Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: habits

Distracted and Uninspired?

This is one of those mornings when I’m running behind, feeling distracted and uninspired, and usually decide to move on before I write anything. I’ll grab a cookie and another cup of coffee and read more, or go for a walk, take a shower, and do some housework. “I’ll write later.” I say to myself, but never do.

But not this time.

Today, I’ll share a couple of things even though, right at this moment, they don’t seem all that awesome.

First off, I’m 358 pages into Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, 12 hours of reading, and I’m lost again. Just when I feel like I have my feet on the ground, Trotsky goes off on a tangent (or the revolution does) and I have no idea what’s going on. Maybe that was the problem. They didn’t either. Tzarists, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Social Democrats, Soviets, proletarians, bourgeoisie, committees, the list goes on and on. I have no idea what group aligns with who, who is leading what, or what direction they want to go. It’s a big giant mess. Revolutions usually are.

Can you imagine living through this? I can’t. I realized today as I’m reading that all of this is going on right in the middle of World War II. Jeepers.

It also doesn’t help much that words used by Trotsky in 1932 don’t have the same meaning as they do today. Words like liberal, conservative, soviet, and socialist have all evolved. Here’s one I found fascinating this morning:

“Chauvinism, of course, must serve as their political bond with the soldiers.”

distracted

How would holding the door open for them or paying the dinner bill help? Wait…that’s chivalry. Clearly, as Inigo says in The Princess Bride, I do not think that word means what you think it means. I had to look it up.

Chauvinism:

  1. Militant devotion to and glorification of one’s country; fanatical patriotism.
  2. Prejudiced belief in the superiority of one’s own gender, group, or kind.
  3. The sentiments of a chauvin; enthusiastic, unreflecting devotion to any cause; especially, absurdly exaggerated patriotism or military enthusiasm.

I did not know that! At the link, you’ll find the etymology of the word. You learn something new every day!

The other little thing I wanted to share with you was a quote I read in The Sun magazine while I ate my breakfast this morning:

“Abbot Mark once said to Abbot Arsenius: It is good, is it not, to have nothing in your cell that just gives you pleasure? For example, once I knew a brother who had a little wildflower that came up in his cell, and he pulled it out by the roots. Well, said Abbot Arsenius, that is all right. But each man should act according to his own spiritual way. And if one were not able to get along without the flower, he should plant it again.” From Reading from the Desert Fathers at the Laundromat by Robbie Gamble

How’s that grab ya? Let’s all “act according to our own spiritual way” and leave others to theirs.

PS LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Sun Magazine. I get an actual printed magazine in my mailbox every month…you read that right. I look forward to getting it and I read every single page. Best money ever spent!

Distracted? Yes, but never uninspired if I sit and focus for a moment.

That Time of Year Has Come!

It’s that time of year again. When we all come together and compare note about what we read last year! Right?!

Anyone?

Beuller?

Well, I know I do. I get a nice cup of coffee, gather my notebooks and logs, a pen and paper, and then sit for hours looking over what I read and compare my stats to previous years. It’s an annual New Year’s Day tradition!

This year though, I was a little depressed at first. I read fewer books this past year, spent fewer hours reading, and read fewer pages! I could have sworn those numbers would be higher. I mean, I knew it would be fewer books, but I thought the average daily time and pages read would be higher. I read some long and some complicated books this year.

But here it is in black and white. Tabled out for the world to see. No way to deny it.

that time of year

My husband rescued me. He’s the king of pointing out things that I have missed. What would I do without him!

“Didn’t you make a plan to write more in 2021? I seem to remember you saying something about creating a practice of writing for one hour every day, even if you didn’t post it.”

The light brightens… “Oh, yeah!”

I did make that pact with myself, and because I only have so many hours in a day just like everyone else, my reading had to slow down to accommodate for the time spent at the keyboard.

Hold the phone for a moment…I achieved a goal! Yay, me! Damn I’m good.

This year I read sixty-two books, and out of those sixty-two books I wrote about fifty-nine of them. The year before I only wrote about nine of the seventy-one books I read. And the results of that are showing in my blog growth.

