so productive and useful.

But sometimes the list just shows up how much you’re not getting done. How far you still have to go. How overwhelming life is right now.

Sometimes a to do list is (gasp!) a bad idea.

I got out of bed eventually, and I made it through the day and through the week. But for that week I ignored the daily planner, and just worked off the list of tasks and projects in the bullet journal.

That is, I sat at my desk, knowing that I had half an hour or two hours or whatever, I looked at my lists of tasks, evaluated whether I should be doing a thinking or non-thinking task, and just had a go at whatever took my fancy.

And I got through the week. I got heaps achieved. I felt great about it.

I didn’t knock everything off my list, but for that week I went easy on myself. If I achieved anything I gave myself high praise. If I missed things, I didn’t let myself worry about it. The aim was to get through the week with my mental health intact, not to get everything done.

This week’s podcast interview is with Amber. Amber suffers from a couple of fairly severe mental illnesses and she shares with us how we can help those we know who are mentally ill. But talking with her also made me think about each of us, and how we can help ourselves stay mentally healthy.

In the same way that we eat healthy food and exercise to keep our bodies healthy, each of us can also do things that help our own mental health to stay tip top. (And, of course, in the same way that we go and see a doctor when our physical health is breaking down, any of us may, at some time, need to see a specialist about our mental health.)

Sometimes the thing we need to do is give ourselves a break, like I had to do in the ‘no to-do list’ week. Sometimes we need to put down our phones and have a break from social media for a while.

I also think it’s important to think about what we’re putting into our brains. The Good Book says, ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8) We can help ourselves to stay mentally healthy by reading good books, watching uplifting shows, talking about positive things.

What do you do to take care of your mental health? Have you had to give yourself a break at one time or another? Have you found that sometimes to do lists don’t work? What excellent or praiseworthy thing do you like to think about?

 

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!

Joining the Dots

shutterstock_1070048579

I love talking to retired people on my podcast. In fact, sometimes I need to remind myself to keep the balance by talking to some younger folks as well. But the older ones among us are often the wiser ones, and they can look back on their lives and join the dots to see how experiences early on have been used later to help with the projects they have been called to.

The podcast interview with Greg Foot this week is like that. He can see, looking back, how his teaching work contributed to the work with World Vision, and how that helped when he came to work with Scripture Union, and how all of it has come together to contribute to his ministry work in the Anglican church now. There are also some amazing stories of timing and risk.

But when it comes to my own life, when I’m looking forward, when I need to decide whether to leave a house or stay where I am, whether to change jobs, or move cities, or move into a new ministry, I can’t always see the way those dots connect. And I’m sure it’s the same for you.

Don’t worry, I’m not moving house or job or anything right now but I am fascinated by the question of change.

Sometimes when you’re feeling really uncomfortable in a situation it means that change is on the horizon. My wise aunt once told me that change can’t happen without discomfort. And that’s all good. But sometimes discomfort means that you should stay and pray through the situation. And sometimes you need to talk with the person causing the discomfort so that they can make a change that they need to make. Sometimes you only need to change your own attitude and everything else should stay the same.

How do you know when your discomfort means it’s time to jump?

We can’t know for sure. We are living forwards in time, we can only look back to see what happens once we’ve made the decisions and taken the risks. And I even believe that there isn’t necessarily a Plan A for every situation. Sometimes the choices are balanced and we just need to lean one way or the other and take what comes.

I do believe that there is One who knows the future, and who can cope with every choice we make and turn it to good. And that helps me live my life now with a lot less anxiety and fear.

How about you? How do you make decisions about the future? Do you have a story about a time that you just needed to jump and hope that the parachute held? Can you already see the dots joining in your life?

 

There is a bit of change here – I’m trying something new. Each week I will write about something that links with the podcast. You can hear more of my thoughts in the interview each week, and get a musing on some aspect of the podcast through the blog. Let me know what you think!

You can receive this blog in your inbox each week either by following on wordpress or by signing up to my newsletter at http://www.ruthamos.com.au. You can support me at patreon.com/quietlife and help me out for as little as a dollar a month.

A new way to divide (and conquer) your to-do list

success meme

I’m trying something new in the organisational process. I’m always ready to try something new, I’m always hoping that I’ll find that thing, that perfect thing, that will give me more energy and make my days go more smoothly. And right now I think I’ve had a bit of a brainwave, even if I do say so myself.

