Mission 101

On May 25th, 2007, I embarked on an incredibly ambitious yet kind of stupid project called Mission 101.

The idea is, you make a list of 101 things you’d like to accomplish. You have 1001 days to do them. (That’s a little less than three years.)

It sounds like a fantastic premise, and it is. You’ve got a huge span of time to do stuff, and who doesn’t love lists of things they can cross off and feel accomplished? It’s also pretty handy to have a list reminding you of the stuff you want to do.

But here’s the problem I personally encountered with the project: You can change a hell of a lot in 1001 days. A hell of a lot. I found that as I went along with my project, stuff I wanted to do at the start became irrelevant, or my overall goals changed. I also discovered things I wanted to add, but all 101 slots were full. I gained new hobbies (guys, did you know how much stuff you can do with a hula hoop?), met new people, changed jobs, lost jobs, lost friends, all that stuff that proves you’re actually living your life as opposed to just stagnating in a puddle of boring. The stuff that’s supposed to happen. The naturally occurring lifey stuff.

About halfway through the project I decided if I ever did it again, I would only come up with a handful of things to go on the list, things I genuinely wanted to do instead of things that I thought sounded cool at the time because I was scrambling for another twenty things to get to 101. And I would add to the list of 101 slowly and gradually over the course of the project.

Well, I went and read through some of my friend’s posts and saw a few of them are currently doing Mission 101. My original list expired on February 15th, 2010, a day I did not notice passing and did not acknowledge because I’d already given up on my list. Funnily enough, after going back through that original list of things, it turns out I accomplished some of them after all without even thinking about it. Most of my goals, however, lay abandoned. (According to what I actually bothered to track, I finished a whopping ten of my goals.)

Now, the project has its own website where you can create your list, peruse other people’s lists, and generally keep much better track of the whole project rather than trying to sift through pages of html code to edit your original Livejournal post.

So I’m picking up Mission 101 again (officially starting on Monday), because I need some solid goals to focus on. For now, there are only four things on my list. I’m hesitant to add too many goals at once, and I only want to add goals I genuinely want to accomplish, regardless of how noble the intent of setting a goal like “lose seventy-three pounds while simultaneously reading every book published in America and swimming the English channel without eating any meat or ice cream” might be. The point for me, this go-round, is to actually get things done.

Things I can cross off my list and feel accomplished. Here’s my current list of four.

Wanna try it too?

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The Wooly World of Fiction Re-Writes

In 2005, I wrote a book. Well, “book” is an incredibly liberal term for what I wrote. A better description might be “a random, writhing mass of fictional prose”. It was my first time to finish NaNoWriMo in two years. I was excited.

This mass of fictional prose had llamas in it. Later that winter, I would write another writhing mass using the same characters. In May of 2006, I wrote the third and “final” “chapter” of my “llama trilogy”.


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I did it for a few reasons. Mainly, I’d always wanted to write a trilogy because COME ON. Who DOESN’T endeavor to write a trilogy if they’ve ever set out to write anything? Who DOESN’T sit down at their keyboard, pound out “It was a dark and stormy night” and then press their fingers together whilst muttering about how THIS will be the book that changes EVERYTHING!!!!???

Anyway, I did that, it involved llamas. Ever since then, I’ve been waving my fist in the air claiming how I will one day edit the thing and make it something legitimately readable. I have IDEAS and whatnot, PLANS, that sort of thing. But every time I sit down with it and think “THIS TIME I’LL REALLY GET SOME WORK DONE ON THIS MONSTER”, do you know what happens? Not a whole lot. I get overwhelmed, confused and discouraged. I wonder how anyone on the face of the Earth has ever managed to re-work their novels into something presentable.


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I’ll set it back down and figure, maybe it’s just not meant to be. But then I’ll have more ideas, more plans, and I’ll take a stab at it again, with much the same results.

