This Week

The Boys
They’re kinda cute together.

To Do This Week

Return Library Books
Hair Cut
Illustrations for Activities 1-9
Wednesday Morning Little Red Canoe Meeting
Review Prehistoric Era for Architectural History
Pick Up Lock for Campus Fitness Center (and start going)
Deal with Unusually Large Stack of Important Papers
Do taxes

What is on your list this week?

Battles With the Monkey Mind

Amphitheater

I spoke recently of giving myself permission to work, to start rather than stay in the planning stage. Planning is comforting, nothing has gone wrong yet, no obstacles have slowed your work. Not only that but when you plan you have a version of the outcome of your project neatly in your mind. It can be a safe place to stay, one where nothing goes wrong. But it isn’t a real place and eventually all those beautiful plans begin to sour because a plan is just an idea, a hope, but it isn’t a concrete project or adventure. Slowly as time passes even the most carefully crafted plan fades in the sunshine of everyday life if it doesn’t get used.

But taking that first step outside of the plan is so easily derided by doubts, no matter what excuse you give (too much to do, not enough money, wrong tools) they really are there as masks for the reality of fear. When we actually commit to working on a project we are also offering ourselves up to the possibility of failure, and that is scary. We are carrying with us the voices of everyone who has ever said no to us, or assigned us a value (good or bad). Most people don’t step outside the parameters of their lives and create work without some sort of external motivation. Being a hard worker is an excellent trait but it shouldn’t get confused with being able to work independently towards a goal, especially when the goal is one you have created for yourself. It is in beginning that we really should feel like we have had our first success.

Except it doesn’t work that way. As soon as we start working those voices start whispering. These voices are part of our monkey mind, that scattered little monkey within us all who wants to sidetrack us, to derail us. No matter how confident you are the monkey will begin to chant its insults, remind us of doubts, and worst of all it sounds like us, not a monkey. Often the monkey mind is described as scattered offering up many other things to distract you from your task at hand. But I have always seen it as something more derisive, it isn’t there just to scatter you but to stop you from big things. The same way we call children monkeys this monkey is also child like, it wants to stay in the safe and familiar. So while it may be difficult to overcome, and may be disruptive to your work, it doesn’t mean you harm. In fact, you might say that your monkey mind is trying to protect you.

So how do you do battle with the monkey mind and what tools do you need? Every person is different in the details but I would say that you need three basic areas focusing, encouragement, and comfort.

For me I find that I need tangible representations of focus. My work space is mobile at the moment, hopefully our studio will have internet soon, so my focus has to be able to slip into my backpack without weighing me down. While I have a planner which includes everything I need to do over the week before I sit down I make a detailed list of everything I need to do. Because my current project involves a lot of small written pieces I list what each one is,. I love being able to check things off the list quickly. If I can see that I am being productive, meeting my bench marks then I am able to hush the monkey mind by showing it how I am having little successes. Another thing that I am using right now is a photo of my son, it is there to remind me that everything that I am doing is so that I can create the life that I want us to have as a family (he is also my biggest cheer leader).

Encouragement, don’t be stoic, your battle with your monkey mind maybe yours alone but sharing your excitement for your project is really important. I have a core group of people who know about my project who I can count on to ask me how its going. I try not to bore them or focus primarily on what I am doing when I talk with them, but comes up and often they have suggestions. Even if all they do is ask you how it is going it legitimizes it for me. Another passive form of encouragement for me is to be in an environment that is filled with other people working on independent projects. Like the coffee shop I am sitting in right now, most of the people who frequent it are either students or people working for themselves, either way they are focused on something and it rubs off on me.

For me to focus I need to have certain things together before I start working, otherwise the time I spend getting up and down lets in the monkey mind. Let’s face it being comfortable is really important for getting anything done.

My Personal Comfort List
1. My glasses case (I don’t always use my glasses but my ear buds are in there)
2. Music, either with no words or if it is singing it needs to be in a language I don’t speak.
3. A hair band or clip, if my hair is down I play with it.
4. My notebook (and a pen), even when I am using the computer I like to have my notebook there to write other ideas down o they don’t distract me.
5. The TO DO LIST, see above.
6. My charger, I have been known to run a few blocks home because I forgot it.
7. Something to drink.

