The Year of the Hummingbird and Maybe the Paper Crane

I have to admit that I embarrass myself more often than not. I’m a person who jumps into projects wholeheartedly, and I have a lot to show for that. I just don’t have a lot of what I would consider socially acceptable accomplishments to show. Published books after 25 years as a writer? One. Incomplete manuscripts? Dozens.

I love to blog, and I’ve been doing it since 2005, so you would think I’d have a lot to show, and I do, but of what nature? My life in the blogs looks a lot like my office and my bedroom and my car–random stuff slung everywhere. I did a blog-a-day project a few years ago. I think I went for a year-and-a-half without missing a day of posting to this blog, and I loved it and also felt extraordinarily self-conscious about it. I felt like I was proving to my frenemies that I indeed did not have my life together.

I want to blog again, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. I’m not sure I want to show off more of my inadequacies. I’m also not sure I will be able to see it through. Last year, I started a fiction-writing blog project, and abandoned it after one post because life went topsy-turvy for a while. Life has not promised me not to go topsy-turvy. I do not know what lies ahead or what I can promise to myself and others. I will not make resolutions today.

I will, however, set a few intentions and give myself permission to try and fail and try again. That’s the best most of us can do.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with motivational writers. You know? Those people who think they have it figured out? I’ve always wanted to be one of those people, but at the same time I’ve always known that I did not have it figured out, would probably never have it figured out, and wasn’t sure it was even possible for anyone to truly have it figured out.

I ran across the video posted above recently, though, and I found it inspiring. I recognized myself immediately as a hummingbird, and I decided that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s okay to be a hummingbird. It’s okay to flit from one thing to another. The only thing it’s not okay to be is a hummingbird who lets the jackhammers of the world convince her not to fly.

You can see the entire talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity and passion and hummingbirds and jackhammers here.

Meanwhile, allow me to share a few of my intentions for 2016:

  • Post a photo-a-day on Flickr
  • Blog more often
  • Revisit old projects
  • Keep up some of the Facebook pages I’ve started in the past
  • Fold 1000 paper cranes
  • Be nicer to myself and others
  • Be as fit and active as I can be without driving myself insane
  • Eat healthy most of the time
  • Create spaces of peace for myself (and those around me) during times of turmoil
  • Embrace my inner hummingbird
  • Play with my puppy
  • Hang out with my cats
  • Hang out with my friends and family
  • Learn to bake bread
  • Write
  • Laugh
  • Show up where I am needed most
  • Get out and about enough to see the beauty in the world around me
  • Read poetry
  • Never let the jackhammers get me down

Here’s a start:

These are my first three cranes of a planned 1000 for the 2016. To reach my goal of 1000 and to make it last most of the year, I plan to average 3 per day. I’m going to photograph them in sets most of the time to keep the project as simple as possible.

The cranes to me represent little prayers for peace and healing and goodwill during tumultuous times. In an election year, it seems to me that daily reminders of peace and goodwill may be necessary.

And that, ultimately, is my primary intention for the year–offer as much peace and harmony and hope and love and goodness as I am able to the world while managing somehow to be as okay with myself as possible.

May’s End Resolutions

I’ve always thought I’d be better off making resolutions at the end of the school year rather than at the end of the calendar year. If I have a resolution, summer is really my only chance for doing anything about it. Such is the life of a teacher.

I’ve been thinking about what I said I would do this year back in December and January. So far the only thing I’ve stuck with is taking a picture every day. I’m now on Day 147 of my project 365, and I haven’t missed a day yet.

I’m proud of that, but I haven’t lost weight, transformed my house into a show place, or become a better person (at least not as far as I can tell). I have some work to do here.

For my May’s End Resolutions then, I have some goals, both practical and dream like.

1. Get back on the diet. I lost a good bit of weight last summer and fall, but it is starting to creep back on now. It’s time to get serious again. Plus, I have this vague idea that I want to do a self-portrait project in 2012 as a way of teaching myself the finer arts of portrait photography. I really need to trim off the rest of the excess by January if I want to do this. Calorie counting regimens, here I come.

2. Continue my photography lessons. I just finished up a photography class, and I feel like I’m really pretty solid on the basics of digital photography now, but there is always more to learn. I plan to read more on my own and to keep taking pictures and keep experimenting with things I haven’t tried before. Along with this, I hope to really master Photoshop Elements. I have the program. I have a book. I have links to video tutorials. I have no excuses.

Eventually, I want to master the full version of Photoshop, but first I need to save up the money to buy a new computer along with the software. I’m pretty much pushing the computer I have to capacity. Eventually, I’ll do something about that, but for now I can make do with learning more about the stuff I already have.

