All posts in: quarterlife crisis

15 Oct 2017

procrastinating upholders anonymous

Four years ago, I read Gretchen Rubin’s habit-formation manifesto – Better Than Before. That was a book I  enjoyed reading, just for the nerdy pleasure of reading someone else’s obsessive thoughts on an abstract topic and also thought would be useful for my own habit-forming endeavors. But while I’ve checked it out of the library many times in the last four years – mostly at time when I’m feeling habit-stagnant – I feel like Rubin’s plethora of habit analysis hasn’t yet helped me cross that important line between intention and action. I can scheme and dream all day long, selecting strategies from Rubin’s impressive toolbox, but here I am – years later – still absent of some of life’s most important habits.
(See: Writing. Exercise. Meditation. Flossing)

While all of Rubin’s habit-forming techniques seemed generally useful, none jumped out at me as THE technique that I would and could use to magically become a grown-up and floss my damn teeth achieve my goals of everyday life. Maybe, I thought, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my Tendency.

In Better Than Before, Rubin proposes a simple personality matrix that sorts people into useful categories based on how they respond to expectations; it’s useful quality to know about yourself when you are trying to form and keep habits, but it’s also a quick, handy, and usually apt way to sort out your personality and the personalities of those you love and work with.

(What I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent the last four year trying to apply this pop-psychology personality matrix to myself and everyone I’ve known. Trust me, it’s much easier than trying to Myers-Briggs a person!)
(Yes. I am probably an annoying person to hang out with.)

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who found Rubin’s framework fascinating: she just put out a follow-up book, all about The Four Tendencies. I was excited to read it so I could continue to annoy, analyze, and perhaps subtly manipulate people. (But only for the greater good, people! Consider me the Varys of any given organization, party, family, or other social group). But I really was hoping the advanced personality insights contained in this book would shed some light on my own personality/habit dilemma.

I’m an Upholder. Or at least, I think I’m an Upholder. Upholders respond readily to inner expectations AND outer expectations. They can set and meet New Year’s Resolutions. They meet deadlines, drive the speed limit, and show up on time. Upholders are rare and obnoxious (see above paragraph?). They respond readily to inner expectations AND outer expectations. They are generally annoyed by people who can’t get their shit together.

I read this personality description in Better Than Before and said, “Oh yes, that’s me,” and didn’t think much about it. Took the official quiz later and my score matched… but tbh, the official quiz is kind of leading and bogus if you already know the basics of all four types.
Then, a few months ago, I started to wonder why I couldn’t make myself write anymore. Or go to the gym. Or floss my gd teeth.

Am I a horrible, ineffectual Upholder? An Upholder who regularly bites off more than she can chew? A procrastinating Upholder?

Or maybe I’m an Obliger in Upholder’s clothing. Apparently it’s common. Obligers readily respond to outer expectations but even though they really, really want to respond to inner expectations, they can’t and will never be able to. Many of my significant life accomplishments have been born of outer expectations. I’ve made more New Year’s Resolutions than I’ve kept. A penchant for list-making and a well organized stationary collection does not an Upholder make. Am I an Obliger, obsessively draping myself in the trappings of The Upholder – the spreadsheets, the schedules, the lists, and index cards? Am I an Obliger in deep denial?

Unfortunately, Rubin’s Four Tendencies didn’t go quite deep enough to give me the answer to that question. Perhaps this a question better suited to, oh, some sort of professional therapist and not a random pop-nonfiction book. But one paragraph from the Upholder chapter did offer me one tidbit that stuck with me:

“Although Upholders can indeed reject outer expectations in order to meet inner expectations, they don’t always have a clear sense of what they expect from themselves. For an inner expectation to be met, it must be clearly articulated. Therefore Upholders must take care to define for themselves what they want and what the value – that clarity is essential.”

That’s more like it. I’m not having an identity crisis. I’m seeking clarity, which, as The Indigo Girls have assured me for years, is really just a normal human being crisis. I’m suspect to the typical foibles of Western living* – eating too much junk food, skipping exercise, giving into the lure of the Internet instead of pursuing my higher, more noble goals – while also probably having an Upholder tendency that tips toward Obliger (aka Oldest Child Syndrome?) I’m reading, writing, thinking, always seeking some bit of wisdom or idea that makes my path clearer.

As an Upholder, finding that clarity would be especially useful to my pursuit of health, happy living and flossed teeth. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find. And, apparently, that doesn’t mean that Gretchen Rubin is equipped to help me find it. Am I ready to move away from the “Self Help by Science and Good Living” section of the library and move onto the “Self Help Seeking Clarity by Woo-Woo Visualization and Spiritual Healing Crystals” section of the library? Not quite yet. I tried to listen to The Tools, thinking it was more about Science and Good Living, but I wasn’t ready for the Woo. For now, I’m still just a Rubinette. But check back in a few months; maybe I’ll have sought enough clarity to meditate myself to a higher plane and will have all sorts of Healing Crystal books to recommend.

10 May 2016

all of the pregnancy things

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The First Trimester

From what I had gathered from the collective female wisdom of the world, the first trimester is all about feeling like crap. I’ve always been a bit of an emetophobe, so I’ve always felt nervous about the horrors of morning sickness, which, the Internet will readily remind you, should really be called all-day sickness¬ and maybe it won’t even stop and you’ll just have a nice case of HG on your hands and, and and…

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I was a lucky, vomit-free lady. Mostly nausea-free, too… but I still felt like crap. Evenings were the worst. My commute left me exhausted and even bland comfort foods left me wishing I’d eaten something else. I spent a lot of time with my DVR and Netflix.

