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I'm going through a periodic recalibration of how I spend my time and energy. I find this happens every few years when I look at what's important to me and how I'm actually spending my time and try to realign my life so those match better. Some things that contributed to that this time around:

[personal profile] lakeeffectgirl went on a Twitter hiatus, and then I discovered how much of my Twitter interaction was with her. Because of that, I started reading Twitter only when I was at home. One of my rules for myself is that there are Twitter accounts I only read when I'm at work. Those are the accounts that tweeted and retweeted a lot of political things. I found that I was calmer and less anxious when I wasn't reading those all the time. Now I'm checking Twitter only once a day, and I've turned off retweets on or muted a few more people so it's manageable. Me constantly feeling anxious and upset wasn't doing me or the world any good.

I listened to this interview with Nancy Colier (a transcript is also available at the link). She's the author of a book called The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World, which my library has so I might read it at some point. What I really liked about her perspective was that it isn't "no technology ever!" but rather to be mindful about how we're using technology and how that affects us. That framing helped me to notice how I felt different when I wasn't reading Twitter all the time, and to think about how much time I really want to spend reading things I don't really care about that much on the internet versus doing other things I want to do.

A side effect is that when I'm not reading Twitter all the time and therefore (a) not hanging around to see what people might tweet and (b) less anxious, then I'm more likely to turn off my computer earlier and either go to bed early or go read a book and then better notice that I really am tired and ready to go to bed on time (or early).

I've been trying to remind myself on a semi-regular basis that I want to feel light, giddy, deeply present, and connection. Sometimes that's helping me put whatever's happening or what I'm feeling into perspective.

Some things I'm doing instead of compulsively reading about the state of the world:

Reading books. I belong to two book clubs now, both of which meet once a month. I'm trying to read about a book a week which means I read the two book club books and then two whatever I want to read books each month.

Writing. I had a really hard time writing for the first month or so after the election. There didn't seem to be any point. Writing fic seemed so frivolous. Plus, I had a hard time doing much of anything that wasn't trying to absorb reality. I saw a few things about the importance of making art in dark times, but none of them really stuck until I read this piece from Sophia McDougall. This was the thing that let me find inspiration: "But if they hadn’t been there? I thought, looking at my friend. Who was fierce and bright-eyed and smiling. Those useless satirists and artists and musicians pouring their spirits into their art and watching it land on the floor of history like that dropped custard pie? What if there was nothing to look back on in those times but a culture in militaristic lockstep, or perhaps worse, slumped in dead-eyed indifference?" There are a lot of things I can't do or change about the world, but I can write stories for other people to enjoy. I can do my part to make sure that the world isn't all despair. And I can do this easily because I find writing easy. "It's not enough. It's not enough," McDougall says. It isn't, and I'm not sure how much I believe art can really change the world for the better anymore, but the alternative seems even worse. And then there's this: when I'm having a rough time and the world seems bleak, fan fic is where I turn for comfort, solace, distraction, the vision of a different kind of world. I can be that for someone else. That seems worth doing.

Connecting with people. Part of my goal in joining the two aforementioned book clubs was to meet new people who might be potential friends. The first one I joined is run by our apartment complex social directors, and I liked it so much that I joined a second one, which is sci fi/fantasy book club through Meetup organized by a queer woman I also met at a local acquaintance's holiday party. I've been making more of an effort to reach out to and make plans with my two local friends. I've been sending more emails, both as part of a what we're up to on Twitter hiatus thread with [personal profile] lakeeffectgirl and as a practice of sending more frequent brief notes from whatever's happening in my life to our larger friend group. In doing this, I've been thinking about Gretchen Rubin's family's updates emails: "Our motto is 'It's okay to be boring.'"
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I promised I would share this if it worked for me. I uploaded a pdf version and an .odt (LibreOffice Writer - should probably be openable in Word) version. Note: the .odt version does not look right in Google Docs because of the formatting stuff, but I thought it would be useful if you wanted to download it and make some adjustments to it.

The hard part about this is that I find I'm putting some of the same things on the "what didn't work" and "to do/change/fix" lists every week. I'm really working on not reading fic late in the evening and consequently going to bed too late.
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A follow-up to my best books I read in 2016 post: The Fire Starter Sessions was on that list, and I got around to reading it because Danielle offered the audio course (the audio version of the book minus the introduction plus fillable/printable pdf versions of the worksheets) for free last year. I already had a copy of the book, so I read the chapter the evening before, listened to the audio in the morning, and worked on the worksheets off and on during the day. She's offering it for free again this year (you have to sign up for her email list, but you can always unsubscribe if you don't enjoy it), and if it seems interesting to you at all, I definitely recommend it. I enjoyed spending focused time on it every day so much that I've since made it a practice to do/read/listen to something inspirational at least a few times a week.

Crying

Feb. 22nd, 2016 08:11 pm
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I've been thinking about crying a lot recently. I'm generally in favor of crying. There are some obvious caveats: crying as deliberate manipulation and the white women's tears phenomenon are shitty behaviors we shouldn't engage in, and if you're crying so much it's having a distinctively negative impact on your life, it's time to seek some professional help. But as a personal, individual release of emotion, I'm all for it.

I signed up for Danielle LaPorte's free Fire Starter Sessions audio course. I think one of Danielle's greatest strengths is that she writes really great self-inquiry questions, and that's true of the Fire Starter Sessions worksheets. Any time you go deep with self-inquiry, it brings stuff up, and I've spent some time crying about some of the stuff doing these worksheets is bringing up. It's not really surprising; I'm a crier. I cry at nearly every Grey's Anatomy episode. I sob my way through the endings of really emotional books. I like going to movies that require kleenex.

