straining forward

Happy New Year! I haven’t written the last two weeks. Forgive me please. I was on vacation. I hope you too took some vacation time over the holiday season. I hope you had time to laugh, love, and reflect with friends and family. This was my first vacation since Kelley passed away, the 31st my first Sunday off since August. Originally, I had intended to blog during my time off. However, I quickly realized that I needed a total pause of as many self-imposed responsibilities as was possible. If “all the world’s a stage” as Shakespeare says then we all need times of intermission. I needed to slip backstage and recharge in the stillness and quiet of rest and privacy.

Now that I am easing back into my schedule, (alas, a horrible head cold is preventing me from whole-heatedly leaping back in full force), I am realizing the importance of time off from structure. A schedule that cannot bend with flexibility is bound to break completely. That’s really what I wanted to dedicate this, my third blog to addressing – my schedule.

As you now know, I evaluate myself weekly in five categories; physical health, mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and following my schedule. It’s important to note that I am not rating myself on how healthy I am or am not in any of these categories. Rather, I am rating myself on whether or not I spent the allotted time “feeding” these areas of my life. Clearly then, the entirety of success or failure hinges upon the schedule. Speaking of success…

The week prior to my vacation was better than its previous week. I give myself 4 out of 5 stars. (I may be generous in my grading at this point in life. I will expect more of myself as time progresses.)

4 stars

I credit this improvement to an examination of the question posed in the last blog. “How do I contain failure in one place and move on into success in the next?” I think the way I perceive my schedule is the key to the answer.

I tend naturally to have a ‘to do list’ mentality. I see never-ending lists of things that need to be done in my head. And while there is little more satisfying than crossing something off that list, it can be difficult to ever be truly satisfied with myself know that the list continues to grow. The ‘to do list’ is never complete. This is where I am attempting to alter my perception.

Rather than seeing the activities on my schedule as lists needing to be checked off in order before completing my day, I am looking at each item as residing in a block of time. If the schedule is a framework, the time blocks hang like panels from the frame. Lists would look more like build blocks. Pull one from the bottom and the whole thing topples. But pull a panel from the frame and the other panels can remain safely in place.

I have blocked off on my calendar time to feed my spirit, soul, mind and body. These time blocks are allowed to float forward or back only slightly, not enough to sabotage the next block. For instance, if I fail to get in my full time allotment for exercise, I do not allow that time block to invade the next. If I did, I would again run into the domino effect and every part of my schedule for that day or even the week would be impaired. If I accept my lack of perfection for that one block of my day with grace and move on to the next block I can salvage the rest of my day and even end feeling okay with my progress.

It’s really all about looking forward, not back.

“One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward
to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13–14 ESV

I cannot continue to try to ‘catch up’ when I don’t finish a given task on time. I must “strain forward”. Letting go of what I wanted to get done, letting go of defeat and moving forward can be difficult, thus the need to “strain.”

With regard to my mental health exercise of writing, if I don’t get anything on paper one day, I need not even attempt to make it up. Instead, I will see that panel as having been removed, gone forever and I will move on with the next time block for the day. Nothing falls apart, I can still move onto my work as scheduled. When my workday is done, I do not stress about the tasks not completed. I have addressed as many time blocks for the day as I was able and there is nothing left to do until the next day. Seeing ‘to do’s’ in terms of time blocks on a framework rather than building block lists means that failure in one does not lead to failure in the next. The foundation doesn’t crack as long as the framework of schedule stands. It also means that there is no such thing as catching up. One cannot relive an hour that is past.

This then, is the one element in life that must be guarded. The framework of schedule must stand.

This may all sound quite rigid to many. I started this post off by talking about the need for flexibility in the schedule. There are ways to soften the rigidity, bring flexibility and thereby preserve the long-term integrity of the schedule. Three ways I know of are margin, Sabbath and sabbatical. But I will leave that for the next post. Until then my friends, keep looking forward!

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