I’ve done a lot of poking around in the minds of other authors, reading interviews and listening to podcasts, trying to figure out some sort of formula to going about this re-write process. Unfortunately, much like the writing process itself, everyone re-writes differently. In the same way I figured out how I write best*, I would have to figure out how I re-write best.

I’ve tried other people’s methods, including Holly Lisle’s fabled one-pass revision. I’ve tried writing outlines, detailed character sketches, organizing subplots, and I have failed at all of them. I’ll start re-reading my rough draft, trying to make notes and keep the story in my head and just get to the end of the damn thing, but I never make it. Somewhere in the re-read, the task becomes too daunting and I have no desire to return to it.


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The frustration comes from the fact that I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing, along with the knowledge that no one can tell me what I’m supposed to be doing. Also, for whatever reason, a large number of authors tend to keep their editing process fairly vague, cryptically referencing “re-writes” and leaving it at that. As someone who has thus far been completely stymied by the re-write process, I feel somewhat cheated by this lack of discussion. I don’t know why I can’t find it, but I feel like it has to be out there somewhere, since there is a HUGE amount of re-writing done between first drafts and publication.

I’ve written at least eight rough drafts. I’ve managed to re-write and revise exactly zero of them.

The struggle to find my own re-writing style continues. While I was lying down to sleep the other night, I had an idea that I think might lead me in the right direction:

Approach the draft less like a novel to edit, and more like source material for a research paper.

I used to hate research papers, but once I learned HOW to go about writing them my junior year of high school, I started to love them. Basically, I read a bunch of source material, take notes on any parts I think might be relevant, and once I’ve got a pretty sizable stack of notes, I’ll start assembling them into some sort of order. Then it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks.


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For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing this with my llama trilogy, instead of my “normal” (aka: failed) process. Rather than trying to do a straight re-read, I’ll pick up the manuscript and open it to a random page and start reading. I only read for as long as it holds my interest. When I read a scene I really like and might want to try to work into the final story, I’ll mark it with a post-it and a quick note on what I like.

I have ideas for scenes that will need to be added for the story to make it work the way I’m envisioning it now, and once we have the Internet in our new apartment I’ll start writing those. (For some reason, it’s so much easier for me to write knowing that when I’m done, I can log onto LJ or FB and announce that I’ve just done a bunch of writing. Instant gratification and all that jazz.)

Taking short, random stabs at my book this way is already making the re-writing process seem more fun and less tedious. It now feels like dumping a jigsaw puzzle out of the box and finding which pieces fit together, rather than having to sit down and write from beginning to end a story I’ve already discovered and explored.

I’ll report back to let you know how this method is working for me. And by the way, if you’re a writer who has successfully completed a re-write or two, I would love to know the details of how you go about it. If you’re a writer who hasn’t successfully completed a re-write, but has tried (like myself), I would love to hear what you’ve tried and why you think it didn’t work.

*In case you’re curious, the way I write best is to start with absolutely no idea what I’m going to write about and just start typing. I need to do it fast, in a defined time frame, and let it evole as it goes. That is the most fun and effective way for me to write.

Breakdown of an Emotional Breakthrough (and a hoop!)

Let’s do the hoop first, because everyone loves to look at the pretties:

This was a custom order, delivered last night. Very well received. 🙂 Many thanks to my friend Lissa for helping me out to make sure the hoop got delivered on time!

ONTO THE BUSINESS PART OF THIS POST: I haven’t been blogging much the past week or so, and I wanted to explain why. It’s not for a lack of ideas, I’ve got ideas for posts scribbled on random scraps of paper, saved for when I would sit down at the keyboard again. But I felt I needed to make this particular post first, before making any of the others.

You see, I had an enormous emotional breakthrough this week. I mean, with giant, sopping globs of tears and snot and bawling at myself in the mirror while I mentally told myself (and believed) how wonderful I really am.

It happens.

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw some of this breakthrough occurring in real time.

