My most recent post of eons ago, I wrote of my journey that began in the early months of 2020 of developing new habits; tasks performed daily in increments of 20 minutes each day. I slapped the tongue-in-cheek title “How I Changed the World,” due to a rousing motivational speech by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven. Prior to viewing the speech, I had read the book 5 ThingsSuccessful People Do Before 8 a.m. by Terri Savelle Foy. Needless to say, this proved to be fodder to cancel my couch potato life and strive to accomplish a few goals. But never before 8 a.m. It is not for lack of trying: I am, after all, a retiree!
It doesn’t really have to be 5 things; it can be as many or few as habits one wants to form. The commonality between the most successful ones, according to Mrs. Foy, choose exercise, meditation or prayer, and reading in 20 minute increments. This is referred to as the golden hour. (I noticed there is no mention of where coffee places, first or after, but I place it first and foremost!) I chose to include the habits of writing and tracking things I am grateful for each day.
But I made changes to that schedule in 2021. As stated in my previous post, I learned of forming habits in shorter time frames. I assume this for people who like to brag about the tally of mini habits they keep each day. Based upon that theory, I made a decision to reduce the minimum time to 11 minutes. It was an arbitrary number pulled from the thin, gray air of winter––the January doldrums.
I began my new system thinking I had relieved myself from some imaginary and self-imposed burden. (I am slowly realizing that I have a time-management problem.)
Yet something I had not accounted for began to manifest the very first day. Chalk it up to the Middle-Child Syndrome. Yep, the drive to achieve beyond that of an older brother and a younger sister in order to get NOTICED. Allow me to digress.
Growing up, it was futile to try to outdo my brother; hard as I may hindsight has revealed I was only kicking against the pricks, as Apostle Paul was fond of saying. Being the baby, almost literally, my sister was the “cute one” as she so dutifully reminded anyone is earshot. I guess Mom and Dad (God rest their souls) thought so too. I was reminded every Christmas when brother got something shiny and new like a red bike, sister got a pretty pink blanket while mine was diaper yellow color, or a 3-foot-tall deaf and dumb doll. I was not the I-want-a fake-baby-kind of little girl. My imagination spectrum did run in the vein of making plastic babies come alive, no matter how tall or short.
So what was going on with to 20 to 11 switcheroo? One should be overjoyed to know time commitments down from 20 minutes to 11 minutes to be freeing. The problem is pure and simple; the old it’s not good enough mindset. The backstory (a semi-fancy word meaning to digress) is that my childhood report card grades were always honor roll worthy. If I got a B+, Dad always ––and I mean every stinking time––asked why it wasn’t an A. If an A-, why not an A, if an A, why not an A+? The memo was loud and clear: my work was never good enough. I’m sure my father was completely unaware of the silent message transmitted. I think his motivation came from a place that didn’t want me to get “too big for my britches” as these types of things were often said. He wasn’t my loudest cheerleader. But again, I digress.
For me, the simple solution of extending time beyond those 11 minutes never seem to quite work out. I tried that a few times and went to the far-beyond side like into the evening. Ok, that’s pure hyperbole. You go too far, a complaint I have heard a few times. It has been a frustrating and vicious cycle of searching for balance.
It wasn’t but two days into the new time that I realized 11 minutes of exercise isn’t going to profit the body much, so that I did relent and returned to 20-minute sessions. The dirty little secret is that I really don’t exercise every day: usually 4 days of the week. SHHHH!
Reading and writing sessions were difficult to adapt because when the timer sounded, I was just getting to the meat of the story––time to quit. Torn between patting myself on the back and that inner monologue “this isn’t good enough” created major tension. Why is that stupid, self-incriminating voice in my head?
Guilt and self-condemnation because I did not carry out each task for 20 minutes? Unbelievable. Who sets the bar? Oh, yes that’s right: I did. Who lowered the bar? Hmm, let me think. 11 minutes wasn’t good enough with or without self-permission. Does this perception relate back to that not-quite-good enough, middle-child syndrome? Or is this phenom much more sinister? Probably. I suspect I am not the only one to deal with this, and why therapists are making lots of money. And I realize I may have unconsciously passed this onto the next generation. Sorry, kids!
I went back to YouTube and viewed the original motivational speeches that inspired me to buy the book about 5 habits, etc. I have my tube settings set to auto play the next video and low and behold! It is titled “Goal Setting: 11 minutes that can change your life.” Fed up with it all, I chose not to watch that one but feel free.
