[Mindful Monday] Review of September

September’s been jam-packed with changes: my son started public school, I started a part time job, and clients have been knocking on my door. I’ve been focusing on balance and recovering from a difficult time period. As the month ends, I’m happy to share that my focus on recovery has been successful. I’m still working on balancing everything out, but I think I’m becoming more accustomed to my varying schedule. I’ve scheduled posts for nearly everyday in September, minus Friday and Saturday — but I think I can forgive myself those two days considering. I have explored what matters to encourage myself to focus on balancing and recovering. I have found inspiration in the usual places, as well as some unexpected places.

Looking ahead, October and November will be about rebuilding. During the next two months, I’ll be focusing on rebuilding routines, rebuilding our savings, rebuilding my websites, and rebuilding my life. In December, I will be reverberating. In January I will finish realigning my websites — and my life’s focus — in order to make 2012 successful.


#MindfulMonday Reframing

Last week I read an essay by Patrick Rhone about how we apply frames to what we do and how we go about doing it. For a while, I had come to terms with the word “blogger,” sort of allowing myself to become a blogger who blogs. I remember when I originally started this, the term “blog” seemed vulgar to me. I hated it. I didn’t want to say it aloud. And yet here I am, a blogger who blogs — not anymore. I am a writer who merely hasn’t published any major works just yet. I write nearly everyday, and I simply use the blog platform as a means to publish my essays. If I continue to view this as blogging to be a blogger, I’m not going to move forward with my goals of writing. I want to publish meaty works, but I’m still practicing and honing my craft via essays. These aren’t your public school five paragraph essays, but they are essays. I have no need for a thesis statement with three neatly sculpted points to make before concluding with some well-thought out conclusion. I assume my readers grasp the main concept behind my essay simply by reading through it — from start to finish.

This ties in with my efforts to realign myself and my work. If I don’t add reframing into the recipe, I would be missing a key element to achieving my dreams. And because I’m brimming with “re” words these days, I’m currently working to reinvent myself. I’ve been inspired by Jasmine of the The Brokins and her Project Totus, and she asked me what I’m doing in response to my comment expressing as much. Well Jasmine, I’m not quite sure yet — but I know that I want to stop living in this place, in this frame of mind that continues to oppress me. In following with that inspiration, Gwen Bell’s weekly intentions got me thinking about making my own weekly intentions. I currently have a sticky note on my laptop that reads “my intention for this week is to escape oppression.” In short, I’m tired of feeling like I have to deal with the day-to-day drama that seems to permeate my life without my permission. I have a few options to deal with these feelings, but I know in my heart that I desperately want and need change. I’ve already been granted a means to affect that change, but now the ball rests back in my hand, awaiting my next move. Where I throw that ball next remains to be seen — but you can bet I’m going to channel the inspiration that seems prevalent in my life, even when more negative energy seems to monopolize my environment.


#MindfulMonday What Matters Now

Seth Godin has posed this question before: what matters now? And truly, we do need to stop to ask ourselves this question. Right now. Sit down. Grab some paper and a writing utensil (I’m particularly fond of colored pens). What matters now? Here, I’ll go first…

My family’s financial wellbeing — and our overall wellbeing, of course — matters now. I’ve taken measures to do my part to recover from our financial disaster and begin rebuilding our lives. Right now, I must have focus, discipline, patience, strength, and stamina. This didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t magically change overnight, either. Right now, writing from the heart matters. While I’d certainly adore earning a living through my writing, right now I have to focus my efforts on other ways to earn income. Right now, I require a creative outlet for myself — to express myself, to write what needs to be written, to share what my heart wants you to read. Writing for money will come later when I’m fully prepared to undertake that effort. I privately journal my thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and daily interactions each night, a sort of mental defragmenting. Our hard drives run so much better after being defragmented, so you can imagine how much smoother thought processes run after mentally “defragmenting.”

