Looking Back, Looking Forward

Note: I originally wrote this for my short-lived blog, Miles of Blue, January 3. 2015. Looking back, this is probably when I intuitively knew it was time to make a drastic change but I was not ready.

I can hardly believe it. It’s 2015.

I’ve given all that’s happened in 2014 a lot of thought and it’s just now that I feel like I can breathe. It felt like a really rough year but as the new year approached, it felt so good to think about and plan for the new things I want to accomplish and everything I want to keep doing in 2015. My list ended up being a bunch of single words that kept cropping up this year:

Do

Life, it really is short. I don’t know how else to say it. We’ve lost friends and family this year and I cannot tell you how important it feels to me to just. do. it. For 2015, I’m making a commitment to do rather than just think, think, think. I’ve learned that making a list of concrete actions can help to reach the next step and the next step and the next step. When the task seems insurmountable or the goal so far away, it is so easy to get overwhelmed and feel paralyzed. So here’s to specific actions that take us one step closer to “that thing” you want to do.

And on that note, Miles of Blue is one of my “dos”. I’ve been talking about it and thinking about; stuck with ideas about how there will be the perfect time to [fill-in-the-blank].

I still don’t know exactly what or how it’ll shape up but *I’m just doing it*. And that brings me to …

Fear

Phew, this word can paralyze the best of us. It’s tough to overcome and in the last few years I feel like I’ve been making huge efforts to overcome many. Standing in front of 40 students and speaking to so many more professionals about marketing and branding scared me to death. I mean, I hardly could eat! But it feels so natural now (Ok, may not in front of hundreds) so I know I can overcome fears and not allow them to stop me from doing something new.

But, over the last several months I’ve been struggling with the fear of change and the unknown. Last spring, I made the difficult decision to step down as Assistant Professor at Newhouse which also led to pulling myself out of consideration for a full-time job at a magazine. There was too much going on. Real or imagined, could I handle the change again? I felt I had to do something and to push away opportunities and move off a track that pulled us out of Oregon? It was crazy scary.

Since then I’ve been floating about and so this year, I hope to find clarity.

Improve

I read this book a couple of months ago and read an interesting take on work and in life; that it isn’t about being the best but about making a commitment to getter better everyday. Progress each day, each week over the course of say a year, is the goal.

Doing good work is important to me. I love to learn and through practice I hope to improve on my design skills, my writing skills and really being a better person which I think helps with all the other stuff! It makes sense, doesn’t it? By making a commitment to improve, we make a commitment to do good work(s).

Unplug

I’m getting better at shutting down my computer and shutting off my smartphone. Thankfully, I don’t feel the need to answer every text or email or phone call right away. (Did you know that even the thought of email stresses people out? Another reason snail mail needs to stay!) I personally don’t have the expectation that anyone I send an email to needs to reply toute suite either.

Unplug equals time to read, take a walk, see, listen and feel. Turning off the screen means I have time to quiet my mind to give random ideas and thoughts the space to enter and mingle.

Quiet seems so precious these days …

Save

My parents talked a lot about money and I think it gave us a healthy relationship with money. I remember several times being utterly grateful I knew about investments and heck, how to balance a checkbook!

But, I’m also a bit of a shopper. I admit it. I like beautiful, high-quality things.

I’ve become a better saver but I need to do better. So, my vow is to think for a week or more before I buy anything or sign up for yet one more service or get all spontaneous and buy tickets for a tour around Europe. Because I have a long-term dream and that requires putting off immediate gratification to realize it. Every time I think I need to spend money, I have to “Oregon”.

It’s time to play catch up and try what one friend who shared her admiration for a couple who “lived well below their means” and were able to retire early and travel the world. Hello!

Family

I enjoy my family and I feel so lucky that we like spending time together but I wish we could gather more often. Someday it would be nice to just walk or drive to my brother’s house and share a meal or watch a movie.

And, as I get older and with each passing of a loved one, seeing and being with family means the world to me. We lost our great uncle (we called him grandfather) this fall and I felt so much sadness because he took on the role of being our grandfather when tragedy struck my father’s home. It was comforting knowing that I had someone to call “grandpa”.

When a friend shared that when her mom passed away a few years ago, she said goodbye with no regrets and therefore no feelings of guilt I felt her peace. She made the time to visit with her a lot for everyday moments. Yes, the every day is more meaningful and I’ve taken her story to heart.

Friends

Relationships are gold in my mind and 2014 felt like I had found a lot of great support from this incredible woman and this fantastic group of designers. I mentioned before that I’ve been floating about and my closest friends, family and without question, my husband have helped carry me through some rough patches and major decisions this year.

Many of my friends live far away so 2014 was a great year for making local friends and getting to know them better (thank you, HarrietJoanna, and Jennifer). Every time we share more and get that much closer. Respect, trust … “being real” … Finding your people is greater than gold.

I hope this year, those friendships will grow even deeper roots.

Grateful

I’ve read here and there that gratitude is the key to happiness. It makes sense. When you are grateful you recognize the good in life. It helps lessen the ick of the hardships and challenges one has faced or may continue to face.

I’ve found this to be generally true; that if I stop, slow down and take a moment to reflect on the wonderful people in my life and the experiences I’ve had, my outlook changes for the better.

But it dawned on me recently that this feeling of thanks tends to come after something has happened. You know, after someone gives you something or you survived a scary moment or during the holidays when you look back at all the events — good and bad — in your life.

What if it was daily practice? What if I followed what Leo Babuta suggests and “… [start] a habit of gratitude“?  What if it were a mindset?

This year is the year to practice gratitude every day.

Health

Back in June, I started to take my health more seriously. That’s when I discovered Paleo and bodyweight lifting because I was determined to rid myself of body image issues just like this person. (It’s not easy).

To get started, I first went through Whole30 and discovered a whole new world of cooking — dairy free, grain free and as little sugar as possible. I’m not quite sure it is working at times but I think it also takes some patience. (I’m working on the definition of working 😉

But what I am most proud of? I can do 30 damn pushups in a set! I could barely do 10 in late May. And, in a few weeks, I’ll take up yoga classes — s t r e t c h !

So, to be able to move and do is a gift I’ve taken for granted. Being a woman in my forties, I’m much more conscious about what is happening with my mind, body and spirit. Taking care of myself is, as Kathleen Shannon has stated, a “non-negotiable”. Without good health, it’ll be way more challenging to practice all the above.

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