Not that we're anywhere near January 1, but I seem to have begun a habit of making a new resolution on the 8th of the month, so why not?
If you look at the three I've made so far, it does seem as if I'm working on a book entitled, 12 Joyful Resolutions that Will Change Your Life. Maybe I am. Happy resolutions are so much more fun to keep! Not any easier, however, especially when, like this one, they are vague and not easily measurable.
I was casting around for the next resolution—in fact, I had a couple of others in mind—when this one came to me, out of the blue. It's a good one, though. For more than 25 years, any complaints I bring to a doctor have been met with two responses: (1) you're getting older, and (2) you're under too much stress. The former no resolution will help, but the latter bears examination. It's not so much that my life is stressful—even when it was far more stressful than it is at the moment—but that I let it control me. I react badly to stress, carrying it around in my mind and body, as anyone knows who has given me a shoulder massage. My blood pressure is edging up, too—not a problem yet, but I don't want it to become one. Perhaps when I was younger my body could handle these assaults, but—see #1 above. So it's time to get a handle on stress: to learn to relax.
Easier said than done, and I'm not sure exactly how I'll approach it. Some ideas include:
- Exercise, with increased frequency, intensity, and consistency
- Periods of intentional relaxation/deep breathing/meditation
- Conscious awareness of my muscles at various times during the day, especially when working at the computer, and deliberate relaxation
- Getting more, and more consistent, sleep
- Renewed attempts at organizing my life, aiming for George MacDonald's "labor without perturbation, readiness without hurry, no haste and no hesitation" (This is a huge area, and could have several subheadings, but I'll leave it open for now.)
- Increased time spent in prayer
Increased time. Alas, that is what all of the above will take, and shortage of time is probably the greatest cause of stress all by itself. But what good is a resolution if it is too easy?
So...what about my previous resolutions?
#1 Read More Books Still going great; I've read 15 books so far this year. Unless I read several short books in parallel, my rate should slow down this month, as I'm now tackling Susan Wise Bauer's 800+ page The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome.
#2 Rediscover Feasting This one's harder to measure, and I'm not totally satisfied. But I'm not unsatisfied, either. I've experimented with fasting, and discovered that I can fast for a day each week without any hardship at all. They say that for fasting to be a spiritual discipline you should dedicate to prayer the time you would have spent preparing food and eating. I don't think that's necessary, but in any case I'll take the physical discipline for now. At the moment, fasting works much better if I'm kept busy with distracting tasks. The silence of prayer only makes the stomach growling more obvious.
As for "ordinary time," I'm mostly focusing on healthier foods. For one thing, I've discovered that I like oatmeal (especially the more flavorful steel-cut oats) with no salt or sugar added! I dropped the salt quite a while ago, but doing without sugar was a revelation. I do add raisins, however.And feasting itself? Not much progress there. One thing I've determined is that feasts were meant to be shared, preferably with several people. I'd like to have people over for dinner once a week, the perfect opportunity for feasting. The trouble is that while I love fixing meals for guests, I loathe making the social arrangements, especially when most people are so busy and it takes several back-and-forth rounds to fix a date. After a few attempts I tend to give up. Definite room for improvement here.