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PONDERINGS on Time

Happy Herring, graphite and ink
Happy Herring

Slippery as a fish, time is the most fleeting and the most valuable thing we have in mortality, yet we often berate ourselves for ‘wasting’ it.  But what wastes time?  I’ve learned from study and experience that ‘wasted time’ falls into different categories. We may feel the time we spent talking to that person at the bus stop was wasted because we intended to be doing something else. But for the person we spoke to, it might have been just the gift of time they needed. Then there’s the time we spent reading after lunch when we ‘ought’ to have been washing the dishes, but how much more ready we feel for the afternoon because we took a rest.  So, how do I know if I’m wasting time? I’ve discovered a few truths about time.

Truth number one: unless we know how we intended to use our time or with whom we intended to spend it, and why, we cannot know whether we have wasted it! I know that seems obvious, but think about it for a bit. So, you’ve got through your day and you don’t seem to have accomplished much. The painting you planned is still an all-too-blank canvas. The appointment you needed to make is still on the to-do list. The floor looks a mess and dinner isn’t ready.  What did you spend your time on?  Your friend called in distress and needed to talk.  The dishwasher spewed water all over the floor. You wanted to cook something special for family dinner and found you needed to go and buy a vital ingredient. Was your time wasted? Or did you just choose to use it differently?

Which leads to truth number two: there will always be someone, or something, that turns out to be more important than all the other someones, or somethings on our calendar.  Put another way, however organised we are, life has its own agenda.

But having said that, and returning to truth number one, I’ve found if you have an underlying plan, you give yourself the freedom to choose what to prioritise at any moment in your day.  One woman says,
“God has given us a great gift: our time. We must do with it what matters most.”
She prays about the list she makes each day and listens to the promptings she gets as to what is a priority.  Her pattern is: Pray; Plan; Pray; Listen; Revise; Act.
Her list has tasks, prioritised numerically, and goals – the things she expects to achieve that day.

We all have a few categories that need to be incorporated into our plan for the day.

  1. There are ‘NO CHOICE’ items, things you have to do, like take a child to the dentist, keep an appointment. They have to happen.  How long they take may be negotiable but it’s usually longer than expected and they have to be in the plan.
  2. ‘HAVE TO DO IF…’
    These are things that have to be done if something else is to happen.  For instance, you need to get the laundry done if you’re to have clean clothes to wear; you need to pray to have the Lord’s help; you need to read the scriptures to keep your spiritual levels up. Other things might include ordering materials or paying an invoice or getting everyone out of the house on time. Determine their importance based on the ‘if’.   Will anyone die or will I suffer or be unable to accomplish something else if I don’t do this today? Do I have to do this to fulfil a commitment?
    3. ‘NEED TO’s’. My ‘need to’s’ list usually consists of specific tasks, things that really need to be done, sooner or later. They may not get done today and no one will die, or even notice, if they don’t.
    And then there’s the rest of life!
    4. WORK – if you are employed, this is obviously non-negotiable. If you’re self-employed, see below. If your only work is housework, you’re ‘self-employed’. Treat yourself as you would an employee and take care of #5:-
    5. SLEEP, REST and RELAXATION. Oh, and don’t forget to EAT and DRINK!
    Most of us need 8 hours of sleep, perhaps 2 hours to eat three meals a day and stop occasionally for a glass of water. We also need family time, so allocate another 4 hours or so on a weekday, depending when the children go to bed. Then add a couple of hours with your spouse.
    That leaves us about 8 hours for everything else.

Let’s talk about work.  As a wife and mother, this can mean several different things, school runs, meal preparation, housework, gardening and a job.
As an employee, your work hours and time off are contracted.  If you need to have extra time off, you have to arrange it with your employer. This is not negotiable.
However, suppose you are the boss and you are your only employee?  If you are to avoid burn-out and that guilty feeling of not having done enough, your plan needs TIMING.  I’ve learned that it’s important to decide how many hours you are planning to work each week and on which days.  Then stick to the plan!
It might seem counter-intuitive when you are building a business, but you need to practice saying, ‘I’m not available at that time/on that day’, or ‘I’m afraid I only work x,y, and z,’and offering an alternative. Recognise that every time you agree to go beyond your allocated hours you are stealing time from your family and yourself.
Have you noticed how housework expands to fill available time!  Try timing a chore.  I was surprised how much I was able to fit into the available space in my plan.  My home might not be perfect all the time but it is habitable and homely, that’s all I need. After all, I’m not a professional housewife, i.e. no one is going to sack me if they can’t see their face in my kitchen floor.  But relationships are likely to suffer if the tidiness of your home is more important than a snuggle on the sofa.

