Steps Toward the Goal: New Routines

We’re now 19 days into 2019 and I’m trying to implement steps that will help me reach my goal: publishing my memoir. In last week’s post, I said that I needed to work ‘smarter’ because I can’t work any harder. I found two television shows that I’ve hung onto over the years that have partially been background noise and also have me watching to see how the writers progress the story line. (Well, actually that sounds better than it is; the two shows are soap operas and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I watch them!)

When I looked at both more closely, the 90 minute shows take more of my energy than first appears; my mind has to keep up with when they come on since I’ve chosen not to record them; after each show I’m processing what happened, whether I think the writers did a good job with that episode and images that linger of scenes and situations. (I’m also saying, “That’s stupid. He was just married to her sister last year!”)

That 90 minutes+ could have been spent distraction-free, working on my list of tasks to produce the memoir, doing just one thing at the time. Since I took those two shows out of my daily schedule last Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about routines.

Years ago, I went through treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. At that time, I was working as a Research Coordinator with clinical trials—or pharmaceutical research. When I finished the 6 rounds of chemo and it was time to schedule the 32 radiation treatments, I was overwhelmed.

“How am I going to do that and go to work every day?” I asked myself. I knew I could take time off to rest as needed, but I really wanted and needed to maintain my job. Considering my energy level and the daily work flow at our office, I decided I would request the first radiation appointment of the day—the 8:15 slot. While that seemed to be the best, I had enough trouble making it to my office by 8:30 so how would I manage to get to UNC Hospital fifteen minutes earlier, every day for over 6 weeks?

Thinking about the days ahead, adding radiation treatments to my already full schedule, it came to me: Make it more normal by making it routine.

 I would have to get up earlier in order to still have time for my morning walk, at least as long as I felt up to it. Walking at sunrise had been my practice and was the favorite part of my day; I wouldn’t give that up.

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Morning Walk

I had to make sure that my clothes were ready and my lunch was packed the night before—just like we’d tried to have our sons do over the years of school mornings. But still, I dreaded driving the 10 miles to the UNC parking lot to my space marked “Radiation Oncology Patient.” I hated being reminded of cancer every morning, unlike my chemo every third week that gave me a break from any announcement of being a cancer patient.

What if I pair the bitter with the sweet, I thought, remembering that practice I started during the numerous medical visits early on in the cancer process; after something bitter– like a procedure I’d give myself something sweet– like a shopping trip.

If I got to my appointment 15 minutes earlier, I could write while waiting, using the time when I felt the best to work on a new short story. I’d bring my mug of coffee and savor those minutes instead of thinking about what was in front of me.

I followed through with my new routine and when I was pulling out of my drive, I added music to make me feel better.  I put a contemporary Christian CD in the player, Hymns of Worship and Praise. My favorite portion of the road crossed over Jordan Lake, and when I reached the section where I could see the broadest expanse of water, my favorite song, “God of Wonders” played. Looking out over the beauty of boats in morning fog, I felt lifted up above my circumstances and empowered for the day ahead.

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January on Jordan Lake

Making that my daily routine for those 32 days helped me to cope with the treatments and the cumulative fatigue.

That was eighteen years ago and I still remember that following that routine made the experience feel more familiar. Now, as I think of ways to streamline how I use my time, I see a way to apply what I learned during those radiation treatments. Instead of having to set a new wake-up time each weekday morning depending on whether I’m going to my UNC job, keeping my grandson, or writing, I’ll stick with one. If I go with the earliest time that I need for babysitting, I won’t have to think about it each night and it’ll be easier for my body to adjust.

And on those dark mornings driving to my grandson’s house, I’ll have the sweet reward when I arrive of holding him in those cuddly footed pajamas while I fix myself a second cup of French Roast.

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How About You?

How are you progressing toward your 2019 goal?

Are there changes in your routine that could open up time to work on your goal?

Steps Toward the Goal: Cutting Clutter

Two weeks ago, in my post “Looking Back Looking Forward,” I invited readers to join me in considering our successes and mistakes of 2018 and our goal for 2019. I shared my goal of Indie publishing my memoir, He Heard My Voice. I asked the following question and gave my answer:

What do I/you need to reach your goal?

I need to remain steadfast and focused, balancing my life and cutting out any clutter that gets in the way of reaching this goal.

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A New Year’s Eve on the Carolina coast

Now, almost two weeks into the new year, I’m focusing on how to cut out clutter and ways that relates to balancing my life—all in service of reaching my goal.

Over the years, I’ve mostly thought of clutter as physical things that litter my surroundings. As a self-diagnosed ADHD adult, I can easily create this litter from papers, bills, correspondence, the things of daily life and my creative pursuits. But as I’ve gotten older, I see clutter also as non-physical things like excessive noise, overly scheduled time, stored emotional hurts, unreasonable standards, and ways of doing things that are no longer useful. My new definition of clutter is:

Clutter is anything that takes up space in my mind, my emotions, or my physical surroundings and drains energy from me.

What areas of clutter do I need to cut in order to have more energy to focus on my goal?

I need every source of energy possible to do all the tasks that are required to independently publish my book. As I wrote about in the post “Not What I Expected,”I didn’t know that when I would be in the process of publishing my book I would also be taking care of my grandson and maintaining my part-time research nurse job. I need to work smarter because I don’t think I can work any harder. That means being very intentional about how I spend my time.

