Don’t Break the Chain

Last week, Seth Godin wrote his 7000th blog post, reminding us that he hasn’t missed a day in years. I know there are other things in the world that are as inspiring to me, but as of right this second, I can’t think of what they are. The discipline, the humility, the grace, the persistence: it’s awe-inspiring, and humbling, and stunningly beautiful. He writes: “The discipline of sharing something daily is priceless.” 

Don't Break the Chain >> Life In Limbo

He’s completely right. This experiment with National Blog Posting Month has already been a gift to myself, a space to breathe and process and think. It’s more fun than I thought it would be, and more helpful, and is helping me be more creative and – plot twist – connect to others: friends and strangers alike.

AND YET. When I sat down to write today, I felt crunched for time and uninspired. I have had a stomach ache for the last two days,  felt sluggish all afternoon, and have an event to go to tonight. I could feel the excuses and loopholes building in my head, even though this daily reflection has already become such a beautiful practice. By the skin of my teeth, I remembered the phrase “Don’t break the chain”, which I first heard via Austin Kleon, who also says “something small, every day.”

This led me to Seth’s blog to find a post I’d read recently which reminded me of this idea, and instead was thwacked in the face with a post that said (in its kind, but no-bullshit Seth Godin-y way): I don’t care about your excuses. Here’s what I think about your excuses! If I can do this for 7000 days in a row, you can do it for 30. Nobody cares about almost.

So I’m here. I’m showing up, I’m writing the words. Maybe you needed to hear this today too: It’s so easy to make an excuse or give ourselves an out, but in the end, who are you really doing a favour?

See you tomorrow.

Everything is Arbitrary

I’m a Questioner, which means that (among other things), I struggle to make decisions without weighing all the available information first. It’s why I rely on trusted resources to make purchases (is everyone sick of hearing me harp on about The Wirecutter yet?), rely on little mantras like “Choose the bigger life”, and latch on to the wise words of others to help guide my decision-making process.

Everything is Arbitrary >> Life In Limbo

The problem is, if I don’t have a very solid case backing up my decisions, I very often make no decision at all – a phenomenon that’s called Analysis Paralysis. I always feel like I need to have A Good Reason for doing something – anything! – and if I don’t have that reason, I don’t act.

Obviously, this is incredibly annoying. Something as simple as choosing what day of the week to do my laundry sends me into a tailspin of weighing each day, trying to predict the future, wondering what makes “the most sense” for my life, and so on. The result is that my laundry only gets done when I have a very good reason to do it – when I run out of underwear. Now of course this is not the most life-changing decision I’ll ever make, but it shows my point: how do I choose, when it all seems so arbitrary?

A few months back, I created a new mantra for myself that I absolutely love:

Everything is Arbitrary.

This won’t resonate with everyone, nor is it, strictly speaking, even true: there are a ton of situations in my everyday life when there is a great reason baked in for when I should do something (returning library books, buying groceries, paying bills).

But for other questions: Which night of the week should I meal-prep?* When exactly should I take a vacation? Where should I go for a walk? Should I clean my bathroom now, or on the weekend?, this helps me remember that I can tune into what feels right in the present moment. I tell myself that it’s all arbitrary, and there’s no one “right” way or day or time to do something, so I can choose for myself what works and feels best for me. Especially since I set my own schedule, I’ll take anything I can get to help me structure my life in a simpler way. Everything is arbitrary, so I get to decide.

As small as this sounds, it really does help. (*Except with the meal-prep, I still don’t do that on a regular basis. Oops.) How do you make decisions? What helps you decide?

This Is Where You Belong

Last month, on October 1st, I had officially lived in Toronto for one full year to the day. This anniversary snuck up on me, because this has been one of the richest and best, and fastest years of my life. I say that every year, but it’s always true.

When I first decided to move to Toronto more-or-less permanently after my last relationship ended, I was full of uncertainties. I didn’t know the city well and had barely explored beyond the downtown core, didn’t understand how streetcars worked, and wasn’t even certain I knew how to live in a big city by myself.

