Try-This Tuesday: How Do YOU Say Goodbye?

“I need to make a change.”  “Something needs to change.”  “I don’t know what to change.”

In order for a change to happen, there are 3 phases to go through, according to William Bridges’ book Transitions.  The first is an ending, then comes a muddled-up period of things like confusion, growth, and uncertainty which gives way to the third phase, a beginning.

Today, let’s start with endings.  We often are so focused on the fact that we are transitioning TO something that we forget to start by looking at what is ending.  When we ignore what is ending, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity for closure.

Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to grieve an ending because we think it is shameful or unproductive or otherwise frowned upon.  We may already be in the beginning phase of something wonderful and, therefore, think it is pointless to look back.  For example, when a woman enters motherhood she may be unprepared for some of the feelings that arise once the reality of the responsibility of a child sets in.  She may not be willing to admit that she cries for the freedom she once had, or envies her childless friends who stop by for a visit and then head out for an evening of exciting plans.  This is very confusing for someone who always wanted to be a mother, and who is in love with this sweet little being.  BUT AN ENDING LEFT UNEXAMINED NEVER GOES AWAY!!  Until the sadness over her loss of freedom is confronted, it will only start popping up in other areas of her life for years to come.

Another example is the transition of a long-anticipated career move.  A fabulous promotion or an entirely novel and exciting career is a great beginning.  But let’s look at what could have possibly ended.  Maybe this promotion means travelling on alternate weekends which could end a tradition of Friday family movie nights.  Or a new career could mean working solo from a home office instead of in a building filled with colleagues and friends.  Though the shift is full of enormous potential, there is something to say good-bye to.

Even if we are leaving behind a totally undesirable situation (an abusive relationship, a rough neighbourhood or an uninspiring job) our bodies and minds need to come to terms with this change in daily routine.  Human beings have this way of becoming so conformed to a state that movements in this state (be they tremors or ground-breaking quakes) can do a number on us.  Acknowledging the goodbye is beneficial; an unresolved ending will show up over and over again.

In general, we tend to deal with endings in characteristic ways.  Some of us (me included) are clingers – holding on to the goodbye and then looking back constantly over our shoulders.  Others are avoiders – they take off before the word “goodbye” can even be uttered.  One way isn’t better than the other; they both have pros and cons.

When I say I’m a clinger, this is what I mean.  When I was a toddler and a young child, I cried every time someone left our house after a gathering.  I had to say goodbye to every room of every house I lived in when we moved (and we moved a lot).  I have had a tough time letting go of friendships that have morphed into distant acquaintances.  I am hyper-sensitive to changes in seasons, noting with hawk-like intensity the change in daylight, the changes in the earth and temperature differences.  I used to get anxious about ringing in the new year; in fact, I never was keen about going out and celebrating it because it was such an odd feeling to be standing on the brink of a brand new calendar year and to leave behind 365 days of another year.  These are just a few examples off the top of my head.

The good news is this has settled down!  I don’t cry now when people leave my house.  I may wish the event didn’t have to end but I have learned to quickly turn that around by planning another one!  The last house I moved out of I said a “thank you and goodbye” at the front door, appreciative of all it had given me.  But no tears.  The changes in seasons still make me feel unsettled for a period but looking forward to plans I make usually squelches the yuckies.  And committing to my goals and watching my children grow make new years more welcome.

Understanding how I deal with endings is a tool I use to navigate my transitions.  I can look at the great parts of how I say goodbye and help myself deal with the rest of it.  That’s why I’m encouraging you to do the same.

For today’s task, think about (and write about if you can) the way YOU say goodbye.  How do YOU say goodbye – to relationships, to seasons, to celebratory occasions, to homes…to anything, really?  Go as far back into your childhood as you can – think about major events (parents’ divorce, moving homes, graduating high school etc) and minor events (haircuts, switching grocery stores etc).  Ask yourself:

  • How have I dealt with endings in the past?
  • How do I deal with goodbyes now?
  • What are some of the benefits that I see in how I end things?
  • What might not be serving me in my goodbye process?

I hope this task is as revealing for you as it was for me!  If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them.  You can comment below or click here to send me an email.

Can’t Find The Time? Read THIS While Watching Your Child’s Swim Lesson! PLUS: A Contest Giveaway!!

HERE’S A GREAT REASON WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS POST:  The first Let ME Out contest giveaway is announced at the bottom!!  (The actual post may be useful, too, so keep reading!)