I think of those as my armor, if I have them all together I am more able to win and work rather than struggle with my monkey mind. Of course so much of this depends on the day, the stars, the barometer, and eighty-five other things. In other words I may know how to battle the monkey but that doesn’t mean I am always successful. Everyday there seems to be new struggles that show themselves.

From My Seat

Lace and Light

 

How many times have you spent the day having a lot of great ideas but been too occupied to write them down. When you finally have a moment to sit down they all promptly vanish from your mind? That’s where I am now. But the light is coming in so perfectly through the lace (hmm I must have been here earlier this week since this picture matches what I am looking at right now. What I wonder is how do you go back and find those ideas or are they really gone? AM I destined to only have the memory of the idea or will I circle back to them. It isn’t that the whole idea is gone, but in my head I worded them so well, and I know (or don’t know) that I am missing some important details now that I have a moment to try to collect them.

The part that makes me saddest is that I even had my notebook with me but I was even too busy for that. Sigh….I’ll get over the disappointment with myself soon enough and then there will be more thoughts and ideas flowing, and being collected.

The Not So Picky Eater

[Two posts in one day? What can I say? I’m on a roll this week.]

DSC_0067

I have spent years defending my son’s eating habits. Primarily telling people his isn’t a picky eater. He has been known to refuse a bowl of mac and cheese or a ham sandwich, and he isn’t much for chili or chocolate. Even his father struggles making dinners he will eat sometimes (and Kevin is a great cook). I was getting tired of throwing together a different meal for Alder after not cooking dinner a few weeks ago so I decided to make a list for the fridge door to remind us what Alder will eat. Funny thing with this list, it is long, really long. It is also very healthful, sure he likes hot dogs occasionally (though he usually requests brats instead) and in a pinch if we’re traveling he will eat chicken tenders, what he really wants is vegetables, more vegetables, and a little meat. Oh and don’t forget the pasta. It is safe to say if it is a vegetable and it has been steamed or sauteed with garlic he will be in heaven.

He is pretty aware of how healthy different foods are. When he was three and we were passing a McDonald’s he asked me why people went there if it just made them fat and sick. Even with vegetables he really rather eat from the farmer’s market, he likes knowing the farmer who grew them, or from our own garden. If he had his way, and we had the bank account, we’d being eating meat the same way. So we spend days processing foods for our freezer in August and supplement with some fresh ones as well.

What other people see as picky is really a kid who doesn’t like kid foods (with the exception of peanut butter and jam sandwiches), he doesn’t like the Midwestern casseroles, and he isn’t too keen on anything doused in sauce. Guess what, if we ate what he likes everyday we would be a lot healthier (says the woman sitting here with the cup of coffee and brownie).

And as he likes to remind me, if there is soy sauce in the house then everything is okay.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming

Someday work happens in small moments while the rest of life happens. I stole a few minutes in the middle of an epic list of errands to sit and put down some ideas I had been going over in my head all day. I find that I get a lot of “soft” work done while walking, so when I can spare the time I walk for my errands. I’m not one to put on head phones when I am walking, I like to hear the sounds of the world around me. I love how what I see relates to the noises of this city. All of it inspires me and focuses my mind.

Beyond the Plan

I began

There are moments when I feel doubt, where I can still hear my monkey mind shouting at me that I should just stop or give up. But it is in the distance and I can block the chants out with music,  to do lists, and deep breaths. What I didn’t realize was how doing rather than planning feels so different. Two months into this new way of being everything is continuing to grow. The world is vibrant and I am part of it once again.

Still, until the past few weeks I have been staying reasonably safe. Doing things that I knew I could easily finish. But then an idea began to form, not the sort you just jot down in a journal, but a fully realized one. In some ways it is the project that I have been working towards over the past few years. It has come so naturally to focus my energy on it. Sitting down each day I am finding joy in the writing and drawing that I am doing. As the pieces come together and build on each other I feel stronger and more myself. Sitting down to work I am completely present.

This form of focus has been missing from my life and I never understood how powerful it was, until I returned to it. Now I see how doing something larger, something where my creativity and experience comes together, fills me. I want to honor this with the work I do by respecting it as valuable and taking the time to do it well and thoroughly. All of this is new to me, giving into depth and slowing down. It becomes more than a job, or a project, it is a new way of being.

No Just Cold, Art Too

It’s cold here in Denver, not only is it cold but it has been warm for so much of this winter that our bodies have gotten lazy to the cold. But there are certain activities that just go so well with a cold snap. No, not curling up under a cozy blanket and watching movies, this is us after all. No the cold sends us walking downtown to the Contemporary Art Museum Denver. Once we were there, and reasonably defrosted we decided to stay for the day.

