Nothing is

This clock came from Queen Marie-Antoinette's private sitting room at the Tuileries Palace, Paris; photographed on display at the Corocoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 2013.

This clock is from Queen Marie-Antoinette’s private sitting room at the Tuileries Palace, Paris;
photographed on display at the Corocoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, September 2013.

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”Thomas Szasz

I found it interesting that this quote contrasts boredom with serenity.  I would not think of the two as opposites.  I would tend to think of anxiety as more the opposite of serenity, although boredom undoubtedly makes everything seem a waste of time. But I think anxiety can too.

When I’m feeling most anxious, a lot of my distress comes from the idea that I’m not making good use of my time.  It’s especially frustrating when a day is fraught with unproductive attempts and flat-out failure to accomplish anything.  Then it can turn into a vicious cycle, as my distraction over what has gone wrong disrupts my effort to get back on track.

Perhaps it would be easier to minimize the setbacks if I could learn to see everything as being beneficial in some indirect way, even if only to help me avoid it the next time.  If I have to wait in a long line when I’m in a hurry, I can make a mental note to avoid that location on that particular day or time in the future.  If I throw my schedule off by spending too much time in a phone conversation, I can resolve to postpone telephone calls until higher priorities have been addressed. If I’m sitting in a medical waiting room — something I’ve spent countless hours doing over the years, and especially in 2013 — I can make it a point to bring something to read or work on while I wait.  If it’s something enjoyable that I rarely have time for, so much the better.

More importantly, though, I can also realize that some of what may appear to be wasted time can actually be vital moments of rest, reflection and rejuvenation.  This year, I have the usual ambitions about cleaning out, clearing space and getting rid of a lot of stuff.  I fully intend to do that, because I think serenity will be more possible in my daily life if I do.  But meanwhile, I need to practice the habit of serenity from where I am now, on day one.  For me this will involve not fretting over wasted time, or expecting an unrealistic level of achievement from myself.

I hope you will join me this year in resisting the tendency to feel overwhelmed by life, even when it’s overwhelming.  Especially, I hope we will make the clock our servant, not our master. If you have any secrets for staying serene while swamped with endless tasks, feel free to share them with us!  Good luck!

One year ago today

Free to go very slow

36 Comments

  1. When things go wrong and the road seem long.
    Think about what you have, then think about the folks who have much less.
    If you think about that long enough you will surely have less stress. :o)

    • Thank you, Patricia…VERY true! In any situation, we can always find reasons to be grateful. I really believe that. Thanks for being here!

  2. HarryS

    “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out”. – – 11th step

    Then continuing in peaceful persuasion that we are a work in progress; “We claim spiritual progress, not perfection”.

    • Thank you Harry, that’s one of the less-known and less-quoted of the 12 steps. I think the key to patience with ourselves and with others is to realize that NONE of us has arrived, and some of us must travel at a slower pace, for reasons beyond our control. I find that putting myself into God’s hands becomes easier as I see and experience the very real response to that level of trust; the more I seek guidance from God, the more guidance I get. It’s quite remarkable, really, although it sounds simple enough.

  3. Ann

    Julia, today’s blog and last year’s carry the same theme, perhaps it’s the time of year. Like you, if I listen to music while doing a task, the task becomes less of a ‘task’ and becomes something I do while listening to good music. Try to have upbeat music!

    Also…do you know the best way to eat an elephant ? One bite at a time!

    You’ ve brought cheer to my day.

    Ann

    • Thank you, Ann! I don’t know if I could have gotten through life without upbeat music. In college I used to have a “wake-up” tape (sort of like a mix tape except it was on 8-track – really!) and it had all these upbeat and beautiful songs on it. John Denver’s “The Eagle and the Hawk” and Neil Diamond’s “Skybird” and Carole King’s “Beautiful” to name just a few. Ever since then I’ve always had my playlists. I absolutely cannot exercise, or some days even walk, without my “tunes” as I call them. Now about that elephant…I get it about the one bite at a time, but my problem is I keep walking around him, trying to decide where to start. 🙂 Thanks for being here!

