How do you want to live your life?

“What do you want to achieve in your life?” It was a question that made me uncomfortable when I was first asked as a teenager. I thought it was because I was young. Now I’m in my 50’s and I still don’t know what I want do with my life, though I have some solid ideas about how I want to live.

Goals aren’t really my thing. Or at least not goals about achieving a certain outcome – I do have goals about the process to get there, again, the how.

When I first joined a gym, the trainer asked my friend and I about our goals. We said we wanted to exercise. He asked what we were hoping to get out of doing the exercise… and we said, exercise. It was a painful conversation as he insisted we must want to get stronger, or lose weight, or have better endurance. We agreed those all sounded like lovely things, and if they happened that would be great. But if we exercised – moved our bodies in ways we enjoyed – regularly and none of those things happened, that would be fine too. He never understood.

How do you want to spend your time?

A few years ago, I made a list with my kids about our “intentions” (not sure that was the best word, but it was fun to draw it with pretty pens). Our list:

  • loving people
  • caring for our bodies
  • being outdoors
  • caring for our home
  • caring for our minds
  • exploring ALL THE PLACES
  • making beautiful things
  • changing the world

When someone says they’re bored… we go to the list. When I’m wondering if I’m spending my time in the best ways, I check in with the list. Your list will be different of course, or mean different things to you.

What isn’t on the list?

Deciding what you’re going to stop doing, or do less of, is just as important as knowing what you are going to prioritize.

For me, when I switched from thinking about “long distance running” to “caring for my body” I had the aha moment that I wasn’t really enjoying the running much anymore, and it wasn’t really great for my body. Cutting back on the time I spent running has been so incredibly freeing! I do much more walking, yoga, and weight training, not to mention all the other things I do with the extra time I have.

Pick ONE focus for the day!

Even with a short list, you can’t do it all every day. I pick one thing each day – relationships or exploring or whatever from the list. I still go to my job and make meals and chat with people of course, but I do it through the lens of my one focus. If it’s “being outdoors”, then I do walking meetings with people at work where we get out in the sunshine, and maybe the kids and I eat dinner on the porch – have a picnic – and I might cut the grass instead of sweeping the kitchen floor. I trust that my body, heart, and mind will tell me when the time is right to focus on each of the things on my list. 

Enjoy your dreams for the future, and live what you can of them today

I have dreams – ooooh owning a pen and stationery store, or living by the ocean, or being a grandma – and vague plans for the future. I’m really really awful at predicting the future though (aren’t we all?) and I do love surprises, so I’m always excited about all the unexpected twists and turns life takes.

The dreams are fun ideas to play with and they give me clues to what I’m valuing in life. If one of my kids has children and lives near an oceanside stationery store that’s up for sale, well then great! But if none of those things happen, my life is no less rich. My kids are sick with colds right now, so I get to baby them. I’m travelling soon, so I’ll visit a new pen shop and maybe find a treasure or two. And I always find ways to be near ponds, rivers, lakes, and yes, the ocean. I live my dreams every day. 

ALL THE PENS!

Our home is full of space and openness – every room has clear surfaces, with only houseplants and truly treasured items out on display. It’s not a stark minimalist look – it’s a colourful and cozy 100+ year old house, just with not much stuff. It’s me and my two teenagers (and often their friends), so there can be noise and clutter for sure, but in general: Serene and tidy.

Here’s my nightstand.

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And our linen closet. daxEMtpOQS60+He0OSGwtg

Kinda empty right? Then… then there are the pens… ALL THE PENS!!! I never go anywhere without my 3 Coletos, 2 fountain pens, and Muji 0.38. I use them all, so joyfully, every day, so they get prime real estate in our office.

lots and lots of different pens
Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen, Coletos, random calligraphy pen set, MUJI, Flairs, Tombows, Sakura brushes, Microns, Copics, mildliners, and more and more 🙂

My daughter uses them too, and has pencil crayons and markers to add to the mix. fullsizeoutput_1a58

I can talk forever about which pens I use for which tasks and why – that will be a blog post or two in the future! For now, I’m going to go put some ink on paper 🙂

Powerful Books

A side effect of writing down my random thoughts is that I know the exact date when everything changed, when one of those thoughts was an epiphany. 

