Rocks and life.

Good habits are like the reverse of water wearing away at a stone.

If we are intentional and mindful about our lives we will create something really amazing. Good habits are like building a cathedral. Each stone, one at a time, is placed upon another. There is a plan to it and a lot of hard work. It isn’t built overnight, and it isn’t built by accident. It requires a lot of focus and discipline.

When we are intentional about our lives, every little bit counts and every little bit works towards a goal. We are building something amazing and strong.

If we are not intentional about our lives, those stones will end up being more like a field of rocks.

They will cause us to trip.

They will make the field unable to be used to produce a harvest.

Consider this – a stone, left untouched, is just a stone. But with vision and focus and hard work, over the course of several years, can result in an amazing sculpture like Michelangelo’s “David”. Perfection takes a plan, a lot of work, and time. It doesn’t happen on its own.

So how can we be intentional? What we read counts. What we do to take care of our bodies counts. Any classes count – whether a normal course of study or extracurricular.

It may seem like a little bit here and there. But over time, it amounts to a lot. Make it count.

Writing a book.

I want to write a book. Well, essentially, I’ve already written a book. I just need to put it together.

I’ve been writing a book all along with this blog. I’ve actually been writing several books. Each post is a page or two. I’ve got way more than enough posts and enough topics to write about three books right now. The problem is sifting through everything. In a way it is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe it is like disassembling one.

Ideally, I would have been copying what I’ve been writing into a Word document, sorting it into folders, all along. That way it would already be done. I didn’t do that, because I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do. Now I know better.

The problem is time. I still have a forty hour a week job. And the new ideas keep coming. It is hard to do it all at once. But then again, I am having a hard time believing that I’ve written as much as I have in sixteen months. When I started I had the goal of posting three times a week, with the hidden goal of at least once a day. I’ve far surpassed that.

What I need to do is sit down and start sorting. I’ve done some of it. There is a lot more to go through.

I just have to commit to doing this daily. Even a little bit a day and it is done. While feel obliged to post something new every day, then I remember that nobody is paying me for this. Some days I’ve posted anywhere up to five things. So I’m ahead.

I think I’m using the idea of “I have to spend the time working on new things” as a diversion to not work on this project.

And that lets me know it is the “yetzer hara” doing the talking. This is the Jewish idea of the “negative influence” that tries to stop us from doing good things. I have learned to use its powers against it, like in aikido. When I feel it trying to prevent me, then I know I’m onto something really good and amazing. It actually spurs me on, rather than preventing me – once I notice it.

So, it is time for a shift in energy. Time to start sorting. I’ll try to post new things too because that is a good exercise for me. But I’ll try to use things that I’ve already worked on part-way rather than stuff I have to start from scratch. There are plenty of ideas that I’ve gotten some of the way into and just not finished. This way I’ll be using them up and not taking as much time. This way I’ve got more time to sort.

But mostly, I’m going to spend some of my writing time as book time. This stuff doesn’t do itself, and I don’t have minions. Even if I did, I’d want to make sure that anything that has my name on it is the way I want it.

The only thing to it is to do it. Wish me luck. Sometimes the biggest battles are in our heads.

Real vs. Digital

The more time I spend with social media, the less I have for other things. I know this, yet I seem to be unable to wrench myself away. I like to check in and see how my friends are doing and what is going on in the world, but I feel like there is too much noise to signal ratio. I have to wade through a lot of stuff to get to the useful bits.

How did I keep up with what was going on before? How did any of us? We did, surely, but we have forgotten the gentle arts of keeping in touch without social media. We used to call or write. We used to make time to see each other. Now that we have the ability to let all of our friends know instantly what we are doing, somehow we don’t have, or make, the time to actually have anything worth talking about.

It is like the difference between roll film and digital film. When we only had 24 shots to the roll, we were careful with our photos. We took the time to choose something interesting, to frame it nicely, and to make sure it was in focus and the exposure was good. Now, with digital film we can take thousands of pictures but only a handful will be actually worthwhile.

With digital lives, we are doing the same thing.

Death sentence (or paragraph…)

You never know when you are going to die. Until you do. Then you start pulling yourself together. Then you start cleaning up and hunkering down. Then life develops a clarity it never had before.

But you always knew. You always knew that this day would come. This day, the day the doctor told you that you were going to die. How long do you have? Three months? Three weeks? Three years?

