5 Minutes Planning to Save 15 Minutes Work

I am finding myself in need of the reminder that five minutes of planning will save fifteen minutes of work. I’m rushing and pushing myself to complete so much in a day, forgetting that every day will have its responsibilities, duties, and challenges. And if I am perpetually pushing myself forward toward that next thing I am not able to savor the moment nor am I accomplishing those goals that I have set for myself. I am in need of a refresh, a break, and a vacation. Lately I have been blazing through the day like a warrior, only to conk out at night exhausted but also too tired to plan for the next day. 

Today a meeting was cancelled and that was such a relief. I have over-scheduled and overcommitted myself to so many projects, it’s time to breathe and take a break. It is time to refocus and establish how I would like to show up in the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to be still for a bit. This season has seen me pressing forward and pushing through. Now it is time to rest and reconfigure. I do that by remembering that work will always be there, there will always be another task, more to do, and always someone else asking for more of me. But what I need to give is less, I need to focus on myself, align my actions with my core values and pick and choose those activities to which I will give my energy. Here’s how I’m going to do that: 

Stop: I’m going to stop jumping to finish that, “one last thing,” or shoot off a quick email. I need only to take in the information. Rushing at the speed of light does not enable me to deliver my best work. The first key to doing too much is to stop.

Breathe: The next step I am taking is finding my center, aligning myself before acting. When I rush I take on more than my fair share. I overcompensate for others and the work they are not doing. I stay busy while other people have too little to do. I need to give others the space to step in and step up to help – which they can’t do if I’m in the way. 

I need to take a little bit of time to recalibrate and decide how I want to spend my energy and my time. If it is on this project, or this call, or this email, that’s great – but if these things are not fueling me and will not satisfy my larger plan or highest self, I need to let them go.

Discern: A couple years ago my focus for the year included discernment, which is the ability to listen and trust your inner knowing. Discernment means you don’t make a snap decision, go with the crowd, or do whatever is suggested. Discernment is the practice of looking within to make your decisions and trusting that your inner and deeper knowing will guide you down the path you should be walking – it already knows where you want to end up. 

Discernment is not easy, especially because we are often marketed to, nudged, and talked into acting in certain ways. We are encouraged to buy these items, dress this way, and perform as a cast and not live as real people – who are flawed and messy and do not have perfect hair all the time. To learn more about discernment I would encourage you to read my piece on how to incorporate discernment into your daily life – what I learned after a year of practicing discernment. 

Decide and Hold Strong: Once you have made your decision or selected those items that you want in your schedule and in your life, hold your boundaries firm. We all slip and we all sometimes get submerged – or re-submerged – by the onslaught of attention and activities and FOMO. When you make a decision it’s easy to feel tempted to break your promise to yourself in order to please another person – don’t! You’re learning to trust yourself and building trust with yourself, your “you time” is your priority and it is sacred. Don’t break you appointments with yourself in order to accommodate another person, you will only feel as if you have abandoned yourself and before long you’ll be stretched too thin. (This happens and it happens all the time, in which case just jump back to step one, Stop, and follow the steps from there.

Holding space for ourselves and setting boundaries is difficult. It can be especially hard when you’re choosing from a collection of opportunities you don’t want to miss out on. But as you practice discernment and holding your boundaries you start to see and feel your life moving with new momentum towards the things and people that bring you the most joy – and isn’t that the way every day should be? Shouldn’t everything we do move us closer to our goals, highest power, and happiness? What steps do you take when things get crazy and you start to feel overwhelmed? Any tips or tricks I might want to learn too?

New Year New Beginnings: Tools for Writing Your Best Resolutions

This afternoon’s mediation was on the new year and new beginnings. What do I want my story to be? Thinking about these pages and these posts. I am thinking about my love for this work and my desire to keep doing it. My dreams and goals for the coming year involve growth and hope. I am not unhappy where I am, instead I am deeply grateful to be exactly where I am in the world doing exactly what I am doing. This year I would like to practice more bravery and less trepidation – I would like the courage to leap and test my wings. I am also eager to invest in myself and my goals. Now that I have shared what my goals will be, let me share how I plan to pursue them – or rather the steps I take to keep myself aligned and working towards these goals. 

My goals for any new year are not so simple as two bullet points to start. In fact, I start with a word web, I draft and write about the things I am proud of from the past year – I pull out last year’s map and look at what I had dreamed and hoped to do and then I look back over the past year and see what items I accomplished. This is often a very rewarding experience because it reminds me of who I was the year before and what was on my mind, what I was looking forward to, and what hopes I had for myself in the previous year.

