About Not Writing

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for a while not writing.  I’m here at my new writing spot with my writing pal but I’ve been not writing.  All week I’ve been trying to think of what I would write and I came up with a few tidbits of ideas here and there, but nothing that felt really quite right or just what I wanted. So I sat down and I read some other blog posts and I looked out the window and I drank some expensive, bubbly water and I checked my phone, I watched a rainstorm pass through, I chatted with my writing pal, and I was just not writing.  I kept thinking that I can’t not write.  Because I was not writing for seven months and I didn’t like that and I said I wasn’t going to not write any more.  So I decided to write about not writing.

Once I decided to write about not writing…we chatted some more.  And then, as I was looking out the window, it occurred to me to just write something.  It doesn’t have to be earth shattering (not that I think I’ve ever really written an earth shattering post here, nor am I trying to). It doesn’t have to be a wonderful post. It doesn’t have to be the most read post of my blogging career/hobby (It’s just a hobby).  It doesn’t even have to be good.  It just has to be writing.  Sometimes you just have to go through the motions.  Or not.  I don’t HAVE to write, but I want to write, I like writing.  I reminded myself that not everything we like or want to do comes really easily all of the time.  Nor does it turn out really well all of the time.  But a surefire way to fail and/or to not get better and/or to get or stay in a slump, is to not even try.

I tried to think of some examples from other realms of life or jobs or hobbies to sort of explain how I was feeling and how the writing just wasn’t quite happening the way I wanted, but it wasn’t quite happening the way I wanted.  I guess in all areas that happens though, things don’t go quite the way we want them to. (It doesn’t help when I’m mid struggle to write and my writing pal just claps her hands and says, “Ha!” As in, “I’m done!”)

That’s just how it goes sometimes though.  It’s hard and it doesn’t go the way you want at the very same exact moment that other people seem to be sailing along and winning trophies. It’s not going to be perfect or easy or the best or good or the way you thought all of the time.  But if you* want to do it, you just do it, you keep on doing it. You do your thing, whatever your thing happens to be.  If you want to be a runner, you run.  If you want to be a yogi, you go to yoga.  If you want to be a writer, you write.

So there it is.  I’m not not writing. I wrote. (Claps hands and shouts “HA!”)

*When I say you, I really mean me.  I mostly write to remind myself.

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And the trophy for not writing goes to…Seems to me that when I’m struggling to get something done, there are always plenty of distractions pulling my attention away from the task at hand.  As I was trying to write this week the distractions were aplenty, including this trophy that the Starbucks barista carried out and placed on the counter.  So we had some fun making up stories about our acceptance speeches and who and what the trophy could be for.  Turns out our Starbucks team won the Peak All Star honor for their district, whatever that means. They obviously weren’t not doing their thing. Good job, guys!

 

 

 

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Close or Open the Books, Any Day

Soooo…it’s been 7 months since my last confession. I mean blog post.  Twelve years of Catholic school just makes that confession phrase pop right out.  I wasn’t keeping a tally count of the months of no blogging.  Word Press kindly tells you exactly how long you’ve been slacking when you log back in after a brief hiatus.  Thanks for that, Word Press People.

I wasn’t exactly counting the months of no blogging, but I sure have felt them.  A few of my wonderful friends who so kindly follow my blog and read my writing have asked when I’ll write again.  My writing pal has offered to meet up a bunch of times.  I’ve thought of things I’d like to write about.  But I just haven’t written.  The truth is I’ve kind of been in a bit of a slump for a while with writing. And with a few other things.  And the slump has lasted longer than I’d like to admit, much longer than comfortable. I thought about bringing back my blog lots of times, but I just did not do it. I even taught my first graders how to blog and they do it every week, but still, I did not do it myself.

