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Archive for the ‘Getting It Together’ Category

I have dreams about this delicious stew.

I’ve mentioned before that I have been trying to limit my food waste for the last year, and I have had some pretty good successes. I used to throw out a lot of condiments. I would open a jar of salsa, for example, to eat with some chips, and the rest of it would sit in the fridge unused until it started to grow things. One might argue that another option is just to make salsa from scratch because 1) it’s so much better and 2) then I would only make as much as I need, but to make this argument one would first have to drastically overestimate my commitment to eating salsa. I’ve tried to pay more attention this year, only opening condiments when I have a plan for the whole container. It’s not perfect yet, but progress has been made.

I also used to throw out a lot of prepared food. I cook in big batches to save time and energy, but I always got tired of eating what I made on Saturday before it was all gone. I like leftovers, just not five times in the same week. This past year, I’ve been freezing leftovers so that they last longer, and it has completely eliminated my prepared food waste. I have included my favorite basic big-batch concept (the skillet meal) and variations of the recipe below. These have become my go-to staples, and at any given moment, I probably have a few servings of at least two of them in the freezer.

I find the peeling, chopping, etc., of fresh vegetables cathartic, and I’m so happy about the local produce available. But if you are short on desire, time, storage space, or access to fresh options, frozen veggies work beautifully in all of these recipes, too. I cook all of these things in my trusty, gigantic covered skillet. If my apartment were on fire, I’d save my grandmother’s quilt, the picture frame bookends with beloved photos from my childhood, and that skillet (not really – insurance would easily cover its replacement. But I do really, really love it).

Another thing to know about my cooking style – I rarely measure. This is why I need supervision when I bake, and I accept that about me. I may begrudgingly stick to a recipe the first time I try it, but then I do what I want until it “looks right” every time after that. I’ve included links to similar recipes for those of you who want a little more structure.

I also don’t like a lot of salt, so most people will want to add some to the seasoning step to taste.

Basic Skillet

  1. Sauté aromatics (onions, peppers, celery, garlic, etc.) until translucent-ish
  2. Add and cook protein/additional veggies (chicken, ground beef, beans, veggie crumbles, etc.)
  3. Add a large can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes or a mess of chopped fresh tomatoes from the market
  4. Add water (about three cups? Whatever roughly a large tomato can and a half is) and bring to a boil
  5. Add seasonings
  6. Add starch (enough to soak up the liquid, which will vary from recipe to recipe. Just make sure it is all thoroughly covered with room for stirring and you should be fine) and cover, stirring occasionally, until it’s done
  7. Add final touches and serve

Cheeseburger skillet – similar to Budget Bytes Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta – it’s essentially Hamburger Helper from scratch so it’s got the childhood nostalgia going for it. Onions and peppers (1), ground beef, veggie crumbles, or black beans (2), onion soup packet and fresh ground black pepper (5), your favorite small pasta (6), top with dill pickle relish (although I just stir a few spoonfuls into the big batch itself) and cheddar cheese to serve (7).

Chickpea stew (pictured above) – I can’t remember where I got this idea. I may have just had a lot of the ingredients in the kitchen and thought, “I wonder how that would taste together.” Onions, peppers (I used a poblano in this one and I highly recommend that), celery, and garlic (1), chickpeas (2), garam masala (5), top with raisins or currants (optional but delicious) to serve.

Cajun skilletanother Budget Bytes inspiration – really delicious no matter which protein option you choose. Onions, garlic, and bell peppers (1), chicken, sausage, or kidney beans…or all three (2), oregano, thyme, cayenne, paprika, red pepper flakes, black pepper (5), a cup and a half (ish) of rice (6).

Mozzarella skilletessentially, cavatini (but mine is better) – this is one of my favorite meals from childhood. Mom made it with ground beef and pepperoni, but I usually make it vegetarian. It’s delicious both ways. Onions and garlic (1), ground beef, pepperoni, pancetta, and/or diced salami – alternatively (or additionally -just throw everything in), zucchini, eggplant, and/or spinach or whatever green you have handy (2), onion soup packet, oregano, thyme, basil, a little cayenne, black pepper (5), your favorite pasta (6). Then – take all the mozzarella you have (shred it first, of course – for scale, Mom made this in the small stock pot and put 32 oz. of cheese in there – do not skimp) – and stir it into the skillet until it’s melted and, frankly, glorious. Add shaved Parmesan on top to serve.

I typically eat these dishes as meals by themselves, but I suppose you could serve a salad and bread alongside them. If you simply must act civilized about it. But there’s something so comforting to me about tucking into one delicious bowl of goodness.

