Act Smart!: Staying honest with the mid-year check-in

“The days are long, but the years are short.” Author and happiness sleuth Gretchen Rubin calls this one of her “secrets for adulthood,” and for this adult, it rings true. The line reminds me that nothing lasts forever, even a really bad day. And at the same time, it cautions that all of my days will blow past me before I know it—something driven home just this week, while watching a young man whom I’d seen take his first steps and say his first words kill it as the lead in a local 99-seat musical.

Time is squirrelly. And to manage mine well—both the days and the years—requires discipline, spontaneity, and wisdom to discern when to take which approach. So right now, I’m thinking that mid-year (and yes, we’re officially halfway through with 2015!) is a great time to review my intentions for this 12-month stretch, to see where things are working and what might need some adjusting. As a scale, I’ll keep it simple by rating myself from 1 – 10, with 10 being “perfect” and 0 being “get on it, girlie”.

Feel free to grab your own 2015 goals/resolutions/Best Year Yet plan and play along!

1. I will use the phrase “It wasn’t for me” to describe things that weren’t: 9/10

This has been a relatively easy one to keep so far. I can’t tell you how much better it feels to allow everyone the dignity of his experience. Oh, wait—yes I can: it feels better than saying something cutting and hilarious that’s guaranteed to get a laugh. It feels better than being part of the “in” crowd, the cool-kids’ group. And sadly, I am someone who really still wants to be part of this mythical cool-kids’ group. But really, I was at least half-expecting this reaction.

What I was not expecting was that it would free me up to take more chances with my own work. Maybe going public with a drawing-a-day for a month or lettering for 100 days would have been possible without this practice of gracious commentary, but maybe it wouldn’t. And it feels far, far better to be able to put myself out there than it does garnering an evanescent laugh at someone else’s expense.

2. I will write every day: 2/10

Not even close. I abandoned my everyday writing commitment at the end of January—not great, considering there were five months to follow where I not only didn’t write everyday, but I barely wrote at all. (I’d like to thank Casting Networks for making sure I write at least one day per month!)

I don’t feel as bad as I might about this failure, for two reasons. First, almost as soon as I quit writing, I picked up a pen and started drawing. I do something creative every day, and even if the thing I’m doing that day isn’t stretching me much, every little bit of practice helps. Second, writing just “went away” from me for a bit. I went to the well, and the well was dry, or I went to the lake and it was fished out, or some other watery metaphor. I’d been feeling like I was pushing it for a while with writing, and while I’m very anti- the idea of writers’ block, I’m very much a believer in burnout.

Lately, I’ve felt glimmers of interest in writing things down again. I’m not going to push it; I’m going to let it evolve naturally, as long as I’m staying honest about hiding out and being scared vs. lying down because I’m exhausted.

3. I will note the remarkable: 0/10

I think the last time I did this may have been when I wrote January’s column! But this brings me to another good reason to revisit intentions: I can be reminded of them. And this is a good one that I just forgot.

4. I will only note—not berate—”infractions”: 8/10

I’m astonished by how well I’ve been able to hew to this, given my decades-long history of self-loathing. (Speaking of which, if you missed Laura House’s hilarious and moving solo show, How to Hate Yourself at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, you should probably follow her on Twitter so you can get word if it happens again.)

If I haven’t said it enough lately, attention is the single greatest game-changer out there. Really. Change requires far less effort if attention comes first.

5. I will consider Colleen of the Future: 7/10

In addition to doing something creative every day, so far this year, I’ve re-instituted a savings plan, paid down a considerable amount of debt, and meditated daily. By the time you read this, I will have finished up a month of Whole30—a sorely-needed reboot that I hope will stick.

The bad news is that I can count on two hands the number of days I hit, much less exceeded my 10,000 daily steps. Exercise has been all but nonexistent, and I know that fitness is one of the greatest gifts I can give to Future Colleen.

The good news is that one good habit tends to beget another. Drawing every day for 31 days led to a commitment to do something way outside my expertise (i.e. lettering), and for 100 days. A few weeks into eating right, I “accidentally” gave up coffee. (As I write this, it’s been 10 days, although given all I’m reading about the benefits of coffee, I’m not sure I’m going to give it up completely.)

Wherever you’re at with your intentions for the year, try to observe #4 on my list as you look back. We’re all doing our best, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in these six months, it’s that the carrot is better than the stick.

Although is not half as delicious as the pizza.

* * *

BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH: The old saying that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it (attributed variously to George Santayana and Edmund Burke) might seem a ridiculously weighty thing to apply to a book about free-wheeling 1970?s Hollywood, but hey, we live where we live and are products of the reality-TV-saturated culture we steep in. But amidst the gossip, scandals, and backstabbing that author Peter Biskind generously distributes throughout Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, there is some primo instruction, much of it taking the form of cautionary tales. However, on the not-so-dark side, there is also much to be gleaned on the values of persistence, diligence, tribe, and turning dross into gold. Plus, if you were born after 1990, you are almost guaranteed to come away with a terrific “must-watch” movie list.

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