habits · organization · self-care

A List, not a Litany.

11.8.18“You’d tell me if I had B.O., right?” I called across the house.  

“Why?  When was the last time you took a shower?”

“Errrm, I can’t remember.”

*Chuckling* “Yeah, babe, if you can’t remember, then it’s a sign to take one.”

As these mornings have unfolded in the new house, even though it’s closer to work, I’ve still been barely managing to make it to work on time.  Partly this is because J and I take some time in the morning to talk and be cute, partly it’s because I’m living out of a handful of shopping bags that I’ve moved over from Oakland so nothing feels routine, and partly because I have that drowsing in my head that says, “You live closer to work now, you have more time, go slow!” so maybe I’m not quite as rushed as I felt in Oakland…which was and is part of the luxury of living here in the first place!!

So, this morning, I began to write down a list, not a litany.  (The other day, J intoned to me, as I rattled off all the things I needed to do, “A list, not a litany,” as I’ve chanted to him!  Damnit that he listens to me!)

On the list is (yes) shower, talk to boss, exercise, call a mover, look up a Roomba, holiday cards, call my Dad (for his birthday which was on Tuesday and I didn’t call)… and, frankly, the list does go on.

But at least it’s there.  When it is a litany, it is unmanageable and unactionable.  There’s no toe-hold to make movement from when I’m rattling and lamenting.  But, with a list, there are concrete steps, even if they feel overwhelming as a whole.

One checkbox at a time and many of the items will be ticked off.  The move is temporary, the 7th grade trip will be confirmed, my dad only has a birthday once a year.

Sure, several of the items are daily (or should be!), like showering, blogging and meditating, but it reminds me only that I need to re-print and re-start my Habit Calendar, which had helped me to keep track of all the daily, weekly, and monthly items I needed.

A list trumps a litany any day.  A list connotes order.  A list infers completion.

So, first, dear reader: A shower.

 

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habits · relationships · self-love

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain—No, really.

10.22.18.gifI learned the very hard way during my European trip with my mom that I still have a tremendously strenuous time staying focused on myself.  Because of the dynamic early formed with her, she puts off a beacon call that I am constantly attuned to, like a bat.  She sends out her sonic waves, attuning to and calling me in.

This interplay between us plays out in my other relationships by habit.  I’ll send out sonic waves to others, since I’m near-programmed to see what’s up with them — where are they, what do they need, is there anything in their path I need to remove so they don’t stub a toe?

And while this may be a useful skill in some situations (e.g. watching a toddler), it is less beneficial in mutual adult relationships.  I am currently noticing this pull to attune to the radio frequency of others because I’m noticing more and more my need to attune to my own frequency, to find out what’s going on with me, what do I want, what do I need?

It’s not my habit to return to these questions yet.  It’s more like playing a piece of music you’d known by heart, but when reading the sheet music, you discover you’ve been playing these few notes wrong the whole time and now need to re-train yourself to play it that way, the properly intended way.

As I pursue the relationships in my life, I find that I’m becoming acutely aware that my radio dish is pointed outward.  This is draining for me, cumbersome for them, and not a constructive balance for grownups (not that it was a constructive balance for a child and parent either).

Misdirection, like a magician.  My attention is pulled away, and I am tricked.  I am fooled into not paying attention to the important things to me, from my real source of magic.

I would like to better build the strength of my ocular muscles, focusing them back to attending to my own visions and goals, better to craft my day’s intentions toward what it is that will bring me closer to the fulfillment of my goals.  Toward what actions I need to take to move an iota forward.

It’s easy sometimes to ignore or neglect those iota-movements, because they can seem so inconsequential and miniscule.  Oh, no, it’s fine, I don’t have to [blog, work out, write on my personal growth process]; those things are so small in comparison to whatever I’m picking up on my radar.

I notice I need re-training, re-habiting, and a large swath of self-compassion (and compassion from others, which I have) as I attempt to learn how to put myself first.

 

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.

 

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!