Setting Rhythms, Taking Rest

Today is the first day in quite a while that I feel a sense of progress, rather than of spinning my wheels. I have finished the two big things that were on my plate for the last few weeks – proposal revisions, and grant work. We’re writing a grant at work, and it’s a team effort. I’m a small part of that team, and grateful to be part of it. I’ve learned so much from the job that I love, and am fortunate that my supervisor, mentor and staff are all good people, the kind who inspire me, and who really work together. That’s something I don’t take for granted, having been part of a lot of teams over the course of my work life. And the proposal…ah, dissertations. Such an undertaking. Same mentor, different project, and here too I am glad to have him guiding me through it all. In spite of all that support and teamwork, I get stressed out. I suppose we all do. 

I find that when dealing with stress, it’s good to set some parameters around it. To set a rhythm, even. I will work on this project from hour X to hour Y. I write that down on my calendar, schedule it like a meeting with myself, and go to it, cup of coffee by my side, in my office or (more often) at home on the couch. Josh and I both work from home most days, and it’s usually quite companionable, music playing in the background, the pup nestled next to me on the couch. I set a timer to keep me working, and to let me know when to stop, and when it goes off, I find a stopping point and set the project aside. At dinner time, I stop for the day. Perhaps if there’s a deadline I’ll set the timer again and work in the evening, but I always stop to take a walk with Josh and the pup or watch a movie or play a board game later in the night. And at bedtime, I wash my face, brush my teeth, and curl up in bed with my book for a while, then turn off the light. “It is done for the day,” I tell myself. And – this is always true – it will still be there tomorrow. It is good to know what “enough” looks like, in the context of one day, and to have a sense of when we have done enough.  

I also find that it helps to have a rhythm throughout my day. I try to get up around the same time in the morning, make coffee and brush my teeth, sit outside for a few minutes, get dressed, have a bite to eat, and then (this is important) check my list of tasks for the day and decide what’s important. What needs to get done, on this day? In what order? That helps me decide what to work on, and gives me a way to check back and know when I am done. In the evenings, too, I have a routine. I’m not married to it – if a friend calls and says “let’s get an ice cream,” I go and have an ice cream. Being social, cultivating some spontaneity and close relationships, is one of the keys to a well lived life. But in general, a daily rhythm has been good for me, when I’ve been able to maintain it. I think it’s good for the dog, and for Josh and our relationship, and while I think it’s important right now for our childless state of being, I think it will be even more important when we have children. For kids, daily rhythm is essential (for a great article on family rhythm and how one family goes about it, click here).

We decide how much of our lives we will devote to a thing, even work. I think it’s popular in our culture to talk about how busy we are, and to dwell on our stress. I think perhaps we should stop that. I was so inspired by a professor who told me she was “giving up busy-ness.” When I asked what that meant, she said “I’m going to do one thing at a time, and not talk about how busy I am.” Such a simple commitment, but such a revolutionary one.

I am giving up being busy. Trying to, anyway. I too will try to do one thing at a time, to set my tasks for the day, go to them, and then set them aside when the day is done, to take a rest. I will try to follow a rhythm in my life. And I will focus on how fortunate and grateful I am to be doing work that I love, rather than how busy I am. Busy-ness, as my friend and professor Jenny so astutely pointed out, is more a state of mind, a way that we choose to experience and approach our daily lives.

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30×30

Next week, I turn 30.

Have you dear readers seen those “30 before 30” lists that people make, with 30 resolutions to accomplish before their 30th birthday? I made one of those, and now I’m afraid to even look at it, because it went sort of like this:

Resolution: learn to play a stringed instrument.

Progress: I bought a ukulele. At Christmas. I’ve practiced 3 or 4 times…

I’m not sure I’d call myself someone who actually plays the ukulele, so much as someone who spent fifty bucks on one. Sigh. Resolution fail. I’ve been doing this with New Year’s Resolutions for my entire life. So, in the spirit of beating myself up less (I think that was number 13 on the original list…), I’m just going to call it 30×30ish, and put my resolutions on the internet so that maybe I’ll feel obliged to honor some more of them. Here we go!

