So I moved...to Florida. Compared to Buffalo and the cloudy, blistering-cold, gray that is the Northeast I feel as if I've entered a completely new world. And so far, I like it. Something about the heat and the sun makes it so much easier for me to simply enjoy life. It's the little things like taking a walk outside, enjoying a warm breeze while reading on the patio, seeing new birds, animals, reptiles, etc that to me have only ever existed in the zoo or in photos--it's a nice change, a new perspective. And I'm grateful.
Because I am no great lover of the snow and the cold, I have come up with ways to trick myself into thinking these are wonderful things since I live in the very cold and very snowy city of Buffalo, NY.
1. I bake cakes, telling myself I need the extra calories for warmth purposes.
2. I hand draw my Christmas cards, because why the hell not, it's better then scraping off my car and buying Christmas cards.
3. I decorate for Christmas a month in advance, because I need the extra warmth and glow from the Christmas tree lights to cheer me up.
4. I clean out all the things--closets, cabinets, bookcases--because I'm stuck inside anyway.
5. I knit blankets, which Ive read has calming effects--and they are warm.
6. I read like a mad woman, Ive already gotten through two books this week...it's Tuesday.
7. I journal, but I did that anyway, but now it's not like Im wasting a beautiful sunshine-filled day inside.
8. I use the snow as an excuse to skip the gym, better safe than sorry.
9. I actually made home made jam...Ive officially become my grandmother at the age of 32.
10. I start blogging again!
Here's a little cliche for your Tuesday...
"Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers."
In other words, slow down and enjoy the beauty all around you, right now. It may be hiding in the most unlikely of places or in your dear friends' faces, (you see what I did there?) but it's there.
People often associate minimalism with getting rid of stuff, a less is more mentality, and having more experiences over more things, and so on and so forth. All those things are great, fantastic even, and I try to incorporate them in my life. The most rewarding application of the minimalist philosophy for me, however, has been cutting the crap from my to do list and saying no to opportunities and obligations not in line with my goals and values (and I am so bad at saying no…it’s ridiculous).
I keep track of my to do’s on a giant chalkboard in my office. I got the idea from the Being Boss Chalkboard method (Being Boss is an awesome weekly podcast for creative entrepreneurs that I kind of love). I change it up from month to month to suit my mood. But I was creeping back into my "let's do all the things" mindset. In October, I had this huge long to do list where I had a bullet point for every freaking thing I was interested in accomplishing. And most of that stuff, I just didn't finish. Instead, that giant unfocused list made me feel scattered and all over the place. I didn’t make time for the stuff that mattered.
So for November, I thought, “What if I focused on maybe one or two things? Could I be more productive, more successful at getting shit done?” My creative writing was sitting far too low on my to do list and I never got much written—starting and stopping a number of different novels, short stories, and essays (because heaven forbid I choose just one kind of project). Thanks to the added incentive of NanoWriMo 2016, I feel freaking amazing! It’s been a week, and I've written over 10,000 words towards my novel and busted my ass at the gym, culminating in a Sunday 5k for the hell of it. I think this minimalist approach to my to do list is working so far. I’ve already been more productive in a week then I was the whole month of October. I don't have the “should have” guilt eating away at me each night when my head hits the pillow and I’m not waking up at 3 am in a panic that I’m wasting my life—I’m doing the things I want to be doing.
There's always the stuff you've got to do like clean your house, buy groceries, go to work, etc., but what about the things that you want to do? Don't forget to make room for those! Maybe even put them at the top of your to do list every once in awhile. If we don’t make time for those goals, they will never get accomplished. As I’m already learning this month, all it takes is a little bit of time each day and a willingness to cut out the extraneous bullshit.
I have signed up to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) for the past three years and not once have I completed the challenge. The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. No small feat but not impossible either. But this year is to be my year! With an average of about 1700 words a day, I got this. I’ve already done 1764 words this morning!
I share this with you as an accountability tool. I'm putting it out there in the universe, November 2016 is the month of writing furiously. No matter how rough my draft, nor shitty my prose, I’m letting the words flow—putting my ego aside and smothering my inner critic. This ain’t going to be pretty, but I am going to do it.
I’ve said my piece. If you are interested in tearing your hair out and driving yourself crazy for a month too, you can learn more about the challenge on the NanoWriMo website.
I am a life curator, first and foremost—if I can get some outside perspective on crafting my day to maximize my joy and contribution to the world then bring it on.
One of the useful sources for this practice are personality quizzes for a little self awareness booster. They remind me what I am working towards and why. Some great ones I’ve done and found useful:
- Myers-Briggs (I’m an INFJ-free version at 16personalities)
- the enneagram (I’m a six)
- Gretchen Rubin's four tendencies quiz
- the big five
All have helped me become more aware of how I work best and craft my lifestyle to suit my needs.
A new quiz I stumbled on is the Passion Profile quiz from Clarity on Fire. Both Jeff and I took it for fun because recently we have been grappling with new ideas for side projects and feeling a little stuck. I am a Thriver—all for balance and freedom to do what I love (not so surprising) and Jeff is a Firestarter—the driven creator and innovator. The quiz highlights natural attributes and strengths, drawbacks and challenges, and what to do to optimize your natural talent.
I think of these quizzes as tools, not the end all, be all of who I am. Don't take them too seriously. Nothing is black and white and all people have unique attributes and experiences that shape who they are. These quizzes are designed to measure common strengths and weaknesses people possess and offer incite to what lifestyles and careers may work best for you.
