Sunday, November 27, 2016

Small Victories

I won't claim that I have been wildly successful at pursuing my joy in the last couple of weeks, though they have been joyful. I just can't particularly take credit for that. I even have to confess that the reward card seen here is actually from week before last. Last week I did not get my intentions in a row. 

Even today, I have to admit that I allowed myself to veer off task and put mundane chores ahead of what I had intended to be my work for the day. And I'm going to wholeheartedly forgive myself for it.

I do want to relate one small story that underlined for me why I am doing this, whatever this is. This week I finished a quick pom-pom scarf for myself, which has been one of my knitting to-dos for a while.

I happened to say to my husband that my mother, sister, sister-friend, and nieces all already have at least one scarf from this lovely fluff stuff, and that it was time I had one, too. His response was that I should have made one for myself first. 

Except that is not generally how it works, except perhaps for experimental projects like the sweater with two different-sized arms. With only a couple of very calculated exceptions, I'm mainly left with the prototypes. That is why I am pleased with myself this year for having completed two very nice projects just for me. In case you are interested, here is the other: 

The work from now through December will be mostly for others, and since my chief interest in knitting is the combination of challenge and relaxation, that is just fine. But it's every now and than important to remind ourselves that the cobbler also needs shoes. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

This will be a short post, but I wanted to share a video that inspired me recently. Though this particular video focuses on body image, it is a powerful reminder that we often say things to ourselves that we would not say to anyone we like even a little.

Let's go out there and be good to ourselves today.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Little Exposition

So how is it a grown woman with no small list of accomplishments has come to need a behavioral modification system (which I know sounds clinical, but let’s face it, that’s what it is) to re-evaluate her image of herself? If you are asking that question, my response is how were you lucky/disciplined/virtuous/bullet-proof enough that you do not?

The answer is that somewhere along the way I forgot to value myself, so much so that I have great difficulty putting energy into things that are only for me. I have reached a point where that seems to have manifested itself in physical pain, perhaps because so far nothing else has made me listen.

I’ve therefore set out to reward myself for actions that make me feel fulfilled and rewarded, and for things that demonstrate caring for myself. I recognize that I sometimes lack the internal feeling of care I should have, and my strategy is to go through the motions so that I can kick-start the real thing. Have you ever had to start a car by rolling it down the hill? It will be sort of like that, except I’m parked at the bottom of the hill. To be more realistic, maybe just at the top of a lowish sort of hill.

I will tend to look for ways to game the system, even though I created it. To the end of thwarting my own sabotage and rendering the abstract concrete, I’ve established some ground rules. I begin with a specific plan to reward myself for the things that feed my soul at the moment, with some conditions:
  • Knitting
    • Does not count if I find myself churning through a project just to get it done. Then it has become work.
  • Regular exercise
    • This is a hard one, because it does not feel pleasurable unless it is attaining some goal other than maintenance of my own health, like planting asparagus. Perhaps that makes it most important of all.
  • Reading
    • Does not count if it is research for work.
  • Painting, drawing, other crafts
  • Walking or other exercise
  • Quiet time outdoors
  • Listening to music

For right now, this is only the beginning of what I imagine (and hope) will be a long list. May the list of things that bring me joy grow longer than the those that bring me worry.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

This is a baby step. Like most baby steps, it is wobbly and hesitant. But the path is one I'm overdue to travel. That is why I am going to let some of the finer points go and allow the outset to be a little messy.

"Reward your inner child" is about a journey towards joy, a practice for making happiness happen. I will start with a disclaimer, a little step backwards to make sure you know what this is not. It's not about indulgence or rewards in the material sense. In truth, it's as much about discipline as anything.

The notion of rewarding my inner child started when I gradually noticed how bad I was at taking care of myself, not in the everyday way we think of, like brushing our teeth and getting to work on time, but in a more existential sense. I was not valuing the things I needed to be happy, and in the process was not valuing myself. Too much of my self-worth hinged (and still does) on the opinions and actions of others. It was (is) time to reset my valuation.

Changing a habit--whether a habit of thinking or of doing--is a learning process. All the elements that lead to learning are needed. I decided that the first step was to use the same methods I might use to reinforce behavior in a child, which will probably seem quite apt as this story and journey continue. I would choose actions of caring for myself--mentally, physically, spiritually. These would become my chores, so to speak, and for every one I completed in a day, I would reward myself with a literal gold star.

I will confess that my start has been weak. Though I think I have moved the needle a bit, even if only by the action of naming the things that help me stay whole--reading, resting, exercising, writing--I feel I need a bit more of a head start on the journey.

That's why I decided I needed some motivational swag and friends along for the trip. I have no idea what the final destination will be, and maybe at the end all I'll have is this lousy t-shirt. I do plan to tell some stories on the way, so perhaps you'll come along for the ride.