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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Today is the trifecta of do-overs. It is a new week, new month, and new quarter. And if you’ve been keeping up, you know how I love a good do-over.

The timing is fortuitous because I’ve also undertaken some new projects and been engaging in some new-old pursuits. New because they stopped existing for a while but old because once upon a time they did.

As I pondered a way to honor all this newness, I landed on the word learn. As in: what have I learned? What has become of all this self-experimentation? I’m a living, breathing science experiment. There must be some conclusions.

The thing about learning is that once you pass 50 you rarely do it for the first time anymore. Sometimes you need to learn a thing again and again. You have to keep living and learning and messing up and doing badly and doing better and starting over.

It’s a very inefficient process.

So what have I learned from my recent experiments? Some are more recent than others and some have more definitive conclusions, but there are conclusions nonetheless.

Like the fact that hurrying and not hurrying tend to get me to the same place in relatively the same amount of time, except that one is a lot more stressful and cause for use of a great many words, and the other means I can get there with my hair in a better state.

Like the fact that whether I am in a hurry or not, I am still a walking disaster. Make no mistake: even as I didn’t hurry through making pizza last night, the meatball still ended up on the floor. It’s just that there was marginally less meatball on the floor, and I managed to clean it up before next Tuesday.

I also did it in a better state of mind, which counts for a lot.

Unfrazzled eating of pizza is far preferable to the usual state of affairs.

As I sat down to write this I made myself a cup of tea and lit a candle. No hurry at all. Still, I couldn’t manage to get the mug to my face without spilling it on the table and the floor and down the front of my shirt.

Lesson: it’s fine.

It’s all fine.

Here is another thing I learned, as I started my new Peloton and Apple challenges: I’m going to keep getting fat no matter how many times I swear I’m never getting fat again. It’s a thing.

The thing I have to learn again and again is that I just can’t eat like a normal person. I definitely can’t eat like I want to. I need a thousand calories a day of plants and protein and not a single one more. Biscuits and banana bread are off the list. The diameter of a pizza is what gets added to my hips every time I eat one.

And sometimes I don’t want to live that way. Sometimes I want the bucket of mint Oreo ice cream.

It has nothing to do with how much I exercise, either. I exercise all day. I just took a performance test on the bike and matched my score from last January. You could make the argument that I haven’t gotten any better, but more importantly I haven’t gotten any worse, especially as I continue to gain weight.

So there’s that.

Lesson: it’s annoying and I hate it but when it gets like this and I’m feeling less than spectacular about it, it’s time to do something about it.

I learned that I have to rein in my OCD. I use that word colloquially of course, but I obsess about stuff and that gives me stress and that leads to frustration and that leads to quitting.

If I don’t fill in ALL my little habit boxes then I have to quit and do it again “next time.”

If I eat the ice cream then I have to quit trying to be healthy and start again on “Monday.”

Lesson: it’s dumb and defeatist.

There’s that phrase that says perfection is the enemy of the good. But perfection is the enemy of everything. Of living, of enjoyment, of experience, of progress. This is a thing I need to learn over and over.

There is a meditation app that I like to listen to and each day it sends me a little daily reflection. I save the good ones to repeat, and one of them is about starting again wherever you are, right now. I listen to it a lot.

Which reminded me today that I want to listen to this app more. I like it, but it goes to the bottom of the list when there are ten billion other things to do and obsess about in a day.

I also want to listen to podcasts more. There are a few I like quite a bit but I obsess about having to listen to every episode and then I get behind or sometimes they are boring and I get stuck.

But… wait for it… I learned that I don’t have to listen to every single episode. I can… wait for it again… skip the ones I don’t like! I can enjoy the ones I do without obsessing over the ones I don’t.

I’m going to start writing little notes to myself and sticking them all over the kitchen cabinets.

Perfection is the enemy.

Start again now.

But if I ever put up a poster of a kitten in a tree that says “Hang in there!” you have my permission to slap me about the head a bit.

Here is another thing I learned: I may never actually finish my stupid barrel project. All summer it was hot hot hot wet wet hot wetandhot. Honestly, I’m not even sure how a whole summer went by.

Now there are stink bugs covering every square inch of everything and I am not stepping foot onto that balcony just to become a bug magnet.

I don’t know when this project is going to happen. I do know I’m going to stop thinking about it. It will get done, or it won’t. It will get done when I WANT it to.

Which reminds me that I also learned I need to do more of what I want. I don’t mean go off and live a hedonistic life and leave the meatball on the floor indefinitely. I mean that I have to spend my time on things I want to do instead of always on things I think I should do.

Here is how the “what should I do” process usually goes:

I want to read.

You have to clean the bathtub.

I don’t want to clean the bathtub right now.

Fine then you can’t read.

Fine then I’ll sit here and play card games.

Lesson: I’m stupid.

Finally, I learned that living analog is quite enjoyable. Since writing on paper instead of on a computer, I’ve had time to actually think. Thinking is underrated. Writing allows for a pause in between sentences. It allows for a moment to process what’s coming out of my pencil. Once in a while I stop to draw a little flower.

I also learned that pencils need to be sharpened quite a bit more frequently than one might think.

So the experiment continues. It is a new month, after all, which still makes me do a little happy dance and stomp on all the old junk to make room for the new. I will live more, learn and relearn and rerelearn some more. I’m off to a good start and even filled in all my little habit boxes. Almost.

Photo: train tracks in Snoqualmie, Washington. Going somewhere…