One of the good things about being 52, aside from not being 53, is having a handle on what makes you tick.
I’ve got to tell you though, for about the first 40 years on this planet, I had no idea what made me do the things I did and feel the way I felt. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why therapy was created. After about a dozen years of staring at my bellybutton on Jennifer, my therapist’s, couch, I have a pretty good idea why I can’t really cry (except during The Blind Side) and what made me think having hella kids was the right move during my 20s and early 30s.
Last month, I brought up to Jennifer how I couldn’t seem to knock things off my to-do list — everything from not finding a significant other to getting rid of the pile of clothes on top of my washing machine (I couldn’t decide what to do with it, vacilating between selling the mound — like my son’s fairly new and outgrown Vineyard Vines dress shirt and a pair of NWT denim Bermuda shorts from Old Navy I thought would be cool but instead just made me look like a dork or donate). And then where to sell and/or donate? Or should I just give the whole pile to my cleaning lady and let her send it all to a church in Honduras.
I relay all this to Jen, who does a really good job at not rolling her eyes while I’m looking at her, and she starts to say something about habits — which intrigued me. I am a very habitual person. I was a committed smoker for about two decades — because how could you not end a meal or enjoy a cocktail without a cigarette? And for a long time, I’d brush my teeth after dinner so I wouldn’t eat before bedtime. They were things I didn’t even think about.
Later that night, I found myself heavily stalking writer and happiness guru Gretchen Rubin’s website, in particular posts about her book Better Than Before, which is all about habits. She says, “Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40% of our behavior almost daily, so if we change our habits, we change our lives.”
I downloaded the book and listened while walking the dog and driving out to Penn State, and was really inspired to adopt habits that would help me accomplish goals and check things off my list. Rubin says that when it comes to habits, there are four types of people, and after a quick quiz, I learned that I was an Obliger. I need accountability in order to make me do things, and that’s totally true (except sometimes, even letting people down doesn’t stop me from rampant procrastination).
One of the biggest things that have helped is Rubin’s suggestionto eliminate decisions. Like, I know when I wake up, I am going to go downstairs and meditate for 10 minutes and then write in my journal. I used to lie in bed and wonder what to do when the alarm went off early, and sometimes just snoozed until I had to get up to get my 16yo off to school. Now, the alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I am heading downstairs to sit on my couch in the dark listening to my meditation app and surrounded by animals licking themselves (Airpods help).
In the last two weeks I have:
- Pitched a piece to the Washington Post
- Signed up to take a class with a writing teacher I’ve been stalking for years
- Gotten rid of household items that have been cluttering the corners of my not-so-new-house for 3 years
- Meditated 20 days in a row
- Gone on a date
- Donated the pile of clothes
I also love Rubin’s Happier podcast, which she does with her sister (Liz Kraft, a tv screenwriter) and Liz’s podcast Happier in Hollywood. I now refer to Rubin as “Gretch,” which is what her sister calls her, and tease her while listening to her podcast.
I’ve done a few rounds of this meditation app’s courses — guided by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe’s amazing Australian accent — but then found solace for a while in more woo-woo loving kindness meditations. What I love about Headspace is that there’s nothing to think about, you just continue on the course you’ve chosen (currently I’m working on Prioritization, before that: Productivity) and press play. For accountability junkies, the app also congratulates you for your streak. Recently, I’ve even been doing some of the sleep meditations — there’s tons to choose from — while listening to the storm coming from my sound machine (see below). It’s quite lovely.
I’d been using my iPhone as my alarm for the last year or two, but hated having it right there next to me, tempting me to get lost in its hypnotic blue light when I was up at 3 a.m. Then, Jennifer the Therapist told me about this baby, and I bought it the next day. The sound options are amazing. I do not love the light situation although I kind of like being awoken by the soft “Dawn” whitish/bluish light that accompanies the sounds of waves crashing on the beach and seagulls squwaking. You can try to adjust settings on a Zenergy app, which is not very good, but gives you the option of waking up to the various sounds, the radio or connect via bluetooth to your phone. Just don’t do what I did when I pulled it out of its box, which was to immediately cut the wire for the radio antenna off the back of the machine. It annoyed me and was weirdly impulsive and unusual for me. Maybe the universe didn’t want me listening to any more NPR.
ARE YOU SO EXCITED for everybody’s favorite cat-and-mouse duo to return this Sunday? I cannot wait and if you haven’t yet watched Season 1, start bingeing today.
Finally, I just discovered In the Groove, a A Lifestyle Destination for Age-Defying Women, and — with articles like “20 Stripe Tshirts You Can Wear All Season” and “Welcome to the Vagina Revolution!” — I have a feeling there are some long and deep internet rabbit holes I’m about to fall into this weekend.