Yes, it could have been much, much worse. I ate fairly normally – got to enjoy Thanksgiving, even – and felt well enough to work. But mentally, the fatigue was tough. My post-work gym trips weren’t happening. Neither were book reviews, homemade dinners, or post-work much of anything. It was upsetting and stressful not to be able to stick to a good habit or routine.

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The Anxiety

Add to that an immediate, heaping dose of anxiety. I think I had about 12 hours of excitement, followed by weeks and weeks (and weeks) of “oh shit” and “what the hell is going on??”

Hormones. My natural disposition. The proliferation of pregnancy forum users who have populated Google searches with stories of injury and loss for every symptom, for every lack of symptom, for every week+day. The secrecy. The maddening “just wait and see” (if your tiny ball of baby cells is still alive) nature of gestation.

It’s a normal process, pregnancy. Miscarriage, also normal. High strung control freaks, beware.

What helped? Attempting to stay busy. Bloggers who wrote candidly about pregnancy anxiety (Spacefem, Wisdom & Honey, Daily Garnish). Keeping a journal. My dear, darling understanding husband.

The morning of my 12-week ultrasound, I decided that would be it. If everything looked good, then it would be real. I would try to stop assuming that everything would come crashing down around me, start considering the likelihood that I would have a healthy, normal pregnancy.

Not only did everything look good, everything looked like an actual baby.

The anxiety didn’t stop entirely at that point – don’t worry, I’m still finding all sorts of things to freak out about – but it did let up a little.

Photo on 3-9-16 at 8.31 PM

Second Trimester

I stopped feeling so impossibly gross around 11 or 12 weeks and decidedly less of a panicky basket case by 16 or 17. The first half of the second trimester seemed to be mostly all about telling everyone. Tell family (“WE KNEW IT!”). Tell Michigan friends (“OH MY GOD, FINALLY!”) Tell Boston friends (“OH MY GOD, WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO PUT YOUR BABY IN YOUR TEENY APARTMENT?”) Tell boss, tell work friends, tell friends that live across the country, tell the Internet, tell random cashiers, tell your dental hygienist, tell waiters who are trying to serve you cheese that is just too delicious, tell, tell, tell, tell… Make your gestational status known to the world, Jessica! Enter the realm of the Publicly Pregnant!

And then, in the second half of the second trimester, I started to get big enough that telling wasn’t quite so necessary anymore. I laughed at this poor, dear 16 weeks along Jessica who woke up on a Saturday and sincerely thought that she was “showing” a little:

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Other Getting Huge activities have included feeling super awkward at my gym full of weightlifting bros, jury-rigging a pair of jeans with a long tank top and yoga pants into something resembling maternity pants, waking up a zillion times a night with sore hips, and hiding little bags of Tums in every pocket, drawer, and purse in my possession.

Since I suppose I’m not the only one Getting Huge here, activities in my baby’s life seem to include punching, kicking, rolling, tumbling, and generally not sitting still. I felt the first little twitches early; by 16 weeks they were pretty regular and occasionally visible. It started off feeling super weird – like being inhabited by an alien – then for a while it felt mostly like gas. Now the dang child is so acrobatic I almost don’t notice.

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Third Trimester

And here I am, now well into the third trimester. 33 weeks… the home stretch. I suppose I’m still feeling *reasonably* good. As in, I’m still standing. I’ve graduated from Tums to Zantac. Still doing some leg weights at the gym once a week or so, but trying to get my 10k steps a day otherwise. I spent the first half of April on the go – five nights in Denver for PLA (which was super fun!) then four nights in Michigan for my baby shower. Aside from trying to get things out from under my airplane seat, the travel was fine… but as soon as I got back to Boston, everyday life became a little more, ah, challenging. My usual routines have me feeling more fatigued, irritated, and uncomfortable than usual.

Okay, maybe a lot more.

But! I’ve got seven-ish weeks left to go. Seven weeks of working, commuting, book reviews, cooking dinner (ugh), and… um, also actually getting ready to have a baby? I’m trying my best to stay generally chill about the process – it’s natural! Normal! Ordinary! But daaaaamn there’s a lot to do and think about and decide.

First you have to get the kid out – bring on the doctor’s appointments, the forms, the L&D tours, the hospital bags. I’m planning on delivering without pain medications or interventions. That decision was easy enough – it’s what my mom did (4 times), it’s what I’ve always imagined or myself, and the medical benefits seem clear. But now that I actually have to make it happen, it seems like less of a mystical, somewhat crunchy choice – a personal moral mission statement – and more of a confluence of chance (will baby and I stay healthy?) and a measure of personal determination. So I’m trying to psyche myself up by reading books, taking a weekend childbirth class, avoiding scary birth stories on the Internet.

Also, trying not to think too hard about how big a newborn baby actually is.

After that, though, you have a new baby! Which is also a new health situation unto itself. In the hospital, babies need shots and tests and other health stuff. They may need to be circumcised (or not?). They definitely need a pediatrician. And then there are all the… post baby-coming-out-of-your-body… issues. There’s no way to know how healthy either Mom or baby will be – either everyone will recover and thrive quickly or there will be hurdles.

