Consistency

I have written fourteen blog posts since launching this site.  Fourteen.  Not such a large number, but significant in ways that count.

For fourteen consecutive weeks, I have put my thoughts out in this space for anyone to read, absorb, retain, reject, agree with, or challenge.

For fourteen consecutive weeks, I have shared pieces of my story and created connections.  I have had conversations that stemmed from what is posted in these pages that were meaningful and relevant.

For fourteen consecutive weeks, and perhaps one of the most significant pieces for me, right up there with connecting meaningfully with others, I have sat down, written, and hit Publish.  I have had weeks where I could have said “I don’t have enough time.”  I have had weeks where I was traveling, where I was tired, where I didn’t feel well.  Weeks where there was probably something a bit “more important” that needed doing.  And of course there was the self-doubt; that what I had to say was small, was unimportant, was unoriginal.  But there was something bigger than all of that.

I found a spark in writing the words that became posts, in the posts that became content, in sharing.  I am passionate about writing, about communicating with those who take the time to read what I post, about connecting with each of you in the comments and in passing.  I am passionate about creating something that adds value.

When you find your “thing”, chances are it won’t feel like the rest of the “things”; activities, expectations and commitments that you’re trying to force, another check mark on the To Do list for the day.  I could have easily shrugged off writing tonight; I have two more sleeps in this home that, come Monday, will no longer be ours, I am surrounded by belongings packed up in boxes, I have more belongings that have not yet found their way into boxes, piles of laundry to wash, more piles of paperwork to sort and file, two kids who are down and out with the stomach bug, work emails that are waiting to be answered…but yet it didn’t cross my mind to not write, to not hit Publish, to not remain consistent.

What can you create that makes you feel this way?

 

Whittling

I spent the morning sifting through my family’s belongings (and rifling through our pantry).  Walking from room to room, picking up this thing or that, filtering back through the memories of photos, recalling who may have gifted us what and when – beautiful wooden cutting boards, baskets, serving ware, platters, a punch bowl.  We own things I had forgotten we had; I became blind to items that existed in my environment day-to-day.  Tabasco, for instance.  No one in my family uses it, yet a bottle sat front and center in the spice cabinet for who knows how long.

I was happy to have a few hours to myself this morning to do this; it’ll likely be the last time in this house that I get to wander around and look at everything on my own time.

Our house, which has been for sale, is under contract; our closing date is looming and we’re in the process of moving most of our belongings into a storage unit.  We’re going to be bunking with my parents for a few months while the girls finish out the school year and we begin the process of hunting for the perfect new home (a few of you have already mentioned your anticipation of the posts that are likely to come from what promises to be a comedic adventure – at my expense).  We’re in prime whittling mode.

The amount of belongings – and expired spices – that we can accumulate in each phase of our lives is overwhelming and, ironically, little humans compound this tenfold.

As a general rule, I enjoy getting rid of “stuff”; this move has given me the ability to offload quite a number of under utilized, no longer necessary or just general in-need-of-disposing items (expired Parsley, for instance).  As addicted as I have become to purging, I am stuck on a few things.  I have very few pieces of artwork saved from the girls’ younger years (I can hear the audible gasps of some of you from here), but I do have every doctor’s visit weight and height slip, every report card, every skating badge, every winter’s season pass, every end of ski season instructor report.  They’re all tucked away in a filing cabinet – sure to never see the light of day again.  Pockets – black holes really – of accumulation.  If I were the scrapbooking type I’d have a place for every stray piece, however I gave that up within the first year of my 13-year-old’s existence.

I’m curious – what do you keep, and what do you discard?  How do you store those things you choose to hang on to?

Exposed

As a mom, there are any given number of things that I can fail at on a daily basis.  Dinner, for instance.  With a family of five, I will most likely choose at least one meal a week that someone would rather not eat.  Or picking out the right pair of pants for my 3-year-old; this usually occurs within the first hour of the day, primarily because she detests pants and wants to wear dresses all of the time.  Not long sleeve dresses, but strappy sundresses made for beaches, and certainly not for outdoor classroom days in Vermont in mid-November.  But one of the things I fail consistently at is…

I’m a yeller.

I yell.  Alot.

To admit this exposes a part of me that I would like to keep buried from scrutiny.  It’s not an easy thing to admit, that my reaction to stressful or trying situations is frustration, that I can’t talk myself out of the zero to sixty escalation from calm and rational to not.

I certainly don’t think that yelling is a strength of mine; no, quite the opposite – there is more strength in remaining calm and composed.  But there is strength in my sharing this with you.

I think there is a widely accepted myth about strength – that it comes from a place of security, of confidence, of always doing things the “right” or “accepted” way, of perfection.  However, I think strength comes from acknowledging our faults, our flaws, and our quirks, in accepting ourselves as is.

I didn’t connect with the thoughts I share in this space from a place of strength.  In taking a look at the areas where I wanted to grow personally, these musings certainly weren’t hiding in areas I excel in.  I had to examine my faults; to figure out where I was weakest.  Sometimes, I need someone else to be that mirror for me.  I think, while it can be easy to find faults in ourselves, it’s not always so easy to own up to the ones whose roots grow a bit deeper.

