In years past I have ushered in the new year with gusto. With great big plans, ideas, intentions. Not so much this year.
That said, I do remain an optimist. I don’t foresee that ever changing. However, after 2020, I’m a little wiser. More cautious. More realistic. More measured in how I approach things.
So I’m not going to tell you all about the 4 things I intendam determined to do wish to have the time to master in 2021. I’m keeping that to myself for the moment.
I’m going into this year with my head on straight. As if I’m walking into a dark room I am unfamiliar with. Keeping my wits about me. Taking careful, slow, steps. Lowering my expectations to prevent disappointment. Using all of my senses to navigate this new year.
The one thing I am going to be intentionally focusing on now that the new year is upon us: doing my best each and every day (from the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which I wrote about here but not about this particular agreement, but whatever).
I think it’s worthwhile, as one who is taking the agreement of “doing your best” seriously, to ponder what that looks like. What does it mean for me personally?
One of my most inexcusable faults is that I am rarely on time for anything. I consistently fall into this weird mind trap, when I’m getting ready to go somewhere, of believing that I have time to do just one more thing before I hit the road. And I’m wrong about that 99% of the time. So I’m ‘fessing up. I know it pisses some people off when I waltz in 5 (or more) minutes late. It calls negative attention to myself and I need to Cut.It.Out. I’ve started focusing on getting places on time for real in the last couple of weeks. I think thus far I’ve made it on time about 25% more frequently than before. Give or take.
There are other areas in my life, well really all areas in my life, where I must do my best each day. Like putting in my best effort at work. Not putting any tasks off until “tomorrow” that I have the time and energy to do today. Listening to others when they speak and not hesitating to ask for clarification to ensure I understood what they meant.
Thing is, doing my best each day is within my control. And if I can look back on my day and agree with myself that I did my best, regardless of my mood, if I felt rested, or if I was tested-well, then I won’t have any regrets. And peace will reign within me.
I have an almost finished post about how “I” is for “Investment”. It’s about how I’ve been trying to do a better job of investing in myself. Using my time, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to improve myself.
Investing in myself translates to intentionally going out for walks most mornings, which gives me a lift and helps to collect my thoughts about the day ahead. This investment also includes talk therapy via telephone with a behavioral health counselor. As well as doing more personal journaling and intentionally consuming entertainment that gives me the good feels. I’m feeling better about myself these days. That’s the gist of it.
The it occurred to me that dedicating an entire post to how I, as a privileged white upper-middle aged woman, was “investing” in myself was a bit too much. Too self involved.
That’s when the anxiety I experience on the daily crept into my brain and manifested itself into another “I” word of which I am quite familiar: “indecisiveness”. Because now what “I ” word am I going to pontificate about? There’s so many choices, I can’t possibly decide on which one.
There’s “irony”, which I have a little story about. I mentioned in a recent post how I was reading “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle in which I found some pearls of wisdom that resonated with me. Well, I finished that book several weeks ago. In one of the two all female Facebook groups I belong to, one of the admins posted a picture of herself looking all cute and holding up “Untamed”, notifying us that there was going to be a Facebook live video discussion of the book on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. In a moment of impulsivity, I replied that I would plan on attending.
I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to gain more experience with using video communication, both with friends and family, but also with people that I only know online, not IRL as they say. Zoom and Facebook Live are the tools du jour in the age of Covid-19, and I suspect that will only grow just like the amount of time we will be compelled to stick close to home.
Wednesday rolled around. I remembered about this “happening” about 5:30 p.m., after imbibing in a couple of cocktails. Supper wasn’t quite ready. Kid #2 was out at the local Hookah bar and about to come home soon. I was anticipating Kid #1 calling me at any time based on a message she had sent me earlier in the day. I had taken all my make up off, revealing just how “53” I looked. I hemmed and hawed, thinking about putting on some makeup, fluffing up my hair, grabbing “Untamed” and just doing it anyway.
Then Kid #2 came in the door, greeted by a very happy Radar-ling and his slinky sidekick Karl the cockeyed cat. I felt happy. Relaxed. I let myself off the hook and decided “Nah”.
After having intermittent pangs of guilt mixed with a side of regret about flaking out on this experience throughout that evening and into the next morning, I checked Facebook and learned that the admin hadn’t been feeling well the night before so she cancelled the event. Whew!
Now that’s irony. All that worry for nothing. Ha!
I am very tempted to continue this post with anecdotes on other “I” words that I have a lot to say about like “imagination”, “inspiration”, and “intention”.
However, I’m going to instead head on back to my “A-Z” draft folder and work through my indecisiveness surrounding the remaining letters of the alphabet I have to write about to complete this self-imposed challenge.
And leave you with one of my favorite Alanis Morrisette tunes.
