Day of spontaneity

IMG_1613.jpgWhen I was in college a friend gave me a set of Angel Cards; for the past 15 years I’ve used them to provide a focus for each day. I drew “spontaneity” yesterday. I went with it. Focusing on spontaneity seemed like a great way to practice living in the moment and a great reason to toss my “To Do” notebook to the side—even if just for one day.

Since I’m the type who prefers to have a plan, I struggled through the morning. Dropping my morning routine and just going with whatever I felt like doing was especially uncomfortable. I abandoned my writing schedule, dropped my partner off at work, and drove around aimlessly until I felt compelled to go West. “To the mountains!” I thought. The forecast looked good for finding some sunshine and possibly a view.

Before I could even get out of the city limit, I saw that I had a text from my partner. They needed me to pick up a part from Home Depot; in my willingness to go with the flow of spontaneity I forgot I’d committed to this. I pulled off the highway and found the nearest store. I had a moment of frustration, “My day of spontaneity is spoiled! Just when I was gaining momentum, THIS.” And then I realized THIS was a superb situation to make sure I was practicing spontaneity. I may have shook my fist at the powers that be at this point and mumbled, “touché.”

As I left the store, I spotted a familiar face approaching. It was a young man who I knew from my days of working at the youth center in Montbello. I shouted his name, waved his way, and we briefly caught up. I first met him when he was 11 and now he’s 23. He smiled his distinct smile at one point and my mind flooded with memories of him and his sister. All this, in only a few moments. I walked away from this encounter feeling nostalgic and grateful for my day of spontaneity.

I felt confident and trusted the process; I decided to cook seared scallops for dinner. Whaaat? This isn’t quite as random as it may appear. I’m in the last six months of my PY35 and told myself from now until the end of my Power Year, I’d try one new thing each month. I’d never cooked sea scallops at home, so yesterday seemed like a great day to kick off my “one new thing per month” challenge.

According to my partner, the pan seared scallops were a success. The IMG_1614smell in our home when I woke up in the middle of the night convinced me otherwise. I didn’t like fish when I was a kid, probably because I lived in a landlocked state and all I ever tasted was old smelly fish from the grocery store that had been sitting there for who knows how long. I still live in a landlocked state. Even though I spent big bucks to get fresh scallops from the specialty market in my neighborhood, they had a slight fishy smell when I unwrapped the butcher paper and the odor permeated every room in our house, which I only noticed after waking up to the fishy smell that lingered. It reminds me of choking down fish sticks on Fridays as a kid. Is it likely I’ll prepare sea scallops at home again? No. Am I glad I did it? Yes!

My day of spontaneity stirred up wonder and awe in me. I saw things from a different lens than usual. I didn’t feel compelled to go big with my day. I recognized the subtleties of spontaneous actions and reflected on it all. You don’t have to have Angel Cards to have a day of spontaneity. Do it this weekend! Go ahead, plan a day of spontaneity 🙂

Clients: Email me for a copy of Day of Spontaneity Guidelines (they help you avoid the impulsive pitfalls of shopping and other vice driven hijacks to your day)

On stuff

I used to save chewed up gum. I’d put flavorless gobs of colorful gum on a coin counting tower I got from Chuckie Cheese. Part of me thought it just looked cool, but let’s face it, another part of me had a serious issue with throwing things (apparently anything) out. Other items I had trouble letting go of:

Cheap crayons

Compared to Crayola, cheap crayons just don’t deliver. You have to press hard and the colors are so weak it makes any picture look like a faded version of life. They break in your hand most of the time because they are brittle and can’t withstand the pressure it takes to get them to work. However, I’m pretty sure their lack of quality isn’t their fault. It’s not like they have free will and just don’t want to work. So I used to hold on to them (because I tend to anthropomorphize everything), as if to let them know that I knew they were of value, just for being.

Bags, boxes, containers

Plastic bags, paper bags, cereal boxes (you can’t throw Snap, Crackle, and Pop in the trash!), gold boxes that once held fancy chocolate (it’s too pretty to throw away!), cylinders no longer full of oats (you also can’t throw the Quaker Man away).

