Minimal Monday

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about creating structure in my life around certain goals and habits. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/04/18/minimal-monday-10/

As of yesterday, I added some much-needed structure around finishing up my memoir. I am in the editing stages of my memoir, but have gotten stuck there for so long, I had to do something different.

I suspect the only one to take longer than me to finish writing a book is Joy Imboden Overstreet. I learned through the #amwriting podcast that she ended forty years of procrastination when she finally published her book, The Cherry Pie Paradox last year.   Yes, you read that right; forty years! Joy is in her eighties and described the great sense of relief she felt once she did it. Can you imagine? I can.

So to try and end my own procrastination, I joined a May Day Facebook group in which we authors will check in with each other every Monday for the month of May. It won’t be as motivating as hiring a book coach like Joy did, but it will help.

So, with the loose but added structure of my May Day accountability group, my task at hand for the month of May is to make progress every single weekday, whether I feel like it or not.  Clear and simple, day by day, I am committed to moving forward. I just know I meant to have my memoir out into the world before I am eighty.

Minimal Monday

This is the day of the Boston Marathon, a race that takes place every year on Patriots Day in Massachusetts.  I grew up just down the street from the start of the race, so it was tradition to see the runners off every third Monday of April. In later years, both of my sisters ran the race, along with an uncle, a niece and a handful of other people I know.

A half marathon is definitely my limit for running, and when I ran The Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine last fall, I gained valuable insight. When my youngest daughter enthusiastically suggested I join her in the race, I went with my very first instinct which was to grab the opportunity. Had I paused long enough to consider the likelihood of failure, or the dread of running on days when I really didn’t feel like it, I would’ve said hell no.

Once I committed, I knew I did not stand a chance of finishing the race without a structured plan to train. I had rarely run more than three miles at a time, so this was new territory. I found a beginner’s training plan online and simply followed it like a recipe. And on race day, I met my goal of finishing.

I don’t necessarily see any more half marathons in my future, but because I had been following “the recipe” for months prior to the race, I kept Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays as my cardio days. The habit was in place.

The experience highlighted my need for structure in facing any challenge, or creating any habit that is important to me. Without it, I set myself up for failure. I believe this insight is what led to my intermittent fasting which I wrote about here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/03/07/minimal-monday-4/

It is also why I recently joined an accountability writing group in which we check in each week to demonstrate our individual progress.

Left to my own devices, I can be unfocused and unproductive. Alternately, creating structure around my goals – imposing some deadline, accountability, or “recipe” to follow – I stand a chance of succeeding.

I think this is a common human trait.

Do you agree? What structure serves you well?

Minimal Monday

I love the momentum that takes place while decluttering. Clearing off my writing space by putting some books back in a bookshelf led to me organizing the whole bookshelf. A few books got donated and the rest are now properly categorized. I no longer feel the need to keep my desk cluttered with writing books because if I need one, I know exactly where to find it now. Simplifying one area often leads to a desire to simplify another area. Best of all, as tolerance for clutter decreases, clarity and inspiration increases.

Happy Monday!

***

I am so very grateful for the 5-star review I received on Amazon yesterday for The Uncluttered Mother! I appreciate each and every reader, and I hope my book continues to inspire moms of all ages and stages.

My publisher has entered my book in the 2022 COVR awards and I am including the voter’s guide here: https://covr.org/2022-covr-visionary-awards-voters-guide/. Voting will begin next Monday, April 4th and I will include a voting link then.

Minimal Monday

Several years ago, I worked at a college as an academic coach. My students needed assistance with organizing their workload, breaking down large assignments into logical small steps, making lists and recording important dates in their academic agendas. Sometimes I would help them with assignments such as writing papers, but mostly my job was to help them with executive functioning skills and meeting goals.

Their parents were paying the college a premium price for this coaching, and for some of them it worked very well. But for many others, there was a glaring problem that was getting in the way of their success.

The goals weren’t theirs.

One particular student comes to mind (though there were several). He had wanted to go to a film school in California with his best friend.  He was a kid who did not make friends easily and this friendship was important to him. They shared a passion and he lit up when talking about his dream. His friend went off alone to this California school and my student talked about it with a  mix of excitement, longing, and resignation. His parents wanted him to go the more practical route of this traditional school and so here he was. Unmotivated. Sad. Bored.  No matter how detailed we made his agenda, no matter how much encouragement and perfect to-do lists I gave him, he would return to our next session with very little crossed off his list. He would make the least amount of progress towards “his goals”, and carry the same sad look in his eyes. There was no joy, no energy, no flow. The most alive I had seen him was the day we talked about what he really wanted to be doing.

Isn’t it true for all of us that working toward someone else’s goal is like swimming upstream? A goal we think we should go after, rather than the thing that our heart is calling us to try may lead to some success, but at what cost? And more importantly than what we are doing, is who we are becoming while doing that. Are we meeting challenges with optimism and courage, growing and changing, or are we on automatic pilot to attain the goals that we don’t even recall truly having a longing for in the first place?