I know it’s not Tuesday, but let’s look back to a post called Try-This Tuesday: Gaining Control Of Your Time.  I’ll give you a few minutes to read it and then come back!  I want to explore this a little further in light of the wonderful response I am getting from you, dear Readers.

Our relationship with Time is much like our relationship with a living, breathing thing.  We have to check in on it, examine it, make changes, respect it and respect ourselves in the process.  For example, you may recall that while I was telling you about how I fill my work week I heard a voice tell me “Yeah, but you don’t exercise.”  That voice was allowed to be heard because I was checking in and examining my relationship with Time.  I am now in the process of making changes by delegating some of my fundraising work and devoting scheduled hours to exercise.  I respect that I have a certain amount of Time to work with and I respect myself by filling my Time appropriately.

This is a constant process.  For example, I have suddenly found myself with some extra Time in the mornings thanks to the God of Carpools.  So I have to sit down again and examine what I want to do with that time.  Otherwise, if I don’t have a concrete plan, I end up starting 10 things and accomplishing nothing.  Likewise, an unexpected event may take away Time from me in any given day which will force me to re-examine my weekly To-Do list.

But let’s get back to YOUR relationship with Time.  If you haven’t examined your relationship with Time yet, that’s the first step.  If you are wondering where you will get the Time to do that, here are some suggestions:

  • Whatever it is that you do before bed, stop doing it 20-30 minutes before and do this task
  • Wake up 20 minutes earlier
  • Take 20 minutes out of your lunch break if you get a full hour
  • Can you get someone else to pick up/drop off your children to their activities?
  • How about while they’re at their activities?

And here’s one that will get me Mother of the Year:  when you are supposed to be watching your child at his/her swim lesson and all they are doing is swimming back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…pull out a little notebook (carry one with you if you already don’t ) or open up a new memo in your BlackBerry and DO IT!  You paid for this half hour – make it work for you!  I’m not even joking.  I mean, look up once in awhile, right?

As the task prescribes, once you know what you currently do with Time, decide what needs to change.  DE-CLUTTER your schedule first.  Get rid of commitments that you really don’t need to commit to.  Not as easy as it sounds, much like throwing away that horrific vase your great-aunt gave you 15 years ago is not as easy as it should be.

Once you de-clutter your schedule – even by one item –  you will find pockets of Time to allot to the things you can never seem to find time for.

By the way, what is it that you wish you had more time for?  Share it with us in a comment below.

AND NOW…ANNOUNCING…The Let ME Out Contest Giveaway!!

I am offering a FREE series of four coaching sessions to 3 readers!  The Let ME Out introductory coaching package will help YOU identify YOUR goals, YOUR strengths, YOUR path…and of course, we’ll look at de-cluttering the heck out of your life to get that creativity flowing!

ENTER TO WIN by submitting a contact form – tell me WHY you would like to win this coaching package in a short paragraph.  Here’s the creative part:  You have to use the word “sunshine” in your entry.  The 3 entries with the most creative use of this word will be selected!

Contest closes September 30, 2011.  Winners will be contacted by email on October 3, 2011.

I look forward to reading your entries and even more so to working with YOU!

Try-This Tuesday: Out With The Old, In With The New

Lately, I have been stuck on change.  (If that isn’t a paradox, I don’t know what is.)  I have been receiving messages from people who want to talk about a change in their lives: transitions they are in the midst of, events that they hope to have happen; the conversation inevitably leads to their feeling of being stuck.

This I can totally relate to.

In fact, I almost fell off my chair while reading Transitions by William Bridges in which he describes a phase of murky confusion that exists between the ending of one event and the beginning of another.  I had just finished describing to someone close to me this very phenomenon that I have been experiencing increasingly over the past year.  I couldn’t believe how true to this theory I fit.  I have become so accustomed to this “whirling eddy” that I call it, that now I almost get excited about it.  I know it leads to something wonderful even if at the moment all it is doing is giving me a headache and possibly insomnia.  So when I am approached by people who are in that state I feel equally excited and tell them this – I’m sure they’re glad that somebody thinks this turmoil is beneficial.  (FYI, here’s a definition of eddy that absolutely describes how I feel in that state:  A current, as of water or air, moving contrary to the direction of the main current, especially in a circular motion.)

