Friday, January 13, 2017

This story doesn't really have a point, I just want to tell it

I decided last night, after the following story took place, that I wanted to blog about it. There’s not really a point, but I was incredibly emotional when I decided “I should post about this,” and I dunno, I weirdly want to honor that? Just go with it. I think part of what I was thinking was that I had NO idea what happened could happen, and it would have been nice to not have been so completely blindsided. I also want to shout out some incredible people, even if they’ll never read this.
I recently decided to have an IUD implanted for long-term birth control and hormone regulation. I have been on hormonal birth control (the pill) for over a decade, for a combination of reasons including family planning and the management of a reproductive disorder, which I wrote about here and here. I will be 100% transparent: the impetus for my initial search into information about the IUD was the election. I rely on the Affordable Care Act to provide me with no-cost (because I pay a monthly insurance premium) yearly check-ups and no-cost hormonal birth control packs each month. Now, there is no telling how long that protection will last, and I am absolutely terrified of what my pain will be like if I am not able to take hormonal birth control or unable to be under the necessary care of my gynecologist.

Of course, in my research and conversations with my doctor, other great reasons to continue with an IUD implantation were revealed: it is as effective as the pill I have always relied on for family planning, if not more so, because there is no room for error. (I’m embarrassed by how many times my “BCP” alarm came up on my phone while I was running and then I completely forgot until the next day to take the pill after arriving home.) I don’t have to worry about pharmacy pick-ups or calls to the doc for refills, as the IUD can stay in for 3-5 years with only an occasional check-up. And since I’m not planning on staying in my current town forever, this is especially appealing—because I have no interest in finding a new doctor; my OB-GYN is great and the only one I’ve ever had.

So back to yesterday. I had a 3:15 appointment and honestly expected to be out by 4 based on all my research and the doctor’s explanations. Let me preface the rest of this story by saying my doctor is incredibly experienced (he delivered my little brother nearly 24 years ago…) and a very smart guy. He knows his patients well and always remembers every detail of my last visit, including complaints, worries about my endometriosis, etc. He knows what he’s doing; there wasn’t human error at play. He walked me through every step of the implantation, showed me the device and it all seemed very routine. He performed a pelvic exam and explained the quirks of my body from a gynecological perspective before the implantation began. Here’s more information than you ever wanted about my uterus: it tilts downward and to the right, meaning the long wand that wants to go straight in to implant the IUD is quite literally against a wall. He warned me of a few pinches and a bit of cramping, and I thought I could just breathe through it. I’m a yoga teacher, after all.

During implantation I felt immediate cramping, compounded by the fact that I was already cramping from being off the pill (for a whopping one day. THAT’S how much of a hormonal mess I am.) and experiencing discomfort before having a device implanted in my uterus. Doc kept explaining everything, including “I’m changing my gloves” and checking in, “Feel it? You okay?” every couple of seconds. I am just so glad I had the wear-with-all to tell him that it was starting to hurt WAY more than I had anticipated. And that I was able to articulate that I was starting to feel lightheaded. Luckily, that didn’t come until the implantation was complete.

What followed was one of the scariest experiences I can remember having. The nurse put a cold compress on me immediately; I was sweating profusely. She kept running back and forth between the sink and me to keep my temperature down with cold towels but I just kept getting fuzzier and fuzzier. I told them I was losing feeling in my fingers. They kept encouraging me to take deep breaths, relax, don’t panic. Doc kept his hand on my wrist the whole time, monitoring my pulse and communicating it to the nurse. They kept me talking, asking questions and explaining what happened and was happening: my heart rate plummeted and I was having so much trouble breathing, which was making things worse because I couldn’t oxygenate properly. My vision started to go, and I asked to roll to my side so I didn’t have to hold my head up anymore. My fingers and toes went tingly. They propped up my legs and kept rushing over cold towels as long as I was talking and responding about my levels of “okay-ness” and, I imagine, my heart rate wasn’t in a dangerous place. This went on for, I believe, about 20 or so minutes. I vaguely remember finally letting my eyes close and not breathing well. Doc goes “Snap her” which I then immediately learned meant for the nurse to give me smelling salts, which… oh my god. Ow, that burned. But it got me to breathe, which was the goal.