Is that is? Anything else?

Baby care. Baby names. Breastfeeding. Sleeplessness. Marriage maintenance. Laundry. Visitors. Money. Childcare. A lifetime of providing care, assistance, and love to a new human I have not yet met. How do so many people accomplish this task? How does this stroller fold up again? What is this thing with pages and words that I remember from a time gone by? A book?

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I’m sure I’m not the first lady to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: pregnancy has definitely been one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a major life decision; one of those monumental decisions that – at least for the likes of me and my dearest husband – necessitates months (years?) of discussions, debates, scheduling, and taking care of one’s emotional… laundry. It’s a major lifestyle shift, not unlike… oh… deciding to move across the country. The teetering to-do lists, the money-spending, the planning-talking-planning-talking-planning; it’s all reminding me very much of when we moved to Boston. Like moving, it feels like a good choice, and an exciting one. A choice that will change our lives in many positive ways. But there’s also no way to know for sure what’s down the road now… and either way, we’ve officially signed up for a major, adult-style upheaval.

It’s been a complicated logistical task, yes. A relationship challenge, an emotional workout, a medical condition (sort of), and a giant leap of faith.

But it also feels like… a magic trick. A bit of mystery that my body has conjured up, that women have been conjuring up since the very start of it all. It makes me feel connected to those other ladies. To my mother, and the rest of the my family. To my husband.

To the world in general. We’re all in this crazy, perpetuate-the-species procreation game together.

It’s completely awesome.

It’s completely overwhelming.

It’s all about to be over, and it’s all about to begin.

 

A Brief Reading List

Now what kind of a book blogger would I be if I didn’t send you out with a little reading list? Here are some (relatively) useful pregnancy-related books I’ve read during the past year or so.

The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant by Jean M. Twenge –  Maybe it’s just the crowd I hang out with, but I feel like there are two options when it comes to trying to get pregnant – impatient or oops. There is no patient. This book was easy to read, mildly edifying, and comforting.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler – The kind of personal medical tome you don’t want your friends to see laying around your house. But it definitely demystifies the whole “getting knocked up” thing real quick.

Common Sense Pregnancy by Jeanne Faulkner – When I found out I was pregnant, this was my official Life Milestone, YouDeserveToSpendMoneyonaBook choice. It was a little light on the actual pregnancy information – mostly birth stuff – but, again, “common sense” says that pregnancies are pretty boring and not requiring much information.

Expecting Better by Emily Oster – I tried to read this book right away, but the first few chapters are all “what dangerous stuff *actually* causes miscarriage which, even though I hadn’t been dabbling in the dangerous, freaked me out. I came back to it later and found it pretty fascinating on audio.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – I’ve dipped into other birth-related books, but this is the only one I’ve finished. The first half is a bunch of happy, hippie birth stories. The second half is medical info with a “just try to avoid anything medical” slant. I liked it, but… I’m into that kind of thing. Your personal mileage may vary.

10 Mar 2016

31

Hello there.

I do not believe that keepers of blogs should begin their writing by apologizing to the reader. I’m sorry I haven’t been writing is how I want to begin this post, but how I *want* to begin a piece of writing is only occasionally how I *ought* to begin a piece of writing. Snipping that apology seems like easy editing; tighten it up, get to the point, skip over the bits where you have to reckon with yourself as a writer and get writing.

What’s more, I don’t think the apology should be necessary. You are a keeper of a blog, yes, but you are also a human being living on the planet Earth. You used to be a teenager with entirely too much free time, a college student with a cushy part-time job with few job duties and unlimited Internet time, a twenty-something with more thoughts and dreams than your brain could safely contain.

Now, I am 31. I am a full-time librarian; a professional book reviewer; a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend.

A real, live grown-up…

who writes a blog post once a quarter.

I want to write more about blogging and writing. I want to write more on this blog in general. But right now, it’s my birthday, and I want to write about what is on my mind as I turn 31.

