Twenty six to finish 2012

In no particular order: Twenty-six for the last 6 months of 2012

1. Paint another canvas
2. Write a phrase or word on my living room wall
3. Buy or borrow a guitar and learn to play at least one song
4. Have a dinner party!
5. Memorize another song on the piano
6. Send at least 26 more letters. That’s one per week!
7. Have S for a visit!
8. Have M for a visit!
9. Overhaul financial plans
10. Read 6 more books, minimum! That’s one per month.
11. Redo my photography website. Upload fresh galleries.
12. Spend time with kiddoes!
13. Build a new birthday calendar!
14. Start learning Italian again!
15. Read one poem a week, minimum. That’s only 26!
16. Relearn french!
17. Start an inspiration board
18. Write down more thoughts!
19. Successfully train for and complete RAGNAR! Sept 21 and 22
20. Post one photo, old or new, weekly. That’s just 26 more!
21. Wipe out the last six months of tasks!
22. Shoot another wedding, engagement, or gala
23. Go dancing at least 3 times!
24. Attend Homecoming at SJC!
25. Do one thing everyday that makes life more beautiful
26. Find one more hero

All Kinds of Wonderful

In our society of choice, weekends are mighty-perplexing. Do chores, go for a run, play piano, clean house, visit with a friend, sleep. In my indecision, I am still, at the moment, lying on my pillow. 

I feel the same lack of commitment about the items on my mile-long to-do list. There’s no way of telling what’s most important, as all of it needs doing, and all would be better to have been done yesterday (if by yesterday we mean months ago). 

But if all of it equally needs doing, then isn’t it true that I can just do something? While the good is the enemy of the best, Nothing is the mortal combatant of both. And sometimes, the idealism of The Best is the enemy of everything. 

There are all kinds of wonderful. Some more so than others. Some which are more satisfying, more fulfilling. More lasting. But it’s worst of all to enjoy none of it. To worry about perfection to the point of paralysis. In that way there are just as many, if not more, kinds of not-wonderful. Like not doing or enjoying any of the many kinds of wonderful. 

Focus gets redirected to what would be avoided, and collision courses are set. Keep your eye on the prize, they say. I say, keep your eye on the all kinds of wonderful.

It’s either that or learn to run, while doing chores, visiting with a friend, and sleeping. I’ve tried :~)  

Coming soon: The myth of multitasking & The ghastly truth about value conflicts

 

Wake-up Calls: Alarmingly Necessary

Recently it seems as if an alarm has been going off incessantly. Like the chimes, dings, tunes, horns, and whistles so easily, yet ironically, ignored on numerous devices on the morning of a big test or board meeting presentation, I have been tuning it all out. Not even hitting snooze on all of them, just not even listening anymore. 

During times like this, it seems the only hope is for a wake up call: That shattering, urgent, responded-to sound that startles one out of sleep like the town crier. 

[Those of you aware of my sleep difficulties might not realize that I am speaking in analogy. But I am.]

Tonight such a thing happened that has caused me to vow attention. And not just attention, but action. 

Survival isn’t what I am looking for, it isn’t enough. Triumph rather, stands as minimum. This will require a renewal of radical action and radical thinking. Some of those thoughts and some of those acts are clear. Some of them I will only discover in time. Failure is likely to occur in small doses. But defeat is not an option. 

Gliding past, getting by, politely ignoring. No. No to all of those. 

Next step: Wake up oh-so-early. To yes, that’s right, a wake-up call. 

 

On Wakefulness

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Wakefulness usually causes me to do one, or several, of a few things; research random things; write to do lists; search for quotations; think about poetry; miss people; worry, scribble thoughts. And finally, read about sleeplessness.

I often think about sleep quite similarly to death (so many scripture verses make the comparison as well – “We do not mourn as those who do not have hope.” “She is asleep!” etc.) You must live in such a way that you die well. [See also: Solon] And you must live each day in such a way that you can sleep well.

We are, as a culture, buying the lie that sleep is irrelevant. I am not talking about the slew of college all-nighters that so many of us optimization experts (aka procrastinators) got so good at pulling. I am talking about bona fide adults who can’t even manage to crawl into their cribs at night. But why? Why don’t we do the thing we so desperately need to do? Studies have even made the comparison to sorting our email inboxes. Sleep allows the processes to take place in our brains which are analogous to rewiring, sorting information, and ultimately, LEARNING.

Some common causes listed for a lack of sleep are the following: Aging; Alcohol use; Anxiety; non-conducive sleep environment; Depression; Illness; Excitement; Illegal drugs; Jet lag; LACK OF SUNLIGHT; Medications; overactive thyroid; Restless leg syndrome; Shift work; Sleeping too much during the day; Stimulants taken in the evening (including nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or food); Stress, Worry; Too much stimulation at bedtime; Wake-sleep pattern disturbances.

In sum, poor self-care and bad habits! Circumstances unconquered, and issues entirely outside of our control… or are they? Is there really ever anything about which you cannot do a single thing?

