Posted in about me, audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, motivation, parenting

I’m tired of being busy

Variables confound.

As a kid, I was interested in a lot of things. In the six years of junior high and high school, I did band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band, flute choir, show choir, flute lessons, art lessons, basketball, softball, school plays, school musicals, German club, student council, creative writing. Not all of them every year, for sure, but that was all in there. Probably others I’ve forgotten in the intervening decades.

In high school, I maxed out my electives, including getting permission from the teachers to take two at the same time one year (just keeping up with work in each for the days I was in the other).

I’ve always looked for approval, and all of these feed that. Is that why I was doing All The Things? Or was I really just interested in a lot of stuff?

Hard tellin’.

Still, I’m interested in a lot of stuff. It took me years to be able to put things on the “to do later” list instead of trying to do as much as possible all at once.

I don’t have a lot in common with people who spend a ton of time watching TV or who retire and don’t know what to do with themselves.

I got better. I became pleasantly occupied—not so much as to be overwhelmed, not so little as to be bored.

It’s been a while since I’ve been pleasantly occupied.

Having a kid plays into that, for sure. But even without the kid, if I work, exercise, and cook dinner every day, there’s not that much time left. Weekends, I suppose.

In addition, though, I’m writing, and I’m learning photography. I play ukulele but not as often as I’d like.

And the list gets longer.

I would like to spend time every day meditating and reading and stretching and foam rolling. I’d like to spend time regularly (though not necessarily daily) in visual art: drawing, calligraphy, even just coloring. I’d like to spend time daily book-learning Spanish, in addition to the practice I get here and there.

It just doesn’t all fit in a day or a week.

I’m in the process of making a routine for us during the week. Make sure his homework gets done. Make sure he has time to play. Make sure we all eat well. Make sure there’s time to exercise. And to do something from the list of “things that make me feel like more than a worker bee/home life secretary.”

It still feels like a lot. Just the main stuff. I think, though, it’s because other stuff is weighing in. Housecleaning. Projects around the house. Stuff that comes up that isn’t part of the planning—because there’s always stuff. Maybe I should block out time for “stuff that comes up.”

It’s overwhelming.

Somewhere in there, I want to find time to spend with friends, and sometimes I can make the time … but do my free time and theirs match?

In that way, having kids makes it a bit easier, because we get together, the kids play, the parents (usually but not always moms) talk.

If those times line up. And if the friends I want to get together with have kids. Who he likes to play with.

So I’m still trying to figure it out, how to have life that doesn’t always feel frantic.

One way? We need to get rid of at least a quarter of the stuff in the house. Probably more, but a quarter would be a good start.

That would reduce the time spent on Stuff Maintenance: organizing, cleaning, etc. And along with that, if we could work on acquiring less, we’d spend less time shopping, we’d spend less money shopping, we’d waste fewer resources and produce less trash.

Of course, cleaning out a quarter of the house takes time. “Clean out [something]” has been on the to-do list maybe forever. Some of it has gotten done. Some of it needs to be done again. Some of it hasn’t gotten done yet.

Some of the cleaning out has technical blocks. For example, I haven’t looked into how to get my old cassettes, if they still work, into some better format, whether CD or mpwhatevernumber. Then I could get rid of the bin of cassettes. One more thing gone. But that’s nowhere near the top of the priority list … which is why now, years later, it’s still not done.

I’m getting better about “what if I need it?” and giving away things I’m realistically not going to need. Things that are used occasionally are generally well-organized so I don’t go out and buy another of a working thing I already have.

I’m getting better about getting rid of things that I don’t really want but have some sentimental value.

Both of those, I have ample room to improve but I’m not nearly at the level of packrat that I used to be.

It’s easier to resist buying something than to get rid of it after it’s bought.

I am a wanter of stuff in waves. Right now, I have a list of fairly random wants. Other times, I’m content with what’s here already.

Most of that list? I’m not going to buy.

Then I get stuck in: would my life be better (by whatever metric) if I did buy All The Things (and use them), or am I just fine without? I mean, I feel fine, but every now and then I acquire a thing and it just makes my life better.

For example, I have a friend who has always given me great earrings. I never ask for jewelry because my tastes are a little quirky (I know, hard to imagine), but she is amazing in that way.

