For the month of January, I’ve committed to posting every day, having accepted the 30-day challenge.
This is day 9 of 30.

 

half-life

That’s the technical definition of a half-life and unless you spend a lot of time in either a high school science class or are employed in a lab you probably think of it (if you think of it at all) as the amount of time some medication will be in your body after you stop taking it. Some medications you take and POOF! they’re gone. Others? They like to make themselves at home and stay awhile, like unwanted relatives who seemingly moved into your spare bedroom without asking.

One day I started thinking about it, though and came to the conclusion that habits also have a half-life of their own sort, you know? You stop doing the bad thing (skipping training to binge-watch CSI) (for example) (I would never do this), but even though the behavior is gone, some part of it — the part that draws you in when you least expect it — lives on inside your head for far longer. It’s really a pain in the ass, amiright?

It’s like saying I’m not going to have cookies, not buying cookies, not having them in the house, but still opening up the cabinet where the cookies would be stored approximately 129 times a day hoping that they magically appear.

You just never know, right? Perhaps they’re hiding? That habit, despite not feeding it (figuratively or literally), is still a part of you.

And that’s what makes bad habits so hard to kick, I think. Long after you’ve quit the behavior, the triggers and desire still exist. You never completely wipe the slate clean, it seems — there’s always some residue of your former lifestyle there, obstinately immune from being cleaned off the chalkboard of your brain.

Of course, some habits are hardier than others; I was off Diet Pepsi for almost a year (though I don’t necessarily consider it a bad habit, to be honest) but then I had one, then another and before I knew it, I had Diet Pepsi stocked in the refrigerator. It’s like somewhere deep in the primordial part of my brain there’s a file called “I love Diet Pepsi” and it never gets shredded and discarded and just waits for someone to come looking for it again.

How do you get around this? How do you truly change when the old behavior is so ingrained and satisfying and never seems to completely go away?

I’m not entirely sure, to be honest. Maybe it’s luck. Maybe it’s taking the pain to really analyze and fully understand why the old habit has to go. Perhaps it’s just a matter of acknowledging the remnant of the habit and coming to terms with the slightly uneasy feeling of having the enemy living inside, constantly on the look out for it coming back to life.

I know what will help: being mindful of goals and aggressively noting how the new habit makes you feel better, writing up a mental comparative essay of the old and new habit. What else? Do as much as possible to cleanse your body and brain of the old habit. Eliminate old habit triggers and instead try and replace them with triggers for the new, desired behavior. Simple, but not easy.

But in the end, I almost think you just have to outlive it. Just keep on keepin’ on until the old habit is no longer a part of your DNA. It’ll happen eventually, right?


For the month of January, I’ve committed to posting every day, having accepted the 30-day challenge.
This is day 7 of 30.

 

All throughout December, between holidays and using up those last few vacation days, I didn’t work anything more than a 4-day week. And a handful of those working days I did from home, which isn’t a vacation but at least is a break from the commute.

This week? It’s back to the grind. And boy, am I feeling it. I’m not sure if it’s just the backlash from shoving myself back into the box of routine or if I’m coming down with some sort of virus (certainly not the flu, since I did get my flu shot), but I’m exhausted and feeling all weird and out of sorts.

So, a very heart Thank God It’s Friday from me.

And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite weekend songs:


For the month of January, I’ve committed to posting every day, having accepted the 30-day challenge.
This is day 7 of 30.

Just a short vignette for today — something I forgot to put in my race report from the other day that absolutely deserves to be memorialized.

An 11am start would normally mean not being in a rush, but I opted to sleep in and was laid back to the point of running late (though, for what it’s worth, my late is most people’s 30 minutes early). My eye caught the digital clock on the microwave changing over to 9am and with a start, my built-in, can’t-change-it sense of scheduling kicked into gear and I knew I had to leave. Like, NOW.

