I think often about Failed at it Friday, a commitment I made earlier on in the year to regularly share losses. I thought it would be good to honor failures alongside the lessons learned from them and to balance out talk of wins in an era where online life often hides failures or overexaggerates the emotionality behind them with a sense of false, Instagram-appropriate vulnerability.
I think of it often primarily because I went about six weeks getting pummeled by a series of unfortunate events. I wanted to share but couldn’t wrap my head around the entirety of the situation and how seemingly isolated occurrences intermingled in such a way that culminated into a real clusterfuck, to be frank. I also think of it often because of the alliteration and, if you didn’t notice, Fridays happen every.seven.days.. They’re a heinously busy time of the week, a time between Thursday, when I can think: “Hm. Friday. I wonder if I’ll get a pocket of time to get out what I’ve been thinking about that whole clusterfuck.” and Saturday, when I hurriedly go from task to task without the structure of a weekday and I think: “Missed that Friday thing again, huh. Maybe next week.”
In our home, we’re moving away from assigned chores since I read Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff. We’ve done so as we focus on the social aspect of household duties. Instead of telling my teen he’s in charge of trash every day and getting mad when I have to remind him many times, I’ve shifted the language to: “Let’s clean the kitchen together.” while I begin, signaling we’re doing this now. He’s still taking the trash out and more, but now we have the benefit of us talking and laughing, listening to his music all throughout.
What I learned from the Mayan families in the book is that when a child is given specific solo tasks, they internalize that those are the only tasks that they are required to do. They won’t do more until instructed because they haven’t see it as their role. Because they’re told to do that task, they don’t grow the mental processes to figure out what needs to be done or to remember to do it. If their only cue to do something is to be told, they aren’t learning a way to remember.
Watching my family members’ attitudes toward chores change has been a rewarding experience that has allowed me to complete more tasks, run my home more smoothly, and leave me more fulfilled.
My teen ate half of the jalapeños reserved for the dish my husband was making for dinner. He grabbed a jalapeño, dipped it in sauce, scarfed it down. When we made this discovery, I offered to run to the store. I didn’t mind. Getting out with whatever outfit I’ve put together that day motivates me to run more errands. I had another errand nearby, too.
Whenever my teen goes to a store with me, he already says, “no cashier is safe”—from conversation with me, that is. He’ll complain about how ~sad~ it is that they can’t complete a “normal transaction.” I reassure him that their day’s work is often monotonous; everyone appreciates friendly conversation and my hilarious jokes. He’s sick of me now, but I hope he’ll follow my lead one of these days.
I’m takin’ a breather from lessons I’ve been learning to a more lighthearted topic: fashion.
Sometimes fashion feels like the *other* F word. We relate fashion to consumerism, we relate it to vanity, and many people attribute a focus on external appearance as an act that is opposite of acquiring wisdom. The beautiful yet foolish character is one of the most overused tropes in media, so why wouldn’t we assume that those characteristics often go hand in hand?
In Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old science of healthy living, activating physical beauty isn’t considered vanity. It’s considered “treating your underlying spiritual being like royalty.”
In my experience, I’ve noticed that it takes effort and a level of wisdom to achieve attractiveness. Though some young people may come by beauty effortlessly and do whatever is trendy in the moment, for most it takes learning about caring for skin, learning about shapes, colors, products, and then applying that learning (applied learning is wisdom) to your specific face, body type, coloring, and preferences to be attractive.
Now that that’s out of the way
Back in December, I was getting dressed up in a silly Christmas sweater with some Christmas light novelty earrings in anticipation of our town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I threw on a red lipstick, which is out of the ordinary for me, and as I took one last look at myself before heading out the door, I thought: “This outfit makes me look like Fran Drescher from the Nanny, hah!”
I hadn’t thought about Fran Drescher or The Nanny in decades but once the thought struck me, I wondered: why? What did she dress like? All I could remember was her nasally voice and her laugh that could make you wince. So I searched the web, and the results:
As the kids say, her ‘fits were FIRE.
My interest piqued, I dug further. Costume designer Brenda Cooper won the show its only Emmy. Amongst the several articles I read about her, she mentioned that Fran’s costumes elevated the humor.
I want my humor elevated.
I want my clothes to be as loud as my personality.
I’ve been thinking about my intention for this new(-ish, at this point) year since November. I wrote a longhand first draft defining it earlier this month, but I’ve struggled to get fingers to touchscreen to prune ideas and organize thoughts in such a way that fits succinctly in little boxes with corresponding headers for my website-skimming pals. Why?
It’s because I’m not good at it. Not. At. All.
I realized that I’ve been waiting for a chunk time to bang out this blog post, and it’s not coming. I realized that the conditions I’ve been waiting for to complete this task are exactly why I’ve chosen Consistency over Intensity to be my focus in 2023.
