When little things add up…

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what can you can do today.” 
Benjamin Franklin

I used to hate this quote. It bothered me in a way I can’t quite describe, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of guilt and pressure and frustration (why, oh why can’t I just friggin’ do things when they make the most sense?). But…but.

Over the past few months, I’ve started to revise my views. I have, dare I say it, reversed my opinion on this matter. But let me explain. (It will all make more sense then.)

My only New Year’s Resolution for 2015 was to get my work email under control. I’m notoriously bad at email management. At work, my inbox is so big (even with the IT department’s policy of deleting all messages after a year) that I’ve crashed Outlook before. Every time I decided to take it in hand, I’d get so overwhelmed that I’d stop almost immediately. But when I returned from my holiday vacation, I took a new tack. I moved all the 2014 messages from my inbox into a separate folder and then vowed to keep my inbox clear. Two months in, and I take an inflated sense of accomplishment from keeping my inbox confined to one screen — I deal with things as they come in, and then I move on. It’s great. (Yes, I know this is a normal thing for other people. But the change. Oh man, the change. I feel so powerful.)

Similarly, I recently undertook a massive (and much-needed) deep clean of my apartment. I’m not a hoarder, but I’m lazy and hate cleaning — and I have a high threshold for clutter and scuzz. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty. So it took a very important visitor whom I desperately wanted to impress to light a fire under me. After a few weekends spent doing nothing other than cleaning, organizing, decluttering, and otherwise making things look nice and neat, my guest came and left, and I had two thoughts: (1) It’s really nice to have everything clean and picked up, and (2) I never want to do that again. So I started putting things back where they belong right away, wiping surfaces down regularly, sweeping the floor even when I couldn’t see piles of cat hair. And it’s was the most amazing thing: I feel so accomplished. So satisfied. I’m almost starting to like cleaning. Unimaginable, but true.

So after 32 years, I finally get what old Ben F. was on about. I take care of things as they arise, and I don’t wake up each morning stifled by the specter of a long to-do list. Things I used to hate, things I used to avoid (because, clearly, they would go away if I ignored them, right?) started to lose their power. And the strangest thing of all is that I found them immensely satisfying. Empowering, even.

I won’t go so far as to say that it’s the key to happiness (because, really, there is no one key that I’ve found), but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

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Bass Ackward

My dad is fond of swearing without actually swearing. It’s the act of making a point without triggering censure. (Or at least that’s the idea. It doesn’t always turn out that way…) One of his favored approaches is to swap the first letters of words in a phrase that would otherwise be unfit for delicate ears. That’s how we end up with Bass Ackward. (I’ll give you a moment to untangle that and realize that, no, it isn’t just an embarrassing typo.)

It’s no secret that I started this blog at a point in my life when happiness was a theoretical concept, a faint memory. All I wanted was to be happier. I wanted to figure out how to build a life that brought me joy. A good goal, definitely. And I even made some progress. But then I hit a rut, and my half-hearted efforts to drag myself back out just created a wider, deeper track. One day I woke up and realized I was staring up at the sky from the bottom of my own emotional Grand Canyon. That might be a wee bit over-dramatic (and by “might” I mean “absolutely”). It’s not that things were so bad; they just weren’t particularly good, and I felt mired in it. What I wanted was there, but it seemed just out of reach.

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And then, one random, magical day, my mind opened itself up and embraced one of those truths about the world that sounds simple in theory but is remarkably challenging to internalize.

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Midweek Musings: Christmas Edition

This week 12.24Image sources: Snowy morning, Christmas tree, Christmas lights

Merry Christmas, everyone! (Or, if you’re in the UK, Happy Christmas!) This week, it’s been a good old nostalgia-fest, as I’ve been indulging all my favorite memories of Christmases past. Everything on this list fills me with warm-fuzzies, or exhilaration, or wonder, or peace, or, in one case, a sugar high you can’t even imagine. And so I thought I’d share with you, if you’re curious to learn more…

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Midweek Musings: Road Trip Edition

As you read this, I am probably somewhere in the wilds of Western New York State, hanging out with my dear friend, AFlo, who is visiting from Berlin. It is almost certain that we are listening to music and dancing around (as that is what we do). What are we listening to? I’m so glad you asked!This Week 12.17Christmas lights: sweetclipart.com

A bit of background. AFlo and I met the first day of college orientation and have been inseparable pretty much ever since (living on different continents notwithstanding). We got into the habit of making a mix CD for each term, filled with whatever songs we were listening (and dancing) to at the time. So there was no question that there needed to be a mix for this trip. (Or playlist, as the kids are calling them these days.)

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December Challenge: The Twelve Days of Instagram

Good morning, friends. Happy Friday! On this, the first day of my winter vacation, I woke up super early (as usual), but I’m enjoying a lazy start to my day, staying in bed and drinking coffee. #twelvedaysofinstagram (1)

But here’s the thing: I don’t want my entire vacation to be lazy. Aside from a super-exciting BFF reunion trip (more about that early next week) and a handful of fun Christmas-y things I’ve got planned once I return home to Pittsburgh, I don’t have anything I must do. So, I’ve given myself an assignment…a challenge, if you will. Curious? Intrigued?

Starting today, December 14th, I’m going to Instagram at least one photo a day. And since the 12th day of this project is Christmas, we’re calling it the Twelve Days of Instagram. Feel free to check out my progress—my user name is, predictably, IsabellaPen—and for those who aren’t on Instagram, you can follow along here.

OOOOOOOH, or you can do it along with me!! I’ll be using #twelvedaysofinstagram and would love some company. The goal is simple. Post (at least) one picture a day from December 14th through 25th (Edit: or 12 consecutive days before the end of the month) with the hashtag #twelvedaysofinstagram. It doesn’t have to be holiday-related or anything special (see above). Just show us what you’re up to. You game?

30:30 — The Reckoning

Once upon a time (last spring), in a land far far away (ahem, less than ten feet away from where I’m sitting right now), I set myself 30 goals that I hoped to achieve by the time I turned thirty. I called it 30 before Thirty (and beyond) because I knew that some things would necessarily extend beyond that milestone. It was a mix of ambitious goals and little things that I should be doing anyway. Since I turned thirty last week, I thought it was only fair to check in and see how I did.

The verdict? Out of 30 items, I completed 14 and made some progress on 7. The other 9? Let’s just say they—like the 7 works in progress—will live on. Wanna see how I did on the individual goals?

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Today I am Thirty

Happy Birthday to me!

I’d like to send out a big fat thanks to MamaPen for not giving up 30 years ago when I wasn’t sure I wanted to come out. And another big fat thanks to MamaPen and PapaPen for teaching me what it means to live with integrity and for being supportive even when they don’t get it.

I started today with a run in my favorite place on earth.

I don’t ordinarily do much to to celebrate my birthday, but for some reason, it seemed very important to me to be running at the exact moment that marked 30 years since I was born. This year, in general, my impending birthday unearthed an unusually nostalgic part of me.

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