Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

I have been preoccupied with one particular thought lately:  what do I really want to do with my life?  No idea.  Keep coming up with zero.  Or a million things.  All at the same time.   Ironic, really, that after establishing what the outside world views as a successful career,  chosen only after my quarter-life crisis, which itself came after dabbling in various jobs and careers after college, I'm still not sure what I want to do. Shouldn't I know that by now?  And if I missed it this badly before, how can I be sure that I won't shoot for something else and still not hit on what IT really is.

So, I read.  And think.  Nearly all of the million or so books and articles on the topic (it's a common concern, apparently) ask the question, "what would you do if you knew you could not fail"?  Other forms include: "what would you do if you won the lottery" and "what would you do if you didn't have to answer to anyone else".  I was able to come up with an answer to the second question -- I know that if I won the lottery, I would drop everything, travel around the world, invite my loved ones to join me in various countries, and write about it.  Somehow amid the lottery winnings, I would also gain the ability to write without blinding, body-binding anxiety, so it would all work out.  But only tonight in doing exercises for another book did I realize that my answer to the first question is the same.  My escape fantasy, at least as expressed through the majority of books I read, is doing exactly that -- dropping everything to do an all-consuming, big year-long exciting project -- some exciting task, travel, re-do your house, make something, do it big -- and then write about it.   The writing about it, is, I thought, the way that I justify the larger project because it could make money.  But if I won the lottery, why would I need more money?  The writing serves a larger purpose.  It's informing others about what I did -- sharing the human experience.  It's inspiring others to pursue their dreams. It's sharing my knowledge and experiences, so that they can learn from my mistakes. It's teaching.  It's also legitimizing the big project itself.  I can't travel or create just for myself (so says the psyche) but I can if it has a larger purpose.

I think the fantasy is still so seductive because I'm young and carefree, at least in relation to where I will be later.  I feel like my years of being able to entertain such ideas are passing me by, quickly.  I'm already too tied down, with a husband, condo, golden retriever, parents, in-laws and career that wouldn't understand their being left behind.  Or am I?  Perhaps they would be more understanding than I give them credit for.  Like everything in life, I bet they would surprise me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Finishing What I Started

I made a list of goals for myself for 2011.  One of them was to finish what I start.  I'm one of those people who picks up a new hobby, only to decide it's not quite right just after I bought all the equipment.  Yes, I'm looking at you, roller skates and bag of decoupage materials.

Anyway, even though it's early March, I'm going to work on finishing the reverb10 prompts from last December.  There are only 31 of them.  I can do this.  I can finish.

December 8 – Beautifully Different.  Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

I take pride in being funny; amusing my friends through dry wit and well-timed quips.  I really like music.  I have an encyclopedic knowledge about the Beatles, having spent my teen years mostly indoors reading biographies and listening to old records.  But I also love to go out dancing to 90s hip hop, and lament the fact that I never do that anymore.  I think it's important to never lose one's sense of fun.  I have my own muppet -- designed by my husband to look like Scully from the X Files -- and keep her on the shelf above my desk at my very serious job.  I like the juxtaposition, if for no other reason than it reminds me to smile.

December 9 – Party.  What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

My wedding!  It was such a beautiful, joyous day.  Honestly, I don't think Boston has ever had such great weather -- it rained all week leading up to the day, then was swelteringly hot for the week to follow, but that day... perfection.  We got married outdoors, in a pavilion along the Charles River, amid all the ducks, duck boats, and kayaks.  Weddings are usually joyous, but ours was off the charts.  We'd gone through so much to get there. So Much. But we made it!  I remember looking around the tent after our first dance and marveling at the fact that not only did I know everyone there, literally all of my favorite people were in one room.  Since the wedding, I have learned that a lot of my friends from different areas of my life have now become friends themselves.  Isn't that the dream? 

The food was amazing -- we picked a normal wedding food station (fancy schmancy beef), a carribean station (my favorite: plaintains and jerk sauce), and the runaway crowd favorite, a southern station (featuring mac and cheese and fried chicken).  Plus a full desert course, a brownie bar, and chocolate chip cookies on lolipop sticks.  Insanely good.  So were the tunes.  Since we are basically Harry and Sally, we danced the first dance of our marriage to "It Had To Be You."  I got to dance with all my girls to songs that will forever remind me of them.  I broke my bustle dancing to "Now That We Found Love," in honor of the movie Hitch.  I watched the Texans from my side jump right in to the horah, and sailed above the crowd with my new husband in a very precarious feeling chair.  Then we ended the night with "In My Life" and, since it was a win in Boston, "Dirty Water."

