BTUs & Freedom

One bright morning, as we sat at the breakfast table with our good friends Phil and Rhonni, I looked down at the dreadful rust-colored indoor/outdoor carpeting that former inhabitants had glued to the floor of our cottage’s kitchen. To the table in general, I moaned, “I hate this carpet.  It would be so great to have a wooden floor instead; but I’m afraid it will be nearly impossible to get this dreadful orange stuff up.” And I sighed with despair at the hopelessness of it all.

Without a word and in one smooth, swift movement, Phil put down his spoon, whipped a mat knife from his back pocket, and without rising from his chair, leaned over and laid a long, tearing cut across two feet of the hated flooring.  While I was still drawing breath to shout, Phil re-pocketed the knife and reached down to rip away a large strip of the dreadful carpet along with an underlying layer of decaying linoleum.  Revealed in the gap was a strip of beautiful old heart-wood flooring—a sleeping beauty waiting to be awakened. At the end of that day, the finish on my lovely antique wooden floor was drying to a beautiful luster as we ate our dinner in the garden.

Phil’s “Make A Hole” philosophy of overcoming inertia &
My philosophy of
Freedom-Friendly BTUs

For those who work mainly in building, gardening, or other occupations that involve physically making/changing things – the above described approach is what I have come to call the Phil Perry principal of Make A Hole.  Start in a way that means you must continue.  Burn the bridge leading back  to “Reasons Why It’s Too Hard” and you are compelled beyond the inertia into “Now I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING” action.  Tucked into my day-planner  I have the little fortune cookie proverb from a years-ago meal: “The simplest answer is to act.”  (The lucky numbers on it are: 42, 17, 11, 5, 32, 24 – just  FYI.)

When you work mainly at a table, desk or computer, in order to get things done, you pretty much have to Apply Butt To Chair and spend some time there; hence, BTUs (Butt Time Units); but the imperative of BTUs often feels like a prison sentence.  I believe that for those of us who are short on attention span extremely creative, freedom is a core value.  We resist starting any project that we imagine will encroach on our freedom to respond to whimsy or inspiration when we hear the Siren call.  I don’t know about you, but if I believe I need to put in real time and attention on a project, I’ll do almost anything to stall. I might, for example, experience an overwhelming urge to scrub the grout in the shower.

When we find ourselves searching for the toothbrush and tile-cleaner, what we are failing to comprehend is that BTUs (and those no-turning-back starter holes) are friends to our freedom.  Freedom means – free to do what I want in a given moment or situation – free of money worries, time constraints, and demands of location or obligation.  If I have a task that I’m avoiding, it nags at me.  No amount of virtuous grout refurbishment will wholly suppress the voice of the impatient task that is drumming its fingers on my desk.  Even if I’m out and away, loving the fun I’m having, I am still aware of a sour wind blowing up from under the floorboards of my surface delight.

John O’Donohue noted (in his wonderful To Bless The Space Between Us),

Sometimes the greatest challenge is to actually begin; there is something deep in us that conspires with what wants to remain within safe boundaries and stay the same. . . . There is an old Irish proverb that says, ‘Tus maith leath na hoibre.’ ‘A good beginning is half the work.’

BTUs lead to accomplishment; work done and invoiced; opportunities invited and courted; great muscle tone; and a wind that lifts and floats my fun rather than dragging me down.  Standing up after a good stretch of BTUs means I will have a totally different quality of energy in all that I do.   I congratulate myself rather than berate; I breathe a little more deeply; and I relax more fully.

How to Apply Butt to Chair Without Anguish?

Approach the “to-do” list by setting a BTU schedule.  Don’t command yourself to endure days of drudgery.  Instead, invite yourself to engage in short periods of dedicated attention.  No inflexible time-frames, no imperatives re outcome or productivity — just establish a rhythm for your focused attention.  I recently set for myself a loosely structured framework – a cadence adopted within my week.  I’ve promised myself to apply BTUs on one particular project for one afternoon per week; on another project on a different afternoon; and on three separate mornings, BTUs are promised to three other roles/tasks/projects in which my interest has been aroused.  That’s 3 mornings and 2 afternoons.  Not a bad work week really.  And if I do apply those BTUs as intended, just imagine how lovely and buoyant the other 4 mornings and 5 afternoons will be!!!

When I find that I’m resisting beginning a work session, I do something to remind myself of the feeling of freedom that will result from even a short BTU application.  I have images in my Flourishment Planner that evoke the feeling of freedom that my BTUs will foster; and I have a quote posted at my desk that inspires my love of true freedom and reminds me that the BTUs are the way to get there.

Beginning precedes us, creates us, and constantly takes us to new levels and places and people.  There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning.  More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than ever we could.  Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning.

–John O’Donohue, To Bless The Space Between Us

1 comment to BTUs & Freedom

  • mary

    Girl…this rocks. I am gleefully joyful to see this blog/ website. Wishing you the best in this journey. May this comment be the champagne bottle to launch your ship to sail you to all your dreams and destinations. May your sails be full of wind and your ports be golden.


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