Enjoying living while much of our lives are on hold
This has been a waiting season for all of us. The pandemic has sidelined our dreams and so much of our daily lives. Even spending time with friends and family is so fraught with consequence and concern. Without even a countdown timer to know when all this will end, we wait in a morass of question marks.
We’ve been through waiting periods before. Every woman who has given birth understand that feeling of waiting: the weighted burden of restricted activities to be followed by new life. There is hope in the waiting; it’s what we cling to. There is also an end in sight, and an end in sight means you can make plans.
It’s hard to make plans right now
It’s hard to make plans when you have no idea what to expect, or when to expect it – and when interacting with others can have such deadly consequences. Making plans means taking control, and that’s hard to do when everything feels so out of control. But that is exactly why we need to make plans right now.
Make plans anyway
Having a goal and working towards it is one of the most powerful things we can do to help lift ourselves out of the grey. Maybe you can’t throw yourself a massive 50th birthday party and invite 200 of your closest friends, but what can you do? What is something you can plan and work towards? What can you invest your time and energy into that will give you a sense of purpose and forward movement?
Staring out the window, waiting for the pandemic to end is a very slow and lonely way to pass the time. Yes, there are so many things we can’t do right now. But that mindset is the equivalent of staring out the window, waiting. It wont fix anything.
You need a sense of purpose
If you have an idea of the things you want to do post-pandemic, what can you do now to put yourself in the best position to take action when the time is right? If you want to go scuba diving off the coast of Mallorca – what can you do now to get ready?
Plan out the rest of the sites around Spain you’d like to visit.
Start a savings account specifically for this trip.
Start a file on your scuba adventure and add to it regularly.
Make the planning process fun too.
If it takes you 3 years to get there, and the room rates have all changed by then, so what? You already have a head start and a good understanding of what to expect, and changing a few details is no big deal.
Start working on another project
That’s right. This pandemic isn’t going to disappear tomorrow. Find something else to do. Take online classes. Pick up a new hobby. Explore your neighborhood and community on foot. Decorate your house for Mardi Gras. Find something that gives you a sense of moving forward, and even accomplishment. Time will move more quickly, and your emotional wellbeing will improve as well.
Help someone else
As difficult as this is, there’s a good chance that someone around us is having an even more difficult time. Even with distancing practices in place, we can still organize a meal train for the family of someone who is ill. Organize a neighborhood cleanup to pick up litter. Write a letter or schedule a zoom call with someone who is lonely. Helping others is a wonderful way to make yourself feel better, too.
This wont last forever. Something else will take it’s place, and we’ll learn to adapt and make the best of that situation, too.
I am so ready for the new year. I spent much of 2020 hidden away. Like many of you, my days and weeks and months were consumed with coping. At the end of each year, we often slide into the tail end of December a bit worn out, but 2020 took this to a whole new level. This year challenged us, all of us, in ways we weren’t prepared for. It’s become cliche to say this was a hard year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
But the year is almost over. It’s time for a new year. A new page. We will still have the same problems once the bell tolls us into 2021, but we can stop, take a breath, hit reset, and then tackle the new year with a plan. Let’s take a moment to reevaluate, to consider what’s working, what’s not, and look at our challenges with new eyes to find new solutions.
Journals are a tool
My friends know that journaling is important to me. They know that it’s an important part of how I cope and how I process what’s happening in my life. What they may not know, is that I drop the habit of journaling from time to time, too. I don’t journal every day, and I don’t believe everyone needs to.
People often think that journaling is not for them because they don’t do it every day or they keep forgetting about it, but I have a secret for you. Your journal is not an obligation; it’s a tool. Use it when you need it. If you turn journaling into a chore, it loses its magic. Journaling does not need to be an everyday endeavor to be a robust tool for you.
