Monthly Archives: June 2019

Weekend wisdom 2

Welcome to another instalment of my (hopefully) weekly posts on the things that came through my inbox that resonated with me this week. (Week 1’s introduction post is here.)

First up this week is an old post that I had saved from Ali Stegart’s blog Alphabet Soup and somehow stumbled on again this week. It’s in my extensive email library*, which as we learned last week, is something I never look at so I’m not sure how I found it again.

Ali’s post complements what I was reading about perfectionism last week and echoes the direction my own thoughts have been going. Ali refers to “toxic perfectionism” and says

. . . perfectionism, like most traits, has pros and cons, a light side and a dark side. It can be helpful and harmful.

Perfectionism may well be the superpower that got you where you are. Be proud of your commitment to excellence. The world needs your people of your calibre and standards. However, high achievers and perfectionists are not the same. The former strives for real excellence, as in a personal best, or the best on the day; the latter pushes for an ideal, unattainable perfection. To the perfectionist, ‘almost perfect’ is the same as failure.

Ali says we should “strive for excellence, but make GROWTH [our] aim”.

I agree and think there is a whole world of difference between excellence and perfection, which is unattainable. Photographer David duChemin refers to perfection as

the bastard love child of a protestant work ethic and the fact that we celebrate the work of artistic genius but never acknowledge the process responsible for that work. We are told, if not by others then frequently by ourselves, “Unless we can create that brilliant thing, and unless we can make it perfect, don’t bother.” And we forget that any good thing is almost always a result of a long, slow refinement of something that almost always starts ugly.

I think some of my quest from perfectionism comes from comparing my work to that work of the artistic genius David refers to. I will compare my beginner level work to that of someone who has been working for many years and feel bad because mine isn’t as good, so I give up instead of striving to make my work better.

However, as David has pointed out, that person’s good thing is “a result of a long, slow refinement of something that almost always starts ugly” but you don’t see that in the finished product and you don’t see everything that the person has done, their years of training and practice and mistake-making they needed to do to be able to create their brilliant thing. David puts it like this

Perfectionism is a childish response, itself imperfect, incomplete. It pouts in the corner when it can’t get something done “right” the first time and so it never learns the lessons of craft and character that come from wrestling the muse to the ground and making something of nothing.

(Speaking of putting in the work, I also enjoyed this article by Charlie Moss on the Digital Photography School website.)

David’s comment reminds me not to compare my ugly starting point with the beautiful end-product of someone who has been around a lot longer than me, knows a lot more than I do and has spent years mastering their craft. It reminds me that my ugly starting point is not my finished product, so the comparison to any finished work, let alone that of someone else, is completely invalid. And it reminds me that if I don’t start at that ugly starting point because I’m overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy that arise from my work not being as good as that of the artistic genius, I will never achieve a beautiful end-product of my own.

20190628 Week 25 1

In the interests of embracing imperfection, here’s an imperfect photo of a beautiful sunrise on Friday, taken from the bus window

As one of my favourite people, Kendra Wright, says  “comparison kills creativity”. I love this expression and I try to bring it to mind whenever I start to feel like this.

Other things I read this week reminded me that it’s also important not to feel down on myself when I’m in this state of mind. Talking about comparison, Ali’s post says

If you find yourself struggling with feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and bitterness, it’s time to pause. Remember, these aren’t “sins” or character flaws; they are common human feelings that simply indicate how strongly you want something you don’t yet have.

Acknowledge the feelings without judgement. “Hmm. Interesting…” Then move on! Ruminating on it or shaming yourself or poking yourself in the eye do no good.

Acknowledging negative feelings without beating ourselves up about having the feelings was also a theme in an email from Cassandra Massey, who says

Feeling the bad emotions is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a healthy thing to do. But most of us believe that when we feel bad, we should do something to make ourselves feel better.

But feeling the negative emotions, along with the positive emotions, is what creates a deep and fulfilling human experience.

