Stickin’ With It*

* With credit to Ted Walker and Adam Webb, hosts of the Take Note podcast.

I recently started listening to Take Note, thanks to Tim Wasem’s recommendation on a recent episode of the Erasable podcast. I especially enjoy how the hosts chat about what they write rather than focusing so much on what they write with or on. Sometimes they feature a segment called “Stickin’ With It” where they talk about the things in their lives—sometimes stationery, sometimes not—that they find themselves enjoying over and over again. As someone who, for the most part, has the stationery attention span of an eight-week-old puppy, this has been inspiring. Instead of constantly flitting through pencils, pens, and inks, maybe I should try a less frenetic approach. Rather than becoming enamored with the newest and shiniest thing, maybe I’d enjoy some consistency with what I’m using—a single pencil (à la Caroline Weaver), or just one or two fountain pens instead of the herd that I currently have inked. Oh attention span, I hardly knew ye.

Just as I was feeling guilty about all of this stationery polygamy, I hit a milestone worthy of my own “Stickin’ With It” segment. On Thursday morning, I filled up my fifth Nanami Paper Seven Seas Tomoe River Notebook. That’s 2400 pages since June 2016. I wonder how many milliliters of ink I’ve used and how many miles of words I’ve written by practicing “butt in chair” (to quote Anne Lamott) at 4:45 am.

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This is my morning practice—my writing meditation—the one place in my life where I am truly stickin’ with it.

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Oh that Sailor Grenade sheen! That’ll perk you right up!

Without fail.

 

 

Keeping Them Honest. (And by “them” I mean “me.”)

I love Anderson Cooper’s “Keeping Them Honest” segments on CNN.com where he takes the day’s political stories and reviews the facts versus the spin. I thought I’d do the same for myself, as a way to look back at 2018. Where did I fail? Where did I succeed?

Let’s hit some areas where I fell short.

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I believe I declared that I was going to clear out my backlog of notes and stationery by mailing a card or note to someone every day of 2018. That habit stuck for awhile—into March, I think. And I DID send a good number of cards, but lesson learned: you’re not going to do ANYTHING every day of the year*. This basket, I must admit, looks pretty much the same as when I made that declaration. Not only that, but I bought even more cards and notes (at 75% off at Barnes & Noble, but still) so the stationery situation is actually a little worse than when I started. Something to work on in 2019.

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I also started scoring my days, drawing the weather, and charting my mood in my Hobonichi Techo. That venture petered out after a month or so. I do like looking back at those pages, but I don’t think I was gaining much insight from the practice, so I just stopped. I’d like to use the monthly calendar pages to track something, but I haven’t given that much thought yet. It’s only January 6th. There’s still time. (A friend suggested, just today, that we get back into running so this might be the perfect place to log those workouts. And my mood. And the weather.)

There are certainly other areas where I fell far short of my goals, declared or not. I acquired more pens than seems healthy, and didn’t dip into my own collection of under-used pens when I had the hankering for something new. Definitely working on this in 2019. Six days in. No new pens. High five!!

So…where did I succeed in 2018?

I started dream journaling.

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This isn’t something that I do very often, but I do do it every now and then. Especially vivid or meaningful dreams get recorded and drawn, and I do my best to tease out the significance of the what I experienced or felt. Sometimes what seems like a stressful dream actually delivers a positive message when I sit down and dissect the images and emotions. This is a “sometime” kind of journaling, but it’s sticking. Success.

I finally made it to CW Pencil Enterprise. Twice. LOVED IT.

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I’ll do a separate blog post about my experience in the store, but let me just say that this little shop feels like home. It’s warm and wonderful, full of delightful people and pencils. There’s a little bit of magic there. I’ll be returning in 2019. For sure.

I’m still writing my morning pages. Every single morning.

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I started this practice in the summer of 2016 and once that switch flipped on, it’s never been turned off. I can’t imagine my morning without coffee (french-pressed cold brew) and my journal.

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A few days before Christmas I started my fourth 480-page Nanami Paper journal. That’s a lot of ink and words—a lot of whatever spills out of my groggy head and onto the page. A lot of struggles, doubts, anxieties, pep talks, and precious memories.

2018 was a weird year. Lots of drama and changes (ongoing) with my elderly parents. Very little blogging. 2019 will probably be weird, too, but I hope to do significantly more blogging. And if I don’t, feel free to keep me honest.

*Edited to add: Tina correctly pointed out, in a comment, that I have maintained a daily journaling habit, so clearly I can do something every single day if I really want to. She’s right. Because I’ve scheduled this, and made it an ingrained habit, I’ve been successful at maintaining this streak. Something to think about as I work to make improvements and tweak my priorities in 2019.

