Home of the East Wind

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As we read the book of Job, we see a man with great integrity who has everything taken from him by Satan. In Job 1, God gives Satan permission to test Job with the caveat: “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically” (1:12). We then hear Job and his friends talking about the adversity he is all of a sudden experiencing in life.

Finally, in Job 38, the Lord challenges Job about his complaining. In Job 38:24, the Lord asks “Where is the path to the origin of light? Where is the home of the east wind?” These are very big questions. I certainly don’t know the answer. God asks these questions to basically say that us humans on Earth are not able to comprehend the extent of God’s power. God created everything. We can’t answer all of those questions.

I may not know where the home of the east wind is located, but I do know that the sun rises in the east and signifies the start of a new day. Each day is a new opportunity to try to live life the best that we can. To this end, I ask, “what gives your life meaning?”

We may not know where the home of the east wind lies, but usually when the wind blows, that signifies change. What is the meaning of your life and what needs to change?

These are very big questions and they can get really intense.

I’ve had many changes in my life recently. Use whichever euphemism you want – a new day, the winds of change blowing … what I have come to realize is that my entire life has changed in a drastic way over the past three years. I have experienced at least 8 of the 10 major lifetime stressors during that time. I have also been grieving at least four different extremely significant loses.

A light bulb recently went off in my head. When life feels really overwhelming and there is a lot going on, the best people are able to overcome and plow through by slowing it down.

Simplify the situation and it is easier to deal with.

In Job, we read 42 chapters of trials, tribulations and complaining. Then, the entire situation is simplified, solved and ended with one statement. “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” – Job 42:6.

Sometimes we have to just sit down and simplify life to deal with it.

I have been on this journey to simplify my life and it wasn’t helping. It wasn’t hurting either. Simplifying my life allowed me to face my trials these past few years without losing my mind. That’s a positive. However, it did not help to give me a direction for improvement.

When I read Job 42:6 about sitting in dust and ashes to show my repentance, I think that it is all about getting back to basics. How can I be the best me I can be? How can you be the best you that you can be? You can sit there and complain and wallow about adversity, or you can sit quietly and come to a peaceful conclusion.

I realized that I have been drifting since I finished school in 2015. I spent 20 years as a college student and now that I am done, I have no direction in my life. I have no passion. I have also been in a period of grief, as I have experienced at least one major loss in my life each year for the past four years.

It’s time to get back to basics. I need to focus on my health, running and nutrition. I need to have goals. My half marathon this fall is a good goal. I need more goals for when my race is over.

For the first time, I think I’m done grieving, so hopefully I won’t have any more losses any time soon. I kind of get what Job was lamenting. I have lost a lot these past few years too.

The east wind comes to remind us to be the best we can be. What gives your life meaning? How can you set new goals and move from a place of brokenness to a place of repentance and peace?

I have no idea how to redirect my life now that I am no longer a student. I need a new goal other than “survive.” I am going to start with focusing on my health, running and nutrition, but I know I need something bigger than that.

Maybe in the silence, something will come.

This is the New Year

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Simon at Christmas 2018

Welcome, 2019! Every year, for the past three years, I have wished for a quiet year. And every year for the past three years, I have had challenging times with multiple tragedies that were anything but quiet. So I’m not going to wish for anything this year. I know better.

My favorite New Year’s tune is done by Death Cab 4 Cutie. I’m just going to follow their lead on this new year (listen to the lyrics, people).

What I am looking forward to the most this year is that my 40th birthday will be coming up in March. We all know that birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Plus, anytime I turn an age with a zero at the end means I get to move up an age group in running. But my birthday is still a few months away …

Something new I will be starting this week is minimalism Mondays. My house is quite larger than my apartment, so I am going to take my time in going through each room, closet and drawer to be sure all I have is what I really need.

