The Happiness Project: Tasks

If you’ve been reading for the last month, you know that I’m working on a Happiness Project along the lines of Gretchen Rubin’s book.  I started out by writing my own commandments.  Then I came up with the categories of life that I want to improve.  For the last two weeks, I’ve been coming up with the specific tasks that I want to accomplish within each of those categories.  Maybe it’s the geeky list maker in me coming out, but I’ve enjoyed this whole process, especially this step.  I love me a good to do list!

Here is what I’d like to accomplish in the coming months:

Cleansing (June)

  • Do 10 days of the Master Cleanse (which I’ve done once before, so nobody freak out).
  • Empty cupboards of anything packaged or processed.
  • Reinstate a regular Bikram practice – three days a week.
  • Clean out and wash my car.
  • Go through (and likely toss) the contents of the last two boxes in my house that I failed to unpack.
  • Clean out my closet, including clothes, purses and shoes.
  • Clean out my t-shirt drawers, and donate extras to Open Arms.
  • Read through and recycle my magazine pile.

Health (July)

  • Maintain a practice of eating whole foods, allowing “junk” once a week.
  • Up my yoga practice to five days a week.
  • Swim, bike/spin or run five days a week, including one road ride each week.
  • Go to bed – lights out and TV off – by 10:30 on most nights.
  • Develop a mantra repeat to myself each morning while I’m getting ready for the day ahead.
  • Analyze how my “Taline dollars” are being spent.  Am I making time for myself? 

Faith (August)

  • Rediscover a morning routine of Bible study.
  • Start working through Simple Abundance.  (Thank you, Teri!)
  • Re-listen to recordings from Janet Conner’s Writing Down Your Soul workshop.
  • Re-read Blue Like Jazz and The Irresistable Revolution.
  • Join a small group study somewhere, preferably one that’s all women.
  • Write for one hour five nights a week.
  • Develop a set of goals for my writing for the rest of the year.

Finances (September),

  • Make a list of monthly expenses and trim them where appropriate.
  • Get a library card.  (Yes, book buying is a financial issue in my household.  Bread and Butter really need to get this under control.)
  • Meet with Robert about better managing my rewards accounts.
  • Develop a travel budget for 2012.
  • Meet with Amit to discuss my progress towards retirement savings.
  • Assess quantity and quality of donation dollars. 
  • Make one well-thought-out and highly indulgent purchase.

Attitude (October)

  • Speak positively to others and myself.
  • Look for ways to compliment myself, no matter what the circumstances.
  • Practice trusting my instincts (except when my instincts are to complain).
  • Send notes to family and friends.
  • Start writing my own 14000 Things To Be Happy About.
  • Re-listen to recordings from Janet Conner’s Plug In workshop.

Community (November) 

  • Assess quantity and quality of my involvement in groups, clubs and organizations. 
  • Plan trips to see three different friends who live out of town. 
  • Plan two trips to see aunts, uncles and cousins – a domestic trip and a foreign trip.
  • Schedule some sister nights.
  • Update my list of important dates, including birthdays and anniversaries.

Goals (December)

  • Look back at the goals I set for 2011 to see how I did.
  • Set goals for 2012, including goals for finances, writing, travel, and races.
  • Develop a race calendar for 2012.
  • Develop a list of writing contests to enter in 2012.
  • Celebrate my birthday and completing this project by purchasing a new computer. 

I love this list.  Now I’ve got a few days left to figure out how to chart my progress.  Then, come June 1, my Happiness Project will be underway!

The Best Battle.

Despite swearing again and again that I would never watch reality shows of any kind, I’ve become hooked on The Voice.   Weeks ago, the coaches started the “battle” rounds, pitting teammates against one another for a spot on the live show.  The best battle I’ve seen occurred the first battle night between two women named Vicci and Niki on Team Cee Lo.  I’ve been watching this particular battle again and again and again.

I love the song.  I love the way they work together and celebrate one another and their performance.  I love Vicci’s “war dance.”  I love Cee Lo’s description of the “gut wrenching effect” Vicci has on him. These two women sing with their whole selves.  I think that’s what really gets me.  They are all in. 

I can’t sing.  But these two women make me want to try.  They make me want to do what they do.  They make me want to chase my dreams.

Team Cee Lo.  I’m hooked.

I believe, too.

Last week, I was at the courthouse and bumped into my realtor and friend, Susan.  I was rushing out, and she stood behind closing doors on an elevator, so we waved at one another.  An hour or so later, she called me, and we caught up. 

Susan and I met through church about six or seven years ago, I think.  When I decided to sell my home and move out into the country, I asked her to list it for me, and she did.  More than that, she held my hand and recognized me for what I was – “an emotional seller.”  She patiently guided me through the process and helped me sell my beloved home.  I appreciated then what she did for me as my realtor.

