If you think this is some 7 step list about waking up earlier and such, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, I somewhat despise those lists. Instead, this is a much simpler formula for making your days longer and subsequently gaining more time and getting more done.
I attended a webinar held by Emily P. Freeman on writing to better serve your audience. I didn’t really know what to expect from the webinar. I had simply received an email and signed up, reserving some personal time for myself on Thursday night. Out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, this webinar might have been life changing.
I sat there sipping my coffee, still reeling a bit from the hatred I saw the night before. I have a tinge of a headache and I’ve debated what might have caused this one. I’ve engaged in some intelligent dialog already this morning, which restores a bit of my faith in humanity. I’m listening to John Prine’s Spanish Pipedream (video below) for the first time and considering it as a political statement of sorts.
I’ve thought a lot about what my word for 2017 should be. Choosing one little word for the year can be an impactful exercise. I agree that it can also feel a little silly. Nonetheless, having a specific concept to meditate on for the year can certainly help to steer your mindset.
What a year. If you would have told me last December that this year would have included the many outrageous things that it did, I wouldn’t have believed you. I embarked upon 2016 with big dreams and big ideas as to what the year would look like. I was overjoyed about turning 30 and I even claimed that this would be my year. I think that naiveness goes to show just how unpredictable life can be and that we should always be careful what we ask for. While standing here at the end of 2016 does leave me in a happy, wonderful place, the journey to get here was less than ideal. I learned so much about life this year and I can honestly say the trajectory of my life and my perspective have been changed forever. Let’s look back at this year together. Continue reading
The 2016 holiday season is now in full swing. (I say “now” in full swing so some of you don’t burn me at the stake for “skipping Thanksgiving.” You know who you are.) Now, we can all go full on Christmas mode and not be shamed for maybe or maybe not having our trees up early. Personally, I’m feeling quite ready for the holiday season. 75% of our gifts are in route to my house, my calendar is laid out in pretty colors, and Christmas cards are on their way. And most importantly, I have a certain peace about this season that I haven’t had in a very long time.
I’m not sure if my calmness over the holiday madness comes from the life-changing events of this year or from my age. I wouldn’t say that I’m more prepared than usual, maybe even the direct opposite. However, I’m simply not feeling the anxiety that I’d normally feel as the happiest time of the year approaches. Let’s look at the facts.
Reasons why I should be worried:
- As of noon last Wednesday, we had 0 gifts purchased.
- I ordered Christmas cards later than planned and could have throat punched that stupid website.
- This past weekend was our last weekend without something planned until January. January!
- We’re testing out some new holiday traditions this year.
- I’m heavily involved in the success of a plethora of holiday events coming in the next several weeks.
- We’ll be hosting family in our home a few times and some things still aren’t finished or “ready.”
- I know, with certainty, that we’re about to be exhausted for the next 30+ days.
- My decorations aren’t ready.
Reasons why I should NOT be worried:
- Matthew and I got a heavy dose of perspective on life in 2016. I’m simply not as bothered by things that used to cause me stress.
- My new home is lovely and I’m happy to host people here!
- We made a huge dent in holiday shopping (online) over the weekend.
- We know exactly where we’ll be and when over the holidays. There will be no obsessing over who we’re visiting when and who’s going to be upset if we don’t show. Plans are set and that’s that.
- I’m transitioning into a better place of making decisions that are best for Matthew and I – without so much emphasis on what others want or expect. This is a GREAT place to be, by the way.
- We’ve had a fantastic year. We’ve not only survived, we have thrived. And basically, no one or nothing can steal that joy from me right now.
I could likely keep listing reasons for both sides of this argument. I’m just too excited to get bogged down in the minutia this year. Matthew and I have so much to celebrate, and I simply won’t allow the madness or chaos of this busy season distract from that. My #1 intention for this season is to truly enjoy spending time together and with those that we care about. The details might not be perfect and we might be outrageously tired after the first week of events. Nonetheless, I’m not concerned. We will attend each event that we’ve selected and we will enjoy ourselves with those people in that moment. We will have gifts for those we’re buying gifts for and even if they’re not the most perfect gift possible, they’ll have been selected with care and love. I will not live this season in guilt over not doing everything that everyone wants. Instead, we will enjoy this holiday season and celebrate the close of this life-changing year.
