7 Healthy Habits Worth Creating in 2022

Image via Unsplash

Have you grown tired of making impractical New Year’s resolutions? Are you looking for a new strategy this time around—one that allows you to develop good habits without forcing you to transform your entire lifestyle in one day? 

You’ve come to the right place. Through Riding the Wave, I strive to inspire others to get the most out of life. I’ve listed seven healthy, practical habits that you can start implementing in the new year.

1. Leave Town      

If it has been a while since you have left your hometown, now could be an excellent opportunity to do so. Not only can taking a vacation do wonders for your mental health, but the process of planning a trip can boost your happiness. Plus, when you return from your vacation, you will be recharged and more productive and creative.

2. Stay Put

If you want a break but don’t really want to leave town, opt for a staycation. Austin is one of the best cities in the country for staycations because there is so much to do, and it has a plethora of nice vacation rentals to choose from. Book an Austin rental that has a full kitchen so you can cook healthy meals, which will save you money and ensure you get the nutrition you need.

Whether you choose to stay in a trendy district like Rainey Street or near top-notch outdoor activities in the Reserve at Lake Travis, you should have no trouble finding a vacation rental that allows you to unwind and stay healthy.

3. Shape Up Your Diet

Too many people start the new year by trying to implement a strict diet plan. A more practical way to go about it is to make simple changes to your eating habits that allow you to gradually improve your long-term health. Focus on eating for energy and full-body health. Moderate your sugar, salt, and fat intake, and eat more lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

4. Find Your Fitness Rhythm

If you are like many other people, you struggle to exercise consistently. Maybe you are busy, or perhaps you have not found a physical activity you don’t despise. Whatever the case, there are plenty of ways to get the endorphins flowing and benefit your overall health and wellbeing. 

Resolve that you will try out however many activities as it takes this year. Go for runs or brisk walks, try a few HIIT workouts, go for a swim, try your hand at cycling; once you find something you enjoy, you can get into a rhythm of doing it four or five days a week. 

5. Do a Digital Detox     

We encounter so much stimulation on any given day. By unplugging from your electronic devices periodically, you can help reset your mind and foster your mental health. 

Choose at least one moment each day to put your devices away and focus on the present. And consider unplugging entirely for one full day each week.

6. Limit Your Commitments

When you commit to everyone and everything, it increases the stress in your life and leaves you less time to do things that bring you health and joy. Clarify your priorities, learn your limits, and take a moment before saying yes. 

7. Take On a New Hobby

Finally, add an activity to your routine that simply brings you joy. Maybe you can pick up figure drawing, painting, or sculpting. Perhaps you should try your hand at photography, gardening, or crafting model rockets. Whatever it is, start a hobby that you can look forward to during a stressful week.

Developing good habits can transform your life. And it is typically the small-but-significant habits that end up having a lasting impact. Consider the tips above for beginning the new year with practical changes to take your overall health and wellbeing to the next level. 

10 Tips for Feeling Refreshed at Any Time of Day

Photo via Pexels

This article was written by Justin Bennett. When Justin contacted me about guest blogging, I was skeptical, because I’m always skeptical. But his article on feeling refreshed lines up with some of the things I do to reduce stress throughout the day. And it’s well written, which is also refreshing. So here are a few truly easy tips from Justin about how to relax here and there, just in time for the holidays:

Does your life feel hectic and overwhelming? If so, it’s time to evaluate your daily schedule and start creating opportunities to slow down and relax. 

Here are a few suggestions that can help you feel refreshed and recharged throughout the day.

Enjoy Your Morning

Start your day off right by incorporating these ideas into your morning routine

  • Create an upbeat morning playlist so that you’ll feel energized and motivated when you get out of bed.
  • Approach your typical morning cup of coffee as a soothing ritual to get centered.
  • Leave time for a few minutes of meditation before you get to work.

Take an Afternoon Break

If you tend to experience a mid-day energy slump, these tips can help you stay focused during the afternoon.