It started with a blog post by Sarah Wilson. The title was “Possibly the most reassuring life advice I’ve been given”, and I clicked on it, figuring some good advice couldn’t hurt.

I didn’t realize I was clicking on a post that would lay out my greatest insecurity, the one I keep under the table and very rarely even admit to myself, in mind-numbing clarity. Nor did I expect it to tell me that the very personality traits that cause this insecurity are to be celebrated, not admonished. And I certainly didn’t expect the post to hand me the title of a guidebook for finally making peace with said insecurity.

The Personality Traits: I find something interesting, I get very excited about it, I commit to it and dive into it headfirst. I do everything I can to try to form a career, a living, off of this new thing I love. But the thrill always wears off and it always become something I do and enjoy, while the sparks of passion grow fewer and far between. And I leave a cloud of frustrated friends and family in my wake, who thought I was really going to do something this time, wondering why I stopped when I was doing so well.

The Insecurity: I’m then left wondering why I’m never happy with the idea of just getting a regular job like everyone else. Why I have to keep searching for something that truly fills me up, rather than just something to pay the bills. Wondering if my failure to be motivated by the paycheck is going to get me in serious trouble one of these days. Wondering if I really am lazy, a flake, a letdown. Thinking that there must be something wrong with me, because I can’t seem to find that one thing that makes me want to get up in the morning. Instead, I jump from thing to thing to thing.

I’ve grown to accept that might just be how I am, that I may never be interested in just one thing, that my passions will change and I’m just along for the ride. But then where does that leave me, as far as making a living goes? How do I do what I love, when what I love is never consistent?

Let’s get back to that blog post. It turns out that I am not the only person with this “problem”. And it turns out that it is not a problem at all. An amazing woman named Barbara Sher has labelled us “Scanners”, and she wrote a book about what it’s like to be a Scanner and how to deal with it, embrace it, and find work that won’t kill you. It’s called Refuse to Choose, and I was able to wait exactly one day before I caved and ran to the closest Barnes & Noble to get my own copy.

I devoured it. And I cried more than once reading it.

Here’s what’s up: Scanners love learning, and they learn very quickly. They tend to get what they want out of something simply by learning as much as they can, then moving on. Bosses tend to be impressed with how quickly these people pick up on their jobs, and want them to stay. But once a Scanner has learned the job, the “fun” part is essentially over, so the job becomes boring. And boredom is like death to a Scanner.

In addition, Scanners are hesitant to commit to any long term career, because they fear that they might be missing out on something else they’d really want to do or learn.

This explains, clearly and succinctly, my entire work history thus far. I find a simple, non-committal job because I want the flexibility of free time and a malleable schedule. I go through the training process quickly, learn the ins and outs of the job entirely, and have a blast doing it. Then the boredom sets in.

Or I’ll get a job because I love the idea of having a job like it: I wanted to work in an office with my own cubicle because I’d never done it before. I wanted to work at a yarn store. I wanted to work for an independent business owner. I don’t really want the job for the sake of having it forever and ever. What I want is the experience of having a job like it. And the pattern is the same: I love the job at first, I soak up every new thing like a sponge, I learn it quickly and make myself almost invaluable. But by then, I’ve had the experience. I now know what it’s like to work at X place doing X job, and I’m done. But I’m still there.

And so I quit. And I feel great relief while friends and family lament. And hearing their laments causes me to second guess myself, am I a failure? A commitment-phobe? Doomed to be a bum stuck in crummy high-school summer jobs for the rest of my life? And my self-esteem plummets, without me even realizing it.

But what Barbara Sher’s book made me realize, what brought me to tears in a fit of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love, is this: I am NOT a failure, a commitment-phobe, or a loser.

My brain is too hungry to specialize, to curious to settle down.

My gorgeous, beautiful, astonishing brain will never want to stop learning, and why should it? Why should I force it? Why not celebrate it, let it play with its own ideas, let it relish life and all it has to offer?