    • Ann

      There’s an old military quote that might help you with the elephant…’do something Lt., do something!!’ In other words just get started, it doesn’t matter where!

      • Ann, I love it. I’ll try to remind myself of that EVERY DAY!!! As a military wife I find the “Lieutenant” part the funniest. The man who sold us the two most recent cars we bought was remarking on how I handled all the paperwork and business details – he said “He’s the colonel and you’re the lieutenant” and I said, “WRONG, I’m the NCOIC” and he said “well that’s the person who really gets everything done” and I said “My point exactly.” 🙂 But truthfully, Jeff is way better at getting things done than I am!

    • Rene

      I read this part (about walking around the elephant deciding where to start) to my husband and he said, “That’s you!”

      • Hee-hee 🙂 Great minds think alike. I’m still wondering about it…

  4. When in line and frustrated, I try to remind myself to be present and to look around at the other people. I sent out love to them, blessing each of them with a moment in my head and a simple, “God Bless You,” even though I don’t know them. I figure I have 2 options ~ get annoyed or get blessed. Time moves faster that way and what we give out comes back to us so why not, right?

    • Absolutely. I get a lot of comfort and joy from praying for people I don’t know and will never see again. So often I’ll see someone who is obviously struggling – whether physically, with a heavy load or an infirmity or other obstacle, or mentally, with a nasty attitude or fear or sadness, and I feel so helpless to do anything about it, but I do send up a prayer for them. I’ll have to try that next time I’m standing in a line and feeling grouchy. Great tip!

      • I love that we do similar things ~ I’m grateful for our connection! xo

        • Thank you, so am I!

    • Rene

      I read. It’s sometimes the only time in a day that I can do it uninterrupted.

      • Isn’t it amazing how hard it is to prevent interruptions? I think that’s one of the worst parts about technology, although I must admit, I interrupt myself as often as anyone else interrupts me. Maybe more often. As the wonderful quote I read recently said, “If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted, I wish I had a puppy.”

  5. Rene

    I too, have the problem of “an unrealistic level of achievement.” I have had three weeks off of work, therefore I had plenty of time to do A-Z. Of course, the first two weeks were pretty much dedicated to the holidays, so I have really only had one week for the cleaning and the business I had neglected while working on my portfolio (not to mention all the New Year’s tasks I give myself). I am really fighting the urge to be discouraged about the state of my kitchen, when I should be rejoicing that I finally dusted the family room! I think rejoicing over the small victories helps!

    • Rene, that is so true. It’s all too easy to get caught up in seeing only what NEEDS to be done (there is always so much of it) and not seeing what has been done, and will be done, and doesn’t really need to be done. One problem I have that I never can seem to shake, is the total inability to realistically estimate what I can get done in any finite span of time. I’m trying to lower my expectations in that regard, and plan plenty of “buffer time” to cover interruptions, and not set myself up for frustration. I think you are wise to have time “dedicated to the holidays” since these breaks in routine can be so important to our sanity and our appreciation of “normal” life!

      • Rene

        Honestly, I had to force myself. I didn’t get any shopping done until school was out, so that’s what I did the few days before Christmas (along with decorating the tree). I think it was Sarah Ban Breathnach who taught me to pick a few things that I absolutely had to have done—that was the two. I had to forgive myself for not having the whole house clean, not finding the stockings, and not making it to church on Christmas Eve due to a car using/scheduling error. There was a brief mental struggle, but we went to church Christmas morning instead (at a different church than we usually attend, that was pretty nice), and stocking-stuffers “mysteriously” appeared on Three Kings Day.

        • Hey, the stocking stuffers were probably more fun then anyway! At least that is what I would tell myself. I do think it’s wise to pick one or two priorities and stick to those. Today I am working on getting priority two done, but I just had to take a break to check my blog and say hi 🙂 !

