You Always Do What You Want To Do

You're always doing what you want to

When I started to say “no” at the end of this summer in order to rest and regroup, I had this idea in my head that my desired outcome would be instantaneous.

Silly, I know.

I know that there is no easy fix in life, at least when it comes to the big stuff. I know that if you go to the gym on a Tuesday you won’t instantly be thin on a Thursday (darn). I know that eating right doesn’t just happen: you have to plan for it. I know that writing every day, at best, is a vague possibility unless I actively set aside time to do just that.

But I thought that since I wanted it so bad and had been contemplating change so long that it would be easy this time.

Silly, I know.

My bad habits are easy. It is easy for me to reach for quick carbs in the form of crackers or cookies when I haven’t planned ahead. It is easy for me to heat up a can of so-so soup rather than remember to unthaw that chicken a day ahead of time. It’s easy for me to say that I don’t have time to go to the gym when I look at the long list of other “more important” things I need to accomplish that day.

But you know – these habits didn’t form in a day, either. I made choice after choice for month after month to get me to this point, too.

I repeatedly chose distraction over productivity. I chose quick instead of nutritious. And let’s be honest: many times I chose TV over sitting down with pen and paper.

You Always Do What You Want To Do

What’s got me in a reflective state of mind today is yet another weekend spent at the vet.

Last week, our cat Zipper got sick. I spent an (expensive) Saturday morning at the vet, brought home some antibiotics, and thought everything was going to be fine in two weeks. A little inconvenience, but nothing out of the ordinary.

After three more trips to the vet this week, another expensive Saturday morning, and an X-Ray, we discovered that our cat has massive bladder stones that need to be surgically removed ASAP, to the tune of a helluva lot of money. So, after getting the news while Scott was in Michigan for work, I came home on Saturday and kind of zoned out in a little pity party, mad at everything and everyone, including myself.

This was not how my weekend was supposed to go.

This was not how my season of rest what supposed to happen.

This was not helping me make or reinforce good habits.

This wasn’t what I wanted. 

So I moped for a while. I made a latte and sat down to watch a movie, The Answer Man. It’s one that Amazon Prime keeps suggesting based on my viewing history, but I keep ignoring it. On Saturday, I was too lazy to search for anything else, so I hit play.

And the movie was just what I needed.

It’s a story about a man, Arlen, who 20 years ago wrote a book with the answers to all of life’s hard questions, and then sequestered himself away and never talked to anyone. In a series of somewhat humorous events, he ends up answering the questions of a young man, Kris, who just got out of rehab, and who is now dealing with an alcoholic father and a business that is going bankrupt. One of their exchanges really hit me right where I was:

Kris: Why can’t I do the things I want to do? There’s so much I know I’m capable of that I never actually do. Why is that?
Arlen: The trick is to realize that you’re always doing what you want to do… always. Nobody’s making you do anything. Once you get that, you see that you’re free and that life is really just a series of choices. Nothing happens to you. You choose.”

Ouch.

Now, I know that I want to eat cookies and not broccoli. I want to sit and read and not go to the gym. I want to feel sorry for myself that this is all happening.

We all have our moments when we are allowed to to do the “wrong” thing: to take a break, to eat pizza instead of chicken.

But when I add all those actions up – all those little wants – they don’t equal my actual goals, the BIG wants: to write a book, to eat healthy, to exercise more.

So I need to change the little wants. I need to make my everyday actions reflect what I actually want to do in life, not what I think I want to do in the moment.

Are you doing what you want to do right now? If not, what is holding you back? 

[An update on Zipper: surgery went well and she is back at home, her meds making her overly affectionate and VERY vocal. But I'll take it.]

Empty Shelf Challenge: August 2014

I’m resting, and a large part of that for me is reading.

A good book has always allowed time to stand still for me, which is exactly what I need these days.

Here is what I read in August as I continue the #EmptyShelf challenge. It’s pretty basic: starting December 23rd, you empty one shelf of a bookcase in your house completely. Hence, “Empty Shelf.” Then, through the entire next year, you fill that shelf with the books that you read.