Nice, right? This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel great. I mean, I spend a lot of time complaining that I’m wasting time here. If you lived here, you’d hear the following sentences loudly lamented on a weekly basis.

“All I do is read books and half of them I don’t even remember!”

“No one reads any of this. What’s the point?!”

“I can’t achieve anything. I don’t even know how to set a goal and follow up.”

“Who drank all the whiskey?!”

But all this time, it’s been there working in the background. Writing about the books I’m reading helps me remember more of what I read. No one read my blog because I wasn’t writing. And I did set goals and follow up on them, it’s just that I had created such a good routine for myself that I didn’t even notice it adding up.

PS It’s me. I’m the one that drank all the whiskey. 😉

A quick nod to habits and routines. They really do work. Even the smallest addition to a routine can get you somewhere. What can we accomplish one step at a time? Anything!

What did I read this year? As usual, more non-fiction than fiction. Here’s the genre breakdown:

DNF: Did Not Finish

Over the last couple of days, I’ve considered what my goals for ’22 should be. (See what I did there? I refuse to keep writing out the year like a sci-fi movie.) What skills would I like to build? What do I want to achieve? I’m still not sure I’m a goals-oriented kind of girl. I’ll just list them out as I think of them so you can get an idea of who I am and where I’m going (and so I have something to look back at in January of ’23.

  1. Less hope. Less attachment. I’m working on letting go and loving what is right now, right here. Putting daily mediation back in my morning routine will help.
  2. Keep writing and post every day, even if it’s not a work of art. My morning routine will include writing earlier so that I get my most important tasks done first.
  3. Read more of what I have. I took a picture of the three shelves (I know. I said I keep it to one.) of TBRs, but it’s just too embarrassing.

Oh, who am I kidding? Look at this mess!

I’m not going to promise I won’t buy more, but I really need to focus and read what I have here. There is a lot of great stuff! I want to read these, but…there are so many awesome books out there.

Now, I’m reminded of the dad in About Time. The first thing I noticed was all the books he had piled everywhere, and I thought, “How does he have time to read all those?!” and my envy eyes were flashed.

With a better routine, and less distraction by social media, I believe I’ll get my hours back AND write every day. I can reward myself by having a little time in the afternoon for a cup of tea and a few more pages of a novel.

And here is the big one, so stand back a little.

  • In ’22 I will…gulp…send something out to be published. I subscribe to several magazines, and I found one that accepts submissions from readers. That’s where I will start. It feels safe enough. You’ll hear all about that when I do it. It will be soon.

Ok. That’s enough jibber jabber for one day! This is going to be another great year, and hopefully I’ll notice it as it happens instead of having to wait and discover it after the fact.

Routines and Habits

This will be my last post on this wonderful little book! Re-reading this has reminded me that, while I do still have some great routines and habits built into my day, I’d forgotten why I need them and had lost my motivation to keep building on them. I’m happy I finally got around to reading it again. It feels like I read it just in time, like maybe it was waiting for just the right moment.

“But if we create a routine that enshrines the essentials, we will begin to execute them on autopilot. Instead of consciously pursuing the essential, it will happen without our having to think about it.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This is similar to the concept that The FlyLady uses to get all the housework done. I found her website over fifteen years ago and it changed my life. Seriously. Housework can be overwhelming for anyone, add in three kids, two dogs, and a personality like a squirrel on crack, and you’ve got a situation that might end up with someone calling CPS because that house…wow…children should not be subjected to that. She helps you set up routines, easy ones, that get the essentials out of the way so that you can focus elsewhere and enjoy life instead of slave away.

Coming into this book with those skills under my belt, made it easy for me to see where I could be applying essentialism everywhere else. Morning, afternoon, and evening routines are easy to create and stick to when I’m only focused on what I can actually do to make life better, instead of wildly going from one thing to the next and then losing my mind when a curve ball comes screaming in over the plate.

My list of essentials is short. I’m often accused of shirking when people ask me to take on new responsibilities, but only I know how much energy and time I have to spend. If it doesn’t fall under one of my essentials, and it feels outside my sphere of influence, I let it go. If it doesn’t get done, I suppose it didn’t need to be done.

