Sometime in May I wrote the longest to do list ever. It covered everything from house projects to the job search to trips we wanted to take this summer. For a while I was good at looking at it, but it became so ingrained in my mind that I didn’t feel the need to actually look at it. But over the last few weeks the heat has seeped into my brain and left me distracted. To the point that while I was sitting here this morning I thought I should write a list of the stuff that I needed to get done, completely forgetting that their is one waiting for me on my desk. Tomorrow the boys are disappearing for the day so I have a date with a notebook, a pencil, and a laptop. In our family we call the project of our life “taking over the world” some heroes use swords or superpowers my secret weapon is this list. What’s your secret weapon/superpower?
Is full of putting things together.
Not making unnecessary sacrifices because having your heart full is inspiring.
When you give up everything you damage yourself, starvation isn’t limited to food.
You need to feed your heart, as a woman, and as a mother.
Don’t do this for only for you, do it for everyone around you.
When your heart is full you can give more, do more.
We are told to keep going, that pushing hard from morning to night,
is the only way to succeed.
But if you don’t step back and see where you are and why you are moving forward you loose the plot,
forget the purpose.
When you take the time to remember why, it strengthens you.
It makes you more driven, more focused.
If you present yourself but you are missing the self-confidence and passion then all the hard work is just spinning wheels.
So take the time to feed your soul, be with the people you love.
When you are bursting full of purpose and love the world notices.
See that smile, that calm look, this is where I am right now. There is so much to do but I am learning to take things slowly, deliberately. Ever since we got back from our trip to Moab life has been busy, the to do lists are long, but I’m trying to break tasks down to smaller pieces, enjoy successes along the way rather that feel disappointment when I don’t get the entire thing done. So much more gets done when you actually can cross something off the list. For a while I was hesitant to take such a long trip, feeling like I should just get started, but then I realized that Finals really tapped me out and what I need most was time with my boys away from the clutter of the city and the online world. You know what those 6 days were so grounding, long enough that I could lose all my confidence in myself and regain it, long enough to have enough daydreams that I have focus. Mostly it was about loving my family without distraction.
Now that I’ve been back for a week there has been time enough for the scattered beginnings I am starting to see the trail in the forest. There is no more psyching myself up for what comes next, the next is now. Two years ago when this whole thing shifted I thought going back to school was about learning a skill, today I realize more than anything it was about regaining the self confidence that I lost over the chaos before then, two years is a long rebuilding but looking at it from here I don’t know if I could have come to this place where I am now without the amazing program I was in (technically I’m still a student taking a class here and there but no more full time).
~All photos are from our trip to Moab~
Hi my name is Stacey and I have been absent from this space for the last a six months as I finished my last full time semester of school. I may have forgotten how to blog but since my finals ended last week and we went on a week long camping trip the cobwebs are starting to clear from the writer part of my brain. I have so many ideas I’ve been mulling over but no time to put them down here, or even in a journal. So the time has come to return. But for right now I’m going to go sit on the porch and watch the rainstorm.
I’ve never been one for long term planning, I have looked at life six months at a time, possibly a year. That was how I always have been. Even in high school interning at a museum I felt uncomfortable with the way the projects were worked so far in advance. But through the transition of the past few years I have learned to value planning ahead. It is easy to fall into the comfortable rhythm of school especially with the deadlines and friendships, but I have managed to keep focused on the bigger picture, I am four semesters in and I have managed not to shift my plans. Instead I am more firm than ever in my goals.
It isn’t hard to know where I am going with all of this when at the end of the day Alder is there reminding, with his presence and words, what exactly my next step needs to be. He keeps me on task reminding me of the adventures we have planned and the rhythms we want to return to. All of this is part of a promise I made to him, and to me. I love what I am studying but that is really incidental. I chose it for the money and freedom to be made with it (don’t bother judging me I’ve had all the circular arguments in my head already). The bonus of my growing passion is that, like everything else in our lives, it becomes part of who I am and makes the work that I will do more pleasurable.
Here I am ready to move from full time student to working Mama and I feel the familiar tug of inactivity. Right now there is no one but myself pushing me forward. There are easy ways to move ahead, ones that while simple take me away from my goals. So I fight myself to find a balance that will make our family exist how it should. I push through days that move like honey, dreaming of the ones when doing what I need to will feel more natural. I am so out of practice, making myself do things. So I use big doses of day dreams and inspiration to help during the hours that Alder is at school.
This effort needed to realize my goals is monumental, yet for once it seems in reach.
Has it been a year? It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was wondering what 2013 would bring. I chose Engaged last year and that came to be, whether it was school or family or friends I feel I have delved into everything deeply. Even if I lost months of my life to school, where I am right now is all thanks to all that I engaged. I have found new depths to my passion and feel that I am in a good space for moving forward. I sort of feel unstoppable, timid and a little unsure of what I am doing, but unstoppable anyway.
I start 2014 in a new phase with new needs of focus, but mainly I need for it all to come together. These words I choose are not just for inspiration, they are challenges. I thought for a while that I might use something like “finishing” or “successful” but there was some missing element to both of those. They were too sterile.
