A Chansonette

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Here begins this chansonette.

This may be higgledy-piggledy,

A verse prone to rejectamenta,

A bit of flapdoodle-doo,

With lots of squiggle-diggle-ty.

I nearly spewed my mawkish tea,

While expanding my vocabulary,

The word-of-the-day’s speciality,

This assignment is now

quite ready to go, you see? 

yet I have mispronounced thee. 

Please forgive.

Most of this piece

does not rhyme.

But if I can do it,

I will find and make

the thyme

for this silly little

chansonette.

Please forgive.

Ye Ol’ Switcheroo

The Relentless Search For Balance

Twenty Minutes to Eleven

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 Things Successful 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.

Go figure. 

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.”

Admiral McRaven’s Rousing speech:

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How I Changed the World

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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. 

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