Thinking About Planning

All day I’ve been distracting myself looking at Planners. Paper planners. 

That’s because I’m not really here in my mind. My mind is in North Carolina with G whose father is dying. 

On Monday he left the hospital. He called a halt to all treatments. He said he wanted to go home. He’s not eating or drinking. The family is all there. They’ve said their goodbyes. He started taking morphine this morning. Hospice comes twice a day. 

Stella and I walk.

I teach my classes. 

I write, and meditate, and look at the Christmas tree which has lights but no ornaments on it yet. 

I light the menorah. 

Stella and I watch the news at night.

I’ve been looking at the Circa system in the Levenger catalog. I ordered the Junior size planner and it came the other day. I think it’ll work. We’ll see.

It feels weird to be “planning” my year ahead while looking at photos of a man who has no more need for a planner.

It makes me grateful for my life. 

I have a wonderful life. Even the other day, when I had to have a root canal, I felt so lucky. I have the money to afford a root canal. My endodontist is a complete pro.  The procedure was long but pain-free. 

Today I took my last antibiotic. 

Every night I sleep in a warm soft bed. Every evening  I teach yoga to kind, gentle, generous and caring people. The best people I have ever known. I feel so loved. So appreciated. 

There is no way to plan for this kind of life. This kind of life has to be built choice by choice.  Saying yes to some things, no to others. Saying yes to kindness and patience, and no to irritability and grouchiness. Even when I feel irritable and grouchy. 

It’s a trillion little choices that make a life. Until one day there are no days left in the calendar and nothing left to plan. 

I think all that anyone can ever hope for is that their love goes viral. That everyone they ever encountered felt their kindness, and then spread it to everyone they encountered, and on and on.

I feel this way about Owen. His love was contagious. I caught it, and I intend to spread it. 

On and on, for as long as I can plan.

How Not Writing a Novel During National Novel Writing Month Made Me A Better Writer

 I don’t write novels. Never have. Never will. But every year since 2011 I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I’ve won it 5 out of those 8 years.

This was a winning year. I validated last Friday and high-fived myself.

I do it mainly to increase my stamina and endurance as a writer. I think of it like treadmill running. It gets me in shape for winter, and the introspective writing months to come.

I hop on Scrivener, set my word goal, and just crank. I get winded, I stall out a lot, but I know I have to hit that 1667 daily word count daily, or else tomorrow there’ll be a deficit to make up.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over 8 years of doing this crazy game, it’s that catch-up is a bitch.    

Doing NaNo has taught me tons about how I roll as a writer.

I have learned, for instance, that I am definitely not a coffee shop writer. (I lost the year I tried that.)

And that even though I’m entranced with fountain pens and Moleskines, they are not conducive to serious output, and positively discourage editing.

I have also learned that for me, the best soundtrack for writing is no soundtrack. I require silence to hear the music of my mind. One year I made a playlist on Spotify and I lost that year. And now, every time I hear any of those songs, I get slightly nauseous.

But I have also discovered how I do work best:

First, I need exercise. I do what I call my “Campus Scamper”—a brisk 3 mile hill and step-infested walk around campus.  

Next, I  buy or make a large Americano which I take up to my cozy lair, aka, my bedroom.

If it’s cold out, I turn on the little space heater. I need warmth to write.

I then fire up the diffuser with 4 drops of Eucalyptus Radiata and 4 drops of Helichrysm essential oils. This is my magic “brain blend.” As soon as I smell that, I want to write.

I sit down in my Space Chair and fire up Scrivener, the best writing app in the world, set my 1667 word goal, and crank for as long as it takes.  Ideally, all this goodness happens at the same time every day. For me that time is within 4 hours of getting up. Because after lunch my brain goes offline. 

I love and look forward to this ritual.

This year I called my not-a-novel The Yoga of Everything 2.0.  

Here are some of the things I wrote about:

I wrote about the yoga of boredom, and the yoga of dog training and the yoga of cleaning.  

I tried to figure out the artistry of Haruki Murakami, and I analyzed The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene. 

I pondered the point of blogging, and the point of, well, everything.

I beta tested a “metta” project where I telepathically sent a “May you be happy” message to every person I passed on my walk, and tracked the results.

I wrote about signals and all the ways people signal to one another. 

I wrote about paint colors for the dining room

 I asked myself “why?”with an obsession that bordered on neuroticism. 

So now I have 50 thousand words to mine in the coming months for little blog posts and essays. The brain dump is over, the resistance monster has been slain. I’m feeling strong and have honed my endurance. 

I feel in shape and ready for those long winter writing sessions.

I’m even looking forward to them. 

Another NaNoWriMo in the books.

Boo-yah.

