Week 14: The Best of Me for Me

A full fourth of the year has passed me by and already I have to say, it’s far from what I thought it would be—far more exciting and far more exhausting too. My work schedule has been busier than I would have liked and between obligations there and at home, it’s been hard to make time for myself.

It hasn’t all been unpleasant or unsatisfactory. It’s only that, for a time there, romantic love and fulfilling friendships have taken precedent over personal passions, but I feel something changing.

I suppose it’s the warming weather and the sense that, despite my personal views, the pandemic is being forced to the edge of our collective consciousness. We’ve been given permission to go against our better judgment and that feels better than it should.

I’m left now with a deepening sense of security and normalcy I haven’t known in two years at least. I’m aware of the delusion, but it’s a hope too tempting to resist. I want things to be more like they were. I want to be more like I was. I suppose I still am, in a way. It’s hard to explain, but I am me, only just changed. What I want to find out now is what this new me could do with those old dreams and aspirations?

In the meantime, this week I will:

Keep a to-do list and with each item, indicate not just the steps needed to complete the task, but how to know when to stop. I’ve been taking on too many open-ended items and found them either too daunting or all-consuming. I either don’t want to start them or I don’t know how to end them.

Spend time with my notebooks. I have already returned my pocket notebook to its place, but my journal, logbook, and commonplace book have been long forgotten in dark and dirty bag pockets. I want to get back to doing what I enjoy: jotting, noting, tracking, and documenting.

Get some fresh air. The dog has been far too cooped up over the winter and she seems to know just as well as I that Spring is here and with it the end of excuses for staying in. It’s time to explore the neighborhood again, revisit her training, and work on my endurance. Bonus: Work out just three days.

Read 224 pages of White Teeth: A Novel by Zadie Smith. I’ve been calculating pages to read by whether I want to finish in one week, 10 days, or a fortnight. White Teeth is rather long, so I’m shooting for 14 days to finish. That means 32 pages a day over lunch breaks and before bed.

Spend time with my cat. This week we are euthanizing our old cat, Sophia. There are no doubts now about whether it is right or whether it is time. Now it’s only a matter of making her last days some of her best. Treats, time outside, and lots of warmth and cuddles—for her as much as for me.

This week I will not let myself get overwhelmed. My work calendar is full, but there’s nothing beyond my capabilities and no shortage of support all along the way. the work will be hard but it’s not all going to be bad and, anyway, there will still be long hours I can make my own if I can meet them with the right attitude and focus.

It’ll take holding back a bit so the day doesn’t end with work. It’ll take giving “good enough” to everyone else and saving the best of me for me.


Photo by Katie Doherty on Unsplash

Week 04: Fragments and Snatches

This week promises to be another busy one, but not nearly as busy as the last two. The problem really isn’t the workload, but the lack of help I’ve had of late. One coworker is out with an injury and another left for greater opportunities elsewhere. There are still members of my team available, but still fewer to carry the same load, so each has a heavier weight.

This week the load is lot lighter in some ways, and a little heavier in others, but none of it is anything we can’t handle. It helps that I have been practicing preparing myself ahead of time for these weighty weeks. I knew my calendar events would grow dense and I would be more tired and less motivated than usual, so I gave myself permission to use my free time to rest or retreat when needed.

These weeks I am reading, writing, and learning in thought fragments and snatches of time rather than by hours or essays, and it’s ok. I’m ok. When there is more time, I can pick up right where I left off.

In the meantime, this week I will

Wake up 15 minutes earlier. I have been struggling to get up with my alarm and find myself cutting corners in the morning to make up time. I’ve been starting my days with frustration and forgetfulness and wasting hours and energy just to get back on track. I need to do better, but to go from what I have been doing to what I should be doing would mean a 45-minute difference, too much to ask from myself before sunrise. So, just 15 extra minutes this week, please?

Read more. I am proud to have finished two books already this year, but with increased mental strain comes a sharp downturn in my discipline. There have been far more episodes watched than chapters read and I’m disappointed in the disparity. I don’t want to stop watching TV. It’s not rotting my brain, only taking too much time. This week I just need to even out the split.

Keep up with my paper journal and logbook. I had one goal this year, and this was it: document what you did and how you felt. Keep track of what you think and how you change. It’s a small thing that I am convinced will, in time, make a vast difference to how I write. As you do it, though, the act can become mundane and feel unimportant at the moment. You throw the notebooks in a bag and forget. This week I will keep them visible during the day and make time during all those episodes in them every night.

