Yesterday I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s amazing website, and came across a post she wrote on fundamental habits–the habits that make other habits easier to form. The four habits she named are:

  • getting enough sleep
  • getting some exercise
  • creating external order
  • managing eating and drinking

They seem outrageously obvious, right? In fact, as Rubin points out, the fundamental habits are often the ones that people are trying to build anyway. They’re tied together. It’s easier to exercise when I’ve had enough sleep, eaten well, am hydrated and my apartment isn’t a disaster zone. But it’s also easier to sleep when I’ve gotten some exercise and washed the dishes. 

I realized in reading Rubin’s list that these four habits (which I like to think I am usually pretty good at) are my canaries in the coal mine. They tell me when something is out of sync in my life. I started noticing my stress more last week when I realized that I was buying a lot of impulse chocolate to get through the workday. When I don’t have time for a run or to wash the dishes before bed, it’s a sign that my days are too full and something needs to give. I’m a wreck when I haven’t gotten enough sleep, so when I start staying up way later to get things done, that’s when something is very wrong. 

It was so obvious after reading Rubin’s post that these habits are essential not just to be happy but to function at all that I immediately wrote them down as questions to ask myself when I start to feel stressed or out of control. 

My Big Questions

  1. Have I gotten enough sleep? (For me, enough sleep means 8 hours minimum)
  2. Have I gotten some exercise? (Derby? Running? A walk around the block?)
  3. Is my world ordered? (I will always feel more stressed by a messy desk). 
  4. Is my eating and drinking aligned with my values? (Eating a lunch I had time to prepare at home is aligned with my values. Buying an Amy’s frozen meal while I’m at work isn’t. Neither are Sprouts whoopie pies.)

The next step is figuring out what to do when stress has already happened, which is when these habits would be the most helpful, but are also hardest to stop and fix in the moment. I don’t have an answer at this point. I’m hoping that awareness will be enough to help. 

My August goals fell by the wayside the last two weeks. My mom came to town, and then work/life/derbs was stressful afterward, and it showed in my ability to keep up with what is important. Isn’t that always the way it goes? Some little unimportant thing happens and it derails the really important aspects of your life. But anyway, here goes:

  • Groceries: I’m currently at $132.37 for the month, and that includes a couple of coffees, dinners out, and some movie snacks. I don’t think I was originally planning on counting food out (not technically groceries) but whatever. Including only food bought at a grocery store, I am at $93.37, safely under budget for the month with a week to go. Some proper planning on today’s grocery run and I should achieve this goal. 
  • Exercise: Doing fairly well there. Four to five days a week average. 
  • Writing: Hah. Here’s where it goes downhill. None? Zero? Zip? All true. I’ve done none, and it shows, maybe not to anyone else (not even sure if Boyfriend notices) but I can feel myself tense up. I’m a little more on edge, a little less happy, a little less patient. Because I know I’m not doing what I’m “supposed to” be doing (what I want to do too, but it’s the supposed to that kills me) and I don’t know where to find more time. It’s there of course, somewhere, maybe underneath the couch. I’m returning to an old strategy this week. Get up early and write one bad thing before work this week. We’ll see how it goes. Failure seems imminent. 
  • Saving. Miraculously, it seems somehow still conceivable that I could save $417 this month. This has been the month of big spending. Most months, it is a little here and a little there–dinners and coffees and Hillary Kitten treats, the occasional book. This month it has been Hillary Kitten’s vet bill and medication ($232), the gift of a mattress for my sister ($347), new glasses ($125), DMV bills ($107), the ominous threat of new tires, etcetera. Still, it is conceivable that my savings is not completely haywire this month. 

As for that fun goal? Well, fun seems to be mostly a state of mind. I’ve had fun. When my mom was in town, we went to the beach and made dinner and drank wine, and that was fun. I’ve had dinner with friends and that’s been fun. I’ve read a couple of deeply interesting books. I’ve eaten very good meals with good friends. Overall though, I’m not sure that fun = happiness. It seems like happiness has a little bit more to do with what I’m not doing than with what I am. I’m happier when I’m not dealing with people who annoy me. Or working. Or maybe it’s just that unhappiness is easier to remember and its causes are easier to attribute. 

H.K. is a little upset with me. She doesn’t really want me to be her campaign manager anymore. Fortunately for me, her other top candidate, Boyfriend, has expressed zero interest in the position. 

H.K.’s eyes have been a little watery lately, and this weekend I noticed one of her back paw pads looked cracked, so I took her to the vet. Which she throughly enjoyed (or not). Turns out she has an infection, and for the sake of her campaign, we’re going to leave it at that for now (those dogged paparazzi will probably dig it up from one of her interns). So now she receives eye drops every eight hours and a edible medication twice a day, which even though it smells like fish, she completely hates. I would probably fire my campaign manager too, if I was in her paws. 

Grand total for the vet visit, medication and flea preventative (for good measure): $212.13. My father has been known to say “cats are cheap.” That may still be true, but vet bills are not.

  1. So far, I have spent $54.61 on groceries in the first ten days of the month. I have eaten very, very well, especially last night when we had friends over for dinner and I made a bean salad, quesadillas and stuffed jalapenos. Fortunately there is a ton of the delicious bean salad left, so that will be lunches this week.
  2. I had derby on Monday and Thursday, ran on Tuesday and Sunday, walked on Friday, so I made my exercise goal for this week at least.
  3. Writing every other day didn’t really happen in the middle of the week. I posted a blog on Sunday, wrote a little on Tuesday, wrote on Friday, Saturday and today. So I guess I only really missed Wed/Thurs.
  4. Saving is on track, though right now my spending outranks my income. It’s early in the month. Rent and taxes have been taken care of. I finally bought plane tickets for H’s wedding in October, which I half-count as spending and half-don’t because I’d already set aside the money for these tickets, so I don’t really feel like it should count against my goals.
  5. Updated the tabulation today. Somehow I am missing 54 cents. I’m going to have to check my car.

