My Snooze Button Habit

Baby tiny steps
Baby tiny steps

I think I’ve mentioned here that I am not one for mornings.  I can wake up when I need to, but my preferred morning routine is to stay in bed and lounge as long as possible.  I love a slow start.

Recent suggestions for starting a writing habit include lots of advice about the merits of getting up early and writing first thing. To me, that seems ridiculously hard.  TWO new habits at once? Waking up AND writing?  Ridiculous!  I am trying to break this down into at least three parts.  Tiny baby steps.

First Step:  Wake up on time.

Here is how the morning wake up usually goes:  First alarm goes off 20 minutes before I need to get up.  I hit snooze and it goes off again right before my second alarm. Second alarm goes off 10 minutes before I MUST to get up.  I hit snooze on this and when all hell breaks loose on both alarm snoozes ringing, I know my time is up.  Nuts right?  Twenty full minutes of alarm/snooze button hell!

My first step:  Cut it down to one alarm that rings ten minutes before I have to get up and going for the  day. Immediately I put my feet on the floor, hit snooze, and do 10 minutes of stretching. When snooze goes off, I know I have to stop stretching and get dressed. I give myself a sticker on a pretty wall calendar I’ve hung by my bed when I do this.  (Putting some of my daughters’ excess Frozen stickers and behavior chart techniques to good use). So far it has been 15 days in a row. Seeing that line of stickers makes me not what to miss a day. Childish? Perhaps, but I am a whiny child about waking up early, so that is how I’m treating myself.

Maybe if I get to a month of waking up on time, I’ll try to wake up ten minutes earlier as my second step.  No need to rush this thing.  This first step has been tiny, but rewarding. Ultimately, I’d like to wake up 30 minutes early with 10 minutes of stretching and 20 minutes of writing. But like I said, tiny baby steps.

Time to flip the calendar to June.


 

Getting in the Groove. Habits.

Play dates, thank you notes, sunshine, and shade
Play dates, thank you notes, sunshine, and shade.  (First ever Instagram photo.  So much to learn!)

So the truth of the matter is that I am a creature of habit.  I think most of us are.  It’s like the groove on a record that the needle follows.  (If you are too young to have sat for hours watching a vinyl record go round and round during your teenage years of angst, go google it and see what I mean.)  Once those grooves get laid, it takes a bump or a a scratch to make the needle jump its course.  Why would anyone in their right mind want to be hit off course, or scratched and scarred to change the course of ones life?

Well.  So many reasons actually.  A concrete example…

I am really trying to bump that needle out of its groove when it comes to my fair skinned family’s path towards skin cancer. My grandmother had many skin cancers removed, and had the scars to prove it.  My mother, who life-guarded in her youth covered in baby oil, gets bits of her skin cut off every six months or so.  And now I visit her same dermatologist to get checked and have a few of my own scars. (My mother guiltily recounts stories of me having sunburns so badly when I was young that the blisters covered my shoulders, nose, and back.)

My girls? …I slather on sunscreen and hope that after three generations of women (that I know of), we have learned.  Knowing what I SHOULD do is not enough.  I regularly fail. No epic blisters yet, but still, the slightest bit of pink on their skin makes me feel the mother’s shame of failure.  (Mothers’ shaming themselves over child rearing imperfections is another groove that we all need to scratch. Or maybe we can lift the needle and skip over that song all together.)

This failure to change behavior makes me wonder.  Does it take generations to change some habits? Are habits a bit like culture or genetics, sometimes it takes many lifetimes to shift even one groove, delete one gene, erase one hurtful practice? Or can we shake it up in the course of our own life? What will it take for me to change my habits?

Maybe a little self-love is in order.  When I start to shame myself for whatever new habit I am failing at, I need to rethink the groove.  Maybe my new habit of writing for this blog needs to be re-visioned as my thank you note to the universe. Generations of women in my family have written thank you notes.  That is a one groove I know well.