To read what I’ve read this year by month:

January // February // March // April // May // June // July

Nonfiction Books Inkwells Images Empty Shelf Abbigail Kriebs

Here is what I read in August:

39.) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown – Ever since I stumbled upon her TED talk on vulnerability (worth the 20 minutes of your time, really and truly), I’ve been interesting in her research on shame and wholeheartedness. This was a great read, which I subsequently purchased, and its a topic that I am pondering more and more as I put my writing out there – or try to overcome hesitations to do so.

40.) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente – This was a delightful book, one that I definitely want to read again and again. Read my full review here.

41.) Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. – After Scott and I explained to our pastor our need to step down from the youth ministry for the time being, he lent me this book. While I have been reading about and studying the idea of a simpler life and have more margin for a couple of years now, it was nice to read once again that margin is important and that taking the steps needed to restore it in your own life is not being selfish. I love that Swenson delineates between mental and physical strain, and talks about the need for margin being a “semi-visible” pain that needs to be addressed as much as an illness with obvious circumstances:

Living without [margin] does not cause a sensory pain, but instead a deep-seated subjective ache. Because the ache and heaviness are only semi-visible, the pain of margin-less living is hard for us to talk about. “

I would recommend this book to anyone who just feels like life is moving too fast these days for them to enjoy it. I know I needed more margin when I wasn’t enjoying even the best things, because I was too busy preparing for the next thing. There was no time for reflection or anticipation in life, and I am looking forward to restoring that joy to life this fall.

42.) Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung – I borrowed this book, too, from our pastor. I think we must be similar, Type-A academics, because he highlights almost all the same passages that I would have highlighted were it my book. If you are a Christian and feel “too busy” all the time, read this book. It helped me recognize that I feel frazzled because life has no rhythm, no natural routine of work and rest – it’s all work, all the time, and my self and my husband – and Christ! – are just getting the leftovers. I have a feeling that I will be flipping back through this book again and again in the coming weeks, as I recalibrate and recharge.

So there’s what I read in August. I said in January that I wanted to read more nonfiction this year than I had in years past, and if this month (and the photo above) is any indication, I think I am well on my way.

What did you read in August? 

When Your Weekend Doesn’t Go As Planned

You know the kind of weekend I’m talking about.

Where you have managed to line up four days in a row of Going Absolutely Nowhere. When you are looking forward to relaxing. Or catching up. Or getting ahead.

Or all three. 

And then you spend all Saturday morning at the vet with a cat, after spending Friday night washing all the bedding in your house because she keeps peeing on it. [sad, but true]

You spend $168.44 on shots and gland expressions [also sad, also true] and antibiotics that are The Cure.

And then you spend another hour trying to get her to choke down those blessed antibiotics, powdered and hidden in the chicken-flavored mush known as Fancy Feast, a.k.a. The Worst Smelling Stuff Ever.

And you know you will be doing so for the next 14 days.

On Sunday, you take a break, help the husband build a shed, knowing you have two more days to work and rest.

And then Monday, on the day you planned to Get All The Stuff Done, you spend most of it cleaning up piles of puke that contain the antibiotic that you fought so hard to stuff down a kitty lovingly gave to your cat.

You head to the kitchen and see a can of salsa sitting on the counter, reminding you that you forgot to throw supper in the crock-pot earlier. You quickly throw corn and beans and salsa into crock-pot, and then reach for a knife to open package of chicken.

But all of your knives are dirty because you have been using them all weekend to chop tiny little cat pills into powder to feed to the cat who then promptly pukes them back up on the carpeting.

You then realize it is noon, you have not eaten breakfast, and you are not wearing any pants. 

You declare defeat, collapse on the couch to watch an old standby, Serendipity, and reach for a latte made with the best birthday present in the world.

As the credits roll and a love song plays in the background, you realize in a haze of caffeine and the warmth that can only come from a slight crush on mid-90s awkward-adorable John Cusack, that maybe your list was too long anyway.

After all, you still have tomorrow.

Happy long weekend, everyone. I hope yours involved less cat puke.

P.S. The adorable culprit, who I am only slightly mad at:

Zipper the cat