My reading choices are varied. I devour anything from articles in Esquire magazine (there are some great articles in there on the regular) to self help books (How to Be a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero is an all time favorite) to comedic memoirs/essays by authors like Chelsea Handler, David Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and more, to fiction (family sagas like “The Nest” and psychological thrillers are my “go tos”).
I read to reduce stress. I read to learn something new. I read to escape. I read to laugh. I read to find connection. I read to obtain wisdom so I can improve myself.
Why do you read?
Currently, I’m working through “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. While waiting for a response to my online request to borrow “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou from my local library, I thought I’d read something “self-helpy”.
Now, I haven’t finished “Untamed” yet, but there are numerous pearls of wisdom within these pages. This is a book that gets more interesting and thought provoking with each new chapter. Glennon shares stories about failure, pain, and triumph. Stories about love, bravery, and “Knowing”. I’m very intrigued by it. It’s speaking to me in a multitude of ways.
I must finish this book soon so I can get on with it and finally read Ms. Angelou’s masterpiece (from what I know of her and what others have said, I think calling it a “masterpiece” is a fair assumption).
While on our two week “Great American Road Trip” last month, I read a couple of great books.
The first was “Woman in the Window” by AJ Finn. It’s a psychological thriller told through the lens of a female child psychotherapist who’s agoraphobia was caused by deep psychological trauma. She witnesses violence through her window at the house across from her one night and struggles to make sense of it through her alcoholic haze. Seemingly, no one believes what she saw was real. The story was heartbreaking and unpredictable. I appreciated the surprising but creepy twist at the end. It was shocking to learn “Whodunit”.
The movie version of this book has been finished and was recently acquired by Netflix, so hopefully we can all see it before too long. Some of my favorite actresses-Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and Jennifer Jason-Leigh star in it.
During the first leg of our vacation, spending time with Hubs’ folks and sister, MIL gave me a copy of “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides, which she raved about. Since I had but a mere 50 or so pages left of “The Woman in the Window”, I decided it’d be a good idea to start reading it since we had “only” 2,000 miles left of road to cover and 10 days before we got back home.
I could hardly put it down. It was in a similar vein as “The Woman in the Window”, in that it was a murder mystery/psychological thriller. Total escapism. And the surprises were mind-blowing, like “I didn’t see it coming till the very end” kind of mind-blowing. It took me some time to process that ending.
The story is told through the lens of both Theo and Anna. Theo is the psychoanalyst who works with Anna, who is a completely silent patient in a mental institution. Anna, a prolific artist, was placed there after being charged and convicted (all the while not speaking a word) for her husband’s violent murder. Both Theo and Anna are psychologically complicated people who come from troubled childhoods. Theo’s goal, at the outset, is to get through to Anna. Unlock the key to why she did what she did. And that he does. The twist and turns to how he gets there are nothing less than shocking. It was even more of a page turner than “The Woman in the Window”, if I’m being honest.
I of course had to google whether or not this book was going to be made into a movie and found out it indeed is. Brad Pitt’s production company has acquired the rights. I have ideas in my head about who plays what characters already. Hopefully it’ll show up on one of our video streaming services before long, since re-opening movie theaters appears unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Please share your comments on these books if you have read them and/or share your “must read now” book titles.
I’m just going to jump right in with the “Right Now” part.
Anyone who read my last blog post knows that our youngest kiddo moved in with Hubs and I recently. With their cat in tow. In my almost 53 years (yes, my birthday is just literally around the corner), I have never shared my living space with such a creature.
Despite my initial misgivings (potential allergies, Radar maiming poor little kitty in a clumsy attempt to play with him, the smell), it isn’t so bad having him around.
I haven’t detected any majorly offensive odors yet. Not sneezing my head off or scratching my already dry (thanks Colorado) skin. Radar hasn’t inflicted any injuries on him. Yet anyway.
It’s been entertaining as hell watching Karl the cat and Radar interact with each other. At this point, I’d say they are solid “frenemies”. Like cool with being within a foot of each other. They are establishing their personal boundaries (Karl seems to have a good deal more of them, but apparently that’s cats for you). One of these days, who knows when, I envision there will be long enough a moment to snap a picture of the two of them together. When that happens, I’ll be sure to share it on this here blog.
For now, here’s a sweet pic of Karl I recently took:
As far as our other new roomie goes, things are going well. It’s been nice to have another human around to hang with. One who shares my love of quirky, colorful, fem-positive, musical theater type movies and shows. One who provides me with original art for my blog (featured at the end of this post). One with plenty of new, fresh ideas of things to do and places to go.
Now, kiddo is hard at work searching for gainful employment. Which means that this arrangement is temporary-ish. So I’m going to appreciate their lively presence in my daily life as much as I can between now and the time when they fly out of the coop again and into their own place. Which, if I have my way, will be a less than 10 minute drive from us.