Then I look at the items I did not accomplish, those goals that were perhaps longer term than a single year, or more likely, those goals that I wanted a year ago but no longer align with where I’m going or who I am. Sometimes, they are just flukes of timing. My wish to travel more in 2020, certainly did not get accomplished. It was and is a wonderful plan, something I am finding ways to do in the U.S. for the time being. We had some exciting adventures planned, I’m looking at you Ireland. But the universe had other plans in mind and that plays a valid part in goal attainment, learning to be flexible and finding the joy where you are is an important skill set to expand as well. Bloom where you’re planted and so on. 

After I review the previous year and collect those goals that I am still pursuing, I celebrate. I was able to accomplish so much in a single year. It’s important not to just move the goal post and move on. By that I mean, and I’m learning and re-learning this all the time. It is important to celebrate your wins. You have to enjoy the good times because they sustain us while we endure life’s challenges. I make time to be good to myself, congratulate myself, and celebrate how far I’ve come before I move on to planning how far I’m going to go next. Not every field has an awards show or ceremony, and not every goal is that public, whatever your accomplishment or feat, I hope you take a break to savor the moment and honor all of the work it took to get you to that place. 

After the appropriate amount of celebration, only you know this time frame, a night, a week, the entire next year, that’s your call. But once it’s done, I collect my goals from the previous year that went unmet and I write them onto a new web, I add and fill in all of the ideas I have for the next year. I flesh out what those accomplishments will look like for me. And I determine what high level goals will be my priorities. I try to limit my top priorities to one or two goals, that seems to be the limit on what I can juggle and keep track of throughout the year. For example: a couple years ago the goals were, “more discernment and more fun.” Before that I made the goal, “the year of us,” making a point to spend more time with my partner and build that bond from which all of my other bonds grow. I choose differently each year and in the end that helps me to remain a fairly well-rounded person. 

Another way to keep yourself well rounded is to separate your goal web into different areas from the jump – I include the following, self, relationships, work, spirituality, physical health, and mental well being. Each of these areas is necessary for a full life and each of them requires efforts to the exclusion of others. You cannot do all of these things at once and by creating a web it very quickly becomes apparent which areas I am focusing on and which areas need a little more attention. When I break these pieces of my life into their own separate sections it’s easier to see where my areas for growth really are and where I am strongest. It also helps me to see where my plan and my path is taking me. 

Usually, once the annual web is created I simplify the larger ideas. Some areas overlap and if I’ve written an idea more than once, I know that goal is something that should rise to the priority list. My priority list is a short selection of 10 or fewer supplemental goals that I want to call attention to since I felt the need to add them to my web multiple times. 

In the end my resolutions take two pages – the rough draft web that I hold onto for the following year’s review and the clean list. The top of the page shows my one or two primary priorities. Then the list of ten, or fewer, high level goals from all areas and the web which lists in greater detail those items I really value, they meant so much I chose to write them down. 

Early in the year I check back on my list periodically to see how I’m doing and gauge my progress. But typically, by the middle of the year I have completely forgotten the list and go about my daily life, this way when I come back New Year’s week it is always a delight somewhat of a surprise to see what items were on the list. It’s a wonderful experience to look back over how far I have come in a single year. For me the exercise can be time intensive which is why I usually set aside a couple of days to reflect, review, and write out what I’m thinking. I find it is a lovely process to complete New Year’s week. 

For me resolutions are cathartic, the process of selecting and writing them delights me as much as planning for their accomplishment. It is a gift to have this life to plan and hope for. It is a joy to be surrounded by time and energy to pursue my goals. I hope this little road map helps you as you look at your own life, reflect on how far you’ve come, celebrated what you’ve done already, and look forward to what is next!  I can’t see where 2022 take you – I’m already so proud of you for being here! Wishing you health, wealth, and success in 2022 – whatever those words mean to you! Love, MK

Give Yourself the Gift of Joy

I am feeling peaceful and calm, gently aware of where I am in the world. I am meditating but the impact is less aggressive because I am not going right from meditation to writing. I have also eliminated my little chocolate treat post-meditation and I miss it. I enjoy a gentle reward after I reflect and bless my day with introspection. I have been enjoying this new home so much that I haven’t created much space yet for taking it all in. I have been making choices, organizing bins and objects. Transferring items from old packages into new and refreshing our belongings by eliminating those pieces that do not bring me joy. I mix a little of all theories here – Is an item useful? Is it beautiful? Does it bring me joy? If not, I remove it from my collection. Allowances are made for exercise equipment that is arguably useful but certainly does not bring me any particular joy. 

