“Small Talk”

*** This post found it’s origin in February, 2016. Today, I am dusting it off and loving the challenge it gives me today as much as it did two, um, three years ago. ***

In Sunday School yesterday, we were talking about some of the Jewish feasts and festivals. We looked at the calendar of remembrances and were thinking about how as an agrarian society these observances would be experienced. We talked about living life along a lunar calendar. We considered how our prayers would be for the favor of weather, growing, and harvesting conditions.

In a moment of daydreaming, I was in any number of conversations I have had through life when I would criticize (to myself) how ‘all she seems to talk about is the weather’. Entirely arrogant and lacking grace in my observation, I would judge weather conversations as ‘small talk’ and puff myself up with a snobbish pride about being the deeper, more real kind of person.

But as the daydream changed mental channels, I was dressed more like Laura Ingalls and listening to Pa talk about the weather. I was a farmer’s wife listening to her husband’s concern about the rain and wet that never had time to dry out between rain storms. I was a matriarch watching her sons and grandsons toil in dust.

And I realized that for most of our days as people, weather has been anything but Small Talk. It has been a matter of survival and prosperity. It has been a topic full of hope or worry. It has been a very REAL, very important conversation.

(I recognize that there are some today who still live with agrarian reality in their back yard. But many of us don’t. And even for those who do depend on their garden, my reality is that if the tomatoes don’t grow we can just buy some, somewhere. But this isn’t a post about vegetables or gardening or first world privilege.)

I realized that our language hasn’t caught up with our daily needs or our new reality as post industrial/technological people. I don’t know what an equivalent might be – how is your internet speed? gas mileage? relationship with co-workers or boss?
Our experiences are so much more varied and individual, how do we find a common ground question like ‘weather’.

Am I going to take the risk to push into awkward vulnerability with everyone I meet? (How’s your bank account holding up? How about that retirement account?) Probably not – who am I kidding, of course not. But I will instead begin to see that conversation about weather has a much deeper root in our common history. While I navigate this fractious and frightening time in our communities, and as I seek first to understand (others and) what is our common language, I will take shelter in knowing that like a good soaking rain, sometimes those conversations that are almost always about weather, may lead to deeper unseen roots that allow for friendship to flower.

Traction

I have heard that it is a wise practice to start with your Most Important Thing each day. That usually means that you put off opening email and social media, and your first engagement in your day reflects high priority. Living with priority first not only keeps you from being endlessly lost in a loop of distracting tasks, it will also align your mind and heart for the rest of the day to support that priority.

Isn’t that a lovely idea? It is romantic and sleek all at once… a combination of Anne of Green Gables and Top Gun. I LOVE this idea.

But it doesn’t always work for me. In fact, it rarely works for me. As a 9 on the Enneagram, I have learned that it is very natural for me to be distracted easily. With this knowledge, I am working on asking myself “What is my best action right now?” So it would seem that starting with a priority would make sense for my life practice. But it doesn’t.

When I sit down first thing (after my other first things that are done in my pajamas), I spend vast amounts of time staring into space. I call this ‘I wonder’. I can wonder for a very long time about not a whole lot of things. My natural starting state (at least at this stage in my life) is that spot where there is no wind. Maybe I could rename it meditation or mindfulness.

Traction is the practice that I have developed to support my priorities while addressing my wiring toward inaction and distraction. I choose one of those non-priority to-do’s, set a timer (for 5-10 minutes, usually with Alexa) and get something done. These to-do’s range from laundry folding to paper filing. It is whatever is sitting there out of the corner of my eye or consciousness that will distract me. OR, it is is whatever will give me the satisfaction of something done or significantly moved forward. Tidying a counter, and desk top, or cutting strips of fabric – it really is an endless list.

I remember when I was a little girl, a good friend got a Big Wheel for a birthday present. We loved playing on her Big Wheel, until her parents got her driveway paved. On the new blacktop, all we could do was spin out on the slick new surface. But we learned that if we started on a grassy slope right near the driveway, if we got a bit of a head-start from there, we could have the traction that led to momentum and then the true prize of racing about as fast as we could.

This practice works to support my priorities is that it puts some traction in my day. I get some momentum and easy satisfaction that moves me into the right mindset and rhythm of accomplishment. It reinforces to me that I am making movement forward, especially when so many of my priority tasks are long term or intangible.

Cancelling 2019

I am all tied up in knots. I woke up this morning and did my morning pages and found myself writing “It is already January 4 and I haven’t even got my bullet journal set up.” So we may as well cancel 2019, friends. Because 4 days are lost forever to my new bullet journal.

I didn’t mean to become a bullet journal person. And when I bullet journal, I do it in my own very special way using a very special pencil. Last year, I adopted my own approach to bullet journaling because I am one of those that gathers at the altar of “Emily the Mother Of Perpetual List Making”. And I assumed that capturing the lists in one place that is sort of organized might be more healthy than trying to carry them all around in my heart and mind (with the full weight that the guilt of ‘oh I should of or I could of’ carries).

It surprised me how well it bullet journaling for me. And sometime in the last month, I began to believe that I could do a bullet journal the ‘right way’ or ‘for real’ or ‘correctly’. Ironically, the whole point of a bullet journal is to make it work for you, not you having to work for a pre-printed journal. And where this toxic sense of perfection (hello 1 wing on the enneagram) came from… never mind, I know.

So we have to cancel 2019 because I didn’t start it perfectly at 12:00am, January 1, when my 13yo sweetly woke me up from sleep on the couch to say Happy New Year.

I have mixed feelings about New Years resolutions and intentions. One thing I have learned about myself is that my time frame for goals is WAY less than 52 weeks or 365 days. I’m good for 4-6 weeks. Then I’m bored, whether I have successfully attacked a new goal or habit or failed miserably. And my year restarts not in the middle of a sleepy gray winter, but usually at the end of the summer with all those fall smells of new notebooks and sharpened pencils.

So where the heck the grace I usually extend to myself went to is anyone’s guess.  But hey. Here I am, writing on a blog that I took down and then put back up with the hopes that I can at least throw a few more words up here each week than I did two times last year.

So maybe 2019 can happen.

Maybe I can begin to enjoy the people and tasks in front of me more than being worried about doing it all perfectly. Wouldn’t it be something to enjoy the creative invitation of mess rather than the perfection of straight lines and military bubble letters.

I think I’ll land somewhere in the middle this year (and most of my life). But dang, I’m so excited about being back to writing here. I wonder where this renewed adventure will lead.