On "off"

fishes in pond forming a yin-yang symbol

Thanks to a few systems I've got in place right now, the ongoing Google Wave with Dave project and Hiro's class in keeping your sorry ass from getting sucked into the internet, I've been paying a lot more attention to where I place my attention.

This gets painful in spots, mainly because of my inability to stop just short of judging. On the other hand, it's helped me to notice that noticing alone is useful, whereas judging is not, so there you go: 49 years in and one very long trek around the barn, Colleen finally arrives at the usefulness of meditation she's heard tell of.

For those of us who have difficulty with modulation, "off" is both a tantalizing and terrifying setting. "Off" is restful in that deep, dark way, conking out cold after a long day/week/month of whatever. It is also the antithesis of getting stuff done: the only thing you get done on "off" is nothing.

Only...that's not quite true. Take sleep, for instance. (You might as well; I certainly don't.) In addition to all of the battery-recharging and physiological fortifying that happens while we're sleeping, there are crazy brain things happening, too, quite a lot of them. There is a whole lot of something going on during that nothingness, just of a much quieter, less obvious nature. Because, well, you're asleep.

In the same way, I've started to notice amazing changes both to my body and my outlook since I began practicing Nei Kung just five or so months ago. On the physical side, my posture has improved, my quads are turning into bands of steel and baby most definitely has back she hasn't had since her 20s. I am in better shape than I've been since I was hitting the gym five days a week and paying a trainer to do it with me for three of them, yet all I do now is basically stand in my apartment holding various poses for a half-hour daily.1

The mental shifts are happening just as slowly, or maybe quickly, although they are even more subtle. That I'm even willing to contemplate mere contemplation, much less do it, is extraordinary. Things still bother me, sure, but neither as much, nor for as long. I am hardly what I'd call a non-selfish bundle of compassionate energy, but I move much more quickly from "me" thinking (taking offense, being hurt, etc) to "other" thinking (giving the benefit of the doubt, or just noticing the "me" that is always in the way). I feel the beginnings of what I can only guess is something like grounding. I've even slowed down to the point where I can handle a short, Chinese-style meditation that my teacher shared with me. And, surprise, surprise, that shit works. So well, I may even try it more often.2

"Off" is not really "off," I'm discovering, but the flip side of "on." There is never nothing; like the white tadpole in the yin-yang taijitu I keep on on my wall, it is an opposing force, quiet and yielding, but no less a force than the other. Not only is "on" not "better" (caution: Western patriarchial cultural bias at work!), in one way, it's just there to make "off" be off. "On" does not exist without "off," and vice versa.

These are all pretty obvious "discoveries." (And I've already used far, far too many quotation marks to cordon things off in one essay.) But this is what is demanded of me if I will make the next discoveries to move myself to the next place, wherever the hell that may be. Because for those of you keeping score, yes, I'm finishing up Month #5 of Self-Imposed Hiatus on top of Year #2 (or #3, depending on how you count it) of figuring out what I want to do with my life. You think you're frustrated? HA.

This year, I am learning about "off." This past weekend, I took two full days of "off." I haven't done that since April of 2009, if you count a cross-country road trip while you're nursing an incipient Crohn's flare "off" (which I did, because I am batshit-crazy), and who-knows-how-long before then. But this weekend, at around 7pm, I just switched my setting to "off": drove up to Ojai, hung out with my friend, Jodi, and her dog, and all of their friends, and did exactly nothing.3

Like all things, this takes practice. One can make it a practice, which I intend to: one day per week, in the "off" position. Will I succeed every week? Doubtful. Possible. Who knows?

But "off," I am on...


Image by snflwrgddss23 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

1I even get to watch streaming Netflix while I do it. People are blown away when I tell them this, as most Westerners' chief exposure to the non-fighting martial arts is via the moronic b.s. montage ads for prescription medications featuring groups of people in floaty clothes doing graceful tai chi moves as a unit. Which is fine, if that floats yer boat, but entirely unnecessary. Nei Kung is the original "and you can do it all in just 30 minutes a day, while watching television!" exercise. The Chinese are an eminently practical people.

2Lest I inaccurately paint the picture of myself as an even somewhat enlightened being, know that there was a ridiculously obsessive and angry-making episode involving a kitchen faucet last week. That lasted two days. And is still not resolved.