Well, as you can see, I am writing. Feeling squishy about it though. I have three potentially legit blog posts in my draft folder. Just haven’t felt compelled to get back to them to make them publishable. I will, I know. Just not today.
What I’m tempted to write about is a book I recently finished: The Four Agreements. If I did tell you about it, I’d say this: it gives one a lot to think about. Like, a whole lot. About how one moves through the world as a human. How essentially we are programmed to believe stuff about ourselves and the world we inhabit based on what our parental figures told us. And how all of that is a lie. Not sure I am behind that particular concept. Not 100% anyway.
Okay, so I’m going to just get on with it and give into my temptation for a hot second or two.
There are, according to the author (Don Miguel Ruiz), 4 agreements one should live by in order to have a truly happy life. They are ginormous agreements and if you overthink them (which of course I have been doing), your head might explode.
First agreement: Be impeccable with your word. I take this to mean “say what you mean and mean what you say”. That may be a gross simplification of this agreement, to be sure; going deeper it’s also about not gossiping with others about others. That’s a tough one, right?
Not because I intentionally gossip. I’m not a total monster.
It’s just that when someone you know, like, and trust, starts sharing their beefs about another someone you know, but don’t like, and don’t trust, it’s hard to resist joining in. To get sucked into the rabbit hole.
I tell myself that I’m “just venting”, and for a short bit of time I enjoy the camaraderie. I feel that sense of self-satisfaction that comes with the realization that my negative opinion of the one we are bitching about is shared with others. Which I always see in hindsight is not useful or helpful. Certainly not for the target of the gossip session. And not for those of us gossipers. It doesn’t move anything forward in a positive direction in any way.
I guess I just need to figure out how to get myself out of situations where active participation in gossiping is tempting me. That, I believe, is where the challenge lies. Because, ultimately, I don’t want to wind up as the one being gossiped about because I chose not to participate.
That leads me to consider one of the other 4 agreements, which is this: Don’t take things personally. I guess where I could take that in the scenario where I’m the odd one out, turning on my heel and marching away once the gossiping starts, is that what I assume those people have to say about me not engaging in the gossip is on them. Not on me. It has no reflection on me whatsoever.
Sorry for the “psychobabble” folks. That was not my intention when I began writing this post. It’s just where it went. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to say about this mind trip of a book. There are, after all, 2 more agreements I didn’t even touch on.
So there you have it. My life is changing and my attitude towards it is evolving. I think all I can really do is just write through it.
I have got so many ideas of things I want to write about swimming about in my head right now. And as I have mentioned in previous posts, I am an over-thinker. Which means I have a tendency to be indecisive.
What does this mean to me, today, right here, right now? I think it means that I need to go random with this particular post. Bear with me, patient readers. Once I get this out of my system, I will be able to put the final touches on the next couple of one-topic posts I’ve got waiting for me in my draft folder.
True story: On Monday, I didn’t allow my driving anxiety to get the better of me. I actually drove myself through Denver for a work meeting and then home afterwards on I-25 just at the beginning of rush hour. I told myself that I could pull over at any time but I didn’t end up doing that even once. Heart pounding, palms sweating, mind racing, I pushed through and stayed the course. And I got home in one piece. Driving anxiety truly sucks, but now (here’s me being brave) it no longer means I won’t drive on I-25 or any other freeway for that matter. Not anymore. Gone are the days when I purposefully map out my route to avoid all freeways. I just have to accept that the anxiety may creep in and try to mess with my head. And keep moving forward in spite of it.
Later today, I’m getting a major hair cut and color done by my lively, one-of-a-kind hairdresser, Angel. I’m bound to give myself whiplash from flicking my head back and to the side to keep my bangs out of my eyes if I don’t. I’ve had essentially the same haircut and style now for the better part of two years and with summery temps on the horizon, I think it’s time to go even shorter and lighten things up.
On a totally unrelated note, I’ve been thinking that it’d be some sweet justice if the con-man/bully/hypocritical/liar/fool-in-chief (no need to name names here, right?), ends up being taken down by a woman, or shall I say women, that he has undoubtedly wronged. This would further cement by belief in karma. I mean, something has got to happen for this all to come to an end right? I’d much prefer it be because of his lecherous, immoral, and sexist behavior (and of course because Mueller and his team have got enough to prosecute for obstruction of justice and God only knows what else) than a nuclear war. Just saying.
I was awestruck this past weekend watching some of the speeches given by high school students at the March for Our Lives. Their poise and passion blew me away. Emma Gonzales will go down in history as the voice of this movement, largely because of her purposeful, meaningful speech, which included a long period of silence equal to the amount of time it took for the gunman to kill 17 people at her high school on Valentine’s Day. I pray that we will see some common sense gun legislation very soon. All of our kids deserve this.
