My goal for this year has been to slow things down so I can live my life more intentionally.
I’m impulsive by nature, and, much as I talk about mindfulness, I am not a naturally mindful or present person. I’m often distracted, my brain either consumed by the past or the future. When a decision needs to be made, I can get caught up in the moment and end up saying or doing something that is not aligned with my personal values.
Recently I decided that I wanted to come up with questions I can ask myself in the moment when I am about to say or do something. The questions would be unique to me; they’d be questions that would help me to check in with who I am and be sure that I am acting in a way that’s centered around my values and not other people’s expectations.
The questions I came up with are NOT unique to me, as it turns out. In fact, they’re almost verbatim the questions that I’ve heard people recommend in rooms of recovery – questions to ask yourself before you speak.
1. Is it kind?
2. Is it helpful?
3. Is it true?
I had forgotten about these questions. Their intent, I think, is to help people to realize that we don’t always have to say everything we think – particularly if what we want to say is not kind, helpful, or true. I mostly think of these questions when it comes to what I say, but they’re also effective for checking in before I act. I tweaked them, just a little, so that I could use them every time I need to make a decision about what to say or do.
Am I being honest?
Am I being kind?
Am I being authentically myself?
It’s early in the morning as I write this, and I have a day full of decisions ahead of me. Will those questions help me to slow down and be intentional with my choices and my words? We shall see.
I’ve written a few previous posts about my wish to have everything in my life align with who I am and what I value most. I started calling this Life Alignment, without knowing if this was a real thing or just something I made up in my head. For me, Life Alignment means:
Everything in my life – work, hobbies, side hustles, family – is somehow aligned, connected, in a kind of flow.
There is a common theme or passion running through everything in my life.
Everything in my life feels like it’s in balance and harmony.
You’re forgiven if this doesn’t make sense to you; I’m still figuring it out myself! I don’t always know how to describe Life Alignment, but I know it when I see it. Like my friend whose passion in life is early childhood mental health; her job is in that field, she listens to podcasts and reads articles and books related to that subject, and she spends as much of her time around young children as possible. And my friend who is all about social change and service; he works in that realm, he volunteers and advocates for causes he cares about in his free time, and he is well-informed and well-read on the issues he cares about. THAT’S what Life Alignment is to me.
The summer is a great time to reflect, and I started a little low-validity low-stress research project related to Life Alignment. I scrolled through my Facebook friends, one by one, and I took note of any friends that seem to have the kind of Life Alignment I am seeking. I was surprised to find that there weren’t many – maybe 15 people out of several hundred friends.
Now, to be fair – this was not a scientific experiment. For many of these people, I have no idea what their passions are or if their work lines up with their values. It could be that many more people feel they have Life Alignment, even if it doesn’t seem obvious to me that they’ve got it. And, for the 15 people that I see as having great Life Alignment – I have no idea if they feel aligned! Maybe my friend who is a yoga instructor and seems so passionate about her work and her hobbies secretly wishes she was a travel writer. Maybe my friend who spends all her time gardening and cooking actually wishes that her life was centered around education or politics. You cannot tell how satisfied someone is with their Life Alignment by checking their Instagram feed; I know this.
However, this non-scientific bit of research was helpful to me. It showed me that the thing I’m seeking is rare and perhaps challenging to achieve. It showed me that Life Alignment is probably not as clear-cut for most people as it is for my friend who teaches, plays, lives, and breathes softball. For most of us, perhaps it’s more subtle; there might be things that tie my life together, but maybe my life will have multiple themes that are woven together throughout my work, play, family, and home.
I scribbled a list of things that I’m passionate about, thinking, I’ll know that I have Life Alignment when my life includes all of these passions in some way. (Wait for it.) Here’s the list: writing; books + reading; adoption + family + parenting; children with special needs; the outdoors; exercise; mindfulness + meditation; laughter + silliness + play; honesty and authenticity and shameless truth telling; mental health + wellness + recovery; and service.
