Start Living Curiously and Purposely.

My fingers have this tendency to freeze over the keyboard when I try to write a blog post. I keep feeling like what comes out of my fingers instantly has to be profound. However, today I had a tiny epiphany.

My epiphany was this. Try writing my thoughts out by hand, in my penmanship. Yes, the old-fashioned way. Pencil on paper. Then, type it out, polishing up the written thoughts.

Trying this today seems to have worked for me. Here I am again, nearly a month since my last blog post. Woohoo! Hello!

One thing I tell myself, and I suspect many of you do also, is that our creations have to be perfect before they are put out there in the wide world. Or even that we tell ourselves that we have to be perfect. We feel that our art has to be just right, our writing the best ever, doing 5Ks and running the whole way, obsess over those pesky last five pounds that have to be lost. It goes on and on. At least it tends to, for me.

I have recently read two very helpful — you might in fact call them self-help — books that helped me get to where I am at this moment of realizing that striving for perfection is pointless. They have helped me, for instance, get to getting over the intimidation that prevents me from my desire to write. No, not all my problems (either self-perceived or actual) are solved instantly as a result of reading these two books, but they did indeed help me.

Here are the two books: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love and other books), and Start. by Jon Acuff.

Each book has many very good points in it, but let me share something from each that really spoke to me, and told me to let go of perfection and to let go of the feeling that I should know what I should be doing.

From Big Magic, about curiosity (which I took as definitely not waiting around waiting for a lighting bolt of knowledge or of clarity about life. Or of knowing your “purpose”) :

…curiosity only ever asks one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in?”

Anything?

Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?

The answer need not set your life on fire, or make you quit your job, or force you to change your religion, or send you into a fugue state; it just has to capture your attention for a moment. But in that moment, if you can pause and identify even one tiny speck of interest in something, then curiosity will ask you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look at the thing a wee bit closer.

Do it.

(p. 238, Big Magic)

As for Jon Acuff, this is one thing he said that really got to me:

So why do we think we’ll never find a singular purpose that will guide us forever?

Forget finding a purpose. It’s a never-ending story that will leave you empty instead. Live with purpose instead.

….Whatever you’re going to do, do it with purpose. Not as if purpose is a key you’re going to find in the bottom of a trunk of old sweaters, but rather as if purpose is an approach to life that can shape everything you do.

(p. 51, Start.)

So here’s to following curiosity. Here’s to living with purpose. And here’s to old-fashioned pencil and paper, writing out by hand.

 

 

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How to Find Time to Blog?

It’s been a month or so since I’ve started up this blog. I want to post regularly, but bear with me while I figure out what works. It’s tricky, me trying to find a place in my schedule for blogging and writing.

I am a stay-at-home mom, and have been primarily so for the past twenty years. When the kids were young, every hour was filled taking care of their needs and squeezing in a nap whenever I could. As they got older, and in school, I’ve tried to find ways to keep my days busy. Volunteering, hobbies, job-seeking (with very little success), on-and-off pursuits of exercise, taking classes. But yet. There’s also still the day-to-day routine of dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, personal grooming…things that all moms, whether stay-at-home or not, have to deal with. And, of course, sleep is vital. But, still, shouldn’t I be able to fit in time for what I really want to do? Why do I feel like a failure at this?

I think one reason is that, once afternoon hits, I have to completely shift gears in order to be mom-chauffeur every single weekday. Dance classes, Boy Scouts, marching band, private lessons, and so on. My husband helps when he can (he travels for work frequently). Not only am I the family driver, I also prepare meals and help with things such as college applications, helping a bit with homework, listening to what the kids want or need to share with me, and so forth. Then I’m ready for bed. I just can’t burn the midnight oil.

Many of us have heard about “Flow” (Mihaly C-can’t spell it), which is the experience in which one is completely entranced in the task at hand, forgetting all about time. Something like that. I have a hard time letting my brain fall into “flow” because I know I’m going to have to stop what I’m doing at some point. All that advice about writing or drawing or whatever in 15-minute increments is just BS, in my opinion.

As afternoon approaches, my mind shifts gears and I can no longer concentrate at whatever I’m doing. At the very moment I’m writing this, I’m anticipating the kids’ arrival from school in just a few minutes. I’m wondering, can I finish this blog post before they arrive?!

I definitely have no regrets in our choice to have children, but I can definitely see how women who are successful (especially in the creative fields) either are childless or have others take over the responsibilities of child-rearing. I also see how many women are able to re-invent themselves once they become empty-nesters. I am supposed to be an empty-nester in 2019, when my youngest graduates high school. We’ll see what happens after that, but in the meanwhile I do what I can. I’m reading books on how to plot a novel, for instance.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. I try to remember this wisdom whenever I feel frustrated. And, in a short amount of time, I’ve managed to crank out this very blog post; even though it’s not optimal, I did do it. I did what I can at the moment. Thanks, Theodore (I can’t call him Teddy; he hated that nickname).

And now I see my daughter’s boyfriend’s car pulling up in the driveway! The kids are home. Time to hit “publish” 🙂 !

Taking a Walk Didn’t Kill Me

In theory, I have nothing against exercise. I like the way it clears my brain after I “just do it”. It’s just that it’s too easy to let other things get in the way. Also, I do best when I head out the door first thing in the morning (or at least after the kids are off to school) to exercise. Earlier this year, when we were living in our temporary apartment, I would go right over to their fitness center in the mornings. Ideally, we should have then joined a club when we moved in this house five months ago, but we are house poor right now due to a lot of expected and unexpected repairs. For a while, I was able to get exercise in some form or another by unpacking and putting things away (lots of stairs here!) or painting the walls (going up and down the ladders). But, then — especially after summer ended and my more-forgiving skirts gave way to jeans– I noticed I had way too much of a jelly belly.

jelly bellies

That’s right, a big jelly belly that jiggles. And, yes, part of that is due to Jelly Belly candies themselves. I love them! Not jelly beans, but specifically jelly bellies. Buttered popcorn is my favorite flavor, by the way. Today, I resolved to start calorie-tracking again and to take walks until we can join a club (hopefully that’ll become possible when snow makes walking outdoors too difficult).

This (above) is what one serving of jelly bellies look like like. Exactly 35 of them, counted out and lined up. 140 calories. That will be my snack throughout the day. I had been eating way more than that recently. Maybe I’ll cut back further on my daily jelly belly intake. But not today! Baby steps are best sometimes.

With that set aside, I took a deep breath. Time to take a walk. There are a few nice walking trails around here, which I’ve gone to before, but I want to drive less. My neighborhood is just off a very busy, narrow road, so my walk would have to be limited to just the two streets that my neighborhood consists of. In my mind, I had many what ifs. What if I see neighbors? Especially ones we haven’t met before (which is most of them)? Not that I’m antisocial, but we are new to the ‘hood and stopping to talk and introduce myself would cause me to lose momentum. What if it starts to rain? Well, then just put on a raincoat before heading out. What if a deer runs across me and a tick jumps on me somewhere, giving me Lyme Disease? Oh for heavens sake just go out there already. So, I did.

And, the walk didn’t kill me. It took exactly 31 minutes to loop around the neighborhood. Mission accomplished! I’ll do it again tomorrow, even though tomorrow will probably try to give me new excuses not to go.

It seems like writing and exercising, for me, have a lot of similarities. I can (and definitely do) think of, and allow, a million of excuses to keep me from doing either. Some are real hurdles, either physically or mentally. Little by little, I’ll try to overcome these hurdles.