Results *or* Did you know there are two 6 o’clocks every day?

13 10 2010

Current Habit: Waking Up Early, Day 10

Deryn: Waking up early has been much easier for me than reading every day.   The first two days, admittedly, I had a few violent thoughts towards Sophie at about 6:08 am when I was awake on the couch rather than happily snuggled and asleep in my bed.  By day three it wasn’t as bad, and now I’m pretty well used to it.   I even find myself waking up a few minutes before my alarm actually goes off.   I’ve had a bad cold this week and even had to stay home from work two days.  I was still up and out of bed by 6 am.  I forced myself to stay awake until 10 am before taking a nap.  I was so proud when Sophie came home and I told her all about my feat of staying awake.  That was when she reminded me that we agreed naps are allowed 3 hours after waking, meaning 10 am on weekends or 9 am on weekdays.  Math has never been my strength.

The main thing I’ve found from waking up a little earlier is that I’m actually more productive at work.  I don’t have to spend my first hour pretending to work because I’m not awake enough to actually read my emails.  I don’t cringe every time the phone rings in the morning because I’m too tired to deal with people.  Coworkers have even remarked that I seem much more peppy than I used to.

I never knew I was a morning person!





Positive Decisions *or* The Pile of Books I was Destined to Find

3 10 2010

Current Habit: Reading, Day 21/9

Deryn: Thursday after work my mood was, in a word, crabby.   True or not, I felt like the only places I went were home and work.  Leave home, go to work, go home, go back to work, go back home… The routine was getting to me.  When Sophie came home, I suggested maybe going to the bar that is two blocks from home where a beer costs $1.75.  Sophie shut that idea down for its obvious lack of nutrition.  I then suggested we go to Half Price Books, or as some people who live in this apartment call it, Heaven.   I had a list of books that I was excited to read and had conveniently just gotten paid.  Off we went!

Sophie has mentioned previously that she has a book addiction.  She buys 5-10 at a time on most trips to Half Price Books.  I’m more of a 1-2 book at a time kind of gal.  Too many books purchased at the same time means that I have to spend a good 20 minutes making a pro and con list for what order I will be reading each of the new books.  This particular trip didn’t start out well for me.  None of the books on my list were on the shelves and nothing else was really grabbing me.  Sophie, however, had 4 books in her arms within 15 minutes of getting there.  I was bummed.  Happy for her, but bummed for me.  It is rare that I actually have any room in my budget for the luxury of buying myself a book (even at half price).  The idea that I was in the store with money in my account and no books was maddening.  I scoured the shelves and picked up books that I really felt no interest in.  Then I’d  put them back, all the while feeling a little guilty for having lead them on in the first place.  I knew that book and I would never be going home together.  This just made my mood even worse.  I’m not typically a grumpy, negative or angry person, but I was all of those things in that moment.

And then it happened.  Sophie was ready to check out so we had come back to the front of the store.  I had one book.  It looked promising, but I wasn’t super excited about it.  With a sigh, I wandered over to a cart with a few piles of books.  There was a woman already going through them who looked uncannily like my mom.  In the pile closest to me were a few books I recognized: Love in the Time of Cholera (one of my favorites), The Great Gatsby (a favorite of mine), Pride and Prejudice (a book I try to read once a year because I love it so much), A Confederacy of Dunces (yes, another favorite).  If I were a cartoon character, a light bulb would have appeared above my head with a little chiming sound.  I would pick a book from this pile.  I started to pick the books up one by one until my arms were loaded down.  I started to add books to Sophie’s already precarious pile of books.  I could barely contain my excitement.   There were so many books in that pile that I had either heard of and been interested in or had thought about getting before but had forgotten about.  It was all just so thrilling!  We replaced the books to the pile after a very stressed, but polite, employee informed us that he had organized the books in to piles already and was worried about them getting messed up.  I cheerfully replied that we had kept the books true to their piles and gleefully skipped to an empty aisle to make my final decisions.

The moral of the story is that  I could have gone to the bar, drank some beer, ate some fattening food and gone home.  Instead, reading every day meant that I needed some new books, sending me to Half Price Books which then completely turned my mood around for the rest of the night.  Success!

These are the books that I adopted that fateful evening:

There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

Sunday Jews by Hortense Calisher





Book Review: Brain Rules

29 09 2010

Sophie:

So while establishing our first habit (reading every day) it has become very apparent that we’re going to be getting through quite a few books!  We’re both already half-way through our third.  So, as long as we’re reading them, we may as well let you know how they are.