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

I kicked off 2010 by moving back across the country for 3 weeks to take care of my mom as she went through a mastectomy and other breast cancer treatment.  She's fine now (thanks for asking), and we knew she'd be fine then, too.  But even though I have a very serious job, with very serious demands, and often ridiculous hours, I knew I simply had to be there.  I hadn't seen her since July, just before her diagnosis, and spent far too many nights just crying together on the phone, while I wished I could do more for her.  So the minute she asked for help, I said yes. Bought my plane ticket, and then went to my boss to say that I'd like to work for a place that lets people do this.  He didn't hestitate (bless him!) and stood by my side while HR had apoplexy trying to figure out how to coordinate a leave that wasn't maternity leave.  I'm so glad I went. When I got back, I bit the bullet, and even amid wedding planning, got myself tested for the breast cancer gene.  I am so proud of my mother, but sometimes even more proud of me.  I'll never have to go through the horrors I saw her go through.  I feel so empowered to get to say that, and really mean it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#reverb10: Catching Up! A Week's Writing in One Post

Reverb10, here I go!

December 1 - One Word.Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?(Author: Gwen Bell)

If I were to encapsulate 2010 in one word, that word would be "Us." 2010 was the year when I had to start making decisions that involved someone else, whether I wanted to include him or not. I'm an only child. I've made my own decisions... pretty much my whole life. I depend on me. But, in 2010, suddenly I'm a wife. I was never one of those girls who spoke entirely in "we" while in a relationship -- you know what I mean -- but that pronoun honestly does come up in marriage. I had to take into account my husband's opinions on wedding planning, dog raising, house keeping, car purchasing -- you name it, it's now a joint decision, or at least a joint conversation. I had to learn how to let go of certain things in the interest of compromise, and, probably more important for me, how and when I needed to speak up and put my foot down on the things that really mattered to me. I'm still learning, and I know I have a long way to go. The hardest one right now is how to incorporate another person's schedule into my life -- from the timing of the morning alarm and when to start dinner, all the way through daydreaming about when we might get a house or have kids. I'm not just me anymore. I'm part of Us.

I hope that 2011's word is "Authentic." Real food. Real friends. Really in touch with what I want to do, not just what I feel like I'm supposed to do. Real love. Real, honest, self-reflection and joy. I'm scared (already) of losing myself to the life I've created and am creating. Before I start embarking on the rest-of-my-life project that is having children, I need to find the Authentic Me. And really get to know and love her. And find room for her in my real life -- not the one I hope, someday off in the future to create, but this one happening now. I hope that's my 2011.

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

The #1 thing I do each day that does not contribute to my writing is to NOT write. Putting it last on my list of things to do that, in reality, if not even by design (since I work best when I'm busy) does not get finished. Guaranteeing that I won't get there.
Clearly, I need to eliminate that, if I'm going to make this commitment to myself to try to be creative and find a creative outlet. I could say that I'm going to write first thing every morning -- and that does sound like a wonderfully attractive idea -- but at the very least, I'm going to work on it. Move it higher up the list. Right after exercise. No -- really. I'm going to do that in 2011, too.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

I remember walking to the bus stop after my second pilates class and seventh straight day of working out. I thought the feeling of pure joy emanating from my muscles and cells that had occurred after the first class might have been a fluke. It wasn't. It was a crisp, late fall night in Back Bay. As I left the studio and pulled on a fleece hat over my sweaty hair, I overheard a crowd of teenagers outside a church across the street start singing "Mr. Cellophane" from the musical Chicago. And they could really sing. I couldn't stop smiling. Beaming. The parade rest of my face was calm and relaxed, with upturned lips. I felt so alive and whole. I couldn't wait to get back to another class. Couldn't wait to feel so good again. I still can't.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