  • Thirty-one feels like a weird age. A decade-plus-one. Seems like a pointless differentiation from thirty. But then again, *twenty*-one was so exciting! Strange to think I have been a legal drinker for ten years, especially since I am in the midst of probably the longest drink-free spell I’ve had for a decade. I have a lot of good things to say about life without alcohol, but I also haven’t had to watch anyone crack their fresh Sam Summer of the season in front of me yet, so I’ll reserve any teetotaling wisdom for the time being.
  • 29 and 30 years old are kind of loaded ages. “Oh my god, I’m almost 30!” then “Oh my god! I’m in my thirties!” Thirty-one doesn’t hold any particular emotional for me… but its proximity to 32 does. You see… I discovered that adults have ages when my mother was 32. I would have been about 7. Since elementary-aged children are curious but perhaps not the most attentive to the personal lives of others, I kind of just thought my mom was 32 for like… 5 years. 32 is how old moms are. They just get to 32 and stop there. And yeah, now I’m a year away from that Forever Mom number. Yikes.
  • I am sorry I haven’t been writing here in this particular empty white box, but you know what? I have been writing in other white boxes. Book reviews. Emails. Journals. Morning pages. Other miscellany. I’m reminded regularly of something I wrote here way back when I was a little bitty 26-year-old. That stuff counts. Those words count.
  • Here’s a related thought: in addition to my piles of scribbled-in notebooks, it is highly likely that I will leave behind megabyte after megabyte of bizarre, half-formed Word Docs. Will my children read each and every document and discover… what? What is even the conclusion that anyone might draw from the contents of my Dropbox? Should I be afraid? Embarrassed? Should I try to clean that up at some point, see if there’s anything potentially legally damaging? Or worth salvaging? What exactly is my digital literary footprint going to contain?
  • Oh yeah, I said I didn’t want to write about writing today. Oops.
  • Today I am also – still – thinking about time management. About what I feel like I have time for and what I don’t, about how I feel like my life is just winding up and winding up and winding up even though I’m not really getting *that* much more done. I even brought home Laura Vanderkam’s book for the 2nd or 3rd time today, looking for some answers. One thing I thought about was travel. I was making a list (another Word Doc for the grandkids!) of all the trips I’ve taken since graduating college in 2007, and I noticed… a trend. Things started off slowly. A road trip in 2008. A week in DC in 2009. An ALA conference in 2010, a break for a few years, etc. Not counting periodic jaunts back to Michigan, we’re looking at a trip a year, if that. Then in 2013… two trips, back to back, one to Europe. 2014? Three. Last year – Kansas City, New York, three European countries AND North Carolina. This year we’ve already spent a week in Portland, OR, AND I’ve got two separate trips booked in April – to Denver for PLA and then home for a long weekend. I’m not saying I’m upset about it whatsoever, but traveling isn’t a cost-free endeavor, time and energy-wise. Is it possible that I could benefit from some good old-fashioned staying put? I should get some in the second half of the year, however, so maybe this experiment will come true.

Is there any bush left to beat around? Alright, well, here goes. My birthday hasn’t really been on my mind this year, but somebody else’s has. Somebody new who I haven’t met quite yet.

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Somebody who is currently rehearsing for an inter-uterine underwater aerobics competition. Somebody who is getting consistently and disturbingly larger as the weeks pass. Somebody who will emerge to share an abode with me, my darling husband, and our ornery orange cat in just over 100 days if you can possibly believe that shit.

I *really* don’t want to write about being pregnant right now – not because I’m opposed but because I fear I will ramble on into an eternity. It’s been a trip and a half. The pertinent info? I’m due at the end of June. We’re not finding out the sex. That’s a really misleading picture; I’m quite a bit more gigantic when I am vertical, but alas, my apartment has zero selfie-facilitating mirrors. Also, I am a lazy pregnant lady and the couch is my castle.

I’m sorry I’m not writing here. I’ll try to write more about books, about gestation, about reading and everything else. I’ll try to write about it later, when I’m not busy traveling or writing other shit or eating Cheez-its. I’ll try on a day that’s not my birthday.

Today I’m 31.

I’m busy.

I’m excited.

I’m terrified.

I’m waiting for the bus taking pictures of myself because my apartment has zero selfie-facilitating mirrors.

Alright, new year of life, let’s do this.

 

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30 | 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Dec 2015

thoughts on the end of the year

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1

It’s December 1st today. I am taking that last calendar flip of 2015 as permission to do a little end-of-year contemplation. This year, man. This freaking year. Do I say this every year? I can’t find textual evidence at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised. When we moved to Boston in 2009, my life took off at a gallop. Thankfully, we’ve had a preternatural amount of good fortune during these last six years – much of what keeps my schedule packed is the Really Good Stuff – exciting career and professional activities, travel, time with friends and family, and good old-fashioned book readin’.

But busy is still busy. I’m still reasonably confident that I have enough hours in my weeks to accomplish some stuff while I’m kicking around on this good green earth… but I’m beginning to suspect that I might also spend those weeks (months, years) waiting for some mythical period of rest.

Is this just adulthood? A generational condition? Is it Boston? My genes? My life choices? An inability to say no? That pesky proclivity toward overachieving? Probably all of the above. Sometimes, my busy-bodiness irks me, especially when I find myself putting off tasks because I’m waiting to wrap up XXX or have a few spare moments to YYY; am I running myself ragged just so I have a good excuse to stay away from some of those bigger, scarier life goals? But I’m also the kind of person who enjoys a certain level of leisure in my daily life – I get up early so I can (re)-read chapters of Game of Thrones with my coffee, rarely do anything productive past 8:00 p.m., and am all too ready to trade my required reading for a fun book (orrrrr another episode of Master of None) when I’ve had a long day.

So, am I so prone to manic over-scheduling that my life needs a sea-change? Or am I better off manipulating my daily hours and habits so I can better utilize work and leisure time?

Well isn’t THAT a question?

2

Way back in early October, I sat down in front of an empty page of a notebook to think about what would come next. I was just finishing up my Year of Reading Madly responsibilities, with three months left to spare. What should I accomplish now?

My mind started churning through that never-ending laundry list of Things to Do Later; the habits and hobbies and tasks to attempt in the event of that Mythical Time of Rest. I’d even made a list on some restless Saturday past. But there, in that moment with my notebook, there was a little voice in my head that said “Why not do nothing?”

And I listened to it.

So no arbitrary goal setting, no trying to squeeze in “Just One More…” before the end of the year, no new habit building or NaNoWriMo or anything else remotely aspirational. Not necessarily three months of wild indulgence or sloth or apathy. Just three months of getting the stuff I need to get done and then doing whatever. Three months of regular old living.

