December in January: More…fun?

Just before the end of the past year, I decided to forgo my usual habit of cramming my annual planning into the most riotously busy time of the year. Hence, December in January, where I spend the first month of the chronological new year planning my own, to begin in February.

My shrink, a.k.a. my mental Rock of Gibraltar, has known me as long as anyone who has known me for the past eight years, and better than most. (This is, after all, what I pay her for, and what my fine, union health insurance paid her for before that.)

So when she says something, I generally find it to be both wise (because she is a well-educated smartypants) and considered (because she a thoughtful smartypants). Thus was I thrilled when I relayed my decision to make this year’s theme MORE ROOM and she approved wholeheartedly.

Well, almost wholeheartedly, which I guess means “partheartedly.”

Room, she said, was great. She was all for it. Given that I was a workaholic, though, and may I pause here to note that she dropped that clunker in there without so much as a howdy-do?, given that, had I perhaps thought of also making a secondary theme of MORE FUN? Because “fun” was something I generally stuck in quotes and/or onto calendars, to ensure it became a bona fide action item.

Mrs. Shrink. Please. Of course I thought of it: I’m a Virgo. I think, if not overthink, pretty much everything. This is why I continue to drive my sorry, overthinking ass 52 miles round-trip once monthly to sit on your leather love seat and cry. (Well, at Hanukkah, the G-Rock also puts out some pretty nice gelt for the customers.)

I also thought of, and rejected, MORE MUSIC. Because (woowoo alert!) when I looked at MORE MUSIC on the page, I felt sad instead of happy. Which is not to say that MORE MUSIC isn’t 100% splendid in theory. Many’s the time I’ve walked by my dusty guitar or watched a great performance on YouTube or thought fondly of the couple of songs I managed to squeeze out in early 2009 and been tempted to put MORE MUSIC on my priority list.

For that gal who makes HAVE FUN an action item, though, I figured that a MORE MUSIC would feel more like a burden and less like a joy. It would be sweaty and  effortful, not easy and joyful, some good-girl perversion of the real reason to make music, which is to open your heart and communicate (and yeah, to have fun, but not necessary as a subset of MORE FUN.)

MORE MUSIC, like MORE FUN, lacked ease. And if my signal phrase for 2010 is MORE ROOM, my watchword for it is EASE. Or perhaps, “E-A-S-E.” You know: now with MORE ROOM!

If my suspicions and those of my esteemed therapist are correct, that I have a tendency to beat myself up, to toil to exhaustion, to cram 10 lbs. of work into a 5 lb. day, then a natural outgrowth of giving myself MORE ROOM should be more of all the other good things: joy, music, fun, laughter, exercise, health, and rolling around on the floor with puppies. If I keep in mind that things can be done with EASE, or that life can unfold with EASE, or that EASE exists not only as an idea, but a reality, maybe I can loosen my death grip on myself and my eleventy-seven projects. Maybe some of the eleventy-seven will naturally fall away with EASE.

And maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass. I’m still conflicted, you see. But I have worked to open my heart, and it would be foolish to deny it these things it now seems to be asking for, this MORE ROOM, this EASE.

Besides, this doesn’t happen every day. The small, still voice doesn’t try to out-yell the Tasmanian devil with the megaphone; it waits it out. And if you hadn’t noticed, my time is less abundant than it once was. When September of this year rolls around, I’ll be one year from halfway to 100, and the most generous soul in the world can’t call that young.

So. Thus far, we have:

  1. Theme for 2010: MORE ROOM
  2. Watchword for 2010: E-e-e-a-s-e

I can’t wait to see what I come up with next. No, that’s not right. Of course I can.

I have all the room I need…



  1. Colleen,

    Big new fan of yours. Found you through Justine Musk. You could save me some trouble by taking a picture with her, so I could pin just one photo on my wall instead of two.

    How are you going to pull this off? An ambitious, focused workaholic who wants to make more room and have more fun in her life. You’re an extremely skilled writer, but this theme? I’ve read it a thousand times on ten thousand blogs. I take what you and maybe four or five other bloggers say seriously because of the fearless, probing honesty of your writing, and this is not a flame. But there is a huge industry out there that profits from getting people to this point in their thinking — here’s what’s missing, here’s what I want, set a goal, live your passion — and a tiny group of people who actually live this out and write about it honestly. I loved your S.M.A.R.T. goal approach to marketing and have followed those posts closely. Girl, they’re incredibly inspiring. I’d like to see exactly the same thing here. You undoubtedly have that in mind, because that seems to be how you roll.

    Our lives have so much momentum. Neurosis is self-sustaining. Change is so disruptive, and carries such a cost, and the benefits come so slowly and in such small increments before the snowball grows into something big enough to flatten the obstacles it comes across. This is the world most people live in.

