Restarting routines

I am a creature of habit. And I know what they say about routines cutting down on decision fatigue, but really, my days are all the same because that’s the way I like it.

Surprises? No thanks.

Our lives have been, shall we say, a bit on the rogue side lately, with routine completely out the window. And that’s been hard. So this past week, the focus was settling back into normal life. And I mostly succeeded. I worked a full week and managed to cross a few projects off my list. While I didn’t do any FlyLady zones as planned, I did get some general cleaning done, which always makes me feel better. The sun was out and I took lovely lunches out on our deck, soaking it up with an army of cats.

There were a few glitches, like there always are: Jo called in the middle of a coffee date because she wasn’t feeling well and needed me to pick her up from school; not a glitch, just that my grandma was in town and I visited with her instead of doing all that other stuff that needed to be done (eh, sometimes the ol’ list can wait); and everywhere I went, people wanted to ask about my father-in-law and how the family is doing, which comes from a good place on their end, but it’s exhausting retelling the story over and over.

Part of my morning routine involves writing — getting out my planner and seeing what’s on the docket for the day, as well as my main journal to process thoughts and feeling and whatever happened the day before. I’ve been resisting this for the past three weeks, although the rest of my routine is fairly solid. I rarely reread what I write, so it’s not that I am afraid of bogging my future self down with bad memories. I think it’s more denial. Once I write it, it’s real.

This week I’d like to get back on track with ALL of my morning routine … and my evening routine, which I haven’t bothered with for quite some time. I’ve also completely stopped my walk break routine at the office, and that’s going to be a priority as well.

I want to feel normal again, that’s why. I want to feel in control. And I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

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Paper vs. digital

We’re going to go a different direction with today’s post — and ironically, I’m going to use a digital platform to talk about paper.

I’ve never actually thought much about paper vs. digital formats, I guess because my life naturally involves both. I started blogging on my 39th birthday as a way to deal with having the 40s in my sights, but even before that, most of my working life has revolved around what I produce on a desktop computer screen.

Eric and I got our first home computer in 2001 — Abby was around 2 — and I immediately took to it. I am a fast typer (had to be: English major, history minor, there were a lot of papers going on in my college days) and I enjoyed being able to toss out my thoughts quickly and cleanly. Word docs look so organized!

I have also been an avid journal keeper for … most … of my life. I started at around 10 years old (I was also writing stories in earnest when I was 6, much to the delight of my first grade teacher, who just knew I’d have a writing career. I guess she was sort of right) and kept them religiously until I was 25 or so. Then I just got busy. When the girls were born, I kept journals of the funny things they said while simultaneously writing about how overwhelming young children are. (I’m so happy with my older kids, I can’t even tell you.) And I’d go through phases where I’d keep a personal journal — mostly that was anxiety control, and the thought of rereading any of it isn’t something I’m up for at the present time. I’m in such a better head space now.

All of THAT is just to say that I like and use both formats, the paper and the digital, and I can see the benefits both bring to my life: Sometimes writing longhand is therapeutic; sometimes I want to write quickly and get it all out.

My blogs have served as a bit of a journal from the get-go, and I never really thought about the possibility that any of what I’ve written would ever go away. Until I read “Raiders of the Lost Web” (HERE) about how the internet isn’t exactly forever.

My favorite parts of that article, written by Adrienne LaFrance:

Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

And, later:

“There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words, if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

She concludes:

But the thing unsaid, the fact that unravels even an optimist’s belief in what the web can be, is that the ancient library was eventually destroyed. Not by technology or a lack of it, but by people. Saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.

Huh.

I don’t know that I need to save everything I’ve ever written online right this second and for evermore, but I do like the idea of my grandkids, if I ever end up with any, being able to read my stuff. It’s vanity, of course, thinking that they’ll care or that I have anything to contribute in any possible way, but whatever, I still want that option. So maybe I’ll pursue some sort of paper version of my favorite posts someday.

Because my mother would totally read it even if my own grandkids never materialize. WORTH IT.

It’s interesting to me that right now, my Simple Year co-bloggers and I are working on an anthology that will take a digital media platform and translate it to paper. (Or maybe still digital format, since I wouldn’t mind seeing it available for eReaders.) So I know the process I’d have to undertake to get an anthology of my own work going for those future maybe grandkids. What ticks me off a bit is that had I just written this stuff down in a notebook and not gotten sucked into the idea that digital is better / anyone besides myself would want to read what I’ve written, I wouldn’t have to do anything else besides hand it over at the appropriate time. Um, not that I’m going to stop blogging. VANITY.

And there’s no way I’m transcribing any of those entries in longhand, I can tell you that right now. Plus my handwriting at this point is terrible because all I do is type.

