Posted in about me, hope, mindset, storytelling

The beginning … and just the next day

8:30 a.m., January 1

I woke up around my usual time, the result of the relentless internal alarm clock. I used to sleep in whenever the alarm clock was blissfully unemployed, but years of waking at the same time seem to have taken their toll, and despite going to sleep after midnight, I was awake by six.

(The Kid has never been an early riser—can’t blame it on him.)

Sitting on the couch, my legs under The Kid’s new burrito blanket (literally a blanket that looks like a tortilla), one of the dogs asleep next to me on the couch. The other dog, The Climbing Daddy, and The Kid still asleep.

I’m both envious of their sleep and grateful for time to myself in a quiet house.

Most calendar milestones have never held a lot of sway for me. Birthdays are fun but the age is irrelevant (except 17, when I could get my drivers license).

Birthday, cancer-related milestones, and the beginning of the new year all offer me an excuse to be reflective (though there are certainly prompts many days that offer the same opportunity). The time around January 1 offers me a socially-acceptable time to talk about it.

Resolutions? Nah. When I want to make a change, I either start right away, or I wait until I’m ready, but the date has nothing to do with readiness.

All that said, this year is different than most. I resigned my teaching position due to COVID concerns, so on Monday, I don’t have a job to go to.

But I do have a book to edit.

Perhaps, at least for the beginning of 2021, I am a writer.

That feels weird. Not bad, just … different. Unexpected? A plot twist, if you will. It was set up beautifully, and I’m curious to see where it goes, where I go.

I know that before the end of 2021, I will have a completed book. Will I have another started? I have a lot to write about, but is any of the rest of it book material? Questions I have but don’t yet need to answer—I have enough to work on for the moment.

For 2021, I’ll also be continuing to improve my photography game. There’s a lot kicking around in my head about that as well, but it’s more muddled than the writing bits (which is good—one focus at a time). Regardless, I’ll continue to bring you along on the journey with my posts on Sundays.

I have goals for the state of the house, for relationships, for my inner state, for my habits. Those are ongoing—not new to today—and are always somewhat in a state of flux.

Except for clearing out the clutter. That is always the same, and no matter how much clutter I clear, there’s still more. I know, it means I’m not clearing out enough. Also, we have too much incoming. I’d like to think that if we hadn’t chosen to buy a relatively small house, we wouldn’t have this problem because we’d have room for all the stuff, but I know lack of space isn’t the problem—I just want it to be the problem.

Once ever in my life, or maybe ever in my adult life, I had everything put away.

Once! I met George Carlin once. I climbed a 100-foot rock face once. I moved across the country once. I gave birth once. And I put all my stuff away once.

When I moved into the condo where I lived prior to this house, I unpacked and got everything put away. Everything. Not a single little pile of “miscellaneous,” nor a box of it stuffed in a closet.

It felt so good.

I’ve gotten married more times than I’ve had every last thing in its place.

It’s hard. And with two other not-neat-freak people in the house, it’s harder.

Perhaps this will be the year of a place for everything and everything in its place. To make that happen, I need a plan. To make that viable, everyone needs to be on board with the plan. I foresee a family meeting.

Growing up, I hated family meetings. But they were only called when we were in trouble, or when we were consulted for something that generally kids shouldn’t be consulted for. The most noteworthy—my mom called a family meeting when I was in high school to ask us (my siblings and I) if my parents should get divorced.

So … there’s a little baggage that goes along with family meetings.

Back to clutter. If the house burned down, what would I replace? What is irreplaceable and worth keeping? Why can’t I just get rid of the rest? Every now and then, I get in a good frame of mind to purge and can go from five pair of scissors to two. (There’s always one pair just for cutting tape, because they end up sticky and I don’t want to deal with getting the stick off.) Most of the time, though, I can rationalize having five pairs of scissors.

The scissors, you understand, are just a placeholder in the story. It could be pens, glasses, crafting supplies, notebooks, shirts, socks without toes, winter pajamas, and on and on.

The household is waking. My quiet time is over. To that end, 2021 starts the same way 2020 ended—it’s just the next day.

Posted in hope, know better do better, mindset, motivation, podcasts, tips

Yes! I’ll do that! … Later…

Procrastination has showed up in several podcasts in the last few weeks.

The content has conflicted in some ways, but I took some bits from them and plan to use them. (Always: take what you can use and leave the rest.) These things are so obvious and fall into place so easily that I can’t believe I didn’t sleuth them out already. Maybe you have?

The biggest takeaway I had was that procrastination is avoiding a feeling, not a task. Completely resonates.

So I don’t actually put off phone calls because I don’t like phone calls—I’m avoiding feeling intrusive or frustrated or stupid (for a variety of reasons), depending on the call.

And I’m not avoiding writing the book because I don’t like writing (which I already knew!)—I’m avoiding putting it out there when it’s done.

And on and on.

Sometimes, I’m exceptionally productive when avoiding a specific task. The best way to get a daily to-do list done is to put one thing on it that I really don’t want to do. Everything else magically gets done…

One of the episodes talked about the lack of immediate gratification, and that would be true on long-term tasks—or maybe quick tasks with long-term payoff—but it doesn’t fly with “I need to make a phone call.”

They also talked about making yourself accountable to other people, but I have witnessed countless times (and so have you, I’m sure) that often, that doesn’t work. You disappear from view of your accountability partner. Or you tell them you decided not to pursue the thing any more. You eat the money you paid for your accountability group. Or use some other means of escaping the accountability.

Brené Brown’s work ties into this. Shaming yourself for something you have shame about in the first place doesn’t help the problem and does not inspire change or productivity. (Don’t shame yourself. Don’t shame your kids. Don’t shame your spouse. Don’t shame your colleagues. Don’t shame anyone. It. Doesn’t. Work.)

