Happiness Project: Fall 2012

I am not a big fan of the summer.  This one in particular, was kind of a drag for me. One thing I love about myself, though, is that when I am not feeling super happy, I make a plan to fix it. And sometimes I actually follow through!

I did spend most of my staycation running errands, exercising, and generally avoiding thinking about or making a plan to improve my overall happiness. I was feeling relaxed, but still not super happy. Then, on Friday, I had an amazing yoga class and got in to a headstand for the first time all by myself.  It was like a miracle. (Unlike this woman, I was against a wall. I don’t want to mislead you. Baby steps.) When I came down, I said to myself “This is a sign from the universe! If I can do this, I can be happier!”

I spent Saturday completely focused on making a plan, which always involves (1) research (2) a lot of thinking (3) lists.

I started the day with the first of my September meditations. Yup, I am trying it again. Three mornings in a row, I have knocked out 10 whole minutes of meditation. I will do this for at least 10 minutes EVERY day in September. It takes 21 days to form a habit, right? Meditation is supposed to make you happy. Bring it on.

Next up I read The Happiness Project. I have been avoiding reading this book forever. I didn’t think I would learn anything that I didn’t already know, but I did get some inspiration. Gretchen Rubin likes to research, think a lot, and make lists!  We could be buds.

Here were a few takeaways I got from The Happiness Project:

  • I already do a lot of stuff that happy people are supposed to do: exercise, get lots of sleep, eat well, and keep your apartment uncluttered. I really rock in these areas.
  • I don’t have a husband or children so I skimmed those chapters and tried to file away information that I may use in the future. I definitely don’t have to worry about nagging my husband or yelling at my kids less. Another thing to be happy about!
  • Many people apparently struggle with figuring out their real passions and being OK with what THEY think is fun versus what other people think is fun. Nice to know. Gretchen said that if she looks forward to something, then it is something that is fun for her. Now, this can get a little bit confusing when you are kind of afraid of things and have an enormous capability to talk yourself out of doing stuff that you might actually enjoy.  I will keep this philosophy in mind, but I might have to try some stuff that I am not looking forward too. If I discover I never like these things, then I can stop (if I ever get started).
  • I got a great tip to set my computer password to a mantra that will inspire me to love my happiest life. It would be a security breach to tell you what it is, but I did it!
  • For some reason, I keep thinking about how Gretchen tried to start a toy blue bird collection to improve her overall happiness. (She tried a lot of stuff!) I wonder if I would find true bliss if I stepped my collection of toy frogs?
  • I also learned that “the most reliable predictor of not being lonely for men and women, is the amount of contact with women.  Time spent with men does not make a difference.” Hmm..this is interesting.
  • Gretchen made resolutions and tracked her performance on a list. This is right up my alley.  She also has a toolbox on her website that anyone can use to track their own resolutions. Now she just needs an app! I have decided to use Remember The Milk to track my progress because I track everything there, I love it, and I can “check things off” on all of my electronic devices.

I had a lot more thoughts and a couple of lists that I will reveal as September unfolds. Happiness Project: Fall 2012 has begun! Nothing like getting back on the wagon of personal growth. I feel better already!

Staycation 2012

Forgive me blog fans, it has been a month since my last post. I am now on staycation and I have no plans. Of course, I feel conflicted about this. (I have not become a new person since my last post.) But, after a crazy month, I really wanted to give myself a full week where I could wake up every day and go with the flow. I am on day three, here is how it is going so far.

Saturday, I slept in, got a pedicure, bought food to sustain myself for a few days, cleaned out my e-mail box, paid bills, cleaned my apartment, went for a run, made a delicious Italian chef salad, and watched There Will be Blood (good movie, but very depressing.)

Yesterday, I did laundry, had a “two mimosa” brunch with friends, got ice cream, napped, watched The Tourist (which I liked) and then proceeded to knock shows off my TiVo for the next 4 hours. Sounds relaxing, right? It was, until I got bored. I thought I would be thrilled to just watch lots and lots of TV. I might have gotten that out of my system in one day.

Last night, I thought I would meditate and do yoga this morning. Instead I drank coffee, read the NY Times on my IPad, put a chicken and noodle dish in the crock pot and now I am writing this earth shattering blog post. I’m going with the flow.