On April 4, 2015, I was sitting in Bryant Park in NYC (I already knew it was a magic place, this day’s events cemented it.) I was tired and a bit chilly; I’d realized that running a 10K race the first morning of a weekend of walking, walking, walking was not the smartest thing I’d done which led into a spiral of remembering all the other maybe-not-smart decisions I’d made. I couldn’t find the pen shop google told me was nearby, so basically I was failing at life.  

I did what I always do when I’m out of sorts, I started writing. Describing the setting made me appreciate it even more and the breeze made my notebook pages flutter against my hand, celebrating with me, comforting me. My angst blew away on the wind, and I wrote with happiness: I loved my decisions. Recently I’d started to “reset” my whole life and doing things – intentionally choosing to do things – that landed me writing in a midtown park on a spring day were definitely the right decisions.

Magic being what it is, when I looked up, the pen shop was right in front of me, hidden earlier by scaffolding. It was a book shop, and though their pen collection was my target, I browsed on my way in. There was a sweet little book featured – I’d heard of it, a japanese author telling us to organize our homes by sparking joy (https://konmari.com). Little woowoo, but I flipped through it, curious. And I saw the chapter called, “Reset Your Life.” The echo of my own writing minutes earlier made me smile. Woowoo indeed.

Its title truthfully claims it is Life-Changing Magic, and it sparks much joy in my life. I bought books on buddhism at my now favourite bookstore as well, and my life was officially reset.

I gobbled up – and began to practice – more buddhist teachings and minimalism. I didn’t just tidy up my house and office and computer (though radically decluttering them was, yes, life-changing), I decluttered my mind. HeatherAsh Amara’s Warrior Goddess books and workbook (https://heatherashamara.com) gave structure to my emotional work and gave me oh so much insight. Sarah Knight’s Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck (http://sarahknightbooks.com) might be less spiritual, but she nails it, what it means to choose how you want to spend your time, your life.

In 2016, off on another adventure in another magical place, I created my own ritual of release – where I let go of things tangled up in my heart and mind. Ocean waves washed away what I didn’t need, and soaked me (okay, maybe it was the sudden rainstorm that soaked me, but still) in serenity, freedom, and love.

I started writing about Radical Decluttering recently so the magnet that draws me to bookshops around the world (this one was found wandering while on a full-day layover between flights in Calgary) drew me to Tara Brach’s book on Radical Acceptance (https://www.amazon.ca/Radical-Acceptance-Tara-Brach). At the perfect time, of course. My journey continues, as I embrace this magical life. 

 

 

Treasured Tools

Have I mentioned my love of ink on paper? For me, writing things down is a meditative, sensory experience. The physical act of handwriting calms me and gives me joy. I also find that using a paper schedule helps my brain plan better – I rely on my computer schedule, and also write things into my Passion Planner (passionplanner.com) My planner is also where I put everything, work – kids – social – exercise – home. It’s highly personal and the place where I decide when I need a sanity day because it’s too cluttered, or notice the balance of time with friends and time alone is skewed. (More details in this blog post)

Work schedule & email: Novell GroupWise. I wouldn’t actually say I treasure this, so much as I appreciate the functions. It’s like Outlook or Google-Suite and makes sharing storing and finding information so easy. Booking appointments and meetings is easy, and I’ve got it set up to make managing my work load and work flow a breeze.

All computers – I do love tech! My favourite by far is my MacBook. I use Windows at work, and an iPhone, an iPad, and will gladly play with any other device you hand me.

Cloud services. I’m a certified Privacy Professional (CIPP/C) so I get the worry about putting personal information into online services. I decluttered my digital life radically too and have specific uses for iCloud and Google Drive. I have the privilege (?) of having to know the privacy settings intimately for my day job.

Pretty things! I don’t have many hardcopy files, but the ones I do have are in stunningly gorgeous folders. My MacBook has a colourful vinyl skin (from decalgirl.com) that makes me smile all day. My pen case and notebooks are lovely. I don’t keep notebooks when I’m done with them, but I have been known to take a photo of a few of them because they are so joyful to look at.