You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself. ”
— John Steinbeck, East of Eden
You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself. ”
— John Steinbeck, East of Eden
This week is the second of the new school year and the work is ramping up again. We’ve recovered from the holiday and we’re looking out through the end of the season and the end of the year. We’re heading to the finish line and whether we’re ahead or hopelessly behind the new year and the new beginning are closer than we imagine.
So, I’m letting go of the last six months and taking the next day by day, hour by hour even. The result is lighter weight and a way forward. There’s no reason why significant progress can’t still be made. I only have to swallow my pride and forget my failure. I only have to love myself enough to keep trying again, and again, and again.
With that being said, this week I will:
Wake up with the alarm. I miss out on at least 30 minutes to two hours a day, or about 8 hours a week of me time by hitting snooze or sleeping through my alarm. That is time to think, to process, to plan. That is time to read, or write, or learn something new. Hitting snooze never results in more rest but it does deprive me of time to achieve my most important goals.
100 squats every day and a walk around the neighborhood every evening. I’m on a mission to regain muscle tone lost to both chronic fatigue and simple laziness. Beware, overdoing it only ever leads to pain, resistance, fear, and failure. Take it slow and spread the squats throughout the day and keep the walk to under 30 minutes.
Take one direct step toward your July writing goals every day. Most days that means doing one thing, showing up, and typing for as long as you can, but there will be other days that call for input more than output. This means reading, listening, and experiencing mindfully and with a clear purpose. This means knowing not just what you are doing, but why.
Take no direct steps at all. Just as muscles need rest between workouts in order to grow, the mind needs rest too. There is not just input and output, there also needs to be periods of pause where the subconscious does its work, connecting concepts and generating ideas all without your knowledge. Take no steps and watch the path clear on its own.
Limit snacking. It’s been a long road to remission from ulcerative colitis and hard work to heal the gut and get back to some semblance of normalcy. It feels good to eat again, too good, and the numbers on the scale, and my increasingly ill-fitting clothes are reflecting that. Time to rebuild a mindful eating habit and I’ve got to start by limiting the between-meal snacks.
This week I will not say yes when I mean to say no. I will give myself time to think before answering and I will remember both that the lack of planning on another person’s part does not constitute an emergency on mine and that doing for others is not the only way for me to show love.
I will not overextend myself or allow my boundaries to be disregarded. I ask so little of others, but what I do ask must become non-negotiable. My well-being is not up for debate nor is it subject to compromise. Other people seem to forget that I am a person like them with feelings and needs in return. I think it’s time I start reminding them that love and connection both depend on boundaries, therefore, enforcing them is doing the right thing for me, and for them.
This week marks the end of what certainly feels like the longest school year I’ve worked in all the 15 years since I first joined the district. So much has changed. We’ve had major staff and policy shifts. I’ve been working and readjusting to a new role. The kids have gone and come back, gone and come back. They’ve missed major milestones and grown through an incredibly volatile and terrifying time.
We all have.
But now the school year is just nearly over and there is a solid sense of normalcy on the horizon as we shift to summer our summer schedules and some of us start thinking about a little sun and fun.
This week I want to enjoy myself a little more and I’m setting goals that to reflect that. I still have a lot to get through before the weekend is here, but I’m going to be mindful, grateful, and optimistic. I’m going to celebrate this ending that was so hard won and much-anticipated beginning of new schedules, projects, and expectations. I’m celebrating change and coming to it with open and welcoming arms.
With that being said, this week I will:
Bring my longboard out from storage and start learning to ride it. It’s been a couple years since I got it and I’ve been too scared—and too embarrassed—to actually get on the thing. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to look silly, but you have to be uncomfortable before you can be comfortable. You have to fall a few times in order to learn.
Finish Professor Robert Sapolsky lectures on Human Behavioral Biology. Finally, something I can be proud to binge watch! I’ve been watching these for a few weeks now but they are sometimes hard to follow and if you aren’t giving 100% of your attention, you can miss important concepts. Some of them I’ve had to watch twice, but it is getting easier to grasp and setting the playback speed to 1.5x might just get me there.
Pick up reading The Stand again. I am still struggling to meet my daily reading goal and though alarms have helped, I just can’t seem to relax into reading. The problem might be the material. I’ve been focusing a lot on non-fiction lately and it may be that I’m just a little burned out. My mind needs something exciting, something fanciful, something far removed from this world, somewhere to escape.
