Posted in about me, ebb & flow, hope, mindset, socializing

Reflections on my year of COVID

It’s been almost a year since my household stopped doing normal life. The last time we went to the climbing gym was March 14. I’m sure we ate out that night.

Some things have been hard. There are people who I would see casually, not necessarily people I’d set up a Zoom with, who I haven’t seen in a long time. I haven’t climbed. We haven’t had a game night. We had a trip to London and a trip to several national parks cancelled.

Teaching in pandemic was a mess, less because of the virus itself and more because of the inability of people upstream (school district, state, feds) to be thoughtful, to give lead time (when possible, which was all the time except the very beginning, perhaps), to think longer-term and not just about rightthisminute. Deciding to quit teaching in pandemic was ultimately a good choice but was extremely stressful.

People who didn’t take full precautions—who continued to have lunch dates and parties and so on—were maddening and continue to be so. The whole situation could have been so much easier, got better faster, if everyone in the group worked on the project.

Such is the way with group projects. Such is the problem with teaching people that they need to do right only so they don’t get in trouble instead of teaching people to do right because it’s the right thing to do. Or because there’s a bigger picture.

All that said … for me, it hasn’t been terrible. I’ve stayed in touch with people close and made some new friends. I’ve been in better touch with a couple of people, because schedules thinned out. I’ve maintained an exercise schedule (though it’s not been as good as it was a year ago because there are fewer options).

What I confirmed about myself is that I’m really content to be at home.

The Climbing Daddy has been itching to travel and has gone camping twice this week—once by himself and once with The Kid. (Staying home while they went camping, having the house to myself, was glorious!)

I enjoy traveling, am grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had, am glad that The Climbing Daddy is a traveler because I wouldn’t initiate it most of the time … and I don’t lament not traveling. The trips we had to cancel—one in April and one in June—would have been a lot of fun. And once I moved past the initial disappointment of canceling plans, it was fine.

I wrote a book. I took a lot of pictures and got better at it, and started to learn editing. I played some piano badly and got better at it. (It’s still not good.) I did a ton of things with Finnegan. I baked a little. Moved furniture around a lot. Saw the ducklings at the canal grow up. Added two dogs to the family.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to lose anyone close to me—regardless of the cause—to be healthy myself, and to be economically secure. I recognize that this is not true for everyone—not true for so many people—but also true for the majority of people in my circles.

When COVID-19 is under control and we can safely co-mingle again, it will be lovely. I’m looking forward to having people over, and to meeting girlfriends for coffee dates, and to not worrying about masks. I just hope that we don’t just hustle back to what we had before. We’ve had this opportunity to learn and grow and reset some things that needed resetting. On a large scale, we’ve done miserably. On smaller scales, I still have hope.

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.)