The dichotomy of only and always

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns: but that is of interest to only pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.

–E.F. Schumacher

I sometimes get caught up in my own little world and forget that there is something, someone more I can be if I just let free this awful thought in my brain that I will only be who I am now. If I can uncage this thought it can morph into its truth, that I will always be who I am now.

Only keeps the cage locked, trapping me inside this little acorn, trying to bust out of what will always be this tiny little acorn, no matter how much bigger or fatter or shinier I become. If I hold fast to this belief that I am only and I will only be this acorn I am now, then this becomes my truth.

I will only be who I am now.

But always, always is freeing. It allows for depth and expansion and wisdom that will always have come from that tiny little acorn, and is now allowed to grow into her own oak tree. Always being the acorn I am now means there is room for this acorn and all the expansion that will come from its growth. With always there is now room for depth of roots and expansion of branches and perhaps housing or recreation for squirrels (or pigs, if you don’t live in the city).

I will always be who I am now, and also whoever grows from here.

With that, I find much happiness. What about you?

Ever meet someone and think they’re awesome and then after you continue to develop a relationship with them, realize a few red flags may have been missing from that first encounter? Or maybe you met someone and your first impression was meh but it wasn’t until the fifth meeting you realized this was a relationship worth developing?

Google quotes on first impressions and you’ll find most people put first impressions on a pretty high pedestal. While I do believe in the importance of always trying to put your true self forward in a first meeting, I also know how often I fail at this in my own life, and that I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to just about any relationship I come into contact with.

Take for instance, my first two weeks of college in January. It had been (mumbled)+ years since I’d been a full-time student. I prepared by taking a course on learning how to learn, buying my books and class materials early, and reviewing the syllabi for all my classes before day 1. Week one was a breeze. Mostly getting to know the professors and reviewing the syllabi I’d already diligently gone through for each class. Week two we got started on some actual education, including in-class learning and homework. My relationship with school was going swimmingly. We were getting along great, and then week three punched me in the face. Assignments due in three of my five classes. An essay due the following week for one class and an exam for another class, along with written assignments due for three other classes, and one more for the class I was already writing an essay for.

First impression of college: easy peasy, as long as you’re prepared!
Truth: totally doable, as long as you adjust to stay prepared!

I could have allowed my relationship with school to become strained. To allow my gremlins to tell me I couldn’t hack it, that it was time to go back to the real world and get a job, and stop wasting time with all this academic education I didn’t need anyway. But when I look at the reason I went back to school, it wasn’t because I was lacking in education, but because I was desiring more and of a different variety. Totally different relationship.

So I nixed that first impression from my brain and focused on the relationship I wanted to have with college:

  • healthy
    • enough time to do well and also be well
    • learning without overwhelm
    • you’re older than 50% (okay, 80%) of your classmates — let it go
  • loving and playful
    • enjoy all this new information
    • enjoy the people you’re surrounding yourself with
    • enjoy the before, the after, and the during
  • earnest
    • put in the work to do well
    • learn for learning’s sake, not for credit’s sake
    • apply your learning to your daily life

 

If I focus on the relationship, school doesn’t have to be harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s just school, and I get to develop that relationship as we go. This is life, not just school. If you focus on the relationship–whatever relationship you might be struggling with–it doesn’t have to be as hard as it feels. Take a deep breath, slow the f*** down, and be open to adjusting whatever is necessary to truly honor that relationship.

 

Inch by Inch, part February

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I’m keeping a list in Evernote with the tag “note to self,” which I add to daily and read through weekly. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell I was talking about when I wrote it (perhaps I need a #notetoself to clarify notes to self). Sometimes they’re specific to a task that I don’t do on the regular, and sometimes they relate to my life at a foundational level.

Here are a few I found useful during the month of February:

  • plan your sleep like you plan your study sessions, and stick to that plan as often as possible
  • fuel your day with food that makes you happy on the inside and out
  • be honest with yourself when you’re avoiding someone or something
  • be honest with yourself about why you’re angry with your animals
  • f*** first impressions and focus on the relationship
  • whenever you say to yourself, “just one more…” drop what you’re doing and ask yourself if your top 6 priorities of the day have been addressed yet
  • remember that sleep clears out toxins in the brain so you can think clearer while you’re awake
  • be open to creativity, but only if you’re willing to commit to it
  • you can’t say yes to everything; you’ll turn into an angry beast who resents the things and people you’re saying yes to
  • slow the f*** down; everything will be just fine no matter what happens
  • you can’t say no to everything, you’ll turn into an isolated hermit who doesn’t relate to the real world or the people who live in it
  • don’t hold on to clothes, people, or things that no longer fit you
  • read instructions thoroughly unless you want to waste your time by doing something incorrect or incomplete first (part of slow the f*** down)
  • putting something on a list does not make it a priority, even if you name that list “Top Priorities”

Some of these are a lot easier said than done, but as with all things, I’m still a work in progress. We all are. Progress is made as long as we’re moving forward, whether its by leaps and bounds or step by step, inch by inch.