And bonus – they all freeze beautifully.

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“May your coming year be filled with magic and reams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” Neil Gaiman

Every year, I write this quote on the first notes page of my new planner. When I read through my 2020 planner, it made me cry, not only because of some of the things I missed but also because of how much of this sweet wish actually came true. It wasn’t at all in the ways I expected, but I guess that’s part of the surprise.

In Joy the Baker’s “Let It Be Sunday” post last week, she talked about goal setting as making deposits on your dreams. I love that perspective. Each year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I reflect on the last twelve months and tweak the goals that need a little nudge to get me closer to who and where I want to be. As I mentioned yesterday, I reflect and adjust throughout the year, but this is the time that I always have some days off work to really dig in.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read 120 books. Third time’s the charm? I don’t know what will happen this year, but I know that I’m more myself when I’m reading regularly. As long as the focus to do so remain constant, ten books a month is a pretty reasonable pace for me, and when I have a little extra time off, I read even more (thus the 13 I read in November and the 15 in December). The theme for this year’s reading is community. I’m in three local book clubs that meet live every month, another one that discusses primarily through a Facebook group (Fantastic Strangelings), and a new one that Roxane Gay is leading. A friend at work is also organizing some of us to participate in the Pop Sugar challenge. I love talking about books with fellow lit lovers.
  2. My current career plans are to retire from UNT when I’m eligible in nine and a half years and then embark on my second (third? fourth? Who’s keeping track, really?) career as a full-time writer. To this end, I will need to have established a strong second income already, which I have already begun working on. I wrote 250,000 words in freelance articles in 2020, and for 2021, I want to push to finish 300,000 words. This means an average of 6,000 words a week, which is a lot but also reasonably doable.
  3. One thing I have become acutely aware of this past year is how the spaces in my home are technically functional but not really inviting. I want to fix that this year, and I have weekly goals for doing so mapped out. Even if I’m the only one who enjoys them, I am reason enough to make them as cozy as possible.
  4. You know what would also be great dream to realize? Becoming a better/more confident artist. I mean, I’ll perform anyway, but I would like it to take less intense and sudden practice, particularly when I’m performing with other artists who regularly put in the time to be prepared for such things. The first ten years I played piano, my mom made me practice an hour a day to justify the lessons she was paying for. It was not always convenient or easy, but it sure was handy to be able to sub in with little to no warning when someone needed me to. At the height of the time I was performing regularly, I danced 10-15 hours a week (and my legs were phenomenal). I also was more aware of how food affected my body and paid more attention to strength so that I didn’t get injured. I have so many writing projects started, and I want people to be able to read them in their entirety at some point. So I have a lot I want to accomplish. I don’t expect myself to carve out an extra 25 hours a week right now, but I can build toward more consistency. To this end, I am putting aside an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights as well as two hours each Saturday, to give myself time to make personal art practice a specific, regular part of my schedule. For January, I’m going to practice each of the three genres (writing, dance, piano) at least three times a week, and I’ll expand/adapt once I am consistently doing that. My hope is that by the end of the year, I’m closer to the 25-hour mark than the 5-hour one.
  5. Pursue joy. Joy is my word of the year, and as you may have been noticing in the 31 days series (which we’re just shamelessly going to continue until it’s done, ignoring the fact that the 31 original days for which it was intended have passed), I have a lot to say about it already. You can expect a few updates a month, and I’m going to be reading at least one book a month with joy in the title. The first one I started with the blog series was Surprised by Joy (which I expect to finish within the week). January has three selections by the same author – Jennifer McCartney’s The Joy of Being Online All the F*cking Time, The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place, and The Joy of Doing Just Enough. In a month where everything else is certain to be pretty intense, I expect these books will bring a little levity.

Do you make resolutions? If not, do you have goals you’re working toward? I’d love to hear about them!

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Some of my favorite images from the year

Well, here it is. The end-of-the-year review. I feel like a lot has been said about the world in general, and I’m tired and a little sad tonight, so I’m not interested in recapping it (didn’t I do this last year, too? I remember being very melancholy last year at this time. Maybe that’s just who I am now.). So I’m going to go through the year I thought I was going to have, how it changed for me personally, and maybe some more things as I ramble on.

