A few years ago, I did a few month-long projects. I did Art Journal Month and Layout A Day and I remember liking the rhythm of doing something every single day for a month. I love my yearly projects. I love the idea of working on something regularly, slowly, throughout the whole year which culminates in something bigger and wonderful. I like the sense of continuity. I like pace of it and the size of it.
But I also like the monthly projects. I like how it’s every single day and becomes a part of my life. But it’s only for 30-31 days and then I am done. I like the repetition. It becomes a temporary routine. I like how the short duration makes it doable. And there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes well before the end of the year. I like the idea of dipping my toes in seriously but not jumping in all the way and committing for a whole year.
As I was thinking of 2014, I was thinking I might like to try having a focus each month. A little project. Since I already have my yearly projects and other things like family, work, etc. I didn’t want to go too hard on myself. And if these don’t work out, I am ok with it. I just liked the idea and wanted to give it a try.
I decided to pick one health/self-care item and one art one each month. I decided they don’t have to be big things. Actually, the smaller, the more likely they will get done daily.
So here are some ideas I have so far:
- A month of drawing figures/poses
- A month of drawing faces
- A month of drawing wings/angels
- A month of drawing trees
- A month of drawing butterflies
- A month of drawing birds
- A month of writing phrases
- A month of monograms
- A month of sketching landscapes
- A month of collage
- A month of oil/pastel/copic (not sure here since i need a subject first)
- A month of photos
- A month of meditation
- A month of yoga
- A month of strength training
- A month of only whole foods
- A month of thank you notes
- A month of 5ams
- A month of morning pages
- A month of no gluten
- A month of no sugar
- A month of flossing
- A month of 15,000 steps
- A month of connecting
- A month of gratitude
- A month of celebration
I can’t say any of these make me jump up and down but I still like the idea of monthly projects so I am going to think more on this and see if new things show up. (I am open to ideas if you have any!) And if I don’t do them every single day, that’s okay. My goal is to do them for as many consecutive days in that month as possible.
For January, I’ve picked meditation and drawing birds; I will start with those.
Like each year, after I thought about my word and my plans for 2014, I began to think more and more about what the word and the priorities meant. Since I tend to be self-reflective during this time of year, this is very long and mostly for my benefit (I like having a record of my plans and my thoughts) so feel free to skip. I won’t be offended.
By the way, this is influenced by Chris’s annual review article. I’ve read this before and have always liked the idea. I’m a technical person at heart and all these specific goals, measurable steps, etc. are right up my alley. Since I have my list of six priorities this year, I thought it would be a good exercise to see if I could come up with a few goals for each.
I will post about each of the projects I mention over the next week. I’ll then come back and link them here but I promise it’s all coming in the first week of the year.
One of my goals this year is to really slow down. I know this might not seem so from the list, but I am focusing on what I know will comfort my soul but no more so I can also rest and breathe more as I want to keep working on being more present and listening.
My other big focus this year is on learning. I’ve noticed that I go through different cycles and 2013 was a year of practicing for me but not a lot of learning. I want to feel free to experiment, to mess up, to copy others, to learn new things. I want to my own voice and to do that, I need to start with others’ voices, with what calls me. I want to create room for that this year. I also just want to learn new things. In every topic. I love learning, it makes me come alive.
So here we go:
Goals for Each Priority
1. Have Nathaniel read one book to me each week (Project Nathaniel Reads to Mommy).
2. Take photo of full-family and write updates weekly (Project Weekly Diary).
3. Write weekly gratitudes and celebrations for me and the boys (The Savor Project)
4. Take online classes with David and focus on learning (Project Learning with David)
5. Spend an hour with each kid a week on mommy-me time. Just me and the one boy.
6. Volunteer in both David and Nathaniel’s schools
7. Schedule minimum bimonthly date nights with Jake
8. Capture and Tell our family stories (The Savor Project)
9. Visit my family and Jake’s family
1. Continue walking/running daily, work your way back up to 5K a day
2. Find three strength exercises that I can do regularly
3. Work your way up to eating whole foods 80% of the time
4. Get minimum 7 hours of sleep every night and 8 on the weekends
5. Take weekly hikes with family
1. Read a book a week (Project A Book a Week)
2. Journal daily. (Project Today I Know, Project Remember This)
3. Spend time stitching (Project Stitching Circles)
4. Set weekly intentions around listening (Project Listen with Intent)
5. Experiment with meditation, yoga, breathing
6. Go camping
7. Take a walk with Nathaniel for 15 minutes a day (this could also be health or family)
1. Make and keep regular pedicure and hair appointments (every 6 weeks or so)
2. Find a volunteer opportunity for David and me.
3. Send one kind email to someone each week
4. Have and end-of-day ritual each night and a welcoming-the-day ritual each morning
5. Clean up closet and only keep what fits
6. Come up with a self-care routine (lotion, floss, etc.)
1. Learn to do lettering (Project Listen with Intent)
2. Take at least 6 online classes that are not art
3. Teach Nathaniel to Read
4. Tell the longer stories when scrapping
5. Take classes with David all year long
6. Practice doodling, drawing (Project Today I Know)
7. Learn new art techniques (Project Remember This)
8. Experiment with new art mediums
9. Continue to coach clients and offer more options
1. Create a new Savor Project for 2014 (The Savor Project)
2. Go out to breakfast/lunch once a week with a good friend (or a potential good friend). If not possible, call/email a friend to reconnect.
3. Extend an invitation to someone new once a month
4. Speak up more and participate more
5. Attend all book clubs
6. Journal daily (Project Today I Know, Project Remember This)
7. Regularly attend all three book clubs
8. Drive on the freeway more regularly
9. Learn to ride a bike (it will happen one of these days!)
There we go. As more creep up over the year, I will likely come here and add/alter as needed.
Schedule for Blog
I’ve also come up with a tentative schedule for my blog for 2014:
- Mondays : Listen with Intent
- Tuesdays : Remember This
- Wednesdays : A Book a Week + The Savor Project
- Thursdays : Stitching Circles
- Fridays : Today I Know
- Saturdays : Learning with David /Nathaniel Reads to Mommy
- Sundays : Weekly Diary
For this year’s projects, I decided to have two themes:
- Learn/tackle something new. Explore something I haven’t done. Copy others, iterate, come up with your own voice.
- Couple each art project with inspiration/introspection topics that I want to explore.
- I also tried to use different formats, paper types, and media.
This year I thought it might be fun to aim to have themes for my thoughts posts, too, but I have no idea if it will work out or not, so we’ll see. Here’s what I have in mind. If you’d like others, let me know:
- What I Learned
- Lessons from Ordinary Life
Thoughts to Cultivate
I decided this year’s thoughts to cultivate will be around my core desires. So here’s some of what’s on my mind.
1. Serene What helps me be most serene is taking time for myself. I plan to start the day and end the day alone. I will go back to getting up before the kids so I can take some time to journal (and maybe meditate). I will see if I can do some art (however small) in the mornings as I listen to Tara Brach. I will take a break in the middle of the day and walk with Nathaniel to get some fresh air and to step away for a bit. I will slow down and breathe more. When I feel worry and panic, I will take a moment, I will name it, I will let things get quieter and then act (and not react.) I will use the Four Questions. I will set intentions each week. I will end my days with a small routine to re-center myself. I will make sure to get enough sleep.
2. Grace I will carry myself with grace. I will take the time to be kind. I will practice ease and comfort. I will take the extra few minutes to wear things that make me feel good. I will take care of my body, my soul and my heart. I will slow down and move deliberately. I will get quieter. I will listen more talk less. I will thank. I will show my gratitude. I will practice self-kindness and care as well as extending it to others. I will volunteer. I will practice patience.
3. Engaged I will choose to engage. I will show up. I will step up. I will learn and grow and participate. I will choose curiosity again and again. I will choose to lean in. I will pay attention to what makes me come alive. I will practice art. I will practice both depth and breadth.
4. Whole I will practice self-compassion. I will choose kindness towards myself. I will celebrate achievements big and small. I will practice gratitude. I will show up to events and reach out to those I love. I will make room for new friends. I will choose to cultivate belonging. I will make the time and room for others.
And there we are. I am sure more will come up. But these are some of what’s on my mind.
Here’s to a wonderful 2014.
My word for 2014 came to me early in the year. I tend to keep a document open all year round and jot ideas as they show up. Here’s what I had for 2014:
Not very many, for me.
After writing the present, listen, kind post, I thought of picking all three, but I let go of it. I like having one word. I kept going back and forth because I wanted it to be “kind” but listen felt insistent. The more I resisted, the more it kept coming. So I relented.
Listen it is.
I love the idea of listening. When I first thought of the word, I thought of it in context of others. I wanted to listen to my kids more, better. I wanted to listen to Jake wholly. I wanted to really listen. Really hear and not be multi-tasking or preparing my reply or wishing the speaker would hurry up and get to the point already. I loved how really listening meant slowing down. being present. I also thought it was kind. Honorable. The Right Thing to Do.
As I owned the word more and more, other layers showed up and now I see listen as three groups.
- Listen to myself: My body, my soul, my heart, my brain/thoughts, and my gut
- Listen to others: be open, stop and hear as opposed to preparing a reply, choosing to receive
- Listen to the universe: Pay attention and see the signs, listen to messages, listen to what the universe is whispering, the sounds of nature
The more I sit with it, the more I love the word listen. I love how quiet it is. How it’s outward focused. How it’s kind. How it’s serene.
