Rituals of Preparation

Being primarily self employed is both delightful and maddeningly frustrating.

The delightful part is being able to do work at breweries, or outdoors, or having sweet and fuzzy work partners.


But it is also maddeningly frustrating when I want to be productive, and I set out to be successful and then just keep getting in my own way, and there is no one to blame but myself.

In being self employed, I feel there are two types of tasks.  The first are the immediately necessary that keep you existing at all; such as doing the client work I’ve already been paid to do, or doing the bookkeeping and paying the bills.  These are like chores, and while I don’t always love them, I am confident I’ll get them done.  The second are the entirely optional that create improvements and advancements.  These take personal drive and creative effort.  Sometimes they are big nebulous projects.  Sometimes they are small but take confronting vulnerability, fear, and are full of emotional effort.  Even if they are easy tasks, the are still by their nature, optional.

So a couple weeks ago I was sort of working, sort of procrastinating when clearing a long stagnant pile from my desk. Underneath was a book lent to me by a friend over a year ago, that I hadn’t ever opened. Twyla Tharp – The Creative Habit

If I wasn’t procrastinating I would have properly placed it in the “outgoing” pile by the door. Instead I opened it and read the 2nd chapter (’cause starting at the beginning would have been far too disciplined for my mood).

It was delightful and inspiring. Just what I needed.

I’ve now read that chapter at least twice. I had to distill it into something that could guide me. These were my golden nuggets:

Most rituals are simple tasks such as Twyla’s getting into a taxicab, or a writer’s habit of dusting, or a musician’s walk… calling these things rituals “glorifies a mundane act… Thinking of it as a ritual has a transforming effect on the activity. Turning it into a ritual eliminates the question – Why am I doing this?”

“It’s vital to establish some rituals – automatic but decisive patters of behavior — at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.”

“Distractions and fears… They’re the habitual demons that invade the launch of every project. No one starts a creative endeavor without a certain amount of fear…”

Good rituals “arm us with confidence and self-reliance.”

“Athletes know the power of a triggering ritual… By making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.”

But what makes a task a ritual other than it’s habit? What make is a ritual of preparation rather than a ritual of procrastination?

“All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them they impel you to get started.”
“A daily ceremony…” that makes for “a predictable, repeatable kick-start.”
It needs to be easy “…a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down.”

With that, I set about thinking what could be my ritual of preparation for working on my continuous creative project: Zest Ed.

  • What HASN’T worked for me? Both trying to start too suddenly or getting started too leisurely. If I sit down at my desk and immediately try to be productive I ultimately end up distracted on Facebook or Amazon. If I start away from my desk perhaps with stretching or reading or eating, I end up allowing myself to spend far too much time there.
  • What HAS worked for me? When I was running Beez Athletics I had a wonderful daily routine – sleep in until 8am, sit down at my desk with coffee and leisurely work through my list, go coach at 3pm, at 7pm workout and cook, go to sleep around midnight. While I can’t live that life anymore, I can learn some lessons from it.
    • A sense of leisure without distraction is excellent.
    • I like feeling like I’m at the beginning of a day with plenty of time in front of me. Which means even if it’s the middle of the day, I need to feel like I’m at the beginning with time to spare.
    • But my brain is not in gear before 8am.  So stop pretending that I’ll get anything done at 6am.

So I’m going to try this routine:

  1. Get organized with my action/goals list for the day.
  2. Do dishes.  Because it’s a contained productive task that gives me a pause between making the list and doing the list.
  3. Drink coffee (or LaCroix) at my desk and DON’T START anything until the drink is finished. I can do a little stretching (as long as it’s at my desk), or gaze at my project board, or terrarium. No opening any screens.  If I think of something to do I can’t do it, I can just add it to a list. The last sip is exactly when I start to work.

It’s the last part that is the critical triggering ritual.

I’ve tried it for three weeks now, and so far it’s helping.

 

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5 Handstand Lessons

Three years can seem like a long time to be on this weird Alice in Wonderland journey into the world of handstands.  But really my acrobatic training age is barely out of it’s infancy.  It stands in contrast to my triathlon training age.  I just did my 21st consecutive year of the Heart Of the Lakes Triathlon (HOLT).  While I love finding new ways to make mistakes (like the other week when I kept trying to put on my goggles for the run) I’ve racked up more lessons than I can count.  In handstands, I can finally count the five most critical things I’ve learned.

1) Fucking log it. You’d think I’d know this from logging time, miles, meters… but this training is so different I wasn’t logging in a productive way for the first two years.  Progress is microscopic, incremental and not linear. Without logging the training and having some measure of progress it was way too easy to get discouraged and then sidetracked.

2) It’s more skill than strength. It’s like learning an instrument, or a new language, or swimming. Some people get lucky (or have previous relatable experience) but mostly you can’t just throw yourself at it blindly over and over and hope to master it. I wasted a lot of time attacking it as a purely fitness goal. Also, like most skills, it’s hard to self-teach. Getting into the community of acro/circus/gymnastics and making friends to train with was critical.

3) It’s about my HANDS. Shocking right? Even when people are challenged by balancing on one foot, we take for granted how well trained we are to balance on our feet. You’ve been training your feet to automatically keep you upright since you were 9 months old. Even when it’s hard you generally don’t have to consciously command your foot muscles to respond in the correct pattern or to lean one way or another. Babies spend nearly all their time developing the strength and control to balance and walk on their feet. And it takes them nearly a year to master it.  I spend 2-4 hours a week doing things to learn to balance on my hands. Of course it’s going to take more than a year to train my hands to hold my whole body upright.