I also try to remember that holding on to something because it reminds me of someone is not a good reason to keep anything. I once read, “Throwing out a sweater from your grandmother is not throwing out your grandmother,” and that sentiment really resonated with me. Because I have so many possessions that were generously given but hold no real value for me. Obviously family heirlooms are kept or shared with someone else who will appreciate them more than I. Photograph collections are digitized or placed in albums for the next generation. But even I know holding on to images for the images sake does not serve me. If I have an image that brings me joy I save it – but images that meant something to someone else are not mine to hold and I set them free to be recycled or saved by someone else to whom they mean something.

I am also doing something different with this move. I am bringing all of my possessions of a similar category together so that I may see how much of these items I have collected over the years. It’s one thing to have pictures, shoes, or Christmas decorations housed in various closets and storage areas throughout your home – it’s another thing to see the growing pile of family photos take up half of a room. It really puts into perspective how easy and how much stuff we gather as we go and how sometimes it is ok to let these things go. For me, it is seeing the abundance of those possessions that makes the letting go easier. If I can clearly see that I have several cookie sheets, it’s a lot easier to get rid of the rusty ones – even if they were made by a fine manufacturer. 

Seeing all of my stuff together in one place has also given me the freedom to appreciate, compare and contrast. Do I love these table cloths? Or do I only love them for that one event I hosted several years ago that was a ton of fun but I have not used them since? And do I like this glassware or is it out because I don’t want to damage the really nice stuff – in which case, what am I waiting for? I have champagne flutes I absolutely adore. I refuse to take them out in case one of them breaks. Or I am waiting for the right celebration. Well, the special occasion is life. I’m done denying myself simple pleasures and so out go the cheap glasses I never really liked and in come the beautiful and elegant glasses that make me feel fancy and posh. 

I have also ordered stationery for our new home – I have christened our new home with a name. It suits the property and house. I have always wanted a house with a name and I am done waiting for someone else to name it. I love having a home with a title. I’m delighted by stationery and cannot wait to write my grocery lists on customized paper that has our property name at the top. It is a simple pleasure that thrills me and I am finally ready to give myself permission to live freely and as I want. I feel like deep down inside of me my inner child is dancing, singing, and wearing fairy wings and lots of sparkles. 

What a joy to be in a place in my life where I can give myself these simple gifts and pleasures. What a welcome moment to have finally reached, where I can savor and enjoy being alive without penalizing myself. I can make my own life nice without waiting for permission or approval. This knowledge in action is freeing and liberating. How simple it is to be kind to ourselves and how silly it is that we spend so much time denying ourselves the very things that will bring us the most happiness. 

What sweet little gifts have you given yourself lately? Are there any simple pleasures you enjoy that you have been denying yourself? What would happen if you gave yourself that small indulgence?

Abundance and Gratitude at Thanksgiving

Today as we prepare for the coming Thanksgiving holiday and all the bounty of harvest, hearth, and home, I am reflecting on abundance. I am reflecting on the wealth and beauty that we have in our possession already. I am full. I know I often reflect on gratitude and this is the perfect week to remember all of those things and people that I am grateful to have an hold. I also want to hold still and absorb the abundance of joy and connection this time of year brings. 

Like many of our holidays since COVID-19 took hold nearly two years ago this year’s celebrations will be scaled back and shaped differently than years before. On Thanksgiving 2020 we took a totally different route to our celebrations. We usually gather with extended family and even borrow chairs from the local funeral home to accommodate the crowd that gathers at our long tables. Last year, instead of that annual gathering of cousins, family, friends, and long lost relatives we stayed home. We hosted no-one and celebrated our own small family gathering. It was gorgeous. I broke out the fine china, used a fresh cocktail recipe, and old traditional foods. Everything was smaller than usual, but it’s intimacy made the experience so much richer.

Because there were so few of us, we did not have the constant flow of conversation or people popping in and out, we prepared our meal, dressed for dinner, and when the days preparations were done in the blink of an eye we let the children bathe and put their jammies on early. We decorated the tree, we savored each  other’s company and when we toasted our health we truly meant it. Our time as a family took on a new sacredness under the light of our small hearth and the glow of Christmas lights. 

