So we’re in the middle of a heat wave in Southern California. It’s 100 degrees in my yard at the moment, and this has been going on for days. But instead of railing against the sun, I’m going to try a different approach today. I’m going to celebrate water.
Even though we’re experiencing a severe draught – along with our heat wave – I still have water. Enough to prepare delicious pitchers of ice water with cucumber slices and rounds of lemon floating in them. I have enough water to take a cool shower and do a couple of loads of wash. I have a pool and in the late afternoon when the sun has slipped behind the trees, I’ll go for a swim. And I’ll think about how lucky I am to have fresh clean water available. And that’s more than enough – even for a sweltering Monday.
Take a look at how the average household uses water and be grateful for this most essential resource!
I have a lot of stuff to do today, and I’m sure you do as well. But I did set an intention when I woke up to find some joy in my Monday, and I thought I’d share my plan. It might work for you as well…..
I hate clutter. It makes me feel chaotic and uncomfortable. I’m not a minimalist or a clean freak by any means but something about being surrounded by too much stuff is distracting. Today as I was folding laundry it occurred to me that many of the items I was folding have lived out their purpose. Faded t-shirts, tops that don’t fit so well anymore, shorts that I would never wear outside of my house…. you know the stuff I’m talking about. But most of the items still have some life left in them. So I spent an hour roaming through the house collecting a bag of clothing, books, towels, baskets – things I no longer need or use or love. And on my way to the bank, I’ll drop the bag off at a donation center. (Fall is a perfect time to donate outgrown children’s clothing as lots of families are in need of school clothes.)
Less clutter for me – clean clothes, books, magazines, etc for someone else. Win-win!
It’s so easy to spread a bit of joy -even on a busy Monday.
Long lazy days that begin late and end very late
Home grown tomatoes!
Late afternoon swims when the sun is low in the sky
Chunks of watermelon right from the fridge
Blackberry basil lemonade
Months of flip-flops
Fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl
Playing at the beach
Stopping for ice cream on the last dog walk of the day
Air conditioned matinees
Sitting outside with friends until long after dark
Ripe peaches and plums every day
What did I forget???
Please add your favorite summer delights to the comments.
If you’re like me, you jot down errands/tasks/obligations as they occur to you and end up with a daily list of 20-30 items that need to get done. Without prioritizing, organizing, or planning, this can be somewhat of a nightmare. For example, my list the other day included writing tasks, errands, a networking event, phone calls to make, long term projects, research, and a few things to follow up on. Just looking at the list was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to begin, how to schedule my day, or what I really needed to get done. But I dug in, crossed off a few of the easier tasks, then lost steam. By mid afternoon I felt disappointed in myself as my progress stalled but my list kept growing. On a good day I can get the majority of the list crossed off, but on a not-so-productive day, I have so many remaining items that I feel like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill.
So out of frustration I decided to take a long, hard look at my list-making skills.
And I’ve come up with a few strategies to help me have more productive feeling days rather than overwhelmed feeling days. (Notice the importance of the word ‘feeling’. So much of this is our own inner voice judging our accomplishments or lack of accomplishments.)
To begin with, I am organizing my list. Priorities at the top. Maybe there are only three or four things I absolutely must get done on a given day. If I can complete those, then anything else is gravy.
I’m also making things easier for myself by breaking big tasks into little pieces. If I have a deadline that’s a week away, I chunk down the work into 30-60 minute bits that I tackle every day. Much gentler on the nervous system than procrastination.
Third, I’m strategizing how to be most efficient. Living in Los Angeles, traffic is a big issue. If I can plan my errands and appointments in the middle of the day, I have a fighting chance of not getting stuck in my car creeping along at 10 miles per hour.
Fourth, I’m adding whatever I can to make completing the tasks as quick and foolproof as possible. I jot down the phone number right next to ‘call the dentist’. Every little bit helps.
I also like to throw in a treat whenever I can. If I have to run errands, leaving myself five minutes to swing by Peets for an iced latte makes the whole chore a little more pleasant .
Finally, I cross the things I’ve accomplished off my list with an affirmation. “Good job” or “I’m glad that’s done” is a whole lot more compassionate than “you lazy cow, you still have three things left to do”. And I add the unfinished items to the next day’s list with no reproach or shame.
I bet that even Sisyphus would have appreciated a pat on the back for his efforts.
One of the most useful tools for me has been “Morning Pages”. Cameron urges people to write three pages in a stream of consciousness style upon waking up every morning.
There are a couple of rules. The most important is that your Morning Pages need to be handwritten – no computer please – as the hand/heart/unconscious mind connection is a powerful force. Also, they are personal. Don’t think of them as “writing” that you would show the world. The pages are a landing place for your ideas, to do list, whining, petty grudges – whatever is dancing in your head. Because they are personal and no one except you will see them, there is no judgment. Let it all come out. In fact the philosophy behind the MP is to dump all your brain clutter so you can move into a place of creativity and self-acceptance.
Morning Pages are for everyone. You don’t need to be an aspiring writer, artist, or anything else. You just need to do the work and see what happens.
Writing Morning Pages is a practice. It’s great if you can do it every day (in fact Cameron says that it’s nonnegotiable) particularly when you are developing the habit. And, like most positive practices, the more you do it, the better you feel. Notice that I did NOT say “the more you do it, the better you get” because there is no right or wrong and you’re not in it to win a writing award. You just want to write.
At my best I can write 5-6 times a week. But then life happens and I get out of the habit. The funny thing is that after a week or so without doing my pages, my mental clutter starts building up, and I feel edgy and uncomfortable. And then it dawns on me – I need to do my pages. So I pick up my pen and notebook and write. Every single time I do Morning Pages I feel better – and yet I’m continually astonished by their magic. The act of writing them makes me feel clear, centered, and full of gratitude.
For the price of a notebook, a pen, and fifteen minutes every morning, you can begin a practice that will bring you clarity, peace, a sense of accomplishment. And who knows where it will lead you creatively?
Not a bad investment.
To pick up a copy of Julia Cameron’s book: The Artists Way
And if you live in Los Angeles and are interested in a fabulous course on The Artists Way, I highly recommend Kelly Morgan.
This past weekend I drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco to attend an anniversary party. Yes, it was a schlep. Six hours in the car on Saturday and five and a half hours of driving on Monday. But I didn’t want to spend the money on flights, airport parking, etc. so I bit the bullet, loaded my iPod with an audio book and music, and got behind the wheel.
And despite the hours in the car, it was totally worth it.
I was able to celebrate my friends’ 30 years of marriage; I reconnected with people at the party who I hadn’t seen in 19 years; I met some lovely new people; the food was great – but most importantly – to me – I honored the connection with people I care about.
In fact, the entire weekend was about connections. I stayed with friends I had taught with for three years. And it felt so natural to be with them. After sharing an office and each other’s lives on a daily basis, there’s a comfort level and closeness that distance doesn’t diminish. I treasured the opportunity to catch up, laugh, hang out with them.
And I drove to my old neighborhood to see some dog park friends. (Anyone who goes to the dog park every day knows how easily those friendships bloom.) I was thrilled by the joyful greeting I got from Louie, the basset hound, and walking on the familiar trails with my friends was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
On the long drive home I contemplated the weekend. In our digitally connected world it’s so easy to text, Skype, email, or call friends that staying in touch is almost effortless. But celebrating an important milestone, sharing a meal, taking a walk together – there is no virtual substitute for those experiences.
Sometimes you just have to show up. There is real joy in being there.