  1. Learn a stringed instrument. For real this time.
  2. Learn more Spanish. (I’d like to be conversationally fluent)
  3. Go snorkeling in Belize (this one is happening, on a trip with my awesome mom and sister and Aunt Maurie, and it’s going to be EPIC).
  4. Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen and sunglasses every day.
  5. Exercise every day. Cultivate the habit. (So far my longest streak is four days…ha! So I’ll settle for four days a week. I’d call that effective habit change.)
  6. Finish my PhD coursework (Two. More. Weeks.!!!)
  7. Stop complaining. And nagging, which is complaining’s bossy cousin.
  8. Talk less impulsively? I need some sort of filter between the thoughts in my head and the words I say out loud.
  9. Start remembering the laundry in the washing machine, instead of forgetting it for three days at a time.
  10. Eat better. More plants. Less sugar.
  11. Cultivate the habit of keeping my car clean so I won’t be so embarrassed to let someone ride in it (I actually did this one! Hooray! Sheila the Civic is generally spotless on the inside – although the outside, it being pollen season, is bright bright yellow at the moment, but so is everyone else’s car – that’s life in springtime)
  12. Be better about keeping regular doctor’s appointments (done! I’ve been to see my everyday doctor, my lady doctor, my optometrist…and the dentist is next week! They were all quite polite about how long it had been since my last visit. Sorry, Mom. But look how much better I’m doing!)
  13. Go to more live concerts, because they make me happy.
  14. Start contra dancing again, for the same reason
  15. Find some balance. (I thought this would be the hardest one, but actually, it’s one I’ve done well with. I think it was all about realizing that I really do care more about life with Josh and family and friends, and about living a healthy balanced life, than I do about anything else, so I stopped putting other things like work and school and busy-ness before those two most important things. School matters, of course, but family matters so much more).
  16. Get on a real sleep schedule. (I did it! It’s about consistency, and avoiding caffeine at night, and I think exercise and eating right and managing stress are important too…but mostly it’s just deciding to go to bed and get up at a reasonable hour. And avoiding sugar. I swear, sugar is no good. But so tempting…)
  17. Join a CSA (done! We joined the one at Coon Rock Farm, and we’re looking forward to deliveries starting in a week or two!)
  18. Start keeping a planner, faithfully (done! Mine is the Life Planner from Erin Condren, by the excellent recommendation of my friend/boss Stephanie, and I live and die by it. It’s made life a lot better, because I no longer forget the important stuff).
  19. Spend more time outside (easy this time of year!)
  20. Ride my bike more
  21. Reconnect with my best friend (Done! Sarah Daye, be we in different towns or different planets, let’s never drift apart again. Ever).
  22. Make more art.
  23. Give up diet soda (I know. This one again? But I’m just no good at honoring it. It’s a problem).
  24. Finish an academic paper, and send it to a journal (I’m trying to go easy on the academic goals, because this blog is all about having a life outside of school).
  25. Go on vacation with our dear friends Zack and Amanda again this year! And every year. They’re our perfect pair to vacation with.
  26. Keep in better touch with my sister, who is one of my favorite people on earth. She came up with this one. It was a good one. We e-mail every day now, which is quick and easy and now we’re turning into one of those pairs of sisters who communicate about all life events major and minor in real time. I love it. If we start dressing all creepy like the Olson twins, someone stage an intervention, but until then, I think it’s awesome.
  27. Visit New York. (Confession: I have never explored America’s most famous city. Not ever. This is the year I really do it.)
  28. Keep minifying (it’s an ongoing resolution).
  29. Be a better pet owner (Take the dog to some training classes, and more walks, and more adventures. And take better care of the fish tank. I love my fish tank. But I could do a better job as its sovereign protector. Like changing the filter on an actual schedule…)
  30. Have more adventures with Josh. We’ve had such a fun ten years(!) since we met – here’s to making the next ten even more of an adventure.
  31. The end goal, so to speak – I just want to keep working more on being the kind of person I can really like. There are a lot of things I like about myself. There’s a lot of room for improvement. All things in time…but I think part of growing up is learning to treat other people well, to think before you speak, to take things in stride…and those are all things I’m still working on. I probably always will be! Maybe we all are.

So. I’m not going to stress out over how few of these I’ve accomplished yet. I’m just going to write them all down, take a deep breath, and remember that I have the rest of my life. 30 is just another year, and I have the feeling it’s going to be a great one!

The best run ever

Last weekend, I ran a 5k! Now I know that might not sound like much to you bonafide runners, but for me, that’s about 4.5 kilometers more than I could run in August. In keeping with my habit change theme, I’ve spent the last 2 months cultivating a running habit. I run a couple of times a week with the pup. Sometimes my husband joins us. I’ve stayed motivated with the promise of a 5k that I was very excited about….A run taking place all over the country called Color Me Rad! Or as I like to think of it, running through a tie-dyed wonderland. It was this past weekend, and it was awesome.

I ran it with some of my classmates. While I started out looking like this:

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It ended with me looking like this :

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I had so much fun! I really think that having a goal in mind (this 5k) made developing a running habit much easier. And I was so glad to be able to run the whole thing with my friends!

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