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Who’s super excited about my Costco haul? *crickets* Just me? Yeah.

So listen.

I’ve hit a bit of a wall with this series. That’s how these things go sometimes. And instead of just quitting, as I’m prone to do, I’m going to adapt. This year, I have learned that a big part of what we often think of as luck is really just knowing when to be flexible and when to stick to a plan.

I am great at the latter. Until it’s not so great anymore. I need more work with the flexibility part. So I’m gonna work on it this month.

I’m throwing out my weekly plan.

If you could see my face right now you’d know how much relief I feel just typing that.

Blogging is a good place for me to flex my flexibility muscles. I post sporadically because overall, I’m not really trying to accomplish anything with a deadline here. When those of us in my online writing group discuss blogging and why we do it, my answer is usually something like, “It gives me a chance to make sure I’m separating my voice and what I’m thinking from the voices of the characters I’m writing.”

It’s also something a former therapist recommended as potentially helpful, particularly on days when face-to-face socializing isn’t something that seems possible. It’s a hybrid. I can say what I want and get occasional feedback, but I can also leave the moment I need to do so. I can reach out but from behind a protective barrier.

So I’m still going to write about making my own luck, but I’m going to wing it. Because sometimes, that’s when luck shows up.

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My plans are often quite colorful

It’s hard to feel lucky when my food choices only make me feel like napping. Making good choices that fuel my body and that I actually enjoy eating is an important component of my overall well being.

One thing I’m pretty successful at doing is bringing food to work with me most days. I have my meal planning system to thank for this. Even when I don’t do it exactly as I mapped it out in another 31 days series three years ago, I still use most of the tools I have put in place to make sure that I am eating well.

One of the main points of my meal planning series was that a system that does not fit practically into your own life is not going to work, no matter how beautifully it works for anyone else. Many of us have at least a minor chasm between our ideal and our real. So there are opportunities to tweak it. As for me and my house, we employ a lot of shortcuts:

  • While I believe in my heart that dried beans, soaked and slow cooked to perfection, are far superior, I also believe in keeping canned beans for days when I have no slow-cooked beans but want to add them to a meal.
  • While I understand that chicken is not hard to make, I also understand that a rotisserie chicken from the deli or even canned chicken is even easier.
  • While I get the concept of buying a larger size for economy’s sake, I only buy milk in pints, because I only occasionally use it in sauces, and the larger size is in no way economical if I have to pour most of it down the drain after it’s gone sour.

I also know that my life is busy. Ultimately, I might feel luckier/more at peace if I had more time to breathe and slow cook those beans or a whole weekend afternoon to meal prep for the week. That’s the ideal. But the reality is that right now I have two jobs and a fairly active social life, and I like all of it (or at least I like the payoff of doing all of it), so I’m not really looking to ditch large portions of my schedule at this moment. So I also need quick options that I can assemble from start to finish in 20 minutes or less so that I don’t drive through Taco Cabana every night:

  •  Fruit, cheese, crackers, raw veggies, and maybe salami or prosciutto for an impromptu antipasti plate
  • Eggs for a quick frittata or a protein addition on top of rice, pasta, or potatoes
  • A selection of frozen vegetables – no chopping, quick steam
  • Frozen meal-in-a-bag (Bertolli’s is my favorite)

What are some of the ways you get the fuel you need to make it through your day?

 

I’m writing about practical ways of creating luck this month.

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I will use anything as a centerpiece.

In my 31 Days outline, I have this day marked as “Domestic,” which makes me laugh, because I am no one to be giving domestic advice. I mean, I was raised to know a lot of things about how to keep a household running really well (seriously – you could eat off my mom’s floors when we were growing up), so I can share that. But in the interest of honesty? Half my kitchen is on my dining table right now. I’ve been going through cabinets and getting rid of things, and it has been s.l.o.w. Also, I haven’t swept in three weeks. A dust bunny in front of my TV mocks me every time I sit down, and I do not care. So if you came here for tips on keeping a house perfect, you are going to be disappointed.

