Spending Time

Empire Christmas

This week finds me back in my city. A helluva town, I feel safe here and no, I’m not getting a whole lot of sleep (bonus points for naming the music references). 

I didn’t realize how much I missed it here until I slipped back in and found myself just simply smiling more. 

I’ve spent leisurely, delicious meals catching up with friends. I’ve spent long walks munching on yummy cart food. I’ve spent late nights drinking beers with new and old buddies. And I’ve spent my commutes via mass transit (I missed you too mta) starting and complete my first fiction book in 3 months which makes me very happy and fed a needed absence in my soul.

At the same time, my star-crossed relationship with my erstwhile pal tv production is in a on-again phase. So I’m selling a little bit of my happiness for 10 hours a day to afford the trip. Obviously I’m willing to pay the price, especially because I work with great people.

I am lucky and I know it (she says as self-indulgently guilt-free as possible).

I haven’t spent much time more deeply or actively reflecting as I intended (other than sending out my smiles and <thankyou thankyou thankyou> to the Universe). And, until now, have not made the time to write this week.

I think this is perhaps the perfect way, however, for me to review the previous year and think about the future. I’ve been relating those two narratives repeatedly over the last week and so I know what gets me grinning and what maybe notsomuch. More importantly, I’m not organizing my thoughts because I’m actually spending time out doing things I enjoy.

My list is making itself. All I’ll need to do is write it down later.

Last night I went to see Follies and there were many wonderfully tragic reminders about regret and the road not taken (as well as a little madness). One number — appropriately titled “The Road Not Taken” — sums the theme and just after it there was a fantastic line (which I can’t find because my google foo is weak this eve). It amounted to: somehow along the way my habits set the path of my life.

Despite cries of “it’s not to late” at a few points (remembered verbatim), the show ultimately falls on the side of “yes it is” and the main characters leave much the same as they came.

I wondered when leaving how many people still heard the echo – as I did – of the “it’s not too late!” The small call to action to change by progression.

Sometimes life decisions will be big ones, to be reflected on (and perhaps regretted) in big ways later. But more often the path is nudged by smaller degrees. We are the product of our daily choices on how to spend our time and energy.

This is my advice to myself and to you, my dear reader: Make the best small daily decisions you can to find enjoyment.

Spend your time and energy creating moments of pleasure and moving yourself towards deeper happiness by building a life where there is more opportunity for those.

Take time to have long dinners with friends. Walk. Order dessert or one more beer. Play silly games, make jokes and laugh. Look around and really see. Read fiction of the subway. Stop reading to have a chat with the pigtailed six year old with fabulous pink, shiny shoes.

Those are my spots of happiness. Those moments that I won’t ever regret. Yours might be completely different but you know what they are.

The big agendas, goals and reviews are important but they might seem a little daunting and not so pleasurable right now, and they ultimately matter less than how you actually spend your time.

No matter where you are and what you have been doing or plan to do, it is so easy to make choices to spend time with small, smiley things every day.

It isn’t too late. Start now.

 

 

Thing that makes me go mmmmmm

Have yourself a merry little.

06050287

“I really don’t need any more crap in my life.”
This was my rather undiplomatic announcement to my family Thanksgiving weekend. I have such eloquence don’t I?

I was specifically referring to the annual “What are the rules and expectations for Christmas?” conversation.  I was more generally referring to my life.

May your days be merry and bright…

With my parents still married, being one of 4 siblings, and then husbands, children and fiancés added to the mix, the holidays had been getting out of control. For the last few years we had made various attempts at scaling back — from secret santa to “no presents except stockings” — but I still felt the pinch of expenses and pressure of expectations.

And honestly, I had been given a lot of stuff that I just didn’t want or need over the last many years.

i already have more presents than you!!

Yes, I have also received some very thoughtful gifts which I do appreciate. We have also done the volunteer thing and the charitable contribution thing which has its advantages and more heart than the black friday thing.

Yet I still feel like the obligation obliterates the spirit of the season.

I much rather be given a random “thought you would like/could use/needed this” present then one delivered on official holiday.

