Happy Friday! I had so many thoughts this morning, it was tough to know where to begin (apologies in advance for the length!) I thought I would share a couple of practical (ish) thoughts, along with some sources for inspiration along with this week’s feature episode: my conversation with the amazing Martha MacCallum who joined me for Episode 105 via zoom from her basement and makeshift TV set.
Finding new value from an old habit during COVID…..
I haven’t learned a new language, baked bread, or made much more than limited progress on my closets. Our DIY housekeeping has often been fun, but I can’t say it’s an area where the Kaplans have excelled! But, I have fine-tuned one of my existing practices and given some thought to a few others that have served me well during this period and that I plan to maintain.
For years, I’ve had a somewhat regular writing practice. Often I would write aggressively every morning while on vacation, but would fall out of the habit during the rest of the year. It’s always been something of a sorting out/coping mechanism, but during the quarantine I’ve added a bit more discipline to the tool. Each day (every day!) I write between 500-1,000 words, ideally before others in my home wake up. Typically, I am forced to stop while still wanting to write more, but breakfast, virtual school, and life beckons, requiring my engagement and participation (or at least my oversight!) One could best describe this writing practice as a “brain dump” or a “daily level-setting.” It’s really a combo of Julia Cameron’s “daily pages” with a few modifications in the form of questions I ask myself: “How did I do with x?” “What could I have done better?” “What did I learn?” “How could I have handled that situation/conversation better?” I also write down what and how I’m feeling, and specifically what I’m especially grateful for that day, what I’m most concerned about, and what’s top of mind. Next, I capture any wayward thoughts, dreams I can remember, things that inspired me, and random ideas. No real structure other than working from those few questions and prompts. The practice is as close to a form of meditation as I’ve been able to achieve — thus far. Not the same, of course, but I’m trying to work my way up! Baby steps!!
Recently, I printed out all the pages going back to the first of the year and reflected on my feelings and the changes we’ve seen since around March 12th when we began self-quarantining. I know I will continue to look back on this period and be grateful that I kept more complete records of my thoughts and feelings than I normally had. But I also realized something else. While fulfilling its original purpose of clearing my head, the practice has also helped me collect ideas and perspective that can be distilled and fine-tuned for later use. Even some of the more seemingly insignificant and random thoughts at the point in which I write them provide a lens later and some perspective that upon reflection can be illuminating and can spark my creativity when I’m in a rut. So, I’ve built in a weekly review of my daily entries to mine them for material that might be worth curating and developing.
For additional motivation each day, I set a daily reminder in my calendar that I can check off once I’ve completed it. So, I get a rush from actually doing the work, and also getting the reward of a completed check mark. I think I’m supposed to have outgrown check marks and gold stars, but truth be told, I still love them. Likely always will!
Writing may not be your thing, but I would love to hear what you are doing that may have had an additional, unexpected benefit that you’ll try to maintain going forward. Please share!
Coffee a la Zoom anyone?
Virtual coffees and virtual one-on-one meetings have been much more beneficial than I ever imagined. During pre-COVID times, I often found myself conflicted between wanting to meet someone for a requested face-to-face coffee and dreading the time I would spend both figuring out a date on the calendar and knowing it would take precious time away from content creation and production for She Said/She Said and other projects if I had to travel downtown.
There is great benefit to both individuals from brainstorming, or the much overused “may I pick your brain?” whether you are the pick-ee or the pick-er! I’ve learned, and I’m sure you have too, that the “brain pick-ee” today is the “pick-er” tomorrow! Life is so great like that! COVID has shown me there is a viable and much more efficient middle-ground for the vast majority of these meetings and conversations (not all, but many). I can increase the overall number of such coffees by doing more of them via zoom, unless there is a very compelling reason not to. I’m trying to repurpose the goal so that the end result is “valuable, efficient, and impactful interactions” v. just interaction.
I’ll let you know how this goes! But from this vantage point, having had some surprising success with this already, it seems like a great way to accomplish more, add more value, and get more interaction efficiently over time. Let me know what you think. Want to grab some Zoom coffee with me so I can pick your brain? 😊
Loving and feeling love….
My birthday was this week, and I was so grateful to hear from so many of you! I wrote the following as a thank you and posted it on social media, but thought I would share it here as well, as I have found myself returning to these couple of quotes that really spoke to me.
“Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. …. I am still a student, still learning every day how to be human.” This passage is from a wonderful book by Anna Quindlen that a dear friend gave me for my birthday. This friend knows me well and knows how much I love books like this that are beautifully written and help us to explain aspects of the human experience that can be difficult to articulate. Another passage I love, “Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement.”
Today was a beautiful day filled — in one way or another — with so many people I love and who love me, and with moments of “glittering mica.” The calls, messages, flowers from Joel, and presents —including homemade ones from Ben and Lane, beautiful gestures (including the “honk it’s my birthday sign planted out front by another friend who knows how much I relish celebrating my birthday). I’ve always loved my birthday, but even more so with every passing year. I am beyond grateful for the love today, and for the many many calls, posts, tests, emails, messages, FaceTimes, and zooms. Thank you all for making it such a wonderful day and for sharing a bit of magic with me today. Birthdays are great, even in quarantine!
As an addendum to this post, another friend sent me a note reminding me that the Anna Qunidlen book I referenced is taken from a wonderful commencement address the author gave in 2000. That got me thinking about the power of the well-crafted and beautifully delivered commencement addresses. The hope, the promise, and great advice and perspective from those who have lived their lives well to those whose journey into the world is often just beginning.
This year is both unique and incredibly challenging for graduates. Traditional celebrations we’ve enjoyed for generations are not possible. To honor the occasion requires both creativity and a willingness to embrace something that is really far from the “real thing” or the “way it was.” And yet, what incredible memories folks are creating! I remember my own graduation ceremonies, but suspect I would remember them even more fully had we experienced something that required us to dig as deep as graduates are now having to now and to embrace a world that has been suddenly and inexplicably altered. I have been so inspired by the way so many graduates and their families are embracing new ways to celebrate and to really savor the milestone in less traditional but perhaps even more memorable ways. I was thinking about some related advice from time management and productivity author Laura Vanderkam who joined me in Episode 93. Laura’s focus in our conversation is on making time meaningful and positive even under the current circumstances, and it certainly applies here. It’s worth a listen if you missed it!
While graduation ceremonies this year are virtual out of necessity, listening to some really good commencement addresses and reflecting on their wisdom is powerful for all of us, not just graduates. (Here are some great ones I Heart Radio Podcasts Commencement Addresses).
Finally, some powerful inspiration from this week’s feature episode…..my conversations with top-rated, powerhouse journalist Martha MacCallum who joined me in Episode 105 to talk about her journey to the top, and her new book “Unknown Valor.” The book is both a family story and one about personal sacrifice in the name of patriotism, duty, and sacrifice during WWII. Martha talks about what she learned, and the lessons she hopes to impart to her children.
As always, I’m grateful for YOU, for the time you spend with us, and for all the wonderful feedback you send along. Most of all, I hope you continue to find this content valuable and that it makes your day a little brighter and your own journey just a little bit easier. Please let me know what you think!
Be safe and be well!
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