  • When someone dies, it’s normal to feel sad and to experience grief.
  • When you don’t get the promotion or the house, it’s okay to feel disappointment.
  • When someone betrays you, it’s okay to feel resentment (at least initially).

The problem arises when we try to resist or avoid the emotion by doing something to make us feel better. Trying to get rid of the emotion with food, wine, or even by trying to stay positive, is very disempowering.

And often times, the emotion grows. Emotions don’t like to be ignored. We have them for a reason.

When you call allow yourself to process the emotion fully, you become empowered.

My takeaway from her post is to use these negative feelings to motivate you to take the actions that will get you to the point you want to be rather than doing things to numb the feelings with self-destructive behaviours.

That’s a lot to think about!

*Actually my Evernote files, which I refer to just as infrequently as I do to my extensive email library.

19 for 2019: week 25 update

Week of 17 June

A couple of conversations with people this week have reassured me that I’m not the only one who is feeling miserable and downcast during these short, dark, cold winter days and I’m not the only one who prefers to hibernate rather than be around crowds of people at Dark Mofo. Instead, I went to a simple Winter Solstice candle ceremony with my yoga teacher and a small group to welcome the returning light. I know we have a long way to go to get through winter, but this was a lovely way to pause, reflect and think about what I want to shine my own light on over the coming year.

I made a little progress on my 19 for 2019 list. I watched two videos for my photo class (thing 1) and then I hid myself away for an afternoon to work on some assignments in Lightroom (thing 19). I completed four over the weekend.

20190624 Week 25 1

My wellbeing work (thing 6) has been around getting an evening routine into place and going to bed earlier. I’ve been trying to do this for years and have never made it stick. I wrote about a previous attempt in 2016, where I looked at the bedtime routine structure that Lisa Byrne put together in her book Replenish.

Lisa describes the bedtime routine as “a bridge from where you are at the end of the day to a place where your body and mind are ready to fall into a deeper level of rest”. Its purpose is to “slowly disengage you from the world and bring you back inward to yourself to ready your self for deep restorative sleep”.

She outlines four basic steps. First you cut your connection to the world for the night, by finishing up the jobs you have to do and turning off your screens and devices. You should have a fixed time to do this.

Then you move a step inward and do something to calm your body – it might be having a bath or a shower, washing your face, doing some light stretches, something gentle like that. Another thing that many sleep experts suggest as you start your bedtime routine is to dim the lights around the house to make sure your melatonin (the sleep hormone) production isn’t disrupted by artificial light.

The next step inward is to calm and soothe your mind, so Lisa suggests things like inspirational reading, meditation, calm breathing or journalling can be good to get thoughts out of your head before you go to sleep.

The final level of transition is to nurture your spirit. Lisa says that she loves “including something before bed that aligns with [her] spirit and symbolises what [she wants] to bring more of into [her] life”, so she might do some gratitude journalling or prayer.

Lisa shows it as going a bit like this: World >> Body >> Mind >> Spirit (but she has a pretty diagram rather than words).

So I’ve been focusing on the time I turn off my screens and devices and the things I do in between that time and bedtime. I’ve been trying to get back to a more consistent bedtime of 10.30 and to get to this I worked out I need to turn everything off by 10.00. So my first strategy has been to move shut down time back by 10 minutes every night, which worked well earlier in the week but not so well towards the end of the week. Not to worry. Today is another day.

20190624 Week 25 3

Rather than design a multi-step routine that’s too complicated I decided to set up a few things that I’d do using Lisa’s basic structure as a guide. Some of them, like brushing my teeth, I already do but others are new, like doing some light stretches. I also decided that, since I managed to break my morning meditation habit a few weeks ago and have been unsuccessful in re-establishing it, I’d try and do that in the evenings as part of the “calm your mind” part of the evening routine. I keep forgetting! And finally, a new breathing technique I learned at a yoga workshop that is supposed to help you drop off to sleep easily.

