It’s Just A Calendar

As 2014 winds down, the stress to end the year with a bang builds. Which party to go to? What will I wear? Will my crush be there? What am I going to drink?

As I’ve mentioned throughout this year, one of the easiest and most elegant solutions for our problems is to simply opt out. I decided this morning that I am staying in, alone, for tonight. And I’m surprisingly happy about this decision.

What better way to save money, trumpet my laziness, and refuse to buy into the wastefulness of this annual celebration?

I am letting go of the idea that I need to celebrate things just because a calendar or tradition says so. Traditionally speaking, I ought to be married by now and tending to my husband, 2.5 children, and our picket fenced house. Depending on what and whose tradition that is.

We buck so many traditions with each new generation, yet some slip through the cracks. I’m not going to blow $100 to get trashed in 6 inch heels and spend tomorrow miserable and making unrealistic promises to myself. That would be setting myself up for failure.

Now, before you dismiss this option because you are young, hot, lonely, or just want to party, know that I am not simply watching TV until I fall asleep.

I refuse to treat today like an extraordinary day. But how am I celebrating? I am hopping into my pjs and reflecting, organizing, planning. I have many things to work on and I will no longer be limited by the calendar for when I can do that. The fact that I view today as just a Wednesday is important. I’m not starting a new year/life/me with fanfare. I’m just gonna do. And when I feel like I’m not going in the right direction, I’ll sit down on another ordinary day and reflect, organize, plan again.

This is how I’m changing. My choice to improve myself will not start with a gun shot. Life is not a race, it should not be timed.

So after I spend an evening eating my favorite food (pizza) in my favorite sweatpants drinking my favorite tea I’m going to wake up prepared for each new day ahead of me. I’m going to have goals, steps for those goals, motivation points. I’m going to tell some friends and ask for encouragement. And I’m not doing it just today. If I find I’ve failed at what I set up for myself I’ll just sit down some other Wednesday and get back on track.

By removing the external push and making it a personal, internal effort I know I’m showing myself that it’s not tradition that is pushing me to do this, but my personal choice and reflections.

This year I’m starting the year exactly how I want the whole year to be: focused on my well being. And I can do it by living up to my broke, lazy, and green standard I hold myself to.

Thank you for living this year with me, I look forward to life with you next year! Happy New Year!

Advertisements

The Holidays, Unplugged

I’m sure you are torn between all the sweet deals going on in stores and online to make all that Christmas/Hanukkah loot seem a bit cheaper and the whole buy-nothing-make-something movement.

I get it. Really, I do.

I’m tempted to simply jump on the give experiences not material goods wagon, but I also really want the nice backpack I asked my mom and brother to get me. So I have a solution that will be perfect for whoever reads this:

Do what makes you Happy.

If shopping for everyone on your list makes you and your wallet sob in fear, don’t. Buy cheaper things, buy group gifts for families, or hop on the buy-nothing train. If you feel stupid giving the dry ingredients for brownies in a cute mason jar or candle holders made of tuna cans and clothes pins or coupons for you babysit or wash their car for free, don’t.

As your broke and green lady, I don’t want to buy stuff. As your lazy pal, I don’t wanna make stuff.

So when I found a pricey dress my mom loved, my brother and I split it. For my extended family? They know it is expensive to fly home and are glad to see me once a year. I emphasize that I am the gift. [Insert winning smile]

My friends and I don’t do Christmas gifts unless something really catches an eye and screams your name. Then it’s cheap and it’s clear there is no expected gift in return. We treat each other by taking each other out when it’s out birthday, when we celebrate life events, when we’re a little flush with cash and buy an extra round.  That is what makes us all happy without any pressure.

If it makes you happy to one up your uncle in giving your grandma a cool gift, fine. If that January credit card bill stings through April and you’ve forgotten why by Valentine’s Day…are you really happy?

Joy to the world. Peace on Earth. You are part of this world, you are a citizen of this earth. You deserve joy and peace as well. The first year you let your consumer facade crumble a little may be scary and you may be tempted to feel disappointed in yourself. Don’t. Once you’ve lowered that artificial bar (that no one but you set up in the first place) next year will be easier. Maybe even happier.

You deserve a gift too. Why not just make yourself happy?

Gratitude

I’ve been absolutely stressing out about anything under the sun that has come my way the last couple weeks. This stress has thrown my three basic tenets – broke, lazy, and green – out the window.

How can I fix my mental state?

