Fleeting Thoughts Friday 9.16.16 – Let’s Get Intentional

It seems all week long, in one fashion or another, I’ve found myself in the midst of discussions about relationships. And while all of these conversations have had their own varying details, the one through-line that surfaced time and time again was the idea that relationships take work.

Now, we’ve all heard this adage repeatedly, but this week it occurred to me how basic this observation is. What exactly does it mean? What kind of work? How do you know you’re doing the right work? What work is healthy and “par for the course” and what kind of work is too much?  I’m not sure I have solutions, but it became apparent that this saying left me with more questions than answers.

Anyone who has been in a relationship for an extended period of time knows that the ‘honeymoon’ doesn’t last forever. That feeling that it’s just you two and no one else exists is temporary. If you haven’t been through this experience yet, I’m sorry to break the news, but the butterflies, the not being able to keep your hands to yourself, the belief that your schmoopie can do no wrong, the desire to write love letters that solely entail wanting to bone, that doesn’t last. For those of you that think that your love will always be like that by itself…here’s a picture of Ryan Gosling laughing at you:

 

Now that we have all had a laugh at your expense, I will offer up a caveat to say that your relationship won’t always be like this without you being intentional about it. And this is the crux of what I think is meant by “work”, the heart of what I think that idea really means.

If we think about our best friends, how do they continue to hold that status? What do we do to keep that connection alive? We intentionally schedule dinner dates where we make the effort to keep the conversation going, we text and call regularly, we share goofy moments and office craziness throughout the day, we let them in on the minutia, we carefully pick their gifts, we purposefully set aside time just to visit with them.

If you think back to the beginning of your relationship with your significant other, you intentionally did these same things while you were dating. But then something happens when we move in together. It’s easy when you see someone daily to assume that you have all the time in the world to connect with them. When someone is right next to us, we start to think we have plenty of time to communicate with this person anytime, so we choose a TV show over a conversation. We assume that because they are right next to us, they know how we feel, so we skip telling them out-loud, buying the flowers, writing the love note, making the favorite cookies. And before we know it, instead of our closest friend and lover, our partners have become nothing more than our roommates.

As we’ve already discussed above, we haven’t forgotten how to be intentional about all of our long-term relationships because we still actively give attention (and intention) to our friendships, which is what keeps them healthy and strong. We have to get back to being intentional about our interactions with our significant others. Building intimacy in relationships takes intentional action; relationships take connecting on purpose. We have to be purposeful about sharing our thoughts, setting up quality date time, prioritizing and building intimacy with each other. And this includes arguing and disagreeing fairly, too. In the beginning, there are things we would have never in a million years said to our spouses, or used that tone; but unless we are being careful, those lines are easy to cross and leave in our wake. But every time we do, that connection, the intimacy dies just a little bit too.

All in all, it’s helped me recently to focus on the idea that what you had to do to get ’em, you gotta do to keep ’em. And remember, the grass isn’t greener on the other side, my friends, it’s green where you water it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Procrastination Station: Part I – Priortities, Productivity, and Eating Crow

For those of you that have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in about 6 weeks or so. I can’t really explain why, I haven’t exactly unpacked that thoroughly yet; but I can tell you that starting up again has been a quintessential Achilles heel and my own personal form of torture.

It’s easy for writers to have ideas, it’s difficult to actually make them into real words that flow together in a succinct piece. Honestly, I truly believe that the hardest thing for writers to do is write. See, an idea is perfect before we ever mess it up by trying to flesh it out with words – words that might not be as right or as perfect as our ideas seem to be. As soon as you start to put words to an idea, you are committing to a direction, narrowing down how it comes out, making choices with every key stroke, hoping that they are the right ones. Speaking of making choices, this brings us full circle back around to my very first post on perfection paralysis, and a very specific tool of paralysis that I would like to explore: procrastination.

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Procrastination is the opposite of productivity. Or more to the point, procrastination is a lack of productivity towards what matters. I specify “what matters” because I think it’s important to highlight the fact that one can be very productive, without actually working at all towards the goals that we have laid out for ourselves. Do you know how many times I have cleaned the house and done the laundry just to get out of opening my laptop to write?

Everyone has struggled with procrastination at one point or another and has suffered the effects of this self-made toxic swamp. Our train pulls into Procrastination Station, which seems to be this really awesome and attractive party town, and before we know it, we’ve been roofied by Netflix, robbed of all our time and energy, and left with no fuel to get out. As if this isn’t bad enough, the effects of procrastination usually turn us into the worst version of ourselves.

