habits · stress · time

Straining the Seams of Sanity

9-27-18.jpgWhen J and I were together he would bristle when I would try to get us to schedule something for the weekend.  My time is scheduled down to the minute every day at work, he’d practically beg, I just need my weekends to be open and unscheduled.  UGH!  But how will we ever DO anything if we don’t plan it?  What I want to spend time doing will be different than yours so if we don’t coordinate, they’ll never align — MUST PLAN THINGS!

So, sometimes we did.  And generally what happened was he was grateful that we had, though at the cost of cohabitation bliss.

AND, OH THE IRONY!  I am now experiencing what I think he must have been, and I feel kinda badly for my insistence…

My relationship with the clock has somehow shifted with the start of this school year.  Much of it has to do with the increase in my teaching and meeting hours.  My planning and grading hours are diminished, which means more work at home, on weekends, in my own “free time.”  Last year, there were entire stretches of school hours when I could sit and read a book for exploration of what we may do next.  Now, I’m feeling like I’m lucky if I have time to pee.

This isn’t altogether accurate, but that is how it feels.  And so, with my Action Partner, among the actions for the day that I text her each morning is, “GO OUTSIDE ALONE.”

Sometimes this helps, but strangely, even THIS feels like too much scheduling!

There are several people and events to coordinate in the upcoming weeks, and all I feel like doing is screaming.  They’re important, necessary events, but I could absolutely say verbatim what J had said to me: My work days are scheduled to the minute, I just want time to do whatever the hell I want!

But, I know myself better.  I really do.  I know that given time to “do whatever I want” generally looks like doing very little, and not in the good, “release achieving” sense of it; more in the binge-watching, pajama-wearing, did I brush my teeth today sense of it!

All things in moderation.

What I do know needs more expansion is this rush in the mornings.  Journal faster, meditate faster, blog faster, get on the road faster!  From the moment I set my mug on my breakfast table it feels like a stop-watch has begun, constricting and awful.

I have talked and delved enough recently to know that I do want to keep this whole morning practice thing the way it is.  I really do love it.  But there are essential adjustments to be made, whether they’re entirely an internal shift in framing or an external shift in doing, and likely both.

I don’t like feeling like a balloon about to pop.  Even if I am filled with candy.

 

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habits · learning · renewal

Mindbending Mobius.

9.21.18.jpgAfter close to a decade of listening to a friend reference wisdom from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I purchased a hard copy of the book last year.  Whereupon it has sat on my bookshelf for as long.

Recently, having finished most of the books of appeal on my shelf, I pulled out the volume to see what the hype was about and have finally begun to read it (intermittently at best, but still!).

I’m struck by the minor hilarity of competing ideas I’m learning:

From Covey’s book last night: A proactive person is not affected by the weather; all is able to be done despite external circumstances.

From Deepak & Oprah this morning: Our mood entirely creates our reality.  What is internal is external.

Hmmm….

What is created inside me is my mood, perspective, attitude.  How I bring that out into the world is my effectiveness.  For example, I can change how I experience the world, as the Chopra meditations espouse, by painting it with a gouache of gratitude.  This doesn’t change others’ reality, but it changes how I engage with a reality that includes other people.

Erk.  My mind crumples like a mobius strip in a rock grinder.

What I think Covey is trying to convey is we ought not internalize external happenings, and Deepak is saying we can improve our experience of external happenings by modifying ourselves from the inside out.

Somehow, I think these two ideas are compatible!  But frankly, it’s too early for me to meddle with metaphysics.

Thanks for reading anyway…and good luck!;)

 

adventure · habits · time

Glycerine.

9-13-18.jpgWhile devouring a copy of the AARP Magazine—that I definitely didn’t steal from my building’s mail slush pile—I read a letter to the advice columnist.  The writer asked if their experience of time speeding up as they were aging was “just them” and the columnist replied, “Nope, not just you.”

The columnist wrote that as people aged, the bold markings of time were often fewer and farther between, with the big milestones in the past and an increasingly habitual pattern of everyday life.  Much of what we do each day follows the same general format.  Set enough of these days beside one another and, the author notes, it’s difficult to piece them apart into distinctive memories, which is what helps us to feel that time has slowed.

So… “Where did the time go” is a more germane question to ask when I, say for random sake of example, watch Netflix after work each night or putter about my generic homecare errands each weekend?

The columnist suggests to punctuate this tide of calendar pages with events that are out of the norm.  Say, again for random sake of example(!), going to see Trombone Shorty tomorrow night, or taking my keyboard down from storage and actually trying to play it last night, or visiting the art museum this week with my girl friend.

It doesn’t feel to me that the surge of lost days and years is a consequence of advanced age.  I’m a few weeks shy of my 37th birthday, and I know of what the letter writer speaks.

Allowing days to pass with no significant deviation from the norm may feel calm, but it sure don’t feel memorable.