I hurriedly took Belle out for a quick walk, came back in, grabbed a Diet Pepsi and then scanned the refrigerator for something to eat since my stomach was already growling and I still had 4 hours before I’d be eating anything else. Because of the holidays, there wasn’t much in the “grab and go” category available, but then my gaze landed on the perfect pre-race meal: cold pizza.

Having no other options, I grabbed a slice and headed out in my little Mazda. It’s 9am on New Year’s Day and I’m sitting at a stop light, bundled up, eating my pizza and bopping around to the music on the radio (or shivering from the cold … it’s all kind of the same thing). Because it’s a double turn lane, I checked to my left to see if there was another car there — and there is. A lovely older woman in the passenger seat saw me, this HUGE smile on her face, mimed eating and then gave me two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Confirmation of an awesome choice.

That totally made my morning. What a great way to start out the year, right?


For the month of January, I’ve committed to posting every day, having accepted the 30-day challenge made by Sarah Peck

 

For the 30-day writing challenge, Sarah Peck also provides some writing prompts in case the words aren’t flowing as they should. While I hadn’t been using them, the one that popped up the other day piqued my interest and I decided to run with it:

Write a list of 50 things I feel good about

50

  1. Seeing the moon when I walk Belle at o’dark thirty in the morning.
  2. Being able to help people with computer problems.
  3. Falling asleep right away.
  4. Waking up without an alarm.
  5. Butterscotch hard candy.
  6. When the perfect song comes on to motivate me as I’m trying desperately to finish off a session on the treadmill.
  7. Chatty emails just to say “hi”.
  8. Sushi.
  9. Heated seats in the car on a cold day.
  10. A text from someone that makes you smile.
  11. Co-workers that make you laugh.
  12. That first sip of Diet Pepsi in the morning.
  13. Prepping food on the weekend so I have healthy choices during the week.
  14. The little kindnesses we all give and receive every day, from letting someone merge in front of you to having a door held as you walk through.
  15. My little Mazda3.
  16. Figuring out a tough problem at work.
  17. A freshly-baked donut.
  18. Cooking dinner with a friend.
  19. Seeing a movie that makes you laugh as hard as it makes you cry.
  20. Packages that arrive in the mail (thank you, Amazon!).
  21. That first Spring-like day after a season of winter.
  22. Marking a new habit as “Done” for the day.
  23. Publishing a blog post.
  24. Getting the perfect sunset picture.
  25. A mountain trail that winds through aspen trees.
  26. Going downhill on a mountain bike.
  27. Getting your best time on a race.
  28. The smell of a newly opened can of tennis balls.
  29. Getting alcohol intake just right … not too little so that I fall asleep, not too much so that I fall asleep. Hmm.
  30. Not having my phone ring while at work.
  31. Taking a trip to a place I’ve never been.
  32. Having dinner with my family.
  33. Playing cards after dinner.
  34. The rare times when Belle actually WANTS to go for a walk.
  35. Going for a run and allowing my mind to wander.
  36. Occasional binge-watching of some program on Amazon Prime.
  37. Going into the cupboard to find that there’s a cookie left, even though I had lost hope of that being the case.
  38. Firefly Creative Writing workshops!
  39. Watching Belle play fetch — she’s so enthusiastic!
  40. The first snowfall of the year.
  41. Guessing the fastest moving lane at the grocery store.
  42. Climbing a mountain and enjoying the view from the peak.
  43. Hearing someone sing a song that gives me goose flesh it’s so good.
  44. Being out with friends and laughing so much my stomach hurts.
  45. Driving down the highway, windows down, radio blasting.
  46. Going out for a hike and seeing wildlife.
  47. Sitting in my chair, feet up, Belle snuggled on my lap.
  48. Turning on my cell phone after having been on a plane and having text messages from friends come in.
  49. Keeping a plant alive for longer than about two weeks.
  50. Coming home and having Belle greet me like I’m the best person in the entire world, bar none.

 


For the month of January, I’ve committed to posting every day, having accepted the 30-day challenge made by Sarah Peck

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these posts, but my podcast subscription list just gets longer and longer. I listen to them oldest to newest, and right now I’m only about a month behind. Yes – “only”. On the rare occasion when I’m listening to a podcast that was released in the same month that I’m listening to it? Amazing!