Where I’m at Now
I’m an all-or-nothing gal. Go big or go home. In your face. My stature is small but I make up for it by being just shy of obnoxious (and sometimes I reach that, too) in all that I do.
I learned through my illness that I can’t rely on completion, that focusing on progress is the only way I’ll stay confident in the future. A marble sculpture starts as a solid piece of rock that must be chipped at consistently, every day. No matter the skill level of the artist, one couldn’t expedite that process. The artist must, chip by chip, day by day, reveal the art that the rock holds within. A life of intention unfolds in just the same way.
I learned through magical mornings how impactful the act of consistency can be. I’ve kept up with the routines mentioned in that post and added more since. What I’ve seen is a beautiful, effortless expansion in not only those practices, like meditation and headstands, but an ease that carries me through the rest of my day where I’m able to manage more tasks, more efficiently, without the pressure of feeling like I’ll be more satisfied when a task is done.
I’ve seen the benefits of routine repeated on my evening habits and after reading The Power of Ritual, I began to sanctify my routines into soulful practices that bring a warmth to my chest like a freshly brewed tea. I’ve turned myself into one of Pavlov’s dogs through intentional playlists for specific activities. I use the power of environment to reduce friction for activities I want to influence myself to do more and to slow me down from old habits that don’t serve me.
I Want More
I love less. Less is on my mind frequently, like yesterday when, all morning long, a group text thread was going on about registration for various activities for the spring opening, then going into waitlists for our four year olds. I remembered Less is More for everyone and that my preschooler doesn’t need an overpacked schedule, either.
But while I keep Less in mind, while I’ve pruned out what doesn’t serve me, Less has highlighted what I do find important: family, friends, community, health, nature, art, acquiring wisdom through creating connections between the knowledge I receive from one book to another and my personal experiences, time spent in deep conversations, nourishing my soul through ritual, parenting my inner child. Painting. Writing. Altering clothes (this is a hobby that I had completely forgotten for twenty years). Continuing to remove the rocks of acquired material goods in my life through gifting them via a local gift economy. These are what my values will continue to be as I trim the excess fat in my life—fat force-fed through targeted advertising that we as a society consume as if the end goal is foie gras.
I know, without a doubt, I want more painting, more writing, and more time with specific people in my life. When I had a poverty mindset, I would think “I don’t have time” or “How can I fit that in when I can’t seem to get what I have under control?” Now that I see the abundance around me, I know that it’s only a matter of seizing small pockets of time on a regular basis. Brick by brick, if you keep going day by day, you’ll have built a house. I’ve seen it with other aspects of my life and I want that with painting and writing. For it to be a part of my day like setting my clothes out for the following day or like brushing my teeth. Fully integrated.
Intensity Causes Procrastination
Often at the gym, we say “the hardest part is showing up.” The same goes for other endeavors—he hardest part IS stopping whatever else you’re doing so you can do the thing. Often insistence on intensity or my ugly old friend, perfectionism, makes it so I don’t show up at all.
I called my sister in the morning and told her I was going to call her back in the evening so we could book our trip. That was eleven days ago. I wanted to know what I needed to know about a specific site I wanted to visit before booking my flight and hotel. Why? Intensity is the culprit: feeling like I need to have all the information all at once.
I’ve been wanting to begin writing letters with a friend—my soul sister. She’s written me on several occasions now and I thought I’d get a 2 for 1 if I added a letter to her Christmas card, so I set it aside. She didn’t get a Christmas card (yet?). Intensity, again.
Intensity Causes Burnout
My cortisol was so high all the time back when I was focused on finishing. I was always amped up and restless for when I’d complete a task, just to find another one quickly afterward (honestly, while I hadn’t yet completed the first). There was no rest, just grind. I was so exhausted.
Now that I’ve begun working as a personal trainer in a group setting, I’ve started to find my footing in the role. I LOVE it. The old me would have been figuring out how I could get more shifts, because I love it. I keep reminding myself how gentle and kind it is to be consistent, find my footing, then increase intensity as I see fit. I have to work my way up to the heavy weights, or I’ll cause an injury. I have to meet my body/my plate where it is right here, right now.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Last year, I related the progress of my yearly declarations to that of a plant.
I’d like to improve upon the analogy.
2019 was the Year of Community
I found my gym, founded Fairfield Shares, and met tons of new moms in my town through activities with my youngest.
Gaining community after I had none was like laying down fertile soil, biodiverse in microorganisms and rich in nutrients, where there was once was only dust.
2020 was the Year of Mental Health
I was drowning, like many. It was necessary.
If a seedling was overwatered, it would need better drainage, to be moved where there was more light. It would need tending so it could sprout.
