Deep Thoughts on In-Between Clothes

As I was gathering my laundry today I realized I need a better plan for my in-between clothes.  These are clothes that I might wear again before I do my laundry.  I have a fabulous  laundry hamper (pictured right.) It is well designed, sturdy,  attractive, and one of Oprah’s favorite things.  What you can’t see in this photo, is that it has a handle and wheels so I can roll it right down to the laundry room. My neighbors frequently ask about where they can acquire one. (Sadly, they are not longer available for sale!)

As fabulous as this laundry hamper is, I don’t want to put anything in it unless I am 100% certain that I will not wear it again before I do my laundry.  I could wear a pair of jeans many times before I wash them.  T-Shirts could get warn twice.  You get the drift.

But I also refuse to put clothing I have warn back in with my clean clothes.  Besides the fact that the clean clothes would be contaminated, I could forget to take them back out when I do my laundry!  When the laundry is done, I want every article of clothing in my house to be clean (except the laundry outfit unfortunately.)  A clean slate.  My heart sinks when I realize I forgot to put something in the wash.  Sometimes, I will actually hand wash it so I can have my clean slate :).

Because of these neuroses I have about the laundry, I have piles of in-between clothes on the floor in my room and on the floor of my closet.  Everything is out where I can see it, so I don’t forget to wash it and I know what I should wear again before I take out something new. It’s ridiculous.

So I started thinking today that maybe I have an idea for my first invention!  I have a problem that needs to be solved, I just have to come up with the perfect product to solve it and I can start my own business!  Finally, an idea!  Then I realized I might be the only human being on the planet who actually has this problem.

I would love to know if anyone out there has ever given this any thought so I can gauge exactly how neurotic I really am about my in-between laundry.  Please share…

I Couldn’t Help It

I was feeling naked without an official list of action items/goals for the year.  Last Spring I spent hours coming up with a mission statement, objectives, and SMART goals for 2010 (reviewed in this blog post.)

When 2011 started, I decided I did not want to spend lots of time coming up with specific measurable goals.  Since I was basically continuing my quest from 2010, I wanted to just get to it and not spend lots of time developing a new list.  My strategy was validated by this post on the Conventional Freedom Blog:  Take Your Smart Goals and Shove Em.

But now, I have much less pleasure when I actually accomplish something, because I have no list on which to check it off.  Let’s face it, I am a Penelope.  (Click here to learn what a Penelope is.  Love this blog.)

So I am going to keep it simple (the original plan was 5 but I am a Penelope so I have 10).  Here is my list:

  1. Seek out and take advantage of opportunities to interact with people that I might find interesting and enjoy spending time with
  2. Cultivate more relationships (platonic & romantic)
  3. Be open and take risks (personal & professional)
  4. Keep my TV watching to a minimum (10 hours or less) to make room in my brain/life for learning new things
  5. Read at least one book/month (alternating between fiction & non-fiction)
  6. Work out at least 3x/week including at least one Yoga workout (preferably at a Yoga studio)
  7. Meditate at least 3x/week
  8. Buy less stuff (not going full on minimalist, but dabbling)
  9. Join the board of a non-profit organization – DONE!!!
  10. Give away a higher % of my salary – DONE!!! (this comes along with #9)

I now feel much better because I can officially say that I have accomplished 2 of my 10 goals!  The remaining items are not all things I can “check off” but I can review the list weekly and ask myself if I am living these “principles.”  These are the actions that I think will help me live my best life and it just makes me feel better to have them on a list.  As January comes to a close, I can safely say that I doing well with most of them.  Go me!

Little Bee and The King’s Speech

I read an entire book this week.  It was a small book, only 288 pages, but I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I am retaining my (failed) goal from last year to read at least one book/month in 2011 and so far so good!