Not to mention, there were some items that the sellers left with the house for me. Some of those items have been quite useful – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the wheelbarrow, the front window curtains and the entryway doormat. Then, there are some items that are so old that they are no longer useful and belong in a museum. Other items are so rusted that I am afraid to use them because tetanus is one of only two vaccines that I cannot have with multiple food and drug allergies.

So, next week I will be starting minimalism Mondays and going through one area of the house per month. My goal at the end of this exercise is to have a house that is easier to clean. If the house is easier to clean, then I have more time to spend doing the things I really want to do. I do not want to be chained to this house.

The other advantage to creating a minimalist interior, is that I can then focus my attention on the outside of the house. The exterior of the home has been the most challenging part of home ownership for me to handle. I am fine with cleaning a house, but dealing with lawn care, grass mowing, and snow is too hard on a body.

In addition to minimalism Mondays, I’m hoping to get back on some sort of schedule in 2019 so that I can do the things I really want to do. I’m going to run a half marathon this year. It will be my second race post-stroke. I need to go camping. 2018 was the first time in over 20 years that I did not get a vacation and get to go camping.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I am hoping 2019 will be a quiet year. But, shhhhh – I don’t really want to say that. I don’t think I can handle tragedy four years in a row right now. The goal for 2019 will be to slow down so that I can actually enjoy life instead of just trying to survive.

I’m hoping to make some changes in life on the professional front too that will extradite me from the bullying situation I am experiencing. Getting out of that mess is going to take some time. There is a lot more involved when you have to handle something like that on your own because the powers that be refuse to address it. So I do anticipate change in 2019. I highly doubt I will get the quiet year I’ve been wanting for awhile.

Most of all, I am entering 2019 grateful. I am so thankful that will all the tragedies I have experienced in the past few years that I am surrounded by some pretty amazing people that have been helping me. I would not be able to get by without a lot of help from many people.

A key aspect of slowing down my life and minimizing what is inside of my house around me is to give me more time to show the people in my life that I am grateful. I don’t want to be spending my time maintaining a home that is twice the size of my apartment. I want to maintain my home and spend my time with the people that matter. I want to be able to give back to them as much as they have given me. I would not have made it this far without all the amazing people in my life.

So minimalism Mondays will be starting next week, as I start going through the first room on the list for the month of January. I’ll let you know my progress. I’m focusing on the large indoor areas this winter. As soon as spring/summer arrive, I have a whole list of outside things that need to be done. There is no rest for the wicked. But, that’s another song.

Happy New Year 2019.

 

The Price of Convenience

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I had an errand to run on my day off yesterday in a city about 40 miles away from my house. It was a good drive with little traffic. I had no frustration in my travels. I realized that it took me the same amount of time to reach this city 40 miles away as it does to drive the 10 miles to work every day. That’s how bad the traffic and parking situation is in the city where I work.

In my efforts to slow down my life, I have been trying to cut out all of the unnecessary fluff so that I have more time, money, and resources to devote to things truly important to me. The fact that I spend 2 hours commuting every day to a place 10 miles from my home is ridiculous to me, but I really like my job.

While I was trying to save money by giving up my parking pass for my work location, doing so added an hour to my commute every day. Not only was I fighting traffic, but it typically took me an additional 60 minutes to not only find a parking space but also to walk the 1-3 miles from the parking space to work. That was one hour out of my day that could be spent doing something else that I want to do – like spending time with my sick family member.

So, I bit the bullet and decided to pay for a parking pass for work again. I decided that spending $80 a month for parking is worth 5 hours a week of my time. I now have 5 hours per week more to be at home that I am not fighting to find parking and then having to walk from a parking spot to work.

This is the price of convenience.

Life seems like an endless series of opportunity costs. Which do we value more – time or money?

It depends.

Mostly, I value my time.

Another cost of convenience that I have been evaluating recently is car repair. I have my vehicle maintained and repaired in the city in which I work. I have been doing so for at least the past 15 years. The logic is that if I have to leave the car to have work done, that I can walk to work, and then walk back to pick up the car later in the day when it is done. What has been happening lately is that I get an appointment, and end up having a few hours to kill in between the appointment and when I go into work.