Fluffy

Fluffy was my security blanket. Looking back on it, I realize how disgusting it was. There were numerous blood stains on it from when my nose would bleed and dried up boogers because I was a gross little kid who picked my nose when it wasn’t bleeding and saved the boogers in my Fluffy so I could crush them when they dried up and hardened. I am literally nauseous as I type this.

For me, throwing STUFF out was hard because I may or may not have legitimately believed every thing had a soul of sorts. And I had abandonment issues that I hadn’t worked out yet. So basically I’m fortunate I didn’t turn into a hoarder.

These days I live a life with less STUFF. I like less. Despite the advertisers who want me to believe I need more, I’ve found I’m much happier with less. Less STUFF means less distractions from what I value in life. There is less in the way when I want to connect to my partner, my family, my friends. And when I say connect, I mean directly. Face to face. Sans screen or online social network where ads pop up in the sidebars telling me I need more STUFF. Less stuff means less clutter and that’s a good thing because clutter tends to drive me bananas.

I have a client who is in the process of de-cluttering their own home and is on the quest for less STUFF. I share these tips for them and anyone else who is interested in a life less full of STUFF and more filled with living.

Two Steps Toward Less

  1. Purge

Dedicate time to go through your STUFF and get rid of things. I like to shoot for three or more hours on a weekend so I can get in the zone. Although some suggest not going room by room, I like to focus on one room at a time.

Depending on how much STUFF you have to move, set a goal of completing one or two rooms (or a single closet) during your first purge session. Take the items to a donation drop off center (wait a day if it helps with the goodbye process). I find the satisfaction of seeing a room transformed motivating. Once you reach your goal, set a day and time to work on the next room(s). For some people, the purge step takes weeks, others finish it in one weekend. Figure out what’s right for you and go for it.

During the purge you may think, “What if I need this the day after I get rid of it?,” “What if I grow back/shrink back into this?”, “I can’t get rid of this because…” This can be challenging. Ask yourself why you’re holding on to this particular piece of STUFF. Turn the eye inward and explore your issues. We all have them. If it turns out some professional help could assist you in exploring your particular issues, go for it if it’s within your financial means. A free option for getting to the root of your issues exists. It’s called the library and I love it. I find reading Buddhist texts to help with the purge perspective. A great one to start: The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh.

After purge is complete, take a moment to feel the lightness of a life with less STUFF.

2. Reduce

Practice a pause before buying more STUFF. When you’re about to purchase something online or in a store, take a pause, walk away from the screen/item and take a breather. Break the consumer spell and ask yourself if you really need that particular WHATEVER THING. Companies bombard us with messages that play on our deepest fears to get us to feel like we really need, absolutely can’t survive without, must buy now, their WHATEVER STUFF. And if it’s not the company itself who we get this message from, it’s our neighbors/peers/extended family the Jones’s. Stop trying to keep up and flip the script. Write your own narrative of living with less STUFF.

When I’m in B,B, and Beyond on a mission to buy a mop with my 20% off coupon, it’s tempting to stop and look at the kitchen gadgets and impulse WHATEVER STUFF near the checkout. I have to pause and remember the ol’ 1, 2. Only a few people give me skeptical looks when I punch the air and dodge an invisible fist of STUFF. Part of me wants to hold the mop above my head like I’m the heavyweight champion of the world. Navigating that box store makes me feel like I went twelve rounds with THE MAN.

The fifth rule of the Power Year

And so we come to the fifth and final rule I gave myself during my Power Year:

Pay attention and learn from the lives of others. Yours isn’t long enough to make all your own mistakes.

This rule reflects my belief that you really can learn something new (and useful) every single day. Learning from the lives of others (from watching documentaries and reading about inspiring individuals) led me to adopt these practices into my life on an ongoing basis:

  • Make the invisible visible and experienceable
  • Record memories
  • Find beauty in odd places
  • Be intimate with everything that you can
  • Explore the in-between space
  • Build bridges of communication
  • Open your thinking to the “know how” of others

Life is fleeting. I feel fortunate to be alive and strive to honor those who have come before me.

 

 

This year is YOURS—own it.

Here is the fourth rule I made for myself and followed during my Power Year:

Own it. This year is yours. It’s been given to you by life. Be grateful and see what comes of pushing yourself beyond imagination.

