How to get it done (aka sanity for shopping days)

If you showed up for wisdom today, it’s not happening. I spent the morning at Wal-mart, friends. Wal-mart. I only go to Walmart about once every other month because I loathe it so. The sheer volume of consumerism, the crowded aisles, the checkout nightmares, the entire shopping experience is absolutely exhausting. But my daughters had needs and gift cards, and we live in a town with 3 stores…we hit two of them. So off we went because sometimes you just do the thing.

I have a history of being a terrible procrastinator. I can let a thing go for a ridiculous amount of time simply by walking right by it and pretending it doesn’t exist. Or I use busyness. I know what’s urgent, but shouldn’t I fold the laundry instead? Or water the plants? No really, I can have the cleanest bathroom in the world and still be scrambling to meet a deadline.

But lately I’ve imposed some rules on myself.

If a thing can be done in 3 minutes or less, I do it right now. The moment I think of it (unless I am meditating, then I pin it to my mental cork board. What? It works.)

If a thing can be done in under fifteen minutes, it goes on the daily post it. The daily post it helps me keep track of things without having to rely on my questionable memory. It lives in my planner. I don’t have to finish everything on the daily post it every day. By writing it down, my chances of finishing it in the next 48 hours increase draamtically.

If a thing will take longer than 15 minutes it goes in the future tasks list in my planner. I use this list when I find myself with a bit of extra time that I won’t use for reading or when I make my…

Daily top three list in my planner. I am a big fan of bullet journal, but for my birthday I received this amazing planner. It doesn’t quite have the freedom of a bullet journal, but it pleases my inner perfectionist so. It’s been an easy shift, and I do love it. Also, each day comes with a little Top Three checklist. And well… my little soul loves nothing more than checking a thing off. Nothing.

None of these things make a shopping day more pleasant for me. It’s just not something I love to do. But all of them work together teaching me that sometimes though only way to get through a thing is to just jump in and do it. Even though it wasn’t the case today, usually the mental anguish of procrastinating is far worse than the actual experience.

Not your typical New Year: life evaluations in high summer

Do you know how much I love New Year? It’s only 205 days until it rolls around again. I know this because I have a countdown app on my phone. I love it for several reasons. First, I love a clean slate. Whether it’s a new day, week, month or year, they all hold the magic of possibility. I also love starting something new. Granted, my record of follow through isn’t spectacular, but I am slowly changing that this year. Finally, I love it because after what tends to be a month of festivity and busyness around here, followed by a week of intentional rest nestled between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it marks a return to routine. I love shaking things up, trying a new thing, when push comes to shove, but I rely on routine to ground and settle me.

By now you are no doubt asking yourself, why in the world is this crazy person writing about New Year in the middle of June. Well, first of all, it’s the middle of June! You do realize this means the year is almost half over, right? How crazy is this nonsense? But perhaps more relevant to my current line of thought are changes I am considering for the rest of this summer season. Since I have a few personal projects ongoing, making changes runs the risk of experiencing overwhelm. Honestly, I think this is why most new year’s resolutions fail. We take on a boatload of change without considering the effort required to maintain them. I know this is my problem, anyway.

However, one of the benefits of this little writing project is better clarity of my life values. Writing things down helps me know myself better. Sharing them publicly makes me feel a sense of accountability, whether or not anyone is really watching (probably not). Writing helps me see and understand my values; the public forum makes me examine whether my lifestyle aligns with my words. Both are important steps in whole-hearted living.

So in light of this mid-year evaluation, and the self-awareness writing has brought about, I feel compelled to make a few shifts. Perhaps you might call them resolutions, but I prefer to think of them as experiments. After all, until I try them, there is no way to know whether the benefits I imagine will actually come to pass. They look good on paper, anyway.