Today, I appreciate Susan as my friend.

When we caught up last week, I talked to her a little about life and ruts and uncertainty and needing a sign from the heavens.  I recall telling her that I need my sign to be in writing just to make sure I don’t miss it.

Then today, I went to the mailbox and found this card from Susan:

I believe in mind over matter.
I believe in the human spirit to prevail.
I believe in miracles and blessings, both great and small.
I believe in possibilities.
I believe that hurdles in life are meant to be jumped over, not as something to stop us.
And the inside?
I believe in you.
Thank you, Susan.  Thank you. 

People people people.

This has been a weekend of people.

On Friday night, I hung out with my sisters.  On Saturday morning, I did a bike ride with the Mamma Jamma group and got to see my friends David, Alice, and Bill, and I made some new friends, Tom, Tammy and Deborah.  After the ride, I met Jenny and her precious daughters briefly before Jenny and I went for coffee.  As Jenny and I were wrapping up at Teo’s, we bumped into Alex.  Afterwards, I went out to the LBJ Ranch and caught up with Catherine, Christian, Nina, and TJ.  Then I drove down to San Antonio to a Toastmasters event and got to visit with Brian, Michelle, Amy, Susana, Shane, Betty, Mary and Maria.  This morning, I had brunch with Amanda and Joey.  Then I drove down to San Antonio to visit Pete, who is briefly home from China.  While I was there, I got to say hello to his sweet mom.  Then on my way back into Dripping Springs, I stopped by to see my mom and dad.  And throughout the weekend, I spoke with Erin, Heather, Celena, Jeanie, Dacia, Jason and Bill on the phone.  I even got to exchange quick calls and messages with Lina and Karyn.

I consider myself to be fairly social, but even for me, that’s a lot of people in a short span of time.  On the one hand, I’m a little tired from being out of the house and on the road and being “on” all weekend.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t trade a moment of the weekend for anything.  It was great to catch up with people I adore and don’t see often enough. 

Tonight, I spent some time flipping back through old photos.  I was reminded of how rich my life is in people.  I was reminded…

of the day Laura, Kerry, Catherine and I toured and toasted the house Catherine had purchased but had not yet moved into…

of the day I got to watch Jeanie race her first half-Ironman…

of the day Teri and I joined my parents and their pet goat to cheer for my sister during her first triathlon…

of the day I said goodbye to my dear friends from the law firm where I spent the first eleven years of my career…

of the night I saw Hayes Carll at Stubb’s with an awesome group of girls…

of the New Year’s Eve I spent at the Broken Spoke with Catherine, Joslin, Michelle, Jenny, Dorothy, and Pete…

of the day I celebrated my first Ironman finish with Jeanie and my mom…

of the day I celebrated my 35th birthday with Rey and other dear friends and perhaps the best cake ever…
of the day I got together with some of my favorite women to wish Jenny well in Portland…
of the day I surprised my dad on his birthday with a gathering of people he and I both love…

of the night I met Lina’s sister…
of the weekend I got to spend cheering Erin on through her first half-Ironman…
and of my time in Seattle with Karyn and her family.
I could go on and on. 
I love looking back through photos and remembering. I love the people I have been fortunate enough to do life with over the years. I love my friends and my family. 
I’ve been a bit down lately, trying to figure out life stuff.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s not going well.  It’s easy to overlook all the goodness and just see the stuff that disappoints. 
I didn’t plan for this weekend to be so fully about people.  It just ended up that way.  It just so happened that getting together with my sisters worked out and that Pete was in town and Joey was in town and Jenny and I were able to meet for coffee.  It just so happened that Susana was able, at the last minute, to make the contest and that Shane, Betty, Mary and Maria were there also.  It was a lot of goodness packed into a couple of days.  And it was exactly the sort of weekend I needed. 

You’ve Got to Meet Ella.

Tonight, I went to the kickoff party for the Mamma Jamma Ride to Leave Breast Cancer Behind, and I met the most amazing little girl. Her name is Ella. She is six years old, and this is her third year to do the Mamma Jamma Ride. 
Last year and the year before, Ella rode tandem with her mother.  This year, she is riding solo.  Last year, Ella raised over $1300 working a lemonade stand along Shoal Creek Boulevard.  This year, her goal is to raise $2000. 
I don’t know how this little thing got so invested in this ride, but I’m guessing there is a story we need to hear. I asked Ella to send me her donation page and the link to the blog her mother has set up for her training and efforts towards this ride.  When I hear from her, I’m going to share her page and that blog with you. 
Ella stole my heart. She looked so cute walking around in her too big Mamma Jamma jersey.  I had no idea until I started talking to her that she was a rider.