Going by the publication dates, I was most likely junior high aged when I read Jerry Spinelli's School Daze books. I don't remember much about the plot, but there are a few things I remember clearly. One of them is this bit of wisdom from Salem Brownmiller, who was the mental template Hermione Granger later fit into:

"Hollered at you? That's even worse. Feelings hurt more than bones. You have to let it out, don't you know that? You boys are so dumb. Listen, you know how you feel better after you throw up?"

Raymond nodded. "Uh-huh."

"Well, crying is like that. Tears are like your feelings throwing up. You'll feel better. Come on now, I'll cry with you. Let it out."
My yoga teacher tells us that we hold emotion in our bodies, and sometimes doing yoga can release that. "You might feel like laughing or crying," she says. You don't have to know why, or what you were holding on to. The release is what matters. When someone was having trouble with the class because she kept crying, our teacher told her, "I think we should laugh every day and we should cry every day." In the middle of working my way through some of the tougher Fire Starter Sessions worksheets - particularly thinking about your past failures and facing down your fears - I spent a yoga class tearing up.

Last week's PostSecret included an email from a young woman about her experience at The PostSecret Show. At the end of the show, she wrote a secret on a whiteboard about how inspirational her mom is and sent it to her mom:

She was in tears. She called me crying and told me how much that meant to her and how much she loves me. I was crying as well. My mom told me that even my dad was in tears; my dad doesn’t cry often so I considered this an accomplishment. I continued to tell my mom how much I cried because of PostSecret. Her response was this: "You are a rock most of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be the river."
It's good advice. Cry. Let go. Be the river.
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The central piece of the workbook section of The Desire Map is the part where you figure out your core desired feelings (or CDFs, as Danielle calls them). You start by brainstorming how you want to feel in each area of your life, then she has you think about each word/look up their meanings and see how they resonate with you, and then work on narrowing down your list.

I did the first round of brainstorming, and then felt a little thrill of relief when I started looking up words and many of them had similar meanings. I had an underlying worry that I was doing it "wrong" as I was brainstorming, and the convergence seemed to mean I was doing it right. I narrowed it down to four words. They were good words, good feelings, certainly things I want to feel. And I didn't connect with them. I let them sit on the living room floor at the top of the stack of paper I'd been writing my answers out on, and I just never felt excited about them.

I did what meditation teaches you to do and I started over. I also ditched the rules - Danielle's advice on CDFs is to stick with nouns - and told myself to write down whatever I genuinely wanted to feel, not what I thought would be good answers. I narrowed those down. And narrowed them down some more. And then I had four things. Two of them I was pretty sure about, and two of them I still needed to think about. So I let that list sit on the living room floor at the top of the stack and thought about it off and on. One of Danielle's suggestions for using your CDFs is to, in moments where you're not feeling how you want to feel, remind yourself of how you want to feel. The section of the workbook after figuring out your CDFs has you write down what you would need to feel that way. So one day when I was feeling frustrated and decidedly not how I wanted to feel, I said to myself, "What would make you feel [feeling from my list] right now?" The only one that worked for me was one of the two I was pretty sure about: relaxed. Just thinking, "What would make you feel relaxed right now?" made me relax.

It's taken me a little bit to be okay with relaxed as a core desired feeling. There's a part of me that reacted to it with a "Really? That's all you want?" kind of attitude. I also have a twinge of, "But what if that's just a reactionary wish and not something deeper?" What I actually wrote down for more than one life area was "relaxed (free of tension)," and that seems less like something I want because I want it and more like something I want because it's the opposite of something I really don't want - and something I not only don't want but have been experiencing a lot of in the last few years. But I keep reminding myself that it's still something I want.

The other thing that's happening in my life is that it's summer, and as those of you who have been around for a while know, I don't deal well with the heat. Every summer I've been trying to be better about self-care and being gentle with myself. This summer I decided that part of my self-care and trying to be more relaxed was to ease waaaaaay up on my writing goals. I dumped all original fic goals from my list. I put off making fic goals until after I finished doing prompt snippets at the beginning of July, and then when I made my weekly goals, I decided my official goal was to do some work on AGally/Prusty dating fic every day except Thursdays. My unofficial not exactly a goal was that I would like to write at least 200 words of it every day except Thursdays. Somehow, having the official goal of "just do something" and a word count as an "I'd like to" really works for me. I wrote at least 200 words of it most days. Just as importantly, on the days that I didn't make it to 200, I didn't feel anxious or stressed out about it, and because my actual goal was to write something, it didn't push any of my "you're a failure" buttons.

There's one more piece to my current strategy, which is something I picked up from Gretchen Rubin. I don't connect quite as much with her current focus on habits as I did with her happiness work, but there's one thing that's working for me. Her habits work is divided into various strategies. One of these is the "Strategy of Treats," and she wrote a post (warning for diet and weight talk) about it where she says, "If we want to stick to our good habits, we should try very hard never to allow ourselves to feel deprived. ... When we give ourselves plenty of healthy treats, we don’t feel deprived." In one of her other posts on the Strategy of Treats, she says, "A treat is different from a reward, which must be justified or earned. A treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it." I changed my habits because of this. Before, I wasn't allowing myself to do anything purely for fun in the mornings until I met my writing goals - checking Tumblr and fic reading were rewards, and writing fic was a reward for doing my original writing. But that always made me feel deprived. I've really changed my approach now in that I will check Tumblr and maybe read some (short) fic first thing in the morning, and then write.

