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On and Off

In order to take something on, you have to give something up. There really is only so much time in the day. What with going to work and having to sleep, you sometimes have to learn to multitask in order to have time to do what you really want to do. Sometimes by giving something up you actually gain a lot more.

A few years ago my husband and I had to make a lot of sacrifices because the roof, water heater, and A/C unit all needed replacing. We didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money saved up. We had to get a second mortgage, which would mean having to pay an extra $200 a month to the bank. So little things went away first. The home phone service was cancelled in favor of our cell phones. Then we dropped cable TV. Oh, and there went the weekly sushi dinners. Everything adds up. $5 a day for fancy coffee doesn’t seem like much, but in a year that is nearly $2000. Even my car got axed. We had a Mini Cooper, and it was $438 a month. Wowzers. When I think about how much money we spent on that car alone I’m a little embarrassed. So we traded it in for a car that was half the price.

There was a weird advantage to doing this. It caused us to reassess what mattered and what was important. In a way it was good that everything broke at the same time – it meant that we got all the big stuff over with. It will be many years before anything major breaks. But then there was something even better. The second mortgage was for a fixed amount. We couldn’t get exactly the amount we needed – we had to get a little more. It turned out that we had enough money to build the screened porch we’ve always wanted. That porch has been a nice addition to the house and a way to enjoy each other’s company in a new way because there are no electronic devices out there competing for our time.

Another sacrifice ended up creating much more. I wanted to start going to the Y, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford it. I had eaten lunch out every day when I went to work. It was a great way to escape work. That break was enough to convince my head that it wasn’t an 8 hour day or a 10 hour day. It was like having two part-time days. But that was a lot of money that was being spent. So I committed to eating a healthy frozen dinner at least three times a week.

I was very resistant to this because I thought I needed that escape. But then I realized that I had more time to read. And then I started bringing jewelry projects to work on. Both of these were fun, and gave my mind a break. Then I noticed that it was a really pretty day outside, and there is a walking path just outside the break room door. So I went on a walk. I now go on a walk for 20 minutes every day before lunch. It is a sacrifice, but it is also a gain. People are noticing how much weight I’ve lost. I feel better. I sleep better. And the slight exercise is like a little vacation for my head in the same way that leaving for lunch was. It turns out that I gained all this extra time because I didn’t have to drive to and from the restaurant. In losing something I thought I wanted, I gained so much more. I’ve taken this lesson with me. When I’m faced with something new that I’m resistant to, I’m trying to see if it creates a better opportunity that I hadn’t noticed before.

Sometimes the thing you have to give up is time. My Dad constantly talked about his Beethoven book. Throughout my life he said he was writing a book on Beethoven. He loved everything about that composer, and found great solace in listening to his work over and over. I lost track of the times I’d found him lying in his recliner, earphones on, eyes closed. But when Dad died, there was no trace of a manuscript to be found. I had hoped that I could piece it together and create the book for him, but it was all in his head. This taught me not to wait. You can talk about your dreams and goals all you want, but you have to give them form sometimes. You have to take time to make them real.

I’d like to write more in this blog. But there is only so much time in the day. So something has to go. Currently I’m giving up writing in my journal in the morning. If I write my thoughts on the computer instead of in a journal, I can then shuffle them around so they make more sense. I can add in or delete sentences that work. I think that perhaps what I say in my journal and what I say here will be different things. I’ll have to see if this works. I might need that private voice. I might need that morning exercise. It is all a work in progress.

To find more time and more peace of mind I stopped reading the news a few years ago. I thought that was going to be a hard thing to give up, but I’ve realized since that I don’t really want to read the news that is offered. The “news” really means “bad news”. Have you noticed that every time you go to the news on the Google page, the only thing it tells you is about some new war or somebody dying? Have you noticed that it is gossip about celebrities that you get from the MSN page? Have you noticed that it is all Chicken Little stuff from the Yahoo page? You’d think the solar flares would have wiped us all back to the stone age by now, with all the times that they say they are going to interrupt cell phone and internet activity. So I get my news from friends and Facebook, which is itself another time-suck and is going to require a lot of discipline. I’m still trying to figure out a proper balance with that.

Sometimes the only way I can get anything done is to do the important, must-do things first. Sometimes figuring what those things out is the hard part. And sometimes part of my problem is that what I think is important isn’t important at all. Sometimes I’ve done things that way for so long that I don’t even remember why I’ve done it that way, and it has lost all its significance. Sometimes having to give something up is really freeing. Sometimes a loss is really a blessing in disguise.

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