3Of course, I was doing something all the time. Just a different something, and not particularly startling or noble: we ate quite a bit, and drank, caffeine and alcohol, and even nerded out with buddy computer tutorials. But I read almost a whole book, which I can't wait to tell you about, and dawdled and talked and generally had a grand old time.

10 in 2010: Chunking out goals

chopped carrots and a cleaver

As one of my 10 goals in 2010+ is "Get back on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet 100%," I probably should have spent Fat Tuesday whooping it up with all of the sugar, rice, wheat, chocolate, potatoes and etcetera (lots and lots of "etcetera" on the SCD) I won't be able to eat anymore.

Instead, I holed up in a favorite coffee shop with a green tea and, while I waited for my friend from Portland to show up for our visit, I set about breaking out this monstrous, slippery to-do into smaller, hopefully more manageable tasks.

Some goals lend themselves to chunks. As I've mentioned before, my breakthrough moment with "Read a book a week" came when Julien Smith shared his own chunking solution: read 40pp per day. It's obvious in hindsight, but when you're panicking at the thought of how to do something you've never done before (or haven't done since your early 20s), looking at books as roughly 280pp units and then doing some quick division ain't the first solution you try applying.

My new Nei Kung practice shakes out the same way: "Practice Nei Kung every morning" has a built-in chunking mechanism; it's expressed as a chunk. (The morning part I'm facilitating by tying it to a morning routine, which is another pro-tip Julien puts forth in his excellent post. I swear, I'll keep linking to it, so you might as well go read it now.)

Compared to reading and Nei Kung, "Get on SCD 100%" is a slippery mollusk. While being on "100%" is both a clear metric and in keeping with SCD tenets*, it doesn't help me "be" on SCD day to day. I like to-dos; to-dos make for a regular and orderly life.

So I sat down and brainstormed a number of activities I can do to help support my transition back to and then my staying on the SCD. They include:

  • expunge cupboards of all SCD "illegals"
  • cull non-SCD-legal and/or non-"keeper" recipes from recipe binder
  • create running grocery list
  • check running grocery list
  • make SCD-legal baked goods in bulk (e.g. almond-flour cookies, breads, etc.)
  • make SCD-legal freezer-portion foods in bulk (e.g. stews, chilis, pizza sauce, etc.)
  • search new recipes for SCD-legalization possibilities
  • shop farmers' market

Some of the items are daily things I can check off, and very small. Just because you've committed to a big annual goal doesn't mean every ding-dong day has to involve pushing a c*cksucking boulder up a motherf*cking hill. Some days, you just want to look at your running list and check the fridge, freezer or pantry for supplies. Other days you might only have the gumption to spend five minutes surfing epicurious for Paleo recipes you can convert, or even email a chef-y friend for suggestions on how to fabricate legal substitutes for some craved food.**

And there's no law that says you can't find to-dos that kill two goals with one stone. I'm also looking to make more plans with friends this year; who says one of them can't be "Go with so-and-so to farmers' market on Sunday"? Not me. I wouldn't say that.

One final note: to get myself started with the list, I asked myself a couple of "how and why" questions: how does the diet work for me, and why do I want to be on it?

When I initially got on, the answers were clear and obvious: to not die; to get out and stay out of the hospital. As I've moved further away from peril (praise the sweet baby jesus), it's become more difficult to come up with pressing reasons. To get off of meds? Yeah, a worthy goal; these immunosuppressants are hell on your liver, long-term. For me, the reasons are now tied to other things, like having the energy to really apply myself to my other big goals. I do NOT want another repeat of last December, when I viewed my previous year's list of goals and saw six or seven out of ten unaccomplished.

Therefore, since I know that in the moment those BIG goals aren't necessarily enough to keep me on the straight and narrow, I needed to look at some tactical stuff, too: what daily to-dos can I put in place to remove friction? To make it easy to say "no" to Mr. Delicious French fry, or at least, easier?

For me, it's about not letting myself get hungry and not letting myself feel deprived. So some of my to-dos can become:

  • prep travel bags of snacks for on-the-go
  • think up more games to keep myself motivated
  • look at pictures of bloody transverse colon pre-SCD

Kidding on that last one, sort of. Truthfully, "Watch Ignite video" would make a really great to-do for a given day, since it is both a graphic reminder of what I went through to get here (and what I never want to go back to, ever), and a motivator to stay on track with one of my other goals, which is to do more speeches that I feel really make a difference.***

But that is another goal story for another day...


