It Works!

Intro

If you’re like me, you see the amount of books and articles about how to change your life for the better and you wonder if the ‘three easy steps’ outlined therein actually work.

I mean, we all know that we are striving for a more peaceful, less busy, more organised lives. We all know that we should cut down on what we’re doing. We all know that we should rest more, simplify, find jobs that work with our personalities, remember to make time for ourselves, watch less TV, pay less attention to social media, read more, exercise more, etc.

But sometimes I wonder, does it actually work?

I mean, I wrote a whole book on saying, ‘no’. I wrote about setting priorities and about not letting the need define your response. I wrote about all sorts of good ways of getting more energy back in your life.

Some days I feel like I really need to go back and read my book again.

Others look at my life and tell me I need to go back and read my book again.

Yes, my life now is full. I have plenty to do. I have exciting projects coming out my ears. And from the outside it may look like I haven’t made any progress at all.

But I have.

And I’ll tell you how I know that.

Last weekend was one of those weekends where everything happens at the same time and you can’t spread the commitments out.

On Friday I had my parents 50th wedding anniversary. And the best way to celebrate that was to have a dinner party at our house. So we did. Eleven of us over for a candle-light dinner in my lounge room.

50th anniversary cake
The beautiful cake Elford’s Cakes made. It’s based on the original cake, of course.

On Saturday there was a book fair. Me, in a room full of people, selling my wares, giving a reading and a talk about my publishing journey, from 9 am until 5 pm.

TIA book fair
The view from my book-selling table

On Saturday evening our church had a women’s ministry evening and I offered a writing workshop as part of that. In my house.

Writers workshop
We had such a great time. The food-to-people ratio was pretty good too. 

Now, last year, any one of those events would have been enough to tire me out. And I admit that having all three of them in a row sent me into a bit of a spin. But this year it was different.

This year I could spend the time leading up to the weekend getting organised and ready. I could put some normal commitments on the back-burner and take them up again after the busy weekend was over. I arranged to have the party catered so that I didn’t have to cook, and I arranged my son and his girlfriend to clean up for me on Saturday so I came home to a clean house. I could think this all through. I had the time to think.

This year I had the time to rest afterwards.

On Sunday I chose not to go to church. I sat in bed and read a book (Katherine Scholes, The Perfect Wife, great, if you like literary fiction) and then in the afternoon Moz and I went for a drive.

This year I was fine. I could cope. I felt tired but I didn’t feel completely empty.

And today I’m ready to get back into it. To write this blog. To do my editing job. To potter around and do the banking and make dinner and do all the things I didn’t get done on the weekend, as well as the things that my work-from-home life entails.

I think that last year, or the year before, a weekend like the one just gone would have wiped me out for a week. I would have got sick. I would have used up every last bit of my resources and I wouldn’t have had time to recover.

But now, now that I’ve changed my life, I’ve made choices that work well with who I am and how I do things, now I can cope with the occasional full-on weekend. And I can cope with the rest of life as well.

I’m not perfect. My life is full. Maybe I’m still saying ‘yes’ too much and need to keep saying ‘no’ more. I know I need to keep an eye on it. I’ll need to keep an eye on it for the rest of my life. But I am improving. And my life is improving as a result.

It does work.

I’m so grateful.

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!

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Getting my priorities right

Today’s blog is going to be short, I reckon. I don’t have time to fit much into it. I don’t have a lot of time to do anything today, actually. I was a little stressed about that this morning but I’ve decided to change my mind.

You see, Moz is on holidays, so we left the alarm off and had a nice slow wakening rather than the ‘keep an eye on the time and jump out of bed’ one that we normally have.

Which meant that after my normal morning routine I was running about an hour later than usual and starting to panic that I wasn’t going to get enough done today.

I usually start my work day by writing in my journal. It gets my thoughts sorted out before I try to write anything that anyone else will be reading. And I started by journal today by saying what a lovely morning it had been, and how excited I am to be getting my daughter Jess from the airport (she’ll be here for a short and sweet four day stay), and then I wrote, ‘But I find I’m stressed.’