What I can give you this week is how I run my home so that it supports my life. Because that’s the important thing, right?

(some days I’m glad my mother does not have the internet)

Specifically, this week will be mostly about how I stay reasonably well fed and keep my home neat enough that I can find things. I occasionally even create little spots that make home seem more inviting or cozy. When I do these three things, other areas in my life seem to fall into place more easily.

If you are reading this and have gotten this far in life, you probably have these skills down to some extent. If you are like me, though, there are weeks that are better than others. Maybe you’ll find something here that can help, or maybe you have something to offer to help. Either way, we’re going to explore how a life of luck can start at home.

 

I’m writing for 31 days about creating luck. 

 

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A somewhat jarring but often necessary start to the workday

Being on time is problematic. I’m good at time management once I’m at a place but getting there in a timely fashion is always a challenge – a challenge I usually don’t win. This is confusing to people who experience me as focused and efficient – it doesn’t seem to fit. Their reasoning is understandable. But getting there and being there are two different animals

Especially in the morning. No matter how early I set my alarm (which I usually don’t need to actually wake up the first time because I wake up before it goes off) or how many alarms I set (see above), the actual act of getting out of bed is hardly ever as easy as I expect it to be. Mornings when this early wake-up is 5 minutes are good, though. I can usually get through my morning routine generally as planned and make it out the door at a reasonable time.

The wake-up is a wild animal, though. Easily spooked and quick to lash out if it perceives threat, either real or imaginary.

If I wake up more than 15 minutes early, it’s usually in a panic. My brain somehow knows that time is wrong and immediately registers consciousness as a defense mechanism. It takes a while just to escape being practically immobilized by my consuming concern about what Very Important Thing I must be forgetting. So I either have a panic attack or shut down and fall back to sleep (which really? Just a lazy panic attack. It doesn’t always look the same), and it takes a few very annoying alarms to jolt me to action.

At this current moment, I recognize, as I’m sitting safely and cozily in my favorite coffee shop in the daylight as a light rain falls outside, that I’m never actually  forgetting a very important thing. But my brain seldom seems to grasp that in the morning. It can’t. Anxiety won’t let it. Anxiety’s job is to keep me ever vigilant about the myriad of ways I could (and probably am going to) ruin everything. Anxiety is a liar but it sounds so reasonable when it speaks that it’s hard to remember what it really is. And it knows I’m not a morning person, so that’s when it likes to attack.

Anxiety is an asshole. And it’s the very worst kind of asshole – the kind that tells you that the horrible things it says are for your own good or because it knows what’s best for you. But it doesn’t know what’s best for me. It’s lying.

In the evening, anxiety is more social. I’m not just failing at my to-do list. I’m also a failure at relationships. Why else would everyone leave? If I dare to declare to anxiety that their choices are not about me at all, anxiety is quick to reply, “But wouldn’t they be – at least a little bit – if you were worth considering?” This anxiety is the meanest liar of all.

So social occasions, especially ones that are relatively new to me or are unique, standalone events, almost always start with convincing myself that it matters to anyone there whether or not I show up. Does my presence actually add anything to the situation? I honestly don’t know. This is one of the reasons it’s best if I go to events with another person. If someone is depending on me to accompany them, it’s so much easier to roll my eyes at anxiety and dismiss its taunts.

I have a few friends who recognize the times I show up late after I’ve gone a few rounds with anxiety. I may look calm but I am often still buzzing right below the surface. I’m always exhausted but I won. I may be compensating with cheerleader mode where I flit through and get right to my seat or desk or say something that I hope doesn’t sound super rehearsed (it is).

On particularly bad days, the residual tunnel vision may still be in place, making eye contact and small talk excruciating. The gift these friends give me is a few moments. Just enough of a pause to give my eyes time to drag up to theirs where I can see that they’re not mad or disappointed. They really are happy to see me. This feels good, and I’m grateful for it.

It makes me feel lucky.

 

I’m writing about making my own luck for 31 days. See the master list here.