*At least initially, being on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet calls what our beloved Elaine called "fanatical adherence": the smallest cheat nulls the effect, since what you're striving for is a removal of all opportunistic, "bad" bacteria in the gut, and the slightest trace of something juicy will keep the bastards alive. Once you're on and symptom-free for two years, you can consider an indulgence here and there. Although as I seem to be an abstainer rather than a moderator when it comes to things like French fries or Italian bread with a gnarly crust and chewy tooth, I'm just off of it, period.

**I've been dreaming of those greasy sesame sticks you buy by the pound at Trader Joe's, and my friend Wayne said, "Oh, I love figuring out stuff like that." So there you go. Make someone else's day into the bargain.

***And who said you can't kill two goals with one story? Not me. Never me!

Image by Muffet via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

December in January: Backwards to go forwards

retro sign reading "stressed is desserts spelled backwards" Just before the end of the past year, I decided to forgo my usual habit of cramming my annual planning into the most riotously busy time of the year. Hence, December in January, where I spend the first month of the chronological new year planning my own, to begin in February.

Of all the things I've learned about creating meaningful goals, ones that I'm passionate about and that will prove the most useful to me in achieving life goals, by far the most important has been the year-in-review exercise.

Reading Jinny Ditzler's excellent book on values-centered goal planning, Your Best Year Yet, finally turned me around on the benefits of looking backwards to go forward. It seems so obvious in hindsight (ha!) that to plan for the future without surveying the past is at best wasteful and at worst, downright foolhardy: how can I know where I'm going if I don't know where I am, and why would I give up any intelligence that helped get me here?

I'll tell you why, it hurts like crazy. Or does for me, anyway. I'm sure there are reasonable and balanced souls out there who could look objectively and even kindly on their successes and failures of the past 12 months, but for a competitive, perfectionist workaholic, it's a day-long (minimum) exercise in high-level masochism. All the inevitable broken promises, brought on by overambition, hubris and a plain, old faulty lens. Autistic people can't parse social situations properly; I can't see time. Cannot cannot cannot, no matter how hard I try. And remember, I'm a perfectionist Virgo, so not only is there trying, there is assisted trying, paid and free, as well as all kinds of experiments in different ways of trying. Oh, the trying! It's a trial, I tell you.

The trying, the effortful, effortful trying, was a huge factor in my settling on EASE as a watchword or modus operandi. Or rather, the realization that I work my ass off for and at pretty much everything made it an obvious choice to say "yes" to once it bubbled up to the surface.

But whence the bubbling, right? Because that's what you're here for and really, as Dan put it in his scarily incisive comment of last week, this is what I've chosen to do here for the past few years, sort of unofficially, as well as what I did with intention from the outset with the Great Year-Long Experiment in Marketing, a.k.a. The Virgo Guide: to carefully and honestly look at the process, and as best I can, to set up metrics so I can see how well things work and where I'm really spending my time.

As best as I can tell, these are the activities that laid the groundwork for making the radical (for me) shift of "December in January" (i.e., choosing to delay my 12-month planning by one month), and the three-month sabbatical from for-hire work in the new year (to be reviewed and renegotiated at the end of March):