Brain Rules by John Medina.

Brain Rules is an in depth look at the basic rules of optimal brain function.  It was written by a molecular biologist who describes one Brain Rule (what scientists know for sure about how our brains work) per chapter, and then offers ideas as to how we could potentially incorporate these ideas in our lives.

It’s basically my new bible, in a nutshell.  Poor Deryn and Boyfriend can’t get through a conversation without me spouting out “That’s just like this part in Brain Rules….”  But seriously, I love this book.  It’s so useful in every day life; I feel like everyone just NEEDS to know this stuff.  ESPECIALLY parents (even though I’m not one…); it just seems that it would be hard to raise a child without knowing the basic biology behind brain development, learning and wiring.  In fact, I just saw that this author is about to come out with a new book called Brain Rules for Baby in October.  I can honestly say that I have been able to apply every chapter of this book to my life.

I already included a few tidbits of info from Brain Rules in the “Science Behind Habitual Me” page, but there’s one thing in particular that I definitely want to apply to our little “adventure” over the next year – Scent.  Apparently, the more senses you stimulate, the more ‘ingrained’ a memory/experience will be in your wiring, because the information is stored in more areas of your brain.  Smell is the strongest sense to stimulate (other than vision, of course) because it is processed near areas of the brain responsible for creating emotions as well as memories.  That’s why a very specific memory may pop into your head when you are exposed to a certain scent.  So I’m thinking (and have actually already started this) that we need to have certain scents to associate with each habit that we’re doing.  So I took a trip to Wal-Mart to get a little high on essential oils.  After spending about an hour smelling every single scent they had at least 4 times each, I found a cool diffuser for $3 and settled on a citrus smell for waking up early, a rosemary-mint for meditation and yoga, cherry-blossom-something-or-other for reading and a cinnamon-apple just because it smells like Christmas :).  In theory, whipping out a certain scent on days I’m not very motivated may make these habits come a little easier. I’ll let you know how that works out, but in the meantime, you should read this book!





Self-Realization *or* What Do You Mean It’s Not Normal To Be Dead Inside?

28 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, Day 16/5

Deryn: I’ve always been an observant person.  For as long as I can remember, I would watch people and then use their experiences to make decisions about my life and how I wanted to lead it.  The best example I can think of is watching my two older sisters go through high school.  I saw how both of them acted towards their friends and our parents and thinking, “Wow.  That is definitely not the best way to go about things at all.”  I realized that if I got good grades and was up front with my parents about my plans, they generally had no issue letting me stay out past curfew.  I’d been using this Observe and Decide method for about 25 years and it had gotten me through some rough times.  I decided long ago – so long ago that I don’t actually remember when – that I would not close myself off to love.  I would probably get my heart-broken and would probably be hurt plenty of times, but that wouldn’t stop me from keeping an open mind and heart when it came to someone new in my life.  After all, that’s what starts people on the path to becoming an Empty Shell Person.   So, in efforts to stay true to the point of Habitual Me and become the person I want to be, it is time to decide to be open again.

In “Friends” there is an episode where Monica reveals to her husband that she has been keeping stuff locked in a messy closet for years and nobody ever knew about it.  My emotions and feelings definitely live in a locked up messy closet.

In college I had a boyfriend, my own Mr. Big (up to the last season of the tv show, before he was capable of commitment).  I loved him.  We went through a lot of drama to be together and he was a great boyfriend.  Sweet, fun, caring, intelligent and funny.  We both said that we had neither felt anything like it before.  Then he dumped me.  He was wanting to focus on his career and couldn’t commit to our relationship and his career at the same time.  We tried to stay friends, but that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done.  He didn’t love me, but I loved him.  He didn’t want to be my boyfriend, but didn’t want to date anyone else.  He still came over, kissed me, made me dinner, but wasn’t interested in being anything but friends.  It was all so confusing and so painful that I forced myself to stop feeling.  I rationalized that I would rather be friends with him than nothing.  It was better to have him in my life in some way than not at all.  For the next 2 years it was a roller coaster of us being friends or being a couple, all the while I got better and better at locking my emotions in the closet.  Eventually, I realized that he would never be able to treat me the way I felt like I deserved to be treated in a relationship.  This was especially hard because I never thought Mr. Big would be interested in me in the first place.  It’s contradiction in the purest form: Mr. Big is everything I thought I didn’t deserve because I’m not good enough for him, but when I realized he was treating me like I wasn’t good enough for him then he wasn’t good enough for me, even though I desperately still wanted to be with him.  It was just too much.  My already fragile self-esteem just couldn’t take anymore so I broke things off very abruptly and stopped talking to him.  He didn’t seem to care.