By the end of Thanksgiving weekend we made decision to forgo the usual presents and trappings all together. That wasn’t just a royal “we,”  I was certainly leading the charge but it was truly a communal decision.

Most of the family will be spread across the country (including me in NYC) so I expect a number of sykpe or iChat sessions, some kind words and perhaps cards exchanged. At least that is my hope.

That makes me happy.

Central Park Snow and Pines

And may all your Christmases be white…

December for me this year is personally about cleaning out. I’m usually pretty choosy about what I like and would rather purchase well intentioned (and researched) items myself. More importantly, am clearing out the unnecessary and I really don’t need or want any more crap to enter back into my life.

I cleaned out my closet. I gave a fair number of things to my sister who exclaimed, “this is better than Christmas!” I plan to donate the rest including 2 suits which I’ve worn twice in the 10+ years I’ve owned them. I plan to never need a suit again.

Gold Sequened Fabulousness

I’ll be giving the two formal dresses pictured (from 1996 and 1999 ) to a special needs high school prom “closet” created by the Junior League. Every girl should wear a gold sequenced dress once in her life. I wore that number many happy times. Just not in the past 7 years and 4 moves. So I’m saying goodbye to the material and will hold on to the memories.

I’m not going as far as the 100 items challenge but I’ve been doing very critical analysis of what I actually use. For my clothes, if unworn in the last 6 months the question was: “Would I take this to Italy?” If not, into the donate pile it went. (even if it doesn’t go to Italy it is still a decent measure)

Finally, (finally!) I’m putting myself on a budget. I’ve started a dated “desires” list. Non-recycled/vintage items must be on the list for 30 days before purchase. This includes books. My Amazon Wishlist is going nuts but I still have a full to-read shelf to get through. My two transgressions have both been kickstarter campaigns (bike zines and the versalette).

I’m culling through this box and that drawer, and continuing a process of purge that I started 4 years ago. It feels good. And I haven’t missed a thing yet.

That is the point right? A cleaner slate. Honestly decide what is actually needed and necessary. What has surprised me is that I don’t feel constrained. Yes, it is cliche but, I do feel more at ease and – dare I say – free.

Cliches by nature are that which repetitively prove true.

I will try to stay true to these values throughout my three weeks in NYC (starting tomorrow!) It will be a time to work, enjoy and reflect. I am doing my own annual review this year and setting “streamlined and freer” intentions for the new year. As soon as those are more formed I’ll share them here.

The biggest boulder I fear is my belly. My fiscal weakness has always been not concerning myself with I spend on food and drink. I eat healthfully, yet more importantly to the bottom line (wah wah), fully and well both when I go out to eat and at home. So far I have restricted my spending on study coffee and beer, cooked for myself more, and tried to be more budget minded when I buy food at the grocery or out to eat. Setting and sticking to a budget is going to be really important for this area.

The challenge of course is that my “eats” list for the city is long and — another cleaning — I have been prepping to go fully vegan in February. I have been vegetarian in previous times for as long as 6 years and been “flex” for about 4. Never tried vegan (I <3 you cheese) but it is on my list. I’m planning to start yoga teacher certification in the new year and there is a multi-step dietary progression as part of that. [expect more about this later in future posts]

So here is the plan for New York: I’m not going to be overly self critical nor am I going to give myself permission to go nuts as a “gotta eat all this crap now while I can” binge. I will find an amenable middle ground. (starting probably with the ah-maze-ing vegan chocolate cake at Blossom Cafe)

Small steps.

Wow that was a lot more personal than I expected. Why am I sharing all this? Coalescing my own thoughts. Certification. Maybe inspire a few others to think about their own choices and intentions for the new year.

And that is where I am this day.  Hope wherever you are you are well, warm and preparing for a season of glad tidings and joy.

Central Park Snow 

I feel like I am hearing similar “clean” thoughts from a number of people. Please share any intentions you have for the rest of the month. What do you hope for in the season or the coming year?