  1. Decluttering. I've been on this path for a while now, but my big Clearing my (psychic) clutter push in the fall of 2009 really shifted things, with a huge leap when I encountered the work of Brooks Palmer. His book and workshop were a huge influence on me, and our ongoing calls have been a great assist, too. (More on that in a moment.)
  2. Nei Kung. I'd stumbled on James Borrelli's site a long time ago, and was intrigued by the idea of a practice even more internal than t'ai chi or qigong (which my old acupuncturist, to her credit, kept gently pushing me towards). I've been doing Nei Kung practice daily for the past five weeks and the shifts, while not always happy, have already been surprisingly significant. Whether it's the Nei Kung, all the emotional groundwork done before, committing to a daily physical practice or some combination (most likely, I'm guessing), it's a definite keeper. Big major shoutout to fellow blogger and Nei Kung enthusiast Alan Furth, who gave me the final nudge to try it. Because it ain't cheap and I usually am.
  3. Daily walks. I've been doing these since The BF first adopted Arnie, roughly two years ago. I can now recognize the sluggishness I get when I miss a day or two. I remember a similar thing happening when I first started walking during my convalescence from the Crohn's onset in 2002. Again, part of it is the physical, part is probably just the regularity of it.
  4. Monthly shrinkage. Ongoing since 2001. I went weekly for a few years (oh, the good insurance days!), took a break for a bit, and came back for monthly tuneup/checkins. Again, not cheap, but the value of having a sane person to check in with when the compass you shipped with is a wonky one can't be calculated.
  5. Success Team, EstroFest, Google Wave with Dave and assorted other collaborative ventures. If you don't have ongoing accountability and support, get it. No one does this alone, no one. It's good to have friends, too, with their kind, Kleenex-upholstered shoulders (and even as touchstones), but committed, ongoing peer support makes it happen.
  6. Money. I've made less and less money each year since I quit acting. (I know, hilarious, right?) Which makes me even happier that I had a fat nest egg to start with. I had a goodly windfall of the bittersweet kind (father dying), but I also had a considerable amount put aside of my own. I have been a squirreler-of-funds since I had nickel #2 to rub together with nickel #1, and have invested in all kinds of crazy people-fueled ventures as well as an IRA and stocks just so I know there's always something growing, somewhere. (I'm not in a position to invest now, obviously, so don't bother asking.) Having this cushion gives me the freedom to follow my path. I cannot emphasize that enough!

The above are what I'd characterize as the "positives" that fueled this decision. There were also some negatives, and they're important, too:

  1. Overcommitting in 2009. My default solution to any problem is to throw more me at it. Unfortunately, there's less me to go around as I get older (even as there's more me in certain places), so I'm having to reexamine my methodology. I was extremely burned out by the beginning of December; I could not get enough rest, it felt like. Plus I had such a crowded schedule from a combination of saying "yes" to things, wanting to try things and my natural tendency towards workaholism that there was never any time to step back and reflect. Nothing like being on a hamster wheel of your own creation. I know, I know, they're ALL of our own creation. Still. Not like I had two kids and a spouse and a boss and a mortgage. A self-employed single person in a rent-controlled apartment? Please.
  2. Dissatisfaction with consulting business model. I love aspects of consulting, but the wear and tear on me is phenomenal. In addition, I know I did a bad job both of managing expectations and establishing boundaries. I had no way of knowing how much I'd suck at certain aspects of this until I tried it (nor of how much I'd enjoy others), so I'm glad I did. If/when I pick it up again, my way of doing it will be very, very different: more clearly defined, better managed and most likely, more expensive. (I'm open to any interesting ideas about this, by the way.)
  3. Unsatisfied yearnings. While I did enjoy running the Biznik meetups, doing the consulting work, co-hosting Presentation Camp, etc., I found the greatest satisfaction in writing, meeting people I really clicked with and spending time with them (most of whom I found via writing and reading) and the little bit of reading I did. I also loved doing so much speaking, but the exhilaration I felt doing the Ignite presentation vs. the business-related presentations. I'm not sure what that means yet in terms of what to do moving forward, but it bears further examination.
  4. Ill health. Fortunately, I had only one major health issue this year, back in the spring, when I pushed myself too hard and strayed too far off my diet. And even more fortunately, I was able to pull myself back without resorting to steroids, as I've usually done. Still, this scared the crap out of me, both literally and figuratively. (Ah, Crohn's! What a delight you are, my little barometer!) I really want to get off of the meds I'm on, and that can't happen until I've implemented much better self-care habits.

There were other indicators that I was drifting into the red zone: alcohol usage creep; laziness/anxiety-fueled poor eating habits; increased nail and cuticle biting; poor sleep; off-the-charts web surfing and viewing of comfort films. I know way too much about the habits of a certain fameball and the people who watch her, and if my copy of Play Misty for Me was an LP, it would be worn smooth. Thank whomever I gave up cable, at least.

Modesty prohibits me making an exhaustive list of what I'd consider to be my successes of the past year, but I did list them, and if I may be immodest for just the one minute, I produced a crapload of work last year, and made many, many breakthroughs. I'm most pleased with the quantity, and quality, of the writing I committed to; that it was the one goal I actually followed through on is rather telling. I fell one post short of my goal of 260, and did not miss a month of my acting column or newsletter, nor a week of posting at the Virgo Guide.

