Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Spring, New Year


I don't have a lot of pragmatics this time around-- must be the spring fever.

  • -I do, however, have a great book recommendation, very much in the theme of new beginnings. The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty is a treat, a very hopeful and poignant treat, for the mind and soul.

  • -Unrelated, but a little crowing to do: The Get Satisfied book enjoyed a healthy dose of publicity via Here's the link to "5 Money Books to Change Your Life."


Saturday, much of it filled with errands, held unexpected joys. The local IGA market seemed to hold half the community in its aisles, many of them preparing for Easter. I caught up with neighbors, chatting on everything from church to walking to finding true happiness at work. Half the carts seemed to balance tulip plants and asparagus, and my neighbors’ faces seemed lit up with the promise of spring and its gateway holiday, Easter.

Later, Gavin and I met friends at the library Easter Egg Hunt, and then walked over for the year’s first Saturday playground romp. The wind was mild, Gavin and Zakariya reveled in their boundless energy, and I got to know Zakariya’s mom much better. I even got just the slightest hint of sunburn on my nose.

After Easter dinner, our family strolled down to the foot of Essex Main Street and enjoyed the mini-beach that abuts the Connecticut River. It struck me as we drank in the early spring sun that the year contains many beginnings. On March 20 I heard several people, young and old, work the first day of spring into their conversation. Crocus and daffodil sightings are now reported regularly, with sincere enthusiasm.

The last “beginning” was the official New Year, when the ball dropped and we all resolved to make a multitude of changes. But the spring beginning feels more real to me, more in the moment. Not so much of “I’m going to…” as “I am here; I am noticing the world around me. I am experiencing hope.”

Another new beginning awaits me: after 3 days of training in New York City, I’ll be a truly home-based medical writer with an Internet company. I am looking forward to more relaxed mornings, a low key wardrobe, and diminished gas and dry cleaning bills. I hope my home schedule also translates into wiser use of time— working more efficiently and steadily, planning meals and home tasks more thoughtfully, using lunch to write a few creative paragraphs. I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold.

Come to think of it, each year contains so many new beginnings: the turning of each season, birthdays, back to school, out for summer, and of course the actual New Year. All of these are opportunities, naturally occurring reminders to step back and reflect, to both appreciate and create new promises.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Suspended Animation Experiment


-Inching toward mediation? Here’s a good summary of the benefits.

  • -I’ve just signed up for a free e-publication“101 Things to Do Instead of TV”. It’s kid-oriented, but just scanning the list I see a lot of things I want to go after myself, things that can get lost—more outdoor time, crossword puzzles, audio books, letter writing, etc.

  • -This blogging parent, in The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, has decided to use after school time, sans TV, to fill in some educational gaps that her children might have. She calls it afterschooling, but framed of course, as something fun for the kids.

-Yesterday, in the midst of some computer work, I was soothed by the sight and sound of misty rain outside the window. The Watching Nature site is a good substitute for a real walk outside, perfect for one of these cold March nights spent longing for spring.

Last month, I set out to try 2 weeks without TV. The first week went swimmingly once I got into the groove. I found myself in the den fairly regularly, usually reading while Tom or Gavin watched. I could only take in small bites—no catching up on War and Peace. My best read was a small book of Thomas Merton’s reflections on nature. I envied his simple existence—devoted to contemplation and appreciation, noting how the ice formed or how the sun set. I mourned my shortened attention span, which I cannot attribute to TV alone. I am convinced it is a sped-up lifestyle overall that has my mind flitting when I want it to float.

The second no-TV week was a flop. It was a stressful week. I had some big decisions to make, preparations for Gavin’s birthday, lots of schedule hassles. Turning back to TV as a “numbing agent” reminded me of overeating, a habit I’ve (mostly) overcome. As you do it, you think, “I am slipping back into this, but I don’t feel I can overcome it right now. Maybe tomorrow.”

I think part of inching toward simplicity has to do with expanding your alternatives. It wasn’t just TV or reading that I had to choose from. I could have gotten on that neglected exercise bike, called a friend, enjoyed a hot shower, or simply closed my eyes and rested. If I didn’t have the fortitude to write, I could have sorted through my new markets or made a list of ideas. But I must admit, those things are not initially attractive when you are bone tired. It takes some wherewithal to shake off the electronic sedative, expend some energy and get into something new.

Another aspect of expanding your alternatives has to do with avoiding black and white, bad and good thinking. It doesn’t need to be TV bad, reading good; therefore no TV, ever. Still, I know that my life would benefit from regaining at least half the lost time.

I might be able to live with minutes lost to TV, just some time to zone out and reset my energy meter. So I’m planning on applying my own parenting tool beyond Gavin this week. Since his toddlerhood, I’ve set the timer for all sorts of things. I sometimes use it as a cutoff for TV time—when the timer buzzes it’s playtime again, and Gavin can be counted on to find a way to amuse himself. The buzzer will be my reminder: prevent my zone out minutes from becoming hours of channel surfing.

I’m also resurrecting an old meditation CD I bought for Tom. I remember back to my Nurse Practitioner days, when I led a meditation group. Even leading the group, just a half hour of dimmed lights and soft music, with me doing my best to murmur relaxation-inducing suggestions, left me surprisingly refreshed. There’s an experience that’s worth revisiting.

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