In one of my two short daily email newsletters there was an awesome quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She shared advice she had received from her mother that RBG held true to for much of her life.
My mother’s advice was, don’t lose time on useless emotions like anger, resentment, remorse, envy. Those, she said, will just sap time; they don’t get you where you want to be. One way I coped with times I was angry: I would sit down and practice the piano. I wasn’t very good at it, but it did distract me from whatever useless emotion I was feeling at the moment. Later, I did the same with the cello. I would be absorbed in the music, and the useless emotion faded away.
When I get frustrated, angry, envious or feel some other useless emotion I’ll be sure to keep this wisdom in mind. How much more productive is it to go on a run, read a book, create in my workshop, close my eyes and focus on my breathing practice, or just sit down and write about what I’m grateful for. With this wisdom in mind I’ll set a mental tripwire to watch for the useless emotions and then use them as productive time instead.
Sure, running when it’s sunny and 65 is pretty awesome, but that wasn’t the weather this morning. Instead it was about 5 with windchill dropping it to about zero.
One of the best parts of running at a very low temperature like that while having a beard is the sensation of frozen facial hair. It stiffens up and I could feel each whisker when I’d talk. The feeling of it is so wildly foreign. I felt like a little kid while running, I was dying with anticipation to see if it appeared as wild as it felt.
Nothing like starting off the day with frosty beard while running!
After going through my normal morning routine I hopped out of bed with a smile. For whatever reason I was feeling productive and was ready to get at it right away. Once the bed was made I went outside and snowblowed (in shorts of course). Getting a blast of sunlight and fresh morning air was amazing! By the time I was wrapping up the boys were awake and I took some time to show Gavin how to run the snowblower for the last little stretch. Next thing I knew Becky and I were on our way to the grocery store for our weekly shopping. With the Packers game today I wanted to make something that fit the mood for lunch for the boys and I so I tried out a new recipe for buffalo chicken wontons (tasted great, but needed something more hearty like a crusty bread than the wonton). By the time the game was getting close to starting I’d accomplished everything I’d wanted for the day.
Starting the day productively reminded me of how much stronger my motivation and drive are early in the morning. When I wake up and hit the gas the day flies by and I see so much more success. When I laze a bit in the morning it seems I never quite get out of it.
Sometimes I don’t take enough time to just chill, but I remedied that this afternoon. Gavin and I kept working on a game we’re making (a Commander cube draft for MTG for the fellow nerds out there). Once the game was about to start Dominic joined us in the living room and the three of us did absolutely nothing but holler at the TV, eat, and joke around. It was awesome! Becky joined us in the living room towards the end of the first half. Sure, I didn’t quite make it through the entire game – we went for a walk during halftime. After the disappointing finale of the game we had a few things for Scouts and then went right back to chilling.
Back in the day I used to watch football from about 11am until 10pm on Sundays. I’d spend the entire day glued to the TV watching all three games and all the commentary in-between. Now? This was the first game I watched in totality this year. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I saw more than 15 minutes since the last Super Bowl. Taking time to just sit on the couch is not what I’m usually in the mood for.
That’s where the dichotomy of today was oddly balancing and peaceful. To be sure, I have no intention of sitting on my butt and accomplishing so little on a Sunday again for a long time, but it did feel good to chill… especially because of the productive things I did earlier in the morning to start it off.
Not my normal jam today and it felt pretty good for a change of pace. Back to full speed tomorrow 😀
According to Gavin signs of wisdom include my age, my head of thinning hair, the wrinkles on my face, and the white in my beard. I explain that those are really signs that I’m his dad and that’s what he’s doing to me.
I had a pretty good sized list of tasks for the weekend that I started knocking out early last night and continued through today. At first everything was going better than planned and I was moving along much more quickly than expected… until a couple of projects went sideways pretty quickly. I took a deep breath and tried a few different options to no avail. At that point I hung it up, came in the house, and took another deep breath.
In the past I would’ve kept trying to accomplish the goal and my emotions (especially frustration) would’ve continued to build until I finally broke something and made the project bigger than it needed to be. Today I paused, took a couple of breaths, and walked away for a little while. After attaining some distance I was able to see a couple of potential solutions and tried them out. As luck would have it, they worked pretty well!
