Do What’s Important First

“you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and you must do what’s important first.”— Steven Pressfield

For most of us, life moves at a break neck pace of multi-tasking days as we juggle the competing demands on our limited resources of time. IMG_0518A mobile device seems necessary to organize and plan the details. Being a bit of a Luddite myself, I still prefer to make written “To-Do” Lists. Mine look something like this:

  • -Today
    -The Week Ahead
    -Before the End of the Month
    -Long Term Projects for the Year
    -House Projects
    -Things to Shop for On-line   etc.etc.etc.

Despite our technological efficiency and our herculean efforts, we still say “I can’t find the time” to do this or that. A true statement. There is no more time to be “found” lying around unused somewhere. We cannot lengthen a day. The solution then, is not about finding more time, but about taking time. And if we take time for one thing, we take time away from something else. If we add here, we must subtract there, like it or not. This is simple math, but of course, it’s not easy to do!

How, and what do we subtract? How do we spend the time that we take?

About 2 or 3 times during the year I get to the point where I feel totally overwhelmed. Not only by my “To-Do” lists, but by all the new and interesting activities, people, and places that I want to incorporate into my life. Overrun by choices and the demands on my time, I quickly lose focus and catch myself spinning aimlessly, unable to accomplish anything.

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Me, trying to keep it all under control

Do you know the feeling?

 

When this happens I know that I need to sit down and re-read my “Life Priority List” to remind myself of what I consider to be my life’s over-arching essential goals and direction. It’s my personal vision statement so to speak. It’s my Big Picture “To-Do” List that helps me regain my perspective. It’s my compass to help me find my path when I can’t see the forest for the trees. Here is the gist of it:

-contemplative time to read and write in my journal
-maintain and build relationships with friends/family
-creative expression through song writing and blogging
-development of my piano/guitar/writing skills
-Mind/body wellness through exercise, meditation, etc.

In his motivational book, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield talks about how, as a professional writer, he must continually discipline himself amidst the demands of the day in order to get his work done. He writes,” I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.

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Me, when I can’t see the forest for the trees

I love the simple truth of this statement and have it taped to the wall in my studio. Like Pressfield, I must discipline myself each day to resist the siren call of the urgent, (basically everything on my “To-Do” Lists), and make my work my priority. I must first sit down and hammer out a set of lyrics, or practice chord progressions in the key of A flat, or flesh out a blog idea. I must take time to do what’s important or I will never find the time. I only feel overwhelmed when I lose sight of this. When I look at the map I’ve drawn for my life, suddenly it becomes clear what I need to subtract to regain my equilibrium.

 

Sometimes what’s urgent and what’s important are the same thing. Only you can decipher this. But if you know the difference between the two, and keep your priorities as Ground Zero, then you will not be subject to the relentless Tyranny of the Urgent with its insatiable appetite for your time. Funny thing, you may discover as I have that when I do my important work first, I feel more energized and I can let go of the stress of whether everything on those “To-Do” Lists actually gets Done.

Dear Readers, do you know what your big-picture life priorities are? How do you cope with the Important versus the Urgent in your daily life? Do share.

Resolutions, or Just Good Intentions?

img_0339I feel energized with expectancy when the calendar year flips. Granted, nothing is really different between December 31st and January 1st, but psychologically the new year is a boost to a fresh start for all sorts of things. Of course, it is impossible to bottle that “freshness,” and it isn’t long before our noble resolutions fade into merely good intentions. Right? “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” as the saying goes.

All the same, I enjoy reading my journal entries from throughout the year on December 31st and then putting down on paper my aspirations for the coming year. I began 2016 with a very specific goal, completing my cd, and I did it! I don’t recall ever having such a specific goal for the year ahead. But it felt great to persevere and succeed. You can listen to samples and download from iTunes at this link or purchase physical cds from cdbaby at this link.

In her book, “This Year I Will…” M.J.Ryan suggests that one way to help us focus our resolve is to give the new year a name such as “The Year I Reclaim My Health” “The Year of Learning to Say No,” “The year of Household Projects” etc. I’ve decided that my 2017 will be “The Year of Public Performing.” 