I am going to spend a few posts talking about this and giving you tools to discover your relationship with change.  But first things first.

It can be difficult to think about change when we feel stuck.  So, today I want to focus on blocked creative energy or that feeling of being stuck.  As summer ends and fall begins (an ending and a beginning are the 2 other phases of a transition), this is a Tuesday Task to get the energy flowing even if it just begins as a trickle escaping from behind a dam.  We have been hearing about the benefits of de-cluttering for awhile now.  De-cluttering your space = de-cluttering your mind.  It makes room for grand ideas and positive energy.  It’s been made popular by those home improvement shows in which a Type-A personality comes in and has homeowners reduced to tears and only one box of memories that they are allowed to keep.  While I think this is a great long-term idea, for today’s task I am suggesting you give away one item that you have been holding on to for some time that you really don’t need.  A-ha…there’s that tricky word “need”.  When I say you don’t need it, I mean you never use it, it doesn’t go with your decor, if you didn’t have it you wouldn’t be the least bit crippled.  That kind of thing.

Select your item, say adios and thanks for the good times and toss it into your donation bag.  We keep a large, black garbage bag in my husband’s closet in which we drop clothes and household items when the itch to get rid of something creeps up on us.  Then we head to the closest thrift store when it’s full.  By the way, my de-cluttering is more like rampage style.  One item so does not do it for me and with practice I have gotten very good at chucking without lingering.  

Don’t look back.  If you think you may be prone to going back into the bag, get rid of the item right away.  But I think that you are going to enjoy the feeling so much that you may even toss out something else…and something else.  Practice this regularly.  You’d be surprised where energy gets stuck.  I’m a firm believer that the act of physically moving energy around in your environment stimulates changes within.  Try it and let me know what you think!

Pull out your journal or your task binder and answer the following prompts (also logged here):

  • Which item did you select and why?
  • Did any particular emotion get stirred up as you tossed it into your donation bag?
  • Do you see yourself doing this more often?  A major overhaul over a couple weekends?  One or two items every week?
  • Over the next week, note any changes in your state (physical, mental, emotional) since tossing this item.  If you haven’t noticed anything…keep tossing!

Try-This Tuesday: Spend Time With Someone Who Adds To Your Self

Dead or alive, there are people in our life who have given us valuable gifts – who have shaped us, inspired us and empowered us.  These people may be our relatives, our friends, famous people we have never met or random strangers.  It is important to take some time every so often and reflect on who these people are to us, what they bring to us and what we can do with the gifts they have given.

This week, I encourage you to do just that.  Because I love lists, that’s what I am going to do.  I am going to make a list of everyone who has inspired me or taught me something wonderful and then beside their name I am going to write about their gift to me. 

For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. taught me that I can have a beautiful dream and that I can use my voice, my inner strength and my integrity to achieve it.  Though he was a famous civil rights leader who I have never met, he has added positively to my view of my capabilities and my world.

I also learned about dedication from my grandmother who sat in meditation virtually every morning of her adult life up until the morning of her fatal heart attack in her 80’s.  When I picture her setting her alarm clock for 4 am, or sitting up in bed with her blankets hugging her shoulders, the word “commitment” dances around that image.  Other words she has inspired are devotion, spiritual love, strength, “suck it up” (I’m sure there’s one fabulous word for that phrase but those are the words I relate to her) and transcend.  She was devoted to her practice of meditation, she engaged in spiritual conversations with anyone who would listen, she lived on her own during her golden years and pushed past cancer, and other physical ailments without major complaints.  She sucked it up.  And I believe she transcended this world, not just on the day she died, but many times throughout this lifetime.

I know that nobody is without fault and I have learned not to put anyone on a pedestal.  In fact, that kind of makes the people on my list even more admirable because they are just regular people like me with some shining qualities.

After you have made your list, look it over and see if there is at least one person on that list who you could spend some time with in the near future.  Schedule it in!!  Is it a friend, family member, colleague?  Maybe go for coffee, or a meal, or a walk and just be with that person.  You may even want to tell them about your list and why they are on it.  How awesome would that feel for both of you?!  If the person you choose is no longer alive, you can still spend some time in their presence by writing a letter to them, dedicating some time to thinking about them, or by telling someone else about them and their gifts.  If the person you choose is famous and alive you could write them a letter telling them why you admire them, or read about their life story.  Is the person famous and dead?  I like reading Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi quotes.  Connecting with someone’s words is powerful.