I am taking the One Little Word class again this year but I am also doing a project that will help me keep my word and my intentions more front and center. And, I hope to dedicate one of my weekly thoughts posts to listening intentions as well. I really want to step into, own, and live my word this year.
Like in the past, I also made my Priority List for 2014. Just to remind the idea behind this is:
I was listening to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and one of the things the author mentions is managing our time and how we spend much of it doing what’s urgent instead of doing what’s important. As in, we’re often reacting instead of thinking ahead and calmly acting in the direction of our dreams and priorities.
So I decided it would beneficial for me to make a “Priority List”. A list of goals and people I want to prioritize during the year. This way, when an opportunity or request came my way, I could check my list and make sure it is aligned with my priorities before I accepted it. It’s easy to lose sight of things and take on projects that end up eating a lot of my time and not making me fulfilled. If I had my list to look at each time, I could keep what’s important at the forefront of my mind and make sure to prioritize it. Since I just did my core desire exercise, I decided to align my priorities that way this year to see how (if) it worked out for me I only added family and health to the core desire list:
Here’s my Priority List for 2014:
Work is not on there but it really is. I just don’t share work here. As always, these priorities are fluid for me. They are all a part of me and I want to make sure I value them and dedicate time to each. I also want to make sure I turn down anything that doesn’t line up with one of these.
Above everything, I want to stay true to my gut. I’ve made the mistake of doing something that will look good and make others think well of me before and it was a lot of heartache for me and so I want to listen to myself more and trust my gut and know that if I turn down something that feels wrong, other opportunities will still come my way and I will know when the right one is there. So I will have faith in myself and in the universe. Using the core desires list should really come in handy here.
And I will prioritize the important.
And there we are.
Here’s to 2014, the year of listening!
I plan for 2014 to be a year of a lot of learning. In every aspect.
Here are some of the classes I took in 2013:
Classes I know I am taking in 2014:
I’ve also picked some coursera and udacity courses I am interested in and will take some of these so that I’m learning new things throughout the year. Clearly, I will not get through these but I like the variety and I like having a list. They’re in no specific order. If you’ve taken any online classes that you’ve liked, I’d love to know your list, too:
I don’t know which of these I’ll take but I love the idea of all of them. Since the coursera ones are downloadable, my plan is to download a course at a time and just watch them while I exercise each morning.
What classes are you taking in 2014?
Last week, I posted about some of my thoughts for 2014 and my three lists, and then Zewa commented with a link to a video about the new Desire Map by Danielle Laporte and she asked me what feelings I was trying to achieve with my goals.
Even though I’d heard about Danielle’s class before, something compelled me to go ahead and watch the video. And then, the strong urge continued until I finished the whole book and half the workbook. It’s like I couldn’t stop until I had my core desires.
So, thanks, Zewa, you made me lose a day and a half of my life
But, joking aside. This is one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I find that I am even more reflective than usual and I take the time to think, sit with it, and ponder deeply. I take the time to read the whole book in one sitting. I immerse myself in things. And that’s exactly what I did with The Desire Map.
Even though Danielle’s writing (and thoughts) have been hit or miss for me, this book was right on. It came exactly at the right time and was what I needed and wanted to hear.
If you haven’t heard about it, visit Danielle’s site or checkout the video Zewa linked to in this post. The short summary of the idea is that, instead of setting goals and todos for yourself, you identify your core desires. The way you want to feel. And then you set goals that make you feel that way.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
It did to me.
I spent a bunch of time writing down all the words that came to me. Here’s what my initial list looked like:
whole + full
free of worry, stress, of disappointing others
I then followed some of her instructions to help identify my core desires. I spent some solid time with the dictionary and thesaurus and then I finally ended up with my list of four;
These are my core desires. Even though I am open to the possibility that they might change or shift, they feel really right at the moment. I then expanded them a bit more to be clear on what they mean to me and how they encapsulated some of the other words on my list:
- Serene: Calm, centered, peaceful, quiet, present, spacious, peaceful
- Grace: kind, ease, fluidity, generous, fit, capable, abundant, light
- Engaged: interested, curious, alive, growing, participating, living, awed, purposeful
- Whole: free, worthy, belonging, deserving, capable, independent, full
Of course, they may not mean the same thing to you but this is how they resonate with me.
I wanted to put joy on my list. Cause, after all, who doesn’t want joy? But the thing is, I think what I yearn for the most is contentment. Inner and outer peace. These four things give me that. Joy is nice to have but, for me, it’s really in honor of serenity.