Perhaps your first clue that you were mortal came from when your parents died. You were young, just out of college. Or you were middle aged, with children of your own to manage. You didn’t have time then to deal with it, but you did. You somehow managed to work in the extra work that is involved in handling an estate. You just did it, because it had to be done.

Perhaps your second clue came when you found that spot – that spot that made you go to the doctor. You thought it might be cancer, and you started wondering what you were going to do, how you were going to manage. You found out it was something simple – for now. It could be cut out or burned off or you could take a course of medicine and you were done.

But now, now there is no turning back. Now it is for real. You’ve had your second opinion. You’ve had your third opinion. Now you can’t turn away from this because it is in your face and it is holding you hostage and you feel like you can’t breathe.

And all you want to do is live.

But that is all you have done. You’ve had your life to live, and you’ve wasted it. You’ve spent it up. You’ve decorated your house and gone to tea parties and read your books and that is it. What have you done that made a difference? What have you done that has made the world better? What change have you made? Who will remember you when you were gone? Whose life was made better because of you?

Have you spent your life for yourself, or for others? Have you been true to the person you were born to be? Have you really lived, I mean really?

Because there is a difference between being alive, and living.

You say you don’t have time, but that is all you have had. Too late now to cry about it. Too late now to feel cheated. The only person who has cheated you is yourself.

Wait. Here is a reprieve. They were wrong. For now. What will you do? Back to the same old habits?

Start, right where you are. Begin. Begin again. Renew. Revive. Reassess. Strip down everything to the bare bones. Look at now, and the future.

Where do you want to be? Start heading there.

Life is short. Death is coming. Be mindful. Be awake. Be alive, really alive. Live every day with intention and meaning. Leave nothing undone. Enjoy your food and your friendships. Work on that project you’ve been putting off. Make peace.

Because one day, there won’t be a tomorrow.

Instead of this filling you with fear, let it add savor to your life. Make it add meaning. Aim for your goals.

But I don’t have time…

You say you don’t have time to exercise or write that book. But you do. You have exactly as much time as everyone else. The only difference is how you choose to spend your time.

Video games? Facebook? Reading fiction? Getting drunk? Watching TV?

Time is time is time.

Notice how fast it goes by. It is already August. It is 2013. Every day, every minute counts.

You can’t get out of that 40 hour a week job. But you can write and exercise at lunch. Even 10 minutes of each is better than nothing. You can use your phone and write a “note” while you walk at lunch and be even more efficient.

You can get up an hour earlier and do 30 minutes of each.

Time is limited. Our lives are limited. Choose wisely.

Take all the “I can’t” excuses and look at what you can do, and do it. Start small. Don’t say you will exercise and write every day. You’ll get overwhelmed. This is like going from juggling three balls to six. Aim for once a week. Commit to that. . Then you will eventually work up to every day.

Everything worth doing has to start somewhere. Good habits are like bad habits. You just have to remember to choose wisely. Don’t let the bad habits win.

Fiction

People want a happy ending. This is why many people read fiction and watch movies. They want the lovers reunited. They want the killer caught. They want resolution. They want to know that everything is going to be OK. We use fiction and films as escapes from reality.

But this isn’t real. And the more you read or watch, the more your own life will seem miserable. There isn’t resolution or conclusion or ending all the time. Sometimes things just happen and that is the way they are and you just have to deal with it.

Hollywood films all have happy endings. Everybody makes up. Everything is fine in the end. Foreign films rarely do this. There is ambiguity. There is unfinished business. There are more questions at the end than answers.

Persian films are the best at this. As one friend said, in Persian films somebody is crying, or somebody is dying. They don’t end up well. They reflect the irregularity, the unpredictability of life.

But here’s the advantage – if you watch a foreign film, especially a Persian one, your own life seems much better by comparison. Your own mess is far tidier. Your own relationship squabbles are far cleaner. Your job is easier. Your future looks bright.

I had a friend who took acid. Most people try to have a really good trip when they do this. Not David. He would have the worst trip possible. He wanted to see demons. He wanted to be chased and attacked and hunted. He wanted everything horrible to occur in his head for eight hours. His logic- his own life would seem that much better by comparison.

I’ve read the idea recently that instead of going on vacation; why not create a life you don’t have to escape from?

So, extending that further, instead of reading fiction and watching movies all the time, why not create your own life to be what you want – or learn how to accept the “what – is”?

The more you escape, the more the problem increases.

Time to decide. Spend your life awake, or asleep?