Here’s more of my favorites that you may or may not know about:

mothlogo_normalThe Moth Podcast A collection of real life stories told live on stage, some funny, some poignant, some utterly indescribable. One of my very favorite stories is called Screaming Meemies — one of the hilarious examples. You never know what you’re going to get, but there’s hardly ever a dud among them.

logo-v5This American Life A classic. If you haven’t yet heard of Ira Glass and This American Life, then you’ve been seriously out of the loop. Every episode is phenomenal, but Act One of this episode (Overboard (you can start around 2:15 of the playback)) is one of my favorites.

header-logoUndisclosed Have you followed Serial, the #1 podcast in the entire universe? Did it leave you unsatisfied and looking for more? Well, here is the more. Undisclosed is a podcast with three lawyers, one of whom is related to Adnan Syed, and they tear apart the case, leaving very few questions unanswered. It’s a good way to fill in the gaps that Serial left you with.

DSM_squareDeath, Sex & Money Host Anna Sale is as wonderful an interviewer as Terry Gross — and that’s saying something. She covers the topics that we all think about, but rarely talk about and that makes for really interesting conversation. Take this recent episode: while most shows do not feature well-known people, this interview of Holland Taylor (I knew her best as the Mom on Two and a Half Men) was spectacular. In-depth and charming, I loved this from start to finish.

What are you listening to these days? Any recommendations to add to my list?

 

 

 

 

And yada yada yada, while I’m at it.

There’s this surge of “I’M CHANGING EVERYTHING!!!” attitude that seems to permeate all forms of media this time of year. I suppose with my resolutions and whatnot, I’m no different (except that I am … I’m a special flower, remember?).

The well-known thing about resolutions, though, is that they don’t stick. Depending on what pop-culture article you read, anywhere from 90% to 95% of the resoluters (it’s a word) will abandon their plans to make their lives the most awesomest (this is a word too) thing ever by around March 1st. But sometimes — at least 5% to 10% of the people can attest to this — those changes last. They become just a part of life. A more awesome life, for sure, but just a part of life. Habit. Old hat. Another one of those things like walking or driving that you don’t even think about, you just do it unconsciously.

So what’s the difference? Why does it work sometimes and not other times? Or with some people and not others? Hell if I know. Who do you think I am? Some sort of sciency, wisdomy scholar type? I think not.

But here’s my theory: I think that for every habit you want to break or change or adopt, there’s some internal wall your brain has got to hit that forces the response of “no more — things need to be different now”. Some might call it “hitting rock bottom” but I don’t think it’s nearly that dramatic (although, I suppose it can be). I think it’s possible that people might not even recognize the moment when it happens and can only pinpoint it in retrospect. But there’s something — some seed inside you that takes root instead of getting blown away by the next distraction to come along (“cookie!”).

The saying, fall eight times, get up nine (I’m too lazy to look up who to attribute this to … someone like Buddha or Confucius or Martha Stewart) — that’s what this is about, though. Knowing that there’s going to be that one time that you throw it against the wall and like pasta that’s done just right, it’ll stick and not move.

I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say: just keep at it. Try different techniques. Think through different reasons. Surround yourself with different people to support you. Because I can assure you, there is nothing that you can’t change. It might take time and many failures, but if you keep at it, you’ll get there. I don’t know where I’ll end up with my own resolutions, but you can bet that I’m ready to fall and get back up. Again and again.

 

Doesn’t everyone start out the new year with a challenge?

I’ve decided (once again) to take on Sarah Peck’s writing challenge. Last year it was simply to write 750 words a day for a month. This year, I’m upping the ante and I’m going to POST every day for a month. Aren’t you guys lucky?

With the holiday season over, and real life and real routine about to descend upon me again, it’s time to start creating the habits that will best serve me throughout the rest of the year. Writing is something I want to do more consistently, so a little accountability should help.

