Revival *or* And for you, Tin Man, a heart!

9 11 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 15

Deryn: This weekend I slept at least 36 hours between Friday night and Monday morning, and I haven’t shown much life in the last week.  Even after a dye job went a bit awry, my reaction was a mere “Eh.  I’ll figure it out later.”  (I did.  I no longer have girl-who-listens-to-too-much-Seattle-rock-in-1994 hair).  To sum it up, I was apathetic.  As has been mentioned before, my tendency is to be dead inside, and that’s something this blog is helping (and hoping) to change.

Tonight, I mentioned to Sophie that I was tired of all the upkeep necessary in life.  I have a job so I have a place to live, I work out because I want to stay alive and healthy, I bathe regularly for basic hygiene and employment purposes.  And don’t even get me started on having to eat and drink water…It’s a vicious cycle.  Sophie being Sophie – always wanting to fix the problems of others if they are dumb enough to whine about them to her – smacked me in the face with a tough question: What do you want out of life?

Think about it for a second in your life.  What do you want out of your life?

No answer came to mind for me.  The only thing I could think of was coming home and watching TV.  Acknowledging that is a pathetic way to live, I started giving it some serious thought.

What do I want out of my life?  It’s a choice, after all.  For me, the answer is a resounding “Travel!”

Then all the reasons that travel isn’t possible for me came spilling out.  I don’t have the time or the money.  I have a work culture that doesn’t allow for vacation.  It’s probably human nature to talk ourselves out of our dreams.  Shooting an idea down is easier than it is to come up with solutions.  As my dad used to say, “If you come to me with a problem and no solution, then you’re just whining.  I don’t tolerate whining.”

As the conversation continued, Sophie brought up the fact that I really enjoyed making our Halloween costumes (shown in these two pictures).  For the past few weeks I’ve been especially preoccupied with sewing Halloween costumes for Sophie and myself.  She was right.  I love sewing.  It is a positive and productive outlet for my obsessive compulsive personality, plus at the end you get something pretty!  I have a bunch of patterns and material all ready to be sewn in to some adorable outfits just sitting in my closet that I’ve been collecting for the last few years.  Sophie suggested I start sewing again and actually make some of those things.  It was brilliant!  Within about 5 minutes, I went from being apathetic to getting really excited about all the new projects in store!  We went through my sewing drawer and found that I have a skirt, a pair of pants, two shirts and three pillows just waiting to be sewn.  I have all the material, patterns and time, only needing to purchase a few zippers and some thread.  All my excuses have been effectively tossed out the window.  Now I can’t wait to come home tomorrow night and start my new projects.  That’s probably a much better thing to do than hurrying home to get in my pajamas and watch Parenthood.  That’s what a DVR is for!

More than anything, I think I’m learning that it’s going to take more than just creating some new habits to get away from my old apathetic ways.  I can make myself happy and not let the excuses prevail.  Self-reflection is an important part of the journey for me.  To really change who I am is also going to involve regularly taking stock of my emotional state and coming up with new habits so the old ones don’t resurface.  To start with, do I have an emotional state?  Maybe I’m starting from the remedial class on how to feel like other humans feel, but with regular self-reflection I may just graduate and become a full fledged human, heart and all!





Frustration *or* Did My Boss Really Just Yell at Me for Peeing?

26 10 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 1

Deryn: Today is the first day of a brand new habit: Working out for 30 minutes every day.  It could not have come at a better time.

The past few days at work have been particularly frustrating.  So frustrating, in fact, that the 2 days of being away from work still weren’t enough for me to become un-frustrated.  That’s especially amazing considering I can cure just about any bad mood by playing no more than three Bon Jovi songs.  Livin’ on a Prayer, Baby!  Then this afternoon I was reprimanded for going to the restroom.  No, really.  That’s what happened.

