January Goals

Ha! It is preposterous: I meant to talk about goals sooner than almost-the-end of the month. But you know, I’m busy and I’m practicing a nonjudgmental stance.  I’m doing the best that I can with the skills that I possess.  These are the intentions I’ve been holding this month:

  1. Use at least one new recipe a week.  So far, so good! I was thinking that I wanted to do more cooking out of my cookbooks, but there have definitely been some pinterest recipes in the mix.  So far we’ve done this spaghetti squash recipe, the two delicious soups I mentioned last time, a “tamale pie” from this cookbook that came out weird but was delicious, and these turkey burgers.  For a potluck, I made this bangin’ flannel hash. My goal was not to photograph my food, so I did not do so, but our meals were awesome.
  2. Only buy groceries once a week as needed for recipes.  This represents a shift in the way I’ve tended to buy groceries, which has been somewhat haphazardly or on-the-spot according to my mood.  I believe that it will save us money in the long-run, but we’ll see how that goes when we add it all up.  In any case, it feels very sane and orderly.
  3. Refrain from eating out.  I’ve got to say, I’ve done pretty well with this. We did get biscuits for breakfast one crazy Saturday morning, but other than that, we’ve eaten at home for the most part.  Next month I might see if I can refrain from buying lattes also. Having delicious leftovers at home has made it a lot easier to stay home and eat.  (Also fun: “leftovers buffet” with a friend.  A thrifty pal was happy to support my desire not to buy dinner at a restaurant meeting we were both attending, so she brought over some of her leftovers and helped us have a leftovers party.  And then we bought beer at that meeting–I felt like that was an okay compromise.)
  4. Walk or bike to campus unless it’s raining.  I have only had two opportunities to do this because classes just started back last week (and I’m only on campus twice a week).  I am one for two on this one and will probably not make it tomorrow either because of my schedule.  However, I think it’s a worthy goal and I will continue to aspire to it.
  5. Articulate my limits–say “no” to some things.  I have done this!  I backed off from a commitment I’d made in December to tutor a new student. I felt able to do that because I knew I wasn’t leaving the kid high and dry because I could recommend another tutor. I would like to get better at saying “no” even in the absence of a rescue plan.  I am genuinely horrible at it could be more effective at practicing self care by limiting my obligations.

I like the idea of having time-limited monthly goals to “try on” and see if I’d like to incorporate for a longer amount of time.  I think that I will definitely keep these and probably add one about my sugar intake for February.  I’ve also been keeping up with my 365 project of mandala-doodling, with an almost-perfect record (not that perfection is the point).  It’s been a good month!  I would like to remember these things when I’m feeling overwhelmed with my last semester of grad school (which, to be fair to myself, is legitimately overwhelming for lots of reasons).

ImageOn the non-grad-school reading list is You Grow Girl by the same fabulous woman (Gayla Trail) who wrote Grow Great Grub, which I talked about last time.  I am really stoked to start my garden.  Last week–four days before we had a wintry mix–it was seventy degrees outside, so I spent some time mulching and generally tidying up my space.  I’ve sent out an email to my fellow community gardeners to see if anyone wants to go in on a seeds order, but I haven’t heard from anyone yet.  It’s not too long before I need to start up some seedlings, so I hope that someone bites soon before I buy way too many seeds just to get a variety.

And today I received Peace is Every Step in the mail, which is honestly not strictly “non-grad-school” reading (since I bought it to share pieces of it with a group I’m running this semester), but I figure a little mindfulness reading, no matter how requisite, is good for the soul.  That is much of what I’m trying to make this blog about, anyway!

I feel good and whole.

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Taking My Time

I have always loved New Year’s.  I remember my father grumbling once about this “pagan, arbitrary celebration” and interjecting my appreciation for celebration of an end of one thing and a beginning of another, for a sense of accomplishment and promise.  Sometimes the accomplishment is just surviving; sometimes the promise is that the next year won’t be quite as miserable.  Be that as it may, I like the ritual.

I am, however, a New Year’s Resolution agnostic. Oh, I’ve made them. I’ve been that person at your gym.  I lasted ’til April or so, then fell off the wagon, then tried again in August.  I love the idea of setting an intention, of making promises to myself–but I am in the skeptical camp on account of my own failure at the gym.  Change–real change–takes a fair amount of studied analysis of what’s working and what’s not working, what motivations are competing, and so forth.  I wish to lose weight, save money, and simplify my schedule; but those goals, thus articulated, are not that useful. I could make them smarter–and I will–but that’s not what I’d like New Year’s to be about.

I was spending time with a cluster of sweet girl friends today, and one of them brought up this other way of thinking about New Year’s resolutions, wherein one considers the whole of her life and chooses a theme word or phrase.  While the social worker in me wants my goals to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound, the poet in me–arguably the dominant voice, let’s be honest–loves the notion of the theme that permeates everything, the guiding metaphor.  So that is what I’m going to do.

When I start thinking about my obstacles to change for losing weight, saving money, or simplifying my schedule, I notice that I breathe a little faster, raise my shoulders to my ears, and feel almost claustrophobic. I immediately start thinking about the next thing on my list, how I don’t have enough time to do everything that I want to do. I eat unmindfully because my head is crammed with deadlines; I spend money for convenience for the same reason. I rarely slow down. That’s why I think this year’s theme will be Taking My Time.

One small mandala each day, mindfully.

One small mandala each day, mindfully.

I like the language of Taking My Time for a few reasons.  It obviously invokes slowing down, which could apply to my propensity to jump to conclusions as much as it does to hurrying from Point A to Point B. It also suggests that my time is mine. I often feel guilty for taking time for myself or saying no to something that will overwhelm my schedule; consequently, I don’t do much of either.  I also like how it is reminiscent of taking it a day at a time and living in the moment.

To that end (and not contradictorily!), I have chosen a very small, very doable 365 project of drawing one mandala each day as a mindfulness practice.  And I have other goals (SMART ones, even!) that I think I’ll take a month at a time.  January’s goals focus on food routines in our home–something I’ll talk about another time.

Happy New Year.

Today I seek wonder and peace.

I thought at one point that I was not addicted to busyness, that it was only that my job forced me to work  hours upon hours outside of my salaried schedule. I thought, that if I could, I would be happy to recline on the sofa and enjoy filling my days with books, cats, and gardens. I thought that I would gladly kiss busy goodbye and embrace quiet stillness.

I certainly do not like the pressure of juggling obligations and deadlines, but if I am being honest with myself, I turn into a basket case as soon as I sit down with a blank agenda. This is how I ended up with a job that filled my one precious empty morning each week last semester and how I very nearly ended up teaching every weekend. My partner is a gentle man who never tries to bend me into someone I am not, but every so often he will remind me of a wish I spoke aloud for simplicity and rest. And then I inevitably (if sheepishly) explain why it is that, despite everyone’s encouragement to grad students in my program to take winter break off, it is essential that I go into field on my free days.

Perhaps I am, like my father once suggested to my undoubtedly balking face, a workaholic. But maybe I’m a workaholic moving out of the contemplation stage and into the preparation stage for change.  It is true that I am anxious without activity, but it is also true that I do deeply desire room in my days for mindfulness, wonder, and reflection. And I can’t obsessively chase every obligation and have the space for these things that I value.

This is where it starts: today, I seek wonder and peace.  This is not a New Year’s Resolution.