How Do You Really Want To Feel?

I just want to start this off by saying Happy New Years Eve! Thanks so much for reading and being part of this! We appreciate it immensely and we can’t wait to hang out here with all you guys in 2015!!

So, I’ve been thinking about resolutions for awhile and what they really mean. I covered my financial ones in the last post, but I have some different resolutions I want to share with you here.

Two weeks ago, my workload finally started to lighten up and my holiday time off began. This should have been a time for celebration, but instead it provoked a time of anxiety. This always happens to me- I somehow thought my thirties would start off differently, but they didn’t. My to do list filled up quickly with all the items I hadn’t been able to do because I’d been working out of town. All the major projects (write my one woman show, learn to code HTML, take 6 new classes, find new sources of income, see every friend I’ve been wanting to see plus family, etc) I’d been thinking about came to the forefront and made their way onto my to do list. Plus, there were all the little to-do items like clean the apartment, get laundry done, make more to-do lists, and other small things that still take up time.

At the peak of my anxiety, my roommate casually asked me how I was doing. I told her that I should be doing great, because I have all this time off, but instead I was just worrying more about all the random things I “have” to do. My nerves were fraying when they should be resting.

My roommate told me that she used to get anxious about things like that, but a few years ago, she started concentrating on how she wanted to feel instead. She picked four feelings that she was really after, including feeling alive and abundant. When she started getting anxious or obsessed with to do lists, she went back to her feeling list. Was she feeling alive? If she wasn’t, she simply concentrated on her breathing. When you’re really concentrating on your breathing, you truly have to begin feeling alive- breathing is the literal definition of being alive! It’s at least a great start.

When she was feeling down, she remembered how she wanted to feel abundant. So she made lists of thing she was grateful for and good things that had happened during the day- they could be as small as ‘my apartment is warm. I’m so happy to have my coffee today.’ There’s always something that can make you feel abundant. Most of us live in first world countries- true abundance!

So I’ve stolen her idea (well, she generously gave it to me.) She even said I could use the feelings she chose. So I took ‘abundant’ for myself and you can too if you like. This year, my goal is to go back to the feelings I want to feel even if I’m feeling blah or anxious. Even when I haven’t done it for awhile. Even when I’ve forgotten for weeks. I don’t have to stay down- I can choose to feel differently.

For 2015 I’ve chosen to feel present, abundant, joyous, and radiant. It’s a lot to bite off at once, I know. But I will concentrate on one at a time.

I know it’s hard. I know it doesn’t always work- sometimes sad and anxious feelings take over, and that’s okay. It’s good even. Let them in! But you don’t have to make them permanent guests. Go ahead and choose abundance!

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How Much Sleep Should a 30-Something Get?

Remember a while back when I shared that I purchased a Jawbone Up? Well, after a few weeks of wearing it (on and off), I’ve found it’s pretty awesome. It’s a wrist bracelet that tracks my steps per day and the amount of sleep I get, breaking it down into “light” versus “deep” sleep. More than anything, I’m fascinated by the amount of sleep I get. For me, sleep is invaluable. It’s a huge health priority for me and I know that I only function well with 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Here’s what the sleep graph on Jawbone Up looks like. (And no, I don’t sleep 10 hours a night regularly! This was one of my post-flight, jet-lag nights of sleep. But man, a night of 10 hours sleep feels really good.)

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What’s cool about Jawbone Up is that they give you little facts about how you compare to other people in your same demographic. I’m not sure if you can read the text in the above right image, but it says that I get “1 hr 20min more Sound sleep than other women in their 30s. They average 3 hr 13min of Sound sleep per night.” But that was not an average night for me. Usually, I average about 7 and a half hours a night. It was cool to see how that particular night of sleep compares to other women my age.

So how much sleep should a 30-something get? Looks like the scientific advice is 7-9 hours per night, according to this article on Slate. In addition, I’ve read that you should try and learn how to fall asleep within 30 minutes of laying down. Not sure exactly how one goes about doing that, but creating a sleep ritual is a nice idea.

To happy and healthy sleeping in 2015!

How to Set Goals for Finances- New Years Resolutions Series

The countdown to 2015 continues…though hopefully no one’s standing outside in Times Square yet waiting for the ball to drop. You never know, though. I wouldn’t put it past people.

Anyway, I thought I’d kick off some New Years resolution money talk for thirty-somethings.