  • To shrink your to-do list, hire a freelancer to tackle administrative tasks or content creation for you.
  • If you can’t get away from your desk, do a few yoga poses to stretch out and relieve any strain in your back and shoulders.
  • Do you balance running a home-based business with watching your kids? Zenbusiness.com recommends strategies, like delegating important chores, to help you create a little more “you” time!

Relax in the Evening

Don’t go to bed feeling frazzled – instead, try these techniques to wind down in the evening.

  • Make sure you’re not staring at screens before bedtime. Follow these tactics for cutting down on your screen time.
  • Write in a journal to get any lingering stress off of your mind before you head to bed.
  • Want to treat yourself? Take a luxurious bubble bath to let go of the day.
  • Finally, sneak in a little reading time before you go to sleep and chill out with your favorite book.

When your schedule is packed, it’s not easy to find moments of calm. But you would be surprised by the small changes you can make that will lift your mood. With these tips, you’ll find that you can take on each day with plenty of energy.

Want to run your business more efficiently? Fill out the contact form on our website so we can discuss your content needs.

How Many Activities is Too Many?

Kids: How many activities is too many?

We have a child who likes to do ALL THE THINGS. I’m not sure where he comes from, except Jason and I were both there when he entered this world, so we’re fairly certain he’s ours. When he was younger, he would bound downstairs like a ten-ton gazelle, leaping but somehow thundering with each step as if he were fifty times his 30-pound frame. It would be Saturday morning, and I would be settling into the couch to enjoy my coffee, staring out the window, and the quiet beginnings of a blissfully unscheduled day. Jack would ask, impatient with expectation…

“So what are we doing today?”

“Well, *yawn* I’m going to sit here and drink my coffee.”

“Then what?”

“I’m gonna read some.”

“For how long?”

“Until I feel like being done.”

“But what are we going to DO today?”

“I don’t know! Sheesh, I’m not the activities director.”

All the Activities

Jack wanted a SCHEDULE. Not a suggestion, not a list, but activity bullet points complete with times down to the minute. Now in 8th grade, he has manifested this desire in diving headlong into 80 percent of the extracurricular activities offered to him. He sometimes starts the day at 7am with clarinet sectionals and schleps home at 9pm after school, football and soccer.

That amount of activity for me would, at any point in my life, have quickly sent me into an overwhelmed tearful meltdown. But as much as he looks like me, he isn’t a clone. He thrives on his busy schedule. He revels in the challenge and the physical activity. I am amazed.

One of the Activities

Our younger kiddo is in his last year of elementary school, and he hesitatingly committed to play select soccer this year. It is his only activity besides school. It is enough, and occasionally, even that one thing feels like too much. I don’t know what Gage will decide to do when he gets to middle school, but it’s hard to imagine him reveling in a fourteen-hour day the way his older brother does. Gage comes home from soccer in an upbeat mood. Then, he disappears into his room for several hours to rest, watch videos and play with his bearded dragon.

What I Thought I Knew

I had these ideas about parenting before I had kids (oh, didn’t we all) — about what the “right” amount of activities was. I never would’ve approved of Jack’s dizzying schedule. But I also thought that, in order to show support for my kids’ interests, I should sign them up for classes or clubs related to their fascinations with sports or lizards or art. Both of these ideas are valid. There is such a thing as too much or too little structure in a kids’ life. And signing a kid up for a pottery class if they’re interested can be a good thing.

What I Learned After Becoming a Parent

  1. There is a wide range of “the right amount of activities,” and it is largely dictated by the kiddo’s personality.
  2. That right amount will change from year to year.
  3. It’s possible to ruin a kid’s interest in something by turning it into an “activity.”

Why Those Three Things Are Important

I’m a firm believer that all kids (and adults) need SOME free time — to rest, reflect, let their mind wander, discover what happens when they get bored. But maybe one person needs a few minutes while the other needs days.

Age matters, of course. It’s never a good idea to fill a three-year-old’s day, from waking to sleeping, with adult-directed activities. The older kids are, the more they can handle…if they want to.