My goal for this week (I do have a plan!), is to have a good mix of accomplishing stuff and chilling out and doing absolutely nothing. This combo, when I get the mix right, makes me me happy.

On with Staycation 2012.

A Planner’s Dilemma

I recently this article called The Busy Trap that one of my employees sent me. It talks about how people today are always complaining that they are soooo busy when, really, they create all of this chaos themselves.  They over-schedule and over-volunteer and just never stop going.

I am not one of those people. I under program.  I worry about being too busy so I schedule one thing at a time (like I make plans for Friday OR Saturday not Friday AND Saturday.) Then, what often happens, is that my one plan gets canceled and I have no plans.

I don’t like to make plans at the last minute but I also don’t like to plan too far in advance in case something better comes up. The perfect planning window, however, does not always align with the planning windows of others, so I end up with no plans.

This might sound a bit shocking to those who know me as a planner. I like to have a plan. I don’t function well without a plan. Its kind of an endless loop of wanting a plan and not wanting to make a plan. We all have our  endless loops that keep us from moving forward.

The upside is that my ducks are usually in a row, I get a decent amount of sleep and am able to make time for exercise, my 10 hours of dedicated TV watching, and to be a work-a-holic. The downside, is that I often end up with no plans and lately, I don’t feel like I am making the most of my life and my time.

Now my question to the crazy over-planners is, do their lives feel full or do they just feel tired?  Are they doing what they really want to do with their time or just moving so fast so they don’t have time to think about the emptiness of their un-full lives? I can’t lump all of the crazy over-planners together, I suppose.  I am sure some people are planning super fulfilling activities with their time. That’s what I want to do!

So what should I do with my under-planned time that I will look back on when I am 100 and say “wow, I really made the best of those years when I was healthy, had money to spend, and virtually no responsibilities.”

Sure, I volunteer and do some traveling. That helps. Should I do more of that?

There are a few things around NYC that I haven’t done, that I think, “I should do that!” But if I REALLY wanted to go to the Cloisters, wouldn’t I have gone already? Will my life be more full if I go to the Cloisters? There is only one way to find out the answer to that question. I guess I have to go to the Cloisters.

At the end of this “Busy Trap” article, the author decides that he wants to look back on his life and be happy that he spent more time hanging out with people he liked. That is definitely something that I love and makes my life feel more full.  I don’t do enough of it because it requires making plans, and as I outlined, I have some issue with that. Remember when all of your friends were with you all the time and you never had to make plans because you were always just, together (like in college and soon after)? That was cool.

I should make MORE friends that I like to hang out with that live closer to me so I don’t have to travel to hang out with them (which requires even more planning). That would require me to get back to mingling. Making new friends is just as hard as dating, which is excruciating.

For those that have been following my blog for while, you probably recognize this theme that comes up that I continue to grapple with and have not yet conquered. Possibly, because I continue to watch The Bachelor Pad and Big Brother instead of making plans. If I had it all figured out, what would I have to blog about? I guess I could share all of the magical answers with you.  That might increase my readership.

Well, I’ll keep plugging away at and if I come up with some insightful answers to leading a happy and fulfilling life, you will be the first to know.

I Miss Reading

I was out to dinner with friends the other night and we were talking about books.  Well, they were talking more about books than I was, and I was jealous, because I still don’t make time for reading.

I have said many many times that I was to read more and watch less TV, but this week, I find myself craving it.

I am usually SO busy at work that the only thing I have energy for in my downtime is TV.  Things have been SO busy for SO long that I have accumulated more and more shows on my Tivo without really paying attention. What in the world am I watching?

Yesterday, I watched two episodes of Revenge, Touch, The Vampire Diaries (which I forgot that I had taken off the list already) and Secret Life of the American Teenager.  I don’t think I really LIKE any of these shows anymore. What a waste of an afternoon. Then I spent the evening watching a movie that I also didn’t like (Larry Crowne) just because I had it in the house and felt like I HAD to watch it before I could return it. Completely untrue.  My monthly Netflix fee is the same whether I watch a movie, or sent it back unwatched. I was so bored I had to have a glass of wine to get through the movie.

This is not a good pattern. I am craving more personal brain engagement (meaning, when I am not at work)  and more “feeling present” in my own life. I need to get back to the yoga mat, have more quite time alone with my thoughts, downsize the passive TV watching, and switch more active reading. Even reading Fifty Shades of Gray seems like a more active use of my brain than watching Revenge (and I am curious to know what all of the hoopla is about with this book.)