The book was Little Bee by Chris Cleve.  It came highly recommended by several women I traveled to Sicily with, so I was sadly disappointed when I did not completely love it.  Let me re-state. I LOVED the first 75% of it, but the last 25% was bad.  The dialogue went down hill, the characters started doing silly things, and the end was….a huge let down.

The book is about a 16 year old Nigerian girl and a well-to-do British couple who’s lives become intertwined due to a tragic event that alters all of their lives forever (of course).  The book alternates from being from told from the point of view of the 16 year old girl, Little Bee, and the wife of the British couple.

The perspective of Little Bee is well written (in a poetic voice that takes a few pages to get used to but  grows on you) and I loved the way he illustrated Little Bee’s perspective of England as a girl who grew up in a primitive Nigerian village but spent two years learning “the Queens English” in an immigration detention center.  There was great suspense and plot twists right up until 3/4 of the way through and then it just got weird.   One character entered the story that was completely unbelievable and the story just fell apart when lots of tings that made no sense started happening.  I can’t say more without giving it away, although I can’t imagine you would read it after my glowing review.

I also went to see The King’s Speech.  This is a movie I can recommend highly with no reservation.  Loved it.   True story (so I got a nice history lesson) about King George IV who was originally Prince Albert but took the name George when he became King (Albert was, apparently, not considered a cool King’s name.)   Prince Albert had a stammer (which I just learned from Wikipedia is a synonym for stuttering although Albert had more of a hesitation than what you would more commonly think of as a stutter) and he worked to overcome it with a speech therapist from Australia.  The movie is about the process of him overcoming this speech impediment and the friendship he develops with his speech therapist.  It is heartwarming and funny and deep and just a great flick.  Colin Firth is awesome, as always.  I also saw him recently in A Single Man, which I also really liked and he was also fabulous in that.  And he was of course in one of my favorite movies of all time, Love Actually.  I think he should be the King of England.  He rocks.

Crazy Pants

Do you have any words or phrases that you only use when you talk to yourself (silently, most of the time) and never say out loud to other people?

Crazy Pants is a new one I have been using in my head recently.  When someone I interact with does something a little weird or annoying, I call them a Crazy Pants in my head.  Let me illustrate.

The other night I was at a very nice women’s networking event for my business school with current students and alumnae.  One of my favorite things about the event was that is was structured (I LOVE structure, especially at a networking event.)

We all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves and each student was asked to pose 1-2 questions for the alums.  Then we broke for dinner and unstructured mingling (I spent that entire time chatting with a close friend I see all the time, which was kind of rude and I feel bad about it.) Then we got back together in a circle, the facilitator read off questions the students had posed,  and the alums could volunteer to answer.

This is where Crazy Pants ruined my evening.

During Q&A, she completely dominated the conversation and insisted on answering every question with LONG, annoying stories and not so wise advice.

For example, “Keep a sense of humor in business school.  A guy in my class was an alcoholic and got a job a Booze Allen.” (Maybe slightly amusing, but being an alcoholic is not really funny.  If knew someone who really was an an alcoholic, I would not be making jokes about them.)  Then she came up with 4 other examples of.”A person in my class was a X and got a job at X”.  It was bizarre.  It seemed like they were all made up and that she had been working on them for years.

There were a few other women who also dominated a bit too much but this one was the worst.  She was a Crazy Pants and my description does not even do her justice. I am still annoyed after three days.  I have actually been in a bad mood since I left that event and I blame Crazy Pants.  Perhaps, venting on the internet will help.

If another good Crazy Pants story comes up I will share it with you.  It won’t be with this person because I will run if I ever see her coming my way, but I live in NYC and we have a lot of Crazy Pants here!

The Thin Line Between Fear and Disinterest

Since I wrote about tackling that last duck, I have been doing a lot of thinking about exactly how I will “get out there” and I find myself asking the same questions I have asked myself in the past.

