Not Wrapping Up Community (But Also A New Goal)

Community, Writing

Project 50 - Day #1 (Moleskine)

The problem with writing about a new set of goals every month is that life doesn’t fit neatly into that timeline. I could write about community — how we cultivate it, how much we need it, but also how frustrating and messy it is — for months. I’m just scratching the surface right now. Book club seems to be gaining steam. I participated in my first committee meeting at church. I wrote another letter. I won’t stop doing any of these things, and I also probably won’t stop writing about them. But before I move on to (or just add, really) new goals, I have a few more thoughts.

Putting myself out there, organizing events, and getting involved wasn’t easy for me. I have worshiped solitude for a long time. I’m a natural introvert. Being alone makes me feel peaceful and content. And truth be told, that will never change. Too much socialization makes me feel thin, like “butter scraped over too much bread” as Bilbo Baggins would say. On the other hand, when I don’t feel rooted in place, connected to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, I’m miserable and lonely. I’ve realized that this connectedness is about more than just gratitude — it’s about grace, and patience, and love, and letting go. There is so much more I want to articulate, so if y’all are okay with me coloring outside the lines, I’ll keep writing about that as the spirit moves me. Also, while we are talking about past goals, I am really getting on board with this whole eating more veggies and fewer animal products diet. I went on a business trip last week and I ate so much meat and eggs. Having a veggie burger for lunch today felt so good.

But it’s also time to add something new. October crept up on me and I’m feeling a little scattered, so I have one one goal for this month: write three pages every day. Doesn’t matter what it is but I have to write for myself and not for work. I will also use this as an excuse to do some creative writing prompts and maybe even buy some new art supplies for doodling/painting as well. I’m generally terrible at writing every day, so I’ll let you know how this project goes.

Today I’m grateful for: my new knitting project and Netflix (always Netflix).

[Image via Sean McGrath]

Building Community: Final Thoughts (For Now)

Community

I’m feeling scattered. Ironically, I’ve been acting like a hermit this week. I’ve feeling under the weather and slightly overwhelmed. Transitions, money, writing, life in general are all on my mind, but I can’t express anything coherently today, so let’s just revisit this month’s goals, shall we? I’ll move on to blog about some new challenges next week, but the ones I’ve set in motion this month are still taking shape. So, this is more of an update than a reflection this time around.

1. Start a short-fiction book club. Biggest step accomplished: I’ve roped in some friends. Now comes the fun part of picking reading material and organizing our first meeting.

2. Write letters. Mailed one today! And I plan to buy some pretty new cards with my next paycheck.

3. Find a way to get more involved at church. Not sure where this one is going, but I volunteered to help out. I’m sure something will evolve from this …

Have these goals made me more grateful? Let’s see. They have made me feel overwhelmed and a tad resentful at times. Especially on nights when I’d rather kick back with a beer on the couch, I think, “Why am I doing this? I’m too tired/busy. No one reads my dumb blog anyway, so what does it matter?” But then out of guilt I do the thing I’d said I’d do and I actually feel good. I’m really excited for this book club, and grateful that I have friends who want to give it a go. So, I’m actually quite grateful for this blog and accountability.

Today I’m grateful for: Holiday weekend! I’m going to visit my family and every iota of my being is aching for Friday afternoon to get here already.

Reflections: How You See Things Matters

Uncategorized

I’ve been at this gratitude project for a little over a week. Every day, I’ve spent at least part of my day thinking, “I need something to write down. What am I grateful for?” The rest of the day my inner monologue is mostly unchanged. But at least I’ve spent ten minutes, maybe more, thinking about things I am thankful for every day. That’s something, right?

But I immediately worried that I’m giving thanks for really trivial things. Especially during a week like this one, when the news is a constant stream of terror and grief. Here I am giving thanks for my cup of coffee, when I should be thankful that I’m alive and whole. And then, of course, there are the personal tragedies and worries that dog my heels every day. These things are almost too big to grasp, except through grief. Just as big good things are hard to grasp except through joy.

We all feel the big stuff when it happens. But I’m concerned with small things.The daily battle to get by. Honestly, a lot of things that get under my skin are as trivial as the things I give thanks for. So, why not try to focus on the good, however small it seems?

This week I’ve been rereading David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005 because it affirms this idea that how you see things and where you choose to focus your mind matters:

I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.

Wallace eloquently points out that if we unconsciously go through life without challenging the natural, easy assumption that we are the center of the universe, we will feel miserable and annoyed, enslaved to our own inner monologue. And that being well-adjusted means working hard to get outside the default setting, to construct meaning that sets us free instead of bogging us down.

So, I suppose that’s the real crux of my project. Not to express some kind of ultimate truth, but just to change how I see things. Will I see the world as barren and hostile? Or will I choose to see it as abundant and beautiful?