Speaking of step by step and inch by inch … enjoy this, if you have a few minutes for a laugh, courtesy of Lucile Ball (adapted from Abbott and Costello, of course).

Slow the f*** down

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

This isn’t a prompt to get anyone thinking about life on a deeper level (of course, let it be whatever it is to you). For me this is a clear and marked reminder to slow the fuck down.

I had a whole post written, complete with a conversation reminding myself to honor the relationship and the rest will fall into place, but it didn’t get to the heart of what I wanted to say:

Slow the fuck down.

That’s really it. We have a choice to be present in life or to rush through it pretending we’re too busy or cool to take notice and be conscious about who we are, not just who we say we are.

So slow the fuck down and make that choice. And then you can take credit for every last second of your one wild and precious life.

 

Starting the year as a Chicagoan

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

2016 was a year of big change. In April my wife and I picked up and moved from Los Angeles to Chicago (after much discussion about where and when and how to do so). Then as if that huge change weren’t enough for someone who’s lived her whole life in Los Angeles, in November I made the decision to stop talking about going back to school to earn a degree and actually go back to school to earn a degree. While there was some space between these two huge changes I made to my life, they are both intersecting at the beginning of this year.

2017 has me starting my first year as a Chicagoan from the beginning. First January. And now, first February. These months aren’t like any previous Januaries or Februaries in all my forty-plus years. These months are rites of passage of being a Chicagoan. By February most people in Chicago seem to be over the cold weather of the last couple months, and ready for the Spring to be sprung. It’s when we can start thinking about putting away the coats and scarves and beanies and looking forward to days with temperature lows that don’t touch the sub-50º portion of the thermometer. Because when that happens we can start pulling out the shorts and t-shirts and patio furniture, all the better to enjoy the beautiful days of summer in Chicago with. Because that’s one of the great parts about Chicago: surviving the winter to enjoy the summer.

But secretly, I’m not over the cold weather. It’s still my first February, and don’t tell anyone, but I wish it had snowed just a little bit more, and if it snows again in February or March or April I won’t kick it out of bed. I’m enjoying the days I have to check the weather to see if I’m wearing regular jeans or jeans with room for another layer; a short-sleeve shirt and hoodie, or long-sleeve shirt and jacket; a light jacket or the heavy one; tennis shoes or Uggs or rain/snow-proof shoes. This is what I moved to Chicago for, to experience not only the change in seasons but the seasons themselves. And one day I might be over the cold weather in February, or even March, but I don’t think I’ve earned it yet. I haven’t quite survived the winter just yet.

Along with learning about what it means to live in real-live seasons, I’m also learning what it means to manage friendships across state lines and multiple time zones. It means if you want to make time for your friendship with  your BFF, you’re going to need to push dinner a little later, or maybe a little earlier. It means you may go stretches of days without talking, and need to make time for that text you don’t really have time to read or send. It means you relax a little on your expectations of how quickly friends “should” respond because in doing so it gives you a little grace, too (and also, don’t be a dick, it’s just time). It means being flexible because that’s what the relationship needs. 

And so I don’t go forgetting these lessons as I move through this time with you, I’m going to try and include at least 5 notes for my future self that I’ll be referring back to in my monthly reviews.

Notes for my future self:

  • Life will be cold to you sometimes; don’t just grin and bear it–find a way to enjoy at least part of it (it’s there if you look hard enough). The next cold weather pattern might last longer and cut deeper, so you might as well bank some gratitude for when you need it later and can’t bear to think of anything.
  • Not everyone will be available when it’s convenient for you. If it’s important to you to connect with someone, you’ll find convenience matters much less.
  • You won’t be available when it’s convenient for everyone else; it’s okay to say no when you’ve checked in with your priorities.
  • Do what you can with what you have from where you are (stolen from Teddy Roosevelt, of course). If you think you can’t do it, that you don’t have everything you need, that you aren’t where you need to be, then you won’t, you don’t, you aren’t.
  • Putting something on a list does not make it a priority, even if that list is titled, “Top Priorities” — you have to make it so, before it ever appears on said list.

