This Is Not A Vacation

It has been a few months of what feels like an accidental vacation. First off, I cringe at and fully acknowledge the privilege dripping off those words, so let’s just let that be. As we all hunkered into COVID-19 lockdown mode, I was harboring personal opinions, along the lines of “this is overkill.” I honestly thought the whole thing, especially in Montana, would blow over in a week or two. Almost three full months later, I can see how my initial attitude set me up for where I am today.
 
For the last three years, I’ve been building a long note full of audacious, moonshot dreams as I imagine my life in the future, according to my values and my desires. One such dream is to work from home full time and be trusted with the autonomy that comes with it. But settling into lockdown after the first few weeks of excitement and novelty, I let all the discipline, the alarms, the systems and habits, all fall one by one by the wayside. I slowly and sleepily descended into the accidental vacation. I had grand visions of the corana age being a time for personal reinvention, but alas, it may have been in the wrong direction.
 
But it’s time to take extreme ownership (thanks, Jocko) of what I’ve let slip and slide. It’s time for me to get off the couch, turn off the TV, set down the popcorn, and return to life. Maybe not the life that was considered normal before all this, but the life that I want to craft and have wanted to craft from the beginning. I’m done being sorry for myself and disappointed in the ways I don’t live up to my own standards. I want a life much like this as a dream goal, so I need to start working and playing like it’s a dream and refuse to drift into the version where it becomes a nightmare. Old systems are coming back, new systems are joining the team. This is not happening to me, I’m happening to this. This is not a drill.
 
This is not a vacation.
 
 

Miss

It’s good advice for habit building,

Never miss twice.

Sleep in, lose a morning workout. Eat that guilty snack during a fast. Skip a day journaling. View pornography. Forget to follow through on a work assignment. Fall off the wagon. Let a diet slip for a donut. Fail to post a blog essay.

I have nothing profound to share. It’s just haunting me that I lost my streak of posting every Thursday morning. I’m an Enneagram One, I beat myself up for silly things like this. I shouldn’t, but I do.

But you know what?

I will not miss twice.

B27

I had to spend the night at Gate B27.

Ever have one of those weeks that just feels like the whole thing is conspiring against you? What can go wrong will go wrong. You might as well stretch some bedding out on the couch, move some pillows, and dig up a spare blanket, because your old college buddy, Murphy, is going to stay a while. Dixie and I just had one of those weeks.

I don’t want to really bait and switch you here. I’m not asking for a bunch of comments and messages asking if we’re okay. We are. But the situations that have arisen recently aren’t far enough in the past for me to really reflect on teachable moments or deep insights. Our temporal proximity to ground zero is very close, and the dust hasn’t quite settled. We’re healthy, we’re safe. We’re just emotionally rattled.

However, recently, I do have a recurring memory, reminding me of the time that I spent a whole night trying to get some sleep on the grey, office carpet of Gate B27 in the Denver International Airport. I was on my first business trip out of the state, flying to Wisconsin for work at a couple gas terminals. This was not my first trip of this nature for the summer project, but it was the first and only that required detailed travel plans like flights and rental cars.

The itinerary was as follows: Fly from Montana to Denver for a short dinnertime layover. Fly from Denver to Minneapolis. Pick up rental car and go for a 3 hour nighttime drive to the hotel. Get 7 hours of sleep before reporting fresh to work.

It was an excellent plan if I do say so myself. Maximum efficiency. But context clues have probably shown you the major flaw: delays. My first flight was late by about an hour in arriving to Montana, causing my short dinnertime layover to shrink to about 20 minutes. Okay, doable, but cutting it close. Then! Then, our aircraft is directed into a holding pattern above Denver due to a large amount of traffic. My 20 minute window becomes 15, then 10, then 2. I believe I watched my Minnesota bound plane takeoff without me from the supreme comfort of my upright, tray-table forbidden seat, thousands of feet in the air.