A few weeks later, I started talking to Joe*, a friend of a friend from high school who lived in Dallas.  I had decided that I wanted to be in Dallas,  and Bob was trying to help me get an interview with his company.  Bob had a crush on me all through high school.  He had me on a pedestal, he thought I was the most amazing girl ever and didn’t understand how everyone couldn’t see that.  He was the opposite of Mr. Big in so many ways and we started talking more and more.  I felt so much better about myself as a person again.  It grew in to more than friendship and by the time I moved to Dallas, we were a full on couple.  That lasted 3 months.  A guy who had a crush on me for 12 years got over it in 3 months of actually being with me.  There is obviously more to it than that.  He wasn’t my ideal either.  We fought a lot and we both know that we weren’t right for each other.  Still, it’s hard to not think that I did something wrong.

To comfort me during that break up was this amazing guy, Christian*.  He was beautiful, smart, funny, and made me feel beautiful.  He was also my boss.  Christian and I started to spend a lot of time together for about 3 weeks.  Then, he just stopped talking to me.  I, to this day, don’t know what happened.  He stopped calling, stopped texting, and even avoided talking to me at work.  Logically, I know that I didn’t do anything wrong except trust him too soon and allowed the relationship (in the physical sense) to move faster than was a good idea.  A few weeks later, I was fired for not hitting my sales goals.

Too much of my self-esteem has been wrapped up in guys and by doing Habitual Me, my goal is to be happy with myself for who I am and for who I have let myself become.  I joke with my friends that I’m “dead inside” because I don’t feel things anymore.  Last week, I was driving with a friend and an 18 wheeler was merging into the lane.  It was coming too fast and it was going to hit us.  My friend, the Marine who has been on three tours over seas and shot at numerous times, was screaming obscenities in fear for his life.  I was calm and thought to myself, “So, I guess this is how I’m going to die.”  I was able to swerve the car and get out of the truck’s way so we were fine, but I had an epiphany.  I don’t want to be dead inside.  I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to let this happen to myself, and I failed.  It’s time to do something about it.  I’ve observed myself and have decided I need to feel things.  If I’m going to become the person I want to be, that means letting someone in to my life who may hurt me.  Now I just have to find the key to that pesky closet…

* Gotta love the anonymity of pseudonyms.





Truth and Consequences *or* Back to Day 1

23 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, day 11/1

Deryn:

The Truth:

What I know of last night is a lot of cheese, a lot of wine, laughing hard, and making a phone call.  What I don’t remember is getting home, what I was laughing at, or what I said on that phone call.

I didn’t do my reading.

The Consequences:

The research shows that to establish a habit, the action must be done every day for 21 days.  According to Psycho-Cybernetics, if a day is missed you have to start back at day 1 or you won’t reap the benefits.  To be honest, we knew the day would come that one of us wouldn’t be able to accomplish our daily task.  If there weren’t consequences for our actions, there really wouldn’t be any motivation or incentive to follow through when things get a little difficult.

So, I’m starting over and it’s back to Day 1 of reading.  Reading (for me) will now overlap with the next habit.  I’m annoyed with myself for having not stuck with it better.  I have a lot of excuses for myself (work, mostly), but know that none of them really matter.  But if I really am trying to be a different person, then that means I have to put in the work.  These new habits won’t happen magically.  After working a solid 8 hours at the office and then another 3 from home, I’m not excited about having to do anything else with my brain tonight.  That would just be another excuse.  Instead, I’m going to try to look at my reading tonight as a way to help myself wind down after a stressful day and mentally prepare me for sleep.





Accountability *or* I Really Friggin’ Don’t Wanna Do This Tonight

19 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, day 7

Deryn: This has been a rough few days in the Habitual Me arena.  Sophie has stayed with Boyfriend two nights this week and it was my responsibility to keep myself accountable for maintaining my reading.  There hasn’t been anyone to tell me, “Ok! It’s time to go read!”  Even when it’s been me instigating the reading time, having someone else here just acknowledging that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing is helpful.  The nights where I’m here alone bring up the thought, “Who would know?”  I have been staring at my computer screen for 6 hours trying to get caught up on a work project that I am being held completely accountable for.  This work project is my main focus, my idea, my professional reputation within the company.  The idea of making my eyes focus on anything besides the inside of my eyelids is enough to make me angry.  Then I hear Sophie’s voice in my head saying, “But, you would know…”  Yes, I would know.  And that is why I turned off the tv and went to read for my 30 minutes.  I didn’t want to, but I did it.  So there.





