Staying Focused in the Hurricane

It’s been a full two weeks since my last post. In that time, so many things in my life have changed. My car went in for and out of the repair shop. My husband and I started looking for, found, and offered money for (that was accepted, yay!) a little house of our own. He and I also started a new vegan lifestyle that has changed the way we look at our eating habits and how we cook.

During this time, I started taking the bus to work. Turns out Nashville has a regular, well-run, clean and fast mass-transit (bus) system! Taking the bus meant that I either had to get out of bed earlier, get to work later, or lose a lot of my me-time in the middle.

You’ve heard this story before: it’s like If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, but with your needs. If you don’t have a car, you have to take the bus. If you take the bus, you have to make time to walk to the stop. If you walk to the stop, you have to cut out meditation. If you cut out meditation, you start to feel icky. If you start to feel icky, you have to be on guard for self-medicating behavior.

I was lucky to stay on a semi-schedule because I have to get up for work, and I have a wonderful, supportive husband who is willing to help me stay on track. I also was able to take a few minutes to meditate while walking to the bus or driving home from work when I borrowed the car.

What I have been missing is my morning routine of journal, yoga, meditation that has kept me so grounded for the past few months. The struggle to stay balanced and happy not only depends on the things you do, but how you view the struggles you’re presented with.

So, how do you stay focused on staying well in the middle of upheaval? What do you focus on (or ignore!)? Let me know in the comments!

Time Investment and Relationships

Last week I traveled to Buffalo, NY, to visit friends from high school. These ladies were not those I considered my best friends for much of high school. We didn’t have a ton of classes together and we didn’t engage in a lot of activities after school together, either.

What made these relationships different was that when we went away later in life, to college, to jobs, to other cities, we always found ways to make time for one another.

So now, 15 (yup, that long!) years since we graduated high school, we still make time for one another at least once a year. I live in Nashville and my ladies live in Buffalo, but they come down here or I fly up there. My parents no longer live in Rochester, where we all went to high school, so that makes visits more difficult because we don’t have the holidays to share with one another.

When I started this post–two weeks ago as I was thinking about my journey to Buffalo–I was thinking about how the time and resource investment is what makes these relationships special. There are friends of mine from that same period in my life that are visiting Nashville this week, but although we were close then and follow one another on social media now, we haven’t made the requisite time investment to see one another recently.

This is what changes people in your life from acquaintances to friends and from friends to family: the amount of time you invest into your relationships. Your Significant Other becomes the most important person in your life, and eventually a member of your family (if you’re lucky) because the two of you invest time in building your relationship. Remember that “best friend” you had once upon a time? You spent all that time together and really connected because you spent that time together. There may have been some initial chemistry in any of these relationships, but the investment is really what will carry them through.

When people say “Relationships are work,” sometimes they mean that one has to make compromises and do things one doesn’t want to do, but more than that, on a basic level, relationships require investments of time and attention. What do you invest your time in, and in whom do you invest? Contemplating (and actually answering!) these sorts of questions are a path to happiness.

So: who and what?!

Little Bits of Happiness | Scrumming our Home Lives

My husband and I are both middle children of highly intelligent and motivated parents. We are both in our early thirties and in our second (or third!) careers. We love to learn and to work, and we’re protective of our free time. In addition, we tend to over-commit ourselves. We go to meetups and groups and classes, and all of this is after our normal work day has ended. This may make us early-Millennial generation poster children, or it just may make us products of our culture and upbringings (are those the same things?).

Well before we got married, Hubs and I were already working toward common goals. We’ve always worked pretty well as a team, which is one of the reasons we work so well in our relationship. Back in our first year living together, we decided to make fitness a priority and ran a half-marathon six months later. We decided to make careers our priority, and we’ve now moved from jobs that weren’t making us entirely happy into more lucrative and fulfilling positions. And gosh-darnit, we put on a wedding. Want to test a relationship? Plan a wedding together.

So now that all the honeymoon stars in our eyes are clearing, and we’re actually planning on taking a honeymoon, we’ve started a Honey-do list. This keeps us responsible for our own tasks and gives each of us a sense of ownership over our household duties. And, we’re using the Kanban technique and Trello app I referenced in my earlier Little Bits of Happiness post.

