Play more

Hide and seek will forever be fun to me. I love it because it’s a simple yet mighty game that requires absolutely no equipment and is filled with anticipation, suspense, and occasional fright. My nephews came over last weekend and we played some hide and seek in the dark after dinner. I feel like it’s easy to forget about the importance of play as an adult, seeing how K and I have never engaged in a game of hide and seek with adult guests we have over for dinner.

Why is this? If we still find playing fun, why do we do so little of it? And I’m not talking board game play. I’m not talking drinking games or yard games. I’m talking games that evoke pure emotion—so potent they allow us to remember moments from our childhood like it was just yesterday that we were terrified of getting our foot flushed down the toilet during a game of “Sneak.” What? You all didn’t play that game where your friend’s dad chased you around and if he caught you, he stuck your foot in the toilet and flushed it? I’m sorry. You missed out on quite a bit of fun.

We know from studies that if an experience is emotional, it locks into our memory; I might not be able to remember what I had for breakfast last weekend, but I can remember missing the bus when I was in the first grade—upset on my walk home from the bus stop because I felt like I failed big time. I can remember my wedding day very clearly; the day I got an acceptance letter to the college I attended; getting yelled at by the horrendous woman who “taught” music at the elementary school I attended; and learning how to drive a car with manual transmission. These moments were filled with emotion.

I wonder: is the amount of memorable experiences we’re having less than before? Are parents chasing their kids around these days, or are they on their phones while their kids play nearby? Are we fully feeling the moments we’re living, or are we distracted by the thought of how we’ll edit and present the moments on Facebook//Instagram//Twitter//Snapchat//Whateverapp?

I fully appreciate what technology has to offer me. However, I know that connecting with people online feels superficial compared to having a conversation with them in real life. None of the countless hours I’ve spent online (whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, email) stand out to me; they tend to blend together. So if I know this, what can I do to continue having experiences that are heartfelt and memorable? Live with intention to do so.

There must be some unwritten rule that says adults aren’t allowed to play. They’re too old. They look silly running around like that. There are too many responsibilities to think about, there’s no time for ridiculousness. The adult ego says, “I am above that sort of thing.” Well ego, I think you’re wrong. I know you’re just doing your job, trying to maintain a respectable sense of self, but you worry too much. I’m not a huge fan of unwritten rules, especially ones that don’t make any sense to me. So I think it’s time to reclaim play. Simple, no electricity required.

DSC_1358em
FYI:There’s no age limit on slip ‘n’ slides

Design your life or someone else will

My partner and I were riding our bikes through the park this past weekend when I heard someone shout, “Hey SOUNDS!” It was a friend we hadn’t seen in awhile; we stopped and got to reconnect with him and his partner. When we rode away, I felt a sense of gratitude for the life my partner and I live; the connections we have; the decisions we’re making in our lives—and I felt pride because we’re intentional about designing our partnership and marriage the way that feels right for us.

The fact that our friend was able to shout, “Hey SOUNDS,” is because that’s our last name. When we got married, we talked about how we wanted to have the same last name, as a symbol of our partnership and unity. Traditionally, I would have taken my partner’s last name, or we would have combined and hyphenated our last names. But those options weren’t right for us, because the former seemed antiquated and the latter seemed like a mouthful. I’m not a huge fan of leftovers, and to me, hyphenating our last names seemed like taking what was already made and ready to go, mixing it together and living with leftovers as my last name ‘till death do us part.

My partner and I decided to choose our own last name. Why not? I loved choose your own adventure books when I was little and I’m wired to thrive from creative challenges. We played around with the letters from our former last names and didn’t come up with anything we loved, so we decided to go the route of choosing a last name that was related to our livelihoods. My partner makes structurally sound puzzle boxes and mechanical furniture; I give sound advice to individuals so they can identify their passion and purpose. Sound felt like a name we could grow into together. And for the past three years, that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.

For me, our last name symbolizes living an examined life, whether that means examining old traditions or examining the way my day-to-day living reflects my values. Living an examined life is not fun or easy, but it’s something I feel compelled to do. Like making stovetop popcorn every night. But that’s another story. 

Say what you mean, mean what you say

I’ve mentioned how one of my pet peeves is when people offload ownership of a request by turning it into a question; please complete this report becomes do you want to complete this report?; please go to the grocery store becomes do you want to go to the grocery store? This trend is so prevalent that when I find myself asking someone a genuine question (Do you want to go to the grocery store with me?), I sometimes worry they think I’m doing THAT OFFLOADING OWNERSHIP THING and say yes because they think I want them to say yes.

See how energy consuming and complicated this lack of clear communication can quickly become?!

