ponderings

Zeno’s Draft

I have this crazy thing about making routines. Apparently something in the back of my head thinks that there’s no point in making a routine unless it is perfect. Unless I have all the things in that I want to incorporate, take into consideration ALL possible issues, schedules, etc, that I can’t put any sort of routine into effect.

I have now declared phooey on that.

For years I’ve longed for a morning and evening routine. I read how someone or other does this or that in their morning routine, and think “I really need to do that. What a lovely start to the day.”

I read articles about insomnia (huge, on-going issue for me) and one of the constant recommendations is to have an evening routine, some way to cue your body and mind that once again we’re going to try that sleep thing.

I get stuck in the same loop: “Things are always so different from day to day!” “What if I don’t get down all the things I’d like to do?” Or, once I list every last thing I think should be part of the routine, different worries emerge “There’s no way I have the time to do all of that in the morning!”  “So, I’m supposed to start getting ready for bed how many hours before it’s actually bedtime?”

 Therefore, nothing happens.

Which is sad, and frustrating, and brings me right back to longing for routines, and thinking I’ll never get them.

This month I’m going to try a new experiment. Zeno’s Routines. I’m declaring from the outset that they will not be perfect. That I will miss some items I’d like to incorporate. That I will not have the time to do all the things I think I should.

 I will do imperfect, flawed morning and evening routines. And that’s ok.

I may not have a special tea cup and saucer for my morning writing, I may not work in an hour of yoga or meditation, but I’ll be doing something. Every morning, every evening, doing imperfect routines.

And once a week I’ll see what changes I can make to make them a little bit better, a little easier, bring in a little more ease and comfort.

But just like Zeno’s Paradox, where the runner can never overtake the tortoise, I’ll still be making progress, and I’ll still be moving in the right direction at least.

 What would you do if you let yourself do it all wrong, and decided the doing itself was enough?

Surprises

How exactly did it get to be nearly December?  Surely another year hasn’t flown by?

I hate to admit it, but I’m almost always surprised by the change of the year.

One of my favorite rituals as the year closes is to review: the good, the bad, the ugly.  What made this year different? What did I learn?  What would I do differently?

And probably the most important question: How am I different now than I was at the beginning of the year?

This year I threw myself headfirst into a project. One I believe in, one I think is important and would make a difference to people. I’ve come to realize it may not happen – not now, possibly not ever.

I’m ok with that.

Which surprises me, really. Usually I fight for something until the bitter end. But this time, this project… this isn’t the time for it. Or maybe not the place.

And that’s alright. It’s still a good project and whether or not it ever comes to fruition, it has nothing to do with the value of the project or my intrinsic worth.

That’s also a bit of a surprise. I’ve spent years measuring my self by the success of my projects. That’s been a big part of my identity.  And somehow without really thinking about it, that’s shifted.

I like this change.

I like how it’s crept into my heart without my conscious awareness. There have been plenty of other changes I’ve been very mindful about, but this is a rather wonderful bonus.

And I wonder what other shifts have occurred while I wasn’t trying.

What changes have you discovered in yourself this year? And did they happen on their own, or was it a conscious shift?

 

 

Fortune Fridays: Curiosity is Life

Sometimes the fortunes I draw are more than a little odd and take a fair share of pondering to discover how those cryptic words apply to life. But other times, the truth shines pretty brightly off that little slip of paper.

This is one of those times. When we stop being curious about the world around us and the world within us, some part of us has died – or at least gone dormant.

Curiosity and learning are essential for healthy brains. They are also fabulous qualities for the health of our hearts and souls. Best of all, encouraging a sense of curiosity gives us an unlooked for gift: to live life with the heart of an explorer, of the child who never stopped asking “why?”

There’s so much to be wonder about and learn. The physical world surrounding us is filled with challenges to our curiosity concerning the workings of the multitude of things that make up our lives, from computers to chemistry to the mechanics of cell phone towers.

