I had to look it up, today. There are 40 days left of fall. 50 days until 2019 has arrived.
I woke up this morning – for the second time, the first was with the dog needing a 4:45 am potty break, parents of toddlers, I feel for you – and thought, today is a good day to write. So here we are. Writing, like many things, begets writing. So here I am.
We’ve passed Daylight savings, and have been weathering the transition. Fall is usually my favorite season – the lights twinkling through the auburn, red, and golden leaves. Sweaters, and layers, and hot hands slipped into my pockets before heading out into the neighborhood. Walks around the Wellesley campus are spectacular this time of year. In my kitchen, squash gets roasted, the Pot finds itself in use, and I find myself forming a re-acquaintance with hot chocolate and those perfect vegan mini marshmallows from Trader Joe’s. Why they aren’t available year round is a mystery to me.
Truthfully, I haven’t quite found myself feeling the same level of enjoyment of late. After a long stretch of feeling content, I’ve been back feeling less-than, lately. Noticeably abrupt at the changing of seasons, the optimism of summer shifting into a feeling of stuck-ness, of in-between. While this has been one of the most full years of my life professionally, it has also been challenging, and come fall, I’ve found myself squirreling away energy to make it through the days.
Friendships and relationships have suffered. A sense of ease has been missing, but somehow, anyway I can, I know I’ll find myself out the other end soon. Whatever that other end may look like. And it’s hard not knowing, isn’t it? So when I feel that feeling of un-ease, that’s where I know to double down on my self care – to focus not on the past or an uncertain future, but the present, right here, right now. Self-care is a form of meditation. It’s doing the things that we can do, in this moment. To be present, and to feel rooted, in the now.
This year, like last, I’ve been slow to post my seasonal self-care ritual: my Fall Self Care Bingo. But we have 40 days left of the season, and the board is a great way to help fill your days with the goodness needed to get through it all, without forgetting to notice the present moment. Hopefully it will bring you some enjoyment as it does to me. I think I’ve missed the boat on apple picking this year, but the rest are totally doable as the season goes on.
Grab your copy to download and print here:
[Writing as Self Care]
I’ve been thinking about ways to write more, as a form of creative outlet, catharsis. Each morning, I write to myself. Long handed morning pages – not always three, but at least one, in my notebook. This practice keeps me focused. Each morning, I also start with gratitude. A list of three things, or ten, that I’m grateful for.
I’ve taken back up with The Artists Way – I pick up the book and put it down again every so often, picking up on the creative exercises from Julia Cameron’s seminal course in discovering and recovering your creative self. There’s a passage in there that I’ve noted and noted again: Choose companions who encourage me to do the work, not just talk about doing the work or why I am not doing the work.
On this note, I’ve wanted to write more. I suspect that you might want to write more as well. To do this, we need to surround ourselves with others who encourage us to do the work. As we lead our way into 2019, I’m hoping to do this with like the like-minded.
I’ve contemplated forming a writing circle that meets in person, but think I’d like to start the way I know best: a weekly video call, along the lines of my format for “Do the Thing!” hour – we gather, let each other know what we’re working on, and get to work with our pencils to the page. The idea for ‘Write the Thing!’ will be to meet weekly or every other week at a time that I’ll hold as consistent as I can.
Does this interest you? Would you like to be part of my writing circle? Just send me a note, and I’ll add you to the list of writers, and we’ll make this thing happen.
[Reading as Self Care]
I’ve started putting together my reading list for November and December, to round out the year with positive influence on the page. This year I’ve read less than last, but I always boost up the last few months. Here’s what’s planned so far. Several are chosen from my Personal Development reading list. I always add a handful of new ones as I read along.
Brené Brown: Dare to Lead
Steinbeck: Travels with Charley in Search of America
Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Jasmine Guillory: The Proposal
Dana Velden: Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carloton Abrams, Dalai Lama: The Book of Joy
Trevor Noah: Born a Crime
Celeste Ng: Little Fires Everywhere
Atul Gawande: Being Mortal
Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia
Missing – some good YA fantasy to take me through the holidays. It’s possible that I’ll just do what I do every year and re-read Sabriel. Do you have any favorites I shouldn’t miss?
[Food as Self Care]
This blog, of course, started out as a meditation on eating – a thing to do during my transition to living in San Francisco. At the time, I was full of wonder, but homesick, finding solace in cookbooks, my neighborhood, and everything I could get my hands on at the Farmers market. That feeling of grounding myself in food is always present. Some days I dream of waking up and checking in for a stage at Noma, giving up all of my responsibilities and peeling a hundred pounds of parsnips to get through a busy shift and feel rooted.
But I’ve resigned myself, for now, to the life of an over-educated home cook. Surrounded by my cookbooks, my days are punctuated by the delivery of my monthly meat share, the weekly pickup of my vegetable CSA, or a trip to Trader Joes for a daily sample for the novelty of the thing. Every so often, I give up on making decisions and try out another meal kit. At first I was ashamed of it, but now I see clearly: sometimes you just need to eat without spending hours debating the merits of one dish over another.