A few moments after the salts I started to come to and then threw up everything in my stomach. After that, though, I started to stabilize. I got feeling back in my fingers and toes, and after about an hour, I was able to sit back up and start the process of figuring out what happened. I realized that I’d been panicking about things like my class I was supposed to teach that night, how I was going to get home, and the fact that David was all the way in DC for work and I was alone. That certainly hadn’t helped me breathe. When I could see well again, I immediately texted David since he knew I was in procedure, and a few friends to help me get my class covered. I got a few offers of ways to help me get home, should I need it. But after a long while—seriously, about 2 hours after the start of the appointment—I felt stable and back to normal and drove myself home. (No one panic; I only drove because I knew I could. I had enough offers for help and a few other people I knew I could call if need be that I wouldn’t have had to if I didn’t want to.)

I called David and my mom and was surprised to realize I was crying. Hysterically. I was so scared and so emotional, but also so grateful. This cannot be stressed enough: My doctor had to return to other patients about a half hour after my meltdown, but he checked on me every couple minutes. The nurse NEVER left my room. She held a water cup for me, she gave me more gowns to wear when I was freezing (after sitting in a sweat-soaked shirt for an extended period of time, that’ll happen), literally held the towels I threw up into, asked me questions to keep me talking, offered to put my socks on my feet for me, propped me up and down, helped me roll to my side and then my back. She was amazing, and I could tell I gave her a big scare—the other nurse in the office came in to check on HER at one point, on the doc’s request.

THIS is the importance of quality health care for women—and every American, really. This is the importance of letting doctors do their damn jobs. This is the importance of respecting the expertise of the medical community and not bringing opinions about acceptable behavior (or, to be more honest, the desire to punish women) into the mix. I was so, so grateful throughout this experience for a devoted nurse and doctor who care about women’s health and do their jobs in order to HELP PEOPLE. I will never cease to be thankful for nurse Maureen who sat with me, stroked my arm, answered my questions, and helped me feel safe. There was a point during the almost-blackout where I just didn’t know what was going to happen. I was in so much pain and couldn’t bring myself back to the surface, but at the time I was aware of the fact that I was in the hands of people I could trust completely and who would do everything necessary. (I heard them discussing whether I would need oxygen at one point, right before I started to come to.)

The why is a little sketchy, but a combination of the angle of the instruments during my implantation, due to the shape and slant of my uterus, and where my cervix came into contact is a big part. That caused a vasovagal reaction, which isn’t NORMAL, but can happen. The early stages of my reaction, Doc said, were common—I suspect it doesn’t usually go quite so far, but hey, I like to keep people on their toes. He likened it to the reaction some people have when having blood drawn. For me, I’ve had something sorta kinda similar happen years ago, in response to a SUPER painful tattoo, actually. I got lightheaded, nauseous, and almost lost vision for a few seconds. (A few seconds and 20 minutes are drastically different measurements of time though, obviously.) For whatever reason my body sees puking as a reasonable response to pain? Oh, and it also happened once when I had sun poisoning, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, the point is, there is no point, but I know for sure that part of my panic was induced by absolute fear and surprise. If you’re planning on getting an IUD, DON’T let this story deter you—but, please do be aware that if you feel lightheaded, it’s okay. It’s happened before to another person, so don’t panic. (I’m not a medical professional, this isn’t medical advice, etc.) I don’t know if reading a blog post about this happening to someone else would have helped me take more deep breaths and not be so afraid, but maybe it would have. Who knows?

Like I said, there is no point. This is just a thing that happened to me yesterday and now you know about it too.
But for real, I would love to hear from anyone with an IUD about their experiences, if you’d like to share. Moreso what you experienced in the days and weeks that followed. When I came to, I told the nurse I’d felt like I’d just gone through battle and all I wanted was to put on fuzzy socks and drink tea and go to sleep. And then the emotional rush was a fun surprise too. (Psst. I cried when writing this post.)