Since I've made several changes all at once (this is a highly unscientific process), it's hard to tease out exactly what's making the difference - or if it's all of it put together - but I find myself feeling more relaxed in general, more relaxed about my goals, and much less resentful of my goals.
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I've made a few false starts at trying to write out this story and I've told bits and pieces of it before, mostly in tiny comments over Twitter, but I haven't told the whole thing to anyone, not even my closest friends. I didn't want - and still don't want - anyone to tell me my feelings are wrong or give me advice. While I might be able to manage it now, at the time I didn't know how to say, even to the people I'm closest to, "This thing happened and my feelings are hurt. Please only say things to me that can be rephrased as 'Poor baby. I'm sorry that happened to you. I love you/think you're great/know you're awesome.'" Telling this story to all of you feels scary and vulnerable: I'm telling you about something that hurt my feelings, I'm telling you about the soft places where I can be hurt, and I just have to trust that you're not going to use it to hurt me.

A Story )
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One of the soul limber prompts in The Desire Map is, "What's different about me is that". My first thought, the thing I wrote down immediately, was, "I'm smart," and then I had this whole "UGH" feeling about it, and I wrote, "BUT THAT'S NOT ALL I AM OR WANT TO BE."

I was always the smart kid growing up. I got good grades and had the highest SAT scores in my graduating class. Teachers didn't always know what to do with me. I spent a lot of time withdrawing and reading because I had already gotten whatever it was we were covering in class. I think being smart is valuable and part of who I am and part of what makes me special in the world. I also think always being the smart kid can be damaging and limiting.

What I learned from being the smart kid: you always have to know the right answer. You always have to succeed (at least at things that rely on you being smart; I never had a 4.0 because of my B/B+ PE grades, and as an adult, I'm okay with not being good at physical things).

Illustrative story 1: The beginning of seventh grade, possibly even the first day of seventh grade, and one of the kids I've known since fourth grade raises his hand and says, in response to something I can't even remember now, "Ruth is always right." Our English teacher looks at us and says, "Ruth is always right," as if it's a truism about the universe.

Illustrative story 2: In tenth grade, we had an awesome Honors Biology teacher. One of the things she did was extra credit on tests if you happened to use whatever she'd chosen as the secret word, which was always something we'd talked about in class. (This is relevant to the story so you know that giving extra credit for creativity was a thing she did.) We would go over our tests as a class when we got them back. For one test, she asked someone to read his answer, for which she'd given him a point, and he read out, "For the right answer, see Ruth's paper."

I didn't just learn that smart kids are supposed to know the right answer; I learned that I was supposed to know the right answer. The most important thing I've learned as an adult is that it's okay to fail and it's okay to be wrong. Intellectually, I know this is true. But I still haven't totally internalized it, and getting something wrong can still send me into an internal "I'm not good enough" shame spiral.

I also struggle against the way that "smart" is a hard label to expand beyond. When you're smart, you're supposed to only believe in and engage in things that are intellectual, scientific, fact-based. I'm smart, but that's not all I am: I'm creative; I have a tender and deeply loving heart; I have a daily spiritual practice that connects me to the divinity/oneness of the whole universe. There might be science that says creativity, feelings, and meditation are beneficial to us, but creativity, feelings, and meditation in and of themselves are not intellectual activities, and I keep hitting up against that belief that intellectual things are the only worthy pursuits, even though it's the creativity, feelings, and meditation that make me happy.

I know some of you were also smart kids growing up. Did you have some of these same experiences? Have you found ways to learn to be okay with being wrong? How about ways to expand beyond "smart"?
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I figured I should balance out the wish in my last personal post with some gratitude. Not that I'm trying to deny my wish or say that making it isn't an acceptable use of time/energy/words, but gratitude is also important, also a good use of time/energy/words, and also something I want to both feel for myself and put out into the world.

One of the prompts in the soul limber exercise of The Desire Map workbook section is, "Light and heavy: This brings me alive, enlivens me, reminds me of who I am." One of the things I wrote down was "positive reflections from others." Some examples of that:

On a day when I was feeling like I wasn't being my best self, I posted some sort of being a better person inspirational quote to Facebook. One of my friends commented on it and said I was a reminder to him to be a better person.

I kept thinking I wasn't being supportive or loving enough to one of my friends, and then she told me I'm a great friend.

I always think it takes me a while to get to know people and that I'm slow to open up, and then I got a holiday card from a new fannish friend who said she appreciated how open I was to making new friends.

I felt very vulnerable with my last personal entry, and then people commented on it and said I was brave for putting it out there, and also commented on how much I really do this kind of personal development work.

I think one of the big life lessons all of those instances is something I've been thinking about in this whole inquiry into my soul process: how I see myself, how other people see me, and how I think other people see me are three different (and only sometimes overlapping) things. (Unanswered question: where does who I actually am fit into that?) This is part of what I appreciate about those positive reflections: they remind me of something else I wrote down in the soul limber exercises: I can be warmer and more loving than I think. They're also, of course, positive attention being paid to me (yay!) and reminders that other people see and love me. Thank you to everyone who has reflected myself back to me like this.

One more example that doesn't fit the pattern of the previous four:

My brother and his girlfriend K were in town recently (they moved about five hours away in December), so we had family dinner at my parents' house. When I got there, K said to me, "You look good. You look really happy." That's definitely in the top five best compliments I've ever gotten.
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You may remember that one of my intentions for this year was some sort of spiritual refreshment. I want to be able to talk about that, and also it's an area where I feel very sensitive and vulnerable, and where it would be really easy for other people to unintentionally hurt my feelings. There are two things I want out of talking about it: (a) the opportunity to talk it out and (b) nonjudgmental listening. So first of all, I'm posting to LJ instead of emailing people about it because if no one responds to my LJ post I won't be upset where I would feel ignored if no one responded to that kind of email. Secondly, I'm going to change my usual if you write a comment I will reply to it approach to comments for these kinds of posts. If you want to empathize, ask questions, tell me about your experience, acknowledge the reality of my feelings, that would be awesome and I would love to have conversations with you! If your comment tells me I'm wrong about what I think or feel about my own experience or tells me what I should do when I haven't asked for advice, I'm not going to reply to it. That might seem like a lot of verbiage, but I think I need to be clear about my expectations and boundaries around this.

