Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Lazy, Hazy, Not-so-Crazy Days of Summer

 After yesterday's post, this one from two summers ago seemed to be the perfect Way Back Wednesday post.

Hello, my name is Lisa and I have a low tolerance for laziness. Not other people's laziness, mind you. Just my own.

When it comes to laziness, I have a double standard. I'm the first to reassure friends and family that downtime is important -- something I truly believe -- while simultaneously honing a bad habit of filling every minute of my own. 

I'm the queen of lists, projects, and wishful thinking.

The concept of boredom does not compute. I have enough projects on my mental and physical lists to keep me occupied for at least the next decade. This is unfortunate (not to mention more than a tad unrealistic) because I've reached the age where I run out of energy much too early in the day to complete them all. 

Last week, this fill-every-moment, endless to-do list kind of thinking caught up with me, and not for the first time. I was checking things off my lists, but my motivation could not keep pace with my expectations. I was making progress, but I was never satisfied with the progress I was making. 

My husband came home from work one day early in the week and, after asking how I was said, "You look tired."

"I am," I replied.

R391n4 via Pixabay
But that was the first time all day it had occurred to me that I was tired and that an actual lack of energy was at the root of my nonexistent motivation.

How bad does it have to be for a person to recognize that she's tired only when someone else points it out?

So, I sat down and had a little chat with myself about the meaning of "vacation," and "time off," not to mention the longevity of these time periods, or the lack thereof.

Let me reassure you that this is not a pity party -- at least not this week.

It was a call to action. 

I realized that there were a few specific things that needed to change, the simplest of which was re-instating a habit I'd inadvertently broken. Somewhere between my summer class and my summer vacation, I'd stopped prioritizing the things I wanted to do. As a result, I was operating off a lengthy to-do list. This left me both seeing and feeling little progress, which sapped my motivation. 

The other realization had to do with the little chat I had with myself about vacations and productivity. Here, I'd inadvertently fallen into a habit, instead of out of one, carrying my run-run-run, do-do-do mindset into what was supposed to be downtime. 

It was all too much. But, I knew just what I needed.

I needed to recapture a lazy day -- preferably on a regular basis. A day with no specific to-do list. A day where I could move from the first thing I wanted to do to the next for an entire day. A day where reading, dozing, and playing games on my iPad was treated as just as valuable as anything practical I might accomplish.

RalfDesign via Pixabay
A lazy summer Sunday. Preferably, a succession of them.

Last Sunday was the first of those days. It was relaxing, rejuvenating, and surprisingly productive, despite its theme of luscious, luxuriating laziness.

It was lovely. And, next Sunday, I plan to do it again. I deserve it.

And I think you do, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

I Didn't Mean to, But...


 At the end of last week, I realized I hadn't written or posted a single blog. I didn't mean to, but I took a week off. 

That got me thinking about other things I didn't mean to do that are, nevertheless, defining my summer.

I didn't mean to, but I blew my summer vacation out of the water when I took on a freelance job that's taking more time (and creating more stress) than I expected.

I didn't mean to, but I sabotaged my plan of eating less junk when I filled my house with a month's worth of chips and cookies in a desire to be well-prepared for a card game with friends and a July 4 family cookout.

I (we) didn't mean to but when I (we) went to the furniture store to replace my (our) mattress, I (we) ended up with furniture for two other rooms in our house (as well).

Clearly I'm sharing the responsibility for that last one.

I'm usually thoughtful when it comes to making and honoring commitments (and making purchases), but clearly every rule has an exception. This time, I blame summer. With its long days and less hectic pace, this season lulls me into losing track of what day of the week it is and thinking I can do more than is actually possible if I want serious downtime.

Maybe I didn't mean to, but I did. And now, all I can do move forward with the goal of balancing the commitments I've made to other people with the commitment I made to myself to slow down and enjoy some leisure time.

And as for the furniture? Maybe I (we) didn't mean to, but I'm happy I (we) did. I can't wait to start moving things around and re-vamping the various spaces. 