First, some goal-setting changes:
1. I love resolutions, but I maintain the flexibility to adapt them. I did this really well this year – mostly out of necessity but also because it just makes sense to set goals that way. To work toward what you want until you get it or don’t really want it anymore or figure out something you want more.
2. Instead of plotting all the short-term tasks needed to reach goals in a chart for each month at the beginning of the year, I plotted one month at a time and based the new standards for each month on the previous month’s actual accomplishment (it’s like I KNEW) (I did not know) (No one knew). I like this much better, and it gives me a much clearer picture of the real progress I’m making.
3. I took the month of December off from the reward system of checking things off. Mostly I did this to just take a break from it, which was needed. But also it gave me a chance to see what habits actually stuck when I removed the reward of a check mark or a crossed-off item. Very illuminating.

Official resolutions I made at the beginning of the year and how they went:
1. Read 120 books. I did not quite make it. But, considering that I went for about four months where I had the attention span of a gnat and couldn’t read for more than five minutes at a time (I read a total of six books during those four months), I think my final total of 96 is still pretty respectable.
2. Finish Fishbowl again – nope. Although I’ve made considerable progress.
3. Keep up with microfictions on Ello – yes…ish. I haven’t even checked lately to see if Ello is still a thing. But I have written a LOT of microfiction and short stories. I didn’t set a specific number to write every month, so I didn’t keep count, but that was the main creative writing I did.
4. Perform with Spiderweb – yes x2! I was in the last in-person show, collaborating with Sarah Ruth for Spiderweb Loves You on Valentines Day. And I had a spot in our online Spiderdead in November playing an original not-really-a-composition-but-more-like-a-prompt called Maybe Hope is a Terrible Idea.
5. Find a doctor – yes. Done.
6. Find a new dentist and eye doctor – not yet. Have people picked out to try, though, in the first few months of the new year.
7. Continue to build Pilates practice – yes, but not back with the in-person classes yet (although my studio has been great with upping the cleanliness standards and thinking outside the box and serving customers – really proud of the way they’ve done things). When we started working from home in March, I accepted a 30-day strength challenge with Jessica and Mary in my office, though, and I incorporated a lot of Pilates stuff in that and have expanded it and kept up with it pretty well. I may be able to test into Level 2 classes when I return.
8. Work – vague resolution about continuing to figure out what I want to do with my life that got put on the back burner when I was just happy to still have work.
9. Word of the year was “alive” and we know how I feel about that. So that’s that.

Goals I didn’t have at the beginning of the year but added and met anyway:
1. Reduce plastic use and trash production. I started putting trash day as Monday on my calendar (I needed help remembering some things – see note above re: attention span). I soon found myself finding ways to prolong it to another day to see how long I could go without filling up the trash cans. I’m up to three weeks (except in the kitchen because food-adjacent waste really shouldn’t sit in my house for three weeks but I just use smaller bags).
2. Reduce food waste – my fridge had a hard year and I think it’s on its way to dying. My freezer still works great, though, so I began freezing leftovers. I’m down to almost zero food waste, so I think that’s a habit I’ll keep even when I have a fixed/new fridge.
3. Automate shipments – toilet paper, toothpaste tabs (the Bits ones – plastic free packaging!), laundry sheets (also plastic free!), etc. I needed to take things out of my headspace this year, so I automated a lot of shipments of things I normally would just run an extra errand to get when I ran out. Now I don’t run out. Great decision – 10/10 – highly recommend.

Things I learned about myself:
1. I’m way more adaptable than I thought I was. Like…my response to chaos has mostly been to fight and thrive (relatively speaking).
2. I am very particular about who I trust. And I like that about me. I mean, I’ll extend a basic trust to most people – I don’t want into new relationships assuming they’re shady – but past that basic trust? It has to be earned.
3. I can like and get along with someone without trusting them or letting them affect me. This makes me good at standing up for other people, and I want to practice that more in the future.
4. I need to be touched. Like…regularly. I knew this already but I really really know it now.

I lost a few people I love this year (some COVID-related, some not), and that’s been hard. I also had a few heartbreaks, one in particular that was really heavy and terrible. I feel like I’m in perpetual heartbreak these days, and I don’t know how to not be. I’m really trying to seek joy in the midst of it anyway.

Finally, to end on a sort of positive note, some highlights:
1. Staying connected to Spiderweb even though it’s online and particularly to the You Are Here support group
2. Monday night text study
3. Book clubs!
4. So many artists adapting to online performance and sharing really beautiful things
5. So many local businesses adjusting to changes and finding new ways to serve customers
6. The Science of Well-Being – free course from Yale
7. Wake and Bake fundraising boxes of baked goods
8. Backyard hangouts with people who love me

Goodbye, 2020.