One time that I thought a lot about getting back to writing was around the new year. (Is March too late for a New Year’s Resolution?) I took a walk back in December, on New Year’s Eve and, looking for a little inspiration with which to start the new year, I listened to an episode of the “Good Life Project” podcast called “Close the Books.”  In that message, Jonathan Fields, the founder of the Good Life Project described a process that business owners would do at the end of each year called “closing the books”. They would note debits and contributions to their financial accounts and try to make sense and balance of their money situation. Where does it make sense to continue spending? What revenue sources filled our accounts? Are we wasting money or resources in any areas? How can we plan to either continue doing what fills the accounts and stop doing what drains the accounts in the year to come? And then, close the old book and open a new one.   Jonathan explained how we might apply the same ideas to our everyday lives – work lives, personal lives, habits, activities, relationships.  He talked of looking back on the year and thinking about things that were deposits in your life. What added to your account, your life?  When I did that, I quickly thought about writing.  When I was writing on a regular basis last year (and the year before that when I first started this blog), I felt this positive addition to my days.  I got a good energy from creating something.  Even if no one else were to ever even read it, I liked the act of creating something.  I also liked how writing changed my outlook on things, my attention to my days.  Because I was looking for something to write about, I often paid attention to what was happening around me in a different way.  If something touched me or was bothering me, I could share it or work it out in my writing.  Sometimes writing helped me find a new perspective on something.  I liked the days when I was writing on a regular basis, so I thought back in December that I would really start writing again.  But I didn’t.

I slumped on through January and February. I mean, who really wants to do anything in January and February?  We’re supposed to be hibernating, right?  Except hibernating and slumping didn’t feel so good for very long and the friends kept asking and I wanted to write and I kept remembering that I told myself I would write again. But I didn’t. And then one day I just said, “Yes.”  I said yes to my writing pal. I said yes, I would do something to try to un-slump myself. I said I would show up and write and so here I am…writing.

I got a new book last week.  I buy a lot of books when I’m in a slump.  Truth be told, I buy a lot of books all the time, but still, this book helped in my un-slumping.  The book is called “The Endless Practice” by Mark Nepo. In the first several pages he tells about how zooplankton make a daily journey from the depths of their water habitat to the surface.  It’s a matter of feeding themselves and protecting themselves, and in the process of this, they also filter the water they inhabit and so contribute to the health of the larger world around them.  Nepo makes the point that in life we humans do something similar as we go back and forth between nourishing ourselves, filling, gaining energy and being drained, or needing to protect ourselves.  It kind of made me feel a little better about drifting away from some things that I know are good for me.  That it’s sort of the natural course of things to go back and forth, to hibernate and then wake up, to be down and then get up. Maybe I could drift and return a bit more frequently, like the zooplankton, but still.

So I might not have made that New Year’s Resolution happen, but any time really can be a time to close or open a new or old book, to swim up to the surface,  I think. My plan is to try to continue to write on a regular basis again, because it’s one of the things that makes me feel good, that fills me up and helps me filter the world.   Here goes again…

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I didn’t make the New Year’s resolution, but I did make it to see the New Year sunrise. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Winter Review & Spring Hopes

I have a hard time deciding when is the best season for setting goals.  The winter has all the New Year’s resolutions hype, new calendars and year-in-review stuff.  But as a teacher,  I often find myself making new goals in the fall as I prep for a fresh new year of school.  Still the spring has all the blooming and things coming back to life and that feels like the perfect time for some new plans.  As soon as daylight savings time kicks in and I don’t feel like I need to go to bed immediately after work, I’m ready to come out of hibernation and I’m pumped to make some spring plans.

I think about setting goals fairly often. It was kind of the basis of how I started blogging the first time. I’m often dreaming of new things I want to try, new ways of being, acting thinking.  To grow and learn and improve.  Plans I want to make, places I want to go, things I want to do.  I’m kind of a dreamer like that.  The change of seasons feels like a good time to reflect on the past few months and look forward to the next few. Maybe every season is a good season for setting goals.

Back in January, I made a little list of goals for the winter and I didn’t do too badly in making them happen.  In that post I also wrote about when goals don’t happen, so I’m okay with the ones I haven’t accomplished yet. It’s the trying.  Here’s the list I made and a little update on how things went:

  • write – I’ve written a post every week so far this year.  Last weekend was my 50th post on this blog.  This make me very happy.  I really enjoy the process of writing.  I do it mostly for myself, but I’m very appreciative to my family and friends and even the strangers who read here.  I like hearing that you enjoy my writing and I’m glad when a lesson I’m trying to learn is something you’re working on too.  Makes us feel even more connected.  Thanks for reading, friends!
  • hike – I did not go hiking this winter.  I had envisioned the beauty of snow covered trees and trails, but I underestimated the lovely lure of warmth.
  • go to a few new (to me) restaurants – YUM!  I wrote about that here.
  • host some gatherings at my house – I didn’t host any parties or dinners this winter. That’s what I was picturing – gatherers around my dining room table.  I had visitors, but nothing like I’d planned.  I can’t wait to open the patio soon though.  Patio party anyone?
  • take a spin class – This didn’t happen either.  Some amazing friends of mine wake up before the sun and make it to spin class before work.  I’ve managed to be up and work out in the super early morn,  but not quite getting out of the house for it yet.  Some day friends, I will join you.  I think you are amazing!
  • log a few hundred miles on my bike trainer – Just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…I didn’t make it to Canada, but I’ve been spinning my wheels.  Can’t wait to move that bike outside!
  • continue learning yoga – I only missed one of my weekly classes this winter.  I continued learning along with my first graders and have dabbled a bit with practicing at home.  Yoga is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. And it’s teaching me a lot.  See here.
  • do something that scares me – This.  This blog here scares me a bit.  Putting my thoughts and feelings out onto the interwebs and in front of my family and friends is a little scary.  I worry what people will think of me.  But I do it anyway, because I have to be me-er.
  • plant a terrarium – Ugh.  Why do I want a terrarium again?  Why can’t I just buy one already planted?  Did I ever tell you about the time I had my library privileges revoked on account of a book about terrariums?  I kept it for a year but still didn’t plant the dang thing. I’m a bit of a procrastinator.  And I’m busy.  You too?

I did and didn’t do a lot of other things besides those on the list and those I’ve written about here.  All in all, it was a very good season. I made a lot of changes this winter.  The spring gets a bit more full with commitments for me.  I coach a girls running group, I have to kick things into a higher gear with the bike riding and school gets a lot busier before it winds down into summer vacation.  Those things will fill up my days with happy outdoor time and work, but I’m still hoping to make time for some spring hopes to come true.  Here’s a little list for the season ahead:

  • keep writing
  • hike
  • learn to take better photos
  • break out the kayak
  • try some new yoga classes

It feels good to take some time to consciously think about how I’ve spent my time and how I want to spend it.  While I want to be open to where the flow of life will take me, I also want to live on purpose and make some things happen.  Here’s to spring happenings!

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading!

Habits & Practice

Do you have any conscious habits or something that you’re practicing regularly?  Not the absentminded kind of habit, like biting your nails.  Something positive and purposeful, something you’re trying to cultivate.  I’ve been working on a few things recently and thinking about the word practice often.

For a while I had wanted to have a nicer start to my days, to be more intentional about how I begin my waking hours.  For years I had been a snoozer.  When my alarm went off, I’d hit the snooze button and steal ten more minutes, and ten more minutes, and ten more minutes, until sometimes nearly an hour would go by.  You know what I could have done in an hour?! And it’s not like I was even really sleeping restfully during that time. Actually sleeping for another hour might have been a good use of time.  And then when I finally did get up, I often felt discouraged because I had wanted to be up earlier and here was another morning that I didn’t do it. Feeling discouraged from the second I get out of bed isn’t the nice start I was imagining.  This year, I decided that enough was enough.  When I began this new year witnessing the sun rise, I decided to make that a regular occurrence.  I set my alarm for 5 am and at this point I have been up before the sun every day for more than two months.  It wasn’t very pleasant at first.  I was tired.  So I tried to make it a little more comfortable.  Before I go to bed, I put something warm to drink in a thermos on my nightstand.  I keep a cozy blanket on the chair in my bedroom.  I slip from bed to the chair and I start with something nice to read.  Right now I’m working my way through Mark Nepo’s ‘The Book of Awakening.‘ Now my early wake up call has become a habit and I often open my eyes a few minutes before the alarm sounds.  (Isn’t the human body amazing?!)  And on clear days, I get to peek out my window and witness some beauty.  Not as scenic as the beach, but still miraculous every time.

