How quickly we forget. And by we, I mean I.
There’s nothing magical in Ideal Life Exercise, and while I talk big talk about fairy dust and magical moments, the whole magic thing is just a way to describe something that has an outsized impact for good. Magic in Lily-ese just means something that makes life nicer, better, more productive, more peaceful.
I would love to say that there is real fairy dust. But unfortunately, we actually have to work for our magic.
Habits are magical
As we returned from our vacation, a vacation into which I had entered with the concerted intention of being present for my family, and putting aside my daily distractions in order to do so, I found, yet again, that the transition back to my regular schedule was über complicated.
For those two weeks of vacation, all of the regular work stuff that I would do during the workday, when the boys would usually be at school, had to fit into the the three little hours I had between 4:00AM and 7:00AM. This was, by far, not enough time to get everything done.
I arranged two half-days with my husband so that I could write, record and edit the podcast. But other than that, anything I wanted to get done workwise had to be done in my morning hours.
This meant that my Ideal Life Exercises got relegated to the end of the day, just before bed, when my little eyes were barely open any longer. I knew that I wanted to be able to check that box on my to-do list and say that I had done it. But doing the Ideal Life Exercise at night truly serves very little purpose.
The objective of the Ideal Life Exercise is to set an intention for the day for just one lovely circle on the Venn Diagram that makes up our life’s blueprint. Doing the Ideal Life Exercise at night, without the day ahead of me, defeats the purpose entirely. But because I had started filling my early morning work hours (ahh yes, that coveted 4:00AM-7:00AM slot), I had relegated that exercise to a different moment of the day.
I should know better than to upend my routines. Especially routines that have the potential to be so life giving as say, reading my Bible or meditation, or doing my Ideal Life Exercise.
These are activities that connect me back to my purpose in life, that help keep me focused and grounded. And yet, these routines were the ones I shifted from their place of honor during my coveted 4:00AM-7:00AM window to make room for “more important things.”
It took so, so, so little time to start feeling stuck. I’m going to be generous here, and say it took about four days, that is, the first two weekend days of vacation, plus two days of the first week.
We had barely started our vacation, and already I had started losing my desire to be present for my family, my desire to put aside my distractions and engage fully with my family.
But instead, I got stuck.
When I started feeling stuck…a feeling I can’t entirely define other than to say that things, little things started to feel out of control or and I was feeling aimless… I started losing interest in everything. Within four days, I went being “all in” to feeling like “everything is meaningless.”
Admittedly, transitions are tough, and they have certainly never been my strong suit. But by removing the routines which are the spiritual and mental health equivalent to eating a balanced meal, I went into full-on starvation mode and get stuck.
The problem with not getting the nourishment I need in those areas is the same as when you are hungry and can’t do anything about your craving: I started to ideate, to fantasize about fulfilling the craving, like back when I had given up bread for Lent years ago and would fantasize about a bagel that was bigger than my head.
I started to idealize, to exaggerate the object of my craving. And then it became a kind of fatalism. “What difference does it really make, anyway?”
Usually, when I start to feel this way, I like to shake myself out of the rut by trying something new. But I knew that doing something new was not on the agenda. There was no time for something new.
Does it all really matter? What difference does it all really make, anyway?
Those two questions right there are what shook me awake by the end of our vacation. The fact that those fatalistic, Book of Ecclesiastes-worthy thoughts rose to the surface in my mind disturbed me. Obviously it all made a difference, or else I wouldn’t be feeling so stuck right now!
Doing something new was mentally exhausting to me, because already I was feeling pressed for time. So what I needed to do was get back to doing things in the right order.
If I wanted magic, I would have to work for it.
I was behind on my reading, behind on my Ideal Life Exercises. I was behind. Plus, I was behind in my regular work, because I was trying to fit 7 hours of work into three.
But, magic oblige, I made the conscious decision that I needed to put the spiritual and mental health stuff first. Just like, when having a meal, we don’t have the crème brulée before the salad or the soup.
I needed to double-down on my Mise en Place, because it makes the start of my day easier, whether it is getting my little workspace ready for the morning, or deciding what I am going to wear the next day.
I needed to choose to not be overwhelmed by how far behind I was in my reading plan. I wouldn’t ever get caught up if I stopped reading altogether.
I needed to put my Ideal Life Exercise back at the beginning of the day and get serious about doing that one little tiny thing each day that would get me closer to my Ideal Life.
And after just four days–the same amount of time it took to lose the habits in the first place–I already started to feel more alive. Like I had gone from starvation mode to being back on top of everything–including the regular work which I usually enjoy as much as I enjoy the crème brulée at the end of a fancy meal.
Working for Magic
Getting out of my routine is not something I would ever choose for myself.
But here I am, almost at the start of May, two months off from the start of our Summer vacation, realizing that if I want to make the most of my summer, I need to start setting my intentions now, just like I did last year.
So, very shortly, I will start Engineering my Summer again…and maybe you should, too!