Taking pen to paper is a powerful way to figure things out. Like a math problem that gets too complex to figure in your head, our lives are complex, and taking the problem to paper can make it easier to see solutions. Writing it down also helps us track changes and measure progress. If you really want to change something in your life, write it down. If you know something in your life needs to change, but you don’t know what, or how, write that down, too. And then keep writing. Ask your self questions, and then after you write all the bullshit answers, keep writing. That’s where you find the good stuff, after you get the bullshit out of the way.
Sometimes, having a guide can help: a workbook or class with questions and writing prompts and encouragement to help you figure out what you want, how you’re going to make it better, and how you’re going to manage each step.
Reset: A Fresh Start for a New Year Journaling and Planning Workshop
I’ve been teaching these classes for years, but this year I decided to present them online. I’m starting with a free, 4-day workshop to help you plan the year ahead. What coping skills did you need last year? How did they work? How can you improve them? What new tactics can you employ this year to help make it better? How will you find the flexibility to bend with circumstances and still do what you need to do? And most importantly, what do you really want? You don’t need to know the answers to get started, we’ll find them along the way.
During the Workshop, we will gather in a Facebook Group for a live session each day, with workbooks and challenges, and plenty of encouragement. The workshop will run from December 28 through December 31, 2020, with a Facebook Live session each morning at 11am Pacific Time. In addition, I will record my presentations in case the scheduled time doesn’t work for you.
Click the button below to join our workshop. Let’s plan our way to a better 2021.
Are you waiting for the “perfect time” to get started?
When pondering when to start a journal, or starting a new project or habit, I think we tend to think in terms of milestone moments, or an obvious break in the calendar. I’ll start Monday. I’ll start on the first of next Month. I’ll start January 1. I’ll start on my birthday. I’ll start on my wedding day.
It’s easy to build in a delay, a time buffer into our idea of starting something new.
Building in a delay is not a great way to get started. It is, however, a great way to start procrastinating.
Why do you wait?
Are you questioning how much you really want to do it?
Is it the idea of starting fresh on a new week, month, or year? Fresh starts are not limited to certain time frames. You can have a fresh start right now. Right this minute, you can take a deep breath, draw a line through the air, and say I’m starting fresh right now.
Sure, you’re still in the same place, the same situation. You still have dishes and laundry to do, you still have the same deadlines, problems, and habits, but something is different. When you change your approach, everything else changes.
Don’t give in to perfectionism
Sometimes we wait because we want to make it perfect. I have to have the perfect journal. I have to start on the first because then I can set it up to cover the month perfectly. That’s a recipe for avoiding your journal any time you feel less than perfect.
Your journal is not a place for perfection. It’s a safe place, where you can be you any time of day or night. Any day of the week, month, or year.
If you delay starting your journal till a certain date, it increases the pressure on what you decide to put in the journal. There’s an increased sense of having to write about things you deem important – the big events in your life. But life happens in the in-between moments. It’s those moments that make up the bulk of our time that determine who we are and how we live – the hours and days, as well as the weeks, months, and years.
When to start a journal is when you’re ready
You decide when you are ready to start a journal. Don’t let the calendar tell you how to run your life. It’s your journal.
Whenever you want to start your journal is the perfect time to get started. As I write this post, it’s 7:40 pm on a Thursday and a perfectly acceptable time to start writing. So is tomorrow. Or the next day.
If you want to write, then write. Pick up a pen or pencil and a notebook, or even open a new document on your computer. Then write. It only matters that you write. Everything else is just ornamental.
I see the art journals and stunningly gorgeous bullet journal spreads pictured in Instagram and whizzing through my Facebook feed, and I feel pangs of envy about the art skills on display.
I am a long-time keeper of ugly journals. I love artsy journals. I ooh and ah over beautiful bullet journals, but my journals just don’t measure up. I try to make them pretty, but the harder I try the more tacky they get.
Sometimes I get self-conscious about how my ugly journals fail when compared to the artistic journals of some of my friends.
It’s that comparison bit that really trips me up. Every time.
My journal does not exist for the purpose of impressing other people. I forget that detail way too often.
