The past week was a trying week – the kind of week that throws your entire life off kilter. I’m thankful its over, but am forced to take a deep breath as its challenges begin to spill over into the new one.
No one I know died or got sick, I was not financially ruined, and my wife still seems to love me (I know. She’s a glutton for punishment). Nothing happened that can’t be fixed, but as I struggle, I know I have no one to blame but myself.
Sometime last year, though it had been building for some time before, I made the conscious choice to be more mindful of my time. How much of it was productive? How much was wasted? How could I maximize the former and minimize the latter, and in so doing, get closer to the goals I’ve set in life? So, as certain habits fell away (e.g. T.V., staying up too late, sleeping in, etc.), others (e.g. exercise, practicing foreign languages, financial orderliness, etc.) took their place. It was a challenge to break old habits. Breaking old habits always places you outside of your comfort zone. The process is exhausting, but rewarding.
As the first few months of the year passed, the challenge of keeping to my new routines became just that – routine. Preparing meals ahead to allow healthy eating for a whole week was just something I now did. Going to the gym five mornings a week? Childsplay! Editing my novels? A pleasure. What had taken much effort, now took less. I was stronger, mentally; more energetic, physically, freeing up more time for my disposal. Thus, the old question came back to my head: How can I challenge myself to maximize the productivity of this new-found time? I found new challenges to pile on myself. Start a website? Check. A thousand word blog each week? Piece of cake. Build that retaining wall next to the driveway to hold back the hill? Done. I was enjoying a stretch of productivity unparallelled in my life. I had probably accomplished more in the first four months of this year, than I averaged in many entire years of my life. What I was ignorant of, because I was living in a world new to me, was what can happen to a full schedule when something unplanned occurs? I was at my job fifty hours a week. I was conscious of what I ate. I was hitting the gym. My weekends were filled with shop-projects. I was meeting my blog goals, learning German, reseeding the lawn, dusting off query letters to literary agents, and researching our summer family vacation. I was learning new skills; reading books on marketing, branding, social media, ‘How to Get Your Book Published’, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain and even one about a turn-of-the-century New Orleans brothel madam. I organized, recorded and analyzed my financial files. I had the spring yard work (mulching, edging, trimming, painting, opening up the pool, etc.) all scheduled for the coming weekends. It was a precarious juggling act – so many balls in the air. What happens to all those balls in the air, though, when life comes up and kicks you in the ones between your legs? They all fall down.
Anyone who has been reading my blogs is likely aware that no comment box has been available for people to post their comments on how crazy they think my ideas are [Just look at the bottom of this blog page – See, no comment box (IT’S THERE NOW!)]. I had been promised by GoCentral Business (those whom I had constructed this website through) that this function would be available first on April 7th. That came and went. I was then promised it would be April 15th. Still nothing. May 1st? Nope. I called them irredeemable liars. I demanded my money back and got it. I now have a month to build a new website before the old one disappears. I opened an account with WordPress and began to construct a new website. Hoping to build an even better website than the first, I chose a more complex web builder. I quickly realized I was in over my head and panicked. The prospect of having to teach myself something entirely new, one step at a time would mean I would need to watch all the other things I was juggling crash to the ground.
Like I said to start, it was a trying week. There was no gym. There was no language lessons. My summer vacation sits half-planned. A pile of lumber, which will eventually become new shutters for the house, sits in a pile in the front driveway. My shiney new habits that had me crushing life, were abandoned along with nights of sleep longer than four hours. When I will get it all back is anyone’s guess. Of course, I still went to work. And, I’ve managed to remain clean from sugar. Obviously, I’m still trying to keep to my promise post a blog every Monday. Everything else has taken a backseat to learning web design. It was stressful to watch the rest come crashing down and negative self-talk was rampant. It was a bad week!
Or, was it?
Being mindful of the productiveness of my time this year has apparently spread mindfulness to other areas. I have found this mindfulness (and no sugar) to be key in the greater pursuit which is self-mastery. Self-mastery is total control of your thoughts and placing those thoughts into deliberate action. I am no self-master (yet) but the skill-set seems to be growing within. In times gone by, the past week would have sent me into a downward spiral of escape. I would have sought out a comfort zone in which to lick my wounds. But as I get comfortable outside my comfort zone, I see the self-growth. Did I just have a bad week? No. You don’t win or lose. You win or learn. I may end up looking back and finding it to be one of the better weeks of my life. The greater the challenge, the greater the growth. If… NO, when, I’ve finished designing my new web page, I will have greater self-efficacy knowing I grew as an individual to meet an unknown challenge, leading me, hopefully, to even greater heights.
I wanted to be a novelist. I didn’t realize I would have to learn publishing, computers, marketing, branding, social media and web design to become one. Its fine. It’s better than fine. What kind of pride would I reap, and how long would it last, if the realization of my dream was easy? And as I strive on toward my goal of becoming a great American novelist, I realize that the prize is not the publishing contract and critical acclaim at the end of the road, but the journey on the road itself and the trust gained in myself by walking it. In this way, we can die without regret in potentially never achieving our goals, for the reward is the pride gained in character.
Yes, I think I just had a great week.