There are other ways to support a kid’s interests than signing them up for classes. This is one I am working on now. I recently saw Jack dribbling a ball in the driveway and asked,

“Do you want me to sign you up for basketball camp?”

“No, Mom. I just wanna shoot hoops on my own.”

Even Jack has a limit. Turns out, he uses driveway basketball to wind down after a long day; it’s meditative to him — the rhythmic sound of rubber bouncing on cement, the clang and swoosh of the hoop. I support that interest by moving the car out of the way and hanging out on the driveway with him. He’ll occasionally tell me about school or friends as he shoots, or he’ll throw me the ball so I can bounce it off the rim into the neighbor’s yard. Basketball doesn’t need to be an organized social activity. Thank god.

Gage is in love with snorkeling right now. He talks about our trip to Belize two years ago almost daily. This is a hard thing to turn into a regular activity in Central Texas. So I order him books about it and, more importantly, listen to him talk about diving and practicing holding his breath. I respect his interest, letting him know that being a snorkel guide and living a simple life by the sea would be awesome if it makes him happy. Gage mostly prefers to explore his interests on his own, outside a scheduled, directed class. And he has come to know himself:

Mom, I really don’t want to do any activity that’s gonna go on for more than two hours.

It’s Their Path to Walk.

Above all, I try not to compare my kids to each other. (Though sometimes it’s hard — they live in the same house, attend the same schools and have had some of the same teachers and coaches.) I tell myself daily, each of them is walking his own path. No matter what characteristics they share with each other or with us, their parents, they will not make the same choices. I can’t choose for them any more than I can save them from the heartache they’ll experience along the way (much as I’d be tempted to if it were possible).

More and more, as the kids get older, I find myself not in the driver’s seat but simply along for the ride. I follow their curiosities, their interests. I support, I mentor, I listen, I comfort. I sign them up for the things they ask for and allow them to move on if that interest proves fleeting. I offer advice sparingly. More often than not, at this point, the world provides consequences for their actions, and I don’t need to. I don’t know exactly who they will become as adults, what their roads will look like. I’m just happy to be a part of the journey.

Second-Hand Bricks

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

I am hunched on the edge of the concrete slab, summer sun scorching my neck and shoulders unrelentingly. I am chiseling, with hammer and file, the mortar off of salvaged bricks. I curse each time a brick breaks under my chisel; that’ll be a dock in pay. It’s August in Texas; I’m fifteen years old.

It sounds like a scene from a post-apocalyptic, dystopian teen novel, but I’d chosen this brutal prisoner’s labor. The concrete slab was our front porch, and the bricks had been reclaimed from the demolition of the front wall of our house. Dad was paying us a quarter a brick to clean off the old mortar so he could reuse them in the addition he was building, but you only got a nickel if the brick cracked in half. Our younger cousin, JulieAnn, had already been fired from brick cleaning for breaking too many.

The addition was designed to give our family extra space now that my sister and I were teenage-sized, with gaggles of teenage-sized friends we brought home to take over our one living room. My parents were tired of being banished to their bedroom. Dad completed the project, with the last coat of peach-colored paint on the walls, in May of 1994 after I’d been off at college for two semesters and my sister, Bonnie, would be out of the house in a few short years — just in time for my parents to rattle around in a place that was now too big.

Dad honestly didn’t care how many bricks we cleaned; he offered the monetary incentive and left us to our own devices. He didn’t micromanage us or yell when one of us broke a brick (to our surprise), and he rationally “let JulieAnn go” for her clumsy cleaning, without a note of reproach in his voice. As I remember, Bonnie cleaned more than I did. I was fifteen and eager for the money, but I also had a boyfriend with a car — places to go, things to…well, places to hang out, anyway.

I didn’t think too much about the legacy or metaphor of brick cleaning at the time. My dad put us to the task to save money and also because it would have been difficult to find new bricks to match the original ones. Mostly though, my father hates to waste things. Throwing something out when you can clean it, fix it, reuse it, offends his very nature. In our house, there were flip flops repaired with twine, a washing machine with a weird metal knob replacing the plastic one we kids broke, and a manual-transmission vehicle that started without the clutch engaged. By the time my sister and I were budding teenagers, we took things like chiseling mortar for the sake of frugality as a matter of course. It was weird to our friends but not to us.