I can’t wait to introduce you to Ella.

The Power of a List.

I’ve been thinking about risk. What does risk mean to me?  When is risk a good idea?  How much is too much?  Is it ever really too much?  So far, I’ve got no real answers, but the stirring about that’s been going on in my mind has resulted in the development of a bucket list. 

I’ve been known to make a list or two.  I like the act of making a list, and I like the feeling of completing an item on a list.  To do lists.  Grocery lists.  Wish lists. Reading lists. Lists of things I need to return to people. Lists of people I’d like to reconnect with.  Lists of races I’d like to complete.  Lists of places I’d like to go.  I’ve made lists all my life.  Apparently, I even make lists of my lists.  So admittedly, I’m obsessed.  But I’ve never made a bucket list.  And tonight, that felt like a fun thing to do.

Taline’s Bucket List:

  1. Sell a screenplay.
  2. Write a song.
  3. Publish a book.
  4. Publish a book of poems.
  5. Do a reading at Book People.
  6. Do a reading at Powell’s.
  7. Have an article appear in O, The Oprah Magazine.
  8. Go to Enchanted Rock.
  9. Experience Wimbledon live.
  10. Go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field with a true Cubs fan.
  11. Race Kona, even if I have to out age the competition to get there.
  12. Learn how to landscape.
  13. Get strong enough to do a pull-up.
  14. Do a Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. 
  15. Have dinner with Marion Winik.
  16. Have a drink with Richard Linklater.
  17. Have coffee with Ralph Macchio.
  18. Travel to Europe with no planned return date.
  19. Visit Tehran.
  20. Meet all of my uncles.
  21. Go back to school.
  22. Become a Hilde Girl.
  23. Join a roller derby team.
  24. Learn to ice skate well.
  25. Bike Ireland.
  26. Do Burning Man.
  27. Live a car-less lifestyle.
  28. Live somewhere other than Texas.
  29. Take an improv class.
  30. Become a Distinguished Toastmaster.
  31. Learn to quilt.
  32. Learn to do a back walkover.
  33. Take my niece to Hawaii.
  34. Set foot in each of the 50 states.
  35. Do 365 days straight of Bikram.

That’s a start.  I’m sure I’ll think of more and supplement this list at some point in the future.

Funny, I was feeling a tad grumpy when I started this list.  I’m less grumpy now. A list can do that, you know.

Risky Business?

Yesterday, I met up briefly with my friend Erin because I needed a little pep talk. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and she’s a big doer.  When she heard I was down, she immediately suggested we get together, and I immediately took her up on it because I always leave her more energized than when I arrived. 

Erin’s quite a bit younger than I am, but she’s focused and diligent and amazingly accomplished in business, among other things.  She just thinks a little differently than anyone else I know.  I take that back.  She thinks a lot differently than anyone else I know.

Yesterday, when we were talking about some of the decisions I’m facing, we ran head on into my risk averse nature.  I am typical woman in that I crave security.  I need stability and certainty, and I need to know what tomorrow holds, so much so that I sometimes squelch the life right out of it.  I plan and chart and manage my life…sometimes to a sickening degree.  (That’s me talking.  Not Erin.  She’s much kinder than that.)

Erin challenged me to work on taking risks.  She challenged me to start small.  What risky thing can I try that isn’t go broke sort of risky?  How can I step out of my comfort zone just a little bit?  When she asked  those questions, I realized that I had absolutely no answers.  I’m so risk averse that I can’t even think of small risky things to do.  My mind just doesn’t seem to want to go there, but I think it needs to do just that.  I need it to do just that.

So that’s my challenge to myself: to find little risks I can take while I work (in my methodical, planned, and managed way) towards being more willing to take risks. 

Any ideas?

Happiness Project Continued: Aspects for Improvement

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, and I’ve been conducting a project of my own.  After reading the book, I wrote my own commandments, which have already produced good results.  Now, I’ve identified the areas of my life that I want to work on for the next seven months.

My original thought, when I set out my plan and deadlines, was to identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve.  However, since I’m doing this project in seven months, rather than twelve, I’ve decided to focus on seven aspects – one per month.  (That would be me putting Commandment No. 5 – seek simplicity – into practice.)