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Coffee for two is my favorite (and most elusive) kind of coffee.

I’ve been posting snippets of a story project entitled “How To Unbreak Your Heart” on my writer page on Facebook. This has brought up thoughts about how people respond to those who are hurting. We’re not always great at it. We may say too much that’s not helpful, forcing someone who is already dealing with loneliness and the exhausting grief that comes with it to decide whether to make sure that we know our intention is appreciated while feeling utterly misunderstood or to be honest and risk being more misunderstood and rejected as a result. Or we, knowing that trying to say the right thing is such a fucking minefield, avoid it altogether and just hope everything turns out okay (you know, after they get past the extra alone feeling that comes with apparently having no one to talk to about it).

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them. But I may have one.

When someone you care about is heartbroken, it’s natural to want to ease that for them. One way people have tried to do this for me is by telling me their own harried love stories of doing everything wrong and still getting the relationship, or stories of people who found love despite the odds against them. I’m certain it was meant to help me understand that such things are also possible for me.

It did not do this. Not in that particular moment.

You see, once upon a time, I loved a boy. He liked me just fine and for a moment thought maybe I was a possibility but chose someone else instead. I was dealing with it and would be doing okay(ish), but then I would see one of his posts about how happy she made him, and then I’d have a fresh wound to tend to. As someone who loved him, I loved seeing him happy. As someone who loved me, I hated that it was with someone else.

I felt really bad about feeling that way for a long time. I felt like a bad friend because I couldn’t just get over it. I felt like a failure when I followed friends’ advice to stop following him on social media – to stop seeing all his posts about how happy he was with someone else – in order to heal. I felt like more of a failure when doing so didn’t help me heal any faster. We lost touch, and I still regret the role I played in that. I still miss the great friendship we could have had.

Anyway, when I hear these stories, especially when I’m deep in the throes of loneliness, that’s what comes up for me. I imagine similar memories surface for other people who have been rejected a lot, too.

Does that mean I don’t want to hear about my friends’ happiness? Of course not. I love it when they share the great things going on in their lives, and I especially love seeing people who have experienced romantic deserts similar to my own finally find someone they adore who has the good sense to adore them, too. I’m thrilled for them. I even seek these stories out if I have just gotten back from a boring date or ended the fifth lackluster, going-nowhere online flirtation of the month as a reminder that trying to meet someone doesn’t always end up being a complete waste of time. And you better believe I’ll be posting some stories of my own should such a miraculous happenstance ever occur for me.

No matter how happy I am for friends who fall in love, though, these stories bring up other feelings, too. I can’t help but wonder how many broken hearts or dashed hopes their blissful union left in its wake. I’ll likely wonder the same even if in the future I post such things. People don’t always tell you when you hurt them, and it’s not the happy couple’s fault or something they could have even avoided, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The pain still exists, and bombarding someone who confesses that they are having a rough time of it with stories of other people who got the love that they, too, deserve, is not an encouragement. It’s a cruelty.

I know it’s hard to know how to respond to this particular type of grief. There are so many ways to get it wrong and seemingly few ways to get it right. As a person with a lot of experience playing the role of the not-chosen in these scenarios, I have some tips to minimize the likelihood of messing it up.

Pay attention. Listen to what they say and acknowledge their feelings. Pain is uncomfortable, but my best, most trusted friends are the ones who accept my pain as valid without trying to minimize it or cheer me up. My friends can sit in some pain. It’s really quite extraordinary and really shows me how much they not only love me but respect me. Because on top of the pain, your friend may feel embarrassed or foolish about the situation and thus may think they don’t have a right to feel the way they do. But their pain isn’t wrong, and affirming that can be so helpful. When hurtful things happen, it’s reasonable and healthy to feel hurt. What’s not reasonable or healthy is trying to convince them they shouldn’t.

Stop with the advice. Just stop. First, your friend probably already has an ongoing feed in their head of “If I’d just done or said this, maybe things would have turned out differently.” None of those things are actually true (i.e., when someone loves you, it takes a lot to kill that love, and when they don’t, it’s not something they can be talked into), and the last thing they need at that moment is a parrot of their asshole inner critic. If you truly think you have some insight that you really must share, jot it down and tuck it away for later when they can receive it and thus actually benefit from it. The midst of their pain is not the time or place.

Second, I don’t care how smart you are – you can’t fix it.

Let me repeat.

You. Cannot. Fix. It.