I’m really digging the new book I’m reading about finding your soul song playlist. The writer, Jessica Myler, points out that all of those self-help books that so many of us read focus on thinking positive thoughts. Which is all good and fine, but, as she notes (and I am paraphrasing here), feelings need to go hand in hand with these thoughts to be powerful enough to manifest true happiness. This concept really clicks with me. From my perspective, it’s all about the way the words and the melodies work in tandem to evoke emotions which inspire and energize me to create, to communicate, and to be a force for positive change.
I’m feeling that a blog post about my Google playlists will be coming soon. Or one about dieting and food. Or one about travel. I hope you all will stay tuned.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about books I’ve read this year for the longest time. For many years, between raising kids, working full time, and other obligations, I didn’t do much reading beyond the magazines Hubs and I subscribed to.
When we moved to Colorado in the summer of 2016, knowing that I, at least for a time, would not be employed and therefore would have ample time to get back to regular reading, I totally went for it.
I read a fairly eclectic variety of books, from self-help to fiction to biographies. Whatever tripped my trigger as I perused the local library or bookstore.
Here’s some of the ones I read, all of which I highly recommend you check out:
Girl with the Lower Back Tatoo by Amy Schumer: an honest, self-deprecating, mostly humorous read. Amy includes stories of her coming up in the world of stand-up comedy, sprinkled with funny anecdotes about her family during her formative years. She is frank, personable, and fierce in her convictions.
Left, Neglected by Lisa Genova: This is a story told very convincingly from the perspective of a high-powered career woman, married with kids, who has a strained relationship with her mother. She is involved in a major car accident due to distracted driving on her way to a work meeting. Her entire world changes, as the accident left her with a brain injury that rendered the left side of her body invisible to her. This forces her to re-learn how to complete basic tasks, and it forces her to take a long, hard look at the drawbacks of how she lived her life prior to the accident. She finds herself having to rely on others for help, which for a take-charge, type-A personality, is incredibly challenging and humbling. Thankfully, it does have a happy ending.
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal: I had never heard of this writer until she died in 2016. What drew me to her most was her open heart, her creativity, and her optimism. This is not a typical book by any stretch. It is very random and feels as if she is writing down her thoughts as they come to her. She includes funny little stories about experiences she had in her life. She gives great advice on how to live a joyful life. It is playful, heartfelt, and unique. And it is a very quick, light read.
The Nest: This book weaves a tale about a wealthy-ish family from New England whose siblings have been counting on a large inheritance upon their father’s passing. What three of the four of them don’t know is that much of this inheritance was spent by their aloof mother on legal fees for the charismatic, alcoholic, “black sheep” of the family, who was sued by a young woman he dallied with in a car, which resulted in a major car accident which left her with a missing foot. The characters are drawn beautifully, to the point where I couldn’t help but visualize specific actors playing each part. I’ve heard that it is supposed to be made into a movie, and I sure hope that comes to pass.
Giant of the Senate by Al Franken: Hubs and I started listening to this one on audio book probably 2 months ago. I found Al to be a terrific storyteller and appreciated hearing about how he started in comedy, his time on SNL, and his hard fought battle to get elected to the senate. Then came those sexual harassment allegations on the news. This development reminded me of the time I awkwardly introduced myself to Al during a campaign event in Minnesota, which I chronicled here. For the record, Al did not sexually harass me. In case you were wondering. These allegations also brought up one anecdotal story Al told of in this book, where he talked of a time he made a joke about 60 Minutes anchor Andy Rooney raping Leslie Stahl. That really gave me pause. He realized upon making this joke that it was highly inappropriate so he didn’t include it in whatever book he was writing at the time. But the fact that even for a nanosecond, the man thought that was a funny joke…well, that put me off. It remains to be seen whether Hubs and I are going to pick up wherever it was we left off on this audio book. That said, I think it is a damn shame Al ended up resigning from the Senate. But I fully understand why he did it and why people thought he should.
The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain by Barbara Strauch: Okay, it’s been some months since I read this one but I do recall learning quite a bit about the middle aged mind. From what I can recollect, please take this with a big grain of salt as I am approaching 51, the reason why those of us in the throes of middle age sometimes have trouble coming up with a word or recalling a certain memory is because there is so much knowledge we have accumulated through the years, that the stuff that is non-essential gets buried deep within. In middle age, the book tells us, our brains are better at recognizing patterns and coming up with creative solutions to problems. So, there’s still hope.
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho: A gorgeous, spiritual book. The story is about a shepherd boy and his journey to seek a great treasure. It has an uplifting message about not giving up on your dreams, which is referred to as your Personal Legend. The story emphasizes the importance of the people you meet along the journey of life. It is such a special book that I sent it to one of my very best friends for her to read and pass along to her tween daughters.
Please tell me, my fellow bookworm readers, what books might you recommend for me in 2018?