Wild and Precious…and Lukewarm (aka: Goal-Setting)

One Wild and Precious Life

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the 5-yr. life plan I wrote several years ago. Because you know, sometimes it’s good to give your life a check-up, to see how you’re doing on achieving your goals, and to adjust them as needed. Three years into my (very sparse) plan, here’s what I’ve managed to accomplish:

Career: I graduated from college, adding two very useful Computer Information Science Degrees to my useless B.A. degree. Check! I obtained a great job doing something I actually love, which has a great salary and benefits. Check!

Future career goals: I just happen to be really good at my job, and continuing to climb the ladder is inevitable, as long as I keep learning, staying ahead of the curve, and adding value to the agency I work for. Within five years, I hope to still be doing what I love, but perhaps in the private sector, where I can make more money, travel for work, and work remotely. I’d also like to see at least one of my novels published.

Financial: I like to keep these goals private. But my plans are positive and practical.

Social: Still nada. With the exception of the wonderful man I dated just over a year ago, I have been without any friends for more than seven years.

Future social goals: I’ve given up on the idea of my anemic social life changing, and decided to just embrace the “only” life. It can be lonely, having no one to call and chat with, or invite out places, or share joys or sorrows. But this has been my life for so long now, that I figure I can survive it indefinitely. Once in a great while, I go out to a Meetup with groups of strangers, to chat in a restaurant or go for a hike, just to pretend like I have some sort of social life. Sometimes, this is even fun.

Family: Five years from now, I will officially be a single empty nester. One kid is already a young adult, with his own life. One is a high school senior, on her way to university next fall. And the youngest has begun high school. So I guess my goal is to just keep loving and supporting them until they’re on their way. After that — who knows?

Future family goals: Well, I guess five years from now, I will be my own family. I would like to have a dog, if my lifestyle allows for it then. I would also like to continue supporting my grown children from a distance, as they start their own independent lives. I can totally see myself living somewhere far away from here, too, since I will have nothing left to keep me here. Seattle, maybe? San Francisco? London? Maybe a new location every year, if my work enables that kind of mobility. But these are all desperate ideas, since I’m honestly clueless about how to plan my future family/self goals. I guess I don’t really know what I should want.

Heading somewhere maybe who knows?

Health: I’m still doing what I should. I exercise daily (running a lot, going to the gym, and occasional tennis Meetups). I eat a mostly plant-based flexitarian diet. My weight is still in the ideal range, and my clothes fit well. I sleep regularly, see the doc regularly, my iron levels are finally within normal range, so my hair is growing again. Yay! I focus on self-care. I don’t have any bad habits to break. I feel good, and content, and just happy enough, most of the time.

Future health goals: I guess I just want more of the same.

Relationship: Last year, I had a wonderful, fulfilling, far-too-short relationship with the man who was perfect for me in every possible way. I pictured a future with him. I pictured an amazing future with him.

Future relationship goals: There will never be anyone who can take his place. I have zero interest in even trying. I do not plan to ever be in any kind of romantic relationship or date anyone else ever again, so I can cross this one off for the rest of my life.

Travel: Luckily, my kids and I have been able to do a bit of fun traveling within our state within the past several years. Yosemite, Disneyland, lots of beaches, and plenty of great day trips and camping trips. I also got to travel vicariously when my daughter went to China for ten days.

Future travel goals: I hope to travel out of the country at last within the next five years. I just have to figure out how we’re paying for kids’ colleges first. I’d also like to return to New York City for a visit, hopefully with my kids. I’m also considering doing a RunDisney 1/2 marathon one day with my daughter, mostly because running in costume is more fun than no costume.

Somewhere in between the big goals, I sometimes throw in a small, short-term goal or two. But to be honest, I don’t have any tangible small goals right now. Sometimes, I feel like I’m running out of ideas. I already have plenty of hobbies — reading, hobbies, watching sports and movies, music, handicrafts…What should I do next when nothing else seems particularly interesting or fun or useful? It seems so lukewarm to me, to plan to do something just for the sake of saying, “I’ve done that.” Where is the joy or meaning in that? Is it just to make conversations more interesting for you people who have friends? Is it meaningful because you work toward these goals with people you’re close to?

04ca3a40-f7de-4b16-b50f-426338858658-9126-00000c3a4ee5360b

I guess I could plan to do new things just to have something to blog about, to make my blog posts more meaningful. But shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I blog about the goal I’ve accomplished which had great meaning to me somehow? I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, etc.