Here’s a screenshot of our Honey-do board on Trello. This is what we use to track the household chores we need to do, what we are doing, what is blocked, and how we celebrate what has been done! We pull from the “Parking Lot” on our Monday night meeting. We have a full week to get through all that week’s tasks (or not) and then we celebrate and discuss our issues on the next Monday night meeting.

It’s been working pretty well! I have not done the worms (harvested the worm compost) or cleaned the floors this week (I also need to charge my phone!), but that’s for tonight.

I also assume that once we start doing big-kid things like buying a house or procreating, that Parking Lot list will be a lot longer. For now, we’re just getting used to the idea, but the weekly meeting and the board are great motivators.

What do you to keep yourself motivated for all of that extra stuff?

Meditation | OMG I just can’t sit for that long

Whenever I share with others that I meditate, which is not often, I get one of a few responses:

a. meditation saved my life

b. I can’t sit still/quiet my mind for that long

c. huh (disinterested glazed-over look)

d. I wish I could do that, but I don’t have the time/the energy/the patience

I used to try to convince those who showed interest that meditation really was a wonderful thing, that it has saved my life, that it has made me a better, more patient and forgiving person, that it was easy, that it was worth the time spent, and that they could do it, too.

And then, one day, I remembered that I don’t like to be preached to. I don’t like anyone else telling me about their conversion experiences. Real change must find its own way to you. It took me three years of therapy and lots of missteps to actually commit to sitting down on the mat (or pillow, or chair, or whatever) and trying to do nothing for just a little while.

So, if it’s just not worked before or you’ve just been too scared/tired/busy to try, here’s some advice I’ve gathered over the years:

1. If you can sit quietly for one minute, then you can meditate. Start small. Don’t expect too much from yourself. No one’s ever been the world’s best meditator, so really, do not put so much pressure on yourself!

2. Try a bunch of different types of meditation: guided, counting, breathing, walking. Also, try different body positions: sitting, standing, laying down, working with props. One of these will be your favorite, your baseline. Others you’ll use for those days you feel wonky or weird. Try them all, it’s good to have a bunch of tools at your disposal. Don’t expect that your brand of bliss is going to look like mine.

3. Read as much as you can on the subject. It’s good to know that other people are having just as much trouble (and success) as you are! It may also give you great ideas for mantras or intentions to guide your practice.

4. Not every time you sit on the mat is going to be life-changing. Sometimes, you’re going to get up before your timer is done. Sometimes you are going to chase your thoughts. Sometimes you are going to feel icky and bad. Remember, meditation is a practice. It is what makes every other part of your life (the game!) a little bit better.

5. Meditation is not about clearing the mind (h/t theyogadoer). You are going to have thoughts. You are human! Meditation is the time to say “Yup, there that thought is. I think that sometimes,” and then, in the immortal words of Elsa, “Let It Go!”

6. Have a focus in mind when you sit down.The focus is that place you snap back to when you realize you’ve been making the grocery list or thinking about what your hair would look like another color or how you’re going to deal with that guy at work.  Some people find that just following the flow of their breathing is helpful. Others find that repeating a mantra with their breath (“I’m Okay” is a favorite suggestion from my long-time friend and life coach Meg Cline) helps to focus their practice. If you’re working in a guided meditation, follow the leader’s prompts.

No pressure, though.

What’s in Your Jug?

I have an app on my phone called “Buddha.” All it does is give me sage little nuggets of advice, proverbs and aphorisms that I think about during my day. I had one recently that I can’t get out of my head:

A jug fills drop by drop.

Ok. So, depending on whether you’re a half-full or half-empty kind of kid, or maybe somewhere in between, this can feel like a boost or a weight.

The way I see it is that your jug, your life, is filled with drops. Sometimes there is a steady stream of them and sometimes they come slowly. Some of these drops are sweet and some are bitter, but eventually they’re going to fill that jug.

I don’t have much to add except for a question: What is in your jug?