30 September 2009

Weekend review: My need for mindfulness

I was thinking this morning about habit and schedule, and how these two things affect life in general. For the past several days, my schedule has been thrown for a loop. I've had a lot to do, some of it under deadline pressure, and I've handled it all relatively well -- but not as well as I would like.

It all began last week, when I started working on three projects simultaneously. These were: 1) an interview with Chance Shirley, director of the film "Interplanetary" which showed Sunday at the Sidewalk film festival; 2) the layout and design of the October issue of Magic City Blues News; and 3) the latest episode of my ongoing online serial story, Committed. I wanted to get both Chance's interview and the episode posted on my website by Friday, which would give me the weekend to work on the newsletter, which could then be at the printer on Monday.

The first part of the week went great; I stuck to my schedule, I made good progress on the episode, and I was able to get a lot of the grunt work done for the newsletter. But it started going downhill on Wednesday, when I stayed up until 2 a.m. working on the interview. There were pages and pages of notes that I transcribed from my conversations with Chance, and I was having a hard time pulling it together into a story that made sense. I woke up early on Thursday and kept at it, blowing off any kind of scheduling in favor of working on the one thing that demanded all of my attention. I ended up finishing the piece around 3 a.m. on Friday morning. I got about three hours of sleep, then got up and went to work posting the piece on my website.

Historically, I've never done well when I don't sleep, and Friday was no exception. I was a zombie most of the day (especially when I went into the Pork Palace that morning to make a delivery), and finishing the episode was out of the question. I ended up zoning out in front of the computer for most of the afternoon, and sleepwalked through my shift that night.

The weekend was no more restful. On Saturday, Jean, Juliana and I got up and headed to Georgia for a mini-family reunion. A good time (and an excellent dinner) was had by all. We got back to Homewood sometime between 9 and 10 o'clock after a three-hour drive. Dry weather on Sunday gave me an opportunity to mow the yard, and after that my friend Shawn and I went downtown to check out "Interplanetary" at Sidewalk.

(Quick aside on Sidewalk and "Interplanetary": Sunday was my first time to visit the Carver Theater, and I really enjoyed it. I was impressed with the crowd and even more impressed with how Chance's movie looked on the big screen. It would be a shame if he didn't get a good distribution deal for this movie; I think "Interplanetary" could be a serious cult classic if it gets just the right push.)

Jean and I relaxed for a bit Sunday evening, and then I got up early on Monday morning to finish up the newsletter for the Blues Society. I spent all day on it, and after a day of revisions, finally got everything uploaded to the printer last night.

Sure, a lot went on, and I busted my butt. However, the results weren't particularly stellar by my reckoning. Yes, I was pleased I got Chance's interview posted on Friday, but the piece was definitely not my best work. The newsletter didn't get to the printer as soon as I wanted, and we're still waiting for Episode 34 to make it onto arkirby.com.

I've always felt I was a seat-of-the-pants, spontaneous, fun-loving kind of fellow. And in many ways, I am. But I felt a little lost, panicked, and stressed out during the past several days, and it showed. Everything that has happened over the weekend got me... well, how to explain it... out of sorts. Ginched up a bit, as it were. Crabby, but not horribly so. Just a little bit off. I didn't really get up on the wrong side of the bed, but I set my foot down before I got up on the other side, know what I mean? Nothing particularly wrong, but I just didn't feel right.

I think I can attribute much of my unease to obvious factors: lack of sleep, deadline pressures, travel, etc., but I am almost absolutely certain that my un-right-ness comes from somewhere else; a place of mindfulness. I worked very, very hard, but without much thought or direction. I got worked up over details and lost sight of the big picture. I didn't breathe. I wasn't "in the now" in any sense. I wasn't living and working mindfully, and it put me out of sorts.

The cool thing about all this is that I can see it happening -- and I now know how to handle it. When I would encounter situations like this in the past, I'd just keep on trucking down that road, oblivious to whatever it was that I needed to do. I would work and work and do and do, with the result that nothing ever seemed to get done... until at some point, I would finally say, "Enough!" and get back to paying attention. As time passes, these instances are getting shorter and shorter, and it's easier than ever to get back into the swing of things.

So, today I am paying attention. I'm being mindful of what I do and I what I want. It feels good to be back on track.

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