  6. raynard

    Julia, 2013 the last 6 months were overwhelming to me. That crazy work schedule and keeping promises baking cakes. I did so far”shred some stuff, threw worn out items away.( now I have 1 large tupperware bin with 12 years of magazines and another 7 years of papers and “you get the picture”.. I spend as little time as possible 1 in front of a tv and 2 on the phone , 3 on Facebook. Work schedule about to get more intense.Keep me in prayer.. Oh, when you get a moment, The Philadelphia Flower show has a website and Youtube page. You can see behind the scenes preparations for the upcoming and previous shows. Back to your blog. For me, I “keep it real” as the kids say and “keep it simple..Overplanning, thinking and committing will burn you out and”reaching for “zanix” like breath mints or “m&m’s”…. Cindy from the Upper Room asked about you today. It’s going to hit 60 degrees here today and I have to work. If you need any tips when you get time on how “to clean up and speed up your computer let me know. I have to go back and watermark my pictures. Give Jeff as always my reguards and tell him”I might have to not so”Passe” holding my nose up and learn how to use one of those Keurig coffee machines lol. Be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, thanks so much for checking in and letting me know about Cindy. I know she has been crazy busy lately too. I really need to get back over to UR, I really miss everyone there. I was wondering what the flower show theme would be this year, I will have to check it out! It must be warming up everywhere today…it will be almost 70 here; it’s as warm outside as in the house! WOW do I ever feel your pain about needing to clean up the computer. I never seem to get to it since the house seems more urgent, the computer junk is hidden away until I turn it on! I am trying to figure out a way to be 100% telephone-free but I don’t know if I can manage it completely — but I am way tired of talking to robots when I call businesses, and now that the robots are calling us continually (mostly with medical appointment reminders) I’m ready to throw the phone out the window! I am too cheap to have a Keurig machine but I love my little one-cup Melita filter and I do like it when I can make Keurig cups at a hotel or waiting room. I will be praying for you with all the work stresses and cake-baking commitments! Just tell everyone you are on cake sabbatical 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  7. rayanard

    Julia Google has something called Google Voice. Its like a free phone number/answering machine. It shows calls in your email to include voicemail.Helps me to cut down on annoying calls and screen them too. I can even use it to make calls thru my iPod.Oh the theme for this years flower show you will like its art. Go to their website they have a short video trailer on it since last year. The tickets usually go on sale in January. I buy mine at the local supermarket cheaper than online or at the door.Bty not taking on any new cake projects only for my church.I answer my telephone hardly and when I do its like a airport traffic controller. Its well known in my family lol I might respond to a text or Facebook no worries lol be blessed

    • I will definitely look into Google Voice, it might be just what I need. YES I do love that theme for a flower show. Thanks for the info!

  8. Sheila

    Julia, I read a quote that I’ll share (even though you may have seen it) : TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE…..SO IS TOMORROW! We really do need to treat every single day as a special occasion. Isn’t it? 🙂 Sheila

    • Yes Sheila and today is an extra-special occasion for me – because when I was FINALLY going through our mail which we got tonight, I found the most lovely surprise! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the calendar; it is quite possibly the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some really gorgeous ones. I started off by looking at all the photos and trying to pick which one I’d most like to beam myself up to, but I couldn’t choose; they were all so beautiful. My favorite part was seeing your photo. You look very much as I would have pictured you to look – though, to tell the truth, I’m not sure I ever really even tried to picture what you look like. Jeff said you looked too young to be the age you are 🙂 and he doesn’t say such things lightly! Thanks SO much for the lovely gift! And yes, maybe this will be the year!!!