You say you want a revolution?

Yes.

My revolution:

  • A return to meaningful human connections
  • between diverse individuals
  • engaging in communal work and play,
  • from boring, typical, and traditional
  • to the quirky, weird, and innovative.
  • to promote a caring community.

How?

  1. Refuse to accept complacency. apathy. shame.
  2. Connect through social media.
  3. Invite others to join.
  4. Meet face-to-face.
  5. Take tangible actions together.
  6. Find our spark.
  7. Celebrate our triumphs.
  8. Repeat.

    Revolution

    By The Beatles

    You say you want a revolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world
    You tell me that it’s evolution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change the world
    But when you talk about destruction
    Don’t you know that you can count me out
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    All right, all right

    You say you got a real solution
    Well, you know
    We’d all love to see the plan
    You ask me for a contribution
    Well, you know
    We’re doing what we can
    But when you want money
    For people with minds that hate
    All I can tell is brother you have to wait
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    All right, all right…

    (Now if only I could get Larry to stop squealing in my ear…Don’t you know it’s gonna be…all right…all right …all right…)

What difference do you want to make?

I want to make a difference in the lives of people living in Orange by filling a need I see in the town of Orange for facilitating hopeful, energetic community engagement.

I feel I have a lot to offer as a community engagement facilitator.  (I just made that title up!)

Through online resources and social media, I would connect people to the numerous, already available, local opportunities and help create partnerships and awareness between the local groups that are already working to make Orange County a better place.

I would also create and facilitate small, focused, out-of-the-box activities for community engagement drawing on my passion for the innovative, the energy of our youth, the creativity of our arts community, the passion of our faith based groups, the experience of our business community, and the wisdom of our elders.

I believe that helping people feel connected and engaged with their community makes a difference in their lives.


 

 

 

The dreaded: “So, What do you do?”

Yes, we all know this question.  It is asked over and over at any adult gathering where grown men and women are expected to mingle.

  • Why do we ask it?
  • Why do we dread it?
  • Does it really help us connect with each other on a real level?
  • Does it act as a shield to hide the fact that so many of us are leading lives disconnected from our true passions?
  • Is it because it reduces, labels, and categorizes our whole being to the sort of cog we are in the wheel of a capitalist society?

(Yikes.  Where did that sentence come from!?  But you know exactly what I mean.)

What if instead we asked:

  • So, what do you like to do?
  • So, what do you do for fun?
  • So, what would you do with your life if you had it to do over?
  • So, what do you do that makes your heart sing?

Different, yes?

How about we all agree to not fall victim to the dreaded, “So, what do you do?”

How about we all get a little vulnerable and put out in the world our true selves?

Me? What do I do?

For now my elevator pitch will be:

I encourage meaningful human connections that make my town an awesome place to live and work.


It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. 

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

 

Me. What am I Proud of?

 

What are you most proud of?

When I first read the writing prompt, I shrunk inside.  My chest felt like someone reached in there and squeezed my heart a bit. (Is that what shame and regret feel like? feel familiar?)

My immediate thought was: There is nothing I am proud of, not really.  (Not if you discount the obvious and true statement that I am proud of my children, but they are people not accomplishments).

The negative squirrel chatter (Larry) in my head told me there were no major life works to point to, no career of merit, no awards to hold up high. There has been no reaching upward toward some pinnacle, no single thing or passion that I sought after and attained. Instead, there has been lots of starting and stopping and changing and moving and returning. Restless seeking.

My first childhood dream was to live an exotic life as inspired by National Geographic. When asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” my vague answer included doing noteworthy humanitarian and brave acts in far away places.  Deeds worthy of a glossy photo essay.

Instead, all my travels have ultimately led me right back around to the small, rural town of Orange, where I started.

So, what do I do?

