What if you are enough; what if you have enough

person holding dandelion flower

At about this time two years ago, I read What if this were enough? a book of essays by Heather Havrilesky. After a prolonged self-improvement/professional development rampage, I was having a bit of an existential crisis and that somehow led me to Havrilesky’s book (along with Oliver Burke’s delightful The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and Anne Lamott’s essential book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope).

My kitchenette remodel notwithstanding, I have started to train myself to be satisfied with what I have and who I am. Our society is a bit relentless and promoting the ongoing pursuit of acquiring more and more and becoming better and better. It’s exhausting. 

We all need a time out. Or maybe we just need an out. 

Something about this book sticks with me in a way that others often don’t. It’s a cautionary tale about striving for a perfect state of perfection. Havrilesky reminds us there is no ideal version of us waiting in the future. All we have is our imperfect selves in the imperfect now.

You don’t need to be thinner, richer, better dressed, a fancier car, three vacation homes, new jewelry, an Instagram-curated life to love yourself as you are right now. It’s a standing invitation that we can accept at any time.

So why not now? Love yourself. You can still grow and improve if you want to, but you deserve love right now. 

Check out this PBS Books interview with Heather Havrilesky.

The Minimalism Experiment Continues

Coffee cup on a white background

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon The Minimal Mom on YouTube, but now I’m a regular viewer. I have taken many small steps toward minimalism, including reading The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker. I now know that I misunderstood a key tenant of minimalism. It’s not the same as minimalism in art, and it doesn’t mean forsaking all possessions (although it might). It means having enough. It means having what you need.

I can now see that my particular challenge is in having multiples (10 pairs of jeans, three sets of flatware, five Christmas trees, three sets of queen size sheets …. and we no longer have a queen-sized bed!) and also in keeping things that I no longer need either because they are nice or because I spent a lot of money on them. But they don’t pass the “do I need this?” test.

Here’s the interesting thing: now that I have started, it’s becoming increasingly easier to let go of things. This video on coffee cups (at the 9:44 mark) really hit me because I love coffee, and I have many, many coffee cups. So many that some that go unused. She mentions that coffee cups need to fulfill their purpose. But I only use a small subset of my coffee cups. That means I had about a dozen cups that weren’t fulfilling their purpose. WE CAN’T HAVE THAT! Coffee cups must fulfill their purpose! 

And now I can’t stop. We’ve Freecycled and dropped off two loads at Goodwill, and two stacks are waiting by the door. 

And I have found that by taking away what I don’t need, I see what remains more clearly. And I appreciate it. And it stands out and all remaining coffee cups are fulfilling their purpose.

Cover Photo by Weronika Karczewska on Unsplash

Put it down in a letter to yourself

Red envelope on a golden yellow background.

Holidays and especially the new year are times for rituals of introspection and reflection. It helps to write it out and talk it out. I think we can all agree that 2020 did a number on us, and we need these rituals more than ever. The exercises below are both inspired by a coaching friend. 

The high five list is your year-in-review list. Instead of (or in addition to) resolutions for change the new year, catalog your current awesomeness! What went well in the past year? What deserves a high five? Take 10 minutes and see if you can come up with 10 things to add to your 2020 High Five List. 

I feel pretty strongly that if ever there was a time to lower the bar, it’s 2020. If you kept a decent stock of toilet paper on hand, give yourself a high five for that. Learned to navigate grocery store pick up? High five, my friend! Did you make masks? High five! Become a champion hand washer? High five!

The letter to yourself is a tradition that I learned about last year. You write a letter to yourself and tuck it in with your holiday decorations to be opened in a year. I wrote my letter in early January before all hell broke loose and completely forgot about it until I unpacked the holiday decorations a few weeks ago. I thought the letter would be one long, sad joke given the dumpster fire of a year that we’ve had, but I was pleasantly surprised at the many things I did and learned. It was a reminder of the power of hope. The aspirations and goals I set for myself in 2020 weren’t all for naught. Finding that letter was definitely a highlight of the holiday season.

