Tag Archives: focus

Off & Running

Running Forest FallsIt is a big day. My office sits in the heart of Pepperdine University’s main campus in Malibu, and today is the first day of classes for undergraduate students. Next door to my office is Pepperdine’s high-tech, newly-renovated Payson Library complete with a full-functioning Starbucks, and you can feel the highly-caffeinated energy in the air.

My youngest daughter attends a different university that runs on a different calendar, but because she is studying abroad in Spain this semester and her plane is scheduled to touch down right about now it feels like the first day for her, too. It simply feels like a big day at every turn in my world.

Last week had a different feel. I was honored to be invited to attend a retreat high in the San Bernardino Mountains with fifty or sixty rising Pepperdine sophomores as they prepared for a brand new year. It was such a tranquil setting. The view by day featured a beautiful lake and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, and the night featured actual bear sightings and a sky so full of stars that I had to remind myself that it was real.

But I decided to go for a run one afternoon because that is the sort of thing I do, and though stunning, I wouldn’t snag the word “tranquil” to describe it. For one, we were a mile above sea level, and let’s just say that my lungs noticed. For two, although the temperature was nowhere near extreme, maybe it seemed so hot because we were that much closer to the sun. And for three, there was nothing flat in sight. It surely wasn’t my easiest rave run.

We went on this retreat to get away and find focus for the year to come. Peace and tranquility are good for such things, but on reflection I think that difficult run was pretty good preparation, too. In fact, my major take-away on the retreat was that I need to remember how to choose to do without. And that run surely reminded me what it felt like to do without, oh, let’s say, air.

So here we go. The year ahead looks full and awesome and slightly terrifying, but good. I’m ready for it. Let’s run this race.

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Choose Sanity

My high school buddies and I had great fun with the imagist poetry phase of William Carlos Williams. Wow, that makes us sound so intelligent. Instead, we were clueless teenage boys with no appreciation for anything resembling culture who simply made fun of the poem in our literature book about a wheelbarrow and chickens.

Now, in my mid-forties, well, not much has changed.

But in my advanced years I do at least make an effort. Each morning when I arrive at the office I read a poem from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems, and a few weeks ago I stumbled across another popular poem from Williams’s imagist phase:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I still think Williams was smoking something.

Regardless, the next poem Keillor shared was a reply to Williams from Erica-Lynn Gambino:

This Is Just To Say
(for William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to
get out of my
apartment

even though
you never
thought
I would

Forgive me
you were
driving
me insane.

Gambino is my kind of poet.

Other than abstaining from your roommate’s frozen plums, please know that this is not an attempt at relationship advice. Instead, I’m aiming at a little life metaphor here when I ask: Are you willing to remove from your life the things that are driving you insane?

I’m not sure about you, but my life is filled to the brim with countless responsibilities, information overload, and myriad relationships, just to name a few major categories. It is more than possible that life can be so full that it explodes like a balloon, leaving an awful mess to clean up—unless, of course, we cull a few crazy-makers along the way.

My guess is that none of us are super hot at giving up the things that drive us nuts—as crazy as that alone is to admit. Author Bob Goff famously quits something every Thursday. I think he is on to something.

If you want things to start looking up, lighten the load by getting rid of some stuff that drains the life right out of you. Even if it isn’t Thursday.

(And, regardless, be careful around plums.)