In a case of when the student is ready the teacher will appear (or the student will notice the teacher, since I have read one of her previous books), I followed a link to Danielle LaPorte's website, read almost all of her posts, and then bought her most recent book, The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul (I promise I'll make a post about the book itself when I'm done with it). I've read my way through the theory part, and am just started in on the desire mapping process/workbook part of the book. (Note: she has a whole book club associated with the book; if anyone else wants to also read it and do an online book club, I would totally be into that.) The basic premise of the book is that you figure out how you want to feel (what she calls your core desired feelings) and then build goals that will help you feel that way.

The workbook section of the book starts with what she calls "soul limber": a bunch of prompts designed to "loosen some of the calcification from your intellect and get you closer to your heart." The first one is, "I crave," and I wrote down "ATTENTION." I then spent the next few days getting the weirdest feedback on fic, which reminded me that sometimes when you ask the universe for something, you get it. So then I started thinking very loudly, "Okay, universe, when I said 'attention,' what I really meant was 'positive attention.'"

Maybe a month or so ago, I was doing yoga, and I thought to myself, "All I want is for someone to pay attention and listen to me," and then burst into tears because it's such a fierce wish, and such a deep one. (Also in my list for the "I crave" prompt: "to be heard.") I have a hard time untangling how much of that is a response to junior high trauma and how much of it is a basic human wish to be seen and heard. I listened to this interview with Danielle about desire mapping, and she talks about how some people look at how they want to feel and say that it comes from a wound, and her response to that is, "So what?" Even if it comes from a wounded place, it's still something you genuinely want to feel. I really like that framing, and particularly the way it says it's okay to want to feel however you want to feel.

So back to wanting attention. There's an episode of The Simpsons where Bart jumps around the room saying, "Pay attention to me!" I think it's supposed to be a joke about his attention-seeking behavior and how he can't stand for Lisa to be the center of attention even once, but I think about that scene a lot because I feel that way a lot. My want for attention often feels needy, greedy, and desperate. (Which is probably related to the cultural idea that attention-seeking is a bad thing, which means that wanting attention that much is also bad. Or maybe there's something there where I don't quite feel worthy of more of it.) I really like Gretchen Rubin's happiness commandment of "spend out," and that's what I've been trying to do: when I'm feeling ignored or not paid attention to, I spend out by paying attention to other people, or when I'm feeling not exactly unloved but not as loved as I want to in the moment, I spend out by sending someone else a love note (emailed or on paper). What's harder is to ask for attention. I've done it sometimes, mostly on Twitter, but I try to save it for those times when I'm having a really bad day and really, really need the support. I don't know if this a good strategy in that it does get me some attention when I'm feeling icky or a not good enough one in that I could get that need for attention filled more often if I just asked for it. The scary part is: what if I ask for it and no one gives it to me?
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For reference, my 2013 goals post is here.

Writing
Well, at least I predicted I wouldn't be able to make accurate predictions. In 2013, I wrote a lot of hockey fic (according to AO3, I've posted 180,564 words of hockey fic this year). I did not finish book three, although looking back at last year's post, I wasn't even to ten thousand words, and it's now over 71,000. I also did not sell book two, although I did finally finish doing all the edits.

Midwest Trip
Alas, this did not happen.

Reading
I read even fewer books than last year, but at least I read my way through the unread books in my house.

Physical Environment
This didn't really happen either. I took down the poster in my bedroom, made a list of the manga to give away/sell (yesterday), and got rid of a bag of clothes that had been in my closet for a really long time, but my closet still needs cleaning and I still don't know what to do with my belly dance stuff. I did buy the frame for things on my inspiration wall, and it just needs to be assembled this weekend.

Food
I did pretty well with not eating much sugar! I had some, but I didn't buy or make very many sugary things.

Financial Security
I have a job with a stable entity that pays more than my last job and has stable benefits. And I like both the job and the people I work with. I also consolidated my retirement accounts, spent money only on consumables and important things, and set up automatic, regular deposits to my savings account (yesterday, which is better than not doing it at all).
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For reference, my 2012 goals post is here.

Priority: Health (Physical, Mental, Emotional)

Start walking again. I started walking again in April, which was a huge relief. I worked back up to three miles by November, and I'm so much happier.

Go to bed on time. Some months were better than others, but I put this on my daily goals tracking sheet, and it helped me stay on track. This isn't going to be one of my resolutions for this year, but I'm going to keep tracking it day-to-day.

Make at least two new recipes per month. I only managed to do this for two months consistently, although I did manage a total of five new recipes over the year. One of them (twice-baked potatoes) became one of my regular recipes, and another one (this cake) is something I'd like to try again with modifications.

Go to the beach. I went in August! It was exactly what I wanted. I even enjoyed the drive, which I haven't before. I think it was partially that I made playlists for the drive - one of music and one of podcasts, each of them long enough to cover most of the drive - and partially the novelty factor - I hadn't done a long drive in years, and I took roads I hadn't driven before in both directions. On the way home, I drove up Highway 1 on a gorgeous Tuesday morning with almost no other cars on the road.

Priority: Writing

Edit and sell books one and two. I started editing book two.

Write at least one book. I worked a little on book three, then got stuck and didn't work on it for something like seven months. I got into good habits in December, but it hasn't even cracked ten thousand words yet.

