Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Monday, January 31, 2011

Done for the Week: Not So Much


Another Monday, but hardly a Pleasant Valley one.  I'm still getting my feet back on the ground after traveling last week, and still waiting for my hearing to recover from flying with a bad cold/sinus infection.  I think my family was happy to see me, though I couldn't tell you exactly what they said when I returned.

I managed to get the following done despite three intense days away.

Done for the Week:  Jan. 24-30
  1. Continued off-season race training, still fighting a bad cold, and traveling; biked twice; ran once
  2. Succeeded in getting husband to gym with me once
  3. Finished Last Puzzle & Testament, by Parnell Hall
  4. Continued providing minimal volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit
  5. Worked my two part-time jobs
  6. Published 3 blog posts; took two days off for training
  7. Attended national Ntosake training for women leaders
  8. Traveled serenely, despite challenges
  9. Wrote 6 Gratitude Journal entries
  10. Wrote 1 Morning Page
  11. Meditated 6 times
  12. Watched our two favorite basketball teams play 4 games, with son and husband
  13. Foraged for food at the grocery store several times
  14. Attended one yoga class
My focus goal for last week was "to practice serenity in the face of change and unfamiliarity.  That will mean getting laundry and packing done ahead, and finalizing travel arrangements, and managing the unexpected with equanimity--while remembering to breathe.  Oh, and remembering to enjoy what there is to enjoy."  I am happy--and amazed--to report that I achieved this goal.  Without qualification.  Not sure how, but I did.  And it's highlighted in green.  And it's written in red, because it was my most important achievement last week.  Hands down.  Now if I could only figure out how to reproduce that state on familiar terrain.

This week's focus goal is to get back to working on my novel.  The weather is threatening to snow us in, which may alter my schedule.  But no matter what, I commit to two writing sessions of two hours each. 

And now, given the late hour, I commit to getting a decent night's sleep, and continuing my quest to rid myself of the cold that's been plaguing me for a couple of weeks.   Buenos noches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On the Road Again. . . with Trepidation

Is there truly a word for everything?  I  have recently discovered the word hodophobia, which means fear of travel.  The word derives from the Greek  "hodos" for path, and "phobos" for fear.  Some restrict its use to fear of road travel, and use the broader term agoraphobia to describe a general reluctance to be away from home.  But whatever we call it--I've got it.


There are some adventures in my past, though they pale next to those of my globe-trotting husband.  I wasn't always afraid to leave home without--well, pretty much everything I own.  But as life became more stressful in general, and I hunkered down to raise some high-maintenance kids, a nascent fear of flying grew into a general reluctance to go outside my increasingly narrow comfort zone.


I didn't indulge this fear--much.  For a couple of years post-Katrina, I practically commuted to New Orleans to help care for my frail father.  And my white-knuckle flying gradually took on some color, and was even, eventually, enjoyable.  The plane trips and the airport time, despite the TSA hassles and the blaring alert levels, became a corridor of solitude in a season of ceaseless demands from one generation or the other.  But the beleaguered part of me was no longer eager to attempt new or distant itineraries.  


This is not how I want to see myself, shivering in my shoes.  Nor do I want my world to be as small as it has become.  


In the dark hours of tomorrow morning, I am leaving for a city I haven't spent time in for over a decade.  The woman I was supposed to be traveling with was summoned ahead yesterday.  I am left with a complicated set of instructions for getting from the airport to my eventual destination, which include one light rail transfer and a forty-minute walk.  I'm thinking cab.  I feel like I will be hurtling myself headlong out of a hot air balloon.  And I imagine every one of my fellow travelers as totally confident, unfazed by uncertainty and the tyranny of the old brain--the bold and the beautiful.  I know better.  Really I do.  


The occasion of this trip is the Ntosake Training offered by the Gamaliel Foundation "for women who are serious about being and acting more powerfully."   Ntosake is a South African word meaning, “she who walks with Lions; she who carries her own things.” Over the course of three short days, our focus will be  
to understand our own history, allies, relationships, obstacles, and motivation and how these relate to building our power and public life.
I am attending Track 2, "for women in significant leadership positions in their organizations and/or communities."  