You'd think I'd look at all this and come up with the simple answer to just write my ass off, and to hell with the rest. Alas, the sum total of money I made from writing last year wouldn't keep me in expenses for more than a month. My savings, while ample enough for now, can't fund this experiment indefinitely, so I'll have to figure out how to make money writing, or to make money doing something else with a low mental load so I can reserve strength for writing. The ideal scenario workwise seems to be Gladwellian: a 90/10 or 95/5 ratio of writing to speaking, and always on what interests me. I don't need nearly the cash our boy Malcolm makes, but I need that ratio.

Is it realistic? Not in year one, and maybe never. At least I have a picture in my head of what the best future looks like, and a start with some role models...

xxx c

Image by rick via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

December in January: Goal-setting around the web

painting of someone's home computer network

Just before the end of the past year, I decided to forgo my usual habit of cramming my annual planning into the most riotously busy time of the year. Hence, “December in January,” where I spend the first month of the chronological new year planning my own, to begin in February.

I'm deeply enmeshed in unpacking Dan Owen's staggeringly thought-provoking comment of a few days ago; more on that soon, possibly as soon as Monday. But for now, while the rest of the Internet has moved on and is attacking 2010 with glorious gusto, I thought it might be nice to share some of the best posts, ideas and resources I've collected for woodwork-squeaks-and-out-come-us-freaks types who said "Hell!" to all that, and are enjoying December in January. Or hey, if you're like that, you can always bookmark it for consumption later this year!

One-Word Annual Theme stuff

Christine Kane, whom I saw perform at SOBCon 2008 (and whom I can personally vouch for being the real deal), has been doing one-word themes for years now. So she's really well qualified to help other people with the process, and has done so most generously via a terrific downloadable PDF that walks you through a possible process for DIY-ing it. She suggests that you may want to get some help in the form of collaborators or support, and I heartily endorse that, too. But if you're a stubborn cuss, you can go it alone.

Jared Goralnick has been a friend for a couple of years now (we met at SOBCon 2008, as well, come to think of it, that really was a bang-up event!). While he's roughly 20 years my junior, he is waaay far ahead of me at setting and keeping and tracking goals, and he's got a post from 1999, before I was ON the damn web!, to prove it. Here is Jared's post on his theme for 2010; you can access previous years through it. Even better (to my mind) is his thoughtful review of 2009, which gives a peek into the "why" of the 2010 word.

I didn't know about Ali Edwards until I stumbled across her this year, but she's another old hand at this one-word thing. Her post on 2010's word is here; she did an interesting series of posts on how she compiles a book for each year, the last of which has lots of pictures of the finished project. I'm not a big mind-mapper or scrapper, but I do enjoy reading about other people's more tactile/visual processes, and think there's always value in discovering new methodologies, even if I don't implement them. (I need to break myself of this habit though, as regards recipe-clipping. Ugh.)

It's a little more than one word, two more, to be exact, but I always love reading about Chris Brogan's theme words for the year. He's another guy I've watched skyrocket to success over the few years I've known him, and I've known him well enough to know the methodicalness behind his mad success. In other words, it's a 1,000 little steps you don't see for every one you do. Here's Chris's post for 2010; it includes great info about how to go about the process of determination yourself, and provides links to his previous years.

Alt-goal-setting stuff

I discovered and met artist-teacher Lisa Sonora Beam in the space of several weeks late last year. It was one of those off-to-the-races relationships, facilitated by Lisa's maintaining a brief residency just over the pass. Lisa does a lot of very strategic work with collage and definitely speaks in fluent "artist." She's writing a terrific 4-part series on how to plan your year AND make your own cool planner, which should be right up your alley if you're a visual-artistic type. (Read: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) If you're a creative business owner, you might also be interested in her book, The Creative Entrepreneur, which is the most unorthodox methodology for coming up with a business plan I've ever seen. (Which is a good thing!)

I found Lisa Sonora Beam's posts via an excellent year-end round-up by Alexia Petrakos. In it are resources from my other friends Pam Slim & Charlie Gilkey, Chris Brogan and Chris Guillebeau which I would have linked to separately, but Alexia thoughtfully did my curation for me. Yay, Alexia! Also, she stuck my 2009 "100 Things" posts there. Again, yay, Alexia!

