Where Logic Meets Love

A One Word Update: Putting the "Peaces" into Place

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

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An Update on Putting the 'Peaces' into Place | Faith Permeating Life

The year is two-thirds of the way over, so it seems an appropriate time to check in again on my One Word goal for the year. (Here's the first update.)

My word for the year is "peace." I was seeking this back in January because I was at a job I hated that made me feel both worthless and unsettled. When I checked in last time, in May, I felt I was getting closer to peace -- not all the time, but more of the time than previously. But I still felt a lot of anxiety about my life path, and having tons of unstructured time made it hard to go to bed at the end of each day feeling at peace with what I'd accomplished that day.

Finally landing a job has made a larger impact on my overall feeling of peace with my life than I could have anticipated. I think there are a few reasons for this, but the biggest one, surprisingly, is how busy the job is keeping me. I have a great desire to work hard and steadily, something no prior job has been able to offer. I have a feeling I will be less busy further into the semester, but right now I love that the day flies by. And because I'm an hourly worker, I refuse to stay late, take work home, or check my e-mail at night. It's an amazing feeling to work hard all day and then be able to put it behind me for the night.

Working on campus has also made a big difference for me. The simple combination of getting more sleep, feeling less rushed, and working among people I know has had a calming effect overall on my life. And of course, having an income again (plus my small meal plan) has made our financial goals once again seem attainable, which is hugely important for me. Not to mention that just knowing what my days will look like day in and day out into the foreseeable future makes planning the future seem like a realistic thing to do again.

I went back to the notes I took after reading 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam, and it was gratifying to see the pieces fall into place. I had answered the questions about how I wanted to spend my time with a kind of amorphous blob of "work" in my mental picture, unsure whether I would actually be able to fit in the things I wanted to do with my time. But now that I know my real schedule, I know that fitting in exercise, choir, and reading on a regular basis is entirely reasonable.

I don't want to say, "OK! Mission complete! Check 'peace' off my to-do list for the year!" It's not that simple. I've still run up against some anxiety spirals. I still wonder and worry about the future as things will change, like as we start looking forward to having kids. I still have to deal with frustrating people. (Don't get me started on the horrendous conversation I had with TIAA-CREF customer service the other day.) But I do feel that overall, I have succeeded in moving my life toward a more peaceful state of being.

Gretchen Rubin talks about four components to a happier life: Thinking about feeling bad, feeling good, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. It seems that, unintentionally, I've been systematically tackling these four aspects of my life in my attempt to cultivate more peace. First, I eliminated what was making me feel bad: My job. Then, I started from scratch and added in the things that make me feel good: Reading, choir, spending time with Mike, spending time with friends, exercising, prayer. I decided what deserved to have priority over my limited time. Then I landed a job that makes me feel right: Working hard continuously during the day and fitting together the other elements of my life in the rest of my time.

My focus for the rest of the year, then, is on growth. To me, this means using the foundation of peace in my own life to look outward toward serving others. I believe that self-care is vital, but it's only a first step. The Gospel challenge I come back to again and again is living out love and serving others.

In my job, for example, I spent the first week or so just learning the basics so I didn't have to put every person on hold to answer their question. I'm at the point now where I can answer maybe 85-90% of the questions I get on my own, so I can confidently say, "Oh, you need to talk to X office or fill out Y form to do that." Now, I'm starting to think about what extra steps I can take -- calling over to an office to get an answer so a student doesn't have to walk across campus, or setting up my iPad so the dozen people who come in asking to change their meal plan can do it right there.

The end goal of seeking peace in my life should not be for my own gratification, but so that I am able to radiate peace and love and kindness to others.

What changes were you hoping to make this year, and how are they going? And perhaps most importantly, what do you see as the ultimate goal of making those changes?

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