I read somewhere (allergy research) that the average american spends 22 hours indoors everyday. That’s just awful, if you ask me! Fresh air, sunlight, and exercise all aid sleep. But yet we don’t?

Studies show that prayer and meditation bring down stress levels astronomically, and yet we don’t even pause to consider?

Under info for “Infants” one article [http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/sleeping-difficulty/overview.html] lists hunger (and indigestion) as a reason for an inability to sleep, which is just as valid a component for adult sleep schedules although it is far less frequently mentioned. Also mentioned is an infantile “Desire for attention from parents” — I think we never outgrow that one either. [I still think about both my parents before going to sleep.]

My proposal: To reach true Wakefulness – during the day, we have to learn how to rest, and by resting, sleep! At night!

BUT HOW? Counting sheep? If that worked this wouldn’t be an issue! While we can (and often must!) redirect our thoughts, that is not enough.

The Times article (cited above) listed the following suggestions:

Avoid emotional upset or stressful situations before bedtime.

[HA! How about avoid them all the time! But really, why don’t we do more to reach conflict resolution? Why do we sit passively and STRESS about so much instead of working to have resolution? Or as someone on a different topic today said, “more production, less consumption”.]

Avoid using alcohol in the evening. Avoid caffeine for at least 8 hours before bedtime. Give up smoking, because nicotine is a stimulant.

[Ok, I can get onboard…]

Eat a light snack before bedtime. Foods such as warm milk or turkey contain a natural sleep inducer called L-tryptophan.

[I am all for snacks! See also babyhood — we need to eat in order to sleep!]

Establish a regular bedtime, but don’t go to bed if you feel wide awake.

[More to follow on the idea of routine… but aren’t these two clauses a paradox? How DOES one establish a regular time if one does not force oneself to abide by it?!]

Exercise regularly, but not in the last 2 hours before going to bed. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has been shown to make people fall asleep faster and get deeper and more restful sleep.

[Ok, so I do have to move my gym schedule to mornings… but that means I have to go to sleep, in order to wake up, to go to the gym, to be able to sleep, to be able to go to the gym… in the house that Jack built]

Sex can be a natural sleep inducer for some people.

[I’ll let that one lie]

Relax by reading, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music before going to bed.

[BEFORE, I think we forget that sleep takes effort, and therefore preparation. Or at least I forget this, and expect it on demand, like the latest episode of a tv program. NOW PLEASE]

Take your TV or computer out of your bedroom. Otherwise, your brain becomes used to the stimulation and starts to expect it when you are there. This makes it harder for you to fall asleep.

[UM. Guilty. I think many many people are guilty of this. I am typing right now, in my bed, staring into bright lights being thrown into my eyes and stimulating my brain.]

Use the bedroom for bedroom activities only. Once in bed, use creative imagery and relaxation techniques to keep your mind off unrestful thoughts. Avoid staying in bed for long periods of time while awake, or going to bed because of boredom.

[Imagination and relaxation. Easier said than done, right?!]

And for the parents:

“Avoid going in to your child’s room throughout the night.”

[Obviously, you don’t want to be the one to wake up your kiddo repeatedly just to check on him!]

Avoid sending your child to bed as punishment, which can make the child afraid and lead to poor sleep.

[SO, SO true! And one of the saddest things I think you can ever do!]

For children who have trouble falling asleep, try to make sure that the child is not disturbed by noise. Leaving a radio playing soft music may help cover up disturbing noises.

[Or get a noise machine… although I think that’s just creating a dependance later on… but there are worse ones!]

Never give a child sleeping medicine without asking the doctor first. It’s usually not a good idea to treat the problem with drugs.

[Good.]

We all like to say we would like to lead healthier happier lives. BUT, if sleep were the one thing that would guarantee greater satisfaction, increased happiness, prolonged productivity, and generally, an improved quality of life, WHY are we not doing something more about this?!

We have all kinds of goals about weight loss and diet. About action plans, and organization systems, and time-management.

Is it that we have so bought the idea that we need to make the most of every minute that we have instead frightened ourselves into a state in which we can no longer make the most of every minute? Time seems an enemy, THE constraint of finitude. But why not let it cycle like the seasons, and rise and fall like the tides. Why not embrace rest to rise again Wakeful?

[Well, fear, I think, but more on that next time…]

Jennifer M. Lind, All Rights Reserved

Warning ~

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A sip of whiskey makes me think of laughing with you while sitting on barstools, just beginning to get to know each other and hear each others stories.

Trying harder, racing up that imaginary hill formed by the incline of the treadmill makes me think of you, the first time you noticed me, and all the runs we won together in the summer sun.

A smile on the dance floor makes me remember all the times you’ve helped me laugh at myself, and learn to let go, just a little more, every time.

That little line of melody, that shorter line of prose. A voice, a whisper, a touch, sometimes just a note.

That certain meal, that certain temperature, that certain feeling, or perhaps it’s all the uncertain ones, remind me of all the you’s and all the things I’ve ever shared that I’ve ever loved.