That’s why when I met up with a friend and her almost four year old the other day for a tour at the Denver Art Museum, I was thoroughly entertained by the kid’s straightforward communication. I could tell he was excited to see me when I arrived because his facial expression looked like joy and he came toward me for a greeting. On the other hand, I could tell he did not want to have anything to do with the tour guide who came over to him and asked him his name. She introduced herself and the kid just closed his eyes and slowly tilted his head back. I was dying laughing on the inside, because I imagined what it would look like if an adult did this.

In a conversation at work that you just.can’t.handle? Close your eyes and tilt the ol’ head back a little. That’ll send the message loud and clear. PLEASE GO AWAY I DON’T FEEL LIKE LISTENING TO YOUR INCESSANT CHATTER. At a bar and some creeper keeps talking to you? Close your eyes and do the head tilt thing and bam, they actually pick up on the message and walk away. How great would that be?

The directness of my friend’s almost four year old got me thinking about communication in general. I used to use the word “like” a lot, typical for an adolescent, then it hung around in my early adult years as a space filler—an avoidance of silence. After a colleague was criticized for her excessive use of the word (a subordinate counted the amount of times she said “like” during a meeting and shared the results with her), I assessed my own use of the word and made a point to pause and say nothing instead of “like” or “um.”

I have a friend who caught herself when she started to say, “kind of” when we were on the phone together. She explained to me that she was trying to be aware of using that phrase. I want to ask her more about it the next time we talk, because it’s a phrase that I’m curious about, similar to “sort of” and when people use “maybe.” I think of these phrases as timid talk when they’re dropped in the middle of sentence where they have no actual purpose. Or when they’re not used sparingly for dramatic effect (i.e. “That person is kind of intense).

When did saying what you mean, with clarity and kindness, fall by the wayside? Why does it feel like we’re tip toeing about with our words, many times literally apologizing for what we say or ask, even if no apology is necessary?

I have a thing for efficiency, and like to imagine a world where people feel comfortable and confident to say what they mean. I have a thing for integrity, and like to imagine a world where people are sincere and mean what they say.

Become a bedtime champ

My soul sister and I were roommates in college for our freshman and senior years. One of our nighttime rituals was to run around and “get all the hyper out” before superman jumping into bed. Or at least that was my ritual. I think it took my SS longer to fall asleep; I remember her expressing some aggravation at how quickly I fell asleep after my head hit my pillow. She didn’t hold a grudge though, and even gave me this award:

BedtimeChamp

I’ve always vaguely been aware of how important sleep is, but recently learned that it’s also an essential time for our brains to process everything that’s been thrown at them during the day. Our sleep patterns can determine how well rested we feel when we wake up, and affects our overall health. When we’re sleep deprived we may not function like our typical selves.

So what prevents people from getting good sleep?

Stress

Deadlines, responsibilities, demands at work and home, financial problems, being too busy, dependents, strained relationships with colleagues/friends/family, perfectionism…

Environment

Physical safety (camping and scared of being attacked by a bear? Probably won’t sleep that well), comfort, light levels, sounds

Caffeine and alcohol

Period.

I feel very fortunate to be the type of person who falls asleep quickly and generally sleeps through the night; on the occasion when I’ve had one too many glasses of wine and I wake up at 2:00am and have trouble (“trouble”=it takes 20 minutes) falling back asleep, I feel like I get a teensy glimpse into what it feels like to have sleep issues.

A number of people who I talk to express wanting to focus their Power Year on improving self-care. This is no surprise since it’s easy for companies to say they value work-life balance yet encourage and reward 60+ hour work weeks; self-care is about walking the talk of health and wellness, because nobody else is going to do it for you— getting enough sleep is a great place to start if you missed last week’s post about eating healthily.

In the spirit of sleep self-care, ponder these questions:

Do I wake up feeling well rested? If not,

How can I decrease the amount of stress in my life?

Can I improve my sleeping environment?

Are there relationships I need to patch up or strengthen?

The power of downtime

I love solitude, which is no surprise since I’m an INFJ. I spend the majority of my day alone but not lonely. Downtime comes easy to me, free of feeling guilty or restless; this wasn’t always the case.

My 20’s were about go, go, going. Ovaries to the wall. “Yes to life!” all over the place. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting, which I didn’t realize until I joined the 30+ club and paused to take a breather. I would not do my 20’s in any other way if given the chance, but it would be nice to travel back and sprinkle wisdom dust onto my 20something self. Insight bestowed upon me, I’d carve out downtime for myself.

There’s plenty of research that explains why our brains need more downtime. But knowing what’s good for us and making decisions that follow through with that knowledge can be at odds. When it comes to scheduling downtime for ourselves, the obstacles could be an extroverted nature that craves constant connection with others; we could be conditioned to constantly check-in with work via email; we could straight up be addicted to our smartphones; or we could simply be caught up in the habit of constantly having something to ‘do.’