Just today, however, I was reading a chapter of Walden, “House Warming,” and came across an account of building a chimney with used bricks, and I was excited. Granted, I had to go back hundreds of years to find camaraderie in brick cleaning, but still. Let me use this opportunity to quote Thoreau and seem much more cultured and literary than I am:

My bricks being second-hand ones required to be cleaned. The mortar on them was fifty years old, and was said to be still growing harder; but this is one of those sayings which men love to repeat whether they are true or not. Such sayings themselves grow harder and adhere more firmly with age, and it would take many blows with a trowel to clean an old wiseacre of them.

Henry David Thoreau

I started reading Walden because a novel I was reading — blasting through fervently, actually, and ignoring everyone in my house – frequently referenced it. I’m not blasting through Walden but reading it more like you would poetry or philosophy – a few pages here, a chapter there, accompanied by a lot of pondering. I have been delighted to discover Thoreau and I are philosophically similar in a lot (but not all) ways. I’m surprised I have that much in common with a nineteenth-century man who never had children and died when he was younger than I am now. But like me, he reveled in nature and simplicity, he was a writer, and apparently, he cleaned bricks.

Thoreau took a much loftier approach to his mortar chiseling than I did, sweating over the quarter per in-tact brick I would get. He would have pitied my working for coins when I could’ve been toiling to my own ends. In a way, I was, as it was the roof I lived under that my dad was expanding. I, of course, didn’t see it that way. I was fifteen. I wasn’t helping improve our homestead; I was after money for movies and snacks.

Now, 30 years later, I can more easily see Thoreau’s and my dad’s view of things — brick cleaning and otherwise. Because while I was occasionally motivated by the almighty dollar in my youth, the older I get, the less excitement I’m able to muster about a couple of bucks, which is unfortunate because you know, capitalism. Now I prefer to do a lot of things myself instead of hiring someone, who admittedly, might do it better and faster. It’s money-saving, but the real reason I cut my own hair is that it’s simpler. I don’t have to make an appointment or drive anywhere or torture myself and a relative stranger with soul-killing small talk.

This is why I clean my own house (a.k.a, why my house is so fucking dirty); why there’s a hole in my bathroom showcasing visible bathtub plumbing that has been there so long I don’t see it anymore; why we have inside doorknobs on outside doors replacing the ones the kids broke. There is satisfaction in repairing things ourselves. The downside is, there is always shit waiting to be fixed in our house; the backlog is like, eons. We’ll probably fix that gaping hole full of PVC plumbing in the bathroom when we decide to sell the house in ten years. Probably. Because, unlike Thoreau, we can’t spend lazy days fishing at the pond and tending a fire for hours to cook our catch. We have kids to take to soccer, a geriatric dog to drag around the block and Everests of laundry to wash and never fold or put away.

But even if, like Thoreau, I could build my own little cabin with second-hand brick chimney upon the idyllic land owned by my financially independent good buddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, I wouldn’t. Thoreau himself said his two-year stint by the pond, second-hand bricks included, wasn’t about making a map by which all people should live. He only sought to prove (primarily to himself, I suspect) that it was possible — if you lived simply — to work for yourself, to work very little and to be contented for it.

I’m not gonna go live off the grid. I like cell phones, Netflix and having neighbors. But I do seek to make things simpler by cleaning my own metaphorical bricks when I can. When the work is for my own house or my neighbor’s and not meaningless labor to make widgets or advertise said widgets for a corporation who will then pay me so I can turn around and pay someone else to fix my toilet, even when it’s hard, tedious or maddening, it feels good. So I don’t want to buy anything, sell anything or process anything, but maybe I am okay with cleaning bricks, as long as they’re metaphorical…me, Lloyd Dobler, my dad and Thoreau. Good company.