The problem.

I work from home, running three businesses.

  • My editing business – academic editing, technical editing of insurance reports, that kind of thing.
  • My fiction writing – the R. J. Amos business.
  • And finally, my non-fiction author business (Ruth Amos): this blog, the podcast, and books.

The difficulty I have is figuring out what I should be doing at any one time. In some parts of the day (usually the mornings) I have energy, I can think, I can do creative work. Other times (after lunch, anyone?) I’m tired, I can’t think well and I need drudge jobs to do. Jobs that I can do with music on in the background, or jobs that require a bit of waiting around for things to load. Jobs that don’t require my undivided attention and creativity.

So, when should I do the different jobs that my different businesses need me to do?

It’s always easy to prioritise the editing jobs – they are money in my pocket, and they are jobs that other people need done.

But if I always do those jobs first, if they always take up my time when I have energy and I can think, then I’ll never get books written. And that would be a problem because I quit my job to write books.

Also, when I get to the tired times, I often don’t have enough brain to decide what to do with my time. I have enough brain to do a job, just not enough to think about what that job should be.

The solution (I hope).

I have decided to break my to-do list into two parts: thinking jobs, and non-thinking jobs.

All the writing comes under ‘thinking’. As do the phone calls, planning, academic editing, and recording of podcasts. All the things that need energy.

Under ‘non-thinking’ are tasks like posting promo material, website maintenance, the less technical editing, book formatting, reading, and listening to podcasts.

This is a change for me because now ‘writing the blog’ comes under ‘thinking’ but ‘posting the blog’ comes under ‘non-thinking’. A job that once was a single task has been divided into two. The same with the podcast. I need to record the introduction in the morning when I have energy, but the editing together of the different audio segments, and the posting online, those things don’t require the same energy and come under ‘non-thinking’.

I am hoping that dividing things this way will help me to make the most of my creative hours, but that it will also help me to make the most of my tired times. That having the list already divided in this way will help me to decide quickly what I should be doing, rather than letting me aimlessly scroll social media while I try to figure out which task I could summon up the energy to concentrate on now.

Social Media

Speaking of social media, dividing jobs in this way should also help me stay away from that distraction when I have the brain for creative things. It’s pretty creativity-zapping, the social media entertainment flood, and I need to stay away from it while I’m trying to do my thinking tasks. This means that you won’t get happy birthday messages from me until the afternoon, but I think you’ll cope.

I will go onto Facebook or Twitter when it is time for me to post promo things, when it’s time for me to let you know that my blog is ready, when it’s time to post a newsletter, but try to stay off when I’m concentrating on the ‘thinking’ tasks. I think it will help.

So that’s me, how about you?

Have you tried something like this? Are you as addicted to to-do lists as I am? Are you a morning or afternoon or evening person? When do you do your creative/thinking tasks? Let me know in the comments.

Failure and Value

Failure

I have been thinking lately about goals and achievements. About productivity. About getting things done. I think it’s good to examine your productivity and to set goals for yourself. It’s good to feel like your life is moving forward and that you’re making a difference in the world.

But what if you don’t feel like that at all?

What if you feel like your life is on hold? Or that you’re slowly moving backwards?

What if you can’t see any difference you’re making in the world?

What if, for whatever reason, this season of life requires you to sit in the background and achieve nothing?

What then?

It’s so easy at times like those to feel like you’re failing, or even worse, to label yourself as ‘a failure’.

I felt like it was really important this week to say that your value is not because of what you do. You are valuable purely because you are, because you exist.

One of the things I love about my Christian faith is that it says that ALL people are valuable because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, no matter what you are doing, no matter who you are, you, yes, YOU are valuable. Absolutely precious. Of inestimable importance. Worth dying for. Worth giving everything for.

You are loved. In all your flaws and imperfections, you are deeply loved.

I could go on, but this is getting mushy.

I am reading a book by Dr Dweck about the Growth Mindset and it talks a lot about how you can see yourself as the sum of your achievements, but that it is so much healthier to instead look at how hard you try, at whether you are putting in an effort. (And for some of us, the effort required to open our eyes in the morning is all we have.)

I also heard a wonderful quote on the Simple podcast, (episode 202). It says, ‘It’s not hard because you are failing, it’s hard because it’s hard.’

