#grateful… To live in a place you can be outside all year round!

juliasunrise

When I started college it seemed like everyone I met was from Massachusetts, New York or California. While the rest of us were busy quietly appreciating our hometowns or trying on Boston pride for size, the aforementioned folks wouldn’t let you forget how great their states were in comparison. The Californians were by far the worst. “It’s so cold!” “It’s so flat!” “California has so much natural beauty…” On and on they went for four years. The Midwesterner in me proudly proclaimed to love all four seasons. I could never imagine trading a crisp and colorful fall day or the magic of the first snowfall for endless days of sun and evergreen trees. But then I moved to San Francisco… At first I cursed the chilly June days and missed the sweltering summer sun, the refreshing burst of air conditioned breeze when entering buildings and the first red and gold leaves littering the streets. January first came and I spent the afternoon at the beach. Every time I went for a drive or explored the city on my bike, a new, stunning vista popped out from behind a row of beautiful Edwardians. Four years later I wake up every morning aware that I watch the sunrise with little more than a light jacket on. I can spend Valentine’s Day in a park with a tank top on. I can camp under the stars in November. I am so grateful for the natural beauty that surrounds me. Purple mountains majesty indeed! And that means, I owe someone an apology:

Dear Californians,

You were right. Thank you for embracing me.

Love,
Your Fellow Californian

 

Photo Credit: Emily Baum

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Love In High Places

There’s a kind of song that makes me feel like I’m rolling in crisp sheets on a Saturday morning. The early light glows through the layers of bedding and my breath warms the space between. It’s in these spaces that I think of all my past romances and all those yet to be. The ghosts in my bed and the spirits of the lovers to come mingle together as I hang in the moment hoping that just one – someone will find me.

I’ve Been Bad

…at keeping up this blog.  I’ve made countless mental notes, Post-it notes and Evernotes to write more and post more but for some reason I’ve failed to act.  Today I got an email from zenhabits advocating the The Habit Action List. The only habit I have is failing to keep them. In the spirit of changing my habits and taking more action, I’ve posted it below.

If you like what you read, visit zenhabits. It’s a mint of simple advice to make this modern life a bit more manageable.

The Habit Action List

By Leo Babauta

There are a ton of people who read self-improvement blogs and books, but never put them into action.

They engage in what’s sometimes called “self-improvement porn”.

I’ve done this myself in the past — it was a form of fantasizing about how I was going to make my life better, get my shit together.

But I didn’t take action because:

  • I was too busy right that moment, so I’d bookmark the article for later. Later never comes.
  • I didn’t have time for a new big project, and this change seemed too big.
  • I didn’t really believe I could do it, because whoever was writing was probably more disciplined than I was.
  • I was looking for inspiration, but didn’t have the energy to actually implement.
  • I planned to do it but never actually made the time.

Amazingly, I overcame all of that. I actually started changing my life (back in 2005), one habit at a time. I started the ball rolling, and found success, and kept going after that. I’m still changing habits today, a little step at a time, but looking back on all the changes I’ve made … my life is unrecognizable from when I started.

I figured out how to go from reading about changes, to actually taking action.

What works to create action? Asking myself these questions:

  1. Is there a small action I can take right now? Maybe I can put something on the calendar, email a friend for accountability, write a blog post about it, start writing out an action plan. If there isn’t a small action I can do right now, I might mark it on an Idea List, but in truth it probably won’t be implemented.
  2. Am I willing to commit to this for a month? Maybe I have too much going on in my life, so there’s really no room for a new habit or life change. Again, I can add it to the Idea List, but if I’m not willing to commit for a month (not necessarily now, but in the near future), then this isn’t important enough to me.
  3. If I do this every day, what change will result? If I write every day, perhaps it will build my career and help people. If I exercise, I’ll get healthier and in better shape. If I eat healthy, I’ll get healthier. If I meditate, I’ll be more mindful during the day. Small actions add up to larger results.
  4. Does this have major meaning in my life? Sometimes the larger results (health, mindfulness, career, helping people) are meaningful. Other times maybe not as much, for my life at least. A new change has to pass this test. I’ll often also ask: “Would the change be more meaningful than the things I’m already doing?” If not, I stick to what I’m doing of course.
  5. Does the pain of not doing it outweigh the fear of doing it? Usually we don’t take action because we’re afraid: that we’ll fail, that we won’t be good enough, that we’ll embarrass ourselves. This fear is actual pain, and so we avoid it. But not taking action also can result in pain — letting myself get unhealthier by eating junk food, for example, might make me feel much worse (physically and mentally) than the healthy eating changes I’m afraid of. Often we don’t take action until the answer to this question is clearly yes.
  6. Can I make this a 2- or 5-minute action? Honestly, I don’t have time in my life for something that will take an hour or three each day. I already have a lot in my life. But if I can boil the change down to a small action (at least to start with), then I can find the energy, motivation and time to get started. Once it becomes a habit, I can expand on it if I really like it. An example: I started running just 5 minutes a day, and slowly increased it until I ran a marathon at the end of a year of running.
  7. When will I carve out time? This is a really key question — it’s not enough to say, “I’m going to meditate for 2 minutes a day starting tomorrow!” You have to say when exactly that will happen. The exact time of day isn’t important (6:07 a.m.), but when in your daily routine (“immediately upon waking” or “right after I shower” for example). You have to commit to this time, carve it out, make it happen.
  8. How can I hold myself accountable? This is another huge factor — if I don’t create accountability, I’m probably not committed and it probably won’t last long. Accountability creates the environment for your habit to succeed. Some examples of accountability: commit to a friend, post weekly updates on Facebook or Twitter, blog about it, join a challenge with your family or co-workers, join an accountability team in the Sea Change Program.
  9. Can I give myself early small successes? This helps overcome the “I don’t believe I can do it” problem, along with starting with just 2 or 5 minutes (which makes it so easy you know you can do it). If you give yourself small successes, you’ll feel motivated to continue. If you fail a lot (which happens when people start with 20 or 30 minutes), you’ll get de-motivated. Small successes: reporting to your friend that you did 5 minutes today, checking off your morning run on a social running app, posting your writing to a blog that other people will see.
  10. How will I make sure not to forget? Another key — most people say they’ll do a new habit and then forget most days. Because they haven’t fully committed themselves, or they haven’t found a way to remember. Some possibilities: send yourself a daily reminder, have an alarm or calendar event set up, put a huge note somewhere you won’t forget, put a sticky note on your laptop, have your spouse or roommate remind you each morning, put your running shoes or meditation cushion in your bedroom door so you won’t miss it.

If I can run through all of these questions, I’ll actually take action on a new change that I’ve read about. And it will very likely be a success.

What action will you commit to right now?

Resolute

I suppose it’s the time of year to make promises to myself that I will undoubtably feel enthusiasm for, anxiety over and guilty of haven fallen short of during the course of the coming year. Although my past record of resolutions met is low, like most who still feel the urge to make them, I will not give in to the cynicism of my peers who no longer see the worth in such exercises. Each goal I set is one drop in my glass half full that this year will be different. That the turning of the calendar can manifest a turning point in life. Perhaps less grandly stated: it’s time for a change.

So in the spirit of the season, behold my list of resolutions! I can’t promise that all will be met. I can say for certain that some will be broken. Ultimately I …hope.

1) Eat eggs.
I hate eggs. Hate. Them. So much so, I used to pick them out of fried rice. If that isn’t neurosis, I don’t know what is. However they are cheap, nutritious protein that can be made in endless, delectable variations if I am to believe Pinterest and all brunch menus everywhere. #FOMO

2) Lose 60lbs.
I am overweight; 44lbs overweight and 70lbs from my ideal. As David Byrne might say, “well, how did I get here?”: I ate myself silly, didn’t exercise and bought new clothes when the old ones wouldn’t fit. I’ve made the same resolution every year for the last five years which to me is sadder than the weight gain itself. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. 