So many more firsts are still on their way. It’s important to be on the lookout for them and graciously welcome these guests into my life while they’re still firsts. These are, after all, the memories I’ll be referring back to for learning, come the second time around and beyond. 

The New Chapter: Simplicity and Growth in 2017

2017, a new year in a new city. Now that I’ve pulled the shrink wrap off the year and am starting to get the pieces out and play around with 2017 a bit, I want to share some things that are working for me right now.

While I’ve gone back and forth through the years on whether or not to set resolutions or goals for the new year, this year I felt pulled toward holding myself accountable in some way, for what I want for myself and my ecosystem as I move through the year. In December I found these six simple questions, which helped me not only define some of the intentions I wanted to work with in the new year, but also gave me permission to not call them resolutions.

In the name of accountability I also set up a relatively simple weekly and monthly review system. My system looks like this:

  • Weekly Review – spend 10-15 minutes on Sundays reflecting on the previous week
  • Monthly Reviewspend 10-15 minutes on the first day of the month reflecting on the previous month

And because I’m notoriously forgetful, I’ve also created weekly and monthly reminders using Wunderlist, which is helping to form a habit around doing these things consistently.

(I use Evernote to track everything, but you might find using another app, or even pen on actual paper works better for you)

In the weekly reviews I write a few words (no more than 10) to capture what I’ve done to move forward toward with each intention, even if that means reporting I’ve done nothing. As an example, one of the experience intentions I set for myself is to cross the finish line in a triathlon, and one week’s bullet point included that I’d signed up for for a triathlon on August 26, but the other three weeks were left blank.

One week I signed up for it, but the other three weeks saw no progress because the triathlon is in August and my goal is to finish, not compete for a top-whatever finish.

This is where the monthly review comes in handy, which lets me take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I see that while I’ve made progress in registering for a triathlon, there hasn’t been any other movement otherwise.

If it were an event in March, I might ask myself a) is this really an intention that’s important to me (and what specifically is important about it); and b) what specifically am I willing to do to create intentional movement here? In this case, a) yes (I want to experience the thrill of competing in three disciplines in a single race and crossing the finish line); and b) I’m willing to swim indoors at least once in February to get the feel for the distance. Micromovements, although small, are still forward progress.

So far I’ve made progress in every intention I’ve set, and I’ve also had to remind myself that forward movement doesn’t mean only doing but also—and more importantly—being.

Something that helps me with being is my phrase for the year:

Honor the relationship and the rest will fall into place.

For me, honoring the relationship is a two-way street. In the example of my intention to complete a triathlon, it means I need to treat both the triathlon and myself with respect. I need to train according to my goal of crossing the finish line, not someone else’s goal of [triath-all-the-lons]. This means proper rest and recovery after training. This means healthy foods in my body to fuel the training and the recovery.

Honoring the relationship is never about just doing the thing. It’s about being the person the relationship needs in order for said relationship to be and remain healthy. I want a lasting relationship, so this doesn’t mean just for today (although sometimes, that’s what even a lasting relationship needs), but also planning for what this relationship might need if it’s going to survive the long haul.

I’m also allowing these intentions to be malleable.  I set these intentions in December with an idea of what I wanted to get out of each intention. If I find it’s not having an impact that makes sense for me or it’s creating anxiety to try and honor the intention, I’m giving myself permission to either tweak or nix the intention altogether.

Case in point, my experiential intention to visit with my CA friends, be it in Chicago or in CA. The intention was set around maintaining the experience of these friendships IRL. It’s an intention that I’m finding is just not realistic for me right now. It’s not realistic for me to travel often enough or stay long enough to make the trips much more than a superficial visit. It’s also unrealistic to expect friends to travel to Chicago simply because I have this intention on my list.

So I’ve changed the intention to: stay connected with my CA friends. The intention was always about staying connected to the experience of friendship with these people who have been an integral part of my life. The simple shift in verbiage allows me to stop feeling guilty for not being able to connect with my friends in person, and start feeling good about experiencing those friendships from our current places and perspectives. And who knows, it may shift again, there are 11 more monthly reviews to go.

I’ll continue sharing my learning with you as I go through it, and I hope you share your own thoughts, learning, and insights with me as well.

Cheers to you and your current chapter.

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