Reflections on a Random Tuesday

I've heard a lot about the "good ole days of blogging" lately. Most of the people I know from this funny little online activity are from a period when blogging was quite different than it is today. Blame the prevalence of social media (twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and so on) or blame the fact that life changes I sure had a lot more time to write about nothing when I was 17 than now, when I'm 30.

I've been thinking about how my life online is quite different than it was a decade ago. While most of what I share happens on Facebook and Instagram, it's admittedly much less information that I used to blog about. Blogging was, for many, a deeply personal look into another's life. It used to be a way to form these deep connections with like-souled people without ever "meeting" them face-to-face. Through this weird phenomenon of blogging I have some wonderfully dear friends that I have only meet a few times in my life. Without being involved in the friend circles blogging created, I would not have met Vahid, and that worked out pretty well in the end.

While blogging is not what it used to be, I will always be thankful for falling into this crazy time on what was the tail end of what I consider the "hey day" of personal blogging. Now, most of the blogs I loved so much have been shut down by their owners, transitioned into "lifestyle blogs", or, like me, they simply stopped writing, while their sites remained, a quiet tomb of a life shared online. While blogs slowly died or changed, those who avidly read and commented slowly disappeared as well. People who used to take time to read and comment with their own stores of relevance no longer did that, myself included. We still read but ran out of time to comment, then we ran out of time to read everything, then we stopped finding time to read anything altogether. Our attention dwindled to bite-sized snippets on Facebook or Twitter between work, families, and life.

I've kept this blog here even when I stopped writing. Updating this became less important as I moved onto other things in my life: graduating college, getting engaged, married, finding a job that didn't make me hate life. I always meant to come back, to "get back in the rhythm of it," to find the group again. Although that group is gone, migrating onto other parts of life. I am still here, tentatively sticking my toes into the same water, feeling the nostalgic warmth of it all. I miss writing, writing about my life to reflect back on, writing for the sake of writing and the continuous learning that comes with a writing practice, sharing photographs I took the time to shoot & edit. I realized that when I stopped writing, I stopped doing many of the things I found personal joy in. Coming back to any of those things–photography, writing, painting–has me fumbling to find the path that I had worn so well previously.

Am I jumping back in, blogging forever? I don't know. I never intend to stop, I just…do. Eventually I find it harder to sit and write or paint. Then I find it easier to find excuses than time to sit. Then I find it hard to remember the last time I actually sat. So I'm here, for the moment at least. Maybe I'll see you here and we will wave to each other, remembering how good it feels to be back at the same shore, with the same water washing over our toes.

The Visit

Family. It’s a complex word isn’t it? When I was asked about the visit with my family by friends my response often started, “I love my family but…” And it’s true. I love my family but. But they are exhausting sometimes. And this visit was no exception.

It was the first visit where the three of them (my parents and grandmother) were not crammed into my tiny apartment. It was nice to have time to unwind after each busy day and take that time and prepare for the next day.

I did notice that for the week my family was here I was falling into old routines that…well they aren’t the best things to be doing. I found myself getting frustrated at their lack of knowledge, knowledge that I shouldn’t expect them to have. They were frustrated that I wasn’t able to locate exact places for them or know exactly how many blocks the lunch place was. I walk here all the time or take public transit. I’m used to walking a few blocks and it’s not a big deal but I forget that my family doesn’t walk and my grandma can’t walk more than two blocks without having to sit for a break. Which is not a big deal if she would just let me know she needs to stop.

I forget that my parents don’t live in a big city and they certainly don’t live in a “walker friendly” or “public transit friendly” city. Those differences created a tension between everyone. I was frustrated by their complaints of always walking uphill and wanting me to find the “flat way” to get to the restaurant, store, whatever we were going to. I tried to make comparisons to San Francisco and how hilly that is to walk and this is no different. There aren’t “flat” streets that I’m avoiding on purpose to be a dick.

We had a good time. I showed them lots of good places to eat. We saw movies and went to some pretty good gardens and parks. We did a little bit of shopping and hit some good second-hand shops.

