03 July 2007

So You Say It's Your Birthday...

The beginning of wisdom is the beginning of discipline. ~Solomon

Last week I had the good fortune to usher in my thirty-first birthday. Unlike last year’s fete, this year I celebrated quietly with a night at home, knitting and thinking. I hope I didn’t put off my friends and family with my generally misanthropish nature, but I just felt like being alone with a clear calendar and some yarn.

So, in the spirit of my contemplative night home alone, I decided to indulge in a self-reflective post to get myself back into blogging.

The nice thing about a summer birthday is that it’s like a half-way point to check in on those New Year’s Goals, hit the restart button and get a fresh start when everyone else is in the midst of blowing diets at barbecues and sloughing off any self-improvement projects by spending hours lying at the pool. Not that I’m not doing those things too, but at least I get the chance to see how things are going and where I need to kick it into high gear.

So… about those goals…

Improve my Health

1. Go to a personal trainer once a week and exercise on my own during the week.

I’ve stuck with the trainer and have even kicked it up to twice a week for part of the summer, but the regular exercise hasn’t been happening as much as it should. There’s just always so much going on that I feel like I have to choose between work and the gym. I think this is just the nature of the grad school beast and I’m resigned to just hanging in there and working more on the workouts once the writing pressure eases a bit. So much for fitting into smaller jeans for fall…
2. Bring athletic activities such as biking, swimming and hiking into my regular routine.

Well, see above. I did buy my bike this spring and have been using it on my errands about town. I’m thinking about signing up for the Tour de France knitalong and making biking a certain number of miles part of my goal. Of course, this also corresponds with a writing deadline on July 29 so we’ll see if this actually pans out.

3. Devote time to regular meal planning and cooking.

Yeah, not so much. This is what fall is for, right? To be continued in September…

Improve my Intellect

1. Work on my dissertation at least one hour a day.

An hour? Only an hour? Out of necessity, this has taken over my life. I’m actually okay with that. I want it to be over, my advisor wants it to be over, my family wants it to be over, yeah, you get the picture. Write, write, write… then write some more.

2. Increase my professional activity with conference attendance and submission to journals.

I can’t really talk about it, but I got three big ol’ points in this area. If I really get going this week, I may even make some headway on a fourth. Still much more work to be done, but I feel like things are finally starting to move.

3. Read twelve non-dissertation books.

I have no idea where I stand on this goal. Do knitting and sewing books count? I did some reading while home in January and somewhere around here there’s a novel I started as a “fun” book. Who am I kidding? I think the only way this one is going to be checked off come December 31 is to revise it to say “Read 12 magazines, skipping the majority of the articles and only looking at the pretty pictures and make-up tips.” Oh well, next year…

Improve my Domestic Life

1. Avoid yarn and fabric purchases and minimize other expenses as much as possible.

I’ve done fairly well with avoiding shopping and purchases, especially of the crafty variety… except for that trip home in April when I went a little nutty with fabric sales. Oh, and except for that trip to Chicago when I found a great little yarn shop with a great sales bin… And I might have slipped up at the fabric shop in New Jersey… Basically, if I just stayed home, I’d be okay.

Honestly, this has been a big deal for me and something I’ve wasted a lot of thought upon. Since I started Ravelry, I’ve been slowly cataloguing the stash, a project which is either quite fun or quite disturbing. I feel guilty for having so much yarn and fabric, especially when I come across something that I honestly forgot I had. But… I also enjoy crafty purchases, especially unique finds like hand-dyed and specialty yarns or Kaffe Fassett prints that pop up here and there. I guess really I have a love/hate relationship with my stash but overall, I know I’ve cut down both my trips to JoAnn’s and my splurges at the regular yarn shops to nearly nothing so I’m pretty proud on this one. Eventually I’ll start to see a difference in the size of the stash… maybe.

2. Throw away or donate one item to charity every day.
3. Complete one cleaning or organizing task a day.

I’d put these things together as pretty hit or miss. I’ll get inspired and toss together a bag for Goodwill and then forget to drop it off until it sits in my car for a month. I’ve cleaned out a few dresser drawers or boxes in the storage room, but nothing consistently or nothing significant enough to really see or feel the progress. I’d love to just dive right in and start tearing apart my closets but at this point, I know I’m procrastinating more than cleaning. This will be something to work on over the next year. It really helps to think about the possibility of moving in a year as inspiration for at the very least, not adding more clutter to the chaos.

Improve my Overall Life

Search for happiness in every day, opening my eyes to new opportunities for joy wherever possible.

Nothing like a lofty goal hidden in simple language, right? In general, I feel my current attitude is better and I feel more optimistic, but eh, truth be told, on many most days I want to choke people, splurge on thousands of dollars of yarn and fabric and a million Oreos, and give up writing entirely to live a life of mystery and debauchery. I guess life at the moment is a constant struggle against stress. I’m a worrier by nature and being a grad student provides so many opportunities to run with that frame of mind. Will I finish the diss this year? Will I get a job? What do I need to do to improve my chances? Where will I live? How much weight should I lose to look nice in my interview suit? I need to eat healthier and cook more. Maybe organic, yeah, go organic. So expensive. How can I afford this? Must make more money. Can’t work any more hours and get writing done. Must cut expenses. What can be eliminated? Must list things on ebay. So much to be done, so much to be done. Oh, and friends and family… do they know I’m even alive? Add being social to the list… and blogging… and … and …

I’m really working to shut down that inner monologue of insanity but it really is a constant battle to shut it off. I guess it’s pretty obvious to any of you who read this that when I disappear from the blog, I’m not doing so well at turning down the volume on the stress voice in my head and I’m off freaking out somewhere. Best to be silent rather than subjecting you all to that, trust me!

But the thing that’s improved in the past year is that I can eventually shut it off. I can get myself in a complete tizzy and then jump out of it, at least to some degree. I’m learning when I need to be quiet and when I need to stay home by myself. I’m accepting that I will only be able to get to so many knitting and sewing projects a year, will only be able to workout so many hours a week, will only be able to keep up with my friends once in a blue moon, and will only be able to keep the apartment clean enough that the health department shouldn’t be called in for emergency evacuations. (Aren’t you glad that you’re just reading and not planning to visit?)

I'll always have more plans than hours in the day and more desires than energy or funds to make all those dreams come true. I suppose with age comes the wisdom to accept those unfulfilled desires as a sign that my resources are being devoted to those dreams which are truly important. It seems that for me, the process of maturing has been a process of choosing to let things go, give things up, release pressures and responsibilities. It seems counter-intuitive as we're supposed to increase our lives as we age, bringing in new pursuits and activities. That certainly has been the case to a certain degree as I've expanded my knowledge of the world and what it has to offer, but the moments which have made me feel truly "grown up" are those in which I've been able to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I suppose this is all in how you spin it as I could just as easily say that I'm focusing my life to become more specialized and skilled in my chosen pursuits. Rather than dabbling in a million crafts, I'm trying to improve my skills in just a few. In the place of training for a decathalon, I'm just working out enough to keep the heart pumping and the jeans fitting. Does it also work to say that instead of keeping up on email and maintaining a clean home, I'm becoming a messy hermit but choice? I suppose the idea of choosing your focus only goes so far...

Anyway, all in all, I’m pretty happy to be starting on 31, or at least as happy as a grumpy worrier in the midst of a dissertation can be!

And enough of me, I've got a contest to present, thanks to offer and some actual knitting content for the next post!

1 comment:

Redheadskydiver said...

Good job with the goals! Keep it up and that chocolate dish at the end - gorgeous, I could almost taste it!