Shelter-in-Place, the Good Stuff

kid drawing chalk art on sidewalkIt’s a learning experience.

When my oldest was asked, as a kindergartener, “What’s something your mom always says?” that was his response. He could’ve said any number of things:

What’s that smell?

Why is this wet?

I JUST cleaned this.

Not ’til I finish my coffee.

Get down. That wasn’t meant to hold your weight.

Or the ubiquitous, Why is there always crap all over the living room?

But my lovely firstborn chose something that makes me sound insightful. I would deliver this “learning experience” adage when he was down on himself for making a mistake, trying to point out that mistakes are how we learn to do something different the next time. I was not born with this wisdom. I, just like my kid, expected perfection of myself the first and every time. It was only later in life I began to tell myself to learn from my screwups and move on.

While all of this sheltering in place isn’t a mistake I’ve made, instead of lamenting what we can’t do, what’s not available, I can look at what I’ve learned from it. 

  1. We do not actually need all the activities we had previously scheduled into our lives.
  2. We are all pretty good at entertaining ourselves (even the oldest, extrovert child) when we have ample opportunity.
  3. While I am fond of baking, given enough free time, I still don’t like to cook.
  4. The people in my neighborhood are awesomely supportive of each other in good times and bad.
  5. Having only each other to play with for quite some time, our kids are now emotionally closer to each other.
  6. I hadn’t lost interest in my hobbies before the pandemic; I’d just lost time and energy enough to want to pursue them.
  7. Jason and I can still do projects together, and even if they are a pain in the ass, we don’t take it out on each other.
  8. Trading books, puzzles and plant cuttings with friends may not be the same as dishing in a bar together, but it’s fun and bonding in a whole different way.

These are the things I want to hang onto longterm. Most of them have to do with protecting free time so that everyone in our family has the opportunity to get bored and think, “what next?”

Some people take “what next?” time and invent things to solve the world’s problems or start new, innovative companies or side hustles. That’s not what I’m after here. I want to maintain the leisure we’ve found during this time of everything shut down — books, movies, gardening, playing. That, to me, is the stuff that makes life worth living. And coronavirus has made me realize, I missed it. What have you learned from the pandemic fallout that you’d like to keep, longterm?

Riding the Socially Distanced Wave

 

reynzo-u5vx3Ke0_RM-unsplash
Photo by Reynzo on Unsplash

 

Riding the Wave

I didn’t realize how apt the name of this blog was when I came up with it. At the onset, it just described how moody I am — how I can be in love with the world one minute and convinced it’s utterly doomed the next. I can even hold both of those feelings at the same moment. The “riding” part refers to my attempt to gently navigate these mood swings instead of trying to beat them into submission.

But wave riding is not just for my personal emotional ambiance; it has applied, very much, to weathering this forced shelter-in-place, quarantine, socially-distant experiment to which we’ve all, necessarily, been subjected. People are sick, and essential employees are out there doing their jobs in the face of immense challenge and fear. I salute them. This post is for the rest of us.

Telling It Like It Is, Part 1

I could tell you that, since we’ve all been sequestered here in our house, I’ve been cooking more. The kids have been helping around the house, and Jason has ramped up his woodworking. I could wax philosophical about how we’ve learned to appreciate the little things — stocked grocery shelves, a walk around the block, our own good health. Our kids are visibly excited about toilet paper, for godsakes. I could tell you we’ve hiked and done crafts and that in a way, we feel closer as a family than ever. I could mention that this time has caused me to reflect on what is truly important and in what direction I’d like to take my career. I love the simplicity this situation has brought us. All of this would be true.

Telling It Like It Is, Part 2

I could also tell you that Jason and I had a loud, emotional argument right before bed one night last week that took us days to recover from. I could tell you how I cry into my hands in front of my computer screen at least once a week, the job sites staring back at me with offers from companies I will never hear back from — a recurring non-event that chips away at my self-worth. I could reveal that my kids, though they don’t complain anymore about isolation, long for their friends. I could mention how, introvert though I may be, I have recently started fantasizing about going OUT to dinner, about seeing a movie or having drinks at a bar with friends, about drinking a coffee IN the shop. All of these things are true, too.