So if I'm already a significant leader, and I'm going to be walking with lions and carrying my own things (which reminds me--I need to finish this post and get to packing!), I'd better just get over this cowering thing.  I should eighty-six the image I hold of myself as flotsam to be tossed about by the vagaries of various modes of transportation, dashed on the rocks of the unexpected.


For this mission, I plan to channel The Fourth Little Pig--the title character in a book I used to read to my children, all the while listening in to its wisdom.  Pig Four, as we refer to her in our family, ultimately coaxes her three hapless, traumatized brothers out of hiding.  In the wake of their terrorizing by the Big Bad Wolf, they had sequestered themselves together in the house of bricks where the wolf had met his end.  They had determined that the world was way too scary a place to inhabit.  But Pig Four didn't rest until she had lured them hence with promises of picnics, canoe trips and fudge.  And of course, this being a children's story, they all lived happily, and audaciously ever after.


And so tomorrow, once more, into the breach, errr, jetway.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Procrastinating 101--Still Procrastinating

Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting It DoneFor the next several weeks, I will be devoting this Tuesday Procrastinating 101 feature to learning from Joseph R. Ferrari's new book, Still Procrastinating?  The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done.  One of the heavies in the field of procrastination research, Dr. Ferrari 
is a distinguished professor of psychology at DePaul University and the American Psychological Association's main resource on procrastination.  [He] has been featured on ABC News and Good Morning America as well as on NPR, BBC, CBS, and NBC radio.  He has been interviewed in publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Crain's New York Business, Redbook, Parenting, Good Housekeeping, Elle, Vogue, Money, Men's Health, Scientific American, and Psychology Today.
He is also good buds with Dr. Timothy Pychyl, another procrastination researcher whose work I have mentioned in this blog, and creator of the website procrastination.ca, which ambitiously "indexes all current and past scholarship and information on procrastination."  In his Psychology Today blog Don't Delay, Pychyl wrote that "Joe [Ferrari] has published more research about procrastination than anyone else in the world."  His foreword to Dr. Ferrari's book provides a strong endorsement of its contribution.
  
A frequently cited quote from Dr. Ferrari tells us that

Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.
As someone who has wrestled with this entrenched difficulty for years, and who has purchased every conceivable type of weekly planner to little or no avail, I can attest to that.

In his book's introduction, Dr. Ferrari makes the case that, in a universe where his Google search turned up 2,370 hits for procrastination in book titles, there is still room, and need, for his.  He modestly reminds us of his stature in a field he has labored in for over twenty years.  And he promises to go beyond "time-management or quickie solutions."  He holds that his research-based approach, and the knowledge it provides, will help the reader stop procrastinating.  Once and for all.


To figure out whether or not one is a "chronic procrastinator," and thus part of Ferrari's intended audience, he offers the following--with the disclaimers that it is not a "personal inventory," a "pop psychology 'personality test,'" or a "diagnostic tool."  He refers to the statements below as a profile, against which we can consider ourselves.


  • I am regularly late for meetings and appointments.
  • I feel uncomfortable saying no to others when I'm asked to do something.
  • I wait to meet deadlines until the last minute, because I get a kick out of beating the clock.
  • I have lots of clutter around me and tend to be disorganized at work, at home, and in my life in general.
  • It really is not my fault that I start and finish projects at the last minute, if at all; other people and other tasks that I have to do get in the way.
  • I find it so hard to make decisions; I'm not a good decision maker.
  • I know what I should be doing to meet deadlines, but I simply don't do it.
  • It is so hard for me to just get started or to do more than one task at a time.  It's easier if I don't even begin.
  • I don't seem to be able to gauge how much time I'll need to get tasks done; I underestimate or overestimate what is necessary.
  • It is difficult for me to organize things and then to get started, so I simply don't do it.
  • I tend to focus on short-term, immediate pleasures, and I really don't think of or consider the long-term positive outcomes that would result from getting my tasks done.
  • People know that I'm usually late in whatever I do (from purchasing gifts to getting sport or concert tickets).  They know that I work hard and this is why I can't be punctual.  If others pressure me to get tasks done by a certain deadline, I react by taking my time--they don't have the right to tell me when to do something!
  • Life is short; I want to enjoy it now.
So mostly, yes, I seem to fit the profile.  Next week, we'll find out what kind of company I'm in.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Done for the Week: Finally, First Things First


Once again, I am struggling to get this post up by my personal deadline.  Monday morning in the blogging world.  And too many others mornings of the week for me lately, as life continues to speed out of control.  And I continue to hang on for dear life.