The problem at hand is that they wanted and hoped to be with someone who chose not to be with them. Unless you are in the unique position of not only being that someone but also having the capacity and will to love and choose them back, there’s not a damn thing you can do to resolve the problem. So quit acting like you can. The only thing your attempts to do so are likely to accomplish when they’re already feeling raw and vulnerable is to reinforce their suspicions that there’s something so wrong with them that they have to fix it in order to be lovable.

Encourage them to trust what they need to do next. This is so hard, especially when you think you know better. Odds are that you don’t, though. Different people heal differently. You may need to bounce back from rejection by trying something (or someone) new, but they may need to embrace the wallow for a bit. Some people need to cut all ties because when their hopes for a relationship die, trying to settle for anything less seems unbearable. Some people need to keep in touch, because the thought of losing the person they love not only as a partner but also as a friend seems unbearable. Don’t tell them to do something just because it’s what works for you.

This was long and rambly but it helped me a little to write it out. Hope there’s something here that can help you, too.

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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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Who’s super excited about my Costco haul? *crickets* Just me? Yeah.

So listen.

I’ve hit a bit of a wall with this series. That’s how these things go sometimes. And instead of just quitting, as I’m prone to do, I’m going to adapt. This year, I have learned that a big part of what we often think of as luck is really just knowing when to be flexible and when to stick to a plan.

I am great at the latter. Until it’s not so great anymore. I need more work with the flexibility part. So I’m gonna work on it this month.

I’m throwing out my weekly plan.

If you could see my face right now you’d know how much relief I feel just typing that.

Blogging is a good place for me to flex my flexibility muscles. I post sporadically because overall, I’m not really trying to accomplish anything with a deadline here. When those of us in my online writing group discuss blogging and why we do it, my answer is usually something like, “It gives me a chance to make sure I’m separating my voice and what I’m thinking from the voices of the characters I’m writing.”

It’s also something a former therapist recommended as potentially helpful, particularly on days when face-to-face socializing isn’t something that seems possible. It’s a hybrid. I can say what I want and get occasional feedback, but I can also leave the moment I need to do so. I can reach out but from behind a protective barrier.

So I’m still going to write about making my own luck, but I’m going to wing it. Because sometimes, that’s when luck shows up.

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I will use anything as a centerpiece.

In my 31 Days outline, I have this day marked as “Domestic,” which makes me laugh, because I am no one to be giving domestic advice. I mean, I was raised to know a lot of things about how to keep a household running really well (seriously – you could eat off my mom’s floors when we were growing up), so I can share that. But in the interest of honesty? Half my kitchen is on my dining table right now. I’ve been going through cabinets and getting rid of things, and it has been s.l.o.w. Also, I haven’t swept in three weeks. A dust bunny in front of my TV mocks me every time I sit down, and I do not care. So if you came here for tips on keeping a house perfect, you are going to be disappointed.

What I can give you this week is how I run my home so that it supports my life. Because that’s the important thing, right?

(some days I’m glad my mother does not have the internet)

Specifically, this week will be mostly about how I stay reasonably well fed and keep my home neat enough that I can find things. I occasionally even create little spots that make home seem more inviting or cozy. When I do these three things, other areas in my life seem to fall into place more easily.

If you are reading this and have gotten this far in life, you probably have these skills down to some extent. If you are like me, though, there are weeks that are better than others. Maybe you’ll find something here that can help, or maybe you have something to offer to help. Either way, we’re going to explore how a life of luck can start at home.

 

I’m writing for 31 days about creating luck. 

 

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A somewhat jarring but often necessary start to the workday

Being on time is problematic. I’m good at time management once I’m at a place but getting there in a timely fashion is always a challenge – a challenge I usually don’t win. This is confusing to people who experience me as focused and efficient – it doesn’t seem to fit. Their reasoning is understandable. But getting there and being there are two different animals

Especially in the morning. No matter how early I set my alarm (which I usually don’t need to actually wake up the first time because I wake up before it goes off) or how many alarms I set (see above), the actual act of getting out of bed is hardly ever as easy as I expect it to be. Mornings when this early wake-up is 5 minutes are good, though. I can usually get through my morning routine generally as planned and make it out the door at a reasonable time.

The wake-up is a wild animal, though. Easily spooked and quick to lash out if it perceives threat, either real or imaginary.

If I wake up more than 15 minutes early, it’s usually in a panic. My brain somehow knows that time is wrong and immediately registers consciousness as a defense mechanism. It takes a while just to escape being practically immobilized by my consuming concern about what Very Important Thing I must be forgetting. So I either have a panic attack or shut down and fall back to sleep (which really? Just a lazy panic attack. It doesn’t always look the same), and it takes a few very annoying alarms to jolt me to action.