Right now, I’m dabbling with Marley Spoon, the meal kit that Martha Stewart aligned her star power with. A few boxes in, I’ve mixed feelings. The dishes have been decent but not mind blowing (they rarely are). But I’ve appreciated getting to work – spending a little bit more time than normal prepping my dinner, and then sitting down to eat something I wouldn’t have likely chosen for myself.
As for fall foods that I’m looking forward to, there’s still so much to eat and to try. I still go back to the same seasonal list that I wrote about here: delicata squash, squashes of all varietals, apples, boiled cider, apple cider donuts, chili, pumpkin whoopee pies, Turkish pumpkin dessert, persimmons, and my all-time favorite pumpkin chocolate chip bundt.
I’m not one for new years resolutions (except for kitchen resolutions!) but I do like setting a word of the year when I get around to remembering to do so. I like having a single word to focus on – a word of intention, or mantra to help me focus on the things that matter.
For 2018, after quite honestly a limited amount of thought on my part, my word for the year is: FINISH.
It’s a nice reminder to finish what I’ve started – spend more time getting to check things off as DONE. As someone who is a serial starter, I’d like to spend a little bit more time working on completing projects, tying loose ends, editing those half written blog posts, the 7/8 completed projects, and sharing the work that I’ve put time and effort into but haven’t finished the final step of pushing out into the world.
With winter in full force today, I’ve been working on a list of things in my life that spark joy to ward off the winter blues. This is a variation of a gratitude exercise that I do with my coaching clients – and something I try to revisit on a semi-regular basis.
I often have difficulty reminding myself what things spark joy when I’m feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many of my friends and clients do as well.
So it helps to do this exercise when I’m on an upswing, and be kind to myself when these things don’t seem like they’ll help. Sometimes the act of making the list is enough to spark positive feelings.
I write out a combination of big things and little things – when I don’t have the energy to travel or adventure, I may still find joy from slicing carrots with my sharp knife, stirring a pot of beans, or cuddling with my sweet puppy. The act of doing something small but satisfying helps to start a positive domino effect in my daily life.
Here’s my list this week.
My red Heath serving bowl, a birthday gift from Devon. And filling it with greenery, such as the parsley tabbouleh picture above. It’s this Ottolenghi recipe.
Chopping and slicing things with a very sharp knife. I purchased a new Kyocera knife as a replacement for one that chipped. At some point, I’ll get a new one with their warranty, but after stalling for a while, I finally just decided to bite the bullet and spend the $30 with industry discount at Sur La Table.
Planning trips, and traveling. I had a few big trips on my to do list this year: my favorites were Florida (twice) and Denver, Colorado! Every year I go with a small group of friends on a spring excursion. We’ve done DC, London, Disney World. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Disney. I’d like to go back this year. Bonus points for silly out takes from warm beaches.
Helping other people find their passion in life. Life is too short to be drifting down the wrong path. There is a world to explore, and people in need to be of service to. For you Wellesleys out there: Sed Min for the Win.
The feeling of having written something. I do wish that I enjoyed the writing process more – but it’s often difficult to feel like I’m in the zone. That said, the joy of having written is strong!
The ocean. I’ve been blessed to have lived most of my life near the ocean. I love the vivid color of the sea, the lapping of waves, gathering sea glass and worn rocks. It’s a perfect place of contemplation. I like walking past others who walk on the beach alone, a brief nod of solidarity and of knowing.
Acquiring new books at my local bookstore. Or even the non-local ones – I like getting books on trips, and visiting bookstores in different places.
Adding a finished book to my Goodreads “read” list. It’s really nice to see everything I’ve read in one place, and to see the virtual shelf growing. Even on days when I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing, I can see that I’ve read and haven’t given up on learning and exploring.
My sweet bean, Bertram the Frenchie. I adore getting to spend time with him, head into the outdoors on adventures, and see him taking true pleasure in chowing down on whatever is in front of him. He likes sitting on my lap and watching the world. He loves people – it’s actually quite nice to have a social puppy that is different than my own nature.
A few weeks ago, needing a new podcast to work through, I started re-listening to the Tim Ferriss show from the first episode. Tim’s podcast is focused on what makes the best, brightest, and most accomplished tick, and gleaning insights on how they live their lives. Tonight I listened to his interview with Joshua Waitzkin, the subject of the film Searching for Bobby Fischer (free on prime streaming video), and author of The Art of Learning. As I try to do when listening to podcasts or reading books, I took notes. Here are some of the main points I found particularly interesting.
We begin with a question:
How do you go about building a daily architecture based on feeding a creative mind?
Some of the tangible methods mentioned in the podcast that I’ve been working to improve or cultivate in my own life:
Meditation (deepening creative process, improving health, a multitude of benefits) For Joshua, much of his meditation is combined with movement – particularly the practice of Tai Chi. Tim discussed his own easing into mediation by sitting for 5-10 minutes daily. I’ve dabbled with meditation over the years, and I’m still looking to cultivate a better meditation process. It’s something that I’m looking to actively build into a habit.