I thought if I only do a few things, once I’ve built the habits up then I can start to add in other things, like reading or gratitude journalling if I need to. Or this might work just fine as it is and not need any more changes. At the moment it’s a work in progress and I will keep trying to stick with it every night.

I worked on the list for the bucket list journal (thing 18) some more and I stuck October’s photos into my 2018 photo journal (thing 11). I also got up and walked every morning this week, although on Wednesday either my alarm didn’t go off or I slept through it and my walk was basically to the end of the street and back (it counts because I actually went out and did it). I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m getting back to normal with my walks and am hoping that’s also a sign that my winter mood might be lifting.

20190625 Week 25 3

Status for week 25

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 9 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 5 (1, 6, 11, 18, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  3 (2, 16, 17)
  • Things not started: 2 (10, 14)

Weekend wisdom

One of the things I try to do on Saturday mornings is to go through the backlog of emails in my inbox that I haven’t read or dealt with during the week. I’m a slightly flawed follower of the inbox zero regime and I don’t often get to inbox zero but I do like to only have a small number of emails there that I can see all at once.

But I’m not here to talk about emails.

I’m on more email newsletter lists than I really need to be, many of them because I signed up for one thing and then never got around to unsubscribing from the list. Some of them I usually delete without opening unless the title of the email really grabs me, like one did this week. Some of them I glance through and some of them I read in more detail if I have time. Those are the ones where I often find little snippets of wisdom or inspiration. They often appear just at the right time when I’m grappling with an issue or a problem, which is kind of cool. (Still talking about emails . . . )

Sometimes I save the email in my extensive email library—but I’m not really sure why, because I never browse through my extensive email library. I usually file it away and never look at it again.

Sometimes I copy and past a couple of quotes into my journal so when I re-read it I’m reminded. But I wondered if there might be a better way to keep track of everything and I thought it might be fun to make a weekly blog post of quotes and information that I found interesting over the week.

So here’s instalment 1 of Weekend Wisdom.

Perfectionism and procrastination from Cassandra Massey,  which is not a website I regularly read, but the headline got my attention.

What interested me about this was talking about how we procrastinate because we can’t do the job perfectly or because the perfect conditions aren’t in place, so we don’t get the job done. And then we feel bad and try to do something to make us feel better, which is normally something that isn’t productive, like binge watching TV, endlessly scrolling through social media, having another glass of wine.

The podcast says that what to do instead of giving in to the bad feeling by “buffering” with one of these “false pleasures”, is to begin to tell yourself that you’re going to do the thing anyway and say, “I am not supposed to feel great about this right now. I am not supposed to be experiencing a positive emotion.”

Cassandra says:

Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done before. Maybe it’s a big project that you’ve been putting off for a long time. And so you’re experiencing a negative emotion and so just reminding yourself that that is okay, that that is part of the human experience.

When you can train yourself to allow that negative emotion and to do it anyway, you’re really building up a new skill and so the more that you do this, the easier it is going to be for you to follow through on things that you don’t feel like doing even though you know that they are going to lead to the result that you ultimately want.

I’ve been experiencing a lot of negative emotions this week and I think that reminding myself that it’s part of being human to feel like that is a good thing to keep in mind on the bad days. And linking it to procrastination, a thing that I am a master of, like this isn’t something I’ve heard of before.

20190621 Davey & Harrington St

One of this week’s photos from @hobartstreetcorners on Instagram

This one is from photographer Dan Milnor on the Blurb blog, which also served as a reminder for me to stop procrastinating because whatever I want to do won’t be perfect and just do it anyway.

Art is what you want it to be. A way of seeing the world, a way of thinking, a way of making something as pure expression, or something that has meaning.

Art is pure freedom. You can create and make anything your mind can dream up, and this acts as a counterbalance to many of the less than savory aspects of being human. Art also works as a translator, connecting people with varying opinions through the filter of light, shape, color, form, or concept.