Just Like Oz

Things are great and terrible. It is the best of times and the worst of times. Isolation is blissfully relaxing, centering even, and yet also distressing and identity crisis inducing. Part of being human (at least I hope so because if not, it’s just my weird, overly-complicated bullshit emotions) is the ability to hold these seemingly conflicting feelings simultaneously. So if you are also having your waves — peaks where you feel like self-distancing has changed your life for the better, troughs in which you want to run away from home and never come back — know that some of us, hell probably most of us, are going through the same thing. And it is possible to feel it all at once, too.

Comparison, Thief of Joy

When you scroll through your social media feeds and see all the crafts and baked goods and post-workout sweat shots, don’t compare yourself to that. Remember, those people have their troughs too. We all do. Don’t be too hard on yourself (she says to remind herself the same thing.)

Homeschool Advice from a Former Teacher who Hates Lesson Plans

homeschool penny hike
Coronavirus Homeschool Penny Hike

UPDATE: I wrote this two weeks ago at the beginning of our school-from-home experience. Since then, the school district has upped their game, mostly subverting my role to tech support for my children. This means we spend a lot of time arguing about usernames and passwords.

Also, I wrote this on one of the days I felt like I had my shit together. Right now, I feel like my shit is very far apart, strewn across the galaxy and into the dark side of the multiverse. (We rewatched Doctor Strange last night, as Marvel movies are the only ones we can all agree on.)

So you can use the ideas I wrote about here, or you can totally hide in your home office and allow your family to assume you’re working when you’re really having virtual brunch with friends and venting.


Educational Activity

This morning, for the edification of my lovely young children, we went on a penny hike. This is a simple concept from my own childhood in which you flip a coin every time you get to an intersection: heads, go right, tails go left.

It was a multidisciplinary hike in which we observed bees and ants in their natural habitats (science), discussed the virtues of exercise (physical education), and practiced converting measurements from the metric system to the imperial system* (math). We also discussed probability with each coin flip and practiced our geographical skills with the recognition of landmarks.

Another Way to Describe What We Did

The 9-year-old said, “Let’s go on a penny hike.” We happened across some ants, which we watched until someone stepped in their pile. The kids freaked out when I stopped to take a closeup picture of the bees, and I explained for the billionth time that the bees are not plotting a stinging onslaught upon anyone who gets within 25 feet of them.

When the kids started whining about being tired because leaving all decisions up to chance kept us walking in circles, we abandoned coin flipping and headed home. We discussed how the 9-year-old’s inconsistent flipping habits (sometimes playing it where it lay, sometimes slapping it onto his arm, depending on his preferred coin side) were biasing our results.

As for geographical landmarks, one of them pointed to a house along the way and said, “I think that’s Aiden’s house.” The 12-year-old checked his Pokemon Go app to see how far we walked, and as an afterthought, I asked him to convert the kilometers to miles.

Take it Easy

It doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. You don’t even have to plan that much; just look for opportunities in everything you do to ask your kids some questions. You probably already do it without realizing it.

In the classroom, things are uber structured because there is a gaggle of kids and one adult. If you want to plan things down to the minute at home, cool. But if maintaining a rigid school schedule while also trying to get your own work done stresses you out, know you don’t have to.

One night at dinner, we brainstormed activities we could do during this time of social distancing. They ran the gamut: read a book, rake leaves, hike, practice soccer in the backyard, watch something new on TV. Each day, we can pick several things from the list, and all the math, science, language arts, and not-so-social studies will happen naturally.  This leaves plenty of time for me to work and for the kids to still have much more free time than they’re used to.

And read. Don’t forget to tell them to read.

*I had to look up what we call our antiquated, arbitrary system of measuring things that I still, stupidly, can’t let go of.