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So it’s not really Friday. I get that. But it’s the post that was meant for Friday, so here we are. One goal of a 31-day series is to get back in the habit of writing every day (or, rather, writing something other than for work). It’s a process.

To finish out the week of talking about tools I use to help me keep my life on track, I want to mention apps that I use to keep up with goal progression. I love making resolutions, but for most of my life, I would make them and then promptly forget about them. I think a lot of people have that experience. When I started tracking my goals, though, I had more success. Here are five of my favorite ways to track my goals:

  1. Club Pilates app – I know. Again I’m talking about it. I just love it. And now that I have a new phone that actually supports the app, I can track a lot of my health goals as well as schedule and keep track of my classes. Every smartphone comes with a health app, though, so even if you don’t go to Club Pilates, you can still have an easy way to track just about any health goal you have.
  2. Goodreads – I started with a goal of 100 books for the year. Then I extended it to 120. No matter how small or big your reading goal, though, you can track it with Goodreads. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends on this site/app.
  3. Spreadsheet – Looking at a long-term goal can be daunting. It’s important to break down resolutions into smaller goals. To this end, I keep a monthly spreadsheet that tracks daily progress toward goals. I broke my five resolutions into ten smaller goals, and I set a monthly goal for each. Then I tally each day that I reach part of the goal. For those of you who like to bullet journal, this can be not only helpful but cathartic.
  4. Fetch – I’m not sure how long Fetch has been around, but I love it. If you can’t tell, point systems really work for me. For the last few years, I have wanted to cook more at home and make better food choices. But if I don’t have groceries at my house, it’s not happening. Fetch rewards me for buying groceries. I’ve been using it for three weeks and just like magic, I have food in my house. I’m also more than 75% toward my first $10 reward. I do enjoy free things, and free things that help me meet my goals? Double bonus.
  5. Art journal – Different people use art journaling for different reasons. When one of your goals is to pursue creative expression more often, however, it can be a way of showing the progress of that goal. My art journal is a collection of collages, found and blackout poetry, stained-glass-style doodles, and song lyrics I want to set to a melody at some point (yes! I’m excited about it, too.). I have a pretty broad range for what I consider creative pursuits, but I track most of them by art journaling about them.

Do you make goals? If so, how do you keep track of your progress?

 

I’m talking about making my own luck this month.

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I don’t make good choices if my phone is near, so I have an old school alarm clock.

I am not a morning person. I don’t fall asleep easily before 1:00 a.m., no matter how busy the day has been. This means I don’t wake up super early. I don’t seem to need as much sleep as other people do (I do pretty well on 6 hours a night), but I’m not sure if this is really a thing (requiring less sleep than other humans) or if I’m secretly exhausted and just don’t know any better.

Unfortunately, I have a job that requires me to be awake and at least a little productive by 8:30 a.m., so I’ve had to learn to fake it as a person who functions in the morning at least enough to show up to said job fully dressed and vertical.

The best way to fake it is to have a morning ritual that prepares me physically and mentally for the day.

There are a lot of suggestions on the intrawebs for making mornings go more smoothly. There’s even one that suggests that such suggestions can bring me joy. That seems a lofty goal for an a.m. time that starts with a number smaller than 11, but I appreciate the optimism.

My weekday morning ritual is designed to get me moving, motivated, and out the door. I start with about 10 minutes of stretching. I try to clear my mind of anything but how the muscles feel and how I’m breathing during this time. At this point, I am usually still in bed, so I look for a reason to get up. I try to think of the thing I’m most looking forward to that day. Once I’m up, I can get ready pretty quickly. I shower in the mornings, even if I showered the night before, because it wakes me up. I fill up my water bottle and grab my lunch before I leave.

How quickly I get out the door in the mornings is partially dependent on the success of my bedtime routine. It takes longer to grab a lunch, for example, that I have not yet packaged into portable containers. Showers are quicker if I washed my hair the night before. If the last load of laundry is still in the dryer, I will have to wait until it tumbles a bit to knock the wrinkles out of that skirt I inevitably need in order to get dressed.