I’m not saying that I am blind to certain faults or weaknesses; rather, like yelling, they are layered behind excuses and justifications that I have built.

There is incredible strength in being vulnerable, in sharing that exposure and I think that’s because people resonate with what is real, and what is honest.  The strength comes in pushing past the doubt, in accepting that there might be rejection, in accepting that the parts about us that we hide, those pieces that are not shiny and pretty and polished, are worth putting out there as well, in being open.  There are bonds forged with those you can share your weaknesses with, and even more so when you can count on others to hold you accountable for using those weaknesses and turning them into challenges you have overcome.

Vulnerability can take on many faces; exposing your thoughts, showcasing your talent, displaying your skills.  Learning something new, being a beginner.  Traveling solo.  Making a career change.  Talking about the struggles, about mistakes and about failures.

Find a way to be vulnerable; find a space you can be vulnerable in, people you can be vulnerable with.  Vulnerability begets value, and we can all use a little more of that.

Shift

On September 14th, nearly two months ago, I started a gratitude project.  There were no rules other than I was expected to share five things daily that I was grateful for.

I have added five gratitude items daily for over 50 consecutive days.

At first, it was challenging to think about coming up with five things every day; I used to be – and still hang on to pieces of being – a “glass half empty” type.  However, with practice, you can become better at just about anything, including being positive and finding the silver lining in challenges.

The project is ongoing.  There is no stop date.  It is something that I carry with me every day.  It has changed my perspective in a number of situations.  It makes me feel the appreciation for everything I have much more thoroughly.  I find inspiration in seeking and creating more things I am grateful for, in crafting experiences that I will be grateful to have.

This gratitude practice has shifted my focus; it helps me see what is there, versus what isn’t and creates awareness around abundance, versus lack.

We’re in the season of giving thanks.  Find a reason to say thank you for something today.  Try it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  Build a practice in gratitude that extends past the end of the month, that is sustainable indefinitely.  If you’re feeling stuck, type gratitude into a Google or Pinterest search bar and you’ll be inundated with ideas on how to craft a practice that you can stick with.

You can thank me later.  Or, you could be grateful for stumbling upon this blog, and day one is already behind you.

On Being Intentional

This week is the first of four self-imposed three-day work weeks; I have accumulated PTO hours that are allowing me to do this, or else I lose the time.

From a workload perspective this might not be the best timing, but there is always more we could be doing, isn’t there?  I could easily let the accrued time slide, focus on pressing projects that need attention, and save myself a bit of stress during the three days I am in the office (or, when I’m not and the number in the red circle above my email icon continues to relentlessly grow).  However, in looking at my calendar last week, and trying to figure out just where I could take one day off, let alone eight, I promised myself that I would take the time because, after all, one of the biggest goals I had in 2017 was to find time for me.

Over the course of the last ten months, I have had to become intentional about a number of things, knowing that I wanted to change the trajectory of my day-to-day.  I had to become aware of content, consumption, activities, and time, and become intentional about the choices I made in those areas.  Life starts to change in a real way when you show up for yourself, when you start being deliberate with the decisions you make for yourself, your thoughts and your focus.

I had to consciously focus on consumption; picking up books that served as mental nourishment, narrowing the focus of the mindless scrolling on social media, vetting my blog subscriptions, making sure that what I was consuming was propelling myself forward.  There is an endless amount of garbage, mindless, soul-sucking black holes of nothing, readily available for us to consume – or rather, ready to consume us.  You have to be purposeful about what you are choosing to pay attention to, and equally if not more importantly, about what you are not.  I spent quite a bit of time scrutinizing my intake on various levels, and once I had culled out a few of the sources, I began to work on filling the gaps left with more worthwhile content.

When you have decided that you no longer want to stay stuck where you are developmentally, yet don’t know what direction you are trying to grow, you discover that there are numerous directions that one can take.  If you are in a similar mindset to where I was ten months ago, you may not necessarily know what might get you out of the rut you are in.  I had to consciously choose activities and events outside of my comfort zone, and be intentional about setting aside the time to participate in them.  I found that one of the most successful ways of doing this was to sign up or register well in advance, which forced me to schedule around those things I had committed to like I would a meeting or a school pick-up time.  For instance, I signed up for a beginner’s watercolor class slated to start mid-October in August.  I enjoy painting, but had only tried my hand at watercolor once and hadn’t taken an art class since high school more than 15 years ago.  Had I hesitated or procrastinated on signing up, I’m quite sure I would have talked myself out of it, convinced that I didn’t have the time.  That class has been one of the things I anticipate most every week, and I intend to continue growing and learning in this area.  Spark, lit.

Being intentional has been an ongoing practice in habit and mindset that can be challenging.  Once in awhile there will be times when old habits and mindsets sneak back in; life gets busy, I lose focus and I settle back into the well-worn tracks of the paths I have taken so many times that led me to feeling the way I described in Catalysts, but I now have the ability to accept it for what it is, acknowledge it, decide to not stay in that space for too long, and start making mindful decisions again when I can.

You have to be intentional when wanting to grow; growth is not easy, and more often than not it is uncomfortable.  It’s easy to stay where you are at; complacency and staying with what we know can be comforting.  But it’s not where the goosebumps are.