What things am I avoiding, that I might actually enjoy if I get over my nervousness about it, and what things do I really just not have interest in?  Should I force myself to do things I am not really interested in if there is a chance to meet interesting people?  Am I trying hard enough?  Then I get all tangled up and I am sometimes not even sure what I am interested in.

Today, I realized I am in a much better place to answer those questions than I have been in the past.

I was thinking this morning that my calendar for the foreseeable future is blank.  I am in job limbo and not really sure what my next job will be and when it will start.  I have no vacations planned and almost no social events on my calendar.   In the past, this circumstance would leave me feeling down, stressed, and thinking “I have nothing to look forward to.”  Today, I am feeling completely OK with this.  It feels like a blank slate and I am kind of going day to day.  I am confident that I will make the right choices when they are presented to me and that the future will unfold the way it is supposed to.  As I write these words I am verklempt thinking about how far I have come to be this new person.  I think a little Yoga, even less meditation, and a lot of therapy has gotten me here. (Unlikely the itty bits of meditation have contributed but I will keep plugging away at that.)

To reinforce this feeling (of being a new person and overall more content), I also got a couple of comments on my last post reminding me that my 2010 goals really did get me out there more and I am totally on the right track.  I leave my house to do Yoga.  For 8 years I did yoga in my living room.  Sure there are only artsy tattooed women and gay men there, but I am out!  I threw a happy hour.  Huge!  I cooked dinner for my neighbors this week.  This is an example of something I was avoiding because I was nervous and it turned out wonderfully and was kind of fun!

I am going to stop beating myself up for not going on more walking tours, not joining a running club, and not attending singles events disguised as ways to make new friends.  These are not things I want to do.  If I purchase a non fiction book on a topic and actually read it, I am interested, and I might find something in the world to do related to that topic.  If an activity has actually crossed my mind 5-10 times, I am interested (i.e. hip hop dance class and indoor rock climbing, seriously.)  I am not going to let other people tell me what I should and should not do to meet men (and I assure you that everyone has an opinion on this.)

I am going to trust myself to distinguish between fear and disinterest (I might meditate on it if I am not completely sure), and will keep moving down the path I have put myself on.   If you build it, he will come.  And if he doesn’t, I have my TiVo, my Kindle, lots of wonderful friends and family members, and the greatest city in the world to keep me company (unless of course I move to Cambridge where I hear there are lots of fabulous bald men wandering around.)  Bring it on.

The Last Duck

I have been pondering my 2011 Goal Setting exercise and here is the deal.  In 2010, I got a lot of ducks in a row.   Health is good.  Finances are in order.   Job situation looks good (although that could change lets assume that duck is aligned at the moment.)  Started lots of good stuff in 2010: more Yoga, meditation, less TV, more reading, volunteer work, non-profit connections, and some slow cooking!

There is really only one duck that need serious attention in 2011.  The dating/relationship duck.  Instead of making a list of nice-to-have goals, I am going to put all of my focus on finding a human being (specifically, a man) that I want to share my life with.  I am very grateful that all of the other ducks are accounted for at this time, which means I have no more excuses.

People say “just live your life and love will come.”  Not the way I live my life.  I am a horrible dater.  And when I say horrible, I mean I avoid it at all costs. I am just not good at putting myself out there.  Human connection can be disappointing.  (My TiVo, on the other hand, rarely lets me down.)

My conscious mind knows that human connection can also be fabulous and fun but the subconscious is much more powerful and mine is typically focused on the potential negative outcomes. As a result, when I am out and about with strangers, I send off a vibe of “don’t talk to me because I don’t feel like dealing with the fact that human connection is often disappointing” (although I would like to think it appears to the masses that I am just too cool.)

For those who don’t know me, I assure you, I am socially ept.  I have lots of friends and I am not a hermit.  I am attractive, smart, funny (and usually more modest.)  I just get in my own way when it comes to finding love.