3. Do some writing. I’ve been mostly photo-blogging since January. Last year, I set out to do a blog 365 project. I finished the year without missing a day, and I actually haven’t missed a day yet. That puts me at 512 consecutive days of posting something to this blog. Once I finished my first year, though, I let up on the actual writing part of the blog. I don’t think I’ve posted anything other than pictures and book reviews for the past few months. That’s okay. It was what I felt like doing. I would like to get back to some kind of writing routine for the blog now, though. I won’t write a blog article every day, but I’d like to write one a few days a week.

Also, I really want to spend some time working on poetry this summer. I want to read more poetry, write more poetry, and work on more experimental venues for poetry. Mainly, I want to work on poetry/photography hybrids or multimedia poems. We’ll see where that goes, but for now, I’d like to make some time to write, to seriously write some poetry.

4. Revamp courses for fall. I wanted to reorganize my literature class for summer, but then Blackboard was down for half our break, and I got caught up in other things, and I realized this goal was unrealistic. Fall is looming, though, and reorganizing all of my classes for fall is not an unrealistic goal. It’s in fact a good and necessary goal.

Last year, they did a major Blackboard change right before the fall semester started. We didn’t have access to our courses until the last minute, and we had to scramble to just keep our heads above water. That made for a very stressful year. This year I have vowed will be different. I’m going to start putting together my fall courses now. That should give me time, not just to think through assignments a little better, but also to work up the podcasts and PowerPoints and whatever else I think I want to go with them.

I really need to start the school year feeling good about what I’m doing. Now is my chance to make sure that happens.

5. Work on my house. I need to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I’d like to do some painting and rearranging and fixing up, but I’d rather save my money for a new computer, so I really just need to put some quality time into working with what I have. I never seem to be on top of my housework. I have both arthritis and asthma, and one or the other or both always manages to kick in before I get very far. That’s why I need to develop a system for doing a little bit every day instead of trying to do a lot at once. I tried that in January and didn’t make it through very many days, but the summer is a whole new prospect. If I spend a little time every day sorting out and getting rid of things, surely everything will look better before too long. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

6. Get back on my financial diet. Like the weight loss diet, the financial diet had a winning streak followed by a slump. If I ever want to get that new computer, much less the new camera equipment on my wish list, I’m going to have to get back on my plan.

7. Books, books, books. I’m actually ahead of schedule on my reading goals for the year, so I guess I don’t have to list this, but I will anyway. I know I can’t catch up on everything I’ve never read in one summer, but I hope to clock in some quality reading hours. I have a new patio umbrella and a Kindle just waiting to spend time with me (see #6).

8. Cakes, cakes, cakes. I realize this does not jive with #1 or even #6 on my list, but I’ve gotten it in my head that I want to be the cake lady. I have a list of cakes I want to try to make and a whole summer full of family dinners to attend. I want to learn how to make great cakes and how to take great portraits. If you would like to have your portrait made while eating a piece of homemade cake, message me. I can set you up.

9. Take vacation days. I don’t have any trips planned for this summer (see #6). I could easily hole up in my house for the entire summer without caring whether I ever went anywhere, but I don’t really want to do that. I want to take some day trips to places nearby that I wouldn’t ordinarily see. I want to photograph more of Mississippi than just my own backyard.

10. Be happy. After a stressful year, I need a happy summer more than I need a productive summer. This is why most of my goals are focused on things that bring me pleasure. Even so, I know I’m in danger of working so hard at my hobbies that I forget I’m doing them for fun. Thus, my most important goal of the summer is to remember to just be happy. If I’m not happy, I need to back up and let some things go. That’s my theory at the moment at any rate.

So back to the blog it is. Back to the diet. Back to the financial diet. Back to the camera and back to the books. I plan to have a good summer. I hope you do too. Don’t forget to let me know what kind of cake you like.

Just One Thing Update

I started my “Just One Thing” program this week in which I vow to do just one thing a day toward getting rid of stuff I don’t need for basically as long as it takes to pare my house down to either the bare necessities or what strikes me as livable chaos.  I’ve decided I’m going to blog regular updates on my activities so as to make myself a little more accountable.  It seems to me that I’m much more likely to shame myself into seeing it through if I tell everyone I know I’m doing it.

So here goes…

Yesterday, I did, as promised, take a load of clothes to the thrift store.  My intention for today was to take some cardboard boxes to recycling.  That didn’t happen because a guy who had done some work on my house said he wanted to come by to finish the job.  I needed to be home for that.  I waited around for him, and by the time he left it probably wasn’t yet 2:00.  Of course I could have still made the run to recycle.  I had just forgotten all about it by then.  I’m easily distracted.

