Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Vacation from Triggers

This summer, I went on a 10 day wilderness and folk art driving trip. Thanks to my cell provider's misinterpretation of the word "unlimited", I had very little contact with the social media, news, and daily anger of American life. Did I really miss it? Yes, and also no.

Take me back, I had no cell reception here.

Yes, because I like being connected with friends. That's what was promised, right? But no, because when I got back, it was very clear that my friends can't help themselves from a toxic connection to outrage.

I can't even relate a classic example, because the particulars change hourly. Something was tweeted! We must all take sides and denounce / celebrate, as required. A pronouncement must be made, or evil will be allowed to flourish. And on, and on and on. Use the quote!

What you realize on the beach, is that it doesn't change anything. The waves come in. The rocks are unmoved. The clouds hover towards shore, mist descends, sun burns it away.

What is so clear when you're not right in the middle of the muck, is that you don't need to take a side. It will continue whether you have or not. A twitter beef literally does not matter. Proves nothing. The only thing that matters is voting or actual criminal charges. No, I'm not naive. Your opinion is irrelevant, and so is mine. So many hot takes, for nothing. Served cold, in 36 hours.

Of course, if it's an issue that personally affects you, have a take! But for many of these controversies, you can observe from afar and maintain your sanity, dignity and clear headedness. A bit of vacation in your life from the daily outrage.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Micro-habits can save the world?

So self improvement seems pretty selfish in a dystopian world, lately. This bothers me, of course. My optimistic nature wants to believe that things can always be made better, and it won't hurt to try.

But it does hurt to fail, sometimes, and also not to try. So I am going to try, again. And again and again. I'm doing this daily micro habit thing (since February!) that's turning out pretty well. For example, who knew 1 push up a day could make a tank top do-able at my age?

My micro habits are built on giant systems, like the Passion Planner, the previously mentioned morning pages, and the extensive self-help reading I have done. I would even argue that it's partially based on the quality improvement programs.

In February, I decided the minimum amount of exercise I could do in a day was a forward fold and one push-up. So I made a checklist in the back of my Passion Planner on the graph paper and checked it off each day of the month. It was so easy, in March I added 2 more tiny habits, all the way up to today, in August.

I did have one little problem. At first, I was checking the boxes in the graph paper. But in March, when I wanted to keep going with the same habits carried over, I started using the X instead, only with the right slanting cross first, (then the left slanting cross, and the straight-up and down, then the straight right to left). In the end, I'll have an asterisk essentially, and then I will graduate that habit from my checklist (although maybe not from my life!).

Most successful habit so far has ironically been that push-up. My arms are not gym-jacked, by any means, but I'm not ashamed. The least successful is to dance every day (too vaguely defined, maybe?). I try to do two habits a month, one physical and one mental. August is mountain climbers (the exercise) and tracking my expenditures.

But yeah, still not addressing human trafficking or white supremacy or anything important. This is still just me. Can I build up to addressing these giant problems? I don't think so. I, personally, will not solve world hunger. Why is that hard for me to accept? 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How I fell out of love with self help by helping myself.

For so long, I thought if I could just perfect myself, all of my problems would be dissolved. But as it turns out, you need to solve the problems before you can stop caring about perfecting yourself.

Have I really solved all of my problems? Highly unlikely, but I at least made some action towards the biggest problem. I got a divorce. I would not propose this as the solution for everyone, obviously, but if you've been trying to figure out why your primary relationship makes you so unhappy for ten years, it could be an good option for you. Worked wonders for me.

I must thank the self-help industry for much of this. I tried to declutter. I owned my shit. I ran. I dieted. I blogged. I tried photo challenges. I did everything but talk to him about how awful this made me feel. And after all that, he literally bought a cottage and moved there, and we were done, and we were both fine. Conscious uncoupling through real estate.

This is not to say that abandonment felt great. It did not.

But I was finally free from contortion. I could just be me. I had to rediscover what I liked. I tried all the things that were previously forbidden. I stopped going to the events that had always kind of bored me. I listened to bad music and watched whatever TV show or movie I felt like watching. The good news was, I was pretty much already me.

The even better news was that I wasn't damaged by all this craziness, the dumb projects (I still try them sometimes - I may need to revisit the intermittent fasting soon), the twisty poses and affirmations that I am not so sure about. Whew, now we can work on real problems!

Can we fix anything? I was thinking about what this blog would be after the self-help. Can we try these experiments on a larger scale? Maybe ask the United States to drink apple cider vinegar every day until we realize that it's just fucking up our tooth enamel and nothing is happening?

What am I starting to understand is there needs to be a vision. We can't just resist the nasty stuff, but we need a destination in mind. Where do we want to go? Who do we want to be?

So here I go again. Trying to find myself by looking. Answering the rhetorical questions that no one expected to find an answer to, and asking even more. Relaunched.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Lazy Perfectionist gets imperfectly active

While googling "lazy perfectionist" (because I just read the Elizabeth Gilbert book Big Magic, and that idea really cracked me up/resembled me), I came across the website of a Christine Carter. I started poking at her 90 day Habit Program, and realized, I have found my newest project!

I'm on day 5 at this point, and I always feel reassured when the program I'm currently doing is reinforced by programs I've already done. (I believe that's called confirmation bias?) So yeah, I think it's going to be good. Plus, I get to be in another Facebook group, and there's text reminders (which is a new one, but less annoying than getting texts about coupons from retailers, so I guess I'm cool with it), even accountability buddies (which I am stubbornly going to resist).

So what habit to pick? She's got that covered. The one that supports the feeling you want to have. Whoa, confirmation bias via Danielle Laporte too? Luckily, I have already made my desire map, so I focused on feeling Resilient. I would like to feel loose clothing all around me. I would like to be bouncy and able to recover from illness and setbacks and overindulgence like a rubber ducky in a duck race.

