Saturday, January 21, 2012

Return to Bliss (formerly The Experiment) Days 2-5

It's day six of the return of The Experiment, and I'm just now getting around to my second blog post about it. I'm glad to say it's because my workload has increased dramatically since we started The Experiment last Fall, though it's been challenging to keep up with the tasks this week.

First off, at breakfast, Rebecca and I discussed a name change for our little project. We took into account some of the suggestions that people offered (thank you all!), and arrived at "Return To Bliss", which Rebecca agreed is her objective. I like that it can simply be abbreviated as R2B, (even though some might confuse the acronym with a Star Wars android).

Back to the week's tasks:

Day Two - Only one task, and I was successful in completing it. I wrote a poem about a river. In pencil, for some reason - I guess Rebecca thought it would be a more organic way to write than pecking it out on my iPad.

 I've been asked to write a poem before, and last time, I don't think I posted it. The critic in me tells me, "Don't you dare publish that thing on your blog! It's primitive, uninspired crap, don't you know?" And maybe it is. But posting it here is, in essence, my way of firing a salvo back at that pesky critic and telling him to drink a big steaming mug of STFU!  So here's my poem - published for all to see, you pernicious little critic. Take that!

Day Three - I didn't stare into a candle on Day One, so Rebecca added the task again. And again, I didn't do it.

I may have had 3 conversations when I didn't mention myself, but I didn't consciously complete that task, so I expect it will be repeated on a future task sheet.

I did meditate - both at home, and in the dentist's chair. While having a molar ground down for a crown, I visualized dancing around the house with Beth and Rebecca because I had just received my first residual check for a book I had written. The amount on the check was $4,300,000. I pictured living in my dream house, traveling, sending Rebecca to the university of her choice. And the best part of the fantasy was that it was only the first check of many to come. The dentist and her assistant both commented on what a great patient I was - one of the most relaxed they'd had in weeks! Visions of sugar plums will do that.

Day Four - Damn, there's that candle again. I really didn't want to take 15 minutes and stare at a candle flame. I guess I'm digging in my heels on this one. I wonder why?

I stayed off Facebook all day. It wasn't that hard. What with all the insidious new filtering schemes, Facebook is not as alluring as it once was.

There was only one occasion when Rebecca interrupted me while I was working, and I complied with the task. Interruptions are a tough one for me. I work in a main area of the house, and there are constant interruptions. This task reminds me I really have to get cracking on renovating our outbuilding so I can have an office space.

Day Five - If you look, Rebecca's candle drawings became more persistent each day I failed to complete this task. Finally, on Day Five, I did it - with a real candle, not the iPad. And you know what? 15 minutes went by much more quickly than I thought it would. While I stared at the flame, I visualized handling a tricky client with compassion and care, and resolving our impasse that way. Not bad!

I am still awaiting my task sheet for today, Day 6. Hopefully next week, I can make more frequent blog posts about Return To Bliss! Until next time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Experiment: It's Back On!

Imagine my surprise when daughter Rebecca handed me a note yesterday. I expected it to say something like "I love you, Daddy!", but instead it was a resumption of The Experiment we started last Fall.

For those of you who didn't follow The Experiment, it began when I was looking for an interesting way to shake up my morose and grumpy attitude, shake off some stress and introduce a little more fun and whimsy into my life. So I asked my daughter (who is nothing but fun and whimsy), if she would assist me.

I asked her to assign me daily tasks that I would agree to complete. It started out as a week-long commitment, but once the week had ended, it felt like we were just getting warmed up. So we extended The Experiment to last an entire month.

It was a fun month, and I completed about 90% of the tasks. And it was a success: after The Experiment ended, I was more joyful and less stressed. And I've been that way ever since. And, the tasks provided more opportunities for Rebecca and I to spend time together.

Rebecca and I discussed whether we should resume The Experiment since it was so fruitful. We hadn't set a start date or hashed out the details, but when she brought me the first task, I said to myself, "OK, here we go!" This time, I'm starting out feeling pretty good overall, so it feels more like exploration and fun than a quest to eradicate a bad condition.