So I’m making plans and arrangements to determine if these shifts are feasible and practical for me right now. Even the best idea is doomed to failure if it’s implemented at the wrong time, like starting a diet at Christmas. I need to determine if I am just grabbing at random change due to my restlessness, or evolving current patterns which work for me but could be even better. Anything generated from restlessness is likely to fizzle out anyway, so better to conserve effort for those things which matter.

So that’s what I’ll be working on this weekend. No doubt, as these shifts settle into routine, I will be writing more about it. In a month, my one hundred days of writing is over, and I’m already making plans so that shift happens smoothly rather than my usual all or nothing approach. How about you? What’s going on for your weekend? Do you think Mid-year Experiments will be as popular as New Year Resolutions? Or am I just one of those weird introverts who loves any excuse to lose herself in introspection?

*Speaking of shifts. I shifted a chunk of my book talk over to goodreads. You can follow me here. Eventually, there will be links to take you from here to there, but that’s a project in the making, and not one under consideration this weekend.

Fifty days later: Thoughts from the middle of everything.

Fifty days ago, I decided I would write and publish a blog for one hundred days in a row. Today is day fifty-one which means it’s all closer to the end than the beginning from here. I’ve reached the middle at last. When I started this project, I hated everything (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much), and I could tell I was circling the drain of depression. The question I ask myself today is whether or not writing and sharing daily is really makes any difference.

The answer is yes. It is making a difference. I am different than I was fifty days ago. I’m emotionally healthier than I was fifty days ago.

Is it all due to the writing? Probably not. However, the writing has been a catalyst, a foundational habit on which other positive changes are laid.  I write daily. Since beginning to write, I also run and meditate daily. My reading is more focused; I finish what I started. After completing a journaling class, I write in my journal before blogging each day. I wrote the curriculum for and co-taught a community care class which opened the door for many brilliant conversations on self-care/ self-awareness, compassion and healing. I’m reworking step 4 (Inventory), and shared my own story of recovery with my recovery community.

Yes, these fifty days have been full with all of the pieces playing a vital part of my journey back to health. The spark, however, comes from this practice taking place on-screen every day.

The discipline of writing so many days in a row, forces me to plan intentional writing time. On the days when I have not, I’ve regretted the cobbled together silliness that gets published. The same response happens on the days I procrastinate too long and am trying to make coherent thoughts with my afternoon brain. Afternoon brain can do many things, but writing isn’t one of them.

I continue to learn more about myself every day. How toxic relationships have stolen my joy for far too long. How I can live within healthy boundaries instead of exposing myself to further harm. I’m inspired to be bold again, and honest, and kind. I often feel afraid, still, but I don’t let fear be the loudest voice in my head.

More than anything, writing opens up my desire to be creative again. I don’t know how long my creativity laid dormant. I only know I’d forgotten how good it feels to create something new in the world, even if no one but me knows of its existence. Writing ignited the spark and all the other creative endeavors are blowing life into it, convincing it to stay, to grow.

Even though our life circumstances haven’t changed, and the waiting continues to feel like drowning in molasses, I wait differently now. I am not without hope, not the powerless victim of whatever circumstance tries to throw my way. I can generate change, within and without. Writing has taught me this. Showing up, following through, embracing imperfection, muscles I’d forgotten to flex. Using them makes me feel strong again. Even on sad days, I don’t have the despair that was so heavy before.

And here you are, fifty days later. Patiently returning to read each day. You provide inspiration too. You remind me we aren’t alone in this big, old, chaotic world. I remember now that we are far more alike than different most of the time.

What will I do after the next fifty days? I’m not sure yet, but that doesn’t bother me. In time, all things will be revealed. Until then, I continue to do the work I know is good and healing. I don’t have to be afraid to stop doing things which aren’t beneficial, or to try something new, or recognize when a season changes. All things change. Even me.

Thank goodness.

