New Life

 

It’s a wintery day here in Tasmania, and as I write this the rain is pouring down and it’s snowing at every so slightly higher altitudes. The people moving into the unit just above our house have picked a great day for it. They’re going to have to move furniture in between rain squalls and I’m guessing they don’t even have a kettle unpacked for coffees while they are waiting.

The rain is falling but the birds are singing their hearts out. I can hear them just outside my window, their little voices so loud that I can’t even hear the rain.

It’s a reminder that spring, and with it new life, is just around the corner. The cherry trees are blossoming, and the bulbs are up and flowering. The sun is rising earlier and earlier. We’ve made it through the dark winter and into the snow season and there are some lovely warm days happening too.

I have been moving into my new season of life for about two months now. I thought I’d give you an update as to how it’s all going.

I’m still finding my feet. Sometimes I feel like I may never find them. The ground changes every week, every day, and at times it even changes during the day. Editing jobs come in with urgency and must be completed immediately, or they don’t come at all and I need to figure out which of the other things on my list is of the greatest importance. I am still working out how much time to spend on marketing, and how best to do that; how much time to spend on investing in the future by writing novels and other books; how much time to spend investing in people by having coffee with them.

However, I am loving this life.

On the weekend I had a coffee and chat time I’m calling a Writer’s Salon. This is a time that I’m putting aside for people to get together over a cuppa at my place and just chat about writing. I’ve held two of these sessions now, and I will keep holding them at about six-week intervals. They are great fun and I’m learning from those who come, and I hope they are learning from me too, or at least, feeling encouraged to keep going with their writing.

The Writers Salon was Saturday afternoon, and Saturday evening there was a showcase of songwriters called Word in Song that was held just down the road at our church. This was the seventh such showcase, and each year I have been tempted to go, but too tired, or too busy. But this year I went. I sat and listened to these creative people share their talents and it was great.

Two months ago I would not have been able to cope with two such people-intensive activities on the same day. Two months ago I’m not sure that I could have done either of them. Saturdays were for recovery, for hiding away from the world and getting myself some energy back.

Now I can join the world again. I have enough energy from spending time alone through the week to allow me to spend time with people on the weekend. To be with people Saturday afternoon and evening, and then to go to church on Sunday and still enjoy it.

I probably will never go to every event that is on. I still need more alone time than most people (at least I think I do). But this weekend, as I sat in the pew and listened to the lovely music, I felt like I was rejoining the world and it was wonderful.

I really had wondered as I wrote ‘My Year of Saying No’ and as I planned this new venture, whether it would ‘work’. Whether I would get energy from working like this, whether I would be able to do more reaching out to people, more sharing with others. Or whether I was doomed to always be stretched beyond my emotional resources. I am pleased to say that two months in I am filled with hope that the dreams I have had are achievable. With the time I have alone, I am energised to reach out to others. The Writers Salon, and work I am doing on starting a podcast (more on this later), and the talk I gave at Calvin earlier this week, and the fact that I could go to the Word in Song showcase and support my friends there, these things have been desires of my heart that have been waiting for some energy to allow them to happen. Now they are happening. I am blessed.

Sometimes when I think about my businesses my stomach contracts as I wonder if I’ll be able to keep landing jobs and keep this lifestyle going. But for now, I’m enjoying what has been provided for me. I’m giving grateful thanks. And I’m putting the work in (by myself, in the comfort of my little home office) to keep this state of affairs going for as long as possible.

I was listening to a podcast called Simple by Tsh Oxenrider (yes, that’s Tsh without an I) and was really encouraged by something she said in conversation with Emily P Freeman. I thought I’d share it with you.

They said that if there is something within you that you really want to do, something that won’t go away, then name it. Define it. Don’t just let it sit inside you, worrying at you, making you sick. Figure out what it is, name it.

Then, when you name it, you can either let go of it and work through the grief, if it’s not going to happen. Or you can take steps towards making it happen, and towards blessing others with this thing that you’re heading towards.

You’re not having a tantrum, telling the universe that you ‘have to have’ this thing. You are simply being honest about what you want.

So I guess that’s what I’m doing now. Working through, and towards, what I really want. And hopefully blessing people on the way.

I thank you all for your support and for the prayers of the praying people who receive this blog.

To never miss a blog post from me you can either sign up to follow the blog on WordPress, or you can sign up on www.ruthamos.com.au to my newsletter and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You can also find my book ‘My Year of Saying No’ on that website, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

 

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A weekend retreat at home

cosy fire

For the last couple of months I have spent quite a bit of time outside my comfort zone, but this weekend I have been firmly inside my comfort zone and it’s been delightful.

This weekend I am on an enforced retreat. I am in quarantine because I am radioactive, but I don’t feel unwell so it’s quite a strange situation. You feel that if you are not allowed to see other people, or go near them (I have to stay a metre away) then you should be feeling like you have the plague. But apart from a slightly snotty nose I don’t feel sick. I just need to stay away from others. I am on retreat.