Images via Flickr under CC license by: Roger Price (06050287), torbakhopper (I already have more presents than you), and the snow images are from 2010 by yours truly.

Faders of Life (a study of priorities)

Bedtime Books 2
I have that old children’s  “There were 10 in the bed” song stuck in my head.

“I’m crowded… roll over…”

Perhaps I have been spending too much time with a two year old. Perhaps I have been spending too much time doing a plethora of projects and my mind is constantly spinning on one thing or another.

As the year is winding down it seems like everyone is making lists. Tis the season for stocking up and taking stock of life and other matters.

I returned then to my own list of threats and promises. And the big blipping neon flashing standout is my reading (Resolution #2).  I am nowhere near my goal of a book a week. Utter, complete fail.

FAIL

So they all rolled over and one fell out…

Yes, I have been doing a great deal more non-fiction reading. Almost all of it, however, is online. I’ve had the same stack of books at my bedside for months and have only just barely started the one on top. I didn’t do what I set out to do.

I don’t get to put a pretty checkmark on this one. I don’t buy myself a beer for a job well done.

It is a failure. As such, it something I’ve avoided looking at it for a while. I mean, I’ve known for like 3 months that I wasn’t on track and I’ve just buried my unease with that glaring “really should do” and sidetracked to something else.

There are a number of lessons I’m learning from this one disappointment. I’m reassessing my goals and agenda setting and I’m ruminating on the idea of task-mastering a previously joy. For the moment, though, the question is: Ought I fixate on the one thing that fell off?

There were 9 in the bed and the little one said “I’m crowded…”

I’m finishing the semester strong despite taking a more than average course load. I’ve done well by my niece (my 9-5 “job”): she grows, learns, jokes and laughs daily — and I’ve succeeding for the most part in doing so right along with her. I landed an internship overseas and started mentally and physically preparing to be abroad for a year. I’ve kept up with my posting and made progress on this blog-life. I trained for an finished my first metric century ride and tredecem. I’ve volunteered, kickstarted campaigns, helped others write pitches, kiva loaned, proofread scripts and built websites. I’ve worked freelance TV gigs to pay the bills with kudos and call backs. I’ve written.

That is indeed a pretty crowded bed. Maybe I’m a multipotentialite after all.

So they all rolled over and one fell out… so what?!

Now to completely mix my metaphors: Video nerd that I am, I’ve been thinking about my life as a huge audio board.

Logitek Pilot Faders

Each slider, with its range of amplitude, is an intention requiring attention.

If you have ever watched a mix playback through a board the sliders move up and down automatically based on the adjustments made in the timeline. Various channels slide up to prominence and then fade down to background when something else needs to be heard. It is a lovely dance of movement and priority.

The blistering cacophony of all of those streams turned up to 11 at one time would blow out the system.

Just like a soundtrack, a life isn’t that pretty when everything is peaking at once.

There are some streams that have to be turned down or shut off. If you have a full board, you can have your louder times and your quieter times but even when things are at full fevered pitch, you still can’t get absolutely everything in mix.

Have I stretched this one enough?

The point is: I’m giving myself a pass on this one. Reading 52 books before next June is at a 0 — it has been for a while.

Maybe – likely – I will try again but for now the objective isn’t adding anything positive to my life. I have looked at the loss of priority. I’ve diagnosed the reasons for it. Now I am making my peace with taking that “challenge” — the resolution and the mind share that goes along with it — off the list.

I want to soften that and explain how “reading and finishing books: will still have place in my life — for of course it will — but instead I’m encouraging myself to just let it go.

I don’t need to continue to feel the pressing presence of that goose-egg of a slider as a failure.  I’m banishing it from my board and moving on to things that are more valuable to me.

Can't Fail Cafe, Emeryville, CA, 9:30 pm

“There were enough on the board and the little one said…”

I’m actively content.

Images via flikr under CC license by coffeebooksbeer, laffy4k (Logitek Pilot Faders),  stringbot (FAIL) and 305 Seahill (Can’t Fail Cafe, Emeryville, CA, 9:30 pm)

Sad Audit

Math

“It really shouldn’t be this hard to find smiling faces.”

