The past few days of work have been very much a blur for a variety of reasons. Some of the busy-ness was pre-planned and proactive. Some of it came relatively out of the blue. Regardless of the source or reasoning much of my time has been spent on calls, video conferences, and composing emails. My brain has been on overdrive the first three and a half days of the week. Heck, even at yoga last night I struggled to get my inner voice to stop monologue-ing.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had an idea hatching that could have a huge impact. With all of the other “stuff” going on I haven’t made time to focus on putting it together. The way this week was going it looked like it was going to be more of the same. Until I had an idea…One of the books I’ve been reading recently mentioned how the author went into “monk mode” to stay focused on his writing. As I stared at my task list after lunch I realized that the single most important thing I could be working on in that moment was to start my project. I shut down my email. I turned my phone on silent mode. I gave myself two hours to focus on that one project and put myself into “monk mode.”The results were amazing! Before I knew it the two hours were up and I had made more progress than expected. There’s still a long way to go on it, but putting 100% laser like focus onto it helped me kick start it.
When I opened up the fridge to grab my lunch this afternoon I saw this…
You might be wondering how this is something I could be thankful for. Kind of strange, right? An apple on a Tupperware container full of food? Yes, I am totally thankful for this.
Fun fact about me: If I can’t see something it doesn’t exist. My mind is very visually oriented and I have some weird minor issue with objet permanence. Want to hide something from me? Put it in a cabinet and close the door. Poof! You made it disappear! I won’t even remember it existed until I open the cabinet to retrieve something else.
This weird trait extends to food in the refrigerator. If it’s not near the top or close to the door I just don’t see it. This morning I was giddy when I “discovered” a stash of sparkling water in the back of the fridge, pushed in about 18 inches from the front.
Becky realized I’ve been forgetting to eat my apples. She verbally reminds me, I thank her, I think about eating them, and then… what were we talking about? 😉 Today she remembered how my brain worked and pulled off a trick that had me smiling for many reasons. By setting the apple on top of my lunch I couldn’t help but remember to eat my apple! How awesome is that???
Thanks for helping me out using a strategy perfectly tailored for me!
Like I wrote about last night, Dominic and I hit the gym yesterday. That was the first time in quite a while that I have lifted weights. Sure, I’ve done yoga, but that’s not nearly the same… even though I was lifting very light weights last night.
This morning when I got out of bed I felt like someone had been beating my upper body with a baseball bat. Whenever I moved I found a new source of discomfort. My muscles were all sore, some more than others. Even as I blog tonight my chest and back are still feeling rather tender.
It’s kind of crazy, but it’s kind of a good type of sore. I know I pushed myself and the soreness leads to strength. The discomfort is a sign of growth.
Here’s the twist though… I know that if I were to get back into the lifting shape I’ve been in before and then maintain it I’d still be a little tender, but it’d be barely noticeable. Once I am in shape it is so much easier to maintain versus building up. This morning was a huge reminder to me that I need to find a sustainable long term balance as I build back up.
What got me thinking tonight is that it is very similar to my daily ritual of blogging. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten some seemingly random compliments on my positivity and optimism. Sure, part of me is a naturally happy person, but it takes discipline, rigor, and practice for me to sustain a healthy level of positivity. By writing each and every single day it is my daily mental / optimism / gratitude workout. Writing like this pushes me to work parts of my brain that would quickly atrophy if they weren’t worked on a regular basis. Part of why I started doing this almost five years ago was because I hadn’t worked out like this in a long time and there were many of those first posts that were brutal!!! They still aren’t easy by any stretch, but they are easier due to repetition and discipline to practice.
As I sit here with sore muscles I’m thankful for the reminder to stay in shape. While it is my physical self that is sore today I know the same could be true of my mental self if I wee to start skipping workouts.
Tonight was a bit different than the past weeknights. Monday nights in particular have been focused on yoga in the park with Becky followed by supper, a walk, and then blogging. About the only part of that which remained tonight is happening right now – the blogging.
