Sunday, November 28, 2010

Getting back on the horse (pre-#reverb10)

I haven't blogged in weeks. I think I'm developing a bit of a block.

I'm tired. All this translating into words, it can make my brain hurt. I think I need a break from thinking.

But I don't give myself a break. I don't really know how. Lately, the acts of writing fiction and thinking about systemic community issues have crowded out any self-reflective time I might have previously indulged.

I find myself thinking, what do I think I have to offer these people who are kind enough to visit my thoughts with me? Is what I'm thinking, ultimately, too rudimentary to be bothered capturing it at all? In any case, can I spare the time?

I'm going to publish this meander just to get back on the horse. Maybe soon the act of writing myself will engage me again. I've followed some friends into #reverb10  which I can let discipline me into at least a few lines of reflection each day. I look forward to sharing them.

This person is under construction. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Not a weight loss plan

Slowly, over the past year, I have undergone a fundamental shift in how I see my body.

More and more often, I find myself thinking of my body as bio machinery, with its own consciousness, similar to that of plants. My emotions are part of that consciousness, my mind part of that machinery, and my spirit is a kind of blind mind-pilot, trying to communicate with the innate consciousness of my body to make it do something besides seek out its own survival and pleasure.

I really could be in any body, and here I am in this one. When I evaluate her for the job I need to do (which is perpetually undefined), she's not a bad one. Well proportioned, strong, not unattractive relatively speaking, capable of doing most of what's required of her without breaking down.

From this perspective I list the things that are important to improve if I want this body to achieve longevity, consistent health, and maximum utility. Clearly, she needs to be stronger and more nimble, with better cardio-vascular health. There's no point blaming her for that, or feeling ashamed of it - that's just the starting point this body is at today. She is in about the condition one would expect for a person who's been trying her best in these particular sets of circumstances. I give her a pass. In fact, I say, "Good Job."

Bodies have a high need for love, seeking approval as an outward sign. That's the part we miss. My body needs me to love her and grant her compassion, so that when I tell her that we're going to work hard to be stronger and more nimble, she will trust me and not release panic chemicals that I'm judging her as inadequate.

Objectively speaking (if such a thing is possible), her appearance is not a top priority. It's fine. It's not impeding progress. In fact, an improvement in appearance has, in the past, sometimes proved detrimental to gaining the respect required to do my kind of work. So appearance can just get crossed off the list for now. When her emotions rise and she resists this, I remind her that anything we do to increase longevity, consistent health and maximum utility will inevitably improve her appearance.

With that core realization accepted, not just in my mind but in my cells, my body and mind agree more often to make a good choice. When I feel my muscles twinge from yesterday's workout addition, or a good stretch loosens my neck and relieves the pressure on my skull, my body starts to crave movement and exercise. It doesn't resist so much when other distractions could derail. My body starts to ask for more water, fresh food. It starts noticing the empty extremity of sugar and simple carbs, and decides against them, sometimes even resisting against my tired mind as it reaches for habit.

It's not all the time, mind you. Habits are ingrained, and food still satisfies. There are lots of times when my mind and body decide to give in to temporary comfort, take a break. But then, it's a decision, and I don't worry about it. If I give up too often in a short space of time, that's a moment I notice now, and I start to ask myself why. I generally don't need to dig too far to find a stress, something not quite right in the works of my mind, something jamming me with a lesson waiting. My mind is good at spotting them, but not very good at explaining them, so it's quite a process to go through. I find, now, I get to it sooner, and deal with it faster, purely through practice.

It's actually not that different from how I deal with my kids, come to think of it.