During my early mornings, I’m also beginning to practice meditation.  Oh my God! This is not an easy thing to do.  I’m trying not to use words like ‘struggle’ and ‘chore’ to describe this act because I don’t want to set it up in my mind as something that’s so hard, but just is what it is.  So the goal is to be present, concentrate on your breath or maybe a mantra.  But my mind, as minds do, strays.  Here are just a few of the thoughts that got me distracted one morning this week:  “Do they allow use of electronic devices during takeoff on all flights now?  Where’s the power button on the ipad again? Should I turn that thing off more often?  I need to charge that keyboard.  Who was that celebrity who got in trouble for refusing to turn his phone off because he was playing Words with Friends?  Why am I even thinking about this?  I’m not even flying any time soon.  Breathe.  Observe your body breathing all on its own.  Here and now, here and now, here and now.  Who did take my shovel off my porch last night?  TWICE!  At least they replaced it. But I don’t want a different shovel.  I want my shovel.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s just a shovel.  At least you have a shovel.  At least they replaced it.  That was kinda nice actually. For a thief!  I wonder if we’ll have school today. Breathe!  Breathe! Here and now, here and now, here and now……”  This is where thinking about the word practice is helpful to me.  I love that the word practice can be used as a noun and a verb.  It’s something we do repeatedly with a goal of improvement.  Not perfection.  I used to work for a wonderful principal who taught the kids at our school to rephrase that old saying, so they learned, “Practice makes improvement.”  Some days my practice is better than others. None of them are perfection. Yet maybe all of them are.

I think of my meditation time as a practice and I’m trying to think of other things I do as practice too.  Like this writing thing.  I committed to myself (and my writing buddy) that I would write one post a week.  But this week, I had trouble coming up with an idea to write about.  I faced a blank screen.  I came up with ideas and rejected them. I wondered who would care or even notice if I didn’t post this week.  And then I remembered the word practice.  All I have to do is show up and give it a good try.  It’s kind of strange, but framing something as practice takes the pressure off -AND- helps me be fully present and ‘all-in’, all at the same time. Does that make sense?  Since I’m not blowing it off, but I’m not expecting it to be perfect, I’m freed up to give it all I’ve got.  And if I practice enough, it starts to become a habit requiring less task-minded effort.  Does that make sense?

Anyway, I’m off to practice something else…

Sunrise from my chair.  Not as scenic as the beach, but still miraculous every time.

Sunrise from my chair. Not the best photo, not as scenic as the beach, but still, miraculous every time.

 

Try. And try again.

See that list over there on the right?  I’ve been thinking about what to do with it. I already confessed to the reality of it being incomplete and unfinished. And I said I’m fine with that.  Most of the time.  OK, actually, the fact that I dropped it once does have me a little hesitant about making another list.

I originally typed a whole different post about why I should or shouldn’t make another list to go with my blog. And then I deleted it. That post was hard to write.  The fact that it was 2 degrees in “The-Coffee-Shop-With-the-Loudest-Refrigerators-in-the-World” did not help, but it wasn’t that.  The words were just not flowing out of me.  I was trying to write about how the list would give this place a theme and structure and blah, blah, blah. And how when it comes to setting goals, my eyes are bigger than my stomach or the hours in a day or whatever, you know what I mean, right? Then I started ranting about resolutions again, but basically, it all boiled down to this:  What if I publicly make another list on here and then I don’t finish it? Again.  What will you think of me then?  And when I say “you” here, I mostly mean me.

As soon as I typed those questions, I wanted to delete them too.  But then some words popped into my head.  Encouraging words from two of my favorite authors and thinkers. (I read a lot.) The first were these:  “Fail.  Fail again.  Fail better.”  I first heard these words spoken by Pema Chodron, who is a Buddhist nun, during a TV interview.  This was the title of a graduation address she gave recently.  I later read that she was quoting the author Samuel Beckett.  I don’t know who he is, but I looked it up and apparently he wrote these words, “Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.”

I learned about the second dose of encouragement while reading Brene Brown. She’s an author and a research professor at the University of Houston.  The words actually belong to Theodore Roosevelt.  It’s kind of long, but worth the read in my opinion.  He said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

I’m sure you can think of some quotes that feel encouraging in times of doubt or hesitation.  So many people have written words like these and it reminds me that we’re all in this thing together, and we can’t expect to go very long as human beings, before some things are going to go wrong, get messed up and be left unfinished.  That’s just how it is.  For everyone.  And the failing doesn’t matter.  It’s the trying and trying again that matters.  That’s where the growing and the life happens.