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Last year, I made a resolution to put 30 percent of every paycheck I received towards savings, student loan debt and retirement. I actually started doing this slightly before New Years so I cheated a bit.

I split up the 30 percent this way- 10 percent went into my Roth IRA, 10 percent towards my savings, and 10 percent towards my smallest student loan. (My largest student loan already had a crazy amount of money going towards it because its minimum was so high. But I digress.)

And I followed my financial resolutions through thick and thin for the whole year and am continuing with them. There was a moment where I even tried to up my payout percentage to 40%, but that was way too much. Other than that- the 30% resolution was actually quite simple: whenever I received a paycheck I’d log onto Chase.com and make my transfers. There was something extremely satisfying about the whole thing.

If you’re making financial resolutions for the New Year, my advice is much like Jane’s in her last post: break down the goal into easy steps. My financial resolutions last year were simply:

1. Put money into savings

2. Pay down student loan

3. Put money into Roth IRA

A lot less would have gotten done if I’d stopped there instead of making the simple breakdown of 10% from every paycheck towards each category.

So, if you have savings goals, save yourself a headache and break them down into steps that seem so easy as to be almost automatic. In fact, you can even automate the savings process by having your bank automatically put a certain amount of money into your Roth IRA and savings account every month. Just about all banks will do this for you.

Since I’m self-employed and am paid a different amount every month, I kept my process manual. Also, I get a gleeful joy out of manually saving money, but I’m weird like that.

Anyway, this year my financial goals are:

1) Pay extra $$ towards my BIG student loan

-This is broken down into the easy steps of

a) Finish paying down the little student loan the same way I was before. Just about done!

b) Put the 10% (plus the monthly minimum) I was putting into the small loan towards the big loan instead.

Tada!

2) Find a savings account that pays way more interest than my bank. 

– Done! I guess once more I cheated on this one…I did it last week before New Years. But don’t worry if you hate your savings account, I’ll talk about better ones in another post soon and help you set that up too if you like. For now, if you’re interested in how much you should be saving, I wrote about it here.

3) Switch my Retirement Plan from a Vanguard Target Date fund to a different Vanguard account now that I have more money in my Roth IRA. 

– This involves a couple of breakdown steps including investigating Vanguard’s other options and figuring out more about how to manually choose funds. I’ll explain why I’m doing this in another post as well. And if you’re interested in retirement plans in general (or if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about), I talk all about why retirement accounts are important here and here and here.

Of course, there’s my fourth financial resolution which I haven’t yet broken down, and that’s:

4) Discover additional sources of income. 

I lied about not having this goal last year. I have this goal every year, and I’m always messing with the breakdown. There’s quite a bit of work ahead. Sometimes breaking down resolutions can be as tough as keeping them 😉

What are some of your financial resolutions for the new year?

Are You Going to Make Resolutions For The New Year?

There are four more days until January 1st 2015, the day when at least one person you encounter will ask you: “So, do you have any resolutions for the year?” While that question can be somewhat annoying, I’m personally  giddy with excitement at the opportunity for a fresh start. I know, of course, that we can make a fresh start anytime in our lives. Still, it’s a ritual I enjoy.

Apparently, the history of making New Years resolutions comes from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year saying that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Similarly, the Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus (after who the month January is named.) It’s funny how New Year’s resolutions have morphed from coming from a place of “giving” to now a place of “self” and “me.”

To me, New Year’s resolutions are the broad strokes changes/goals you want for your life and they’re relatively easy to decide on. The harder part is breaking them down in manageable mini-goals spread out over the course of the year. I like to come up with three or four goals or “resolutions” and then break them down into the “how” part, meaning when will you schedule this goal. Sometimes it helps to segment the year into quarters and break down the goal that way.

Here’s my first draft of my broad strokes resolutions:

  • Write more
  • Reach out to my professional contacts and send out my work more often (hope to land a manager or agent)
  • Cook at home more
  • Make my home more cozy and continue on my minimalist kick

What’s on your list? Or do you not believe in New Year’s Resolutions?

Giving Advice In Your Thirties

Hope you’ve all had a restful Boxing day! Boxing Day doesn’t exist in the US, but is officially a day after Christmas bank holiday in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada, South Africa, and many other places around the world- and I know we have some awesome readers from these places who know all about this 🙂 Random trivia- the name ‘boxing day’ comes from when servants and tradesman would get their boxed Christmas gifts from their employers and managers the day after Christmas.