    Per Colin Marshall (another heroically fearless blogger I love), I’ve been engaged in a little 10 year review of my own. Ten years ago I was facing life after a relationship that I systematically destroyed through my own workaholism and fear, and was laying the groundwork of my own financial ruin. I made ELEVEN attempts to settle on ONE hobby that was completely unrelated to my work, got me out of my head and into my body, wasn’t goal-oriented, and took my brain off-line (the final three: Aikido, yoga, Argentine tango). It took me FOUR YEARS to make enough room in my life for a sustained hobby, something I kept coming back to out of love and not a feeling of obligation. The number of fresh beginnings and paralyzing failures were uncountable. This was like turning an aircraft carrier around. I constantly sabotaged myself.

    Making more room and having more fun means working fewer hours. When I set out to work fewer hours, it turned out that money was about the least important reason I had for working so much. The other ten or fifteen reasons: they were very, very difficult to address. It took time, trial and error, continuous failure. As smart, articulate people, we’re the least able to change because we are so highly skilled in talking and reasoning ourselves into bad habits. You are smarter than the average bear, and so all the more vulnerable to this conundrum.

    I’ve always found myself a little jealous of actors because confronting exactly the things that make you uncomfortable seems to be something you’re specifically trained to do. Acting is about transforming, then inhabiting this other persona. That’s a great tool. I’m really looking forward to seeing how you confront these issues in your life. This word “confront” would appear to be incompatible with E-A-S-E, of course, but as you know, your issues will confront you whether you want to confront them or not. When you stick your finger in workaholism’s chest and push it up against the wall in the schoolyard, it’s going to get pissed off. That day’s blog post is one I really look forward to reading.

  2. I don’t know if it’s because I am a Virgo like you Colleen, but just about everything you write always resonates with me.

    I have been doing the December in January thing for years…it just works better for my brain… but YOU put a name on it gave it lots of reasoning and made it come to life. Naming something is powerful. And you are so damn good at this name game.

    colleen colleen bo bolleen banana fanana……

  3. Beautifully reasoned, and (I’ll bet) an Aha! moment on top of it: I’ve always found “ease” to be a great “tell” that I am on the correct track. Thanks for reminding all of us of that!

  4. Dan – I can’t tell if a gauntlet has been thrown down or a cheering squad organized or both (or neither), but your note—if we can call something this well-composed and thoughtful a “note”—has been reverberating in my head all day.

    How are you going to pull this off?

    I’m not sure, hence December in January. I find that as I take a hard line about these soft things—make MORE ROOM—ideas bubble up. So the trick in the short term is to firewall that time. This means a combination of scheduling, support and money (I am fortunate to have a good buffer at my disposal), on the one hand; on the other, it means rejiggering my brain.

    I have one tool I’ve been using called Nei Kung, which I can best describe as a kind of super-intense, internal form of t’ai chi. (You can read more via the link if you’re interested.) I had very good luck making some significant changes many years ago with a form of shiatsu bodywork (Ohashiastu, named after the founder). This time around, I’m a little further along on the awake path, so I’m able to move the chi around in a more self-directed fashion (although I’m working with Jim, my teacher, and expect to be for some time. Pray for my bank account.)

    I’ve always found myself a little jealous of actors because confronting exactly the things that make you uncomfortable seems to be something you’re specifically trained to do.

    That’s a really interesting perspective. I actually got out of it because it was so painful, continually contorting myself to tell a story from a particular character’s vantage point. Exhilarating, but exhausting. It is also both of these things, writing and especially speaking (because of the extroversion there), but I guess I don’t mind as much b/c the overall load is lighter (I’m not dragging my ass around town for auditions and rehearsals, and waiting for people to say “yes” to me) and b/c I’m telling my own stories.

    Thanks for giving me a lot to think about. I agree that some sort of structure would probably be helpful in the long run for other people, and I’d like to leave something lasting of some utility. I’ll have to think about whether I can manage that from the get-go.

    Debbe – Funny, I’d always thought of myself as HORRIBLE at naming. It was a weakness back in my advertising days. (Have I told the “master plates” story here on communicatrix?) Thanks for the kind words, and delighted I could somehow bolster what you’re already doing.

    Vivienne – Mini-“aha!” moments. No big ones yet. But hey, I’m not greedy—I swear! (Well, not much.)

  5. Let there be no doubt: I’m cheering for you.

    But it’s also true that I am challenging you to make these amorphous ideas concrete, apart from how you plan to get there. As David Allen says in his masterpiece Getting Things Done, the first question to ask is always “what does DONE actually look like?”

    Also, for the record, the aside “may I pause here to note that she dropped that clunker in there without so much as a howdy-do?” did not escape my attention. I look forward to your addressing that as well — happy to buy tickets for that show when they go on sale.

Comments are closed.