Now, to be clear, I have failed (and succeeded!) at way bigger things than this blog list. I’ve got bigger things than this list going on in my life right now.   It may seem a bit silly even, to be all waxing poetic about it.  I mean, I’m quite sure my world will go on just fine whether I ever plant a terrarium or not. Some of those list items were just little things, really, but really, all those little things add up to big things.  It feels hopeful too and expectant, to set some little goals, try some new things, and see what I can make happen, even if some things don’t.  They might not.  So, I will make another list and try, for sure, to accomplish it,  but I’m also going to keep those encouraging words in mind, because they help me not to be my own loudest critic.  Feel welcome to keep them in mind for yourself, if you should need or like them.

I also like what Pema went on to say in her speech, that, “its a little hard to tell, actually, what’s a failure and what’s something that’s just shifted your life in a new direction.”  I wonder what direction my life will take if I try to do these things…

My winter list:

  • write
  • hike
  • go to a few new (to me) restaurants
  • host some gatherings at my house
  • take a spin class
  • log a few hundred miles on my bike trainer
  • continue learning yoga
  • do something that scares me
  • plant a terrarium
This was not the freezing cold, noisy fridge coffee shop.  The only thing distracting at this place was the delicious scent of pancakes.  Seems like a good place to do some writing.  That's on my list.

This was not the freezing cold, noisy fridge coffee shop. The only thing distracting at this place was the delicious scent of pancakes. Seems like a good place to do some writing–it’s on my list!  I’m gonna go get on my bike now…

 

Call It a Comeback! (Not a Resolution.)

Oh, hey!  Remember when I used to blog?  Well, I’m bringing it back. I know, I know.  I said that before, and then didn’t follow through.  In fact, I never really followed through with making the whole list in the first place. The point of the list and blog, in case you’re new here or forgot, was to come up with 35 things to do, see, eat, or experience…then actually do them… and then write about them…before I turned 35. Welllllll…now I’m 36, I only ever listed 29 things, and I don’t even really know how many things I actually accomplished.  But you know what?  I’m ok with that.

Here’s some truth: Sometimes, I don’t finish things.  For example, remember when I used to knit?  Me neither.  But apparently I did.  As evidence, there is a half-finished, hand-knit blanket in my hall closet which I gave to my brother for Christmas one year and then promptly took back so I could “finish” it.  That was six years ago.  Sorry, bro.  I owe you one.  Also, I own approximately 347 books.  About 124 of them have bookmarks in the middle somewhere where I abandoned them for a new read.  I just made those numbers up, for the sake of another example and so I wouldn’t abandon this post to go count my books instead of writing, but you get the point, right? Sometimes I don’t finish things. However, sometimes, many times, most times, I do.  I don’t want you to think I’m a total flake.  I’m actually quite responsible.  One of my favorite t-shirts says so. Unfinished isn’t always bad. Some might argue that a blog is never finished.  A list on the other hand, probably should be, but it’s ok. Here we are, back on the blog. Welcome back!

There are a few reasons that I’m coming back to blogging and my list idea.  The first is that I’ve been thinking about writing a lot recently. Writing keeps popping up in my thoughts and books and conversations. I like writing. I like the process of creating something.  But thinking and talking and reading about writing is not enough. It’s like thinking about running or thinking about doing yoga. Both of which I thought about for quite some time before actually doing them. I’m a thinker.  But, thinking only gets you/me so far.  So here I am, writing.

Also, I’ve had the chance to share my blog with a few new people recently and rereading it several times myself reminded me of the fun that came along with my list.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful friends and family. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for the people in my life–you know who you are! So many of them jumped right into my list idea back then. They planned events and outings to help me do the things on my list, but, more importantly, they did my list with me.  It was a lot of fun!  We’ve been having lots of fun without the blog, but something about setting goals, reflecting and having a chronicle of my time has been calling to me recently.  So here I am, writing. Again.

One thing I don’t really want the blog comeback to be about is a new year’s resolution.  I mean, maybe it is. Slightly. A smidge.  Because the new year is kind of like that. Whether I want it to or not, it makes me want to start something new. Is it just me, or do resolutions have a bad rep these days?  All that expectation.  Whatever.  It’s not a resolution. Just thought I’d mention that, being that it’s almost January 1.

Something will have to be done about the list.  I haven’t totally ironed that out yet, but I have some ideas.  I’m thinking of something a little shorter, perhaps seasonal.  I’ll take your suggestions if you care to share.  I might even take some of you along on the doing–you know who you are!  Let’s go!

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Can we promise to follow the coffee shop blogging rules? See? Responsible side.