Thanks to the efforts of Gavin’s soccer club to find ways to keep the players and coaches socially distanced during practices Gavin had his first night of soccer in well over 8 months. Talk about a quick switch back to the old normal!
Becky hit yoga solo. Dominic and I dropped off Gavin at practice and then headed to the YMCA. We worked out in masks in a very spaced out and quiet fitness area and then headed back to pick up Gavin. Becky had the pizzas in the oven and just about ready by the time we walked in the door. The boys and I devoured the ‘za and here we are. After this I’ll be reading in bed for a little bit, go to sleep, wake up early and do it all over again tomorrow. Back to the old normal!
It’s kind of crazy. Back in February I found this exhausting. Today I found it wildly refreshing! When normal is no longer normal it truly feels better to get back to normal. What’s changed? Really nothing but my perspective. Again, another reminder of the power of choosing my mindset. I can either find it tiring or refreshing, it’s up to me to put the context to it.
Deep thoughts aside, whew, normal-ish felt pretty damn good!
One of the tricks I’ve picked up from the book Digital Minimalism was keeping a book nearby at all times. Truthfully, this wasn’t the first time I’d read that advice. A year or so ago when I read On Writing Stephen King offered that advice up to anyone interested in writing. The funny thing was that I realized it was a great idea then, but I did nothing with it other than feel occasional guilt when surfing on my device. After Digital Minimalism I saw it as way for me to break my habit of staring at my phone during down time.
This weekend while camping I had Essentialism in my shorts pocket most of the time. When there was a lull I was able to bust it out and read a few chapters. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had it nearby often and there’ve been many times I’ve found space to read an extra chapter or two. This weekend I was able to remind myself of some great strategies for staying focused including how to say “no” more confidently and a process to help focus only on the right opportunities.
This afternoon when I went to pick up the boys from Scouts I knew I was likely going to spend some time waiting in the car. Thinking ahead I grabbed a different book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and started reading after I pulled up. I’m so thankful I did as there were several very interesting insights and points to ponder. Specifically, I was surprised by the mindset of individuals who’d been freed from the concentration camp and how they responded afterwards. In addition to helping me realize I need to continue to focus on finding ongoing meaning it helped me see that we will continue to have serious struggles as a society even after COVID has been mitigated. The shift back to normal is never easy and there are going to be varied emotions as we all attempt to get back to “normal.” It’s already got my mind rolling at a fevered pace thinking ahead to how I can help both myself and others through what is sure to be trying times ahead. Spoiler alert, we all must focus on finding meaning in our suffering – how can we find ways to become stronger because of this rather than just suffering through this.
Long story short, here’s what I’m most thankful for today. A minor behavioral change has helped me find more insight today. While the gap between who I am and who I feel I am called to be is still large I was able to make progress on closing the gap. Had I continued to behave the way I used to only a month ago I most likely would have missed this opportunity until I had specific downtime to read in detail. Through one minor change I’m able to grow in a positive way; and all without missing the activity that would have consumed that time in the past.
If you’ve read my blog over the past few weeks you’ll most likely note I’ve been focused on some deeper thoughts and gratitudes. Today? I’m going in a very different direction. Sometimes there is something that is just so good and I appreciate so much that I’ll just focus there instead of going deep.
While camping today Matt started prepping ribs for dinner at approximately 10am. Over the next 7+ hours he continued to take care of the ribs in his smoker. Every so often he’d pause everything to focus on the ribs, slathering a delicious coating of butter and vinegar on them to help them roast to perfection. By the time they were complete they were pretty much falling off the bone.
There was a ton to be thankful for today. Many awesome moments, great memories made, and some interesting insights. All that said, eating the best ribs I’ve ever had in my entire life totally took the cake today! Each juicy, savory, delicious bite was mind glowingly amazing! Between the couple dozen of us we easily took down all 9 full racks.