I’m a Complex Fellow, Unlikely to do Anything Twice

Little girl trying mom's lipstick. Growing up concept
Copyright: Alina Demidenko

When we come home from vacation, I am fifty percent likely to unpack right away, put everything where it goes and start a load of laundry. The other fifty percent…I leave my bag on the floor of the bedroom for a week and a half where I paw through it every time I need something. Either thing is just as possible.

I am wildly inconsistent about most things. (I can’t say “all things” because I’m not even consistent at being inconsistent.) I’m obsessed with Facebook until I decide I hate it and ignore it for three weeks. I exercise regularly until I decide life is too short to spend it working out and my running shoes start to grow cobwebs. I like routine very much until I start to get bored and want something novel until I feel overwhelmed and crave routine again.

Jason says I’m a complex person. I’m starting to think this isn’t a compliment. It’s confusing, even for me. Especially when I plan something when I’m in “do all the things, be with all the people!” mode but the actual plans fall in a “people suck, I don’t like to shower phase.”

My mother-in-law once asked me if I liked to shop, which seems like a simple enough question. My answer (Yes, when I’m in the mood to, but a lot of times not because of capitalist bullshit, you know, and it can be soothing to wander through a store but stressful when you feel you just HAVE to get a birthday present for someone and it can be overwhelming when you can’t decide what to buy and just end up putting everything you picked out back and leave the store in tears.) is stupidly complicating.

Today I think, You know what’s wrong with me? I need to be more social. Tomorrow it’ll be, You know what my problem is? I don’t have enough alone time. I need to be busier; I’m bored. I’m overwhelmed; I need more downtime. Like seriously, could I land at just one end of the spectrum of a problem just once? Like for more than a few days at a time?

How is it that I can be equal parts people-pleaser and stubborn, “You’re not the boss of me, I don’t have to if I don’t want to even if I know it’s good for me”? How can I have BOTH of those feelings inside me simultaneously?

I need every day to be a choose your own adventure book, so I can adjust my life on a dime. Do you, A, go to the meeting? B, take a nap? C, drive to Mexico? Take a random day like next Tuesday, and given the option, I might pick any one of those. You can’t predict it. More importantly, I can’t predict it.

I’m going to go upstairs and read now or maybe play Rocket League badly with my family. Or perhaps I’ll invent a time machine so I can go back and talk to Einstein about the theory of relativity and hope that, in person, he can explain it to me. Really, any of that’s pretty likely.

When I Grow Up…

Start up
photo credit: Stock Photo, copyright, yarruta 

When I was a kid, adults always asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew the answer was supposed to be a paying gig, so I shrugged my shoulders noncommittally and hoped they’d just move on. The truth was, I didn’t want to be anything when I grew up, at least nothing that qualified as a valid profession. After all, no one was going to pay me to make up dances in my living room at my own pace and only when I felt like it.

As far as I could see, being an adult sucked. They got up and went to work eight or nine hours a day, got only two weeks vacation and didn’t even get summers off. They were obligated to stay at their place of business until quitting time. They paid bills and did responsible things like washing dishes, mowing the lawn and paying for car insurance.  Screw that, I thought as I spent long summer days roller skating up and down our steep neighborhood driveways with friends or sprawled across my bed with a book by myself.

I liked to make up stories. I wrote down the rambling thoughts in my head in the form of poetry or barely-legible prose. Not a practical career choice, that of a writer — may as well decide I’m going to be heavyweight champion of the world. NOTHING I liked to do was marketable.

I went to high school with a lot of high-achieving teenagers, and in college, my friends found their places. They were pre-med, pre-law, civil engineering. Being a writer didn’t fit in with my family culture nor my school cohort unless of course, I could make myself a noteworthy best-selling author. No pressure. So I spent most of my college years making out with boys and figuring out where I could get my hands on some beer. I graduated from college because that’s what was expected and because I was tired of people telling me what to do.