Spend evening with ass in chair and a list of pieces I would like to write. I have a few drafts very close to publishing and a few that are little more than a 6:00 AM streams of conciousness. My wife is our house witting for a few days and, since i have no one to talk to and all our shows have to be watched with both parties present, I’m looking at hours every evening in need of filling.
Tackle a house project, give something away, and take care of yourself. I know this is a vague one, but I know what it means and what it will take. I have something I want to do for my wife. Something I want to do for someone in need. And, because stress levels have been running high, there are things I need to do for myself. Being kind is the key.
Laugh. I have been feeling very introverted and irritable. I’ve been uptight, tense, and judgemental. I’ve not been very much fun at all. My amazing friends have been understanding, and have given me space when the signs have been clear I need it but I fear I am pushing them too far. Laughter is good for the body and mind. Its revitalizing and relaxing. It’s medicine.
This week I will not let distraction get the best of me. I’ve noticed that, when I am alone or feeling bored, stressed, or tired—states I find myself in much more frequently these days—it’s too easy to get lost in my social media timelines. It’s too easy to sit down on the couch, pull out my phone, and open Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. It’s too easy to let hours go by unnoticed, un-experienced. Days that quickly add up to days and, over time, whole swaths of your life you let slip away.
Too often, we are indifferent to the loss. Too often, we welcoming that slipping.
Sometimes you just want to escape, but those platforms and post, they aren’t real life. They feel nothing like living. If you must, there are other ways, more fulfilling ways to escape. Every time you want to open Twitter, open a book, open Coursera, open a new document and write something. Hell, open a door and step outside entirely instead.
Do whatever you want as long as you are doing the choosing and not the app developers and their algorithms. Do not let them use your impulses and instincts against you. They will only twist them to keep you hooked, to keep you scrolling, to keep you generating ad revenue, but at what cost to you? Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
This week is the beginning of the end of the school year for many grades and that means a winding down of one aspect of my job, and a ramping up of another. For me that means it’s time to do all the employee training that we didn’t have time for during the year and even more so now that we have to make up for what was missed during the Covid quarantine months.
This week I’ll have to focus a lot more mental energy on my day job than I have in the past weeks we consider our “down time” of the year. I’m actually looking forward to it. It turns out that having too little to do for so long can be just as nerve-wracking as having too much. I’m ready for a change of pace. I’m ready to feel useful, knowledgeable, and accomplished again.
With the reallocated metal space comes the need to be more increasingly mindful of how I spend my free time. I’ve learned over the years that one of the way to stave off burnout during times of increased workload or stress is to make sure you do not waste what little free time you have. Make sure you mark it. Make sure you fill it with what truly soothes the soul.
With that being said, this week I will:
Finish editing my review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and my piece for World IBD Day. Enough words have been written now. Adding more will add nothing. Instead, focus on subtracting, rearranging, and substituting. Take this unorganized, unclear, and, probably, uninteresting mess and mold a readable post from both. Do not let perfect be the enemy of done.
Read for 30 minutes every night before bedtime. I failed again to make this goal happen even one day out of last week, but in failing I have learned a lesson. I realized if nothing changes then nothing changes and if I expect this week will be a success, I can’t keep doing what led to failure before. So, I have a “reading time” alarm and a routine on my phone that turns on “do not disturb” and turns of my wi-fi and mobile data to keep me off of social media.
Heed my meditation schedule and food restrictions. I’ve been weaning off of another round of steroids and as I come to the end of the taper my appetite and cravings have gotten the better of me. For someone with an inflammatory bowel disease this is like playing with fire. This week I will take better care of myself and remember that while the schedules and restrictions aren’t much fun, they are what keeps me happy, healthy, and productive.
Take a daily walk. Though sunshine has been very spotty lately the temperatures are rising and, most days, there is some time to get out and at least around the block. For the days when the clouds and cold, or rain and thunder roll in, there is the treadmill. There is no reason to continue to be sedentary and with the increased appetite and the additions snacks and calories coming in I have to find a way to increase my physical activity too.
Move my scheduled hour of writing from after work to after dinner. It turns out there are a lot of things I need to do after work and almost none of them are related to writing. Instead of fighting myself every day, I’ve decided to simply ask what works better? It turns out, after the day has already been lived, after the to-do list is done and you’ve done had your fill of people, that is the best time of day to do your thinking in and I’ve always done my best thinking when I write.
