Mindset reset: Be easy on yourself

I love a plan. I LOVE goals and to do lists. I know in my heart of hearts that I will not achieve all of them. At least, I know this intellectually. But emotionally, I am committed to getting things done. So, in 2018, I was determined to make 6 blood donations, and I aggressively pursued my goal. I posted about blood donation on social media, talked it up to people in person, made it my business to make people aware of the importance of giving blood (if and when you can).

At the end of 2018, though, I failed.

Or, I thought I failed.

As the year came to a close, it was clear I was not going to make six blood donations. I spent the year timing each donation and knew I had several weeks at the end of the year for the 6th one, but life got in the way. I was up to my ears at work and could not carve out time before the last ten days of December. I found a blood drive right after Christmas that ended up getting cancelled. And when I went to another three days before New Year’s, I was turned away because they were suspicious of my sniffles.

I was annoyed. “I’m always a little congested in the winter,” I told them. The phlebotomist did not seem sympathetic.

“We’re giving your blood to cancer patients and little babies. You might be able to fight a virus but they can’t.”

She was right. The whole point was to help people–not to put them in harm’s way or compromise their already precarious health so I could congratulate myself.

“See if it turns into anything,” the Red Cross phlebotomist told me.

That was four days before the end of the year. No time to find another drive. So that was that. I failed.

It’s a terrible attitude to have. To look back and say I failed. Because I didn’t exactly fail. So this year, I’m flipping my own script.

I felt disappointed that I didn’t make a sixth donation but I ALREADY MADE FIVE BLOOD DONATIONS IN ONE YEAR! (That’s what my husband told me–he is wise. I should listen to him more often). I was being selfish and self-centered. At that point, meeting the goal didn’t seem to be about helping people. It was about checking a box and taking a victory lap.

I should already be taking a victory lap. All year I posted photos after I donated blood and heard from friends who decided to donate blood again or for the first time. At year’s end, I loosely calculated the connections made about blood donations over the year. I made 5 donations and at least 9 people told me they were encouraged to donate blood. If each blood donation helps up to three people, that’s 42 people across the eastern seaboard who will benefit.

42 people.

This year, I knew 4 people who needed transfusions.

Somewhere out there, someone gave blood so that people I love could heal and recover. Knowing someone else in the world had given their blood selflessly motivated me even more.

img_20190105_095927_0179892459568270915.jpgI am not failing at this one. I am winning. Big time winning.

So as we reset the calendar in the new year, I am resetting my thinking. I am giving myself credit and celebrating what I am able to do rather than punishing myself for what I did not quite finish.

On January 5th, I got back on the table and made my first blood donation of the year. Health permitting, I’ll be back in 56 days.

And we will go from there.

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Cataloguing 2018: On to the next (2019)

For the past three years, I’ve used the final day of the year to reflect and catalogue things.

In 2015, in 2016, in 2017, I counted workouts and books and hikes. Acts of kindness, blood donations. Those years helped me focus and hone in on routines and choices that make me a better partner, parent and person.

2018 was a mixed bag for everyone, it seems.

For some people I know, it was they year they found health, a new home, a new partner.

For some people I know, it was a year of worry, anxiety, bargaining.

For some, it was full of joy and friendship.

For some, it was lonely and empty.

Net net, we have had a fine year. In 2018, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time as a family. We all biked at the beach and swam in the deep end of the pool. We took our first family cruise, saw fireworks in the middle of the ocean. Our oldest spent a month away at summer camp and our youngest started playing ukulele. The kids got back to skiing. The adults turned 40 and were able to celebrate with family and friends. Our work kept us busy and (mostly) fulfilled. I got the chance to tell a story in front of a massive audience in a real theater and in the final days of the year, I climbed a literal mountain.

It is hard to think that the year was fine (at times) for us when we know many people who struggled and pushed uphill. 2018 was all of these things because no one year is all one thing.