One of my responsibilities is to answer the phone.  That, in itself, is frustrating enough, considering I don’t do anything with customers except answer the phone and forward the call to the person they actually need to talk to.  There are only 2 people that anyone ever calls to speak with, and I am not one of them.  Why don’t they answer the phone?  I just don’t know.  So when it was 2:45, I’d already been working for 7 hours,  and I had still not gotten a chance to eat my lunch (which is almost always done at my desk because heaven forbid I take an actual lunch break), I figured it was a prudent time to use the restroom.  I just really had to pee, man!  It’s not that the day was particularly hectic, I was just trying to focus on finishing a project.  When I got back to my desk – literally one minute later – my boss was in a tizzy.  “What if the phone had rung? … Why didn’t you bring the phone with you to the restroom?”  No, my boss apparently could not have answered the phone.  No, we don’t have voice mail.  And no, our customers are apparently too stupid to call back a little later if nobody answers.

After that whole extravaganza had calmed down, it occurred to me that tonight is the first day of a whole new work out routine!  What a great day to get rid of some stress!  Rather than using beer to make me feel better, I’ll take some endogenous opioid peptides, otherwise known as endorphins.

I’m really excited about this one for a few reasons:

1) When I have been in shape in the past, I never really appreciated it.  I was so focused on looking like someone else that I didn’t fully appreciate what it looked like to just be a good-looking version of myself.

2) I’d like to be able to do things when I’m older.  Being out of shape or unhealthy just doesn’t seem like a fun way to go about life.

3) Gotta love the endorphins!

The real test for me is going to be how I feel once I get home.  I’ve never worked out every day for 21 days in a row.  Usually I’ll get on a work out kick and do well for about a week or two, but then the determination fades.  Once my pans are starting to fit a little tightly again, the work out routine comes back in to play.  21 days is a great because it seems possible without being daunting.  Luckily, I’ll probably have the same job for the next three weeks and that’s proven to be a consistent source of stress and anger.  At least I won’t run out of motivation.

How’s that for optimism?





Early-Rising *or* If You Try to Talk to Me This Morning I Might Slap You in the Face

5 10 2010

Sophie: So, as indicated by the new picture in our header, we have officially started a new habit today – waking up early: 6:00 a.m. during the week and 7:00 a.m. on weekends for 3 WHOLE WEEKS.  The characteristic I was thinking of when we came up with this portion of the list is “Early-Riser”, who (to me) is someone who starts their day with a bang, and accomplishes more before 9:00 a.m. than I normally do in an entire day.  Boyfriend is one of those people.  He is usually getting home from playing 9-18 holes of golf by the time I wake up in the morning.  I am not one of those people.  The characteristic I embody when waking up before 9:00 resembles more of an ogre/zombie hybrid than the productive go-getter of my imagination.  I sleep harder than anyone I have ever met, and absolutely love every bit of the sleeping process….except waking up.  I’m hoping to change that.

So last night Deryn and I were discussing our game plan for successfully waking up this morning, because we’ve tried this before and failed miserably.  Ultimately, we decided that each of us gets a squirt bottle, and if one person wakes up and the other doesn’t, she gets to go squirt the sleeper in the face with cold water to wake her up.  We both have a good sense of humor about these things, so I figured if/when it does happen, it will be pretty funny.  This really ended up working in my favor when 6:00 rolled around and I heard Deryn’s door open and close – I knew she had to be headed my way and hopped out of bed faster than ever.  6:00 on the dot, 12 minutes of snoozing, not a minute wasted, we were both up.  When I finally got through my morning routine and went to the living room, I saw what must have been the most miserable Deryn-face I’ve ever seen.  “You did this,” she sounded like she might actually hurt me.  I’m sorry, but I was laughing inside, probably because I was miserable myself.  I think Deryn may not care so much about being an early riser, but I appreciate having a buddy to suffer with.  I admit, I may have been more optimistic this morning because I don’t have to go into an office like Deryn does, and I do have the option of an afternoon nap.  But on the other hand, she normally wakes up at 7 every weekday for work anyways, while my body is accustomed to waking up no earlier than 9, ever, except on the rare morning-volunteering day.  Bottom line, it sucked for both of us.