Use my weekend mornings to my advantage. I have been lamenting the lack of time during the week and complaining about the endless obligations during the weekend, but I know there is time enough available. To start, I have Saturday and Sunday mornings entirely to myself. If I could get myself up and get my ass in the chair. There is more, but this could be a start—or a return, rather. Wake up a little earlier and take some time for yourself.

Make my health a higher priority. A busy work schedule makes it too easy to push your basic needs aside. You arrive at your desk and set down your water bottle, your breakfast smoothie, your medications and supplements, and your lunch, and never pick them up again until it’s time to return home. This week, eat when you are hungry, drink water when you aren’t thirsty, and take your medications and supplements at the appropriate times.

This week I will not let fear limit me. I try so hard to be brave every day, but I fail in moments when later I think I might have been able to be strong. I want to practice saying yes when fear is the only reason to say no. The hard part is discerning when that is.

For me, fear always arrives in disguise. Fear pretends to be wise, and I feel foolish to ignore it. There are reasons why something is scary and I have no trouble explaining and convincing myself to avoid what I know I need to do. Even when guilt comes nagging, I say, “Wait until you are stronger, better, smarter. Wait, wait, wait.”

This week, when my first instinct is to say no, I will figure out why. When my mind provides the worst case scenario I’ll then ask, “And what if the worst truly went wrong?” For every reply, ask again all the way down until you have found nothing but your fear standing in the way, do it anyway.


Photo by Katie Doherty on Unsplash

Fight Your Way Through

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

— Ira Glass (via swissmiss)

“This is the reasoning behind my manifesto, a move towards transparency in my intentions, motives and views. Perhaps this will inspire you to craft your own. And if you do, by all means to do so with enough cheeky humor and kindness to remind yourself and the reader that you fully own that you are but one fabric in the cosmic thrift store.” 

Do you also have a ‘stop doing’ list?
Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives.  We have ever-expanding ‘to do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more.  It rarely works.  Those who  built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of ‘stop doing’ lists as ‘to do’ lists.  They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.”

— Jim Collins, as excerpted from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t (via Steve Layman)

We’re Not Really Strangers

Related: Rita Schiano on talking about joy.

Shifts // June 2019

1. Write about what you love as much as what you hate. Write about the good things you have as much as your pain. Your perspective is the way you habitually see the world. It is adjustable with practice and perseverance. Practice gratitude more often because balance is how you get closer to the reality of things. It helps to take stock of what is good and to remember that things are never as bad as they seem right now.

2. Start cooking at home again. It isn’t easy, I know. Working long hours and fighting back the exhaustion and the disappointment of another bad day make it hard to even want to cook. It’s easier to “pick up something”. It’s easier to snack or rely on foods from the freezer to the microwave, but it’s awful for you both physically and emotionally. Instead, change the way you think about cooking. Make it your “me time” or your “us time”. Open a bottle of wine, play some music, talk to one another and then share your delicious and good for you creation with each other.

3. Leave your shelter more often. Anxiety and chronic fatigue make it hard but getting out into the world really is the best thing for you. Stop wallowing. No more weekends spent entirely indoors. Get out of bed, fix yourself up, and go meet the sun. Go where the people are, where nature is. Find places where you can be a part of the world and where your problems look a lot smaller from.

4. It’s okay not to know. There is always something that everyone of us does not know and so much of that unknown is found not in lofty and elite places but all around us in the everyday and ordinary. Not knowing is not just human, normal, and understandable, it is also admirable. Not knowing is part of the work, the journey and the joy. Share what you don’t know as much as what you do. It’s infinitely more relatable.

5. Return to your bliss station. You cannot create from the couch, while you watch this movie, or this show, or even the news. Stop lying to yourself. You do not even enjoy trying to write or read or learn that way and you always regret the decision. You know where you would work best, away from the what distracts you, what exhausts you, what stunts your creativity and ability to think. Go there, work there, make it a place where happiness, inspiration, and your spark can be found time and time again.

6. What you want is not always the path to what you need. Humans notoriously want what is bad for them and we justify it by calling it what we need. We start from the wrong end trying to get the wrong things but when we take the time to dig beneath those excuses, those rationalizations, and those lies we find the core of need. Start there instead and work your way back out to a better, healthier, more efficient and effective solution.  

7. Learn to love all the seasons. Try to love all the ways they change you and make you feel too. Spring isn’t the only season of growth and summer isn’t the only season in which we can find joy. There are versions of you and ways of living that can only be accessed in the winter in fall and the days and seasons we’ve yet to name that exist in a space between. Give all these seasons attention and cultivate a habit of studying all the ways you exist in them.


Post inspired by Nicholas Bate

Photo by Lenart Lipovšek on Unsplash