Posts Tagged ‘Reverb11’

Finishing off Reverb!

Ach, I’m so behind on my Reverb project! Of course, I kind of expected it — it was lunacy to think I’d spent most of my blessed vacation on a computer, blogging! Anyway, to round out the year, dot my Is, cross my Ts, and finish this sucker off, here are the short answers to the rest of the Reverb prompts. Not as in-depth, of course, but hopefully you are too busy gearing up for a lovely New Year’s Eve celebration tonight to read too much on the Internet! Have a happy, safe, lovely New Year’s, everyone, and I will see you here next year!


As I stated earlier, I wasn’t really a whole lot of fun this year. It is so uncool to admit that you are boring, but it was one of those introspective times….and I was beset with challenges in autumn, so to speak. But I did have a nice, sweet birthday this year that ended with lots of sparklers and fireflies in the dark. And I’m hoping tonight’s NYE festivities are fun!

GIFTS: What was the best gift you got this year? How about the best one you gave?

The best gift I got this year was a print of this picture below, which was made by illustrator and comic book artist Hellen Jo. It is so nice to get a gift by someone who really loves you and, almost better, “gets” you. Clearly, the sweet giver knew what my labor of love this year was!

CHALLENGE: What challenges did you face this year? How did you face them?

The challenges of transitions, of shedding old aspects of my identity and embracing new ones, of working full-time after a highly enjoyable and enriching grad school experience, of dealing with the travails of aging parents. I think I faced them with a modicum of fortitude, as well as a strong familial support system. Which is a fancy way of saying that I am blessed to be born into a family of good spirits.

CONSUMPTION: Did you buy something that made you happy? Why did it make you happy? Did you buy something you regretted?

I spent a lot of money on a beautiful new pair of Frye engineer boots and I never regretted it. They are the best boots ever. I tell anyone who’s like, “I’m not sure if I want to spend that much” to do it! They are so good and last forever.

I regretted cheaping out on clothes. I bought significantly less and generally better, but I did get tempted by the occasionally cute, cheap purchase at Forever 21, Charlotte Russe and H&M. There were some things I genuinely loved from these places and wore often, but the things where I said to myself, “It’s on sale for $5, just stop thinking and get it”? Those ended up being resold or given away often than not.

For 2012: headphones!! They are constantly losing sound in one ear, or I misplace them! Please, give me your secrets for enduring ear buds! New Year’s project!

STOP: What did you stop doing in 2011 that made a difference in your life? Anything you want to stop in 2012?

I wrote earlier about deciding to stop a web design business I had going for ages, and it made a big difference in my life. I also stopped going out so much. I stopped being on the computer so much, and stopped using it as a source of entertainment. (Getting a tablet and an iPod Touch helped his a lot.) I stopped keeping a complex To-Do list. For 2012, I’d like to stop feeling like I need to be doing more, to stop feeling restless and more contented with where I am at. I’d like to stop the feeling of “waiting for something to begin,” and realize that it is already happening right now.

EXCITEMENT: What are you excited for next year?

True love, Paris, beauty, magic, riotous joy, horses, my herb garden, studying music and voice, a new home, music, my stories and books, and wearing out my dancing slippers.

On habits

This entry is part of my year-end, month-long Reverb 11 blogging project, where I reflect on my year in a series of daily blog posts.

What is that saying I hear all the time? Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny? Something like that? I’m not going to go so far to say that having some bad habits leads to a bad character and then lo and behold, your life sucks — but I do think there’s something to be said about habitual, positive action; little things done everyday do add up, as anyone who’s ever written and finished a novel knows.

I’m a believer that it’s much easier to inculcate a positive habit than it is to stop and weed out bad ones. I don’t know, fixating on “bad” habits is sometimes a breeding ground for self-loathing and discouragement. But when you’re building positive ones, there’s much more opportunity for spark and all-around yayness…and if you build in enough positive habits, I’m of the theory that they start to crowd out the bad ones. (A few years ago, for example, I decided to focus more on getting 5-7 servings of veggies and fruits a day, instead of berating myself for my fondness for fries and chips. I have to say that while I do enjoy my salty potatoes still, eating more green and colorful things has “reset” my appetite, and now I crave salads and greens and other yummy things more…and therefore eat less crap. Though let’s be real, I still LOVE salty potatoes like something fierce.)

All that said, this year I started doing a few new things on a regular basis. Some are so boring and quotidian that it seems silly to mention, but they had such resonance in life that I can’t discount their impact. First: I wrote down every single freaking cent I spent. I actually started doing this in the fall of 2010, thinking I’d do it for a few months to get a sense of what I was spending — but then I kept doing it. I am not sure why. I liked that it made me aware of the small, tiny things that added up: coffee, candy, a random geegaw here or there. I liked that it made me think about what value and quality really means. It was kind of the foundation for a whole wave of progress when it came to prosperity, finance and money this year.

Second: Turning off all devices at least an hour before bed. I am a recovering insomniac, and it requires constant vigilance not to lapse into my former demonic habits. (As I get older, losing sleep or sleeping irregularly feels much more insidious and toxic.) One of the biggest things I did this year to ward off the demon of sleeplessness was power off devices and generally do no work or stimulating mental activity before sleeping. It made a big difference in my life. I spent time instead being mellow, listening to music, talking with dear ones, or just sitting and writing in a paper journal. It ended being one of my favorite hours of the day.

