Giving Permission

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Did you notice?

It’s been 3 weeks since I gave myself 2 weeks to finish On the Road.

I’m full of reasons why it’s taken too long to write about it; but let’s break it down and be real, shall we?

TRUTH: I’m disappointed that I’ve spent 150% of the time I intended to spend on this book, and I’m only 66% of the way through it.

TRUTH: I spent 7 days traveling for work, missing out on my typical train-commute where I spend most of my time reading.

TRUTH: The above line is an excuse.

TRUTH: I’m not disappointed that I opted to spend time yesterday doing a long run instead of reading a book I’m not really into.

Did you see that? My priorities have displayed themselves in my actions. So, as this title suggests, I gave myself permission to break the strict guidelines and give myself an extra week to finish the book. (Is it breaking them if I never held to them? You decide).

The book hasn’t really drawn me in. It hasn’t hooked me or made it impossible to put down. I don’t find myself anxious in the evenings  to pick it up and resume the tale. It fascinates me, and I’m trying to pick apart the pieces that make it so notable and historic, but honestly, I’m disappointed.

At the risk of sounding feminist, I’m finding myself annoyed at the writing of ALL OF THE female characters. While I can get sucked into the adventure and rush of the unexpected, I feel like a little piece of me writes the book off a little more each time I read about another abandoned wife.

Because I absolutely hate failing (it’s a flaw), I’m going to finish this dang book. It’s going against the entire principal of the exercise, but I’m doing it. I’m also giving myself two weeks to finish Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safram Foer. So that’s 1.3 books in 2 weeks, when I only finished .6 book in 3 weeks. This post just got strangely mathematical.

Somewhere above, I tried to make the transition where I come full circle and bring together the title of this post. Long-windedly, I’m giving myself permission to break the rules and adjust as I find my way on this journey. This blog is by no means a guide; it’s a place for me to talk about my journey: what works, what doesn’t, and how I decide what qualifies “working.”

A Summary: Set goals, adjust, and make sure they’re attainable. Make space for the priorities in your life by giving yourself permission to let the less important things go. I can’t do it all, but what I can do is make sure that I’m making space for the most important things that add the most value.

Pick Three

The other day, a friend and female business owner posted an article on Facebook titled Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, and Friends: Pick 3. It was an article based on a statement from Randi Zuckerberg, sister to the Facebook guru and former Director of Market Development turned entrepreneur. As is customary, the comments displayed a colorful array of opinions.

I was the first comment, “Yes. This.” I felt happy that someone with influence was sharing that you can’t do it ALL. Put it out into the world: to do things well means sacrificing other things – for the sake of sanity and also for the sake of integrity. In the comments, this woman piped up calling Randi an “enabled coat-tailer” which made me sad; why would you make such a crass generalization about a woman you don’t know at all? Then another woman stated “Clearly they haven’t met me – I do it all!” She (somehow) (and I’m not making this up – literally she said this) is a single mom, wakes up and makes her kid breakfast, works a regular job until 5, gets her kid, does some evening activity like a park or a walk, then makes dinner, reads with her kid, puts her to bed, then she runs her business by answering emails/setting appointments, works weekends as a wedding hair/makeup artist, yet somehow makes time for friends, exercise, and get enough sleep to feel rested.

I call bullshit.

I assume some of the following is at play here:

a) call up her friends and they’ll tell you they barely see her b) she looks haggard and tired all the time c) her idea of being fitness-conscious is her evening walks with the kid? d) her business isn’t really lucrative

I’m not saying this to be an asshole, I promise. I think this is a textbook definition of that “busy” trap you keep seeing in articles on NYT or huffpost. Maybe she has to do all work to make enough income – but I can’t believe her personal time, social life, or health aren’t sacrificed to achieve the full time job + part time business (and single mom) responsibilities.

I say all of this because I’m reflecting on the fact that personally, I can’t do it all. Well, I can’t do it all well. I like being good at things. Because I can knit, run, shoot (decent) photos, sew fairly well, I like to write, freelance, and want to start my own business doesn’t mean I can do them all. I’m learning to accept that’s okay. Focus on the things I love most – the few most important things (family, fitness, work – those are my 3) – and be stellar. The rest? They’re just not a priority. There is nothing wrong with that.

The success rate of Cold Turkey

Let’s be real here, cold turkey has a success rate of about 3% (don’t quote me). My case studies include:

  • New year’s resolutions
  • My attempt at a capsule wardrobe
  • My “write an album in the month of February” goal that I tried for the last 3 years, despite the fact that I can barely write 1 song per year for those other months (sigh)

This blog is totally (hopefully) going to help keep me honest in this journey of removing the crap from my life that keeps me from living the life I want to live – but if I’m setting myself up for success, I need to snap out of the delusion that this is going to happen with the stroke of my keyboard and the camera shutter of my iPhone.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Let’s start small, shall we? The Bookshelf.