Fruitful allows for growth, it brings the natural world and heart into my goals. Making the life that I want will always be a process, but I look at this year as one of focusing on creating this life. The past year was spent filling my mind with information, renewing relationships, and returning to myself. This year I need to take these strengths use them to create where I am going.
On New Year’s morning while the house was silent I was moved by the flat snow flakes to sit for a while in our new studio space. In side me there was a shift, last year was about filling up and rushing through, I feel the need to slow down to take moments to collect and create. So the girl who has never had much of a thing for candles lit one and placed it in a place of honor.
It was a long semester, many 14 hour days on campus, nights of drawing and researching. Now it has come to a close and while I may still be taking a few classes I am no longer a full time student. I am glad that I did it, to know if I could. But I never again want to be a full time student at a traditional institution ever again (though I have dreams of this program).
Since my semester ended last week I’ve been catching up on life. Spending a day a school with Alder trying to figure out the root of his dislike of school, not that I didn’t already know. There has been some holiday shopping at lots of local stores while attempting to stay in budget. Mostly there has been lots of family time and quite a few hours peppered in between with a good book or some paint and paper. I even managed to find time for a morning at the steam baths.
While I still have so much to do in all my projects as I am moving from transition to doing I am also happy that I can once again be putting things in this space. You can’t imagine how many scraps of paper sit on my desk with blog posts that never got written. I know there are only a few of you who peek here any more but I am happy to be back.
Who can resist a bookstore that fills an old theater.
Time spend in a favorite spot with friends.
A new desk arrangement.
Dr. Who landing just by one of our favorite pubs (did I say that I got to see the 50th in 3D)
Another moment stolen at The Weathervane Cafe
A trip to the mountains.
Which wore someone out.
And a wonderful man who drove the pass through the 8″of snow from the day before.
My life right now is a series of tumbling events, things that need to get done, and rhythms that I hold to. There are a lot of things I’m letting slide, things that I hope I can pick up again once this semester is over. That is what it is. I accept it and move on. Right now is so full of immediate needs that there isn’t time for day dreaming, planning yes, but not the sort of thoughts that go where they will. Because I can see the end to this I am okay with it.
Lately I’ve found my sustenance through my friends, drawing on envelopes, and reading. But I crave hot water, just a few hours at the Steam Baths or a Hot Springs, I think it’s time for me to sit down with my calendar and figure out where I can carve a few hours for myself. I am learning how to bring sustenance to my existence without large swathes of time to do so, to accept that reviving myself can’t be contingent to having lots of time to do it in.
Even this post was begun 10 days ago and is only finished right now.
Birthdays and anniversaries always stir me to refocus my life. As it was my 10th anniversary last week and my 40th birthday is tomorrow. I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on how I live. So often these introspective moments bring big goals and crazy changes, and lately those change everything goals have been going forward. But sometimes it can get really easy to get derailed on the details. This year I’ve decided that taking on the those details as a way to move forward.
I have finally gotten around to reading The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron which I have occasionally dipped into but never have sat down and read. It is one of those right book for the right moment. Along with some more personal inspiration from some amazing women who have reminded me that I don’t have to go out and do every project that I come up with.
So I sat down yesterday with no expectations other than sitting with the discomfort of the now, and a journal. What came out was all about how I live the everyday life not big life changes. As I explored how I live my days I could see what parts of me and my world that needed nurturing. I found that there were eight areas that make up most of my life, and then I came up with ways to feed them. I wanted to focus on the daily and weekly rhythms not larger goals or cycles. These aren’t all action points some categories ended up with more ideas than I can possibly do, I am still in the process of seeing how to use these shifts.
~Start stretching every morning again, just 5 or 10 minutes.
~Take two long walks a week.
~Remember to wash my face every night, it seems small but I sleep so much better.
~Write 20 minutes a day, other than journaling (I haven’t really wrote since last November)
~Explore new poets and keep a poem in my pocket.
~Blog twice a week.
~Always have a novel to read.
~Pack lunch everyday
~Make four family dinners a week, both for the family time and returning to the habit of cooking for pleasure.
~Eat breakfast everyday.
~Spend an hour a day working on “job” things even while I still have a semester left.
~Stay two days a week at the CAD lab to get my work done.
~Sit everyday for five minutes (I’ve been using a meditation jar for this).
~Think before I speak
T- Is it True?
H- Is it Helpful
I~ Is it Inspiring
N~ Is it Necessary
K~ Is it Kind
~Collect images and words that inspire me and put them somewhere I can see them.
~Do some art three times a week (or go see some).
~Make space in everything I do to be creative.
~Be present with Alder for an hour every day, without the internet.
~At least three family activities a week.
~Four family dinners a week.
~Straighten the living room and studio before bed every night.
~Start laundry in the morning when I get up so it can go in the dryer before I leave.
~Organize when I do the rest of my chores (I am so thankful that Kevin has pulled most of the house cleaning weight for a long time but I need to do more.
~Don’t bring anything into the house that won’t add to the beauty of our life.
~Have Sunday mornings as many weeks as possible with our friends.
~Make social plans every other week.
~Find ways to give back once a month as a family.
~Call my Dad once a week just to say hi.
~Write a letter to a friend every other week.
What daily practices sustain you?
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.