I matter now. My part time job requires physical exertion, and it is my responsibility to all parties involved to take care of myself. I deserve that hour break to eat a good meal and read quality literature. (Did you know Hemingway and I both adore[d] polydactal cats?) Right now, at this very moment, what matters is that I pause between sentences and thoughts to pet the purring 6 year old kitten in my lap — because she’s still my kitten, over six years after this poor thing survived Hurricane Katrina. What matters now is that I’m alive and capable of changing things. I’m fully able to write my own story, to follow my dreams.

What matters now?


#MindfulMonday Discipline

Focusing on how your present affects your future is only one aspect of living a more enjoyable life. We need discipline. It takes discipline to choose the apple over the cookie, a brisk walk over the laptop, or even going to bed over staying up late to do anything but sleep. Some days we don’t discipline ourselves as well as we should, and other days our to-do list looks like a to-done list at the end of the day. I’ve been personally working on disciplining myself better. A lot of times we associate the word “discipline” with punishment — this isn’t the only meaning of the word. I discipline myself daily by writing three pages in my journal each night. In order to be a writer, I must write. I must practice my craft. When I discipline myself, I feel like a better writer. Practicing helps me feel like I’m developing and improving my skills. The discipline I have now will cultivate a brighter future as a writer. The discipline I have now will encourage me to continue combing my work — and the work of others — for editorial errors. The discipline I have now will benefit my future students.

Focus on how your present affects your future, then discipline yourself.


#MindfulMonday Focus

Brenda Della Casa recently shared some things she’d overheard, including this: “Do not focus on the now.  Focus on where you want to be, the life you want to be living.  That might help you make better decisions now.” I’ve spent the weekend ruminating over these very wise words. I regularly try to balance living in the moment with daydreaming of what I want. However, a more mindful way to daydream is to sit down and creatively brainstorm. Imagine that ideal life. What are you eating? Where are you living? Who’s with you? How do you spend your days? What activities and adventures do you put on your calendar? Imagining these details can seem a bit overwhelming, but having a clearer picture of what you want out of life can give ideas for baby steps to get there. If you can change one small thing every few weeks or so, you get one step closer to your ideal lifestyle that much easier.

We can’t necessarily make our lives suddenly near-perfect overnight, but we can take steps to make the life we have now closer to our ideal. I’m not waiting around. I’ve already been making changes that I’d like to keep — daily writing, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthier diet, and getting regular exercise. I know that in time other aspects of life will fall into place if I apply myself and take steps to change it. Now if only sleeping better would hurry up and fall into line — but I’m applying myself and making the effort. Adults need bedtime, too, but it’s up to us to enforce it.


#MindfulMonday What Food Network’s Taught Me

Last year I became engrossed in The Next Food Network Star and loved nearly every episode of season six. This year I wasn’t as excited about season seven, based on the advertisements. It seemed to me that the producers took a few too many cues from shows like Jersey Shore and Big Brother. I’m not about watching contestants cause drama, so the clips turned me off. However, Brian encouraged me to watch the season with him. It took several weeks to weed out a very dramatic individual (good food isn’t going to mean star power), but I finally warmed up to this season’s star hopefuls.

Last night was the finale, and I can’t imagine the two runners up not getting at least some air time. The charisma and stories these individuals sent a very clear, valuable message, though — follow your dreams. These are people who dreamt of having their own shows on Food Network and showcasing the dishes they grew up with. I was so profoundly struck by this realization last night that I felt a sense of calmness wash over me. My dream may be different — a cooking show would completely get in the way of my writing career — but I still need to harness that star quality. Both situations require captivating your audience. If you’re not engaging your audience — readers and viewers alike — you’re not going to succeed. It’s also about focus. Of course, if you focus on chasing your dreams, I personally believe the rest should fall into place. Nicki has certainly provided plenty of inspiration and encouragement in that regard.

The biggest take-home message, however, is to be mindful at every moment. You never know what you’ll learn from even the simplest of things.


