I’m Doing THIS Now, and I’m Better For It!

That’s the most click-bait sounding title I’ve ever come up with. But it’s not a bait-and-switch. The whole idea of this article really is summed up in the title. So, what am I doing now that is such an improvement?

This.

Let me explain.

rolling log rounds for firewood
Have I mentioned that my wife is strong AF?

Earlier this summer, Tali and I were working in the woods. We were grooming our forest for a healthier ecosystem, and gathering wood for heating our home all winter. If you’ve ever done this sort of work, you’ll know that it rarely goes off 100% as planned. I’m still a novice at falling trees, for instance. Most of the time they land where I want them to. Sometimes they don’t. (This is why I park the pick-up far enough away so that even if things go terribly wrong, at least it won’t land on the truck!)

Forgotten tools, machinery maintenance, and mechanical break-downs are sort of the norm. Sometimes you have half the energy for the amount of work you had planned. Sometimes your plans change a dozen times in one day. Perhaps if logging were my only job it wouldn’t be like this. But homesteading requires you to wear a lot of hats and the to-do list grows at a rate of three items added for every one you complete.

This growing list can pile up like bricks on your shoulders if you’re not in the right frame of mind. I’ve discovered that the right frame of mind is…

…this.

Let’s rewind. I remember a particular incident that I’ve never shared publicly. I was 16 when it happened. I was mowing the lawn and I was the only one home. I was going to knock out this chore, no big deal. I had nothing else going on at the moment. So why was I so frustrated when the mower wouldn’t start?

I pulled and pulled on the starter cord, and with each exertion came more frustration, climaxing in a testosterone-fueled temper-tantrum that had me picking up the lawnmower and slamming it back to the ground WWE style- more than once (sorry dad). As if I was really going to show that inanimate object a lesson or two!

I was so pissed off at that lawnmower.

Or so I thought at the time.

A more likely explanation (other than the hormones of a 16-year-old), was that I was pissed that I had nowhere else to be but mowing the lawn. I was in love at the time, and my high-school sweetheart was drifting away. I wasn’t upset at having to mow the lawn. I was upset that I was anywhere except with her. So I took it out on that poor, tired lawnmower.

I could have mustered the energy to mow the lawn in relative peace if everything had gone smoothly. But that’s not how the real world works. We live in a clumpy, bumpy, wavy universe and our best-laid plans tend to follow suit. I don’t think it’s a great strategy to go through life just healthy enough to make it if nothing goes wrong. It seems obvious that we’re more likely to thrive if we are resilient enough to take on the clumps, the bumps, and the waves.

There’s a really important lesson contained in my embarrassing confession above. I think the real lesson is the least obvious. It’s easy to blame teenage hormones. But if that’s the case, why have I had that same feeling in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s? Yes, I eventually learned to control my temper (so far) but the feeling has been the same.

Heartache. That’s a perfectly good explanation. But again, I’ve had this feeling of rage-inducing frustration even recently. Have I mentioned that I am madly in love with my wife? Not a day goes by that I’m not consciously grateful for her and our love. I also have 3 awesome kids and our relationships are improving, and I have a close-knit inner circle of friends that I consider my chosen family. No, everything on the heart-front is going really well these days.

The anger came from something far less obvious and far more simple.

I wasn’t there. I mean, I was there, but I wanted to be somewhere else, so I wasn’t really there. Ya know?

Back to the forest. When we go out logging, we usually take three chainsaws with us. Two smaller ones for limbing and marking logs. And one big heavy brute for falling trees and cutting off rounds. I’ll fall a tree. Tali works ahead of me, cutting off the limbs and marking the lengths for me to cut. I follow behind, cutting off big rounds of wood, and when Tali’s done she comes up behind me again to begin picking up the rounds for splitting. It’s a great system. When it’s all working. But sometimes the chainsaw doesn’t start. Sometimes two of the chainsaws won’t start. Sometimes…well, you get it.

I’m finally getting to the point…

Last summer I began to say something to myself every time frustration would begin to rear its ugly head. I didn’t ask myself to be patient. I didn’t demand of myself to cool my temper. I didn’t try any positive affirmations. All I did was say to myself, “I’m doing this now.”

I was doing that. I’m doing this now.

I was logging. Now I’m fixing chainsaws.

I was going to start dinner. Now I’m driving the tractor down to pull the pickup out of the snow.

I was going on vacation to see family in Cali next month. Now I’m remodeling the downstairs apartment to become a vacation rental.

A simple statement to remind ourselves that what we are doing is what we are doing. It may not be what we planned. It may not even be what we want. But it’s what we’re doing, and bringing it so simply to our attention has amazing effects on our emotional state. What we are doing is…

…this.

That’s it.

I was pissed at the lawnmower because I was somewhere else in my mind and my body was not. I was pissed a few weeks ago because the 4-wheel-drive was not engaging properly and I couldn’t get up our driveway, but instead of moving on to the next thing, I kept doing what wasn’t working and getting frustrated. To put it another way, I simply was not accepting the reality of the now. I had one thing in my head, and the reality of the now was something else. That incongruency is where discomfort turns into agitation and escalates from there.

Luckily, I’m not 16 anymore. So I was able, after a few minutes, to remind myself that, “I’m actually not trying to drive the truck up the icy road, now I’m going back to get the tractor.” Once in a while, instead of minutes, I can remind myself of this in the moment. That’s where I hope to get to more often. In the moment.

It’s not the distance between an obstacle and your intentions that causes agitation. It’s the lag-time between your expectations and your reality that fosters frustration.

Damn. I think that was good. You should read that again.

It’s not the distance between an obstacle and your intentions that causes agitation. It’s the lag-time between your expectations and your reality that fosters frustration.

Whenever our plans are foiled, all it takes to induce some calm patience is this acknowledgment:

I’m doing this now.

By Cody Limbaugh

Author of STOP SETTING GOALS! and co-founder of The Lyceum. Cody and his wife Tali Zabari both write and create at LoveAllYourLife.com, where they share their adventures in #HardcoreHomesteading and personal development. Join the discussion in The Lyceum Community at LoveAllYourLife.com

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