My friend gets in bed every night at 9pm and reads until she falls asleep. This week, I am going to try that.  I just removed the inane shows that I watched yesterday from the TV List and they are officially expunged from my TiVo Season Pass list.  If I don’t thoroughly enjoy a show, I won’t watch it (unless it is getting crazy good reviews and I am still trying to figure out what I am missing because I don’t love it..like with Girls.)

Don’t worry, I have not gone totally bananas. I will continue to watch some inane shows that I do thoroughly enjoy, like Smash and my newest fav, Scandal (seriously excellent guilty pleasure). Everything can’t be Mad Men (but how amazing was last week’s episode? Amazing.)

Now I just have to figure out why my Kindle keeps freezing up. Technical difficulties, could cause a serious dent in my plans.

Stylebook: My New Obession

At several times in my life, I have attempted to keep track of what I wear. I thought this record would serve a few purposes: (1) I could make sure I don’t repeat outfits too often (2) I could look back on a list to help me figure out what to wear (3) I could fully utilize all of the clothes I purchase and make sure give each of my “pieces” the attention they deserve.

Over the years, I tried spreadsheets, the notes app in my phone, and old school pen and paper. All methods were abandoned after a couple of weeks. Earlier this year, I thought, “There must be an app for this!” And there is! Its called Stylebook, and it’s my new obsession.

Stylebook captures actual photos of your clothes and lets you build outfits and add them to a calendar to record what you wear every day! It’s amazing and kind of fun.

To make this all work, you do have to take pictures of all of your clothes. One Sunday, I spent a few hours snapping photos of all of my work clothes. It is a lot harder to make clothes look pretty laid out flat than you think it is! Retail catalog work is not in my future.

I recommend laying out your clothes on a white sheet. For lighter color clothes you need a dark background. I happen to have a black poster board perfect for this ridiculous, time-wasting, activity.

If you don’t use the right background, you have to edit all of your photos to erase the background. For my first batch, I spent hours in front of the TV editing my pictures with the built in tool in the app. I found this time-wasting activity incredibly therapeutic, totally mindless, and borderline creative.

Stylebook allows you to create any categories you want to organize your items. (e.g. blouses, t-shirts, sweaters, black tops, fancy skirts, belts…whatever!) It is very easy to move things around if you change your mind.

Once you have your “closet” set up, you can start building “looks”. You can combine as many items as you want to make a “look”. I keep it to the basics, but you can go to town with shoes, accessories, jewelry,etc. If someone should ask me what I wore or am planning to wear, I can email the “look” to them right from the app! (This pretty much never happens, but in case you are wondering what I wore today, you can see it above!)

I now have a bunch of work “looks” constructed and a calendar full of recorded outfits for almost two months! I love it. It is everything I hoped it would be and more, and it is super fun.

One of my obsessive vacation prep activities included, you guessed it, taking photos of all of my vacation clothes! My hope was that building outfits would help me figure out how much I really needed bring. There is still too much in my suitcase, but I now also have it all in my phone! I realize this makes me a crazy pants, but hey, some people play Sudoku, and others build outfits in their phone.

The only negative to Sylebook that I have found is that I built my “closet” and “looks” on my Iphone and I can’t get the app to sync to my IPad. My aging eyes would much prefer to view my outfits on a larger screen. I emailed Stylebook support, and within an hour, they replied and told me I would be able to sync (via wifi) between devices in next app version coming shortly.

Two thumbs up for Stylebook and fun, therapeutic, time-wasters!

Upskilling and Letting Go

My job is consuming my life right now.  Let’s talk about how this is a positive thing:

  • I have a job
  • It’s good for my ego that I am so awesome at my job that my boss keeps giving me more responsibility
  • I can afford to go to Bali for my birthday

Now let’s talk about what’s not so awesome:

  • I never have time to blog anymore
  • I had to cancel my trip to visit my friend Deli next weekend
  • I have no energy to work on my personal life

One of the reasons I am working so much  is that I am managing four people. Managing people is hard, especially if you are a super sensitive human being and your people are not all rock stars, which means you have to deliver hard feedback.  I don’t like delivering hard feedback.  As a consultant, I totally avoided it.  If someone sucked at something, I just did it myself.  I used the excuse that they did not work for me and I did not have the time to teach them stuff.  I’ve been kind of doing the same thing for the last six months but it doesn’t work out so well when you can’t just leave at the end of the project.  These are my peeps now. I am screwed if my team does not get upskilled (that’s a career girl word).