One of the things that came from pushing myself beyond imagination was stress hives. They were not awesome and they were itchy. Besides that, I’d say this rule complimented the, “say YES” attitude I’d adopted for the year, but also urged me to really embrace the projects I was completing and the new avenues of work that I was pursuing. Instead of being a bystander, I was an active participant.

It’s nice to hear, “this year is yours,” even if it’s from a voice from within. But you know what? Sometimes it’s hard to hear that inner voice because it’s scared or being covered by all sorts of distractions. So I’ll tell you something.

This year is YOURS. See what comes of pushing yourself beyond imagination.

 

Don’t resist the flow

I’m not über-astrology woman, but I have found that most Cancerian characteristics are in line with my personality. The third rule I made for myself during my Power Year was easier since I quit my job, but was enjoyable as well—possibly because I’m a water sign and do quite like going with the flow. As an aside, I also am in love with the ocean, enjoy being as still as an uninterrupted lake, and have been described as being more fierce than the Mississippipi. Just sayin’.

Anyway, here’s the third rule I gave myself during my Power Year:

Go with the flow. If you find yourself genuinely interested in one thing, it will naturally lead to another.

Some people call this networking. I call it quenching my curiosity.

Following this rule of mine introduced me to the world of design, which I have continued to explore more in depth to date, and it led me to taking a studio art class, where I learned about a lot of artists I had never known about before—their life stories inspired me and I have filed them away in my brain to refer to when I begin doubting myself as being able to “make” as a living.

I know it’s challenging to feel like you’re not in control, which is a big part of going with the flow. If nothing else, why not clear one of your weekends and practice going with the flow? Begin somewhere you normally don’t (flea market? park?), and see where you end up. Focus on the new/different experiences available to you, but don’t become paralyzed by avoiding the ordinary. Just pay closer attention to it. Be inspired. I love this activity.

Deadline driven creativity

Remember the second rule that I followed during my Power Year?

You must complete a different personal project each month. Your deadline is the 29th. Always.

This is the rule that led to the widest array of opportunities and surprising outcomes.  Sometimes I didn’t have a clue what my project was going to be until the 28th. And then, without fail, something would present itself. It always does. It’s just a matter of whether you’re paying attention or not. Well, that, and once something does present itself, your willingness to hop on to the idea and ride it. Having the monthly deadline of the 29th helped me practice keeping my eyes and ears open for potential projects.

It was difficult at first, and still is sometimes, to take promises to myself as seriously as promises to others. BUT, like anything else, practice helps. After completing my Power Year of personal projects, I now use the 29th of the month, every so often, to kick me into gear to do any random thing that I’ve been too lazy to cross off the ol’ list during the rest of the month. It works, even though my Power Year is over.

We are all capable of dedication and focus; my deadline driven Power Year taught me this.

 

 

Before you say, “yes”

Remember the first rule I gave to myself during my Power Year? No? That’s okay, I wouldn’t either if I didn’t write it down:

Open yourself up to opportunities that come your way—all of them. Even if they make you scrunch your nose in doubt. Say yes. Pile your plate high.

So, this is the rule I gave myself, but after doing so in an ovaries to the wall kind of way (which is exhausting and stressful at times), I have some suggestions for others who would like to practice piling their plates high during their own Power Years.

I have a tendency to say yes to most things asked of me/that come my way. Mostly because I find enjoyment in moments, even if those moments happen to be sandwiched by awkward uncomfortableness. Although, I’m getting older, so have to be a little more selective about what I spend my time doing. From now on, before shouting, “yes!” I ask myself a series of questions.

  1. Are the chances of getting yourself killed by doing this less than 40%?
  2. Is the potential to learn something new present?
  3. If a person approached you to do this thing, are they genuine and compassionate?

If I can answer yes to these questions, I say “yes” out loud. And when I say things out loud, I mean them.

These are the questions I ask myself before saying yes. But obviously, depending on the person, they’ll be different. To come up with your three questions (too many is overwhelming and creates very long moments of awkward silence as you sift through answers in your mind as the person standing in front of you is waiting for you to answer), you’ve got to first take time to contemplate what your values are. Heavy. I know.