I hate everything: Writing my way out of the funk

Lately, I’ve been in a funk. I’m commonly heard saying, “I hate everything.” And it’s true. I sort of do. Current events, nationally, internationally, and personally all are fairly rotten right now. I’m in a season of letting go, and my life is in a holding pattern…things are ending but the next steps aren’t clear yet.  I like a plan; I’m a plan girl. Waiting is hard, waiting in a stressful environment is harder. My mind keeps circling around the word depression, but for now, I’m certain it’s more situational depression than clinical depression. I’m keeping my finger on my mental and emotional health pulse though, just in case.

In the meantime, though, I need to fight back against the funk, reframe the narrative that everything is hard and hopeless and crazy, and I’m not doing anything right in the midst of it. I need to push back against this crazy fear of being seen and heard. People keep speaking into my life: “sit down and be quiet. Your voice isn’t wanted here,” which ignites a desire to be consumed by a crack in the earth, whisked away never to be seen or heard from again. I know, my confrontational skills are the envy of many.

I’m making my circles small, smaller, smallest lately, but isolation isn’t a great situation for someone whose mind keeps riffing around the word depression, and it’s pretty obvious something has to be done to break the cycle I currently inhabit.

When you don’t know what to do, go back to the things you know well, the comfort spots, well-worn and familiar, as safe as physical safe spaces we’ve created when everything inside us yells, “RETREAT!” Writing is that thing for me. I spent most of the last three weeks writing a curriculum for community care, and every day as I sat down at the keyboard, my soul sang, “Home, home, home! Let’s play in all the words, words, words!” (does your soul sing like this? I hope so or I sound even crazier than I already am.)

I love words, both the writing and reading variety, and I love that over the next eight weeks, a group of people will dissect and discuss those same words my soul poured out here in the safe space.

Words and conversation. I crave it. I miss it. I fear it. And for a little while, I lost sight of it.

I haven’t really written in over a year. Before that I was writing regularly, but I was also trying to conform to a model, and we all know how great a conformist I am.  I was bogging down over a lot of things: pictures and Pinterest, SEO and link backs and clickability. You probably don’t know what any of those things are (except maybe Pinterest-which everyone loves and I, of course, hate) which is fine. You aren’t missing anything.

And I’m not throwing shade on people who love SEO and Pinterest. Everyone gets to love what they love. The thing is that I do not, and focusing on those things and trying to make my words conform to certain models became more draining than enjoyable. Eventually, I just forgot…forgot what I loved and why I loved it. I lost myself in someone else’s ideal, which is a behavior pattern I continue to encounter in my life.

Stupid co-dependency.

But I remembered over the past month as I wrote and thought about the words, only the words. How they played together or how they set themselves apart for emphasis. How I feel more wholly me when I am feeding myself with them. How I communicate best and most clearly when my mouth is closed and my fingers are busy. How pouring my heart into words helps me understand my own heart better.

Then yesterday I ran across the 100-day project.  And of course, a sucker for projects, plans and things with numbers, I had to find out more. I hunted out websites and podcasts and Instagram accounts.  I stopped and considered and told my fear, “shut up for just ten minutes. PLEASE.”  I remembered the sweetness of just having a conversation with a piece of paper (or a computer screen), when it really is ok if I am the only person who comes to the conversation.  Even alone, I can be good company.

I didn’t hate the idea. In fact, I was kind of inspired by it.

There is so much about this world I can’t fix: elections and wars and refugees and sarin gas and economic depression and employment issues and my dogs refusing to get along and whether or not people like me. All these things are far out of my control, beyond my reach.  But I can carve out thirty minutes a day for 100 days and just have a conversation about life and fear and having a voice and deconstruction and reconstruction. What I’m reading, how I’m feeling, why I can’t stop eating triscuits and tuna fish.  Even if no one comes to the party but me, I’m an introvert and I kind of like it like that anyway.

What am I going to do here in the middle of hating everything? I’m writing my way out. I’m going to remember who I am when I am fully me. Whatever comes to mind, day by day. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, without bells or whistles or pins.

Just me and words, and an empty chair or two at the table in case you come along to.

I don’t hate that idea at all.