Sure, no one year is all one thing, but it’s the new year and this is when I’d set up my 2019 plan. I love a plan. This year, though, I’m struggling with goals because many things in my life are working out fine. I have a great fitness routine (roughly 200 workouts this year). That fitness routine inspires me to try bold things (like snowshoe up ski mountains and jump on 30″ boxes). I am happy professionally and being happy makes space for challenging yourself to stretch and learn new things. I am reading more than I ever have (24 books–up from 16 last year). We volunteered for a political campaign and with a dog rescue organization at least once a month and found time to make 5 blood donations.

I was puttering around the house with my husband on the last day of the year, saying, what kinds of goals do I need in 2019? Goals are important to me, so my husband had gently reminded me that “the calendar is a social construct.” You don’t need a new year to start something new. The new year is a nudge to lift up your head, get your mind out of the daily grind and reassess.

What do I want out of this year? What should this year be all about? The exercise and volunteering–those are things I would do whether I was counting or not. But the bigger goals, that’s where I need to focus energy. I have come up short on a few goals in the last few years and in this year, I want to commit to them.

So in this year on this arbitrary day, I am laying out a few loose goals for the year:

  • Turn my NaNoWriMo words into something real (I’ve written >11K words on a project I’m figuring out)
  • Buy the podcast equipment (I have things picked out but need to do more research)
  • Pilot one of 2-3 podcast ideas
  • Re-do the girls’ bedrooms (they want to freshen up their rooms)
  • Finish off our office (we NEED a dedicated space at home)
  • Find a meaningful way to volunteer regularly (our volunteering this year has been inspirational–want to keep that going)
  • Get outside as often as possible (my recent snowshoe hikes have been incredible)
  • Spend time with my family as often as I can (reading, making art, being outdoors)

Each of these goals will have its own little action plan and timetable. In the meantime, I’ll be building on all of the good habits I’ve put in place in these last few years.

Having measurable, SMART goals is not the same thing as self improvement or self care, and in this year, I need to take care of myself. I want to spend the year being a little easier on myself. I’m the one that sets the pace. I’m the one that raises the bar. And I’m the one that has to relent when things don’t work out, that has to reassess when things aren’t practical. I’m fighting myself and I’d like to make life a little easier for me and for the people I love around me.

I hardly know what the year will look like so there could be new achievements I never dreamed about. I never set out to jump on a big box or climb a rope or speak in front of a huge crowd. So I remain open to the possibility that some goals will find me. I feel conflicted about leaving 2018 behind because it was so many things. But if 2018 is any indication, 2019 will be many things, too.

So let’s get to it….

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December 2018, check.

The final countdown is over. I’m flummoxed at the pace of the year, especially this last month. We saw family, spent time out-of-town, and celebrated holidays. Most Decembers are shiny and bright and this one did not disappoint.

I checked a few things off the list:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 15 WIP workouts plus two snowshoe hikes.
  • Allowance for the kids: Nada times ten. Need to plan for next year.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 2 books this month.
    • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
    • Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
  • Write regularly: As in every month, I have been writing. This month I finished a few short essays with thoughts on the year in friendship and reading. I am looking forward to developing a good writing practice in 2019.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: 2 tremendous hikes: 1 mid-mountain snowshoe hike with a group and a solo hike up the summit at Stratton Mountain. Felt super proud.
  • 1 date night: We had a day date on more than one Sunday morning while our girls were at Hebrew school. This counts as alone time.
  • Donate blood 6 times: I did not make this final blood donation. Though I was eligible after the 5th of the month, life was crazy and towards the end of the month I got shut out of donating because of a cold. Even though I am disappointed, I am proud of making another five donations this year.
  • Volunteer once a month: Dog rescue volunteering at an event early this month.
  • Self care (once per quarter): Got a great massage while away with my family. The therapist said I need them regularly. That’s the price I pay for waiting all year.
  • Experiment with podcasting: Pricing out equipment. No movement.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: No progress this month.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Going strong.
  • Financial planning for the household: Holding.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: This is now officially a 2019 project.
  • Crochet regularly: Lots of crocheting while we were traveling this month.