It felt like a good choice. I imagined that in between my normal activities (working, cooking, cleaning, exercising, book reviews, etc) I’d find some downtime during which I might flex my autonomy. Follow my interests. Read the books I felt like reading. Write whatever I felt like writing. Spend some quality time with my husband. Maybe watch a little more television than usual, and do some holiday baking. Regroup in January.

That was the plan, and… so far, on December 15th (God, these posts come slow…) I give myself a B-.

Points off for continuing to set the occasional goal and schedule.

And even more points off for… being too damn busy.

3

So here’s what I’ve been up to.

I review books for a biannual review journal, so I’m smack dab in the middle of what I like to call Guide Season. The books are usually reasonably quick reads, the reviews brief, and I have a few years of practice now; the process isn’t overwhelming. But every four weeks – a deadline. Every four weeks – another stack of books to plow through.

I’m also preparing to participate in ALSC’s Bill Morris Book Evaluation Seminar in early January. I am really 100%, unequivocally geeked about this particular professional opportunity! We’ve got a reading list to work through before the day of discussion; thankfully, there are a lot of 2014 heavy-hitters that I’ve already read once or twice, but I’m still planning on giving each book another go around. Plus, there are articles to read, a professional book to revisit, and awards criteria to consider. Geeked, but… work.

This Fall I’ve also been doing some work for another ALSC joint – the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award Committee. This year, my committee selected the speaker for the 2017 Arbuthnot Lecture – which can be given by a children’s author, illustrator, editor, scholar, or anyone else equipped to write and deliver a lecture that would mark a significant contribution to the field of children’s literature. It’s a virtual committee, so there has been plenty of research, discussion, and fighting with technology to be had. The speaker will be announced in January at Midwinter, so look out for that! Then, we will move on to taking and selecting a bid for the speech’s location.

And last but certainly not least, I’m waiting patiently for January 1st, upon which it will be time for yet another year with the Cybils YA Nonfiction Award. I have read only a scant few of this year’s nominees, so I am guaranteed at least a few books to add to my docket quite soon, along with the associated discussions.

Add in a cookie competition at work, more holiday parties than I can actually physically attend, and five nights in Michigan for New Year’s… what a great time to take a step back flex one’s autonomy!

4

It’s also the time of year where I typically buckle down and blog heavy for my annual end-of-year Best Reads Extravaganza.

This year, though, I am feeling conflicted. Yeah, I read a *ton* this year. 172 books completed and counting. Also, since I started my awards reading late in 2014 and wanted to avoid too much chatter about eligible titles, I set my fiscal cut-off date a little earlier than I usually do – even more books!

But it’s really been just such a strange reading year. I read so much and so fast that they are blurring together in my memory. I read some really good ones, yes, but many many many more that didn’t stand out, or that I liked but weren’t really my kind of book – books that I could gladly recommend, but few that stirred up the kind of passion that make me excited to sink time into blogging about.

The second half of the year has been even stranger. In June, I read entirely books for review. In July, more review books, plus a random assortment of other unremarkable titles – mostly adult. August was pretty good, but I only read 6 books. But in September, I only read 1! October was back to reviews; November reviews + graphic novels; December, reviews.

My busy life took over my reading life in 2015. There haven’t been too many hours in the day where I could read freely, and when those hours come, and episode of Great British Bake Off or going to bed an hour early is often more appealing. My attention span is too shot to handle dense audiobooks – podcasts and light adult nonfiction and memoirs are all I can handle.

But a year of reading critically has had an impact on what kinds of books I want to make time to read and what I think about those that I do. I feel significantly harder to please  – even if I had a magical reading holiday to tackle 10 books of my choosing, I can’t imagine that I’d feel passionate about a majority of them. Even if they were the most well-recepted, critically-amazing, just-up-my-alley kind of books. It’s harder for me to get amped up about any one particular book, but it’s even harder to decide what books to try out – to audition. I find myself wanting to wait for more and more critical input to arrive before I read something, lest I find myself wasting time.

This is something I’m hoping to work through in 2016. For now, I think I might swing back to the blog later in the month to do a Top Ten or a few fun lists. Something lower key than usual, but I can’t give up the tradition entirely after… ah… nine years? (NINE YEARS??!?)

And then… a crazy-short vacation.

And then… a crazy-crazy ALA Midwinter.

And then…

12 Mar 2015

30

I can’t believe I am 30 years old.

I also can’t believe this is only my third post of the year.

So far, 2015 is filled with unbelievable things. Mainly 105 inches of snow and the subsequent meltdown of my beloved public transportation system. Life in Boston has been just so very disrupted for so many weeks that I’m finding 40 degree weather fairly unbelievable. Sun melting snow weather. Gloves optional weather. I-saw-a-human-wearing-shorts-out-of-doors weather. Cah-razy.

It’s warming up, and I’m as old as the hills. I’ve been writing these little birthday ditties for 6 years now, maybe longer. I don’t ever feel like I have anything cogent to say about aging except that it’s happening. I really do try to wake up every morning and have a good day, a productive day, a day that I’m proud of; whether I succeed or not, those days string into years, and here I am looking at thirty of them.

The older I get, the more I [fill in the blank].

The older I get, the less I [fill in the blank].