I have come up with the following categories:

  1. Cleansing (June) 
  2. Health (July)
  3. Faith (August)
  4. Finances (September)
  5. Attitude (October)
  6. Community (November)
  7. Goals (December)

I could have gone lots of directions with this, both in terms of aspects and the order in which I plan to tackle them.  I think my rationale makes some sense.  First, I’d like to clean out my body, my house, and my car, all with a mindset for starting anew and, hopefully, keeping things clean.  Then, once stuff is cleaned out, I’d like to focus on good sleep, exercise, and nutrition, all of which I hope will lead to better energy.  Then I’d like to establish more of a routine for prayer, Bible study, and my writing.  (Yes, I put my writing in the “faith” category because (a) it’s that important to me and (b) the belief that something good will come of it is an act of faith.) After I’ve re-established a rhythm of looking upwards, I’d like to think about money – how I spend and save as compared to how I should spend and save.  With my proverbial house in order, which I believe largely will be the case if I stick with this plan, I’d like to focus on my attitude – specifically on not complaining, on being hopeful, and on being joyful.  Once I’m done dealing with my space and being, I’d like to focus on my circles of involvement – family, friends, and commitments.  Am I serving each well? Am I in the right ones?  Do I need to make changes?  And finally, in my birthday month, I want to look back on the goals I set for 2011 and see how I did, and I want to establish my goals for 2012.

I think this project makes sense for me. 

What I love in thinking about the Happiness Project effort generally is that no two projects need to be alike.  Gretchen’s made sense for her.  Mine is specifically for me.  If you’re doing one of your own, yours will look different, as it should.  I think it’s exciting that the concept is adaptable and functional and utterly personal.

If you’re doing your own project, I’d love to hear your categories and your rationale.  And I hope you’re excited about what you are doing.  I certainly am.

The Hard Conversation.

When I write and put my writing into the world, I fear that some will think that I think I’m some sort of authority on life or that I’m a know-it-all about what people should or shouldn’t do.  In reality, I write because I often need to hear what I’m writing.  I’m learning/changing/growing, and the writing helps me to process, focus, and remember what I’ve learned. 

Just yesterday, for example, I had a hard conversation.  The courage to have that hard conversation came out of my last post. In working through my Happiness Project, I listed my Twelve Commandments.  Commandment Number 3 was “have the hard conversations.”  I included that in my list of commandments because I am utterly incapable of having the hard conversations, particularly where I have to ask for something I want or admit that I was wrong.  Yesterday, I had a conversation in which I had to do both of those things. 

I’ve known for months that I needed to have that conversation.  But I didn’t want to.  I feared being told “no.”  I always fear the “no.”  To me, the “no” is rejection.  Rejection is devastation.  Devastation means I enter into an extended seclusion of reading, writing, working, training and nothing else until I can muster up the courage to face people again.  It’s just no fun at all, so I often avoid the hard conversation.

Yesterday, I initiated a conversation that was hard for me.  I didn’t get a “no.”  But I didn’t get a “yes.”  And even though I felt disappointment, I didn’t experience rejection, and I felt no devastation.  Instead, I felt relief and gratitude for the dialogue. 

So what was the difference?  Why was this conversation unlike countless past conversations that caused me to dread the ask and suffer many sleepless nights?  Have I matured in handling the “no”?  Am I stronger somehow today than the last time I encountered this kind of situation?  Not at all. What I learned yesterday is that the difference wasn’t me.  The difference was the other person in the conversation.

The conversation didn’t hurt because I was dealing with a good and gentle person.  I didn’t get exactly the answer I wanted, but there was such a kindness in the dialogue that I didn’t walk away feeling gutted.

Maybe, rather than avoid hard conversations, I need to focus on surrounding myself with good people.  Because a hard conversation with a really good person isn’t all that hard.

My Twelve Commandments.

Recently, I started my very own Happiness Project.  I got the idea from a book of the same name authored by Gretchen Rubin

The first step in the process was to finish reading the book.  I did that.  It was an easy and fun read.  I appreciate her practical and structured approach to self improvement.  I especially loved her conclusion: “I found out what I knew all along; I could change my life without changing my life.”  That’s what I want to do.  I want to change my life without changing my life.  I appreciate what I have, but I want to make small changes that have a real impact on the happiness I experience day to day. 

This week, I’ve been working on the second step of the process, which was to write a personal set of commandments for this project and for my life.  This part was harder than I expected, but I am pleased with the end result.  Here are my Twelve Commandments:

  1. Be you according to you.
  2. Forgive, even yourself.
  3. Have the hard conversations.
  4. Accumulate fewer things and more experiences.
  5. Seek simplicity.
  6. Slow down.
  7. Ask for what you need, and offer what you can.
  8. Trust your gut.
  9. Act only when certain.
  10. Expect better.
  11. Look forward and up.
  12. Choose love.

Each one poses a challenge for me.  Each one touches on something that I currently don’t do very well.  And that excites me. 

The next step in the process is to identify ten or twelve aspects of my life that I want to improve.  My guess is that identifying those aspects will be a little easier than coming up with my commandments, but we’ll see.  Easier or not, I feel like I’m on the right track.  That excites me, too.