As for what I should do job-wise, the book was very helpful. I don’t feel like I need to find something and settle on it forever anymore. I have some ideas, but the most powerful came when I read the section on a particular breed of Scanner, the “Serial Master”.

These Scanners love the challenge of learning and mastering a new skill from the ground up. Once they’ve grown competent, however, they’ve gotten their reward out of the process and begin to scan the horizon for something new.

This is me to the letter. I love a good challenge. The reason I’ve got so many finished rough drafts lying around came from the challenge of NaNoWriMo, to write a novel in 30 days (and then, friends who saw how fast I could write and challenged me to complete even greater word counts in even shorter lengths of time). The reason I ran a 5K came from the challenge of interval training myself up to it with Couch to 5K.

I realized reading this section that the same drive for mastery is what pushed my manic, addictive practice sessions with hoop dance, knitting, even Dance Dance Revolution (oh yes, I’m AWESOME at DDR, you should play me one day). With these skills, I saw what mastery looked like, decided I wanted it, and set out to get it.

What happens, though, is that eventually, I reach a point of diminishing return. Once I get good enough, improvements are smaller and more gradual. While some people are content to spend the rest of their lives honing their skills increment by increment, I reach this point and crave the process of learning something new all over again. I realized that I subconsciously set a goal for myself when I start out, an “I want to be good enough to do blah” sort of thing. Typically what happens when I reach this goal is my enthusiasm for practice begins to wane, because I’ve gotten to where I wanted to go. I’ve gotten what Barbara Sher refers to as my “reward”.

When I read the book and realized that all of this is not only okay, but the way I am supposed to operate by my very nature, it unleashed a torrent of emotions and self-doubt that I knew I’d been supressing somewhere but could never identify clearly enough to work on fixing them. It’s amazing how just giving a name to your fears and insecurities can help the process of healing.

Oh, and Barbara had a very specific career suggestion for the Serial Master breed of Scanner: Motivational Speaker. My jaw literally dropped reading that, because it seemed so obvious while being something I might have never given myself permission to think about seriously. But given the amount of people that have come up to me telling me how much they love my blog, and how inspired they’ve been by the posts, and the amazing and unexpected way the How I Didn’t Lose Weight Hooping article has taken off, I think she might be on to something. It’s given me renewed joy to work on this blog, and to look into what small, first steps I might take to trying out some public speaking.

Maybe on the Open Stage?

Let’s Try This Meditation Thing I Keep Hearing About.

It seems that all of the information I’ve been consuming recently for inspiration, whether it be blogs, books, YouTube videos, or yoga classes, keep suggesting meditation. Of course, that could be because I’ve been wanting to give it an honest shot, and so now I’m seeing it everywhere.

It started with The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, which provides you with ten “menu items” for living a joyful life. You’re supposed to practice each menu item for a week before moving onto the next one.

Guess what menu item number one is?

Do nothing, for fifteen minutes a day.

In other words, meditate.

I’ve seen meditation suggested by Jessica Mullen, Gala Darling, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about meditation extensively in Eat, Pray, Love, one of my favorite books, it’s suggested by Abraham-Hicks, and of course, in yoga, we’re supposed to clear our mind of thoughts during Savasana.

I’ve been practicing it a little bit, and I mean a little bit. Mostly in yoga. I will try to empty my head of thoughts, but it will fill up again almost immediately. Even if I’m not thinking anything specific, or rolling an idea over and over in my head, or worrying about something or planning something for after class, I’ll most likely have a song stuck in my head. (Usually “Down On Me“.)

The truth is, meditation is pretty tough. But I know it can get easier if I actually practice it.

The idea of practicing and becoming adept at meditation is appealing to me, because there have been moments when I’ve attempted to clear my mind that it actually felt empty. Usually this only lasts for a few seconds because then my brain’s all like, “OH MAN, I’M DOING IT!!” Which blows the whole thing. But those moments when my head is absolutely empty, where it feels as though my nagging subconscious and emotional hangups have left the building, those moments are extremely freeing. It’s a huge relief to get a break from thinking every once in a while.