While clinging to the handrails, here's what I got done last week.

Done for the Week:  Jan. 17-23
  1. Continued off-season race training, while fighting a bad cold; biked twice; ran once
  2. Succeeded in getting husband to gym with me once
  3. Finished Find More Time: How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It, by Laura Stack; Bleeding Kansasby Sara Paretsky; Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way:  Creating Happiness with Meditation, Yoga, and Ayurveda, by Nancy Liebler and Sandra Moss
  4. Continued providing minimal volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit
  5. Worked my two part-time jobs, with continuing schedule changes
  6. Published 5 blog posts
  7. Wrote 7 Gratitude Journal entries
  8. Wrote 3 Morning Pages
  9. Meditated 6 times
  10. Watched our two favorite basketball teams play 4 games, with son and husband
  11. Foraged for food at the grocery store several times
  12. Attended two yoga classes
  13. Attended Transitional Jobs Collaborative meeting
  14. Provided more TLC for sick son and grandson; eventually succumbed myself; took a sick day
  15. Attended birthday brunch for friend
  16. Babysat my grandson, holding Polar Express party reprise
  17. Got back to work on novel, in midst of continuing schedule challenges
  18. Finally took down Christmas tree
  19. Communicated with fellow bloggers
  20. Communicated with long-distance friends
  21. Started to work on scheduling Ireland trip with my family 
  22. Cooked more nutritious dinners than in recent past
  23. Watched episode of Treme with my husband
My focus goal for last week was "meditating at least 15 minutes, on at least six days." I made it, as you can see in the green-highlighted item above--but only by cheating.  Although maybe I shouldn't call sitting twice in one day "cheating."  In fact, that almost certainly runs against the whole compassion-for-self-and-others grain, don't you think?  The urge to "cheat" reveals the strength of my desire to meet the goal, which is a good thing.  And the other good thing is that the "action trigger" I implemented midweek seems to be working.  I am beginning to associate the end of breakfast with reporting to the cushion, which means that the whole issue of meditation is becoming less of a stressor.  I am not spending whole days trying to figure out where to fit it in, and then either meditating grudgingly and groggily at the end of the evening, or crawling off to bed guilty for having skipped it altogether.  It also means that I experience the benefits of having meditated over the course of the day.  All good.

In my view, the most important thing I did last week--though far from perfectly--was to get back to writing my novel, in red text above.  Life isn't really cooperating with this enterprise.  I have had an endless stream of schedule disruptions which have broken the routine that supports my writing.  I realize now that I had effectively set up an action trigger for writing, which generally works well.  The problem is that this trigger--the time between dropping my grandson off at preschool and picking him up--is too frangible.  With every school holiday, conference week schedule change, change in my daughter's idiosyncratic work schedule, and childhood illness, my action trigger recedes.  But now that I have recognized its function, I can do some creative thinking about a backup.  This week should be a "normal" one, at least as far as I can ever tell ahead.  But it's a good time to come up with a plan for handling the departures.


My focus goal for this week, half of which will be spent traveling to and attending a leadership training event, is to practice serenity in the face of change and unfamiliarity.  That will mean getting laundry and packing done ahead, and finalizing travel arrangements, and managing the unexpected with equanimity--while remembering to breathe.  Oh, and remembering to enjoy what there is to enjoy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It Should Be So Simple

Here we are at the end of the third week of January, and I still haven't decided what to do about resolutions for the new year.  At some point, of course, the question becomes moot.  Nondeciding becomes a decision.  But are we there yet?  Has the renewal train already left the station?


I've had years in the past when I didn't make New Years resolutions, and more when I did.  Some I kept.  Too many, I did not.  But I can't recall a year when I couldn't make up my mind, even about whether to engage in the ritual or not.