After eating fast food, junk food, a few impulse purchases, and a fair number of anxious tears I decided this isn’t okay.

Sound like something you’ve gone through? Whether it’s an unexpected bill pops up at the worst possible time, a love interest rejects you, or you get passed up for a promotion, when difficult and negative emotions pop up they take over.

I often let anxieties live in my head. Rent-free as they say. I can’t say I’m done with them forever. It may just take one more upsetting event to set me off, but today I feel so much better.

I have meditated and done gratitude lists and the like before. Each time I feel a bit better, then these new efforts eventually fall to the wayside. I’m no expert at developing habits. I often take my habit cues from zenhabits.net. As for dealing with the anxieties, I’m often overwhelmed by all the information out there.

The point of this post is to remind myself and anyone who needs reminding that this stuff is working. And it will take work for it to keep working. That’s not stressful work, it is positive and helpful work.

I’ve done two things in the last two days that have made a huge difference.

First, I was told to make a list of all events of my day and assigned a value to them. I CANNOT include stuff that goes on in my head. When you try this it can be as basic as I brushed my teeth (+1), my best friend called (+2), or I completed a big work project (+3). I dropped my phone and the screen cracked (-1), my lunch had spoiled so I had to skip it (-2), to my beloved pet died (-10).

In doing this I’ve noticed that when I look back on the day and am reminded of all the little good things, the positives outweigh the negatives. We are wired to remember the negative, but for the anxious and depressed that is detrimental. Sometimes, we need simple reminders that life will be alright.

Secondly, I meditated. No ‘om’ chants, no incense, no bad tries at perfectly emptying my brain. I used a guided youtube video, there are many to try. I simply focused on my breathing, then my body, sounds I could hear, and so on. It was focusing on the present that really made me breathe easier.

Yes, I may get fired tomorrow. I might also win a million dollars. Both are equally unlikely and should have no bearing on my today. All the baggage from yesterday? Can’t change the past.

I will need constant reminding of all this, day in and day out. But for now I’m adding to my list that I wrote a blog post (+2). Make an effort to remember the positives, the negatives and naysayers will handle the bad stuff without you. 🙂

In Defense of Lazy

Lazy is a word with a very negative connotation.

However, I believe there are two kinds of laziness: procrastination and positive. I would like to write this post in defense of positive laziness.

First, what I mean by procrastinative (it’s a word now) laziness. This is what happens when someone asks you when a project or task will be done and you’ve been ‘doing nothing’. This kind of laziness achieves nothing, not even relaxation and usually makes life worse because it is pure mindless procrastination. In this day and age, the internet, often in the form of Buzzfeed and Netflix, is the most common ‘nothing’ that you find yourself doing all day.

You don’t feel productive, relaxed, calm. Instead you may have inflated your stress and anxiety through this laziness. (I just coughed. Is it Ebola?!)

I, instead, would like to defend and encourage positive laziness. This past weekend is a marvelous example. I got rid of some stuff, made my costume, had lunch with some girlfriends, finished a book, and took a few walks. I did it all without a to do list and only when I felt like it

I didn’t do any ‘work’, I didn’t make money, my professional life and finances got nowhere this weekend. I didn’t schedule or plan anything. I didn’t even set an alarm.

It was the best weekend in ages.

The most important part of this weekend to me is that I forgot about my phone quite frequently. I only meant to run in and grab a cup of coffee Sunday morning, but managed to end up reading on the patio for three hours. I totally lost track of time. And I feel so relaxed for it.

Go ahead – be lazy. Unplug a bit. Clear your schedule. Or if you are the kind of person who can’t freestyle a day, schedule in some free time.

Throwing out your to do list, absolving yourself of any guilt, and living 100% in the moment for one day – doing whatever nothing you want to do – will be better than an expensive, exotic vacation.

Daydream. Read. Create. This is your life, you can do what you want. Once you step back and realize how many of your actions are made purely for the benefit of social requirements, you can start taking control of your own life….tomorrow. Today, there’s a nice walk with no destination with your name on it.

Credit Cards and My New Favorite Book

I went over my budget recently and realized that food is my weakness.

I’m not exactly buying fancy, Whole Foods groceries here. It’s the little, insidious things that really start to add up. I’ll tell my friends no when they ask about dinner or drinks…then I usually cave about half the time. And spend what my mind has already decided I won’t spend.

Why is it so easy? Plastics make it possible.