Advertisements

A Bloody Good Topic (aka: A Conversation Stopper We Should All Be Talking About)

I guess I should bloody well dive into this topic.

Well…not literally. Because that’d be gross.

Today, I’m thinking about something that’s sometimes thick and oozy, like a milkshake, and sometimes drippy and wet, like a melted ice cream cone. It flows through all of us. And um…vampires love it. Oh, and it’s pretty much always red.

I guess I’m not making these clues very mysterious, am I? Maybe because the moment I started to write about it, my head began to feel all lightweight and spinney. Oof. I think I’ll just put my head down for a moment. That’s better.

That’s what I get for writing about blood.

But seriously, why is blood such a taboo topic? I mean, blood is so cool! Well, technically, it’s warm, but you get my meaning. Blood = life. It carries oxygen and nutrients and hormones and proteins to every part of our bodies. It fights off nasty infections. It’s one of the most important things about our bodies.

And yet, just mention the word, and half the people in a room will squirm with discomfort. Some will grow lightheaded, like me. A couple might even vomit, which is much ickier than blood, if you ask me. Mention how you sliced your arm open on the sharp edge of a barbecue grill and bled like a sacrificial lamb, and everyone in the room will make the same wince-face.

Blood is a conversation-stopper.

Unfortunately, in some cultures, blood is more than just a conversation-stopper. It’s downright verboten. Especially when it’s the blood that comes out of women’s bodies every month. Like lots of American women around my age, I learned all about menstruation from good ol’ Margaret and friends (Thanks, Judy Blume!). Also, from the drop-dead-embarrassing filmstrips they made us watch in school, and the little booklets the nurses handed out to every 10-12 year-old girl, filled with pre-teens who were for some reason super-excited about the idea of “becoming a woman.” Those of us with big sisters knew perfectly well that there was NOTHING exciting about getting monthly visits from Aunt Flo and wearing the equivalent of a diaper to keep from bleeding all over the place. Periods suck. If there was a special pill we could take to make them disappear, believe me, we’d all buy it.

But believe it or not, millions of young girls — you read that number right — millions of young girls around the globe are not taught anything about menstruation. They are not taught the difference between pantyliners for light days and the ultra-super-duper pads with wings for the heavy days. They are not taught how to insert a tampon without dying from pain (some of us still struggle with that part decades later). They are not shown any cutesy period commercials or handed any cutesy informational pamphlets. Basically, these girls are sentenced to a week of shame and humiliation every month, barred from schools and temples, and sometimes from their own homes. Millions of girls are told that their periods make them spiritually unclean. They must remain isolated from the rest of their families and communities and use whatever rags, grass, twigs, or paper they can find until Aunt Flo decides to pack it up and head home.

Now that’s an idea that should make us all squirm in discomfort.

We can all agree that periods suck. But they suck because they are inconvenient and a little messy. Because we might have to skip out on a morning swim, or sex, or wearing those cute white jeans for a few days. Not because society will shun us and treat us like filth because our bodies — our normal, healthy, female bodies, are doing something nature intends for them to do.

Today, I just read about Duchess Meghan Markle (yes, the wife on Prince Harry) and how she has been an outspoken supporter of the Myna Mahila Foundation, an Indian charity whose goal it is to provide the women of India with access to sanitary supplies and education about hygiene, and to end the long-held stigmas surrounding menstruation throughout the country. The more I read about how this charity and others like it are helping to change perceptions and the lives of so many girls and women, the more my eyes were opened. You might say my heart bled a little for the work they’re doing.

Oh, stop squirming. A little blood never killed anyone. Okay, fine, maybe it has. But mostly, blood is pretty good stuff. And no one should feel ashamed to talk about it. Period.

Anne with an E (and Other Imaginary Friends)

Many years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to a small, charming town in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I met a number of fascinating people, but one who stood out in particular. She was a girl with hair as bright orange as a carrot, a face spattered with freckles, a smile like the sunrise, and an uncanny knack for getting into trouble.

“Call me Anne,” she said. “With an E.”

Okay fine. I didn’t actually travel to Avonlea. Or even Canada. But I felt as though I had, thanks to L.M. Mongomery’s rich and elegant writing. I didn’t just read Anne of Green Gables. I read every single sequel in the series. Twice. And don’t get me started on how many times I watched the 1985 Anne of Green Gables TV miniseries, starring Megan Follows. I was enamored with Anne, and her dramatic flights of ecstasy over the simple pleasures of life.