Year-End Goals

Year-end goals

I’m now in the home stretch in NaNoWriMo. I’ve no doubt I’ll finish. I have 7K words to go and 3 days to finish, so even though it’s going to be a bit of a crank, if I know anything, it’s how to crank.  

Afterwards, I’ll celebrate, then report here on how it went for me this year. 

I’ve decided that’s what this blog is going to be about from now on: me giving a weekly report on my projects.

I like this use of a blog because I can use it as an accountability tool. 

I’m an Obliger. I need to be held accountable.

There’s only a month left in this year. For some reason, this thought shocks me.  

The other day I decided on some year-end goals.

They are:

1. Win NaNoWriMo

2. Compile my classes and spiral-bind them.

3. Learn 2 new Scrivener skills.

4. Learn to make a spreadsheet in Excel.

5. Blog twice a week, until the end of the year. 

6. Put 6 little notes in the mail each week.

Here are the 3 types of projects I like to take on:

Some sort of endurance challenge where I have to complete something hard over time.

Something that gives me a new skill or new knowledge.

Something that makes my life easier by reducing an irritant.

Right now, winning NaNo is my endurance challenge. Learning Scrivener and Excel will up my skills game. Compiling my classes will definitely make my my life tons easier. I’ll finally be able to locate the hundreds of sequences I’ve compiled over the years.

The blogging and the notes projects represent things I resist. I don’t know why, so I’ll need to think about that, get to the bottom of it.

So that’s the plan for this blog going forward.

Now though, I have to crank words. Next post: How I Won NaNoWriMo in 2018.

Boomer: Big Dog On Campus

 

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She made the students look up from their phones and smile at her.

I’d be walking the South Hall Mall and hear an ear-deafening screech from a student, far off in the distance, who had spied her. “Cor-geeeeee!!!!”

Students would mob her like a celebrity. And, like the complete diva she was, she’d sit for their pets dutifully, even stoically, but be relieved when it was over and she could continue her walk.

During many long slogs up Cardiac, zooming cars, with students dangling out the windows, would go by yelling, “I love your dog!!”

She was sparkly. She trotted along briskly, looking happy. People always said it: “She looks so happy!  As if happiness was something very rare to see.

Once, a student wearing pajama bottoms, flops, and a baggy hoodie crouched down and petted her for an unusually long time. When he stood up, he said, “I’ve been struggling. I needed to pet an animal today. Thank you.”

This is the power of a dog. They’re real, non-judgmental, and adoring. When we’re around them we feel more relaxed because we feel accepted unconditionally. And loved unconditionally, despite, and maybe even because of, our character flaws and neuroses.

G wants to get a rescue dog now, and I do too in a lot of ways. But I wonder if I walked a mixed breed dog around town, I’d  get the kind of attention that Boomer drew just because she was that breed, with its distinctive short legs, long body and big ears.

When you have a distinctive breed of dog, people remark on it, ask you about it if they’ve never seen one before.

People come up and talk to you who ordinarily might not. They might be secret fans of the breed. They might have had one themselves at one point, and will want you to know about it, as a point of connection with you: We, the corgi lovers.

So, I don’t know what to do about the next dog. There was something really fun about having a corgi. She elevated my social status. Somehow Boomer made me special because I walked her.

Boomer made me visible.

Now when I walk on campus for exercise, nobody looks up from their phones. Nobody makes eye contact. Nobody says hello. Or just smiles.

But when I had Boomer, they’d shoot her a little smile, or ask to pet her, and I could pretend, just for a moment that I, too, was included in that exchange. That I was seen.

RIP Boomer. You were magic.  

Favorite Things (at the moment)

 

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I thought I’d write a post about things I’m liking these days a la the Tim Ferris and Austin Kleon weekly newsletters.

So here goes:

What I’m reading:

Murakami. Can’t get enough. I’m on a jag now. Finished A Wild Sheep Chase and was told that it’s part of a “Rat series.” (Who knew?) So I picked up Dance, Dance, Dance and am enjoying that one even more.

Podcasts I am really loving at the moment:

The Living Experiment with Pilar Gerasimo and Dallas Hartwig. Today’s episode was on Reading. Really good. (Episode 76) All the episodes are good, but this one hit home because I’ve been reading more lately.

I love cocktails.

All winter it was Negronis. But on Easter I switched back to my trusty favorite: The Sidecar. I tweak the recipe, though, substituting Grand Marnier for the cognac. Here’s my recipe:

1 large jigger Grand Marnier

1 small jigger lemon juice (1 lemon, freshly squeezed)

1 small jigger Cointreau

Pour into an ice-filled shaker, shake until the shaker builds a layer of frost, strain into a martini glass. I like these stem-less ones.