I sincerely hope this doesn’t deter anyone from getting an IUD if it’s something you want to do. Everything else went just as the doctor explained it would and the implantation was a success. From what I understand, most people would have been out of that 3:15 appointment by 4 p.m. I just had to be ~special.~

Oy, ladies. Turning it over to you now, because I’ve talked enough for one day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How I Plan • Part I: Google Calendar

The new year has already begun, and I'm sure most of you have already started on your planning system for 2017. Maybe you started on it halfway through last year. (Not an ounce of judgement from me, if so.) But for those of you who still haven't pulled the trigger on an Erin Condren or Plum Paper or Whosee Whatzit Whatever planner, AND for those of you like me who used a paper planner for two weeks last year only to quickly realize that paper planning doesn't work for you anymore, listen up.

Last year, I made the switch from holding onto a monthly/weekly planner to coordinating my schedule digitally, and I learned a few things in the process:
  • There are some things—methods, little habits re: planning/scheduling, etc.—that I've always gravitated to, but didn't think to incorporate into my actual planning system.
  • Rigidity is the enemy to a Type A when life is more uncertain than you ever thought it would be.
  • You have to try out a system for a couple of days before marrying it.
  • Change is a good thing, even with something like this. It doesn't have to work forever. It doesn't have to work for anyone else. It just has to work for you for right now.
Given that last gem of wisdom, I just wanted to share the system I've landed on—for now. I've taken the last year to kind of refine my system, tweak it here and there, adapt methods I've borrowed from others, and throw methods out the window as fast as I picked them up. I use a blend of digital and paper, and while I know a lot of you are strictly paper planners, I thought maybe a few of my favorite things might be interesting to hear about.

I use four things to plan, which sounds complicated, but actually simplifies everything in a way that keeps it stress-free. Life is the stressful part. Writing down where it's happening and when really shouldn't be, right? Here's what I need:

1. Google Calendar -- I utilize 7 different calendars, plus tasks. This might sound like a lot, but it's just so I can view a few exclusively without the other agenda items distracting from what I'm doing, like planning a workout or writing birthday cards.
2. Reminders app on iPhone and Mac -- I've tried other to-do list apps, notes systems, and other digital planners. Nothing works as well (for me) as a simple list with check box situation.
3. A journal, which has a bit of the bullet journal flavor -- I currently use a hardcover Moleskine with grid lines, but I've used everything from $3 TJMaxx planners to... well, $8 Target planners. Paper is paper, pretty much.
4. Google Drive -- For anything requiring more text than a to do list and less permanence or daily presence than paper, Google is king. It's actually king for pretty much everything I organize, because I am a dork.

Part I: Life happens in the Google Calendar.

I hate cross-outs. Hate them. I need flexibility, I need the option to list and then decide, I need to not clutter up pages. The things I schedule have start and end times that can change at a moment's notice, details changed or added or removed, things of that nature. For the general "Where I Need to Be When" stuff, I put it all in Google Calendar. I use multiple for organization purposes:

1 - Alyssa: Doctor appointments, meetings, interviews, social events, and time blocks, if I use them. Sometimes, on particularly busy days, I utilize time blocks to schedule out when I need to work on what to keep me on track. When necessary, I'll schedule a reminder or email notification for minutes, days, or a week beforehand to help me prepare. I also use this calendar as a catch-all for options and ideas—for example, when we have a free Saturday and I want to make sure we spend it doing something fun, I'll write all-day tasks to just have the ideas in front of me later. Museum name. Park. Movie title. Exhibit. When the day comes or the decision is made I remove all the rest of the ideas and write in what we do plan to do, with any details needed.

2 - Blog: I don't schedule a whole lot, especially lately. But link-ups I join frequently like What's New With You and Show Us Your Books get recurring reminders there, and if I think of something I want to post at a certain time, I give myself a reminder of it there.

3 - Teaching: I keep track of my teaching hours because the organization that issues my credentials provides different credentials based on hours taught. I also need to continue education with workshops and such, so I keep track of everything in there. My regular classes are on a recurring calendar entry and I add in subbed classes as they arise. (I typically indicate sub classes on my Alyssa calendar too, since I won't necessarily remember I have to teach in a sub slot when I'm making other plans.)

4 - Money: This is not even remotely my only money tracking system; I just use it to keep track of credit card closing dates (I use a couple for different rewards, including a Target CC and a Chase CC with Amazon benefits) and due dates, auto-withdrawal dates for things like Netflix and Spotify, and expected payment dates since, as a freelancer, I don't have a simple every other week pay period. I also use a one-week email reminder for bill due dates, but it's just an added protection since I keep this calendar visible most of the time and always make payments early.