Okay, connection missed. Do I want to stay mad about it? First, I confirm on my airline app that my bag is set aside, to discover that I’ve been automatically booked for the next, soonest available flight that takes off at 0700 the next morning. It is 2145 now. At least my flight is booked, bag secured. Check. Win for systems and customer service. I call the car rental company to let them know I will be about 14 hours late. Check. Win for tech and communication. Now for some dinner. I wander the B concourse for so long trying to make a dinner choice, that they all close except for McDonald’s. I approach the McDonald’s counter as the sharp-suited business man ahead of me finishes his order and just as the employee puts up the “closed” sign. That employee walks off, and the look of dumb bewilderment that involuntarily twisted my face must have made her feel some degree of sympathy and pity, because an angel of McDonald’s moves the sign, and takes my hurried and thankful order with a smile. She was willing to take the ire and anger of her coworkers having to create one more order, of which she took much, visually and audibly. I tipped her personally and privately for stepping in like that. Win for humanity.

So the details are worked out, a mostly satisfying meal has begun the digestive process, and then it dawns on me, “I think I have to sleep here tonight.” I was taking each detail in stride and as they arose in importance, I lost sight of the big picture. DIA might just be my overlarge, overpriced bedroom for the night. I called my wife up home to give her the news. I search for a customer service desk for my airline to look into vouchers and hotels. All the desks have now been vacated. They’ve gone home. I’ve missed that window too. I find my next flight on the monitor and meander my way down to Gate B27.

The story basically ends there. I eventually take off in the morning, get the car, make the drive, and start work right away. I slept for about 13 hours after leaving work. Back at the airport and in the timeline, I stuffed my laundry bag with clean clothes for a pillow, wrapped my bag straps around my legs, scooted under a row of chairs, headphones in, phone charging and gripped tightly, and tried to sleep. If you’ve ever tried this, you know how futile my attempt to sleep really was. I’m on carpeted concrete, no padding, no insulation, no darkness, no comfort. And it turns out, an airport really never sleeps! Lights stay on, cleaning crews sweep the area in trained formation, red eye customers walking and talking, gate and departure announcements over the intercom, planes and trucks still constantly moving outside in the tarmac.

I really can’t tell why this memory is popping up this week, amidst today’s struggles and questions. As if the present didn’t need my full attention. But I can remember an odd peace, not resignation, but acceptance throughout my fitful night in the airport. I remember sitting at B27 and thinking, “This air travel system is incredibly complex. There are bound to be some glitches. This just is.”

Maybe that’s what my past is trying to remind my present? This just is. Do you want to stay mad about these circumstances largely out of your control? Does it benefit anyone for you to yell at the closing McDonalds employee? Can you celebrate and be inspired by the systems that put you and your bag on the next flight? Can you be grateful and generous with the woman willing to serve you dinner after closing time? Can you enjoy the extra time to read and listen to podcasts? This just is.

Between every stimulus and response, there is a choice. That’s what I’m teaching me this week. Anakephalaiosasthai. So let me revise my opening line:

I had got to spend the night at Gate B27.

Fìn

Or was that just the beginning?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about transitions. Beginning and ending and beginning. I think we all can feel the typical New Year energy humming in the air. Like the self-aware population of our earth collectively decided to strike a tuning fork before the 2020 recital, re-tuning our instruments for another year of practice, rehearsal, and performance. That really is the ritual we’ve built into the much maligned New Years Resolution. For some reason, we feel the gravity of that transition, but can we really say there was much functional difference between the two days? It was Tuesday, then it wasn’t. A Wednesday was born, then it wasn’t. Yet 2019 was laid to rest while 2020 dawned. It was inconsequential, yet momentous.

