Minimal Monday

My twin granddaughters are turning five, and they requested a cheetah-rainbow cake. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would be a cake with cheetahs and rainbows on it, or a rainbow in cheetah pattern, or a cheetah in rainbow pattern. I told them I wanted to be surprised. Turns out the frosting was made in a rainbow-colored cheetah pattern. Why didn’t I think of that?

I love how these little girls know what they like and what they want. With their lives still a blank canvas, they are expressing themselves authentically; the world hasn’t had a chance to direct their paintbrush, doling out preferences or critiques that cast doubt on their own desires.

Some of us were lucky enough to reach adulthood with our own intrinsic motivation in tact, which is amazing. Many others developed self-doubt under the influences of society, rigid parenting, or other outside forces that teach a still-developing person to seek the approval of others; this path comes with a lot of cognitive dissonance, as we want or feel one thing but say or do another, for the sake of acceptance. Worse than that is when we no longer feel the dissonance because we’ve adopted others’ demands or preferences as our own.

I am not at all shunning societal norms or construction criticism or mature guidance; all of that has its proper place. It becomes a problem only when we become so outer-focused that we lose touch with our own compass. I love the wise strategy of asking children what they think of their own various projects, choices, outfits, artwork, instead of just doling out a compliment or opinion. Children growing up trusting themselves is a beautiful thing.

When it was time to cut the birthday cake, my granddaughters didn’t seem to notice or care what anyone else thought of it. They loved it. They had confidently made their choice and enjoyed every rainbow-cheetah bite.

Oh the simplicity of that. I hope they hold on to it forever.

Minimal Monday

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how a minimalist philosophy is one of subtraction. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/08/22/minimal-monday-27/ .

I am revisiting the topic because I keep bumping up against the truth of it in my every day life, and especially lately in my writing life. Being on deadline to complete my memoir, I cannot afford to waste time, indulge in distractions or vices, or be anywhere but here in the present moment, doing what needs to be done. The only “extras”, if you can even call them that, are staying connected to my loved ones and taking care of myself in ways that preserve my energy and my health; but I prefer to think of these as non-negotiables.

Even though writing typically makes me feel fulfilled and whole, sometimes it can leave me feeling raw, and vulnerable. The very act of working on my memoir can leave me with the desire to waste time, indulge in distractions, and escape to anywhere-but-here. After all, memoirs contain some tough topics and mine is no exception. But when I resist the urge to escape, I start to feel the most me I’ve ever felt. I feel liberated.

What is your craft, or your passion? What is the deepest you can go with it?

Is anything preventing you from going there? Is it fear?

I hope you let everything else fall away as you go into the wild places of your heart. I bet you’ll meet your Self there, and what a reunion it will be!

Minimal Monday

I have a deadline of October 31st this year for completing the final edits to my memoir. I’ve got a lot left to do and now Halloween is hovering over me like a taunting ghost, as if writing down my deepest thoughts and memories isn’t spooky enough.

Fortunately, I have fallen madly in love with Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner, a productivity system like no other. Newport is the author of Deep Work and he has created this tool in order to help us focus deeply in a distracted world. This unique planner is helping me to be intentional with every block of time in my day. It does not replace my calendar, or my regular “to-do list”, but it makes it simple and clear what will happen and when. The objective of the planner is to get the most out of the time and attention that you have. It is the best way I have discovered to Get. It. Done.

I was gushing over this planner so much to one of my daughters that she suggested I give it a name. So naturally, I’m calling it Cal.

And since my memoir is the most meaningful and in- depth work I’ve done yet, I am embracing this method every day from now until October 31st. If all goes as planned with Cal, I will surely be celebrating Halloween this year, ghosts and all.

Minimal Monday

I’ve noticed for a long time now, that when I refuse to engage my ‘worry thoughts’ and simply and truly Let Go, the issue or outcome tends to work out. It has been such a strong and welcoming truth for me, in fact, that I have been consciously practicing the Art of Letting Go.

Write it down & let it go

Like most things that matter to me, I write down whatever it is I am letting go of. I’ve started using a small notebook that my daughter had given me as part of a gift. It is a thin, forty-page notebook but it now holds my biggest dreams and every concern that would otherwise weigh on me. Each page now holds a single desire or a problem. The act of writing them down is my ritual just before I let them go.

The trickiest part of letting go is not taking it back. But I have found that the more I practice this, the more evidence I gather that it works, and then the easier it is to repeat.

One of the “wants” in my little notebook was to find a publisher for my memoir. I could have easily continued procrastinating and fretting the rest of my life away; It’s too late, too overwhelming, too scary, to difficult, too unlikely…. But I had become so sick and tired of that soundtrack in my head, that I finally let go. I found myself sending my proposal out to a handful of publishers. Letting go doesn’t mean there won’t ever be actions to take; but when I’ve let go, those actions are taken with no stress, no attachment to outcome, no overthinking it. They just happen.

And guess what? On a beautiful sunny day when those proposal submissions were the furthest thing from my mind, I received a contract! My memoir will published in April. (*For updates, subscribe to this blog)

Not every outcome is as exciting as this, of course. But I have found that the letting go – for real letting go – of desires, attachments, worries and anxieties, brings a peace and a presence of mind that invites and allows a more natural and perfect outcome.

Oftentimes, we just have to get out of our own way.