5 - Workouts: When I write a training plan, it goes in two places: a spreadsheet, and my calendar. A 30-minute run can be squeezed in around most of the other things going on, but when it comes to things like scheduling a 2-4-hour run, that takes up more time than most other things I do on a daily basis. I like to schedule yoga classes I want to take too, just to make sure I don't forget.

6 - Birthdays: I merged my iCal into Google, and I wish I could tell you how but I don't know. I know I had to search for a tutorial, but it wasn't all that difficult. I set them up to reoccur annually with a two-week reminder sent via email.

7 - Meal Plan: I don't really use this, but I hope to change that soon. I need to get better about not just eating whatever I can eat quickly before I have to go where I'm going next. It always ends up being veggies and dip, and I'm chronically hungry from 4 p.m. till I fall asleep. If I know I want to make a certain dinner a certain day, though, I will mark it on here.

Tasks: I am so happy I finally started utilizing this feature. Basically it creates a checklist with items either scheduled or on a general list, and I like to put in all my freelance work deadlines in this format so I can see what I need to devote time to working on and when everything has to be completed. It's just the best system I've used to keep track of different due dates and the time I need to work on what each week.

I separate everything to these many calendars for a few reasons: a) I can color code and know right away what type of thing I'm looking at, and b) I can view only one at a time. So, when I'm trying to input my teaching hours into Yoga Alliance, I hide all calendars except 3 and have no visual distractions. When I'm writing out birthday cards, I show calendar 6, but the rest of the time, I don't need to see it. Same with blog posts, and sometimes with workouts or money or whatever. It helps to be able to see only what I'm working on and not lose everything else, but not have it distracting me all the time too.

I should also note that I delete things after they've happened when they're always recorded in another place. My Garmin tracks all my run details, plus I record them in my training spreadsheet, so I delete them from here. I delete everything off the Money calendar because it's always indicated in another place. I delete classes I've taken because keeping track of them really doesn't matter at all, and as I touched on in this post, keeping track of every little damn thing does me no good and just creates digital clutter.

Why I Like Google Calendar
Obviously, because it keeps me from losing my mind. But also:

Notes. When an event is created, this page houses everything I might need.
In it, I can add locations, invite people/send invitations, adjust reminders, color code, whatever. I put notes about events in the Description box with relevant links or websites if needed, notes about anything from what I plan to wear, what I need to bring, where parking is available, etc. When I do add something to the Description, I always put an asterisk* at the end of the event title so I know to check there before the event arrives. All this info could NEVER fit on a planner page, and I rely on it too much.

- Auto-import from Gmail events. What gets imported and what doesn't can be adjusted in the settings. I love this for things like flights and travel, events David or friends forward to me via email, and other things that I get confirmations from via email. It adds all the details and a link to the email itself, so it's all easy to find.

- Multiple views. I have the month view as my default, so when I open Google Calendar every day I see the whole thing at first. I switch to weekly view when planning my week or time blocking, and sometimes utilize the 3 week view (customizable) when I want to look at something in-between and want more space on each day to see all the events and reminders I've made.

- Shared calendars. I utilize Google's Phases of the Moon and US Holidays calendars. I also have used collaborative editorial calendars with coworkers/editors, and recently stumbled on a calendar someone made about all the free visit days there are to NYC museums! You can choose sports teams' schedules and all sorts of other things and Google organizes them for you.
__________________________

Whew. I think that covers Google Calendar! Stay tuned for two or three more of these where I'll get into the daily and long-term goods. For now, if you have any questions about how I use Google Calendar or how to use any of the features, go ahead and ask away! And if you made it all the way here, please accept this round of applause from me to you 👏👏👏

Friday, January 6, 2017

I Still Got Time, I Still Got Faith

Alternate title: Lessons Learned in 2016...and What I Want to Stick in 2017

Okay, fine. I caved. I guess my final thoughts on 2016 were just slow to arrive, but arrive they did. Without dragging you through the analysis of the year that's been forming in my brain for the last couple weeks, here are the highlights:

  • 2016 was the hardest year of my adult life that I can remember. I slipped into a depressive mode, brought on by a never-ending job hunt that seriously demotivated me to do any of the things that make me feel good. I was challenged and thwarted at every turn; it felt like a year full of false starts and little else.
  • 2016 was a hard year for America and the world. People just won't stop killing each other. Politicians won't stop lying. Voters won't get educated. Citizens won't vote. Some people won't stop deluding themselves and playing horrifying mental gymnastics to prove their worldview right, even when the tiniest bit of logical thinking would prove their worldview is a detriment to not only their own lives but society at large.
  • 2016 was the year I needed to have. Despite all the challenges, some wonderful things happened. I've recapped the months by major event for myself; I don't think I'll do it here. There are archives on the sidebar if you NEED to know. It was the year and they were the challenges I needed to gain the perspective required to do better this go-around.
A few months ago, Steph gave me this quote, and I've loved it ever since: "There are years that ask questions, and years that answer. We truly need both because that's what life is." (Sentence one by Zora Neale Hurston, sentence two the wisdom of SMD herself.)

2016 asked a lot of questions. It asked me how I got to where I ended up, what I would have done differently, what I could do to prevent it happening again, what I really want my life to be, who I really want in it, how I can be a better human, how I can be a better companion, how I can be more accepting of what is, how I can do better at the life and hand I'm currently holding.

Here are some of the answers.

1. You cannot get out of a situation using the method of operations that got you into it.
2. I cannot control anything but how I react to situations. (You'd think I would have learned this years ago, but no.)
3. I cannot plan for the major and most important developments of my life.
4. It's not personal. I may choose to take things personally, but that doesn't mean they're about me. Also: stop taking impersonal shit personally, Alyssa.
5. Rest is a good thing, and there doesn't always have to be a justification other than wanting to take a break.
6. Cycles of behavior control most of our lives. Breaking a negative feedback loop has to be a choice, rather than a divine intervention. If you're waiting for the latter, it won't happen. If you screw up your courage, the former can happen. And it's the only thing that will create change.
7. Love is a verb. It is shown. It is an action. It is to be believed only when demonstrated.
8. Wanting to or not wanting to doesn't really matter when it comes to things that need doing. Do what must be done, period.

And maybe, it turns out, I do have a resolution for 2017. I've already set an intention, and I fully intend to live with it each and every day of the next year—and hopefully my life. But my intention has to do with how I'm framing my thoughts; the resolution has to do with my actions.

I've been trying to work on this—my resolution—for a few months now, but it will be really put to the test in 2017. It's something I've never been able to do before, and it actually flies in the face of everything I've ever done when it comes to preparing for my life. It is hard for me. It's not all that measurable. It's not "SMART." It's the very radical shift in thinking that experts warn you not to make when embarking on a new year. But the thing is, the January/February coincide with so much that I cannot control, cannot plan, cannot know in advance. I have to do this. And I hope when I look back at this post a year from now (which I will, as I went hunting last week for a similar post from this time last year, and I came up empty) I will be able to say, based on feelings of happiness and peace and contentment with my follow-through, that I was successful. This is my resolution:

Slow down, take a breath, and make one decision at a time. Deal with one piece of new information at a time. Resist the urge to plan for multiple possible outcomes and combinations of outcomes. Learn the damn lesson and stop planning for the unknown. Enjoy life as it is, because these circumstances are certain not to last.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year, Same Alyssa

Am I the only one who miraculously did no changing, experienced no radical mindset shift, and confronted zero personal demons at the stroke of midnight last Saturday? New year, same old me.

Not that I'm complaining. For the most part, I'm pretty okay with my life. Minus, of course, a few big things that I've been working on changing for a few months now (ahem, employment-related). But I work out almost daily. I drink tea, meditate, journal. I have good and healthy relationships. I have a side business I enjoy. And I'm staring down the barrel of a pretty big life change.

It made no sense to me to set a lofty goal to radically shift anything in January, when in my case a whole new deck will be dealt to me in a month's time. I'm sorry, I'm doing that annoying, cryptic blogger "I have a secret that I can't tell you" thing, aren't I? The post revealing the secret is already in the works, don't you worry.