Finish/post all the little finishable/postable things I have lying about. I didn't quite get to all of them, but between 31 Days of Fic in March and Daily December Treats in December, I got to enough of them to call this a success.

Priority: Friendships

Plan a trip to Chicago at a time when [livejournal.com profile] eleanor_lavish can also go. We did this in July! It was a lot of fun. Two lessons: 1. Taking care of myself, even if my habits and patterns don't match up with everyone else's, will make for a better experience. I insisted on going to the grocery store for rice cakes and peanut butter so I would have something for breakfast even if no one else was into breakfast/awake when I was, and I think I had a much better time because of it. 2. When going to the movies in the Midwest in the summer, I need to take a sweater.

Connect with the people I love but don't email every day at least once a month. I did okay with some people, but not with others. I may just need to get over myself when it comes to talking on the phone. I don't actually dislike it once I'm doing it, but I tend to dread it and then not make phone calls.

Make at least one new local friend. I was trying, and it just never worked out with the people I was trying to befriend.
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A friend quoted Pema Chodron at me and said Chodron was one of her favorite writers on Buddhism. I'd never heard of her, which led to two things: my mother bought me a copy of the issue of Shambhala Sun with Chodron on the cover, and I checked out The Pema Chodron Collection from the library. The book is actually three of Chodron's books in one volume. I skimmed through bits of the first two and they didn't catch my interest, but the third, When Things Fall Apart, did. I did enjoy it, and I think reading some of it on Thanksgiving helped me enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. I also kept thinking about something Gretchen Rubin often says: that she often learns more from one person's idiosyncratic story than from more general advice.
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Those of you who've been around for a while know that I'm a fan of Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog, and you may further know that I wasn't as excited about her first book on the subject, also titled The Happiness Project. She now has a second book on the topic, Happier at Home, which I was able to request from my local library much faster than I thought was going to be possible.

I liked Happier at Home much more than The Happiness Project. (Keep in mind that I read the first book two years ago, so it is possible this is a change in me more than a change in her.) I thought it was a more useful, concrete book. One of my problems with the first book was that I felt I didn't learn anything I didn't already know from the blog, where I didn't feel that way about this book. I've been reading her blog all the way through the time she implemented the happiness project for Happier at Home, and somehow that worked better for me with this book. I recognized things in the book that I'd read posts about on the blog, but instead of finding that repetitive, I got a thrill out of it, a little like I was an insider. I do still wonder how it would read to people who haven't read the blog - there were places where I could practically see the hyperlinks to previous posts that would explain her basic philosophy (and she did just post about her abstainers vs. moderators distinction in response to a lot of book tour questions about it), and there are patterns to how she talks about things that are familiar if you read the blog - but I think it would still be a useful book even if you aren't a regular reader.

As the title implies, the focus of the book is on being happier at home. As she usually does, Gretchen (side note: proper book review etiquette would involve using her last name, but I feel like I know her too well from her blog for that) breaks her project into several thematic areas that she then focuses on one at a time on a month by month basis. She then has four or five specific resolutions within each thematic area. I found the resolutions for this book much more concrete - and, in many cases, more widely applicable - than the ones in the previous book. I finished the first chapter on "Possessions" and put the book down to reorganize a nearly-unusable cabinet. I also finally threw away my broken umbrella (although I haven't yet replaced it).

There are three of her specific resolutions that I've been thinking about. The first is "give warm greetings and farewells." This is one of those resolutions that doesn't seem particularly applicable to me: I live alone, and I have people over about once every other month. However, we already have mandatory warm greetings at work: when someone comes into the main office area, everyone has to say hello to them before they can fully enter the room, and they have to go around and greet everyone individually (originally, the options were handshake, fist bump, or high five, but it's devolved to everyone just exchanging fist bumps). It really has made a difference in the attitude of our office, and it's exactly what Gretchen talks about: taking a moment out of whatever you're doing to greet someone. I've been trying to do the same thing when people leave for the day, although I have to admit I'm terrible about looking up from what I'm typing to say hello or goodbye.

The second resolution I've been thinking about is "make the positive argument." The idea behind it is what she calls "argumentative reasoning": "When a person takes a position, he or she looks for evidence to support it and then stops, satisfied." Gretchen specifically talks about this in the frame of her marriage: whenever she's upset and tempted to think something like, "Jamie isn't very thoughtful," she then thinks to herself, "Jamie is very thoughtful," and can come up with a lot of evidence to support that argument as well. "Make the positive argument" fits right in with a lot of similar advice about seeing the positive side of things, but it's one of those things that you hear over and over again, and then you're in the right place and it's said in just the right way that it sticks with you.

The third of her resolutions that I find interesting is "enter into the interests of others (within reason)." The basic idea is to take an interest in other people's interests by listening or asking questions: "entering into other people's interests is an important way to show respect and affection." I've been thinking about this in two ways. One is that I've been trying to be a better listener over the past few years, and paying attention to and asking questions about other people's interests (which is not something I'm good at, particularly the asking questions part) is one way to do that. The other is that one of my coworkers, who I don't know very well at all, brought in a craft project for us when it was her turn to lead our weekly teambuilding activity. One of the things I really liked about it as an activity was that she told us that the craft supplies she'd brought for us to use were just a small portion of the supplies she has, and that she has an entire room at home devoted to crafting. Crafting is very much not my kind of thing, but knowing that about her and seeing what kinds of things she brought in for us to use has made me feel much warmer toward her.

I would definitely recommend Happier at Home, and if you read it without having read the blog, I would especially love to know what you think about it. I liked it so much that I might actually buy myself a copy to have on hand for reference when it comes out in paperback.
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I've been feeling stuck recently, so some of these are directed at getting me to feel unstuck. I've also organized them into three categories that reflect my three main priorities in life.