When I spend time with someone, whether physically or mentally, who inspires me I feel a little more empowered.  When I see people do great things, I believe that I can do great things too.  When I see people BE great things, then I know I can BE great too.  And by the way, “great” does not necessarily mean freeing a people from oppression; “great” can be eating well, tending a beautiful garden or having the energy to take their kids on field trips.  I admire those things just as much!

When releasing your creative Self it is so helpful to reflect on the qualities you admire.  Chances are, you have them too and that is why you are drawn to these qualities.  Time to let them shine!

After completing your list and your follow-up activity, answer the following prompts in your journal or task binder:

  • How did writing about the inspirational people in your life make you feel?  What thoughts came out of this part of the exercise?
  • What have you done in your life using the gifts that these wonderful people have given you?
  • What would you like to do with these gifts?
  • Which gifts would you like to pass on to others?  To your kids?
  • Did you do the follow-up activity?  Write about it – who you chose and why, how you honoured them, what was their reaction?

I love hearing your comments and personal stories!  Thank you for sharing!

There Is No “I” In Team But…

…there is a ME!  Whether your team is your family (your first family that you were born into or your new family that you have created with a spouse), or your office colleagues, or your group of friends, this holds true!

You want your team to be taken care of, happy and comfortable – I totally understand that.  You want to be sure that the plays you make (i.e. decisions you make) support and benefit the team.  It’s nice when everyone around you has few complaints and you are part of the reason why they are thriving.

BUT here’s something that also holds true:  A team is only as strong as its “weakest” player.  So, if you’re giving and giving and giving to your team and not replenishing your goods, you are bound to be the player who drops the ball at a pivotal point in the game.  Depleting yourself or depriving yourself so that your team can be stronger is simply illogical.  It’s a very emotional-based thought process; it comes from that beautiful heart of yours.

My heart is the same way.  It wants to hug and provide for everyone I love but it needs reminding to show me that same kind of loveThink about how much care you give yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Would you hope that someone you love is treating themselves the same way?  Or would you, out of concern and compassion, ask them to take better care of themselves?  If it’s the latter, well, I think you know where this is going.

On my weekend away, I was talking to a couple of the girls who are in the health care profession.  One of them made an observation about a patient who spent a lot of time and energy on the health of her children but who herself was neglecting her own health.  “Isn’t that often the case?” I asked.  “I almost think there’s an inverse relationship between a mother’s health and the health of her kids.”  Of course, I was being a little facetious.  This is NOT how I think it should be and I KNOW that is it not truly how the world works.  A mother, or father, is a great role model for their children’s health; active, health-conscious parents are likely to produce similar children.  But I do think that it’s easy for a mother to spend a significant amount of her resources on her children and deplete the energy to keep up in these areas for herself.

So, if you are worried that taking time out to take care of yourself (by going to the gym, taking a dance class, doing the Tuesday Tasks, taking a bubble bath) is selfish or will take away from your team, I hope this post has given you something to think about.  Any comments?  I’d love to hear them!

Try-This Tuesday: Who Are Your Peeps?

This week’s task is an examination of the people who play important roles in your life.  It doesn’t matter whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, we are social beings and need relationships in our lives.  If you have a pet you know that these relationships need not all be human.  Likewise, if you are Tom Hanks in Cast Away you know that, should you happen to be stranded on a deserted island for 5 years, a volleyball makes a great pal.  Didn’t you get a little choked up at least when Wilson ended up floating away at sea?  You forgot at that point that you were praying that a volleyball would make its way back to Tom.  It didn’t matter by then that this was a piece of sports equipment, Tom had developed a relationship with the volleyball:  an emotional connection.

I’m turning to this topic today because of the importance of support networks in our lives.  I alluded to this yesterday – how I have been able to ride my bumps fairly gracefully over the past several months because of the people I can count on.

How about you?  Let’s examine the humans in your life (you are free to look at other animate relationships, too, but let’s just keep it at that for this task).  Let’s get a really great visual of who exists in your world and then identify key people as your support network.

I told you before that I like simple charts with rows and columns.  You can experiment with your visual representation so that it best suits you.  Don’t forget to add colour where you want (you can use a coloured pencil, highlighters etc) or stick to black and white if that makes your chart more read-able to you.

This task might be overwhelming to those of you who exchange BlackBerry pins with people you meet at the grocery store.  So, let’s set a maximum number of 10 people you will focus on.