Interestingly, these line up quite closely with my core values, too. The words we came up with for my values are different but the feelings are the same. I have:
- Unconditional Love – this is serene and whole
- Learning – this is engaged
- Peace – serene
- Service – Grace
- Gratitude – serene, whole
Maybe it’s not such a coincidence, I value these things because they make me feel the way I want to feel. Makes perfect sense to me.
After I was done, I thought it would be interesting to go back to my lists and revisit things I want to do with these desires in mind and here’s what came up for me:
- Of the list of things I want to learn, all the art ones and courses, classes etc are in honor of being engaged. They make me feel engaged. Doing art also makes me feel serene. Learning is exhilarating for me, it keeps me fully engaged.
- The items on eating and my nails and exercising are to help me feel grace and whole. When I feel stronger and healthier, I feel more independent when I paint my nails or get my hair done, I feel little moments of grace. These are not core to my being but they do help. They also require that I slow down and focus on self-care which increases the feeling of whole-ness.
- Self-kindness is in honor of serene and whole. When I am kinder to myself, I feel calm and centered. I feel worthy.
- On the items of doing more of, most of these honor serene. Reading makes me feel calm and centered. Journaling also makes me feel whole. Doing things with my family makes me feel whole and so does capturing those moments. Hiking, eating well, date nights, hugging, loud music (interestingly) helps with serenity. Anything outdoors is for serene. Self-care is for whole and grace.
- And finally the list of things that fulfill me, volunteering is for grace (actually I feel all four when I volunteer). When I read the list again and again, I notice that all of these on the list are to honor all four of my desires. Some lean more one way but all of them touch all four of my desires. Way to go.
So there we are. I really liked this exercise and plan to keep my core desires front and center. One of the things I did for myself for 2014 was to buy a ring that said: kind, present, listen. I think if I do those three things, I will honor every one of my core desires.
Thank you, Zewa, as I hope you can tell, your comment made a large tangible impact on my life.
2013 was my year to be present. I feel like I started out the year with a strong focus on my work and my hopes for this year. The word really resonated with me when I took a trip back home and the boys and I stayed with my parents for ten days in Bodrum. While there, I distinctly felt the conscious decision to be present and was able to truly let go of doing, being, wanting, striving for, planning anything else. I was just present. At least more than I’ve ever been before. And it was wonderful. When I came back home, it lasted for quite some time. I didn’t pressure myself, I sat in the backyard with the kid a lot and did my work in the sunshine.
But then things got rougher. I am not exactly sure where the turning point was but by the time I entered September, I was the opposite of present and it just went downhill from there. I just stopped wanting to do anything. I felt frustrated with my yearly projects. I abandoned a few, tried to change others, and stopped doing classwork in the classes I’d signed up for. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know this is very atypical of me. It was a scary feeling and a sign that I wasn’t centered at all. I just felt no desire to do anything.
As the year is coming to a close, I am finally getting closer to finding the peace again and while I feel disappointed and sad about how the last few months have been, I am still deeply grateful for this word. Even though I picked a new word for 2014, this new word will require me to be present so I feel like I am going to still be hanging on to this precious word that is very core to how I want to feel in my life.
As with each year, I’d set some specific goals for 2013 and here’s how they worked out:
1. Teach Nathaniel how to read by using the same book I used for David. We started on this book but he was having a tough time at first, and then resisted it quite a bit but now we’re back to doing it and about halfway through it. Reading is a project Nathaniel and I have for 2014 so I feel good about this one.
2. Take photo of full-family and write updates weekly (Project Weekly Diary). We did this every single week except for the week we were in Turkey without Jake where we just took one with my family there. I absolutely adore these photos.
3. Write daily gratitudes for me and David (Project Gratitude Journal) Oh, yes, we did this one. Gratitudes are wonderful.
4. Have a family tradition where we do something together each weekend for 1-2 hours. We didn’t really do this officially but i’ll say that we had ten times more family trips and fun times together this year than ever before.
5. Create gratitude-focused art with Nathaniel each week (Project Nathaniel’s Gratitude Pages) I did this about halfway. I am not sure why we stopped but we did. I did love all the pages we finished.
6. Create gratitude postcards with David and mail them out (Project David’s Gratitude Postcards) Like Nathaniel’s, we didn’t finish out this project but we did a lot of cards and we mailed them all out. It was really resonant for me.
7. Volunteer in both David and Nathaniel’s schools I did this. Not as much as I’d like but enough.
8. Schedule minimum bimonthly date nights with Jake We didn’t do this as frequently as I’d like but we did a lot of date nights and they were lovely. Even though we lost our sitter halfway through the summer (she went to college) we did end up getting several new ones and we’re back on schedule.