When I realized later this evening that I never had done my one thing for the day, I made myself clean out a junk drawer.  I almost saved myself some effort and dumped everything out of the drawer wholesale, but I went through it piece by piece.  It’s a good thing too.  The title to my car and the deed to my house were in it.  Maybe I need a new filing system.  Maybe I need a system period.

I’d like to say I’ll do the recycling tomorrow, but I won’t.  Tomorrow is my first day back at work.  If I have any energy left at all by the time I get home, maybe I’ll use it to throw some old magazines away.  If not, maybe I could at least empty the trash on my computer.  Does that count?

The Just One Thing Philosophy Club

This is a trunk full of clothes that I am going to haul off to a thrift store tomorrow. The car is a rental, so I’ve forced myself into action by putting the clothes in the trunk. I can’t ride them around for months before I do something about them. They have to be gone tomorrow. That will be my “just one thing” to accomplish tomorrow.

I was introduced to the “just one thing” philosophy years ago. It’s something therapists tell depressed people who are complicating their own lives with major instances of avoidance. Just do one thing a day. Just take care of one task that needs your attention. When everything becomes overwhelming, sometimes that’s the only way to get by.

Now, the “just one thing” philosophy seems to have been hijacked for online marketers and social sharing groups. Get rid of one thing a day. Learn one thing a day. Take one photo a day. Pay one nice compliment a day. Walk one mile a day.

You name it, and someone has already thought of doing it once a day and has the website and the book to prove it.

I love it. I’m signing up for as many “just one thing” projects as I possibly can. I’m already doing a Project 365 based on the advice of Photojojo.

Now I’m trying a “just one thing” approach to decluttering based on the advice of Lifehacker. No one mentioned how many days in a row the declutter project is supposed to last, but I have no doubt I could see it through the whole year.

The past few years I’ve been conquering the world (i.e working way too hard) and losing control of my life. I feel like I need to haul off everything in my house and just start over. That would be difficult considering I don’t have a truck, and I can’t lift the couch by myself. I can remove a large part of the pile up, though, with just me, a Corolla, and a little determination. I just can’t do it all in one day. I can’t even do it all in one week considering that the demands of my job have not let up. I have to pace myself. I have to look to the long range goals and not to the short range frustrations. I have to take on just one thing at a time.

The past few weeks I’ve been shoving stuff into my garage as I cleaned out closets. This week I plan to make one trip each day to haul stuff off. After a few weeks of cycling back through that process, I hope to feel more in control.

I would prefer to go full blazes ahead and overhaul entire rooms in a matter of days. I thought I could do that during the Christmas break, but it didn’t work out. I had a car accident and felt too sore to bend and lift. I got a sore throat that dragged on longer than I expected. I got caught up in more holiday business than I anticipated. Life happened. It always does. It’s going to happen much more intensely again this week as I go back to work. I have to realistic. I don’t have big blocks of time to work on my house. I have fifteen minutes a day if I take it out of the time I might otherwise spend on the treadmill or writing for the blog. In those fifteen minutes, I’ll have to do normal daily tasks as well like unloading the dishwasher and putting laundry away.

In those circumstances, the most natural reaction for me is to block out what I can’t do anything about. This is the tendency I have to fight. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t let it get to you. But don’t ignore it either. Just find one thing a day that you can do and do it.

Just one thing.

Responsible Adult Act of the Day #reverb10

A couple of days ago, I said that one thing I want to accomplish in the coming year is to trim excess bills (#7 on my list). Today I went to the Comcast office and chose a cheaper cable package, trimming about $40 off my monthly bill. I probably should have canceled it altogether, but I’m not that good or brave yet. I need to work on myself a little more first.

Now if I can only find a few more places to trim out $40 a month I might be able to make up the difference in my increased insurance costs. Regardless, I feel about as responsible as I’m capable of being today. The next step will have to wait for tomorrow. Meanwhile, maybe I’ll drag out a bank statement and comb through it looking for bills to cut. Would that count as a responsible adult act in and of itself, or would it just be a pre-responsibility planning activity? I have to pace myself on this. If I overdo it, there’s no telling when I might get back to it.

Project Minimize #reverb10

From Project Minimize

Yesterday’s Reverb 10 prompt has inspired me to manifest for myself Project Minimize. The DVDs represent my start. It hit me that there is no need for DVDs in the age of Netflix streaming, and this was the easiest place to begin putting my house on a weight loss plan.

I’ve culled half my collection. I guess I’m not totally sold on minimalism, and I’m not ready to get rid of DVDs I actually like to watch, but this is a start.

I wish I’d been more artsy about the photo and stuck more interesting movies on top, but these are the ones going to the junk shop first. Unless, of course, you know my phone number and you want them for yourself. Speak up fast. You probably only have six months before I manage to clean them out of my garage.

The next step for Project Minimize I think will be to get rid of half my shoes. Wish me luck.