Conscious Uncoupling

In the last few weeks, I have made an effort to monitor my social media habits and my ability to accomplish what I want to each day. Like many people, I am sure, I find that my smartphone- rather than being a tool- has become a mindless source of entertainment for me.  If it was a relationship status with social media- mine would be “It’s Complicated”

Under the guise of productivity and constant connection, I found that I had a set pattern of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, various forums, news outlets and then back again to the

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It’s not You, It’s Me- I just need a break.

beginning.  Standing in line at the store? Scroll thru some feeds.  Stuck on an art project? Turn to Instagram to see other artists and how my work measured up to theirs.  Time to write on my blog? I’d rather buzz thru Twitter to see the hot topics of the day.

 

Meanwhile, I bemoaned not having enough time.  My focus was out the window-  I had specific goals in mind the last few months for my family time, writing, and painting- and I was always too busy.  Yet there was always time for social media.

I’m able to admit my will power wasn’t strong enough to keep off it; I also acknowledge that the purpose of the smartphone and all apps, it to make it easy (and possibly addicting) to connect and share 24/7.   I won’t blame the technology, but I can see how it was easy to slide into using it all the time.

Instead of pulling the plug, I decided to do a “Conscious Uncoupling”,  in the spirit of a former Hollywood Power Couple.  I acknowledge I want social media in my life- but I want better control of it.   A blog post from the Minimalists reminded me of how taking a break every now and then can help you refocus on what you want to get out of social media.  It’s available Here , “How the Minimalists are Using Social Media in 2018” for anyone looking for motivation or encouragement on taking a break from the newsfeeds.

My first step was to remove my social media apps from my smartphone- all but Facebook Messenger (which my family uses rather than texting).  I did it one at a time, first Twitter, then Instagram, then Facebook.   I do need these programs to conduct business and stay connected- I am growing my art business, and how else will my blog get shared?  But I have found that there hasn’t been a message yet that needed my immediate attention- so they can wait until designated times of the day that I log into my tablet for updates.

Today is Day 1.  In the past I was able to go 40 days without any social media.   Now my goal is just to schedule it, like I would other household chores or projects– and get my focus back on productivity in the studio.   I would love to hear in the comments how others are backing away from smartphones, or how restricting your time on social media has improved the quality of your day to day life.

Conscious Uncoupling

A Pug, A Yorkie, and the Fear of Missing Out

Most mornings, at 5:15, one or both of our dogs starts to whimper from the kitchen.  If the whimpering doesn’t stir us, the Yorkie goes out the dog door and announces to the world in plaintive howls that he is hungry and would like his breakfast.   Mind you, they aren’t starving, they eat twice a day- but they are on a strict schedule which doesn’t allow for humans to sleep in occasionally.

I will go downstairs to prepare a coffee for me, and get their meals ready as well.   Ony

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Ony. Also know as “Smudge” or “Onsie”

the Pug is diabetic, and has a special formula from the vet to keep her blood sugar in check.  Mojo, the Yorkie, has lost many of his teeth, and now enjoys a shredded, refrigerated dog food that’s easy on his gums.

 

Neither dog food is inexpensive.  Both dogs love their respective meals.

I separate them so that Ony doesn’t get in to Mojo’s dish- they eat in separate rooms.  With Ony’s diabetes, we have to be very careful about what she can eat.   They greedily chomp thru their meals, faster than I can even get the bowls filled.

And every morning, without fail, they clean their own bowl- then race, each to the other’s dish, to lick what crumbs may be left.  It’s as if they fear they have missed an even better meal, one superior to the high-end food they each currently receive.  Some days, they nearly knock each other over on the way to the other dish- convinced they didn’t get as much or as good a treat as the other has.

Fear of Missing Out. Jealousy.  I recognize the behavior because I see it in myself every time I scroll thru Facebook, or read an article on Pinterest.  Constant reminders that I don’t have enough, or I don’t measure up.  Powerful emotions that can drive us to spend more money on things we may not need; or at the least, make us ‘green with envy’.

Even with Minimalism- there’s the fear of not being “Minimal” enough.  I should ‘only’ own 2 pairs of shoes.  10 items of clothing. Live in yurt with no running water.  But each person has to find their own way in life. On this journey, the end product will look different for each person.  Maybe its ok to still have a book case with books on it; perhaps still owning a home and a car is not a disqualifier to be labeled “Minimal”.    The constant comparing to each other that tears at our souls and twists our emotions- There’s a fine line between being able to compare oneself to others to improve yourself- or to compare and let yourself sink into bitterness.

Every morning, when I feed the dogs, I thank them for their behavior.  I have a reminder that when I compare myself to others not to let jealousy rule my thoughts. Not to think what others have is better than what I have been dealt; and not to feel that I am less than what I should be. These pups have taught me a valuable lesson, simply by filling their dishes with food.