Third: This was a writing thing, but I started at the end of the year mandating rests and breaks and dalliances from my main writing projects. It made writing seem a lot more fun.

I am always fascinated by habits, because they are such an interesting mixture of inclination, circumstance and sometimes unconscious intention. I haven’t quite thought about what habits to inculcate for 2012, thinking the need for them will emerge organically in reaction to the currents of life. Sometimes I see habits and practices of everyday life like stones in the river, things we can hop and skip on as we go on our way. They can keep us from being tossed to and fro, but eventually, with enough time, they get worn away or dislodged like everything else in the river.

Decisions, decisions

This entry is part of my year-end, month-long Reverb 11 blogging project, where I reflect on my year in a series of daily blog posts.

I made a few major decisions this year. That sounds much more dramatic than it was, though. It’s not like I spirited myself away into seclusion, then emerged out the dark and announced in a big Dramatic Movie Narrator voice, “I HAVE DECIDED!” (Although that would be rather fun to do once in my life, I admit.)

Some of my decisions crept up on me. Like my choice to not go back to New York. I had been working on a consulting gig that took me often to the West Coast, and soon it was just easier to hang out with my family near Chicago. (It was also a lot easier to deal with the constant flying as well.) I kept putting off putting off finding a permanent place back in New York, content to sublet for awhile “till I got my bearings.” And then I realized, slowly, I didn’t want to get my bearings back to New York. I was happy being back in Illinois. I felt a kind of rare peace and serenity; I also really, really appreciated how much less expensive it was for me to not to live in New York, and what possibilities opened up for me by saving money. (Very few people I know in NYC are actually able to save money, unless they are 1. high-functioning professionals and 2. married.) So, slowly, that decision made itself when I realized that my inner compass as a person had shifted; it just took me some time for it to come to consciousness, I suppose.

The other major decision I made this year was to stop doing web development on a client/for-hire basis. It had been a godsend during film school, when I could do it as a lucrative side gig to school. And before, when I lived in San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to land gigs that were essentially part-time, steady work, so I could spend 20 hours a week doing web stuff and the other part of my week writing, exploring, traveling. (God, my life in San Francisco…I did not appreciate how idyllic and rich it was until now!) I thought I would continue on this track, but trying to shift it into full-time work made me realize that it was NOT how I wanted to spend 40, 60 hours a week. It didn’t bring me a sense of growth and positive challenge anymore; I felt bored and irritated doing it all the time. It paid well enough but just drained my soul, and the idea of constantly chasing down work when I was trying to write a novel was just too much to manage. Finally, as fall loomed in the horizon, I decided to stop doing it at all. And I haven’t looked back since; it was something I should’ve done ages ago. It added so much more balance to my life, and helped me recover my equilibrium. And then, when that equilibrium was challenged by my dad’s illness, not having it on my plate was a relief.

Now, I look at things in my life and ask, “What can I stop doing that isn’t serving me anymore?” It’s amazing what pulls and drags on your life, everything from those small, minor things that you put up with (ugh, e-mail newsletters) to major weights (jobs, gigs that don’t speak to you in some way). I’d like to be more decisive about realizing that things ARE a drag, and more proactive about finding ways to cut them out or lessening their drag. If you want to achieve any kind of momentum or velocity in life, it’s worth looking at what you can unload in your life — because stopping them frees up so much more space for something really good to come into your life.

On peace and serenity

This entry is part of my year-end, month-long Reverb 11 blogging project, where I reflect on my year in a series of daily blog posts.

I had a very peaceful year. That was entirely deliberate and by design, even though life conspired, of course, to assert its sovereignty and unpredictability. My previous year had been topsy-turvy with transitions and big decisions, and I knew I needed a lifeboat of a year, as steady and sturdy as I could make it. I used to thrive on a semi-chaotic existence, full of big challenges and epic endeavors. But I realized how drained I was after I graduated film school; I knew I was the edge of burnout when things that used to bring me joy and excitement felt like big, huge burdens. I faced the empty page and felt like I had less and less to give; I felt pressures all around me and experienced them as claustrophobia rather than exciting, ambitious challenges. I couldn’t hear myself think anymore, which is always the first bad sign for me. Honestly, I just wanted to go into a cave and sleep for about five years.

So, I decided to chill the hell out.

So this was a year to fill the well, so to speak, to stay in and stay put and put down some roots. I let myself get a normal, everyday kind of job so I wouldn’t have to worry about chasing after clients and finding my next paycheck — and to give myself some steadiness to write a novel. I made myself useful during a year when my family really needed my attention. I got a lot of sleep and rest. I saved money and sorted out my inner compass a bit. I let life get a bit more quiet, and finally I could hear what was going on inside me.

I think it is true, generally, that the answers to all our Big Questions generally come from inside of us. But in order to hear them, I find it’s important to carve out that space to listen, especially as life and demands and projects and decisions get bigger, louder and more complex. I’m discovering more and more that sometimes it takes awhile to even find the right questions to ask — and even longer for the answers to come creeping through the fog of delusion, illusions, and wish fulfillment. Peace for me meant having enough inner silence and stillness to let those answers come forward into the light.