I worked a freelance corporate project a few weeks ago, using some of my “old” skills as a TV editor. I loved the travel and it was a rather lucrative gig for me. 

The client has apparently enjoyed similarly lucrative work recently. The event was in an absolutely gorgeous location, super swank, and was all-expense paid for attendees (the employee and their partner). Idyllic really.

 Editor's View

Except for one thing. I had trouble finding happy faces for a happy-face wrap-up video. 

This is why I both love and hate my job as an editor.

Love: Seeing, as a fly on the wall, how other people live and operate— when they know they are being observed and when they don’t. I’ve learned a a great deal from the comfort of my edit chair about human interaction, what others are working on, learning, doing and about life in general. Not groundbreaking that this is how TV works but in production you get to see it all. 

Hate: When I watch something so profoundly frustrating… and then have to work with that material for hours on end.

This by no means was as emotionally hard as working on a doc-reality show about young adult addiction. Nor, for different reasons, as bad as slaving on something so utterly not my style that I wanted to quit about once a minute, every day (like the time I spent 3 weeks and 20 distinct versions on a Justin Beiber pilotish test tape).

This project was difficult because it was crystalizingly, almost beautifully, sad.

Here were these people at the height of their careers, at the top of the top of a multinational corporation, all on an amazing vacation (with a few meetings between golf) and 90% were quite obviously unhappy.

IMG_5947

Perhaps I am more attune to this particular phenomena because of my personal history with this field but I was not the only member of the crew to notice. The quotation above is direct from the cameraman’s mouth.

The first day I sifted through registration footage where the attendees and their partners cued up and ignored each other, and staff beamed at non-reciprocating faces. I felt compelled to text my Ex. This is THE X. Of life-status-change import but also my X who went through college and Grad school to join this profession. 

The X who hated just about every minute grinding through 5 years of school to study this profession. He was on the path, you see,  following the “sure thing.” He thought that somehow it would be different in practice.

It wasn’t. 

He was miserable and we were miserable together. He actually made me promise him that if he was still in that line of work, “on the track” still in 10 years, I would leave him. Um, hi, if you are looking for a sign that you are unhappy maybe that is a good one.

After 9 long, difficult months, and with a great deal of pushing by Gutsy-Emotional-Me, Thinking-He took a chance and switched careers. 

We stuck through for quite a bit longer before finally deciding to separate but that is another story for another day. The upshot is that we are still in touch (thank you counseling and determination) so I sent him a many-years-later kudos for getting out of something that was quietly but concretely bleeding his soul.

Seeing the effects of that road-so-much-more-traveled writ large on every face, made me appreciate anew what a difference that decision made for him. Granted, he is now in computers and certainly has his days of server crashes, personal issues and other untold dramas. But on any given day I know he is happier than he ever was in those months of working and years of study in the wrong field. 

I, or any stranger, can see it on his face. 

I couldn’t say anything to the corporate types on the other side of the fourth wall so I’m saying it here now: 

Life is too blippin short for you to be miserable. And when you are, it shows.

Valuing yourself enough to find your bliss is hard. Figuring out what you want and what will make you happy is hard. Taking leaps, even from the midst of soul-sucking hell, is hard. Keeping your right course in the face of uncertainty and adversity is really hard.

Staying with the safe sure thing might be easier but it will make you hard.

You and I may never meet but don’t wish that for you. 

Do the hard thing before it makes you hard!

I hope that if a camera caught you unawares today, an editor would have no trouble finding smiles that reached your eyes.

happy_fisherman

Photos via Flickr, Creative Commons Licence: Beau Maes (Math), Jack Zalium (IMG_5947), xmatt (Happy Fisherman)

Pssst…

Letter out of grandma's photo boxHey you!

Yes YOU!

Been awhile I know, but I’m talking to you.

You’re the one that wouldn’t fall.

You couldn’t find the time.

You didn’t love me back.

And I have just 2 words for ya….

Thank you. [Read more...]