As a tool, these quizzes have helped me:
- Make decisions about new directions or new things I want to try. I am always wanting to learn ALL the things and so I take on too many new projects all at once, neglecting the ones that really matter to me.
- Narrow in on what I really want and cut out the extraneous bullshit that sucks up my attention.
- Recognize my why for pursuing writing and flexible, fulfilling work. I need the freedom to get lost in my head and change up my schedule to refresh my creativity. (Something I know, but forget from time to time.)
- Minimize my to do list and focus on the one or two most important projects that push my writing and flexible work goals forward.
I hope you find these useful, and if nothing else, fun and insightful!
I do this thing on decent weather days, instead of the gym, I walk or jog outside (mostly walk). Winter is coming—I won’t be able to do this much longer— and there are only so many nice days in Buffalo once November hits. I am enjoying it up while I can.
On these walks, I try sorting through my brain without the distraction of the computer screen. I try lessening my anxiety over freelance work and projects. Sometimes I stumble onto solutions or answers to some big questions and worries. Often, I use the time to make phone calls or learn via podcast—however, such activities don’t clear my brain, and I end up with more stuff scrambling for attention in my head than before I started.
But in the moments when I allow myself to really see my surroundings, to allow something to catch my eye and engage my attention without the distractions in my head, I find that there is so much beauty all around me that I so often take for granted and fail to appreciate. And this beauty serves as inspiration for what I am working on. It infuses my senses and reminds me that nature is the true master, not email, or social media, or some article on how to succeed in your business.
Sometimes the answers are right in front of you; in the changing leaves or the deep hues of the flowers. Sometimes the answers lay asleep in your head, waiting for you to back away from the chaos so they can stretch and grow.
Last week, we embarked on a little adventure to the Pacific Northwest to a town called Seattle. No, it did not rain the whole time, in fact, it barely rained at all! And there are so many neat places to duck into that a little wind and rain ain't so bad.
A few highlights from our Seattle visit ...
The Seattle Waterfront
So cool! There is water everywhere in Seattle. Even walking way up to the East, I could still see the water. It's a bit on the windy side but when we needed to warm up a little we just headed over to the Pike Place Market - which is snuggled up nicely to the waterfront.
Pike Place Market
I wish I had more pictures of the Market. I have never seen such beautiful flowers in my life and the rows of fresh fruit and vegetables were astounding. There are both indoor and outdoor sections with crafts, restaurants, bakeries, unique gift shops and on on. Pretty much anything you can imagine exists in the Market. After four days of exploration, I still don't think I saw it all.
The Original Starbucks
Right near the entrance to Pike Place Market is the VERY FIRST Starbucks. So many tourists were gathered around the storefront taking photos (us included). We had to come back in the evening when the line was more reasonable for our Pumpkin Spice Lattes, because of course you have to get Pumpkin Spice Lattes from the original Starbucks.
Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit
The shit that people can do! Chihuly (the artist) is truly a creative genius. If you do anything when you come to Seattle, go to this exhibit.
The Space Needle
Another Seattle staple and well worth it. The views of this city are incredible and enjoying the views with a signature Space Needle IPA, well, that's just magical.
Pioneer Square and Waterfall Garden Park
Took a walk down to Pioneer Square, Seattle's original neighborhood. It's what comes to mind when I imagined Seattle in my head - eclectic, spunky, raw, and beautiful. Oh, and there is a waterfall park just chilling in the middle of the city - a little reprieve from the hustle and bustle.
Gas Works Park
Honestly, I thought this was just going to be a hunk of metal we looked at for five minutes and then moved on from, but Jeff insisted we visit anyway. It was beautiful!!! The site of the formal Seattle Gas Light Company, it's now a pretty great park with paths, and of course, crazy-good views.
There is so much to see and do in Seattle but a few quick favorites included The Pike Brewing Company, Seattle Public Library, Frye Art Museum and Cafe, Dahlia Bakery (the best little beignets I've ever had, peanut butter cookie sandwiches, and the friendliest people I think of all time - I felt so at home here I went twice), some quirky street art, and little parks all over the place.
I would like to offer advice to anyone who enjoys walking or running outside. It is polite to say hello or good morning/afternoon when you pass someone. Smile at a puppy or a baby, move out of the way for a serious jogger or multiple dog walker. All courteous behaviors.
What is not okay, however, is cat calling, harassment, or following said fellow walker or jogger. If you see someone chugging along, it's safe to say that they are exercising or enjoying their time alone outside and are not seeking to engage in a lengthy conversation or relationship with you—no matter how flattering you think you are.
You don't know that person’s past or feelings on being approached by strangers. They might not care. But they also might experience fear. Why would you want to scare someone enjoying their walk? They may be so frightened by your aggressive attempt to chat with them that they wish to shoot pepper spray in your face, scream at the top of their lungs, or any such other unnecessary actions if only you had just left them alone.
Everyone should feel safe walking or jogging outside in their own neighborhoods/parks/cities without harassment of any kind. A solitary jogger is not a target, or even a person particularly interested in having a conversation in that moment. Let’s all be courteous and respectful, shall we?
Ahh the South. Sticky sweet but always beckoning you back for more. I had quite forgotten the power of the Southern Sun and heat, and how a step outside can quickly steal your breath away. But not just because of the swampy humidity, but the beauty and mystery that lives in this part of the country.
A family vacation brought me back to the old South and with it beautiful architecture, some good ol' fashioned biscuits, glorious-looking trees, and breathtaking sunsets.
Here are a few highlights from our Southern excursion...