Anyway, this post started out as a short note about socks.

I was remembering when I was a child and would get upset about getting socks as a gift. Then adults would say to me: “when you’re older, you’ll appreciate getting socks!

Of course, I was positive they were wrong. But on my 30th Christmas, I received not one, but 6 pairs of socks. And I was overjoyed! I needed them! And I appreciated the pajamas I got too! And the scarf! Which I definitely could have cared less about earlier in life.

Which I guess means I’m a real adult now. 😉

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But anyway, as you may know, sometimes even though you’re officially an adult, you may not feel like an adult- especially when it comes to giving advice.

In the past, I’ve shied away from giving advice about money, even while I’ve been in the thick of paying off my student loans. I’m quite good at paying down debt (as evidenced by my major decline in student loan money owed, thank god) and I’ve spent hours and hours researching best ways to pay them down. However I’ve felt like there were people better qualified than me to give financial assistance.

And there are. But that doesn’t mean that people are going to find them. And that doesn’t mean I’m not at all qualified to give any advice- after all, I’m an adult. So I’ve tried my best to help people when they ask.

During Christmas, my younger brother Scott and my little cousin Justin were sitting together at one point, both playing on their phones and Nintendo 3DS’. My cousin (a junior in high school) suddenly started opening up about how he felt slightly pressured into choosing a certain major and how he wasn’t sure where he really wanted to go to college.

My brother, who’s 26, put down his game and gave Justin some advice. First, he asked Justin a bunch of questions. He inquired where Justin really wanted to go to school and what he was actually interested in studying. Then he told Justin to follow his heart but also to research everything. He said to be conscious of the money involved (my brother also knows all about student loans), but not to base the decision solely on money. It was a sweet moment.

I have no idea if my brother’s advice will have any influence on my cousin’s decision. But it made me think about how advice in general doesn’t have to come from an expert. And it doesn’t have to come at special scheduled times. Sometimes you’ll be asked for advice during holidays or at totally random moments. Feel confident that you’re adult enough to share whatever you’ve learned so far in life. You never know how much you’ll help someone.

Merry Christmas to all!

I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas day full of happiness and good company. I had a beautiful dinner with family, new and old, and ate lots of delicious things that are now rumbling around in my belly, competing for digestive supremacy.

My mom and I commuted through Grand Central Terminal to get to our destination this afternoon, and I was reminded of what a gorgeous building it is, especially in the holidays. The ceiling is filled with stars and the wreathes add a special touch. I tried to capture it in the picture below.

Sweet dreams and enjoy these final days of 2014. Wishing you and yours happiness on this day.

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Not Feeling It During the Holidays

Every year around the holidays, I wonder why I’m not “feeling it” the way I used to. Even though I’m now thirty, I find myself doing the same thing I did during the holidays as a teenager, and all throughout my twenties- trying to pull up an old feeling. You know that feeling. It’s that “magical holiday feeling”…remember it?

It’s an old memory now. Maybe I used to have it when I looked at the sky and was positive Santa was about to come. I guess I was awaiting something special…feeling that anticipatory glow. It came from expecting presents to appear out of nowhere…that wonderful moment of waking up and knowing something special has arrived…the feeling of barely being able to wait a moment longer. Now the closest feeling I have to that is when I open my email inbox after a long time of not checking it.

No, that’s sad. There are definitely times when I eagerly await something better than email.

But during the holidays, I guess I don’t know how to get that anticipatory excitement back the same way it used to be. So I performed my holiday traditions as usual- I got out my holiday stuff.

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My holiday soap

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My holiday socks

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My holiday owl tea mug. Yes, this is holiday related.

I lit my holiday candles and filled my room with pine smell. I made pumpkin everything. I played my Indie Holiday tunes Pandora station.

And I felt happy. I love all my little holiday traditions.

But I still didn’t get that old feeling back that I wanted so badly. So I sulked, vaguely disappointed. Every year I’ve sulked, feeling my special holiday feeling was just a hairs breadth out of reach.

And then I remembered something actors say to me all the time when I direct them in plays. They say, “Laura, I’m just not feeling it.”

And you know what I say back? I say “It doesn’t matter if you’re not feeling it! You’re not always going to feel it! Do the scene anyway! Just go with it!” I usually say this in a nice way, of course.

So with that in mind, I took a walk in Woodside at night during the first holiday season of my thirties.

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And I laughed.

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And I looked. And looked again.