This year we have yet to determine how we will celebrate the day. Like many families, not everyone in our circle is vaccinated and while our children cannot yet be vaccinated we will not be gathering. Instead of seeing this as a disappointment, we are going to focus on our good fortune. How lucky are we that we have so many people in our lives with whom we wish to spend the day? How fortunate we are to have enough to food to share. We are truly blessed with health and love. We are surrounded by the spirits of those who have gone before us and by the love that fills each of our hearts when we are together as well as when we are apart. We are also fortunate to know and love so many people with so many perspectives. The diversity of our community is what makes us all stronger. 

I am grateful for all of these things and more. I am surrounded by wealth and abundance. It is my good fortune and joy that there is so much food, family, love, and light to share on these shorter and shorter days. There is nothing easy about this disease but it has given us a new perspective. It has given us back to the outdoors and spending time outside with friends. It has given us opportunities to deepen our connections with those friends and family that truly fill us up. And it has given us the time to draw comfort and consolation from the world by rekindling the love we build in our homes. How fortunate we all are and how grateful I am that this season is upon us and that we have such an abundance of blessings to celebrate together either virtually or just in our hearts. 

What are you looking forward to this holiday season? Are vaccinations making it easier or harder for you to gather with loved ones? What are you most grateful for this year?

Vulnerability: Getting Behind the Mask

I recently had brunch with girl friends. We drank mimosas, sat outside under the trees, laughed, and celebrated just being in each other’s presence again. It was deeply nourishing and satisfying. And more than that there were some refreshing and honest conversations. One began, “I don’t know how you women with children are still married because if I have to clean up cat vomit off our new carpet one more time while I listen to my partner snore, so help me!” Another began, “I’m just going to say that it was awful because I find that if I don’t we’ll just have these conversations about how brilliant and lovely our children are and we’ll start by lying to others and end up lying to ourselves.” And let me just say that statements were so freeing. They were the balm my weary soul required. 

The bold honesty of my fellow women just opened me up, cracked and jostled the persona just enough so that we could really talk. We could have those deep dark conversations about what it has been like to be human and alive throughout this pandemic. It has not been good. And it has been hard and there is a lot of bitterness that we feel guilty expressing or sharing because everyone else seems to be living this idyllic existence. We presume others caught up on their reading lists, home schooled their children, and reconnected with their spouses throughout this global pandemic. 

We know that reality is shaped differently. We know know this because we see it in our own homes, and yet, for some reason we suspect that this pandemic has been easier for others. Easier for those without children. Easier for those with more resources or those who planned ahead and booked vacations, or those who hired nanny’s, or sent their children to private schools where in-person classes never stopped. Easier for parents who were both working throughout the pandemic. Easier for those who’s parents did not live with them. Easier for those who had groceries delivered. The thing of it is that none of this pandemic was easy for any of us. We collectively have suffered, endured, and lost a lot. And just taking a minute at a table surrounded by compatriots and battle weary gladiators, it felt good to see and be seen. 

It felt good to admit our shortcomings and confess our fears and challenges. It felt good to embrace the chaos and own the reality instead of pretending that the illusion is real. We got to take off our masks and reveal our weaknesses to one another and we all felt better for it because then we could laugh. We shared what we could, we kept it light. But we also kept it honest. We gave of ourselves, our hearts, and our humor. We laughed big and hard and the women brunching at tables near ours commented on how jealous they were not to be included in the conversation. 

What a gift to be at the table. What an honor to be surrounded by brave and proud warriors. What a joy to know that I am not alone in my failings. Each of those women gave me hope and comfort and a shelter from the storm of reality. We could admit our weaknesses and we could build each other up. We could forge new bonds and rekindle connections. We could be our most authentic selves and be celebrated for it, not ridiculed or shamed for not portraying the perfect image the world wants. What I celebrate is an act of tyranny. A rejection of the illusion that we are all perfect, that we are taking all of the garbage the world throws at us and making it into homemade dinners and family game nights. We are parking our children in front of screens and baking frozen pizzas so that we can sit silently in the same rooms as our partners scrolling on our phones because that is all we can manage and that is enough. We are all just doing our best and we are enough.