So.

For long-term projects where fear of failure or rejection—often manifesting as perfectionism—are the roadblocks, there’s a plan. Let me recount what they suggested in the specific example in the podcast, and you can take it and adapt it.

The procrastinator was not making the (very short) videos she needed to make for an app she was looking to create. (The app already existed; it just needed content.) By asking her when during the day she would ideally work on this, she was assigned a daily 45-minute block just for making the videos. The first 15 minutes was planning. After that, she would record that day’s video until either time ran out or she had one she was happy with. If time ran out, she would just choose the one she liked best of what she had created and move on.

This creates space to work on it each day, but more than that, it removed much of the paralysis by perfectionism. Just make videos. It doesn’t matter yet if they’re good. Just make them. They’ll get better as you go.

Just write. Just draw. Just practice. Just record. Refine later. For now, just do it.

Of course, not everyone’s schedule allows space to be created so neatly. But most of us can find time on a regular-ish basis to work on a long-term project. (If we have a long-term project we want to do.)

How to make the phone calls?

Create a system where some highly desirable thing happens only when the dreaded thing happens. Perhaps a guilty pleasure type of thing. All of the examples that I’ve read/heard of this use watching movies or TV as the positive—”I can only watch these shows when I’m at the gym;” “I can only watch these movies when I do these unpleasant but long-term necessary health-related tasks”—but I’m sure that if that’s not your bag (like me), you can find something else.

As a general rule, I don’t like food/drink to be reward, but if it’s an infrequent or short-term enough thing, then it might be okay. It’s just … easy to set the stage to create or exacerbate other problems.

Links to the podcasts:

Work Life with Adam Grant

How To with Charles Duhigg (This is the current episode as of when I’m writing. “Procrastination” is in the title if you’re looking for it at a later time)

Armchair Expert

Braincast (This was my least favorite of the four I’ve linked—it’s the only episode I’ve listened to from this guy, and I’m not inclined to make room for more.)

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 audience participation, connections, differences, hope, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Workplace wellness

Today’s post is full of broad sweeping statements. Of course they are not true for every individual in every category. But I’m not going to make a disclaimer in every paragraph because it’s unwieldy to read.

Many companies are introducing (or have already introduced) wellness incentive plans regarding various biomarkers of their employees (with questionable legality).

But stress is seemingly worse for your health than any of the markers they’re measuring.

How many employers are actively seeking to reduce their employees’ stress levels?

None? Benefit of the doubt and say a few?

This embodies so many facets of America.

1. We’re unhealthy. We eat badly; we move insufficiently; we’re overweight and underslept; we lack meaningful community; we view vulnerability—necessary for connection—as a weakness; we prioritize work over play, over rest, over family; in addition to all of the -isms that culturally define us.

2. We don’t believe in health care as a right. Which, on a tangent, is mostly sick care. (For more details on that, see point #1.) Only people who work the right jobs for the right people for the right number of hours get to have health insurance. And even then, many of those people still have to pay for it. Sometimes a lot. And pay even more for their families to be covered. Which doesn’t even cover all of what’s potentially needed.

3. Companies are not interested in their people. They are interested in money. So they do whatever they can to siphon more money to the top people. (Because, despite current mindset, companies are not actually in themselves people. They’re just run by people. So we could more accurately say that the people at the top of companies are disinterested in everyone else in the company, so long as they continue to live large.)

Whether that’s hiring fewer salaried employees and expecting them to work more (sometimes way more) than 40 hours per week, or hiring more hourly employees part time so they don’t have to pay for benefits, or paying as little as possible, or countless other possibilities, the money needs to pour up.

It’s a giant mindset problem. A cultural problem. A mental health problem. A shaming problem. A physical health problem. An economic problem.

I don’t know how to fix it.

But I do know that I can contact people in charge of stuff (whether it’s government officials or company leaders), and I can vote. (Are you registered? If not, open another browser window and go do it now! People taking it all for themselves depend on your apathy to maintain or advance their position.)

And I can do my best to be the change I want to see, live my life out loud, and hope others join me. (And they do. They always do.)

Be the change. Be self-aware, even (especially) when it sucks. Be open. Be vulnerable. But be fierce.

(Except on the days that you just need to lay on the couch. Then just lay.)

Posted in differences, hope, know better do better, mindset

Breaking barriers

I get an email every weekday morning from “the universe.” Some of them say just the right thing on just the right day. Some … meh.

Today’s tied in to a post that I had a skeleton for already and decided to use the inspiration to fill it in.

“Performing miracles, Heat, isn’t a matter of doing the impossible, it’s a matter of redefining the possible.”

Running a mile in four minutes is an easy example. It was impossible, but once it was done, it was replicated hundreds of times. It’s not easy (and man, that’s fast!), but over 1400 men have done it so far. They just needed permission.

Another that comes to mind for me is climbing the Dawn Wall. In the last year, I saw the movie by the same name (on Netflix—watch it!) and read Tommy Caldwell’s book (The Push) about it. It’s a 3000-foot rock face in Yosemite, a place renowned for climbing. This particular bit of rock had never been free climbed and was considered unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed it in 19 days (after years of working on it). Not long after, it was climbed in eight days. It went from unclimbable to climbed to climbed in less than half the time in under a year.

Of course, this has application all over life, not just in elite athletics.

Women, people of color, queers are breaking barriers all over the place, which on one hand, is excellent! It’s about time!

On the other hand, it’s not cool or neat or fun that there are so many firsts for women, people of color, non-Christians, queer people. Because it’s 20 freaking 19.

But it does ask the question: what are we “not able” to do just because it hasn’t been done yet?