Current Focuses (foci?)

What I’m focusing on in order to keep my mind occupied…

  • using myfitnesspal (app and online) as a food diary and exercise log, focusing on eating healthily and going to the gym or incorporating fitness where I can
  • educating myself on personal finance and keeping a strict budget, budget plan, and monitoring investments and overall financial portfolio
  • getting up to speed on “once upon a time”
  • maintaining routines, which for me includes book club, game night with grilling, and sunday errands
  • vacations and travel…dad coming to town, going to surprise him for his birthday, going to mexico for a week, going to boston for thanksgiving
  • staying organized in all facets of life
  • reading more, of all kinds – magazines, news, blogs/RSS, books
  • looking up classes to take with people – cooking for one friend, intellectual for the boyfriend, and artsy for another friend
  • getting my car up to date, including the GM recall, maintenance/preventative care, cleaning, etc.

If you have suggestions on things I can make into routines or make routine in my life, or things I could do to take my mind off things (preferably that are not food oriented and are inexpensive, and ideally, that can be done in 1-2 hours).

Book Review: How to be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps)

Yes, this is a book. Find How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy on Amazon.

First off, I was bound to like this book at least a little because the author is also the author of Indexed, one of my favorite daily weblog reads. I’m a data nerd, if you couldn’t tell. I literally have a pinterest board dedicated to infographics.

If you ever doubted I’m quirky, the fact that I read a book on being interesting should give me away. A kinky friend had tweeted about it, so I picked up a copy. As other online reviewers note, I wish I’d grabbed a physical copy instead of a digital one, because the graphics would make great coffee table conversation starters.

Overall, easy read, a lot of pointing out the obvious. Important to note – interesting doesn’t mean things will be good or go your way. I felt that in some of the advice, in that following the recommendations likely would take you on an interesting journey, but one with many ups and downs. Not that that is a bad thing, but still.

Things I bookmarked:

  • Reclaim your spare moments.
  • What’s known to you is often a mystery to others.
  • Don’t wait for invitations when you can host.
  • If it is unappetizing: Do not eat, date, or sign up for it. If the mere thought of it is depressing: Do not major in it, sit through it, or devote your life to it. If it is not important to you: Do not do it only because it is important to someone else.
  • Irony gets in the way of experience. Drop the pretense, and you’ll have room to carry the day.
  • You have treasured people, places, and things. They are precious and powerful. Fight for them. Don’t just let them lounge in the back of your mind.
  • You are not wrong to be unique. You are not incorrect because you are different. You should not be sorry for being interesting.
  • If you want to matter, you have to climb all the way into the mess that is before you.
  • If you’re arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid.
  • Your greatest accomplishments, no matter how impressive you think them to be, are someone else’s worst nightmare.
  • Don’t feel terrible for wanting something. Save the guilt for never giving yourself the chance to try.
  • The more you absorb, the more you can exude.
  • Avoid people who make you feel crappy. Don’t return their calls or take their antagonistic bait. The only way to win their game is to quit playing along. Besides, no one is fascinated by your constant irritation.
  • Most people, even the nasty ones, are doing the best they can.

Motivational, right? All are things I regularly try to remind myself of when dating and interacting with folks. Sometimes, when people come to me for advice, I think I shove some of these down their throat inadvertently.

Fear and Letting Go

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. –H. P. Lovecraft

I went on vacation a week ago with a good friend. We drove South and hit the beach, Orlando (Harry Potter world!), and some port cities on the return trip. It was great – I got a pedicure and a massage.  I read a few books, learned about some new music, and bought some fun souvenirs. I bonded with my friend a great deal. I got to swim and play in the ocean. I also got a much-needed break from life.

It was a bit of awkward timing, though, since I had just had a huge week. I briefed the most senior staff in our agency, and got pretty good feedback (gratifying). I also learned I’d be running my next project, managing a more senior person, and would not be getting a salary or position increase. I also had gone on a couple of dates with someone that went pretty well. A lot has been happening, essentially.