 

accountability · habits · time

Action Jackson

9.12.18.jpgIn one of the circles in which I run, there’s an emphasis on using our time to best support our visions and goals.  If you’re anything like me, that’s not exactly a snapshot of my daily relationship with time!

While I have attempted to make inroads—using a time plan, creating a habit calendar, telling you guys I’m gonna do something!—the truth is that without a consistent external form of accountability, I continue to make little headway toward goals small and large (see: “Play ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ by Christmas” second year in a row!).

So, one of these folks’ tools is to have an Action Partner.  After many weeks of telling my Goals Group that I wanted one, was gonna contemplate who might be good, was gonna maybe possibly reach out to someone, did reach out to someone (not good), I finally had the brainwave of someone to ask and, even more finally, asked her.

And wouldn’t you know: she was just thinking about who to ask herself!

We spoke by phone on Monday to discuss the details of how it might work best for us and we decided to go for it, starting Tuesday.  Which we did!  Eek!

And here’s how it went: I came home yesterday early evening and felt the immediate gravitational pull to continue watching Season 7 of Once Upon a Time (Hook, marry me), but before I became couch-beached, I opened the text I’d sent to my Action Partner in the morning: What did I actually commit to doing that day, anyway?

Well, truth be told, a few things I hadn’t yet done and could certainly do.  So. I. Did.

I spent an hour lesson planning and changed my sheets (yes, that was on my Action List!).  I did some dishes, too, as it’s on my Habit Calendar and “Follow my Habit Calendar” was one of my actions for the day as well.

I’ll tell you what: I did 4 of the 5 things I said I would.  I knew the last one would be a stretch considering I had to be in several parts of the Bay yesterday, so it will go on another day’s list.  And the crazy thing about doing that is eventually it will be gone. 

Habit Calendars are great, but there’s no external accountability (which I need…according to my “habit type” from Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before).  My weekly Goals Group is great, but it’s only once a week and usually means a flurry of catch-up right before the call.

I’m excited/curious/nervous(!) to see how this will go, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to try something different — and grateful to feel good at the end of a day, to feel like I actually accomplished what I set out to do.

 

habits · self-care · worthiness

And the caterpillar intoned:

8.31.18.jpgIn the hurricane that is the beginning of school, it can be tough to remember to “center.”  With the additional duties I’ve taken on, voluntary and mandatory, I have several fewer hours for pausing, reflecting, planning — for me, basically.  And so I’m going to have to become much more intentional about the time that I do have for “me.”

I don’t know why self-care is coming up as a vivid theme right now, but in its absence, I feel cranky, overtired, gluttonous, slothful — basically the whole range of mortal sins!  And this is in stark contrast to the easeful, calm, focused, progressing person I’d like to be (and who is touted in my deepak/oprah meditations, like today’s on “daily happiness”).

I sometimes feel (fear) that the ideas of happiness and self-care are self-indulgent.  I mean, of course they are!  That’s their definition!  But I suppose what I mean is that, in our culture, happiness and self-care — fulfillment — can curdle with a negative, airy-fairy dismissiveness.

Who am I to contemplate feeling calm in the middle of a work day?  Who am I to contemplate homeownership in the middle of a gentrification/displacement era?  Who am I to want to dig further into my gifts and talents when others are simply trying to survive?

Well, darling self, I’m alive — that is my punch card, my ticket, my birthright.

Simply by the object of being born at all as a human in this lifetime, I am allowed to contemplate, desire, grow, forge, and “become.”  I don’t have to, sure.  I can be shut down, numb, depressed, isolated, hopeless.  I can be any and all of these things in a day!

But I have to know that it is a choice!  I have a choice to seek my own happiness.  Whether or not I’m taking advantage of that option.

There seems to be a pattern or blueprint for me toward forward movement (one that includes stillness).  That pattern is one I’ve previously discovered via habits.  When I determine a regularity in my life, day or hour, I have an anchor, a root system from which to grow.

When I find a moment, like one this week when I didn’t have to be out in the play yard, but chose to go because it was OUTSIDE and sunny and vibrant, that is a pebble I can stack in my Positive Habits Jar.

Enough of those pebbles stacked together and I can begin to do what enlivens me without as great or momentous effort.

As I build my path into and through this school year, what habits do I want to form?  I’m gonna need something!  For all my high-fallutin’ writing in that “Teacher’s Prayer,” I can assure you that I’ve done little along those lines.  Praying to remember to take time for myself is not the same as actually taking it.

So while I need the reminder, I also need the action.  And for me to take action … well, it’s time to break out the habit calendar.

Color coding, here I come!

 

habits · relationships · time

Crowd-Sourcing

8.29.18.jpg

NOTE: Today’s blog is a bit interactive.

Help!

One of my best girl friends told me a few months ago that I’m my “best” when I’m regularly doing something creative: blogging, music, theater.  Anything, as long as it’s habitual.