A Pug, A Yorkie, and the Fear of Missing Out

Have It All

“Mommy, what are you writing?”

“I am writing about what I want to be when I grow up”

“But you are already grown up. You can be anything”

“What should I be?”

“You can work around the house on chores.  And then you should be an artist.  That would be good.”

I’ve been awake since 4 am, mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram posts- back and forth, looking for what? Today, it seems like affirmation that I am not ‘enough’.

Some examples of my feed: “Bossbabe” Memes and Quotes.  “Dream it and you can Achieve it”.  “MLM” is the same as working for a company. “Don’t let a man take care of you, earn your own money” “Buy your own Chanel Bag, don’t let a man do it for you”. “You can have it all- travel a few months a year, take your son to school, download my e-book”.  “I replaced my income with (Fill in the blank MLM of the week).

To top it all off, instead of feeling empowered, these and other posts, made me feel sick to my stomach.  I have failed, I have not been able to work a full time job,  have a few side hustles, clean a house, raise a child, be a wife, a writer, an artist.  Why can’t I do it all? Not enough positive affirmations each morning? Did I forget to write in my goal orientated planner all I want to accomplish?

Some days, I am thrilled to manage a hot breakfast for Vince, feed the dogs, and get two cups of coffee (decaf these days, baby is on the way).  Other days, I feel like I can take on the world.

Why the guilt? From what I can remember, my girlfriends are all very successful career women raising wonderful families.  We were raised by Mothers with high standards, who told us to have our own money, and go to college for what we wanted before settling down with a family.  They were probably raised by Mothers who were housewives, limited to careers that were in education or nursing- and when the 60’s and 70’s rolled around, told our Mothers to break free and be independent.

For the bulk of my life, that’s the route I went.  A great education, a fantastic career before and during marriage before starting a family.  My ‘own’ money (which led to fights with my ex about his ‘own’ money, and what was a fair way to pay bills).   And bought with my “own” money- a house, two cars, piles of electronics and expensive makeup.

And with that career, I lost track of being a Mother to my son. He spent a large chunk of his first 4 years at my parents home while I worked (out of necessity for several years as a single mother).  I can remember telling him to be quiet when I needed to run a conference call.  I remember taking him to Mcdonald’s drive thru and running a conference call from my car while he sat in his car seat munching chicken nuggets.  Who knows what little gems I missed by shushing him and telling him to go to another room when I had ‘an important call’. I am glad he saw me working hard; In other ways, I can’t forgive myself for the teary eyes he would get when I hustled him to a spot in front of the tv while I worked.  I spent an hour or so with him in the morning before I dropped him off at my Mom’s; then another hour or so at night for bath and bedtime-  what did I miss? I will never know.   I was a single Mother- and those who have spent time as one know the struggle to balance putting food on the table and giving attention to the one you are working to feed.

“Mommy! Look at this!”

These days, I can stop what I am doing and truly look at what he is showing me. I am blessed just for the precious ability to stop and put down whatever I am doing to really listen to my child, and give him my full attention.

What will I teach my daughter? I hope to have enough self confidence to be secure in whatever dream she decides to chase- whether it is a high power, high paying career; or a stay at home mother to her children, or some combination of that.  I just hope to teach her not to listen to the constant stream of what the world thinks she should be- and to some extent, what I would want her to be.  She will have plenty of role models to choose from as she makes her way in this world- but I want her path to be one she chooses- not one that a Facebook Feed tells her to take.

Have It All

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Resolution setting has always made me feel like I need to fundamentally change myself- which was intimidating. I normally fail at sticking with the resolution, somewhere near the end of January.  Sometimes a change must happen quickly- such as a change in lifestyle due to a medical issue, or perhaps a job change.  Typically though, life moves along smoothly enough that any radical changes (such as the ones resolutions bring) makes me cringe. 

Instead of resolutions this year, I have decided to write a  2018 To-Do List.  I have more success writing a daily list of items to accomplish.  I enjoy crossing them off at the end of the day when I review my journal before bed.

I am going on the assumption that if a To-Do list is working for me on a daily basis, it may translate well to a Yearly To-Do.  Again, years of management kicking in here- if you

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Hoping 2018 brings a bright start to you.

want employees to reach a target, it had to be one that was easy to achieve, relevant, and measurable- (some blend of George T. Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system).  So I make my To-Do list items ones that match this system.

 

Part of my personal “2018 To-Do” list:

  • Once a Day painting for 30 days
  • Once a month shipment of donations to charity
  • Twice a month digital scan of paperwork and dispose of hard copies
  • Drink 40 ounces of water per day

Each of these items I can set a reminder on a calendar as a “To-Do”- keeping in mind I can be flexible enough to move the date if it overlaps something I can’t move, lets say a doctor appointment for my son.  At the end of the month, I can then see if the item has been accomplished; and if it hasn’t, set a new date and adjust my thinking as to why I wasn’t able to do it.