I recently traveled again to Avonlea, thanks to the new Netflix series, Anne with an E. Last weekend, when my imaginary friends were busy, and I had way too much time on my hands, I binge-watched most of the first two seasons of the show. I’d been hesitant to give it a whirl, thanks to a surprising slew of negative reviews. But I don’t know what the reviewers’ problem is. Anne with an E was marvelous! Enchanting! Stupendous!

Amybeth McNulty is a wonderful young actress, and much more talented than Megan Follows, in my opinion. Her portrayal of Anne is very much how I imagined her character in the storybooks. The bubbly, talkative Anne with an affinity for large words, with an imagination wider and deeper than the sea. The Anne with a heart of gold who only wanted to love and be loved in return, but was met again and again with rejection as people misunderstood her eccentric ways. The Anne who flung herself into living and loving, always with the best of intentions, but not always with positive outcomes. The Anne who was my childhood kindred spirit, who instilled in me a deep, perhaps unattainable hope that even a girl who others see as different can just keep on being herself, loving herself and others, and that eventually, the rest of the world will accept her and love her back.

I love everything about this new Anne series, from the picturesque setting to the period costumes. I especially love the way the story digs into the lives of the supporting characters, sharing snippets of their histories, and helping us to understand them, and by extension, understand Anne more deeply. The acting is superb — much better than the 1985 miniseries, and anyone who has watched that must know what I’m talking about.

Now if you haven’t watched the show yet, I must warn you — it is quite the tearjerker. I found myself in the depths of despair and had to wash my salt-streaked cheeks a few times during my binge-watch session. But I also laughed quite a bit at Anne’s ridiculous antics, and was filled with warmth at the way she responded to life with poetry, with optimism, and with headlong joy.

I look forward to my next visit to Prince Edward Island, even if it is only in my imagination. I will twirl in my dress with puffed sleeves and skip around Green Gables, reunited with my bosom friend, Anne “Princess Cordelia” Shirley Cuthbert.

See the World! (aka: Living Vicariously)

“I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum.” ~George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life)

George Bailey See the World

When I was a teenager, I often fantasized about traveling the world. I had a long list of places to go, languages to learn, foods to try. I begged my dad and stepmother to send me away to a boarding school in some faraway country (okay, this was partially because I hated living with them). They just laughed and mentioned this silly little thing called money.

Ugh. Money.

That has always been the Big Obstacle. Every time I managed to begin stashing some away toward international travel goals, some monster would come along and eat it up. Monsters such as bills. My college expenses. Kids’ extracurricular activities. Home maintenance. Kids’ college expenses.

Those vivid dreams of walking through streets in London and Barcelona, touring Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, sipping coffee at a French cafe in Paris, climbing the ancient stones of  Macchu Picchu, became smaller and more distant as years passed, and life kept sending more monsters to get in the way. I learned to feed my hunger for travel in smaller, more attainable ways, like studying languages, eating foods from around the world, and watching House Hunters International. (Hey, that show can be pretty addictive!).

See the World travel

Recently, I sent my 16yo daughter off on her first big international journey. She traveled with a group of students to Beijing China, then stayed with a host family in Jinan. Each day, she sent me photos and stories about her adventures abroad, which I ate up with relish. Finally! Although I am still stuck here, working hard to provide a good life for my kids, at least my children can live out my dream, and I can share in them.

This week, our family has been hosting a student who traveled here from China. Just as my daughter’s host family showered her with kindness and introduced her to a wealth of Chinese culture, we are attempting to do the same. My kids are getting a chance to improve their Mandarin, while our student improves her English. And I get to practice being uber-organized, to fit everything into our schedule. (Luckily, I’m usually pretty Type-A, so it’s not too big of a jump to be Type A+).

Now my daughter has caught the travel bug, too. She’s already conspiring with friends to backpack Europe and stay in youth hostels after graduating high school next summer. Eek! I am excited about her ambitions, too. The next best thing to traveling and seeing the world is to travel and see the world through the eyes of someone you love.

 

 

Oh No! Overdues! (aka: Public Libraries)

overduestamp1

Overdues! Auugghh!

I’m kicking myself. I mean honestly, I have no excuse. Our family lives within walking distance of the public library. Kind of a long walk, but still. The library even has these convenient drive-up book drops for lazy peeps who can’t be bothered to park and walk a few hundred feet to return their books.

