Lately, I’ve been giving life a lot of thought.
I’ve always wrestled with journal keeping; for me, a fairly introspective person, an entry can go on for pages. I’m also a busy person by nature and not terribly fond of sitting still, so that does me in; I haven’t written regularly for years.
Last month, though, I figured a reasonable format out. I’m on the cusp of turning thirty and, though I’m married to a man in his mid-thirties, I still find the prospect intimidating (my metabolism!). So, I’ve turned to books. I’ve been on this yoga niyama/yama kick – these are the ten principles of yoga that precede the physical practice in importance (more later), but I’ve also been reading The Road to Character, by David Brooks. It’s given me a lot to chew on.
From David Brooks, I learned that Dorothy Day loved Leo Tolstoy. From A.N. Wilson, in his introduction to War and Peace, I learned that ‘Tolstoy was without zest for literary work. He was too happy.’ And yet, Tolstoy cranked out not one, but two masterpieces of humanitarian literature. I’m fortunate in many ways; among them, I don’t share Tolstoy’s easy joy. I brood. I find I’m drawn to the sorrow of Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell; in it, he mourns the passing of his mother. Should Have Known Better resonates strongly for me, as do numerous other pieces in the album. But, unlike Sufjan, I still have both of my parents. And yet, I always carry a sense of loss. That’s life, I guess. It does get heavy at times.
Anyway, I picked up this reasonable format in my reading. To bring myself out of my everyday doldrums, I’ve decided to focus on the positive things in my life. It’s pretty simple; every day, I write three things that I’ve done that I’m proud of – going out of my way to be kind, not acting on an impulse, paying complete attention to another. And, in the spirit of self improvement, I also write three things that I wish I’d done better – I’m trading in new year’s resolutions for incremental change. Last year, my main goal was to reduce my waste to to as near zero as I could. As part of that, I created a closed-loop food waste system, to keep my food waste out of landfills. I did reasonably well – having a worm bin has been great. This year, I’m working on impulse control, simplification, and other little acts of discipline. I’ll continue building on last year’s goals too – these are lifestyle decisions I’m making, not whims to be fancied then forgotten.
Yoga has gotten me into a regular habit of morning meditation and exercise, and I find that journaling fits perfectly between mindful meditation and my practice. Nested as such, I’ve found this habit an easy one to add to – and keep in – my routine – far easier than, say, flossing. It fits within the larger trajectory that I’ve set for my life as well, as it’s a way to continually return to what I value. We are what we perpetually do, are we not?
So, here’s to a new year, a new decade, and a steady dedication to the things that matter.
Oh, and my metabolism? Today’s diet features Belgian waffles with all the fixings, and homemade crème brûlée. I’ll believe the hype when it happens.