Introduction *or* A Journey of a Thousand Miles and All That Stuff

13 09 2010

SOPHIE: I was lying in bed one night thinking about the changes I would like to make in my life.  I’ve been in a relationship for a REALLY long time (4 ½ years) and, through no fault of my boyfriend, have become bored and unhappy.  I realize that this has nothing to do with us, and more to do with my own satisfaction with who I am at this point in my life.  I’ve always wished I were ‘fit’, ‘classy’, or just really talented at something.

Somewhere in this thought process I was reminded of something I once heard – It takes 2 weeks to establish a habit.  I did a little research and found that it’s actually 3 weeks, and it’s not just a saying – it’s actually supported by a theory called Psycho-Cybernetics.  If it really takes 3 weeks to create a habit, then in one year I could create 17 habits!  I could really be whoever I choose with 17 changes.  I thought to myself “How awesome would it be to really go through with that; to take one year, figure out everything I want to be, and just do what it takes to get there?”

And so begun the list of characteristics I wanted to embody.

I’m a very private person (apparently to a comical extent) so I kept this to myself for a little while before running the idea by the one person I tell all my ridiculous inner-dialogue to – my roommate, Deryn.

DERYN: When Sophie first came to me with the idea for Habitual Me, I was enthralled.  We have had so many conversations about how people in our lives “surrender” to life rather than embracing it.  Some of our friends are getting married, having children and/or starting careers, but many seem to be resigned to a life that was assigned to them.  Countless times, Sophie and I had come to the conclusion that we would never become “Empty Shell People” – an idea from “Under the Tuscan Sun” that we had discussed when we were first getting to know each other.  An Empty Shell Person is someone who floats through life with no passion or excitement.  Empty Shell People do what they think is expected of them and resign themselves to whatever life just happens to plop in their laps.

Habitual Me, more than anything, is about taking control over my life during a time when it feels like I have very little power.  I recently realized that if I don’t make a change soon, then I’d be in danger of becoming a dreaded Empty Shell Person.  I go to my job because I can’t find one that pays any better.  I live a very specific (i.e., limited) lifestyle because my budget can’t handle anything else.  My student loans and current salary determine how often I buy new clothes, if I can go to my friend’s birthday party at that restaurant, if I can drive to the far side of town to run a particular errand.

The idea of Habitual Me is so appealing because it gives me the power back.  I now get to choose who I am as a person in a way that will (hopefully) stick.  In one year, I get to be the person I choose.  There are many things that I don’t know about myself: What my career path will be, What I’m looking for (if anything at all) in a long-term relationship, What my 5 year plan is, What my life has in store for me in the next year, etc.  I do know the type of person I want to be, the kind of coworker and employee I’d like to be seen as, the kind of daughter and sister I want to be, and how I want my nieces to think of me.

BOTH: So here we go!

Habitual Me is based on the theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit (or break an old one).  21 days is a conceivable amount of time to commit to one thing, rather than just arbitrarily deciding “I’m going to be a different person in a year!” with no real plan mapped out.  We thought the best way for us to do this was to work backwards.

With these thoughts in mind, we (Sophie and Deryn) are beginning a one-year quest to become the people we’ve always wanted to be.  We started by brainstorming personality characteristics we admire in other people such as ‘classy’, ‘musical’, ‘generous’, ‘well-read’ etc.  Then, we came up with “habits” that correspond with these characteristics.  For example, a ‘fit’ woman – to us – exercises, meditates and eats healthy.  Now that we have a complete list of the 17 habits we will incorporate into our daily lives over the next year (21 days at a time) we can start our journey!  Ideally, we will continue with each habit after the designated 21 days end, because – after all – that’s the point!

For our complete list, see the “About Habitual Me” page.

So it’s officially day 1, and our FIRST HABIT is reading at least 30 minutes a day during week one, and at least an hour a day during weeks 2-3 in order to become well-read.  And we are both already wanting to watch T.V. instead :).  Time to suck it up and get things off on the right foot.

Right now Sophie is reading Brain Rules by John Medina

and

Deryn is reading Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner








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