Maybe I am suffering from improvement fatigue.  Last year, I pushed and prodded myself into anteing up more changes than in any year I can recall.  I don't want to reduce this year's resolutions to "ditto," but neither do I want to retreat from those efforts I am still working hard to maintain.  As I pass through the mental buffet of possible good intentions, I am aware of a plate near capacity.


I have been considering the "word for the year" approach, touted by Gretchen Rubin in her recent Happiness Project video post, and recommended by life coaches and others--including a website devoted to the approach called My One Word--as "a new kind of resolution."  The idea is to come up with a one-word theme for the year, a word that will encapsulate and inspire the way we want the coming year to be spent, the change we intend.  


Apparently, some people have been doing this for a long time, with or more often without the accompaniment of the standard list of too-easily-broken-early-in-the-year promises of reform and achievement.  But they were pretty much keeping it to themselves.  The practice is only now trickling down to my little corner of the mainstream.


The simplicity appeals, but I am having trouble with execution.  A number of words recommend themselves.  But that is the problem.  For this word-obsessed communicator, the struggle to select just one is reminiscent of the old Lay's potato chip commercial--you know, "No one can eat just one?"  Or is it more like Sophie's Choice, given the stakes, and the wrench of the decision?  


Among my contenders, at present?  Compassion.  Ease.  Journey.  Coffee.  Revel.  Dance.  Sing.  Serenity.  Listen.  Release.  Laugh.  Alive.  Nutmeg.  Space.  Snoopy.  Parvenu.  Grace.  Shell.  Hand-made.  Grow.  Slow.  Persevere.  Believe.  Course.  Smooth.  Bliss.  Up.  Strong.  Quiet.  Breathe.  Stay.  Declutter.  Be. . . . and so many, many others.


You see my dilemma.  (Oh, what about Dilemma?)  The search continues. . . 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Search of Cabin Fervor





There's something discouraging about a mid-January day.  The temperature here is 14º.  The snow that covers the land is no longer virgin.  The sparkly holiday feelings are pretty much played out.  95% of 2011 lies ahead, and I am not inspired.




If I could see where I want to go from here, I might have a leg up on the journey.  Clearly, my destination should be away from this place.  But what is the opposite of discouraged? Couraged? 



The Online Etymology Dictionary supports this idea:




discourage Look up discourage at Dictionary.com


mid-15c., discoragen, from M.Fr. descourager, from O.Fr. descoragier, from des- "away" (see dis-) + corage (see courage). Related:Discourageddiscouragementdiscouraging.





If the state I wish to escape is that of having gone "away" from "courage," then surely, a return to courage would take me in the right direction.  Again, the Online Etymology Dictionary is helpful.  




courage Look up courage at Dictionary.com


c.1300, from O.Fr. corage (12c., Mod.Fr. courage) "heart, innermost feelings; temper," from V.L. *coraticum (cf. It. coraggio, Sp. coraje), from L.cor "heart," which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. In M.E., used broadly for "what is in one's mind or thoughts," hence "bravery," but also "wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness," or any sort of inclination. Replaced O.E. ellen, which also meant "zeal, strength."

Interestingly, it would seem from the dates in these entries that people didn't begin moving away from courage to the extent that they needed a word to capture the experience for at least a couple hundred years.  And yet, for many of us, it is the newer term that more frequently depicts our condition.

So if we intend to become "couraged," then, what would that mean?  The definition centers around the word "heart," and its evocation of "inner strength."  But how do we get stronger inside?

I am reminded of a strength-building campaign that occupied my winter nights one teenaged year, and of the teacher who sparked it.  One of my high school's few lay teachers, over-lipsticked and what seemed to us then ancient, Mrs. H. was not naturally charismatic.  Her favorite expression--"My stars and garters!"--was emblematic of her generational disconnect.  But somehow she reached me with the idea that January's enforced hibernation could be used to engage in those dull character-building exercises that spring's activities would leave no time for.  Of course, she was trying to sell us on studying, and I did some of that.  But I also incorporated an ankle-fortifying program that was designed to improve my ice-skating.  Along with a complexion-improving regimen, relying on Sweetheart soap, whose smell I can still conjure.  (I was an avid reader of Seventeen Magazine then.)