No excuse. And yet…

There is just something about libraries. Returning my checked-out materials on time has been a lifelong struggle. No exaggerating. Somewhere on one of our family’s packed bookshelves, I’m pretty sure there are a couple of books that were due to the El Sobrante Public Library in 1985.

I can’t begin to imagine how high those fines must be by now. *Shudders*

Other than the overdues issue, the public library has been one of the richest parts of my life. When I was a kid, I used to spend long, leisurely summer days in the children’s room, nose glued to a book. Or making sock puppets in the craft room. Or watching family movies on the little projection screen. Or any other special events they had on the schedule. I adored the summer reading program and took great pride in filling up my bingo grid with all the books I’d read while other kids were busy watching TV or playing with friends.

library books

With the public library, there was nothing I couldn’t obsess over. When I was obsessed with learning foreign languages in 4th grade, I checked out every existing library book for learning Spanish, Italian, German, French, and Japanese. (It’s very hard to learn Japanese from a book, by the way). When I was obsessed with learning how to cook, I discovered a world of colorful cookbooks. Same goes for crafts. Same goes for obsessions with sci-fi, supernatural stories, and books about kids getting kidnapped or hooked on drugs or sent off to summer camp. I even went through a phase of checking out record albums, so I could learn a zillion new folk songs to drive my family crazy.

Finiculi-finicula, Finiculi-finiculaaaaaa!

overdue fines Charlie Brown

But as easy as it was to check out materials, as simple as it was to flip through the card catalogue to find the right Dewey Decimal code, it was really, really hard to return my checked-out books on time. I blamed it on my lack of consistent transportation to the library in those days, which required a long bike ride, or a trip on the back of my stepdad’s motorcycle. In later years, I attributed my constant string of overdues to the books themselves, and their pesky tendency to hide among the hundreds of books in our family’s library, or in dark, hard-to-reach places, like deep under the bed, among spare socks and loose coins.

But I know the truth.

The reason why it is so challenging to turn in library books on time, and why it’s so easy to lose them, is because they do not belong to us.

Think about it. You spend a portion of your hard-earned money to purchase your own shiny new Thing. Then you are far more likely to take care of that Thing. To nurture it. To look after it. To keep it in a safe place, so that it won’t get lost or destroyed. Why? Because it’s yours. You value the things that you feel a sense of ownership for. Or at least, you should. But library books? Those are just worn-out things that belong to everyone and no one. And so, we become careless. We fold down the pages instead of using bookmarks. We read them in the bath, not fearing water damage. We use them as makeshift coasters, or frisbees. (Okay, maybe not frisbees).

Because they don’t belong to us, we don’t cherish them.

Isn’t it kind of the same with people? We tend not to cherish the people who are outside of the little circles we build. We tend not to value the opinions of others. We tend to forget about the feelings of other people. We absorb what we want from people, then we carelessly turn away, leaving them worse than they were when we found them.

Lucky for me, I managed to scrape together my overdue library books and turn them in with a less-than-$10 late fine. Only a small fraction of some of my prior overdue fines. I paid the fees, and get to start again with a clean slate, because that’s how it works with books. People are a lot more complicated. Our carelessness can do irreparable damage. No late fee can mend the human spirit. Only love can do that.

kindness

Like library books, we don’t have ownership of other human beings. We only get to check them out — sometimes for a lifetime, and sometimes for just a little while. But while they are in our care, we can treat them with all the care of our most valuable treasures. There is no one who is worthy of less than that.

Be the Sunshine (aka: Self-Reflections on Life Purpose)

Which hat shall I wear for today’s blog? Poet hat? Single mom hat? Clueless adult hat? Goofy humor hat? Ah, I know… *Puts on TED Talk speaker hat* Time to dive in deep, readers. Ready?

Over on MakeItUltra’s blog, I came across these great questions to encourage self-reflection. For me, it is easy to be goal oriented, and to take steps toward achieving those goals. But it’s like making any other to-do list. Check! Check! Check! Look what I did! I feel successful, like I’ve accomplished something. Another gold star for Tiare!

It’s an entirely different matter to pause and self-reflect on the deeper, more important facets of life. What is the point of achieving a goal if it doesn’t bring me happiness? Lead to greater fulfillment? Have lasting meaning? Whatever our building blocks to success, they must begin with a solid foundation based on our core values, and reflect our passions.

Self Reflection

Questions for Self-Reflection:

What are my values?

When am I happiest?

What do I find meaningful?

What am I passionate about?

What was I put on this earth to do?

What emotions do I feel most of the time?

When do I feel most comfortable in my skin?