Lists are key to using time effectively.  Ten minutes spent planning is really worthwhile. One technique I learned from a wise Bishop was to number my lists, not according to the order of execution but by importance. So you might have three or four items numbered ‘1’, because they have to be accomplished. ‘2’ are the ‘have to if’s and ‘3’s are things it would be nice to get round to, if there’s time.  Putting a time allocation by each thing, where it’s possible, also helps curtail its length to end up with a manageable list.

Don’t over-schedule your day.  That is my most frequent mistake. Allow time for the unexpected and for a little me-time, even if it’s only a few minutes!  During the time that I was experiencing ME/CFS, I could only do 10 minutes of anything and then needed an hour or more to recover, sometimes the rest of the day.  I learned to expect less of myself – not an easy lesson for a perfectionist!
You might feel you ought to clean all the bedrooms today.  Actually, today could be clear the floor day. Tomorrow is dusting day and the day after is vacuum the floor day. Beware of what my doctor called, ‘hardening of the oughteries’.  Its symptoms are feelings of guilt, shortness of temper, low energy, high levels of stress and a feeling of failure – i.e. a recipe for depression!

Fill your life with things you ‘want’ to do, not things you ‘ought’ to do.  Sometimes the latter can accumulate because our expectations of our day were not realistic.  Sometimes they’re the result of someone else needing our time more than we did. Pat yourself on the back for getting your priorities right.

Take time to enjoy the moment and watch your business, your family and your relationships develop.   Many of these things I am still learning to implement myself.  I just wanted to share some principles I have learned over the years and through the discussions in our Self Reliance class, a group of self-employed individuals struggling to organise their lives appropriately.    Hope it helps and you can be a ‘happy herring’ in the swim!

Happy Herring, graphite and ink
Happy Herring

 

 

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Pondering on life

I’ve been making prints. Mono-type prints.

One day I spent 4 hours and made 8 or 9 prints. But only 3 were worth keeping, let alone offering for sale. Another day I spent the same amount of time but only one of about 6 was worthwhile. The 3rd day there were 2 and a possible 3rd.

Being an artist is not like any other creative business, for two reasons. One, it is the product stream, rather than the employment stream, that is so unpredictable. But the second is the most challenging. A friend who has run an eatery said the most frustrating thing was spending hours preparing beautiful food and have someone say, ‘I don’t like it!’ Selling art is just like that because art appreciation is so subjective. And it’s all based on emotion. My feelings as I create it. Your feelings as you look at it. Your favourite colours, or subjects, or styles.  
That 3rd day I showed my husband all the prints I had made and he immediately picked out one as his favourite, one that I had potentially discarded.
A painting might come together in an hour or take a year.  Making a print adds another dimension to that because, when ink on paper is subjected to pressure, strange things happen.
For a start, the ink thickens. This changes its tone. Different pigments react in different ways, some become darker or lighter, others more fugitive and some become greyer. With experience and a good memory you can almost predict these things. I say almost because there are other variables, too. How wet is the ink? How much extender did you use? How damp is the paper?
It is an exciting process, which is why I love it! But it can be frustrating too, because you can have a print that is almost ‘there’ and you add the final touch – and it ruins it.  
I’m so glad to know that life is not like that.  Yes, it can be unpredictable. There are times when we think we have everything worked out and then one little thing we hadn’t expected spoils things. But, when I make a print, I can’t ask the paper if it thinks this one will work, or enquire of the ink if it’s ready to play ball, or ask the roller to help me do it right.  Life is different.  Let me tell you how and why.
First of all, earth is not the first environment you have lived in.  You were in a world where everyone had spirit bodies, everyone except our Father.  He had been through much more than we could understand and He had a body of flesh and bone which could do things we couldn’t.  There were things we could do though.  
We could think and be creative.  We could study and learn, gain wisdom and knowledge, nurture talents innate within us. We could help one another and form friendships and be linked in families.
One by one our family members took their turn to go and live on earth. I’m sure we watched.  That’s why we sometimes have those déjà vu  feelings or experience an emotional response to places our ancestors lived.
One thing we knew when we were there was that Heavenly Father wants to help us. Everything He does is aimed at bringing us to the same state He has attained.  We also knew He would never make our decisions for us.  Freedom to choose is an inalienable right for all of His children, even though they make choices that are horribly wrong.
The second inalienable right is to change, your mind and your habits.  It’s called repentance and it works because one of our brothers was so perfect that He never made wrong choices and He loved us so much that He pledged himself to suffer for the things we do wrong.
His and our Father’s only objective is to bring about our immortality and eternal life. Because they love us so much, we can always turn to them in prayer and ask for advice. Unlike the paper and the ink, they are living breathing beings who have a better view of our future, and our present, than we do. So we never need to be alone.  We can guarantee that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are there whenever we need them.  
That doesn’t mean we get everything we ask for, any more than you would give your child whatever they pleaded for, especially if you felt it would be dangerous or not good for them. Prayers are always answered but sometimes the answer is no.
Have you ever been asked how to do something and taken time to explain it to the person, only to realise they haven’t heard a word you said?  Heavenly Father experiences that all the time!  An important part of prayer is listening.
Jesus taught us how to pray.  He said we should start by addressing Heavenly Father.  Then we should take a moment to thank Him for all the good things we have.  After that, we should explain to Him the things we need and why we need them.  
He also taught that, if we close our prayer in His name, He will plead our cause with Heavenly Father and whatever we ask in His name, that is right for us, we will receive.  
So life is different from making prints.  Things won’t always go the way we want them to pan out, but in retrospect we’ll recognise the hand of God, putting us where we need to be when we need to be there.  Last week an older gentleman with dementia went for a walk.  He walked for 10 hours and police and many of his friends were out looking for him.  As they prayed to know where to look, many testified that they got no direction but felt a calm peace.  The reason became clear when a family, who were simply on a day out, felt prompted to change their plans and get lunch in a different place.  On their way home later, they found the missing wanderer 10 miles or more from his home, on the other side of Bury St Edmunds.  Heavenly Father knew where he was and whom He could take there to find him.  He knows where we are, too, physically and metaphorically, and He knows how to help us.  All that is needed is that we ask and are willing to be helped.
 