Additional December highlights:

  • Family trip with sister’s family to the Poconos
  • Banner event at work
  • Girls’ dance showcase events
  • Seeing oldest’s first concert
  • Celebrating Hannukah
  • Trip to Stratton Mountain with my littles
  • Incredible overnight visit from my oldest friend and her daughter

Time to set some goals for 2019…

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Being friends: reflections on friendship in 2018

I know myself well enough to know that as a person and a friend, I can be exhausting. I also know that being exhausting and exacting is a gift of mine, too. And when it comes to friends, I care a lot. I’ll wear you out and love you endlessly in the process.

Adult friendships are tough–you do not have the security of sharing simple things like a love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to sustain things. Adult lives are complicated and staying friends takes work. Life gets in the way. A good friend once told me that friends can come and go but if you’re lucky you walk together on a path for as long as you can.

I have loved that image. The road stretching out in front of you, the solitary journey punctuated with tremendous people who appear and recede from view. If we are lucky, the universe keeps us together but we will never know exactly how or why. This is not to say that people don’t also keep people in their lives. I have written to several friends this year alone about how lucky I feel to share the road with them. I think about this scene nearly every day, wondering the how and why and when of the people in my life, especially in the last twenty years.

I have no answers, though. I do know that the last year has been one of transition for people I know. The world is constantly changing. People have battled illness. Families have grown apart and together. It has been a year for my family and friends and as the year winds down, I am reminded that having friends and being friends is easy and not easy at the same time. I keep thinking thoughts about friendship that 2018 has taught me.

So I wrote them down:

Be friends. Real friends. Do not worry about whether someone needs more friends or wants more friends. Just be friends. Get them a coffee or an ice cream. And when you have ice cream, do not complain about the ice cream going to your hips. Eat cheese and drink wine and do not complain about how you are wrecking any good habits you have. Ice cream and coffee and cheese are necessary parts of friendship.

Fill in the backstory. Wonder about them and pay attention to the details. Sometimes, you become friends in the wake of a life event or a change in circumstances, and you will realize there are things you do not know. Take time to learn those things. The names of people in their lives, their history. Ask them questions. Their stories will enrich your life. Your stories have not overlapped until now but they will start to grow together and you will share things you did not share before.

Show up. Bring flowers or coffee. Or show up with nothing because you did not have time to stop because stopping means you could not simply show up. Just be there with them. If you cannot show up in person, let them know you have them in your heart and in your thoughts. Do not call yourself a bad friend if you do not show up. Just do what you can when you can.

Celebrate them. Be proud of them when they are proud of themselves. Be proud of them when they are feeling like they are worthless. Build them up. Push them. And if necessary, wallow with them.

Listen to them. Be present for them. Do not try and solve their problems. Do not let them denigrate you to make themselves feel better. Do not make their problems into your problems. Do not play chicken with them about their emotions. Do not make their worries about you. Listen. Be there. Be friends. Do not worry if you are overstepping. If they are not interested in your support or advice, they will tell you.

Do not compete. People come in and out of your life. It takes a long time to realize this especially if you have had the same friends for a long time. Do not worry if they spend time with other people. Enjoy the time you have together because that time is a gift.

Most importantly: tell them they matter. Let them know what they mean to you. Do not worry how your sentiment lands. Do not worry whether they feel the same way. Just tell them. Because knowing you mean something to someone else is also important. And people are not mind readers, so they will never know how you feel about their presence in your life. So just tell them.

I have no way of knowing if I lived this philosophy of friendship all year but I honestly tried. It is a long road and we have no way of knowing the why and how and when of people come into our lives. But as the year closes–and it has been a strange and special year for being friends–I needed to capture this moment in life and friendship.