The last day of their visit I had to work and after a week everyone (myself included) was tired and ready to be back to their own routines. I ended up having to work a bit late due to some meetings that went longer than expected and that did not go over well with my family. My grandma got very passive aggressive and there was a lot fighting going on in the car on the way to the airport.

Before they got on the plane we had burgers and milkshakes and my family seemed to forget the fighting that just happened ten minutes ago. I forget how extreme my family is sometimes. Fighting one minute and happy-go-lucky the next. I forgot how exhausting that can be.

I love my family. I love spending time with my family. But the fighting puts me right back into the child headspace and I react to it like a child. Instead of remaining calm and trying to ease the fighting I play into it and cause more problems than I fix.

After seeing them onto their plane, everyone smiles, I took the hour and a half ride back home and reflected on everything. The good, the bad, and how could I have created a different outcome. It was good to reflect back on everything. I feel like I learned a lot from this trip that I wasn’t able to learn from previous trips. I was able to recognize some of the patterns present that lead to dysfunctional behavior and I have some ideas for ways to stem the tide when those behaviors start presenting themselves.

Although maybe the answer is to have everyone visit separately so I’m not feeling overwhelmed catering to everyone’s differing ideas of what to do. But the important thing is that they really only visit once a year and overall it’s was a great success. Everyone eventually went home pretty happy.

So, until next time…

Lift This

I suppose by now you can say the theme of this month has been “habits” specifically, how to change negative habits and develop positive ones. So far I talked about how changing one keystone habit has had a greater positive experience than I expected. I spoke about a great book on habits that should make your reading list if human psychology interests you. Now I’m talking about how I’m working on creating new positive habits.

I was introduced to a website (and app) called Lift. The premise behind Lift is that you can post habits you want to build and each day you do that habit you check it off. There’s a social interaction part as well, you can find friends and give them props on completing habits, urging them to continue. A few of the habits I have on there are: writing for 20 minutes each day, reading for 30 minutes, and even flossing. Yes I am a terrible flosser but knowing I have to do it to check it off helps me make it part of my nighttime routine. It’s fun to check them off and if you are the type that loves the feeling of checking things of a to-do list then you will love lift.

So far this month I am on my 8 day streak for reading 30 minutes daily. Knowing that it’s something I have to check off each day helps me focus and create time to write rather than just getting to the end of the day and wishing I had time to write. Most of my day is not spent being overly productive so having to create a span of twenty minutes just to write really helps me bring more focus into my day-to-day activities instead of binge watching a show on Netflix and wondering where my day went.

So, if you want to join me in creating new habits, and reinforcing each other’s commitments to new habits, sign up and follow me! Maybe you’ve already got an idea of new habits you want to start, but if you’re stuck with where to start, maybe it can be with a simple gratitude practice. When Vahid and I listened to the interview with the founder of Lift, he talked about how when he and his wife were going through a hectic stretch of their life, they made a promise that at the end of each day, before they climbed into bed, they were going to tell each other two good things that happened for them that day. We liked this so much that we started doing it even before we signing up for lift. It’s an easy way to find the positive in each day, no matter how rough things get. So start with that, tell your partner, or tell the world! Tweet at the end of your day with the hashtag #2goodthings. If I get a few people joining in I’ll do a follow up post with some of your collected tweets about your gratitude.

What are some good habits you want to build? Does Lift seem like something you’d enjoy using? Do you like the idea of a community formed around creating good habits and building each other up?

It’s Just a Habit

Remember last week, I talked about how changing this one area, my habits around food, had a cascading effect in my life? That’s what researchers call a “keystone habit.” I read about this in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It’s amazing book if you want to know about habits and how they drive most everything in life.

 photo habits.jpg The book highlights so many things from how habits can create a dysfunctional work environment, to the point of deadly accidents, to how they were integral to the Civil Rights movement started in the 1950s. It was a fascinating read and really sheds a light on how habits essentially create your life.

This book helped me realize how changing a keystone habit, like my eating, effected many other areas of my life. This book also gives you the framework to change your habits. You identify the routine you’ve developed, the cue that causes the routine that elicits the reward that keeps you repeating the habit. For example with my snacking, boredom was the cue that caused me to reach for the snack and a happy and busy feeling was the reward that kept me snacking. Learning that routine helped me break the habit and look for other ways to fulfill myself that doesn’t include a handful of cookies.