My chart would have the following columns:  Name of Person, Type of Relationship (i.e. parent, friend, spouse, colleague), Length of Relationship, What I Receive, What I Contribute, Key Support Network.

Let’s look at these column titles for a minute.  The first three are fairly obvious.  Under What I Receive and What I Contribute, I would make bullets of short phrases that belong in these categories.  These relationship gifts (what you receive and what you contribute) don’t have to be deep and profound – maybe what you receive is a great night out once in awhile and maybe what you contribute is a referral source for potential business.  Don’t judge (yours or anyone else’s)!  Like I said, they’re all gifts, and appear in our life for a reason.

Sometimes what we receive from someone might be a headache or annoyance factor because we are that person’s sounding board for all of their petty complaints.  Is that a gift?  I’d say “yes” – this person may be in your life so that you are reminded of using your time wisely and setting limits!

So, what do I mean by Key Support Network?  A key support person to me is someone I can trust with my vulnerabilities and someone who I know will celebrate my accomplishments (big or small).  I don’t expect a whole heck of a lot from these people because I know that they have their own lives and demands.  I don’t expect that I am their top priority or that they drop everything to fulfill my needs.  I think I am fairly reasonable in what I expect from a supportive person in my life and strive to provide the same. 

Here’s something important:  My connection with my INNER SUPPORT SYSTEM allows me to be less dependent on and more forgiving of the human relationships in my life.  The phrase “You are your own best friend” is not just a cliché to me.

Someone who gets a “no” in this column is not by any means insignificant to me.  In my life, it doesn’t make sense to have 10 people under key support network.  I would hope that the people who are on my chart are supportive of me in some ways but the word “key” is…well, key.  So, don’t feel bad if you write a no beside your sister.  If she doesn’t fit your definition of key support person, that’s OK.

The purpose of this exercise is to make you aware of the gifts you receive and contribute in your relationships and to identify people who you should be able to count on for whatever you consider to be support.

After taking the time to do this (and it’s fantastic if you were able to prioritize this!), pull out your journal or task binder and write to these prompts:

  • What were your impressions of this exercise?  Was it useful?  Too complicated?
  • How easy was it to fill in your chart?  Which columns were trickier to fill than others?
  • What is your definition of a key support person?
  • Think of the people who you think you provide a lot of support to – write about the type of friend you are.  Is this honoured by the recipient?
  • Do you recognize and acknowledge your key support network?  How do you show you value their friendship?

Try-This Tuesday: Play With A Kid (Yours Or Someone Else’s) And Enjoy It!

This week I’m inviting you to play with your children.  If you don’t have a child, borrow one; his/her parent will probably make you dinner.  If you have more than one child, choose your favourite and complete this task.  (I’m kidding!  What I meant was choose the one who is least likely to drive you crazy).  You CAN complete this task with more than one child at a time but I’ll leave that up to you.

Is there an activity that your child loves to do that you aren’t a huge fan of?  Maybe there’s a mess-factor involved (glitter-glue, paint, mud) or maybe a set-up factor you dread (covering up all your nice furniture with sheets or moving the patio chairs out of the way).  Whatever it is that you tend to say “No!” to, do it this week.

My daughter loves to paint.  Like LOVES to paint.  I’m not too concerned about the mess factor with her because she is very responsible with materials and takes her painting very seriously.  It’s her “work,” as she calls it.  But I do get annoyed when I have to stop what I’m doing to set it all up (which really takes 2 minutes) and it also takes a lot of restraint on my part to NOT tell her how to do her work.  I am much better at this now, but I used to feel that as her mother I should teach her how to paint the way I taught her how to scoop up food in her spoon – with demonstration, step-by-step instruction and re-direction when she did it wrong.  Oops!  But it’s the truth.  If you were a fly on the wall in my studio, you would have heard me say things like “You don’t have any paint in this corner, you need to add some colour here.”  Or “Don’t keep painting in the same spot over and over with all the different colours.  Now it’s just a brown puddle!”  (It really was, but maybe she wanted to make a brown puddle?!)

Getting over myself and submitting to her creativity and joy has been a huge burden off my shoulders.  It’s actually one less thing I need to manage!  The best part is that it frees up my energy so that I can paint alongside her! 

I can stop critiquing her work and start creating my own. 

