Browsing the archives for the time tag

Living in Daytight Compartments

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

Have you ever been exposed to an idea that seemed mildly interesting, but then later helped you grasp something vital? That’s what the concept of daytight compartments are to me. I first heard of them in a Dale Carnegie class, many years ago, and loved the mental image of doors sealing off each day one from another so I only had to worry about today. I was already familiar with the idea of watertight doors on a ship, and always wondered what the doors between days would look like.

Daytight Compartments

Thinking about it now, I imagine there comes a time in many sailors’ lives where the idea of watertight doors stops being an interesting idea and an occasional threat to the skull, and instead becomes a necessary reality. On ships, these doors prevent a leak or flooding in one compartment from threatening the other compartments. What is a disaster in one part of the ship is stopped from being a disaster in other parts of the ship because of these doors.

So in my case, my life was much the same as a ship that is in danger of sinking as crises were overwhelming me. Things in the past would leave me a wreck and before I could recover, there was another disaster approaching fast. I would hear people using the slogan, “One Day at a Time” and try to reach for some sort of serenity about the present day but I could never just force this to happen through an act of will.

And that is when daytight compartments stopped being an interesting bit of wordplay, and became a necessary part of my life. The term “daytight compartments” was first coined by Sir William Osler as a way of describing how the following quote changed his life when he encountered it:

It is not our goal to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what clearly lies at hand.
— Thomas Carlisle

Sir Osler’s many achievements were attributed by him to this idea of never looking more than 24 hours ahead or behind right now. Dale Carnegie included this concept as part of a strategy of dealing with worry. For me, this is what allows me to continuing jumping through the hoops of a single-father, IT-professional, and artistic life with regrets and fear running off my back like water from a duck’s back.

Most of my fears are about things that have nothing to do with my immediate task of crossing this daytight compartment and making it to bedtime. And most of my regrets are about things that happened yesterday or before. Living in a working space that exists only from now until bedtime is just too small for my many fears to get too large – and yet it’s large enough for me to focus on what is at hand.

Those who know me and hear me talking about my “next right thing” are seeing me working in such a compartment. I can only deal with so much between now and bedtime – the rest I have to leave in God’s hands. And in the meantime, if a disaster has happened or will happen, I am safe in today. And when I am safe in today and can then focus only on the day around me, I can find some wonderful things.

Before IT started me working late-night maintenance windows again, I loved my dawn walks with my dog. I would time them so I was always on the west side of the lake for sunrise so I could watch it reflected in the lake and imagine today’s doors opening, often reciting this along the way.

Salutation to the Dawn

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendor of beauty
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation to the dawn.
–Sanskrit Poem

What about you? How do you “seize the day” and stay focused in the present? And what does it do for you?

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How to Reboot Life Systems

Change, Life as it is

I spend quite a bit of time around computer and communications systems, both at home and at work. As a result, I occasionally have a system get stuck or need to be reset – that is restored to a known working situation with the system in a healthy state. Sometimes starting with a clean slate it all it takes to get past a problem, other times, it simply creates a starting point to solve problem.

Telecommunications Junction

I also have my life systems sometimes get stuck as well – because of a system crash such as a lack of housekeeping input causing the living-comfortably-at-home system to halt because of unacceptable disarray. Or as another example, I may be overwhelmed when I have too many challenges to handle at any one time, and this may affect any number of systems in home. This is where having a good methodology to reboot the hung systems is handy.

Most computers have simple ways to restart them when you need to. It may be a couple of mouse clicks, or a keystroke combination such at CTRL-ALT-DEL, that does it – but its a simple process that is often a first step in getting things working again. Unlike a blue screen of death I usually don’t have an external notice that systems are not working, rather it comes from listening to my own state of satisfaction. When systems in my life are working properly, I feel a sense of contentment – when a reboot is necessary it’s usually through a growing discontent with something I am doing or not doing.

I have a couple systems of living that are very helpful to me. I can’t say I do them perfectly – or even just very well, for that matter – but they are both good life systems, because they both have reboot methods built into them. They are David Allen‘s Getting Things Done (GTD) and the FlyLady‘s processes for decluttering and getting rid of CHAOS. (For those who don’t know the FlyLady, CHAOS is an acronym for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)

In the book, Getting Things Done, David Allen writes:

Think about the last time you felt highly productive. You probably had a sense of being in control; you were not stressed out; you were highly focused on what you were doing; time tended to disappear; and you felt you were making noticeable progress towards a meaningful outcome….

And if you get seriously far out of that state – and start to feel out of control, stressed out, unfocused, bored and stuck – do you have the ability to get back into it? That’s where the methodology of Getting Things Done will have the greatest impact on your life, by showing you how to get back to “mind like water” wit all your resources and faculties functioning at a maximum level.

Falling off the wagon on any new system of living is easy – I’m doing it all the time it seems. But knowing how to get back on track is the key though. With GTD, I know I need to get my list out (I use MonkeyGTD for my lists) and renegotiate my own commitments to myself and to start gathering and processing again. That’s the beauty – it is that easy to start making prgress – to reboot to a known working state.

And for days like today when I feel overwhelmed by my home and the work it needs, Flylady always starts at the same place. What is the condition of my kitchen sink? And today was no exception – I went to the kitchen and started on the sink. Soon it was clean, and the cleanliness started spilling over to the surrounding countertops until my kitchen was done, and that lead me to working on other parts of the house. I know that next I will be working for 15 minutes a day and also working on being mindful of my bedtime and waking routines.

The point is, I didn’t have to wonder what to do to get rebooted and get systems back to a known running state. Before FlyLady, I would have wandered the house feeling overwhelmed and not knowing how to start working on so much to do. Before GTD, I would just leap into the closest fire and leap from one out-of-control mess to another, burnout and watch things crash again.

