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There's always more to learn

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Extracurricular Activities

This weekend I'm shifting gears a little and painting an old vanity that I've been using as a desk for my online counseling sessions. I set up on this desk thinking telehealth would be a temporary situation but now that they've closed our physical location entirely, I'm in this for the long haul. Which is great it many ways, but I need to pretty-up my "office" (which is just half of our bedroom).

When the kids were little I needed a project and our dining room needed a buffet. I found one at St. Vinny's and on a nice summer day, took it outside, sanded it down, and painted it. The piece turned out beautifully and I had a blast. The process of painting and sanding repeatedly was both relaxing and inspiring at the same time. A few months later I tackled a roll-top desk that I lugged home from a garage sale. This was a bigger undertaking with it's nooks and crannies but overall, I was happy with the result.

It's been about ten years since I've done something like this and I'm excited to try it again.

To be honest, I've been meaning to paint this vanity for at least a year. I remember thinking last summer toward the end of Ironman training, "when all this crazy exercise is done, I'm going to use my extra time to finally fix that ugly vanity". But it never happened. It's so frustrating how I let the days and months slip by without making time to do the little projects that bring me joy. There are so many things that I let get in the way. Of course there are the day-to-day tasks that I have to do to keep the house in order and the family healthy but I know I could be better about using the down-time I have in a more fulfilling way.

It's hard to make time for hobbies or projects on a consistent basis. It can feel too luxurious, or pointless, or selfish. But hobbies, projects, or other "extracurricular activities" can reduce stress and "give you a sense of pride and achievement, teach you patience and perseverance, encourage active creativity, and facilitate memory formation and retrieval". (

Working on a project like this shakes up my routine in a good way. It's annoying when my routine gets interrupted by things like a car repair or illness, but if it's something I've planned for, it becomes something that positively marks time. Sure, the day I had to cancel my afternoon appointments to take my daughter to convenient care for her Covid test will stand out in my mind, but I also want to mark days by thinking back to the hours spent sanding and painting in the garage, looking out at the beautiful trees on a fall day, listening to the wind, and smelling the fresh air (as it mixed with the paint fumes:) ).

Every day I start out with a limited amount of energy. If I'm not intentional about how I'm going to use it, it gets piddled away and I get to the evening feeling tired and frustrated, feeling like the day was a waste. For a long time, exercise got the bulk of my energy reserves for the day. I don't regret that because in addition to getting in good enough shape to have fun doing a bunch of races, I learned a lot about myself through the process. I learned through experience that gradual improvements do happen with diligent practice. I saw how my body adapts to increasing amounts of stress not by shutting down, but by getting stronger and giving me the energy I need to get through. I learned that I'm capable of completing things that in the beginning, seemed insurmountably crazy. I learned to monitor and direct the chatter in my head so that it helps me rather than halts me.

I'm excited about this project. It's giving my weekend direction. For so long my weekends have been dictated by what workout I was doing in the morning, then coming home to shower and chip away at random household tasks with whatever energy was left. I'm glad to have this project to redirect my energy, even if it's just for a few days.

I'd love to hear about the projects you escape to. What have you done, or are you hoping to get around to, one of these days? Share in the comments!

See how the pink ties in with our 1950's bathroom? :)

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