It’s very tempting to online window-shop, but pretty unproductive. I see dresses and pants that I want to buy, but don’t actually need, so it makes me feel dissatisfied and distracts from my actual goals (saving $417 – $1,000 per month). So I’m trying to avoid it. It’s also time wasted when I could be writing or playing with H.K. But it is a struggle.

This afternoon I’m volunteering with G.S. then a friend and I are grabbing dinner and seeing a movie. I anticipate spending a little bit of money, but I also have a gift card from one of my aunts that has just been hanging around, so I’ll probably make use of it to lessen my costs.

What do you do an hour before people come over for dinner? Maybe tidy up? Start prepping the meal? How about cut your own hair for the first time?

Oh yeah. It finally happened. I gave myself a haircut.

Photo on 2014-08-09 at 17.55

This is the before shot. Crazy eyes for crazy ends.

Now, first, I think I should make a confession. My sister used to cut her own hair in college and I feel like I probably gave her a little bit of a hard time about that at least once. What can I say? Sorry sis, I have a problem with conformity (as in sometimes I am a conformist).

Do you know what’s awesome? Cutting your own hair.

For one thing, it was super easy, at least for a low maintenance boring haircut like I have. I followed these two guides. And mostly, I just did it. The first cut was the hardest, but once you’ve started, there’s really no turning back and then it is fun.  Unlike the last time I gave myself a haircut (I guess this is the second confession of the post) when I was nine (or ten? or twelve?) I was able to stop before I cut all of my hair off.

You can’t really see it in the pictures, but I also trimmed the layers near my face. Then it got a little tempting to keep going… and going… and I stopped before it got that far. Whew!

Photo on 2014-08-09 at 18.11

The aftermath. It kind of looks like maybe I just brushed it?

Cutting my own hair feels frugal, though really I spent $16 on the shears, so it probably hasn’t paid for itself quite yet. But it also feels pretty rebellious and independent. No, I don’t need some professional to do for me what I can do for myself.

And honestly, I don’t need a super fancy haircut (though having someone else wash my hair is basically the most luxurious thing I can imagine) because I’m not a super fancy person. I mean, I barely wash my hair. I just need for my hair to feel good when I run my fingers through it and for my brush not to catch on all of the frayed ends. I can accomplish those goals myself.

That feels pretty awesome.

 

Well I guess my dreams of the Tour de France are now on hold, along with my more closely held dreams of biking to work. 

This morning (at 5:20 am, I know because I checked) Boyfriend and I woke up to someone stealing our bike. I actually woke up to Boyfriend yelling at someone who stole our bike as they ran down our stairs and biked away. He says it was a girl, though he didn’t get a good look at her, except from the back, and he says she was wearing perfume. 

Elizabeth Peabody style, this shocking event has raised a lot of questions, which I will now list:

  1. When you’re a punk ass kid who steals someone bike at 5:20 in the morning (5:15 possible start of the robbery?), have you been up all night or do you wake up early for the thievery?
  2. Which was more valuable, the bike stolen or the tool used to cut the lock? Joke’s on you, sucker. I’m actually a little impressed that the gears didn’t lock up on you as you rode away. 
  3. Where is Bikey now? Has Bikey already been abandoned? 
  4. What would I have done if I had been the one to discover this blatant violation of human decency and civil law, instead of sleeping peacefully in my bed? As soon as I realized what was happening (too late, unfortunately), I immediately imagined racing after the thief down the stairs and tackling them into our landlord’s rosemary bushes, then giving her a serious lecture between punches. I also imagined confronting her in the act of cutting our lock, blocking her way of escape down our stairs. Then I imagined a knife fight, which is probably not what would have happened (but possibly). 
  5. Did Hillary Kitten alert Boyfriend to this emergency? Is she a guard cat? (Answer is probably no, will ask Boyfriend after he wakes up (he has gone back to bed)). 
  6. Who are her accomplices? 

It should be mentioned that when I say “our bike” or “our lock,” that it was actually Boyfriend’s bike and Boyfriend’s lock. It was Boyfriend’s bike, but my dream. I had no ownership of the bike, except the ownership of affection. I liked that bike. I rode that bike every day last summer to GS camp. Just the night before (I swear) I thought about asking one of our friends, who is coming to dinner on Saturday, to bring some bike tools so we could fiddle around with Bikey and get it ready for commuting. I suppose it is better that this punk ass kid stole it before I invested more time, energy, love and money into it. I suppose it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Good luck, Bikey. 

  • Spend less than $150 on groceries (not including alcohol)
  • Exercise 5 days a week
  • Write at least every other day
  • Save at least $417
  • Keep my monthly tabulation up to date by updating my spreadsheet on at least a weekly basis

That should be enough, right? But once my brain starts thinking of goals, it can be hard to stop.

I guess I have one more. I went for a walk with a friend this afternoon, which was so good. I missed our walks, but work and vacations and family time have been interceding. On this walk we talked about how important it is to have fun. It’s easy to have fun on vacation–kayaking, drinking beer, sleeping until whenever, reading whatever seems appealing at the time, but it’s much harder in “real life” when there’s work to do, dishes to wash, spreadsheets to update, kittens to play with–oh, wait. That last one is fun.

So this month, I resolve to do something fun at least once a week. Something I really think is fun, not something I think I should enjoy or probably would enjoy, or do all the time anyway. Something really fun, like walking around a new neighborhood or seeing a movie or going to the beach. Add that to the list.

 

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