Are you finding something hard today? Maybe the fault is not in you, maybe the thing you’re working on (say parenting, or completing your uni studies, or going to work) feels hard. And it feels hard because it is hard. You’re allowed to feel like something is hard.

Tsh Oxenrider, the host of the Simple podcast, also commented in that episode that a couple of times a week she asks her children, ‘What did you fail at today?’ She says that failure means you are trying and that’s a good thing. This is the attitude she wants to build into her children.

So all of this has come together in my mind. I want to be someone with a growth mindset. I want to be someone not afraid to learn from failure. And I want to remember that I’m valuable, even if I’m not obviously succeeding at something.

So, let me ask you, what did you fail at over the last few days?

I can tell you that my house-cleaning this weekend was no where near as good as our regular cleaner’s job. That the last couple of times I’ve tried to spruik my book it hasn’t resulted in a sale. And that when I went to the gym last night I didn’t do weights and opted instead just to walk on the treadmill. But at least I cleaned, spruiked, and went to the gym. I’m trying. So I’ll take that as a win.

And even if I hadn’t done those things, I’m going to remember that I’m valuable just because I am. And I hope that you can remember that too.

heart

A surprising benefit of mindful eating

20190708_113214
It’s a crumpet kind of day today.

I’m doing a new thing when it comes to how I eat. And it’s bringing me an unexpected benefit.

I know you’ve gone through a journey with me about what I eat, looking for allergies and so forth. But this is not about what I eat, but about how.

It’s based on a set of guidelines in a book called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. I didn’t really get a whole lot out of the book, though it was interesting. But at the very end of the book she has a section called The Eating Guidelines which I am finding very helpful.

In these guidelines she suggests that we eat sitting down in a calm environment and without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, books, and even intense music.

It is very tempting when you have a lot of work to do, to eat your lunch ‘al desco’ – at your desk, while you are working. I have also found, while working at home, that it’s tempting to just watch a little TV for a break while I’m eating my lunch. Or to listen to a podcast, or to read a book for a break while eating. But doing any of these things means that I don’t really taste the food that I’m eating. I’m in another place in my head, and I don’t even know, once I’ve eaten, whether I’m full or not.

The other temptation that I have is to eat snacks while working in the afternoon to get myself through. Just a handful of nuts. Or a snack-sized bag of chips. Or a square of dark chocolate. (Or all three.) Just to make the afternoon’s work easier to handle. Again, this means that I don’t really notice what I’m eating and it probably means that I’m eating more than I should be.

I decided, a couple of weeks ago, in the interest of increasing my health and well-being, that I would try Roth’s guidelines.

I mean, feeding yourself is a basic right, right? And I know I’m trying to squeeze into each day more than each day can handle, but if I can’t take the time to eat, then something is out of whack. And if I have to bribe myself to work in the afternoon then maybe I should just stop and take a nap instead.

So I decided to change things a bit. I haven’t changed what we do as a family for the evening meal, but for my own breakfast, lunch, and whatever snacks I have, I am making a new pattern.

When I am eating, I am only eating.

Mindfully eating, if you like.

I sit at the table, I look out the window, I taste the food, I don’t rush, I just eat.

And the benefits have been amazing. Not to my body so much as to my brain.

Every time I go to eat I am strongly tempted to scroll through social media, or to listen to a podcast, or to write notes on something, or read a book. But I fight the temptation, prepare food that I look forward to eating, and I sit at the table.

And slowly my brain calms down. I feel more rested. I remember those things that I was going to do, but didn’t write down on my list. I think through the plot of the story I’m writing. I pray.

One time, looking out my window, I saw a flock of cockatoos chasing a hawk. I would have totally missed that if my eyes had been on my phone.

It’s like, you know when you get in the shower, or you finally lie down to sleep at night, and all the things you were trying to remember or think about come back to you. Well, I get that when I eat my lunch. And then, if I need to, I can do something about them in the afternoon.

I’m sure there will be benefits for my body as well. But I’ve just been stunned by how beneficial this has been for my mental wellbeing. The break, the calming down, the unwinding during the day, it has made my life calmer and quieter, and it hasn’t really affected my output at all.

So let me encourage you. You are worthy of a lunch break. Take the time to eat and enjoy your food. You might find some unexpected benefits.

Geneen Roth says to ‘Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.’ I hope that all of us can take the pleasure in food that it was created to give.

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!