I cannot and will not feel guilty that I’ve created a world for myself that doesn’t make me look like a busy bee all day every day. Yes, I have a lot of time. I have read, I write, I cook from scratch, because I made my life that way so that I can.

Now…if I can only make my mind work that way as well. That is what brings me to the next book I’m reading, The Path of the Human Being by Dennis Genpo Merzel.

Go back to my first post, “Essentialism by Greg McKeown” to read more quotes from the book.

Morning Meditation – A Break

I wasn’t going to write this morning, but the day started so unexpectedly beautiful that I had to use it all as a morning meditation and share it with you. No pictures. That would have ruined the mood.

This is the one day a week that I have to be up and out the door by a certain time. It’s my “day out,” visiting with friends and shopping for household goods I can’t find in my own small town. Let me rephrase that; I CAN find them, I just don’t want to. It adds value to my life to spend time “down the hill” in the city visiting friends, and why not shop at a few nicer stores while I’m there!

I don’t usually write this day. I have little time, and something has to give. But today something was different.

I woke up to a strange feeling. Cool.

It’s the middle of August, that time of year when I have just about had my fill of excessive heat warnings, blazing hot afternoons, and swamp cooler fans running on high all night long. And then the wind started to blow yesterday afternoon and it was 77 degrees at 8pm. I opened the windows and turned off the fans smiling. Would that break actually come like the weather report suggested?

When I awoke, there was a chill. I looked at the thermometer, 57 degrees. I took a deep breath and put on my favorite sweatshirt to sit and read, sip my coffee and watch the sunrise.

I thought to myself, “Screw the morning routine. I need to relish this.” But after an hour of reading “East of the Mountains” (which I haven’t blogged about yet, sorry), my habit mind insisted that it was workout time and I heeded its call. Thirty minutes of cardio. Twenty minutes of silent meditation. A bit of breakfast: oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts. And…

Water the yard before the sun gets too hot.

Nope! Not today! No need. I sat down to spend twenty minutes in my new book “No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners.” I found a new mantra there. “Every day is a good day.”

My son walked in from the trailer looking for coffee. He’s back at home for a few months, but that’s another story. I put my book away and went out to water the trees while he made his breakfast.

But my morning meditation continued.

In the yard that joyous feeling swelled up inside me. The sun had been up for an hour, a cool breeze was still blowing softly, the sky was that brilliant clear desert blue, and the sun was warm and friendly on my back.

The California Thrashers were signaling their territory…loudly. The quail were scratching about and chattering in the bushes. The hummingbirds, as usual, were there to get a taste of the water I was putting on my lilac bushes. It made me want to get out in the yard, get my trail cam back out and start recording my bird visitors again.

I came back in the house to my son watching some tv show in German while he ate. That’s why his German is so good. He watches German language shows with the subtitles on in German. Long term homeschool win, again.

And my morning meditation continued.

As I’m writing this, I hear more cars on the paved road half a mile away, hammers from the beautiful new house they’re building at the end of the street. My dog is at my feet wondering why we’re typing in my office and not on the couch today. My cat keeps walking over my desk to inspect the house plants that I moved onto it yesterday so they had more space to grow. These are some happy plants.

And now I just thought of a picture I do want to share with you!

morning meditation

This was a beautiful break. I didn’t get to read as much as usual, but I got to write to you. It turns out you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Making Time for the Little Things You Want to Accomplish

You know that thing that you wish you could make time in your day for? What if you did? What would it be? What if making time for it was a decision you could consciously make?

Making time to read every morning.
My Morning (photo by author)

Learn to meditate, read that book, start a journal, finish that craft. There are loads of things we tell ourselves that we would love to do them if we only had the time. But really…how much time we need to start?

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? If you’re like me, you stumble into the kitchen for coffee and hope there is some still left! I used to plop myself down on the couch and turn on the tv to vegetate awhile. It was a habit I created when I was younger. I was tired and grumpy and needed an hour or so to sip my coffee, watch the news mindlessly, and give myself some time to wake up. I needed that time and felt violated if anyone interrupted my morning routine.