I guess it’s a bit of a war with my minimalism, too, now that I think about it. Of course I’d prefer to write online — nothing physical to have laying around the house. But I also have three paper journals going at the moment: A planner, a bullet journal for daily brain dumps and notes, and a quote book. I like being able to play with these, make them pretty or just scribble. They are whatever I say they are, with no one to please but myself.

And damn! I love journals! I love that paper aspect and how I can go back and read whatever it is I thought important enough to write down without having to scroll through a bunch of screens. There’s a sense of possibility with paper that I don’t get from a blank Word doc. (Word docs symbolize work.)

I have no idea where I’m going with this now that I’ve come to the end of this post. But I like how this aspect of my life is coming to the forefront … that I read an article about the vastness yet limitations of the internet around the time I’m translating my experiences with my zero waste year to paper via the computer screen.

Well, I don’t have a lot of hobbies.

Um, thoughts, feelings, ideas?

Back on track

After the soul suck of everything of last week, I’m heading into this week with grand plans of getting myself back on track. One of the issues I face is that, when the going gets tough, I shut down. This is why I need a social media ban after 7 p.m., to keep myself from just laying on the couch all night in a device-induced haze. I’ve always tended to be like this, although we didn’t have devices when I was growing up (I mean, we didn’t really have devices until I was in my mid-30s), so my “induced haze” was mostly just laying on my bed, listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure on the ol’ stereo and being depressed.

Different times, different drug. Although I can’t help but think THAT was healthier than, like, getting into fights with strangers on Facebook just to vent feelings.

Because I like to journal, I’ve made a list of what I want to remember this week — those things I have to do, like sweeping up all the cat hair off the floor (Pro tip: Dark hardwood + light-haired cats = a recipe for disaster), and the things I want to keep in mind, like making decisions based on how they will affect my overall health.

And THEN, because I know myself so well, I made an additional list of what I can do when I feel myself shutting down — generally just problem solving my way out of bad decisions. I want to take care of myself, not just numb the negative feelings, as is my fallback solution to basically everything. (It’s probably a good thing I don’t like the taste of alcohol, to be honest. I would have another layer of problems if I did.)

My list, in part:

  • Put phone on silent
  • Keep a stack of books on hand
  • Journal it out
  • Listen to music
  • Take a nap
  • Yoga
  • Hot shower
  • Walk break / outside time
  • Turn off electronics
  • Go to bed early

I need to come up with a list just for work, I think — things there aren’t quite as bleak as I thought they were last week, but damn! It’s not unicorns and rainbows, either. And I’m finding myself completely wiped out by the time I get home, physically, mentally, emotionally, the works.

So let’s do some brainstorming, internet friends: What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? How do you put your health / sanity first? How do you make good use of the time you have in ways that fill you up? How do you deal with stressful situations?

Life in general

Johanna and I went to visit Abby at college last weekend. My girl is stressed — she’s taken way too much on — but doing well. My favorite part of the whole ordeal was when we all went to the library so she could study for a few hours: It was quiet, we had a nice window seat to enjoy the campus view, and I was able to transcribe notes from the bullet journal that Abby made me for Christmas last year … it ran out of pages at the end of September.

I don’t usually transcribe my notes from my journals. That’s mostly because I like to write, but I don’t necessarily like to read what I’ve written. Which is why, at work, I’m notorious for handing a story to our copy editor, saying, “I wrote this, but I didn’t read it.” I don’t always want to revisit what I’ve written, I guess. Not everything I write is pleasant.

Anyway, two themes I noticed while I was transcribing my journal — which I decided to do this time, incidentally, because I have a lot of notes scribbled from various websites and books that I wanted to keep — was that my stomach issues haven’t really gotten much better and that I am continuously trying to figure out how to be a better person while also hiding from the world.

(Fear of missing out? What’s that? I’m totally jacked when I get to stay home.)

I’ve put myself on a relatively strict diet in order to cope with my food sensitivities (we won’t rehash them here, let’s just say there’s a lot I don’t do well with), and while I have tremendously good days — many strung together, in fact! — I noticed that I’m not doing quite as well as I think. (Huh, maybe I should reread my stuff more often.) This seems to be because I get bored with my diet and try to add too many new items at once, or fail to register when a food upsets my stomach and then I continue to eat it, all the while wondering what on earth is happening.

Abby’s suggestion last weekend (she’s taking anatomy and physiology and kept pointing to where all my organs are located, gross) was to take one food at a time and give myself two weeks to experiment. Her feeling was that would slow me down but still allow me to add foods back if they worked out — and if they didn’t, I’d have time to recover before moving on to something else. Those two and a quarter nursing school semesters are paying off already.