9. Tell our family stories (The Savor Project) The Savor project started to feel burdensome to me sometime in the summer. I changed to going digital but I’d lost my love for it. I am not sure what will happen in 2014, but I am not ready to give up on it yet.
1. Continue running daily, work your way back up to 5K a dayI did exercise daily. I was running 1 mile for the longest time and recently I went back to walking fast so I could increase to 2 miles. I still hope to find my way back to running 3 miles.
2. Find a way to incorporate strength exercises weekly oh this didn’t happen at all.
3. Come up with three healthy ideas for each meal and use them When i adhered to them, i did have a routine for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is always tougher.
4. Get minimum 7hours of sleep every night and 8 on the weekends I think I did good on this one.
5. Meditate every day oh no, not at all.
6. Floss dailythis one wavered a lot, too. which is weird since I love flossing.
1. Sketch minimum three times a week (Project Weekly Sketching) started out strong and then faltered a little over midyear.
2. Art journal weekly incorporating hand-lettering (Project SixBySix and Project Gratitude PostCards) I did both of these.
3. Pick one of the online classes I didn’t complete and do the work I didn’t do this. I did some of the lessons in the I love Drawing class and a few others but not as much as I would have liked.
4. Experiment with at least three mediums depends on what you consider experimenting not really on this one.
5. Experiment with collage/mixed media once a week (Project Gratitude Journal) i loved my gratitude journal
6. Continue to create for my design teams (Maya Road & My Mind’s Eye) i stuck with both of these teams, too.
7. Create a new Savor Project for 2013 (The Savor Project) wrote about this one in the above section.
1. Write at least three long thought/idea oriented blog posts a week meh, this started out well. but as i felt down and tired, i just completely gave up. I hope to do better next year. i love writing these posts.
2. Make a list of 3 achievements each week for each family member and have a celebratory breakfast/lunch once a week. even though we didn’t do the breakfasts all year, i did list 1 celebration for each member all year long.
3. Send one kind email to someone each week wow i totally forgot about this one.
4. Have and end-of-day ritual each night and a welcoming-the-day ritual each morning this, too, didn’t happen though I still love the idea.
1. Read a book a week (Project A Book a Week) done. reading continues to be my savior.
2. Read regularly to and with David i didn’t read much to David this year. He reads awesome on his own and we did read side by side a lot and read a few books at the same time so we could talk about them.
3. Teach Nathaniel to Read working on it
4. Regularly attend both book clubs attended almost all of the meetings of my three book clubs
1. Write down two things I am grateful for each day (Project Gratitude Journal) done
2. Write daily for David (Project Gratitude Journal)done
5. Create gratitude postcards for me and mail them out (Project Gratitude PostCards) i did these but didn’t mail them out.
1. Get Coaching Certification done, woot!
2. Continue to coach clients doing so. love love love my awesome clients.
3. Take two classes locally i didn’t take any classes outside of coaching this year.
4. Learn to drive on the freeway – still not giving up on this one i did more freeway driving this year than in the last 38 combined. But still not as much as I’d like. major progress here.
5. Learn to ride a bike – nor this one! not done!
Belonging (I changed this around a bit but it’s still about building community)
1. Go out to breakfast/lunch once a week with a good friend (or a potential good friend). If not possible, call/email a friend to reconnect. i did some of this but really not enough
2. Invite guests over for dinner at least once a month we didn’t do so well on this in the second half of the year. more of this in 2014.
3. Extend an invitation to someone new once a month i have lists and ideas but never did it.
4. Send out gratitude cards to people whom I am grateful for meh didn’t even do this one
I had some focus areas too:
1. Let go of worry: this is tough for me. I had some moments of pure peace and I am grateful for those.
2. Do Less: I actually did do this for quite some time. Next year, I will do even less.
3. Do not yell: This also was much better. Still had a lot of not-so-proud moments but I am working on it.
4. Be mindful: I am doing a lot better on this. Noticing the moments, the choices.
5. Celebrate: This was a great one to choose for 2013 and I definitely did do it. It was a gift. I know I need to continue it.
6. Cultivate Belonging: I did do some of the depth I wanted here, but I want more. Much more.
7. Self-Compassion: I’ve been working on this actively. This doesn’t come naturally to me. I am noticing it more. I am surrendering more. I am being kind instead of judgmental.
8: Be open: I’ve worked on this actively, too. This one can use even more attention. Especially being open to the possibility that things will be ok.
9. Gratitude: Practicing gratitude has become a way of life for me. But I want to up the ante more for 2014. Let’s see if I can.
I also went home to Turkey and spent ten days with my parents, my sister and her family, and my kids and went to Martha’s Vineyard for time with Jake and his siblings’ families and his parents. Both of these were wonderful and I will cherish them for a long time. I taught a class through Big Picture and I sold a bunch of art and I was published in Haute Handbags.