I could fill in those blanks for a few thousand words, but they would be a few thousand navel-gazing words that would all add up to this: your life looks different from different angles. I’m not exactly thrilled to be 30 – mostly because I am female in modern America which means everyone is monitoring both my declining physical appearance and the relative shriveled-up-ness of my ovaries with even more scrutiny than usual. Everyone including myself.

I do worry about my skin and my hair and my other body parts, but I worry more about my time. Now that I am into another decade, I fear that hanging onto time will become an increasingly slippery task. Time will become more precious to me and more easily wasted. When I was 22, 23, 24, time felt a little more elastic, a little more forgiving. I am 30 now.  If I make a poor choice in how to appropriate my personal resources – if I neglect or destroy my health, my career, a relationship, I’m running out of days to try it all again. These are worries for thirty-year-olds and now I am a thirty-year-old so here I am.

In the mornings, though, when I wake up in my tiny apartment, I’m not usually worrying about that shit. I’m thinking about my day and about what I’d like to accomplish. I’m thinking about how closely I’ll be able to stick to my routine, or how I might like to tweak things. I’m thinking about the book I’m reading, or the book I just finished, or the book I might read next. The older I get, the more I figure out about myself. The older I get, the more comfortable I am taking the reigns. I steer my days the way I want them to go. I’m hoping this means that my years will go the way I want them to as well.

The older I get, the more faith I have that my days, weeks, months, years will be good ones. If that’s the difference between being a 20-something and a 30-something, then I’m pretty okay about that.

unnamed

 29 | 28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

29 Oct 2014

a rhythm, a schedule, a habit

better_front_FINAL.indd

Last weekend, I finished reading an e-galley of Gretchen Rubin’s latest Type A masterpiece, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Life. If you liked Rubin’s previous books about achieving happiness through acts of everyday practicality then you will likely enjoy this third installment. Look out for it in March of 2015.

But this isn’t a book review. This is a warning: I’m thinking a lot about habits, so you’re probably going to hear all about it. But this isn’t really news. This blog is mostly about reading and writing and the various ways those two activities intertwine in my life. Developing and maintaining my reading and writing habits is what makes all of that happen. I have the life I have because of these habits. I am the person I am because of these habits.

I’ve written a few posts about how to read more, but not so much about writing. Writing about writing makes me feel tender. Like crawling into my bed and never leaving. But even if I’m not talking about it, I’m trying to do it. Or, more accurately, I’m always writing, just not always writing things that are ready to be read. I’m not doing it in public

I’ve been thinking about this balance for the past few months, and I wrote about it briefly in May. The broad strokes of that post are still true – I’m consciously pulling back from other writing endeavors (aka blogging) to spend more time writing for myself. But I still want to blog. I also don’t want to feel stressed out about frequency of posts, I don’t want to post writing here that I’m not proud of, and I don’t want to give it up.

The practical compromise I’ve worked out for myself since September is, of course, a habit. It’s a habit I feel quite good about, am happy to stick to, and I think helps me strike that balance between post quality, post frequency, and overall workload.

Let’s just pause for a moment while everyone who just read the phrase “overall workload” clicks rapidly away from this overwhelmingly exciting blog post. It’s okay, guys. I understand. See you later, once the mayhem dies down over here.

Anywaaaay, this magical mysterious habit that I’ve been running is as follows:

I write blog posts five days a week, in the mornings. I start writing after I’m 100% dressed and 100% packed and ready to walk out the door. I stop when my little bus tracker app tells me it’s time to get up and go. I also write a little if I get to work early. Depending on the whims of public transportation, I can squeeze in 30-45 minutes of blogging every day without sacrificing anything I should be doing or want to be doing. If anything, I’m trading a bit of blogging for a bit of random-Internet-trawling-before-work time, or painting my nails time. Both of those activities make me miss my bus, by the way. Blogging doesn’t seem to have that effect.

That’s it. I write in the morning. According to Ms. Rubin’s new book, my habit relies on the Strategy of Scheduling – deciding ahead of time when/where/how to blog – and the Strategy of Pairing – choosing to blog during a specific window of time that is directly abutting my already established habit of Going to Work. Once I built this foundational morning habit, I’ve found that blog writing becomes a more desirable activity during other times of the day as well. If I’m having a lazy evening and find myself in front of a few episodes of Chopped I might do a little blogging at that point. Sometimes if I’m really close to finishing a post, I’ll mysteriously find other time during the day to get it done and up. Ideally I’d like to spend a couple hours on a Saturday or Sunday doing some blog writing as well, but this month my weekends have been jam-packed.

And there’s the big caveat of my plan – my life still moves in on my blogging time. If I’m out late being social and want to sleep in, or I’m trying to prep a dinner in the slow cooker, or if I’m on a book review deadline or if I need to stop at CVS on my way to work… well… there goes my 15-20 minutes. I can still go days or a week without a post, but that’s okay with me. I think that writing X posts per week isn’t as important to me as writing regularly. Because I’ve built a habit, I know where blogging will go once I’m back on the wagon. I’m here this morning, picking up where I left off sometime last week. It’s okay. I’ve been at this blogging game for so long that I always *want* to write here, it will always nag at me if I’m not doing it. I’d rather write for a short amount of time regularly than pretend like I have enough spare time to write 5 or 6 posts a week. If I do have spare time, I’d rather use it to further other projects than towards impossible blogging goals that lead to crappy posts and general anxiety.