Miscellaneous goal-type stuff

Julien Smith has been such a big influence on my reading list since I discovered him; his repeated, deliberate attempts to read a book a week are truly inspirational. So I confess, when I saw this helpful post about how he actually managed to read a book a week in 2009 (after years of trying), I jumped ahead and committed to it (reserving the right to dump it in February if it doesn't align with my final goals). So far, I'm on track, and love it. Simple but effective methodology, and actually reading these books regularly and intentionally is already having a positive effect.

I skip most "Best of" lists, as they're kind of junk-food posts, for the most part. But Rex Sorgatz's outstanding 30 best blogs of 2009 post is thoughtfully curated and very instructional for those of us who have a blog figuring greatly into our goals. In short? I would very much like to make a year-end list of such quality at some point, so it's worth it to me to pay attention to what makes the cut with the kind of reader who would write something this wise.

What else?

I've written other posts about goal-setting that link to other resources about goal-setting in that recursive way things tend to go on the Internet. The December and January columns I write for Casting Network's monthly newsletter tend to dig into reviewing and planning; there are also strategic resources for unsticking yourself throughout (actors being a necessarily self-involved lot, they tend to need a lot of regular jarring and unsticking).


Here are two posts I found from publisher Michael Hyatt: one on the looking-backwards process (a great, much SHORTER, possibly more fun version than Jinny Ditzler's for the impatient); one on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals (i.e., Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) to make sure they have the best chance of sticking. (via Rachelle Gardner)

I'd love to know of any resources I missed, and I'm sure other people would, as well. What are your favorites? All-time and of late? Please share them with fellow travelers in the comments!


Image by karin dalziel via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

December in January:

Just before the end of the past year, I decided to forgo my usual habit of cramming my annual planning into the most riotously busy time of the year. Hence, December in January, where I spend the first month of the chronological new year planning my own, to begin in February. My shrink, a.k.a. my mental Rock of Gibraltar, has known me as long as anyone who has known me for the past eight years, and better than most. (This is, after all, what I pay her for, and what my fine, union health insurance paid her for before that.)

So when she says something, I generally find it to be both wise (because she is a well-educated smartypants) and considered (because she a thoughtful smartypants). Thus was I thrilled when I relayed my decision to make this year's theme MORE ROOM and she approved wholeheartedly.

Well, almost wholeheartedly, which I guess means "partheartedly."

Room, she said, was great. She was all for it. Given that I was a workaholic, though, and may I pause here to note that she dropped that clunker in there without so much as a howdy-do?, given that, had I perhaps thought of also making a secondary theme of MORE FUN? Because "fun" was something I generally stuck in quotes and/or onto calendars, to ensure it became a bona fide action item.

Mrs. Shrink. Please. Of course I thought of it: I'm a Virgo. I think, if not overthink, pretty much everything. This is why I continue to drive my sorry, overthinking ass 52 miles round-trip once monthly to sit on your leather love seat and cry. (Well, at Hanukkah, the G-Rock also puts out some pretty nice gelt for the customers.)

I also thought of, and rejected, MORE MUSIC. Because (woowoo alert!) when I looked at MORE MUSIC on the page, I felt sad instead of happy. Which is not to say that MORE MUSIC isn't 100% splendid in theory. Many's the time I've walked by my dusty guitar or watched a great performance on YouTube or thought fondly of the couple of songs I managed to squeeze out in early 2009 and been tempted to put MORE MUSIC on my priority list.

For that gal who makes HAVE FUN an action item, though, I figured that a MORE MUSIC would feel more like a burden and less like a joy. It would be sweaty and  effortful, not easy and joyful, some good-girl perversion of the real reason to make music, which is to open your heart and communicate (and yeah, to have fun, but not necessary as a subset of MORE FUN.)

MORE MUSIC, like MORE FUN, lacked ease. And if my signal phrase for 2010 is MORE ROOM, my watchword for it is EASE. Or perhaps, "E-A-S-E." You know: now with MORE ROOM!

If my suspicions and those of my esteemed therapist are correct, that I have a tendency to beat myself up, to toil to exhaustion, to cram 10 lbs. of work into a 5 lb. day, then a natural outgrowth of giving myself MORE ROOM should be more of all the other good things: joy, music, fun, laughter, exercise, health, and rolling around on the floor with puppies. If I keep in mind that things can be done with EASE, or that life can unfold with EASE, or that EASE exists not only as an idea, but a reality, maybe I can loosen my death grip on myself and my eleventy-seven projects. Maybe some of the eleventy-seven will naturally fall away with EASE.

And maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass. I'm still conflicted, you see. But I have worked to open my heart, and it would be foolish to deny it these things it now seems to be asking for, this MORE ROOM, this EASE.

Besides, this doesn't happen every day. The small, still voice doesn't try to out-yell the Tasmanian devil with the megaphone; it waits it out. And if you hadn't noticed, my time is less abundant than it once was. When September of this year rolls around, I'll be one year from halfway to 100, and the most generous soul in the world can't call that young.

So. Thus far, we have:

  1. Theme for 2010: MORE ROOM
  2. Watchword for 2010: E-e-e-a-s-e

I can't wait to see what I come up with next. No, that's not right. Of course I can.

I have all the room I need...

xxx c

Poetry Thursday: More music

You will
look better with
that 32" waist
eating more
fresh fruits and vegetables
sleeping eight hours nightly
doing first things first
and getting many things done.

You might feel
and virtuous
and even gleeful
with squeaky-clean windows
and a clutter-free car
and a bright white sink
empty of contents

Your friends
and your family
and your clients
would love
a thoughtful note
with carefully chosen words
and a stamp
or the exact right perfect gift
arriving via brown-suited courier
in a timely fashion
to commemorate their special day
and your thoughtful reverence

There are a thousand
fine choices to make
at the end of a year
and the beginning of forever
any one of which will make
your lungs cleaner
your mind sharper
your wallet heavier
your pants smaller

But if you are among those of us
who step up to the buffet of possibilities
and fret over what to eat first
may I offer up this:

Your stomach
will rumble
for a thousand tasty morsels

But your heart
which asks for so little
and offers so much
will never say no
to more room

Nor your spirit
to more joy

Nor your soul
to more music

Put a tender close
to what came before
and trust
that if you create the space
and allow it to fill up with love
all the rest
will follow
for all the rest
of your days.


Image by theogeo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Help is a yellow Volkswagen

yellow VW beetle I'll admit it flat-out: I'm a bit chagrined by last year's goal-post title.

To be fair, it wasn't a total wash. Out of ten goals I set for myself last January, I fulfilled seven. Fairly good, percentage-wise. Especially since much of the year, I wasn't consciously trying. Such is the truly awesome power of just writing things down (not to mention making them public!).

Still, there's no question that one of last year's gifts was in leaving room for improvement this year. I do like the Best Year Yet method, since it walks me through all the steps I might otherwise skip in my fresh-year enthusiasm. A fair amount of time gets devoted just to examining where the previous year went well and where it went off the rails, the idea being you'll get the best sense of what lessons will prove most useful to you by examining where the hell you went so very, very wrong.

I'm happy to say that mine boiled down to two things:

  1. an unrealistic sense of what I can reasonably (or even unreasonably) expect to accomplish in a given chunk of time
  2. an almost pathological inability to ask for help.

Why happy? Because if I'm honest with myself, these twin terrors have probably kept me from more successes than any other things. "Inability to face up to stuff," for example, is not on the list. Took a few years to get it off, but it is gonzo, brother. So is "depressed," "unmotivated," "refusal to look on the bright side," and a host of other ills. As demons go, these two ain't bad.

To help with my time issues, this year is going to be a lot about scheduling. Yes, I've scheduled in the scheduling.

I'm also putting a heavy emphasis on Asking For Help. My mantra for 2008 is "Help Is Everywhere," both because I'm starting to see that it really and truly is everywhere, and because once you get it in your head to see yellow Volkswagens, that's pretty much what you're going to see.

2008? It's the Year of The Yellow Volkswagen.

xxx c

Image by slimmer jimmer via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Nerd Love, Day 4: I'll show you mine if you show me yours

I see London I've alluded before to Best Year Yet on this here bloggy, but for those of you who missed class and/or are too f**king lazy to click the links or Google it, Best Year Yet is a values-based goal-setting system which I discovered via Heidi Miller's podcast long ago, and which could just as rightly be called "The Nerdiest Goal-Setting System Yet" except that it'd be redundant.

My friend, Kathy (zen-shiatsu mistress supreme) and I spent four, count 'em, four, hours today going over our plans. We'd both done all of our (nerd) homework and I've been implementing mine since the second week of January, but Kathy's a single mom and, as I understand it, time bends in funny ways when you're situated thusly.

