Dilettante: The slow season

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in Culture

Dilettante: The slow season

by Jan Brennan

For a low-population, mostly rural state, Maine has a lot going on. A plethora of new shows have opened in our museums and theaters, and the Oscar-contender movies are making the rounds in the multi-plexes.

And the Dilettante just hasn’t felt like going out to see any of them.

Amid all the snow and ice and frigid winds of the last two weeks, I’ve been enjoying cocooning at home. After the rush of the holidays, it’s been nice — necessary, even — to catch my breath over pots of tea and a jigsaw puzzle.

This past weekend, though, I finally bestirred myself enough to put on some real clothes and venture out — in, admittedly, a limited way. On Sunday my husband and I lunched at a chain Oriental restaurant and then drove our salt-encrusted car through the car wash — Maine’s version of dinner and a show.

On Saturday I was one of eight women who braved a surprise snowstorm to attend a lecture at Kennebooks, a bookstore in Kennebunk. The speaker was psychologist and life coach Amy Wood, author of the book “Life Your Way.”

I already live life my way, and I’m not a fan of self-help books or “life coaching” in general; don‘t they all just state the obvious? Wood, too, says she got fed up with self-help books that do a good job of “pumping you up” while you read them, but after you close the book, then what? Like our New Year’s resolutions that are probably already forgotten, the good advice in these books quickly evaporates in the busyness of daily life. The solution, Wood says, is to practice daily self-assessment. In her book she gives 10 principles for a successful life, and encourages us to go over them daily, checking up on ourselves to see if we really are living a mindful and goal-oriented life.
There’s nothing sexy or innovative about her 10 principles; they‘re just good, commonsense advice that bears repeating. Stuff like making sleep and healthy food a priority, taking your time when making a decision, and focusing your attention on building on your strengths rather than trying to correct your weaknesses. A polished speaker, Wood peppered her talk with interesting anecdotes and factoids, like “Americans spend up to six hours a day on the Internet” (that one brought a collective shudder from the middle-aged audience) and “studies show you can’t maintain intense focus for more than about 90 minutes,” so it’s best to take frequent breaks when you’re working on a project (bosses, take note).

Some of Wood’s advice is especially suited to this time of year. “Free yourself of physical clutter” — for example, by cleaning out a closet —would make a perfect winter-weekend project, and “Evaluate your long-term goals at least once a year” is something most of us did on New Year’s Day. 

And if you haven’t worked on your goals, it’s not too late. Wood will be back at Kennebooks again on Feb. 11 to talk about setting goals for personal and professional success. Her talks are part of a series the bookstore is offering this winter that tie in with the season of self-reflection.

On Feb. 4, Michael Chase, the author of “Am I Being Kind,” will discuss how that one simple question can change your life. As you ask "Am I being kind?" in seven areas of your life, he says you'll discover the secret to creating joy and inner peace.
But first, this coming Saturday, Jan. 28, Robin Hansen will lead a knitting class from 9 a.m. till noon. The author of the book “Ultimate Mittens” will teach attendees knitting techniques from Sweden, Norway and Newfoundland.

For more information on these and other events at Kennebooks, check the store’s website at www.kennebooks.com or phone them at 967-6136.

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