I would like to take a moment here and point out that I believe that the effect of procrastination on us is directly related to our level of maturity. I will elaborate: we didn’t care about procrastination as kids because back then we believed that our time was limitless – ergo, priorities are not something that are understood until later on in life.

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You remember when you were a teenager and you had absolutely no issues whatsoever spending an entire day in your pj’s marathoning America’s Next Top Model? Those days were great. We ate whatever we wanted and couldn’t for the life of us understand why on earth our parents – who, in the all-wonderful privilege of adulthood, had no one telling them what to do – insisted on getting up and, ya know, doing things. Why would anyone choose to run errands, garden, or clean the garage when you had the option of staying in bed?

What ever happened to those carefree days?

You grew up, that’s what happened. Congratulations, you’re an adult. When we are young, we see time as this infinite, slowly moving thing that’s only there to torture us with how slow summer vacation can come. But somewhere between our last precious summers as adolescents and the first time we realized that we actually need to schedule hang out time with our family members and friends weeks ahead in our calendars, we grew up. See, maturity comes with recognition of our own mortality, and thus, knowing that you have a limited amount of time to do the things you want to do. Growing up means that you realize that even if you live to be a hundred years old, you can’t do it all.

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There are so many things that I would love to be, careers that I would love to have. If it were up to me, I would be the wandering artist and the tenured professor; I would be the at-home mom that’s there for everything and the kick-ass business woman who works 29 hours a day and still has time to go to the gym; I would live a lifetime as a city mouse and a lifetime as a country bumpkin. But alas, having a limited amount of time on earth inherently comes with the inevitable truth that we have to make choices. Choices means prioritizing. Often times we get confused and caught up by our multiple desires, and we think we must be crazy because we do want it all, and everyone else that’s content must know something that we don’t or they must have less that they want out of life. The truth is, having priorities doesn’t mean that we don’t want multiple things, the very definition of picking priorities means doing the adult task of deciding what we want most.

But back to the main question: Why does a lack of productivity have such a negative effect on us as humans? The truth is, when we are not productive, it holds up a mirror to our own mortality; it reminds us that our time is limited, and thus lowers our self-esteem by instilling in ourselves a disappointment for not having utilized our time to the fullest. So what do we do? We metaphorically kick the dog, or realistically, yell at our spouses.

Procrastination doesn’t just have a negative effect on our overall goals, it affects the people we love. I picked a fight with my husband yesterday simply because I had wasted my entire day watching Sex and the City reruns. Was laying in bed all day in my pajamas listening to Sarah Jessica Parker wax poetic on her glamorous yet imperfect love life in Manhattan glorious? YES. Did it help me get any closer to my writing goals? Any closer to publishing a post? No. Did I feel like a miserable blob when I rolled over and realized that the sun had gone down and the entire day was practically gone and I had accomplished nothing. Yes. Obviously I did the healthiest thing I could think of and I blamed my husband…if he had not been busy watching football we could have gone to the store much earlier together.

TAKE NOTE MEN: We watch smutty TV all day because you watch Football!!! It’s YOUR fault I haven’t showered, or gotten dressed or done my weekend laundry!!!

Am I right ladies?! I mean how dare he sit on his own couch in his own house watching football on the one day he has off after working an 80-hour week?!!

That’s right, I completely decided to ignore the fact that his own activities had no bearing on the truth that I was a total waste of space and oxygen and human existence yesterday.

Real love and real friendship is someone telling you the truth. Sometimes we can love and hate people for the same thing. Yesterday, my husband saw right through my smoke and mirrors and called me out on the fact that I wasn’t really angry at him, I was angry at myself. Sometimes I hate that he’s as smart as I am. On top of that, I was even angrier at myself because I couldn’t even argue that I was taking in new story material…I was watching reruns! Writing this all out makes me realize that I probably still owe him big for my ridiculousness yesterday. However, that’s relationships and forgiveness.

My new friend Parita, owner of the blog myinnershakti.com, and someone I look up to, recently wrote a piece about making the best of your time here. In her article, she challenges her readers to ask yourself: is what you are doing with your time right now really how you want to be spending your day? We can apply this question here and ask, when your head hits the pillow that night, will you be happy with what you accomplished?

Recapping: maturity is what helps us to understand the need for, and identify, priorities, but procrastination breeds self-loathing for lack of working towards those priorities; this in turn, turns us into useless, dog-kicking, swamp monsters.

The question is, how can we get the train to move on from swampy Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille? Since we’ve discussed the reality and effects of procrastination, in the following post I will unpack some specifics on what I am learning about fighting procrastination and share a few key truths that will help fuel the train out of town. Stay tuned!