Turning the Volume Down (for a while)

Sunrise at Canyon Creek – cc photo by J. Delp

Since March, I feel like a full-blown news station has been broadcasting from my head. Reporters shouting on the phone, old dot matrix printers reeling off incoming reports, typewriters bludgeoning their paper targets, and periodic interruptions from Lou Grant shouting about the next big story. Yes, my vision of a newsroom is firmly entrenched in the seventies (from watching Mary Tyler Moore reruns with my parents).

We’ve been through a lot in the past three and a half months. The coronavirus outbreak. School closures. The tragic killings of unarmed black men and women. Protests. And, now in Arizona, another significant spike in coronavirus cases.

Personally, I feel like I have been operating in crisis mode since March. Managing the school closure and now, attempting to prepare for the re-opening in July. On top of that, a family member was feeling ill, was tested for COVID nine days ago and we still have not received results. Thankfully, whatever they had was mild and they are doing well now, but we still followed the quarantine protocols at home while trying to manage work and our day-to-day lives. Whew.

I’ve also had an unhealthy obsession with following the news and staying up to date with social media — thus the K-Jeff Radio blaring in my mind, twenty-four seven. As I am sure you are all experiencing, the unknown (the things we can’t control) rattle any semblance of peace and erode our strength — physical and mental.

Well, I’ve had enough for a while. Leaving the world behind isn’t really a choice. I believe we have to stay aware of what is going on in our communities. I need to know what the coming school year might look like and plan appropriately. We all need to be cognizant of the injustice and pain that exists in our world. “Checking out,” isn’t an option. But, we also need time to rest. Time to step away. Time to rejuvenate. A chance to turn the volume down.

Recently, I have been reading some of Henri Nouwen’s books. I find peace in his words and guidance. Last night, I was reading from Following Jesus and this passage resonated.

To follow Jesus you have to be willing to say, “This half-hour I am going to dwell with Jesus. I know I will be distracted. I know I will have a hundred thoughts and a million things to do. But I know you love me and invite me, even when I am antsy and anxious. I am going to dwell.”

This passage obviously has spiritual significance, but I think the suggestion to “be still” for a half-hour — in spite of our distractions and task lists — is sound advice for anyone — regardless of your personal beliefs. Especially given our current circumstances.

Right now, I am antsy and anxious and to take time to be quiet — body, mind, and soul — is really hard to do. But, it’s what I need.

I need to turn the volume down.

K-Jeff radio signing off. For now.

Interruptions as Opportunities

cc photo by J. Delp

The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day at a time.  – C.S. Lewis

I like to plan my day.

I try to follow the tried and true principles of effective time management. I keep to-do lists. I schedule appointments. Each morning (or prior evening) I look over my lists and my calendar and I make decisions about the most productive way to spend my day.

And then I arrive at work. I am greeted by over eight-hundred and fifty junior high students, their teachers, and parents. From that point forward, I’m lucky if I look at my plan for the day. Stuff pops up that is not on my list. A staff member experiencing a technology issue. A student sent out of class for emptying a bottle of water on another student. A justifiably upset parent calling because scary clowns (high schoolers promoting a haunted house event) were chasing their student at lunch. Yes. This happened. I could write an entire blog post about this one incident.

My well planned day rapidly devolves into a series of unpredictable interruptions and scary clowns (literally and figuratively). I have typically viewed these intrusions as a source of frustration — things that are keeping me from more important tasks, appointments, and projects.

But take a moment and re-read that quote by C.S. Lewis. The interruptions are “real life.” It’s what I am being sent. One day at a time. One moment at a time. The possibility of supporting a staff member and helping them solve a problem. An opportunity to visit with a student about a poor decision and how we might make things right. The chance to acknowledge a parent’s frustration, demonstrate empathy, and reassure a student who was upset by scary clowns.

These are not inconveniences, they are opportunities — “real-life” experiences. They are only interruptions if I choose to view them as such. How boring life would be if it all went according to plan.


Clearing Physical and Mental Space

Clutter – cc photo by J. Delp

I’m struggling a little with life right now.

My todo list is too long. My calendar is too full. My days feel like they are spent in crisis mode. Too many challenges at work. Too much stuff on my desk. Too many problems.

I’ve got to make some changes so that I can have space to live the life I truly want to live. I’m not entirely certain what that means, but I know that one aspect of this process is going to be to literally “clear some space.” I have too much stuff.

Amazon is the bane of my existence — especially when it comes to books, and gadgets that I think will make my life better. I impulsively purchase items thinking they will be the answer to my overwhelm when in reality these “things” are a major contributor to why I feel the way I do.

I get in my truck and there is stuff (it’s like a second closet). I drive into my garage…piles of stuff. Head into my home office…stuff. Closet…more stuff. Dresser drawers…stuff.  I think I need to read those books. I need to organize that pile of clothes. I need to clean-up the garage. All of this stuff is a subconscious distraction. It makes it difficult for me to relax because I always feel like I need to be doing something.

The answer isn’t organizing. The answer is getting rid of a lot of the things I don’t really need — things that are simply creating clutter and causing a distraction. So, today I am beginning a thirty-day journey to reduce the clutter in my life.

Here is my commitment. Every day for the next thirty days, I will begin eliminating (sell, donate, or throw away) items that are not truly meaningful/purposeful in my life. I’ll begin by working in very small areas — a corner of the garage, a desk drawer, one small section of my closet. Each day, I will record the items (and the number of items) I purge and post stats or pictures to my Twitter account. The goal isn’t to get rid of everything, but to reduce my belongings to things that I truly value.

Not only is all of my stuff taking up physical space, but it’s also occupying mental space — and that is a problem. Beginning today, I am committing to eliminating excess in my life for the next thirty days (through November 17) at which time I will reassess and continue as needed.

Look for my Tweet later today!