And I find now that I’ve begun blogging again on the regular since my return from summer break, I have to agree.  I tend to see the world differently when I know I’ll be commenting on and making connections to my own daily experience; I see with writer’s eyes.  And I love it.  It’s fun to think in a different manner, to connect to my daily ins and outs with a more meta-view.

But.  I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to accomplish this.

I wake up, journal for 20-30 minutes, meditate for 20-30 minutes, then blog for 30-40 minutes, including the time to proofread and post (there’s not much copyediting; you get it raw, folks!).

So, pad with a few minutes for a coffee refill or bathroom break, and I’ve got close to 2 hours of “morning practice” without having eaten breakfast or gotten ready for the day.

To streamline those latter “get out of the house” bits, I already am in the habit of hard-boiling eggs for the week and nuking 2 pieces of bread to take on the road, and washing my hair every few days instead of daily.  I generally try to pack my lunch the night before (like all grown-ups helping their little ones get ready for school since time immemorial!).

So — let’s just say that getting ready take 30 minutes, with a shower.  That’s 2 to 2.5 hours just to get in the car.

My commute is such that the later I leave, even by one or two minutes, it can add 10 minutes to my commute, aggregating all the time.  I am generally aiming to leave my house between 6 and 6:30, but the earlier the best.  When I leave then, I can arrive at work around 715, which is still not optimal (I’d love to be there at 7am to prep and settle in for my work day in relative peace, which starts at 7:45am).

So, my question to you all is: Is there something I’m not seeing?  

Frankly, waking up at 4:30 in the morning is absolutely insane to me.  It also makes it imperative that I’m at lights out by 9pm the latest.

I’m opening this up because I feel I’ve tried all the permutations I can imagine (including looking at living closer to my work; though rents are much higher there, I’m holding it as an option).  I’ve tried meditating and/or blogging at night, but that habit ends up badly for me because I like/feel I need the morning space to unpack my brain for the day so I’m not a d*ck.  When I blog in the evening, I also tend to push my bedtime out farther, since the evenings are less predictable, time-wise.  And when I meditate at night, it kind of feels like eating my appetizer after the meal, like it’s a little late to get the day’s benefit from it.

So, friends, I need more input, different angles.  Different Angels.

What would you do?

(P.S. I was out at a school retreat yesterday, so we were blogless.)

 

beauty · habits · maturity

The Usual.

8.11.18Anyone who witnessed my reading of Gretchen Rubin’s habit book, Better Than Before: What I Learned about Making and Breaking Habits, knows that I have some trouble making, and keeping, habits I’d like to reinforce.

But that’s not what today’s blog is about.  Instead, today is about relishing and delighting in some of my habits (which is precisely the point of that book, btw).

Yesterday, I went to the nail salon to get my toes did, as I do a few times a year.  As the woman was finishing up, she asked what I thought of the color.

“I’ve gotten this color almost every time for the last year—I love it,” I laughed.  “It’s just so nice to find something that works and stick with it.”

The 20something in the next chair side-eyed me with alarm and disgust.

I hear her.  I understand that one of the treats of getting your nails done is the thrill of trying something new: feeling into yourself what mood you’re in, what aura you want to project, what mood you’d like to be in.

But, lady, I’m about to be 37.  I’ve done my nails.  I’ve “felt into myself” (don’t be creepy) for years, and I’m kinda done.

When I was in college, I brought with me a giant Sketchers shoebox brimful of nail polish bottles.  Teal, Topaz, Magenta, Glitter.  Girl, I’ve tasted the rainbow.  Tried it on, taken it off, pasted it on again.

And now I’m old.  Now I have other brain cells I’d like to use.

We each get decision exhaustion by the end of a day.  A time when we’ve used up our store of “This or that?” and frankly, nail polish is not one of the things I’d like to use it up on anymore!

I want habit!  I want usual!  I want easy breezy beautiful, baby!

So, yes, I do love the sparkly, sexy red, like I dipped my toes in pulverized ruby slippers.  I love the peek of red out of my sandals, sophistication with a dash of coy playfulness.

I love that I drink 2 cups of coffee each morning.  That I eat 3 eggs, no matter what.  I love that I wash my hair on prescribed days of the week and make my bed without thinking about it.  My mornings are nearly perfect in their efficiency of decision-making, or absence of decision-making.

This frees up my brain to decide other things, to focus on the margins that aren’t habitual.  These are the places of excitement now:  Go to the theater.  Dress up.  Try a new book.  Read a new piece of research.

What will I do in the places I’ve opened up for myself by not constantly making choices?

Further, I love the habits I’ve formed—the healthy ones, at least!—as they give me their own kind of thrill.  You could say that it’s like a machine, how boring.  Or like a well-oiled machine, how sleek and confident.

Acting out these non-decisions make me feel like I have a center of person, places I know I want to reinforce over and again.  Places that form the ground of who I am.

“I am a person who X.”  And as Pamela Druckerman writes about in her newest book, There Are No Grown-Ups, confidence in our person is what our 40s are all about.