And above all, I needed to say thank you.

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November 2018, check check.

So what if I am posting about last month’s goals and almost half of December is over. In a few days I’ll have to start reflecting on 2018 and planning for 2019. 2018 has been such a confusing year. There were high highs and low lows. But for now, there are still 19 days until I have to think about 2018 coming to a close. And for now, I can stretch this victory lap on November.

The list:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 14 WIP workouts plus one workout on location. A busy month full of travel and family and food.
  • Allowance for the kids: Nada times ten. Need to plan for next year.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 3 books this month.
    • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
    • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
    • Chasing Chickens (manuscript) by Rachel Neff
  • Write regularly: I started National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the second year in a row. It’s ambitious to think you could write a whole novel in 30 days and I usually last for about 7-10. I was able to commit about 10,000 words to the page. So something is brewing.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: 1 awesome outdoor hike with kiddos and friends.
  • 1 date night: Crickets here.
  • Donate blood 6 times: In between donations this month. I’ll make my 6th and final donation of the year in December.
  • Volunteer once a month: Poll standing on election day.
  • Self care (once per quarter): No massage this month.
  • Experiment with podcasting: Pricing out equipment.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: This was a tough one to work on this month. No real progress.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Going strong.
  • Financial planning for the household: May have found a local financial planning firm so going to investigate that.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Found a desk for the office and have to start on the girls’ room refresh. This is now officially a 2019 project.
  • Crochet regularly: Meh. I started something to keep my hands busy.

Additional November highlights:

  • Election Day
  • Thanksgiving dinner with both sides of the family
  • Signing my friend’s Ketubah and attending her wedding reception on Thanksgiving day
  • Successful jet-set conference trip to Miami

It’s the home stretch. The final push towards 2019. I cannot wait to see what (the rest of) December has in store.

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October 2018, check. (Double check)

October was an entire year rolled up into one month. When I look back on 2018, October may be my best month, yet. Too many things and so many more things happened.

The list:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 14 bootcamp workouts this month plus 2 self-directed hotel-based workouts plus one amazing hike in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Still time to fit in spinning or swimming.
  • Allowance for the kids: Nada times ten.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 2 books this month. One book–Evicted–was probably one of the most important books I have ever read in the last few years. I was reading nonstop this month–I squeezed a manuscript to read for a publisher. My book chapter finally arrived in print. It was all reading, all the time.
    • Evicted by Matthew Desmond
    • Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout
  • Write regularly: Writing was something I did on the side this month. I had a few moments where I got to quickly jot down feelings but I have been out of a good writing practice for a long time. I’m trying to keep up with NaNoWriMo (as I tried last year, too), so we will see if this jump starts the creativity train for me.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: I hiked the Mt. Hollywood trail in Griffith Park when I was traveling for work. I haven’t had the experience of hiking in full sun cover so that was interesting. And while I don’t love LA, I didn’t hate the views from the top.
  • 1 date night: Another fail this month.
  • Donate blood 6 times: Fit in my 5th donation of the year! I am super excited to donate one more time in December. It wasn’t easy to stay on top of it but every donation counts.
  • Volunteer once a month: We were able to canvass one time for our local friend running for state representative. Since she won the primary it was the most we could do. Fitting in volunteer time with her campaign has been a challenge but my little one and I did knock on doors earlier this month.
  • Self care (once per quarter): While I was traveling I had some serious alone time. The alone time generated lots of thoughts about identity and life and what was happening. I did have a solo dinner out and some lovely kick back and relax time in between conferencing and traveling. I watched the entire first season of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Serious down time. I still need a massage, though.
  • Experiment with podcasting: No movement.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: I appeared in the Best of Valley Voices Storytelling show the second weekend of October. I arrived to learn that the theater was sold out–800 people! It was the biggest crowd I have ever addressed and I told my story flawlessly. This story remains one of my proudest accomplishments of 2018.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): You know it.
  • Financial planning for the household: Nothing happening.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Starting to plan for some updates to the girls’ rooms.
  • Crochet regularly: Meh. I started something to keep my hands busy.