There is not enough time to go home; I end up stuck in the city in which I work with some down time. Again, this is down time that I could be using to do other things that mean something to me.

Starting next week, I will be having my vehicle repaired some place close to my home instead of my work. Of course, that means if I need a significant amount of work done, that I may have to take a day off from work and stay home. To me, that situation is a better scenario than being stuck in the city where I work. At least if my car is repaired closer to home, I can be home, and it alleviates the stress of trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B (mainly from work to home).

These simple changes in life will hopefully free up more of my time to be home and to do the things that I want to spend my time doing. I want to be more in control of situations, not simply responding to whatever crisis presents itself at the time.

What “conveniences” in your life take time away from what matters most? Evaluating the simple things we do each day and why we do them can help to figure out solutions to challenges that may not have been available before. By changing my perspective on how I look at things that need to be done, I am freeing up more time for people and things I love to do.

120 to zero

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Zero to 60 sounds so sexy when you think of a V8 engine with synchronized 6-speed shifting under the hood of some hot ‘vette with the top down on a sunny day. Every once in a while, we all feel the need for speed, however that may manifest. Sometimes it’s the feeling of pedaling superfast on your bike like you were a kid and letting go of the handle bars. Sometimes it’s trying to run super fast and get under a 6-minute mile. 0 to 60 takes on different meanings for everyone, but always results in excitement.

120 to zero does not elicit the same thrill. It is pretty much the equivalent of hitting a brick wall. No one wants to be a crash test dummy. Unless you are talking about the band, they are pretty cool. My personal favorite is Afternoons and Coffee spoons. I digress. When slowing down, the key is to slow down slowly, not to come to an abrupt halt. It is true in traffic as well as in life.

I feel as if I have gone from 120 to zero in the past month. My purpose in retiring from 20 years as a college student was to do so gradually so that I could adjust to the change without instigating any sort of crisis – midlife or otherwise. Slowing down slowly did not happen as I envisioned. Once I completed my master’s degree, my life came to a very abrupt halt.

The first few weeks were not too bad. It was similar to being on school break such as the winter break for the holidays or even summer. However, now reality has set in, and I am not really sure what to do with myself. The change in seasons is not helpful. At least in summer, I had the parks and the beaches. I took my schoolwork with me as a necessary evil, but I certainly had plenty to do between leisure reading, my surfboard, a Frisbee, and a few other beach toys. In winter, things are much more dismal.

With the exception of the past week, we have had snow on the ground pretty much every single morning since mid-October. We haven’t even hit New Year’s yet, and I am already going stir-crazy with cabin fever and frustrated with my lack of a game plan. Oh, sure, I now have plenty of time to get caught up on leisure reading and to binge watch certain shows I have checked out of the library on DVD. While I have plenty of things to do, I feel like my life is going nowhere fast. I have hit a brick wall.

This was not my purpose. My purpose was to slow down gradually, not come to an abrupt halt. All of my social interactions were school related, and my phone never rings or dings anymore. If I am not in school, it’s like I don’t exist and no one bothers to talk to me. Quite frankly, it’s probably just as well. A big part of the reason why I have not been online much is that I have nothing to say.

While 120 to zero was not my intent, it is my reality. Now I have to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on. Abrupt halt to my social and intellectual life was not something I wanted.

People say I should get a hobby. I have plenty of hobbies. What I lack is something to give me meaning, and people with whom to interact. I am not sure how to fix those challenges.

Have you ever had an abrupt change? Even when you see something coming and feel you have planned so well, have you had something happen that completely sideswiped you in a way you could never anticipate? Zero to 60 is exiting. 120 to zero is hard. Hopefully I will find a way to turn this around into something more exciting. When one door closes, another one opens. Right?

Maybe not.