I wish I was always in control of all areas of my life. The good news it that instead of needing a systems that always stay in a steady state of harmony, I can make do with just knowing how to correct my course whenever I start to drift.

How do you reboot the portions of your life that seem to get hung up?

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“Because I am Furious” is Never a Good Reason

Spiritual Journey

Normally I try to focus on mistakes I have made and the lessons I learn from them. Tonight, though, I almost made a mistake, realized it, and made a different choice. That was such an unexpected wisdom, I had to mention it. Also, I fear that it is not the first time I have tried to make a mistake like this.

I went to the gym tonight to hire a personal trainer. It’s been a to-do item for a long time and today seemed like a good day since I am starting a weight-loss competition at the office today. The salesman and I sit across from one another and we haggle the price on a solution that I could not afford this month or next month or any of the months for the one year term to which I was agreeing. I kept thinking how foolish this was. I am trying to save money – not pay more than my car payment for someone to make sure I show up and work out.

A Calm Rage

So I finally stepped back while he tried to get his manager to accept my offer and asked myself why I was going to do this. And I screamed my answer back to myself, “Because I am Furious!”

I already was aware that I was angry. I noticed it on the drive and there were a number of reasons for it – not the least of which was the need for joining this weight-loss competition. But what made me stop and think was the fact that there was such a sense of entitlement attached to that answer. Like doing something that will cause me a year of financial stress and potentially damage me and my family is a reasonable thing to do just because I am angry.

It was just so matter-of-fact. I am angry, therefore I will go do something stupid and risk harming myself because that is a good and right solution. And it felt like an argument that had worked many times before….

I did not buy anything. I took a price sheet and a card and left. And I thought about healthier solutions. Better alternatives. And so instead, I went to the local massage place (where I had a credit for a massage) and found I was early enough to get a one-hour massage. I even had enough time to sit in their “relaxation room” and just feel my feelings and breathe and start to let it all go before the massage.

This was a victory for me. I don’t always see my way out of my anger – usually I just get lost in it. But tonight I chose a healthier path. And so in following the wisdom of “Celebrate every Victory” I share this with you all….

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Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Life as it is, Mistakes, Twitter

I have been busy lately. Lots of things have been happening, and so of course I have been making mistakes and learning from them.

  • My photography class on wildflower photography was a success, but an uncalibrated monitor taught me a lot more about post processing than I ever imagined.
  • I won a $1 bet with a friend of mine about redecorating and designing my home computer room. What I learned about 10-year old dirt in the corners is not sharable on a family-rated blog. (My teens read this, I fear.) I also got a crash course in vacuum maintenance.
  • I found an unexpected sunset hour to photograph birds in Brazos Bend State Park, and learned not to look away from alligators that are within six feet of me

But there has been another learning mistake as well. I mentioned previously the White Bread Warning, that if I use the same recipe, I will get the same bread. And I am finding that to be absolutely true in regards to this blog and my Twitter feed.

Time and again, I think of something interesting to write, and decide instead that it can wait a day because at least my Twitter entries, or tweets, are still being posted for that day. And then days become weeks, and the weeks start to stretch on as well. Pretty soon, I have the same result of empty blogging – a blog made up of tweet entries. And my main thoughts and ideas that I want to share being put off again and again.



So it is time to take the bull by the horns and turn off the feature that took tweets and made them blog entries. It’s a neat feature, but I am falling into the same trap I fell into previously. I will still keep the Twitter sidebar up of what I am recently doing, but those tweets just won’t become posts.

This forces me to write and to write regularly. And trust me, I need the practice! And well, I always have some wisdom to share that I learned from some recent mistake.

This way, when I next want to share with you how I learned that sandals offer zero toe protection from “stubbing impact” because of my error in not looking where I am going – well, now I will have to really blog about it and not rely on the tweets catching it anyway….

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On Being Teachable

Life as it is, photography, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I love to learn. Sometimes, though, I forget how little I know, and in so doing I lose my chance to learn something. This is a character defect of mine, this arrogant pride of my intelligence, and it can lead me into being an arrogant know-it-all if I let it get away from me.

But how to do so? That’s a real question….

I’ve worked against this a long time – and not always with success. If the opposite of being proud is to be humble, then I needed to work on being humble, i thought. I tried this and it never worked for me. CS Lewis had it right when he wrote as Screwtape, a senior demon in hell, to Wormwood, Screwtape’s nephew – an apprentice demon on his first assignment in the field. Screwtape warned that humility was fatal to demon-kind, but easily defeated as his advice went.

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear”

So how to defeat this, when to try by will alone is to create some sort of proud false-modesty? Yuck! That’s even worse than being a know-it-all in my book. It’s true that the only thing worse than false pride is false modesty.

The answer is in something simple – it is in not trying to be humble. It is in trying to simply stay teachable. In fact, if i can stay teachable in all situations, and with all people then i am coming closer to something good – something close enough to being humble that the difference doesn’t matter.

“Every man you meet is your superior in some way. In that you should learn from him”
Abraham Lincoln

Tonight was the classroom discussion for a wildflower photography class I decided to take. I took it because I recognize the instructor as a master at nature photography, and every time I have gone to one of his workshops, I am amazed at how little I know and how much he can teach me.

So once again tonight, I arrived and since it was a lecture, I found myself skeptical as to what I could learn and couldn’t i skip this lecture – after all, I have already heard several of his lectures. But I could be teachable, so I took out my notebook, and started writing notes on his ideas and the structure of his lecture and anything else I could learn and be taught. And as I opened myself up to being teachable, I found myself learning about topics of which I knew nothing, and seeing the results of ideas I had read about but never seen attempted. This being teachable stuff works!

May we all become teachable a little more today than we were yesterday.

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