What I Learned in August

Emily over at Chatting at the Sky has made it a practice to record the things she learns each month. It’s a valuable habit, this habit of reflection, and so I’ve been joining her in it this year. If you’d like to join us as we remember, you can comment on this post with what you learned, or head over to Emily’s site and link up there.

(How is it that we’re here, at the end of August, already?)

1. Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

I suppose, being a fictional character and all, that in reality, Sherlock Holmes never said anything. That said, I was surprised to learn that this iconic phrase never appears anywhere in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

2. I can run more than three miles at a time!

This might qualify more as a “thing I’m bragging about” than a “thing I learned in August”, but I was rather pleased (and grateful for the opportunity) to get in a long run on Saturday. It’s been quite some time since I ran any farther than a 5K, and I usually run inside on a flat treadmill, so I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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3. She might not have the words to express it yet, but Katie notices when things aren’t quite right in her world, and is affected by it.

Jonathan was gone for a week in August; a mix of business and family activity took him to the east coast. I, of course, feel the lack keenly when he is gone, but I didn’t realize that Katie would also struggle with his absence. She slept poorly the week he was gone and needed a great deal more of my attention than is normal for her, wanting to be held nearly constantly and breaking out in concerned cries if I was out of her line of sight for more than a few seconds at a time. The morning after he returned home, she followed him from room to room, refusing to be parted from him, and would cling to him, burying her face in his shoulder when I tried to take her from him. I’m glad she misses her dad when he’s gone.

4. Routines can become ruts, and it can take a few days to find your feet when you’re trying to establish new ones.

We’re right in the middle of the transition from two naps to one. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but the little girl who used to go to sleep quite easily for her naps at almost the exact same time each day now fights them tooth and nail. For the first two days, I floundered; I was so used to doing it by the clock that it was as though I completely forgot how to read her cues to know when she needed rest. I’m back into the groove of things now, I think. Her schedule is still all over the place (and from what I understand, it might be for a while), but I have managed to snap out of my time-based thinking in order to give her the flexibility she needs right now.

5. Writing fiction is hard. Scratch that. Writing, period, is often hard.

I’ve been working on and off on a short story idea for a few weeks now, and it just isn’t coming together how I would like. Characterization and plot and dialogue all feel off to me, and I can’t figure out how to make it real. Patience and practice and perseverance, I keep telling myself. Just keep sitting down and giving it time and thought. Still, wouldn’t it be lovely if the words would just come?

6. When I’m questioning or doubting some facet of my life or my personality or my faith, it isn’t always helpful to read opposing views. 

This is a tricky one, because I never want to be in a place where I’m only ever reading articles or books or opinions that agree with my own views of the world, that only affirm my decisions without giving me pause, that never encourage me to broaden my world or to see things from a different perspective. Even during times of difficulty or questioning, it can be valuable to wrestle with new ideas, to evaluate my life, my decisions, my faith in pursuit of truth.

That said, sometimes, when the doubt or struggle is already present, it can be healthy to put aside opposing views for a time in order to find peace and balance.

I may write more about this in future posts, but for now I’ll just leave it at this.

7. I like Morning Pages.

I don’t remember where or when I first stumbled across the concept of “Morning Pages”, but the idea of them has been tickling my brain for awhile now. I finally decided to give them a try in the middle of this month, both as a search for clarity and a means to do at least this much writing every day. I’ve made my own twists to them: I write in my journal, the pages of which are smaller than a typical notebook sheet, so I write four pages; I often intersperse written prayers throughout; and, depending on when Katie wakes and when I wake and how the two are related to each other, I don’t always do them first thing. Still, as a practice, I think it’s been good for me. It’s only been two weeks, however, so we’ll see how it continues.DCM_9022

8. Certain practices won’t always look as I expect them to look, but they’re still valuable.

I learned this lesson as I started my practice of writing morning pages. When I first decided to give them a shot, I had a definite, if somewhat romantic, view of how such a thing would go: I would wake up naturally (ha!) half an hour to forty-five minutes before Katie did, make myself a mug of something warm to drink, and settle myself into our big blue easy chair with my journal and a blanket. I would write as the sun rose, listening to the sounds of the world waking, and as I finished my last line, Katie would begin to stir.

Silly. Ridiculous. Reality looks nothing like this: Katie wakes before I do, or she starts crying five minutes after I begin, or, or, or. I’m learning to be flexible. Sometimes I write before she’s up, sometimes I start then and finish later, sometimes the writing doesn’t come until much later in the day. But it happens, even if it’s interrupted. It may not look like what I expected (and the words I write may be different from what they would have been if I had written first thing), but it’s still valuable, and it’s what I can do right here, right now.

I’m learning to apply this to other areas, too, slowly but surely – to prayer, fitting it into the spaces I have available; to reading, taking advantage of those few moments at the beginning of her naps while I’m waiting for her to sleep; to scripture reading, having verses and bibles available for a quick read when I can, even if it’s only five or ten minutes.

How about you? What did you learn in August?

This Thing Called Life

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