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Hope

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One day I hope my skin will be less habitually dry.

Sometimes, I talk to students for a long duration of time. And then I see it. The moment that they realize I will not be able to help them do the thing they need to do and how much that is going to disrupt their lives. They end the conversation abruptly before the tears that fill their eyes betray them by spilling.

Inevitably, I spend the evening and significant portions of the week (month…sometimes year…anxiety is hell) that follows rehashing how it could have gone better and trying to figure out if there was anything I could have done, any miracle I could – even now – pull off to help them recover. Anything to erase the reality and thus the memory of their despair.

We have all been where they are in one way or another. We all know those moments. The one when we realized the person we loved most wasn’t going to be our forever person. The one when we discovered that, no matter how tightly we crunched the numbers, there was no saving the business we had poured our soul (and all our savings) into. The one when we knew that truck absolutely was going to hit us, and there was nothing we could do about it.

I believe that these moments are unavoidable, but more than that, I believe they aren’t the last line of the story. I mean, the intermission that follows these moments might get really long. And that’s okay. Things take as long as they take. But eventually, there is more.

I believe in hope. That is, I desperately need hope.

When I made a plan to dissect my core values this year, I figured hope would be in there somewhere. Maybe in the middle, keeping all the others motivated. Maybe at the end, enjoying its grand finish. But the more I looked over the list I have started, the more I realized that it has to be first.

Everything for me starts with hope.

I’m not what most people would call an optimist. I see details and patterns and wayward caveats too easily to ignore all the things that could go wrong. To disregard them would register in my brain as irresponsible. I can’t shake the idea, though, that for every way something could go awry, there’s at least one way it could go really well (eventually. Sometimes the path to well is paved with awry. So much awry), and I’m addicted to the hunt for it. I don’t always find it, but I want to think that it’s out there. Otherwise what’s the point of anything?

Hope is often unreasonable. I like that about hope. There are many posts this time of year about why we should say no to making New Year’s resolutions. They paint a picture of discouragement and disappointment when those resolutions don’t ever come to pass. But disappointment is not usually my experience. I go into the year suspecting that I will probably not meet every extravagant goal I set (as an example, I mused the other day, “Hey – I could combine my goal of reading Don Quixote with my goal of reading a book in Spanish this year!” Isn’t that precious.). And I suppose I could set simpler, more sensible goals that I would have no problem attaining. Part of that would be gratifying, as I do enjoy checking things off lists. But another part of that is just super dull. At my core, I would rather risk failure than stagnation. I may periodically land at mediocre, but I’m certainly not going to aim for it. I see the potential for better, and that is where my hope leads.

Hope is overwhelming. You may be overwhelmed just reading about it. That’s not an uncommon reaction. I know that my hope is showing when I’m part of a group that is tasked with coming up with one thing we could do better, and the more our excitement builds, the bigger everyone’s eyes get as I calmly and rationally explain that all I want is for us to un-break the world. God help the group if there are more than one of us.

My hope is unruly, lively, persistent, often annoying. But it’s mine.

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Core

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Making my dream board/goals collage/etc. was oddly invigorating.

As I briefly mentioned in my 2017 review, I’m not quite done with wild, my one word for 2017.  Experiences of the last two years have left me bruised and skittish, and I think that impeded my courage to step out more than I imagined it would. I had visions of going on hikes and long walks in unfamiliar places by myself, but that didn’t happen. I had plans to be more spontaneous with my time, and what will surprise absolutely no one is that I really don’t like doing that. I’m more cautious than I’ve ever been before, and wild has just barely started to rear its head. I want another year with it.

Being more physically active helped. Running is exhilarating and also exhausting and omg I feel old. But it’s part of my wildness. I can’t be wild in the way I am wild without running, just like I can’t be my kind of wild without dancing. My wild is inherently embodied.

Running isn’t just important in the literal, physical sense, though. I want to run my life better. I don’t rest the way I talk about resting. I don’t eat the way I talk about eating. I don’t give the way I talk about giving. I don’t move the way I talk about moving. I am not as responsible, hopeful, well-read, and about 10,000 other adjectives as I want to be.

Before you jump to my defense, let me assure you that I am not lacking in confidence. I don’t feel bad about these things or about myself (for the most part – everyone has those days). I just see where I want to be, and I know I’m not there yet. I am also rational enough to realize that I won’t magically be there at the end of the year.

But I can get closer to it.

The way I’m doing that this year is by focusing on the traits that are most important to me. I was just going to sail through the year, clinging to wild, and then this post on Chookooloonks’s blog punched me in the gut.

Or, if you will, in the core.

Core is my word for 2018. I will examine what my core values are, and listing what I plan to do to better exhibit those values. Periodically, when I gather enough to say about one of them, I’ll outline it in a post. By the end of the year, I hope to have a list and, if not a whole post, at least brief descriptions of each.