This is the big enchilada.  The final fear that needs to be conquered (well not probably not the final fear, but it’s a big one.)  How the heck am I going to do it?

a) I have to keep making a concerted effort to get out there.  And “out there” has to be places where people that I might connect with will actually be.  I have not quite figured out where single, intelligent late 30s/early 40s men who don’t drink excessively and share my compassion for the world are hanging out, but I will keep looking.

b) When I am out there, I have to change my vibe to “I really want to meet you and I am so fabulous that you definitely want to meet me.”

c) Just the vibe probably won’t cut it.  I guess I have to take the initiative to actually speak to people.

I have been saying these things for years.  I edge myself out every once in a while and then find a million excuses to my head back in the turtle shell.  I am going to put all of my energy in to it this time and I just believe that the universe will send me something good in return.  I will do things I have done before but try to bring this new vibe in to the mix.  I will try new stuff and most importantly, try really hard not to avoid the stuff that scares the be-jesus out of me.

Hopefully, this time next year (or sooner would be nice), I will be talking about how I conquered this last duck.  And you will probably get updates along the way.

Pulling the Plug

What I did not mention yesterday (in my post about getting out and doing scary stuff) was that while I was writing that post, I was supposed to be headed to the airport for a business trip to Istanbul.  Here is why that did not happen.

I woke up yesterday with what felt like, the beginning of a cold.  I had been feeling run down for days and has a very busy week. I am a wimp about being sick, I am a wimp about travel, and there was almost no business reason for me to take this trip.  (It was a boondoggle with a full day of sightseeing planned and only two scheduled meetings. And did I mention it is a 10 hour flight and you have to wear suits to the office there)  I made the mistake of Googling “flying with a cold” and found lots of evidence that supported my desire not make the trip.

I was well aware that my anxiety about going to a new country could have been feeding my symptoms, but the thought of my ear drums exploding on the plane, developing a sinus infection in an emerging country, and potentially spending 5 days holed up at the Istanbul Marriott trying to order chicken soup and orange juice from room service, consumed my brain.  I also thought about all of the things I could do with the two full travel days and jet lag adjustment time I would get back!  (I am the master of excuses) I decided to cancel the trip and stay grounded in NYC.  Then I wrote the hypocritical Fraidy Cat blog post and hoped that I would get really sick to validate my decision.

Imagine my disappointment when I woke up this morning with only mildly annoying sinus symptoms and not a full blown cold.  Of course, things might have been worse if I had hauled myself to the airport and gotten on the plane instead of blogging, and catching up on In Treatment (which was awesome by the way!)  But overall, I felt like I screwed up and failed my first Fraidy Cat test.  I should have just rallied and gone to Istanbul to see the Blue Mosque.

I had a very productive day today, but I am still feeling like I have to turn this lemon in to lemonade.  I had an idea a couple of weeks ago that if I could refrain from watching TV for a WHOLE WEEK, I could get a lot accomplished.  The sheer boredom could drive me to break right out of my shell and do stuff I would not normally do  (or drive me to drink.)

I think the only way to recover from this wimpy decision is to take on the one week television ban THIS WEEK.   This is a particularly bad week since I have nothing on my social calendar (because I was supposed to be in Turkey) and there are some big TV finales this week (The Walking Dead, In Treatment, Boardwalk Empire) but the punishment fits the crime.  I am feeling slightly panicked at the thought of it, but as soon as I hit “Publish,” it is set in stone and I am committed to it.  Sunday – Saturday.  No TV OR MOVIES.  Reading, thinking, exercising,  listening to music or NPR, interacting with other human beings.  (Going out the movies would be OK)

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted!

How’s the Meditation Going, You Ask?

The day after my last post on this topic, I sat for 10 minutes as planned.  The next day I had an early morning work meeting and lost traction.  Then it was the weekend and I forgot.  Then I remembered and decided I should wait until I read this book that was recommended to me “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn .

I downloaded the book to my Kindle and read it on the plane to and from my Thanksgiving holiday in Kentucky.  It’s a good book.  It is hard to stay awake when you are reading a book about mindfulness, but I did get through it and learned some neat stuff.  One thing I learned is that I am a pretty mindful person already.  I have some work to do, sure, but I am not your average Jane bopping around totally unaware.  Jon Kabat-Zinn does think meditation can help me “be all I can be” which is what I am striving for, so I will stick with it.  Here is a quote that makes me think this is so:

“…by investigating inwardly our own nature as beings and particularly, the nature of our own minds, through careful and systematic self-observation, we may be able to live lives of greater satisfaction, harmony, and wisdom” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sounds good right?  I am not completely sure how the benefits of meditation and therapy are different, besides the fact that meditation is FREE!  I will have to investigate the other differences.  Jon Kabat-Zinn also recommends “meditating without advertising it.” He says instead of talking about it, just go do it.  Excellent point.

But before I stop talking about it, I will tell you that I did sit the past two days for 10 minutes each and my mind did not stop for one second.  (Boy, I wish I had coffee.  Should I have left the light off?  My apartment is so much quieter now that they built that building in front of my window.  I am so uncomfortable.  What should I get my mom for Christmas? It’s OK, just watch the thoughts float away in little bubbles.  I wonder if it is OK to picture little bubbles?)

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (I do love that name!), it could be years before I am able to really quiet my mind.  That is a really long time!  Clearly, I won’t be able to achieve this goal until I have a comfy meditation pillow.

Reflecting on my 2010 Goals

I was reading a post last week on one of my favorite new blogs (Christa in New York) about 2011 planning.  My first thought was “Is she crazy? It is WAY too early for 2011 planning!” but it did get me thinking about the 2010 goals I set earlier this year.

I drafted these 2010 goals last March when I was recovering from some serious health issues and had just landed a less stressful job with less travel. (The actual document is displayed to the right)

I went for the whole enchilada.  I started with a personal mission statement, drafted some longer-term (5 year) objectives, and then set some S-M-A-R-T goals for 2010.  S-M-A-R-T goals are one of the few things I remember from b-school (but not that well because I had to Google them to remember exactly what the letters stand for)  Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.

As we review these 2010 goals together, you will see that I failed in achieving half of them, but I am still pretty pleased with what I have accomplished.

Mission Statement: To enhance my overall happiness by making my life bigger. – this could be written more eloquently, but you get the gist.

Objectives (5 year time line):

    1. Find a life partnernot even close (I have been on 1 date in 2010)
    2. Be a momnot even close (not doing this without #1)
    3. Spend time on charitable workmaking progress!
    4. Learn more about the worldI will have two international trips under my belt by the end of the year.  I have read the NY Times on my new iPhone app more in the past 6 months than in the past 6 years and I have learned  a lot about blogs!  Making progress!
    5. Quiet my mindbarely making progress.
    6. Rebuild and sustain my physical health (i.e. exercise)Rebuild post surgery and 6 months of hellish health issues SUCCESS!
    7. Reduce my consumption of processed food I think I only had Doritos for dinner a couple of times since March and I have switched from Mini Oreos to Annie’s All Natural Bunny Graham Friends.  SUCCESS!  (This objective will get the boot in 2011. I eat better than 95% of the population of the United States.  I have bigger fish to fry.)