Those who know me, know that I am a very reluctant performer. The truth is I don’t enjoy performing nearly as much as I do writing and recording my songs and I get nervous which makes me like it even less. But I know that sharing my songs live is a missing component in my musical aggregate. To that end, I am seeking out local places to perform that suit my musical style. In addition I am working every day to build and solidify a sufficient playlist.

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Write out your “Year of” Resolution and tape it up in a prominent place

Besides my commitment to performing, I am simultaneously gathering ideas, scribbling down lyrics and plunking out bits of melody at the piano all in an effort to create new songs. That work is always on-going and I hope to share more of the process with you as the year progresses. And I’ll let you know how the performance challenge is going. The year is still young, but so far so good. 

Dear readers, what will 2017 be “The Year Of” in your life? I’d love to hear!

 

 

 

What Is Sexual Assault?

Much has been said of late about sexual assault so I decided to educate myself about how the law defines it in my state. My good friend Alice, a brilliant and respected attorney, sent me the NC Statutes regarding Rape and Sexual Assault. You can read them in their entirety here:  NC General Statutes – Chapter 14 Article 7B  For the purposes of this post, I am limiting my focus to Sexual Battery.

In understanding the Statute, certain Definitions are given and, once again I list here those most pertinent to this post and you can click the link above to see them in full.

  1. (5)  “Sexual contact” means (i) touching the sexual organ, anus, breast, groin, or buttocks of any person, (ii) a person touching another person with their own sexual organ, anus, breast, groin, or buttocks, or (iii) a person ejaculating, emitting, or placing semen, urine, or feces upon any part of another person.
  2. (6)  “Touching” as used in subdivision (5) of this section, means physical contact with another person, whether accomplished directly, through the clothing of the person committing the offense, or through the clothing of the victim. (1979, c. 682, s. 1; 2002-159, s. 2(a); 2003-252, s. 1; 2006-247, s. 12(a); 2015-181, s. 2.)

I now skip to:

§ 14-27.33. Sexual battery.

(a) A person is guilty of sexual battery if the person, for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, engages in sexual contact with another person:

  1. (1)  By force and against the will of the other person; or
  2. (2)  Who is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the person performing the act knows or should reasonably know that the other person is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.

(b) Any person who commits the offense defined in this section is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor. (2003-252, s. 2; 2015-181, s. 15.)

I have been a victim of sexual assault at least three times in my life. I didn’t know it at the time it was happening because I was young, naive, uninformed, and completely unprepared to respond to such an assault. But I knew something was happening to me that I did not encourage or willingly participate in. Something that made me feel violated.

One day while going up the stairs in my high school, a male classmate reached up and grabbed my ass. Naturally I pulled away as he laughed, and I ran up the stairs thoroughly embarrassed.

Also while in high school at a friend’s house, her father cornered me and tried to kiss me when she left the room. Luckily I was able to pull away, and I made sure that I was never in the room alone with him again. It felt terrifying but how could I tell my friend that her father was assaulting me when I didn’t even know how to define it?

While in college, my boyfriend’s grandfather copped a feel of my breast after he “sweetly” pulled me down to sit on his lap. Of course I jumped up horrified but was too embarrassed to tell my boyfriend that his sweet little old grandfather had just assaulted me when his back was turned.

My point in all this? Groping, fondling, unwanted touching, whatever you want to call it, IS sexual assault. The victim and the assailant may be fully clothed. Not by my opinion, but by the law. Considering that I am just an ordinary person living an ordinary life, it got me wondering how many other women, just like me, have also been victims of this kind of sexual assault during their lifetimes? I think if all women were honest, the number would be staggering.

Why is this so? I believe it is because we live in a society that does not have a mindset of zero tolerance regarding all forms of sexual assault. Everyone seems to agree that rape is abhorrent and wrong but groping is viewed as innocent male “horseplay,” something that boys and men can laugh about in the “locker room.” It doesn’t really “hurt” anybody and it isn’t a “big deal” so women should just “get over it.” 

And many women do endure it and are silent on the matter. Especially since in most instances boys and men take advantage of young naive girls and women who are in some way in their control or under their power of influence. Males also use the element of surprise and assault women in public places catching them alone and off guard.

