Does this recur in your life like it does in mine? That you relearn what you learned previously then forgot?
I was first struck by this in my mid to late twenties, going through my journals from several years earlier. I was reading through an intense period before, during and after a semester abroad in Australia. When I really learned to frolic.
After catching up on that wild year, filled with young ardor and couplings and bumblings and much else, I realized that much of what I’d learned then I was having to relearn now five or six years hence.
The too muchness of it.
That simply by living out loud, exuberantly, you were bound to disappoint others.
It pained me then — in my early twenties and again in my mid-twenties — how much living a little too fast and loose pained others.
I was relearning something I should have locked down: To be more careful with the feelings of others.
To be clearer that I was living a kind of vagabond relationship life, setting up camp only briefly here and there.
In a word: Thoughtfulness.
In another word: Empathy.
In a string of words I probably used at that time: Get your shit together and become an adult, man!
Today’s excess has to be paid back with interest tomorrow.
Another thing I had to relearn.
Which leads me obliquely to this week’s micro experiment. Relearning a valuable life tool: Planning for the next day at the end of this one.
When I was living The Creative Morning Challenge this past year, this simple hack resurrected itself and made my days flow so much easier. Thirty days of getting up at an ungodly early hour was smoothed by this process — I’d already planned out my morning, my day, the night before.
I just needed instinct to kick in — and a glass of water.
And to pee.
Then I was off on a tear.
Week 4 of my Year of Micro Experiments went decently. I only missed one day.
Not bad considering my planning is a little elaborate — I draw out a simple grid on the top sheet of an 8.5 by 11 yellow pad in a folio I keep with me at all times. Down the left side of the sheet run the hours of the day, every other line, starting at 6 am — going till 7 pm.
I bisect the page with a line running down the middle — not the middle really, the hours of the day are a one-third column on the left. The right column is two-thirds of the page.
The right side is where I break down what I intend to tackle for the day.
In segments I separate out — for Body, for Spirit, for Gallery, for The Work, for Home, for Vision, for Connection — you get the idea.
Overly elaborate, I know!
But that’s me. I like the versatility of this format. After a couple years of going pure digital I had to go back to a handwritten system.
Like an artisan, a pizza maker, a masseuse, I need to do it by hand.
There’s something so righteous about crossing out what you’ve written down.
Picked up Zane?
Cross that sucker out.
Engaged in The Work for at least an hour? (My creative practice . . . )
Victory. Cross it out.
That’s what Week 4 was about — re-establishing a habit I’ve had before, planning out my next day at the end of the day prior.
It takes 15 minutes, even my draw-grids-on-paper version. Not a lot. But what punch it packs the next morning.
You get up, glance at your Day Page — that’s what I call it — and ease right into it. No need to figure anything out. It’s there, revving my engine.
I relearned this in Week 4: The day begins the night before.
I first realized this way back in my twenties. The phrase was solely about sleep back then.
Now it’s gathered mystical force in my life, that phrase speaks a druid-level truth to me — that if I envision my day the night before, some kind of good juju gets infused into my waking hours.
I’ve mostly continued with this practice since Week 4. (I’m writing this more than a week since Week 4 ended.)
Don’t you love it when good things become addicting?
Here’s the thing about a tweak a week. It gives you permission to nudge yourself in the direction you want to go without having to undertake a massive exhaustive overhaul of the way you live.
(Which too often is a recipe for collapse of the new regimen anyway — how many can sustain radical, encompassing change?)
Week 3 of my Year of Micro-Experiments
The goal: Eat within a 10-hour window
Much has been said recently about the efficacy of intermittent fasting. The premise is simple — by abstaining from food for regular periods of time your body thrives better in a world of affluenza eating and sit-all-day working, sit-all-evening entertainment.
Good and beneficent processes kick in:
One version of intermittent fasting has you eating in an 8-10 hour window. For me it meant cutting off by 5:30 each afternoon, or sooner.
Like many life tweaks we make, I’d already been leaning in this direction. After a summer of gluttony I wanted to get back to leaner ways.
Also, I had a cool idea.
Instead of plowing through the holiday season packing candy (hello Halloween), pies and overeating (thank you very much, Thanksgiving), overeating and wanton deserts of all stripes (Christmas, you know that’s you) into my willing mouth — and then engaging in a finale of excess for New Year’s — why not optimize my way through the fall so that the end of the year is a real celebration instead of an overdue reckoning?