For clarity, I still got frustrated. I drew a little blood even (stupid mistake on my part that left me with a little bleeding from the scalp – nothing serious, more humorous after the fact). But I got the projects done, and I got them done without breaking anything (other than my skin). Today I’m thankful for signs of growing wisdom – taking a deep breath, walking away, and taking it on after I’ve had a chance to stay calm.
My jaw is still sitting on the floor in shock. After doing some quick research I found something that blew my mind. I have no idea how in the world I’ve made it 1,943 straight days of blogging without being thankful for one of my favorite National Parks!
Supper tonight was a bit unusual. Gavin was online with a buddy so the rest of us ate supper in the living room. I figured I’d fire up something on the TV for us to watch while we ate. After a couple of quick clicks on the remote we were watching a documentary on Glacier National Park. Watching the video brought up some great memories of our trips out there. Becky and I went out there for our honeymoon. We loved it so much we went back two years later. Eleven years later we took the boys out to the park. One of our happy places is within the epic landscapes of that awesome location.
Rather than allow my words to get in the way, here are some of the reasons I’m thankful for Glacier…
Days like today are amongst my favorites. For the past several minutes I’ve been sitting on the couch with my laptop ready to go. I’ve had the same blank screen staring me down for a few minutes while I think back throughout the day. My mind has been racing with many different things I’m grateful for today and I feel like my brain is spinning the the roulette wheel to see which gratitude I land on. In rapid fire session, here are some of the contenders:
Morning routines, habit stacking, and intentionality: This morning I started the day by reading my one page Stoic focus point for the day. The interesting thing was that it was talking about the power of morning routine! After reading that and closing my eyes to think on it for a moment I reached for my phone and reviewed my values and 2021 framework. I then went into a different note and read my updated dream list – which is now up to 34 and growing. By starting my day with this routine I’m reminding myself to focus on what’s most important first and priming my brain to be actively thinking about my dreams, goals, and ways I can best live into myself.
High energy, upbeat, and positive people: The energy of others can be totally infectious. Today I’m thankful for so many people in my life who’s attitudes, spirits, and positivity amplify my energy and emotions. To all of you who put a smile on my face today – thank you!
A Walk In the Sun: One of the benefits of working from the home office today was midday walk over lunch with Becky, Gavin, and the dogs. As luck would have it the sun was out and getting a combination of fresh air, exercise, and sun powered me to a very productive afternoon.
Flexing into strengths: My afternoon was largely spent in a couple of arenas that fit my strengths. One was a great client call focused on ways we will be working together the year. The other was finding ways to find, interpret, put meaning to, and then prepare workforce data into a useful tool for helping businesses attract and retain better employees. Living into a strong sense of purpose felt great.
Cooking supper: With the music on and the boys helping me cooking supper was a lot of fun! It may not have been the most gourmet meal ever, but there was a deep satisfaction in taking on a project, focusing 100% on it, and seeing it through to completion.
My weekend To Do list: Yes, I’m actually almost giddy to start knocking things off of my to do list this weekend. There’s nothing crazy complex nor anything exceedingly fun. That said, I’ve got a list of many small tasks to knock out and I’m excited to spend the day powering through.
Blogging to wrap up my day: Spending time thinking about today has me smiling even bigger than I have been through most of the day!
LOL – so… what am I thankful for today? All of the stuff! Yup, I’m totally going there today. I’m thankful for all of the stuff today. It’s been an awesome day and thank you again to everyone who had a positive impact on it!!!
Due to the weather dipping below zero this morning I opted for the “dreadmill” instead of going outside. I fired up the TV and stared at it for a minute before deciding what I wanted to watch while I ran. Instead of filling my brain with something mind numbing I went back to something I learned a few years back. With a grin I typed feverishly on the TV remote and pulled up exactly what I was looking for.
Funny how a subtle shift in attitude can make all the difference. Instead of running on the “dreadmill” I hopped aboard the “dreammill” and watched something that was a wonderful blend of several dreams I want to accomplish. Some of the themes of my dream list include:
While I was running and going absolutely nowhere my brain was blown by the sights I was seeing on the TV in front of me. People running up mountains, running on almost invisible rock strewn trails, running past mountain lakes, and then running down snow covered glaciers. I had read a little about skyrunning before, but the video really sparked my imagination. By the time my run was done I’d added a few new entries to my dream list. Seeing a combination of several of those main themes added even more joy and motivation.
You never know just how things are going to play out, all we can do is find the best way to roll with what we’re given. Becky had a perfect idea a few months ago when it became clear that COVID wasn’t going to be solved anytime soon. Figuring we all love the UP why not head back up even though we’d been up there only several months ago?
