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Allergic to Goals: WNIJ Perspective

By January 21, 2020Advice

My website hasn’t been functional for composing since Christmas and I’ve need to write without anyone looking over my shoulder, so that’s why the silence this past month or so. I’ll be moving to a better server in the next week or so, so things should work more smoothly. I’m beginning to settle into working on longer forms but still want to stay in touch here. I don’t know how that will work out though. I’ve thought of posting my novel sequel on here. Or just posting pictures and some of my better thoughts. I’d sure appreciate any ideas you have. You all are dear to me, so I don’t want to lose touch.

At any rate, here’s my latest WNIJ Perspective.

What’s your word for the year? Your dreams? How will you make them happen? It’s January. Many of us are plotting our year. Me? I get emotional hives thinking about this. Even “to do” lists make my pen itch. I leave no checkmarks. Weekly I write down goals from two years ago.

I can plan my day, then be distracted by a friend wanting to talk, an interesting article or three on Facebook. Bruce might want to go to town. The weather can demand a response that I wasn’t planning like “Sun’s out you should ride your horse, when I felt more like doing inside work.”

John Backman, of Dialogue Venture also found goals, yearly plans, no longer worked for him. He says, “Perhaps we move through life in response to God, which makes our lives sacred even if there is no grand purpose for us (or it’s eternally hidden). I find this liberating. Instead of striving to chart a course, I can simply live as directed, bearing fruit in the world as God desires.”

For me it’s like riding a horse who doesn’t want to go where I want. If I stiffen, when Life shifts, I might get tossed, but if I stay relaxed, stay fluid, breathe, I might ride through the quick step to the side.

After all Jesus says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.“ (John 3:8).

I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.

If you’d like to hear me read this, click here.

The above mentioned John Backman talked about how as a contemplative he was learning how to change focus from those goals to day to day systems. In his article, “The Purposeless-Driven Life” he says, “For another thing: the monastery where I’m an associate—true to its Benedictine spirit—is less focused on plans for the future and more on the rhythms of the daily. The principle of stability, according to the Associates Rule, calls us to ‘be steady and regular in our prayer life and in the obligations of family, work and community.’ The monks do plan, to be sure (they couldn’t have run a recent capital campaign without planning), but it’s not the primary focus for them. The commitment to daily stability, I’ve found, acts like an anchor amid change and a framework for living into that change.”

It’s that day to day rhythm that has been difficult for me though lately I’ve been able to wake up early, and spend time being quiet, sometimes writing junk in my journal. It’s been a grace to not be sucked into my phone first thing, my poor brain, distracted by what Facebook was telling me to think about, my emotions whipsawing between sorrow for a friend’s grief, and agitation at comments that I don’t dare answer, because I’d be sucked into several days of conversation and attention to other people’s opinions.

I sit down to write and go blank. The other day I opened my journal and wrote about going blank. Then the next thought came until finally I wrote about an image that has been poking me for months. Finally I gave it voice in the safety of handwritten pages, and a mind that jumps from that image to others. There’s a book nudging me to polish, that I don’t want to polish because of how personal it is, because I’m not sure I want to publish it, but still it wants to be written, perhaps for my sake alone, perhaps for others. But there is joy and relief in letting it have a voice.

Seth Haines’ newsletters talking about his book The Book of Waking Up: Experiencing the Divine L0ve that Reorders a Life have spoken to me. I’m feeling myself come awake from a long season of grief over how my novel was not a traditionally published success and pulling away from a difficult two decades of working at a difficult job, a rewarding job, but difficult. Sometimes a person’s well needs to fill up. It takes as long as it takes. I hope in the next year to publish some books.

At any rate in the blog, “What is the Streak: How to Form a Habit that Sticks” Haines tells how Jerry Seinfeld became a better comedian. Seinfeld replied, “Write jokes everyday.” But the trick he used was to buy a year long calendar that he marked off with a red X every time he worked on his writing. He says, “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

This sounded like something I could do. But I’d modify it using stars and stickers I used for student papers. (Did your teacher put stars on your homework?) I put stars on our calendar for each day I work. We buy the Mischka Mule Calendar and hang it opposite our potty. So far it’s working. I’m finding I’m motivated to earn one of those stars.

After exploring assorted productivity planners, I’ve settled on my Moleskine calendar that allows for dates and notes. I also post my to do list on a whiteboard on the refrigerator so I see what my tasks are for the week. I’m also aware that I’m not always wise about what tasks I should be choosing, so I stay loose. And am learning to feel good when I get something done, no matter how small.

Finally, here’s what I posted for the obligatory New Year’s post on Facebook: Sometimes doors are shut to keep us warm and to keep predators out. But light still shines through. And if you look there are little things to see like sparrow prints. May the New Year bring you grace and peace and more practice loving God and people. Happy New Year.

I’d love to hear how you’re handling your daily rhythms and goals.