I keep my credit card purchases within a payable range, I pay mine off every month. I know I’m very lucky that I can do that, but I realize I’m also borrowing against the freedom of my future for instant gratification.

So I cut up my credit card.

Well, I stuck it through the shredder at work. And I’m not calling for a replacement until I need to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas.

I really thought it would be freeing. It is. It is also scary as hell. Credit cards are a great security blanket. “Just in case things are a bit more expensive.” “Just in case we go a little wild.” “Just in case I find something I like.” That ‘Just In Case’ security blanket is slowly draining my wallet….and perversely I’m often thankful for that!

I’m tired of making a budget and not sticking to it. I’m tired of living in fear of going out. When I go out, I have what is in my bank account or cash. This works for me because the day my paycheck arrives in my account I pay any bill that will be due before the next paycheck. I do this IMMEDIATELY.

So how am I enjoying my frightening financial freedom? I’m walking more, playing Ingress. I’m reading many free library books.

I wait to pronounce judgement on a book until after I’ve read it. Then I am offering a fully informed position. Not this book!

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I am inspired. I have actually laughed out loud several times. Each time I pick up this book I can’t decide if I want to homestead or just make one of her incredible recipes (if it’s in season).

I love gardening even though I’m not good at it yet. I love being outdoors more than the bugs who feast upon me. I may ask for this for Christmas so I can stay inspired year round.

Electronics Giveth And Taketh Away: Facebook And Ingress

I have generally had trouble finding a good topic to write about because the little things I do (or don’t do) to save money, help the planet, and keep my butt where it’s planted are so innocuous.

This week, though, I’ve made some small changes that have been more noticeable differences in my life than usual. Both involve changes in my relationship with digital media.

The first change I made this last week was Facebook related. I decided that instead of agonizing over unfriending someone (Would they notice? Be upset? What if we accidentally reconnect? What if I need them for something in the future?) I began to unfollow them.

I began unfollowing people when I didn’t remember why we were Facebook friends, when they posted too frequently, when I realized I wasn’t that close to them and didn’t need to know all aspects of their daily lives. I also began unliking many pages I wasn’t interested in anymore.

Now, quite frankly, my newsfeed is boring. I already know what’s going on in my everyday friends’ lives so I don’t feel such a tugging ‘need’ to keep up virtually. You could be extreme and quit it altogether. I’m not quite there yet.

Now I’m free and more mentally removed from the social media tether, I want to go out more! I’ve been to the library once this week and will definitely be returning a finished book next week. I also hope to get back into exercising since my back is feeling much better.

What kind of exercise? I’m not going to go crazy or push myself. A back injury is serious, no matter how slight. So I’m walking more and the game Ingress is helping.

Ingress has been around for about two years, but it’s new to me. It’s a virtual reality game  you play by walking. The game involves a futuristic looking version of Google maps and you hack portals and use alien energy….the point of the game is to go out and explore your area. Portals are usually churches, old buildings, historical sites, points of interest, etc. You can submit your own. If you aren’t motivated on your own to get out and walk, a game with points and enemies might be the kick you need.

Now, thanks to these two small (and free!) changes  I’m even happier living in the moment.

Life and Literary Journeys: Free!

I hit up my library on Monday after work and have spent the last three days living this wonderful routine:

Wake up, go to work, read on my lunch break, more work, go home, make dinner, clean up, throw on pj’s, grab some water, close my door, and read for hours. I even have some nice chocolate and crappy boxed wine to enjoy along my literary journey.

This is the week I put the brakes on my life and really got a better look at myself and where I am on my life journey.

I cooked dinner, made bread, drank wine, shut off my computer, and enjoyed the hell out of my me time. I’ve been reading nonfiction, young adult (I refuse to call it a guilty pleasure as I feel no guilt about that), fantasy. I have business, linguistic, and comedic books in my stacks of books.

I have three stacks of books I want to get through: library, borrowed from friends, mine I haven’t read and want to decide if I want to keep or not.

I had been feeling stuck and didn’t want to pamper myself with expensive spa treatments or pricey dinners. So I hit my personal reset button. I let a lot build, so it may take me all week of ignoring my friends and staying in. That’s not a bad thing.

Free movies, free books…library is a word that means heaven. If reading is not your tool to unwind, no problem. There are many free activities out there away from a screen to cultivate a little more personal joy in your life. Take a day to do that, I’m sure it’s been a while.

Relax. The world isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 🙂