I may end up with three core values. I may end up with twenty (and let’s be real – twenty is more befitting my personality than three). Most likely, I will end up somewhere in the middle.

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THE BEST DAY!!!

New Year’s Day is easily one of my top ten favorite days of the year. Maybe even top five. I love setting new goals or revising old ones. I love – if even for just a day – looking forward and being intentionally cheerful about what the year might bring. I looooove breaking in my new planner – saying my official goodbye and thank you to last year’s calendar with its scuffs and battle scars and breaking out the shiny new one.

My word for the year is “core.” I have a pretty strong sense of what is important to me and what traits I want to cultivate the most, but this year is devoted to saying those things out loud (or at least on the internet). I am going to talk more about this later this week, but by the end of the year, I want to see a marked improvement in how my core values shape my goals, commitments, and strength.

I have listed a lot of goals and dreams for the year in my 52 Lists journal, and I won’t bog you down with all of them. But here are the key ones:

  1. Read 100 books. That’s just two a week with a couple of weeks off. That’s how much I read when I am reading consistently. Reading grounds and calms me. I fall out of the habit when I over-commit to other things that leave me drained and stressed, so ideally this goal will help me do more reading and less stressing this year.
  2. Make some of these books really long ones. Specifically, I want to read Don Quixote, Infinite Jest, and Anna Karenina.
  3. Finish the first draft of Fishbowl. My hard deadline for this is June 15, so the year’s end may even find me in revision mode. But the first step is just to finish.
  4. Finish Epic Meal Planning edits. Possibly even publish?
  5. Continue learning Spanish and read at least one book in Spanish (with minimal dictionary usage) by the end of the year.
  6. Take a solitary writing retreat. Criteria: 1) outside Denton, 2) two days minimum, and 3) no Internet.
  7. Go to a coffee shop or wine bar at least once a month. Write more about coffee shops.
  8. Build up my emergency fund and get back in the habit of paying off credit cards fully every month. I’ve lapsed a little, and I don’t like it.
  9. Financial/health combo goal – actually use my gym membership regularly or cancel it. Paying for something I don’t use is ridiculous. So is being sedentary.
  10. Try at least one new recipe a month. My meal planning is in a rut. I need new ideas. Feel free to post your favorites in the comments section.

What do you want your 2018 to look like?

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Wild streak

It seemed fitting to end the year of wild with a little heat in my hair.

Other than cosmetically, however, I am not sure how wild the year was. It had its moments. We road-tripped to Virginia and made no real plans for the trip there and back. I ran alone sometimes. I tried new things and spoke out a little more about things that are important to me. I also discovered I’m wilder than I suspected, which is equal parts exciting and scary.

A significant part of the year seemed to be tangled up in trying to balance the wild with safety. This post from my 31 Days series sums up that struggle nicely. Wild is not safe. But wild can be free. It just needs a little room to run. I seem to love (and by “love,” I do mean “thrive in”) the chaos of the wild. I wouldn’t have guessed that.

I’m not through unpacking all of it yet, but that’s okay. The word doesn’t have to end its influence just because the year does.

In other resolution news, I’ve managed to meet at least a little of each one.

  1. Read 100 books. I read 63 books (or, at least, I kept up with 63. A few seem to be missing). I really loved a lot of them. The ones that stand out are Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, Meagan Spooner’s Hunted, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, and all the Fredrik Backman books.
  2. Learn conversational Spanish. I took a Spanish class at work. We only got to things like simple directions around campus, but it’s a start.
  3. Continue to make my home a place that is welcoming and does not hinder the life I create. My office is a madhouse. Everything that is still unpacked is in there, and it’s a lot. I think I met this goal in a way that I didn’t intend, though. Even though there are pockets of mess all around, I still had people over more often. I meant to keep my home in a way that was not a hindrance to hospitality, but what seems to have happened is that I just decided that it wasn’t going to be a hindrance and lived my life anyway. Acceptable.
  4. Continue to improve my health and well-being. This is another goal that morphed. My health is better. My blood pressure is staying down, and my focus has improved. Anxiety is still afoot, but it is the monster in the back of my mind instead of the one staring me down when I open my eyes, so that’s better. I haven’t lost the weight like I intended, but I haven’t gained either, which is something, considering that I didn’t pay much attention to it at all.
  5. Finish at least one manuscript and publish a 2018 calendar. I did not finish a manuscript. But I worked on one more consistently than I did the previous year, so…progress? I didn’t publish a calendar like I meant to, but I did make my own calendar of coffee pictures (currently hanging in my kitchen, and it’s sooo cute). I think I just needed to prove to myself that the printing of the calendar was the easy part if I would just get the pictures together.
  6. Run a 5K. Running is so much harder now than it was 20 years ago. I think I finally accepted that this year. This is a doable goal; it’s just not a quickly doable goal. I have a vague hope that I will run consistently one day, but this is not that day. And tomorrow’s not that day, either. Don’t hold your breath.
  7. Go on a writing retreat. Yay! I did! I went to Andi’s retreat, and I have to finish my Fishbowl rough draft by the time the 2018 retreat rolls around. I may have to insert some solitary retreats in there this year to get this done.
  8. Get paid for writing in some way. I totally did this. I make enough in writing to cover my grocery budget, and my Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify subscriptions. SEO writing is not my calling, but it’s a writing job, and I am happy to have it.
  9. Continue/establish beloved traditions. My traditions that have stuck are my Advent/Christmas rituals and my Hemingway party, and they’re both the newest ones. It seems like each home has its own traditions. The cooking/baking weekends all happened when I had a great kitchen (and Maggie to help). But parties with lots of people and space for a full-sized Christmas tree? That I can do here. I look forward to seeing what else this space might hold for me this year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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My Instagram is cute. My house is not always cute. Sometimes, parts of my house look like this. It’s okay…ish. It could be better. I like it when it’s better.