If you want to learn more about habits in general or want to work on improving some of the automatic behaviors that you feel are sabotaging your health, your happiness, or your life in general I highly recommend this book to help learn about your behaviors.

Now over to you. Have you worked on changing some negative habits? Do you know if you have habits that need changing or, like me, could they be so automatic you read this thinking you had no habits to change? Or just tell me about something you are making some progress in, in your life, whether it’s a new schedule you’ve started, a weight loss regime, or some new food you’ve been trying out.

Snack On This

I’ve recently been reading a book about habits, why we have habits, how we develop habits, and what are habits that we might not know are habits. It’s been pretty eye opening.

I’m working on changing some negative habits I’ve had for a long time and some that I have recently developed. At the moment the biggest habits I’m working on are related to food.

It’s no secret that I’m an emotional eater. I have said as much before. I’ve used food as a way to avoid dealing with problems. Why think about not being employed when there’s donuts and cake and a new treat shop opened up around the corner! Portland makes it hard sometimes because there are so many good treat spots to go to. Besides emotional eating I am a grazer. I realize that I’m constantly snacking or looking for snacks and it got to the point that I wasn’t even hungry and I was still eating. I do a lot of it out of boredom.

On the first of the month Vahid and I started a new diet to get my constant snacking and other issues under control. We both needed to get a bit healthier and the summer time (for me at least) is a much easier time to change my eating habits. We started a new way of eating July 1st and it’s been a week and I can already notice a difference. I’ll elaborate more about I hesitate to call it a diet because it’s more of a body reset but that sounds weird without a lot of background information) when I have spent some more time with it.

But now that I am eating very certain things and there is no option for eating whatever I want I notice I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Now that my constant snacking behavior was taken away I spend a lot of my day (work and at home) thinking about what I’m doing. My train of thought often goes: I should look and see what’s in my feedly. I wonder what I have to eat in the fridge. No it’s not time to eat yet. I should just look in the fridge. I should work on my blog for a while. Maybe the cabinet needs to be cleaned out and there’s probably chips in there. No I have my reminders of when I can eat. No snacking.

It was a rude awakening to say the least to realize how much of my life was spent thinking about food and getting snacks. It’s been a hard adjustment to work on not always snacking but it’s honestly for the best and I wasn’t doing my body any favors by packing on weight and ignoring the health problems that arose as a result. But it’s been good to force myself to refocus my attention to other things.

It’s been great to remove that running dialogue to knowing exactly what I’m eating and around when I’m eating it. I’ve been able to be so much more productive. I’ve read more in this week than I have in a long time. I have spent much more time being productive and accomplishing a lot of my ever running “to-do” list. It’s crazy to think that this one, rather simple, change has changed how much time I have in general and how I spend my time.

Yes I started this diet change to lose the extra weight I packed on (and fit into my clothes that are just sadly sitting in my closet) but I’ve realized that I’m doing this to change so much more than my weight. I’ve already started changing other habits. This one change has created a cascade effect that has started to change other parts of life that I didn’t know where connected. For example, not spending so much on snack food I was able to put triple what I usually do in savings. Not worrying about what’s for dinner or wondering who’s going to cook (okay that’s a lie, it’s me wondering what Vahid is making for dinner) has allowed me to focus on my other projects I just keep saying some day about. It’s startling how much is already changing because I’ve been changing just one area of my life.
I’m excited to see how this all comes together. Sometimes I don’t have the best follow through but I feel that this is honestly the most effortless diet change I’ve had. I spent a week fretting about how I was going to handle it and when we decided that it was starting on this day and now it’s been a week and I don’t worry about not getting to eat my treat food. I think about it every once in a while but for the most part I don’t even think about eating other than going oh it’s time for lunch better have my meal. I never thought I’d get my sugar addiction under control. It’s not completely under control but it’s getting there and that is a great thing.

How about you, friends? Do you believe changing one habit can create a cascade effect? Have you seen this happen? Are you working on any self-improvement things and want to share? Or are you just flat out enjoying your summer?