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Tall Drink of Nerd: Mind the Gap


a blogumn by Amy Robinson

Recently, I found the secret to being really happy.  It’s fairly simple and I didn’t even need to read a self-help book or watch a movie on The Secret.  All I had to do was be honest and follow my to-do list.  Really.

If you’re like me, a born procrastinator, your daily list of 15 things to-do normally has only 7 things crossed off when you crawl into bed at night.  Good intentions start me moving on that list, but bad habits creep in and steal time and productivity from me (I’m looking at you, Doctor Who, Season 3 on Netflix Instant Download).  So between the best laid plans and half-assed action, lies the gap.  This is where the crummy feelings start.

Let’s say you plan to start the day with a workout, but sleep late and don’t get to the gym.  By missing that goal, you’ve created a gap.  Or you plan on writing 20 minutes that night, but get home late, watch the news on TV and get sucked into Facebook. That writing goal sits on your list, undone.  So after a few goals aren’t reached, guilt sets in and you aren’t living life the way you want to.  You’ve fallen into The Gap, but there aren’t any 100% cotton khakis here, kiddo.

Because I’m lucky, I have also received a nice dose of the “worrier gene”, so my mind spins silk around things undone, half-done or unachieved.  The worrier gene absolutely loves the gap.  I mentally race around the things I wish I had done and that takes up more energy, so fewer things get crossed off. Queue the whirlpool of happiness swirling down the drain.

So if you want to stop the worrier gene and plug the drain, all you have to do is pay attention and mind the gap.  With discipline and mindfulness, I began doing the things I wanted/needed to do, closed the gaps and I became happy.

So you can learn from my mistakes, here are a few examples culled from the life of Amy:

1. For years I wanted to meditate.  Then, one day as a response to stress and near madness, I forced myself to begin regular meditation and instantly started to feel that I had achieved a goal.  Now I meditate almost everyday and when I don’t, the gap of the undone looms again, which is a motivation to meditate again.

2. After talking to everyone who would listen that I wanted to write about visiting historical monuments and mooning them, I finally started doing it.  It was so much fun and relieved that gap.

3. Volunteering has always been something I’ve wanted to do.  When I finally started volunteering, I realized that 2 hours on a weekend was all it took to help others and be of use.  I closed that gap for good.

Sometimes minding the gap has big consequences too:

For our 8th wedding anniversary, I wanted a very specific gift.  After nearly 20 years together, there wasn’t any material thing that either of us needed.  What I wanted, as our gift to each other, was a Gift of Life donation to the animal rescue where we volunteer.  It would mean one animal could be saved from a high-kill shelter.  It was on my mind since we began volunteering. Then, after a few weeks of responding “I dunno…” every time he asked what I wanted for my anniversary gift, it dawned on me to cover that gap and tell my husband what I really wanted.  Being an animal lover, he immediately agreed that it was a great idea.

Before I was aware that I had to work on overcoming the gap between thinking and acting, I might not have been mindful enough to tell Seen about the Gift of Life idea.  I’m glad I minded the gap.

On our anniversary, we received a card from the owner of the Lange Foundation animal rescue.  She wrote a short story and included a picture of a cat and 5 kittens, all rescued from a high-kill shelter with our donation and now living at St. Bonnies Sanctuary, the Lange ranch.  Getting that card, knowing that I followed through on something important to me and because of that 6 creatures are alive today, that has made me very happy.

Sarah and 5 kittens.