Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering

AZ anniversary

Some time in the last week was my 16-year anniversary of arriving in Arizona.

(I could look at a calendar and figure out which day exactly, but it’s not that important. Early August is good enough.)

I came out here to go to grad school. To go somewhere hot and far away. To try to start over.

My boyfriend at the time drove out with me and stayed a week or so, and then I was here on my own. It was scary and exciting and has been exactly what I hoped for and not at all what I hoped for.

So much has happened in the time that I’ve been here. While it’s not up to half of my life yet, it is the majority of my adult life, even if you count college as “adult.” (Which I don’t, because of how my experience went. If you’re not supporting yourself on money you earned, you’ve not yet graduated to adult. In my opinion.)

Some of the things I wanted to be far away from stayed far away. (Hooray!) Some of them were part of me and are here. (That was a rough lesson.)

It’s just a reflection point. A moment to stop, think about where I’ve been, see where I want to go, and continue on.

I tend to do this more at this time and around my cancer-versary than at New Years, since these moments have significance in a real way, whereas January 1 is A Thing but not My Thing.

Here’s to the 17th year being better than the rest! (Why not?!)

Posted in ebb & flow, mindset, thoughtfulness

The ease of living with less

We started with The Kid because it was easier.

His toys are all in his bedroom except for his LEGOs, which are in “the LEGO Room”—a space in the living room specifically for LEGO.

He was having trouble keeping his toys put away. LEGO were mostly in the LEGO Room but not entirely, and rarely either a total mess or all put away.

I suggested—and he agreed—that together, we would go through all of the toys in his room and pack up a bunch in a box. Not getting rid of the box, but paring down to fewer things so that they all fit easily on his shelves.

Some of the things moved on. Some got packed into the box. Each was his decision.

It’s easier to put everything away when everything has a place. And when the place is more specific than “on a shelf where there’s room.”

The box is on the top shelf in his closet. Everything else is much easier for him to manage now.

And then, the LEGO Room.

He has so many LEGOs. Many of them were already in boxes. He has a 5-cubby IKEA cabinet on its side where he keeps things he’s built. He has a train table with a LEGO top to play on, but in real life, it’s where he keeps things he’s built. The drawer under was full of loose pieces. (They used to be sorted in drawers, but he hated sorting to put away, so we did away with that and now they’re all together.)

All of the loose pieces got boxed. He went through the things he’s built (most of them just creative builds, not from kits) and decided which he was ready to take apart.* I disassembled them and put the pieces in two small boxes. Those are now the pieces he has available to play with.

He’s perfectly happy with that.

Of course, The Climbing Daddy and I have the same problem. We just have more stuff to go through.

We rearranged our bedroom and in the process, cleaned out clothes. Could we have done more? Yes. But two trash bags full of clothes and shoes was a good start. We went from 14 drawers down to 8. Got rid of a dresser.

We rearranged the office and are in the midst of purging as things are getting put away again. (I have the hardest time purging from the office. I admit that some things end up going to work and getting stored there … but rarely do I bring them back home…)

We had a dumpster in the driveway for a couple of days (roof replacement) and took advantage. Big junk in the yard and garage is gone.

As clutter gets cleaned out, it inspires more cleaning out. The tidier the house is, the better it feels.

With less stuff, there’s less clutter. There’s less to clean. There’s less to put away. There’s less to step on. There’s less to argue about. There are fewer organizing things to buy. It’s just … simpler.

(The act of going from more to less is anything but simple. Brains are funny.)

I am a reforming pack rat. I used to keep everything. My space was not often tidy, but I knew where everything was.

I still have too much, but it’s much better than it used to be and continues to get better. I feel better mentally and emotionally with less clutter and with things organized.

I would have told you before that cluttered space was how I thrived. Hard telling if I’ve changed or if I was simply wrong, but I definitely feel better in more minimalist space. Not totally empty, blank space, but definitely with less.

Rarely do I look for something that I don’t have any more. Occasionally, I’ll look and then think, “Oh, that must not have made the last cut.” And on we go. I don’t think I’ve re-bought anything that I used to own and purged, though maybe there were one or two things that I don’t recall.

One or two out of thousands. It’s worth it.


*Sometimes, we can just take a picture of a build to be able to “save” it, and then it’s OK to take apart. Works for purging other things, too. For kids and grownups alike.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mental health

A 20-year-old reaction returns

Twenty years ago, I graduated from The College of New Jersey with the education required to become a music teacher.

I’ve become really good at teaching. But at music? Mediocre at best.

Historically, I’ve been a fast learner without much grit. It took a lot of life before anything crossed my path that I was motivated to do better than I needed. Things were typically done well, but nothing was exceptional or in more depth than necessary.

As a result, I always played my instruments enough to be able to play what I needed for school, and sometimes songs for fun, but never songs harder than what was offered. (My parents’ refusal to pay for music lessons—because I had a music teacher at school and why would they pay for another one?—compounded this when I finally had a bit of interest.)

When I got to college, I wasn’t very good. And I didn’t think I could catch up. (Changing to trombone changed that mindset substantially, but that’s another story.)

I was extremely self-conscious about my skill level. I hated practicing. (The practice rooms were not sound-proof and I didn’t like that people could hear me). Ensemble practices were stressful.

Most of the hours and hours every day that I spent in the music building were at least twinged—if not completely fraught—with anxiety.

Decades have passed. I’ve had some musical milestones that I was proud of. I’ve spent a lot of time practicing. And, most recently, I’ve stopped playing in ensembles. Nowadays, most of the time, music is fun again.

Over the summer, we were on campus to meet a friend for lunch.

We walked into the music building, and the old familiar anxiety crept in.

It was so odd and so familiar and I thought it funny that after all this time, when I walked in with no expectations (and definitely not to play), it was still there.

Makes me wonder what else I have this reaction to…and how, after I find it, I can get rid of it.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, motivation

Writing, blogging, thinking, planning

August 1 marked nine months of a post here every day. I made it through the holidays, through the end of the school year, through 2.5 weeks out of town, and now through the beginning of the school year. I feel pretty good about that!

There are posts I’ve written that I think are pretty excellent and other posts that I just hope are not anyone’s first introduction to my writing.

(But… which posts I love and which posts you love, based on your likes and comments, often don’t match. So there’s that.)

Within my goal of spending more time writing, I’m writing quite a bit of blog and not very much book. But I want to finish the book. I really want to finish the book.

On the other hand, I feel proud of having maintained this blog daily.

So this is what I’ve decided. I’m going to continue with a post every day through Halloween. That’ll complete the year. (I started on November 1, 2018.)

I’m going to drop to three posts per week and spend the other days writing my book.

Because time is finite, and energy is finite, and most days, I can’t spend my best mental energy on writing because I have to get up and go to work. The point of that is just that I’m already working on reduced brain power almost all the time when I write, and I can’t siphon more time out of the even-less-brain-power time that’s left. It won’t be anything worth reading, and it will be tedious to write. Lose-lose.

So I’ll keep the same time I have and use it differently. When the book is done, perhaps I’ll come back to my daily blog habit. Too far out to make that call now.

And if you’re enjoying my writing and will be sad to have installments less often, it’s just practice in delayed gratification, because at some point, there will be a whole book!