Column: Completing a project without becoming oneStanding knee-deep in a project for a month or more has a way of making one terribly boring, me in particular.
Standing knee-deep in a project for a month or more has a way of making one terribly boring, me in particular.
Awareness, wonder, perception, joy and primitive delight seem to dry up. Weeks go by and you realize that very little quality time has been enjoyed with the family. Life becomes survival, and an absolute obsession on finishing the project.
Laser-beam focus is OK for a few days, but habits and patterns form if you’re not careful as more time passes. While in the midst of an ongoing house project, or anything else that is all-consuming, it is imperative to maintain some good habits on a daily basis for your and your family’s sanity. I am writing this to myself, quite frankly.
Somehow, you must keep a focus on your larger view of the world by holding onto, exercising and allowing your faith or worldview to be challenged and used. You are not your own reason for existing.
Regular physical exercise is also essential. Even if this means simply biking to the grocery store instead of driving there, do it. Make the time, and get it done. Your mental health depends on this every bit as much as your physical, and even spiritual, sanity.
Spend at least 10 uninterrupted minutes a day with each of your children. Let them decide what to do. Dive right in with gusto and your full attention. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to instill this as a habit whilst fighting the urge to obsess about your to-do list, but once it is established, both you and your kids should look forward to this special time.
While engaging in endless digging recently, I found myself disappointed for not having thought of taking small breaks to toss around the football with my son or taking my daughter on a short bike ride. Both child and adult benefit in equal measures when setting aside small amounts of time for such things.
Remain connected to the natural world even in the midst of the work. Observe and appreciate the sights and sounds of songbirds, for instance. Never lose your awareness of what’s going on in the world around you. Then allow a childlike wonder to induce a primitive delight and joy.
I know my day job, for example, keeps me chained to a computer string in my basement five days per week. A jaunt outside to dig dandelions on a break and experiencing the warmth of the sun on my back wells up a response within me at times akin to what a prisoner may experience on a 15-minute release from his cell for yard time. Thankfulness for the simple daily blessings, normally taken for granted, is essential.
Allow your enthusiasm for the little things to burst forth unimpeded or hindered. Strive to have senses that respond in every way with an aliveness that will carry you through the day.
Break life down to the simplest elements possible. As Sigurd Olson explains, “Complexity robs us of time and energy by making life so involved with the unessential, the real things are forgotten and never seen.”
While engaging in epic projects outdoors, allow your mind and body to be governed by the natural rhythms of daylight and dark. Take each moment as it comes, calm and unhurried, and enjoy the moment for what it is, even if that means ditch digging, for example. Then when the time for rest comes, enjoy it to the fullest without obsessing over what you did or did not accomplish.
Once again, take time to love your spouse and kids. Perform acts of kindness and affection, and enjoy their reciprocating efforts.
If you don’t like this list, come up with your own.
Whatever you do, avoid this rut at all costs. It’s terribly difficult to climb out once you’re in. Somebody, help!
Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. Visit his blog at eddygilmore. areavoices.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.