Motivation & Focus

My brain? Nope, it’s my motivation and ability to focus!

I’m sitting here at my desk without any paid writing to do (yet), wondering why I can’t convince myself to just start writing—all the fun, funny, cool things I think about writing when I’m on a walk, in the shower, or driving (with 2 hands on the wheel). You know, doing that thing I really, really want to do: write for myself. Trying to get published—a personal essay, maybe a short story.

Motivation is my weakness. I need the force of a deadline. A mission. The dangle of a paycheck carrot. Can it really be that difficult to sit down and get focused and churn out a something-anything project? Even my block of the month quilt sits a couple months behind schedule.

Let’s look at today. What have I done? I took my kids to their grandparents’ house for the day because today is one of my workdays. I came home and thumbed around on my phone for the 15 minutes that I always do. Then, I did, to my credit, finish my daughter’s pre-school registration paperwork and figured out when I can turn it in, which happens to not be today.

I cleaned out my email inbox. I took it from 873 unread emails to a respectable 366 unread emails. I couldn’t count how many read emails I deleted, but I’m almost positive it was a lot.

I replied to my brother’s email. That takes some time, because not only do I like to respond to what he has written, but I like to tell him some things that are happening in my life. Important things like how I can construe the light left on overnight in my basement as maybe, possibly, most likely a spirit or energy or life force or sign from the universe. Maybe.

Oh, I almost forgot that before I cleaned out my email inbox, I shredded documents. I’m kind of particular about just recycling a piece of junk mail that has my name and address. But, also, I like to shred confidential stuff. This ranges from copy I’ve printed out for clients (because sometimes I have to just touch it and write on it with a pencil) (and, yes, I do shred client work) to old bills. For some reason, I don’t want anyone who’s walking past my house on trash/recycle day to see how much we paid for water last month. And, sometimes the wind blows and the recycle bin has an open top.

A new task that spawned from my shredding was calling up AAA and requesting that they take my address off their mailing list. I sat there with 4 envelopes of the same offer—about half were for me, the other half for my husband. Have you seen their direct mail? It kind of makes me want to gag with all the fakey handwritten “notes.” But, you know what? The representative I talked to when I selected the number for membership questions was so polite! He completely understood my request. He didn’t try pushing anything—even in a passive-aggressive way (“But then we can’t send you our very best offers! You’re missing out!”). He just asked for my address, told me he removed it, and then explained that if any offers were already in the mail, I’d obviously still receive them. Funny, because since he was so polite and helpful, I’m wondering if I maybe SHOULD buy some type of service from AAA. Just joking. Maybe.

I read a piece in the last issue of Real Simple that I’ve been wanting to read. And, to get to that issue, I had to tidy up a stack of this and that, which was at least 2” thick. I’d be more specific about the stack like, “a pile on my desk” or “clutter on my counter,” but the reality is, it was in my office sitting on a plastic crate positioned on its side. Oh, like on the floor, you’re probably thinking. That’s cool, like a crate shelf. Well, no. Not really, because actually the crate is sitting on top of a small plastic bin of fabric.

I’m pretty sure in that bin is a plain white t-shirt that I have plans to sew a patterned chest pocket onto. It’s going to be really low-key chic—perhaps Nina Garcia or Kate Spade would take note. The pocket fabric is this groovy yellow paisley. White t-shirt—pop—yellow pocket! My husband still hasn’t noticed his almost-new white tee missing! Although, he might after he reads this!

See? I have plenty on my to-do list and my want-to-do list, but instead I’m tidying up mysterious piles of paper and whatnot, talking to customer service reps, and thinking about how I should buy more white t-shirts for my husband…and maybe myself because this whole contrasting frocket (front pocket, people) thing could really take off and I’ll need more. Once I get the first one sewn on, that is.

Don’t worry, keeping you up to date is on my list.

