Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stuff I Want to Do: the Not-Project

My last post got me thinking--it seemed sort of disembodied and I didn't really know why I posted it at all. Then I thought, I suppose I could actually make a plan to get some of those things accomplished. And I could probably track it on here to see how it goes, which would also mean I would keep my blog going without having to sit down and think about things too hard.

One of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project, all about Gretchen Rubin's year (now more than a year, by far) of trying on happiness methods to see what worked. It's very useful, although she's a bit older than me and already has a lot of stuff figured out that she takes for granted: she has a family already, where I am living by myself and trying hard to meet people (here in Phoenix, which is apparently the most difficult city in which to meet people). She also has a successful writing career, while I am still struggling to get (any!) publishing credits, not to mention find time to write while I'm working two part-time jobs for non-profit pay.

She knows what's up. A lot of the things on her blog were things that I have slowly been figuring out, but she managed to say them much more succinctly and hammer them into my head, like:
Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do in order to do the things you REALLY want to do; i.e., you have to take physics to get a biology degree, or you have to get knee surgery in order to continue running.
Also, happiness comes in small steps, not in big ones. After breaking up with Ex-boyfriend #6, my mantra was, "Hil, wash your face and brush your teeth," which was my reminder to myself to do the small things to take care of myself while I let time take on the big things. Kind of like that one saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step."

My other problem with Gretchen Rubin is she really, really likes resolutions. Every time I read her blog (which is every day) she's got a freaking new one. I don't even know how she keeps track of them, not to mention follows them, and to be frank, I HATE rules. I don't even like suggestions. Forcing me to do something is probably the fastest way to get me to a) hate you and b) never ever ever do whatever it is you want me to do again. When I was three I kicked my mom out of my room in the mornings and insisted on dressing myself, and I never looked back. I don't like being told what to do, even by me. It still takes me an hour to get dressed because I can't just decide what to wear and then wear it. I have to make sure it suits my mood that day.
So when sweet, lovely Gretchen suggested that everybody who reads her blog make their own happiness project this year, complete with resolutions in a particular concentration area for every single month, I thought, "Oh, that's a cool idea. For everyone else." And I never thought about it again.
Then, one day, Gretchen wrote a post on how, somewhere in the universe, there are people who don't like rules, and who might respond badly to the idea of being happier by making rules. I think she thinks we're sort of an alien race, or a mutated subset of the population, but at least she acknowledged us. (She used the term "demand resistant," which sounds fairly accurate.) But then I started thinking about it again.
There are things I want to do with my life, and sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do in order to do the things you really want to do.
Now, in order to do my own Happiness Project, which I will of course refuse to call a Happiness Project because that implies I have structure and/or rules, and a deadline, I am going to have to tiptoe around myself and somehow inspire myself to take the steps to do the things I really want to do without making any rules.
Oh, this should be great fun.

Seriously, Gretchen. I adore you, but the term Happiness Project just sounds so 7th-grade social studies. It makes me itch for recess. It makes it sound like we're all stuck inside, doggedly pursuing happiness, while outside the bees are buzzing and the sun is shining and the 8th-graders are playing dodgeball without us. It sounds like card stock and fluorescent lighting and dried-out Crayola markers.

I think, while I'm thinking up a less sterile name, I can pick a few things that I want to do this year, this year being the vague territory between now and, you know, sometime around the time I turn twenty-five. And I think I can handle breaking those big goals down into the small steps they require. I think I can do this without making any rules.

1. I would like to be less stressed. This means a few things: a) I would like to eat better. b) I would like to exercise more. c) I would like to have more time to myself. d) I would like to learn to organize my time so that I am only thinking about work when I'm at work.
2. I would like to get published. This means pretty much only one thing: a) I would like more time for writing. I don't need to make time for sending things out and researching literary magazines, because I will clearly do that while I'm procrastinating writing.
3. I would like to meet new people and do more new and fun things. But, in the spirit of someone who is "demand resistant," I hate clubs and organizations. I don't want to have to show up for a meeting every second Thursday of the month and have a book read by then. What if it's the second Thursday and I've worked a ten-hour day and I'm tired and all I want is a cup of tea and a different book? I don't think I could even put a bunch of random cool stuff in a jar and pick one whenever I have time, because what if I don't feel like doing that thing? So Thing I Want #3 needs only two things: 1) time in which to do more new and fun things and 2) the motivation to go find something new and fun (Gretchen calls this "letting the door shut behind you." She normally uses it to refer to exercising, saying that if you have your sneakers on and you shut the front door behind you, you will exercise, but I think it will work here.).
4. I want to spend more time with God. To do this, I would like to a) learn to meditate, b)read more books about what other people think of God, and c) possibly find an organization/person who can help me better than I can help myself.

So, in summation, I need: a) to eat better
b) to exercise more
c) to organize my work/leisure time more effectively
d) more time to myself
e) more time to write
f) more time to do fun stuff
g) more fun stuff to do
h)more time to practice meditation
i)more time to read books
j) a teacher
I'm seeing a pattern here.
Luckily, in about a month or so, I will be all done with the bird job (minus extra work that I'll be putting in voluntarily on the write-up), and I should only be working 25 hours a week at the other job. So I will have more time.
But I don't think I should just wait a month until I have more time--I've fallen into that trap before. When the hell else will you have the time to do the things you want to do, if not now?
In general, I think, if you aren't so excited about something that you make time for it even in a ridiculously busy schedule, then you don't actually want to do it, and maybe you shouldn't.
But I guess that's a problematic attitude when it comes to those things you don't want to do that you have to do in order to do the things you REALLY want to do. Like meditation. It does make me feel a little bit better, but I'm also atrocious at it, and it's so hard to do when I'm tired, and it's not always successful, and yada yada. Same with serious books. Serious books are just so serious. I really prefer fantasy novels. So how, when I am so "demand resistant," can I make time for those things, without rules?
Taking suggestions, and possible alternatives to the term Happiness Project

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