The unfortunate thing about the first night/morning trying to wake up early is that my body did not want to go to bed early last night.  I had an awful night’s sleep, and was almost relieved when morning came.  Despite this, I was surprisingly energetic shortly after waking up – not to be confused with happy, but I was no where near as exhausted as I had anticipated.  It was still dark outside, and we ended up just watching TV while I cooked breakfast, so it really just seemed like a regular weeknight…only at the ass crack of dawn.  Anyways, I cooked breakfast, watched about 2 hours of TV (Deryn left for work after the first hour) made my bed, washed the dishes, cleaned up a little, got dressed and went to ‘work’ early for the first time ever.  An HOUR early.  Boyfriend didn’t seem to notice (I work for him), but this is kind of a big deal in my world.  I love sleep; I have been known to sacrifice a lot of things in the morning in order to gain another 5 minutes in bed – I’ve skipped breakfast, fought with Rufus (my dog),  traded a shower for a “white-trash” bath (which is really just a wet washcloth), canceled plans, worn hats to cover dirty hair, I’m perpetually late, and I regularly hold my pee longer than I’m sure is medically recommended.  So I was proud of this morning’s feat and running on my high of success for about 3 – 4 hours before my body said “Wait a minute, what the f*** did you to me?”

At this point, Boyfriend really started getting on my nerves.  All of a sudden the combination of a bad night’s sleep+Sophie’s excessive sleep needs+Sophie waking up at an ungodly hour morphed into someone you do not want to meet.  To save myself (and him) from an undeserved (ok, maybe a little deserved) blow-up, I just decided to get through my day in silence, and get home as soon as possible.  So I’ve bitterly finished the day, and can’t way to go to sleep by 9:00 tonight.  Hopefully, I’ll get a good full night’s sleep and will be able to function semi-appropriately tomorrow…provided I don’t wake up to a water squirt to the face…





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!





Rediscovery *or* Yeah, I’m A Nerd

26 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, day 14

Sophie:

On the surface, reading is not the most exciting activity, but I LOVE it.  To an avid reader, books really become a part of your life; you feel connected to the characters, and never stop learning new things.  When I was a little girl, I would lay on the floor in front of our bookshelves and read everything I could for hours on end.  It mostly consisted of Beatrix Potter, Puzzlemania and Goosebumps, but it was so fun!  As I got older, I would spend my summers reading from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep.  This generally meant I would finish one novel a day, then walk to wal-mart and buy another one.  At some point my parents didn’t want to pay for this “habit” of mine, and got me a library card….a.k.a. a reading addict’s crack.  I would come home with stacks of books I couldn’t wait to read. It was wonderful.

Then I got to high school and met Shakespeare and William Faulkner.  And so ended my love affair with books.

I would still read on occasion – maybe one book every few months – but it was never the same.  Being forced to read something utterly dreadful and then extract some sort of convoluted meaning from it made me hate writers, books, reading, all of it.  Signs of my addiction still lingered – a bookshelf is always a permanent fixture in any home of mine, and if I leave a bookstore with less than 5 books, I’m showing some serious self-restraint.  This has resulted in an awesome, tall bookshelf completely filled with interesting books I have never read.  The upside of establishing this first habit of reading every day is that I am finally getting through all of these books that I have bought over the years.  I organized my bookshelf and, quite frankly, I have a ton of books I’m really excited about getting to – which I suppose is why I bought them all in the first place.

It’s only been two weeks, and I’m already thinking that I can’t believe reading was not a part of my daily life for so long.  It’s really a perfect example of why we started this whole blog in the first place – being complacent and lazy about my life has not only prevented me from changing into the person I want to be, it has caused me to let go of things I do love for no good reason.  I was so unsatisfied with my life for such a long time, and all of a sudden I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m already happier just changing this one little thing, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this adventure is going to take me.





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.








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