Leo Babauta did a Zen Habits post a while back about How to Start. In the post, he suggests you make it as easy as possible on yourself to start, and that concept really stood out to me. Fifteen minutes of meditation right off the bat seems overwhelming. So does ten minutes. But five minutes, that seems doable.

So that is my goal for the next week, to spend five minutes a day (no more, even if I think I could do more) practicing meditation. I even found a nice, non-jarring bell for free online that I can set to any interval I like.

I did my first five minutes today and it was not bad at all. Anyone want to try this with me?

Yoga Milestone – Full Camel (I Did It! I Did It!)

Bikram’s series of yoga postures are set up so that anyone can do them. It’s actually called “Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class”. A common misconception is that Bikram is somehow an advanced form of yoga, but the postures can all be adapted so that they are less or more challenging, depending on your practice. The class dialogue only covers the expression of the 26 postures required for maximum benefit. However, it’s possible to go even deeper in some of those postures, one of them being Camel Pose (Ustrasana).

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The dialogue given in class for Camel Pose ends with you grabbing your heels and pushing your hips and chest forward. You can go deeper into this posture by bringing your hands up over your head and reaching for your toes, letting your head rest between your feet.

I first saw full camel a few years ago at a regional competition for the International Yoga Asana Championship. The competition requires athletes to perform five pre-determined postures and two of their choosing. Those chosen postures turned out to be the ones I enjoyed watching most, because I got to see samplings from Bikram’s fabled “advanced” class, where you perform 84 postures instead of just 26. (TheDancingJ did a great write-up about her experience at Bikram’s advanced class.) I saw camel performed to its full expression by several of the competitors, and I fell in love. I wanted to try it.

So of course, I got right on giving it a go, right? Well, not really. I did work on extending my gaze further down the back wall until I could see my mat and towel underneath me. But I was nervous about actually trying full camel without warning my teacher first. I wanted to make sure I knew how to perform the posture, and it never hurts to hear confirmation that you’re ready.

Naturally, I always forgot to mention it until we were already in the room and in camel pose.

UNTIL TODAY! I marched into the studio and informed the teacher that I felt ready to try full camel, and she said okay.

I found out that full camel is actually a lot of fun! It sort of feels like going on a roller coaster that flips you upside down. Before doing the posture, I tried to visualize what it might look like to be hanging backwards, upside down, and staring at my feet, and my brain couldn’t handle it. It’s like it split my imagination into two panels, one with my left foot and one with my right foot. So it felt pretty trippy to actually SEE my feet there under me, and walk my fingers toward them.

I didn’t get my face between my feet today. To be honest, I kind of forgot that’s what I should be doing because I was too busy thinking, “HOLY CRAP! I’M ALL FLIPPED OVER! OH MAN!” But once I started focusing a little more on making actual adjustments, I could feel where I should aim, and I know I can get there eventually.

I don’t know if I’m going to try full camel every class, but I’m REALLY excited I tried it today, after dreaming about it for so long. At least now I know it’s an option!

My mom requested a picture of it, so here’s me trying it outside of class. Not recommended. I got into it as slowly as possible and held it only until Green snapped the picture, then I did some forward bends to compensate. This is a posture that I’m keeping to the hot room from now on!

And just for reference, here’s an video of what it looks like to go deeeeeeeeeep into this posture:

Nine Year Yoga-versary!

I’ve been doing Bikram Yoga for a while now. I say “for a while now” a lot because until yesterday, I couldn’t remember exactly when I started. I had a vague idea, but it was driving me crazy not to know. Finally, I decided to e-mail the studio where I first started taking class to see if they still had me in the system. I asked if they could tell me the date of my first class.