The people we’re surrounded by every day are continually fascinating. What makes them tick, why is that person laughing, or a co-worker scowling? What makes us people? How do we store memories, and what are dreams? What makes different people react in their different ways to the same stimuli?

And we can be endlessly curious about ourselves. Why does something make us feel a certain way? How do we want to be feeling? What sorts of actions do we take when people around us provide one set of stimuli, and what actions when we’re presented with a different set? Are these the actions we would choose to take, looking back at the situation? Can we change what those patterns are within ourselves?

That sense of curiosity, of exploration, about ourselves gives us the gift of detachment. They allow us a momentary separation between our actions and our true selves.

We can be scientists in the laboratory of our own making, of our own minds, running experiments and changing the variables until we find results that contribute to happiness.

If the cookie is right, and “Curiosity is Life,” what are you curious about?

 

Deserving Rest

I’ve got an admission to make. While I’m not much for knickknacks, there is something I love to collect:

The slips of paper from fortune cookies.

Not because they remind me about any particular meal, and not that many of them make much sense, and I’m certainly not going to learn a new language from the “lessons” on the back, but there’s something fabulous about finding one at the bottom of my purse or fallen inside a folder – they become little secret messages from the Universe.

Sometimes I remember to tuck them into a little box to draw from later when I might need a little mystery to ponder, but most of the time finding the fortune is much more random.

This morning I pulled all the miscellaneous papers from my bag to sort through my notes from the week, update my planner, and make sure I’m not forgetting any flashes of brilliance (or more likely, items for the shopping list).

And there was a bit of serendipity waiting for me at the bottom.

“Go take a rest; you deserve it.”

I think we’ve all noticed a common thread from the last post – None of us are getting enough sleep, enough rest.

And I wonder how tied that is to the idea of deserving. Sure, part of the reason we don’t get to bed on time is that we’re staying up late finishing books, or watching movies, or chatting online – having fun.

But how often are we finishing projects, thinking about just one more thing we need to get done off of our lists?

What if we deserved rest, not by earning it, not by doing all the things and then some…but just by default?

And how would that change how we take care of ourselves?

Self-care, Feral Cats and Reframing Success

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on radical self-care.  I’m tired. Way too tired. Maybe part of it is that I’m still getting over this whatever-it-is that’s been going around, but the trust is I’m not getting as much sleep as I thought and not always doing the things that bring my heart happiness.

I’ve been strict about tracking my time, and came to the not-so-stunning conclusion that while I may think I’m getting to bed at a reasonable time, there’s nearly an hour between “I should go to bed now” and when I actually hit the pillow.

I’m not wasting that time – there’s letting the dogs out one last time, and checking over the house for the night and all those little things. But that hour makes a difference when I’m figuring how much sleep I’m actually getting.

Tracking my time this last week also brought something else to clarity: I’ve been working so much on a project that I believed would let me have more time to write…. that I wasn’t actually getting any fiction written.

Just a little bit embarrassed there, as I’ve already learned that if I’m not writing, I’m not happy.

Getting back into morning and/or evening data dumping is reminding me of more things I already know. Of how much progress I’m making, and what little things annoy and sap my strength. Jane of Ardis had a lovely post recently on three things to give yourself each day, and I think that ritual is going to be part of my regular practice.

Of course, having a three-day feral cat spay and neuter clinic last weekend threw my best intentions into the wind. I did notice one thing – this time went much more smoothly. I took the time immediately after the clinic to run through and figure out all the spots that needed a little more help – volunteers to provide lunches, so that I didn’t have to stop during the day, or more folks for laundry. We still had a few hitches, but we were all considerably less stressed by the end of the weekend.

An update: Last week I talked about expectation loops and how reframing the issue can make a difference.  And what a difference! Identifying qualities and end results opened up an entirely new avenue to explore. While one path was completely blocked, this new direction is wide open, and the new project (in its new form) is well on the way!
In the last week, what have you been able to reframe, to turn upside down, and find new solutions and paths?

Breaking Out From Expectation Loops

Yesterday was hard. Super hard.