PONDERINGS on making mistakes

Congratulations to those who spotted the error in my last posting! No, it wasn’t Scientology. It was Theosophy. Oh dear. Fancy making such a public mistake confused face.


It set me pondering though, this time on the value of making mistakes.

I recall learning to ride my bike. How ever hard I tried, I could never keep it upright long enough to turn the pedal.  Then we moved house and the boy next door invited me to try riding his father’s racer across the field. Every time I wobbled he somehow held the bike, and me, upright.  He pointed out what I was doing wrong each time and, being a ten year old boy, he simply did not believe I couldn’t do it. I think it was because he believed in me that I did too. I couldn’t reach the ground so I was in danger of falling off many times but, by the end of the day, I could ride a bike! 

Maths lessons were rather similar. I’m not sure I made the same use of my errors there, though there were many of them, since I still have trouble keeping track of numbers. Nevertheless, it is mistakes that help us learn. Mixing the wrong two varieties of red and blue and finding instead of purple, you have brownish grey is a quicker way of learning than memorising colour charts and, as often as Mum says to two year old, ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot’, trying it and feeling the hurt is what really helps him remember.

According to the Bible, we’re supposed to become perfect.  So why, you might ask, are we sent here in such a fallible condition?  Why can’t we be born knowing everything, understanding everything?  It would be so much easier.  Wouldn’t it?

Have you ever sat through a lecture on a subject you are already very familiar with and found your eyes glazing over, your mind going into day-dream mode and, before you know it, the session is over and you leave feeling the whole thing was a waste of time?  I think life without the opportunity to make mistakes would be a bit like that.

On the other hand, if during that lecture, something wakes you up.  You might hear the familiar topic being described in ways you hadn’t thought of before.  Life’s failures can be the wake up we need, the means of seeing things with a new perspective.  Through them we may learn empathy and gain a sympathetic understanding that enables us to bless the lives of others. Perhaps its not so much the error as its consequence that is the teaching moment.  

Each misstep or stumble provides the opportunity to reassess how we place our feet, to determine new directions, find a way of performing better and getting further than we have before. Few mistakes are terminal. Mostly they just show us where we need to learn a bit more or take a bit more care. So next time I cite an historic fact, I’ll check my sources before I publish winking face .  Enjoy your mistakes, miscalculations, blunders, wobbles and other aberrations this week and may you learn some truly life-changing things!