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Blogging, Brooding, and a Recipe for Life

I've thought about blogging several times this week. I've certainly had plenty of time to blog; I'm back in my quiet Toronto house, classes don't start til Tuesday, and I've largely been eating leftovers and meals fed to me by my roommate's parents, who are visiting.

It's been a lovely little stay-cation.

But something keeps me from here. And so I started brooding about what that is.

Of course, it's January, and that means I'm going to brood about one thing or another. Winter does that to us (me).
To Grandmother's house we went - Boxing Day 2013

I was going to let you all in on some of my brood-ish thought; I started writing them out. But the process took me somewhere unexpected.* I'm not going to gripe or complain or over-analyze myself. I'm going to say this:

On New Year's Eve, I spent some time thinking and talking about this past year. When I look back at 2013, I see two things that are true of my life right now: I am in motion. And I am stopping.

Moving, as I applied for school, quit my job, started school. Took risks like hip-hop karaoke, applying for new jobs, deciding to go to Tanzania this summer (more to come!), and all kinds of other little things.

Stopping, as I've met with my spiritual director to unpack my life, as I recognize and explore my emotional responses, when I unplug from the internet and sit in silence, refuse to live my life at a frenetic pace.

Sometimes (often) I mix the two together in unhealthy ways. I stop - and watch six episodes of TV in a day. This is not actually stopping. Or I am go-go-go, to keep up with other's expectations or hopes for me - this is spinning my wheels, not moving forward. 

At the end of the semester, I had an assignment to create a "Rule of Life"** for myself; to think intentionally about how I order my days and what structure could benefit the way that my character and self are being shaped. Two years ago, this assignment would have filled me with anxiety or legalistic striving; I was surprised that neither of these feelings were particularly strong. Rather, I felt an eagerness to take stock of my current habits and make small, but potentially significant changes.

The first part of our assignment asked us to choose an image that speaks to us of the life-giving potential for our "rule." I wrote:
When baking (a hobby I find highly relaxing), a recipe is always necessary. While I rarely follow it perfectly, adjusting spices or measuring by intuition, I can hardly expect the result to be in keeping with my hopes if I don't have a clear-cut plan to begin with. In the same way, knowing who I would like to become helps me put together a general plan to produce the character (or baked goods!) that I crave.
My mother's very popular pancake recipe. Feel free to use it!

How does this connect to blogging and brooding?

I'm becoming rather aware of the fact that how I structure my days (or don't structure them) has an immense impact on both my mood and productivity. The little steps I laid out in my Recipe for a Well-Ordered Life actually matter, and when I choose not to stick with the plan (which is really quite simple - not an hour-by-hour chart of ALL THE THINGS TO DO), the result is not what I hope for.

It's a lesson I ought to have learned by now, given the miserable failure I always make of muffins, because I never follow the recipes properly. If I want good muffins, I can't skimp or take shortcuts. If I want a restful heart, I can't binge on TV and social media and naps.

2014, I expect, will be my year of stop-motion. Learning to stop so I can know where I'm headed. Learning to move despite the fears. Learning to find the balance between the two that will give my life half the appeal of this stop-motion music video.

*OH YEAH. THAT is why I write. Because the act of writing helps me sort out what it is that I actually think/need to be reminded of.
** If you're interested in more info on creating a "Rule of Life," and/or the history of it since the time of St. Benedict, I'm happy to send links/resources your way!


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