What Should I Do?

In the sort of epilogue to my October 2011 post from a couple days ago, I noted that Danielle had mentioned in an email that I should blog more. What’s interesting about that–and perhaps is the reason I am actually trying to write more rather than just feeling sorry myself and getting defensive–is that earlier that same day I had written the following list:

Here’s the list, in the order in which it was written:

  • Housekeeping
  • Cooking
  • Daddying
  • Playtime for Sean
  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Sleeping
  • Caring for Cats
  • Playtime for Me
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Making Things

Is it absurd that I feel like I need to make a list of the things that are important in my life? It may seem that way, at first, but writing things down, even simple things, gives you a remarkable sense of clarity. As the productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is the worst possible place to try to store information. The brain is remarkably good at processing things at the subconscious level, at finding patterns, but it sucks as a hard drive.

I found that I’d gone into simple Reaction Mode. This is the opposite of what might be called ‘living mindfully’ or ‘living intentionally.’ My wife Danielle is in the Navy and she refers to this as ‘putting out fires.’ Because if you’re constantly reacting to some minor (or major) crisis, you can’t make any actual progress. How are you going to cook dinner if all your dishes are dirty? You’re not. You’re going to order a pizza.

Reaction mode feels like a sort of default setting in the human brain. Hungry? Find food. Tired? Sleep. Horny? Have sex. Need to club Ned for taking your meat? Find a big stick. In danger? RUN!

But eventually, after many thousands of years, somebody decided to build a house, and then a village, and then a city. And then we had to figure out a whole new way to live, a higher setting. The default imperative (Don’t die) was no longer enough.

And yet Reaction Mode remains attractive to a certain old part of our brains. Or my brain, at least. Especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life. It’s easy to just react. But I’m trying to break out of this mode. And part of that process is going to be writing about it here.

I hope.