What about everyone else? What kind of 30-day challenge will you pledge to do?

Photo-Quotes-For-SM-009

“Run & Walk” is part of the official name of the race, though being the person I am, I fully committed to the theme of the race. Not that my body and lack of conditioning gave me a whole lot of choice, but still, I like to think of myself as being a well-rounded participant.

The race: NYD 5k Run & Walk
The date: January 1, 2016 at 11am
The weather: 25 degrees, wind chill in the teens. Basically, BRRRRR.
The course: Lincoln Park paths, at least 2 miles of which were ice covered
My time: 40:11 (12:46m/m)

This is the first of 5 races that I registered for before 2016 even rolled around and part of the “Race Every Race” resolution I’ve made for the year. This one was easy to get up for — the late 11am start meant that I didn’t even have to set an alarm — and it was only the cold that made me slightly regretful of having signed up.

The race itself was about what I thought it would be — a bit of a slog that turned into something a little more difficult than that by the end. I’d like to say that I was held back by the cold and ice, but I don’t think it really impacted me all that much. It made for a much slower first mile than I would have otherwise had, but a faster start would have likely made for an even slower last mile.

I’d give my effort level about a 7 out of 10. I might have been able to run a little more than I did, but I also wasn’t looking to kill myself this first time out. As much as you’ll hear me talk about and complain about my split times, I’m well aware that the important thing for me is to simply keep getting out there and doing this. Consistency in training and racing will take care of bettering my outcomes, right?

IMG_20160101_105939

The Start Line is waaaay in the distance

The easiest part: not getting too cold. I got there early and sat in the relative warmth of my car, listening to podcasts until 5 minutes before race time. With my prime spot, I was in sight of the Start line and timed it so I spent very little time just standing around.

Best piece of luck: the nonchalant girl running next to me who saved me from certain doom by grabbing my flailing arm when I hit a big, sheer piece of ice. I stayed upright, bum and pride intact, thanks to her. I profusely thanked her and she just waved me off with an “eh, it was nothing”.

Most ironic moment: having the song “Walking on Sunshine” come through my headphones as I’m carefully picking my way across an especially hazardous icy part of the course.

One less thing to worry about: too-warm water at the water stops.

The part that made me sigh in happiness: running on the completely cleared off cement sidewalk with no ice to sidestep or slip on.

Most appropriate playlist song: Move Along by All-American Rejects

Moment that made me worry: around 2.5 miles in when I was struggling, I remembered that my next race is a 6.55 mile trail run at the end of February. Over twice as long, with actual elevation gains and hills and stuff, as good a chance as any of there being snow and ice and, you know, the whole trail part of it. Oh man, I have a lot of work to do between now and then.

Absolute best part: aside from finishing (which is always the best part)? The girl who was running close to me later in the race who was listening to loud music but also talking herself through the race out loud. A stream of “you’ve got this” and “keep going” and “almost there” motivated me as well as her and made me smile.

Weirdest moment: trying to take a selfie at the start line and the camera on my phone didn’t seem to want to take a picture. I finally figured out that my finger was too cold for it to register on the screen. Warmed my hand up and finally got that shot taken.

Most inspiring: seeing the volunteers out there freezing their tukus’ off. Running was cold but bearable, but I can’t imagine having to just stand out there. I thanked every one of them and wished them a Happy New Year.

And so, the first race of the year is in the books officially, with the publishing of this race report. I’ve got about 7 weeks until the next event and a lot of work to prepare. But I’m ready for the challenge — bring it on!

new-years-day-957741_960_720

Yes, the year of hustle. No, not that Hustle (although I wouldn’t be against learning that version), but my own version of hustle. More doing, less being. More action, less lounging. More accomplishments, less … no accomplishments?

I’m pretty fired up about this coming year. Yes, I know that any day of the year can be a new beginning, but like just like Maria in the Sound of Music says, you must start at the very beginning … that’s a very good place to start. So, why not January 1st?