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And I felt something mild, and silly, and light. A subtle feeling. Older in a different way. Something like peace. Possibly hope.

The old feeling was gone. It had been gone for a long time.

And that was okay.

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If I looked closely it had been replaced.

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Happy holidays to all of you. Let in anything you’re feeling right now. It’s okay.

The Holidays and the Cult of Busy-ness

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying your respite (and hopefully you do get one) with family and friends. I’m back home in NYC and enjoying time with loved ones. While all of this is wonderful and happy-making and I am truly grateful for this time of year…

…Do you ever feel like the holidays can bring some sense of angst? Or that somehow you’re not “doing the holidays right”? I do. There’s this expectation that because it’s holiday time, you must be so incredibly dizzyingly busy that you’re close to burn out. We’re bombarded by that message on TV, in magazines, online, etc. But, I find that I am not exceedingly “busy” and I feel worried that somehow I’m missing out on something great because I’m not so busy. Do I not have enough friends to entertain, not enough invites to holiday parties, not enough presents to buy? Am I missing out on something? Specifically, I think there’s this idea that women in particular must be exceptionally busy to be considered successful – that a woman must be balancing a thousand relationships and obligations at once. But, I’m an introvert and I treasure doing things slowly, savoring time with friends where I’m not distracted and not overextending myself.

Is this “cult of busy-ness” something that begins to happen in your thirties? I’ve found that this idea of being superwoman – managing a career, relationships, children, a home – seems to have become more omnipresent in my thirties.

As a dramatic writer, I often think about the silence in between moments between characters – that space where much is expressed without words. Silence does not mean inaction in a screenplay or stage play. I think this is true in life as well. Being busy and running around fulfilling to-do list check-off items isn’t necessarily more fulfilling than quiet moments of reflection.

So, I wish to you a holiday full of family, friends, and good food – but also, moments of quiet gratitude where you can take in all around you and rejoice.

Last weekend, Someone Punched Me In The Stomach (Or, A New Kind Of Love Letter)

New York City really doesn’t sleep. I used to fight the whole ‘city never sleeps’ thing, saying “of course we sleep! That’s ridiculous. Where do people think up such frivolous nonsense?” But I’ve long since realized that all the rumors are true. New York City is always alive and kicking.

Of course, I value sleep. And quiet. And space. And kindness. And peace. And nice smells. And I also love New York. These things don’t seem to go together. But I always thought (okay, still somewhat think) New York is different than its stereotype. “New Yorkers aren’t really rude,” I said…I say (I still say this), “they’re just in a hurry. If you block the subway door or stop to take a photo in Times Square, you’ll probably get pushed aside. And it won’t always be gentle. But people will probably say excuse me first…at least a second before they physically move you. They don’t mean it.”

However, lately, and for what is shockingly one of the first times ever, I’ve felt truly angered by all the people in New York who “don’t mean it” and by all the crowds. During the same week (last week) that I couldn’t get a seat on the subway on the way to work at 4am (city not sleeping), I was punched full force in the stomach by a man running down the street not watching where he was going. The wind was knocked out of me and I almost doubled over, but kept walking, as all New Yorkers in a hurry would. To his credit, the guy screamed out “oh, sorry!” as he continued running, but I was still pretty angry.

This was followed by a sea of photo-taking tourists blocking my way down the sidewalk plus being herded across the street by policemen who had closed off the crosswalk near the Radio City Music Hall with PoliceLineDoNotCross tape. I then waited outside in the freezing cold for over an hour to pick up Christmas Spectacular tickets (my friend’s a Rockette, so I wanted to see her… but I had no idea that Radio City Music Hall would be such a cattle call fiasco.) Afterwards, a woman blocked my entrance to Whole Foods, screaming obscenities at a a stranger who apparently exited out the wrong door. None of this helped my mood.

My mind reeled: “When did the city get so much worse???”

Then someone slammed into me and shook me out of my thoughts. ARGHHHHH!!!

Have I been hanging out in the touristy areas too long? Is it the holidays? Has the city been getting more crowded? Am I getting more sensitive? What. Is. Wronggg???

However, As I sit in Queens and enjoy my hot chocolate and peace and quiet, I start to forgive New York. After all, my stomach has healed. I’m feeling a lot better. And I’m awake at 2AM, feeling one with the city. If I needed contact lens solution right now, I could go out and get it. If I wanted an egg sandwich right now, that would also be available.