Mindful Monday: Digital Sabbaticals

Recently I’ve been noticing a pattern of escapist activity permeating my daily routine. As such, I had begun considering a digital sabbatical — and when Gwen Bell asked for feedback about digital sabbaticals, I knew it was time to get serious. She asked several key questions:

Describe the moment at which you decided you needed to unplug.
In the past, I have taken a few weekend sabbaticals because I was tired of wasting time on the Internet on my days off of work. I wanted to enhance the quality of my time and get a break from the glowing screen. Now, I’ve got way too much noise — digital and otherwise — in my life at the moment. I plug in, and I’m assaulting with all sorts of noise. Some of the noise is good, some of the noise is bad, and some of the noise is just noise. Sometimes, the digital noise serves as a means to escape the real life noise. Shutting off the digital noise will give me time to sort through offline noise — and to find ways to minimize or better manage it.

How long were you unplugged?
Previously, I only unplugged for two to three days at a time. When I say “a weekend sabbatical,” I absolutely mean it was a weekend deal. I’m considering a full week this time around — I really don’t feel comfortable going longer than seven days at this given point in time, and I feel that seven days should be sufficient for me to get my head straight.

Were there moments you cheated?
Oh, definitely! The first digital sabbatical I took, I popped into my Gmail because I was expecting an email from my mother. I didn’t plan to answer it, but I wanted to read it before the weekend was over. I think I also snuck onto Facebook to respond to a private message — but I didn’t scroll through my feed. Also, I still signed in to complete my daily online sudoku and crossword puzzles — I treated those the way I would have treated their printed newspaper versions.

Who supported you during your digital sabbatical?
Basically, my husband was my support. I wasn’t taking the sabbatical for anyone other than my husband and kids, and the kids weren’t particularly conscious of their indirect support. My husband, however, knew I was intending to stay offline and provided encouragement.

What do you wish you’d done differently during the sabbatical?
I wish I’d been completely faithful and stayed out of my inbox. Trust me when I say that during this seven day sabbatical I have no intentions of entering my inbox. When I say it’s been too noisy, I absolutely mean it. Really, I can’t go outside without being bombarded by noise. The current cicada invasion can get rather loud, in fact.

Will you take another one? Why?
I’m planning one within the next few days because I’ve become far too dependent upon digital activities to fill my day. However, said activities aren’t producing results — said activities only serve to distract me and waste my precious time. Each rabbit hole adds to my internal thought processes, and much like a computer I’m beginning to run sluggish with all my running processes.

What surprised you most about unplugging?
Actually, it was like going through withdrawals from any other addiction (or at least, from what I’ve read — my vice of choice is chocolate, I can stop any time I want, but I simply choose not to). After a day, though, it was much easier than I expected.

What insights did you gain about yourself by taking a digital sabbatical?
Honestly, I didn’t gain any of insights I didn’t already know — I already knew back in 2004 that I have an Internet addiction. This was before Twitter. This was when Facebook was so exclusive, not every university or college was available on it yet. You definitely needed a .edu email address in order to sign up. This was when LiveJournal was still all the rage (actually, it was one of my time suckers). I do notice my habits and patterns, but the Internet itself is a useful tool. I just need to moderate myself better. I can’t spend hours on end researching and reading about a subject that fascinates me, nor can I spend hours on end socializing via binary. There are walks to be taken, sunshine to be absorbed, dreams to be dreamt, water to be drunk, books to be read, and all sorts of wonderful offline activities in which to partake.

Expect an announcement within the next few days — of course, it may not be much different to my blog readers, but my friends list and Twitter followers will definitely notice my absence.


