Resolution: read less

Happy new year, everyone!

New Year's Day 2020

Over here in BC, it is an amazingly beautiful day. Clear skies, 12° temperature and it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s the first day of January and not the first day of Spring.

It’s sure been a while since I’ve inhabited this space, sitting on the publisher’s side of my blog, in front of the keyboard with the ideas swirling around in my head. The words and phrases are always there, continually being calculated, cut and rearranged, as is the intention to share, but after more than an year of daily posting, I needed to put some distance between me and this format. I needed a break from being on. And sharing. And the publicity of it all. There is a strongly reclusive pull inside me that sometimes takes the wheel. Enter: four month sabbatical.

Now that we have entered a new year, a new decade, I am deep in contemplation about my 20 for 2020 list. It’s exactly what it sounds like – twenty things I want to do in the coming year. This is my second consecutive year making one and even though my 19 for 2019 was a miserable failure (more on that soon) I’m jumping back in. I’m nothing if I’m not optimistic. But I’m a little behind in establishing it and it isn’t quite set in stone just yet. It is in progress and one of my immediate goals for this first week of the year is to settle on the final goals. Stay tuned for more.

One of the things that will not actually (okay, probably won’t) make the list is any intention related to reading. Last year, I’d added a goal to finish 60 books. I read at any possible opportunity and had surpassed my goal by Thanksgiving. Books brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction and I read a wide range, from utter drivel to popular classics. I have no regrets about it.

Over the past three years that I’ve been setting reading goals on Goodreads, I’ve slowly increased my targets. I was coming off a few years of practically not reading at all so I started slowly and as time went on and goals got loftier, I got really comfortable in a label I’d previously worn quite comfortably: bookworm.

Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, my reading lagged and it got more and more challenging to get through. (It wasn’t the books, I read some of my favourite books of the year towards the end of it.) This stall indicated to me that part of my motivation to read was the goal and not the enjoyment of the process. I don’t think that was a big influence, I think I just got burned out. It did make me rethink how I prioritized reading for the coming year.

For the first time, I’ve downgraded my reading goal for the year – though it’s still what I’d consider high – one book per week. Partly, this is because I’m hopeful that decreasing the expectation will improve the experience. I’m also doing it to take back some of the time I have been spending on books. Last year, I chose reading over many things: making art, knitting, cooking new things. And those are just a few of the activities that I want to do more of.

At the beginning of 2019, I made a decision to be selective about what I was consuming when it came to the podcasts I listened to. I used to listen to anything and everything. People would tell me their favourite podcast and I would immediately subscribe. My podcast app contained downloaded episodes that spanned every popular topic you could imagine – and only a fraction of them were even remotely of interest to me. But I listened to them anyway. It was entertaining, sure, but it was also a total waste of my time. I’m bringing this vibe to my reading year now as well. At the same time, I intend to be more selective about what I’m reading and even more willing to put a book down when it isn’t working for me.

There is a bit of mortality in this discussion and that’s hard for me to shake. Ultimately, when I acknowledge that I won’t have time to read all the books I want to in this lifetime, it’s equally terrifying and motivating. I don’t know anyone that is really comfortable with the idea of their own inevitable demise and that’s the scary part. At the same time, if I won’t have time to read everything, then why they hell would I spend even a few extra minutes on something I don’t love?

My reading world is changing. What about yours? Did you set a reading-related goal for 2020?

Personal commandments

Ever since I first read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project when it first came out nearly ten years ago, I’ve wanted to personalize many of the exercises she did in it. The whole Happiness Project for one, but also some of the parts she did to build it.

One of them was her list of 12 Personal Commandments. She posted them on Instagram the other day and reminded me how much I’ve wanted to make my own.

Here are hers:

I’ve had an open spot on my 19 for 2019 and I think I’m going to add completing this to it.

Without realizing it, I’d actually started working on this a few weeks ago. I’m not going to share the commandments I have established already, but I will say this: my list will begin with Be Carly.

Here are some of Gretchen’s own tips for creating a list if you’d like to join me in the process.

Do you have any personal commandments? If so, what are they?

19 for 2019: Get married or stop talking about it

This is one of the 19 for 2019 goals that I wanted to expand on. After I posted about the first few and the year started to take on a life of its own, I just never came back to it. Now, here we are.

Here we are on the two year anniversary of what would have been our wedding day. I’d written about the planning we’d done on the actual day two years ago and reading it back now made me smile. It would have been a lot of pretty and delicious fun.

Alas, we pulled the plug about halfway through the planning and we’ve never really looked back. Occasionally someone will ask if we ever got married and it’s usually met with a groan. (From me, at least. Maybe Kevin responds differently.)