Because that's what I classify as a fun summer project.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


 When I write about organizing, I emphasize the importance of being true to your defaults -- who you are and how you do things. This philosophy was a game-changer for me, first in terms of organization and, lately, more broadly.

So often, we do things because we think we should do them. Psychologist Karen Horney called this "the tyranny of the shoulds," which is a perfect description because the "shoulds" can hold us hostage. And when we let them lead the way, we are in danger of going against who we are, how we do things, and even what we need, which is clearly not a good long-term plan.

Sure, there are shoulds that are worth adhering to, but they very rarely have to do with using file cabinets or wearing white shoes after Labor Day. And, when we stop to think about it, many other "shoulds" are just as arbitrary. 

I've learned that when my intuition says one thing, but the shoulds say another, I have to at least give my intuition a fighting chance by questioning the shoulds. Why should I do this? What will happen if I don't? If I do? Can I live with those consequences? How does this fit with what I need right now?

I used to tell my elementary school students that they needed to trust the "uh-oh" feeling. "Do you know what that is?" I asked them. "That feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you something's just not right?"

Even eight-year-olds knew what I was talking about but, somewhere between 8 and 80, we learn to squash that feeling rather than listening to it. Sometimes we push it down for a good reason, but whether we have a good reason or not, if we squash our feelings long enough, squelching the "uh oh" becomes a habit.

Going with your gut isn't always popular. Sometimes what you need disappoints someone else. Other times, we realize only after the fact that going with our gut was the wrong choice. And, the fact that our intuition isn't always more accurate than the "shoulds" further complicates matters. But, with practice, we learn which way to go, most of the time.

I've come to think of the "shoulds"/intution conundrum as a T-intersection. Each direction is a viable choice, but only one will be the path you want to travel at that moment. 

And sometimes, you'll only know you made the right choice by the lightness of being that permeates your body as you continue on your journey.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Style Details

 When I was at the beach last month, I had an unexpectedly fun afternoon in one of the downtown shops, essentially playing dress-up. I wandered into a store I hadn't been in for quite some time and, because it wasn't crowded, I became the center of attention. 

This is not always something I enjoy, but a variety of factors converged to make it enjoyable. First, I'd been working on defining my style, trying things out, keeping what worked and throwing out out what didn't. Unfortunately, a good bit of what was in my suitcase fit that final category, and so I was ripe for an encounter with a kind salesclerk who was happy to provide me with what I was looking for, and who seemed to enjoy it almost as much as I did.

Sometimes, style is a piece that stands out. Other times, it's a piece that uniquely suits the wearer, or an accessory that adds the final detail. And sometimes, finding those perfect pieces involves a combination of listening to your own instincts along with the advice of someone who sees you in ways you don't necessarily see yourself.

And, if we do it right, it can be a lot of fun as well.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Happy Anniversary, Tilly!

 Around this time last year, I was teaching my daughter to drive a stick shift and, shortly thereafter, browsing at my local car dealership. The very car that had served me well for 17 years — the only new car I’d ever purchased — was in need of some expensive repairs.

It was time. But it was hard.

Over the past year, I’ve come to love my new car and all her bells and whistles (and yes, naming her helped). The name we finally agreed on? Tilly. 

Tilly is a lease, so in two years, I’ll be back at the dealership, debating another decision. But, if history is any indication, Tilly will be sticking around for a while.

In the meantime, I still feel a twinge of mixed emotions when I pass a white Scion on the road. Silly? Perhaps. But emotions don’t have to make sense. Besides, I prefer to believe that an attachment to an object that served me well means I made the right decision to spend the money in the first place.

🚗... 🚗...  🚗...  🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 🚗... 

Last week, I said good-bye to an old friend, trading in my 17-year-old Scion XA for a subcompact SUV. Despite being the base model of its group, the new car (a VW Taos) has lots of bells and whistles -- then again, anything would, by comparison to my 2006 vehicle. I did a test drive on Memorial Day and, excited by such 21st century features as a back-up camera and Apple Car Play, I made up my mind.