Minimal Monday

Summer can be a fun season with all the events, activities, mini-vacations and days in the sun. But for someone like me who lives a healthier, more productive and creative life when I follow a routine, summer can easily throw me off my game. It’s not that I want every single day to be the same, but as a writer, I’ve got plenty of adventure going on inside my head, thank you very much.

So here are a few things I like to do to try to keep the words flowing, and the good habits going, even in mid-July:

#1 Before I go on vacation, I put everything I can in order at home first. This makes for a swifter transition back to home and to the projects I may have left behind. It also enables me to “let go” more completely, and enjoy the time away.

#2 If I am going away, even if I know I won’t do a lot of writing, I at least bring a notebook and pen to catch the inspiration when it strikes. I also bring my walking/running sneakers and my yoga mat.

#3 Even during lazy summer weeks, I keep up with my agenda. I know where I am at with my writing, and where to pick up next time, even if several days go by before I get back to it.

#4 If you read last week’s post, you know I am trying to give up eating sweet, sugary things. If you missed it, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/07/11/minimal-monday-21/ . So I do my best to focus on summer treats like healthy smoothies, fresh fruit, and a refreshing swim; and I look the other way when I see something like, say, double scoop mint chocolate- chip ice cream.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending a James Taylor concert at the beautiful Tanglewood outdoor music venue in Lenox, Massachusetts. He put on a great show, and so did my adorable four-year-old twin granddaughters who got to stay up way past their bedtime. By the time the concert began, we had already enjoyed more than two hours of food, drinks, conversation, eventful potty trips and exploring the grounds. When darkness fell, the twins thought it was great fun to hold their little lanterns and adorn themselves with glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces their parents had packed.

I got a kick out of their quiet but silly commentary as James Taylor sang “Carolina In My Mind”.

“Can’t you see the sunshine?”

“No, no I can’t”, one of them exclaimed. “It’s dark!”

Last night was a late night for all of us, and I had no particular plans to celebrate the 4th of July today, on the actual holiday. But I did the urge to make a special dessert of acai bowls, so off I went to a nearby grocery store for granola and fresh raspberries and blueberries for the bowls. But once I arrived at the store, I realized I had left my credit card in last night’s purse.

I considered going back to the store after driving back home, but instead that thing happened when I am just still and peaceful enough to let a better idea enter my mind. The idea was a very simple one: to make do with what I had; to relax instead of returning to the store; to get creative, to simplify, to embrace the idea of less.

So that is what I did. I pulled some frozen blueberries out of my freezer, gathered a few chia seeds, walnuts and hemp hearts from my pantry and we had some simple fixings for the acai bowls to enjoy on this beautiful day.

Happy 4th of July!

Can’t you see the sunshine?

Acai bowls

Minimal Monday

I want to pivot back to the kitchen today and express my love for a clean and organized refrigerator. I know it may sound trivial to some, but if it is true that “how we do one thing is how we do everything”, then I declare our kitchen habits are important.

A simple way to stay on top of refrigerator hygiene is to get in the habit of checking it before every grocery day. The thought of adding more food to a fridge that may have expired items, sticky shelves, or condiment chaos, is unappealing. On the other hand, emptying groceries into a clean and well organized fridge is a pleasure.

If we have tidy fridge habits, we will likely also have tidy pantry habits and organized shopping lists, and sensible meal planning patterns. One small area can have ripple effects in other areas, on peace of mind, time, energy, and health.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I invite you to try on this belief: Your best, most authentic life and Self are lurking just beneath the clutter and baggage.

If that is true, what is one thing you could do today to excavate what is buried? It could be something big or small; give something away, delegate a task, clear out a closet, throw out the junk food, face the old wound, have the conversation.

What would you do tomorrow and the next day to keep the momentum going? It’s okay if you don’t know what you might find. Sometimes we have to get through some sludge before we feel lighter. Just stay curious and allow the treasure to reveal itself.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

It is amazing to me how our attitude about time can actually change our experience of time.

In his book The Big Leap, psychologist and author Gay Hendricks writes that “Time feels like an ever-present entity, hovering in the background of our lives.”  But to expand time, he explains, we simply need to bring our full consciousness into the present moment.  In this way, we can make time.

Part of what I love about simplifying life is that it leaves more time for what matters most to me. But I had never fully grasped what Hendricks describes as “Einstein time” until I consciously set my mind to it.  One day, while starting to fret about the seeming lack of time for everything that I wanted to get done, I stopped.  I shifted to a belief that I had all the time that I needed.  Then I set about doing one thing, then the next and the next, mindfully.

I was present and relaxed that whole day and everything that I wanted done got done.  My shift in attitude had made a remarkable difference.

Minimal Monday

My husband and I are helping to move our youngest daughter out of one apartment and into another. Due to the nature of medical school, and now residency, this will be her fourth move in four years. Moving is a lot of work and the more stuff there is to move, the harder it is. She has learned how to make do with the essentials and not accumulate – and therefore move- more than is necessary.

It got me thinking, doesn’t it behoove us all to live like we are moving? I don’t mean that we should never get attached to a place, or that we ought to deprive ourselves of things we really enjoy. I just mean that if we thought about what we’d really want and need to bring with us if we moved, what would we choose to leave behind? Can we let go of those things now?

It’s a lot of work to move. Packing and unpacking forces us to face every single thing we’ve accumulated. How much freer would we be with less?