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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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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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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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