Sort of.

My Scion is a 5-speed, and I'd spent some time over the weekend helping my daughter to hone her skills driving a stick shift. It had been fun, and her skills were coming along nicely, despite a few of the to-be-expected rough stops/starts in a neighborhood full of hills.

I'd always thought I'd teach my daughter to drive a stick shift on this car and, having not finished the job, I was reluctant to get rid of the car. 

Yeah. That's what it was. 

When the "check engine" light came on and the mechanic told me the necessary repairs would cost more than the first month's payment on the Taos, I took that to be a sign that it was time for us to part ways. 

Logical. Clear cut. It was time.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a little gray Celica. It had been a post-break-up purchase that I referred to as my "declaration of independence" car and I loved it. The only trouble was, there was no way to fit a car seat into that vehicle. 

So I traded it in. And I cried when I did so.

That, as it turns out, was a lukewarm dress rehearsal for parting with a car -- my first new car -- that I'd driven for 17 years. I mean, they literally don't make them like her anymore! I did every mental manipulation and mathematical calculation possible to figure out a logical way to have my Scion and the Taos too but, in the end, it just didn't make sense.

So I cleared out my Scion and traded it in.

And cried pretty much every step of the way. In fact, I'm crying as I type this.

It's not that I don't know I'm being ridiculous, nor has the embarrassment of being this attached to a thing been sufficient to dissipate the emotional clouds under which my beautiful new vehicle sits (not to be confused with the actual haze of the Canadian wildfires). My Taos should be getting all of my attention, and the gratitude that I feel at having the ability to make this trade should be sufficient to nudge me into adulting in a more gracious manner.

Blah, blah, blah.

The day after I signed the papers, I had to make a trip back to the dealership. As I left, I couldn't help but search the lot for my Scion and, indeed, there she was, sitting all alone, waiting for the attention she'd get from someone willing to restore her to the condition from which she'd long since deteriorated. She looked so lonely, and I felt sad all over again.

But the deed was done. The title transferred, new keys in hand, it was time to transition.

Over the weekend, I decided that I need to name the new car. I've never done that (imagine if!) and, given my history of irrational emotional attachment to vehicles, I'm not sure it's the best idea I've ever had, but I'm going to give it a try.

After much deliberation, I settled on Sabine but, when I got into the car and used that name, it just didn't feel right. Apparently, we still need to get used to each other.

Meanwhile, it's a good thing she's an SUV because she has big wheels to fill. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Vacation Eve

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

 When I was a kid in New Jersey, school started after Labor Day and summer vacation started in mid-June. Then, when I began working as an educator, I (grudgingly) got used to a pre-Labor Day start-time, which afforded the bonus of summer vacation starting in early June, or even late May. 

That was my schedule for most of my adult life.

More than a few summers ago, I started teaching a summer class. When I taught in person, we met four days a week, with Fridays off, a schedule that felt sort of like an extension of the semester. This meant that although things slowed down in June, my actual vacation didn't start until July. Work was work and vacation was vacation.

Then, I moved to teaching my summer class online. For the most part, I like that quite a bit as it gives me a great deal of control over my schedule. With no classes to attend, I can pretend I'm on vacation when, in reality, there's still content to prepare and papers to grade.

A summer vacation teaser, if you will. 

To be honest, I'm not sure whether getting a taste of vacation is a good thing or a bad thing. My brain is half in work mode (and that's probably an overestimate) and half in vacation mode. The days are mine to divvy up as I please, but not all of the activities are what I'd call pleasing. I enjoy the creative aspects of teaching, so the content prep doesn't feel much like work. I also enjoy interacting with my students, which is harder to do in the summer, so I probably talk too much (even more than usual, if you can imagine that) when I actually get a chance to interact with my students on video calls. 