I want neither contact lens fluid nor an egg sandwich, but, but…I want YOU, New York! I don’t want to stay angry. I’m so sorry we fought. Apparently you can punch your tenants in the gut, raise the rent, and then laugh as we’re still magnetically drawn, powerless back into your clutches.

Bless you, New York. Bless you, crazy homeless guy smelling up the subways. Bless you, crazy wholefood lady giving strangers a piece of your mind. Bless you, garbage left outside with rats running around. Well, maybe not that.

New York and I in better days.

New York and I in better days.

Horror of the Day

I’ve lost my tolerance for scary movies. When I was a kid, I used to laugh at friends who covered their eyes when zombies popped out of closets. I was fascinated by the psycho clown that lived in the sewer system. Haunted hotels were intriguing to me, as was time traveling pursued by monsters, or ghostly hitchhikers, or possessed televisions and children of the corn.

Sometime slightly after college, I started to have nightmares following a scary movie binge. I became worried about pale dead hands reaching out from under a bed to grab my leg. I checked the bathtub and closet to make sure they were empty before going to sleep. Hotels, places I consider my home almost half the year, started to make me look twice around corners- I thought of bloody twins beckoning from the ends of long hallways: ‘come and play with us.’

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So I stopped watching scary movies. Letting these types of films into my psyche always seems to cause lasting fear (at least for a few days). I’ve been abstaining for years. Even when previews for horror films enter my sight, I attempt to look away, and especially to cover my ears. I’ve found that the sound is actually the scariest part of a movie- not the visual, as you’d expect.

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Once I started avoiding those movies, I became less scared in general. I was no longer very worried about dark hallways or creaky hotels or desolate alleyways. I mean, I have a healthy sense of danger avoidance, but thoughts of ghosts, monsters, and serial killers with chainsaws enter my mind much less often. Although I know it’s healthy to face your fears, I think there are times you can avoid them entirely. Yes, scary feelings are to be faced, but scary movies are absolutely avoidable. In fact, I’ve faced my scary feelings by cutting scary movies out of my life. I think that counts.

It’s sometimes hard to know what we should let into our minds and what we should keep out.  Last night, I watched the pilot of a new show, Penny Dreadful, not realizing that it was a horror show. I wasn’t really scared in the moment, so I kept watching. But last night I woke up from a dream about someone cutting out my stomach and watching turtles hatch and crawl out of it. Yeah, I don’t really need dreams like that in my life.

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Coping With Uncertainty Anxiety

Ever have the feeling like every aspect of your life is in flux? Well, I do now. It’s completely off-putting, especially for someone like me, who craves stability. The truth is, uncertainty is stressful and more than that, it’s uncomfortable. And who likes to be uncomfortable?

For me, the major uncertainties in my life right now revolve around issues like: whether or not I should stay in LA after I graduate even though I’m not liking it here, whether or not screenwriting/TV writing is definitely the career path I want to keep pursuing, and how can I make meaningful friendships in LA and continue to build friendships back home. These are major issues, but there are many more personal issues lurking in the shadows.

I don’t have answers but I do have some tips for when you experience uncertainty anxiety.

1. Embrace It

Allow all that uncertainty come into your life, and let it take a seat on your couch next to you. Living with the discomfort allows you to see that it’s tolerable. You will survive being uncomfortable.

2. Keep Moving 

Don’t let the uncertainty paralyze you. Make choices, and don’t be afraid of the idea that some decisions are “wrong.” Decisions are never really “right” or “wrong” but just choices.

3. Remember You Won’t Always Feel Uncertain 

You’ll never feel the same way you do now in six months. It’s a strong statement, I know, but I believe it’s true and it’s helped me a countless number of times to get through difficult situations. We are ever changing, and how we feel today is no predictor of how we’ll feel tomorrow. So yes, you may feel uncertain now, but it’s a fleeting feeling.

I hope this is somewhat helpful for you. I would love any more tips or advice, if you’ve got em!

When I See A Starbucks Red Cup, I Go There

I was thinking the other day of what Jane said about beverages. She was writing about ways to save money in your thirties and she mentioned that her major indulgences were beverages of all kinds. A glass of wine or fancy coffee here or there can add up, but they truly brought moments of happiness, so it was difficult to reconcile stopping them to save money.

