Category Archives: Balance

Whatcha reading?

One of my greatest pleasures is reading novels. I think life is always better when I have a good book going. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that pleasure reading falls by the wayside. These are precisely the times that reading can be most helpful, providing a momentary escape into someone else’s life. In case you are looking for some recommendations, here are some of my latest reads:

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult — This is a fascinating tale told from the perspectives of a black labor and delivery nurse who is targeted as the scapegoat for an infant’s death and the baby’s parents who are angry, white supremacists. It was a challenging book that brings to light both the blatant and subtle effects of racism and white privilege. It’s eerily timely, given the events in Charlottesville, VA with protesting White Nationalists.

Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani — about the love, family, work life of a young Italian-American woman fashion designer in Greenwich Village in the 1950’s

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline — page-turning parallel stories of two resilient girls from different eras in the foster-care system

Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain — historical fiction about the fascinating life of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly east to west across the Atlantic

Body Surfing, by Anita Shreve — quick read, especially perfect for the beach with its setting on the NH seacoast and its bodysurfing scenes

The Monk Who Lived Downstairs, by Tim Farrington — a sweet book about a single mother landlord and her former monk downstairs tenant

Good in Bed and the Next Best Thing, by Jennifer Weiner — humorous, light reads about the ups and downs of a plus-size columnist and a scarred, first-time Hollywood TV writer, respectively

Our local library had a book sale recently where I picked up a number of books by some of my favorite authors. It’s probably a good thing that I only had a $10 bill on me, which limited on how many books I could buy. I’m making my way through that stack. Once I finish, I’ll be looking for some book recommendations.

I’d love to learn what good books you’ve been reading lately,  so please share any recommendations.

 

Living Well

Once on our way home from a Vermont ski weekend, we stopped for gas at a service station that offered two welcome perks. What initially drew us in was the covered self-serve island, which kept the sloppy mix of snow and rain off my husband as he filled the tank. The added bonus was a set of speakers on the outside of the building broadcasting music. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but I was a captive audience that day. I found myself listening intently to George Strait’s catchy tune and poignant message: “There’s a difference in living and living well.” During our trip home, I reflected upon the distinction between living and living well and I invite you to do the same.

How would you define living well? Although what first came to my mind were scenes from glossy travel ads of idyllic tropical beaches (I’m sure that had something to do with our chilly weather) and luxurious spas, I quickly thought of some more everyday, low-cost examples of family and friends living well:

• My father, who settled into his recliner every evening with a sigh and an interesting library book
• Friends who sit out on their deck every summer evening to watch the sun set
• My German host parents who have perfected the art of leisurely mealtimes (gemutliches Essen)
• My friend who makes a nightly ritual out of taking a bath by candlelight

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As you think about your own life, what current evidence do you have that you live well? You might include things often taken for granted: your health, a good night’s sleep, the unconditional love of a pet or more obvious indulgences: a fine bottle of wine, a decadent dessert, silk lingerie. I hope that the length of your list pleasantly surprises you.

What would help you move from just living to consistently living well? There are many small steps you can take that can make a big difference. A shift in thinking is one example. Instead of focusing on what’s lacking in your life use an affirmation such as “All is well. I live well.” and you’ll begin believing it. What are things that you currently do (think eat, drink, sleep, bathe) that with more intention and attention could begin to feel like nurturing rituals instead of routines? What do you have access to but aren’t currently taking advantage of that could contribute to living well? Here’s a list that get you thinking:
• Fine china
• Music—to listen to or play
• Babysitter
• Comfy coach
• Jacuzzi
• Yoga mat
• Exercise videos or equipment
• Unredeemed gift certificates
• Bread machine
• Crock pot
• Fresh flowers

My challenge to you is to not “get through” the coming days, weeks, and holidays but to live them and live them well!

What Fills Your Rain Barrel?

I’ve never been so happy to have rainy days as I’ve been this week.  We’ve had an unusually long spell of hot and dry weather in our area, creating extreme drought conditions.  Lake Cochichewick, our town’s reservoir is fortunately quite large, however, even with a voluntary water ban for most of the summer, the water level is noticeably lower.  We have relied on our rain barrels to supplement watering pots, gardens, and foundation plantings.  At times, our rain barrels ran dry.

To me, rrain-barrelain barrels seem like a metaphor for our own inner resources.  At times during this busy summer, I felt as if my rain barrel was empty.  Even though this season was full of so many blessings—visits with friends and family, a coaching Summit, a retreat, travel, work, gardening, camping, and swimming,—there were times when all of that activity and doing became overwhelming.  As I returned to the meditation cushion after a few very hectic days when I let my practice lapse, I could sense that my rain barrel was beginning to fill again.  I made a mental note of this and for the rest of the summer I did my best to find ways to incorporate some moments of stillness or sky-gazing into every day.

To navigate this transition period between summer and fall with more balance and joy, consider:

What fills your rain barrel?

What depletes it?

What commitment(s) do you want to make to yourself to insure that it doesn’t run dry?

Reclaim Your Time

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September is a month when everything gears back up after the summer. Children don backpacks and return to school and grownups return to work, leaving the lazy days of vacation or long weekends behind.  Sports teams, clubs, committees, and professional organizations that may have suspended their meetings and practices over the summer are back in full swing.   Many people find the cooler temperatures invigorating and welcome the quicker pace.  But others feel like digging in their heels and stubbornly shouting “Whoa!” when they see how much is now on their plates.   If this latter description fits you even slightly, read on for some suggestions for reclaiming control over your time.

LOOK AT HOW YOU ARE SPENDING YOUR TIME—Here’s an eye-opening exercise I’ve used with many of my clients.  Make two pie charts (circles that you will divide into sections) next to each other and label one “Actual Day” and the other “Ideal Day.”   Divide and label the first circle into sections that represent how you allocate a typical day, (i.e. sleep, grooming, exercise, work, running errands, preparing and eating meals, TV/reading.)   Are you surprised by where your time goes?  Now segment the second circle according to how you’d prefer to spend your time.

REEXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES—What do you most want to devote your time and energy to at this point in your life?  Make a list and narrow down to the three to five things that are most important to you.  These are your top priorities.  Refer back to your “Actual Day” pie chart, to see how much of your time is engaged in activities that are important to you.   What steps could you take to make your days more reflective of your true priorities?

MAKE CHOICES BASED ON YOUR PRIORITIES
1. Set and stick to limits.  My limit is two meetings a week and, when my boys were in school, it was one sport per child per season.
2. Divide and conquer.  Have your spouse or a friend fill you in on what happened in a meeting.
3. Say no.  If it doesn’t fall into your top priorities, isn’t something you want to do, or if it would push you over the edge into overwhelm, say no to it.
4. Schedule what’s important. Treat family dinners or exercise sessions the same way you would a business meeting—enter them in your calendar and work around them.
5. Make adjustments as needed to make your life work for you.

We are each given 24 hours each day; choose wisely and most the most of every moment!