My journal exists for a lot of reasons
It helps me stay organized
It helps me set goals and work towards them
It helps me plan my days, weeks, months, and years
It helps me figure out how I feel about an issue
It helps me figure out my next steps
It helps me understand what happened
It helps me figure out how to move on
It connects me to the deepest parts of myself that are otherwise difficult to access
It’s those deeper issues that really draw me to the practice of journaling, and it’s those deeper issues that keep me coming back again and again.
There’s nothing wrong with making it pretty
Sure, I like to doodle in my journal. I play around with prettying it up. I love to add stickers because I can add interest without relying on my limited drawing skills. I use a straightedge to draw lines. I use markers. I color code. Sometimes I trace images or try to free-hand images I see in coloring books. There are a lot of things I do to make my journal more fun and appealing to me.
I practice drawing, and I’ve created and evolved a number of layouts that I use to help organize my journal. I love those aspects of journaling and playing around with art. I love looking back over old journals and seeing how my creative skills have improved just with practice in my journal. This is so much fun for me, and it makes me happy.
But sometimes it goes too far
Your journal should not be a source of stress in your life. There have been times when I chose not to open my journal because the thought that I needed to create something beautiful was too stressful.
There have been times when I went to pick up my journal and then put it back down again because I didn’t have time to draw out an entire layout.
There have been times when I didn’t go to my journal because I didn’t have the right pen handy.
Whoa! Wait a minute!
My journal is not a place for perfection
My journal is my sandbox. It’s the place where I figure things out. Where I try things out. Where I practice. Where I learn and improve. It’s the place where I play.
My journal is my safe place.
If you have to be perfect in your safe place, it’s no longer a safe place.
A journal is what you make it
Ultimately, you write the rules for your own journal. If you want your journal to be a showcase, that’s awesome. But if you find yourself getting stressed out about your journal, or holding back, maybe it’s time to give yourself a break, and take a chance on letting it be ugly.
Here’s one week’s worth of prompts to get you going in your journal. If you’re really feeling sassy, you could also ask these prompts of your characters in your current WIP. Imagine what new insights you might gain into your characters’ backstories. Journaling is a great way to get to know your fiction characters better. Journaling is an even better way to get to know yourself.
Monday, October 1
It’s a new month. What are you looking forward to this month? What are you going to do differently from last month?
Tuesday, October 2
What is your favorite part of autumn? What is your least favorite?
Wednesday, October 3
What memories does the thought of Halloween evoke? Are you looking forward to Halloween? Why or why not?
Thursday, October 4
This is the beginning of the fourth quarter of the year? What are your plans for the last three months of 2018? What will you accomplish this year?
Friday, October 5
What are your thoughts on Fridays? Are you a TGIF person? How do you spend your weekends?
Saturday, October 6
Is the weather starting to change where you live? How do you feel about the changing of the seasons? Do you look forward to the changes, or prefer things to stay more constant? Why is that?
Sunday, October 7
What are your plans for the week ahead? Anything you’re excited about? Anything you would rather avoid? What are you going to do to get this week started off right? Is there anything you can do today to make next week better?
I love it when I discover something new and awesome in the Seattle area. Well, this time the discovery was precipitated by an invitation to a 6-year-old’s farm-themed birthday party at the location, but it works for me.
The Farrel-McWhirter Farm park is a Redmond city park that also happens to be a working farm.
Bunnies, goats, chickens, pigs, cows, horses, and ponies – All kinds of things to make 6-year-old girls squee.
Really, it’s the best kind of city park. You’d never know you were in city limits.
The 68 acre park includes a preschool, summer camp program, orienteering course, and of course, pony rides.
My daughter was particularly fond of this plywood cow with a water-filled rubber glove that demonstrates how milking a cow works.
And this magical tree, where she spent quite a bit of time pretending to be a baby eagle.
And, did I mention the pony rides? Because that’s pretty much all I’ve heard about for the past week.
We can’t wait to get back out there for another visit.