While last year was more about allowing myself the opportunity to kind of figure out the who’s and what’s of my brain and body, this year I’m ready to do something with everything I learned. Make it all work for me like dedicated but unpaid interns.

Without further ado (frankly, I’m not sure that I had ado to begin with, so I’m not sure how I could have further of them), my resolutions for 2016:

Race every race. This sounds frighteningly straight forward, doesn’t it? You’d think there would be no problem with this one, except, historically speaking, there is. I’d sign up for a race, all excited and such, and then the day would come around and I’d be tired or it would be raining or I thought Belle looked sad that I was contemplating leaving her and I’d skip out on it. I have a drawer full of race shirts that I’m (almost) too embarrassed to wear because I didn’t earn them. But this year? None of that funny business. I’ve signed up for 5 races already, I did one today and have got 4 to go. Also – just to keep me accountable, I’ll post hilarious and/or tear-jerking race reports that will become instant viral hits. Or at least I’ll post a race report.

Train for every race. This will take some work. But, I’ll say one thing — it’s desperately necessary! Feeling like you’re going to collapse on a race course isn’t an especially fun thing (it’s possible I have recent firsthand experience with this), so I’ll do what I can to make the whole racing thing more enjoyable. Which means becoming best buds with my treadmill this winter. I’m glad we have a decent relationship so far.

Work through the freecodecamp.com curriculum. In all, doing this evenings and weekends, it should take me a little over a year to finish. I’ve got a little coding background, so I’m hoping that it will go a little faster for me, but we’ll see — web design is not my forte. What’s my end goal with this? To be honest, I’m not sure. I know I’ve been enjoying learning it and another skill to add to my skillset backpack (you keep your skills in a backpack, too, don’t you?) is never a bad thing. While I’m not leaving my job until they either kick me out or I retire, having a side hustle in my pocket (that’s where you keep your side hustles, right?) gives me just a little sense of security. And perhaps a little sense of smugness, too (just kidding!)(okay, maybe not!)(no, really, just kidding).

Read less than last year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still have a 50 book goal for the year, but with all I want to do, something’s gotta give. No more wild and crazy 60+ books this time around.

Give 100% to Living Brave course. I signed up for Brene Brown’s online semester course and while I have the track record of letting these sorts of things fall through the cracks, I’m determined to really get something out of this. It’s based on two of her books — Daring Greatly and Rising Strong — and what it has to teach is something I need to learn. Of course, one of those things is “you should really follow through on things that you pay money to do”. We’ll start with that lesson.

SLEEP. Last night I was going through a worksheet designed to ferret out goals and intentions and what I found myself mentioning over and over was how much getting enough sleep affects my life. It’s difficult when I’m getting up 4 days a week at 4:30am, but it’s doable; I’ve done it before and I can do it again. And really, I can’t overestimate how frickin’ important this is for me. If I want to have the energy and motivation to get all the things done that I want, I have to SLEEP. Without that, I come home from work, collapse on the couch and barely move until it’s time for bed. Which doesn’t really facilitate goal-reaching and stuff. Though I do end up very well-versed on Modern Family re-runs.

Turn off the TV. First, get rid of cable. I don’t need the cost, I don’t need the channels (and then I can spend all that cable money on running clothes, am I right?). All I have to do is get someone in here to mount an antenna on my roof and run the necessary cables to make it all work. My pie-in-the-sky goal? Limit TV watching to 10 hours a week. There’s just so little that’s on TV that I need to watch to enjoy life.

Bring more creativity into my life. Write more, listen to more music, even do some adult coloring books (which sounds dirty now that I’ve typed it out, but here’s a link so you know I’m not a pervert with crayons). With the TV off, that gives me more time to do the things that allow my creativity to flow, whether from writing stuff here, finding new music to listen to or just journal writing. Creativity is good stuff, people. You should check it out.

And that, folks, is what I plan to do with my year. Hustle, hustle, hustle. What about you? What’s in store? What goals do you have? What dreams will take form?