I work part-time taking care of a few small rental properties once belonging to my father.  I am married.  I am a hands-on, stay-at-home-mother.  I spend most of my time with my family, my widowed mother, and my few friends.  We  walk, we hike, we cook, we play, we knit, we sew, we read, we work in the yard, we watch movies.

Should I feel shame at not being a missionary or explorer half way around the world? or an ambassador in a foreign country? or a scientist discovering new and exciting things?

?!!What am I most proud of???! 

Nothing in my life stood out as special enough to write about and post publicly to the world, (and Larry the squirrel nemesis threatened to take over and chitter on and on about dreams abandoned and a life wasted…).

I knew in my heart this negative self-shaming was not my truth.  I have been blessed to have so many wonderful opportunities and experiences to be proud of and have chosen where I am now.  So I told Larry to shut it, and began making a list.

My first list: a list of where I have been and what I have done.

I figured, maybe the little things that I’ve done happily with pride along the way could help point me in the right direction. I created a plot line of every place I’ve lived and all volunteer and paid work I have done.

I highly recommend doing this exercise as it gave me a view of my life from an objective distance.  I cut it out of this blog post and made it private for my own reference.  It made this post very long (Read: longer) and boring (Read: more unbearably so). Looking at this list I asked myself WHY I moved somewhere and WHY I chose certain work and activities.

My second list:  a list of truths distilled from the first.

  1. I can now admit that for many years I let myself make excuses for not pursuing my dreams. I have recently pointed to my father’s death, my family responsibilities, and living in Orange as excuses for not using my talents to pursue the things I love in a way that mattered, even though these choices were mine and freely made.
  2. I can now see the pattern of things that have brought me immense joy:  experiencing new cultures, outdoor adventure, travel, art and theater; volunteering with the elderly, children and youth; studying the martial arts; making meaningful connections with others through helping.
  3. I feel most alive when challenging my comfort zones, emotionally, physically, and spiritually while pursuing these activities.
  4. I am an experienced teacher and community organizer and property manager.  I am good at designing and making things.  I am good at generating ideas and starting big picture projects that are creative, open-minded, inspiring, useful, and that bring people together.
  • What I am currently most proud of is starting back on my journey of discovering my purpose after years of excuses.

My third list: a list is of the actions I have taken to begin again.

  1. I have renewed my study and practice of Tai Chi and began a weekly morning practice session with friends.
  2. I began and facilitate a weekly, evening knitting and stitching group.
  3. I volunteer and assist with an after school TaeKwonDo class at my daughter’s elementary school.
  4. I volunteer in the position as president of the board of the St. Thomas Community Preschool.
  5. I have flipped a commercial property on Main Street into a community of studios and offices for artists and small business entrepreneurs.

What brought me back from living a life of excuses was that I took the one small step of enrolling in a Tai Chi class here in my little town.  Slowly I have begun to re-energize my life by doing work that I care about.

These little things are all part of my path and I know they add up to something greater and I am excited to be more intentional and figure out what that greater purpose is.

Thank you Live My Legend Blog Challenge for being part of my journey towards making and living a life that matters.


“We must not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”  ~~~T.S.Elliot

 

Starting a New Habit

The blog challenge I am working on started its DAY 4 email with:

“Before we go on, we want to make something very clear: the whole point of this challenge is to build your consistent writing habit so you start to give your ideas room to grow and share them with others.

We see that as the most powerful self-discovery process on the planet. You’ll start to learn what excites you, what others resonate with and how you can combine those two to build a career around something you care about.”

It continued with,

The more we can identify our life’s highlights, the better we’ll be able to notice the patterns in our actions and thinking that led to those outcomes. Shoot for that minimum 100 word limit and ideally write this first thing in the morning, before distractions hit.”

—-LYL blog challenge DAY 4

All sounded great!  I love writing, but, well, we have a love/hate sort of thing.  I get distracted and blather on and on and then have to edit like mad, cutting out so much squirrel chatter it is exhausting and time consuming. (Larry and I find each others company amusing. We stay up way too late to talk.)