I didn’t know there were other roads to adulthood, and indeed, there weren’t as many options as our kids thankfully have today. There are young entrepreneurship programs now that have kids developing their own marketable products while still in high school, for example. That’s awesome, but here’s another thing to think about:

What if we widened the definition of “successful?” We heap praise on the ambitious, but is being content where you are such a bad thing? Is wanting “just enough” really worse than aiming for the stars? Why did I have it in my head anything less than “best-selling” was a failure? Why wasn’t “pretty good writer who ekes out a living” a viable option if it made me happy?

I’d like to see us continue to support the kids and young adults who have ideas and goals and want to run with them to the top, make all the money and/or change the world. But let’s also remember it takes more than wild idealism to make the world go around. Some of us don’t want to be millionaires or develop the next life-altering piece of technology. Some of us don’t want to be all-star athletes or biomedical engineers. Some of us just want to be allowed to do our art, share it with people, and be left alone.

 

 

On Bullshit

71a1389c36241bbd665383365c83fb45I was listening to NPR the other day and heard a definition of the word “bullshit.” I’d never thought of it as more than a careless epithet meaning something was definitively untrue, but it turns out the word has real application in its own right beyond a synonym for “lie.” The gist was this:

Bullshit is speaking with intentional disregard for the truth, usually in order to convince someone of something you wish them to believe. It’s not necessarily a lie; the bullshitter just isn’t interested in whether it’s true or not, as long as the rhetoric serves their interest.

Bullshit is all around us. It comes in the form of commercials, internet ads, billboards, salespeople and even friends. It is people who speak to us as if what they say is undeniable fact. They may quote “scientific” studies or use anecdotes as evidence their thing works, whether their thing is a car, a skin care product, a retirement plan or a parenting approach.81a628562b688c04c4f7ccb1efa63513

Some of these people are intentionally bullshitting us. They know they are pulling purported facts out of their ass (goes nicely with “bullshit,” doesn’t it?) but they do it to make commission. Other people, the ones harder to spot, do it subconsciously. They are bullshitting themselves and want us on the bandwagon too.

The most pervasive piece of bullshit of this latter group, of which we have all probably been a part from time to time, is that this product/procedure/service is something EVERYBODY needs. There are a few things all living people need: air, food, water, shelter from harsh elements… That’s about it. Notice what’s not on that list? Just about everything else: a financial adviser, yoga, a college education, essential oils, a full-time job…

Bullshit does not belong to just one industry. It is pervasive, from the salesperson at your door trying to sell you a vacuum to the gym membership rep who seems genuinely disappointed in your unwillingness to sign a three-year “commitment to a healthier you.” This is partly how our lives get so disorganized. We get talked into an MLM where we have to order things every month, a gym or spa membership we never end up using, a BNI that promises to grow our businesses exponentially but doesn’t deliver. Then we are stressed. We have to spend time and energy disentangling ourselves from those obligations, not to mention money.

15c92fe827e19d69e641e8a8e00edca2I’m not saying some of these things can’t be good. Remember, bullshit isn’t about lying, it’s about disregard for the truth. If we’re able to look at what’s being offered with a discerning, impartial eye, we might determine it’s something useful for us.  But remember, the one, fundamental truth being disregarded much of the time is that it’s possible this thing or service isn’t the best fit for us. Some people give lip service to that truth; fewer actually mean it.

This is one way bullshit can be damaging; the bullshitter talks us into commitments — commitments that, had we been able to examine them more candidly, we’d have known right away weren’t a good fit for us, saving us time, energy and money.

One of my favorite quotes is from the introduction of Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. She humbly prefaces her account of her own feminist and religious awakening with this: Take what seems yours to take, and leave the rest. She’s not selling; she’s offering. That statement is what allowed me to learn from a woman whose journey overlaps with mine, but is still far from similar.

This post may be totally irrelevant to you. Perhaps you have waded through the bullshit already and are no longer taken by it. Perhaps you have some other thing going on in your head, about which I have no idea. I don’t delude myself into thinking anything I write is universally appealing (though at the beginning I very much tried to be). But if this does speak to you, I hope it’s given you the resolve to rely more on your own intuition about what you need and less on the bullshit of others.

331d27cf37284f896ea5e2b20dd4d2e3