My schedule has changed recently, so things are falling through the cracks. Things that I’m usually pretty good at, like keeping up with my meal planning calendar and laundry. It’s been a long time since the table beside the couch looked like the picture above. I can’t say that I’ve missed that.

I recently lamented to friends that I was disappointed with how my year of wild is going. As someone who is mostly organized but is also a little fond of and prone to chaos, I was looking forward to wild really shaking my year up. A still life of cups and glasses was not the chaos I had in mind. On the surface, wild hasn’t stirred around much. My life is just as un-wild as it ever has been.

Or so it would seem.

One facet of wild that I am particularly interested in cultivating is freedom. Freedom from shoulds. Freedom from lifeless traditions. Freedom from good advice that doesn’t particularly work for me in practice.

In this way, this year has been super wild, and my progress on my resolutions shows it. I am farther along toward my goals this year than I was at this time last year. Who knew that, instead of just saying, “I do what I want!” while still bending over backwards to fulfill obligations that aren’t really mine to fulfill, intentionally embracing saying no in order to cling to what fulfills me would result in getting what I want done?

Everyone, you say? Literally everyone knew that? Okay. That’s fair.

Anyway, I apologize to wild for being disappointed. Although…don’t go anywhere, wild. We’re not done here.

Perhaps it doesn’t look wild to me because I use structure, but I think this is a misunderstanding of the term. Sometimes I expect wild to be loose and flowy, but then I watch an animal stalk its prey (and by animal, I do mean my mom’s barn cats). Wild definitely requires a certain measure of focus for survival.

So this week, I begin testing a new time management structure. I was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s best practices post. The ones that really stick out to me are actually writing when I have made time to write, setting boundaries but writing them in pencil, and fill your well (because if I’m not reading or eating right or staying active, everything else goes awry). I have added a second job writing SEO content, so it makes sense that my schedule could not continue as it was without something important taking the hit. I imagine it will take a few weeks of tweaking, but I’m confident that it will work.

For those who want to put a little structure in their schedule, it’s pretty simple. I started by making a list of priorities. For me, I thought about what I would need in order to consider myself as having my life together. Keep in mind that I am single and childless and that, for the most part, I operate on a pretty low supply of give-a-damns when it comes to other people telling me what my life should be. If this does not describe you, you’re going to have to concentrate a little more to get past the voices that want to shout over you. When you are listing your priorities, your opinion is the one that matters the most.

[Aside – this is not advice to shut out other people altogether. If you are in a committed relationship and you want to remain in it, you might want to list it as a priority. Please don’t ever use “I’m focusing on me right now” as an excuse to be an inattentive asshole. If you want to break up, just break up. Don’t be passive and shady about it. /psa]

After I had my list of priorities, I divided them into daily, weekly, and monthly lists. I listed each one as specific tasks to complete. For example, for my body weight, I need to drink 100 ounces of water a day to stay hydrated, so that’s what I listed as one of my daily health goals. Decide what you can reasonably do, and quantify each goal on your list. Once you have these lists, document them. I keep a goals calendar, but you can keep up with them in whatever way works for you. It helps you chart your progress.

What process do you use to meet goals?

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Resolution Update

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More of these in my house, please. I love seeing flowers on the table when I walk in.

It’s almost mid-year, which is about the time I remember, “Oh, I made resolutions!” So let’s check in and see how they’re going.

