I’m at that point again. Well, I get to that point often, I hate to admit. The point I’m talking about is when the details of what I need to do swirl around me like a meteor shower, with its corresponding lack of visibility. Not that I’ve been in one. But it seems like one.
So before my blood pressure and anxiety begin to rise, I frantically reach for the steno pad I always have on my desk. I think, I have to make a list. What’s my priority?
When I want to improve in fiction and I know there are a dozen tasks I could do toward this goal— read a book on craft, get a novel from the library and study it, work on my own writing, study editing, work on description, etc. I could benefit from all of these, but what to do first?
Here we are in the midst of the colorful, festive Christmas season. Each year I get as much enjoyment welcoming the New Year as I do in Yuletide caloric merriment, purchasing, giving, visiting, singing, and decorating. As the year nears its sunset, I begin casting some thoughts in the direction of what’s coming as I cross the threshold.
Really. No Christmas blues, no wistful sadness. I feel a shimmer of anticipation and my mind is already darting to things I want to improve or try or experience or master in the coming year. I have a whole year as a canvas to play with.
For years I have been a goal-setter. But rather than create a list of resolutions the length of the Appalachian Trail, I set quarterly objectives, based on my annual goals (which fall into a few basic areas, like health, spiritual, fiction, personal, etc.). I review these quarterly. For me, it’s just more bite-sized and I don’t get discouraged as easily. It keeps me on target, and there’s nothing to prevent my adding new goals that weren’t there at the outset. Or taking some away. Or adapting some.
I learn a lot of life lessons from my hobby, pottery. Sometimes I go to the studio and just want to express myself in a creative outlet. By thrusting my hands into the clay, I touch a substance that can express me, but isn’t me. Who knows what I’ll end up with?
Actually, it’s better to have a small notion of what I’m aiming for before I begin. Adventure and the unknown are good for certain things, but flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t usually improve your results.
When I sit down at the wheel with a round ball of clay that I’ve carefully patted into shape, I first get out the air bubbles and center the mound. Then I start making something. However, I have to at least know if I’m making something bowl-shaped or cylindrical, since that will determine how I begin. What I end up with will be far different from what I intend, if I don’t decide beforehand.
I was thinking today about the different ways people come to God. Some don’t come until very late, others not at all. But those who come do so in different ways.
First, there’s the limp. Life has beaten us up. We’re emptied out and bruised all over. Maybe not even sure God has noticed or cares, but we still go, limping. Our journey may be slower because of it, but that’s okay. We get there. And we get a lot of TLC along the way. Or maybe limping demands more effort than our strength can supply, so we crawl. I’ve felt like that. I’ve also crawled in the other direction at times, too hurt to look at Him.
Years ago a woman at church shared something I have always remembered. She commented on how many decisions we make every day, in the thousands, without even thinking. It struck me how much autonomy we have over our lives in the small and large decisions, and even the automatic ones. So many things we think of as reflexes are really small decisions, made in the blink of an eye.
It got me thinking. Thinking about decisions I make daily, without much thought. Or the ones I give a passing thought, little decisions, seemingly inconsequential. Of course, we cannot agonize over every decision, but if we bring to consciousness some of our knee-jerk decisions, won’t we have less conflict, get more done, stay closer to God during the day, trust more instead of worrying? Wouldn’t we live according to our values more often, weigh the value of spending time with this versus that?
Gets kind of overwhelming, doesn’t it?