Expansion of Relationships vol. 1: Call your Siblings!

I’m an introvert that deals with people all day. I work as a consultant and my job is to talk to people and try to solve their problems. The problem I have is that I get little alone/quiet time to myself, for myself, or at least it feels that way. I start the day at 6 or 6:30am by taking my dog for a walk or going to the gym, then I get ready for work and head out the door usually by 7:30am so that I can get to the office and settle in before everyone starts. We have an open office environment, which I love. I really think it fosters collaboration and allows us to get to know each other better. But it also makes it hard to get moments of silence. My meetings for the day start at 8:45am and often go most of the day with no more than an hour or two break. I talk to people all day!

I head home at 5/5:30pm. My 15-20 min walks to and from work are alone time but my habit is to use those to listen to my favorite podcasts. Then when I get home it’s usually time for another walk with the dog and, if my husband is teaching students that evening, an hour or so to wrap up final work items and make sure the pup doesn’t cause a rumpus with strangers in the house. Then I spend time with my husband. Which leads me to the end of the day where I feel like I’ve rarely spent a moment purely for myself.

I love these aspects of my life. My job is very interesting and rewarding. I love my puppy and that she gets me outside and exercising. I love spending dinner and evenings with my husband. However, I don’t love that all of these things lead me feeling drained and unwilling to reach out and try to maintain other relationships. It’s so hard to bring myself to try to hang out with friends in town or to call out-of-town family and friends when I feel occupied every moment in my day.

My family and friends are extremely important to me. I don’t want to be one of those people who loses relationships with their siblings and friends. I want true and living relationships with them, not just the kind of friendships where you reminisce about old times whenever you get together. That feels good for a while but it soon begins to feel tired and not worthwhile. The reason humans crave relationships is to share in their present experiences. But I’ve been struggling to maintain that level of relationship with both friends and family.

I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with my friends, but at least with my family I’ve taken steps in the right direction. Three of my siblings live in three different states so I really only see them a few times a year at most. I used to struggle to remember the last time I talked to them and often found myself waiting for them to call me first, and since we all have busy schedules this was not very often. Two of them have children so my relationships with my nephews and nieces was slipping too. Far too often, that left me with a nasty pit of guilt in my stomach. So in January, I turned a new leaf. I realized that one of the biggest hurdles I had was that calls to my family were not part of any routine I had. With the help of a task reminder app (I would totally lose track if I didn’t use that), I’ve started a habit of calling my parents every weekend and calling each of my siblings at least once every two weeks. That doesn’t sound that often, but with 4 siblings, it feels manageable for me.

My older sibs and me, circa 1989

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of calling each sibling every other week as well as talking to my mom and dad at least once a week and each week it feels easier and easier to do. It seems intuitive but it’s so much easier to pick up the phone and call them when I know the first hour doesn’t have to be spent trying to remember all the updates I might have missed since the last time we talked. Already, I feel more connected to them. I still have a way to go, but it’s a start. Now I just need to figure out how we can get on Skype more often for some quality face to face time, but I’ll take it one step at a time 🙂 .

What I’ve accomplished this week:
* Went to the gym/HIIT workout – twice
* Did yoga at home – once
* Walked my dog – 7 days (woohoo!)
* Practiced piano – 1 times
* Practiced voice – 3 times (I had choir practice twice and a performance but hey, it counts!)
* Called my older brother & FaceTimed with my baby brother
* Did strength exercises – twice
* At salad for lunch 3 out of 5 days
* Reading
** At page 294 in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (this book is slow going!)
** At page 243 in A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

Things I’m enjoying this week:
* The pilot episode for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime
* Radical Candor a podcast about being a good “boss”

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Expansion of Awareness & Wellbeing vol. 1: Zoning Out

I am really good at zoning out. Now it’s something I shouldn’t necessarily be proud of, but it has served me pretty well over the course of my life thus far. Growing up in a small house with a big family (first 6 and then 7 of us after my youngest brother came along), I had to learn how to concentrate when other things were going on. I was really good at losing myself in whatever I was doing be it reading, playing piano, or doing homework. This skill, if you want to call it that, also serves me quite well in my work today. We have a very open office; no assigned desks, people talking all the time. So being able to get in the zone and not get distracted is a boon.

Despite its benefits, the “talent” of zoning out is not something I want to carry through my day-to-day life. I often find myself wrapped up thinking about something or looking at my email/phone while someone is talking to me. I’ll give cursory responses and then realize a second or two later that I have only half an idea of what the person said to me. This bad habit leads me to miss out on things that were said, but not only that, it also makes me look distracted and like I don’t care about the person on the other end.

One main way in which I’ve found myself zoning out as of late is with podcasts. I love podcasts! I have a number that I subscribe to and more that I just listen to periodically. I listen to them all the time; walking to and from work, at work when I’m doing project management, in the car driving to and from errands, on walks with my dog, at the gym. It’s so common for me to start a sentence with “So I was listening to this podcast the other day….” that it’s become a sort of joke among my friends and coworkers. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with podcasts (in fact, I’ll probably post a list of my favorites at some point), I’ve realized that it has started keeping me from being fully in the moment and causing me to miss opportunities for enjoying other things like the scenery or listening to music.

