Quitting When it’s Time

I got an email from the president of a club I was previously active in.

Hey Maria!

I haven’t seen you at our meetings for a while. Just wondered if there’s anything I can help with, or if you plan to return.

Hope to hear from you soon!

It was such a nice email. I was happy that they were reaching out (to me! They like me!) and I also thought it was also a very smart thing for them to do for the health of their organization.

The truth was, I did think about returning. I still paid my dues. I had the regular meetings on my calendar and every other week when I got the meeting reminders, I would consider whether it was a good time to return to meetings. But the meeting times didn’t work well for my schedule, and so I wouldn’t go. My plan had been to pay my dues for another 6 months and see if my interest returned.

Then the email came. I started to reply that I’d been busy, but hoped that I’d return someday to see everyone. I had the email mostly composed when it the thought occurred to me: I could just quit now. Why am I waiting?

Rip Off that Band-Aid

True confession: I love books in the “self improvement” category. My recreational reading often entails books on personal growth, behavioral psychology, or productivity. It’s just how I’m wired.

But even if you don’t like that type of book, I’d probably still recommend Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less to you. Should you read this book? Well, has anyone ever asked you how you’re doing, and your reply involved some variant of “busy”? If so, then yes.

The premise of the book is “less, but better.” Focus on fewer things, those that are essential for your happiness and well being. The author, Greg McKeown, recommends ruthlessly eliminating everything that is not essential. If something is not an absolute, jump-up-and-down, exuberant YES!, it is a very firm No. One a scale of 1 to 10, he says you should only do things that are a 10.

But what if you’re not that ruthless?

I’m not. I struggle with making decisions, and can’t imagine feeling the certainty of an absolute yes about anything.  So that’s why I like this version:

Go ahead and rate how you feel about the activity or action on a scale of 1 to 10—but  you can’t use the number 7. All of a sudden, everything below a 7 drops away as being lackluster and everything that remains rises to the surface as being important. It’s the 7s—the things that sound a little interesting, a little fun—that will suck all of your time away if you don’t stop them.

I had been letting the club linger in my inbox and on my calendar, even though it was not even a 7. Once I realized this, I deleted the email I’d been writing and started a new one, one that said this wasn’t a priority* for me now and that it was time to quit.

It probably wasn’t the answer that she wanted, and it even caught me by surprise. But the decision was an immediate relief. The feeling was like when you clean out a cabinet and you feel so good that you want to clean out the entire room. I couldn’t help but wonder: What else can I quit doing?

I haven’t quit anything else—yet—but I could probably benefit from doing less but better. What about you?


*In Essentialism, Greg McKeown also points out the the word “priority” originally referred to the single thing that was most important of all. It had this meaning for hundreds of years, and it was only in the 1900s that the plural version came into being.


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Two Big Questions on My Mind

I have a lot of questions. Many of these are of the existential what-does-it-all-mean variety that I suspect I’ll never have answers to.

But, for the purposes of this blog, I generally have two big questions that I’m trying to learn more about:

1) What are the ways that nature can enhance our health and happiness?

I think we generally have intuitive sense that nature is good for us, that it’s good to get fresh air, to go for a walk, to get a way from it all. As I dig more deeply into this subject, it’s amazing to learn just how good spending time in nature is for people and for entire communities. In many ways, it’s the perfect antidote to our many of our modern problems, including stress, busyness, and disconnection. Time with nature can reduce anxiety, improve creativity, and boost immunity to diseases like cancer. It can lead to longer lifespans and provide inspiration and a sense of belonging.

2) What are some practical ways to spend more time with nature?

With all of those benefits, it seems clear that many of us could benefit from spending more time with nature. But how to we realistically do that when we feel busy and overstretched? Where do we find time in the day to go outside when the rest of the world is increasingly inside? I struggle with this as much as anybody—even living rurally and being a moderately outdoorsy person, I still have plenty of days where I don’t spend any time outside or connected to nature. This is why I’m interested in  finding ways to experience ordinary, everyday nature as I am in planning big, wild adventures.

That’s where my mind is these days, so I hope that you’ll come back and learn more with me!

What’s a camp?

My two most recent posts have alluded to a big change in our household: we bought a camp.

Until I moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, (aka the U.P. and aka the Yoop), I’d never heard of a camp. Eventually, I learned what one was, and eventually after that, Sexy and I talked about potentially having one ourselves one day. We had no idea it would happen so soon.

What’s a camp?