Having patterns and routines helps me manage a busy schedule. It also provides a safe shore to swim toward if I wake up badly or if I can’t seem to get to sleep on time.

What do you need to get your day started or wind down?

 

I’m writing about creating my own luck this month. See the anchor post here.

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The Boss of Me

Maybe there are people in the world who are lucky as they can be who never plan anything. They flit through life, spontaneous and free, taking problems as they come and magically making it through relatively unscathed. If you are one of these people, that’s awesome. I hope your life always goes this way and that you never run up against any hardship that you can’t handle in the moment.

I am not one of those people.

Creating my own luck could not happen without my planner. It has all my lists – the to-do list, the errand list (which can be distinguished from the to-do list as things that require leaving the house to do them), the grocery list, etc. It runs my life. Once, I thought I lost it, and I almost had to call in sick. Luckily, it was just in another bag. Crisis averted.

As you may imagine, I am incredibly particular about my planner. For a long time, Kate Spade made my favorite. It had all the elements that I needed and none of the extraneous fluff that I knew I wouldn’t use. Alas, when I was looking for my 2018 planner, I discovered that Kate Spade was no longer offering the yearly planner but rather one for the academic year. No. Just…no. So I had to find a new one, and since it was December and I had yet to order it, I had to find one fast. That was when Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner came into my life. I loooooove this planner. I will let you peruse the website at your leisure (and if you love planners like I do, you’re gonna want to). It’s perfect for me. I’ve already ordered my new one for 2020, and I think we’re going to be very happy together.

My planner helps me manage life overall. Time management strategies help calm me down and keep me grounded. Life doesn’t seem as overwhelming when I can look at it all in writing. Feeling lucky starts from a place of general stability, and having a plan helps me get to that starting point more often.

Do you organize your life? If so, what tools do you like to use?

 

I’m writing about creating my own luck for the month of October. See the master list of posts here.

 

 

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This sign was up at Salon LaPage when I went for my appointment in March. I had to grab a snapshot.

 

Lucky is the word I chose (with some trepidation) to guide my year. Sometimes the word I choose lends itself to a lot of reflection and sharing. Sometimes it lends itself to more action than words. This year, I think it’s both, and I’ve been lacking in the reflection part.

One reason for this is that I didn’t actually take the time to define what I think lucky looks like, so the first thing I want to do in this series is remedy that. For me, lucky means having things you work toward (and occasionally even things you don’t) go your way in a reasonably smooth manner. I know. Still pretty vague. It’s hard to pin down because it’s hard to see this happening in the moment. What’s easier to pin down are some of the elements that in retrospect have paved the way for situations to unfold seamlessly. Perhaps some of these elements ring true for you as well:

  • Organizational and social structures that are designed to reward the work their leaders claim to value
  • A solid personal support system
  • Minimization of the influence of structures and persons who fail to provide the support I would expect from something/someone whom I trust to provide
  • Habits that move me toward my goals and the person I’m becoming
  • Good timing

This doesn’t totally set the stage for what I think of as lucky, but it’s a good start. The areas of my life where I feel the luckiest are not necessarily the ones where I work the hardest, although work is usually a crucial part of the process. The main factor that seems to determine success is my environment. This discovery has been empowering. While I cannot conform what others do or give (nor would I want to – they have as much right to set their own boundaries as I do), I can choose where and to whom I give my own energy. What a difference it makes when it’s to people who give it back.

I suspect this is how other people make their own luck, too.

Another reason I’ve been lacking in reflection, though, is fear. I’ve been afraid to address the thing that most often gets in the way of luck, and I’m definitely nervous about sharing it. Anxiety is hard. It’s hard to feel lucky when something simple like getting out of bed and getting to work on time is derailed by waking up in panic mode. It doesn’t matter if it wakes me up earlier than I intended to get up. The sheer volume of time it takes when this happens to get to a place where I can stand to be around lots of sounds and people in anything resembling a coherent and productive fashion renders any extra time useless. Anxiety messes with my schedule, and that pisses me off. There is also an acute social aspect to my anxiety, which makes a lot of things challenging, such as finding people (or a therapist) with whom I can connect enough to relax and trust their support.