I mean, come on. Talk about unattainable! That list is long. Maybe it’s impossible to incorporate every single one of your passions into your life’s work. For my current job, I’m a school social worker at a public middle school. That means my work days could potentially incorporate the themes of mindfulness, meditation, laughter, silliness, play, mental health, wellness, and parenting. That’s a lot; there’s a lot of potential to weave my interests into my days. Of course, to do so, I have to be intentional. I have to either work toward achieving Life Alignment or just allow Life Alignment to have a stronger influence on my everyday activities than other factors might.
I’m going to continue to explore this topic, in my writing and in my thoughts. I’ve slowing been developing a skeleton plan for how to have greater alignment in my personal and professional life. Getting a job with summers off was an amazing first step. Incorporating mindfulness and play into my work is a great second step. Onward!
Sometimes I get what Brené Brown would call a vulnerability hangover. I have one of those today. It’s an awful feeling of regret and self-consciousness that I get after I truly open up and am honest in front of other people.
I’m an introvert, and in general, I am an overthinker who is pretty cautious about what I say to others. But sometimes, when the stakes are high, my guard goes down and I speak my truth. I just lay it out on the table, without censoring.
Then, anytime from a few minutes later to a few hours later, I start to feel stressed and panicky. I worry that I said the wrong thing. I can feel my skin crawling because of my discomfort. This was my experience all night long this week, during the time when I was hoping to be sleeping.
Last night, when I couldn’t sleep yet again, I started to practice something I describe as aggressive mindfulness. To be honest, mindfulness hasn’t really been on my agenda this month. My daily morning and evening routines have been pretty off, and I’ve had so much on my mind that it’s been challenging to bring myself fully into the present moment.
But last night, when I couldn’t sleep, and my mind would wander – I would talk to myself sort of sharply and say, We are NOT thinking about that now; we’re sleeping. It worked – sort of, because I had to repeat this about 975 times.
It took a little while to realize that what I was practicing was an aggressive kind of mindfulness practice. But it totally was. I strive to utilize mindfulness in my daily life, and I often succeed – but I am also plagued by regrets about things I’ve said or done and anxieties related to the future, and those thoughts and feelings all stem from my struggle to stay in the present moment. I often forget that it’s my goal to stay in the present moment. Which is silly, because being fully present would help me to feel happier, more confident, and stronger in my day-to-day life.
But, that’s how self-care and self-improvement work for me. I am great at utilizing tools when things are really, really bad – but on a regular day, I forget all about it. So this week, when I really needed to pull myself away from regretful thoughts and into the present moment, I did it over and over again. But on a regular basis, I completely forget that practicing mindfulness is an important goal I have for myself.
This month, with work stress and a busy packing/moving schedule, I think utilizing aggressive mindfulness will be really valuable for me. But, once my vulnerability hangover is over, I really hope that I’m able to remember that staying in the present moment isn’t a strategy that’s only available to me in crisis. It’s a superpower that’s accessible every single day of my life, if I can only remember to use it
If all goes well, we are MOVING TO A NEW HOME in October 2019. Yikes! It’s exciting and stressful simultaneously, as many happy changes are.
I’m trying to keep my goals manageable this fall. Here’s what I came up with for this month.
Maintain my blogging routine + continue my break from the novel. I am barely managing to keep my blogging routine consistent, so I know that any fiction writing would be a long shot this month. It felt really good in September to acknowledge that fiction writing just wouldn’t be feasible; admitting that you need to take a break frees you from the guilt of I should be writing.
Re-establish your daily/weekly routines and your everyday self-care strategies. With the move, it feels like it will be necessary to regroup and get back on track. I’ve been doing an okay job with self-care and rituals, but the house hunting and packing have really interfered.
Do a whole bunch of decluttering, packing, and moving without losing your mind.