The syllabus of life

Aurora meeting in Kirkjufell, Iceland by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

I had this thought recently about creating a syllabus for life, a list of things to learn, and read and do. It’s more work than a bucket list, perhaps, and there will be many tests, but it’s good work if you can get it. 

  • Know yourself.
  • Learn to love yourself. 
  • Exercise.
  • Eat well and develop a healthy relationship with food. 
  • Find and respect your boundaries and limits. 
  • Volunteer.
  • Learn another language.
  • Travel outside your comfort zone. 
  • Keep learning.
  • When starting something new, remember you will suck at it. Push through the suck.
  • Consider your spiritual life. 
  • Know that you are enough. 

What’s on your syllabus of life? 

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Who I am

The Temple of Apollo in Greece surrounded by green mountain and field

Last month, I shared my list of Who I’m Not. I don’t know why it was easier to start there. On the other hand, many a consulting project has started with the phase. “I know what I don’t want” so maybe it’s not a surprise.

There are so many conversations about values, being authentic, and knowing who you are here, here and here. (Plus, Moana.) And “know thyself,” is one of the maxims* inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. So we’ve been wrestling with this need for knowing for thousands of years. There are no hard and fast answers. It’s a struggle until it’s now. Often it’s a journey we make alone. It seems to be a recurring assignment on the syllabus of life.

Do we even know who we are?

There is so much noise in our lives. These are unprecedented times. It’s hard to be still and know. It’s hard to know who we are separate from what we have been trained/conditioned/socialized to be. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to drop into our bodies and know viscerally what we don’t like and what we don’t want to be.

Who am I?

Jeans-wearing tree lover, plant lover, dog and cat lover, quilter, painter, gardener, strong-willed, soft-hearted, fair, reliable, learner, reader, lover of the commons, fan of economics and economists, vegetarian, daily tofu eater, major coffee BBQ rub fan, reuser, recycler and upcycler, lover of beauty, and egalitarian. COFFEE DRINKER AF.

Who are you?

How do you know? How can you discover and uncover the answers?

P.S. *Good to keep in mind that the other two maxims are “Nothing in excess” and “Surety brings ruin.” We are all works in progress. We are all becoming.

P.P.S. Who I am? What I am? This is exactly the type of nerdy wordy conversations commonplace under my roof.

flat lay photography of eight coffee latte in mugs on round table

Virtual coffee date

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Negotiation, Creativity, and Inner Peace

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

I always have a stack of books and a long list of online classes. Here’s what’s come to the top in the last month.

I just finished Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. My big takeaway from the book is that negotiation is a big part of our lives, and our aversion to it doesn’t help us in the long run. Voss builds on the research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky–I wasn’t expecting a continuation of Thinking, Fast and Slow when I reserved this book at the library. Check out his talk at Google for the TL;DR alternative:

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning and just finished Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Your Creativity with Denise Jacobs. I attended an online summit several months ago and heard Denise speak about the inner critic. Then about a month ago, she was featured on a LinkedIn live event on creativity. 

I have been making my way through How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie (best known for his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People). As Jen Sincero of You Are a Badass fame would say, it’s an old-timey book. What surprised me is how relevant a book first published in 1948 feels in 2020. Carnegie’s work is filled with practical advice and was amazingly well-read and dedicated to helping people improve their lives.

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

Keep Learning

Stylish woman working on a laptop. Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

I am a big fan of LinkedIn Learning. Many of the video segments are 5-10 minutes so almost everyone can fit a little bit of training into their day. I find that even when the topics are familiar, these online classes offered a great refresher and even new insights. 

LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com a few years ago, and you may still see it referenced that way. Lynda.com was my go-to source for software training for a very long time.

Here are some of my favorites:

LinkedIn Learning may be available through work as a professional development opportunity or as an electronic resource through your local library. Check it out!

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

The Listener

Black lab listening with cocked head. Dogs are the best listeners.

Sometimes I talk too much, but mostly I don’t. I’m a listener. I listen to understand. Listening is also a gift I can give to others. I have observed that many, many people are longing to be heard. And to be understood.