I did mention previously that I would report on a goal for 2021 to form the habit of eating dinner at the table, just like the old days. That lasted about 7 days. Why? Because the OLD habit was so ingrained in my mind that the pure comfort of the Lazy Boy Reclining love-seat proved too powerful that I just plain forgot. Try again in 2022.
After working through the many drafts of this piece, I have come to the conclusion that maybe less IS more. Maybe it’s true I am my own best psychiatrist. And maybe, just maybe, it is better to do and develop habits NO MATTER if 20 minutes, 11 minutes or 5 minutes. Some famous film character once said “Do or do not. There is no try.”
In the fall months of 2019, I decided I would change a habit from NOT making my bed any day ever to making my bed every single day. I’m proud to announce that I have successfully made my bed every single day for more than entire year.
In January of 2020, I read that a famous admiral, William H. McRaven addressed the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas of Austin. He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” I felt pretty good knowing I was on the forward path to be top-notch world changer. Although I really did not believe I could change THE world, I figured I would change MY world.
Then came March 2020. As it turns out, THE world did change as I continued my newly formed habit. I don’t like the world anymore. This situation has left me with a couple questions that nag: If I stop, will the world go back to the way we were? Or what would happen if we all made our bed every day?
Joking aside, that one small task led to me forming and completing other habits just as McRaven said it would. Making my bed every day led to me composing a list of five things more that I try to complete every day. I confess that I have not been quite as faithful to complete everything every day as my bed-making habit. (Sunday’s are filled with so many activities that I gave myself permission to take the day off.) The five things include:
Pray or meditate for 20 minutes.
Write down 20 things I am thankful for.
Read for 20 minutes.
Write for 20 minutes.
Exercise for 20 minutes.
Having read 20 minutes almost every day since the middle of January of 2020, I have read 16 books to date. That amazes me. In addition, I have two more books that I am currently reading: One for my regular 20-minute session, and one Kindle book that I call my “bus stop” reading –– reading while waiting for the school bus to arrive with a grandchild.
My daughter sent me another link to a great inspirational talk on YouTube in which it talks about setting realistic goals by decreasing the time allotment. Let’s face it; life gets in way of accomplishing many of our to-do list simply because we set unrealistic expectations.
Whenever I have an overwhelming task that needs doing, such as decluttering a room, I use this method by setting a timer for 20 minutes. That goal works for me. When the 20 minutes expires it’s an awesome feeling to know I can walk away guilt free until next time.
My problem is that “next time” might not happen for months. Yikes.
At this point, I am faced with the decision of continuing this for the next year. I am fairly certain that I will, but I may employ the mini habit goals in 2021. Mostly because I was only about 90% successful in meeting the 20-minute goal every single day, six days a week.
Despite how I managed to change the world, I will continue making my bed every day, even in motel rooms. I am considering upping the game by forming two more habits in the coming weeks. One being no more pajama days, except on Mondays. I wish I could blame excessive use of pajamas on CoVid19 only, but that would be dishonest.
The second habit I would like to develop is to eat dinner at the dining table rather than mindlessly gobble while on the recliner and watching TV, except on Sundays and any day of the week that ends with d-a-y. Just kidding.
As I write, I am realizing that had my 20-minute writing sessions been with continuity, instead broken up with different things, like “dear diary” entries, I could have that book in the making complete! Geez, some people are slower than a slug. I’ll get back to you next year on how that works out.
It’s obvious that as the crisis of COVID19 looms over the globe, we the people have put our normal lives on hold. Life as we know it has paused. The hardship of this unprecedented time is unfathomable; for everyone. Yet, I have observed a few personal benefits since Shelter-In Place (SIP) orders were established.
I never thought I would see the day when one buys five years’ worth of toilet paper, leaving the rest of the community with none. The plus side of this marvel is that I visualize the astonished expressions on my great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren’s faces when I regale the tales of “back in the day.” I’m confident they will be googling to verify that Granny’s story was not the crazed rambling of an old woman.
I am, by nature, a homebody. My only so-called social outing these days is the essential business of buying groceries. Staying six feet away from fellow customers is no problem for me because my innate need of personal space is just about that. Also, bringing a bag from home means I must bag the items myself, saving me from the idiot check-out person who places a loaf of bread and dozen eggs under the weight of a gallon jug of milk.
On the plus side of SIP, I have only burned through ¼ tank of fuel in the past 3 weeks or so. Another plus is that I have had less laundry to wash because I dress in my stay-at-home clothes (que images of sweats and ratty t-shirts) rather than rocking business attire. Due to my having the nature of an introvert, I have truly enjoyed free curbside-pick up when ordering items online from local stores. I wonder why I haven’t been doing this all along until I remember the convenience fee attached to the total bill.
