12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

I have some annoying neighbors who play an outdoor radio seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, at full volume. I can hear it through my bedroom walls. My daughter hears it through her noise-cancelling headphones while she tries to do homework. We’ve started to avoid using the sunroom or front porch. After a year of this shocking disregard for others, it has become a daily challenge to keep my home the haven of calm and peace that I have tried to cultivate. It produces a kind of constant tension – much like recent national events.

It seems that everyone is in a turmoil. The volume has been turned up and left on. The political climate and recent events have everyone on an adrenaline roller coaster, with many of us feeling jittery and wishing for a quiet space to collect ourselves. Frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t care where you stand on current events, you have got to be feeling distressed about some part of it. I’m not here to debate for a particular side – in fact, I’m politically neutral – but the air that has permeated our culture affects us all.

I’ve been wondering why I continue to feel this way, and how I can return to a calmer version of myself.

There are numerous reasons for our current state, but here’s one that seems especially applicable. David Brooks, political pundit and author of THE ROAD TO CHARACTER, recently stated in an interview that he believes the media has made politics into a team sport, with citizens rooting for “my” side vs. the “other” side. Yet, government is not a sports league with winners and losers and scorecards (although the media presents it as such). He posits that society has become more interested in seeing their team “win” than in problem solving.

He also believes that for most people, politics have replaced morality. If a thing is politically acceptable, then it no longer matters if it is morally or ethically right. This means that no person can truly feel 100% affiliation with a party or person, because no one can admit that all political choices are also morally and ethically correct. This creates contradiction within the individual, which results in anger, resentment, fear, depression, and a host of other emotions. Which makes them act out, or be defensive, or hide, or whatever. I believe this helps me, at least, to put the world’s (and some acquaintances’) behaviors and point of view into perspective. We are seeing internal conflict projected outwardly.

For the person (like myself) who maintains Christian neutrality, I came across these interesting questions that I leave here purely for reflection:

  •   As a citizen of God’s kingdom, if I am not upset by the politics in Spain or Greece or Indonesia, why would I be invested in the politics of this country?
  •  If the end has already been determined, then God is not wringing his hands in anxiety over the affairs of the world. Why should I?

I also remembered a favorite quote attributed to just about everybody, but featured to good effect in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel:

Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end.

But until the end, how do we maintain a sense of peace, hope, and happiness while the neighbors are blasting their stereo at full volume? Here’s 12 Ways to Keep Your Peace that I am going to implement today:

12 Ways to Keep Your Peace

  1. Avoid news outlets and social media. These are a source of anxiety. When you want to catch up on world events, choose an appropriate method.
  2. When researching, consider only trusted, unbiased, and whenever possible, primary sources for information. If the source proclaims to be trustworthy and unbiased, you should triple-check this claim.
  3. Focus on positive, spiritual, nature-centered, and local/family truths. Also, being mindful of which things you have control over (and which you do not) can be helpful.
  4. Pursue a calm spirit.
  5. Spend more time in today than you do in the future or the past. You can only be in today. The past is gone, and the future unknowable.
  6. Return to (or increase time in) something you enjoy, a hobby, or art.
  7. Go to bed early. Your brain needs a break.
  8. Get some exercise. Your body needs to release some tension.
  9. Make a list. It relieves the pressure of carrying things in your head.
  10. Say no. You need more time to reflect and re-center. Accepting more noise and busy-ness in your life is counter-productive to the goal of regaining your peace.
  11. Be still. Take a nap, go for a walk in nature with no headphones, meditate, breathe.
  12. Break out of the negative emotional loop of others by countering with the opposite emotion. The opposite of hate is love. The opposite of anger is compassion. The opposite of despair is hope. Identify the negativity you encounter and consciously exercise its opposite.

Here’s a more attractive reminder I made for myself below.  I hope you can keep your peace, and if you have another method I haven’t listed here, please share it!

12-ways-to-keep-your-peace

SMART Goals

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I’m a list-making kind of person. Nothing warms my little heart more than a bullet list of things to do, reasons to move, what I love about Poldark… the list of lists is endless.

List-making is a facet of a larger endeavor – Goal-setting. But setting goals isn’t something I’ve given much thought to. I typically decide to do something, then do it. I don’t worry too much about the process or try to define the steps to get there.

Until recently.

As a Renaissance soul, I’m capable of following almost any whim that comes along and mastering it to boredom. Mostly, it’s a great thing to be. Except when it’s not. When it eats up time better spent elsewhere or tempts you to spend the grocery money on supplies for your new shiny pursuit, it can become a weakness.

So, the question isn’t Can I Meet That Goal. I already know I can. The question now becomes Which Goals Are Worthy of Attainment?