And here we are. 2013 was a full year. As with every year, there were ups and downs, challenges and huge joys. Deep sadness and wide happiness. I loved my word and I know that no matter what these lists say or what I accomplished or did not finish, I am incredibly lucky and blessed. My life is full and I am grateful for every moment of it.
And, with that, good-bye 2013. Thank you for your lessons and gifts.
Even though I didn’t write nearly as many as I would have liked, I wrote around ninety of them this year. Not terrible, especially considering how little I wrote in the last few months. I wanted to share some of my favorites from the year. These are my favorite part of my blog and I always wish I would take the time to write more. It’s how I grow, reflect and learn.
And if you haven’t already seen it, This is Water by David Foster Wallace was, by far, my favorite video all year. I re-watch it regularly:
I know I’ve been really quiet lately (with the exception of the December Daily posts) and I’ve been thinking about writing a lot but not finding the energy to actually do it. I can whine a bunch but instead I am going to try to start writing and see where we get. I stumbled upon this post about making three lists today and thought it’s a great tool to use for 2014, too. Even if I don’t actually do all of the items on my list, having lists raises my awareness and gives me focus. Definitely doesn’t hurt.
I didn’t do this before on paper like I should have. I thought we’ll just do it here together.
So with that, here’s some brainstorming for 2014. I can then pare it down as needed so there might be one more follow-up post.
What do I want to learn?
- Using a wider range of art supplies with comfort (specifically oils, pastels, copics, paint and watercolor markers, etc.)
- Drawing landscapes (and with watercolor)
- Drawing faces and poses and expressions, people in general
- Drawing sayings/making signs
- Some kind of collage – not sure exactly what yet
- Possibly something large scale
- A lot of different college-level courses
- How to eat a diet of whole foods
- Finding some exercise routine that works well for me (something in addition to the treadmill)
- Painting my nails
What do I want to do more of?
- Taking more photos, capturing meaningful moments
- Telling longer stories
- Writing thoughts posts
- Doing things that make me laugh with the kids
- Eating well
- Reaching out to and keeping in touch with friends
- Date nights
- Listening to music loudly
- Learning new things
What fulfills me (or honors a value I have)?
- Volunteering (ideally with David, too.)
- Time with my family
- Being outdoors – water + trees especially
- Being present/mindful
- Being kind
- Alone time
- Time with friends
- Setting intentions
So there we are. Some initial thoughts of what’s on my mind for 2014. How about you? What’s on your list?
Here are some photos from this week:
my sweet, older boy.
and the little one.
playing on the computer.
they opened their advent calendars. David got Star Wars Lego and Nathaniel Lego City.
I love how Nathaniel can do it all by himself now.
my boys, so sweet.
David still loves the Star Wars one more than anything else.
Nathaniel is supposed to write his name when he gets to school every morning:
and here’s his self-portrait.
We went to Nathaniel’s school this week as the Mystery Reader.
Jake read Z goes Home.
and Let’s Count Goats.
then Nathaniel and I went out to lunch together.
and at night we went to see the tree lighting in our neighborhood.
our family photos didn’t come out so great this week. But I still love this one.
and this one.
and, of course, all the laughter.
and here we go. so grateful for my life. i hope your week was lovely, too. Happy December!
Weekly Diary is a project for 2013. You can read more about it here.
Yesterday, I mentioned how I had more coming about how I would want the people I love to know how much I loved them and that they mattered deeply. So I wanted to expand on that a bit today. As I’ve mentioned already, I’ve been taking Soul Comfort which has been a profound class for me in so many ways. This past week, they had an intentional living exercise that involved writing about what I’d want different people in my life to think after interacting with me, at my funeral, etc. I don’t want to give away the exercise as it’s part of the class and it’s wonderful and I recommend you take the class.
But what I did want to talk about is some of the interesting patterns I saw in my answers. Regardless of who or what it was about, I kept finding myself writing down that I would like others to think that I am kind and attentive and that when they are with me they feel loved and worthy. That I operate from bravery and not fear. Generosity and not scarcity. That I am paying attention. That they feel like they matter. That I am generous and unconditional with my spirit, patience, love and kindness.
I wrote down the word kind as an answer to literally every single question on the seven-page form. The word kind has been so forefront in my mind and soul lately that I almost switched to make it my one-little-word for 2014. I feel like there are many things I respect and love in others: Bravery, Intelligence, Generosity, Authenticity, Open-mindedness, Wisdom, Intuition…I can go on and on.
But, above all, kindness.
It seems, for me, kindness has a special place. And when I think of what I want others to think about me, I want them to think I am kind. I want them to feel I am kind. I want them to feel they can be whomever they are when they are around me and that they are not just accepted but loved and cherished just the way they are. That they are worthy. They belong. They don’t have to be or do anything for any of this. They just are.