At this current moment, I recognize, as I’m sitting safely and cozily in my favorite coffee shop in the daylight as a light rain falls outside, that I’m never actually  forgetting a very important thing. But my brain seldom seems to grasp that in the morning. It can’t. Anxiety won’t let it. Anxiety’s job is to keep me ever vigilant about the myriad of ways I could (and probably am going to) ruin everything. Anxiety is a liar but it sounds so reasonable when it speaks that it’s hard to remember what it really is. And it knows I’m not a morning person, so that’s when it likes to attack.

Anxiety is an asshole. And it’s the very worst kind of asshole – the kind that tells you that the horrible things it says are for your own good or because it knows what’s best for you. But it doesn’t know what’s best for me. It’s lying.

In the evening, anxiety is more social. I’m not just failing at my to-do list. I’m also a failure at relationships. Why else would everyone leave? If I dare to declare to anxiety that their choices are not about me at all, anxiety is quick to reply, “But wouldn’t they be – at least a little bit – if you were worth considering?” This anxiety is the meanest liar of all.

So social occasions, especially ones that are relatively new to me or are unique, standalone events, almost always start with convincing myself that it matters to anyone there whether or not I show up. Does my presence actually add anything to the situation? I honestly don’t know. This is one of the reasons it’s best if I go to events with another person. If someone is depending on me to accompany them, it’s so much easier to roll my eyes at anxiety and dismiss its taunts.

I have a few friends who recognize the times I show up late after I’ve gone a few rounds with anxiety. I may look calm but I am often still buzzing right below the surface. I’m always exhausted but I won. I may be compensating with cheerleader mode where I flit through and get right to my seat or desk or say something that I hope doesn’t sound super rehearsed (it is).

On particularly bad days, the residual tunnel vision may still be in place, making eye contact and small talk excruciating. The gift these friends give me is a few moments. Just enough of a pause to give my eyes time to drag up to theirs where I can see that they’re not mad or disappointed. They really are happy to see me. This feels good, and I’m grateful for it.

It makes me feel lucky.

 

I’m writing about making my own luck for 31 days. See the master list here.

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So it’s not really Friday. I get that. But it’s the post that was meant for Friday, so here we are. One goal of a 31-day series is to get back in the habit of writing every day (or, rather, writing something other than for work). It’s a process.

To finish out the week of talking about tools I use to help me keep my life on track, I want to mention apps that I use to keep up with goal progression. I love making resolutions, but for most of my life, I would make them and then promptly forget about them. I think a lot of people have that experience. When I started tracking my goals, though, I had more success. Here are five of my favorite ways to track my goals:

  1. Club Pilates app – I know. Again I’m talking about it. I just love it. And now that I have a new phone that actually supports the app, I can track a lot of my health goals as well as schedule and keep track of my classes. Every smartphone comes with a health app, though, so even if you don’t go to Club Pilates, you can still have an easy way to track just about any health goal you have.
  2. Goodreads – I started with a goal of 100 books for the year. Then I extended it to 120. No matter how small or big your reading goal, though, you can track it with Goodreads. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends on this site/app.
  3. Spreadsheet – Looking at a long-term goal can be daunting. It’s important to break down resolutions into smaller goals. To this end, I keep a monthly spreadsheet that tracks daily progress toward goals. I broke my five resolutions into ten smaller goals, and I set a monthly goal for each. Then I tally each day that I reach part of the goal. For those of you who like to bullet journal, this can be not only helpful but cathartic.
  4. Fetch – I’m not sure how long Fetch has been around, but I love it. If you can’t tell, point systems really work for me. For the last few years, I have wanted to cook more at home and make better food choices. But if I don’t have groceries at my house, it’s not happening. Fetch rewards me for buying groceries. I’ve been using it for three weeks and just like magic, I have food in my house. I’m also more than 75% toward my first $10 reward. I do enjoy free things, and free things that help me meet my goals? Double bonus.
  5. Art journal – Different people use art journaling for different reasons. When one of your goals is to pursue creative expression more often, however, it can be a way of showing the progress of that goal. My art journal is a collection of collages, found and blackout poetry, stained-glass-style doodles, and song lyrics I want to set to a melody at some point (yes! I’m excited about it, too.). I have a pretty broad range for what I consider creative pursuits, but I track most of them by art journaling about them.

Do you make goals? If so, how do you keep track of your progress?

 

I’m talking about making my own luck this month.

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