Matt – thanks for working your art for all of us today, we appreciate it greatly, though our waistbands may be a little more strained 😉
I still remember my first actual bike. It was a red Murray BMX. More important than that detail was that it was one of my very first tastes of freedom. Crazy to think back that far, but I remember thinking I’d experienced true freedom and independence for the first time when I rode it. That bike was my opportunity to travel anywhere I wanted – so long as I got permission from my parents first. That bike and the ones that followed took me to so many places including to the end of the gravel road we lived on, to town (four-ish miles away), and even to the golf course. My bike was my key to going everywhere as a kid!
Fast forward a few decades and my bike has changed a few times. Whether it was my original Murray or the current iteration (Giant) it has remained the same and has retained the same name – “my bike.” Regardless of the brand, model, or style it has remained a faithful friend who has led me to many wonderful experiences. Case in point – today my bike took me to the wildlife preserve and helped us have a close encounter with a pair of cranes AND provided a little alone time with Dominic as we biked to see what his cousins were up to AND was a source of some serious namaste while I biked back to camp alone and with some great music playing.
So many experiences related to my bike, so many moments of joy thanks in part to my bike. I swear, each time I get on my bike I somehow get significantly younger. I hop on and next thing I know I’m swerving on the road, going up and down hills, riding with no handlebars, and even occasionally “jumping” my bike when I go over a big bump (more like just lifting my front tire an inch or two off the ground, but who’s counting?). My bike is freedom. My bike is a source of great joy through experiences. My bike is a time machine that shaves decades off my being. My bike leads me to so many joyful moments. I’m thankful for my bike and the moments it has helped to create.
Today I’m also thankful for a very odd counterpoint to the first half of my blog. Interestingly enough the reason I am thankful for my bike in the first place was 100% due to a thought exercise I took myself through today.
When I headed to the shower near our campsite I parked my bike outside the door. Not thinking too much of it I hopped into the shower. While shampooing the remnants of a once great civilization – my hair – a thought occurred to me. My bike wasn’t locked up! It was just sitting outside where almost anyone could take it. While I hurriedly rushed through the rest of my shower I focused on finding a way to best utilize the stress of this situation.
“If my bike was stolen, how would I react? What would be the right way to react? What can I learn from this?”
My initial thoughts and emotions led to anger. How dare someone take my bike??? Who would do such a thing? What is wrong with them??? In an instant I realized that this was negative emotion that did nothing to fix the situation.
I then focused on how I would remedy the situation. What would the process be to try to re-obtain my two wheel chariot of freedom? I thought about who to contact, how much effort to put into finding it and so on.
After the practical I went back to my initial emotions and tried to focus them towards the positive instead. I thought about how I could forgive the person who stole it. I considered that there may be something profoundly wrong or sad in their life that caused them to see stealing the bike as the right option for them. If they already were struggling maybe this would be what got them the last they needed to get them on the right track or out of the trouble they were in. Maybe my bike would be going to someone who desperately needed that feeling of independence and freedom and would have a positive impact on someone’s life like it had mine.
The more I thought about forgiveness I realized it would be a unique opportunity to teach my boys about how to maintain emotional control and how to forgive. Of course I’d like to have my bike back but if I couldn’t do anything to get it back I could show my boys how to handle the situation with dignity, calmness, love, and forgiveness. It seems that much that is problematic in the world could be calmed by all of us learning or re-learning this skill set together. In taking my bike this person would have provided a unique opportunity to help me share a valuable life lesson with my boys.
While all of this was going on inside my head I hoped my bike was still there. In a crazy way I was prepared in the event it wouldn’t be. The entire process reminded me of a lesson from the Dalai Lama. He regularly imagines that his most prized possession, a vase, was already broken. In doing so he found that he had a renewed and deepened appreciation for the vase each day. Think about it, how much do we appreciate something or someone when they are gone? In that instant when we realize that we will not have any more time with them our appreciation for all the moments we had with them increases significantly. In an instant what we saw as an infinite source of joy is suddenly limited to what we’ve already had.
