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Palena, Take II

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Being a grown-up:

Taking good care of myself (including asking for help when I need it)


You know how you do the same thing again and again, hoping it will make you happy, but it doesn’t (like eating cold pasta standing in front of the fridge)?  In the spirit of being a better grown-up, I’ve made some personal goals for myself this semester.  It’s not that I was particularly unhappy last semester; it’s just that I’ve noticed some absurd habits that I’d like to break.

I made a big mushy list of goals during my boat ride back to Palena, in the following categories: health/wellness; social/personal/dating; job/teaching; and Spanish/Chilean culture.  In the end, I’ve decided on a few little “interventions” (Wediko word) to try out.  One is to use visual reminders to help me not make the same choices that pretty consistently make me less happy.  The following is now posted on my computer:

1. What do I need?
2. What is the best way to get it?
3. Do I need to give myself a time frame?

I wrote a long time ago about how I love the Internet here, but it’s also weird because it makes it so easy to check out.  I’m not against checking out; I think checking out is sometimes a great coping strategy.  It’s just that I often flip open my computer as a reflex, and I wake up a half an hour later to find myself numbing out on Facebook with no real purpose, eyes glazed and spirits low.  So that’s the strategy: purpose & time limits.  So far, it’s been interesting noticing how many times I’m drawn to my computer, and a few times I’ve realized that what I needed was something else.  (I’m restless.  What I need is to go for a little walk!)  It’s also helped me be more focused. (I want to see if Alice has emailed back about a Skype date.  If she hasn’t, I’ll check any other email and then close the computer.)  And it’s making me read more. (I don’t need to constantly check my email.  Let me pick up this book I claim I want to read.  Wait a second, now that I’m sitting down and reading, this is great!  And my eyes don’t hurt.)

And finally, I made a big chart on the chalkboard in my room.  I’m really excited about this.  There is a spot for my monthly goal to write something in Spanish (besides email).  I tried to do this once a week last semester, which failed miserably, so I’m going for a way less ambitious, and hopefully more realistic, goal.  My idea is to go over a draft with someone and revise it, possibly the librarian.

Then there are three (for now) weekly goals — 3 workouts a week (minimum 15 minutes yo-lates, a long walk counts. we’ll see how much I really run), 7 days a week of mindfulness/meditation something (minimum 10 breaths at bedtime), 2 days a week of Spanish/Chilean culture study (minimum 20 minutes each).  Again, the bar is super low in all of these, but it’s higher than the reality of last semester.  Also the goal is consistency: I had weeks where I’d do some yoga every day, then not for two weeks; same with Spanish study.

I am balancing this with a prominent display of a Borges poem Melissa showed me recently (complete poem in Spanish, scroll down for English):

Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.
En la próxima trataría de cometer más errores.
No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría más.
Sería más tonto de lo que he sido, de hecho
tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.
If I were able to live my life again,
next time I would try to make more mistakes.
I would not try to be so perfect. I would be more relaxed.
I would be much more foolish than I have been. In fact,
I would take very few things seriously.


So goals, things that are quantifiable — they are important, but it’s just my little project, the real aim is happiness.  The point is not to be hard on myself or to be rigid, but rather just to nudge myself in the direction of being happier, because sometimes I act like a toddler who puts sand in her mouth, cries because it tastes gross, and then does it again the next day.  Here’s to learning.

P.S. Thank you, Alice, for editing this post!



P.P. S. See what’s baking?  Firewood.  A lot of my stash is pretty wet, but this way I always have some nice dry ones to start with in the morning.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:57 pm

    Now I can say I’m a “blog editor.” But let’s be honest, there’s not much to change.

  2. David Russell permalink
    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 7:59 pm

    Your thinking is very clear, and you will have a better time this semester because of it. And baking wet firewood: a marvelous idea, and symbolic. “What do I need? How can I get it?..” You are applying the method right away! PS Being a grown-up is no piece of cake, but it is wonderful too, trust me on this!

  3. Jane Woodman permalink
    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:32 pm

    Good for you getting your thoughts and intentions clear! Yes, there is the art I think of balancing effort – that healthy nudge – with just relaxing into things exactly as they are. In our little boats we steer, we investigate, we fully engage knowing the water too will have it’s way with us, right? Such a metaphor! xoxo

  4. Julie W. permalink
    Thursday, August 4, 2011 5:28 pm

    Way to go, Margaret– this is really great. Being a grown-up is hard work, and learning how to meet your needs and desires and stay happy is a huge part of it. I definitely struggle with it these days and I appreciate your clear and balanced approach here.
    I’ll be heading to Belize soon, and I will definitely keep following you to grab any bits of advice and lessons learned from you that I can. Hope you’re doing well!


    • Thursday, August 4, 2011 6:05 pm

      Julie, thanks for your comment! We’re all figuring it out, right? Have fun in Belize — what are you doing there? All my best, Margaret

      • Julie W. permalink
        Thursday, August 4, 2011 7:21 pm

        I will be living and volunteering on a 2000 acre farm/rainforest reserve for a few months– should be good fun! Check out!


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