Why NOT just stay up late?  Why fight the night owl urge?

Here’s the rub:

(Young children + mornings + staying up too late writing) x posting publicly to my blog = a cranky mommy/wife with blog anxiety.

Once my family wakes up, my writing intentions get very little priority until after they all go to bed at night.  My children want my undivided attention.  My husband needs a parenting partner.  My work is flexible, but still has need of my time!

So how do I make blog writing a habit?  It’s only been a week and I am still at it, but WOW, I had no idea how ridiculously hard this would be for me. I cannot write and multitask.  It is all consuming. I’ve been resisting the “wake up early!” method  as I’ve never have been one much for mornings.

Guess that is why LYL calls it a blog challenge.

…maybe I’ll procrastinate on writing anymore and go reread Gretchin Rubin’s book about forming habits Better Than Before.

 

Time to Buy Squirrel Leash

So, a bit of background:

I started this blog because I randomly watched a Tedx talk by Scott Dinsmore on Youtube.  I was led to the Live Your Legend  (LYL) website and a blog challenge that has writing prompts… So…

Here’s today’s writing prompt: What do people thank you for?
The point of this question is to give some thought to the ways you help people with your talents, skills and passions that you might not be realizing (or giving yourself credit for). Another way to look at it is “What do you love helping people with,” or “What would you be happy and excited to help others with even if you didn’t get paid?”

I usually love writing prompts.  They make me think, something I love to do.  But this prompt:  What do people thank you for?  It stumped me a bit.  My short answer was:  I am thoughtful.  I help and work hard. I am a fierce friend and a huge cheerleader of others’ passions.

That seemed quite generic, so I emailed a friend for feedback.  She said:  “I am thankful for your abundant empathetic generosity.” Yea!  Thank you! Warm fuzzy feelings!  But how does this lead to “talents, skills, and passions?”

I’m still basically stumped about the prompt, BUT I have found a bit more self knowledge as a result of this prompt and blog challenge.  I need accountability to force me to distill and simplify my ideas into actions.  All fine and good to think about this prompt, but if I did not take action on my commitment to write a blog post, well, what was the purpose of the blog prompt anyway?   Thank you LYL for being my Accountability Partner.   I knew I needed one.  I just didn’t know how badly I did!  You see:

I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been reading.  I’ve been thinking. I’ve been planning.

I’ve been convincing myself that these things were preparation for doing something great.  BUT I never put anything into action.  I knew I was an Obliger according to happiness and habit author, Gretchen Rubin .  I need accountability.  But who was holding me acountable for getting an accountability partner?  See how that was a problem?

So here’s my internal dialog when my brain geared up to think about this prompt and write a blog post:

…Nothing gets me more excited than letting my mind wrap itself around a complex idea, feeling, or question…Awesome…So…What do people thank me for?  …Trying to see it from every angle and perspective…hours pass…got to get on with my day..feed the kids… cats… schoolbus… work… Hmmmm…Write a bit…Thankful for….Helping others excites me…creative big picture thinking…Processing and trouble shooting Ideas and plans excites me…Email my friend for some input/feedback… hmmm…Helping with almost anything and everything…Dirty, hard, physical work is cathartic… got to go to work and work on landscaping project…Talent for coming up with creative solutions… wow!…a cool idea for a community garden …usually a long and winding process…Thank me for what?…get lost in the connecting the dots… can I write/get a grant for urban vertical gardening scheme? …I get distracted easily and find it hard to finish tasks …Full of thanks?…Skills?…My mind Jumps… Starts one place ends up somewhere else entirely. …Hops somewhere else to help with something else… hmmm…Help others process their problems?  My world becomes a blur of thoughts…I love this process, but it is neither direct nor simple nor fast…  This thinking is fun!… Rarely is there a simple yes or no answer… all a matter of perspective…attitude… hmmm… My process for thinking makes many people NUTS, mainly my husband…Takes forever to put ideas into action…I blame it on Larry the squirrel… Yes…The chatter in my head is made by a squirrel, named Larry…  I know he is in there… Why can’t I get my thoughts in order…so many distractions…I think I’ll start a sewing project…  no I have to clean the bathroom… yes…need to clean…