My student’s parents were well intentioned and I certainly understand the fear and desires of a parent. It is scary to let go of control and honor our own or our child’s heart desires. But we have a finite amount of time on this earth, and our desires, curiosities, and interests are seeds planted within us like precious breadcrumbs leading us along our journey. How many of us jumped on a path that was never our own?

The more we can silence the fears, the distractions, and the doubts, the clearer the path becomes.

Minimal Monday

One area of simplifying and decluttering that I think has a big payoff is food and kitchen, so I will definitely visit this topic more than once and in many different ways.

What we eat and how we manage meal planning has such an effect on our energy! Better energy equals more creativity, wellness, peace and abundance. I’ll take more of that, please.

Today I went going through all of my cookbooks, choosing which ones to keep, and donating a few others. The ones I hung on to tell some sort of story, or were gifts, or simply have content that I love. For instance, The Cancer Fighting Kitchen was a gift from a thoughtful aunt when my husband was going through cancer treatments. Simply in Season, Buddha Bowls and Oh She Glows Every Day are some other favorites.

The next step I took is going to sound tedious, and I am sure it is not for everyone, but I decided that this effort today will simplify things a bit in the kitchen forevermore.

I browsed through my chosen cookbooks, jotting down the titles of several appealing recipes along with the book and page numbers of where to find them. This has brought my attention to several recipes I had overlooked in the past and now want to try. I will file this “master list” in a small binder to be kept in my pantry.

***

One more idea. This one is for when you need to use up a few ingredients in your kitchen and aren’t sure what to cook. I simply google the ingredients I want to use, followed by the word “recipe” and voila. Good ole Google gives me some options.

Minimal Monday

Happy 2022!  I am late to the party, I know. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this year and it just comes back to this:  I want to keep simplifying my life in ways that support living according to my top priorities. I think we all want this to some extent, don’t we?

My top priorities continue to be health, family and writing. It was never difficult for me to narrow down what I value most to just three areas, but these three encompass a lot. For instance, “health” includes physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. “Family” includes strong relationships with multiple VIP members. And “writing” is code for completing my memoir, continuing to share my nonfiction title, The Uncluttered Mother, and seeking out various speaking opportunities. In addition, my writing life includes a lot of reading, some of which I will share in my blog posts.

I am so happy that you are along for the ride with me in 2022. I know that you have your own top priorities as well as your own challenges in honoring them.  I really think this is a universal desire – to do more of what we value and less of what we don’t – because in doing so, we feel more like our unique, creative selves. While living life on our own terms, we have more to offer the world that is authentically generous.

All of this is to say that in 2022 my blog posts will be called “Minimal Monday” and each week I will share one thing that I am doing to increase creativity, energy, and peace. Like The Uncluttered Mother‘s subtitle, I will finding more ways to Free Up Your Space, Mind & Heart.  In keeping with the minimal theme, I will keep my posts to a minimum – nothing too lengthy – just one simple idea at a time to nudge us into manifesting the lives we desire.

Are you in?

I will see you next Monday.

Life is complex, but you are simply divine.

Relevance

In the midst of a pandemic I get my first book contract and let the cognitive dissonance settle in.  I am elated!  It is meaningless! By the time the book is published, will the words I’ve written even matter?  In a world full of sickness and chaos, is art even relevant?

My husband and I go away to celebrate our 33rd anniversary.  He is reluctant in these times, but I’ve found us a private spot on Cape Cod, we pack a bag, some food, and we go.  On the drive down I am describing the adorable guest house I have secured for us. I am happy to escape the everydayness of our lives, the news, the impertinence of my writing.  It is called the Sweetest Little Suite, I tell him.

It has probably been renamed The Covid Cabin, he quips.

Don’t make me laugh, I say. There is nowhere to pee.

I know the state of the country, the world for God’s sake, is not funny right now.  It is dark and uncertain, but we need to laugh when we can because the crying will come too, if not for ourselves, for others.

It is freakishly warm for the middle of November, but we don’t see anyone else at the seashore except for maybe a few people sitting so far down the beach they are like large grains of sand, their movement almost imperceptible.

It starts off as a dare, me tempting my husband to jump into the crashing waves, and it ends with both of us running into the ocean, going under.  He disappears first and when he pops up he is shouting for me to hurry before the next wave drags me violently across the sand.  Shrieking, I dive in, my timing more a reflex of panic than any kind of strategy.

When you’ve been married this long, there aren’t many firsts you haven’t met; first home, first child, first move, job loss, illness. We’ve had them all.  But this- today- swimming in the ocean  in the middle of fall- for our November anniversary- this is a new first.