Mindful Monday: A Month of Processing

As January 2011 comes to a close, I’m pausing to reflect on the first month of this new year. I’ve spent most of this month internally processing all of life’s changes since the close of 2010. The Reverb 10 series gave me a lot of fodder to ruminate over 2010’s events and manifestations for 2011. I aspire to become an English consultant, a tutor, a freelance writer, an independent editormy own boss. My writing on this blog should reflect that goal clearly, in fact. I’ve been blogging professionally for over three years now, and in that time I’ve made friends, attempted to monetize, written sponsored posts, and devised a posting schedule. Mindful Mondays focus on my endeavors to be more mindful of my words, actions, psyche, and body. Wordless Wednesdays provide an outlet for my photography hobby. Thankful Thursdays became the new gratitude series, so that I could share my appreciation for all things big and small in life. Foodie Friday caters to my love of food. I’ve had to move due to a fire, as well as job loss. Over the past seven months, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my desire to earn a living as my own employer. Money affords us the ability to provide for ourselves and our dependents — and I’m sure we all know by now that I really need an income to feel like my kids are going to live comfortably. I’ve been seriously considering finding a job — full time or part time — in order to feel like I’m doing my part, and yet I find that being home for them also has it’s perks. I mean, I wanted to spend more time with my family after all.

During this month, I’ve had the opportunity to discover what feeds my soul and what poisons it. I’ve had the time to seriously consider purging clutter that I really don’t want, need, or use anymore. The emotional attachments we form to seemingly silly objects is rather fascinating, and at the same time I understand how some people can horde a plethora of items. We project our memories onto inanimate objects in an attempt to remember our memories at a later date. Sure, the memory’s been made, but we don’t always remember to relish in those good memories — as a matter of fact, I doubt I’m alone in that I some times dwell on the not-so-nice memories more readily than the good. However, packing and unpacking has made me realize that I need to ask myself what I really want, need, and use in my life. Additionally, I’ve begun asking myself a lot of questions about the present and the future. I’ve brainstormed ideas for my blog, my business website, and a professional website (more details to come next month). I’m excited about the possibilities and cautious about the obstacles ahead. While 2010’s business hasn’t quite given up just yet, this year seems to have a glimmer of hope beginning to shine through.


Temporary Hiatus

You may or may not have noticed that I’m currently behind by three days. I will likely not get back on track with my Reverb 10 posts until Thursday at the earlier because I am moving on Tuesday. This means that tomorrow will be spent packing a truck and cleaning the old digs, and Wednesday will be spent unpacking a truck and setting up some new digs. I might still be working on my Reverb 10 posts into January, but who cares? I don’t need to start my “resolutions” on January 1st. It’s all arbitrary, really. There’s no reason why I can’t take a break from all these reflections and manifestations to live in the here and now of packing mindfully — really, I need my mind to be present when it comes to packing fragile objects. I’d like my dishes to arrive at our destination in one piece so I can actually use them again, you know. In the mean time, I hope you’re all enjoying a safe and happy holiday season.


Reverb 10: Lesson Learned

Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

This year I finally learned to trust my gut instincts no matter what. I clearly have a good intuition, and I tend to lean more towards logic and input from others. Even when I know the right answer, I still prod others for their input — not always the best idea. I’ve said to myself for years that no one knows what’s best for me better than I do. However, I also realize that I’m not the only one who will suffer adverse outcomes if I choose incorrectly because my family depends on me. I learned the hard way half through the year that I should trust my instincts regardless of what others say because I knew I was making the wrong choice back in April/ May. I just chose to ignore that nagging feeling.

Going forward, I intend to take a little more time to sit back, meditate on bigger decisions, and listen to myself. It might seem like a wise idea to consult with others, but I shouldn’t give outside input more weight that what my instincts tell me. If I know something feels wrong, then I should less to that feeling and play it safe. I already know that patterns dictate I must follow my path if I am to succeed . I know that I must be mindful of even the smallest things — I’m relatively small, but I make a difference. My fourth grade teacher imparted wise words one day after I’d been taunted by the bigger kids: good things come in small packages, like rubies and diamonds. Sometimes the most amazing things take the shape of the smallest of objects, the most minute details can be the most valuable. My worth isn’t something to be determined by an outside party — it’s something to be determined by myself. After all, it’s all about the mindset. If my self-worth is low, no amount of compliments will lift me up. If my self-worth is high, no amount of criticism will bring me down. It’s about confidence and faith. I need to have more confidence in myself and my ability to intuit the best course of action.