      • Sheila

        Julia, I’m so glad that the calendar was such a delight. I do hope you will enjoy it all year and as we turn the page each month to a new porch just know so many others are joining you there, OUT ON THE PORCH… including me! That little photo was a fun afterthought. We had our passports updated last month, hence the photo. I always think they’re somewhere between driver’s license and mug shot! 🙂 Thank you both for your kind words. With cheerful thoughts and prayers this beautiful Sunday morning, Sheila

        • Sheila, when Jeff said you looked too young for that to be you (he thought maybe it was someone else) I said “It’s a passport photo, maybe it’s an old one. 🙂 ) I’m so glad you sent it! It’s a sunny, lovely day today and I need to get out and start walking. I feel so L-A-Z-Y but I keep telling myself it’s just cumulative exhaustion! Cheerful thoughts and prayers right back to you!

  9. What a beautiful and unique clock. Can you imagine that in your bedroom. WOW!! Anyway I tackle most tasks reluctantly these days. It’s so much more fun to read or watch tv than work but I try to remember that it won’t get better if I put off. Sometimes that motivates me. 🙂 Take care of you. Love, A

    • Amy, that’s what I’ve been doing; asking myself (and occasionally Jeff) “Why will it be any easier to do this later?” Of course it’s almost always HARDER to do it later, so sometimes that gets me going. Hope we can get together again soon!

  10. My gosh, just realizing that I’m so behind on my favourite posts makes me anxious, LOL but I know that my dearest ones will not fret because they know I’ll soon be by 😀 That ol’ clock watching thing doesn’t really get me at home alone. For example, this morning I woke up at 10am, which is shocking. I must have been just extra super duper tired. I feel like I’ve been going none stop since I woke on our last day in Maui. Pack, Rush in heavy traffic, Line-up, check point, line up, check point, land, line up check point, arrive home finally…kitty’s, love, laundry, kitty’s, get groceries………well I won’t go on but my point is (and I do have one, ha), I think we accomplish much more than we give ourselves credit for. So, I’m being lazy today even though I have mountains on the back burner 😀

    • Hey, you are just accustomed to island time! Did you notice that even the network news starts late in Hawaii? And don’t forget the jet lag – your body is still on an earlier schedule, so 10:00 didn’t seem like 10:00! I’m so happy you had some time in the sun, and made it home safely. And yes, we all do WAY more than we realize. Our lives are so full that it amazes me we do as well as we do. I raise my cup of (Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice) tea to you! That’s what I’m drinking right now, since it’s too late for caffeine! BTW I LOVE sleeping in; it might be my very favorite thing to do, especially when it’s cold and/or rainy.

      • Cheers, Celestial teas have been in my pantry too. I used to love their very bohemian packaging. They’re not as cute now but I still love their teas. The day goes by quite quickly when you wake at the crack of 10:00, LOL. Well tomorrows another day, could get more done now that I’m rested and it’s Friday so I don’t make dinner, we go out 😀 Even better.

        • Yes, I do miss the original packaging from the 70’s. My mom has sold their teas in her stores since she opened in 1977. I have some of the tiny tins they used to include in their packages from time to time, I wish they’d do that again! You just hit on the only downside to sleeping in – it eats up a good chunk of your day. Then I find myself staying up late to catch up, and the cycle continues…Here’s wishing you a restful AND productive day tomorrow. Don’t you just love knowing that you don’t have to make dinner? 🙂

          • Oh, I remember those tins 😀 What kind of store did your mom have? Did you work there?
            I do love the days I don’t have to ‘plan’ a meal. The cooking is the easy part, I just can’t decide what to make. Since I’m a vegetarian and Mr B isn’t, I sometimes make two different things, LOL I think I earn Fridays 😀 Actually, I’m spoilt, he’ll eat almost anything.

            • My mom has a health food store, which she still runs from behind the scenes even though she’s no longer able to work there much. At one time she had a chain of three, but as she got older she wasn’t able to keep up with all of them, so she gradually scaled back down to one. When she first started out it was still sort of counter-cultural (outside of California, anyway) to talk about organic food and natural eating, but now it’s gone mainstream, which makes her very happy. I learned long ago to quit laughing at some of the things she said about what was good or bad for us, because most of them are now accepted (even by doctors) as fact. YES, you do earn Fridays, even if you were just fixing ONE dinner!

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