Monday, November 29, 2010

Little Good Things

Lately it has seemed like all I ever hear about is bad stuff in the world. In everything from how people interact, to general courtesy, to politics, to how people relate to their children, it seems like there isn't a lot of good left in the world at large. To paraphrase one of my favorite Gilmore Girls quotes, when Rory asks Paris if she's met their neighbors at their new apartment, Paris replies, "Yes, and all I can say is build an ark, because we are overdue for a flood."
For the past several weeks and months, I've felt kind of inundated with the worst in humanity--not just with the bad behavior of others, but also the constant need to wallow in and spotlight and pinpoint said bad behavior on the "news", in blogs, pretty much all of Hollywood, etc. I really don't think it helps that there was recently an election, which tends to bring out the worst in both sides of the fence. Something about pregnancy also always seems to hone my negativity radar as well, making me even more observant of the crappier parts of the world around me--possibly because I'm so moody myself. In short, lately, if I'm being honest, I've thought more than once that we might be overdue for a flood.
All these factors coming together has made it the perfect time for me to undertake a project where I've actually made a conscious effort to notice the little acts of kindness happening around me. For nearly the past month I've paid special attention to the little things people do to make the world better for those around them. Of course, it was harder to find these acts than deplorable ones, as you usually do not see someone volunteering to babysit plastering the front page of the checkout line tabloids, but once I started looking at the actual people around me, instead of what the world so desperately tries to make me to notice, I was impressed by what I saw.
I saw people step forward and offer to help in the middle of a family emergency. I saw someone volunteer take an unruly toddler off the mother's hands without being asked because she was clearly in no position to calm her down herself. I saw people who are struggling themselves in this economy give generous donations to a shelter--especially touching at a time when so many requests seem to come in at once and resources are so strapped. I was even a recipient of some of these acts myself, I had people unexpectedly volunteer to babysit when I needed it most. I even found out that yes, there are still people on this planet who will see someone in a line with one item and invite them to go ahead of their full cart at the store.
It may not happen as much as my grandparents claim it did in the good old days, but...
People still hold open doors for the people behind them,
People will still smile back at you and wave if you say hello,
People will pick something up off the ground for you that you've dropped (particularly if you're pregnant and holding a two-year-old FYI),
People still say "thank you very much" and "Have a nice day", and
Drivers will usually stop to let you pass into the parking lot, although I admit I would never fault someone for not wanting to wait for a duckling parade of preschool children to meander across the street--I was surprised to see that one myself.

In short, there is a lot wrong with our world today. Seeing acts of kindness and quiet service does not change the abuse, neglect, dishonesty, greed, and immorality I see and know about in the world around me. However, there are still a lot of really good people out there who are just trying to do the best they can. I wasn't sure I believed it much a month ago, but there are still people who aren't always looking out for #1. Additionally, I realized that much of the good in the world does take place outside my sheltered, "safe" circle of friends and at church. This world may not be perfect, but after spending a month with my eyes open, I no longer think we are due for a flood. And since I'm still pregnant, and there's still political rancor in the world, that's really saying something.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just a few minutes a day!

I'm not exactly sure when the transition happened, but recently I feel like my life has taken a serious turn from a nice pace, with just enough downtime to make me happy without making me lazy, to frantic and hectic. Honestly, I know several people who survive on hectic, but I've always been the kind of person who prefers a lot of downtime to spend with my kid, family, whatever. My husband, on the other hand, does not like any sort of downtime at all. In fact, while I try to spend some time on Saturday relaxing my aching back, feet, or abdomen, I can only usually get him to watch half of a half-hour tivoed show before he's back up and looking for something to clean or organize. The man can not sit still. It's a blessing and a curse.

Anyway, I think I've nailed down the problem to overcrowding my life. It's all the claims that friends, experts, magazines, etc., say I should be doing every day. Why do they say I should be doing these things? Because, every single one of them is billed as something vitally important that only takes "minutes a day!" So, I'm doing some math (and yes, my brain does hurt) to add up how much time I "should" be doing little I obviously, don't do all these things, but I thought I'd just take a gander at why we're so dang busy. This is just stuff I thought of off the top of my head that I've recently been told I "should" be doing because it only takes a few minutes--this is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it include most actually important life activities, like--if you have a job, or have to spend time with the basics--parenting, routine cleaning, cooking, eating, or using the bathroom. I figured in hygiene rules that have given a specific time frame in order to do it "right," but I'm not including time for basic necessities we do anyway, like showering. Also, I'm figuring this into the template that we also "should" be sleeping 8 hours a day.

Exercise--30-60 minutes a day of moderate exercise plus
15-20 minutes a day of stretching or strength training
Practicing an instrument (or skill or talent)--30-60 minutes a day
Talking to and bonding with my fetus--15-20 minutes (no I'm not making this up, and no, you're also not supposed to multi-task while doing it)
Reading my scriptures--15-30 minutes a day
Reading to my toddler--30 minutes a day
Practicing good oral hygiene (brushing properly, flossing everyday)--10 minutes a day
Lotioning and pampering my feet to prevent calloused skin--10 minutes a day
Mapping out calories and planning nutritionally correct meals--30 minutes a day
Organizing or cleaning one clutter "trouble-spot" in my house until my whole house looks like Jaime Lee Curtis's--20-30 minutes a day
Wiping down and dusting the bathrooms in my house to stall the need for deeper cleaning (5 minutes per bathroom)--20 minutes a day total
Using my sock to wipe down the baseboards in two rooms a day--10 minutes a day
Writing in a "gratitude journal" to promote personal happiness--10 minutes a day
Writing in an actual journal or blog to document my life--10 minutes a day

Hmmm, that makes 4 hrs (on the low side!) to 5 1/2 hours of stuff that I someone out there thinks I should be easily fitting in and doing every day, utterly separate from my job as a mom and wife, church responsibilities, grocery shopping, and interacting with others. No wonder we're all so tired! Yes, some of these are actually important, and I will continue to find the time to do them each day because they actually help me be a better person. That said, however, I think the next time my Good Housekeeping magazine tells me that I too can have spotless tile floors without the hard scrubbing if I only take 10 minutes a day to do the following, I will have to laugh. Yeah, 10 minutes a day sounds like nothing, but when you've been reduced to only 11.5 hours a day in which to do most of your living (or a measly 2.5 hours if you work full-time away from home--without a commute!), I think we can all agree that it's worth some hard scrubbing every so often, when it occurs to us. After all, it takes no minutes a day to ignore the floor for two weeks! That's 140 minutes I just saved you!
Ignoring other people's opinions and deciding for yourself what really truly deserves your precious "minutes a day" will save you so much more, and I for one, am taking back my spare minutes! As important as lowering my risk of breast cancer by a billion percent, or increasing my happiness by 532% (and how exactly do they measure that anyway?) sounds, I think it's more helpful to my well-being to not spend hours a day stressed out and being bossed around by a magazine or random statistic.
If you need me, I'll be on the sofa, playing tickle monster for an undisclosed number of minutes.