Holy smokes. It’s November.

Gratitude, Musings

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My blogging output declined this month in proportion to my other writing. But that actually means I stuck to my goal pretty well this month. After a rocky beginning, I started getting up half an hour earlier every morning so that I could write three pages in my journal every day. (This means I’ve actually started getting up before 7 a.m. every morning, which really makes me feel like an adult.)

I write mostly about day-to-day things. Work. Weather. Things That Irritate Me. But in the middle of a whirlwind month, I’ve been grateful to have a few quiet moments to myself every morning. I’m attached now to my ritual of getting up, making a cup of coffee, and writing.

It’s helped me process some big events, such as my husband’s 26th birthday (him moving beyond 25 seems significant somehow, partly because it finally forced us to get our own health insurance), and a dear friend and coworker preparing to move back to California to be near her family (so bittersweet). I also made some new friends this month, and hosted more successful book club meetings. I struggled to make it to the gym. I had an epic Halloween that involved dressing up as Sonny Bono along with my boss who did her best Cher impersonation. We sang “I Got You, Babe” in front of the entire company.

Now it’s November, my favorite and least favorite time of the year. I love the transitional feeling of fall, but it makes me melancholy. I love the holidays, but they also stress me out. Time keeps slipping through my fingers, and I keep falling back on poetic cliches to describe how I feel. My heart is heavy. I’m a little jealous my friend who’s driving across the country next week. She is brave enough to uproot herself so that she can orient her life according to the things that matter to her: being near her family and finding work that she’s truly passionate about. I want to be like her.

I’ll keep up my new writing routine, but I’ve found that it doesn’t feel like a creative outlet so much as just a dumping ground. Putting my tangled, anxious thoughts on paper grounds me, but it’s pretty mundane stuff. In high school, I loved to draw, but dropped it in college. So, this month I’m going to dust off my art supplies and challenge myself to do at least three or four sketches a week. I’m also going to try and hunt down Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and work on some of those exercises as well. If they aren’t too horrible, maybe I’ll post some here.

Happy November.

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Today I’m grateful for: the leaves finally bursting into color. The trees outside our window fill our living room with golden light.

Not Wrapping Up Community (But Also A New Goal)

Community, Writing

Project 50 - Day #1 (Moleskine)

The problem with writing about a new set of goals every month is that life doesn’t fit neatly into that timeline. I could write about community — how we cultivate it, how much we need it, but also how frustrating and messy it is — for months. I’m just scratching the surface right now. Book club seems to be gaining steam. I participated in my first committee meeting at church. I wrote another letter. I won’t stop doing any of these things, and I also probably won’t stop writing about them. But before I move on to (or just add, really) new goals, I have a few more thoughts.

Putting myself out there, organizing events, and getting involved wasn’t easy for me. I have worshiped solitude for a long time. I’m a natural introvert. Being alone makes me feel peaceful and content. And truth be told, that will never change. Too much socialization makes me feel thin, like “butter scraped over too much bread” as Bilbo Baggins would say. On the other hand, when I don’t feel rooted in place, connected to my family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers, I’m miserable and lonely. I’ve realized that this connectedness is about more than just gratitude — it’s about grace, and patience, and love, and letting go. There is so much more I want to articulate, so if y’all are okay with me coloring outside the lines, I’ll keep writing about that as the spirit moves me. Also, while we are talking about past goals, I am really getting on board with this whole eating more veggies and fewer animal products diet. I went on a business trip last week and I ate so much meat and eggs. Having a veggie burger for lunch today felt so good.

But it’s also time to add something new. October crept up on me and I’m feeling a little scattered, so I have one one goal for this month: write three pages every day. Doesn’t matter what it is but I have to write for myself and not for work. I will also use this as an excuse to do some creative writing prompts and maybe even buy some new art supplies for doodling/painting as well. I’m generally terrible at writing every day, so I’ll let you know how this project goes.

Today I’m grateful for: my new knitting project and Netflix (always Netflix).

[Image via Sean McGrath]

Building Community: Final Thoughts (For Now)

Community

I’m feeling scattered. Ironically, I’ve been acting like a hermit this week. I’ve feeling under the weather and slightly overwhelmed. Transitions, money, writing, life in general are all on my mind, but I can’t express anything coherently today, so let’s just revisit this month’s goals, shall we? I’ll move on to blog about some new challenges next week, but the ones I’ve set in motion this month are still taking shape. So, this is more of an update than a reflection this time around.