The New Year transition has the power it has because of the power we’ve collectively given it. The accepted calendar says something shifted, and that’s enough for us all to call it a holiday and watch a ball of lights drop to the ground in a city most of us don’t live in. Substantially, something seems to have changed, so why not act like it? There is something so natural in using artificial transitions like this as a reset; hence, the New Years Resolution. Use this time of year to reflect on the past, take stock of the present, and collect yourself for the future. New Year is a great beginners course in embracing transition and harnessing the power of forward vision. Because as hard as this New Year might feel to stick to your goals, you can bank on there being one next year. And do you want to merely start over or have something to build on? This particular orbit, this wheel of fortune and fate, really never stops spinning.

Around this time of year, my wife and I take a long weekend to get away from the house and the job and the cats and the chores to intentionally celebrate what went well in the previous year, recognize what didn’t go well, and set goals for the next twelve months. Throughout the year, we harness the power of the transitioning months to review our goals for the year, course correct, and set specific items to be accomplished in the next 30 days. Once a week, we sit down for twenty minutes to review progress made, details of the week, and celebrate the small wins. Twice a day, I take time to write in a journal, taking notes on my day and review progress made on the year’s goals.

It’s not always perfect. But it’s regularly intentional. And it’s a few steps beyond utilizing New Year. Each transition is useful to address some facet of our many-sided lives. The New Year rolls the calendar over. The birthday marks another successful orbit around the sun. The wedding anniversary marks another year you successfully avoided divorce and hopefully developed an even strong intimacy and friendship.

I wonder how different our culture would be if we gave more thought to these kinds of transitions and rhythms? How do we end and begin things? Are we paying attention enough to use them in their full potential power? How could a shift in mindset change a day or a year?

Consider the Jewish practice of Shabbat or Sabbath. The traditional day of rest in this culture begins at sundown Friday evening and lasts through sundown Saturday evening. The transition from day to day in this mode of thought occurs with a concrete, predictable moment that observably occurs every 24 hours. The boundary in the calendar is actually far less arbitrary than saying “midnight” is when the date changes. So if the day begins at sundown, it follows that the first substantial act of the new day is actually rest and sleep. Regardless of whether Sabbath is beginning, rest and sleep are the first things on the agenda, top priority. Only after vital time is passed resting does waking, eating, working, and playing begin. This is really what we were handed in the Genesis story of creation. Adam enters the scene on the culmination of the sixth day, then the seventh day is declared to be a holy day of rest, consecrated by the Divine Itself. Like he got to walk on the stage for the first time just for the standing ovation. Adam’s first full “day” of Being was passed in rest.

It’s a mindset shift. Are you sleeping every night in preparation for that day’s work or are you sleeping to catch up from the last day’s work? Do you charge your phone battery before you utilize it as a tool or do you charge it after you’ve spent it? Do you earn your paycheck to budget and spend in the future or do you earn it to cover what you bought in the last two weeks? Are you leaning forward in anticipation or limping behind in despair?

How can you treat endings as beginnings and beginnings as endings? How can you Fortuna_Wheelrethink transitions that will help put you in a growth mindset? In the historic cantata, Carmina Burana, composer Carl Orff adapted 12th and 13th century poems to create a work of musical mastery. The poems deal with the ever turning cycle of fate. In a very real way, the piece at the same time celebrates and laments the wheel of fortune. The opening (translated) lyrics erupt from the choir:

O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable, ever waxing ever waning; hateful life first oppresses and then soothes playing with mental clarity; poverty and power it melts them like ice.

The first poem of the piece is known as “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” (“Fortune, Empress of the World”) and starts with the very well known “O Fortuna”. And in a perfect illustration of the ever turning wheel of fortune, the work ends with the same poem, the same declaration, “O Fortune, like the moon you are changeable, ever waxing ever waning”, the same notes. The beginning could be the ending of another cycle while the ending could be the beginning of another cycle.

So consider this New Year a chance to subtly shift your mindset and set some real intention behind the transition of the decade.

Fín.

Or was that just the beginning?