Basically, it’s a rustic cabin located somewhere in the woods, potentially far into the woods. I think most people would call them a cabin. Growing up in a semi-touristy part of south central Wisconsin, they were often called cottages and located somewhere near the water.

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But the idea is the same: a rustic getaway. They are generally smaller and have fewer amenities that your average house, although some are certainly very, very nice—a lot nicer than our actual home, I’m sure. But the ones that I’ve been to are small, unpolished, and pretty well worn. Most have running water, although it may be gravity-fed from a cistern. Some, but not all, have electricity, which is often powered by solar panels or a generator that is run when needed. All—at least all of them that I’ve ever been to—have an outhouse. Continue reading “What’s a camp?”

Weekend Reading 

Being a librarian must be exciting. At least, that is, it must be kind of  exciting for those of us who are a little nosy.  I can imagine that it would be fun to see the different books that people check out, and infer—or flat out fabricate—the details of some stranger’s life. Call it profiling, but I think it would be entertaining!

This isn’t a particularly novel thought,  but it only just occurred to me today. I had little extra time between errands so I dropped by the library to see if anything caught my eye. Twenty minutes later I walked out with four books that I suspect say more about me than I even realize.

Two are gardening books. One on gardening through the year by Eliot Coleman, an expert from Maine about whom the instructors of my season extension course raved. The other isn’t exactly about gardening directly, but is rather a cookbook to help use up all those veggies I supposedly* grew this summer. Continue reading “Weekend Reading “

Going Barefoot

I’ve been making a point to go barefoot this summer.

When I was young, I was always barefoot. It was that or shoes. I don’t remember ever having sandals or flip flops as a kid. Perhaps I had a pair of jelly shoes for summer (it was the early ’90s after all), but otherwise I only had real shoes. I never had a pair of slippers for inside use, and I hated the feeling of walking around in just socks, so that wasn’t an option. It was a binary decision: shoes or bare feet.

I remember gingerly walking across our gravel driveway because I didn’t want to bother putting on shoes. I don’t remember having dirty feet, although I’m sure they always were.

The summer before I started high school, I started running. I had always been a non-athlete in grade school, but I found myself having too much energy to sit still. The energy would build and build, until I’d finally go outside and run laps around our yard, barefoot  Continue reading “Going Barefoot”

Unconventional Living: Breakfast Salads

I bought breakfast cereal the other day, for the first time in ages. Sexy requested it, because his ankle is broken and he wanted some easy meals around the house.

I tried a few bites when I was getting him a bowl. It’s been two years since I’d had any cereal, and probably closer to three years when I gave it up in an effort to reduce how much sugar I was eating on a daily basis. Breakfast cereal, even the “healthy” stuff, is loaded with sugar, and it was a lot easier to give up cereal than chocolate or cookies. I don’t miss it at all, and actually eating a little bit confirmed that it’s not worth missing.

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I used to eat cereal nearly every day, first thing in the morning, so my breakfasts have changed a lot. So what do I eat for breakfast now? Continue reading “Unconventional Living: Breakfast Salads”

Nearest Nature: Spend Time in Your Yard

Do you want to spend more time in nature? If so, forget the scenic  vistas , popular parks, and wild destinations; there’s is an enormity of nature in your yard, even if it is the size of a postage stamp.

Here’s a starter list of ideas for easy ways to get more time outside.

  • Garden or tend plants
  • Watch or feed wildlife and birds
  • Paint or draw
  • Read
  • Cook
  • Run around and play
  • Entertain guests
  • Climb a tree
  • Play in the snow
  • Play with water
  • Collect plants
  • Cut flowers
  • Sit and contemplate
  • Meditate
  • Do yoga
  • Build or use a tree house
  • Grow food
  • Exercise
  • Roll down a hill
  • Spend time with pets
  • Raise animals
  • Relax
  • Nap
  • Play lawn games
  • Slack line
  • Zip line!
  • Sleep out overnight (tent optional)
What do you like to do in your yard?

The Blog, Year 3

I recently realized that I’ve started my third year of blogging.

Happy belated b-day, Bloggy!

Cheers!

I started the blog in October 2013 as a place to record miscellanous ideas and travels. At that time, I only had a vague sense that I wanted to write, and was not very clear on the reasons why. In retrospect, the best answer to why I started blogging would probably be: mindfulness. As the pace of my career and my life picked up, I was realizing how disconnected I was from certain aspects of my day-to-day life. Continue reading “The Blog, Year 3”