In thinking through this thought exercise of my bike being taken my depth of gratitude for my bike and all the experiences it has helped to create increased tremendously. It helped me prepare for the possibility of losing my bike, it reminded me to appreciate my bike, and it caused me to stop and remember all of the times and experiences I’ve had while on my bike. Long story short, in simulating profound loss I encountered profound joy and meaning. How wild is that?
Funny how life is often like that? The duplicity and friction between things often lead to the deepest understanding and joy if I remember to choose the right attitude.
There were a handful of things I am very thankful for today. The one that really sticks out was Gavin earning his first paycheck.
This week Gavin headed up to Winona along with Dominic and I to help clean up the flower beds and landscaping at our office building. Over the course of about eight hours he and Dominic pulled over half a dozen leaf bags’ worth of weeds while I worked inside. Every time I would look out the window he was on his knees pulling weeds. No complaints, no frustration, no whining, only working at his task.
Seeing the smile on his face when he’d earned his first paycheck was amazing a brought a ton of joy to my heart. Becky and I both pride ourselves on our work ethic, seeing him live into this value of ours made me smile huge. I still remember earning my first check and remembering that feeling of freedom and accomplishment. Knowing that Gavin has now felt the same I am so pumped.
Gavin – super proud of you today dude! I’m so glad you had the opportunity to earn your first check – but so much more proud of how hard you worked for it. Thank you for kicking butt! Love you dude!!!
I had a wonderful time on the water with some teammates. Getting time to get to know each other better, shoot the bull, and talking about things other than work was awesome.
My ride to and from Eau Claire was a combination of thought time, reading, and talking. The majority of it was productive, but there were also moments of relaxation and focus on the present.
One of the things that kept ringing through my head all day was a small handful of quotes from Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. While laying in bed I switched up books for a change of pace and can across some of my favorite concepts. To summarize, they are all focused on remembering that we all always have a choice to make in our attitudes and emotions. Suffering, setbacks, challenges, and frustrations are all a part of our life and it is in how we handle them that we shape who we are.
And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self…
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. An this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
… the tendency there was to look into the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in robbing the present of it reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist.
With all going on these quotes were wonderful reminders for me to stay present, focus on choosing my attitude and mindset, grow through adversity, and become better through whatever comes my way.
Yessir, that is a mouthful tonight! This is one of those days when leaving a portion out seems a little wrong as each has had an impact.
First off, and out of order, I’m thankful for life. Yes, this should be a pretty basic one but sometimes there are moments in life when I am more in tune with that gratitude. I should pause more often and start the day with that thought. There was a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that struck me today.
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
Another basic human need I am very aware of and grateful for today is a great night of sleep. Last night I slept like a champ and got well over eight hours. Funny how much more clear my brain is after a great night of sleep. I feel more sharp, on my game, and energetic. There is much I want to do in my waking hours, it would be so easy to sacrifice sleep like I used to back in the day. Funny thing is that when my sleep total goes down my stress goes up, my health has issues, and I’m much less productive. An excellent night of sleep is what really set me up for today.
My day was a ball of fire from start to finish. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking but I scheduled way more into my morning and early afternoon than I probably should have. That said, I was dialed in, prepared, on point, and ready. The high intensity continued through until later in the afternoon and it was awesome! There were more than a few times in which I could feel myself going into a state of flow. The activities I’d chosen were essential, in my wheel house, and were a bit of a challenge. That balance and the tightness of the schedule led to a crazy high level of intensity. Throw in the time later in the day to breathe and take stock of what had transpired and it was almost perfect. I’m thankful for the drive time I have tomorrow morning to provide space to process everything just a bit deeper.
Something else I’m thankful for today was watching the boys bust their butts pulling weeds. Our Winona office building needed a little extra love and then boys wanted to make a few bucks. They loaded up and worked a half day outside while I worked inside. Throughout the afternoon I’d occasionally pop out and see how they were doing. I was impressed, not a whole lot of goofing off, they were working hard and it was great to see. By the time I was ready to head home they were already talking about coming back later in the week to finish up the job and do some additional yard work. Nothing like knowing your kids are busting their butts to make a parent proud.