Planning Ahead: A Gift to My Future Self

This overcast and rainy day has already been surprisingly productive. I have cleaned out bins, unwrapped packages, I have prepared a meal for my family from scratch and made enough to freeze some for a later date. What a gift. Tomorrow both children return to their respective schools and this deadline has me feeling the urge to be productive to move small hills before they turn into mountains. I am proud of myself and pleased with my progress. 

Each of these steps in and of themselves is small. They are tiny little leaps that collectively create a giant step forward. I am grateful to myself for making this possible. This work sometimes feels unproductive, it feels as if I am only treading water and not truly swimming but like ducks floating on the waters surface underneath the waves I am kicking like crazy. 

And that’s what these little victories are all about. They’re about making the time for the little things that collectively push me forward to my goal and also make everything else feel easier. It is caring for my future self. The preparation of a delicious homemade meal that is not just for this moment but will nourish my family in the future – I have given my future self the benefit of having a nutritive meal ready without having to put in the time or effort. I have given future me a gift. 

Much as the delivery of a utensil holder and shoes is not particularly glamorous – but past me knew we needed these things and did the work to select the perfect pieces that would fit tidily into our new space. The delay in their delivery could not be helped but the reward of being able to unwrap these gifts and clear up our counter is wonderful. It was a delightful surprise for my partner who knew these items were coming but didn’t know when. 

I watered and pruned our tomato plants. This year’s fruits have not been particularly abundant or delicious. The tomatoes are watery and lacking flavor – what I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to roast and freeze these tomatoes for soups this winter. I am still using the tomatoes harvested last year in this year’s bisques and sauces. Again, it’s small steps, pulling out the kitchen sheers and collecting the leaves that have fallen and that need to be pruned from the plant so that it may thrive and nourish those buds that will turn into fruit. 

I went through boxes of old clothing, items I had held onto out of sentimentality. Items that meant something to me at the time or that I felt were too nice to just pass on so quickly. Looking at those sweet pieces now I am struck by how silly it is to hold on to those items that do not serve me. I am holding on to clothing that some other child might wear. It might bring them joy and they might delight in wearing them. Therefore, I went though the collection again. I kept the pieces that were particularly meaningful, and let go of the rest. I do not need every garment. No child requires items that are too small for them to sit in storage. I am relieving myself from the burden of having to go through these items again in the future. 

It is a gift to have so much that we may share with others. It is a joy to let so much go out into the world to hopefully make someone else’s day brighter. I am so grateful that I have given myself and my family the gift of less. I am making room for the things that are truly meaningful and valuable to me. I am making space for the people and ideas that will spark my imagination and help me to move forward. I am not clouding my physical space or my mental space with accumulated items or tasks that belong to someone else. And let them! Let them feel the joy of opening a new treasure or of having something in their home that is useful and valuable to them. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of that chain of events and to give the gift of a better day to someone else. I am full of gratitude for what I have been able to set free today. It has been a liberating and exciting day. It feels quite powerful to be this light, to let this much go, and to be free of the burden of caring for or tending to these belongings any more. They are free and I am free and it feels wonderful. What a gift!

When you donate do you feel better? Does it feel this good for everyone else? The sensation is lightness isn’t it? Or do you feel something else?

Manifesting Your Best Life

One of my favorite things to do is manifest my best life. For me manifesting means that I envision what wonderful things I want in my life and then I celebrate when they arrive. I dream, envision, and picture. Here are some of the ways I make Manifesting work for me. 

Set a clear intention and Pinterest – Not everything I want is present and accounted for in a perfectly curated board but much of it is. Yes, some of my boards are big imaginings that will take years to accomplish – my chateau based retreat for women, that is vivid and strong but not what I’m working on right away, that’s a 15 to 20 year dream. I use the site to envision my next home and my dream for a writer’s cottage – the result is a next home that looks cottage-y and will encapsulate all of the beautiful hopes and dreams I have pinned and imagined already. 

Sidebar: I couldn’t be more excited or thrilled with what awaits me and my family in our new home.

Curate the Pinterest board. While I’m building the dream I grab everything that remotely connects to my vision. Then I go back through my pins to find what truly speaks to me. I edit. I delete. I save from other sources and really hone in on what I love in each image. Do I love the design of the room or the furniture? I want to see an image and have it consistently reaffirm my vision. I don’t want to be confused each time a picture pops up, and when that happens I remove it because it clouds my vision and I want to be super clear and deliberate in what I am manifesting in my own life.