I have another friend who has often given me great kitchen tools—sometimes things I didn’t even know would be useful that I now use often.

So that’s what I mean. These things make my life better, but I would have gone on just fine without them. Are they now part of the problem? I don’t think so, but I’m really not good at making that distinction at the point of sale, so most of the time, I err on the side of not buying.

Wow! I’m a long way from where I started. (Tangent city indeed!)

I need to purge my stuff and I need to purge my schedule, both to the end goal of having time for what I want to have time for … at least sometimes.

Anyone here not overwhelmed by their schedule? How do you do it?

Posted in audience participation, differences, hope, know better do better, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Generational differences

So many people discrediting each other based on their age. “You are [young/old] so you don’t know anything” attitude.

Take age out of it. Is the person informed? Experienced in this? Depending on who/what the conversation is about, are they articulate? Do they look at things from multiple vantage points?

People at any age can have a legitimate point. Life isn’t as simple as the media (or your crotchety neighbor/coworker, or your kid) makes it out to be, and the good ol’ days weren’t necessarily better. (Nor were they necessarily worse—depends on who you are and where you’re from.)

Everyone has experiences we can learn from, and I want to hear your tales and your advice… and maybe some of it will resonate and maybe none of it will and it will have been an interesting conversation and that’s all.

In spite of having aged, you might actually know less than someone younger and you might want to also listen and consider their advice. Age is not greater than knowledge. There are 15-year-olds who know more than I do. And they might know more than you, too, depending on what you’re talking about.

Making this a little bit broader…

In several classes and trainings I’ve been to in the last handful of years, I’ve had to take a questionnaire titled, “Can you survive in a different social class?” Someone put it on Survey Monkey; you can see it here. (I don’t know who gets the answers—I share it just so you can look at the questions.)

Unless your experience has been broader than most, there’s plenty you could learn just about societal basics of classes that aren’t yours. Or you could learn about what it’s like to be the opposite sex. Or a different sexual orientation. Or a different race. Or religion. Or mental health status. This list could go on and on because we have such a wide variety of ways we pigeonhole people.

So. Listen and think. Be thoughtful—don’t take something in or reject it without processing it first. There’s so much to learn.

Posted in about me, audience participation, differences, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Birthdays, and the wide variety of reactions to them

It’s my birthday today!

Except that mostly, it doesn’t matter. Work, chores, appointments, etc. all happen regardless. Which is fine (and reasonable).

The number changing doesn’t make me feel any different. I know quite a few people on both sides of that fence—some who don’t care about the number turning over and some who react pretty severely.

Where are you on that spectrum? What’s your thinking behind it? I’m curious if people with the same result as me have the same process. And if my guesses are truth for people who are different than I am.

I like to celebrate my birthday, but for reasons unrelated to my age. (More about that on another day.) Again, I know people all over the spectrum on that, from “I don’t like/need/want to acknowledge my birthday at all” to “I like to celebrate all month!”

Where are you on that spectrum? What’s your thinking behind it? I’m sure these answers will be all over the map, and I’m very interested to know where those points are.

For people who celebrate both birthdays and Christmas, Christmas is usually a bigger deal (for a lot of reasons that make some sense) but I would rather do more presents, bigger celebration, etc. for birthday. It’s a day to celebrate the person, that they were born, that they’re part of our lives. Reason to celebrate indeed!

I’m a little sad that I didn’t start any great birthday traditions with The Kid before he got old enough for them to be unpalatable. We’ll see what I can come up with, maybe starting now (his birthday is soon) and going forward. Hopefully something that The Climbing Daddy would like, too, and that they would put in place for me.

Any suggestions?

I’m in a conversational kind of mood today. Leave a comment and answer one or more of those questions. Especially the first two.

Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Our part in creating sustainability

I hate planned obsolescence.

I hate cheap shit.

I hate the “everything disposable” mindset.

I hate WalMart and the Dollar Store.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to pay tons of money for everything, necessarily, but we need to find a way back to well-made things that can be kept for a long time, repaired, upgraded, etc.

It’s better to pay more for a thing up front that you can keep for a long time than to pay half as much that you’re going to need four of in the same time frame.

(And in the case of handheld technology, it’s neither cheap nor long-lasting.)