My new perspective could come from having faced one of the most trying obstacles we’ve encountered thus far and making it. Last Christmas, we would have never imagined the heartache 2016 would hold for us. I think experiencing something like that is sort of like a near death experience or severe illness – when you’re faced with something of that magnitude, and then get another shot to do better, those tiny details and expectations of others that drain the life right out of you, suddenly seem trivial. You’re forced to take stock of your life and how you’re living it and when you see things you’re not happy with, you make unrestrained adjustments. If this fresh perspective on the holiday season is a result of the flood, this will be another seemingly unrelated area of our lives that has been altered by the events of this past spring. On the surface one would think we simply had to remodel a house, fight insurance battles, buy new stuff (That’s fun right? Not really.), and be homeless for a bit. Quite the contrary. There’s really not an aspect of our lives, our business, or our relationships that wasn’t altered somehow because of this experience. If my take on the holiday season is another one of them, I really wouldn’t be too surprised.
Another possible factor in this newfound peace could be my age. Someone once told me that as you get older, you’ll slowly (and then suddenly) stop caring about what other people think. Whereas at one point you might live and make decisions based on the feedback you’d get from those around you, you suddenly stop doing that and do whatever in the hell you want to. For me, I’ve always lived in the mindset of guilt. I made decisions or did things to avoid the guilt I’d feel if I didn’t do them. What was best for Matthew and I might have been a different plan entirely, and yet we’d go with the flow and oblige so that I didn’t let anyone down. Even people that would let me down in a heartbeat if something was inconvenient for them. Lucky for me (not), guilt has controlled me for much of my life. Therefore, we’d get up, dress the part, and attend every single event possible. We’d show up boasting food or gifts, regardless of whether we wanted to be there or not. Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to do this. And I won’t feel guilty for letting that obligation go. If this is indeed some coming-of-age moment for me, I cannot wait to see what other areas of my life in which I’ll get some relief.
So much of life is about making choices. We choose what we’re going to do and not going to do. And more importantly, we choose what our attitude will be surrounding these experiences. We can be positive or we can be negative. It’s a choice, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety-ridden self was the first to buckle under the pressure of the holidays in the past. I let the minutia of this detail and that one steal my joy. I think my anxiety and exhaustion (and sometimes dread) often stemmed from feeling like I didn’t have a choice in the affairs of the holidays. I sometimes felt like I was one “Merry Christmas” away from losing my mind. However, deciding to choose our schedule for December brought with it a fresh perspective and a sigh of relief. We’ve chosen our plans for the holidays, and I’m choosing to experience them all with joy. It’s a Christmas miracle!
If you find yourself getting drug along by the hustle and bustle, take a little break and remind yourself what this season is truly about for you. Remember that it’s an opportunity to share in a wonderful season with the people that you love. Remember that there are many wonderful things about this season and if we focus on those, it might lift our anxiety and frustration just a bit. And most importantly, remember that no matter what, nothing about this season must be perfect. We don’t have to give the best gifts in the entire world (and we certainly don’t have to go into debt for them). The Christmas treats don’t have to be perfectly made, and our halls don’t have to be perfectly decked. As a matter of fact, if we look with an adjusted mindset, we can probably see beauty in the imperfection. Furthermore, if the season brings with it some sadness over loves ones lost or misfortune of the past year, we can still work to see the best even in the unfortunate situations. Over time, we can condition our minds to find something good in almost every situation, especially if you’re looking for it. Truth be told, you will always find whatever it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for joy, you will eventually find it. And if you’re looking for despair, it’s certainly there.
During this holiday season, and in the upcoming year, I encourage you to choose your perspective. Choose your path and celebrate those decisions you make, even if things don’t go as planned. I wish you the happiest holiday season, no matter your circumstances, and I truly hope you can find joy amidst the seemingly unavoidable chaos. This life, and this season, are what you make of it!
I came across this article and it reference a line in Something’s Gotta Give that I’d never even noticed. As I read through the rest of the post, I agreed silently that women (and men) should know what they like about themselves and be proud to agree and say those things out loud. As a matter of fact, I wanted to go right away and tell everyone I knew to start saying aloud what they loved about themselves. And for those who struggled with identifying those things, I wanted to challenge their thinking. I wanted to help encourage them until they did realized there were things that made them truly amazing and unique that they did like about themselves. And then I realized something; I didn’t want to do the exercise myself. Continue reading
This phrase has made its way around the internet the last few years. It’s on journals, sketchpads, bags, and tshirts. It’s in Instagram photos galore. “Makers Gonna Make” and other similar phrases have taken hold and passed all around, in theory inspiring makers and creators to spend time working on their crafts. To spend more time actually making something than you do scrolling Pinterest.
I’ve thought about this saying – create more than you consume – multiple times. In my head, I rationalize things to myself by saying that I don’t have time to create. Besides, what is “consuming” anyway? Is listening to a podcast as I walk consuming? Should I be using that time to make a podcast instead? I’ve toyed with what this really means many times in my head, often justifying to myself that I don’t have a consumption problem and I make plenty.