I also have much more time available to declutter the house, write, enter the rabbit hole of Ancestry.com, shred oodles of piles of snail mail, learn a few software programs purchased and downloaded many moons ago such as Scrivener.
You may have picked up on the “time available” verbiage in the above paragraph. My busy pre-stay-at-home schedule often had me lamenting if I had more time, I would clean out the garage, the pantry, etc. This season of SIP illuminates the great self-revelation that behind those excuses, the reality of “I JUST DON’T WANT TO” is starkly exposed.
The bald truth forces me to confront me. As we ogle each other, one of me vocally gives permission to sit on the couch and stream movies all day. While the other me simply wags a finger and the inner monologue says tsk, tsk, tsk, what about that to-do list?
Even though I have strongly suspicioned that particular character flaw exists within for quite a while now, I can no longer deny I have a problem. It is not that I’m totally lacking in self-disciple. For the past few months, I have managed to complete a list of five things I do daily. I say this flagrant revelation is a benefit in the fashion that one must lance a wound before healing can begin. But perhaps the biggest roadblock to getting things done is that of procrastination: I can happily talk myself into the wait-until-tomorrow phenomena.
I once bought a self-help book on how to stop procrastinating. I kid you not that in the 14 years I have owned that book, I have yet to read further than the title page. I imagine a group akin to AA in which I introduce myself “Hi, I’m Janet and I’m a procrastinator” followed by a group reply, “Hi, Janet.”
And the dance begins. Should I give myself permission to do nothing but watch movies and binge serial shows (all the while visualizing a wagging finger and hearing tsk, tsk, tsk) and wave the flag in surrender to the screen? Or wait until I finish all items on that supposed list, the list that has turned into a short novel?
Tada! I have found the perfect strategy. (Turns out, I am also great at compromise with inner conflict.) I will watch an episode; check an item off the list––after completion––of course and repeat. By the time the SIP order is lifted, only a small number of things will be checked off the list and I will be lamenting once again that I just don’t have time to do it all. And it will be legit.
In my last post I wrote about completing a daily gratitude list of a minimum of 20 items. Some things that I am most thankful for show up repeatedly, such as indoor plumbing. (See previous post for the reason I don’t take indoor plumbing for granted.)
Why purposely practice an attitude of gratitude? As it turns out, according to the Psychology Today website, author Amy Morin, claims there are seven scientifically proven reasons why one should practice gratitude. Gratitude improves one’s physical health, mental strength, psychological health, opens the door to more relationships, build’s self-esteem, reduces aggression and builds empathy. Interestingly enough, thankful people sleep better and longer.
For the past couple of weeks, gratitude for garbage collectors has cropped up on my list a couple of times. This also ties to my childhood, country living days when our household was responsible for hauling our trash to the local landfill (or the dump as we called it), burning it, or sometimes Dad would even bury it. That’s country living.
In my country-living days, we children were responsible for getting trash outside of the house. Once outside, getting it off the property was up to Dad. There was a special, sturdy barrel for burning. Once, a can of hairspray escaped our notice and it exploded sending shards that hit my younger sister near the eye. Dangers abound with this method. Some things were burned inside the woodstove, our only source of heat.
Things that couldn’t or wouldn’t burn were piled up until a pickup truck bed was filled. Then it was off to the landfill. The few times I rode with Dad were father/daughter bonding moments until he began backing the truck to the edge of the stinky gorge. Panicked cries of warning––“Stop, Dad! You’re going too far!” and “We’ll fall in!” –– were met with chuckles. It didn’t occur to me that Dad didn’t want that to happen anymore than I did.
I know some city dwellers who opt out and carry away their trash to the local waste disposal site thinking it will be cheaper. Tally up at least twice monthly trips at an expense of about $27 a load, it works out about the same amount of money as the city charges for curbside service. Not to mention garbage sitting around stinking and attracting vermin for weeks at a time. EW!
I’m thankful that all I need to do these days is collect from the house, toss it a bin and wheel it out to the street curb and wait for man and machine to haul it far away. Besides, I don’t quite trust myself to stop the truck before it rolls into the reeking ravine.
According to WordPress statistics, I posted here two times in 2019. For someone who recently graduated with a BA in English with a Specialization in Writing, that fact is utterly abhorrent. The truth is that my inner monologue has been saying things such as “I don’t have anything to say that is worth reading.” It reminds me of the Seinfeld sitcom that often was self-described as a show about nothing.