Grading is the part of the job that reminds me I'm not really on vacation yet. That little number on the learning management system app -- the one that tells me how many assignments are waiting for me -- unites with the little voice in the back of my head. Together, they gang upon me to remind me of my responsibilities, nudging me out of leisure pursuits with a dose of guilt that sends me back to work.

This week is the last week of classes, which puts me squarely in the vacation countdown zone. My primary goal is to make the little number on the app disappear so I can put that annoying little voice on mute. 

Wish me luck as I keep my eyes on the prize. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Morning, Noon, or Night?

 This post was written during a winter break four years ago. Although I'm a lot closer to coming to terms with my internal clock, I still waste a lot of time feeling a bit embarrassed that it more closely resembles that of a college student than that of a grown-up. Maybe it's the company I'm keeping :-) 


I've spent a lot of time during this break beating myself up about not being able to get started. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I get up early (a relative term if there ever was one) or much too late, even by my night owl standards. I don’t seem to be able to kick myself into gear until late morning.

And I do mean late morning.

I have applied all sorts of adjectives to this. Tired. Overwhelmed. Unmotivated. Lazy. Procrastinator.

Do you hear that? The sound of judgment permeating this post? It’s ugly, isn’t it?

Needless to say, that didn’t help. And, if I'd laid finger pointing and blame out as a plan for myself (and a ridiculous one at that), I could have told you it wouldn’t work. I would never say those words to someone else (well, maybe tired and overwhelmed). In fact, if someone came to me with this "can't get started" concern, I would seek to analyze and create a plan -- a helpful one, not one based on hurtful criticism -- yet my first response to myself is to chide.

At 81, my dad is unapologetically not a morning person. Though he would help someone he loves at any hour of the day or night, he doesn’t schedule appointments until after lunch unless it’s completely unavoidable. His sleep schedule is more in line with the norm than mine is, but he still gets up hours later than my lark of a husband. And, for his part, my husband is asleep on the sofa before my dad turns in and long before I turn out the light and call it a day.

I share this not because one of us is right and the others are wrong, but because I want to be more like my dad -- unapologetically not a morning person. I’ve got 4/5 of that down pat. It’s the unapologetically part that I struggle with.

I don’t know why it took me so much time and mental anguish to figure it out but, even if my hours aren’t in sync with the regular business world, I put in a full day. So, besides the crushing guilt over being in bed too long after “everyone else” is up, why does it matter what time my day starts?

It doesn’t. At least not now. Now, I am still on break, yet still working, too -- on class prep, an online course and the writing it’s become so challenging to squeeze into the semester. Oh, and there are all those little things around the house that fall to the bottom of the list during fall and spring semesters. Some days, I work in spurts but, most days, I work consistently during the day and, often, again in the evening after some afternoon down time.

In two weeks, I will need to conform (slightly) again. I’ll need to set an alarm which, admittedly, will be for a time when most people are already up and at work. I’ll then need to show up on time and ready to teach. And I will do this willingly, in part because I have set a schedule that does not include early morning classes, but also because I enjoy my work and recognize that a schedule is necessary in order to make it happen

Meanwhile, as long  as my work day is flexible, you’re more likely to find me working on a syllabus or blog post at 11 pm than 8 am because that’s the way my body clock is set. I don’t jump into the day, I ease into it. And, at night, I don’t embrace the end of the day. I extend it, savoring the quiet time when I wind down much too slowly and go to bed much too late.

There it is again. That judgment, ever so sneakily stinking up the place. 

Image by Cristhian Adame from Pixabay
I am who I am, and, in the big picture, I get a LOT done. Some days I’m amazingly productive and
other days, I leave an imprint on the sofa -- y’know, kinda like everyone else. I wear many hats and, some days, I’m too tired to decide which one to put on first, so I take my time figuring it out.

My dad has the right idea. And, I’m learning that the only thing standing between me and that same unapologetic attitude is those judgy labels I stick to myself. And, I certainly don’t want to wait until I’m 81 to toss them in the trash, so maybe today is the day I shrug and say, 
“That’s just the way I am.”

And that’s okay.