Boots

I admittedly do some odd things. Ask my wife, Dixie, and she could give you a list as long as her arm of things she’ll observe me do throughout the day that get her to tilt her head and squint a little bit. There are plain things, ordinary things that I’ve learned to infuse with my own silent meaning, affirmations, and inspiration. I’ve learned to enjoy many daily tasks by giving them meaning beyond their outcome, even doing the dishes. It gives life a more interesting flavor. That’s where the interesting stuff happens. One such oddity is how and why I tie my shoes.

Have you ever wondered if anyone ties their shoes in a specific order for a reason? Of course, the power of habit would cement any brain into tying one before the other, just to clear up some mental RAM, but why? I wondered this once. Is there a purpose to why Stephen always ties his left boot first when he laces up for work? I even went so far to ask people like Dixie, my closest confidant, and she looked at me as if I was off my nonexistent, yet metaphorical meds. I just wonder about these things! And if there’s not a specific reason now, could I give it one?

So I set out to write a script, of course. A short creed, if you will. Packed inside the 20 or so seconds it takes to tie my shoes, I’m able to remind myself what I believe to be true about myself and about the space I inhabit. This is what I recite to myself every single time I must tie my shoes, boots, or even don my favorite pair of Chacos. A single act, that as an adult, I must do every day to enter society, I’ve given space to remember my values, to prepare my mind for the present day, and to peer into the future with hope.

“I lace my left boot first to recognize my own immense capacity for evil, my learned insufficiency, my selfish agenda, bodily weakness, poisonous tongue, and moodiness. I address my inner bent toward chaotic tyranny and artful anarchy lurking within my own pit of hell.”

“I lace my right boot last to affirm the goodness I bear within the Image of God, my meaning and aim to commune with today’s Kosmic Christ, my value added to the world through an integrated body, mind, and heart. I balance and manage the potential for perfect order with the spontaneity of human life. I aspire to gratitude, contentment, peace; Shalom. I invite healthy habits, grounding peace, holy breath, the Kingdom of Heaven into this earth, through me today.”

“Here I enter the Risen Presence, the Logos, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And I take my first step.”

What spaces in your daily life could you claim to affirm, remind, and teach your soul? How can tying your shoes, scrubbing a sink full of dishes, or folding a basket of laundry become a holy moment? What’s important enough to your soul that you need to hear it every day? Meditate on that for a moment or a week, then do something crazy like write yourself a script for when you tie your shoes. There’s no reason that mundane tasks can’t be made holy.

Table

Something happened in the story that is depicted in Da Vinci’s, The Last Supper. As Jesus spent his final hours before being arrested, he chose to celebrate a meal with his closest friends. We all may or may not know the story surrounding it, but I’m really interested in the fact of the meal itself. Jesus chose the place that all must nourish the body to institute something sacred in the midst of the ordinary. He made sharing food, gathering to a table, a holy thing, an intimate event, and a time to be protected. A time to connect, to relax, to converse, to learn, to teach. He infused meaning into something we all must do every day: eat.

There seems to be something special about a meal shared around the table. Whether it’s a simple Saturday morning breakfast in your pajamas or an all out Thanksgiving feast, there is a quality to that time spent together that isn’t quite the same in any other setting. There is an inherent intimacy that we miss when we opt to eat with our TV trays, allowing our favorite Netflix shows to pacify and distract while we miss connection with those on the couch beside us. What if we left the TV’s off, the phones in another room, and learned to reengage the people in our lives with eye contact, conversation, and “could you please pass the salt and pepper?”

It’s an intimate thing to share your table with another. The posture involved in inviting friends to a meal at your house is fundamentally an abundant one. It seems to me an act of trust and friendship, allowing others inside the place you call home. This sanctum where you sleep, eat, rest, and provide security to your family. I appreciate the gesture more than I typically express in the moment when I get to visit, but the gravity of the occasion is not easily lost on me. I feel a different kind of connection with a friend once I’ve seen how they arrange their lives and belongings. To say nothing of the abundance mentality that calls them to share of their pantries and refrigerators, the food that could go to nourish themselves and their closest love ones. I’m truly grateful to receive such a gift and to offer in return my best in genuine interest and conversation.