My photo from 2015 Art Prize, of the Great Race by Michael Peoples.

Since this sounds a lot like feeling healthy, I decided to focus on my health. By remembering that food and drink can support my resilient health goals or undermine them. By finding the key stone habit and the trigger and following the program. 

So I am going for a walk every day. And the tricky part is that it can be a very short walk, as short as around the block. If it can be longer, that would be fantastic too, but around the block is nothing to discount. I wanted the trigger to be getting home from work, but here it is Sunday night, and I realized I only responded to that as the trigger, well, 1 out of 5 days. But I didn't start until Wednesday, either, so maybe next week will be a better test. 

I'm already envisioning this going so well that I'm making lists of other habits to implement or break. Maybe I can plan my meals! Clean my house! Meditate! 

But first, I have to walk around the block. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Word of the Year: Integrity

  1. 1.
    the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
    "he is known to be a man of integrity"
    synonyms:honestyprobityrectitudehonor, good character, principle(s), ethics,morals, righteousnessmoralityvirtuedecency, fairness,scrupulousness, sinceritytruthfulness, trustworthiness
    "I never doubted his integrity"
  2. 2.
    the state of being whole and undivided.
    "upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty"
    "the integrity of the federation"

And I think I mean it both ways. There are so many kinds of virtues, that one could never get tired of them. This also means that one could never perfect all of them either, so a little leniency  is in order. I also like the idea of being "whole and undivided". It seems like conserving the energy it takes to be two separate persons could be better used being one person who tries her best. 

Of course, focusing on one thing is always a problem for me. I am too interested in too many things. I would like to think it was a Renaissance problem, but I think it's more of an attention problem. But is there any less virtue in multiples? Not under this system? A struggle, to be sure. Not a given. 

It's one thing to have a philosophical slogan, and another to implement it. That will be the real struggle, constructing exercises to strengthen integrity. 

I like January to be the planning month, where I try on new routines and see what works, but now I'm moving past self-improvement as fixing faults, more towards building strength, much like a diet where you remove unhealthy foods, and then add in healthy ones. 

I took the Martha Beck course "The Integrity Cleanse" for the 2nd time because it's literally about my word of the year. How are you going to ignore that? And it's a little different this time. I could focus a little better since I was not so wobbly with the tools this time, but I'm still having a hard time believing it's really possible to have your every communication and action in integrity.

Which is why I'll always have more exercises to do....

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Annual review in preparation for the infamous Word of the Year

In my quest to "find wiz", I have long used the Chris Guillebeau annual review approach. But last year, instead of a goal or a phrase, I was able to narrow it down to a sound (that, yes, means two different things, but still, talk about simple!) via the Christine Kane worksheet. So this year, I'm going to steal the best aspects of both for the ultimate in goal setting exercises.

Step 1 has to be the annual review, it seems. I can't go forward unless I look back.

What went well? 
I do think the dance projects went well. I was able to attend one big dance festival, an intensive, and several really good workshops. Seriously, Kaeshi Chai, Sonia Ochoa, Tribal Revolution with Zoe Jakes and Jill Parker, and then MORE Jill Parker in my hometown plus an intensive with Deb Rubin?! It was an amazing line up that I couldn't have wished for realistically.  But it really did happen. And I think that's why my holiday hafla solo went so well this year. So much amazing inspiration and training.

The career is going well, too. I'm finding my voice and learning when to use it.

And the voice, literally. After a virus wiped out half of my vocal cords, the speech rehab opened my mind about training and how important breath is to something you do every day, "naturally". Now, to remember to use my skills.

What could have gone better?
Alas, I fear 2015 will be remembered as a very sad, lonely year in my heart. But in my loneliness, I did discover the support of real friends. That's not an entirely bad thing, but definitely a little bittersweet. And that I could do "it" myself, whatever that project might be.

So did the word of the year work? How did Aw/Awe shape 2015 for me? Looking for tiny beautiful things and being amazed by them can carry you perhaps not that far, but smoothly and strongly.

Coming next: The Word of 2016. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

That time the speech therapist made me cry

As I am trying to lower my shoulders and relax my neck and breathe from my diaphragm for the speech therapist, a ghostly stricture crushes my trachea. "Oh, that was weird!" I immediately said (while probably not using the proper breath support) and tears filled my eyes.

"What is it? What's going on?" she asked. I tried to explain the whole thyroid cancer thing, which she already knew about. It's not like it hurt, it just threw me back in the middle of that whole medical drama, which I thought I had transcended.

But no. A high school Facebook friend is having similar problems and had posted pictures of her fresh incision recently. That may have been on my mind. I've been kind of annoyed with her dramatic postings, wanted to simultaneously reassure her and smack her down. It's not even a real cancer! They should call it something else. Really, get a grip.

As usual, the one I want to smack down and reassure is myself.

Why do you have to be such a Puritan hardass? Why does everything need to perfect? Why don't you just chill? Why don't you speak up? (Because I'm in speech therapy because I lost half my vocal volume, you inner jerk!)

And the reassurance? Ugh.

I will try to reassure myself, too. But I am not sure that works. I have notebook after notebook of morning pages at this point, and I'm going to estimate it's 50% rumination, 30% self-reassurance, 20% lists. Yeah, I guess I haven't hit 110% on self-reassurance yet. Try harder.

I will declare this a victory in realizing that I'm not "over" it yet, and that I need to be kinder. To myself, for not being kinder. To my poor ex-classmate, for having provoked none of this. To my speech therapist, who had to deal with a crazy body memory of what it feels like to have your neck sliced open, no matter how expertly.