2010 S-M-A-R-T Goals

    1. Spend at least 3 nights/week out of the house pretty sure this is a FAIL! (More like 1-2 nights/week.  I am a homebody, so this is a tough nut to crack, but necessary for objective #1.)
    2. Reduce dedicated television watching to 10 hours/weekSUCCESS!
    3. Work out at least 4 days/week technically FAIL (BUT I work out 2-3 days/week and walk a lot.  If my pants are tight, I work out more.  This works for me.)
    4. Attend a beginner meditation training courseSUCCESS!
    5. Spend time every day meditating (After completing the training course)Ummm…FAIL (two days last week, twice over the summer, and I have downloaded a meditation book to my Kindle that I have not read yet)
    6. Read 1 book/month FAIL (But I have read one book almost every other month and I now have this cool Kindle that I still have not used, except to download books)
    7. Run 1 10K in 2010 FAIL (I really just wanted to get back in shape, which I did.   As long as I get my but on the treadmill a couple of times a week and force myself to stay there for 30 minutes, I am happy.)
    8. Become a board member of a non-profit (when I find one I like)I went to some board recruitment fairs but have not found anything I am really passionate about yet.  This should clearly be a long term objective
    9. Become a Student Sponsor Partner SUCCESS!!
    10. Do not work on weekends unless specifically asked SUCCESS!! This may sound like a crazy thing to need for a goal, but in 2009 I worked almost every weekend.   It sucked.
    11. Cook at least one meal from scratch every week (salad does not count)FAIL!! I really don’t like to cook and I live in NYC and have a well-paying job.  This was a silly goal.
    12. Take at least one vacation in 2010 (away from NYC)SUCCESS!!

So the way I see it, the fact that I actually drafted TWELVE 2010 goals on paper makes me automatically kind of awesome.  I actually achieved 5 of the 12 goals and half-achieved a couple more.  Most of the rest are not necessary for my overall happiness.  I do feel happier than I did when I set these goals and my life feels bigger (and not just because I talk about it on the internet!)  But there is clearly still some work needed on the most important objectives where I have made zero progress.  I will leave you in suspense for a while but look forward to a long 2011 goal-setting post before the end of the year!

The Walking Dead and In Treatment

The only thing these two shows have in common is that they have both been added to my TV watching repertoire.  I have actually lost interest in a lot of shows and I fell way behind on vacation.  This is all good news for my TVaholic recovery.  But, now I have two new shows that I like, so lets discuss.

Paul (The Therapist)

In Treatment is an old favorite, now in season three.  I have been in therapy myself forever and I am super interested in how people feel and what they think, so this show is right up my alley.  It is not realistic of course. (My therapist hates it.)  In reality it takes years and years to get to the stuff they get to in 30 minutes but that would be REALLY boring to watch.  I find Paul, the therapist, annoying, but that is realistic. It’s impossible not to find your therapist annoying because all they want to talk about is the stuff you don’t want to deal with.  This season I am hanging out with Paul (even though his is annoying), Sunil (a sad man who had to leave India after his wife died and move in with his son and American/bitch daughter-in-law), Frances (Debra Winger playing an actress who’s dying sister who used to be Paul’s patient), Jesse (a gay adopted promiscuous teenager with a variety of issues), and Paul’s new awesome super smart therapist Adele.  They are quite a messed up bunch and by week two I was fully committed to sticking around to see how they all end up.

So after a couple of hours being inside a bunch of sad people’s brains, I am ready for The Walking Dead.  This show is fun.  It is creepy and suspenseful and requires pretty much no thought.  There are a lot of unanswered questions though. Like how did most of the world turn in to zombies while the lead character (“Officer Friendly”) was in a coma.  And what the heck is a zombie?  They are dead but constantly walking around and desperately want to eat people and animals.  If I were dead, I am pretty sure would want to just chill.   I like my Sci Fi, but I need SOME explanation.  Fringe always has some made up scientific mumbo jumbo that I can buy in to.  No Ordinary Family fell in some magical water in Brazil, good enough for me!  The people on The Event came from outer space, so of course they have special powers.  Just give me some explanation, I will buy it.  Clearly, leaving us hanging is part of the plan and they are keeping us well entertained while we wait.  This week we got to see Officer Friendly and his new little side kick cover themselves in zombie guts to walk among the zombies undetected to find transportation.  Now, how is Officer Friendly smart enough to think of that disgusting plan but NOT be aware that his wife was (and still is) sleeping with his partner?  He is going to need a couple of sessions with Paul when he finds out about those two!