2021 was a Glow Up
I used the tools acquired during the previous year: therapy, communication, self love, self kindness, meditation. I lost 30 pounds, started getting dressed again, pampered my skin and my soul.
Turns out that I needed to stop giving myself a beating over not becoming more like whoever I had been reading. When the growing conditions were better, the light was able shine down, the excess water was able to move outward from my roots and I was finally able to see the growth I desired.
2022 was the Year of Less
Before I had a real grasp of Less (and was blogging drunk about it nonetheless), I related Less to pruning branches. I got that one wrong.
The thing is, I’m the soil that nurtured the seed. I’m the seed that grew. Pruning the branches insinuates a violent external force that removed the excess, when what ended up happening was a natural and season-appropriate shedding of leaves. A necessary loss to conserve energy within the branches and roots.
2023 is the Year of Consistency
If less was an autumnal shedding of leaves, it makes even more sense that the year prior was of rapid growth, like summer, and before that, I was sprouting, like spring, and prior was a late spring planting and a winter where matted down autumn leaves were able to create that rich soil.
In the longhand draft I wrote of this post, I predicted that consistency would be an early spring: small buds slowly revealing themselves, rather than the firework show of flowers I expected my first spring. Now that the headers are here and the thoughts are more organized, I’m thinking perhaps a winter is in order: that consistency will be that conservation of energy required. I do still have leaves to shed. Maybe it will be a combination of both.
Around 11 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 2021, three sheets to the wind on top shelf champagne, I wrote a blog post setting the intention for 2022: the year of ‘less.’
I can’t say I defined ‘less’ well in the moment or if I knew as I made the proclamation what exactly I needed less of. Sure, I need to get rid of the items that crowd my basement, but that wasn’t it. I knew I was overwhelmed and exhausted and I had been overwhelmed and exhausted for as long as I can trace back. Whether or not I could put my finger on it, I knew there was “too much” and I was tired of the rat race, tired of the self-imposed struggle, tired of striving to be everything to everyone and be the best. It was time for less.
Around ten a.m. Monday morning near the self checkout at Home Depot, I was face to face, breaths intermingling, with an unprovoked woman no taller than four foot ten inches tall shouting that she was “going to beat [my] fucking ass if [she] see[s] me again,” as no less than thirty customers and employees looked on.
I unfollowed you on Instagram because we haven’t talked in years, are unlikely to talk again, and the pressure of remembering your spouse’s name and where you went on vacation last summer or what you had for dinner last Thursday is more than I can fold into the creases of my pink, pulpous mind.
I unfollowed you because we see each other all the time and I’d rather see the sparkle in your eyes and hear you hold back laughter as you mimic the expressions your daughter made as she tasted a lemon for the first time while I press the thin, plastic rim of a cup of house Pinot Grigio to my smirking bottom lip.
You see, I unfollowed you because I love the way you use your hand to cover your mouth when you laugh and the self-conscious way you run your fingers through your hair when you’re telling a story…but I don’t love the content you create for mass appeal enough to ingest it daily alongside my probiotic-rich, locally-sourced sauerkraut.
With paintbrush in hand and a close-enough colored daub of paint already resting on my palette, I made a few simple adjustments that completely changed how I felt about the painting.
I’ve heard the saying before, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (though I’m doubtful he was the source) but this was the first time I’ve had the nerve to potentially “mess up” a “completed work.”
I didn’t mess it up, though. The issues I’d had with the work couldn’t be solved alla prima, so I declared the work “good enough,” called it done, let it dry, posted a photo and explanation of the work online, and even hung it on the wall of my studio. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Good enough is the grace I give myself in my paintings. In my weavings, in my DIY projects, halloween costumes, I let “better than before” be my guide. During my magical mornings, I do the same thing every day because I know that who I want to become will be built through the identity that these practices foster. I do yoga not just to flex the impressive hand-balancing pretzel poses I’ve trained my body to do, but also to relax into foundational poses in preparation for putting myself in positions I have not mastered. When I do HIIT training at my local gym, I push myself to lift heavy but I know that if I’m straining or my form is suffering, I will go down to a lighter weight.
Through therapy and self care, I’ve learned “good enough” is a gift of softness to myself. However, this softness, this grace does not extend to my writing.
My biggest aspiration for the longest time has been to be a published author. Yet, I don’t publish a thing–not even on this platform, where I have the freedom to share whatever and whenever I please.
Therein lies the problem.
too much creative freedom is stifling.
This may sound counterintuitive, but I firmly believe that creativity is best expressed within boundaries. I’ve got a great example for this: Robocop.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat in my bedroom facing my floor-length mirror, with my hands in prayer position. Listening to mellow music, smelling a lit incense and appreciating my dimly-lit reflection, I thought to myself: “I’m becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.”