Consideration I love how certain pieces attract him, how he will spend a long time looking at it, telling me his reactions and the connections he makes.

Words on the Wall For me the intersection of art and words is always so interesting, especially when the traditional boundaries of the page is ignored.

Self Portrait on a Bench Hi there! Sometimes I even make it into a picture.

Art Stretch (for mind and body) The top floor of the museum has children’s activities, I really like this arrangement because we can focus on looking at the art first and then play for a long while. Other museums mix it up which distracts from the real reason to be there. Yes children like the activities but it makes it easy for them to never really consider the art. Adults do not give children enough credit for their ability or interest in anything not dumbed down for them.

Climb On the other hand I also think that it is important to remember that children interact with the world differently than adults, play is part of understanding. So when a museum has art for children to touch and play with, not just a craft activity, it gives back to them (after they have experienced the adult parts of the museum).

Infestation Up the final ramp in the museum is a place for making. This time there were black die cut butterflies and colored circle stickers.

Black on White You could either design the butterflies themselves or make designs with them on the walls.

Just Us We ended our visit with the cafe where we played a few rounds of Set and read from our current book.

Chairs If you haven’t noticed by now I have a thing for chairs.

In Words

Just sharing not quite poems.

Chairs

15.
I spoke to the wind that day,
the light tricked me into May like truths
December faded despite the wrapping paper.
trusting the light I walked north,
ignoring the edges of the roses brown
and the irises that still left paper purple on my hands.

37.
My hands are not my own,
they are the property of work,
they build and construct,
they pin and erase,
they put words to paper.

56.
It is customary to drink the tea first
always use your dominant hand
spilling is unseemly and will attract stares.
Despite outdated information which may attach
value to use of right hand over left.
Avoid placing your tea bag on a napkin as it will only wet the napkin
and possibly leave a larger mess.
Instead, ask your server for an additional saucer.
If drinking green tea it is acceptable to add sweetener but not milk,
however black tea is available to bastardize how ever you please.

103.
13 pages of tomatoes,
parsley is a vegetable but basil is an herb,
pickling cucumbers are separate as are certain squashes,
I wouldn’t dare order yet,
no stains or dog eared pages,
we’ve banned both corn and eggplant.
what do we choose for our tiny plot.

112.
visible
concrete
considered
lined, twice
clipped
taped
lit
tied

Coffee

The Word for the Year: Engage

Lights on the Square

The year ended in a swirl of family, driving and illness. But I am back now and ready to get going on this beautiful year of 2013. Last year began with anger, unemployment, and serious medical issues. This one is beginning with creativity, organizing, and learning. Last year I chose the word collaborate but it wasn’t until the last months of the year that I truly was able to put that into practice.

This year the word Engage chose me. I’m not sure if it is a theme and a hope like last year but more of a command. I should not just do or try but actually engage in what I am doing.  It is so easy to let yourself drift, to be spending time with Alder and want to check facebook. That cheapens the experience for both of you. There is more value in the moments between people where they are truly the other person’s main focal point. Perhaps it is my age but I am constantly turned off by how some of my friends and family will pick up their phone and text or get on facebook while they are spending time with me. So I am going to commit to focusing on the people I am with. Of course, living with people means that there will be sometimes when my focus will be split but I am going to take more time to intentionally act the other way.

But Engaging is about more than how one acts with other people. For me the biggest shift I crave is involving myself the actions that I am doing deeply. As I start back to school this January I need to prepare myself to take classes for the first time in ten years. I need to give myself time to focus, to engage with the material and the projects required of me. Since I am going to school to learn new skills, coarsely to make money, I need to also be engaging with the people around me so that I can come through next year in a position to really make money doing this interesting thing that I have chosen.

On a deeper level it means that I really do this with everything, whether it is cleaning the kitchen or making bags and art kits for the shop I need to look at every one of these activities as important and engage with them, not only to increase the quality of what I am doing but to be happier. When I am not engaged in what I am doing I tend to get angry and resentful of what ever the task I am doing. But when I let what every I am doing be the focus I relax, get more done, and feel happier about what I am doing with my life in a larger picture.

So I am here to engage, with ideas, with tasks, with creativity, with friends.

What is your word for the year?

On the Wall