Turn mind to creative work pre-input. This is to say, journal (or write) in the morning before checking your email, RSS feed, Instagram, and email, again. This is one of my worst habits, partially because I charge my phone next to the bed. To change this habit, I will move the phone from reach before going to bed tonight, and put my journal next to my bed.
Ending the work day with quality. This is something I struggle with – it’s easy to find the day ending in a little bit of a lull after a caffeine crash. By ending the work day with quality, you allow yourself to internalize quality overnight. On Monday, I plan to schedule in an important task at the end of the day 30 minutes before I leave. (Note, these do not need to be tasks you finish – in fact, leaving something to write the next day was also mentioned as a productive strategy.)
Similarly, ending a workout with a focus on quality. This means making those last few minutes count. For me, this is kicking it to 200% and sprinting through the finish. Or pushing through those last few minutes of a ride. By ending a workout with a focus on quality, you internalize precision and a strong finish. I’ve worked hard to cultivate this knowing that it drives coaches nuts when you give up in the last few minutes of a workout. I’ve noticed that when I finish on a high point, I’m much more likely to want to head in the next day or two for another workout.
Journaling. Part of my journaling ends up here on the blog, but private writing is important to build and work through complex issues. I’ve been trying to focus on spending more time writing in a physical journal.
Post mortem processes – asking yourself what are the core areas of complexity you are challenged with? At work I lead agile retrospectives with our teams – this practice is actually quite helpful at home as well, and can be as simple as asking yourself a few questions about how things went, what worked well, what didn’t work so well, and what you can improve.
Finally, release your mind from work at the end of the day. I’ve always struggled with coming home with the intention of spending quality time with my family and friends, and the draw of unfinished work emails, or even the always tempting idea of “getting ahead of the work for the next day”. But shutting off is important, and something we all need to focus on.
Are any of these things that you’d like to focus and improve on?
Reading mentioned that I haven’t read but would like to:
I made cookies. A small batch, just two for each of us, and froze the rest of the dough. Ginger Molasses, from a Bakesale Betty mix – thinking about Oakland, about Ferguson, about the country as a whole. It’s hard to read the news here tonight in America. The anger, fear, disappointment. The terror. This can happen to the people you love. To listen to my friends hurt to the core – voices being silenced because of the color of their skin. Nobody should see their child killed and then be denied a trial to seek justice. There’s not much else to say right now. Heading to bed hoping that people stay safe tonight.
Today it rained. It was cold and grey all day long.
I helped my friend Alexann pack what was left of the home that didn’t go into the two pods on their way to Colorado. We worked through the things to be tossed. The last of the cabinets. Her landlord fed us warm apple cake out of the oven. The back of the car was packed with the last of the closet items. That was an adventure that involved folding for a quarter of an hour in the rain.
There was cleaning. I felt inspired to go home and throw out the majority of my belongings to avoid the hassle of any future moves. I inherited a Swiffer. I adopted her violets. I really hope I don’t kill them.
And then, after some hours of good hard work, we were done. Just like that. The rooms were empty.
And so we rested. We drank tea, and coffee. We got carded at the wine store. “And how old are you today?” the woman behind the counter asked me? It took me a full minute to think about it. We left with a bottle of red, and parted ways, briefly, before heading towards another friend’s house to have one last celebration.
We had burritos.
We stood in the kitchen, watching Love Actually, but not really watching. We talked. For hours, about all the usual things. It was good.
We talked about blogging, about business, about creating something to support women and moms. About what it means to make a place for yourself on the internet in this day and age. I gave my best advice I could. If you want to really get into blogging. Write. Start writing now. Forget about the blog, web hosting, comments. Forget about it all, and just write. For days, weeks, months really. Write until you have enough content that you can go on autopilot and learn all the things you’ll have to learn to run a website, at least, if that’s what you ultimately decide that you want to do. I think there’s so much more out there though. A blog – it can be one piece of. But the internet, it can be scary. You have to learn, I think, about the hard things. The horrible comments. The trolling. I had to tell them about gamergate, about how the internet can be a violent place for women. It really pained me to share that. It’s a lot, really. But all this – it’s nothing to worry about. Start writing now. Just write.
I’m getting a little heavy here.
We drank wine.
Tonight I’m grateful that dear friends can be kept thousands of miles away. That the internet and modern technology bring us all together like never before. I’m looking forward to a weekly email chain. A book club where you read the books together, and don’t meet. (The inverse of our usual book club, which should have been called drink wine and talk about the gym club.) Although, on further thought this evening, I realized that we could just have book club on Google Hangout and each sit in our respective houses and crack open bottles of wine and talk about the book together. Wouldn’t that be nice?
I occasionally link to products using affiliate links, including Amazon. I get a small commission if you purchase something from that link and this helps cover hosting costs (I use DreamHost and have been a happy customer since 2009). Thank you for supporting The Second Lunch!