Reframe the desire. I write this out in my journaling and I ask the question out loud so I hear my own voice asking – “How did I get so lucky as to have (insert your dream here) a seven bedroom, seven bathroom, home close to downtown with enough space to host lacrosse practices, a pottage garden, and walking paths similar to Versailles?” This is a lot closer to the vision that I have than you would believe. And these are the things I want. Now, did I get all of these things? No! But I got closer than I ever thought possible.

The trick is the framing of my Manifestation as a question, “How did I get so lucky?” Because then instead of some random imagined future that is beyond reach now my brain now sees it as a question. A question is something unfinished that needs an answer. The brain is a magical tool and by framing what I want to manifest as a question my mind starts to work on the problem. It starts looking for opportunities and solutions that it wasn’t looking for before. My brain looks for patterns and options and even when I am not thinking about Manifesting specifically – like when I am asleep or out with friends – my brain is still looking for answers to this question, and in this way I make my own luck. My mind is constantly looking for ways to solve this problem and eventually, it finds a way to do it!

Write down your wish list. Long ago when I was single lady I sat down to write out what I was looking for in an ideal partner. I typed up a list of the qualities I wanted in my life partner – not just tall, dark, handsome but makes me laugh, shares my values, and loves children. I called it my, “Husband Position Description,” and I got detailed, detached earlobes were on the list as were a preference for eating the other half of the Chex mix – the pieces I don’t like. No sense letting half the bag go to waste! 

I wrote the list and I forgot about it. Saved it to a file and didn’t think about it again, until years later when I was living with a man who would become my husband and came across an old document. I read through that list again and my partner checked every box on that list. That was a powerful moment, because I did not know him when I wrote that list, I only imagined that he was out in the world waiting for me to find him and then I lived my life. I met and dated men who were not him, I went to work, and out with friends. But my brain was on the look-out. My sub-conscious was weighing and measuring, checking and comparing, because it was looking to hire the perfect candidate for this position opening. And when I had found him, my sub-conscious reminded my conscious of the list so they could confirm and affirm what my brain already knew, I had found the one. 

Have faith. The biggest part here is the faith I have in the universe and God. I am a firm believer that what you put out into the universe is what comes back to you. If you send out doubt, fear, and insecurity that is what you get in return. Therefore, it is super important to send out only what you want most for yourself. Send out your hopes and blind faith and trust that what is meant for you will arrive and that which is not meant for you will pass you by. This means that even when something is taking longer than you think it should to arrive or when there is an unexpected detour you still trust and believe that your Manifestation is coming. It’s keeping that energy, that trust, that commitment to your goal. 

We must believe and trust that, “Everything arrives at its appointed time.” Your manifestation will arrive at its appointed time. You will get what you are looking for and it can feel like a perfect fit or a magical surprise when what you want shows up but God does not give you a dream that you cannot fulfill. There is no longing in your heart that was placed there to be unattainable. Everything you want, wish for, desire is within your reach. You just have to trust yourself, you mind, and your God to work those miracles for you. Pursue those goals, manifest those dreams, it’s what you are here to do! You are not here to be miserable, small, and sad. You are here to reach for stars, to build pyramids, and dance. You are here to fulfill a purpose, don’t waste your time doubting it, that serves no one. Trust yourself, you mind, and your God and watch for what you will Manifest next! 

Strawberries Low Hanging Fruit Harvest

Listening Within – 4 Steps to Focus and Recalibrate

Today it has become aware to me that I am moving in fast forward. I am so eager to finish, to make progress, to get things done that I am not listening to my inner voice and to what would bring me joy. To do this requires only some small simple steps. But I am chasing that external satisfaction that comes from a task completed, scratching an item off of my “to do,” list. 

I am also procrastinating the simple tasks that do not bring me as much joy or satisfaction. I am delaying the simple choices that would bring me the most peace. I am putting off RSVP’ing to events and clicking send on a grocery order. I am creating an environment that produces more stress in my own life and i don’t want to do that anymore. Not that I will never do this again, but I can make it better today, for now. Here’s what that looks like for me: 