I don’t really have any feelings about cancelling, to be honest. The only slight regret that I feel is that we didn’t just do it then because now we’re in a position to start all over. *IF* that’s what we decide to do, that is. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t.

Here’s our dilemma, as I see it. Neither of us feel really compelled to have a wedding. It doesn’t seem to be high on Kevin’s priority list and it certainly isn’t high on mine. Do we want to be married? Sure. It’s just the wedding piece that is standing in our way. So that’s how we end up where we are – in limbo.

I’m an action person. I am not a talker. Nothing is a more terrorizing combination of embarrassment and aggravation to me than saying I’m going to do something and not following through with it. And that’s how this resolution came to be.

As clearly stated, we’re going to spend some time this year either coming up with a wedding/elopement plan or we’ll have a solid answer when people ask when we’re getting married: we’re not.

And instead of celebrating our cotton anniversary, I’m going to finish the night in a bar with twenty guys (Kevin included) and I’m okay with that.

Resolutions for a new week

I used to start every week with a plan. Just a few little notes on things I wanted to focus on or improve. I decided today that I need to get back to that and make a few adjustments to my habits and what better time to start than a Monday? I’ve been feeling *really* good as a result of my focus on digestion over the last several months and it feels like a really good time to build on that.

This week ahead is going to be about three things.

  1. Steps
  2. Hydration
  3. Sleep

I’ve enlisted the help of a work friend to squeeze in some lunchtime walks, I’m going to focus on drinking even more water and my goal is to get to bed early (for me) and max the shit out of my time there to do what I can to “catch up.” I know, I know. I’ve read the science that you can’t actually make up for time lost, but I feel like every sleep goal begins with resting until you can rest no more then developing a pattern from there. At least that’s how it goes for me.

What are your plans for the week ahead? Are you adopting any new goals?

I broke my streak today

One of my 19 for 2019 goals has been to read one book at a time. By and large, I’ve been good at it. I’ve been able to focus on just one book, two max. As a compromise, I’ve allowed myself to have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go at the same time, but never two of the same kind.

Today, I slipped. A few days ago, I started The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, which, at first glance seems to be a little mysterious and surrounding a dead body found in a garden. It was recommended when I got my personalized recommended reading list from the VPL. So far, I’ve read nine of the recommendations and all were really good. I’d already read two others before the list was sent to me and I’ve had trouble tracking down a couple more. I have great faith in my list maker – she has largely knocked this list out of the park. She knows what she is talking about. This book, though? I’m struggling. I think it has to do with my aversion to kids as protagonists. The sharper and cuter they’re written, the less tolerant I am. And by the time this morning rolled around, I needed a break.

So, I picked up one of library borrows from last week. That’s a lie. I picked up both. I was feeling indifference that was off the charts and needed something to snap me out of it.

Our library trip had been postponed until the afternoon because Kevin was busy in the morning. When we finally got there, I had one book on hold. I’ve set new borrowing guidelines for myself – no more than five books checked out at a time – but my girl Sarah has messaged me this last weekend:

My answer, as always, was “YES!” Or at least something along those lines. (I just checked and it was, “ALWAYS.”)

She and I don’t always agree on books (though sometimes we do), but I think we’ve become pretty good at sorting out each other’s style. I think we can give quality answers to the question, “yes, but would *I* like that?” I think deep down she must have known I’d like this one and that’s why she’d mentioned it. I haven’t put it down since even before we got home (I read 50 pages at Starbucks.) I had to stop to write this, but will definitely finish it before I sleep again.

I’ll get back on track with reading one book at a time tomorrow. (I hope.)


Want to get your own personalized reading list? Go here. You have to answer a bunch of survey questions (books and movies you’ve loved, books and movies you’ve hated, mainly) and someone will get back to you within about a week.

No photographic evidence

I’ve inherited a trait I consider really bad. I rarely remember to take photos of people. Meals, cats, totally out of focus and way too zoomed in moons, I have a thousand of all of them. But when it comes to spending time with other people, I almost never remember to capture the moment.

This isn’t really new. I mentioned it to my mom earlier this year – that we have never really documented our holidays and experiences – and she just kind of shrugged. My Grandad, her father, used to take great photos of all of us. We spent a ton of time at my grandparents’ house when we were little, but eventually as we aged, we got busier and got over there less and less frequently and, as such, our photo documentation decreased.

As we grew into adulthood that continues on. I didn’t take photos, but neither did anyone else. Every so often, someone in the family comes out with a handful of photos from a Christmas past or a summer barbecue, but they’re usually of just a couple of people and don’t tell much of a story.

In recent year, we’ve started going on family vacations pretty regularly and this is one of the only photos that we have from any of them.

I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, I almost always make an internal resolution that today I’m going to take lots of photos. Today, like all the rest of them, I often don’t. In fact, I didn’t take a single one over our near four hour family Easter celebration.