Eating is ordinary. All I’d like to suggest to you is that you strip away those distractions that would pull you away from that something sacred that happens between people sharing a meal. Invite friends, family, coworkers to your home and share of your self. Accept invitations to visit theirs. Choose the table instead of the couch. Choose connection instead of distraction. When conversation flows, laughter rings out, and stories are shared, here is what it’s like to be human.

Sabbath

Driving through the snowy, foggy Homestake mountain pass, dropping down into Butte, Montana, I was struck by the simple beauty of the pines capped with snow, like a quintessential Christmas morning. They were recently given a gift from Winter, an investment in their vitality, adorning them with beauty in the current season and with hydration for the next. No wind or creature disturbed their stately branches, which flexed under the weight of a fresh powdery snowfall. There was a romantic simplicity to this still paradise. A calming peace, observing the snow rest on the trees, almost teaching the fog that was actively rolling in exactly how to gently kiss the mountain peaks above. Certainly, it taught me that nothing in Nature needs a reminder that rest is a gift. Rest, Sabbath rest, is available and it is too often overlooked.

I have learned what value comes from truly allowing myself to rest. Choosing the creation story as a model, I, with my wife, Dixie, have crafted for ourselves a habitual, weekly day of rest. As the story goes, Nature was crafted by God in the first six movements of creation. The symphony of creation began with a bang and continued to crescendo through the crafting of light and galaxies, planets, lands, plants, animals, and mankind. In the sixth movement, Adam (mankind) was created out of the rich soil of the Earth and given the breath of Spirit and Soul, marking the species with the Image of God. Then, almost as if the whole thing needed a joyous punchline, God’s finale, the exclamation point on the whole story, ended with a rest.

“…having finished his work, on the Seventh Day, he rested…” (Genesis 1:2)

I believe this offers several things for us to learn. First, though we often fool ourselves into thinking it, mankind isn’t necessarily the end of the story. Apex predator, perhaps, but cosmic apex? no. Divine breath was infused into us on the sixth, while, I would suggest, God chose to breathe the rest out into the universe itself, sealing the whole thing with an image of divinity itself (Colossians 1:15-20). Second, the seventh and final movement of this holy, cosmic Week ended with the Divine resting to enjoy It’s masterpiece. But the seventh Day to God was only the first full Day for mankind! This would suggest that whenever we observe rest, we are actually at the beginning of something new. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, if God himself chose rest to punctuate a Week of work and creativity and if we are crafted after his Image, his personal blueprints, then we certainly deserve to choose rest ourselves.

The Jewish community traditionally observes Shabbat from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Christians traditionally observe Sabbath on Sundays. My wife and I choose to observe our adapted Sabbath Thursday evening to Friday evening. My day job holds a four day, ten hour a day, work schedule, allowing Friday to be the first day of my typical weekend. Therefore, with a week’s worth of good work behind us, we enter Sabbath together with specific practices to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming of our other six calendar days.

Upon arriving home after work, I change my clothes into comfy lounge clothes for the rest of the evening. Before dinner, we (imperfectly) strive to power our phones all the way down and leave them off until Saturday morning. After enjoying dinner together, Dixie and I observe a time of Eucharist (Communion) by breaking a cracker, sipping some wine and praying together in gratitude for a week full of work, lessons, and memories behind us. The reminder of the evening is set aside for our weekly at-home movie date night. Friday morning, we allow ourselves to sleep in, with no alarm threatening to end our slumber (because even the alarm clock can rest once a week). We intentionally leave the bed unmade, so that when we return to bed on Friday night, we’re reminded that the world will not come crashing down around us if perfect order is not maintained. We begin the day with a sweet breakfast, usually pancakes. This is an adapted Hebrew practice, where the father of the household would wake the children on the morning of Shabbat with a spoonful of honey. This special bit of candy was intended to help train the children’s minds to associate the societal day of rest as a treat and a blessing, rather than a day of limits and regulation.