I remember, years ago, I was taking a psych class and what I had heard of Carl Rogers really stuck with me. He was known for listening with his full attention. Not while sneaking a look at the computer or taking a note or cooking dinner. Not while preparing a response. But listening fully. This is something that resonated with me so strongly back in 2001 when I took the class and, twelve years later, it resonates just as much.
This is what I want people to feel when they are with me, that I am kind, that they matter, that they are worthy of being listened to with all of my attention. Not my top priority but, for that moment, my only priority.
I am not saying I do these things well today. I am saying that doing this exercise made me think a lot about where I would like to be. How I want to relate to people. I don’t care if people don’t think I am intelligent or successful or pretty. I care that people remember me as kind. I care that people remember how they feel when they were around me. And that the feeling they remember me with is how cared for they were. How worthy they felt around me. How loved they were.
The best part about all this was that creating this change is 100% within my control. I don’t have to change my job, my house, my degree or anything else in my life to get there. I just have to remember what I want them to feel and remember to do what it takes.
This isn’t to say it will be easy. It’s hard for me to be kind when I am stressed or rushed or tired. And I am one of those three things often. It’s hard for me to pay full attention to any one person when I have little boys in my life and IMs and emails. It’s hard to make others feel worthy when I might not be feeling that way myself.
All of these are hard.
But if it’s what matters to me, if it’s really what I care about, then it’s important to remember that. Because sometimes my priorities get wacky. I stress over something to do for work and yell at my kid. How well I did at work is so irrelevant and inconsequential compared to how I want my kid to remember me. (Obviously this is different if I do so badly that I lose my job etc. etc.) I would easily put my son over any job in the world and yet moment to moment, I don’t always follow this credence. There are many times, he loses my attention when competing with work demands. Many times I don’t give him my full attention even when I have no work but I am watching some TV or reading a blog. I do this more often than I’d like to admit. More often than I am comfortable with. More often than it feels right, to me.
Doing this exercise also reminded me that all the little things have to go. It doesn’t matter if my son’s room is messy. It’s not a good reason to be unkind. I can find a way to say it kindly. Or I can really even let it go. Sure, I’d like him to clean his room but what I really want is for him to feel my kindness, my love. What I want him to feel is how worthy he is and how deeply he belongs in our family just the way he is. How unconditionally I love him. Compared to these things, the room could not be more meaningless to me. And yet, I regularly scold him for not cleaning up. Filling this form made me realize that, for me, it’s really important to always be conscious of what I care about the most.
This isn’t even about dying. It’s not about how I want my kids, loved ones, friends to remember me. It’s about how I want them to feel right now. In every moment. These are people I love and cherish. I want them to feel that love, that worthiness all the time. I want to always be much kinder than necessary. Always.
I want to be present, to listen, and to be kind. Those are my three core values for my interactions with other people. When I thought about my worry list from yesterday, I realized that if I can ensure my interactions with my loved ones align with these three values, it makes me worry a lot less because then, at every moment, I am doing the best that I can to love them with all my heart and to make sure they know that I do.
I will find a way to get a visual reminder of these three words so that when I am caught in the rush of daily life, they can serve as a reminder for what truly matters.
One of my clients sent me a mail this week that contained this story:
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple of pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
I had heard it before but, like most things, this time it resonated more because I was listening better. I was ready to hear it. As I read it a few more times, I found myself thinking about the cups of water I am carrying. Which ones am I holding up too long? And, more importantly, what’s the impact it’s having on me? Carrying around worries and stress all day long is no small task. Some of it might be unavoidable, but much of it is. And like all other things, the first key is to raise my awareness.
If I don’t know what worries I am carrying around, I cannot ever choose to put them down.
So the first thing I decided to do was to sit and “throw up” all my worries on to the page. Let’s see what was really on my mind, in my heart, in my body. I gave myself ten minutes in the car (while I waited for Nathaniel’s class to dismiss) to write down all I could think of. No limits, no reading, only writing.
It was easy for the first three minutes, and then it got harder and I had to think more and more. I am sure that if I had given myself 20 minutes, it would have been even harder.
Once I had my list, I went over it and grouped it into two sections: things i have control over and things outside my control.
Then I started with the list of things I had control over. I wrote down one thing I could do to either let go of the worry or to “fix” the situation. For example, one of the items on my list is “I worry that I will never learn to ride a bike.” This is something that’s theoretically within my control to fix. I can either decide it’s not that important to learn how to ride a bike anymore and choose to let this one go or I can take one small (or big) action towards this one. (I could also decide that I will postpone this one. I won’t give up on it completely, but I am not ready to take action yet. This allows me to put the water down for a while.) A small action here might be to buy a bike. Or a helmet. A bigger one might be to schedule time with a friend to help me learn. A bigger one might be to commit to a biking event 3 months from now (which will mean I have to learn by then. Alas this might create new worries ) By letting it go or choosing to take action, I will remove these from being worries. Because they either will not be worthy of being worried about anymore or I will actually be doing something about them.