So that’s where I’m at. I write a little most days, the posts come when they come, and I think I’m pretty okay with that.

04 Sep 2014

while i was away

I wish that taking a month off from social media felt like less of a big deal. The older and wrinklier I get, the more I aspire to be the kind of person who gives Twitter a good side eye, who gave up Facebook years ago. I’m not that person, though. I’m of a different age. The generation of Xanga, AIM, diaryland, and Livejournal. Now it’s Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr, but you know what? It’s still all a time suck. So I gave up Twitter and Facebook for the month of August. Just because.

In May, I posted about posting less here. A week into my social media fast – as I didn’t check Twitter, check Facebook, OR update my blog – I realized that I was, apparently, trying to disappear (from the interwebs) completely.

What can I say. I’m of an age.

Taking a break did reduce my tendency toward Internet-induced rage. It provided a minor release from that whole click-refresh-check-click-refresh thing that stirs up one’s concentration. It was harder to make the decision than it was to execute. It was kind of novel to hear all of my social and pop culture news secondhand… I didn’t know what an ice bucket challenge was until last week.

It’s September now and I’m feeling ambivalent about those social mediums. Eh. Eh. Eh. I am feeling less ambivalent about this here blargh, but I’m still trying to work out the when and the how of all that. But either way, summer is almost done and I’m back etc. Here’s some stuff that happened while I was gone.

 

While I was away I learned…

  • Facebook will actually hunt you down if you don’t visit for awhile. I had The Boy change my password. Facebook emailed me a half dozen times in a month to tell me I had notifications (even though I don’t usually get emails for my notifications). And sometimes if I clicked the email links, I could get into my Facebook. Without a password. SPOOKY.
  • I suffer from anxiety-related social media usage. How did I learn this? Well, aside from catching myself trying to log on so. many. times. (embarrassing)… I also noticed a SIGNIFICANT uptick in my hypochondriacal googling. I diagnosed myself with so many different diseases in August! So many! I’m actually dying.
  • Deciding to stop was absolutely much harder than the act of giving it up. Didn’t miss it.

What I did instead:

  • Did 6 days in Michigan visiting the family.
  • Re-watched the first 4 seasons of Breaking Bad. SO I CAN FINALLY WATCH SEASON 5.
  • Listened to the Jersey Boys soundtrack more times than is probably healthy.
  • Spent the night in Vermont to attend the beautiful wedding of two of my cutest friends.
  • Hit 100 books read in 2014.
  • Wrote some book reviews.
  • Quality time with The Boy before his vacation came to an end.
  • Celebrated 5 years living in Boston (!)

Other, more normal stuff happened too. Working. Gym. Cooking. Peach-petting. I received two bits of professional good news in the same week, of which I may disclose later (much later). I spent a lot of time on parts of the Internet not-Twitter and not-Facebook. I turned up the heat on my 200 words goals and fell way behind, but in return I may have found a story I want to tell. So I’ll say what everyone says when they do something mildly puritanical for a fixed period of time: it was good. It was uniquely, unreproducibly good. You should try it, and see what happens.

06 May 2014

the tightrope

I have been trying very hard not to write a blog post that begins with “posting has been light around these parts” or “I haven’t been blogging so much lately because…” or whatever other platitudes are available to the sorry, erstwhile blogger. It’s boring to read another person’s excuses, and I’m not of the mind that I owe anyone an excuse. This is my blog and my life, and I do what I want with both of those things. I am a person who will feel guilty about cutting someone off while trying to board a subway train. I must try not to cultivate an environment of guilt in my chosen leisure activities lest I encourage my tendency toward misery.

But I am also a person who thinks while writing. It feels strange to blog along like nothing has changed, and it feels disingenuous to pop in and write little fluff posts, pretending like my life does not feel like a perpetually teetering balancing act. That blogging was the first ball to drop.

The long and the short of it is that I am diverting time, energy, and other resources away from blogging and into other pursuits. It’s a time management thing, yes. I only have these 168 hours each week and I have a full time job, a commute, a house to clean and a body to care for. I review books. I cook my own meals. I like to exercise regularly and get eight hours of sleep and talk to my friends and family on the phone. Blogging is easy to squeeze into the nooks and crannies of a day, in general, but squeezing in five posts a week is a beast. In a world where my blog and myself are a Google-able commodity, I am attentive to how I present myself to the rest of the Professional Book Person Universe. Shoveling out garbage posts for the sake of shoveling out garbage posts is not in anyone’s interest.

Beyond that, I am also becoming more attentive to how I use my creative energy, my ideas, and my opinions. I’ve been throwing thoughts all over this space for years, but the more often I try to post, the less time I spend developing those thoughts. The busier I get, the more likely I am to write quickly, revise never, hit publish with a cringe and never look back. The ideas I begin to consider never go further than casual consideration – they die here, on this little blog.

I am still trying to write fiction this year, I’m writing book reviews, and I’d like to be writing other things too. The more writing I try to do, the more I realize that creative energy is a relatively finite resource, at least within the confines of my average days.

Abandoning blogging is definitely not in the plan, but neither is regular posting. For now. Instead, I am experimenting. What kind of posts do I like to write? What kind of posts am I proud to write? What kind of posts do I like to write and feel proud to write and also have time to write? What kind of blog is this? What kind of blog would I like it to be?