While sitting on a train heading from Washington back to Oregon, I was listening to a podcast and it provoked thoughts of this very phrase. While staring out at beautiful, lush forests and expansive views of water, I felt compelled to write. Thoughts and stories fluttered though my head, beckoning to be written. I knew that if I didn’t go back to my laptop and get these notes down on “paper,” they’d be gone by the time I tried to write them later. Nonetheless, I just wanted to sit and listen to my podcast aimlessly. That’s the precise moment that I understood this lofty statement – create more than you consume. By continuing to just listen, even when I felt inspired to make, I was consuming instead of creating. Falsely convincing myself that I’d remember these thoughts when the podcast was over, was me enabling myself to keep listening. Here are the facts:
Creating is much, much harder than consuming.
Creating requires effort.
Creating sometimes requires struggle.
Consuming, on the other hand, is easy.
Consuming requires little effort.
And most importantly, consuming can leave us with more inspiration than we know what to do with, resulting in stagnation of ideas and lack of productivity.
Finally, I understood the magnitude of this mantra. We consume more than we create because it’s easier. There’s less risk. And although we don’t have to be churning out 1,000 paintings a day or writing more books than we read, we should make time to be sure that we, too, are putting our work out into the world. When inspiration strikes, we should stop immediately and go explore that spot. Liz Gilbert says ideas are fleeting. They only stay with us a short while and if not put to use, they’ll travel on to someone else.
Finally seeing this saying as more than just something to repin or put on a tshirt, I paused my podcast and wrote those posts. I stopped consuming for a minute in order to create something, even though continuing to listen aimlessly would have been easier.
Most likely we’re all faced with the create vs. consume crossroads more than what we realize. And what if we broadened the spectrum a bit? What if instead of always being the person to receive lovely notes from friends, you were the one to send a note – creating kindness and friendship? What if rather than always being invited to lunch by a coworker, you invited someone to lunch with you – creating relationships? If we broaden the scope of this mantra outside of just the artistic world, we can pretty easily see ways in which we consume more than we create. I wonder what it would be like if we created more in all areas of our lives. What if we created more art? Created more relationships? Created more kindness? More opportunities? More love?
When faced with the opportunity to create or to consume, I think we should remember – consuming in the easy road. Creating is the road less traveled. Which one will you take?
(P.S. Above photo is of my closet/craft room. You can see more on the quick home tour!)
Some days are better than others. Some days turn into weeks, and I’m going to be real with you – some weeks suck. This week is one of those weeks for me. I knew within an hour of waking up on Monday that everything was turning south quickly. By the time I made it to my office, I was ready to drop kick everyone that crossed my path. Lunch with Matthew wasn’t pleasant because my bad mood took hold of the room like a permeating stench, and nothing he could say or do was turning that negativity around. For the record, I did apologize for being in such a foul mood and just asked for some grace until I could get ahold of myself.
So what do you do on days or weeks like this?? Tuesday didn’t seem to start off any better and the rest of the week wasn’t looking so hot either. I’ve wrote before on what to do when you’re having a crappy day, and realistically, I needed to go into hiding and avoid everyone until this dark cloud of a mood could pass. However, what do you do when you have made a commitment with a deadline and you can’t simply withdraw from society for a bit? Unfortunately, when I needed to employ my usual tactics the most, I simply couldn’t.
Here’s what I did. I avoided as many people as possible. There was simply no need in infecting the masses with my mood. Because don’t forget, a bad mood and a bad attitude is just as contagious as a good mood and a positive attitude. If you’re not careful, you’ll have instilled the funk in everyone around you and that’s just not fair. Then, I put my head down and PUSHED through my tasks. I had a specific goal to reach and I buckled down and pushed hard for it so that I could get the hell out of there…for everyone’s sake, not just my own. And then I bought myself prizes.
Thankfully, the commitment I made before knowing my mood was going to fail me had a specific deadline. Since I couldn’t set it to the side until I felt more positive and productive, I simply powered through. It’s like seeing the finish line at the end of a long race. You can see the end point and you can push yourself to reach it, even though you’d like to collapse on the ground. (I’m assuming. I don’t run races.) Either way, I can see the endpoint. I seriously buckled down and pushed hard for the goal, knowing that very soon, I’d be able to stop and retreat. As soon as I completed these last few (22 to be exact) tasks, I could give myself a break and do something to help pull myself from the funk.
Not all bad days are accompanied by pressing deadlines. If not, try to employ any of the tactics I mentioned in this post. If you simply do not have the ability to run away at that time, like my situation this week, my next suggestion is to buckle down and get your job done ASAP. Then retreat. Treat it like that last day of work before vacation. We accomplish more on that final day before leaving than we do all year! Don’t drag it out. Just get it done and then move on to something that will hopefully make you feel better. Dragging out your responsibilities will only make it worse, and at a minimum, it sure as hell won’t make it better.