I got an e-mail back from them yesterday, and yes! They did still have me in the system, and yes! They had the date of my first class!

It was…*drumroll please*…May 22nd, 2002!

That means yesterday was my NINE YEAR anniversary of practicing Bikram yoga!

I felt like I should do something to celebrate. I went to class yesterday, and I informed them of my exciting discovery. But it feels like that’s not enough. I feel like this entire year should be one big celebration, as it is the beginning of my tenth year of practice. So I’m thinking of making posts over the course of the year talking about each posture and what I’ve learned from them, as well as general reflections like I’ve been doing from time to time.

I also feel like I should set a goal. I want to be a Bikram teacher. I know that, I’ve known that since I started doing the yoga, but in one more year I’ll have been practicing for a decade, and I feel like I should be a teacher by then. My goal is to get to teacher training by this time next year.

It’s kind of a big deal for me, knowing for certain now that I’ve been involved with yoga for nine years. Knowing the date is intriguing, too. I graduated from high school on May 19th, 2002, which means that three days after I walked the stage, I decided to give in to my mother’s request for me to walk into the hot room. I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d started going before or after high school ended. It’s oddly meaningful to me to learn that it was just after the end. The beginning of a new era. I know when I first went to class, I expected to hate it. I literally had the expectation that it would be awful beyond all reason and I would walk out in a huff. I was pretty surprised when it was not as terrible as I thought it would be, when the heat was bearable, when I could do more than I thought I’d be able to.

And now here I am, nine years later, Bikram yoga still a major part of my life. I know this is something that will be a part of my life forever, because every time I’m away from it, my mind is working out a way to get back. Every time I need it, it’s there. I’ve learned so much about myself in that room, and I’m not anywhere near done. Here’s to an incredible upcoming tenth year, and another life-changing ten years after that!

Yogic Reflections – Yoga for CONFIDENCE

It is Day Twenty-shmurmblemumble of my back to yoga forever lifestyle! Which is what I’m changing the name to because I think having a finite number of days is a bit limiting, and calling it a challenge gives it the illusion of being difficult, when what I’m really accomplishing is making yoga an easy, daily, regular practice for the rest of my life. I’ve been back for almost a month, and here’s what’s going on:

Classes are starting to get easier, waffling back and forth between days where I feel light-headed and dizzy and days where I feel strong and awesome and complete the entire class. I’m looking forward to more strong and awesome classes, because those are the classes where I really dig deep and get into the nitty gritty adjustments part of class.

The BIGGEST THING I’ve learned about myself this time around is that I’ve been holding a lot of compression and tension in my chest. The instructor told me sometime last week that if I lifted my chest more, I’d have been able to touch the floor in my backbend. (!!!)

I’ve also noticed that when I lift my chest up, there’s quite a bit of discomfort, a feeling of intense exposure that causes me to feel vulnerable, so it manifests as the desire to crunch back down. I know this is something I can work through, and it feels like something extremely powerful, like if I can break through this fear of exposure I will gain a whole slew of positive attributes. It feels like my chest is the key to my confidence, and it is my goal for the next thirty days of yoga to really push myself past that comfort zone and into the place where I feel comfortable keeping my chest high.

How often do I doubt myself, second guess myself, worry that I’m making the wrong decision to the point that I don’t make any decision at all? Every time I push my chest forward, these emotions come flooding in so powerfully that I feel almost like crying. Which means that this is where I’m trapping them, and keeping them by continuing to crunch myself up to feel comfort.

Which means I am holding within myself the solution to my own “issues”.

I will conquer these emotions and become the person I am underneath it all. Fear and self-doubt, you can suck it. Get ready to be TOTALLY DEFEATED. 🙂

Oh yeah, and it’s my BIRTHDAY! I am twenty-seven. I am pumped beyond all reason about being alive, and looking forward to making my twenty-seventh year my best, most confident and abundant year EVER. *HIGH FIVES FOR THE ENTIRE INTERNET*