This Is Where You Belong >> Life In Limbo

Today I re-read this post that I wrote right after I decided to stay, and it made me cry (especially the comments, y’all are THE BEST). I was leaping into the unknown, again, praying that the mysterious starlight would guide me to a bigger, fuller life. I was trying hard to take the step that felt right, and to have faith that there was so much more crazy beauty awaiting me.

A year and a month later, I can happily, joyfully, tearfully report that a lot of crazy beauty awaited me. This morning I had brunch with four of my closest friends after a full, wonderful weekend of showing my dear friend Katie (visiting from NYC) around my little corner of the city. I showed her my favourite spots, walked her through my favourite part of the park, took her to my favourite restaurants and bars. Every step of the way, I felt at home in the city, connected to it, in love with it. I was proud to show her my world, and confident within it. (Also just so excited to chat in-person nonstop with one of my kindred spirits.)

I celebrated my actual one-year anniversary at my friend Sonja’s first-ever Harvest Table Dinner – a pop-up dinner series for the city’s creative entrepreneurs. It was a surreal moment to sit there, eating delicious food made by a close friend who I hadn’t even known the previous October, surrounded by interesting people, in a city that felt like home. Just one year prior, I had been going to the public library near me (Step #1, always), unpacking boxes, and wondering what my life would become.

Well, it has become something magical, and I know it will continue to become and unfold in front of me. Just like I didn’t know last year, I don’t know what life will look like one year from today. But I know that for now, this is where I belong, and for that I am unbelievably grateful.

Maybe It’s Simple

Growing up and all through university, I had never been much of a coffee drinker, though I’d have the occasional iced latte for fun. Coffee never made me feel great – it would make me jittery, or give me a stomach ache, or keep me awake at night, so I never drank much of it.

Maybe It's Simple >> Life In Limbo

Fast forward to last autumn when I picked a neighbourhood café to be my daily work spot. I started drinking a big cup of drip coffee, because it was cheap and fast to grab. For the past 8 months, I’ve had a strong cup of coffee every single weekday morning.

Funnily enough, for the past 8 months I’ve also been feeling super anxious on a daily basis. I would always feel like I had butterflies in my stomach, or my thoughts would race even after I’d powered down my computer for the night. I just always felt stressed, like I’d been running all day in a kind of anxious panic, and it would take me a long while to calm down. My daily walks or runs, instead of feeling proactive and soothing, started to feel like a kind of medicine that I had to take to even begin to calm down my nerves.

This all sounds more dramatic than it felt at the time, and of course here I’m not talking about having diagnosed clinical anxiety, “just” these sensations of constant stress throughout my days.

Somehow, some way (it was less obvious than I am laying it out in this post, of course!!) I made the connection and recognized that maybe, just maybe, my daily caffeine intake was having an effect. The truth is, I realized this because on the days that my very kind, lovely barista friends would give me a free refill, the anxious feelings would be through the roof.

Apparently, it’s never my first instinct to look for the simple answer! Instead I had spent all my time thinking about how to reduce my work hours, spend less time on the computer, get more vigorous exercise, read about thought management, practice meditation, do an absurd number of deep breaths, etc. All of these things are great, and important, and I should (and continue to) work on all of them.

But the solution was actually a LOT simpler. I switched to tea, and these sensations are far, far more manageable and far, far less noticeable on a daily basis. Of course I still get stressed, and of course I still feel those butterflies if I’m overwhelmed. And yet it’s much easier to handle. I’m not saying it’s rocket science, but it took me a long time to realize, hey – maybe this problem is actually pretty simple to solve.

The point here is not to get you to stop drinking coffee. It’s to get you (and myself) thinking about where else we’re making the answer more complicated than it needs to be. What other problems might have a simple solution?

Or, as Elise says:

“When it feels impossible, it’s time to find another way.”