In conclusion, understand that you’re going to have those days and sometimes those weeks. It’s ok. (If you find that you have more of these days than positive ones though, reevaluate your surroundings and make changes to remove the negative stimulus. Or speak to your health care professional.) I’ve been known to beat myself up when I have these bad days, because usually they make me pretty unproductive. And if you saw Monday’s post, you know that productivity and achievement are my vices, which I’m actively working on.
For now, if you’re having the sort of week that I am, get your work done and then go get you a cupcake. Do your best to feel better and if it’s just not happening right now, know that this too shall pass and it’s ok to have a crappy day every now and then.
Instead of your most frequently diagnosed “problems,” my problem is with achievement. And I’m willing to admit that it, too, is an addiction. Since I can remember, I’ve been an over-achiever. Type A. Perfectionist. A real go-getter. Work horse. You can call it whatever you’d like. The fact of the matter is, I’ve used hard work to mask my own insecurities and as a marker of my value. I’ve placed my self-worth on how hard I work and what various accomplishments I reach.
Don’t be confused. I am a firm believer in a strong work ethic and setting challenging goals. I love goals. Have all the goals. It’s important to make note of the line in the sand though. Work ethic and goals are one thing, positive things even. Using those things to justify your worth, however, is not.
I’ve talked briefly about the glorification of “busy” before, and since then I’ve focused on removing that word from my vocabulary. I don’t want to be busy. I don’t want to compete for the trophy of being the most tired, ragged, and worn out. Being “busy” isn’t cool anymore. Early on in Present over Perfect, the writer talks about a group of friends who help each other take a simpler approach and focus on self-care. She says, “Instead of competing for who’s busier or who’s more tired, who’s keeping more balls in the air, we’re constantly looking for ways to help each other’s lives get lighter, easier to carry, closer to the heart of what we love, less clogged with expectations and unnecessary tasks.” I want these friends. Honestly, I need these friends. I’m not sure that I know where to start on my own.
I’ve been struggling with the realization that my worth is tied to my work lately, and quite frankly, I’ve been trying to ignore it. No one, not even me as a personal growth junkie wants to dig that deep and challenge their very core. Repress, repress has been the name of my game here. Don’t pay any attention to that little voice telling you to reevaluate things and it won’t become real. As I began to read the first few pages of Present over Perfect, I could not focus over the sound of my own mind screaming, “That’s me! That’s me!” The author talks about feeling exhausted and her dreams involving nights alone in complete silence with nothing to do. And sleep. Ah, the thought of a good night’s sleep and feeling rested…preach it, sister!
As I flipped through the first few pages, I knew I wasn’t hiding from this notion of self-care any longer. It was finally time to take stock and identify a better, more compassionate (to myself) way of living. There is an immediate problem though – even though I penciled in “self-care” as a goal for October, I don’t truly understand the concept. I’ve never practiced this approach and the very ideal makes me feel anxious. My approach with myself has been more like that of a pissed off drill sergeant. “Work harder! Do more! You can’t stop yet! Toughen up!” are the types of things I’d say to myself quietly and sometimes even aloud. “Get your shit together,” has often been my motto.
To begin to think seriously about how I talk to and treat myself scares me. Thinking seriously about self-care feels overwhelming. The concept is so foreign and I hardly know where to begin. I’m tempted to smack myself around a bit and give myself a stern talking to, just for “wasting time” on these thoughts. Nonetheless, my rational mind tells me that I’m deflecting and avoiding emotion and that I need to explore this more. What am I hiding from? What emotions and insecurities or fears am I masking by always working harder? Why when I’m not working do I feel like I should be doing something for someone else? Why do I feel undeserving of rest and personal care? I’m not sure what the answers to these questions are yet, and I know it won’t be an easy process to discover them.
“Richard Rohr says the skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half. To press the point a little bit: those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be….and I missed her.” – Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect
I would never classify myself as “whimsical,” and truthfully not particularly “warm” either. However, I can say with certainty that I can relate to this statement. The skills I’ve mastered thus far have been skills that helped me excel in academics and in my career, and much like the author mentions, they’ve also prevented me from resting and taking care of myself both mentally and physically. While I hope I’m not at the midpoint of my life as she references, I can easily see how the skills I’ve developed thus far are not serving me well either. Coming to this realization before my midlife point doesn’t really surprise me – I’ve always been “mature for my age,” another example of my tendency toward over-achievement. Is it possible to take stock of your life and methods at the young age of 30? I think so. Actually, I know so, because as these words leap from her pages, slapping me in the face with reality, I know that I must begin identifying what skills will serve me going forward and do away with many of the ones I’ve mastered so far.
To (hopefully) be continued….