In Praise Of Habits

 

Hobonichi Techo

Back on January 1st, I vowed to use the Hobonichi Techo I’d finally purchased (peer pressure) to record…

  • Appointments, in pencil because appointments often change
  • Good things/moments from my day
  • What I ate for dinner

Oddly enough, I’ve been recording all of that. Every day. I have the world’s worst record for consistently journaling. The bottom of one of my filing cabinets contains stacks of partially filled notebooks. I used to write a complainy blurb, then let seven or so years go by before I felt moved to record another paragraph. On the plus side, this makes a notebook last a really long time, but, on the other hand, it doesn’t make for insightful or inspiring reading.

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The Hobonichi Techo and I just clicked. I worried that the size might be too small, but it’s proven to be just right. Filling up a page doesn’t take long, yet I can get in a lot of detail about my day and all of the good things that happened. No complaining allowed in this book. I’ve also taken to recording quotes that I come upon, usually on Twitter, often by Anne Lamott.

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On the monthly pages at the front of the book, I’ve continued to record exercise details—gym visits, step counts, and mileage. Thanks to the Whole Life Challenge, and the support of a very good friend, the gym has become a place I enjoy even when I’m breathing hard, sore, and soaked. For someone who dreaded every moment of gym class in school, this is yet another miracle—another habit that has taken root. I’m learning that habits are like that. Sustaining the first habit makes it that much easier to stick with another one, and another one after that.

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Full of quotes that buoy me up, details from my day that I surely would’ve forgotten, little epiphanies, and dinner ideas, the 2016 Techo has already become a treasured resource. I love leafing through it, seeing different inks, and moods, and blessings. I can’t imagine life without one. The 2017 version is already waiting in the wings.

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At the end of June 2016, I made a decision to FINALLY get out of bed to sit at my desk to faithfully write Morning Pages. As I’ve said before, this is an idea I’ve toyed with for years, but never put into practice. I was always too lazy, too tired, too full of excuses. Finally I decided to give it a shot. June 25th, 2016—a new habit was born.

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Now I can’t imagine my life without this practice. It’s been three plus months and though I have to get up at 5:30 am during the week to get to work on time, I look forward to writing these pages every single day. I dump anything and everything into this Nanami Paper Seven Seas “Writer” journal—dreams, worries, conversations, inspiring moments, petty complaints, joys, and anxieties. There’s not too much of the “we did this, we did that” kind of stuff, though, of course there is a little of that. What’s so cool is that I usually sit down with little idea of how I’ll fill the lines and pages, and yet there are always words. There are always ideas and problems and moods and feelings.

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I used to write three pages a day, but I’ve recently scaled back to two so that I have enough time to do ten minutes of meditation followed by five minutes of stretching before I jump in the shower. Meditation? Stretching? More habits? Who am I?

Encouraged by my ability to sustain these writing habits, and with the help of The Whole Life Challenge (I’m currently entering the third week of my seventh challenge), I’m finding it easier and easier to sustain other lifestyle habits. So every morning, I write, meditate, stretch, and drink 20 ounces of water before leaving the house. And you know what? I feel great. Calmer. Lighter. Stronger. (Stretchier?)

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The idea for a Jar of Awesome also came out of the Whole Life Challenge. While some on my team found the practice to be “hokey,” I loved it. As I wrote back in June, the thought of having the jar fill up with special moments from the day seemed like a great way to notice how much goodness there is in our lives, much of which would zip on by if we’re not looking for it. So I started a jar and have it sitting on my dresser.

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I will admit that this habit fell off my radar for awhile until recently, when I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the “On Being” podcast. She spoke about her Happiness Jar, and I vowed to revive the practice. It takes less than a minute to write down something from your day that made you smile, something that will be nice to remember when you’re having one of those days. So I cut up some paper into strips, and have the strips and a pen sitting right next to the jar. I’m still not super consistent with this habit, but it’s one I want to continue to cultivate. I want to see this jar STUFFED with the tiny but wonderful things that accumulate as we go through our ordinary days. I want to get better at noticing those things even in the days that leave me feeling wrung out and run over.

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Habits. I was never very good at sustaining them. But look at me now—journaling, exercising, meditating, stretching, looking for the good in each day. One habit made the next one seem possible, then the next one, and the next one.

Habits. Practiced day by day. Words. Feelings. Recorded letter by letter, line by line, page by page. I’m writing. I’m living. I’m grateful.

Always grateful.

I can think of no better use for my pens, paper, inks, and notebooks than to express that.

I’m currently participating in a weeklong Social Media blackout, the latest Whole Life Challenge lifestyle challenge. I normally post a link to a new blog post on Twitter but can’t do that without losing points. If someone reading this could post a link for me, I’d be…you guessed it…grateful.