I said everything I have to say about the fact that it's a new year, and aside from adjusting from writing 2016 to 2017 in my journal, I feel the same as I did a couple weeks ago. I have made zero resolutions for the year. I made no goals for 2017 (though I did make quarterly goals, because that works for me). I woke up Sunday morning and went to my same old yoga studio and taught my same old yoga class, and then went to a diner I've been to a thousand times before with my same old boyfriend and same old friend Michael and ordered a breakfast I've gotten more times than I can count. Then we came home and I read the same book I'd been reading since the end of 2016, ate dinner on my same old plates, and slept that night in the same old bed.

Because for now, everything is the same. But it won't be for long, and I'm enjoying what is and what has been and starting a new year with the same mindset I grew into over the last couple of weeks: I am humbled and open to receive all that the universe wills.

While things are still the same, here's what's happening on the day-to-day scale....
What's New With You

Reading thanks to the generosity of loved ones at Christmas. I was able to finally replace my on-its-last-legs iPad (that was only being used for the Kindle app at this point) with a Kindle Paperwhite so I've been working through my library ebook hold list. I was gifted the latest Jodi Picoult which I have been dying to read for months, and couldn't wait to dive in. I'm also re-reading the Harry Potter series on audiobook and have been for a few weeks now.

Watching the leftovers of a Hulu watchlist. I succumbed to pressure and hit Play on The O.C., so I've been stumbling down memory lane for a bit now.

Tossing everything. Nothing is safe around here. In the past month I've taken no fewer than a dozen boxes and bags to donation centers; I still have two bags and a box of home goods, a bag of clothes, and a trunk full of blankets and linens to drop off. You guys, I have a STUDIO APARTMENT. Where was I keeping all this crap? How do I constantly find more to get rid of every time I try? I'm not objecting; having less and being content with a simpler life is something I've been working toward for nearly two years now. I just am in serious disbelief over how much has been passed over in every previous declutter... because there have been many.

Training for my mental health, physical health, emotional health. Well, and for a race. A marathon, to be exact. It will be my second, and it will hopefully be even more fun than the first. I was going to add in a few shorter races on the road to this 26.2 miler in the spring, but these next few months will probably be kind of hectic and I want to just focus on this one goal race and do my best to get myself to the start. Minus, of course, a trip to DC in April for a race repeat!

Listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on audiobook, keeping me nice and entertained during my runs and bus trips to and from the city these days. It's my second favorite of the Harry Potter books and I haven't read the series since my first run back in 2014, so I'm really enjoying the repeat experience.

Exploring neighborhoods of New York. David lives in Hell's Kitchen (midtown west), so that's where we end up spending most of our time in the city out of ease and convenience. And it's a great neighborhood: home to Restaurant Row and more options for delicious food than I can count and and steps from pretty views of the Hudson and my great state. But it always amazes me how getting out of midtown sorta feels like leaving the city altogether. We've hit almost all the boroughs together (though neither of us is in a hurry to round out all five on Staten Island, honestly) and are having fun adding more and more to our New York to do and done lists.

Preparing for some really fun and important weekend plans over the next few months. There's some travel, some Iris Studios events, some friend visits, a dog birthday, a wedding, and lots of miles. Bring it all on!

Linking up with Kristen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Intention for 2017

I wasn't sure I would write a post about 2017. It's kind of a blogger requirement, almost, to close out the previous year and look ahead to the next. But after I read Jana's post about how she's NOT goal-setting for 2017, my comment in response turned into me typing away in my own blogger dashboard to elaborate. There are some things that just seem to be common traits of most bloggers, and documenting important things and planning for the future are two of them. But after the ringer this year has been—for me personally, and for a lot of us as a society—I kind of just wanted to let 2017 happen and just have faith it couldn't be worse than 2016.

But then, I opened the new journal I bought to begin the new year with, and those beautiful blank pages just begged to be written on. And so I started thinking about how I could plan, what I would plan for the coming year. This is what I realized.
I can't make goals for the next 12 months. I can't make a plan for anything past this week, as a number of things hang in the air, waiting for someone who is not me to make a move, a decision, take action. I can't rush that, force it, or will it to be what I want. And the outcome of these things will make everything that follows take a different shape. I am not signing myself up for a process of making a plan to achieve goals that cannot be achieved, and then reflecting on what an utter failure my life is because I didn't stick to that plan. That's not what goal-setting and planning is supposed to be about. I am changing my attitude of aggressive planning to one of patience, acceptance, and confidence. (Well, I'm trying to.)