We had a great time including:

  • A little gift and goodie exchange
  • Badminton in the back yard
  • A delicious meal
  • Watching an intense double OT hockey game and debriefing on the earlier one
  • Deciding on and booking the next family trip

But we also had a great time just hanging out together and catching up.

I came home feeling really warm and happy about the family time. Then I remembered that I’d utterly failed in my plan to record some of the festivities.

On one hand, it makes me happy because it means that I’m somewhat successful in my pledge to be the woman whose phone is virtually invisible. On the other, however, I would really like to be able to look through more photos, to share them, print them. I want to have photos of loved ones up in our home. I want to be reminded of good times whenever I look around and I think that would be a real happiness booster.

I just don’t know how to make taking photos when I’m in the company of others a habit, but I want to try.

Are you good at recording time spent with loved ones? If so, what’s your secret?

30 grams of (plant-based) protein

That isn’t even all of it, friends. THREE TIMES A DAY.

There it is.

Yikes.

I’ve been witness to friends who committed to intense and meticulous eating plans and I have applauded them. I have cheerleaders for them. I have have talked them down from ledges with reminders of their greater goal. This isn’t even that hard, but it’s certainly a challenge for me.

I saw my naturopath again today. (I also saw my regular doctor who didn’t brush off my issue the way I’d hoped she would. Then I broke a tooth. Needless to say, my ND visit was the highlight.) We caught up on my findings from the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been following. Mostly it’s been going well and I am feeling great. We also checked in on the DNA results that we had access to as part of my Ancestry raw data.

Among the things I learned:

  • Caffeine is not my friend. Coffee, green tea, chocolate. None of it.
  • I’m great at absorbing the nutritional content of nuts and seeds.
  • I’m best suited to a Mediterranean diet: fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. (A ketogenic diet would wreak havoc on my body.)
  • I was really happy to hear that my DNA indicates that a plant-based diet should suit my body just fine.
  • My disinterest in food likely “tells a story about my digestion.”
  • I don’t absorb Vitamin D well as others.
  • I don’t deal with saturated fat as efficiently as other people might.

We reviewed all that and much more. Most of it I can’t relay accurately. Next up, we worked on an eating plan and a timeline.

The Plan.

  • The aforementioned 30 grams of protein per meal.
  • Three meals a day, for that matter.
  • New supplements, all related to digestion.

I love that we’re focusing on one thing and that its digestion. Never before in all my life, all my medical care, all my doctors, nobody has ever taken even a passing interest in my digestion, but in the short look we’ve taken, it seems there may be legitimate concerns. It’s enlightening and also disappointing. For all of the health concerns I’ve had, some of the roots may have been in the health of my gut. How could it be that until now nobody ever asked?

Instead of looking back, I would prefer to look forward. I’m excited for the changes ahead and the challenges in learning more about how to eat. I haven’t had a number around a goal before so I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips. (I have to continue to avoid the same things I have been already, including wheat and sugar.)

Giving experiences instead of things

I made a bit of a non-resolution resolution this year.

I come from an extremely generous family. Around the holidays, we all spend a lot of time, care and money on exchanging meaningful – and sometimes expensive – gifts to one another. Sometimes it’s excessive, but I think we all enjoy being able to treat each other.

This Christmas was no different, although I did start to contemplate how I’ve been doing things. We’re all adults, we are all well enough off that if there was something that we wanted, we could buy it ourselves. While we were shopping we finally eased into “but would they actually like/use this?” territory more often than not. We were making guesses about the appropriateness of the gifts we were giving because we all already have all the things we really want/need.

I don’t want to undermine the possibility of opening up a new world with a great and thoughtful gift someone wouldn’t have ever bought themselves. An example was when we bought my folks AppleTV a couple of years back. I’m pretty sure they panicked when they opened it, thinking’s that they’d either need to break it to us that they wanted to return it, or worse, that they’d have to try to and figure out what the heck to do with it. As it was, we were tasked with getting it set up the following January and it’s actually become an everyday tool in their lives. My mom is constantly telling us about what she’s been watching on Netflix.

Through all of this contemplation, my non-resolution resolution became to give gifts that were experiences instead of just stuff. An experience could be a cooking lesson, a snowshoeing excursion, an overnight at a resort or a movie, concert, sporting event, etc. But an experience could also be a consumable like baking, jam, a cake, pickles or spa products, either store bought or homemade.

I put my idea into practice for the first time to help celebrate my girl Cara‘s birthday. Instead of buying her a gift that she may or may not even like, I decided to upgrade our tickets to the last game in our Canucks game package as a gift. We had way better seats than we’d grown used to and that made for a fun final night of the season.