This week I will not get too far ahead of myself. I will not let anxiety over the coming weeks workload push me to take on more than I can handle or avoid altogether what terrifies me. The key is to know how much each day can hold and fill every one of them just to the brim. No more, no less. There is always more time we wish we had and more we wish we could accomplish, but some must always be left for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
This week I’m absolutely taking it easy. Between my birthday celebrations, Mother’s Day, upcoming weddings, and the world opening up in general, it suddenly it feels like there isn’t enough time to do all the things I have to do let alone anything I want to do or even to do nothing at all! I’m in desperate need of resting both my body and my mind, of finding time to be present, and of silence and solitude.
So, I’m keeping the goals light this week. The outside world is putting on the pressure and rather than pile on, I think it best to be kind to myself and provide some times of relief and release. There needs to be time for things I enjoy: writing of course, but other things too like podcasts, music, TV, games, walking outside, sleeping, laughing, and reading. Time spent not just without work but without worry too.
This week I will:
Finish writing my review of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil and draft a piece for World IBD Day next week. I have the words written but the anxiety and resulting avoidance over editing and ending any piece of writing, no matter how trivial, continues to plague my existence. The only way through it is through it.
Read for 30 minutes every night before bedtime. Utterly failed at this goal last week, but I’m trying again. I’m already so behind in my reading goals for the year and every day the gap between where I should be and where I am grows. I’m trying not to be so hard on myself, but I can’t waste the days this way. If the trend continues, social media sacrifices will have to be made!
Make one or two black out poems. I’ve missed pouring over newspaper and magazine articles remixing the words of writers better than me into Instagram poetry. The results aren’t technically perfect, nor are the sentiments profound, but the work forces the mind out of its course and feeds creativity. More than that, it’s just plain fun!
Keep my headphones close. I’ve missed the magical way music can transform my mood into anything I want or need. Music can bring you up, bring you down, transport you far away, or bring you back to the present. When you are stuck behind a desk all day, wishing you were anywhere but here, music is the only way to travel.
Spend some time behind the wheel. For those new to the blog and unaware, I suffer from pretty severe driving anxiety. I rarely drive anywhere unless absolutely necessary, but I’m ready for more flexibility and independence in my life, and that means I have to face my fear and start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s been far too long and I am far too late, but it’s better than never. I can do this!
This week I will not be so hard on myself. It’s been hard not to compare my place or progress with others. Everyone seems so capable and everything I do takes so much effort and half the time results in failure or disappointment. I know this is a problem of perspective, and I know that there are so many things I can do better than most. It’s just most days and in most situations, my soft skills seem of so little value.
This week I will work on finding my own way rather than going the way of others. I cannot do what others do and expect the same results others get. I am me, and I can only be me, and using my unique set of skills I can pick a path that feels a better fit, that feels a better journey, than struggling along someone else’s rocky way.
This week marks the beginning of a new month and what I hope will finally be the end of wintery cold and clouds. I’m looking forward to the sun, Spring finally springing, and to the world opening up, to life returning everywhere.
It isn’t a particularly busy time at work right now. Instead, it’s a time of preparing. The school year will end in just a few short weeks and though the vast majority of the kids will be enjoying their summer break, there is still work to be done as we ready for the next year to begin. There is summer school, trainings, conferences, renovations and purchases to make, and a plethora of policy changes to implement.
This week I’m dividing my time. I’m preparing at work and I’m pulling away for my own passions too. I have returned to writing and I don’t want to lose my motivation or momentum by either looking away or looking too closely. This week I’m simply flowing.
This week I will:
Continue meditating. I let the practice go some months ago, and the failure hit me so hard I haven’t been able to return until last week. It hasn’t been easy to get return to either. I’m fidgety and mind wanders far too easily, but I’m learning not to resist them but to let them come and then let them go. A much-needed lesson in these trying times.
Set aside one hour a day of writing. Ideally, this will be the first hour I am home directly after work. No one is expecting anything from me during that time, and I am generally alone. I will sometimes use that hour for a quick nap or to take care of neglected house chores, but that is only a way of procrastinating that I think will result in less guilt. It doesn’t.
Use all other free time for doing the “fun” parts of blogging. Reading, commenting, image searching, idea generation, and design are all things I tend to do instead of actually tying words onto the screen. The point of the scheduled hour is two-fold, to remember when to write and to be able to give myself permission not to write.
