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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Twelve Days of Instagram Redux

Helloooooo. it’s been awhile, I know. I will simply say that the month of January and I do not get along, and leave it at that.

But now it’s February, and so I’ve returned from hibernation…shyly peering around the corner, hoping for forgiveness. And ready to bring you long-overdue posts, such as this one.

Back in the middle of December, I challenged myself to post at least one picture to Instagram for 12 days in a row. Unlike my Year of the Russian Novel, I actually completed it. Would you care to see the output? Well, read on, MacDuff! Continue reading

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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‘Tis the Season

tis the seasonPhoto: John Minchillo/AP Images for Macy’s

Perhaps this is an unnecessary admission, but I love the holiday season. LOVE IT. Some might say I love it too much. And to that I would reply that how one celebrates the holiday season (including the questions of how much/from what point/when) is a personal decision. I’m a firm believer in “Live and Let Live” and I’ll go far as to extend that to the question of holiday celebrating: “Celebrate and Let Celebrate.”

The rule when I was growing up was that we weren’t allowed to start celebrating Christmas (our holiday of choice/happenstance) until December 9th, the day after MamaPen’s birthday. (Happy almost-birthday, Mom!)  As I got older (read: as I hit middle school and became a rebellious adolescent), I, um, bristled at this idea.

Eventually, MamaPen and I settled on a compromise: I could start celebrating the holidays whenever I wanted, but that celebration wasn’t allowed to leave my room until December 9th. The result? From early November that year (I think it was 1996), my room was positively festooned with garlands of silver tinsel and a voluminous red-and-green paper chain and there was a constant stream of Christmas music playing on my stereo.

I admit, that was a bit excessive.

But, that compromise really set the tone for how I think about holiday celebrating these days. The last thing I ever want to do is force my celebrating on someone else. I’m more than happy to have a Christmas movie marathon and/or bake a gingerbread house with a willing co-conspirator, but I’m not a celebration autocrat.

When I hit the phase I will refer to as “agressively demonstrative adulthood” (aka my mid-20’s, when I became gainfully employed for the first time and was very serious about “being an adult”), I tried to be more stoic about the whole thing. “Real adults” don’t start with the Christmas too early, and so I put it off and put it off, and you know what happened? Next thing I knew, it was the week before Christmas, and I was so busy with work, traveling, and family celebrations that I never got a chance to just relax and enjoy it. That made me really sad, like I’d missed something. (And it definitely led to an arguably pitiful scenario wherein I was listening to Christmas music on my iPod well into January.)

Then, as in my childhood, I realized a compromise was in order. So I set myself a starting date. But the starting date kept slipping earlier every year as the urge reared its bacchanalian head with no regard to the level of appropriateness. I’d feel guilty/ashamed, but give into it (because, hey, I’m only human). And then I realized, I was being silly. Not for starting my holiday season earlier than many people can stomach it, but for making myself feel bad about something that I enjoy precisely because it makes me feel happy.

Here’s the thing. Apart from being what I like to think of as a realistic optimist about a lot of things, I don’t think I have an unreasonable view of the world. But during the holiday season, that changes for me. There’s something in the air, the holiday spirit or what have you, that adds a bit of magic. It’s as though I shed the outer layer of whatever mental or emotional calluses have built up, and I see the world through different eyes. It’s a subtle alchemy that, for a handful of weeks each year, makes me believe in only the best side of humanity. I unabashedly revel in a sense of youthful enthusiasm.

The quote at the top, from the original version of Miracle on 34th Street, says it all for me. When I finally saw that movie for the first time last year (I know, I know), that line resonated deeply with me. And the photo, of the crowd outside the unveiling of the holiday windows at the Macy’s flagship store in New York this year, captures the spirit of it. That guy up front on the left? Yeah.

So, happy holidays, folks! Whatever your customary holiday(s), may you have a season full of childish wonder and good times with loved ones.

Midweek Musings

This week 12.3.12

Christmas lightssweetclipart.com; Brussels sprouts photo: Food Network

In this, the third week of Midweek Musings, we are firmly into the time of year when you can’t escape the holiday season…even if you desperately want to. And if you’ve come here looking for a respite, you’ll be sorely disappointed. (I’m sorry, I’m only human. And I can only resist for so long…)

What have I been up to this week? Read on…

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