I realized on vacation that I’ve been buried by fear lately. I’ve never been one to outwardly succumb to fear. If I have been afraid, it’s manifested in low expectations and losing myself in activities.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. –Dale Carnegie

I’ve been afraid, though. Afraid of running this next project and having to navigate uncertain waters. Afraid of leading my team into the warzone, of managing someone older and more experienced than me (and arguably more qualified), of not doing something correctly. I’ve been afraid of being in a serious, long-term relationship. (And I hope I haven’t self-sacrificed past opportunities because of some hidden fear.) I’m afraid of power exchange as a concrete part of a relationship.

Fear doesn’t become me. I was reading the “Secrets to your twenties” book, and it just sort of reinforced that fear is good. Fear means I’m alive. Fear means I’m challenging myself. Fear is an opportunity – an opportunity to grow, be stronger, improve myself, and learn. Moreover, fear is natural – it’s the response to uncertainty.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, though:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

I’d resigned myself to doing just that. I got a few kicks in the ass and supportive comments, and they’re right. I know what I’m doing. I’m good at my job. I can handle challenges. It doesn’t matter that they don’t want to pay me appropriately, it’s still a good opportunity. In the dating world, D/s is flexible, and as long as the communication is there, it doesn’t have to mean losing myself. Long term relationships don’t have to mean losing my independence or my life. Really, if it’s a good fit, the person can blend into my life.

Today, I found out I will get the salary and position promotion when I start my next project. Turns out, the higher ups like me more than the lady who spoke to me first does. Basically, I’m now more motivated, which is good. I need to embrace the things that scare me. The dating thing may not work out for other reasons, or it will – who knows, but at least I’m not scared of it anymore.

A last quote I liked about fear:

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. –James Stephens

 

Book Review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin.  Spoilers may follow.

Brief summary: The book follows a woman as she dedicates a year to diligently trying to improve her demeanors, attitudes, and habits towards herself, her daily life, and those around her.

My thoughts: This book was amazing. It provides many small ways you can greatly impact your own life. I’ve implemented some very tiny things after being inspired by the book, and I’ve already felt my happiness multiply. It is also a great book for self reflection. I wrote a post already before I’d finished reading, see here “Happiness, Discussed.”

Relevant Quotes/Snippets of Awesome (with my commentary, of course):

“I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.” — I don’t know why, but I did too. Don’t you remember being young and idolizing adults, thinking how wise and together they were? It’s disconcerting to reach those ages and still have the limitations you always have had.

Rubin wrote several ‘Secrets of Adulthood,’ or things she has realized hold true throughout her life. The last one is a great reminder — how often do you put something off or avoid it because you don’t think you’ll do it well enough or you are overwhelmed by the pressure of doing something well enough? Instead, focus on just doing something, even if it’s brief or poor. For example, if I haven’t called someone in a while and I feel guilty, I avoid contacting them at all even when I think about emailing because I feel like I have to call to make up for it. In reality, calling is the perfect, but emailing is still better than nothing and thus good. Life lesson, BOOM. My favorites from her list:

  • People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think
  • You can choose what you do, you can’t choose what you like to do
  • Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy
  • What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while
  • If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough
  • Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ is described as how people being studied improve their performance, simply because of the extra attention they’re getting. This is a personal trait of mine that I wish sometimes I didn’t have. I have high standards for myself, but if I think eyes are on me or that I need to please someone else, I work harder and do better at achieving my goals. In many ways, this is how D/s could really help me be my best. When I know someone else’s pleasure and happiness is at stake, I will work out that much harder, get things done that much more efficiently, etc. This is why my apartment is always most clean when other people are coming over.  I didn’t realize this was a common thing amongst many people, so it was interesting to read about it.

Interesting tidbit: “The most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.”

A quote of a quote – Pierre Reverdy, “‘There is no love; there are only proofs of love.’ Whatever love I feel in my heart, others will only see my actions.”

“Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.” — Why you should pursue your passions in your career (because you’ll innately be better at those things since you like practicing them)…and, you know, why I’ve been told I’m good at giving head, even if I don’t have all the skills and experience of others.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am. Sometimes I pretend even to myself to enjoy activities that I don’t really enjoy, such as shopping, or to be interested in subjects that don’t much interest me, such as foreign policy. And worse, I ignore my true desires and interests.” I hate how frequently I’m guilty of this, especially in DC, where there’s so much pressure to be sophisticated. The author puts a lot of emphasis on “being Gretchen.” Not letting others influence her desires and fun, but being herself. Easier said than done, sometimes.

“The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.” This is why I love trying new things, and I thrive on new experiences.

Another quote of a quote – C.S. Lewis “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” 

And another – Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”  I need to rule out gossip altogether from my life. Truth. The idea of spontaneous trait transference (brought up in another part of the book) also supports that goal – “people unintentiaonally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people.”

“Familiarity, it turns out, breeds affection. The mere ‘exposure effect’ is the term for the fact that repeated exposure makes you like music, faces — even nonsense syllables — better. The more often you see a person, the more intelligent and attractive you’ll find that person.” — This is why it’s important to regularly say yes and show up to things.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

Random Collection of Inspirational Things

“Do not chase people. Be you and do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you, and stay.” – WuTang

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.” – Charles Bukowski

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.” -Mark Victor Hansen

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

“Have you ever dated somebody who is evil? Life is about friendships. So when you start dating someone evil, and your friends are like ‘I don’t know about that person,’ and you say, ‘You don’t know them like I know them.’ That’s what you say, right? ‘You don’t know them like I do.’ And it’s like, ‘Look at that burning building, I think I’m gonna run into it.’ And your friend says, ‘No, you’ll die.’ And you say, ‘But I’m cold.’” – Matt Nathanson

Helen Croydon, The Telegraph, September 20, 2012 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/9553083/Slut-Selfish-Sad-No-just-a-single-woman.html)

I’ve spent most of my life single. I’ve had a few long-term relationships and far more than my fair share of short-term ones, but I’ve always felt a greater zest for life when navigating the world alone. My energy, my sense of adventure, my ambition, my friends, my fitness, my career, my joie de vivre all seem to thrive when single. I have loved men ferociously, but a little part of me wilts when I belong to someone else.

But Why You’re Not Married …Yet, a candid relationships guide published last week, suggests the reason a single woman doesn’t have a ring on her finger is because she is either a bitch, shallow, a slut, crazy, selfish, a mess, hates herself, a liar, acting like “a dude” (author Tracey McMillan is American and has been married three times) or thinks she is a goddess. There is a chapter devoted to each reason.

Quotes I Find Inspiring

“Nearly all men can withstand adversity; If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

-Abraham Lincoln

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

-Benjamin Franklin

“The ultimate measure of man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

– Frederick Douglas

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

“A mature person is one who is does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

“The best use of life is time spent on something that will outlast it.”

– William James

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

–Henry David Thoreau

“I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded. In fact, if anything, I am the prod.”

– Sir Winston Churchill

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

– Sir Winston Churchill

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

– Albert Einstein

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

– Albert Einstein

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”

– James Dean

“Just when you think everything is finished, that is the beginning.”

– Louis L’amour

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.””

-Lewis Carroll

“This I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.”

-John Steinbeck

“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”

-David Russell

“When choosing between two evils, always choose the one you haven’t tried yet.”

-Mae West

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

-Ellen Parr

“It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.”

– Bishop Desmond Tutu

“Every man ought to be inquisitive through every hour of his great adventure down to the day when he shall no longer cast a shadow in the sun. For if he dies without a question in his heart, what excuse is there for his continuance?”

– Frank Moore Colby

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.”

– Horace

“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

– Joshua J. Marine

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”

– Eugene Ionesco

“Four things come not back — the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.”

-Arabian proverb

“Things don’t change, people do.”

– anonymous

“Be alive. You’ve got plenty of time to be dead.”

– anonymous