It will certainly be a little more challenging to pull this off. It’ll require extra preparation, but t should also yield a lot more enjoyment. I’m looking forward to getting a little more creative with my gift giving.

Do you ever think about gifting experiences over stuff? Do you have any other ideas that would apply?

The woman who…

I came to a conclusion earlier this week. It was while I was sitting, waiting for my appointment with my new ND. I looked around the waiting room and every. single. person. there was staring at their phone.

As you know, my social media appeal is on a serious decline and with the exception of Twitter, I am basically totally over it. Some of it is that icky privacy piece, but a lot of it is our collective dependence on our phones. This resolution is in revolt to that.

Now, I’m not opposed to being dependent on our phones. These things are genius! They put information at our fingertips! They make communication easier than ever before! And they’re fun! They assist with organizing home life, work life, health and wellness, nutrition, even meditation – they can help with it all.

My problem is, instead, that we’re so hooked on them that even when we’re not tending to any of those great things, even when we actually have nothing to really do on them, we have them glued to our hands anyway.

I’m a firm believer in a you do you philosophy and I’m perfectly comfortable with other people prioritizing their phones over time spent with friends or quiet time away from them. Do I think it’s the healthy choice? Hell, no. But we’re all able to make our own decisions and my decision is that I don’t want to be like that.

I used to get a really bad rap for being on my phone all the time. Perhaps when cellular phones were in their early days I may have been guilty, but largely, I think I actually fall on the lower usage side of the curve. My mom still gives me shit anytime I pull my phone out even though Kevin and my brother use theirs WAY more than I do while we’re over at their place.

I thought about friends and people I respect who, even though they obviously have phones, don’t have it in their hand or on the table at all times, don’t have their ringers on out in public, don’t jump at every little notification that pings their way. And I want to be more like that. I’ve become pretty aware of the phone’s whereabouts and in one on one situations, I try to keep it out of the way and not let it interfere with my attention. I honestly don’t even know what my ringtone or text notification is because I cringe anytime I hear a phone make a sound and I will never let that be me.

So, I want to be the woman who…

  • Never prioritizes her phone over her surroundings – people, places or experiences
  • Uses her phone deliberately and with intention – not surfing or scrolling
  • Never uses her phone to avoid the situation, the moment, the silence because it’s boring or awkward

I want to be the woman whose phone is virtually invisible, never seen, but thoughtfully used.

Do you have guidelines around your phone usage? Are there bad habits that you’d like to kick? Good habits you’d like to adopt?

Goals and meaning

I had an epiphany today.

In Passion Planners, there’s a section at the end of every month that asks you to review the month and detail the highlights, the lowlights and how you can build off of both. It wants to know what you learned and how you can use this lessons going forward. This is just my second attempt, but I’m getting the hang of it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the month of February over the last few day, probably because it wasn’t my best month. It wasn’t the worst and there certainly weren’t any major negatives, but when I reflected on the month as a whole, I wasn’t left feeling much satisfaction. Sure, we ran into a lot of complications related to events being postponed and/or cancelled, but I didn’t feel really accomplished at anything. As I told the friend who recommended the Passion Planner and texted to compare month in review notes yesterday, I feel like I just stood still for the month. As I drilled deeper into that today, I feel like I got to the bottom of why and this was the epiphany: that I need to make goals that matter to me.

To explain, I’ll need to work backwards. The one big project I committed myself to in February was the Minimalism Challenge. (I know, I’m overdue for an update on that, but it’s coming, I promise.) It starts off easy and it get gradually more time consuming until it becomes, frankly, a real headache. The early days of getting rid of one and five and eight and eleven items are easy, but when you get into the later days of the month, trying to find twenty-five, then twenty-six and twenty-seven items a day becomes a lot of work. For the most part, I learned that as much as I feel like I have a lot of stuff, I want most of the stuff that I have. We are regularly culling our wardrobes and household items and sending the proceeds to work with Kevin. That doesn’t leave a lot of fat to trim in the easiest of places – bathroom cupboards, closets, etc. For the latter half of the month, it became really hard for me and while I don’t mind the rewards of that work (I did a lot of cleaning and reorganizing around the decluttering) I don’t really value having a sparklingly clean house. It actually doesn’t matter to me at all. Now, looking back on the month, I feel like I spent it working towards a goal that provided me with no real feelings of satisfaction, no accomplishments, no gratification. Sure, I’m glad I did it, but the most important result of the challenge is to realize that I should focus on taking on goals that are meaningful to me and not just to others. Or at least set up something that will contribute to my happiness alongside a challenge that is good for my overall wellbeing, but that isn’t likely to make me feel good.

Thankfully, after a month of focusing on out of body goals, I’m going to focus on personal ones this month instead.