Turns out, all you need are SMART goals – something the business world has been throwing around for a while now. SMART is an acronym (that’s a fancy kind of list!), and it stands for:

SPECIFIC

MEASURABLE

ATTAINABLE

REALISTIC

TIMELY

(I was tempted to bullet that list for you, but I settled for block quotes.I’m learning restraint, see?)

SPECIFIC – Large, undefined goals are overwhelming. Specific, explainable goals are within reach. Sure you can have big goals, but be sure to break them down into smaller, specific tasks, or mini-goals. Write this down.

MEASURABLE – This is a huge, overlooked step that has gotten me every time. You need to know how far you’ve come so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Be able to express the steps of your goal in terms of a budget, time invested, days required, or other quantifiable method. Take a moment to visualize what it will look like when you have reached your goal. Take a mental picture of it. Draw it or write the scene down and post it somewhere visible so you will recognize it when it comes to life.

ATTAINABLE – Be realistic so you set yourself up for success. You can’t be an astronaut if you drop out of school and never visit NASA. Now, you might be able to finish your education and go to Space Camp. That would at least get you closer to the Great Beyond. Know your strengths and the intermediate steps you can take to get you in the running for your goal.

REALISTIC – You have to be BOTH willing and able to reach your goal. I wanted to be a ballerina, but I never had dance lessons and got scoliosis. Being a ballerina isn’t going to happen for me. Dance is something I enjoy (I have the will), but a goal in that area isn’t realistic for me (I lack the ability). Don’t worry. There’s plenty more goals to shoot for.

TIMELY – They say an open-ended goal is one that is never completed – or at least takes much longer than it should have. Have a time-frame set for the various steps of your goal and a deadline for completion. If you haven’t reached your goal by the deadline, analyze what held you up, make adjustments, and keep going. It helps to have some options built in, too. If you plan to sell your house and move by the end of the year, what will you do if it doesn’t sell? Wait idly until it does? Or move anyway and rent out your old house? Or take a better job elsewhere and support a 2nd home for a time?

As my dad likes to say, “Plan your Work and Work your Plan.” Make SMART goals and know when you get there. Take time to celebrate, then make a new goal! I’m pretty sure I have a list of goals around here somewhere….

Growing Up, or Growing Down?

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You don’t have to talk to me for very long before the subject of tiny houses comes up. I’ve seen every episode of every show devoted to living small. I’ve perused blueprints and Pinterest posts. Bought how-to books and even visited a tiny living community. What is the attraction?

At first glance, tiny houses are cute. It seems like a relief to live with only the essential items you need. It’s appealing to spend less money, be mortgage-free, afford luxury decor that becomes suddenly affordable in small quantities.

But for those who dig deeper, there’s a more profound attraction. A fundamental change in the foundation of who we are. Ryan Mitchell, in his book Tiny House Living, gets to the heart of this change. He believes that most people have a sense of being a hamster on the wheel, of wanting to change the status quo, but feel powerless to do so.

Why? Most of the reasons to avoid change are mental barriers. Not physical ones. We’re afraid of people questioning our choices, criticizing how we want to live, concerned about how we will achieve it. I believe these mental barriers exist for all change – not just going tiny.

We are at a tipping point in society where more people are waking up to the reality that there is no need to keep up with the Johnson’s because the Johnson’s are sitting in their over-priced, over-sized house with no furniture because they can’t afford any, and they aren’t looking at us anyway. Some are looking overseas and realizing that the majority of the world lives with less – and better – than we do. Others have done the math and discovered that smaller living leads to bigger adventures.

It’s called Growing Up, America. And it means it’s time to grow ourselves down to a more manageable, more meaningful size.

And this movement to downsize possessions has caught on to our psyche. Now we want to downsize our debt. Eliminate emotional clutter. Weed out toxic friends.

For the hundreds of people who actually live tiny, there are thousands who mentally yearn to incorporate those qualities in their lives – even if they never move from their current location.

And that is why we keep on this quest to pare down who it is we think we are, identify our needs and wants, work towards working less and looking inward more.

But beware. Knowing who you are has consequences. It brings a focus to your life that wasn’t there before. You gain confidence, energy, positivity. The ability to seize an opportunity when it happens your way. This will attract some people and repel others.

That’s okay. Any clearing out of closets and basements results in a re-ordering of your mind. You recognize that you have simply outgrown some things (or people), while others no longer serve their purpose. Gift them to someone else. Let them find their own path. They are not on your journey. They merely accompanied you for a little while.

Is it realistic to think that I could live in a tiny house with two teenagers? Well, not with these teenagers. And possibly not with my hobbies and interests. (I’ll take you on a tour of my Renaissance world sometime.) But I can take the best of the idea behind tiny living so I can live small and dream big.