I used to listen to music in the car and at work, now I mostly just listen to podcasts. I want the ability to enjoy nature and the companionship with my dog, but I’m often wrapped up in my podcast world. Podcasts have really helped me with long commutes/travel in the past and continues to get me through working out but I don’t like how they seem to be ruling my life. I don’t give myself time for reflection and it’s sometimes hard to snap out of them when the walk ends, or I need to talk to a coworker.

I most certainly don’t want to give up podcasts, but I know I can choose to be more thoughtful and aware of when I listen to them. By addressing the podcast bad habit, I can inch my way towards being more present in certain aspects of my life. I will probably still listen to podcasts at the gym and in the car but I will stop listening to them when I walk Winnie and when I’m at work. I will also choose music or silence instead on some of my walks to work. I’m going to try that this week. I’ll let you know how it goes!

What I’ve accomplished this week:
* Went to the gym – twice
* Went to yoga – once
* Walked my dog – 4 days
* Practiced piano – 4 times
* Practiced voice – 2 times (I had choir practice twice and a performance but hey, it counts!)
* Talked to my mom & dad, and younger brothers
* Did strength exercises – 2 times
* Cooked dinner once and baked twice
* Reading
** At page 210 in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
** At page 105 in  A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

Things I’m enjoying this week:
* Thought I should plug some podcasts 🙂 – I’ve gotten into Crimetown from Gimlet media as well as Side Hustle School with Chris Guillebeau

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Expansion of Knowledge & Experience vol. 1: Philosophy

This is a potentially dangerous part of my experiment. I think more than most of the other areas, except for maybe the expansion of relationships, this one has the most potential to stir up trouble. Expanding our thinking and our experience has a very high impact on our outlook on the world and how we approach life. While this is something I want, it’s also a little scary. I’m sure most of us can point to certain moments where new knowledge or experiences have changed the way we think about things or even changed the course of our lives. I want to be open to this, but I also fear it. Change is never an easy thing and many times certain types of knowledge change how we look at the world enough that we are forced to change; it’s no longer an option.

I think back to when I was a kid and my mom told me that Santa wasn’t real. It’s a moment many of us experience. I had heard rumblings of this and if I had let myself think about it, I would have known it already. But when she told me outright, there was no fooling myself anymore. I can still pretend he exists and enter into the spirit of it (my family still writes letters to Santa on Christmas Eve for the fun and tradition of it) but I could no longer wonder and imagine Santa landing on my rooftop like I could before I had that new knowledge. It was a death to my old way of thinking. Change means death to what once was, but I don’t want to be afraid of death in any form and thus expanding my knowledge and experience must be a part of my year of expansion. Which leads to my first resolution in this area: Read more Philosophy.

I actually started my journey with philosophy last year (or was it the year before). I had been challenged by my husband to start thinking deeper about my world (that’s a story for another day) and I had already become a podcast junkie. So naturally, the first place I looked was for a philosophy podcast that could start me with an introduction. I found Philosophize This and was soon hooked. I blew through the whole archive in a month or two. It has already done a lot to pique my interest and challenge my worldview, but a once per month podcast isn’t satiating my thirst for questions and answers.

I’d like to get to the point of reading actual philosophers’ texts but my first foray into it with Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra was like diving into the deep end without knowing how to swim, or dive for that matter. I got halfway through and was more confused than challenged. I know I’ll go back to it eventually but it made me realize that I need to take some baby steps first.

I took to the internet for some recommendations. Since I liked and trusted Stephen West from his Philosophize This podcast, I took his word and bought a used copy (It’s the way to go for these kinds of books. The previous owner already has notes in there for me!) of Luc Ferry’s A Brief History of Thought. I started it yesterday so I’m only 45 pages in but it’s already engaging and I think it will be a great way to get a further overview of philosophy and philosophers while also giving me ideas of what I’d like to dive into further.

What I’ve accomplished this week:
* Went to the gym – twice
* Did yoga at home – once
* Walked my dog – 5 days
* Practiced piano – 3 times
* Practiced voice – 3 times (I had choir practice twice and a performance but hey, it counts!)
* Wrote in my Journal – once
* Called my younger brother & my sister
* Did strength exercises – twice
* At salad for lunch 3 out of 5 days
* Reading
* At page 93 in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
* At page 45 in  A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

Things I’m enjoying this week:
* Watching Younger with Sutton Foster on TV Land – Shout-out to my sister-in-law for the recommendation
* Re-listening to the Little Women Broadway soundtrack (clearly I’m on a Sutton kick)

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I have many different aspects of my life I want to touch on with this experiment in going deeper. Rather than focusing on one for these writings, I’d will touch on each one cyclically. However, I will include a log at the end of each post to keep record of how I am doing with each aspect of the experiment. This will allow me to post updates on each but do a deeper dive into each aspect on a weekly basis.

