Most of my life is spent stealing glances.
. . . at a beautiful pink and orange sunset as I’m driving home from the grocery store at dinner time because I didn’t have anything in the house to feed my family.
. . . at a group of teenage girls at the mall, smoothing their peacock feathers for the cute (hot?) boy (guy?) who walks by while I’m trying to get my own teenage girls to focus on helping me find a gift for their young cousins.
. . . at that provocative painting on the museum wall that I pass by as I’m trying to keep up with the tour leader, who is educating a group of novices (like me) about abstract art.
. . . at a brilliant idea that enters my head when I’m in a meeting or at a romantic dinner or having coffee with a friend.
Instead of adding something wonderful to my day, all that glance-stealing leaves me wanting, because I have no time to soak up what I’ve seen, to take a closer look, to get any joy out of it. What could be inspirational turns into nameless frustration and that turns into a big ole knotted ball of energy, clogging up my mind, which would take time i don’t have and effort that’s directed elsewhere to unravel.
I think that’s why I cry more than the average person. It’s like a lubricant that makes the unravelling a little bit easier.
But it isn’t the crying that really helps; it’s the stopping. When I stop, the gears that have been churning and creating this chaotic mess of knots in my mind have time to rest and get oiled so that they can serve their real purpose, which is to process the incoming information, not glom it up.
Truth is I’d like to find a better way to process what I take in. I can’t stand when people ask me why my eyes are red and I don’t have a clear answer. Sometimes I pretend that I just watched a sad movie: then, in response, I can explain that Debra Winger is dying and Shirley MacClaine, with whom she has a love-hate relationship, is left to watch her die amidst much family turmoil.
Still, it would serve me better to find a way other than crying to slow down and take more than a passing whiff of the proverbial roses.
Enter self-improvement, life-improvement, work-improvement project idea. Drumroll please . . . View the moments of my life like I would a single painting, if I had unlimited time to spend. Hence, the project title: The Still Life Project
Nothing earth-shattering. Basically, the project is about mindfulness.
But with a twist. I’ve tried the whole mindfulness thing many times through yoga and meditation and breathing exercises but what I’ve found is that during the “practice” I slow down, but during my life, I still zip around like one of those stunt planes, doing somersaults and participating in formations, but only touching the ground for short stints, before and after the doing. And, when life gets crazy as it often does, I skip my “practice” time altogether because it takes too much time and it is outside the realm of what I need to do to get by.
So, I’ve decided that if I am going to try to slow down, I am going to choose something that is part of my daily routine, something seemingly small, to focus upon with mindfulness. The plan is that once I feel like I’ve figured out how to attend mindfully to subject #1, I will add a new element, a new focus.
The goal of all this is to start slowing down my life so I can appreciate it more. I’ll probably look at my initial subject from many perspectives, do a little research, do some experimenting, and the final result hopefully will be a better understanding of myself and turning something I’ve always done automatically into something I will do with purpose and attention.
I made a list of things I regularly do to which I don’t pay much heed — the routine stuff, which includes such exciting subjects as doing the laundry, walking the dog, and driving carpool. Other subjects: paying bills, running errands, and spending time on social media.
And drinking coffee, which will be my first subject in this project because I do it everyday, usually on the run, and while I’m not sure I like the taste, I usually want it, desperately. Time to put some attention there.
Hopefully, the stories and lessons from this project will be interesting enough to share. If not, I’ll keep it to myself.
I hope you’ll root me on, offer me feedback, make suggestions and if you are so inclined, take on your own Still Life Project and report back to me about it.
I’d love to know what you think of this idea and if you have any suggestions that might help me to gain greater meaning out of this experience.
I'd love to hear what you think. Share in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
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