A drive for perfection

I have found myself being very consumerist recently. Just spending tons of time browsing through clothes, toys, etc. Like, if I buy the perfect thing, my life will become perfect. R and I don’t spend a lot of money by choice because we both would rather save our money so we have more flexibility later on in life with how we want to spend our time. But coming back to work and with MG becoming more interested in the world, I have this quiet anxiety that is telling me to be more perfect. I have probably spent hours looking at beautiful rainbow blocks, stacking bowls, play silks, etc. At the same time, we work very hard to not give MG too many toys and overwhelm her. So where is this drive coming from? It’s like some perverted thought that if I don’t get the right things, life won’t be good. I think I’m going to pause on online shopping for a while and let myself reconnect more with the natural rhythm of my life.

Millenial Burnout

Have you read this article yet? It really got me thinking about how I think about and structure my time. I’m a very task-oriented person. It makes me excel at work, but also makes me sort of manically work through my weekend to-do list in a way that emphasizes productivity. In a way, I have the opposite problem that this person has…I’m almost too efficient at the doing, and not at the being.

I’ve noticed since becoming pregnant I structure my weekends like this even more so. It became a thing to get ready for baby but now it’s like this weird haze of stress that sits over a lot of my weekend time. This is true even though I feel like R and I are pretty good at having relaxing weekends — watching exactly one episode of TV, going to the coffee shop, taking a nice walk.

I was at the library the other day and started browsing through this book on bullet journaling and it struck me as insanely obsessive. Like, here’s an idea — try to track every single thing you do to put nonstop pressure on yourself to be perfect. Oh yeah, and make sure it is visually pleasing as well. I have this same thing with fitbits and apple watches and all of those things meant to track data for…basically no reason. Even a meditation timer I downloaded recently tracks stats like how long my meditation ‘streak’ is, which makes you feel like meditation only counts if it is logged into the app. But what about time spent mindfully walking or drinking coffee?

I do track some data in my life — when I was lifting for strength, I wrote down my lifts. And I used to track my period and ovulation to avoid and then become pregnant. But the idea of quantifying my own life on this track to continuos improvement or productivity makes me feel very unhappy. Why not be okay with how I am and how my life looks at this moment, and practice being in this moment instead?


Opting Out: Smartphones

Those who know me in real life know that I constantly bring up the idea of getting rid of my smartphone. My company actually pays for my phone and when I am traveling for work, I absolutely do need it. But I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a non-smart phone for my daily use and just turning the smart phone on when I am traveling.

I have not done this yet. I would make an intention to trying to use my phone less and fail — and this was a cycle that repeated over and over. I wasn’t quite ready to drop my phone altogether for three main reasons: 1) How would I take photos? 2) How would I figure out how to get anywhere? 3) How would I keep in contact with my loved ones (whom I mostly communicate with via text).

So what I did was starting deleting apps from my phone. Yup. I went through and deleted every app I didn’t absolutely need. Even Safari. I didn’t even know you could delete Safari! But that, on its own, reduced my smartphone usage each day by probably 60%. I had two apps left that had some level of search and interaction component — the first was google maps and the second was Instagram.

I have about six Instagram friends, and I really use the platform as more of a photo scrapbook. But all of a sudden I was spending 10 minutes at a time on Instagram explore – or searching hashtags. So I deleted Instagram.

And now, I am honestly finding myself using my phone just for navigation, photos, and texting. The cognitive load of my phone has greatly reduced — and it has, once again, become a tool that is serving me. And honestly, I don’t miss having Safari on my phone at all. Not at all. It makes me feel free.

A Work Uniform

A few years ago, I found a perfect clothing item while thrift shopping. It was a black tunic, made of wool, but with a very loose knit. Sleeveless, it hit around mid-thigh and looked elegant and classy with a simple pair of leggings.

I started wearing this tunic to work every week, then twice a week, then more days a week than I wanted to admit. I hunted in vain for this tunic online but could never find anything by the maker that was even somewhat similar.

I already had a vision — to have THREE work tunics – and then to wear them every day of winter. Never again would I have to struggle to get dressed for work. Never again would I have to wear “work pants.”

Eventually, I did find a few other tunics that were similar. All were wool, two have full sleeves, the third is sleeveless. So now, I have four work tunics. Getting dressed in the morning takes me approximately three minutes because all I have to decide is sleeves or no sleeves and how thick I want my leggings to be.

Opting out of work clothes — inspiration for them, shopping for them, trying them on, returning them, etc, etc, – has been a real joy for me this winter.

Interestingly, only one person in my office ever realized I was wearing the same clothes daily, and this was after I had the work uniform in place for over a month.

Opting Out: Podcasts

Unconsciously over the last year, I have been seeing what I can opt-out of without incident. After the election in 2016, I got really into podcasts. Partly as a way to escape the insane news, but partly as a way to help me digest it via all the great new political podcasts that emerged. A few months ago, I removed the podcast app from my phone. Now, if I’m on a delayed train or taking a lunch time walk, there’s nothing on my phone for me to listen to (and I don’t carry headphones anyway).

If I want to listen to a podcast now, I have to be at home, open my laptop, and consciously choose one. This has been great because there is a level of intention that I have towards podcasts now where I only listen if I am genuinely engaged.

Podcasts I still listen to include:

  • Call Your Girlfriend — two long-distance besties chat about their lives and their news. Feminist and powerful, it feels like being at brunch with your own best friends.
  • On Being – this was the first podcast I ever listened to. Interviews about life and spirituality. I love listening to the unedited cut so I get a whole sense of the interview. They also have a wonderful blog.
  • This American Life – always a classic. I avoid the sad episodes but there is a such a great archive here that I can almost always find something great.

And that’s it. Contrary to feeling deprived, I feel free from podcasts.