And then I had kids and my morning routine was shot to hell. I couldn’t get up before the kids, they usually woke me up at the crack of dawn. The morning routine became about them, taking care of their needs. It was fun most days.

As they got older and we considered homeschooling, I began to be aware that I needed time for myself, time to read, reflect, and relax a bit. I ended up creating an evening routine for that, reading to my kids before bed, and then sitting in their room reading and journaling while they went to sleep. It wasn’t always relaxing but it worked well most nights.

Once they were “school age” and began sleeping past the earliest rays of sunlight, I started being able to get up before the chaos and when I did, I returned right back to my old way of coffee and tv news, with the added time-suck of social media. Habits do not die easily! My morning hour turned into two, while I listened to the news and scrolled through Facebook chatting with friends.

I’m not sure how it came to my attention or why I suddenly thought of it, but I do remember I was growing frustrated with how little time I had to read. My evening routine was great, but I was tired and could only read for about half an hour before I became sleepy and went to bed. The boys didn’t need me to sit there until they went to sleep anymore. I needed to find more time in my day, when I was more alert, if I were going to get any serious reading done.

That’s when it dawned on me…first thing in the morning. I’m conscious enough to scroll through my social media feeds and read articles while I drink my coffee. Why not use that time to read my book? So that’s what I did. I promised myself that I’d get my coffee, sit on the couch, and read for fifteen minutes before I did anything else.

Fifteen minutes after a week or so, turned into thirty and that year I finished 15 books. Over the years, I’ve increased my reading time little by little. In the past I was never able to focus on books for more than a few minutes at a time, but it turns out that it just takes practice to increase that focus. I still only read for an hour at a time, an hour and a half if the book is fun and exciting, thirty minutes if it’s complicated. Then I need to get up and move around, change positions, or change books every hour or so, but I’m up to three hours of reading a day now. And most of that is early in the morning, before I do anything else. I have a new habit. I reach for my book and my coffee now, automatically. This past year I read 64 books.

So, what if you could do that thing you wanted to make more time for? What if you had it ready and waiting for you in the morning, like the coffee maker prefilled and put on a timer? All you’d have to do was pour your cup, pick up your thing, and head to the couch to start. Write your first thoughts before any new input. Listen to that podcast or audiobook while you craft. Read that book for fifteen minutes. Meditate on the steam from your coffee. Whatever it is, make time for it first thing in the day and the rest of the day will already be won because you already did something awesome.

Join Me in my Adventure to Wallow in Some Self Pity!

I think treating self pity as just another emotion to jump in and swim around in a while is a practice of good self care. Come on! It’ll be fun. Really!

Self pity medicine. Otter Pops for grown ups: Cosmopolitan Vodka Martini
These usually cheer me up on a warm afternoon!

“I had every intention of writing this morning, I swear, but here I am again with nothing to say. That’s a lie. I do have things to say, plenty of them. I’m just not sure how or, more importantly, why I should say them.”

Me this morning

Yeah, I’m pretty far out in the deep end these days. I just can’t seem to get a grip on it. I’m going to stick with the swimming pool analogy for a moment.

Emotions are like swimming pools. I have several and some of them have very deep ends, so deep you can have a good, high diving board. My pools have nice steps to get out at the shallow end, and some have ladders to climb out at the deep end. Some. There’s the trouble.

Some of those deeper pools are hard to get out of. You have to want to and have the strength to get out on your own or have a friend available to lend a hand. At the moment, I have none of those things, so I’ve decided to float a bit instead of struggle to tread water. I’m conserving my energy until I find a solution.

Besides, I kinda like here right now.

Yes, I’m well aware that everyone’s world has changed. I know everyone struggles. I’m not alone in anything here. But this story isn’t about everyone. It’s about this girl, so come swim with me!

Things I’m considering:

  1. Daily routines…boring…what can I do?
  2. Writing. Should I quit? No. Writing things like this helps me think. It’s word therapy.
  3. Blogging. What to do here? Posting every day is a lot. Maybe I should adjust that. Or maybe give up blogging all together?

