the pebble in my shoe

I love this photo because at first glance you think, oh, a pair of oldish boots on a beach, and it is only with the second look that you see they are actually chock full of pebbles.

in casting around for a new focus, accountability whathaveyou for the next six months I have been blathering all over the place. thinking about balance and personal growth. eg: should I book in for another half marathon or would the training time be better employed elsewhere? because as I know more about living sober not only do I value myself more but I value my time more. and what I spend that finite resource on matters. I was reading somewhere that all activities can be fitted into three categories:

investment activities – ones which repay you many times over for the time you spend on them. which could be being with family and friends, or attending a great concert, or exercising to improve your physical or mental health. the idea being that you maximise your time spent in these activities.

neutral activities – ones in which the benefit is directly correlated to the amount of time you spend on them. for example, paid by the hour work. these activities should take up an amount of time proportional to the reward you require from them, and not more.

minimising activities – activities that need to be done but the benefit is not increased significantly by spending more time on it. for example if I hoover my sitting room floor for 10 minutes that will be sufficient – I will obtain no benefit from hoovering the same space for twice as long. these activities should be minimised in order to spend more time on the above two categories.

I would like to add another category to this, of the activity that is the pebble in your shoe. As Muhammad Ali said,

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out: it’s the pebble in your shoe.”Β 

I’m not just talking about the big stuff here, likeΒ the piles of paperwork (ack) but the little things too. there is a beer bottle cap that has caught my eye for months every time I cross my back yard, embedded in a crack between the paving stones. it needs prising out and putting into the recycling. but I would need to go and get a trowel or other pointy thing and then I would get my hands muddy and have to wash them and then put the trowel away again and whoops it’s four months later and the bloody thing is STILL THERE.

and these pebbles do not stop you walking. but they are a constant irritant. and, most importantly for me right now, I feel they are a drain on my emotional energy. that every time I see them or they cross my mind I feel a twinge of guilt which makes it more difficult to actually decide to go and do the thing when it is time to do it. and yes, many of these things are legacies of my drinking times. drinking as procrastination. drinking as a way of looking away from my own life. and we all know those things we have left undone for too long.

reading back through this blog I am, apparently, a terrifyingly practical person. all about habits and todo lists and learning by doing. not so much on the meditation and guided relaxation tapes, then? I have a feeling if I lay on the bed in the spare room and tried to meditate I would be jumping up within minutes to sort out a cobweb on the ceiling. and it may be because I find the idea of meditation tricky it means I should be working on it…or it may be that it is not for me, in the same way that I have never got the point of geocaching – like hunting for your keys, but outside – or of cryptic crosswords….anyway, I will work with where I am at the moment on this.

so, for my next six month project, I am going to work on the pebbles in my life. I thought about enumerating them here but decided that would be (a) dull for you to read and (b) too personal as some of them are to do with work. and also it is very broad ranging…the pebbles can be whatever I like. I don’t feel the need at the moment to focus on one big goal, rather to move forward on a variety of fronts, picking and choosing on a daily basis. and I am going to give myself permission to not do anything if I don’t feel up to it. because some of these are tough nuts to crack and will open up some old hurts. there are reasons I haven’t been dealing with these things.

so I have found an pretty glass jar, and I will try to address a pebble every day. and when i have dealt with the pebble I will write it down in my notebook, and then I will go and select a pebble or several from the gravel path in my garden, and put it in the jar. and then I will have a list of procrastinated items overcome, and a tangible visible proof on my office windowsill of what I have done. most importantly, I hope I will have increased inner calm from creating outer order and removing the should-do remoras that have been slowing me down for too long.

I might even show you the jar every so often…say once a month? here it is today. it has five pebbles in it so far πŸ™‚