So, what are YOU going to do this week with JOY and LIBERATION that you normally do with dread and frustration?

After you complete this task, take a moment to reflect.  Grab your journal or your task binder and answer the following questions (also found here):

  • Why did you choose this particular activity?
  • What was your favourite part?  Your least favourite part?  Did any of this surprise you?
  • What expressions were seen or heard during the activity?  Think about the look on the child’s face or something he/she said.
  • How about you?  Did you crack a smile?  Laugh out loud?  Glance at the clock often?
  • If you were to do this again next week, would you choose a different activity or stick with the same one?
  • Can you generate a list of activities you think you could really enjoy with a child?

I’d love to hear what kinds of creative adventures you had – we could all use some inspiration!  Post your comments below!

Try-This Tuesday: Stand At That Door!

One of the tools I have used on my own personal journey out of the depths of blah-hood is to ask, ask, ask for what I want and trust that what I need will show its face when the time is right.  Sometimes I am looking for support, sometimes I am searching for wisdom.  Often I don’t know exactly what form the response will take but I trust I will recognize it.

I picture myself standing at an open door and casting my questions into an abyss.  It’s a liberating image; I am essentially offloading my worries and uncertainties into a wide open space – and just like a bungee jumper trusts that her rope will hold, I count on a Greater Power to do its part.  It’s not always easy to trust in something you can’t see, but really, what do I have to lose?

As I mentioned previously, I don’t think I have super powers or that I am the only person with this kind of reciprocal relationship with something Greater.  I think the difference between someone who receives answers/information/guidance/support and someone who claims they don’t is the ability to recognize these gifts when they are granted.

Here’s a beautifully simple quote from author Stella Terrill Mann “Desire, ask, believe, receive.”  Essentially these are the steps I have outlined above.  They are powerful verbs – but how do we translate these into actions we can take in our daily lives?

Enter today’s task!  I had a fun time planning out this week’s activity!  Usually when I throw my questions out into the abyss, I scribble them into my journal and then launch into a free-writing session.  Or I ask the questions mentally when I find myself having a quiet moment, like when I’m breastfeeding my son.  The answers sometimes float toward me from that abyss via the words I am writing in my journal or as thoughts.  But there are other ways to incorporate this question-answer activity in our daily lives that might be a little more fun.

Grab a container of some kind: again, as in the journal, don’t get so hung up over the container that you end up stalling this activity!  Your container is going to hold little scraps of paper so even an envelope will do.  Take 10-15 minutes today and write down 2 questions or worries (anything you want to offload from your system) on separate scraps of paper.  Here’s an example of a thought that plagues me:  Where can I find more patience for my daughter who I love so deeply (or why don’t I seem to have any in the first place)?

If you’re wondering where you’re going to find the time, here’s a quick idea:  whatever it is that you do before you go to bed, stop doing it 10 minutes sooner.  Use those 10 minutes to write on your scraps of paper.  Stick them in your container and then look at your daytimer for the coming week.  Choose 3 days, and specific times on those days (i.e. first thing in the morning, morning coffee break, while the kids are at their after-school lessons, just before bed etc).  On 2 of those days you will do this next step:

Select one piece of paper from your container, read it and then:

A)     Sit quietly and run your mind over the words of your question or worry.  What thoughts are stemming from this contemplation?  DON’T DISMISS THEM NO MATTER HOW STRANGE OR UNRELATED THEY MAY SEEM!  After a few minutes of just listening, jot down some of these key thoughts in your journal or task binder.

OR

B)      Pull out your journal or task binder and immediately start writing down the thoughts that come to your mind when you ask yourself the question or read the worry to yourself.  Your thoughts may not seem profound and you may not hear a booming voice giving you clear directions, but please, just write!  Try to focus on the question but don’t be concerned about your grammar, sentence structure or word choice.  Keep that hand moving!

On your third scheduled day, read over your questions and your “responses”.  See anything valuable in there?  Anything curious?  Does something trigger a reaction of some kind?  Would you try this again?  Which part of the process (desire, ask, believe, receive) do you find easiest?  Most difficult?  Explore these reactions in your journal or task binder.  Keep your mind open and your eyes peeled over the next little while to see if you get more responses to these questions in other forms.  I’ll log these prompts with the others for your reference.

I would encourage you to keep adding to your container over the next few weeks (and indefinitely if you find this helpful) and to practice this activity at least weekly to give it a good try.  It’s a great way to strengthen an already existing relationship; it forces you to become conscious of the process.