There’s a project I’ve been working on, that I’ve been trying to get support for over a year now. And while some progress has been made, and a number of people think it’s a good idea that it needs to be implemented, I can’t seem to get enough backing to actually move forward.

I’ve been stuck in a loop:

If we had funding, we could get started.
Once we’re started, I could get more funding.

But getting it actually past that first hurdle has felt increasingly impossible.

Late in the afternoon I had a conversation with someone who wants the project to proceed, but told me some hard truths that I really didn’t want to hear.

By the time I got home, I was pretty much just in pacing and ranting mode.

Which was a good thing, because my sweetheart is a good listener, and good at asking questions, too.

And he turned the whole problem upside down, and in doing so, may have found a way to solve the issue.

What my particular project is doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that my expectations on how the project should proceed, on what the next steps HAD to be, had locked me into a loop.

By side stepping, by examining what it was that I really wanted from the situation and looking at other ways to get those things, we were able to find another path to get there.

Are there loops that your expectations have gotten you stuck in? How did you break free?

Note:  The Time Tracking Kit is ready for beta testing! Let me know in the comments if you’d like a review copy!

Tracking the Elusive Time Beast

There’s got to be more hours in the day, right? And somehow I’m just not finding them?

As I mentioned last week, I came home with my head stuffed full of new plans and projects. I’m really excited about getting things in motion – not only do I think these projects will be exciting to work on, I think the results will be useful and fun for other people. Bonus!

Unfortunately, my schedule is already pretty packed. In the past my solution has been to cut down on fun, sleep, and most self-care activities. But these days that doesn’t work so well. Actually, I’m not sure it ever did.

 It’s time for more sensible measures.

Step one is seeing where my time is actually going. It’s sort of a pain, but nothing beats actually logging data instead of just guessing. Now I’m discovering where the funny little pockets of space are. Finding places where I’m spending WAY more time than I thought on a project that I don’t actually care about, but didn’t think it was worth the bother of detangling from.

It’s becoming a fun game – examining the difference between what I say is important to me versus what I’m actually spending time on.

I’m definitely not a proponent of “Get all the things done, right now, today! Sleep is for wimps!” I’ll admit to doing that in the past, but it’s time for a change.

Now it’s much more along the lines of gently sorting through what I have on my plate and seeing what could be cleared off to make room for the fun – and maybe a few extra naps.

 Clearing space on the calendar and in my mind

An important reminder from this past week: use my calendar to create spaciousness. Give myself flexibility to throw it all to the wind and have confidence that enough things have been done ahead of time that I can turn off the worrying part of my brain.

Last weekend one of my best friends got married. We also run a web design business together.  For most of last week, quite understandably, he was out of the office. Plus we closed for a long weekend. And over the weekend I didn’t want to look at email at all.

Normally, I’d have been worried. I do that when I’m away from emails for too long – what if something goes wrong? What if I’ve forgotten something?

But I made sure that I’d cleared the decks, not just through the weekend, but through the middle of this week, just on the assumption that it might take us a while to get caught back up.

Not just stuff with the business with my friend, but everything else that normally I take care of. Rather like clearing the decks for a mini-vacation.

Which turned out to be a fabulous thing. The house and the weekend were full of old friends I haven’t seen in far too long and knowing that everything had been tidied up beforehand let me focus on my time with them.

 Best present to myself ever.

 One last thing!

I’m putting together a workbook on time tracking and ways to use that information to get in more of what you want in your life (without giving up sleep, promise!).  If you’d be interested in being a beta tester for the kit, let me know in the comments below and I’ll send you a preliminary version when it’s ready!

Sustainable Systems and Baby Steps

I’ve spent the last week or so getting my brain scrambled and putting the pieces back together into something fun and interesting.

Yes, this is a good thing. And even on purpose.

Last week I attended Rally! with Havi Brooks and a group of amazing folks. I’d been planning for it to be primarily a week of working on the new novel that’s poking around the inside of my head.

I did that. I sorted out all the random plot points that I wasn’t sure about the order of, and realized that I had not just a novel, but a series. Which is all kinds of nifty.

