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Three Pivots to Simplification
Beginning in March, a series of decisions and circumstances resulted in three pivot points which had the effect of simplifying my life. Two of these pivots were intentional, one was not, but in the end all have been beneficial in some way to the simplification I desired.
Pivot 1 - Writing Challenge
In March, I gave myself a challenge to write something for thirty days straight. I wondered what I would write about but didn't doubt that I would see it through. At the end of the thirty days, I had written thirty-two pieces totaling over nineteen thousand words. It felt as if it passed in just a moment.
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Two things stood out to me in retrospect: how much more observant it made me as I went through each day, always alert for a topic to write about, and increased interactions with strangers. The writing challenge opened my eyes to what surrounds me and my attentiveness to those I share space with.
The experience, the first time I've ever tried such, is an encouragement. Thirty days is a very modest challenge. I see posts from others who have written something every day for thousands of days so my humility in this endeavor is well placed. Still, it is an accomplishment and encouragement to me, and I take it with gratitude.
Pivot 2 - Reducing the Noise
At the same time, I decided to give my eyes and ears a rest from the news as a way of freeing up creative space in my mind. Now, you must understand what a step this was. I have been a news hound since my paper boy days. Even though I had of late backed away from most mainstream media news, I was still a bit of a junkie.
The peace and quiet that descended upon me was surprising, both in its speed and quality. Before the thirty days was up, I knew I would not go back. The inner peace gained was simply too valuable. I made changes to my news intake, including canceling my decades long Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs Journal subscriptions.
However, as citizens, we do need to stay informed. I haven't watched TV news of any sort for years, relying mainly on the WSJ and policy journals. Now, I wasn't even doing that. What to do? Over the last couple of months, I have settled on two "just the facts" sources and one that probes deeper. Combined, reading these takes me 10-15 minutes on average each morning.
1440 presents a daily news summary email that only addresses top issues, keeping it short and agenda free. They pride themselves as being today's Walter Cronkite version of the news. I'm a fan.
The Dispatch also presents a daily news summary email, covering a wider range of topics and events with slightly more depth. I scan it quickly and move on.
The Free Press is more like a newspaper, covering a range of political and social issues. A longer read, I pick my topics and leave the rest.
Pivot 3 - An Illness with Silver Linings
Shortly after finishing the writing challenge, I contracted a hard case of Covid, such that it took me off my feet for a month. Naturally, that weakened my immune system, resulting in another condition that landed me in hospital for a week. I wrote about that experience in Encountering Spiritual Intimacy Amid Isolation, but there was more to it. Again, the peace was ever present. I had lots of time to think, pray, and read. Naturally introspective, this week turned into a deep mine shaft rich with veins of inspiration, creativity, soul-searching, and seeking. What I found is worth every minute of the experience and then some. As a result, I've made changes to my daily routine, how and where I spend my time, what information I take in, all with the purpose of refocusing my life around core values and beliefs.
These three pivot points combined to change my perspective and direction. I will even say that they improved my quality of life, in that there is more focus on peace and less on the tyranny of the urgent. I expected none of this but am thankful for all of it. I am just as productive as before but more relaxed and enjoying life more. Sometimes, I can even smell the roses in our yard.