Intentions, Resolutions and Reminders

Dead Branches and reflections 2

Growing up I was somewhat clumsy and awkward. I was always tall for my age—I stopped growing at the age of twelve and was even taller than most of the boys in my class, who soon outgrew me. My parents also thought I was careless. I wasn’t really, just lacking in experience. I also had poor proprioception. That word defines an actual sense: awareness of where one is in space and how much effort is being put out. I once embarrassed myself dreadfully when my best friend’s mother asked me to help her set the table, by pulling it completely out of the sideboard and dumping its contents on the floor.

While I outgrew the awkwardness and with the aid of yoga even became quite graceful, I still struggle with the proprioception. However I found that mindfulness helps greatly with that. Centering myself, slowing down, and practicing deliberate awareness when I am moving around or even pouring water from a pitcher into a glass, is a must. Over the years I have tried to make this a habit, like washing my hands with frequency, especially lately.

The flu season has made it vital to remember to wash my hands each time I return home, especially when I’ve been touching things like Grocery cart handles, restroom doorknobs and even counters or tabletops. The other day in a restaurant a woman near us was coughing with frequency into her hand as well as into the air around her. We are told that washing hands well is more effective than using sanitizers and better for our health.

I learned this the hard way. Last week I picked up a germ that invaded my sinuses and hit my right eye causing me great pain and rendering me unable to read for any length of time. As a result I have strongly resolved to wash my hands carefully not only when using any restroom but especially immediately upon arriving home. I hope to avoid not only the flu, but any other germs.

Resolutions are better kept when we have a reminder to do so, and a deliberate intention is well bolstered by any negative experience that happens when we haven’t. Hand washing is now an imperative for me, and while I regret the suffering and pain of my illness, I am grateful for the positive reinforcement of my intentions. Powerful reminders are not always pleasant, however they certainly are useful. Making lists helps too. Without a list my intentions, let alone whatever I have resolved to do may be forgotten.

Getting older has its good and its bad aspects. Becoming wiser by virtue of experience is helpful. Becoming more mindful as a result of that experience helps greatly also. On the other hand, becoming forgetful is a nuisance. However, my lists do help considerably. The trick is to remember to write things down and then also to look at the list. When I was a young parent in order to stay on top of things I had to outwit my children. Now instead in order to stay awake and aware I have to outwit myself.

Me and My To Do Lists

Poinsetta and water drops036My friend and I sat over breakfast at a restaurant near where I live. “I find myself getting very forgetful,” she told me. We commiserated a bit. I assured her that if it were not for my lists I would never remember what I had to do. I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember. I know that my grandmother made lots of lists. My mother told me that when she stayed at my grandmother’s home one year, she often found herself almost tripping over them. Nonny, as I called her, used to leave them on the floor so she would be more apt to see them.

I don’t need to write many as she did, nor to drop them on the floor. I get along very nicely with my two main lists. I keep one in the kitchen where I write down whatever food I plan to prepare, the next necessary errands, and the various household tasks it is time to do. I keep the other on my desk. That one reminds me of what I need to do on my compute–whether emails I need to write or assignments I must complete. It tells me when my deadlines are due, and what bills it is time to pay or what cards I need to send and to whom. Actually, these are not my only lists, just the permanent ones. As I cross things off I rewrite them and throw away the old pages.

I also keep grocery lists, health food store lists, and lists of other items i need to purchase. These are vital! When it was time to send out invitations to my birthday party I made a list of the people I wanted to invite. I also now have a list of the Christmas gifts Stephen and I received, and the people who gave them to us. I need that to write my thank you notes. My short term memory is not what it used to be, however it hasn’t been that good for some time. I am told this is nothing to worry about and is part of normal aging.

I also use my lists to practice recycling. Whatever comes my way that is a one sided piece of paper gets folded in three, torn into strips, and clipped together to form a pad to make my lists on. It is only a small gesture, yet every effort to conserve counts, no matter how insignificant. I also believe that any attempt to be mindful of the environment carries an impetus to help increase the totality of what will I hope and trust one day lead to greater participation for all in the conservation of planetary energy and resources.

I admire those who say they do not need lists in order to remember things. I prefer to use what mental energy I have to be observant, to remain in the present moment, and to notice when I need to participate in some way in the ongoing scene. If I have to waste time and energy remembering what I need to buy at the grocery store I may not have the mental focus to notice the hawk circling the highway above me or the interesting shapes of the trees’ bare branches thrusting their patterns against the blue of the winter sky.