Harvard Business Review offers these tips on how to do downtime:

Clearly schedule your time: Just as you would schedule a work meeting and stick to it, schedule evenings off, one to two days a week free of work, and weeklong chunks of vacation every year. Unplug, and stick to it.

Allow for ad hoc downtime when you need it: Google’s headquarters have a game room and on-site massage. One of John’s former employers had arcade games, an on-site coffee house, and scenic hiking trails. If you’re feeling stuck on a problem, frustrated, or simply tired of sitting down, take 10 minutes to walk, read for fun, or grab coffee with a friend to clear your mind.

Shut off your smartphone: Constant interconnectedness (like smartphone use) is a stressor. Leave your laptop at the office when you’re able. Carry two phones — one for work and one for personal use — and leave the work phone in your bag when you come home or in the safe at your hotel when you’re on vacation. If work requires you to be on call, mentally “shut off” the phone until it rings. Find ways to create clear boundaries between work and life.

Free up your RAM: In Getting Things Done, author David Allen states that having tasks on our mind is like using up RAM on our personal computers because there is limited capacity in our short-term memory. Instead of going through the day on mental overload, distracted by those fleeting to-dos, it helps to keep an organized list and physical folders containing all of the tasks that take up mental space. Feeling organized enables worry-free downtime.

Create rituals and routines: Scientists have long recommended developing routines for sounder sleep, and many professionals, like Stephen King, have routines that get them ready for work. Create rituals and routines that signal to your mind that it’s time to start work, leave work, meditate, or engage with family.

Technically I can’t go back and make the downtime request of my 20something self. I can stay tuned in to my needs these days, we all can. Even though it feels counterintuitive to request solitude to strengthen relationships with coworkers, friends, and signifs in our lives, doing so can help us realign and refuel.   

Infomagical begins February 1

infomagicalemoticonI feel like I have a solid system in place when it comes to managing my time spent online, so when I first heard about Infomagical on Note to Self, it sounded more like an add on than a simplification of the way I do life. Thinking I might mention Infomagical in Friday’s post this week, I found myself taking their quiz this morning, just to see if I could get a better understanding. I found the quiz questions playful. So playful, they drew me in, kept me engaged, and by the time an emoticon with rainbow lasers shooting out of its eyes popped up at the end, I was totally sold.

I’m doing it. I signed up.

I don’t know how my phone free evenings will affect my ability to fully participate in the texts they send out (will participating in this project generate FOMO for me?!), but I love the idea of questioning the way I gather and process information.

Let me know if you decide to participate, I’m totally curious about how their challenge week plays out for various goals.

How to make change happen

One of the best books I’ve read on change is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. The authors do a great job explaining the psychology related to change; the metaphor they use for the rational and emotional parts of our brains is both entertaining and effective. I’m an information person, so I like having a big picture view of change when I attempt to make small changes in my life happen. If you’re more of a cut to the chase type, here are some concrete steps you can take today to make change happen, or revise how you’re approaching that New Year’s resolution that may be slipping away from you.

Identify the change you want to make

If your brain goes vague, steer it to specifics. “Eat better” becomes “Eat more veggies and less junk food. Cook at home at least three nights a week.” “Create more art” becomes “Create art on Saturdays for at least three hours.” “Watch less t.v.” becomes “Keep the t.v. off after 7pm” or “T.V. free Tuesdays.” “Be more social” becomes “Make plans with friends at least once a month.” And so on.

Adjust your environment to support the change you want

In the “Eat more veggies and less junk food” example, this means not buying junk food and having it in the house, which probably means going to the grocery store after you’ve eaten so you’re not hangrily making impulse decisions and before you know it, the cart is full of Doritos and soda pop.

For the creating art example, a dedicated physical space is ideal, but if that’s not possible, a ritual (like lighting a candle or listening to music) that signifies you’re transforming the space works. Getting in the zone requires disconnecting from the world, so silence your phone and avoid the temptation to hop on the internet.

Celebrate small successes, frame failure as necessary

High five yourself in the grocery store when you fill your cart with veggies, nevermind the looks you get, haters gonna hate. Pat yourself on the back for the environmental adjustments you make, it’s not cheesy you’re worth it.

Failure is part of life, so embrace it, learn from it, and move on. The thing about failure is when we try to avoid it or deny it, it manages to stick around. When we embrace it and recognize it, it goes away on its own. Kind of like campfire smoke.

The Friday posts this month are all about making requests; requesting change from ourselves can be uncomfortable because turning the ol’ eye inward and being honest with ourselves takes that quiet courage you know I’m a fan of.