Long goal lists no longer fulfill me. I made a 101 in 1001 list last year, which was spun out of a long-term goals list and a 30 by 30 list. As the forward momentum of my life came to a screeching halt in the last few months, I found myself obsessing over the 101 in 1001 list, because I felt like if I can't do anything else, at least I can cross off some of these goals. But what I came to understand instead was that these items aren't really "goals," at least not all of them. They were just things I wanted to do. A to do list and a goal list aren't the same, I don't think. I think of goals as things that take work, investment, planning, strategy, etc. And keeping a running to do list just isn't satisfying anymore, and it felt like it was just taking up space in my Google Drive and giving itself a false sense of importance. As if seeing a sunrise (which I accomplished) deserves as much of my energy as finding a job, nurturing my relationships, staying healthy and positive. What started out as a distraction from my lack of control over certain aspects of my life became a horribly skewed view of what is worth forcing myself to accomplish, and what is not.

What I really want to do, I will do regardless. This may or may not be true for everybody—I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this. So, my 101 list had things like "Finish first draft of novel." It's 80% done and I haven't touched it in nearly a year. I also put it on my November goal list, thinking I could take advantage of the NaNoWriMo momentum to get it done. On somewhere around November 4, I forgave myself that goal and admitted that it just isn't a priority right now, and that's OK. It doesn't need to be. And adding stress to achieve a goal I don't care about on a deadline that is totally imaginary is not something my life needs right now. It serves no one and nothing, truly. That book will be finished when it's ready to be—if the process of writing 80% of a book in 60 days taught me anything, it's that.

On the flip side, I had goals like "Run a sub-2 half marathon" and "Run a second marathon" on my 101 list. And making that list disappear doesn't make those goals disappear. They're in my mind always when I'm running, when I'm making race plans, when I'm picturing what success looks like over the next X months. I don't need it written down to know it's something I want. And while there is some satisfaction to be derived from crossing an item off a to do list, it is not enough to balance out the stress I feel over having multiple spreadsheets, lists, notes, and progress labels creating mental and digital clutter that makes anything that should be enjoyable into a chore.

But there are some things I just can't quit, like planning ahead as best I can. Planning and goal-setting are related but ultimately really different. I used to think I loved them both equally, but I don't. I like seeing what I can and making a plan for it all to go off without a hitch, or with as few hitches as possible if we're being realistic. For me, goal-setting for the long term just doesn't work. Priorities change, circumstances change, and I am on the cusp of more change than I've seen the likes of in years. And it's all good. I don't need unachieved goals to make me feel bad about all the things I'm looking forward to, and terrified of in the very best way.

Planning, though. Planning makes me feel at peace. I have a serious problem with being ungrounded or feeling out of control. It's the reason I don't like drinking more than two glasses of wine and why I don't walk into Target without a list. For better or for worse, it's a trait of mine that's not going away, try as I might to be a "figure it out when we get there" type. (Full disclosure, though, I completely stopped trying to be that type, because I can recognize a losing battle when I see one.) So I've gone through my Google Calendar and noted any weddings, events, appointments, and travels I am sure of for the coming year. I've transferred that all into two pages of my journal, so I can see what's ahead at a glance. I've taken notes about things and compiled information I'll need to reference later. But that's the easy part, the part I enjoy.

The hard part has been acknowledging that I don't know what 30 days from now will look like.

This is the point in my life where I have to learn how to be patient and let things unfold as they will. I have to make one decision at a time. I have to move day by day. I have to get used to making big decisions without lots of time to mull them over, and then be confident with those decisions. I have to stop pretending that certain things are within my control.

I want to set myself up for a good 2017, but writing a list of things I'm going to do just won't accomplish that anymore. And if I'm telling the truth, it never has in years past. So for the first time, I'm not making any goals for the new year. I am, however, setting an intention.