Anyway, I buffed out the scratches in my Best Year Yet plan and, because one of the things that tripped me up the first time I tried doing it was a lack of concrete examples of workable plans, I decided to make mine public.

Via Backpack. Because that's how I roll, baby.

Feel free to check it out (link here), and contact me with any questions or comments. You can do it via email or the comments section of this post. I'd like to keep the process as transparent as possible, to help the most people; so if you email me, I may use your question to work up an FAQ somewhere here on the site, but if I do, I promise to keep your identity a total, double-secret-probation-level secret, should you so desire.

Bottom line: if you're already doing BYY, I encourage you to post somewhere and share a link. If you're not, consider doing something similar with your goals and post a link.

Accountability ain't everything, but it helps.

Later, nerds...

xxx c


UPDATE: I got an email from my pal, Neil, asking why the monthly and weekly goals were missing. They're not: they just get a little too personal, so they're not displayed for public consumption. But rest assured, I have them and am doing them. And it's working!!!

Image by occipital lobe via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

the communicatrix elsewhere: How to make resolutions that actually work

LIghting the way

I've spoken before about how resolutions blow big, stinky chunks, but only hinted at how goal-setting can really work.

If you are over 40 or a realist (I am in the former camp, but hardly the latter), you doubtless understand too well that there is no one book or system or piece of software that will change you life for you, only tools and hacks that help facilitate the growth you are ready to embrace.

I know: I spent 40+ years accumulating tools, and while I made incremental progress on my own, I didn't get Big Mama Change until the universe saw fit to sit me down and teach me a hard lesson. Fortunately, I was ready for it. Because really, the universe's next move was, like, non-operative cancer or some shit, and while the morphine and pot-smoking part of hellish pain sounds good, I question how well I would do with the rest of it.

So if you are change-ready (or change-curious) and want a new tool to play with, I humbly suggest you check out my latest column for on effecting real change. Included are three steps I've found work well for me, as well as one really excellent book/system which I've hinted at here called Your Best Year Yet, by Ginny Ditzler. I did write the column for actors, but it's not totally acting-centric, and besides, it's always fun to read stuff about actors: ask the publishers of US and People and every other fucking consumer magazine aimed at women 18 - 54 in the U.S.

Also, I'm trying to add to my own body of knowledge on this stuff, so if you've found tactics or tools that work for you, please let me know either in the comments or via email (communicatrix at gmail dotterooski com). I first heard of Best Year Yet via Heidi Miller's excellent small biz marketing podcast, and I totally stole that theme thing from Jenny, for example (she was very gracious about it) and would be happy to steal equally good ideas from you, too.

With attribution, of course...



Image by carf via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Resolved for 2007

deck chairs Jenny has said she's not one for resolutions, and I'm with her: pulling "gonnas" out of your ass, as in "I'm gonna quit smoking" or "I'm gonna get in shape" or "I'm gonna quit pulling things out of my ass", is a recipe for feelings of personal failure and severe depression in the cold, holiday-free months of the new year. She prefers a "theme", such as "revival" or "more love" or "less putting of things in quotation marks." (Oh, wait, that's mine.)

I do like and believe in making plans, it appeals to the listmaker in me, and will probably take another, more serious crack at the Best Year Yet, "values-based" goal-setting system, for 2007. But before I even get to BYY, which I have actually SCHEDULED on the CALENDAR (December 23rd, you're on yer own that night, The BF), I came up with a theme for next year: Expand and Focus.

While I realize this seems like a contradiction in terms, I like it for precisely that reason: it's like a zen koan, and it's custom-made for overachieving type-As like me. Why? Because it will slow me the fuck down, that's why. You try being an overachieving type-A for 45 years. Hell, try it for a week. If you're unused to it, I can almost guarantee you'll suffer adrenal burnout in 72 hours.

Of course, I may still pick "Slow Down" or even "Slow the Fuck Down" as my 2007 mantra, but it has such negative connotations for me now, I feel glum just typing it. In contrast, I feel good about the sort of limitless possibility attached to "Expand and Focus". Also, I can monkey with this sort of stuff indefinitely, until things reach such a disastrous state of disarray, it becomes like deck chair rearranging on the Titanic. And believe you me, I'll keep shuffling those things till there's no deck left to shuffle on.

Still, some of you out there know me pretty well by now. Perhaps you have an even better deck chair arrangement to suggest...

xxx c

Photo by nickherber via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license