As we sat sipping margaritas one day, another good friend of mine who follows the blog brought up that same beverage conundrum Jane wrote about. “I love my nice coffees or glasses of wine or margaritas. These little things make me so happy… I like saving money but I’d lose so much happiness now if I deprived myself of occasional nice drinks.”

And random acts of drinkable kindness do indeed bring me joy as well. Here we are in winter, and the need for cheer runs strong. Whenever it’s cold outside and I see a red Starbucks cup, my Pavlovian-trained mind snaps into action, and I feel the strongest urge for the happiest latte. I not only want to go into Starbucks, but I want to buy the sweetest, warmest, most holiday cheer themed beverage that I can hold in my chilled fingers. Better yet, if that drink was bottomless and refilled automatically, I could hold it all day as a warm fixture of my waking hours.

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Starbucks does a great job with their red winter cups- they’re a signal to my psyche that something nice is in the air. I mean, it’s definitely really good branding, and I won’t deny that they’ve trained people well…but I just let myself fall for it. The advent of the holiday cups invites time for ease, comfort, and celebration during a cold and occasionally stressful time of year. Getting myself an occasional holiday red cup coffee from Starbucks transports me to a cozy state of mind.

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I fight so many habits in my life, and I’m always trying to make the “right” food, money, and job decisions. Having a coffee or a glass of wine or even a smoothie or sparkling water with a friend is an indulgence I’m willing to embrace. A happy red cup of coffee can leave me transported. As long as they’re not in total excess, small indulgences can be bonds shared with others or with yourself. As much as I talk about how I love to save money, certain sweet moments of now I don’t want to save for later.

Also, this article was not sponsored by Starbucks. I wish.

Do you consider the “emotional payoff” of your goals?

The thirties are a decade I like to call the “striving decade.” We’re all pushing forward to accomplish things – to move up the career ladder, to find a life partner, to have children, to completely switch careers, etc. We have goals and they seem like they exist in a pressure cooker (at least for me, they do.) As an article in Jezebel once said, the 30’s are the “do or die decade.” (In our minds, at least.)

I recently was reading an article about OCD sufferers in Real Simple, and the therapists talked about how they coached their clients through their OCD affliction. They mentioned something that I found fascinating. It’s the idea of emotional payoffs from goals.

When we set goals for yourself, how often do you think how you want to feel after you’ve accomplished the goal? I realized that I rarely do.  Or if I do, it’s a very vague sense of “Oh, I’ll be so much happier once I’ve gotten a job in a writer’s room on a TV show.” But that’s not enough. You have to specifically identify the emotions. In this instance, the emotional payoff I want from that job is to feel like I’m using my best skills in a job, happy because I’m exercising my creative muscles, and content to be around like-minded people.

This idea of emotional payoff from goals could explain why a lot of people wake up one day and realize they’ve accomplished a lot, but still feel empty. And you begin to get that feeling that nothing you do will be enough.

So the key question to ask when you’re setting those New Year’s Resolutions is:

What emotions do you want to feel when you attain a goal? 

We All Have the Same Amount of Time

Dear Ones,

Haha, I only started this out by calling you guys ‘Dear Ones’ because it’s something Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ does in her Facebook posts all the time… And honestly, it sort of annoys me. Did it annoy you when I called you a ‘Dear One’? Or did you like it? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I actually LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert, and her Facebook posts just about always make me very happy, but the ‘Dear Ones’ thing just seems…patronizing? Old fashioned? I’m sure she doesn’t mean it that way AT ALL, because she seems like the sweetest person, but it rubs me the wrong way every time I hear it.

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BUT if I can get past that (and I can), she writes some very inspiring mini essays on Facebook. Today she wrote a thought-provoking little post about not giving up the great for the good. She was recounting how there’s always the same amount of time in a day and we usually fill that time with GOOD things- important things that we need to do- such as emails, holiday shopping, jobs, housecleaning, etc. Most of these things are, of course, necessary to life. But then she said that there are GREAT things we can be doing with our days as well, and that we have time for them too.

Now, at this point in her post, I thought Ms. Gilbert was going to go on to explain great things to be ‘travel to Indonesia,’ or ‘learn to code,’or ‘go windsurfing’ or ‘‘volunteer at soup kitchens everywhere,’ or other major activities in a similar vein. Elizabeth Gilbert’s a travel writer and an inspirational speaker after all. I expected great things to equate to major goals I guiltily feel I SHOULD GET TO or want to get around to doing ‘some day.’