As for the hiding from the world, I’ve realized that I really, truly need introvert time — or else I have a hard time functioning, which also leads to my stomach issues flaring up. I’ve read somewhere that ideally, you need two full hours to yourself every day, unplugged (that’s the hard part) and doing whatever it is that fills you up.

That’s a tall order when you’ve got a kid and a husband (and cats, the adorable jerks) but I’m working on making sure I do have time to myself. It might not be two hours, but it’s still mentally and emotionally stabilizing to know that I will have SOME time to myself each day. And Eric and Jo are super fantastic about realizing I need this time. (Well, they’re also introverts, so usually they’re doing their own hiding.)

Ironically, one of my goals at the beginning of this year was to connect more with friends, and looking through my journal, I realized I’m actually doing pretty well at that. I’ve had lots of coffee dates and a few dinner dates, too. I’ve caught up with people whom I have been meaning to reach out to for years. Abby has been particularly gung-ho about my social life, and I finally asked her why. “You’re going to be an empty nester soon and then what are you going to have?” she asked. “Um, my porch, books and coffee?” I replied, but she didn’t think that was enough for some reason.

Trust me, kid. It totally is. But coffee dates have turned out to be kind of fun.

P.S. Johanna is also well. Eric is well. The cats are fine. Life continues to roll on.

Lofty goals

This year, I’ve been using a planner and a bullet journal that Abby made me for Christmas, and I have to say it’s been nice to have specific places for all my thoughts. I suppose two journals really aren’t minimalist … but then, that doesn’t count the “quote-book” I’ve also started (a small notebook for the quotes or thoughts of others I want to remember) and a partially-used Moleskin from last year that has turned into a place for rough drafts.

If two journals aren’t minimalist, then what are four?

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My stack.

I broke down and bought a planner this year because after last year’s constant anxiety attack, I felt like I needed to do something different. It’s got space to plan meals, daily top-five to-dos, and plenty of blank space for my weekly brain dumps — I love to dump my brain. I literally just write down everything that occurs to me at that moment — stuff I need to do, thoughts, feelings, random ideas — and that helps me sort out what I actually need to accomplish, what I need to remember (I AM CALM IN MY HEART), and what I’d like to eventually explore. (Getting everything accomplished, however, can be a problem. I never do. I suppose that’s okay.) This planner also has weekly challenges of a self-help sort that helps me focus on positives rather than the negatives my mind generally gravitates towards.

Abby made herself a bullet journal last semester and had so much fun with that she offered to make me one too. I use it to keep track of more specific daily … things … like how much sleep I’m getting, how much coffee vs. water I drink (uh, way more coffee) and whether I get my daily walk. She also added space for a grocery list (that’s handy) and a “mood tracker” calendar (which made me laugh at first — she’s 18, of course that’d be on her list, but it’s eyeopening to see just how I’m feeling from day to day. I am way happier than I’d have guessed). And I write my specific goals here, too. This month, I want to establish a nighttime routine (as in PUT DOWN THE DAMN iPAD) and get an exercise routine established (I am big on routines, obvs) because one of my 2018 goals is to be in kick ass shape (I’m tall and thin — thanks genetics — but that doesn’t mean I can walk up the stairs without huffing) and I’ve discovered just saying “I want to get in shape in 2018” isn’t actually getting me in shape. (Revolutionary thought!)

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Another of Abby’s pages.

Another one of my goals is to invite a girlfriend to coffee and to learn to pace myself. Both of these seem rather impossible, to be honest. Especially the coffee date. Being an introvert with social anxiety makes life kind of … um, quiet. Maybe they’ll just magically occur. (So much for the revolution.)

My last goal is easier: To never be without a book. That I can do. I read four in January. I could have read five, but this last one I’ve picked up is killing me so it’s hard to make myself actually read. (It’s a great book, I just know how it ends and it makes me sad.)

I suppose I should have some minimalist and zero waste goals in there, but I don’t feel like those are things I have to remember. I am a minimalist. I gravitate towards low waste anyway, thanks to the routines I put in place during my Simple Year. So I don’t know. That’s just a nice place to be.

Anyway, I like the ease of physical journals — I’m not a fan of online calendars or planners, which is ironic since I love my Kindle so much. Abby’s bullet journal runs out in September, I think, and I’ve already found a new one for her to fill for me. (Teal! I love that color!) She can give it to me for my birthday this summer. 😉

P.S. Links are just so you can see what I’m talking about. As always, I’d rather you didn’t buy anything.

P.P.S. It’s just occurred to me that you may not be familiar with bullet journaling, so HERE is where you can find out about it from the dude who invented the whole thing. There are lots of gorgeous books and sites out there filled with super creative, lovely ideas, but I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to make our journals works of art when all we really need is for them to be functional. (Unless you have kids who can make them gorgeous for you, then seriously, do that.) So that’s why I send you there.