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My grandson, Baker

I’ve identified several areas that I can cut out.

First of all, there’s unnecessary stimuli that is both auditory and visual and keeps my mind engaged, working at a continual level. I watch some television shows out of habit, and while I half watch them, my brain does engage. I often multi-task and half-watch while writing, cooking or folding clothes—not fully focused on any one task. My friend since first grade, Donna, recently told me that now that she’s older, she’s decided she’s just going to do one thing at the time. How much cleaner that is than trying to juggle multiple things.

I remember that when I was a school nurse and had students return after concussions, they had strict guidelines on having periods of rest for their brains in order for them to heal from their injury. Sometimes my mind requires rest from overstimulation so that when I need to focus on what matters like my book, then I’ll have the reserves available.

Secondly, some of the clutter in my life is sticking to old patterns of doing things that no longer serve me. I used to feel like I had to personally respond to needs in my community in the same fashion as my mother. For example, if there was someone who was sick, she would take that person a homemade meal. Now, I have to realize that times have changed and I have to look closely at the decisions I make. It may be enough to send a card or a gift certificate to a restaurant, in order to balance my life, my precious time.

A third area of clutter is the lingering perfectionist ideas that are rigid and keep me bound to old ways of thinking. When I keep my grandson, Baker, I think of all the things he’s learning now that he’s 8 months old. I want the days with “Grammy”to be rich in helping him to grow and develop. But I realize that I don’t have to be reading to him the best books for children all the time. He is nurtured by hearing my voice reading anything, by our time together, and watching me valuing books.

Yesterday, when thinking about an upcoming recording session for my audio book, I practiced reading to Baker while he ate his teething crackers. I think he was just as entertained as when I read Winnie the Pooh!

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Listening to Grammy read from her memoir

These are my first steps in 2019 toward cutting clutter from my life so I can work smarter to publish my book. Each step is made in faith that I’m moving closer toward balancing my life and accomplishing the work I feel God has given me to do.

Blessings to You in the week ahead as you step closer to your goal.

Referenced Posts:

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Not What I Expected

 

How About You?

What is the clutter in your life?

How do you see it impacting your goals?

What steps can you take now to cut the clutter?

 

Step Forward in 2019

Over the past year since I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve often used the hashtag #stepforwardfromcancer. That phrase came to me when I was planning a group for breast cancer survivors. I was using my Life Coaching knowledge to help those participants move toward a better place in their lives. When I remembered back to my treatment, I thought of how the meaning of ‘stepping forward’ was relative to where I was in the process. (You could substitute another illness, #stepforwardfrom_____ if it stopped you in your tracks and changed your life).

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path up Mt Constitution overlooking Puget Sound, Washington State

In the early days when decisions needed to be made about my cancer treatment, a step forward could be making a choice that gave me more control: whether to take an aggressive approach, what location I’d go to for my infusions, what time each day to have my radiation appointment. When I was further along and feeling the impact of treatment, stepping forward could be pushing myself a little harder to get out of bed and walk outside. Sometimes it was choosing to participate in activities in spite of my nausea, taking my aide of a ‘nausea cocktail’ of cranberry juice and Diet Sprite on crushed ice. And once I was done with treatment, stepping forward was about moving toward the things that I’d put on hold, trying to let go of the fear of the cancer returning in order to enjoy life.

Sometimes with my hashtag I’ll go further and add #stepforwardfromcancer or whatever holds you back. While a physical illness is an obvious block to moving forward in the way we’d planned, sometimes the things that hold us back are not visible. For me one of those things is feeling inadequate, doubting myself. I’ve experienced this in various areas of my life, but the one that comes to mind that I’ve learned most about over the years is having the confidence to take solo journeys.

Taking solo journeys started by accident when I had that serendipitous trip to Sedona, Arizona in spring of 2001—right after I finished my 8 months of cancer treatment. I had the chance to travel for a few days between 2 business trips out West—but I had to do that alone. At first, I thought, “How can I go by myself to an unfamiliar place so far away?” That seemed like something other women might have the confidence to do, but not me. Taking those first awkward steps was rewarded by discovering the freedom of time alone without the distractions of fellow travelers. For me, it was a time of spiritual renewal in the presence of God, and eventually, after years of journeys, helped me to discover more of myself.

Each year when I approached planning that journey, I dealt with some level of doubt: Why are you going to that destination instead of another? How are you going to fit in with that group of people? Will you have the physical ability to carry out your plan?

What I’ve found is that those voices of doubt sound pretty familiar over time. They pick on the same vulnerable spots where they know they’ll get a reaction out of me, those areas of pride that will quickly defend themselves when they’re accused. By taking risks and not letting that thing hold you back, whatever it is for you, the more times you do it anyway, the more routine, the less of a hold it has on you.

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At the top of Mt Constitution, Washington State

So now, as we’re into the first week of 2019, I hope that you can start this new year by stepping forward from whatever has had a grip on you, whether it’s a physical illness or an emotional thorn in your side that keeps you from living the life you desire. Each small step leads to another to make the journey down your path the best it can be.

 Blessings to You!

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What about You?

Are there physical or emotional things that you need to #stepforwardfrom in 2019?

What first step will you take? Are there supports that would help you?

Related Post

Sedona: A Serendipitous Journey