In times like these, it feels especially important to listen: listen with an open heart and an open mind. To be prepared to be wrong and to make mistakes – and to be humbled. We need to listen for the ways that we need to change, the actions we need to take, and the reparations we need to make. 

Many people are waking up to a reality they have long avoided. And many people have suffered too long in that reality.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Ready, set, write.

Journal, computer and coffee--all the tools to start writing! Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

I have always wanted to be a writer, and I meet a lot of other people who want to be writers. But most people stop before they get going. They give up because the prose doesn’t flow out in the perfect way they imagine in their minds. Or they don’t plan their writing projects and get slammed by fast-approaching deadlines. Sometimes people give up because they get frustrated with their bad results, the editing process, the self-doubt, and sometimes the soul-crushing feedback. Many people don’t realize that many accomplished writers deal with the same frustrations and must face their demons again and again.

Don’t let self-doubt derail your writing aspirations

In a recent interview with Stephen King in the New York Times, David Marchese asked King how he knew whether a piece was working. King, author of 60-plus books and more than 200 short stories replied, “I never did anything that I thought was working. When I get in the middle of something, a part of me is always saying to myself, This is certainly a piece of [expletive].”

It might be a piece of crap or you might think it is, but don’t let that stop you. Realize that the words aren’t going to flow from your pen in perfect form on the page. Writing doesn’t work that way.

Don’t give up your writing dreams!

That’s why I love these Study Hall: Composition videos by ASU with Crash Course hosted by ASU composition student and fellow Sun Devil Yumna Samie.

Study Hall: Composition is a great intro (or refresher) on what works. It helps new writers get started and seasoned writers get back in the game.

I like this seven-video series videos because Yumna is engaging, the videos are short, and the content is actionable. You will learn a repeatable writing process from these videos.

I Googled Yumna to learn more about her because that’s what curious people do 🙂 and I found this short TEDx talk from 2019:

I admire her willingness to retire from being over competitive and her willingness to pursue something that she could not do well–running. It endeared her to me all the more.

So if you have always wanted to write, start here and start today.

Want to know the secret to better writing? It’s more writing!
(And more revising. And more editing.)

Time to start! Or start again. You’ve got this.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Latest Résumé Addition: Pothole Remediator

The gravel road

We live on a private, unpaved road – it’s a bumpy ride on rock and dirt, y’all, nothing fancy. Winter weather does a number on our street, and it’s pretty eroded in places. One of our angel neighbors has been on self-assigned pothole duty since we moved here a few years ago. We’ve helped a couple of times, but we felt like we needed to take the initiative.

In multiple ways, we realize that we are city kids who moved into the country knowing nothing about rural life. It’s been an education, and not always a pretty one. But we are learning and have accepted the inevitable mistakes that are part of the learning process.

In early March, before we shut everything down, we ordered a small load of rock (about 5-6 cubic yards) from a neighbor who mostly does commercial projects but makes deliveries in our neighborhood. The neighbors on the street have been talking about having the road redone, but it’s a pretty hefty price tag, $20-30K. (Be grateful for your city-owned and maintained streets.)

So we ordered the rock to do our part in filling in the potholes. We ordered one-inch minus, which means it isn’t screened to one size, and you get everything from the one-inch rock down to rock dust. Our street is about .5 mile. I would guess there are about 200 holes. I haven’t counted them all; that’s just an estimate. Some are small, and some are huge. We tried different methods but landed on this: we shovel rock into about 15 of my super-versatile black buckets recycled from Trader Joe’s and load them in the back of my truck. Then we drive down the road stopping at various points to fill in the holes. Some holes require half of a bucket–some holes require 5 or 6 buckets. Sometimes we do one run, sometimes more than one.

We have no idea what we are doing, and I doubt this is an exact science, but some of our patches have held up well and seem cemented in place. Some got overwhelmed by the torrential rain we had recently and were underwater with some of the rock floating away. Also: most people do not drive gently on our road, so that kicks up the rock in the best of times.

I give us a solid B for the execution and an A for effort. I’m also counting all of that rock shoveling and hauling as a workout!