I emerge from the cold, invigorated. The sun warms my skin as it creates glitter across the water.  The reflection is spectacular; there is so much light.  I am insignificant, but at the same time connected to the brilliance of God’s creativity.

Fully present, mind and body in harmony, I take it all in. I see and feel the ocean, the world, as the most amazing work of art.

In this moment, the art is everything.

Writing Through Insomnia

 Another night like this, suddenly wide awake. I don’t exactly feel panicked, my heart is not racing, but I am on high alert. What I am waiting for, I am not sure.

I’ve done all the things: no coffee after 10am. No wine. No electronics in the bedroom.  Exercise. Mediation even. Yet most nights it is the same lately. I can predict before opening my eyes that the clock will read 1:30a.m.  Sometimes 1:20.

My husband reaches out and touches my leg.  He is letting me know he is awake now too. Was I tossing and turning? A middle of the night rendezvous; I resist the urge to speak. He will fall back asleep and there is nothing specific to say, to be anxious about. Well there is, actually. I mean the whole world is anxious now. Shouldn’t it be? I run through my list.  Who shall I focus on this night? Family? The country? Humanity?

I do my yogic breathing. I decide not to waste this time on trying to assign a subject to my insomnia.  Instead, I grab a pillow and notebook and go downstairs to settle on the couch. I may as well write something. Nothing will interrupt me at this hour, nothing outside my own head. The world is asleep, even as it is falling apart.

Not even my to-do list is calling me now. Phone calls to make, writing deadlines, laundry to do. Those are the affairs of daylight and I won’t engage such thoughts. I’ve been invited, against my wishes, but I’m here nonetheless, to do whatever I want in this dark hour. I figure something will happen if I put pen to paper, something to loosen this grip around my heart that is alerting me to I’m -not- sure- what.  I am ready, so ready for whatever is going to happen, even if it is only on the page.

The windows are shut down here and I’m too tired to get up and open them, too busy writing. I am hot as hell now. My hair is getting long – I am not yet ready to venture into a hair salon, even with all the precautions in place. I’ve been snipping the ends of my unruly hair, one curl at a time, with the professional scissors I bought online.  I pull it up on top of my head with the elastic around my wrist.

I’m so hot and so tired, I’m starting to feel nauseous. Tomorrow- which is today, technically- I will see what I’ve written, and if there’s anything worth saving.

I hear my husband upstairs, stirring. He is in the cool air-conditioned room and all of it is suddenly calling me now- the cool room, the soft bed, the husband.

I put down my pen and notebook and leave them on the couch next to the pillow.  I will be back tomorrow night, same time, same place.

__

This essay was originally published on Brevity’s nonfiction blog: via Writing Through Insomnia

 

 

Where’d You Go, Creativity?

It is no accident that I am writing about the challenge of carving out a creative life when it’s been so long since I’ve written anything here.

Why is it so challenging to carve out a creative life that stays consistent?

Allow me to state the obvious:  Creative projects are often  solo pursuits in which we have to give ourselves permission, accountability, boundaries around our time and the will to keep going when it is just so easy to let it go among everything else competing for our time and attention.

And in addition to a creative life requiring time to create, it also requires time to just be. Writers and other creatives need alone time like they need air and water.  So if we need quiet time to prime the pump and quiet time to create, and we live in a time that practically insists – or at least expects – us to be hyper focused on the outside world, much more so than on our inner selves,  then of course it takes more than a little effort to protect a creative life.

Essentially though, I know I am capable of doing better, of doing more. Life is full of choices and I think I am running out of excuses.

Recently, I saw the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette, based on the bestselling novel. Bernadette, so far removed from her former artistic career, has become anxious, destructive and unhappy.

It’s not so difficult to imagine a bout of writer’s block that goes on far too long resulting in my own demise. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but the longer I leave a written book gathering dust, an essay unwritten, or new ideas to die on the vine, the more intimidating it feels to crack open the door to the work. It’s as though I cannot bear to face what I have neglected.

Good things, life affirming things, happen during a creative spell that are hard to replicate. When engaged in a creative pursuit, we are in the flow of a higher consciousness. In the act of creation we feel energized,  joyful, at peace, and expanded.

We don’t think and feel in the same way. Those neural networks our survival thinking had wired are turned off …we see new possibilities. We are now quantum observers of a new destiny. And that release heals the body and frees the mind”.

 ­- Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

In short, we are better when we are creating! We are happier, calmer and freer. Who doesn’t want that, for themselves and every creative person they love?

***

I could write about how to fight the good fight and maintain consistency in creativity, but clearly after such a dry spell, I am not the one to give such advice. Besides, it’s been spelled out already in some fabulous books such as The War of Art and Big Magic.

But speaking of magic, I occasionally get some good insights in my dreams and recently I awoke with these words in my head:  Just do a little bit each day.  The message was that simple and that clear.

So there you have it. This was my little bit for today.