In order to do this, we need to

1- Buy less stuff. Especially with average incomes as they are and cost of living expenses continuously on the rise, buying higher-quality but more expensive stuff isn’t going to work at the same volume.

2- Be OK with stuff not being the newest. This example pops into mind. When I was a kid, we had an Atari. It was awesome. And then Nintendo came out, and we wanted one of those. We didn’t get one, because we already had a gaming system. So sometimes friends came over and we played Atari, and sometimes we went to their house and played Nintendo.

3- Share. People seem to do this more out of economic necessity, but there are lots of things that we don’t all need to own our own. We bought a giant umbrella thinger when The Kid was doing track last year. A friend’s daughter was doing swim over the summer. Instead of buying an umbrella, they borrowed ours. It worked perfectly. Unless we needed it at the same time, there’s no reason for us both to own one. Less money outgoing. Less storage space. Less trash later. True for many occasional-use things.

Can we stop going to the Dollar Store and buying lots of junk because we can and it’s cheap? Can we stop buying clothes that we’ll only wear for one season? (Kids excepted, because they grow…)

It’s a big shift. But it will help us mentally (less stuff = less stress about stuff—spoken from a place of privilege), it will help us economically, it will help us environmentally. It will help built community (for sharing, and for playing each other’s games). And maybe it’ll bring work back here from overseas.

You in?

Posted in audience participation, connections, know better do better, mindset, motivation, podcasts

Old dogs, new tricks, and endless possibilities

Schools in this area have an evacuation site. If, for whatever reason the whole school needed to be evacuated, where would we all go?

At my first job in Arizona, the steak house was mentioned.

New to the local area and vegetarian, I couldn’t think of any steak houses nearby … and also thought that was an odd place for a fairly large elementary school to evacuate to. We’re definitely bigger than their maximum capacity.

Turns out, it’s a Mormon thing. (Based on my Wikipedia research before writing this, she was incorrect to call it a stake house, but perhaps the locals differ from Wikipedia in their vernacular.)

The area has a large Mormon population. Nowhere I’d lived up to that point had much if any Mormon population, so these words/buildings/customs were unfamiliar to me.

My brain making connections the way it does, when I thought of this story, it reminded me that on Freakonomics Radio a few months ago, they were talking about trying new things:

…basically if you are not listening to a certain style of music by the time you’re 28 or so, 95 percent chance you’re never going to. By age 35, if you’re not eating sushi, 95 percent chance you never will. In other words, these windows of openness to novelty close.

Honestly … I think we can do better. Clearly, we need to be nudged … or pushed … or dragged against our will sometimes, but we can do it!

35? 28?! That’s less than half of a life trying all sorts of things and more than half a life with the same old same old. No wonder so many old people are cranky.

Seriously. If we’re open to new things, our lives will be richer, our brains will be healthier, and we have a much better chance at forward progress (in our personal lives, in our communities, in our country, in the world).

In the last 10 to 15 years, I’ve tried a lot of new foods and tons of old foods in new combinations. I’ve learned a lot of new stuff. Tried new activities. Befriended new people.

That said, I’m quite happy much of the time to eat the same stuff, read the same stuff, talk to the same people, and so on. Really, I could just stay home a lot of the time and be perfectly content.

How do I get into new stuff?

Well … every now and then, it’s something that I’ve been interested in for a while but never made time for (because you can’t do it all at once) — like photography.

Even more rarely, it’s something that creeps into my life in such a way that I don’t even remember how it got there, and then it grows and I feed it and it grows and I feed it… — like triathlon (currently defunct) and healthy living stuff.

Most of the time? Someone else introduces me to it. Most of the music I listen to; all “ethnic” food that isn’t Italian, Polish, or American Chinese; running; rock climbing; camping; a trove of details about dinosaurs, Saturn V, and Minecraft. These are all things that I would not have come into on my own — someone else introduced me to them.

And my life is richer for it.

Though I would be OK without Minecraft.

If you know my eating habits, you know some of my favorite restaurants are Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Mediterranean. I never ate any of these before I moved to Arizona. (Thank you to the people who introduced me to these amazing cuisines!)

What have you done or eaten or listened to or read or watched lately that was new? (And what do you love that you can share with me that might be new to me?)