Additional October highlights:

  • Book chapter came out in print–books arrived!!
  • Visit to New York City, seeing friends, sights.
  • Valley Voices storytelling event (video from an earlier version of the story told)
  • Urban Institute conference in LA
  • Seeing my mom’s family while in California
  • Catching up with a dear friend in LA
  • Launched new workshops at work to great reception

Less than 60 days until the year is over. Feeling pretty thrilled and excited about what comes next!

img_4040

First time standing in her shadow. She was majestic as expected.

#5 in 2018.

The view onstage before every seat filled. In the spotlight, you can see nothing.

That’s me on page 79.

Scenes from LA: solo bookstore.

Spectating at The Broad.

The view from Griffith Park.

Kicking off & kicking butt.

 

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September 2018, check.

My mind has taken years to unwind from an academic calendar. It’s Q4. Not the start of school or a few weeks into the semester. We’re in the final 92 days of 2018 and I am ready to take on some big challenges.

But looking back, we closed out Q3 in style:

  • Exercise (make room for one non-WIP workout per week): 19 bootcamp workouts this month plus lots of great outdoor time. Still trying to figure out how to go spinning or go swimming or go running. But I have time to figure that out (and some out of town travel that will force me to figure it out, too).
  • Allowance for the kids: Nada.
  • Read 30 books this year: Read 2 books this month and started a third. For the first time in my entire adult life I read a book in a week. It helped that I was riveted and couldn’t put it down. Both books were captivating.
    • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
    • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Write regularly: I have been on a writing hiatus. Not sure why–the layers of life plus using the morning time to do other things has left me with no big progress on anything this month. That’s okay.
  • 1 hike per month, preferably with the kids: A full day of outdoor ropes course and ziplines with the girls was a highlight of the month. They were brave and adventurous. We went on a boat. I fit in a nice long walk with a friend. And we spent time at a faire (the renaissance faire that is).
  • 1 date night: How did we let a whole month pass with no proper alone adult time. There was a quick dinner we had while the girls were doing their own thing. But no date night?
  • Donate blood 6 times: I’m due to donate but couldn’t find the time to get to a drive. Lots of opportunities to squeeze this in at the start of October. Still on track to get in the 6 total donations.
  • Volunteer once a month: We got back to volunteering with the dog rescue organization and logged a few hours at an adoption event. It was a gorgeous day and we spent it sitting outdoors, petting dogs. Not bad.
  • Self care (once per quarter): Nada again. I’ve been sleeping a lot–does the nap on Yom Kippur count?
  • Experiment with podcasting: I am motivated to get equipment but that’s about where it ends for me right now.
  • Find new opportunities to speak in front of an audience: In an unexpected turn of events, I am now going to tell a story at the Best of Valley Voices Story Slam in Northampton. It’s a storytelling show in a big theater with a bigger audience. Feeling lucky and nervous.
  • Capture my “best thing all week” every week all year long (52 total): Going strong.
  • Financial planning for the household: Nothing happening.
  • Get our unfinished rooms completed: Swapped out some furniture in our living room thanks to my family offloading some of their furniture. Starting to plan for some updates to the girls’ rooms.
  • Crochet regularly: Meh. I started something to keep my hands busy. Will be a good goal while I watch the girls’ dance classes.

Additional September highlights:

  • School got going–4th grade and 2nd grade are solidly elementary school age
  • Outdoor music festival in Hartford
  • Holidays with family
  • Celebrating a friend’s 40th
  • Boat time (saw littlest Weiner go tubing for first time)
  • Got a promotion at work
  • Ropes course
  • Renaissance Faire

Life is a snowball rolling down a hill. October is upon us….

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