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.

Thursday Thought – The Problem is…

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”

A few months ago my wife and I were traveling together and our return flight home was delayed due to mechanical issues with the plane. First the delay was 30 minutes, then an hour, then four. Next thing we knew, the flight was canceled and we had a choice in front of us in how we wanted to react to the situation.

There’s no denying we were frustrated and disappointed. We’d rushed to the airport to make sure we were there on time, and then had absolutely no control over being able to get home according to our plans.

We could take that frustration and use it for good or evil. Evil, letting emotions get the best of us, sending us into a tailspin about the meetings we might miss, the extra money we’d spend in pet sitters, the overall inconvenience of every frustrating consequence of missing a flight home; or good, finding a way to be nice to everyone we’d need to speak to as we made new arrangements to get home as quickly as possible.

Luckily the delay was related to the plane itself rather than weather, and in the end we were able to get a later flight home that same night. Rather than go into a tailspin of emotion over a list of things that would never actually come to fruition, we were grateful for the help in getting our flights changed.

“I don’t blame or complain about things like the economy, the government, taxes, employees, gas prices, or any of the external things that I don’t have control over. The only thing I have control over is my response to these things.”
—Jack Canfield

I heard Jack Canfield speak ten years ago on this very thing. When I remember to actively make a choice in how to react to a given situation, I feel pretty damn good. It’s remembering to make that conscious choice before the tailspin of emotion creeps in that gets a bit tricky.

Thursday Thought – What now?

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

“When you are steadfast in your abstention of thoughts of harm directed toward yourself and others, all living creatures will cease to feel fear in your presence.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Some of us are in pain. Some of us are in elation. Some of us are somewhere in between. We are all human.

Some of us don’t understand how this happened. Some of us understand all too well how this happened. Some of us don’t care how it happened and are seeking ways to move forward now that it has. We are all in this together.

Some of us feel hatred. Some of us feel love. All of us feel.

When we lash out it is because we are in pain. We need to heal the wounds we have and not thrash about, opening them deeper.

This is nothing you do not already know. And still there are these things that we need reminding of:

  • Take deep breaths. They will help when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Be kind. Everyone is going through something we couldn’t possibly imagine. If this feel hard, see above.
  • Share love. Hug your kids, your significant other, a stranger. We could all use it. If this feels hard, see above.

You will find your way forward. It may not be a path without trepidation, pain, and a few steps backward. But it will absolutely be a path with triumph, healing, and many steps forward.

And also, there’s always this.

Thursday Thought: Shameless Worth

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Today on my facebook feed I saw this:


Immediately I was taken back to various times I was shamed as a kid. No specific instances, but the feeling of being shamed. The lowering of my eyes, my head, my heart, my being.

The thing is, when I was a kid I didn’t know exactly what was happening. I just knew you felt bad. I didn’t know how to articulate myself that I was not a bad person, even if I might have done a bad thing.

My mom’s been dead and gone for more than 20 years now and I can still hear her voice in my head when I make mistakes in my life. Or even if mistakes are made in general, that I, of course, (must have) had something to do with.

“Dian, what did you do?”

Because I was taught by shaming that everything that goes wrong must be my fault, even if that wasn’t my mom’s intention. I immediately begin wracking my brain for the little thing I might have done to contribute to whatever wrong thing happened. And then once I find the thing I think I did, I begin thinking of ways to get around getting blamed for it. Because being blamed means being shamed; one was synonymous with the other.

I think of the lies I will tell so I don’t get in trouble. I think of other things I might have been doing instead, or some reasonable sounding thing I could have been thinking about in order to make me have done such a thing, if I do get found out.

All of that in a 10-second span out of fear of being shamed again. By a woman who’s been dead for 25 years.

I still have to practice actively considering if it’s safe to tell the truth or not.  Growing up, it wasn’t always safe in my house to tell the truth. Sometimes my mom would blow up at me, rage against the machine. I saw my mom as rage and me, the machine as a teenager. I had to be a machine and do everything right, perfect, without flaw, else suffer the repercussions. Sometimes, even in the smallest of situations.

Even as I’ve grown older (and progressed after years of therapy), the feeling, the behavior, the habit stays with me.