Just be yourself all day long. I’m sure I’ll write more on this in another post, but I’ve had an interesting first month back at work, and my authentic self was sort of laid out on the table for all to see. Since I can’t take it back, I’m going to work through this vulnerability hangover and just keep being my full self all day every day.
If all goes well, my next Monthly Goals post will be published from my new home! You all won’t notice a difference, but cheers to new beginnings anyway.
It has been a wild and crazy September. Last September, Jonas was born on the 3rd, and our fall was subsequently beautiful and hectic and unpredictably lovely. This year, our family has made some big decisions about home and life that are causing THIS September to be just as beautiful and hectic and unpredictably lovely.
What the HECK will next September bring?! That’s my question.
My daily gratitude practice has been keeping me grounded during this roller coaster ride. That said, here are 5 things I’m grateful for this September.
-My new office space. Last year, I worked in a former closet. This year, I have a beautiful new room in which to work and exist. It’s wonderful.
-The library. This month, for the first time ever, I exceeded the Baltimore County Public Library limit for how many books you can borrow at once. It’s 100, and the librarian looked at me like I was insane. But she didn’t judge me, and she even overrode the system so that I could borrow 7 additional books. What if we lived in a world without libraries? I shudder to think of it.
–Decluttering. I’ve been using the upcoming move as a chance to reorganize and declutter. IT FEELS AMAZING. I’m also reading Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin as I do it and that’s been an inspiring read.
-Coffee. I am considering cutting back on coffee. But that first cup, first thing in the morning, before Tamara and the boys wake up? IT’S MEDICINAL and I will never surrender it.
–Jonas. That little bundle of sunshine turned 1 year old this month. We celebrated with a helium balloon, a peach cake, a pop up tent, and a trip to Port Discovery. He is a doll and a joy and I’m thankful every day that I get to be his mommy.
Life is crazy times five right now. And for me, one of the side effects of life craziness is a struggle to focus and figure out what to write about.
Usually, blog post topics just come to me. But right now, all I think about is packing. Once I’m home and the kids are in bed, I look around at things in the house and I think, Can I pack that yet?
Because we’re MOVING. To a new house. I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around that yet! And I’ve moved many times before – at least 10 times in the last 15 years, if not more. But – and this is important – I have never packed up my entire life and moved it to a new home while parenting two kids. I know everything’s going to get done, but the HOW of it all is not clear to me.
I’m sure I’ll write more about the new house and our homemaking goals eventually. But right now, as we sign paperwork and pack nervously, I don’t think I’ll want to write too much about the new house until everything is signed and sealed.
So then – what do I write about? I had lots of posts on deck related to habits, routines, and rhythms, but those are going to change when we move. And this move is going to be such a great opportunity to form new household and family routines. It seems silly to write about new school year habits when they’re all going to change in less than a month. (LESS THAN A MONTH.)
I expect to write a few posts checking in on how my self-care and stress level have been as the school year has started. (Spoiler Alert: they both could be better.) And I expect to have a few filler posts, mini check-ins or brief gratitude lists. The length and depth of my posts may vary until we’re more settled, but my goal is still to post twice weekly. Stay tuned!
Just when I thought that this fall would be calmer and less chaotic than last fall, we made a big decision and now my to-do list is reallyreallyreally long.
There are a lot of big changes coming up. It’s all good stuff – all great news. But there are certain intentions I set for the school year – about the habits I want to build related to cleaning, organizing, and leisure time – that may be slightly more challenging to meet as we deal with the upcoming changes.
The good news is that in addition to the fresh start that I’ve gotten with the new school year, I’m going to have an addition fresh start. And I always love a fresh start – such a great opportunity to press the reset button, adjust habits and routines, and rethink the way things have been going in my life.
So, I am gearing up for a crazy four weeks, followed by a blissful (but still busy) month afterward. And I’m not quite sure how that will affect my blogging routine! But I’m staying committed to publishing two posts a week throughout the chaos. STAY TUNED.