  1. Take a deep breath. This sounds simple but so often I rush through the day and forget to take a moment to breathe. I get distracted and caught up in my phone, emails, or tasks and instead of following one task to completion I find myself doing a little bit of a lot of things and not finishing any of them. Therefore, my first move is not to complete any of these things but to breathe deep and still myself so that I can decide what to do first.
  1. Find the low hanging fruit. What items on my list are easiest to accomplish? What is there that I can complete right now. Some items are as simple as moving a pile of documents from where they are sitting – on my dresser, to where they belong, stowed with the sentimental memory boxes I have across the room waiting to be organized. It’s a lot easier to organize when everything is in one place. These are small victories but they set the right tone and get my momentum moving in the right direction. It’s easier to snowball one victory into another when I’m not overwhelmed by too many major tasks and can just resolve one quick thing at a time.
  1. Let go of perfectionism. There’s going to be things I miss or foods I intended to purchase that just get skipped on the grocery list. These things happen, even when I meal plan and that’s ok. Right now I’m transforming our family diet and routines. We’re coming up on a new school year and I want to make more balanced and healthful choices for our family. This includes shifting the way we eat and the foods we consume. This is not easy as it involves tracking down new recipes and trying new cooking methods. It’s tricky, but it’s not impossible. And my first step needs to be to let go of my expectations of being a professional vegan chef on my first try, and instead remember that incremental change is still change and shifting our family in the right direction.
  1. Celebrate what you have already accomplished. This final one often gets steamrolled by the urgency to do more or the feeling that I didn’t accomplish enough today. That feeling of too little time, too much to do, pushes the goal post further back the moment I reach it. Doing this only leads to feeling more depleted and drained. Taking a moment, an evening, a week – whatever it is that you need to feel celebrated and proud of yourself for how far you have come is a worthy investment.

Letting go of scoring ourselves or rating our performance by the imaginary yard stick of perfectionism or worse yet, imagined competitions between ourselves and what someone else posts online, is not only unreasonable but it is also hurtful. We’re hurting our selves. Celebrate what you did today – you showed up, you did your best, and that is enough. That is exactly all anyone can expect of you! Look around at all you have and at all you’ve done already – isn’t that a reason to celebrate?

I like to think back on the me of a year ago, or read a journal entry from this time last year and see what my priorities were at that time. How far we’ve come in a single year! How magnificent all that we have done in a single day! That is cause for celebration!

Listening, the Dali Lama, and Learning to be a Better Friend

Being a better friend often means we give our time and attention but we do not give our guidance. We are not advisors, we are a support group. We listen and let others come to their own natural conclusions. It means listening to someone’s shared dreams without giving directions as to how to get there. This is NOT easy! I am so good at answers and giving direction, I am not good at letting others lead or make their own mistakes.

I was reminded of this during a recent conversation with my neighbor. I offered solutions and strategies when I was only needed to lend a listening ear. Especially since the topic was the challenges of being a Black Indigenous Person of Color (BIPOC) in the professional world. In this conversation I bring nothing to the table other than my ability to listen, learn, and support. Spoiler: I did not do that.

I wanted so badly to help that I offered any intervention I could provide. I suggested solutions when my friend was coming to me to be heard. Expressing a desire for me to understand not for me to fix her problem. I knew this and yet in the moment I promptly forgot.

And I apologized afterward after I had a moment to reflect on our conversation and consider what part I wished to play. I wanted to be of service and help but the value I brought to the conversation was deep and attentive listening to my friend. Not offering what I a white woman would do in her situation – she knows what a white lady would do, and she also knows that solution would not work for her.

I needed to take a step back to remember that my value does not come from offering solutions or fixes to societal problems. I was meant to listen, to learn, and to better understand what these challenges are like for my friends of color. I was not being asked to solve this problem but to more intimately familiarize myself with the experiences that women of color face in the work place. 

Thinking about this conversation from the perspective of a BIPOC woman made me realize how patient and wonderful my friend was to share her story with me. It made me realize how challenging these conversations must be for BIPOC to have with people who are not of color. My attempts to “fix” or “solve,” created even more work for my friend as she had to hold her ground as I attempted to push her forward. 

I am learning more about myself and vulnerability this year. I am learning that I like to cross things off of my list and make them better if at all possible. I am also learning that the “better,” I seek is not always attained through my mental or physical labor. Many times my goal is obtained through my patience, my willingness to listen and be still, my ability to let my BIPOC friends lead the conversation and let me know what they need – before I jump in to assist. 

Obviously, this translates to every relationship, being attentive to ourselves and recognizing that oftentimes the best gift we can give to others is our silence. Digest the wisdom, take it all in, don’t even think about what you will say next. As the Dali Lama once said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” I plan to take advantage of this learning and listening much more going forward. I’m just grateful I have so many dear friends willing to walk this path beside me and share what they have learned on their own travels.

