The slant of my lists: 2012

For someone with little spare time I make a lot of lists. Lists keep me focused, goal-oriented, and pat me on the back as I scratch out another item as complete. Sometimes I will do something, write it down on the list after, and then smile to myself as I cross it off. Finito!

When I look back and want to reflect on the past 12 months, I think of my lists. My lists included my hopes, aspirations, and random ideas that I wanted to manifest.

new-years-best-of

I plan a lot, using my lists. I had hoped to take some time to write weekly dinner plans. I don’t like cooking but somehow the kids always need to eat. I buy almost the same groceries every week, and yet still have no idea what to make for dinner. The intention was there but I couldn’t motivate myself enough. I don’t plan meals because I know a bowl of cereal will always do in a pinch.

I plan things that involve me and that cause me stress if they are not done. I plan all my workouts: I know when I will swim, when I have yoga class, when I will run, when I will be at bootcamp, or when I will go to the gym. This demonstrates my priorities, maybe. My planning led me to train for and run a full marathon this year. I hadn’t planned to run a marathon (ever), but someone asked me why I was doing all this training. For all my micro-calculations and getting up at 5am to exercise, I realized I should have a goal. I made many lists leading up to this goal.

I also made a list of things I could do for myself. It was short but included things that had sat in the ideas/basement storage area of my brain for a long time. One of these ideas was a blog. I knew I liked to keep a record and had created a travelog a few years ago of our adventures when we lived in Tennessee. I really liked how I had created a snapshot of our time being there as a family. Still, I did no planning to start this current blog. I picked a name, found WordPress because a friend was blogging on it, and started typing.

I wrote a retro-list on what blogging has taught me these last 7 months. Mostly it taught me that the things I shy away from in person are things I gravitate towards in virtual life.

list

Given that it’s nearing year-end, and the world could end momentarily (Thank you Mayans!), it is somewhat fitting to acknowledge what has come, what has gone, and what has stayed. I appreciate where blogging has moved me. It has given me a creative outlet, but also challenged me when I felt uninspired. It has shown me a community, but also encouraged me to participate. It has invited me to express more of myself, but to remember to be honest and natural and loving.

What has gone is gone because it had fulfilled its purpose. I thank you, dear readers, for coming and staying.

This blog is my ongoing list of memories.

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Change the sheets (and brush your teeth)

Brushing teeth

I will just wave this funny magic wand I found, and Presto! everything will get done. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m feeling a bit swamped. I can easily get overwhelmed by anticipating things I need to do. I like to make lists of things so I don’t forget what I am doing, and often write down things I’ve already done and immediately cross them out so that I feel like I am already ahead.

I may just be tired from exercise and running around (in the non-exercise kind of way) doing errands. I was realizing there are a lot of things that need to be done, Every. Day. I know this seems a bit rote, but when I start to figure out what I do in a day, a lot of it is the same. And I do it every day, over and over. I often find this is the epitome of what having kids is: it’s chaos and crazy-making, but it’s doing the same things over and over again, and doing it every day. (How many times do you change a baby’s diaper and/or outfit in a day in those first few months? How many times do you answer the same questions? How many times do you make the same cheese/pb&j/ham sandwich in a week?)

I have realized that I have to get used to, and even embrace, this repetitive nature. If I don’t, I lose. If something needs to be done, it’s not the kid who’s going to change their mind and go do it. No, if I want it done (and sometimes I couldn’t care less but it still needs to be done), I have to be the parent and give in and get it done. It’s not a battle of wills I will win if it’s something that I need/want to begin with.

I tell my kid to do the same things every day; I nag, I repeat, I remind. “Don’t forget to brush your teeth!” And then one day she does it on their own, unprompted, unannounced and spontaneous. She is not late, she has made time to do what I keep asking her to do. I am so pleased. I praise liberally, soaking up the moment and think, She is growing and getting more responsible and one day we will talk about how she feels and her views of the world and we won’t have to battle about teeth brushing. The next day I have already let that nag drop, I am past that reminder, the kid knows to brush her teeth. She’s got this. She is older and I respect that. Yet as I am readying to leave the house she pipes up and says, “Hey, I didn’t brush my teeth.” “Why not?” “You didn’t ask me to.” So I breathe deeply to calm down and I help and remind and get it done, a little faster than probably should happen.  The next day I ponder how to approach the teeth-brushing: let it slide and hope the kid remembers?  Do I prod? Do I ask? I try to sound casual, “Did you brush your teeth already?” I get an explosion:”You don’t have to remind me all the time. Geez, I know already!”  Right. I guess that means it will get done?  I ask again in 15 min, “Are your teeth brushed.” I say it more like a statement. I get a scowl in return. “What was that for?” I ask. “I brushed my teeth the other day by myself and you were so happy. I brushed them today after you asked and you don’t even say anything. It’s like you expect me to just do it, by myself, every day. Like I’m supposed to know that I have to do this on my own, all the time.”

Hot-air-balloon

Here go all my requests, concerns and prods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Huh! Maybe all that seemingly wasted hot air is working. Maybe something is sinking in. Maybe that ‘everyday’ list will get smaller and then I will wonder where the time went.

But I know where the time went, and I know what I did and do with that time. I repeat myself. I do the same things, a lot, every day. I make lists to make myself feel as though I am further ahead than I am with my to-dos. I brush my teeth.

*How often do you  spend time thinking about what needs to get done, before it gets done? Is this wasting time, or good planning? (And can this effectively apply to kids?)

A satisfied mind

We are knowingly motivated towards a feeling of satisfaction. We strive to create an agreeable balance of effort vs change.

A lot of us run because we like to eat; a lot of us write because it feels cathartic to get the words down. Running and writing can be hard, but we still do it because there is no reason to stop. We find our motivation in the process of doing.

Motivation is more than immediate rewards. I found out that motivation is what elicits, controls and sustains our beliefs. Values are what motivate us; we don’t actually get as encouraged by an end result as much as by what we feel is intrinsically correct about our beliefs. I found that we also believe we all have the same inherent values, but this is pretty far from the truth.

Sometimes I think I am motivated by chocolate. I play this trick with myself that if I run so many interval repeats or run fast enough up a hill, I can have my chocolate. I do the run, but the chocolate reward does not taste as good as I ever imagined it while running. I enjoy it, but the satisfaction and fulfillment is in the doing.

Sometimes when there is more to say I am motivated to write. There is more than what comes out aloud, more that I’ve learned to change. I write a lot and then edit heavily, because what I feel repeats itself. It’s like each time a record goes around it’s on a new groove, but in the same approximate space. (New, but the same; new, but the same.) Sometimes it’s just a lot of words. I have snippets… but it can be hard to put the snippets together. I want to express the inside out.

When I want to write, I reshape my attention to nurture my process. I seek out feedback. I focus on what I want as an end result and stay present in the process. The value I find in what I am doing encourages me.

I think it’s important to know what feeds you. Beyond eating chocolate, I find a place where I want to let go of the words and just keep running. It’s a creative wave that I want to let crash and spill and enjoy. My writing is getting better, my running is faster and now both are less laboured.

Sometimes even a ripple can overturn a canoe. How can you see that coming?

* How does your writing, or running, or cooking (or ?) get you to a place of fulfillment? What motivates you to reach further?