So what can be done? First of all, women can end their silence if they have been a victim of sexual assault because speaking out is an act of  empowerment. (This is happening now among online social groups like pantsuit Nation.) Secondly, men and women of integrity can work to raise our standards of decency and respect by demanding a zero tolerance of any form of sexual assault. Not only of ourselves, but of our school and business leaders and especially our elected officials. Religious leaders, here-to-for virtually silent on the matter, should be the most vocal and outspoken advocates of a zero tolerance society.

Finally, we must teach young girls to know what sexual assault is and to know their rights should they be a victim.  We must give them tools to help them protect themselves, make them pro-active and prepared. We must embolden them to speak up and not be silent. We must all lead by example.

Dear Readers, have you been a victim of sexual assault? If so, without details would you share something of your experience? What are your thoughts and suggestions on how we can work together to end our society’s casual and cavalier tolerance of sexual battery?

Let’s keep this discussion going among our family, friends, co-workers, and elected officials. Please share this post via email or Facebook.

 

“We Grow Accustomed to the Dark”

We grow accustomed to the Dark-

When Light is put away-

As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp

To witness her Goodbye-

A Moment- We uncertain step

For newness of the night-

Then- fit our Vision to the Dark-

And meeet the Road-erect-

And so of larger-Darknesses-

Those Evenings of the Brain-

When not a Moon disclose a sign-

Or Star-come out-within-

The Bravest-grope a little-

And sometimes hit a Tree

Directly in the Forehead-

But as they learn to see-

Either the Darkness alters-

Or something in the sight

Adjusts itself to Midnight-

And Life steps almost straight      —Emily Dickinson

I can remember as a child, being fascinated by how my “night vision” would kick in shortly after all the lights were out. At first it’s like you are blind but then slowly you begin to make out shapes and realize that all that is familiar is still there in the room.

In this poem I love the imagery of the “Neighbor” holding the lamp so that the light falls on her face as she pauses at the door to turn and say her goodbyes before setting off into the dark night. But it is the image of the night’s darkness as a metaphor for our mental darknesses that is so brilliant. Those “Evenings of the Brain” devoid of all light, both moon and star, when we experience the total darkness of grief and loss, despair and hopelessness.

At first we are blinded and can do little more than grope in the darkness. But if we just hold on, slowly the eyes of our soul will adjust. Maybe our life will be forever changed but we will continue to step out onto the road of Life and find it “almost straight.”

Make The Need Felt

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,-that is genius.”    Ralph Waldo Emerson from Self Reliance

It’s pretty amazing that you are reading this blog. There are some 60 million websites and blogs on WordPress.  Who are all these people, and what do they/we have to communicate that is so important? A large number of blogs are for businesses, how-tos, reviews, lists, and contests.  Even so, there are still lots of people sharing their personal stories, and their creative works, baring their souls as it were, to total strangers.

It was my friend Joy who first suggested that I write a blog and she gently nudged me in that direction until the idea finally started to sink in. But considering how many blogs already exist, I asked her why she thought I should add my voice to the cacophony of the blogosphere?

pen and paperHer response was Emersonian. The point isn’t that you have something to say that no one has ever heard before, but that you have something to say in your own particular voice, as seen through your eyes, as colored by your own experience. You have to believe that what is true for you is true for someone else and that it will resonate through the blogosphere landing on the ears of those who need to hear it.

“He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public…By doing his work he makes the need felt which he can supply and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed.”                               Ralph Waldo Emerson  from  Spiritual Laws

I am reminded of that famous line from the popular 1989 movie, “Field of Dreams.” The main character, Ray Kinsella, has an inner voice urging him to build a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield. Outwardly it seems a ridiculous notion, especially since the bank is getting ready to foreclose on his farm. But Ray is told,  “If you build it they will come.” By trusting his inner voice, Ray makes a need for baseball felt in the community, and then he supplies the cure- the baseball field. And the people do come.

For all of us bloggers out there daring to believe that we have something meaningful to share, I think Emerson would agree, “If you write it- They will read it.”

Dear Reader, Is there something you would like to share that is true for you and someone else needs to hear it?