The best way is to just start. Remember, there really is no right or wrong, only how you see the world, or an individual piece you are creating. Create as if you are the only person who will ever see the work. That way you allow for your real vision to shine through and not the vision you think people want to see.

Making art for art’s sake is a GREAT way to breakthrough creative plateaus. When left alone with no strings attached, you will create work that is pure you, and often times, this is the best work you will ever create.

And finally this week, some words from one of my favourite writers, James Clear, on the importance of showing up every day and mastering the fundamentals of whatever it is you’re trying to do.

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one critical event or one “big break” while simultaneously forgetting about the hidden power that small choices, daily habits, and repeated actions can have on our lives. Without the fundamentals, the details are useless. With the fundamentals, tiny gains can add up to something very significant.

Nearly every area of life can be boiled down to some core task, some essential component, that must be mastered if you truly want to be good at it.

Mastery in nearly any endeavor is the result of deeply understanding simple ideas.

For most of us, the answer to becoming better leaders, better parents, better lovers, better friends, and better people is consistently practicing the fundamentals . . .

PS. I wasn’t going to post this at all because I didn’t have a snappy title for it. But I talked myself into it because if I’d waited until I had the right title, I’d still be waiting this time next year. Done is better than perfect.

19 for 2019: week 24 update

Week of 10 June

This week was much better than the last few weeks have been. I got up every day and went for a walk. I count that as a win.

I also completed another of my 19 things! Yes!

I had to go to the GP and this time I remembered to ask about getting a skin check (thing 4) and she agreed it was a good idea. I got a recommendation from her about a good doctor and I phoned them the next day to make an appointment. When they said they had an appointment available the next day, I decided to just do it and get it over with rather than drag it out to next week. So I did it, had a great conversation with the doctor about where he gets his very cool socks from and learned that I should be using sunscreen a lot more.

This is a thing that has been on my list for six years. I now have a standing task in my to-do list to make an appointment every year as is recommended for people with my Celtic Princess complexion living in this unforgiving sunny land. It’s either that or move back to the land of my ancestors.

I watched seven of the photo course videos (thing 1) and completed two assignments in Lightroom (thing 19) with photos I took last year near Lake Pedder. I’m working through the last few photo course videos, which are all around using different functions within Lightroom. I haven’t learned a lot that I hadn’t already figured out for myself but it’s good to see that what I’m already doing is pretty much on the right track and I have picked up a few extra tips and tricks along the way.

20190610 Assignment 24 1

A foggy day in South West Tasmania, July 2018

20190610 Assignment 25 1

The Needles, July 2018

20190610 Assignment 25 2

Serpentine Dam, July 2018

I watched this week’s wellbeing videos (thing 6) and completed some of the exercises from a couple of weeks ago, including looking at ways to better support myself while I’m in this winter slump.

I stuck a couple more collages in my 2018 photojournalist (thing 11), I did some work on my photo project (thing 16) and I googled some manicure places to work out where I want to go (thing 17).

I finished a list of 100 things to put in the bucket list book (thing 18). I want to sit with it a bit to make sure there’s nothing I really want to do that isn’t on the list, or anything that’s on there I don’t really want to do. I know I’m overthinking this, because there’s nothing to say I can’t change anything on the list and I don’t *have* to do everything this week (or ever). It’s just an inspiration list and I’m sure I’ll think of other things to go in there along the way (which means I’ll just need to get another book!)

Status for week 24

  • Things completed this week: 1
  • Things completed: 9 (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 6 (1, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  1: (2)
  • Things not started: 4 (10, 14)

19 for 2019: week 23 update

Week of 3 June: Sunday 9 June 2019

My work has been incredibly busy the last month. I have been putting in long hours, not taking proper breaks and not taking very good care of myself. I haven’t been walking, I haven’t been drinking enough water, I haven’t been creating and I haven’t been going to bed on time. Some other stuff has been going on too that’s been emotionally draining. I’ve been feeling terrible.