If you have any questions or feedback, you can leave a comment here or send me a private note!

Try-This Tuesday: Take Notice Of The Extraordinary In The Every-Day

The majority of us would like to release our creativity and free our Selves from the structure of our daily routines.  Time is a big issue for most of us and this was addressed last week in Time To Make A Change and Try-This Tuesday:  Gaining Control Of Your Time.

I can think of other blocks that I put up for myself.  (Note:  a block is only a block if you make it a block and in general, blocks can be removed as much as they can be put up!)  Maybe you can relate?  One such “block” is that my life is fairly routine and the activities I’m involved in don’t include jet-setting, extreme sports, serving in ashrams or hanging out in different parts of town, meeting strange and wonderful people.  It’s hard to imagine that I could find inspiration to feed my creative Self when I am toting the kids to their extracurricular activities or play dates, cooking dinner, feeding them etc. 

But I can if I want to.  If I can just get outside of my own head long enough to notice a moment – a verbal or facial expression, a determined beetle crawling in and out of the sidewalk’s crevices, the sunlight filtering in through the trees in my backyard – I can twist any of these experiences into:

  • A character sketch for a great piece of fiction
  • A storyline for a children’s book
  • A poem
  • A journal entry
  • The first sentence of a free-writing session
  • A writing prompt for my monthly writing group
  • A sketch
  • A painting or colouring activity with my daughter
  • A song to make up for my son (who really doesn’t care what I’m singing or how I sound as long as I’m smiling at him)

How’s that for a list of ideas for creative exploration?

Sometimes it takes an extra step to get out of our heads or to shake things up a little so that we are able to notice these little moments that can bring forth masterpieces.  And yes, I think a silly little ditty about a beetle looking for a playmate can be a masterpiece!  People make their livings writing and singing about such things!

So, what can YOU do to consciously notice the extraordinary in the every-day?  TAKE A PICTURE!!   With the luxury we have of digital cameras, teeny-tiny picture snappers that can fit in coat pockets and purses, we can’t think of many excuses to not carry one around.  Not to mention the fact that most phones now come with a camera.  Take one day this week and decide to take your camera around everywhere you go.  Give yourself a quota of how many pictures you’d like to take.  Make 3 your minimum.  Snap pics at the grocery store, on your walk, in your living room, anywhere you go.  Do it consciously and think about what you are capturing as you do it.  Is it the raindrops on the spiderweb or the spider itself?  Is it the spaghetti sauce on your son’s face or the mischief in his eye?  What is the remarkable component that speaks to you?  In other words, why did you take the picture? 

At the end of the day, view the photos you’ve taken (on the camera or on the computer) and see if you can use that picture to inspire any of the ideas I generated above.  Not sure where to start?  Pull out your journal or your task binder and ask yourself:

  • What caught my eye about this moment?
  • What is the theme embedded in this picture? (Remember we talked about themes previously.)
  • How did it feel to be consciously aware of my surroundings?
  • Do I see myself doing this again at some point?

These questions will be logged with the other prompts.  Need help or have a question?  I’m listening!

Try-This Tuesday: Gaining Control Of Your Time

Since the launch of this blog, and even prior to that when I began coaching a friend in journal writing, I have heard expressions like “I hope I can find time to do these tasks”, “I wish I had the time to make a list”, and “I’ll have to see if I can schedule it in.”  Well, here’s a fact:  if you want to do something, you can.  If you want to find the time, you can.  I’m not saying it’s easy or that it’s not work.  I’m just saying it’s do-able.  The first step is having the courage to say you are willing to do it, along with the work that it entails.

I work full-time, mostly from home.  My work week is Monday – Sunday (because really, what parent has a day “off”?) and it consists of the following:

  • Being a mother to a 4 year old girl and a 1.5 year old boy – this includes everything from daily living care to appointments to activities to providing entertainment and learning opportunities etc.
  • Being a speech therapist to a small caseload of clients who I see from my home office.
  • Being a writer – I have 3 blog-babies as I call them (The Artist’s Loft, The Finer Things in Life and of course, Let ME Out!!), I recently snagged my first freelance writing gig, I practice my craft through exercises and by entering contests and I check in with my Self regularly through my journal.
  • Being a volunteer event host and fundraiser for Pandora’s Collective – I host a monthly writing series, write grant applications and fundraise for our annual festival.