3) Read 52 books.
Every year I up the ante, trying to recapture that time in my life when I had nothing but copious, uninterrupted reading time. I’m stealing the 52 book challenge and its rules from a friend: Each book has to be at least 200 pages. Books I read for school count. I can read up to 5 plays…who am I kidding, I don’t read plays.

4) Go camping in Yosemite. (Bonus points for Kirby Cove or Big Sur)
I haven’t been on a camping trip that didn’t devote 2/3 of my gear to costumes since 2004. I would love to experience one of America’s greatest national parks during the peak of youth and health (provided I accomplish the aforementioned weight loss). Kirby Cove, that jewel of a campsite within a stone’s throw of the city, would also be a memorable getaway with friends as would Big Sur. 

5) Share this blog with my friends.
I’ve always wanted to share my writing with friends. However actually doing so requires me to cultivate the habit, exercise my voice and increase my output so that I can gain the necessary confidence in my work to expose it to public critique. This post is a step toward this goal. Yay! 

6) Meditate.
Pause. Breathe. Be. I need to do this daily to prepare my mind for the work I plan to do this year. Letting go of my tendency to hindsight in order to be in the moment and prepare for the possibilities of future is one of my truest desires for 2014. I need to move forward if I’m ever going to go anywhere. I want to do 5-10 minutes of meditation a day and make time to go to the Kadampa Meditation Center at least once a month. And I can’t forget to hang with my new meditation buddy Alex.  

7) Follow a budget for 30 days.
My name is Joanna and I have a problem with spending money. I need to stop, collaborate (with my finances) and listen (to my back account) so I can save up and rock some ice, ice, baby. 

8) Learn to do one flawless daytime and nighttime look.
Shout out to the ladies of /r/makeupaddiction! This is the year I’m going to learn to do my makeup like a big girl. Perhaps I’ve been influenced by the selfie culture but now more than ever I feel empowered to take control over how I look. Whether it’s celebrating my natural hair, sculpting the ultimate machine out of my body or turning up my face with a megawatt look. I used to think that makeup was the crutch of those with low self esteem but I see it more as art now, a form of self-expression.

9) Dance.
Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. Dancing is my preferred night time activity, my favorite workout and the best therapy. It only took two hours of Beyonce videos to come to this conclusion. As of late, my weight has curbed my confidence and ability to express myself in this arena. No more. I’m going to try to find a non-zumba dance workout class stat. 

10) Take a voice lesson.
Singing is the last frontier of my self consciousness. I loathe karaoke and cringe when faced with singing aloud outside the privacy of my own home no matter how innocuous the situation. But if I’m to believe my boyfriend, I have some raw talent. I want to be able to open my lungs and have something worth noticing emerge. 

Ok…Ready…Set…2014!

Let Go; Get Lost

“We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out.”

— Quarterlife Crisis

I’m 27 and I don’t know what I’m doing.

I’m sure this statement comes as no surprise to you. You, who has long since discovered the folly of thinking you’ve got life all figured out.

However, it would certainly be a surprise to 17 year old me. I can imagine the indignation that overly confident girl would feel: “You’ve had 10 years and you couldn’t get it together?! What have you been doing in all that time??”

Well, what have I been doing? I graduated from college, got a job, then another one. Moved back to the midwest, then to the true west. I made new friends, traveled, and had my fair share of late nights, mistakes and fleeting romances. Many of the things she dreamed of came true but the lack of capital “A” accomplishments, clarity of mind and certainty of purpose would have worried her as it worries me today.

At 17 the unknown was thrilling and filled with unfettered possibility. At 27 the unknown is anxiety inducing; the gulf between my potential and my reality growing wider in each unplanned moment.

But I’m starting to realize that 27 is not so different than 17. Everyday is an adventure into the unknown, an opportunity to stray from the path, to start something new.

Sure, I have more responsibilities than I did 10 years ago but the real weight I feel holding me down is Expectation. Of success. Of unwavering purpose. Of countless other tiny anchors that have left me unable to move.

So today, I say to 27 year old me:

Let go of expectation. Get lost in possibility. Embrace the adventure.

Wanna get lost with me?