Something that I’m pondering on:

A friend of mine just told me (this morning, no kidding), “No one is going to come knocking on your door and ask you to be friends.” I told him that I’d rather just stay locked in my house and yard.

That’s me in a nutshell. “Help! I’m in a nutshell! How did I get in here?!”

I’m just not sure where to go from here, so for now, I float and rest.

Going back to the post Why DO I write here anyway? was a good idea. This feeling of self pity is a recurring cycle of self-doubt. I’ll be back again…and in great numbers!

Developing New Habits: Using Prompts as a Writing Session Warm Up

I love developing new habits, especially good ones that make me feel like I’m getting somewhere. I have found that I’m a naturally habitual person, so if I can make one little change in my routine stick for a few weeks, I have a very hard time letting it go. I have to be careful though, I can easily make myself crazy with habits. Ok, crazier!

This new habit is writing related! Yay!

I’ve been wanting to write more fiction, but I find it difficult to get started, and then more difficult to stick with a story longer than a day or two. My current writing practice is to use quotes from the books I read as writing prompts, write for thirty minutes, edit the thirty minutes I did the day previous, and then post them. It reflects my attention span, for sure.

A couple of times last year, I was able to get my brain to move in one direction for nearly a week and was very happy with the stories I was able to cobble together. I want more of that! Come on brain! Work with me!

I went looking for prompts and found Reedsy! I haven’t submitted any stories yet, since today was my first day of this new habit, but I’m totally going to. This might be just the sort of spontaneous publicity this girl needs!

As a teaser…I know you’re going to love this…this is what I came up with this morning.

On my side, long pillow tucked under my arm and a knee up, fetal position. Feather blanket and heavy quilt in disarray, one foot partially out from underneath. The perfect temperature.

The cat, perched up on my shoulder, purring away.

I lay there, still, awake but not moving. It’s dark, very dark.

What was I dreaming about? Something disturbing. That recurring one where I’m trying to explain something, and no one understands. No, they aren’t listening, and I get louder and more insistent until I’m screaming insults and epithets in a desperate attempt to get their attention. Blank stares, as if I’m not there at all and then suddenly, comprehension, and anguish in every face. They’re destroyed by my words, pushing away from me in pain. I wake from this dream often, several times a month, not with a start or tears, just quiet and helpless resignation, a deep and still sadness, wishing I could take my words back, wanting the ability to be quiet.

I lay there another minute. I’m warm. I’m safe. It was just a dream.

Then that feeling comes as I lay there waking up…I should get up. I have things to do. Places to be. I can’t be late. What time is it? I carefully crane my neck to see the red numerals of my clock at the foot of my bed. Without my glasses, my sleepy eyes can’t quite make out what it reads. The cat complains of my movement. I’m disturbing his sleeping place. I lay my head back down.

That’s all I have time for this morning. I have a breakfast date with a hot babe! But I’m looking forward to working on this and adding more. Will I actually submit something? I hope so!

I have written some stories in the past. I keep them collected on my Short Stories Page. If you like any of them, please share!

The Clutter Isn’t Helping The Situation

20190731_103229.jpg

I told myself to make time for writing every morning and here I am, writing words. While I’m never short on words, today’s question is, “Should I share them?” The charge of “write 1000 words every day” does not imply that I post them for the world to see, right? Sure, take the time to put words on the page. Make space in my day for reflection and the organizing of thoughts. Spill my guts into a Word document for safe keeping, but must I drag you all along for the sometimes torturous ride?

Why the hell not? I mean…you clicked and you didn’t have to!

I’ve been spending some time taking some classes on Skillshare this week and it’s already been worth the $15 a month. Sunday afternoon I listened to Matt Bellassai talk about going viral for an hour. While I’m not all that interested in gathering clicks and writing “20 reasons you don’t suck” articles, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about what makes things sharable on social media. Besides, his helpful hints and legitimate advice were so entertaining. He comes off as thoughtful, intelligent (most comedians are pretty damn deep), and certainly seems like someone I’d like to spend time with. It was an hour well spent!