I also really value my family and friends and spend a good deal of my time maintaining these relationships.

Your week is equally demanding and you wear just as many, if not more, hats.  No matter what we do professionally and recreationally, finding time to sit down with our Self and check in or engage in personal development activities can be challenging!

Before we can go further then, we need to analyze where our time is going!  You have 1440 minutes in a day – how are you spending them?  Things change day to day and week to week, but on average, what does your typical weekday look like?  And your typical weekend day?

THIS WEEK’S TASK encourages you to sit down and chart an average weekday and an average weekend day – accounting for all 24 hours (so, yes, make a note of when you sleep!).  Add some more looseleaf paper to the binder you started last week with your list, or grab the notebook you are keeping all of your tasks in, and chart in whichever way is most comfortable.  Me, I prefer a good old-fashioned chart of two columns 1) time and 2) activity.  Other people may like plotting their days on a pie chart, a graph or incorporating their words within a doodle.  Use colour if you like!

Once you have the data in front of you, see where you can take small chunks of time out here and there.

 

OK, I can hear you asking me where you are supposed to find the time to do this activity!  Here are some suggestions I put together based on my own life.  If you have other suggestions or would like to share your personal tips on how you find some ME time, please share them here as a comment or contact me.  Thanks!

Here they are:

  1.  I wake up even 15 minutes earlier than I normally do – if I take 5 minutes to use the bathroom and drink a glass of water, I have 10 minutes to write!  This doesn’t throw my day off significantly and I’ve just started the day off doing something that’s just for ME!  However, as noted yesterday, I have children who are very light sleepers so sometimes this backfires on me and my day ends up starting earlier only so that I can take care of my two munchkins for an extra 15 minutes that day…so, really, I’m not counting on my mornings every time.
  2. When the kids have gone to bed at night, most nights, my husband and I have about 2 hours together before we’re ready for bed.  Of those 2 hours, half an hour to 45 minutes goes into cleaning/housekeeping/paying bills etc and the rest of the time we watch TV or talk.  I can take 15 minutes at least out of this time (especially the TV time) to write.
  3. The high school babysitter – what a great invention!  Cheap but quality childcare!  I have a high school girl (highly recommended to me by a trusted friend/mom) who comes over for 4 hours a week and plays with the kids.  She even feeds and waters them while I get time to work without a child hanging on to me.  Our babysitter has energy, creativity and a wonderful way with both kids.  They are happy and so am I.  The key for me is to make my writing a priority.  Writing is my passion but it is also my work.  I enjoy it so much that I used to feel guilty for “indulging” in it.  I used to feel bad that someone else is watching my kids while I have fun!  It is way too easy to justify getting everything else done (laundry, dishes, cooking) but I know that if I do that, at the end of the day I am annoyed that I didn’t give myself a chance to write.  NOBODY IN MY HOUSE WANTS ME TO BE ANNOYED!  So in order to not spend my babysitter time cooking, I make Wednesdays “easy-meal” night or I make enough dinner on Tuesdays so that we have leftovers the next day.
  4. Grandparent day!  Tuesdays are a piece of heaven for me when my dad comes over shortly after breakfast and stays through dinner.  In fact, Tuesdays are a weekday highlight for everyone involved, including my husband.  Yes, he is at work while my dad is watching the kids but he comes home to a happy wife which makes his workday just a little less stressful, too!  While my dad is here, I see a speech therapy client or two and do some of my non-profit work.  Tuesdays are also my prime writing day (Try-This Tuesday was strategically selected!)
  5. I send my husband out to play!  Specifically, to play soccer.  This happens 1-2 times a week, usually after dinner.  I love him to bits and value our time together which is why when he’s around I don’t always feel like spending hours in my studio.  BUT if he is out, and the kids are asleep…well, that’s a no-brainer!  I’m heading STRAIGHT for my studio!

So, looking at your data, can you skip a particular TV show to take a knitting class?  Can you limit your time playing video games so that you have an extra half hour at the end of the day to read a novel?  Maybe press snooze one less time and use those beautiful 9 minutes to sit in silence at the beginning of your day?

HAVE FUN WITH THIS!  This is not just a homework assignment – this is your time to be creative, learn about your Self and do something you don’t typically do!  And if you take the time to do it, you may benefit by finding more time during your typical week just for YOU!