I want to glide into the New Year having already rebooted.
Though I’m not going so far as to issue pre-New Year’s resolutions, this fanciful thought is at the core of my upcoming weekly tweaks.
Week 4 will be a creative reboot.
Week 5 will be . . . shhhh . . . I’m getting ahead of myself, gotta leave a little mystery.
So, how did it go?
Decently, thank you.
Except Wednesday. Ann made something too delicious to be denied. Sitting here now I can’t even recall what it was, but what a temptress! There I am in monk mode and she slides out something tasty, something appealing, something worth gobbling without hesitancy.
The rest of the week was relatively effortless though.
(5:29 did often find me in front of our nut containers downing 3 honking cashews — I’ve never seen cashews like these, the size of a thumb joint — a palmful of pecans, maybe a few lightly-salted peanuts, and most definitely a nano heap of sunflower seeds.)
When you’re already leaning in a direction — wanting to eliminate evening meals — making a change feels organic, instinctive, rewarding even.
When I’m on the road by myself doing art treks to various destinations around the country, I skip dinner. A good breakfast, a snack and an adequate late lunch are all I require.
Every time I returned from the road I felt bloated and blottoed by the evening meal — once you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling for fullness it starts to feel especially gross as the evening wears on.
Then Ann bought a book about optimal health by Dr. Mercola. She was reading it in the bathtub. Which meant I was reading it in the bathtub.
Not simultaneously, we’re not that sexy cute after our decades together, but alternatingly (can I coin this here and now??).
You know how you hope to glean at least one useful info bit from each nonfiction book you read? The intermittent fasting concept presented by Dr. Mercola appealed to me! I’d already been doing it on the road. I was a natural at this.
His version has since tightened to 6 hours, from the 8 to 10 hour window recommended in his book a couple of years back. (Check out a simple graphic here.)
I jumped in and never looked back. I went strong for a year or more until this summer of gluttony. We headed out on our summer family art trek, visiting multiple artists in multiple states — countries even, since we hooked up with a painter and a glass-blowing team in parts of Canada.
Normally we splurge the first day out. For me it’s those little plastic chocolate donuts. For Ann — I don’t remember what it is for Ann. Something ba-aaa-ad.
We splurged — and never stopped splurging. Not even when the trip ended 4.5 weeks later.
When you’re eager for a change it fulfills itself.
And Sweet Jamaica I feel lighter and cleaner and leaner already.
I’m writing each tweak of the week about 8 days after that particular mini-challenge has ended. This gives me insight into what sticks and what doesn’t.
The following week my pattern was identical: 6 nights I ceased eating by or before 5:30, one night I ate dinner.
That schedule suits me. It gives me the flexibility to choose one night a week to abandon myself to a meal of my choosing. The remaining 6 days solidify this new template for my eating self.
What does this have to do with connected creative living?
Those of you who’ve been at the creative life awhile know that your bodily vessel affects your work.
The cleaner the engine, the better the output.
The leaner the chassis, the greater the mileage.
The lighter the load, the punchier the prose.
Something like that.
When your body’s better, your mind’s unfettered.
Your capacity for higher level work expands.
The pre-New Year’s arc is on track. Wouldn’t it be cool to hit New Year’s so jacked and healthy that your sole resolution is to eat ice cream for a week, to moderate from your impossibly high standards?
Consider joining me, crafting your own unique plan of course. Tweaking something at work or home or the spaces in between each week.
The beauty is this: After the week’s tweak is over you needn’t carry it further into your lifestyle. If it doesn’t want to stick, you don’t have to make it.
Feel your way forward micro-experiment by micro-experiment. As you dream up small changes you’d like to make, you’ll find one or two have greater pull for you as each new week dawns.
Now that I’m rolling, I’m finding the excitement building. Rather than its opposite — disinterest — I’m keenly intrigued to launch a new change as each week comes to a close.
And because by definition each change I’m contemplating must be small, there’s a surprising easiness to the process. This ease of execution seems to be the secret. One small adaptation after another accrues momentum.
Perhaps the biggest revelation to date is how fun it’s been!
As though a whisper is turning into a roar — or a giggle into a blissed-out brain state.