Yesterday I listened to Roxane Gay talk about crafting personal essays. I only had time for half of her presentation yesterday, but she already has me thinking. I get frustrated with my writing and this blog. Just like the rest of my life, I’m not sure where I fit in, where I’m going, or if I’m wasting my time and energy. And that is why I keep writing, to find the answers! My writing is another reflection of the real me, the one a little deeper down than the one you see on the street, the one you go have lunch with, or even the one you live with. These are the inner thoughts, the questions, and the attitudes I take when I’m alone. Sometimes these are things I want to say but can’t for whatever reason.

And it’s not even ALL I want to say. Many times I have mean, nasty, or snarky things to say. There are things that pop up in my head while I scroll through Facebook or drive into town; reactionary things that are probably best left unsaid. For the love of all things holy, I have a file on my phone called “Things I WANT To Say On Facebook But Don’t.” I frequently copy the offending post to that file and tap out my wanna-be comment and close it. It’s cathartic in that I release that negative energy without looking like an ass on social media.

I don’t always feel like a very nice person and I’m lucky that my personal filter catches things before they come blaring out on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always function well, or maybe it gets full and things spill over the edges from time to time. Maybe I need to clean that filter a little more often. That’s when you see an uncharacteristic personal judgment post on my wall. Those posts tend to get deleted before too long. But sometimes…oh man…I so want to just say exactly what I’m thinking. Or better yet, just type the word “FUCK!” and leave the internet forever without another word or explanation. I imagine what would happen…probably nothing. My parents would probably text me and the rest of the world would keep on keeping on. I imagine my own self-importance. We all do. More likely, I’d go back several times that same day to see if anyone made any inane comments. That is the depth of my addiction to online validation.

It’s just a passing mood though, and moods can be tricky. They build up into huge waves, crash onto the shore, and slide away to build momentum again. I haven’t mastered the magic of controlling nature. I haven’t become a sorceress that reigns in the moon. I’ve merely learned to be a better surfer. And just because I’m getting good at it, doesn’t mean I don’t let the board slip out from under me and go tumbling beneath the waves. At 46 years old, I have finally learned to notice when I’m being thrashed, and to at least try to control my panic and wait until the waves pass before I search for the surface.

Over the past few years I’ve learned a few tricks to stay calm in the face of the negativity wave; find the breath, make some emotional space, and wait. One thing that doesn’t work for me is seeking the positive. Being content in my negative mood seems to help me most, sinking down into it like a warm blanket of mean nasty thoughts comforts me and helps it pass over more quickly, like not thrashing against the wave as it passes. To do that most efficiently, I need to be alone both in person and online as much as possible. I feel no need to drag everyone along with me. I used to, trust me.

In the past, I’ve reached out to other life surfers, more like frantically grabbed them in my struggle to stay afloat, and all it does is multiply the negativity and create a feedback loop. I feel like I’m starting to sink into a negative mood, and in a panic reach out to someone. Precariously balanced on their own board, they panic trying to pull me up. I feel terrible that I’ve upset someone else, spiral deeper, and it takes longer and more energy to swim back up with every person I pull down with me. Better to go it alone, and know there are still people at the surface waiting for me.

Since I work from home and don’t have many outside responsibilities, these days it’s easy to withdraw. I have only my husband, my nearly grown sons, and a few close family members to retreat from, all of which have learned to notice my behavior and give me space. They wait quietly by, my husband giving me a few extra loves as he moves through the day.

But online life, social media, is still a struggle for me. It’s become a habit to pick up my phone and scroll through my feeds when I’m bored. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I find myself taking a quick look only to find more posts to add to that file on my phone and when I’m being “thrashed in the rinse cycle,” it’s much more likely that I’ll make that comment for real instead of keeping it private in my file.

I’ll put this out in the universe. Someone please develop an app that poses questions to determine your mood before you open any social media app. Depending on your answers it can either put a delay on all your posts and comments or stop you from reading at all until your mood improves. You’d make millions on this one. I have a feeling I’m not the only one that needs it!

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