The rest of the day is spent through the lens of soul care. Chores are allowed to wait until Saturday. In the winter, soul care activities include playing Nintendo together, reading books with a pot of tea, naps, writing, playing music, building Legos, cooking food together, and listening to records. In the summer, we try to orient toward the outdoors. We will go for walks in the woods on local BLM land, play frisbee, hang hammocks in the park and read, go for picnics on middle-of-no-where backroads, and sit and talk on the back porch while I smoke my pipe. Almost every habit we’ve carefully cultivated is allowed to rest on our Sabbath. I mentioned that there is no alarm clock and that we forgo making the bed. In addition, I choose to let my low carb diet rest and take it as a “cheat” day, though I am not gorging myself. While every other day is noted and described in my journal, I want these special days of rest in my home to live specially in my memory, between me and my family, so I choose to leave the pen alone.

I even allow my bible to rest on the table for a day. While tradition would have Sabbath observed with community worship and scripture, I choose to let even this rest. Yes, Dixie and I regularly attend our church on Sunday, even serving on the music team regularly. For me, however, letting scripture rest on my table for the day helps me release it as it gift with an open hand. I’ve struggled in my spiritual journey by letting scripture reading, devotions, prayers, and the like become a source of guilt and shame if I missed even a day. I used to be so disappointed in myself if I lagged on a reading plan, rushing through to “catch up”, all the while, not attending to it by seeking the wisdom within. I never want to be guilty in the timing and manner I approach the bible, so, it rests alongside me. This has taught me valuable lessons too.

On a sunny, breezy woods walk in the summer, my bible, phone, and journal left at home, I realize that my sanctuary for today is the treetop canopy. My bible is the first incarnation, the world infused and held together with the breath of Spirit, of Christ. My hymnody is a simple silent attention to the dancing leaves, the subtle birdsong high above me, and the sunlight dancing through the branches. My silent thoughts and prayers mingle with the gentle breezes and assertive gusts that bring me a flavor of far off mountain air. What news from a higher elevation may I discern from the whisper of the trees that are presently bending at the weight of this rushing glory? An attentive disciple upon the peak of Sinai, sipping anew the pure substance distilled beyond language. Here is that breath of God of which I spoke, huffed into my lungs on the sixth Day, then sighed into the Universe on the seventh. Sabbath is here to teach us how to rest along with the universe.

Journal

Have you given thought to how you begin and end your day? What intention have you built into the first moments of your morning? What allows you to relax and rest as you prepare to sleep? I believe these bookend moments define the quality and health of your daily activities. May I suggest that whether you have a routine or not, keeping a journal or diary is a worthwhile endeavor. No practice has inspired me to try more things, be more attentive, and practice listening than keeping notes on my day.

But what the heck should you even write about? Reading and studying the journals of both great and ordinary people throughout history may leave you with the sense of inferiority, as I certainly felt at the beginning. Not all of us will write compelling prose in the once obscure pages of our notebooks like MLK Jr., Anne Frank, or Thoreau. We can’t all be published posthumously from our daily scribbles, and maybe there should be comfort in that. The practice of keeping a journal is not for others, but it is wholly to your own benefit. Keep a journal for you.

(If I may digress for a moment: I have never understood why when a man keeps such a notebook, it is called a journal, but the women’s equivalent is called a diary. If either of these words have ever hindered you from taking up the habit, choose the other word. Or name it something else entirely. What you call it could not matter less.)

To begin, grab any old sheet of paper and write down things that are important to you that you would want to take notes on and have a record of if you ever should get the urge to travel back in time. These things may be documenting workouts, bullet point summaries of the day, or what you are grateful for. A quick search online can point you toward several templates, ideas, and examples if you get stuck. (My favorite examples are the 5 Minute Journal template and Tim Ferriss detailing his practice.)