  1. Word of the year – wild. I’m not sure how to answer this. Wild has been pretty vague this year. I catch moments of it, but it hasn’t disrupted things the way the last few years True, fun, beauty. Oh, the havoc they wreaked! But wild? I would expect wild to be…well…wilder.
  2. Read 100 books. SHUT UP, GOODREADS. I KNOW I’M BEHIND. Maybe I should read wilder books. Two birds, one stone.
  3. Learn conversational Spanish. Huh. Forgot I made that one.
  4. Making my home more welcoming. I have had people over more often – does that count? I have embraced the practice of inviting people over regardless of the mess. So maybe this one has morphed into welcoming despite the state of the home.
  5. Make strides in health goals. Plateaus are the worst. I was doing really well, and then plateau. Now I don’t want to do anything – exercise, eat right, sleep well – because it’s a lot of effort for nothing. This last weekend, I actually considered starting a detox program designed to hydrate you and adjust your gut bacteria and all other sorts of weird things just because I know it would be enough of a shock to leap off the damn plateau. This program? Requires me to give up coffee. I HATE PLATEAUS SO MUCH I CONSIDERED GIVING UP COFFEE. Thankfully, that brief moment of madness has passed. Summer is usually good for less ridiculous eating. I’ll give summer a chance.
  6. Finish a manuscript (lol) and publish a calendar. While finishing a manuscript seems like a strange, wonderful dream at this moment, I have been working pretty steady on my calendar project. It’s coming along slowly but steadily.
  7. Run a 5K. Maybe in October, and maybe at the beach! I’ve got a group that I’m going to try walking the July 4th race with, but there will be no running of a 5K in July. Because Texas.
  8. Attend a writing retreat – coming in June! I’m road-tripping to Virginia with my friend Michelle (and maybe others) to attend a retreat hosted by the leader of one of my online writing groups. YAY!!!!!
  9. Get paid for writing – also done (wow, my writing goals are going well. I’m so impressed with me). I have started SEO (search engine optimization) writing, and I’m addicted to it. I got my first paycheck for writing on May 11th.
  10. Continue/establish traditions. I already have my meal plan and grocery/booze list for the Hemingway party started, if that counts. That’s the only tradition I can think of right now.

So I’m not doing too shabby with my goals. This reminder was helpful.

Did you make resolutions? How are they going?

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This shirt has not made an appearance in public yet. But soon.

I joined a gym last week. I’ve been meaning to join for a while. I should have joined back in November or December.

I have been once since I joined. It was super crowded. This is a deterrent for me. I’m just not interested in spending an hour inhaling 200 people’s sweat or awkwardly waiting in line for the adducter machine. I am going to try to go at different times to see if it’s better. I keep telling myself it will be better once the “we’re getting healthy!” resolution bunch decides they like going to the wine bar more than the gym on Monday nights.

[Not that I condone such choices. Okay, I totally condone such choices. Exercise is good. So is the wine at my wine bar, though.]

There are actually quite a few deterrents for me. I don’t have great track record with food and exercise and healthy balance. It’s sometimes difficult for me to recognize if I’m overdoing it (or under-doing it) in the moment. Those realizations usually come after the fact. I’m getting better, but it’s still a struggle.

I am comforted (and also saddened…it’s complicated) to know that I am not alone. In our training last week (interpersonal violence intervention training – more on this later this month), we ate lunch together every day. And every day – with different tables and different people – I had some version of the same conversation:

Person 1: I’m eating this delicious pasta/pizza/bread.

Person 2: It’s sooo good. But sooo bad. *eats hungrily*

Person 1: I know. But it’s okay. I’m going to do an extra hour at the gym/skip dinner/jog to my car/walk my cat.

Person 2: *nods with understanding*

We are grown, highly educated, professional people, and we still felt the need to voice a justification of our food choices and what extremes we’re planning to take to overcome them to our coworkers. We walk into meal situations assuming that people will be judging us for what we are or aren’t eating.

On the one hand, I’m not sure those assumptions are always accurate. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I looked at someone’s plate and thought to myself, “Self, they really shouldn’t be eating that,” or “Self, they should be eating more.” So maybe other people don’t have these thoughts either. If I’m thinking about their food at all, it’s more along the lines of, “Self, that looks delicious. Where can we get some of that?” Or “Gross. Pot pie.” [Which I recognize is a little judgey, but that’s what you get for eating disgusting things. My judgmental thoughts. Which I probably won’t actually voice. Probably.].

On the other hand, we probably feel the need to make these justifications because somewhere – maybe many somewheres – in our experience, judgments have been voiced. Or stared. Most people don’t need any words at all to get those messages across.

I don’t have an answer. I know that I need to make better food choices sometimes, but I also know how much better my food choices in general are now than they were even six months ago. So…progress. I know that I have more energy when I exercise regularly, but I also know that how often I exercise (and really even whether or not I exercise at all) has no factual bearing on my worth and value as a human. I know that what other people think shouldn’t matter and that often they aren’t really thinking about me at all anyway, but I also know that my feelings don’t always sync with that knowledge.

Maybe there’s some balance in there after all.

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