The other list is trickier. I have some things on my list that I clearly have no control over. Like “I worry that something might happen to my husband or my kids.” Well, this is mostly out of my control. I could live my life being as safe as possible but something could still happen to these people I love. Planes crash, cars get into accidents, horrible things happen each day. As I looked at the list, I decided to shift my thinking around these a bit. I asked myself, “If I knew this might happen tomorrow, what might I want to make sure I do today?” Let’s say it was inevitable that it would happen. How would I behave differently? I figured if something were to happen to the people I loved, I’d want to make sure they knew how much I loved them and that they mattered to me deeply. Then I thought, ok, how can I do that now? I can’t change the future but I can change how I behave now, what I say, what I do, etc. I have more about this coming in another post, but changing my perspective to what I can do here allowed me to feel like I had some choice and some power to alter these. It allowed me to think of what I might regret if that outcome were to happen and how I can make sure those regrets don’t come to fruition (even if the outcome did.)
While this doesn’t fully eliminate the item for a worrier like me, it does shift my relationship to the worry. Instead of having the worry weigh me down, I use it as a motivator to remember what matters most to me and make sure that I live my life aligned with those priorities. (This is true for me because when I look at my worry list, I notice that the things that worry me the most come from the things/people I hold dearest.)
Having this perspective (and list of action items from the first set) created a lot more space for me. It didn’t eliminate my worries but I no longer feel numb or paralyzed. I feel like I understand what matters to me, what I care about, and how to alter my choices to align them accordingly.
I’ve mentioned my son’s school’s Monday morning assemblies before. This year, I’ve decided that I will try to attend as many chapels as possible. This morning’s topic was courage. The presenter talked about what it means, gave some examples of courageous children, and then talked about what courage looks and sounds like. She also had one slide on what lack of courage looks like. Bravery and courage have been on my mind a lot lately so as I was driving home, I thought about what it means to be courageous.
I think bravery is a lot more personal than we make it out to be.
When I looked up courage in the dictionary it said: the ability to do something that frightens one. (Bravery, by the way, says ‘courageous behavior’). If you pay close attention to the definition, it’s explicitly personal. It’s the ability to do something that frightens you. Not the ability to do scary things. It specifically says “that frightens one.” For you to be courageous, you must be doing something that you find to be frightening.
But we don’t always speak of it in these terms. When we see someone jumping out of an airplane, we say “oh he’s so brave!” For all we know, this person jumps out of planes all the time (like an instructor or something) and to him, it’s not scary at all. In this case, he’s not practicing courage. Whereas if you take someone who’s deathly afraid of heights and they jump out of a plane, that person is clearly being brave.
The reason this distinction matters a lot is that when we’re comparing to others, we often find ourselves judging others’ bravery by our standards. So if I am scared to speak in public, someone who does that will look brave to me and I will feel less courageous by comparison. I’ll think, how come I can’t be as brave as she is? For all I know, she might not be courageous at all. Maybe public speaking isn’t frightening to her. We never even consider this probability because of our own fear of public speaking. We think everyone must share our fears.
But, of course, they don’t.
While having fears is a universal condition, each person’s fears are unique to them (of course, many people share similar fears but you can never really assume other people have the same fear you have.) So when it comes to judging ourselves and/or others it’s crucial to remember the distinction the courage is something you do when you overcome your own fears. Not universal fears. Not others’ fears. But your own.
And no matter how small or big they might be, any time you do something that frightens you, you’re practicing courage. It doesn’t have to be something that others would deem important. It’s personal to you. I am scared to drive on the freeway, so each time I do it, I am practicing courage even if it’s just another ordinary task for other people. I practice courage each time I talk to a stranger because, for me, that’s outside my comfort zone.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as wearing a specific kind of clothing. Or a new lipstick. Other times, it’s telling the truth. Speaking up. Going sky diving. Taking a trip alone. Or taking a trip with a group.
We are all different people and different things scare each of us. This is not a comparison game and there’s nothing too small or too big to practice courage around. Without knowing others’ full list of fears, there’s no way to tell how brave they really are. Instead of focusing on what others are doing, or whether I am as brave as they are, what I decided I want to do is make a list of things that scare me and try to practice a little bit of courage every day.
Just like everything else, I believe bravery takes practice. The more I use those muscles, the stronger they will be, the braver I can be.