Cleaning House

Housebroken: Admissions of an Untidy Life by Laurie Notaro

I’ve read Laurie Notaro’s work before and enjoyed it, so I picked this one up at the library when I saw it. I’m not even 50 pages in and I’ve decided that Laurie and I are soulmates when it comes to cleaning.

Here’s what makes me think this:

You can make an unannounced stopover at any of their [her sisters’ and mom’s] houses and it would be all right. They’d even let you in. They might feed you cake. But you’re not coming into my house if you don’t give me twenty-four hours’ notice and make a reservation first. And you sure as shit aren’t getting cake, because that isn’t enough time for me to clean my kitchen and make it.

Same here. Same here! Our reasoning is the same, too.

I know why I am not tidy. It took reading that compact, perfect little book* to find out. It’s because I HATE it.

There are probably a million other things I would much rather do than wipe down counters or vacuum. Seriously. I’m just glad I’m not the only one.

*I assume this is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, although Notaro doesn’t say it.


Pineapple Obsession Confession

Pineapple-Inspired Shoes. The toes are more like monstera leaves than a pineapple crown.

I have something to tell you. A few weeks ago, it came to my attention that I like pineapples, as in, pineapple motifs. I was browsing a store and came across this shelf:

Shelf of Pineapple Decor

I mean, these are pretty eye-catching and fabulous. It’s hard to resist. (Although, resist I did. Pineapple decor just isn’t in my budget–yet.)

Then, I was at the grocery store and bought this:

A Bona Fide Pineapple

If you must know, it was delicious.

As I was contemplating the ga-ga feeling I was getting at the site of this crowned fruit, I remembered the shoes above. I’ve had them for at least 2 years. It’s just that when I purchased them, I didn’t necessarily like them because they looked like pineapples, but because they were a visual trick.

As most things go, once you start looking for something, you’ll find it. Lots of it. Behold! All of the pineapples I’ve seen since I saw that brassy beauty!

Back-to-School Spiral-Bound Notebook
Modern meets prep, again in the back-to-school section.

My goodness! That one that is cut in half! I may have to go back for these. A writer always needs notebooks, right?

Pom-pom Pineapple Towel

I’d be tempted to buy this clearance towel, but I can tell it wouldn’t be a good towel and I don’t have the crafting time to sew it up into something more useful.

Gasp! Blue! That golden crown!

I love the texture of this one.

A different type of edible pineapple!

These are stinkin’ adorable. They probably don’t taste great, though, like, worse than Runts. I should keep a tiny glass vial of them on my desk for giggles.

Not a Pineapple

And then I saw this. Goodness, I love it! I used to have a few real cacti and succulents. But, they’re kinda hard to keep and I don’t want prickles around my young kids. A new obsession may be starting.

Pair of Quotes

Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves.

-Arianna Huffington, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Despite its bad reputation, gossip plays an important social role by reinforcing community values: it makes people feel closer to each other, it unifies people who play by the rules, it helps people get a sense of the values of their community, and it exposes the misbehavior of those who cheat on their spouses, don’t return phone calls, or take credit for other’s work.

-Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

In my memory, these were conflicting quotes, that the first denied we are ever the topic of others’ conversations. But, it only says that what people say about us isn’t as bad as we think it is. That is, people are still talking about you.

My experience confirms that people are talking. I’ve been privy to and (regretfully) a participant in enough gossipy conversations to know that, yes, people will talk about your rude, confusing or frustrating behavior.

Early on in my working life (I was probably about 19 years old), I realized that complaining about co-workers to other co-workers was more draining than encouraging. So, I tried to make it a point not to engage in these discussions. Emphasis on “try”, because I’m a human. Gossip is delicious. I’ve been frustrated with co-workers and tried to make sense of what was happening by talking about it.

