Tuesday, November 20, 2012

i'm just saying.

{mine, taken in College Station on a super short visit there this last weekend.}

A lot of the things I've blogged about recently have been of a fairly serious strain -- deciding our feelings, super vulgar but productive questions, and that whole relationship hangover thing -- and I just wanted to take a day to have a more relaxed, happy post.

Life is pretty good guys. I'm happy. And that is good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

eleanor roosevelt quotes and the belief that we actually can decide our feelings


Eleanor Roosevelt once very famously wrote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." 

She meant that your emotions are just that - yours. You get to decide to feel them or not, and when someone makes you feel inferior, it's not because of something they did, it's because you're letting them make you feel that way. I've been living this philosophy hard the past few months (along with the Why the fuck...? philosophy) and Big Damn Surprise: The woman was right. And not just about feeling inferior.

During this past summer, when I basically spent every second I was at home with my ex anxious or despondent or downright angry, I tried everything to avoid feeling that way. I tried not going home except to sleep, I tried reconciliation with him, I tried dating other people, I tried complete celibacy (really), and I tried just making sure I had plenty of alcohol if I knew I was going to be home. When all those options didn't work (anyone surprised?), I came back to Eleanor's idea - to just fucking decide that I wasn't going to feel anxious or despondent or angry anymore.

And you know what? It worked.

Because here's the thing about emotions (and I mean emotions, not mental illness - let's get that distinction clear): After our initial reaction to a situation, we get to decide how we're going to continue to feel about it. Being angry that my ex still lived with me didn't do anything except make me miserable, so I just stopped caring. Now, when I stumble across a photographer whose portfolio gives me all sorts of jealousies, I feel that jealousy (and inferiority)... for about a second. And then I decide that instead of feeling jealous, I'm going to use it as inspiration to become a better photographer myself.

I'll be real: It isn't always easy. When my boss at my day job is yelling at me, it's really hard not to feel angry or stressed. But then I think, "You know what? I'm a barista. I refuse to feel stressed out/angry about this because, well, why the fuck would I do that?"

How much better of a place would the world be if people were less stressed out and angry about the small things? If we could all just decide to literally keep calm and carry on?

So the next time you're thinking "My job is stressing me out..." or "My boyfriend/husband is making me so angry..." Ask yourself: can they really make you feel that, or are you just letting them? Then act accordingly. And I promise to keep doing that too.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

five hours a day and the most vulgar but productive question ever

You know how sometimes we get so busy with the day-to-day things of life, we forget the big picture? It's that whole seeing the forest through the trees thing, right? Somewhere in the mire of daily life, we forget that our lives are supposed to be building toward something, toward happiness or fulfillment or accomplishment or, you know, something outside of complete abject misery.

I went through this recently and it was incredibly frustrating. As someone who is almost a year out of undergrad (ugh, it's already been almost a year?), it was annoying to already see my priorities falling out of order and my life dictated by silly daily tasks that weren't actually getting me anywhere. I still don't know how to get to happiness or fulfillment or accomplishment, but I have started to figure out how to not get lost in the chaos.

This is something that is so hard to keep in mind: A lot of these things we think we "have" to do are things that don't actually put us any closer to our dreams, they're just time wasters. And we don't even realize they're time wasters until we think about the amount of time we actually have.

We have to start by accepting that our time is limited. If we go to work 8 hours a day and need another 8 hours of sleep, that only leaves us with 8 hours to do things not work and sleep related. You have to eat and bathe during that time (right, guys?), and if you live in DC you should probably allow for a minimum of one hour of your time that WMATA will waste.

After the math, we're working with about five hours. (That's all?) We've got five-ish hours a week day to accomplish the things that matter to us. So we have to build our lives in a way that allows us to maximize those five hours with the things that matter the absolute most. We have to prioritize - and by that I mean, actually prioritize, not the kind of prioritize where we convince ourselves that everything is a priority and we can DO ALL THE THINGS.

It isn't easy, by any means. My first list of "priorities" was approximately eleventy-billion things long, and included things that aren't really priorities, but things I thought I should be doing, or just kind sorta want to do. So I pared it down one by one, asking myself over and over again "Okay, why the fuck is this on the list?"

I started asking this awesome question after I read this wildly fantastic article. I learned that getting things done isn't about being busy, because being busy is kind of bullshit. The kind of "busy" I was was just procrastination, it didn't move me anywhere. As Francisco Dao writes, "the key is honesty;" you have to be honest about your priorities, or this won't work.

What's left on my list today covers 5 things that are extremely important to me. They're things that when I ask the question "Why the fuck...?" I have a solid answer, because they're fundamental to my happiness. After those five things, there are some things that are Tier Two - important but not necessary, then everything else that just happens when it can. And the beauty of this system is it allows room for values - my answers are never going to be the same as anyone elses'. Sometimes my answer to the question is "Well, because my dad wants me to." And while that may not be a good enough reason for some people, it is for me. And that's totally okay because they're my priorities, no one else's. 

These days, I use this question for every decision I make, and I'm radically more productive because of it. And, frankly, I'm radically happier because of it. I'm less stressed. I've removed the crap from my life that's not a priority, that didn't have a good answer to the "Why the fuck...?" question, and all that's left are the things that really do matter. And I can use those five hours in a way that allows me to see both the forest and the trees.