Read for 30 minutes every day. The next TBR to tackle is Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. It’s a great book and the difficulty I face trying to finish it is through no fault of the author. I simply struggle to concentrate while reading from a screen, but like all things I expect I only need more practice. This week’s lunch hours are allocated for the work.
Finish one blog post this week. I have many drafts started and plenty of notes and free writing done, but nothing edited and nothing ended, which is always the hardest part for me. This week I’m going to stick to my writing schedule and tackle the drafts one by one. Hopefully next week I can hope for two blog posts! Bonus: Wrap up one newsletter draft as well.
This week I will not put too much pressure on myself. Things have been enjoyable lately and I don’t want to lose that feeling. I want to write, and read, and learn, and connect, but I don’t want it to be work and I don’t want it to be hard. I want these goals to be a source of joy and peace, not a reason to have to negotiate or berate myself.
What doesn’t feel good or right will go, and what works will go on working for me as long as it will. Change is not only welcome, it is sought, and I’ve decided too that it shouldn’t hurt. It just shouldn’t be this hard. The rest of life already is. What you give and ask of yourself should be the balance.
This week my work days will begin get longer as I continue to heal and my ability to take on more roles and responsibilities grows. It’s been almost a year since I was last able to pour so much of myself and my time into my work but I’ll need to be mindful of my energy levels and make sure not to push myself too hard or too far.
With the extended days and lengthy lists of tasks that have piled up I know it will be all too easy to exhaust myself trying to make up for lost time.
This week I’m just to keep doing what works and focus on my most basic needs. It’s remembering to do the little things like meditate, drink water, rest, and eat that make the big goals possible. If the foundation crumbles the mind, the body, the mood, the whole day, and any chance at at productivity come down with it.
This week I will:
Wake up with my alarm, the first time it goes off!. I utterly failed at this goal last week. Worse than simply hitting snooze a few times I would get up and then actually return to the bed. Between the time needed to meditate and my resolution to start the workday 30 minutes earlier, I can’t keep starting my days this way.
Meditate every morning. Last week I only managed to work in one 10 minute session and it wasn’t nearly enough. Meditation and mindfulness have been critical elements to managing and coping with chronic illness. I have felt my mental health steadily declining since I stopped the practice, and I worry how far I will fall if I don’t return soon.
Eat meals and take medications on time. My work schedule has been a little chaotic lately which makes it hard not only to eat on time but to remember to be hungry at all! This has made healing all the more difficult as I miss out not only on the nutrients I need but miss the mealtime triggers for my medications. Bonus: Stay hydrated by taking a few sips of water at least every half an hour.
Not eat lunch at my desk. I’ve been missing out on 30 or 60 minutes of uninterrupted journal or blog time by blurring the line between personal and work time. My work day is already being extended enough and in order to maintain a healthy relationship with my work I need to draw clear boundaries and take advantage of time I have every right to claim as my own.
Write 500 words every day toward new blog posts. Last week I opened a few old unfinished drafts and managed a few awkward paragraphs of progress on each. This week I’d like to keep the momentum going and work down my running list of future posts one by one with the hope that I’ll find my old groove.
This week I will not fall into despair or self pity. It’s easy to get low especially now with so much uncertainty and loss around us. Our personal problems seem magnified. Our loneliness is deepened, and all of it feels impossible to overcome.
Personal goals feel unimportant in comparison to global grief but time hasn’t stopped ticking and we’ve already lost too much. It’s time to start trying again. It’s time to let a little bit of the pain go.
You can do this.
I’ve struggled to follow my own advice lately. In my defense, I have been dealing with a lot of loss and a lot of pain, a lot of depression and disorientation. I’ve lost my way and my motivation to find it again. I’ve been miserable and motionless. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself and making excuses.
So, what is different this week? This week I’m finally getting tired of my own bullshit. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being sick. I’m tired of stressing, worrying, and dwelling. I’m tired of being afraid.
This week I’m taking back my sense of control. My choices are often limited, sure, but they are not nonexistent. Inspiration can be found anywhere and time is only waiting to be found. Energy might be in short supply and motivation is hard to muster, but if you remember that managing both is the real work, the rest will come easy.
This week I will:
Wake up with my alarm. For months I had been doing so well willing myself out of bed without hitting the snooze button but returning to a full work week has meant needing more sleep than I’m used to and made it harder to head the morning alarm. This week I’d like to work out a way to get the rest I need and wake up when I want to, not when I have to. Bonus: Stop taking so many naps. At best they don’t help and at worst they make the fatigue worse.