I am loving being able to choose my own activity and not having to think about anyone else. If I want to get up at 4.30am then I can (I did on Friday, then I went back to bed). If I want to go for a walk, then I go. If I want to read, I read. If I want to watch TV, play the piano, dance around the living room like a loony, I can.

Yesterday I felt very much like going for a drive. I took the mini for a spin around Tinderbox, stopped for a little walk at the reserve, then kept going through Howden. (This is all in Tasmania, if you want to see how beautiful it is, Google earth should be able to help, I didn’t take photos, sorry.) In the dirt road part of the trip I drove through a big muddy puddle, and that decided the next activity for the day. The mini has now had a quick wash and is not a muddy mess any more.

I have work that I need to do this weekend and I have work that I want to do, but even though I am working I am just loving having the house to myself, having quiet when I want quiet, and noise when I want noise. I’m enjoying having time to think, to pray, to read, to write. I don’t think I could live like this all the time but for me this weekend is the equivalent of going on a cruise. It’s relaxing. It’s rejuvenating.

I look forward to the boys coming home on Monday (they’ve been on camp, so they’ve been having a great time too). I will enjoy having company by then. But I am also enjoying this life now.

Budgeting your time

time money

In last week’s post I mentioned that my friend Sarah had given me excellent advice: “Time is like money”.

Sarah and I had both worked through an excellent budgeting book called The Complete Cheapskate by Mary Hunt and we both approach our money management in the same way. Mary suggests giving away at least 10%  first and then saving at least 10% for the future, then some money is put in a separate account for bills and such that you know are coming up, some put aside money to treat ourselves, and the rest spent on food etc. (She’s also very clear about getting out of debt as soon as is humanly possible).

Sarah was saying to me that, in the same way that I know I can’t give to every good cause, I can also not give my time to every worthwhile activity. I need to choose, and stand by my choice.

I have talked about giving away ten percent of my money to various excellent not-for-profit groups. I have had to think hard about where to give the money because I want it to go where it is doing a lot of good, and I don’t want to have to remake that decision every time I pass a stall in the street, or get a letter in the mail, or see a good cause on social media.

I have decided what I want to give to. It may not be the same decision as others have made for their money (I hope not – there are a lot of non-profits that need supporting). But it’s the list for me.

I need to approach my time the same way. First, I need to figure out how much time I am prepared to give away to other people’s important activities. At the moment, I am working four days a week and that limits the amount of time I am able to give. It cuts a massive chunk out of my time budget. (In the same way that the mortgage repayment cuts a chunk out of the money budget.)

Once I’ve figured out how much time I have to give – it might be two activities a fortnight, or three a month – then I can say yes to those activities within that budget that suit my personality. But once I’ve used up that time, then I need to say no.

I can’t say yes to all the worthwhile things that are happening, I don’t have that much time in my budget. Somehow I need to make a decision that’s in keeping with my personality and values and only say yes to a few things. Other people can make up the shortfall.

One recent activity where I had to say no was a Mothers Day high tea at church. It was run by our women’s ministry team and I felt especially pressured (by myself, not by anyone else) to say yes because I had led our church service the week before and had made the announcement about the high tea. It’s very hard to say, “Do come to this excellent activity” with any form of sincerity when you’re pretty sure you won’t be going yourself.

But I had had a huge week that week. I had led church, travelled to Launceston (about 3 hours away, depending on road works) and given two days of teaching at the university campus there, staying overnight to do so, and had a couple of coffee dates with various people as well as my normal workload. I knew I would be tired and I knew (as an introvert) that this high tea, while pleasant, would be exhausting. I decided not to go and removed the entry from my calendar.

I felt guilty – it was a great cause (Days for Girls was being supported by this event) and I also wanted to support the amazing women who make up our women’s ministry team, but my time budget was too stretched and I needed to be at home, pottering around, grocery shopping, washing things, reading books.

It turned out that one hundred and eighty women attended the high tea. They were in no way affected by me not going. I must have done a wonderful job of advertising it in the church notices! No, I’m kidding, it was nothing to do with me but it was a really excellent result.

It is just as stupid to blame myself for the success or failure of an activity due to my not turning up, as it would be to blame myself for a charity going under because my $40 a month was not going into their account. I cannot give my time to every worthwhile activity and I shouldn’t be trying. I need to budget time to give regularly, and save some time (and energy) up my sleeve for special occasions that might pop up.

One of the things I love to spend my time on is coffee with people. I love one-on-one time with people, deep conversation, time for encouragement, and I also love coffee. When I am with those who don’t drink coffee I allow them 🙂 to drink tea or hot chocolates. The choice of hot beverage is not really important, but the time is.