But instead her GREAT THINGS were the exact opposite. They included:

  • Going for a long walk or a run alone on the beach, or in the woods, or in the city. (I LOVE doing this! This is, indeed, great!)
  • Going to Target with my best friend for absolutely no reason (YES! I love going to department stores or even grocery stores with my best friend for absolutely no reason. Great!
  • Sitting down at the end of the day with a glass of wine (I do this! I love this! Easy!)
  • Calling my mom just to say hello (So simple. So doable. Yet I don’t always do it.)

 

Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Or spending time with my friend and wandering through stores and to bus stops..

Or spending time with my best friend and wandering through stores …and from bus stop to bus stop

Elizabeth Gilbert’s personal list consisted of activities that…were easy to do. And they provoked simple, easy joy because they were basic little things. And they blew my mind because I already did them! I’d just never considered them ‘great things’ before. But they are. And I don’t recognize them.

Many days, my ‘great things’ slip through the cracks while I anxiously check off a never-ending to do list.

We all have the same amount of time in a day…and we can fit great things into our lives in such doable ways. The requirement is only to recognize those teeny moments of joy and allow ourselves to live them.

Hello, Vacation!

I’ve spent the last four days on the lovely St. John in the US Virgin Islands. I’ve been very lucky to come here on a vacation with my fiancée’s family. My only previous experience with the Caribbean has been the Bahamas, and whoa, this is a completely different trip! It’s a lot more quiet and beautiful here.

The clientele at this particular resort are older, and there’s not many folks in their 20’s and 30’s. The youngest travelers seem to be young parents in their late 30’s. The people who are around our age are usually expats from around the globe, many of who are in their late 20’s and 30’s and moved here for the exquisite beaches and sailing conditions.

While I’ve been here, I’ve been reminded of one important lesson. All the milestones that you think are real in your thirties – from getting married to having kids to landing that perfect VP level job – they aren’t real. They are just societally imposed. We met a married couple around our age, early 30’s, who ditched “cubicle life” (the husband was previously a medical biller in Queens, NY) to teaching sailing in St. John (they also teach sailing in Montauk, NY when the season is slower in St. John.) They stressed how important quality of life was to them.

We also discovered a couple in their 30’s (so it seemed) had just opened a PIZZA boat after the husband made his money in hedge funds and wanted out of the rat race. Basically, it’s a floating NYC pizza shop that will deliver via dingy. No joke. They studied at the Staten Island Pizza School and learned how to make perfect NYC pizza and then brought it to Christmas Cove in the US Virgin Islands. See their website here. As a pizza addict, I couldn’t have been more thrilled by this discovery.

We’re heading home tomorrow, back to reality. But for one more night, we’re here, in something close to tropical paradise. A place that reminds you that you can live whatever kind of life you want, at any age.

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The Never Empty Inbox

Thousands of emails had piled up in my inbox while I turned the other way, hoping they’d disappear on their own. Literally thousands…3,508 to be exact, spread evenly over my 3 email categories in gmail.

“How did I let it get this bad?” I thought.

The emails got unwieldy because I hadn’t wanted to read all of them the moment they arrived, but there were a bunch of articles I one day wanted to get to and read. “One day,” I thought, “I’ll have all this extra free time and I’ll want to read some of these fascinating articles.”

When I was in LA last week, I brought my computer and followed Jane to her job at the library. “I’m going to use this time to delete all my emails,” I said. And I did just that, sitting next to her deleting while she worked. In about an hour and a half, I’d gotten the emails down to 2,508..or somewhere around there.

Another hour later, and I’d gotten smarter and unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists…”maybe this will stop the craziness next time,” I thought. Some of the lists were hard to unsubscribe from…but most actually had a pretty clear unsubscribe button on the bottom of their emails. “I should have done this sooner.”

When I got back from LA, I still had over 1000 emails. I felt overwhelmed…was I going to have to go through all of it and find the good articles while deleting the bad? The anxiety deepened, and in one fell swoop, I did something I’ve never done before. I checked all the emails in every category and pressed ‘archive.’

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Suddenly everything vanished. I had an empty inbox and lots of time. And my anxiety was gone.

 

I didn’t miss the articles. I wasn’t nostalgic for the clutter. All I saw was an empty inbox and lots of peaceful time ahead. I felt the same way as when I moved and gave away 13 garbage bags full of stuff- I felt happy for more space and I never missed the belongings. Why did I ever have all that stuff to begin with?

Take the plunge.

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