Here's how I fared on Day One:

I didn't stare at the candle. I meant to, but I had just gotten my first smartphone around 5pm and I spent too much of the evening gazing at its screen instead, figuring out settings and such. Sorry!

I accomplished Tasks 2 and 3...well, maybe the jury's out on Task 2. It was a hectic day and I didn't consciously take an hour off work, but I am participating in Winter Feast for the Soul again this year (40 days of meditation) - so I did take an hour off to meditate. Does that count?

By the time I thought about telling 3 different family members that I loved them, it was dinner time. I told Beth and Rebecca I loved them, and then thought about who on the West Coast I would call. Rebecca cracked a mischievous grin and suggested that I think about the task a little more creatively. I pondered for awhile, with a few subtle clues, finally realized that I could tell myself I loved me! Apparently, that was the solution Rebecca hoped I would find, and she danced a little end-zone-style dance after I figured it out.

Tomorrow, I'll post the results for Day Two's tasks.

I'm also looking for a better name for this exercise. "The Experiment" doesn't seem to fit any more. It seems like we're past the beta testing phase with this practice, and the evolution of it deserves a better moniker. Got any ideas?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Paper Trail

Today, I organized and packed away all my 2011 paperwork: receipts, business documents, bills, contracts, etc. Everything was sorted into its own manila envelope and tucked into a banker's box for storage.

I usually dread this chore - because I still remember how much work it takes. But the problem is, I'm thinking back to 5-10 years ago! Back then, it was an 8+ hour chore, longer if I hadn't already done some mid-year sorting.

Today, it took me less than two hours!

I considered why my pile of business paper is so much smaller than it used to be. Easily 75% of the transactions and work that once required  me to generate paper to archive are done on the computer.

I pay almost all my bills on the computer. I still must write one physical check per month, and I procrastinate because I have to pull out that clunky binder, scrawl with an analog writing device, tear out the check, and then fish for an envelope and 44¢ stamp.

Overnight delivery is another relic I rarely use nowadays. Thanks to broadband internet, I can send massive computer files to printers anywhere in the country. Clients send me scans instead of physical photographs. I once used overnight services on a daily basis - now I use them around a half dozen times a year. And at the end of the year, I no longer have an inch-thick wad of receipts. Better yet, I'm no longer responsible for the consumption of countless gallons of fuel by jets and trucks.

I still have a printer, but it no longer needs to be the workhorse it once was. I save documents to PDF, and resort to print a few times a week. And when I do, I print on both sides of the paper before it goes into the recycling bin.

Is it good that my business and personal life require so much less paper? For the trees, definitely! But since I handle so many transactions sitting alone at my computer, I don't get out as often because I don't need to. The paperless world is a lot lonelier.

I've been thinking about how I miss the daily newspaper. In earlier decades, I loved hearing the early-morning thunk of the paper arriving at my doorstep - it was my alarm clock many mornings. And I miss the practice of receiving doses of information at a few daily intervals: in the morning with the arrival of the newspaper - and later in the evening, with the evening news broadcast. Somehow, it created more opportunity to discuss the day's news with others.

But the newspaper had its downside, too: I recalled how some people used the unfurled newspaper as a barricade in order to avoid contact. But I guess that barricade hasn't gone away- today, it exists in the form of bowed heads transfixed as if in prayer by the glow of smart phones and electronic tablets.

And though we spend more time in isolation thanks to the electronic world, we have less privacy. More companies have access to the minute details of our financial transactions than ever before. At best, we're giving them free marketing information. At worst, some of the information gathered could be used against us someday.

I suppose the transition from paper to electronics is a mixed bag. I delight in knowing that we're sacrificing less trees to the paper mill. But I miss the opportunities for human contact that accompanied the paper-based world. Maybe the solution is to call some folks and schedule a group hike on a path that winds through all those wonderful trees?