Upskilling takes a lot of time.  You have to figure out how to explain stuff that comes naturally to you but is hard for them.  Then you have to let people try stuff on their own, answer a million questions, and then give the hard feedback when what they give you sucks. Then I also obsess over whether I am being too picky and whether “there way” is OK even though it is not “my way”.  Sometimes I change a bunch of stuff and then change it back! It’s all very exhausting.

What’s also exhausting is the process of “letting someone go”.  In my company, this is a 3-4 month process. Much to my dismay,  my very first hire turned out to be “not the right fit” and within a week I knew it was all going to be a disaster. And it has been. (I had a bad feeling before I hired him. Huge mistake.)

In addition to re-doing all of his work I have to spend hours documenting everything and working with HR to “put him on a plan”. We are currently 45 days in to this nightmare process. He has 60 more days to improve before he can be “let go”.  The poor dude is working his little heart out and I almost want to cry every time I see him. Good times.

This is the emotional wringer I am going through this week as I deliver performance reviews to my team while juggling executive requests for random information in pretty power points.  And in all fairness, except for the dude working his little heart out, my team has many positive qualities and things they are awesome at, so I do get to hand out kudos as well.

The “glass half full” way to look at all of this is that I am learning a lot and growing as a human and if I handle it all decently, I am also helping others grow as well.  These are all good things  (and how hilarious is this banana cartoon?)

Key Takeaways From The Golden Globes

I am in to speed blogging now on the IPad. I don’t have the patience to write much on this touchpad but I also don’t have time to say much.

Here are some things I could have live tweeted as I watched the Golden Globes but instead decided to share in “career girl” bullet points. (Someone recently referred to me as a “career girl”. I guess that’s kinda what I am.)

(Just learned how to do bullet points on the IPad. Go me!)

  • Ricky Gervais is hilarious
  • Homeland!!!!!! Enough said. Eventually, everyone must see this show.
  • I have to watch this Downtown Abbey show.
  • There are many movies I need to see, I now know that Midnight in Paris is one of them. I was not aware. Not a huge Woody fan but I will give it a shot.
  • Madonna does not look as “plastic surgeryish” as I thought she would.
  • Ashton Kutcher’s shorter hair looks sweet, but I am now Team Demi.
  • Johnny Depp, Rob Lowe, and surprisingly Dustin Hoffman were looking very orange.
  • Did I mention how much I loved Mildred Pierce? Check it out on DVD. I do like my HBO miniseries’.
  • I am running out of bullet points. I guess I am getting kinda bored.
  • How beautiful is Jodie Foster? And she brought her sons, so cute.
  • Love Jessica Lange’s look. All black and all natural. Classy. And hello…American Horror Story. I told you!!!
  • Not a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s tie die dress. Watch for it on the worst dressed lists, along with Emma Stone’s purple and fuscia thing with an eagle.
  • Interesting facial hair choices, Bradley.
  • Octavia Spencer for The Help, most touching moment so far.
  • Reese looks fabulous. Doesn’t she always?
  • What’s this Hugo movie? Do I have to watch that too?
  • Wait, does Jessica Biel have a 1950’s bathing suit bottom on under her see through dress?
  • Meryl Streep might be the best actress of all time and super cool, but she has horrible fashion sense and Rooney Mara should have won.
  • I am realizing now that I have to stay up for the whole thing…I am almost there.
  • Maybe next weekend I should check out The Decendents instead of working all weekend! And perhaps I will summarize in “career girl” bullet points.

Evolution

I know its been a while but I had a busy busy month. Crazy work stuff, spending time with new friends, catching up with old friends, holiday parties, bon voyage dinners, buying and wrapping gifts for my many family members, spending time with my many family members, some running, and some yoga.  That pretty much sums up December.

I am running out of time to officially reflect on 2011 so I better get to it.

A glass half empty person could look back on 2011 and say, “I worked too much, I still don’t have a life partner, and I am no closer to starting my own family. Bummer.”