I have also had the more recent experience of training for 5K races and a sprint triathlon, using many dreary winter hours to build strength and endurance, and a bit of skill.  And a key "take-away" from that adventure is the incremental nature of such growth.

But where is the downloadable plan for returning to courage, to heart?  What is the url for "Couch Torpor to Lion-Hearted in 9 weeks?"  Or should I try to get in to see the Wizard?  Or the Whiz?

Eleanor Roosevelt is famously quoted as having admonished us to  "Do one thing every day that scares you."  Good advice, surely.  But since it is not only fear, but lack of spirit and enthusiasm that I am feeling, I will need a broader program.  Something incremental. And a little more than "just keeping putting one [listless] foot in front of the other."

I'm still in the R & D phase on this one. . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Decisions on Queue



Last week, I finished reading the book Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  I found it engaging, and laced with nuggets of change strategy rooted in research findings and narratives of changes big and small.  I imagine I will be mining this resource for some time to come.


One particularly intriguing approach the Heaths explore is the use of "action triggers."  Peter Gollwitzer, New York University psychologist, has been investigating the use of action triggers, or more academically, "implementation intentions," to improve "self-regulation."  Self-regulation is what procrastinators, diet abandoners, and those falling off various other wagons have difficulty with.


The idea is this, as Dr. Gollwitzer lays it out on his website:
People can delegate the initiation of goal-directed behavior to environmental stimuli by forming so-called implementation intentions (if-then plans of the format: If situation x is encountered, then I will perform behavior y!). We observed that forming implementation intentions facilitates detecting, attending to, and recalling the critical situation. Moreover, in the presence of the critical situation the initiation of the specified goal-directed behavior is immediate, efficient, and does not need a conscious intent.

Dr. Gollwitzer and his team are also looking at
. . .whether action control via implementation intentions saves a person’s self-regulatory resources. . . . [and] whether implementation intentions protect a person’s thoughts and actions from unwanted influences of disruptive self-states (such as a good or bad mood, self-definitional incompleteness, feelings of anger or sadness).
What this amounts to, as Chip and Dan Heath tell us, is preloading decisions by deciding to perform the desired action in the presence of a predetermined prompt.  Quoting Gollwitzer, they observe that this kind of predeciding allows people to"pass the control of their behavior on to the environment."  In one study, the use of action triggers roughly tripled the chance of success in achieving difficult goals--from 22% to 62%.


DietDetective.com gives an example of how this might work in practice:


Creating an “implementation intention” provides a framework for how and when you will use the new behavior. For instance, “Whenever I go to my favorite restaurant and order the chicken, I will ask to have it grilled, without butter.” The idea is as follows: Whenever “X” happens, I will do “Y.” If you're conscious of what you want and why you want it, you'll have a better chance of moving in that direction. Another example: “When I get up at 6:30 a.m., I will get ready for work, and at 7 a.m. I will put on my shoes, [putting your shoes on and/or 7 a.m. on the clock could be the trigger – the behavior you already do] and head to the kitchen to make breakfast. I will have cereal or egg whites. I will not skip meals this week.”


Applying what I have learned, I decide to use the daily opportunity of eating breakfast to prompt meditating, which I am having difficulty fitting in to my schedule.  But here's where the theory breaks down, because it seems that there is really no predictable daily routine in my life these days.  I too frequently rush out the door to a meeting, an appointment, or scheduled work, immediately after--and sometimes even before--eating breakfast.  And since driving while meditating strikes me as at least unwise if not prosecutable (DWM?), I am going to need a contingency trigger, for when the first trigger isn't practicable.  So, on the days when I can't meditate after breakfast, I will use lunch to trigger meditating.  And the backup to my backup?  Dinner, naturally.  And if all else fails, bedtime.


Hmmm. . . . No wonder I am having a hard time getting around to meditation.  And no wonder I feel the need.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Life Management 101--All Work and No Play is a Waste of Time


With this post, Tuesday's Life Management 101 concludes our look at Laura Stack's Find More Time:  How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It.  This week, Chapter 8, "Mastering the Eighth Pillar--PLAY."