Next, decide what time is right for you and how much you want to write. I write for 15 minutes in the morning with my gym clothes on and for 15 minutes in the evening before getting into bed to read. This lets me fill half a page in the morning and complete the day’s page at night. But, of course, that is what is right for me.

Finally, write. Once you’ve chosen an initial template and time frame, the next step is to simply write. It need not begin with “Dear Diary”, though if you’d like to consider an entry as writing to a third party reader, go on ahead. It may feel clunky at first, but remember, you’re taking notes on your day for you and for you only. There’s no need to write and think in finished, publishable prose. And remember, if you want to tweak your template, try splitting the page for a morning and evening session, or any other change you might conceive of, do it. You’re writing by your own rules. These will inevitably change as your values and priorities evolve.


I currently write six days a week with the following template. (Dixie and I practice an adapted Sabbath day on Fridays, during which, even journaling is allowed to rest. Next week, I’ll explain and discuss our Sabbath practice in detail.)

Header – Scripture chapter and date.

Scripture reflection (5 lines) – I value reading a chapter out of the bible every morning before I open my notebook. I reflect on the subject of that chapter, raise questions, or summarize what I’m reading in my own words in order to more fully comprehend and understand.

⇐ [Left Arrow] (1 line) – I value learning to listen to what Dixie cares to speak about as we prepare for bed and fall asleep. I figure the last thing my spouse wants to talk about in the day carries added weight and importance, so I recall our conversation from the night before.

Future (2 lines) – Without drowning in too many self help guru’s messages of imagining my best life, I do practice a form of visualization. I take stock of my current habits and imagine them out to their final conclusions, for good or ill. For example, what would I look and feel like if I ate like I did yesterday? If the outcome is less than ideal, I know exactly where I must course correct. I also take the time to imagine what it would be like to live into some of my wildest dreams and goals, engaging as many senses as possible. A common recurrence is owning a house with an expansive porch where I spend a majority of my time at home outside reading, playing, smoking my pipe, and having conversation with friends and family.

Today (2 lines) – With the two lines above in mind, I spell out one or two discrete and exact actions that I could do today to put me one step closer to the future I visualized.

Gratitude (1 line) – What am I grateful for in the exact moment of writing in the morning? It may be as simple as the cool glass of water I have that morning. Nothing is ever off limits where gratitude is concerned.

⇒ [Right Arrow] (2 lines) – With the same philosophy as the left arrow in the morning, I take care to notice and actively listen to the first thing Dixie wants to talk about when I get home from work.

Summary (5 lines) – Here, I take notes on my day. A summary of notable events, conversations, tasks completed, my inner self talk, or emotional state.

TIL [Today I Learned] (5 lines) – If everyone can teach me something, than I am never not a student ready to learn. This posture helps me enter my world with humility and curiosity. By taking notes on specific things I learned, it again helps me to practice active listening and engagement throughout my day.

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence.” – Abigail Adams.

Prayer (5 lines) – As a Christian, a prayer practice is central to what I believe it means to commune with the Divine through Christ, but I have always struggled with the words. So here, I pray through writing. I address God. I vent. I ask questions. I challenge. I request. Prayer is much more to me than five lines a day in my notebook, but where I feel words are necessary, this is where they go.

1% (1 line) – The Kaizen Method, or One Percent Better exercise, is a reflective practice that I discovered some time ago in which I ask myself how I could be just one percent better tomorrow than I was today. Too often, goals and aspirations grow to be so grandiose that they becoming daunting in their size and complexity. So instead of asking how I could lose 100 lbs. in one year, I ask how I could work toward losing 2 lbs. in the next week. I draw little check boxes next to my one percent better tasks for tomorrow, then either check the box or circle the box the following day depending on if I followed through or missed the mark.

Gratitude (1 line) – What am I grateful for in the exact moment of writing in the evening? Keep it simple and honest. Again, nothing is ever off limits where gratitude is concerned.