Priority: Health (Physical, Mental, Emotional)

Start walking again. I haven't been going for my morning walk in several months because I have plantar fasciitis in one foot which makes walking very far hurt, plus one of the treatments is to rest until it heals. Getting back to walking relies primarily on my body's healing ability, but in the meantime, I'm going to continue doing all the things I've been doing to help it along. The thing I haven't been doing that I could possibly be better about is icing it. (That's a hard one to do in the winter.) When it does get better (it's better now than it was, and I'm hoping I can start walking again in February or March), I need to keep in mind that it will take some time to work back up to three miles, and I just have to be okay with that and not push it.

Go to bed on time. I'm so much happier when I get enough sleep, and I end up staying up late reading more than I would like.

Make at least two new recipes per month. Like most people, I tend to cook the same things over and over again. For the most part, this isn't a problem, but I've been bored with the same old things recently. That tends to lead to me not cooking and then cobbling together things I don't really want to eat that my body isn't always happy with. I need to shake up my cooking. As a bonus, I think this will help with feeling stuck. I will take vegan, gluten free suggestions of things to try.

Go to the beach. I was flipping through AAA's magazine, and there was an ad for some special at a hotel in Monterey. I haven't been to the beach in a while, and I think my soul needs it. Things I need to deal with: 1. I feel weirdly guilty for thinking about traveling just for me and not to visit friends. 2. I don't want to be away from the internet for that long.

Priority: Writing

Edit and sell books one and two. I don't think book two needs very much in the way of editing, and it's definitely good enough to be sold as is. Book one is probably more or less good enough, and it works as an after the fact prequel to book two.

Write at least one book. It took me thirteen months to write book two, but I did the math and I really only averaged a little over two hundred words per day. That means there are a lot of days I didn't write. Also, the bit of NaNo I did do showed me that I can easily write over a thousand words per day without giving up the other things I want to do with my time. I can write at least one book this year.

Finish/post all the little finishable/postable things I have lying about. I think I will try to pick a month (maybe March again) and try to have everything ready for posting by then, and then post one ficcish thing every day that month. I could make other fan fic related goals, but while I will probably end up writing a lot of fic, there is no possible way I can predict what it will be at this point.

Priority: Friendships

Plan a trip to Chicago at a time when [livejournal.com profile] eleanor_lavish can also go. If we can make this happen, then [livejournal.com profile] lakeeffectgirl, [livejournal.com profile] schuyler, [livejournal.com profile] siryn99, [livejournal.com profile] eleanor_lavish, and I can all spend time together as a whole group of fangirls. This would also guarantee that I get to see all of them this year.

Connect with the people I love but don't email every day at least once a month. In some cases ([livejournal.com profile] allegram and Brad) this means phone calls, in some cases (my family) it means hosting dinner and nudging other people to host dinner, and in some cases ([livejournal.com profile] norwich36 and [livejournal.com profile] idahophoenix) it means fangirl outings. Whatever it is, it's important to me to do it.

Make at least one new local friend. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to do this. I might finally write the "fangirl seeks same" craigslist ad I've been thinking about for months. Or maybe I'll try to start a queer lit (of the lit about characters who happen to be queer variety) book group. Whatever it is, I think I need at least one more local friend. I will take suggestions for other ways to meet people I could be friends with.
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Attitude Adjustment

I've been feeling very Bah, humbug!/No one cares so why bother? about fandom recently, and then yesterday I got an email with my extras for my [livejournal.com profile] bandgirlsbang story. They're amazing. I have made pleased gasping noises about them more than once. People took my story and made these incredible things for it, and I'm all full of joy again. I can't wait to share them with you next week.

Fic Reading/Recs Request/Recs Request Request

I have been doing a lot of escapist fic reading. Anyone have any recs? I really want to read romances in the 20,000-30,000 word range, but I will take other suggestions. I've been reading mostly Harry Potter (Harry/Draco), Star Trek reboot and reboot RPF (Kirk/McCoy, Spock/Uhura, Chris/Zach), Sherlock (John/Sherlock, Sherlock/Lestrade), Hawaii Five-0 (Steve/Danny, but I would read Kono and Chin things too, and would love Kono&Chin gen), and some Suits (I will read anything, even gen; the quantity has to do with snobbery on my part, not hard to find pairings). Again, I will take other suggestions too.

I read a lot of fic. Is there anything any of you want recs for? Do you like recs, or am I just talking to myself if I post/email them?

TV Watching

I had a random urge to watch the first episode of Grey's Anatomy, and since all of season one is on Hulu, that's pretty much what I did with my Thanksgiving break. (Note: Season one is only nine episodes.) I know it's cool to hate Grey's Anatomy for being soapy and melodramatic or whatever, but I'd forgotten how much I love it. I'm considering rewarding myself for finishing Yuletide (when I do) with a month of Netflix to watch more Grey's Anatomy and all the Star Trek I can handle.

This weekend, I wanted to keep doing nothing but watching TV, and since I didn't have anything else to catch up on, I wandered into the ABC Family shows available on Hulu. I have to admit a real love for ABC Family shows. They're kind of like YA novels, but as TV. Also, they have some very interestingly frank and progressive conversations about sex and birth control. Anyway, this weekend, I got myself hooked on Switched at Birth. As you might be able to tell from a combination of the title, the network, and my interests, it's a show about two teenage girls who find out they were switched at birth. One of the families is rich; the other is poor. Because this isn't enough drama and conflict, one of the girls is deaf and the other is hearing. Two warnings: 1. You might find yourself annoyed with the rich family's overwhelming sense of entitlement. 2. You might find yourself annoyed with the hearing family for not thinking they should learn ASL until someone else takes them to task for it several episodes in. Other than those two things, I love it, and it comes back for season two in January.