Soon…happy fun thinking become worrisome because I am not taking action on my commitment to write the post and publish it!…arghh… No action equals anger, frustration, shame…and Larry the happy distracted squirrel turns to the dark side…

…he starts chittering: “Yeah, but you can also be thoughtless, and often so distracted.   You never finish anything. Talents? Skills? Ha!  You are erratic, moody and often judgemental, impatient.. You get too serious about the simple tasks of life and lose sight of the joy and fun in things.  You are way too practical and a bit of a worrier… and…also… but… chit,chit,chit.”

So I may not know what people thank me for.  I may not know what my talents, skills, and passions are.  BUT trying write this blog post made one thing CLEAR.  If people only knew, they’d thank me for keeping Larry on a short leash.  If I want to find what I am capable doing and start leading a life I can be proud of, then Larry needs to be trained to be still and quiet.

Time to get Larry a leash.

My nemesis named Larry
My nemesis named Larry chatters in my head with all sorts of distractions and negative talk.  He’s cute and fun to watch from a distance, but no fun to have in your house.

What Makes Me ANGRY?

Bumpersticker from my very first car, a 1986 red Nissan Sentra
Bumper sticker from my very first car, a 1986 red Nissan Sentra

Being mean, spiteful, hurtful, deceptive. Being wasteful, careless, lazy. Being close-minded, impatient, jealous. Being condescending, arrogant, greedy.  Being ungrateful.

These things make me ANGRY, but what makes me even angrier is the way I can get sucked into filling my time with reading and watching and ranting and complaining about humans acting this way! In fact, I am most angry (and frustrated and ashamed), when I find myself being what I profess to despise. The old saying about those in glass houses…

I want to pay attention to living according to my values.  I can use my anger to fuel actions that make a difference (and hopefully let go of the frustration and shame).  I think I need a mission statement of sorts.  Something like:  I will seek out and learn from the kind, helpful, useful, caring, determined, open-minded, patient, content, loving, joyful, humble, selfless, gracious, and grateful in my community.  I will be a person of integrity and lead a life that matters.

It’s a start anyway…

Oh…lots of reading to start this process…I am revisiting a few old basics that stood by me when I was younger and better able to listen to my heart:  The Serenity Prayer, The Invitation, and the Desiderata, and recently a modern, Desiderata graphic novel approach that I love!  I am also taking my eighteen-year-old self’s advice to: Think Globally, Act Locally. All a bit cheesy, but my nostalgia has gotten the better of me…and so I leave you with another oldie but goodie…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step ~Lao-Tzu


 

Being Here

Elvis and Rocks and Mint and Nasturtiums...these are a few of my favorite things.
Elvis and Rocks and Mint and Nasturtiums…these are a few of my favorite things. Here. Now.

On the good days I smile and think about how lucky I am to be here.  On the bad days, I despair and whine about how unlucky I am to have ended up here.

Where is here?

Here in my head, here in my body, here in my heart, here in my life!  Here is Orange, Virginia.  I have been taking my life for granted, just waiting and wishing for all the different threads of my life to weave together and point me in a direction.  As if here and now is simply a dress rehearsal, and my real life will start tomorrow.  But tomorrow comes, and I still make lazy choices as if each moment is not a precious gift.

It is time to begin. Begin what?  Something.  Anything.

But first I think I will just begin by being HERE. Be present and show up to my own life with my best self ready to learn and grow.  Begin living a life that matters right here. Right here in Orange, Virginia. Right Now.  My first blog post ever…at least it is a start…

Want to join me?