Strengths and Follow-through

After thinking about how I work to play to my strengths on habits I want to improve, it also reminds me that these are about matters with follow-through. Completing the starts and stops or deciding it’s not something worth completing. Let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No. Setting priorities, and even shifting priorities when need be.

Sure, I’ve collected lots of crafty supplies. But are all of them destined to be used? Hmm. Good question. It reminds me of those “new year’s resolution” suggestions that tell you to turn all your hangers backwards. Only turn them right-way again if you wear the outfit. At the end of a year, remove all the clothes you didn’t wear that year. Well, first that supposes that (a) all your clothing goes on hangers in the closet and (b) that all clothing should be worn every year. Now that I live where it’s almost never cold or never raining, there’s some things that get used only every 2-10 years when it’s finally cold and/or wet. So that’s not practical.

But the core thought does seem to have some resonance with me. Which crafty pursuits of mine are actually things I plan to work on? Am I ever going to use XYZ supply? Or is it time to stop being the foster-mom of these supplies and find instead a forever home where someone else would be happy to use the supplies?

Also, there are quite a few “irons in the fire” projects that are part-way started, lurking around in my life. Granted, the reason is usually because they are each better suited for different places and contexts. There’s two projects next to my spinning wheel, both are only for the wheel. There’s a single box filled with a carding project, best for in front of the TV. The flower work bench has all the flower supplies, and there’s two deadlines looming over there. My work rolly cart always has a supply of hand-spinning for when I’m caught somewhere with extra time. My short deadline project at home was finished a week early (which makes me happy) and makes me wonder what’s my next deadline project for home.

There’s always a running list of computer tasks, weekly updates, some regular tasks to finish, and some current deadline projects. And in the distance, the looming prospect of carving out time to try to de-clutter my storage unit. Then there’s costuming needs for SCA events or for storyteller outfits or next Santa season.

Everything we choose to work on says something about our priorities, even when we didn’t mean to make commentary on them. But when I half-remember a promise to do something for a friend and then I forget, that’s a poor commentary on my half-promise. I want to do something about that, to improve and be more reliable, even if it’s just my own hidden integrity that no one knows about but me. Heavy thoughts for a December 30.

Ten years ago, my view out over the ocean in Malibu

Find Your Strengths

One of the most inspiring messages I ever got from a book came from Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. In there, she talks about how there are successful tasks that you accomplish regularly in life. You have some strengths. And she suggests that if you examine your strong points, your strengths, you can find ideas for applying those strengths to your weakness, or more properly, to the habits you’d like to strengthen. For example, if you never forget to put on deodorant but you always forget your vitamins, consider putting your vitamins in front of your deodorant. When you reach for your deodorant, your vitamins are right there so that they’re an easy habit to improve.

I use this technique all the time. I look for habits I want to build, and I try to pair them with habits I already have. I want to do more knee stretches. I have a paired habit now when I walk to my office in the morning. I walk past the same bike rack with a railing every day. Now my habit is to stop at the railing, stretch my knees and hamstrings, my calves and ankles, and even my lower back and hips. That single paired habit (walk past railing = do stretches) has become probably about 80-90% successful in my weekly trek from parking to my office.

I also adore paper planners. I love stationery and colored pens, etc. But I realized I didn’t have a regular habit of logging things in paper, nor always having the energy to lug a planner with me everywhere I go. I do however always have my phone with me. I finally weaned myself off the novelty of trying to log everything on paper and enforcing that everything should be accessible in my phone (which makes it accessible to any computer). Now I have a very detailed electronic set of habits using Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Keep, and Evernote,

I added a new habit recently. Small tiny things I would promise to do would slip my mind. “I’ll work on that soon as I get to the office,” I might quip in Facebook Messenger to someone. Or while chatting with a friend, we’d say, “Let’s have dinner next month!” Of course I forgot these more often than not. That is, until I noticed that I *hate* to let a Phone Notification get swiped away if I hadn’t done the task in my reminder. So I started logging these quick tasks into my Google Calendar as a Reminder that would push a Notification to my phone (on a specific day and time). Now, I have to do the Task to mark it “Done,” or I have to reschedule it for when I have more time to focus my attention on the task.

I found my strength. I will obey a Notification Reminder or I will reschedule it for when I have the time to complete the task. It’s amazing how many tasks I’m getting done more frequently now, simply because I scheduled them on my Calendar. I’m starting to see this whole topic as a potential theme word for next year. Still pondering, but it’s taking some shape.

Who would think that those little icons could boss me around?

Careful What You “Wish For”

Thinking about Theme Words, my brain keeps turning over the idea that I don’t want to curse myself inadvertently. Now, it turns out that the “chinese curse” isn’t — if you check just Wikipedia alone, you’ll read,

“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. …Despite being so common in English as to be known as the “Chinese curse”, the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced.

