You’re Doing Your Best

Just a short one today because it’s been one of those stressful, chaotic (in my brain) days. Some reasons why:

  • I was late to a meeting that I didn’t know was happening until 5 minutes before, so I was flustered and unprepared. (Everyone was super nice about it, and it wasn’t my fault, but still.)
  • I was troubleshooting an important tech problem most of the day, having unsuccessful conversations through a Q&A forum instead of being able to chat with a real person.
  • It was very cold outside, and while I didn’t complain about it, it made my walks shorter and less relaxing.
  • I have a big party tonight, which I’m so excited for.

In the very nick of time, I resolved the tech problem and got it sorted – mostly. Because of a glitch, the emails that were meant to get sent got sent twice. Ugh! All day, fighting to make sure it would be done perfectly and professionally, and it was not done 100% perfectly.

As I was struggling to let it go and be grateful that the issue was resolved at all, a post I wrote a long time ago (like: Korea days), popped into my head: affirmations for uncertain days. I searched for it, found it (the blessings of having a blog), and then laughed when I read the first line:

Affirmations >> Life In Limbo

You are doing your best. Even when you slip up or mess up or forget to do your best, that is still you doing your best.

So I say to myself and to you: you are doing your best. Even when you don’t do it perfectly, that is still you doing your best.

My Work Manifesto

When people find out I’m self-employed, they usually respond one of three ways:

  • “Don’t you get bored?”
  • “Don’t you get lonely?”
  • “I could never do that.”

These responses don’t really bother me, mostly because I’m usually too busy not being bored, not being lonely, and doing things I love, to notice. I know that my lifestyle is probably not right for everyone, but it’s just right for me.

My Work Manifesto >> Life In Limbo

The walls of my home office. Lettering by Laura Fraser!

While yes, of course, I have boring days, and lonely ones (doesn’t everyone?), for me the freedom of structuring my days and the giddy joy of getting to work on projects I find interesting makes it 100% worth it for me. Most of the time, I remember this and feel incredibly grateful for the quirky career I’m building for myself.

Sometimes though, I forget this and feel sluggish, or stir-crazy, or even – yes! – bored. The afternoons are usually the worst for this, especially if I haven’t been careful with shielding myself from notifications and getting focused work done.

Today I feel amazing (a book I’ve been helping to launch is officially published tomorrow!) so I thought I’d take advantage of my great mood and write my work manifesto, to read whenever I forget, that will help me embrace my work-life:

Don’t treat a gift like a burden

It’s a fun job and I enjoy it

If not this, then an exact replica

Go play hooky

Resist the expectation of an immediate response

The work always gets done

If overwhelmed, dim the noise

Don’t work with your email (or Slack or phone) open

Hold firm on your boundaries

Not for every day, but for some days

Throw your problems in a pile

I am not a robot

What helps you reframe your work? What mantras help you stay focused and grateful?

Write It Down

I was so inspired last week by the discovery of the podcast Hurry Slowly, which is about becoming more creative, productive and resilient by the act of slowing down. 2017 has been the first full year I’ve been a full-time, working-from-home freelancer, and that shift has provoked a lot of thoughts about how I balance the use of technology, make time for things that matter, and dim the damn noise. Meaning this podcast is up all my alleys!

Write It Down >> Life In Limbo

I’ve only listened to a couple episodes of the podcast so far (Ann Friedman’s was also super great), but the one that’s stuck with me the most was the interview with Austin Kleon, one of my favourite writers/makers/creatives. Their discussion was all about analog vs. digital technologies, and how they use each depending on what they are creating.

And although I make ample use of both analog and digital forms in my everyday, I’d never really thought about it in quite the way they were discussing – that some types of thinking and creating are better suited to a pen and paper. In some ways, even hearing other creative people affirm that using a Sharpie on a big sheet of paper can help you think differently really gave me the permission to own and embrace that idea and put it into practice more often.

This weekend, up north and surrounded by beautiful snowy fields, my friend Sonja and I mapped out all of 2018 for her business, Nurture. As her assistant, the mapping was relevant to me too! Luckily, I had packed the bigger sheets of paper and my markers, and I think it made a big difference. Once it was down on paper, we could move things around, see everything at a glance, and interact with the ideas in a more tangible way. It was less stressful than planning on a digital screen or calendar, and ended up being really fun and energizing.

In the interview, Austin says (at minute 33):

“It’s the act of drawing itself that is so valuable, because it’s in the process of drawing things that you really start to understand them.”

And although I’m not always drawing, I think the same holds true for writing, mapping, planning, sketching, and dreaming. Sometimes you need to write it down to make it real. Sometimes you need to write it down to actually absorb it. Sometimes you need to write it down to unlock something in your brain.

What kinds of things do you do on pen and paper? What tasks do you do on the computer? Is there anything that needs to ‘switch forms’?

PS. This reminds me of a very old post I once wrote about the magic of writing things down. Do I just learn the same things over and over? (Yes.) (Please don’t mock me for the hilarity of that post.)

Wake Up to the Light

I just got home from a blissful twenty-four hours off the grid. No cell phone reception, no wifi, no phone, no social media. 24 hours without alerts or pings or messages. 24 hours of peace & quiet, literally. 24 hours of space, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Turns out that 24 hours of real space and deep quiet is quite enough to leave you feeling refreshed and rested. (That said, I could have easily stayed for a week.)

Wake Up to the Light >> Life In Limbo

One unexpected delight of all this extra space was rediscovering the feeling of not knowing the time. It was such a joy to lose track of time while doing “nothing” with a small group of people, or by myself. We went for a long walk in the snow and watched the light fade from the sky. We watched the fire and tended it when it got low. We made snacks and dinner when we needed them. We drank water when we needed it. We had long conversations when we needed them. We read books when we wanted to. We journaled. We lingered.

And this morning, I woke up to the light coming in the window. It had snowed overnight, and the view from our bunk bed was like a postcard. Every single tiny branch had a little layer of snow: pristine and picturesque and perfect. What a treat, to let my body have the sleep it needed, and to let the light wake me up without an alarm.

I’m home now, and trying to hold on to the calm and quiet I felt while we were away. Maybe I won’t wake up to a postcard view every single day, but I think I can make things quieter, do things that help me lose track of time, and find ways – literally and metaphorically – to wake up to the light.

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