The other ABC Family show I'm working my way through is The Nine Lives of Chloe King. [livejournal.com profile] norwich36 and I saw a trailer for it at the movies quite a while ago, but I'd forgotten to go look for it again once it started. Chloe turns sixteen and suddenly finds out that she's one of the Mai, which are essentially cat people, meaning they have cat-like superpowers and whatnot, and there's something about Baset. Which doesn't make much sense because she was born in the Ukraine. Chloe is not just Mai, she's the Uniter. I'm only a few episodes in, and all I know about what that means is that she has nine lives to lead. Most of this is nonsense, and the real pleasure of the series is all the teenage girl with superpowers things: one of her best friends is very excited because he's into comic books, Chloe has a great relationship with her mom, and there's a boy who is, of course, connected to the people trying to kill the Mai. The internet tells me this has been canceled, and I can see why: it's kind of fun, but it's not the kind of thing I would be involved in for years.
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If I were the kind of person to have icons, one of them would be Bart Simpson jumping around the screen yelling, "Pay attention to me!" (Quick googling tells me it's from "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," but I couldn't find video of just that bit in the two minutes I allotted to said googling.) Anyway, I am combining this with my happiness commandment to ask and asking you to come talk to me in the comments. Ask questions, tell me about your day, outline a plot bunny in your head. It'll be a party! (Until I go to bed, but I'll be back tomorrow.)

Caveat: please don't post/link me to video. The sustained time and attention required to watch it makes me anxious. I know it's completely illogical that I would rather read a ten thousand-word story than watch a three-minute video, but there it is. Cat, Channing Tatum, and Star Trek macros are a-okay, as long as they are funny.
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When I was traveling in April, I read The Ethical Slut: A Pracitcal Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures, second edition, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. The book is organized into four sections: "Welcome," "The Practice of Sluthood," "Navigating Challenges," and "Sluts in Love." The "Welcome" section is set up to introduce you to the very concept of polyamory, which made me laugh. I'm a fangirl; you don't need to convince me that polyamory is a possible way to live one's life. The other sections are more practical, full of advice and suggestions on how to live a polyamorous life.

There are three things I do want to talk more in depth about concerning the book as a book. Cut for length and a quote about sex. )

I'm not sure I would really recommend the book. It has a conversational tone that started to irritate me after a few chapters. I suppose the concepts in it are fairly radical if you're not used to reading a fair amount of threesome fan fic, and it probably is useful if you're actually in a poly relationship of some sort, but I think it just wasn't what I wanted from a book about polyamory. I may have to look through the books in their resources section, because I think more than a how-to, what I would find interesting is more of a look at people's different poly configurations.
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  1. Sleep! I got enough sleep last week for the first time in months. This weekend, I felt like myself for the first time in a long time, and it meant I could do things other than just stare at my computer screen. I even, after being exhausted from cooking and the heat, went to bed early yesterday.

  2. Writing! Because I was with it in the morning, I met my writing goals first thing in the morning, which let me then go on with my day without feeling anxious about them. I didn't do much other writing, although I did poke at my cupcakes and space station threesome before I got distracted by a recipe not being where I thought it was.

  3. Environmental management! I'm being mindful of the fact that I melt down in the summer and trying to manage the part of that that might be linked to being too hot. I had the fans on all weekend, and I reset the programming on my thermostat to 79 degrees instead of 80.

  4. [livejournal.com profile] norwich36! We had dinner on Saturday, which is always delightful. I'm glad she was willing to indulge my craving for a sandwich! (We have a local place that makes vegan, gluten free sandwiches. I'm currently obsessed with the pesto tofu one.)

  5. Lunch with Brad and [livejournal.com profile] stevie_roch! When we go to the movies, we usually eat before or after - and if we eat before, we stand around the movie theater lobby talking for a while after the movie. Last weekend, they were out of town and drove very fast to meet me at the theater for the 6:30 X-Men showing. That meant we got out of the movie late and didn't stand around talking as usual. So when we had lunch this weekend, we had a chance to do further chatting about the movie. We remain baffled that we're the only people we know who didn't like it.

  6. Sherlock on DVD! See the previous post for more detail, raving, and spoilers.

  7. Errands! I did errands this weekend, some of which I'd been putting off for months. I also broke them into manageable bits, even though it meant I headed to the other end of town (a whole two freeway exits away) twice. At no point did I say, "This is not worth my time," out loud and leave a store in disgust. (You may laugh, but I have actually done this before.)

  8. Pier One! Approximately five or six years ago, I bought these cool drinking glasses from Pier One. They're colorless glass with a spiral around them of color - some of them red and some blue. I've broken a few over the years, and I've recently become an orange juice drinker and wanted to own more than one juice glass. I actually went to Pier One just to see what they have, thinking that of course they wouldn't still carry these. Much to my surprise and delight, they still have them and my cabinet is restocked.

  9. Cooking! Because I felt more like myself, I did a lot of cooking. My cupcakes came out vinegary, my bread was too wet, and my frosting separated, but I'm still glad I got to do some cooking. My roasted apples came out perfectly. We'll see how they do in the final product: the apple-cinnamon toastie from the first Babycakes cookbook.

  10. Fiction! I did not actually read anything from [livejournal.com profile] bandombigbang, but I did read some Sherlock fic and about a third of the third book in Morgan Howell's The Shadowed Path trilogy. (I will probably have more to say about this once I finish it.)
Takeaways from this list:
  1. I should get enough sleep all the time. I'm a lot happier and I get more done when I do.