Take a few weeks ago when my wife was traveling. I stopped on the way home to get a burger from McDonalds because I just didn’t have the energy to make something — or pull food out of the fridge and reheat it.

After finishing my burger and fries I threw away the bag and before my wife got home from her trip I took the trash down to the dumpster so she wouldn’t see the remnants of my failure to be a good wife and eat the food she’d made. Only an idiot would do that. Only a disrespectful child whose only concern in life was herself would do that. Only a bad person would do that.

I have to remind myself that this is not my wife speaking. This is not even me speaking. This is my mother speaking, and in her worst moments, at that.

The irony about that particular incident is that I left the receipt out on the counter and when my wife came home she saw I’d eaten McD’s anyway. She made a small (non-shaming) joke about it, we laughed, and it was over. No wrath. No shame. No one was right or wrong.

There are countless other times where, when asked what I had for lunch or dinner–the question out of sheer curiosity–I have had to fight myself to tell the truth if I didn’t have a homemade green salad with grilled chicken and steamed veggies. I have to remind myself that I’m an adult and I can eat what I want. I have to remind myself that I’m not a bad person, even if I chose a burger and fries over heating up some soup.

I love my mom. She was a great mom; except when she wasn’t, of course. I don’t begrudge her for the mistakes she made as a parent. I also don’t want to be a victim of her mistakes my entire life.

My mom’s death when I was 16 had me grow up way too fast. And still, it took years and years (ten of them) of therapy before I was able to understand that I was (am) a worthy human being, regardless of the mistakes I make. That even though the mistakes I make have an impact on other human beings, I am not a bad or disrespectful or worthless human being because I made the mistake.

If shame is a part of how you raise your kids, you’re not a bad person. And also, there’s room for change to be a better parent. To teach your kids that making a mistake is not the same thing as being a bad person.

And if you grew up like me, thinking that every mistake was another drop in the [Your Name Here] is Worthless Bucket, practice being kind to yourself as you come to learn that only you get to decide what yourself worth is tied to, and it doesn’t have to be your mistakes.

Thursday Thought: Mind the Gap

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

When traveling by train we’re told to mind the gap. The gap between the safety of the platform and the safety of the train.

When traveling on your journey in life, there’s a gap to mind, too.

The gap between where you are now and where you want to be. That space between the two can be scary, exhilarating, life affirming, dangerous, and all of the above. After all, it’s the unknown.

That gap can be innocuous, though, if you’re aware it’s there and prepare to navigate through it.

In April my wife and I embarked on a journey from California to Illinois. We packed up our belongings, ourselves, and our animals and began a 2100-mile drive toward the unknown.

Except there were a lot of knowns. We knew where we would stop along the way. We knew where we would live once we arrived. What we didn’t know was what it would be like once we got here. Enter, the gap.

As a lifelong Angeleno I had no idea what it would be like to live anywhere else. Six months into my new life as a Chicagoan, I’m still minding that gap.

Winter is coming, they tell me. I’ve been told by strangers over and over again that I’ll be back in California after a year, that a Californian–an Angeleno, no less!–won’t be able to hack it in the biting cold of Chicago. I’ve seen the look in friends’ eyes, that I’m crazy for leaving behind the good weather and people of LA. Their words are encouraging and well wishing, but their eyes give away their fear on my behalf.

What feels big for you may feel small to another, and vice versa. Sometimes there’s a gap to mind in that, as well. This gap contains the negative feedback I’ll need to work through to feel solid once again in my decision.

Fall is actually here now and I need to consult the air outside to determine which clothes are appropriate for a run, going out for a meal, or taking Jackson for a walk.

The gap contains thought processes I rarely had to contend with in my former LA life.

When my wife travels for business I’m lonelier than before, because friends were always a short(ish) drive away and even if I didn’t make the drive back then, just knowing it was an option was comforting.

The gap contains navigating friendships in new ways so I don’t end up blaming Chicago, my wife, or myself for my loneliness (although the latter would be closest to the truth, but not for the reasons I would be telling myself).

There are many more gaps in this relocation that I’ll need to mind, but awareness that they’re there (or will be) is the first step to minding them. Only if I’m on the lookout for the gaps can I put myself in a position to mind them.

To be yourself is all that you can do.”
— Audioslave

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