With that, I should introduce each of the resolutions that are part of my experiment. They are as follows (in no particular order):

1. Expansion of Strength
* Go to the gym 3 days a week
* Walk my dog 5 days a week
* Yoga 1 day a week
* Reach 125 lbs? Not 100% needed, more important is…
* Concrete measures of strength – I still need to determine what this will be..
2. Expansion of Knowledge & Experience
* Read more philosophy
* Read more in general (finish 1-2 books per month)
* Practice piano twice a week
* Practice voice on my own at least once per week
3. Expansion of Awareness & Wellbeing
* Eat more consciously – slowly/smaller portions, more fruits & veggies
* Practice meditation – need to start this one 🙂
* Journal regularly (3 days a week)
* Write this once per week
4. Expansion of Relationships
* Become better about keeping in touch with my family – call my parents once a week, call my siblings each once every two weeks
* Work on building/maintaining friendships – not sure yet how to put this in practice
* Be more intentional in my relationship with my husband
** Be thoughtful in how and when we spend time together
** How we converse – approach all conversations with benefit of doubt and a loving demeanor

Man, that looks like a big list but each resolution is important to me and if I keep it to those 3-5 items in each category, I think I can do it. Or at least do better. This experiment will help me hold myself accountable and focus on becoming a better, happier version of myself.

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Expansion of Strength vol. 1: Exercise Person

Along with writing (and a great many other things) another area that I’ve often had trouble getting into and forming habits in is exercise. I am 28 years old and for most of my life I have identified as non-athletic and a non-exerciser. I would take a weird pride in the fact that I was (am) bad at sports and that I never exercised. Yet sometime in college, as I’m sure many do, I started thinking that I should probably, at some point, when I can get my motivation up, start exercising. I think I made it to the campus gym, on average, once a year for all five years of my time there (and that might be too generous). I walked everywhere, that seemed like enough to me. I was firmly still the girl who did not work out (that brief week and a half I stuck with ‘Insanity’ was painful).

I don’t think it really got into my head that most healthy people worked out until I started my first job. I was at a big consulting company with tons of other young people. Many of whom seemed very health-conscious and to have a love of working out, at least to some degree. This was so incongruous to me when I tried it on, could I be a person than actually enjoyed physical activity in that way? Sure I liked hiking or taking leisurely walks but enjoy actually pushing my body? That had never been something I enjoyed or wanted to go back to. I remembered back to my middle school basketball days of suicides and leg lifts. None of those memories made it something I wanted to revisit. But here I was at a demanding job, living back at home with my parents and I started thinking that a physical outlet might be nice.

Goodness knows I had no idea what I was doing when it came to working out. I had always been ‘the girl who didn’t exercise.’ I think that’s why I gravitated to and settled on Yoga. I could think about yoga and reconcile it better with my identity as a calm, low-energy person (shout out to fellow Enneagram 9s out there) than a spin class or a kick-boxing boot camp. So I trolled Groupon for a few evenings and found a deal for a hot yoga class. That first class was brutal! My body was screaming at me but oddly enough I also felt good! The more I went, I started feeling powerful and healthier just by being someone who does yoga (although I’m sure actually doing it once or twice a week helped too).

Unfortunately, because of the physical intensity and my lack of knowledge, I ended up hurting myself doing it. After awhile my knee was bothering me a lot and with that and a move to an apartment further away from the studio, I fell out of the habit. I’ve gone periodically to other places since then but really haven’t gotten back on the horse.

Which brings me here to January 2017. I have two resolutions to carry out ‘Expansion’ in the physical sense (more to come later). In order to be healthier, stronger, and feel better about my body I resolve to:
1) Go to the gym at least 3 times a week
2) Go to yoga at least once a week (for a total of 3 times a month)

I want these to turn into more yoga at home as well but I think starting relatively small with this will allow me to build and not expect too much of myself at once. Hopefully with these, resolutions I can expand my identity and become ‘a person who exercises regularly.’

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Fresh Start


This is day one of a new experiment. I still not sure what it will look like or what changes it will bring but one thing I hope is that it *will* bring changes..

I chose the word Expansion – the act of becoming larger or more extensive – as my one word theme for 2017. For those of you who haven’t encountered the idea of choosing a one word theme for your year, I’ve included a couple of resources here and here to check out. I first heard about it while listening to Gretchen Rubin’s ‘Happier’ podcast. It resonated with me because I always felt my new years resolutions (if I made one) lacked focus and fell off early in the year. I didn’t want to repeat that again. With a one word theme for my year, my goal is to bring focus on the resolutions and decisions I might make for the whole year. It will allow me to ask focused questions when presented with an idea or opportunity. “Does this expand my experience? Does this push my boundaries? Will it allow me to go deeper?”

Just as important as defining what ‘Expansion’ means to me is to define what it does not mean. Expansion does not mean stretching myself thin, adding needless stress, or saying yes to everything. It means being mindful, purposeful in the activities and resolutions in which I choose to participate.

One way I hope to be more mindful of my year of Expansion is to write about it. I have found over much of my life that writing down my thoughts helps me to process and think through things more thoroughly. Over the past year or two, I’ve had a nagging in the back of my head telling me to write more. I’ve tried writing in journals but for whatever I have had trouble getting back in the habit. By putting a purpose around my writing, documenting my year of Expansion, I am hoping I can dive back in a bit.

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