I planned on getting a lot of writing done. When I’m really going, focused, and don’t have to juggle other things, I can do about three thousand words a day. I was counting on being able to do at least that much during the workshop – because writing was all I was planning on doing, right?

Apparently my brain had other ideas.

Sneaky Brain

One of my goals for this year was to develop systems and routines that would better support my desire for creative living. At least, that’s what I wrote down in January, and every so often through the year I’ve looked at that sheet.

But I haven’t really made a lot of progress with that plan. Until last week.

When something in me rose up and rebelled at the idea of writing all those words at once, especially when I haven’t written any new fiction in a year or so.  It’s just not sustainable.

I can’t write that much every day in the real world. So why would I start that way?

I started thinking about the smallest steps I can take. How few words can I write and make it easy, something I can do every day, no matter how crazy things get, but still enough to keep the flow of the story going?

This is not at all how I usually do things. Usually I want things to be all or nothing. Complete focus and intensity.

And I think that’s my answer to the puzzle of systems and routines. To think about the things that I want to do, and figure out the least possible thing that would keep those projects active, and still a part of my regular life.

So that’s the new experiment. One tiny baby step at a time.

Being Your Own Research Subject for Fun and Profit

I don’t write every morning, but usually I vary between some version of morning pages, Hello, Day, or just plain old data dumping, scribbling down anything that’s taking up space in my head.

It’s always fun – or at least illuminating – to look over my notes to myself from a few months ago.

Reviewing my old notes gives me perspective – not just on the past, but in what’s going on with my current life and options for handling the challenges of the future.

Things I learn about include:

  • How many things I was worried just a little bit ago about that just aren’t issues any more.
  • How many problems seemed unsolvable, and then the perfect little thing came up to fix everything.
  • That I tend to worry about some things in cycles, no matter what.
  •  How my focus shifts from one thing to another – and how a project that was all consuming just a few months ago is nothing but a faint memory now.

More than anything, my notes remind me not to worry too much, how fast life changes, and how many of my dreams become reality. Not bad concepts to have a regular refresher on.

If you look at your life as an experiment, what sort of notes are you taking? And what could your notes tell you?

Returning Home

It’s funny, those things you know, and the things you should know, and how you can end up learning the same thing over and over and over again.

I love to write. I know this.

I love to write fiction. I love to tell stories.

And still, I get tangled up, caught up, distracted by the hustle and bustle and worry about money and jobs and whatever other things fill my head.

Not that money and jobs and all aren’t important. I’m pretty darn convinced of the importance of paying the mortgage on time, and making sure that I’ve always got enough laundry done to be presentable.

But stories fill my soul.

If I forget that, if I don’t make the time, clear out whatever commitments and obligations that spring up like a thicket around a magical castle, I’m lost.

Something will happen where I have to learn all over again. Where I don’t have a choice. When I finally take time to rebalance, to get my feet under me, and to spend some time trying to understand why I feel so miserable, so stressed.

Then it hits me again.

This time it hit hard. I’ve been particularly stressed, wound into a project that is important, really it is. But finally I’ve remembered.

I write stories.

Because I write stories, I know about people.

I solve puzzles and have insight into people’s minds because I am a writer and a teller and reader of stories.

Solving puzzles. Looking at things in new ways.  Finding the least likely path. These are all skills from writing and reading and telling stories.

But I am never as happy as when I am writing.

Never.

Nothing makes me happier than world building and plotting.

I need to remember that above all else, underneath all else, I am a story teller. A maker of worlds with words.

My basic, underlying need is to write.

Stories make my blood and my bones and the air in my lungs.

So, what now?

I’ve started writing again. Building new worlds, dreaming a past and a future. And I couldn’t be happier.

 

 

 

We talk about a lot of things here…

Being gentle with ourselves, and the importance of small adjustments towards alignment.

Experiments in happiness and what does adventure mean, anyway?

What can happen when you say "Yes" and what might be waiting outside your front door.

And of course, why pretending to be a pterodactyl is good business.

 

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