Ever since one of my first college search trips I’ve felt a pull to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My first drive up there was marked by the sight of a bald eagle sitting only feet off the road eating a deer. When I hit the brakes and turned around for a second look the eagle only glanced my way and went back to feeding with only two lanes of highway separating us. The landscape, the wildlife, the rock formations, the forests… the place just feels like home. There’s something about the place that brings a deep level of serenity to my soul.
The majority of my time in the UP has been spent there during summer and fall. Being up there to appreciate the winter was particularly awesome and added even more depth to my appreciation of the area. The side by side comparison of one of the waterfalls below shows how there is beauty to be found in all seasons up north:
After this weekend I can’t help but get even more excited for our next trip to the UP next summer. Who knows, may be there’s another long weekend or two in our future too!
Full disclosure, the first winter after we retire I plan on spending three months living in New Zealand. Our winter is their summer and one of my dreams is to live out of a camper van while touring around both islands. Even with everything I’m about to write, that is still my plan 😉
Gavin joined Becky and I for our snowshoeing this morning and we had a great time while Dominic snow boarded. I’ve written about the peacefulness of being in the woods the past few days so I’ll do my best to take this in a slightly different direction. What I enjoyed the most about snowshoeing and the rest of the day was appreciating winter.
For much of my life winter has been my least favorite season. I sometimes go stir crazy and spend time waiting for it to be over. With everything going on this year and with my focus on being outside I’ve really found this to be the winter in which I’ve fallen back in love with it. This probably sounds sick, but I’m thinking it might take over the number three slot from spring (fall being in first, summer a close second).
In the woods today I kept smiling as I drew fresh full breaths of cold air through my nose. The blanket of fresh snow covering everything accentuated so many features. The occasional unfrozen spring water caught our attention and really stuck out. The frost and snow covering the milkweed pods caused me to stop and take a moment to take in the view. All the branches were covered with a light coating of snow and sometimes when the wind would blow just right there’d be a little mini avalanche of snow falling from limb to limb until it hit the ground.
As if that wasn’t quite enough Becky had an awesome idea. After snowshoeing and a quick lunch we headed out to the same waterfalls we visited only seven months ago. The road into the park was almost impassable and completely void of any fresh tracks. We had the entire park to just the three of us and went from observation deck to observation deck taking in the spectacular sights from each. Have you ever seen a waterfall spouting the water through ice? It was wild!!! The ice formations around the water were so surreal and the snow in the surrounding forest valley enhanced the mind blowing view. That is a sight I’ll keep treasured in my memories forever.
Once we realized that we were only a few miles from Lake Superior we hit the road and hiked out to the beach we’d gone to this summer. The sand was gone and replaced with ice and snow. The waves slammed the shore and launched gallons of water into the air like we’d seen in the blowholes in Grand Cayman and Maui. The entire landscape was so frozen, wintery, and beautiful.
Only a year or two ago I would’ve groaned about it being winter. Over the past few days, especially today, I’m grateful for taking time to remember all the reasons I should pause to appreciate winter instead. What an awesome season that is full of its own forms of beauty!
Snowshoeing through the snow covered forest is surreal experience. The white of the snow washes out most of the world into various shades of gray. Sound doesn’t travel nearly as well through the forest and bed of snow which causes an acoustically pleasing level of quiet. The only sounds heard are the crisp sound of the crampon of the snowshoe striking the ice crusted snow just right and a deep bass sound as my foot settles on an almost hollow sounding crust of snow.
Going into the woods during a winter day is medicine for the soul. The stress of outside life melts away as I have time to pause and reflect on what life truly should be. The quiet rhythm of footsteps crunching on the snow quiets my mind. Viewing the beauty of the trees, the little stream (separating MI & WI – kind of wild in of itself!), and the rocky outcroppings stir something deeper within my soul.
I cannot help but wonder with each footstep, “what if I never left the woods?” Would my soul find a deeper meaning and live a more meaningful life? Would I eventually tire of the setting and want to leave to return to modern life? Would I find that the magic of escaping into the woods is the escape and opportunity to exist in it for short bursts? Maybe one day I’ll find out and maybe I won’t. 😉
Today I’m grateful for the increasing level of profound peace within my soul during my time in the woods. I feel more rested than I have in a very long time and even more excited to truly live.