In this final chapter, Stack advises us to resist our society's push to "confuse your job with your life."  Another of her books--Leave the Office Earlier:  Do More in Less Time and Feel Great About It--deals more extensively with this issue.  But here the focus is on the rest, relaxation, and re-creation that we make room for when we tame the omnivorous work monster.  


As with the previous chapters in Find More Time, each centered on one of Stack's eight pillars of productivity, self-assessment provides the architecture.  (Stack's productivity quiz can be found in its entirety on her website.)  For me, this measure showed that Play was tied with Paper, together my weakest pillars.  My cheerless score resulted from rating each of the following ten quiz items as:   1) to no extent; 2) to a little extent; 3) to some extent; 4) to a considerable extent; or 5) to a great extent.  My responses are in red.

To what extent do I . . . 
  • Close the mental office door and turn off work each day.  [2]
  • Leave work on time, so I can get home and enjoy my personal life.  [2]
  • Keep my stress levels low.  [2]
  • Rest, relax, and play daily. [1]
  • Go on a long vacation each year.  [1]
  • Create fond memories with the people I love.  [2]
  • Have a regular family time with loved ones.  [2]
  • Make time for a favorite hobby.  [2]
  • Force myself to slow down and stop rushing around.  [1]
  • Take care of myself on a regular basis.  [2]
In my humble opinion, this is Stack's best chapter.  She does a great job of making the case for play, and tells us that finding time to spend on "leisure, wellness, fun and stress reduction. . . is one of [her] book's main goals."


To me, her enthusiasm for this pillar was evident in the loving detail with which she described suggested approaches and activities.  As a play-challenged person, I was seduced by many of her recommendations.  I am especially eager to try her brief stress-management techniques, including this one:
REST YOUR EYES.  Try this one for instant stress relief.  Anytime your eyes are tired, like when reading or working on the computer, pause to give your eyes a rest.  Rub the palms of your hands together in a vigorous fashion to generate energy and heat.  Then quickly place your hands one over each eye socket, so that your eyes are at the center of your palms.  Let your eyes relax in this warm darkness for one full minute.  Instant relief.
or this:


BREAK YOUR FOCUS.  When you're stressing out over something, force yourself to stop thinking about it.
  • Say or write the alphabet backward.
  • Close your eyes and hum a song.
  • Drink a glass of water in exactly twenty-seven sips.
  • Close your eyes and think of a color.  Now picture seven things that have that color.
  • Try to recall all the objects in your purse, wallet, or briefcase.  Write down as many things as you can in one minute.
  • List six things you've enjoyed most in the last week.
  • Picture a room in your home and write about it as if you're describing it to someone else.


For those of us who work in more standard employment situations, Stack offers some practical ideas for negotiating more sane expectations in the workplace.  It has been a while since my work life was bound in this way, but I found her thoughts useful.  It was, however, dispiriting to see just how deeply workaholism has permeated our culture, and how much strategizing is necessary to achieve so little in the way of self-preservation.  The trade-off I have made in stepping back from mainstream full-time paid employment has meant extremely suppressed income.  (I am fortunate that my husband's compensation for the workaholic efforts he wouldn't dream of giving up anyway allows me this choice.)  The gain is that I escape the usual strictures so many of us have to work with.  My challenge is to stop acting like my own difficult boss, and to stop flunking "play."


Stack strongly encourages her readers to take annual vacations, either involving travel or of the "stay-cation" variety; to create memories; to nurture family relationships; to cultivate a hobby; to stop rushing--by moving slowly, cutting back on commitments, scheduling personal days, and "seizing the moment"-- and to take care of ourselves.  All of these are things I need to do.


But right now, I'm going to try the eye thing.  So I guess I'm done with this post, since I won't be able to see to type with my palms over my eyes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Done for the Week: Two Steps Forward, But Then. . .


More snow this morning.  What is this, winter?