Warning ~ be careful with whom you share the things you love. You’ll always remember them.

The problem with bold statements ~

The problem with bold statements, such as those as which preceded this post, is that they must be followed. And followed, not just with more words, but with actions.

I spoke of the kind of home I want to have: a haven of hope, relationships, and creativity. But to have a certain kind of home one must create a certain kind of life. And to have a certain kind of life one must make certain kinds of choices.

The main constants: Living honestly. Loving people. Sharing inspiration.

The main constraint: Time.

The top needs: structure. organization. Routine.

Personal focuses: People. Photography. Writing. Food.

Make time for people.

Post one photo a week.

Writing. Craft the week to allow time to write. Buy a desk. Write to people. One letter a week. Write about food. Two posts a week.

Food. Schedule 1 sunday a month to cook a meal. 1 night a month to go out. (Blog about and photograph that outing and share with a friend!).

Caught in my own trap ~ but wrestling free again

I was joking with a bleary-eyed colleague tonight as he was gathering up his things and heading home about how he should just hurry up and solve all the world’s problems so that he can go ahead and retire. Then I mentioned my “top 5”, and admitted that as much as I love my job I suspect that I would really like to be retired! To me that means, travel, write, take pictures, meet interesting people, and eat great food. He was already out the door when he turned back and said, “you can already have all of that right now, except the travel!” And then disappeared into the elevator.

It struck me tonight like it hadn’t before. I have been doing the very thing that saddens me to see so many other people do — put off what they really want to be doing. I take joy in cheering people on to follow their dreams, go after what they really want, and set aside their fears. And yet, here I am, having convinced myself that I have to wait until I am leading the exciting life I see as my future to do the very things that I can and would enjoy to be doing right now.

Even the travel, when re-envisioned, is possible. I used to often make trecks into DC to explore, and I have a whole list of local places on my mental list. Sure, it won’t be Spain and Brazil and Italy and Ireland anytime soon, but I can mark off Boston, and Maine, or at least Mt. Vernon! [Freebie: “Travel” comes from a word that means “to toil” and there’s certainly plenty of work to be done right here!] When viewed rightly, or from the perspective of an ant (Proverbs, anyone?) even a trip around the block can take you a world away.

Of course, I have had this conversation before. I have wrestled with it. Start now. Just do it. Why wait. Dear friends have tried to egg me on, even friends’ moms have joined in at times! [I don’t even have to take years to build up a magazine franchise I can just start online.] But the absurdity of my own passivity hadn’t ever hit me quite like tonight. I do meet interesting people. I spend all day with interesting people! I have a perfectly good camera, if I would simply give myself the time to use it, and am in fact in process of building an epic new photography site. Eating great food is a campaign I am constantly waging. It happens here and there… and soon it will be happening in my own kitchen! The recipe books have come out of deep storage, the pantry will be stocked with at least the essentials, and some serious culinary fun — and yes, even failure! — will be had.

And here I think it proper to bring up one of my deepest hopes – that my home be a gathering place for love and laughter ~ a haven for art, music, and poetry ~ an environment of honesty ~ a place of fellowship which shares tears, brokenness, and loss ~ and ultimately helps in the healing of splintered lives and hearts.

I have always envied and admired those women of other centuries — the russians and the french especially — who held such incredible soirees. Regular gatherings of formative, influential, and inspirational minds. And the things that can happen when human synapses are firing in the same space are even still uncharted! (this reminds me to write to the neuroscientist whose lecture I attended…) Some plans need to be planned! After all, I now have a couch :~)

It is time for some action: Plan a course and set it, modify as needed, refine repeatedly as required, make whatever allowances necessary, but get going! A quarter of a century of my life has already ticked past. And I know that’s still a spring chicken to some, but when all is said and done, that’s already at least a 1/4 of the life in this world and this body, and there’s a whole lot left that I don’t want to have to regret not having done.

So what does it mean to engage the interesting people in my life? How can I learn from them? How can I best share what I learn? What role can I play in connecting others and spreading inspiration? [And what does LOVE look like, anyway?]

Do I need to set deadlines for my photography projects? Schedule a regular time in the week for processing photos? On the short list: Complete website, create a new portfolio, purchase a 1.4, and hang my photos in my apartment!

And what about writing? What can I set my mind to attempting besides the occasionally inspired brain dump such as this? What do I need to do in order to give myself the feeling of freedom? A new notebook? A new pen? An assured space for digital creation and storage? Buy a desk.

As to food, I realistically only have the weekends, but even if I set just Sunday luncheon as my one cooked meal I would be off to a great beginning! I mayhaps could also set (and budget) one night a month to go try someplace new, and take a friend, or fly it solo ~ this is DC after all! Start writing just the once a month for my friend’s blog as a guest columnist.

Metrics. Set up measurable processes for these areas, (please excuse the tone, I am talking to myself!) and above all remember that life is about relationships. People are eternal. Act like it. Love like it. Be like it.