It’s true that this is a personal blog with a handful of followers. It is also true that I have been tossing to and fro seeking solid ground since graduating. I don’t know who I am if I am not a student. Because I was not in the typical age bracket of most college graduates, I face a different challenge of who I want to be when I “grow up” or what job can I get with the degree I worked so hard to achieve. I have had jobs, children, husbands, grandchildren and now I have great-grandchildren.
The summer months of 2019 found me in the kitchen making jellies and jams, breads, pies of all types; at the sewing machine making aprons; and traveling short distances to a beach; or visiting daughters and grandchildren. In short: floundering. One would think that at my age I would have found myself by now without that proverbial European backpacking trip.
Alas, it is not so. It seems that as new seasons of life roll around, I must begin anew. Sure, some roles are the same: I’m still a mother, grandmother, etc., but as my family’s life -stages change, I must adapt. For example, being a mom to adult children is far different than being a mom to young children.
Adaptation does not happen overnight: Sometimes we flounder in the process. That’s where I have been––in the floundering stage. I am beginning to equalize and find balance in my new role as a non-student. I recently began volunteering at a local Senior Center that has helped me find meaning, fulfillment, and purpose outside of my family.
In the past few weeks (21 days to be exact) I have been taking a closer look at my dreams and goals that I want to transpire in my remaining years. One goal is to revive this blog, even if it’s personal with a handful of followers. And yes, even it is a blog about nothing.
*A short story that is loosely based on true events of Christmases past: 90 percent pure fiction.
Many people escape via expensive out-of-the-country vacations or by weekend get-a-ways. Some escape by watching movies or by playing games. Me? I Amazon. I’m addicted to seeing that brown box (the box with a questionable phallic logo) resting on my front porch as if to say, “Pick me! Open me!”
Amazon’s intrusion began several years ago. My ‘old-school’ wariness would not release me to commit such sin as shopping online. The realization that I could stay in my pajamas and get the all the grandkids their Christmas presents convinced me to risk everything.
True joy begins from that moment I see a screen-full of possibilities on my lap-top or iPhone, items to feed my addiction. The beautiful (sometimes ruinous) journey is afoot.
It didn’t take Amazon long before they offered the best marketing scheme ever: Buy Now With 1-Click? If ever a sentence could be described as delectable as hot chocolate topped with marshmallows this would qualify. But they didn’t stop there ––Prime Delivery––why, you can have this in two days for “free.” Free for an annual fee––ingenious. A recent addition is the all-you-have-to-do-is-tap-it button, ‘buy again’ red circle. Extremely convenient. What will they think of next? Telepathy?
As I sit pondering potential deliveries, I remember past disastrous purchases: the Christmas ornaments that looked huge on-screen but arrived a mere one-eighth inch diameter; the children’s farm-animal book that failed to pique interest of a one-year old; weirdly (and putrid) colored shoes; wall décor, museum-sized, for the 12 x 18 inch empty spot near the window, so large it could have covered the entire window. I have learned to read with care (and read between the lines) as my hand hovers over the keyboard ENTER key, I think twice¬¬––three times––before making the final click. That is, unless I have a Freudian tap.
I choose my items, and proceed through the steps: would you like the arrival date to be this Tuesday, postage-free; for $3.99 more you could have this on Monday; add to your dash (just tap it) button? It would be ever so easy to reorder. Thanks, Amazon!
I’m always eager to help family find just what they are looking for.
“Gram, you need a bedpan? Let me look for you.” I’m giddy.
If only hindsight had been my guide. I now have a bedpan in my Face Book feed; subject lines of countless emails read: because you bought a bedpan; just click here or tap to buy again; people who have purchased a bedpan have also purchased the following items; and finally (although, I’m sure it won’t be) I have a picture of Gram’s bright, shiny––thankfully still unused––bedpan in that blasted buy again? button. Or just tap it.
I am ending day 364 doing what I love: writing for the pure joy of writing. The little ditty below contains 16 names familiar to my childhood. Can you guess what they refer to?*
Through the days of my life,
I have ascribed to a guiding light,
While leading all my children
through the edge of night.
The young and the restless,
Search for tomorrow.
The bold and the beautiful,
Look in dark shadows.
As the world turns,
Ryan’s hope rests
In another world,
In secret storm.
One life to live,
Yet, love of life
May end within the general hospital
Hounded by the doctors.
* Before the days of talk shows, cooking shows, courtroom dramas and game shows, American day-time television was dominated by the juicy drama of the soap opera. The sixteen listed above are some of the longest running. A few soaps continue today: General Hospital (1963); Days of Our Lives (1965); The Young and the Restless (1973); The Bold and the Beautiful (1987). My mother loved to watch As the World Turns. I can still see the spinning globe on the small electronic box as the show came on the air as I was scurried outside to play.