Follow up is key- You can set as many goals or targets as you like, but if you forget to measure them along the way, or track your success it makes it impossible to know when or if you have reached these goals.

Here’s to a brand new start with a New Year, and a new way to track my progress on this journey.

 

 

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Big Tree, Little Tree

‘Tis the season for decorations- At least in this part of the world.  As a Minimalist in training, this time of year poses challenges to me as I am torn between enjoying the abundance of decorations, and the need for quiet reflection on the season’s meaning.

Two years ago, when my son was 3, I downsized our holiday. I was in the middle of a divorce and will admit my mind was having a difficult time focusing on the holiday between attorney phone calls and unpleasant texts with my ex-to-be.   My sister donated a small, sky blue Disney-themed tree to me- the tree couldn’t have been more than two feet tall or so.  I happily took it- a reminder of how I was stripping away the unnecessary in life.  I smugly thought I could also use it as a teaching moment to my son.  We didn’t need ‘things’ or big flashy Christmas decorations to celebrate- that’s not the meaning of the holiday.

“It’s not big enough”.

That was my toddler’s comment when he looked on the little tree, contempt written all over his tiny face.  “Grandma’s tree is bigger. This one is too small. I don’t like it”.

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Big tree or little tree? Which, or none, did you go with this year?

I explained to him what Christmas was about.  I explained the gift of baby Jesus to the world.  I explained there were many people in this world that had less than us and we should be grateful for what we had.   No luck.  “It’s not big enough”-  Every single time he walked by that tree, that was the comment that humble little tree received to it’s shiny lights and perky color.

Why couldn’t I change his mind? Why couldn’t he see that my way of viewing the world, and the holiday, was the right way to celebrate the season?

Part of the reason is that he was 3 years old.  There’s a lot of brain development yet to go.  Maybe my intentions were misguided-  he was also going thru challenges with the divorce in the household, and to disrupt one more thing wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to ‘force’ my ideas on simplification on anyone.

In any case- that little tree left it’s mark on both of us.  Now 5, he still reminds me, “Do you remember that little tree we had for Christmas? It was so tiny”.   I will never forget it.

Our new family will gather around a decidedly non-Minimalist, 9 foot tall tree this year, and make more memories.  While it towers over us, instead of being frustrated that we aren’t ‘downsizing’, I choose to let it remind me of the woods of Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I will try to take time to focus on the simple side of Christmas, the quiet  peace in a church service, the family and friends we will spend time with.   The debate on the merits of a Minimalist aesthetic in decorations can wait till after the holidays are over.

My son’s reaction to the tree reaching so far over his head?

“It’s perfect!”

Big Tree, Little Tree

Smashed

I was decorating with some handmade coffee cups and was reminded of a lesson I learned while making them.  I had spent the summer at an art camp in Erie Pennsylvania, and was a little bitter that instead of getting to paint all day, my concentration was ceramics.

Part of this was that I wasn’t good at it- anyone who has tried to center clay on a potter’s wheel can attest that it is a hard learned skill.  I have a habit of giving up on tasks that I can’t master in the first or second try; and this class tested my patience at all levels.  There are more steps to creating a simple vase than one can image-  You must spend time kneading all the air bubbles out of your lump of clay.  Then after arm numbing kneading, you attempt to throw the lump of clay at a spinning wheel, aiming for as close to center as possible and with enough force that you ensure there is no air pocket separating that clay from the metal, wet wheel.

Back to the grind, you then use your upper body strength to force the clay down and in on itself; one move the wrong way, and the clay may fly off the wheel, or go off center, and your clay needs to be removed, re-kneaded, and thrown again.

BackIMG_1135 at the wheel, if you are successful, and have “pulled” the clay upwards in a semblance of a vase shape, there is the cleaning of the excess clay, and removing the spinning vase from the wheel by using  a steel wire.

That’s just the throwing.  That’s nothing of the hours of drying; ‘firing’ in the kiln; glazing; re-firing; praying-  and maybe, just maybe, that lump of clay has become a fine piece of art.  The process, start to finish, can take days- sometimes weeks depending on the drying times involved.

After all that- My Professor then had us smash the pieces.

I fail to find the words to fully express the sickening feeling of watching my own work destroyed beneath a hammer swung by my own hand.   The hours, the frustration of the process, the joy at seeing the work finally finished- gone- back to the dust that it had come from originally.

What did I learn?  Don’t be afraid to lose everything you work for.  Don’t be afraid to start over.  Don’t get too attached to material things- they can all be lost in a moment, and you will need to be able to move on.   There is always more art to be made in this life.

 

Smashed