What are you re-learning or unlearning in order to be a better listener? Any tips you’d like to share on how to take a beat and be more present for each other?

Healthy Routines: Honoring Yourself First

Today I took a bath and had a long call with my grandmother. I drank tea and a breakfast smoothie because when I feel physically good, I have more energy to be kind to others and myself. When I punish myself and do not tend to my needs the cycle of negativity keeps flowing and sometimes gains strength until there is that breakdown, an emotional cloudburst of activity and moments I regret or am embarrassed by, more sadness, more darkness to experience and process. But then closeness, more connection and deeper love and trust. 

Oh the dance of relationships and existing goes on and on and inside all of our emotions are raging. Look at this, feel this, it’s like when I am soaked in the luxury of sustained joy and the universe reaches out – all of these long dormant relationships suddenly seek to rekindle, the labor of boundaries becomes real and necessary. 

When I give more than I am ready to give I feel the strain, at first it’s slight a twinge, I will stop but only after this NEXT time. I abandon myself and am left feeling raw, ravaged, not because someone else dared to ask me for help, but because I chose them over me. I made them the focus and not myself. I gave away my power, not because I wanted to but because I wanted them to like me. Their liking me was more important that my liking me. I gave in because I wanted to please them, I wanted them to be happy and in doing so I made their happiness the priority and mine secondary. I abandoned myself. I gave away my torch, my power, my light to someone else who unapologetically and likely unaware of my circumstances accepted my generosity because I encouraged them to, I gave them permission and then behaved as if it were no big deal while inside I am raging. I have inconvenienced my own family, my own priorities in order to please someone else. Made their life easier and mine more difficult, why? Why did I do this? In order to be liked. In order to fill some void in myself externally that needs to be filled internally. 

And that is the deeper lesson, that finding my value needs to come from internal reflection and self-love. I cannot seek my self-worth in the approval of others for then I will be like a well in the desert – poured into but never satiated. Always thirsty for more while never grateful for what I have. And I don’t want to live like that. I want to be able to see my own intrinsic value. To look at myself in the mirror and see myself the way I see my dearest friends. With love, appreciation, and highest regard. And that comes from seeing myself the way I see those I love – it comes from self-work, and care. It comes from attention to my own needs first and caring for my inner child as I would any other little girl who is in need. And caring for myself, loving myself is where my value and strength lie. 

My value does not exist in the approval of others – which is fleeting and inconsistent. My value does not exist in service to others or in what I am able or willing to give away. My value exists because I exist. My value is ethereal and human. My value is intrinsic and unchanging – it is real, and it is unearned. It cannot be taken away or diminished. My value – and yours – is limitless, boundless, and free. I am working to celebrate this and make this the focus because when I am full from the inside, I am full enough to overflow. I am so deeply nourished and cared for that I have enough to share, more to give. And that is when I am ready to give to others. That is what I am able to give to others without resentment or feeling jealous that I don’t have what I am giving. I give what is extra, I give what I do not need, I give the excess that I cannot possibly absorb or use. I give from abundance and grace – I do not take the food from my mouth to give to another. I take the food from my overflowing table and share that. I welcome friends because I have so much. I do not starve myself or my family to feed yours because if I am starving I have nothing to share. 

And this is biblical – remove the plank from your own eye before removing the splinter from someone else’s – or in airplane jargon – affix your own mask before doing so for another passenger. We cannot serve others if we are already depleted. We cannot complete the race if we do not rest or stop for water. Pressing on through pain and exhaustion is not a mark of heroism. Martyrdom is no a gift it is an attempt to shame others into giving more than they are able because you do not have boundaries. And that is not ok. That is not to be celebrated. Give yourself the gift of self-love, care, and nourishment. Tend to your own wounds before attempting to operate on someone else. Let your own well be filled, and share with others the sweet water of life that you no longer need because you are refreshed and satiated. Do not take from yourself and give to others because that is false, that is giving from resentment or because you value the approval of others more than you care for yourself. Love yourself first, love your family first, and then give from that abundance. Rejoice in giving freely and without reservation or strings attached. Leave the gifts on the table with no thought of getting something back or of your gift being appreciated, accepted, or taken. We give the gift and pull our hands back and hope that it is received with the same intention it was given – freely and with love. Love that has no expectations because we have enough to share.