As you might imagine, I’ve made very little progress on my 19 for 2019 things since my last update, which was about four weeks ago. I haven’t had the energy to do anything and when I have, I haven’t had the energy to write about it.

It’s a long weekend now, the immediate work deluge is over and I am exhausted. Saturday I spent doing very little. I didn’t even get out of my PJs, let alone go for a walk. I couldn’t even remember the last time I got up in the morning and went for a walk.

What I know is that not walking is not good for me. I could possibly excuse myself if I were getting extra sleep instead of walking but I’m not. I’m waking up at my walking hour and lying in bed trying to justify why I can’t get out of bed. I’m worrying about things that are worrying me and I’m overprocessing everything. It is not restful. I am doing myself no favours.

I realised this when my friend posted on Instagram a few days ago that walking for him is non-negotiable. He does it, rain, hail or shine because walking is his only exercise. It’s my only exercise too and I’m not doing it; therefore, I am not exercising. At all.

Exercise, so they say, is good for you and it is especially good for you when you are feeling as horrible as I am right now. So laying around in bed feeling sorry for myself has to stop when I can get up and go for for a walk in the sub-antarctic temperatures and have a real reason to feel sorry for myself because it’s so fucking cold. I can overthink all I like when I’m out walking and it won’t matter because I’ll be moving. I don’t care about steps, kilometres, any of that. I don’t care if I’m on Instagram or Facebook the whole time (sorry, Bored and Brilliant challenge). I care that I get out of bed and I walk.

This morning (Sunday), I let my alarm go off and I lay in bed thinking about getting up. I thought about every reason I had to get up and every excuse I had not to. I lay there for an hour with the excuses winning. I did not want to get out of bed. I finally told myself that I might as well get up and get it over with because I was going to do it anyway. I had committed to doing it last night. I was going to do it. I thought about what my friend had written and I told myself that I am no longer sick, I have no excuse.

It was painful, but I did it I got up, got dressed and went outside. I walked. I actually went for a walk. I know it doesn’t sound like a big achievement but it was so hard. I had only walked three or four mornings in the last month and it’s no longer a habit.

20190609 Week 23 2

Sunday sunrise

Now that I’ve done it once, I have to get back into making it something I just do, not something that I have to force myself to do. I suspect it will be a long, slow road back, but I have to do it. I have no excuse. If I don’t walk, I won’t move at all and that’s not a good thing for my physical health or my mental health.

None of that is in any way relevant to any of my 19 for 2019 things but I needed to write all that down, to acknowledge what’s been going on. Our lives ebb and flow through busy times and relaxed times, hard times and easier times. There are times we can work hard, play hard and then there are times we need to rest. And when the times we need to rest roll around we need to respond to that need and rest, because if we don’t, the wheels fall off the wagon and we start to lose our anchors and we end up in the place I’ve been for the last couple of weeks.

I don’t know if I’m fully okay now but I know that today I’ve done the one thing, out of all the things I could have done, that is going to be of most benefit to me right now. And tomorrow I will get up and do it again.

One day at a time.

And I did catch up on some of my things this week.

I watched a video for the photo course and completed an assignment (thing 1). I did some work on my photo project (thing 16) and then decided I needed to learn some more Lightroom skills before I actually do this work, so I’m focusing on that (thing 19). I think the rest of the photo course videos are Lightroom techniques, so I will be making progress in two things as I work through them. I stuck three collages in my photo journal (thing 11) and I did some planning for how to finish some of the outstanding tasks in my wellbeing program (thing 6). Yeah, I know, planning is not really progress, but I feel better having a plan.

20190609 Week 23 1

An assignment

Status for week 23

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed: 8 (3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 5 (1, 6, 11, 16, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  2: (2, 18)
  • Things not started: 4 (4, 10, 14, 17)