I think I was born with a sense of wonder, and, luckily, have managed to maintain it even amid adulthood. I love reading. I especially love reading about things I did not know. So, this year, I made it a point to always have a book going on my bedside table. I also gave myself permission to pick up a new book, even if I was still in the middle of another, or three or four. I mean, what's the fun in reading if it's an assignment? I love watching the world around me. Watching people go about their everyday lives. Doing everyday things like playing with their kids at the park, walking their dogs, stealing a kiss, eating an ice cream cone. So, this year, I tried to always take my dog to the park in our neighborhood on Saturdays and take time to people watch and even strike up a conversation. I love science museums. I love watching children learning about the world around them. I love remembering how I felt the first time I learned how seasons work, or where waves come from. I love getting to learn new things myself. I love the idea that museums can share knowledge with a whole community. So, this year, I got married in a science museum.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I think, in parallel with my word of 2010 being "Us," one of the things I have let go of this year is the idea that I get to make all the decisions. I would like to say that I have let go of my control freak tendencies, but that's a bit too rose-colored. It's more that I have let go of the illusion that it's possible to control everything. I may still want to, but sometimes (most of the time?) I can now see that I don't get to.

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

The last things I made -- with "make" being a verb that requires completion of a task -- were the programs for my wedding. (7 months ago!) I designed them, cribbed the text from a million different places, printed them at work on specially ordered paper, and assembled them, with help from a village of friends and future-in-laws. I think what I liked best about them was that they were not only exactly what I wanted as an obsessive bride, but also turned paper and ribbon into a way to express what I found so meaningful about our deeply personal and very personalized wedding ceremony.

The last thing I started to make, but, alas have not finished, is a wedding album for our parents. It was going to be their holiday gift. But, seeing as it's already mid-December and I still haven't made it past the ceremony in chronologically organized photos, my new goal is to finish them before our first anniversary. Mother's Day, maybe. It's a pity, too, because I truly enjoy the process of making the album. I just need to find the time.

December 7 – Community Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

I only really started reading blogs in 2010. In 2009, I got engaged and discovered Weddingbee. I was hooked, to the point of reading it on my blackberry every morning on the bus into work. I picked out my favorites, read all of their posts, regaled my husband and best friend with stories. Once I got sufficiently far into planning that I did not need tips, I stopped reading. And realized I missed it. In 2010, I followed a number of my favorite bees into their "real life" blogs. These blogs, not surprisingly, link to other blogs with other amazing people who I love reading about. So I bookmarked their blogs, too. And explored their links. Recently, I found a few amazing places where my little community circles back -- where all these people that I feel like I know also know each other.

In 2011, I would like to actively and actually join that community. Instead of lurking in the shadows and reading about people's lives from afar, I would like to speak up. Leave comments. Get to know some of the people who have inspired me for the last two years. Treat them as people, rather than just the celebrities of my computer. I would also like to put my own voice out there, to add to the conversation. And know that I have something worthwhile to add, too.

Why Not Today?

As you can tell, my great dramatic announcement that I wanted to write didn't go far. July! I haven't posted since July! Growl.

So, today, when I stumbled upon a project called Reverb 10, giving bloggers the opportunity to reflect on this year and manifest what is next, it spoke to me. In, let's be honest, really personal places. I may be 7 days late, but I still feel like I can be part of the party. So, here I go again. Only this time, I'm actually going to do it!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Here's to Beginnings

Holy cow, I just started a blog. My blog. After years of reading non-fiction, mostly memoirs of people who quit the corporate rat race and become authors, and, thinking, "gah, I'd love to be a writer," here I am. Of course, I've always read that the best way to be a writer is to -- wait for it -- actually start writing. So, it seems like today's the day I pull the trigger and do it. Yay me.

My husband and I went out for our 2 month anniversary dinner last night. (Yeah, I'm one of those women who counts the months. I was when we were dating, too, so at least he knew what he was in for). I highly recommend anniversary dinners -- for us, in the whopping 2 times we've done it, it's been a chance to reconnect on a personal level and talk about the things we used to talk about in early dates. Where do you see your career going? Why are you still so obsessed with video games? (I'll let you guess who asked whom.) It's a nice break from the already so cliche marriage-chat about the dog, the dishes, the weekend plans, his job, my mother, and on. (Meanwhile, how stunned I am at how cliche we've already become is a topic for another time.)

Anyway, at aforementioned anniversary dinner, I finally came out to him, saying out loud the thing I've been thinking in the 2 months since I was released from wedding planning... I want to be a writer. How freeing that was, to say it. How freeing this is, to DO it, at least in a tiny, baby-step kind of way. Yay for Beginnings. Cheers!