Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Gather in Your Life

I hate that feeling of being scattered. I'm beginning to think that if I'm not careful, I will always tend towards an out-of-control life.

To scatter means to disperse in different directions. When I'm scattered, it means I'm investing energy in multiple, often opposing, directions.

The opposite of scatter is to gather in.

Today, I considered the difference between a scattered life and a life that's gathered in. Last semester, I was frazzled every single day. I was involved in 4 major campus projects including teaching 3 different courses and directing an unrelated project for another program. Besides this, I was freelance writing, meeting with graduate students, parenting, trying to be a great wife, serving my church, relating to my neighbors, and attempting to keep a clean house while preparing nutritious meals. And exercising. And remembering to do the laundry.

I lost it. I was angry and very, very moody. (Not flair)

So I decided that I needed to gather my life in. I wondered what would happen if I directed all my energy in one direction and not ten. Here's what I did:

I thought about where my home is. I thought about where my natural pathways are: where I live, where I walk, where I drive. I decided to focus energy there. I narrowed the scope of my life to a radius of a few miles (literally). Instead of spinning out of control, I gathered in. I cared for my neighbors as I walked to school. I helped launch a neighborhood fitness group. I didn't leave my neighborhood. I even attended a neighborhood church rather than driving to the other side of town. If some offer came along that made me leave these natural pathways, I said “no.” I stayed in.

In my professional life, I gathered in by only teaching one course and directing energy towards making it great and teaching it multiple times. I directed my freelance writing projects to relate to my course work. I declined directing programs that didn't relate to this one course. I reduced my professional life to one natural pathway, and I developed it with flair.

Gathering in increased my energy and my capacity to be fully present and refreshed each day. Gathering in made me narrow my scope to my neighbors, my one course, and my family. I say “no” to everything else. It's simplified my life.

It's helped me live with flair. A scattered life, diffused and diminished of power, isn't a fun life to live. It's a tired life, a moody life, a life that feels spent before noon. A gathered life feels simple and energized. There's time to reflect, learn a dance, cook a gourmet meal, and keep a blog. There's time to drink coffee with a neighbor, hunt for a turtle in your backyard, or make homemade pizza with a child.

Living with flair means I gather in.


Meg McGinty said...

This is freaky - a perfect twin sister entry to the blog that I wrote yesterday. You'll be seeing it as my memoir for class so you don't actually have to read it yet. Gathering in is a great way to put it, and I agree that channeling your energy to fight off feeling overwhelmed is a great lifestyle tip.

Visit my blog at:

JoAnn Foley-DeFiore said...

Heather, that post brings health & healing with it.
I hope we all can gather the wisdom you present to us.
I know I will try.

Melissa said...

I love this post. I love how beautifully you write and how it is short, concise, and yet feels so full of wisdom! it's crazy how life can become so CRAZY! Don't you miss just making tree swing pizzas and blow drying my hair :)Love it!