Why was I stressed? I was stressed because I had a long list of things that I could be doing. A long list of tasks that are necessary for moving my different businesses forward. And what with taking it easy this morning, and picking up Jess at lunch time, and so on, I was not going to make it through my list of tasks.

But then I realised I needed to reframe and reprioritise.

Today is not a day for churning through work tasks. I have a lot I could be doing, but even this blog is not something I have to do. I don’t think any of you will die if the blog gets released one day later than I planned. In fact, I could leave the blog, not write it at all, and nothing dreadful would happen. It’s good to remember that occasionally.

Today is a day for concentrating on my family. For enjoying the rest that comes with school holidays. For giving Jess a big hug at the airport and making the most of having her with us for a very short time. For going out to lunch as a family because we can. And for watching Dr Who together tonight (we’ll be late because Caleb will be at uni until 8pm so no spoilers, please!!)

Sometimes it is important to focus on work, to strive to get through the jobs and to put your pleasures on hold for a while. Sometimes the day needs to be prioritised the other way around. It’s part of the rhythm of life, the seesaw of living.

We are leaving in an hour or so to pick up our daughter Jess from the airport  and today will be a family day. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. The tasks will wait.

I hope that whatever your day holds you also will know what to prioritise and what to let go.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? 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 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 my writing and the creation of my podcast (coming soon, I promise) then you can head over to Patreon and support me for as little as a dollar a month. Thank you so much!

Grace for the moment

It’s been a big (but good) couple of weeks.

Scratch that, it’s been a big (but good) couple of months.

In case you haven’t managed to follow all of this as it happened, the crazy all started straight after Easter with a trip to Canberra for Jess’ graduation, then we had our Vanuatu visit, which seemed to flow straight into the first book launch, which was followed less than a week later by the second book launch. Then I had a few weeks of finishing up at uni, packing up my office and being given lovely farewell lunches, and then I was off to Los Angeles for a week. I brought my sister back with me from LA and we’ve been doing family things for the last week or so. It’s been pretty hectic.

In fact, by last weekend it was starting to feel like Christmas. On Saturday we had a big wider family lunch together at my Uncle’s house (my great aunt, and aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins), and on Sunday we all went to church (Mum and Dad and my brother and sister and me) and afterwards came back to our place for lunch and collapsed in a heap. That’s what Christmas feels like to me – family and church and exhaustion and good food. I think we ticked all the boxes. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough, and we were missing some important family members, but all the rest was right.

I’ve enjoyed all the fun things we’ve done. I really have. It’s been so great to catch up with people and meet new people and have excellent conversations. The trips overseas were amazing, and the book launches were a dream come true. But there have been aspects of the last few months that have been challenging for me as well.

On the plane over to LA I was listening to The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, narrated by John Cleese. It is absolutely brilliant (of course). If you don’t know what this book is, it’s a series of letters from the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood giving instruction on how to get a patient (that is a person) safely into hell. It’s sort of Christian instruction from the opposite point of view. Very clever. And Cleese shows his brilliance in narration too.

One thing from the book that stuck in my mind was the phrase ‘grace for the moment’. Screwtape was telling Wormwood that he needed to keep his patient’s mind focused either on things he had messed up in the past, or things that he was worried about in the future. That ‘our Enemy’ (that is, God) had promised grace for the moment, and that if the patient could keep living in the future or the past then he wouldn’t be able to access the grace that God had promised for the now.

It’s so true, isn’t it? If we are focusing on now, living in the moment, depending on God for the energy only for now, then it is so much easier than trying to access grace for things that may never happen.

And if we look into the future too much, there is a great variety of possibilities, many different ways that things can go wrong, many eventualities to worry about. But only one of these possibilities can happen in this trouser leg of time and we only need to face that one possibility as and when it happens.

So that has been my experience over these last few, very full, weeks. God has given me grace for each moment and I have come through rejoicing and grateful.

I don’t want to promise too much, but things seem to have slowed down a bit now. I’m starting to get the washing under control, and to clean up the mess that happened when my uni office was moved into my home office, and to go for walks and cook my own dinner instead of relying on easy meals and takeaway.

And I have plenty of wonderful memories to look back on.