Meditate every morning. Through much of January I kept up with my daily habit, but I missed a day and devastation that failure wrought left me unable to start again. The truth is, I can’t afford to keep avoiding the practice. For me, meditation is as important to healing as medication and starting the day with the body and breath makes all difference.
Delegate, or at least ask for help when I need it. I’ve always had a hard time trusting my coworkers to get the job done without my direction or input, but I’d like to learn to be more flexible and open to different ways of seeing the solution and different ways of getting there too. I’d like more mental space for myself, and that means sharing responsibility and giving up control.
Return to my journal. I’ve been away from my physical journal nearly as much and I have from my digital and I’ve missed it just as much if not more. This week I’d like to get back to it, and my planner too, by carving out my lunch time specifically for analog writing. The mornings will now be for digital work and the evenings are for reading.
This week I will not let the failures of these past weeks get me down. This year I will not allow guilt or shame of missing a goal or falling behind in the short term keep me from making the progress I know I can in the long term if I would only take the time to reflect and refocus. It’s a long way from here to December, and it’s unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that each week’s goals can be set and met without failure or falter.
Finish not just each day, but each week, month, and year and be done with it. A new one will always begin as soon as one ends, and you cannot make the most of the current if you are still carrying the weight of the last. Let it go.
The first steps after a stumble are always the hardest. The sooner you get them behind you, the better.
This week will the first time in months that I will return to something like my old full-time work schedule. I have been eager for a return to a time of more interesting and fulfilling work, but I expect the reality will remind me was days just like these, only longer and more tiring. Still, anything to break up the monotony. Anything just to feel normal again.
This week will also be the first test of the daily habits I’ve worked hard to establish over the last few months of half work days and half work weeks. It was easy then to meditate, to read, to write, to drink enough water and get enough sleep, but from now on the life/work balance will be tipped back the other way. I’m anticipating less time to myself and a lot more stress to manage. I’m expecting good habits to fall by the wayside and bad habits making troubling returns….if I let them.
This week it will take focus and willpower to keep moving through the to-do lists and the assigned tasks, but more than that, it will take a little self-compassion. It will take encouraging and believing in myself and making this space safe to fail in. No more shaming and blaming. Instead, there will be nothing but praise, patience, and pep talks.
This week I will:
Read the introduction and chapter one of Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail by Frances Fox Piven. On a whim last month I joined a book club and according to an email I received last week, it turns out I’m actually expected to read the material and join a discussion in a little under two weeks from today. Bonus: Finish the current chapter of The Second Sex.
Meditate every morning. Cultivating a meditation practice is one of the very few resolutions I have made that are expected to be daily habits . I’ve done great so far and I’d like to keep it up through the end of the week. I have set my morning alarm 30 minutes earlier; I have reminders in my phone, and if it doesn’t get done first thing in the morning, it must be the last thing I do before bed.
Stay hydrated. Last month a few of my lab results came back with troubling numbers regarding my kidneys. I have been struggling with dehydration for months and now that I am finally seeing some healing, it’s important I give my body the best chance by drinking a lot more water and laying off the sugary sports drinks that have become a habit.
Fill in a page of my journal and update my planner every day. My journal and my planner are two out of the four keys to my success in 2021. The third is sitting in my office chair and the fourth is setting a timer. I’m easing into the productivity shifts and the start is simply writing down what I think and what I want to do about what I think.
Finish week two of Social Psychology on Coursera. I enrolled into an irrational number of courses last month in an attempt to take advantage of free certificate offers in subjects I’d long been interested in. Immediately upon looking at the number of lectures, reading requirements, and assignments, I felt overwhelmed found it impossible to even begin. This week I’m going to begin by taking each in 20 and 30 minute chunks at a time for as long as it takes until I’m done.
This week I will not get discouraged. There is time for the things you want to do, you only have to find it. It’s in the little breaks and the small moments between this task and the next. It’s in the space you give to too much TV, to the games on your phone, to social media and sleeping in. There is time enough to do a little every day and you have to let that be enough.
The theme of 2021 is slow and steady. Keep in your mind a vision of yourself 12 months from now all that might change and how far you might find yourself from where you stand now if you were to take just one small step every day. The step need not be perfect. It need not even be right. It only has to be forward. It only has to be done.