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.

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.