  2. Friends: yay!

  3. Everyday things can be a source of pleasure, joy, and awesome.
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Whoops. I kept forgetting yesterday was June first. Also, it was a Wednesday. Wednesdays are the day of the week I find it hardest to stick to my goals, and if I don't do my writing on Wednesday, then I think the week is already a loss and I'm more likely to skip Thursday and Saturday too. I'm trying to think about Gretchen's commandment to "identify the problem," but I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what's hard about Wednesdays. I will take suggestions for ways to make it easier!

Report on May:
  • Write at least 400 words per day on weekdays, except Fridays, and 600 words per day on weekends of book two. - Did this ten days.

  • Write at least 200 words per day on weekdays, except Fridays, and 300 words per day on weekends of the Leighton/Victoria story. - Did this ten days.

  • Write miscellaneous snippets as inspired. - Check!

  • Say positive things on Twitter. - Always working on this.
Goals for June:
  • Write at least 400 words per day on weekdays, except Fridays, and 600 words per day on weekends of book two.

  • Write at least 200 words per day on weekdays, except Fridays, and 300 words per day on weekends of the Leighton/Victoria story. Ideally write more than this. I don't know that I'll finish this for big bang (if it's going to take another 30,000 words, I would have to write more like 600+ words per day), but that would be nice.

  • If I'm not going to finish the Leighton/Victoria story for big bang, figure out what I am going to do.

  • Write miscellaneous snippets as inspired.

  • Say positive things on Twitter.
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I started this post early this morning, before I even went to work. Today was a busy - and constantly busy - day, and I loved having this post to come back to at lunch and this evening. So although this is a post of three things that are making me happy, the post itself is a bonus fourth.

Christian Kane's The House Rules
Okay, I know this came out in December, but I just bought it yesterday. I couldn't listen to it and write at the same time because I just wanted to grin and sing along, so I listened to it on my walk this morning. (Thing I don't think I've mentioned here yet: four of my amazing friends went in together and bought me a tiny, red iPod! So now I start my day thinking of them and listening to music on my morning walk.) I'm pretty delighted by it.

Chris's gender politics are interesting as always: he makes a distinction on "Callin' All Country Women" between "uptown girls" and "country women," which is perhaps not the best presentation of "uptown girls," but very interesting in that I read this post, in which the comments discuss the way women aren't referred to as "women" this week. (He himself is a "country boy" in the lyrics.) "American Made" refers to women as everything from "women" to "girls" to "beauties" to "ladies," depending on the fit with the lyric - although he does refer to "my girl."

He also does a pretty straight up cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" - the only lyric he changed was from "checkout girl" to "checkout boy," which was jarring the first time I heard it but not the second. (His tweet wondering what Tracy thinks of his cover is what prompted me to finally go buy the album.) It's an interesting choice, and I think it works well.

The most interesting thing about my emotional reaction is that I wish I'd bought the CD + digital download version. I didn't because I thought, "Of course I don't need a CD," but it turns out that when it comes to Chris, that does actually matter to me. Strange! I do have an unused Amazon gift card, so maybe I'll use part of it to get the actual CD.

Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls
The last book I read was bad. Really, really bad. (I'm writing an unrec post for [livejournal.com profile] romoerotic. I require a lot of words to describe how bad it was and why.) Anything else would probably look good in comparison, but The Splendor Falls is genuinely excellent. It has a compelling first-person narrator, an interesting plot, and the word "collarbone." (Those of you who don't follow me on Twitter may not realize that the use of the word "clavicle" has reached epidemic proportions. There are, of course, appropriate situations for the word "clavicle," but next time you write it, think about your intent. Are you providing a clinical listing of body parts for an anatomy test or trying to give your reader a sense of the beauty and sensuality of the human body? If it's the first, by all means do use "clavicle." If it's the second, switch to "collarbone." We'll all be a lot happier. [If you really feel the need to use "clavicle," I would be totally down with a Brendon/Spencer college AU where Spencer's studying anatomy by using the technical terms for all of Brendon's body parts as he touches/kisses them.]) Every time I start reading, I don't want to stop.

My Inspirational Desk
Between yoga and Sean Van Vleet's obsession with Steven Pressfield, which he has then passed on to several of my friends, I can't escape the concept of resistance. I finally bought white index cards so I could write "No resistance. Just let it be easy." on the back of one. It's more a paraphrase of something my yoga teacher said than it is a Pressfield reference (I've tried to read The War of Art twice, but haven't managed to finish it), but it's absolutely helpful writing advice. Monday's reading at yoga was the first four lines of this. I almost didn't catch anything else she said because I found "Empty yourself of everything" to be so powerful. I now have that on an index card on the other side of my monitor. (I didn't estimate well, so it's not centered and the letters squish together at the end. I'm trying to figure out if I can empty myself of the need for it to be right or if I just need to rewrite it.)

I was so pleased with my index cards last night (I'm thinking about doing a whole series of handwritten cards of things I find inspirational so I can shuffle them and let the hand of fate choose what I need in the moment when I need inspiration), and then I looked at the few other things on my desk, and realized that they are also keeping me in touch with good things. I have a heart-shaped petrified wood paperweight that I got from my belly dance class when I quit my last job to write, which reminds me both of my commitment to writing and the support of others. The cable for my iPod, which reminds me of the people who gave it to me, lies in a slight curve to my right. And then there's a small, wooden whale, which I bought at the woodworking place in Ghirardelli Square on a work trip. Something about its puppy dog expression called to me, even though I don't like puppies and have left my dolphin and whale obsession in my past. Part of one of its flippers has broken off, so it lists a bit, but the wood is as smooth as ever.

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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