I'm trying not to feel like I'm missing important deadlines.  I still haven't resolved the issued of New Year's resolutions.  My (technically, live) Christmas tree continues to glow in the middle of my living room.  And I haven't answered the question of where I'm going with my blog in this, its second year.  I trust I'll get there when I get there.  I'm relying on this mantra from the Wicked Witch of the West--"All in good time, my pretty.  All in good time."

Meanwhile, here's what I got done last week.

Done for the Week:  Jan. 10-16
  1. Continued off-season race training; biked twice; ran twice
  2. Succeeded in getting husband to gym with me once
  3. Finished Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath; Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen; The Happiness Project:  Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin
  4. Continued providing minimal volunteer support to transitioning nonprofit
  5. Worked my two part-time jobs, with schedule changes, and heavier number of hours
  6. Published 5 blog posts
  7. Wrote 7 Gratitude Journal entries
  8. Wrote 3 Morning Pages
  9. Meditated 4 times
  10. Watched our two favorite basketball teams play 4 games, with son and husband
  11. Foraged for food at the grocery store several times
  12. Attended one yoga class
  13. Attended church to hear fabulous sermon; dragged my husband along
  14. Attended board meeting
  15. Attended Issues Night
  16. Attended meeting with County Executive concerning transitional jobs program
  17. Attended organizational breakfast in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with my son
  18. Had date night with my husband
  19. Discussed multiple installation impasses with electrician 
  20. Provided TLC for sick son and grandson
  21. Had lunch date with my husband
  22. Spent time with one son watching anime
  23. Watched Wonder Boys while my husband was out of town
  24. Accepted work help from both my sons 
Last week's focus goal, for the sixth straight week, was "to post five blogs, exercise four times, meditate six times, and make the time to resume writing the novel--before I forget what it's supposed to be about." Highlighted in green on the list above are the "done" items which pertain to this goal.  I continue to keep up with my blog--maybe because it feels so public.  Though I don't have a mass readership, "the internet knows," like the Shadow, whether I make each day's deadline or not.  I am still, however, having difficulty getting my posts up during the a.m., while balancing outside commitments that are all too frequently intruding on my mornings.  I renew my intention to anticipate morning conflicts, and to write ahead whenever possible.

I was more successful this past week in meeting my exercise target.  I am especially glad to have resumed running, after a bout of winter laziness during which I leaned toward biking.  Stationary biking, at the gym or on my own trainer-mounted bike, has the advantage of being something I can do while sitting, and more importantly, while reading.  In motivational slumps, it presents a lower bar I can still get over.  But I am moving out of the maintenance phase of race training and into the building phase, so it is time to get back to the track.  Which I did.

I had a harder time getting around to meditating last week.  My time on the cushion really needs to be the first of the "first things [I am trying to remember to put] first."  I think I am having trouble with the being as opposed to the doing state of meditation, and the indulgent feeling that comes with it.  And my instinct is that the extent to which I am struggling is an indication of how important this activity is to my overall growth and well-being.  

The final piece of my conglomerate focus goal was time spent working on my novel.  Changes in my work schedule last week obliterated my routine writing times.  And extreme overcommitment in addition to compensated obligations claimed too much of the remaining time and sapped my energy to use what there was.  Once again, I got no novel writing done.  The coming week should see a return to my regularly scheduled programming, which should be the stimulus I need to get back to my work-in-progress.  

I have decided to end my experiment with the mega focus goal.  In fact, it seems from this vantage point somewhat of a contradiction in terms.  For the coming week, I will focus on meditating at least 15 minutes, on at least six days.  I am hoping that really focusing on this will increase the likelihood of success, which in turn will build confidence and continued motivation, as my mixed results have not.

In red above is what I see as my most important accomplishment last week.  Like a lot of overworking, over-caring mothers, I have a hard time getting my kids to do their share of household and family work.  But on two separate occasions, I asked for, and received their help when my babysitting schedule clashed with other commitments.  I paid them both for their time, over their objections.  And when one of my appointments was cancelled, instead of immediately relieving my son, I used the time to pick up Mexican Spice lattes for him and me, and to take care of a self-care task I had been neglecting for weeks.  

It sounds small, but this kind of behavior is a sea change for me.