Perhaps this is part of my annual “WHATAMIDOINGONTHISPLANET???” freak out, or perhaps this is just part of this stage of my life, or perhaps its something else entirely. I’ll be around, though, while I figure it out, just not posting as often as I have been. If you are missing me, I will be on Goodreads, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

12 Mar 2014

29

Um, I turned 29 on Monday so let me share with you some wisdom about aging.

Oh, wait, I don’t have any.

I do feel as though I am getting happier as I get older. My childhood and teen years and early twenties were greatfinecoolawesome but I was kind of a high-strung basket case for most of it. I still am a high-strung basketcase, of course, but the older I get the more equipped I am to see through my own bullshit. To put my emotions in order.

Also, I am becoming so aged, occasionally I can’t actually remember some awful things from my past. Nothing super awful, but you know, the everyday awful things. Years of my life are becoming just a little blurry.

It’s good. I like it.

I mean, I’m not crazy about being so close to the big three zero, but I’m also not feeling an urge to sky dive or or quit my job or whatever other 30 things people with blogs do before they turn 30.

My body is old: I take seats on the train without compunction, dye my hair every 6 weeks, and I cannot wear shoes from Target or Payless. My body is young: I have like, 7 pimples today. Unbelievable!

On any given day I am confused and moody and hopeful and doubtful and reasonably exhausted. I’m still only half sure of what I am doing here on this planet. Obviously having time management issues. Obviously having Internet management issues. But it’s okay. I’m okay.

29, doing fine.

28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

 

17 Feb 2014

two hundred

 

200 Words

I have written at least 200 words of fiction every day in 2014. I’m digging it. It’s enough words to feel like I’ve done some creative work – some sentences, a paragraph or two, a small idea – but not so many that writing becomes a horror that I spend all day dreading, avoiding. I can half-ass 200 words if I’ve had a busy day or a stressful day. I can speed-write 200 words in 20 minutes if I’m on my way out for the night or if it’s almost bedtime. Most days I write more. 200 words are just enough for something interesting start to emerge, and if I have more time, I can keep going. I usually keep going. I usually don’t notice that I’ve finished. Yesterday, I hit 10k.

Life of the Mind

A small writing goal allows me ample time to do other things with my life. Yes, this includes working full time, cooking, keeping house, and being social, but what feels more important right now is that I still have time to think. I’ve come to realize lately all of the thinking I’m not doing. I’ve always considered myself to be a thinker. An interior person. But what usually goes on in my interior is just wheel-spinning, usually of the anxious nature. Bad brain stuff. Shutting down those particular neural pathways will probably be a lifelong effort, but while I’m working on writing I’m also working on thinking, because for me, they go hand in hand. More than hand in hand. They are just the same thing. If I’m freaked out about sitting down in front of a blank Word document because I’ve got to write XXX words before XXX and they better be good, then committing to deeper thinking and focus is going to be difficult. Right now, my Sit and Think/Write Whatever schedule feels roomy. I like it.

Quiet Down In There

I’m not much of a TV watcher anymore. I usually feel pretty high and mighty about this. But you know what’s kind of the same as living in a house where the television is always running? Keeping your headphones in for 7, 8, 9 hours a day, brain on a steady diet of podcasts and audiobooks and Other People Talking. Or, even better, the lure of the never-ending scroll of your Twitter feed, the constant Facebook surveillance even though you really insist that you hate Facebook and everyone on it. Two weeks ago, I put myself on a Media Fast. Very minimal television, few podcasts, no audiobooks. No videogames, Twitter, or Facebook. Just reading and writing.

And working. And housework. And exercising. And everything else I do in my life. But I’m doing those things with a slightly quieter brain for awhile. At least until I get back from my vacation.

Trajectory

I am not the first person to compare writing and running, and I am certainly not the most eloquent or experienced. I am hugely amateur at both endeavors, actually.

If I was to assign a narrative to my experience as a runner, I would do so as follows: for the first 18 years of my life, I was afraid of the act, found it difficult, physically uncomfortable, and painful. It was something I was never, ever good at and never, ever expected to get better at. I dabbled with running during college and after, but never more than a mile. When I moved to Boston, running was the only form of exercise I could afford, so I tried to take it more seriously. It started out crappy but got better. Four years later, I’m not a great runner, but I am a better runner. I am not so afraid. It doesn’t always hurt. I feel like I have the tools to run more, run faster, run longer, if I make the time.

My writing narrative feels much more negative. I’ve always written. Never not written. In college, I stumbled into a creative writing degree, and four years later stumbled into writing (bad) novels. After graduation, I still wrote, but something started to break and grad school kicked it all to pieces. Now, I feel less creative, less flexible, and much, much more afraid. I worry every day that writing is not for me, but I worry even more that writing is something I’ll never be able to stop doing even though it makes me feel awful, even if I am never able to write anything I am proud of.

I wish I could reverse those stories. My writing experience in college was a little more like the first story. I was learning. Getting better. Like I had the tools to get better. I don’t feel that way anymore, but maybe it’s just me writing mind-narratives and then living up to them. Maybe if I write 200 more words, if I change the way I tell myself stories, if I make the right hard choices, then I can feel the same way about writing that I feel about running – hopeful.