Fortunately, I have evolved in to more of a glass half full person.  This is kind of awesome. I think a combination of Yoga, therapy, and sheer will contributed to this turn of events.

So here is how this glass half full TVaholic would summarize 2011:

  • I started the year with no idea what my job would be and ended up with a job that I am very good at, has stretched me in new directions, and given me complete job security.  I also landed a sweet desk with a window view and made more friends at the office. Score!
  • I have become a bit of a shopaholic but (because I work my ass off) I can afford it seems healthier than filling the void with food or alcohol.  If George Clooney calls, I will have something to wear.
  • I am healthier physically and emotionally than I have ever been.  Since the October juice cleanse, I have not been sick once. (knock on wood!) There have been no anxious trips to the doctor this year for unexplained symptoms and I can’t remember the last panic attack I had (knock on wood!) I have been to Yoga regularly since my favorite teacher returned and I find ways to squeeze in a run instead of avoiding it.  I think I might be…a runner!
  • I dated more in 2011 than I did in 2010 and 2009 combined.  Nothing stuck for the long haul, but I learned more about myself and what I need from each of those adventures. I will do what I can to continue the trajectory in 2012 and hopefully something will stick (or at least I hope to have fun trying!)
  • I added three new shows to my roster that I LOVE: Homeland, American Horror Story, and Once Upon a Time  (You didn’t think I could leave out TV, did you! If you missed them in 2011, you must remedy this in 2012.)

I might be forgetting more amazing stuff from 2011, but my glass of wine is almost empty and Brad Pitt is waiting for me in this Netflix envelope.  (Yes, I rejoined Netflix and I am spending my New Year’s Eve cozy on my couch at home with Brad Pitt.)

I am confident that 2012 will be even better than 2011. 2012 just sounds better than 2011 doesn’t it? At the very least, I am certain that I will continue to evolve and I will work hard at being patient and present.  2012…bring it on!

Balance

I mentioned a couple of posts back that my two words are “compassionate” and “give back”.  When I decided on those words, I was wondering if at least one word should be more selfish.  I am a pretty unselfish person, but this sometimes makes me VERY tired.

This weeks yoga class was so chock full of good stuff, I have something else to share with you.  The main theme of the class was this:

“If you are not in balance, giving can feel like sacrifice”

Ah!  Yes! This is why even though I do everything, that my boss and my entire team asks me to do all day long, I often feel like crap.  I really do like giving, and giving with a smile instead of a whine or a growl is definitely a more pleasant experience for everyone.

So what did I DO with these words of wisdom this week?

  1. I took an hour out of my workday yesterday to attend a Business Women’s Network meeting at my office It was not particularly insightful, but that was not the point.  I walked away from my desk for an hour in the middle of the day.  This pretty much never happens.
  2. I left work 30 minutes earlier than normal today and squeezed in a weekday run.  That has not happened in….a very long time.

Booya….balance!

Hitting the Mat

“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.” – Albert Einstein

So here is how this is going to work.

There will not be another blog post with a list of action items that I will reflect upon 6 months from now and then whine about when I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. Been there, done that, over it. I have action items in my head of course (it is a universal truth that nothing gets done with out them) but this obsessive list maker is not going to make a list.

The plan is to actually DO stuff, and if I feel like it, write about it.  I do like writing.  It’s therapeutic, it helps me feel connected to the world. If all goes well, you will see more posts about stuff that I actually DO.

Starting now.

Today, I left the house for my Sunday morning Yoga class.  My favorite yoga teacher in NYC  is back from maternity leave and I am SO happy to be reunited with her. Her classes are 1 1/2 hours of crazy (sometimes confusing) poses, being there for yourself, and thinking about what’s important.

If I had not gone to class today, I would not have heard this reading, which I loved.  Apparently it was inspired by a cocktail party where the author answered inane questions all night (read more about that and the author here).  I am sure I am breaking all kinds of copyright laws but including here.  If you continue on to read this, you have to agree to bail me out of copyright jail if necessary:

 “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

If I were a yoga teacher, could I just sit around and think about this stuff all day? Are yoga teachers happier than other people? Every yoga teacher I have ever met seems pretty darn happy.  Until I can figure out how to stand on my head without envisioning my neck breaking and balance in tree pose for more than 15 seconds, this is probably not in the cards for me, but I am going to do my best to hit the mat more often…as a gift to myself.