I am absolutely not the minority when I say I have a weird unjustified attachment to (the contents of) my bookshelf. I love the feel of a good paperback, the smell of crisp pages, the look of an un-bent spine. I love tangible progress – so I cherish the change in balance from the “unread” to the “read” side of an open book. I’m obsessed with cover art and will buy multiple copies of my favorite books with different covers, collecting different sets of notes in the margins for each time I read it. Sound familiar?

But if we’re sticking to the theme of being real with ourselves, how many of the books on your bookshelf make your heart swoon so strongly as the passion in that descriptive love letter I just penned for the paperback book? Probably not many. I learned this like a smack in the face during my recent move.

One of my bookshelves was sacrificed during the move, which meant that when I unpacked I had to find a new system for organizing them. I had to decide which books might temporarily remain in the cardboard box and which books got to be on display. I quickly learned I could fill a whole shelf of unread books. Some I had only had for a couple months, some I had had for years. Some I had started 3-5 times but could never get through. Why am I holding on to these?!

So in my attempt to have less and do more by getting rid of the things that don’t add value to my life, I’m going to begin by plowing my way through that “unread” shelf that is busting at each end. Each book gets 2 weeks – if it’s not done, I shouldn’t waste any more time (or space) on it. I can accept that it’s not for me and send it on its way. Up first: the classic On the Road by Jack Keuroac himself. See you in two weeks.

 

“Action expresses priorities.”

“Action expresses priorities” – Mahatma Ghandi

This has been a personal subliminal mantra of mine for as long as I can remember. When people told me their ideas or aspirations – I pushed them to do it. If they didn’t do it, they didn’t want it badly enough. The same with myself: if I wanted a new job, I got one. If I wanted to run a marathon, I trained for it and did it. If I wanted a house, I saved and bought one. You can do anything you set your mind to. The key is not to have it “easy” or be be lucky or privileged – it’s about setting realistic goals and being creative in solving the inevitable obstacles you’re presented with. I promise, there are lots of obstacles. (Let’s be real: brunch with bottomless mimosas will always sound more appealing than your Saturday morning long run – but your action (brunch vs. run) expresses which is a priority in your life).

It wasn’t until recently that I came across this quaint little quote that I realized it perfectly described my philosophy for life. Thank you Ghandi, for this and your articulate wisdom. But something this quote is also helping me with the realization that I’m being a hypocrite. Back up, let’s save the melodrama.

I’ve been reading blogs for 5 years. I’ve started many blogs. I’m having trouble finding my rhythm because I keep asking myself “what is me?” “what do I have that I can share with the world on an ongoing basis that will continue to fulfil me for the unforeseeable future?” These are hard questions – and I always came up blank. First, it was an adventure blog of my life moving to a new city. Then, a healthy living blog. Then, a positive attitude blog. Now? A minimalist lifestyle blog? Tomorrow – who knows. The undeniable truth here is that I want to blog, but I’m feeling unconfident, hesitant, and indecisive in my decision to start. Action Expresses Priorities. Blogging hasn’t been a priority in my life (or I’m mistakenly procrastinating by adding more things to my plate that don’t add value to my life – more on that at another time).

I’ve bought the domain. I’ve chosen a a title. I have a theme, and post ideas. I have the intention. Now all I have to do is show up. Keep showing up.

Setting Intentions

I have a lot of ideas.

I’m also not a person that is very passive with her ideas.

My life philosophy is all about “HOW can I do that?” Figuring out how to make these crazy ideas a reality.

Since finishing grad school and starting my career, I’ve started all of those things that you “should” be doing, “buying a house, getting engaged, owning a dog.” It’s fulfilling. I love my life. But I’ve found it’s really easy to start letting things fill up space in your life, limiting your ability to actually get shit done.

It’s not only the physical things that get in the way. It’s mental, it’s hypothetical, it’s people, it’s rules, it’s money, it’s all kinds of “things.”

I’m at a point in my life where I have a lot of things I want to do, to accomplish, to achieve, to experience. I’m ambitious. But I can’t even get close to accomplishing any of them if I have all this “stuff” weighing me down, blocking my creativity, or filling my up time.

As I said – I have some really big ideas right now. My life is on the cusp of a million changing pieces and I want to seize every single opportunity in this transition. That means I need to be nimble, flexible, open-minded, and portable. I need to be independent, sustaining, and entrepreneurial. I’m ready.