What are my values?

I value family. Which sounds odd for someone so disconnected from most of her family, with the exception of my children. In an ideal world, I would be deeply connected with my parents, siblings, and extended family, attending family parties and barbecues, and helping out where needed. I hope that my strong relationship with my kids will continue as they head out into the world soon, and that they will give me grandchildren to love and spoil someday. Next, I value the pursuit of personal excellence; of that which helps each of us become better human beings, contributing to one another’s growth, and making the world better in our own small ways.

When am I happiest?

I am happiest sharing moments — big and small — with people I love. I love long belly laughs, singing together, silly dancing around the house, hiking through nature, watching the ocean waves roll in, rooting for a sports team, listening to live music, and eating good food. These things are enjoyable alone. But when shared with the right people, they are filled with so, so much happiness.

What do I find meaningful?

Those same moments that bring me the greatest happiness. Also, being able to contribute in some positive way to someone else’s happiness. To know that I did something to lift the spirits of another human being, or help to make their day a little brighter, or their lives a little better, that to me is meaningful.

What am I passionate about?

Writing. I am passionate about writing stories that other people will (hopefully) enjoy reading. There are one million strange little worlds and lives living inside me, and I can’t wait to share them with the world. Currently, I am also passionate about the work I do, creating Salesforce systems to make other people’s work experiences so much better. These two passions keep me fueled every day, and make it exciting to jump out of bed and face the day.

What was I put on this earth to do?

Write and share stories. Love my kids. Be the sunshine for everyone I can. Love, love, love with my whole heart, even when it hurts.

What emotions do I feel most of the time?

None. I am an emotionless robot. Okay, kidding. I am actually quite sensitive and have learned to rein that in a little too well, I think. When I actually allow myself to just feel something other than my exterior bubbly cheerfulness…well…I hate to admit this. I feel loss. I feel sadness. I feel loneliness. And I just want to stuff that all away and focus on being happy. There is a different between being happy all the time and feeling happy all the time. Sometimes the feelings follow the attitude.

When do I feel most comfortable in my skin?

When I am in a position of leadership or team encouragement. When I am being a goofball with little kids, singing zany songs and reading stories aloud with lots of expression. When I am baking cookies and singing along to 80s songs or Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I am hanging out with people who know me and get me (a very rare treat).

I would love to hear some of your answers, readers! Please feel free to answer in the comments.

I Meant to Do That! (aka: Handling Klutziness With Grace)

One minute, I was a respectable, civilized human being, quietly scanning my groceries in the self-service lane. Then, I picked up a jar of dill pickles, and…

CRASH!

The jar slipped from my fingers, hit the edge of the shopping cart, and tumbled to the floor. Glass shattered. The air filled with a vinegary odor as pale green pickle juice puddled at my feet.

Oopsie. Butterfingers.

A hot blush of shame spread across my face as other supermarket patrons stared and store clerks went running for cleanup supplies. So embarrassing!

“Don’t worry about it.” A clerk tried to reassure me. “Happens to all of us.” I smiled, but my urge to do a humiliated Snoopy crawl out of the store didn’t fade. I also couldn’t help but notice that the clerk scanned the replacement jar of pickles for me, rather than risk a repeat offense.

To be fair, I’m not normally a klutz. But I don’t normally have mallet finger — a common ligament injury which means that the middle finger of my right hand is entombed in a clunky splint for 6-8 weeks. Which makes everything harder to do. I can’t sign my name. I manage a fork and spoon about as well as a toddler. I drop everything. Instant klutz. And plenty of embarrassment.

The clerk was right, though. Embarrassing things happen to all of us. Like discovering that you’ve left the house wearing two mismatched shoes. Like accidentally passing gas in the middle of yoga class. Like realizing that you made a ridiculous typo on a Tweet or Facebook post a day ago. Eep!

Knowing that billions of other people also make silly mistakes doesn’t always help when you’re in the middle of an embarrassing incident. What does help, however, is reminding yourself that the people around you aren’t judging you as hard as you are judging yourself if that moment. Most people don’t notice or even care that your ponytail looks less than perfect, or your lipstick has smudged a little, or that your dancing resembles Elaine’s less-than-graceful moves on Seinfeld. Who cares? Dance anyway. Let your smile be more noticeable than your lipstick. Own the moment, good or bad. Handle your klutziness with grace. When the crowd is staring and your cheeks are flushing bright red, take a sweeping bow, then repeat the wise words of PeeWee Herman. “I meant to do that.”