Took a long time just to be able to do this hand/wrist position.

4) Visualization and focus damn it! The first time I made any progress at all was when I spent time truly visualizing my goal. Then I added imagining the sensory experience of balancing on my hands. Then I added watching instagram videos and then imagining myself in those videos. It makes a difference. When I’m practicing and I find my mind wandering if I take time the to visualize it always improves the outcome.

5) Active flexibility is strength work. I scoffed in disbelief. I’m plenty strong. So when pursuing flexibility I was told or read repeatedly that lack of strength contributes to lack of flexibility I was like “Well, that’s not my problem.” And in the beginning my flexibility journey was best done with passive methods. But now I understand how strength is involved in ACTIVE flexibility training. Using my muscles to get into and control my body at the end of my range of motion is HARD and I get sore, and it’s AWESOME.

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Garlic Scape Salad

They’re here!  After weeks and weeks of anticipation and asking the produce people at my co-op, they are finally in stock.

Garlic scapes are one of my favorite very seasonal items.  If you love garlic you need to get some now!  Their season is short so don’t delay.  You can eat them raw or cooked.  Just do some googling and you’ll find a recipe or idea that suits you.

This is my go-to garlic scape salad.
img_0196I’ve had all the ingredients in the pantry just waiting for the garlic scapes to arrive. Continue reading

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Type 1 Fun in the BWCA

It was so easy, and so much fun there is no story, but there is video!
(It’s best with the sound on.)

Last October, 2017 we had our traditional BWCA paddling vacation.  It was our five year honeymoon anniversary and everything went strangely smoothly.

Five years ago we paddled and portaged 245 miles of the Canadian border in 19 days and most of it was not fun.  It was fantastically type 2 fun; filled with being dirty or tired or cold or hungry.  So while 2017 didn’t give us any paddling stories, I still love our epic adventure stories from 2012.

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Handstand Goals. So Far Away.

I took on this goal because it was something I always dreamed of.  I had no idea how difficult it would be for me.

My journey officially started in January 2016.  I wanted to be able to do many amazing
things but I thought I’d focus on the simple stalder press to handstand.

Hahahahahah!

I was utterly naive.  I just threw myself upside-down against a wall a bunch and figured that would do it.  I had no idea what was actually involved or how far away I was. Like a toddler declaring that she would be an astronaut tomorrow.  Then preparing by eating freeze dried food in her snow suit. Continue reading

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Well Above Zero

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There are nice things about camping when it’s way below zero.  No one goes through the ice.  Everything is dry.  All the gear feels appropriate and well used.

And when you asked “Hey, what temperature is it?”
“Well above zero!” said Will.

And it was actually 3ºF

There was so much laughing on this trip.

Will and I had done five winter camping trips just the two of us.  This year included Annalesa.

It started on Monday September 18th at Lakes and Legends Brewing Adventure Film showing.  Will and I were preparing to go on our annual BWCA paddling trip when Annalesa said “I’ve always wanted to go on a trip with both of you.”
I said “You could come on the winter trip.”  But I was probably a little drunk and didn’t think it would really happen.

First, there is so much gear involved.  It’s quite a commitment to acquiring things that are unlikely to be used for anything else.  I sent her a document listing all the needed gear.

Second, it’s really not fun.  Will and I spent a front step evening trying to communicate how much work it is to winter camp.  How it’s really not like camping at any other time of year.  How much risk is involved and how the planning and preparation to make it safe is serious business.  How it’s really not a vacation.

And then she bought the most expensive item on the list.  So it was real.  She was coming.

And it was so much fun.
Or at least it was in hindsight, which makes it classic Type 2 Fun. Continue reading

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Winter Camping, Continued

Last week I began the tedious timeline of winter camping.  Some read it as if it were a horror story.  I can feel them cringing yet somehow they didn’t look away because I got plenty of aghast comments.  Other hardy winter lovers read it almost nostalgically; reminiscing over their own adventures in hardship.  Then there are the people who’s eyes brighten with naive interest and then narrow as they ask specific questions.   I can see the gears turning.  It’s both heartwarming and terrifying that I might inspire some to take on these challenges.

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The story started at 2am, and last week left off at about 11:45am as we were finally pulling our pulks away from one camp to find another.   It was slow but fairly easy.  That day there were no portages.  The ice was thick.  The sun was bright.  The wind in places was uncomfortable but manageable.  We’d stop in wind protected spots to adjust layers, drink our warm water, snack out of our lunch bags (oat buckeyes, salami, cheese, date rolls, unwrapped candy bites), and pee.

Apparently somewhere in here Annalesa quietly got her tongue stuck to her metal zipper pull.  Later around the fire she explained; her hip was hurting from the previous day of snowshoeing and “I sometimes stick my tongue out when I’m concentrating.” And that’s why her tongue hurt now. Which we all got a lot of giggles out of.   Winter camping provides so many opportunities to laugh at yourself.

~2pm
We started considering camp spots.  Our first choice turned out to be windier than ideal.  Moving on we ran into overflow (wet slush over the ice, but under the fresh snow).  Looking for spots we kept checking the map and the ice and snow conditions.

3pm
We finally found a good place for camp.  We unloaded the pulks.  These are the tasks that get done: Continue reading

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