I like having coffee with people because coffee generally lasts an hour. Lunch can take up more than an hour – up to two hours even, and dinner is so open-ended it scares me, but coffee is a good short time when you can have a great conversation and then get back to whatever you’re doing.

If I could, I’d have a coffee with someone every day, but I’ve realised lately that even the one-hour coffee was putting a strain on my time budget, much the same way that buying your lunch every day can put a strain on your money budget. It all adds up.

I now limit my coffee time. I give a coffee to each of my parents every week, and I have allowed myself two more coffees each week but no more. This meant that when a friend came to me at church and asked if we could get together because she had something exciting to tell me, I had to put her off for three weeks. That felt really bad. (And it also meant that my husband found out the exciting thing before I did because it came up in a church meeting that he went to. He was very good and didn’t tell me anything, and it does show that there are consequences to our actions, but that’s by-the-by.) So yes, it felt bad to put her off, but it meant that when we did finally get together I was not exhausted, I was happy and eager to hear her news, and we had time to deeply share and pray about it, instead of me being rushed and needing to get back to work.

So yes, time is like money. We are responsible for using our time wisely, and giving it carefully. I haven’t even started on the issue of wasting it on TV of Facebook but I’m sure you’ve all heard that sermon preached before.

Have you thought about budgeting your time? What do you think about the idea of having an amount of time each week that is set aside to give away?

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42

Personality Types and Saying NO

Introvert Bubble

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am ‘the defender’ personality type by the Myers-Briggs type indicator. An ISFJ. The I stands for Introvert. The rest of the letters I’m unsure about but I really know how the introvert part affects my life.

I need alone time. A lot.

In the evenings, after work, I come home and sit on the couch, my husband and son (Moz and Caleb) hide in the study and play computer games and work, and I sit and read and watch TV and write in my journal and process the day.

If this does not occur, due to some evening activity, then it’s not awful, but I get tired. Especially if we are out more than two or evenings a week.

I get my energy from being alone.

I understand that it is not only introverts who need to learn how to say no, but for me, the introversion is a big part of the situation. If I try to be out there with people for too long I soon fall into a fog of exhaustion. And so many good opportunities involve being with people.

I went to the funeral of a friend of mine from church. Her name was Rhonnie, she was an amazing woman who had lived a long and very full life. I listened to the many eulogies from people whose lives she had touched and I was stunned by what I heard. She had amazing extrovert super powers!

Rhonnie could invite near-complete strangers to come and stay at her place – to live with her for months at a time. While out walking her dog she could strike up conversations with people that led to life-long friendships. She could invite people to come to her place and hang out, not for any reason, just to be company. She had meant so much to so many people and I would love to be like her.

But I’m not like her.

I invite people to dinner and the evening goes something like this:

  • Would you like a drink? Good.
  • Had the drink? Right, now it’s time to eat main course.
  • Excellent, we’ve eaten, I’ll clear away and serve dessert.
  • Do you want a coffee?
  • Great. That was successful.
  • Now go home.

I don’t want people hanging around enjoying themselves until 2am. After about 930pm, however loved the guests are, they can go home. I need time alone to process the evening and I need to get it processed in time to get a few hours sleep.

At some point Moz and I decided that it was important for me to work part-time so that I could have hours at home by myself in order to pull myself together. I started working Monday to Thursday and then taking Fridays off

If my Friday off works well, if I get a few hours in the middle of the day to myself, then on Saturdays I’m happy to go out for lunch, or to visit friends or family, or to do any other activity that requires being in the presence of another human being.

If my Friday off does not work, due to a doctors appointment, or a hair appointment, or extra work, or whatever thing I stupidly say yes to, then my Saturdays involve much sitting on the couch or sitting in bed downstairs by myself or general get-out-of-my-hair-ness.

I know that the need for hours alone has consequences for what I say yes to and what I say no to. I know that what I write in this blog series will therefore be more easily accessible for people who lean towards introversion on that spectrum. But I hope it helps you extroverts as well.

I mean, we’re all feeling super-busy right? Everyone has too much on. Everyone wants to say no more.

One of the things I found really helpful in deciding what to say no to in life was working out what gives me life and what exhausts me. Realising that I have to say no in order to get those hours of alone time that I need. Maybe for Rhonnie saying yes to people was what gave her life. Maybe she had to say no to other things instead.

If you (like me) feel pushed around or tugged in every direction by all the wonderful and good options that you have for your life and your time then this series is for you. I hope what I write can help you to say no (without any guilt or condemnation) to those things that should not be on your plate, and to fill up your plate with the things that belong to you. With the good works you are created to do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do the good works which he purposed beforehand for us to do. Eph 2:10

This post is part of a series I am writing about what I have learned about saying no. I’d love to have you join me on this journey. If you want to make sure you never miss a post, you can sign up on WordPress and the post will be sent to your email address every week without fail.

You’ll notice some special art in this series. If you want to see more of it you can find the artist on instagram @deteor42