I set an intention every time I practice yoga. I encourage my students to set an intention every time I guide them through theirs. I phrase my intentions as mantras, and sometimes I use the same one for days or weeks at a time. The one I'm setting for 2017 has to do with practicing patience, acceptance, and openness, relinquishing control over that which I cannot will my way, and remaining a positive source of energy in the universe. My hope is that my attempts to manifest this intention enable me to achieve all that is waiting to be achieved by me, whether or not I can identify what those things are just yet.

___________

With a week and change left of this rollercoaster year, I am choosing to focus on what I am grateful for and what I hope to do better next year. If I don't talk to you before the calendar turns, I wish every one of you dear readers a happy holiday season filled with joy and love, and a positive, healthy start to 2017. Thank you for sticking by my side and being the incredibly uplifting and supportive influences you have been this year. Cheers!

Friday, December 16, 2016

I Fell For Fall

Weird how it isn't officially winter yet, but it feels fully in swing around here. In Northern NJ, we've had a few teensy dustings—followed immediately by rain or temperatures warm enough to melt any trace of snow away. And while I'm not looking forward exactly to the three-plus months of snow we're sure to get as soon as January comes, I'd love a white Christmas this year to help me really feel in the holiday spirit.

But we still, in the technical sense, have a few days of fall left. I always think of fall as October; the end. Seasons take different shape after that: November means it's "almost the holidays" and then from Thanksgiving to New Years it's "the holiday season," something that feels wholly separate from the burnt oranges of October and the gray blanket that covers the whole of actual winter. But autumn it remains, and these have been a few of my very favorite things of this past season...
Bigelow Green Tea with Mint & Decaf Lady Gray Tea
A mug of tea is sometimes the only thing that beats the cold once it sets into my bones when the weather turns chilly. These have been two of my favorites this fall, the former without anything added; the latter with a little raw sugar and almond milk.

Community & This is Us
David and I have, for the most part, pretty different taste in TV. Community is one of the few shows we can agree on, and we've been making our way through the whole series on Hulu. And This Is Us is the perfect drama to fit the space left by my other loves, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights. Thank frog (and David) for Hulu.

Coffitivity
Whether I'm working at home or at David's apartment, there's no such thing as real quiet. He's facing 49th Street; my downstairs neighbor is quite fond of an old-fashioned radio that he turns up full-blast and that is on a frequency low enough that it basically feels like a bass vibration under my apartment all the livelong day. So while science says quiet is best, I find pseudo-quiet that's constantly interrupted by low mumbles and shrill firetrucks to be anything but productivity-promoting. Coffitivity is my favorite thing! It's coffee shop-inspired ambient noise that is just loud enough to drown out the downstairs neighbor, but not interesting or in any way coherent enough to be distracting.

Archer Farms Apple Cider Donut Coffee
Bought this on a whim, because if there's apple flavor involved, it's usually something I want to be a part of. I was browsing Target (because when am I not?) when I found this and promptly went home and made a pot. Oh my yum.

Essie Stylenomics and Licorice
I love fall nail polish shades more than any other season. You can still play with some color, but the dark polishes are my favorite—the way they pop against pale fingers just looks really pretty to me. I have a lot of dark blues, reds, purples, and grays that I reach for, but the ones I repeated most this fall were Stylenomics, a deep green (that stays relevant through Christmas and beyond) and Licorice, a shiny, bold black that I'll keep wearing through March.

Bullet journaling and gratitude all in one
I mentioned in my post last week how I took this year to refine some habits, including my planning and journaling system. I fully embraced the bullet journal in the truest sense this fall—meaning, it's a list of things to do, and not a hand-drawn planner like some of the very artistically-inclined Instagrammers post under the #bujo tag I suddenly found myself stalking on the weekly. The result has been better organization and productivity and more peace of mind after expelling the thoughts that keep my mind reeling.

Dove White Bar
I honestly can't remember why, but back in the summer I decided to try using bar soap rather than body wash. And I'm converted. I'm super happy I switched and I feel like this might be a weird thing to list, but I seriously feel so much cleaner and like I produce so much less product waste. I'm also pretty positive a bar lasts longer than a bottle of body wash, and a pack of three bars is definitely less expensive than even inexpensive body wash.

Have a look at my favorites from last summer here.