1. Start a short-fiction book club. Biggest step accomplished: I’ve roped in some friends. Now comes the fun part of picking reading material and organizing our first meeting.

2. Write letters. Mailed one today! And I plan to buy some pretty new cards with my next paycheck.

3. Find a way to get more involved at church. Not sure where this one is going, but I volunteered to help out. I’m sure something will evolve from this …

Have these goals made me more grateful? Let’s see. They have made me feel overwhelmed and a tad resentful at times. Especially on nights when I’d rather kick back with a beer on the couch, I think, “Why am I doing this? I’m too tired/busy. No one reads my dumb blog anyway, so what does it matter?” But then out of guilt I do the thing I’d said I’d do and I actually feel good. I’m really excited for this book club, and grateful that I have friends who want to give it a go. So, I’m actually quite grateful for this blog and accountability.

Today I’m grateful for: Holiday weekend! I’m going to visit my family and every iota of my being is aching for Friday afternoon to get here already.

Building Community, Week Two in Review

Community

My progress report this week is … fair, I suppose. In terms of meeting my goals, I expressed interest in helping out at my church (that’s big!). But I didn’t write a single letter, and have yet to take any steps towards the book club besides compiling a list of all the short fiction I want to read.

Instead of being productive, I spent most of my evenings laying on the couch after I pulled a back muscle my back at kickboxing class. This makes me sound like a wuss, but it hurt. So, while icing down my throbbing back, I started watching the first season New Girl on Netflix and pondered a very important question: How can I get my hair to look like Zooey Deschanel’s? (Or at least the shorter version of her hair.)

Today I’m grateful for: Netflix. And ice packs. And this really lovely blog post.

Wellness Challenge: Final Thoughts

Food, Wellness

This month’s challenges have yielded interesting results. The most surprising? I actually want to go the gym now. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe my body finally got sick of sitting around all day. Maybe I just had to get used to the routine. Maybe I’m hooked on the endorphins. Maybe it’s all three. At any rate, I’m digging the way I feel after a tough workout.

Changing up my meals has been harder. Switching my breakfast (pb on toast with some coffee) and lunch (whatever is in the fridge, usually dinner leftovers) routine has taken some creative shopping and some prep work. Some days are still hit or miss, but I’m working on it. Fortunately, I already like eating vegetables, so that part isn’t hard.

Million-dollar question: has all of this made me more grateful? I think I have to say “yes, but …” Yes, but it’s not enough on its own. Yes, but I haven’t transformed into a perky workout goddess. Yes, but I still feel really crappy and ungrateful sometimes.

Taking good care of myself doesn’t automatically make me more grateful, or more zen, or whatever. But it does make me more predisposed to feel calm, centered, and grateful. These days I feel better about my body. I feel grateful for my health. I feel calmer and more grounded during stressful events and minor crisis (and I’ve had a lot of those this month, I’m afraid).

So, while I intend to stick to my new routines, it’s August now. Time to move onto something different. That post will come next week because (lucky me) I’m going on vacation again for a few days. I’ll hopefully have my toes in the sand, looking out over the ocean with cold drink in hand by tomorrow afternoon.

Wellness Challenge, Week Three in Review

Food, Wellness

Goal #1: Workout 3-4 times a week.

Only hit two this week, but I am SORE so maybe easing back into it after vacation was the right idea.

Goal #2: Pack and eat healthy snacks.

Not bad. Almonds are my new best friend!

Goal #3: Eat all the veggies.

Again, no CSA box this week thanks to our vacation time, but we did plan some veggie-centric dinners. I’ve been keeping up with my spinach smoothie habit (I added tofu to them too, and love the creaminess).

It’s actually been hit or miss this week. But I am giving myself some credit because playing catch up after being out of town is hard. Once upon a time, I would have taken it as an excuse to get take out and skip the gym. So I feel heartened that these routines are become exactly that — routine.

Next week I’ll be wrapping up by reflecting on whether or not this set of challenges has actually made me more grateful – or at least more inclined to feel grateful and content. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend. I’m volunteering with Habitat for Humanity tomorrow, so wish me luck. (Looks like I’ll just be doing paint prep and other things not too far outside my skill level — like, you know, roofing, or something.)

TGIF.