A lot of the techniques I’m discussing in this series are about how I create an environment in which I can thrive. Even though my process is very specific to me, I hope that parts of it can be helpful to you or maybe give you some ideas on how to find the support you need in your life.

Sundays will have an overview of the week’s topic. Monday through Thursday will include some of the strategies I use. Since this week is short, I’m going to spend tomorrow and Thursday taking about general tools that help with everything. On Fridays, I’ll share strategies I have heard good things about, things I’d like to try, or things I don’t personally use but might be helpful to you.

Finally, Saturdays will be a practice of being more candid about my personal struggles. I’m confident with practicalities, so I tend to hide behind them. But they don’t tell the whole story. I want to tell my story better.

I’ll also link each post here for reference.

Welcome to 31 days of creating luck!

Day 2 – Have a Plan
Day 3 – Rituals
Day 4 – Five Methods for Tracking Progress
Day 5 – On Being on Time
Day 6 – Lucky at Home
Day 7 – Fueling Up for Real
Day 8 – Reboot

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You might be a little faded. You might be a little dusty. You might spend most of your days perched on a shelf, more decoration than adornment.

If you were a hat.

If you were a hat, you might get picked up occasionally. Spun around. Twirled – up one arm and down another, landing briefly in one perfect moment only to be swept away and tossed to the side as another distraction appears.

If you were a hat, you’d spend a lot of time in boxes or on a rack. Rest is important for the spirit. But there’s a line between solitude and abandonment and, although it’s a fairly thick line, you might not always be able to tell the difference. It’s hard to see the truth of it when truth fades into things just being the way they are.

If you were a hat, you’d be nice hat. There would be nothing casual about you. You might spend a lot of time alone, but there’s no reason that ever had to come up in company. You’d exist to impress and command just a little more attention than others around you. Not enough to be off-putting. Just enough to be hard to ignore.

If you were a hat, your best days would be the ones when you didn’t have to think at all about how you’re only a hat. About how your whole purpose is to make them look good. About how much they love you, right up to the end.

If you were a hat, your worst days would be the ones when being just a hat is all you could think about. About how you only get the special events when you secretly know you’re much better suited to the everyday. About exactly how much time you spend on the table making small talk with the still-smoking ashtray and watered-down drinks while they all go dancing.

Sometimes you think you’re a hat. You make a grand impression, dashing into excitement and leaping to the next joy before any of the electricity has a chance to dwindle. But electricity burns, and who’s going to catch you when that shock jolts you out of the bliss?

If you were a hat, all of this would be fine.

But you’re not.

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (or whatever these are). Click to see the master list.

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Day 6 – Roger

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Roger: A Walkie Talkie Production

Jeff: I’ve got a delivery for the director ready. Who wants it?

Cassidy: I’m about to give this family a tour.

Trevor: I have class in five minutes.

Scott: Roger that. I’m on it, boss. Over.

Roger: What? Did someone call me?

Meiya: No…Scott was just letting Jeff know he got the message.

Scott: What? Oh, yeah. Roger that.

Roger: *static noise* What is that? What do I need to do?

Trevor: Nothing, man. Everything’s taken care of.

Roger: Okay. Cool. Let me know if you need me.

Jeff: We’re missing one of the bikes – does anyone know what happened to the red one?

Meiya: I think one of the admins borrowed it for an hour or two.

Scott: No – I have it. I just finished a tour and am heading back to get the director’s delivery.

Jeff: That’s cool. Remember to log your checkouts in the future.

Scott: Roger that. I’ll remember that next time. Over.

Roger: What? I didn’t take it.

Scott: No, I said I have it.

Roger: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. I thought I heard my name.

Cassidy: Scott, stop saying “Roger.” It’s so confusing. We all know you get the message when you respond to it. You don’t need to tell us you got it.

*Pause*

Scott: Roger that, Cassidy.

*Communal groaning*

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (although some are more snippets). Click to see the master list.

 

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