Friday, June 1, 2012

A Year in the Life

My summer reading plan is already on shaky ground. I am trying to stick with the work of fiction that I picked up at the library the other day, but it better get good quick, because today when I pick up the girls from their last volunteer time at our local branch, I'm also picking up A Year Without Made in China: One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy.

I am such a sucker for these books. Do you love them too? You know what I'm talking about, right? I've already read: Kingsolver's, Animal, Vegetable Miracle; Gretchen Rubin's, The Happiness Project as well as Eat, Pray, Love; No Impact Man; A Year of Plenty, and another book just called Plenty.  I have perused this list at Goodreads and have added to my to-read list. Based on the popularity of some of these titles, I am confident that I am not the only one.

I am fascinated with parameters and what they can do to and for our lives. Perhaps this is why I like these books so much. Setting parameters with oneself seems to be a way in which one can have an adventure in the inner realms without needing to physically travel. We've never had a lot of money for travel, so perhaps this is why things like this - parameters - and long-term projects are so appealing to me. I know I am not alone.

Project 365 on Flickr is a popular project: one photo a day for an entire year. Other projects are similar and have been published into beautiful books: morning and evening photos, self-portraits, a sketch-a-day, etc.

Have you ever attempted a year-long project?

I tried Project 365 a few years ago starting in January and got to April. Not a failed attempt completely, I don't think. I have many amazing photos from that time that I would never have otherwise taken. And that's the idea, of course: to stretch ourselves. When the going gets tough, what will we do? That's the discovery and the adventure!

When it came to photography, something I've only had a mild interest in, I quit after 4 months. And that was okay. One year, though, after reading the wonderful book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Daily Lives by Wayne Muller, I set out to observe the Sabbath as a true day of rest for one year. And I did it. I think there were a couple of days that some work crept in, but for the most part, and with younger children at the time, it was remarkable. And I appreciated the support I got from my husband and my mom who would remind me of my commitment and helped me make it possible.

Today, the need for time - specific rest time - doesn't need to be as carved out for me .Much less of the work my girls do for school is as hands-on for me as it used to be.  My children are of the age that they make themselves their own meals on the weekends and dh does too.  Most of the time my girls make their own lunches here at home too and so only supper falls to me on a regular basis. While cooking remains an important part of my work, meal planning and preparation were a huge time commitment in the earlier years of my family and part of taking a Sabbath was planning rest for that. And it did take planning.

But of course, what I found was that is was worth it, and I was able to actually experience the gift that Sabbath is from God to His people. From that time I learned that, as being part of God's creation, He knows us. He knows how He made us and if left to our own devices, we will work and work and work until we make ourselves sick. If we're blessed enough to love our work, we may work through meals without even thinking of eating. This is why I believe God made it necessary for us to have approximately 3 mealtimes a day for refueling, yes, but also for rest. And this, I believe, is why He made it a commandment for us to rest. As New Testament believers, we are not bound by the law, but I always keep in mind that the law was for good... for our good and for us to experience life the way God would have us experience it. To follow God's way always leads to blessing. Choosing our own path means we choose, as my mother so often put it in our childhood, "to learn the hard way."

Another year-long experiment I did was to choose to not purchase anything new for myself for one year outside of, I believe, undergarments and yarn. :) Yes, I believe as a new knitter without a stash, I allowed myself, "when necessary", to purchase yarn. I do believe that a knitter could even go without that. There are ways of recycling yarn and I did that too. Also, I was gifted yarn. But of course, that meant I was at the mercy of another's taste in color and fiber. I allowed for new yarn for those reasons. And it was my experiment! My rules.

That was another good year, but I don't know if there was enough insight gained from that year to write a whole book. When one has been practicing voluntary simplicity for a long time, often new experiments like this are more subtle addtions to a lifestyle. Personally, I like that better, because as readable as the shocking lifestyle changes of something like No Impact Man are, for many of us, a little at a time is more sustainable.

A little year-in-the-life fantasy of mine recently was imagining what it might be like if I listened to nothing but classical music for a year. Now, I like classical music. In fact, it was because I was listening to it on a drive one day last week that I thought of it. But I am far from a classical music afficionado. I have a Pandora station that is named "Bach" because I know I like his work. And I like Vivaldi. But that's about it as far as composers that I know I like. Beethoven stresses me sometimes; some of his pieces sound angry to me. And that's about the amount of intellectual conversation I can give you on classical music. That's not to say that there aren't some pieces that I recognize when I hear them and like them, but it is unlikely that I could tell you the name of the piece or its composer.

So, what would happen if I listened to only that music for a year? Obviously, I would hear other music vicariously, but what if I only chose classical for an entire year? Do classical music lovers have current top-ten songs that are popular for a particular year and so that year's hit gets played repeatedly on classical music stations so that it becomes a soundtrack to that particular time? Are they forced to rush back to a certain time period, unbidden, because of a few notes they hear on the radio the way I do when I happen to hear a song by The Cure, Modern English, The Replacements, Shawn Colvin, James Taylor, the Cult, REM, the Beatles, Led Zepplin, the Indigo Girls, and on and on and on...? If you are real fan of classical music, educate me, please! I am curious... so curious. Because there is feeling to music and it sets a tone. How might the tone of my life change if that is what I heard the majority of the time? There was a time, historically, of course, when that is all people did hear. Might I begin, as I fancy, to dress like a character from a Jane Austen novel??

Ah, well. I think I am too afraid of missing out on all the other kinds of music available to limit myself. But that is the curious thing about limits and parameters. We think they are restraining, but often they open up to us entire new vistas we were as beforehand unaware.

I'm telling myself for now that I am just too preoccupied with the move and have enough on my plate with this to enter into any sort of long-term project. But it is tempting. Always tempting. Perhaps a month. That might be a small enough bite to chew on... someday. :) In the meantime, I will be working my way through the year-in-the-life books on my reading list and reading about the brave souls who do dare, live to tell about it, and share their stories with me.
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