Versa Chalk. I got a blackboard for the Yoga Challenge and I’m in love with Versa Chalk. It writes like a marker on a chalkboard.

Essential Oil

I’m into Geranium at the moment. Eases nervous tension, balances the emotions, lifts the spirit, fosters peace, well-being and hope.

But when I’m in deep work mode, my fave diffuser blend is currently Helichrysum and Eucalyptus Radiata

Never been a big fan of vitamin supplements. I have a fairly good diet and vitamins never seemed to make me feel any different whether I took them or not. But recently I’ve been drinking Athletic Greens and I actually do feel a lot better. I heard about them on the Tim Ferriss podcast. I get them in the individual packets and drink a glass every morning before my coffee. I actually feel better as a result.

I love comfy shoes (or no shoes). I love my Allbirds. I don’t wear them out in the wet because they’re wool, but there was a spell of dry days a few days ago and I dug them out. Ahhhhhh…. I’ve missed you, my little birds! Maybe have to get a new pair for spring?

A question I’ve been asking myself lately, especially when I’m online:

Is this activity compulsive or creative?

I really love to hear about people’s favorite things. Will you consider sharing yours?

Power Yoga

Young man hand pointing with fiber optic light trail connection.

When you take an hour out of your day to do some stretching in a structured way, guided by someone with some expertise, you are making a conscious choice to increase your power.

Power can be thought of as “energy” or “personal vitality” and that kind of power is a known virtue of a structured yoga practice.

But power is also having the ninja ability to stay conscious. To consciously  choose this, not that: to stay out of the brain’s unconscious default mode.

Power is also the ability to stay aware and awake. To notice things like another person’s body language, as well as downgrades in our own attention: tiredness, inability to focus, hunger, thirst.

Power is the ability to decide. To say no, or yes, from a place where you feel resourced,  physically and mentally.

You bring this power to every domain of your life: food, Facebook, leisure activities, projects you take on, or don’t, and the ways you prioritize how to spend a day.

Try asking yourself these questions a few times throughout your day this week:

Is this activity compulsive or creative?

Am I  unconscious or conscious?

What am I cultivating by doing this?

What am I bringing into the world?

In the yoga room, of all the above questions, the most important one to keep asking is: What am I cultivating?

Is it my physical strength, stamina and flexibility?

Is it my ability to focus and concentrate?

Is it my ability to be patient with myself and practice self-care?

Am I practicing in a compulsive, driven way, focused on outcomes (mastering a pose) or is my practice creative, and open to unexpected insights?

And finally, this: As a result of spending an hour a day practicing here, what version of myself am I bringing into the world?

This is Day 1 of the Main Street Yoga April Yoga Challenge.

 

My First Book Group

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Yesterday was the first meeting of the new book group. We discussed Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. A dozen people showed up.  The discussion was (surprisingly) fabulous. I didn’t know what to expect, having never been in a book group before, but I was pretty flabbergasted by how deeply and carefully these people read this book. I already knew most of the people from yoga, but I now feel I know them on a whole new level. It’s very cool.

One man said that he wanted to join the group primarily because he’s an avid reader, but also because he lives in a pretty isolated place and needs to “get off the mountain and be with people.”

My heart melted when he said that.

Made me think that book groups aren’t just about books.

The best part for me was being witness to, and part of, a big rollicking discussion. Haven’t had that experience since college, and even in college it didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.

This particular book wasn’t my favorite, but the majority of the group really liked it and made a great case for it, so much so, in fact, that I thought I might go back and re-read at least parts.

But …I won’t.

That’s because I’m already deeply into A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami, which is the next book. Here, for the record, is my review of Lincoln In The Bardo:

Dear Lincoln In The Bardo,

It’s not you, it’s me. I’m the one who’s messed up and blind. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were great, in fact. Everything you said, and the way you said it, was beautiful and true and I loved that about you. All my friends liked you, too. You were creative and complex. I just couldn’t up-level to your world.

You and I, it seems, have very different minds, and not only that, our minds seem to want to play in different sand boxes. I really need a lot of light and a considerable amount of humor; you were a tad bit heavy, and a little too dark for me.

Even when you yourself made fun of your dark side, and could even laugh at it, I wasn’t amused. It was too much of a stretch. I had to try too hard. (You were kinda exhausting.)

So while I learned a lot from you, and don’t regret getting to know you, we’ll never make it as a couple. We just want different things.

I’ll let you hang out in my “Finished” pile for a while, but I can foresee the day when you’ll just take up too much shelf space and I’ll have to donate you to the library.

But at least that way, if I ever change my mind, I’ll know where you live.

Fondly,

Kath