And further,

The nearest related Chinese expression is 寧為太平犬,莫做亂離人; nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén; which is usually translated as “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.”

Since the modern world is already providing me way more chaos than I could want, I’ve been trying to make sure I’m not setting myself up for trouble, like the punchline “But I want patience NOW!”

One friend suggested “Future” for a theme word. Another friend has been considering words like “transition” or “evolve.” Another friend has embraced, “Wonderment.” I love watching the conversations about how various words are resonating with my friends.

For now, I still don’t have a final answer on *my* personal theme word for 2019. But I am amused as I try to ensure that my theme word fits my own goals for the year.

Picking the train I want to be on

As the Year Winds Down

Some of my friends have been citing me as the reason they have considered a word for the year (rather than resolutions). I dug up my list of words, to be thoughtful for my last week of the year before making some plans for 2019.

2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
2016: HABITS
2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
2014: CREATE
2013: FOCUS
2012: DANCE

I’m not sure how much I really focused on #Practice this past year. Sometimes my theme word gets me started right and then fades away. Other times, my theme word stays close to every part of my year.

I turned 50 in September, and it really does feel very different to be a fledgling 50-something than it felt to be a 40-something. But I’m not entirely sure how I want that to guide me or inform me in 2019.

Also, 2018 was difficult in other ways–the political climate both domestically and abroad–and my political awareness continues to feel bombarded by the news. I’ll find myself fantasizing about studying other languages so that I can fluently survive somewhere else, not trapped in the US as an only-English-speaking American. The Boyo is in his upper-division years at college, so there’s a time somewhat soon when Sweetie and I could make any move or change we want, based on our goals, not the Boyo’s.

Balancing all these thoughts, it’s an odd week now before New Year’s.

Here, please enjoy a selection of photos of me from 2018

New Burnt Normal

Yesterday was tough. First, there was a report that the #PeakFire had broken out on 118 at Rocky Peak. Suddenly, I lost all confidence that I would be able to go home from work, if the 101 and the 118 would possibly be cut off in the evening. First, I posted on social media.

I put away my laundry and toiletries and everything from the evacuation last night. I slept in my own bed. I got up at 4 to make sure I could get to work, driving the long way around. Now there’s a new fire on the 118, closing the freeway. I have no means to go home and no overnight bag or toiletries. #PeakFire #WoolseyFire

EDITED: I suppose I have to go back to the habit that I never go anywhere without 2-3 days worth of clothing and toiletries in my car, always.

EDITED2: Looks like the 101 *is* open, albeit slow and “red” on all the traffic maps. So I should be able to get home after all. And I’m packing my car-survival-bag. 

There was a time when I kept my clean laundry in a large duffel and a bag for my dirty laundy, both in the hatchback of my car. It meant I always had the means to survive for however long required, even if I couldn’t go home. And in the evacuation, that’s exactly what I grabbed to race out of the house: My clean laundry duffel and my dirty laundry bag. I was able to do my laundry while waiting out the fires at my sister’s house, and that’s what I’d taken back in the house when I was gratefully able to return home.

Then the absurdity of it all kept crashing in on me, at my desk, and I posted again.

Feels really stupid to burst out in tears just because I think I’m trapped at work, when others lost their homes or lives or loved ones. Fire nerves have me really frazzled. #WoolseyFire #PeakFire #HillFire

Now obviously I know better than to discount my own feelings and emotions and experiences. But it was frustrating all the same.

What I hadn’t expected was trouble getting to my home after work.

Offramp, left turn, roadblock, u-turn, fwy. Offramp, left turn, left turn, right turn, roadblock, right turn, left turn, roadblock but the cop would speak to me. Waved through, skip left turn with roadblock, left turn, right turn, last driveway before next roadblock. Home. #fires

EDITED: I also successfully avoided bursting into tears, talking to the cops who waved me through after my third roadblock.

I barely even knew the back streets. I live really close to a freeway offramp. Why would I need to know how to drive through curving residential streets behind me? Chatting with our neighbors, who also had trouble getting home, we’re assuming it’s to keep away possible looters from all the abandoned homes during the evacuations.

And then this morning was odd, for my drive to work.

Things that change when everything burns or is cutoff by roadblocks: (1) Getting gasoline. I usually fill up at the station by my driveway or the station one exit away, less than 2 miles away. It took 13 miles before I could exit on a non-roadblock to buy gas. (2) Getting a quick drive-thru breakfast sandwich. Usually I go two exits then back on the freeway. Today, my breakfast was 15 miles away. (3) Tonight when I go home, I will probably have to navigate the 3-4 roadblocks before being waved into the residential district again. (4) And when Sweetie and Boyo went for an evening walk, I was nervous they needed ID with addresses on them to be allowed outside on the streets.

Who knows how long we’ll have our new normal. Again, I didn’t lose my home. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t lose any loved ones. Processing the small inconveniences is disturbing.

These are my views on the drive home.