In general, though, I remind myself that everyone is human. A person might be stressed by something that isn’t visible. I encourage positive reinforcement—when a co-worker does something outstanding to help me, I try to praise them in a way that their manager will notice (great for performance review time). I try to not participate in those juicy conversations. And, I do my best and try to be kind to others even when I really don’t feel like it. My purpose is to be kind, but also so that I can keep my time as the topic of gossip to a minimum. I have no delusions that my name has come up. That blunders I’ve made, my annoying quirks and professional weaknesses have all been discussed. Maybe some eyes have rolled at the mention of my name. But, I don’t worry too much about it (except that I’m writing about it here—ha!), because we’ll all have our turn. So, when the topic comes up, why don’t we extend grace, human understanding, compassion?

3 Piles of Clothes: The Organization of My Closet

My closet can be broken down into three categories. Three metaphorical piles. Maaaaaybe literal piles. I won’t show you the inside of my closet.

The first pile is clothes I can wear now. At my current weight and shape. Which, is about 15 pounds over what I’d like to be and what I would consider to be sustainable. This is where I was at when I got pregnant with my first kid.

The second pile is sequestered into a large plastic multi-gallon tub. It holds clothes I could wear at the minus 15 pounds. A high, yet still single-digit size. Fitted shirts. The ones that come in towards the waist and then flair out slightly because, hello, hips. They don’t fit anymore because “love handles” have made themselves comfortable atop my hips.

The third pile is trophy clothes. When I first started jogging, I unexpectedly lost about 20 pounds. (I didn’t know that I had that much to lose, but I did.) These are clothes in the smallest sizes I’ve ever fit into in my entire adult life. I wore them for a blink of the eye before my body plateaued and I gained back 10 pounds. Because, I started jogging for the challenge of it, not to lose weight. My eating habits remained the same, which included homebaked cookies, brownies and other treats at both lunch and dinner. Plus, the occasional late morning and afternoon snacking on chocolate candies: Hershey’s Kisses, M&M’s, Mini Cadbury Eggs (Easter candies are my weakness).

I refuse to spend much money on clothes that will fall into the first pile. This size, this shape is simply a rest stop. It’s not my final destination, so why spend good money on clothes that in my dreams will only be worn for one more month? Two more months? Six months? Six years? I don’t know. I don’t want to be this size. I don’t like being this size. I wish that my robust second pile of clothes fit, because I like those clothes better. I like the styles and colors better.

I’m willing to spend money on clothes for the second pile—when I finally get back to fitting into these garments. Because, I like that size. I like the version of me that has the time to exercise—to exert myself enough 3-4 times a week to melt off those lunch cookies. I like the version of me who has the time to plan out lunches and dinners. This version isn’t starved. This version is satiated, yet isn’t seeing the scale creep up, pants aren’t getting tighter in the calves and thighs and waist.

I’ve come to accept that the third pile, the collection of trophy clothes will probably never be expanded. That’s okay. That size was a weird blip in my personal history. Maybe a mistake. I was never supposed to be there. My body was so shocked and outraged with my new jogging habits that it threw itself into survival mode. But, when it figured out that it was going to be okay, that it could indeed overcome the running and put back on some of the weight, it did. They’re ribbons and medals proudly displaying that I did it. I’ve been there. I don’t need to go back, because I have my souvenir.

So, I dress in limbo. In clothes I don’t like because I’m not willing to spend money on them. And, it doesn’t really cost that much to look decent. To look kempt. Like you put some thought into your appearance.

Because I never meant to lose weight in the first place, I don’t know how to lose it again. I tell myself over and over again that I don’t want to focus on a number or fitting back into glory outfits. I tell myself over and over again that it’s about going back to exercising 3-4 times a week. That’s my goal. I want to pound pavement. And sweat. And hike snowy trails. But, my day-to-day is different. I have difficulty justifying the time. It’s hard to be motivated to jog instead of just walking. So, I exercise in limbo. In years-old workout pants and shirts with elastane that is being tested by the extra volume and redefined shape.

They say to talk to yourself as if you were your own friend. You’d never be as harsh to a friend as you are to yourself. If I was my friend, I’d say: First, you’re not doing that bad. You’ve had a lot of changes in the last few years. Do what you can. Walking is better than nothing. Cut yourself some slack.