Ultimately, the separation of mind and body is so simple as to render itself ridiculous. It's like the line between the water and the sand. Yet, it's been an effective lens for me. This is not a weight loss plan. though I have lost weight. It's really about finding a way to look at myself that lets me treat myself with compassion. This is one that works for me, and I wanted to share it.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wasting time on Twitter

Do you waste your time on Twitter? I ask myself this all the time. I've been here, in this neighbourhood with you, for 18 months. When I'm here, I'm not there. There being with the kids, thinking about my job, cleaning up, planning meals, doing laundry or getting ready for bed. Time on Twitter or blogging is time my "real" life is donating. Is it a good investment?

Let's review some data. Since joining Twitter as Mrs. Which:

Mutual Followers: 878 
Listed: 151 
Regular Interaction with: 117 people (give or take)
Blog Followers: 60 (although many comments come from non-followers)
Blog Views (data available only for the last 6 months only): 3715

What does this little block of data tell me? To me it says that, regularly, I dip into the immediate thinking of a statistically relevant sample of 878 people and take whatever is there to think about. I also spend more time getting to know about 117 individuals that I could never otherwise encounter. The data also tells me that, if I take the time to make words of my thinking and tweet that, a statistically relevant sample from 878 people is likely to read it in passing and possibly benefit, or add new thinking. 

Blog Posts: 114 (but 33 are still in draft, so really, 81)
Story Starters: 12
# Early Readers: 13
Short Stories: 1 Completed, 1 in progress (1/3)
Children's Book: 1 Completed, 3 in progress
Novels: 1 in progress (1/3)

This block of data represents my creative output - the tangible outcomes of my time on "social media." What it tells me is that I've done more creative writing since joining Twitter than I had done in the entire decade prior. I'd always written, but I'd never permitted myself fiction. The blog is of particular interest to me, because I play with magnifying and fictionalizing my own experience, which has let me move beyond an invisible barrier I was keeping between reality and fiction. 

But now, the water gets murky. Because I'm out of data, but I have little information. Isn't that always the way? The things that really matter, they don't show up in the numbers. Numbers and words need each other. 

But if I could take the time, and go back through all my 11,595 tweets (!), here is a partial list of the categories I might use, and the metrics associated with them:

  • Asked for help: #times
  • Asked for love: # times
  • Created boundaries as a field, not a wall : # relationships maintained
  • Spent time delving into and crafting my thinking into language before moving on: # thoughtful tweets
  • Took in feedback and perspectives from places I never could have accessed: # times scanned stream
  • Felt inspired by other people's writing: # blog posts read, #novels read after twitter recommendations
  • Felt proud of my own writing: # people for whom it resonated
  • Supported other people through pain: # times someone felt better after an interaction
  • Encouraged other people to stay with it: # times someone moved past a barrier after an interaction
  • Gave other people something to think about: # times someone asked themself a question after reading
  • Cried: # times my heart opened
  • Laughed: #times I felt understood
  • Imagined: # times ideas leaped to life
  • Wondered: # times I thought about a Twitter friend
  • Wished: # times I shared a wish with another human being
  • Hoped: # times twitter helped me keep my grip on hope

There are two other tangible things I want to mention. The first is that, over the last 18 months, I've lost 20 lbs. I haven't dieted. I've just...felt more compelled, more often, to make better choices. Eating, exercise - I'm still pretty slack sometimes, but more and more I find myself not needing food to cope, seeing time taking care of my body as a luxury and a joy - a chance to play. Can I attribute this to Twitter? This supportive outlet I've developed, my little blanket fort, has definitely helped me ground.

The second tangible thing is that I found the illustrator for my children's book through Twitter. She encouraged me to submit it to her publisher, and it was accepted. So I can directly attribute the publication of my book in April, 2012 to my time on Twitter.

I'm well aware that this is a sorry excuse for a cost-benefit analysis. I haven't even provided any data about HOW MUCH time I spend. The truth is, I don't know. I fit it into the cracks and crevices. That's the beauty. A great deal of the time I spend on Twitter is my time-between. Between the kids' tooth brushing and bed, when I'm ordered from the room while they dress. Between turning on the burner and the water boiling. Between putting the kids to bed and doing the chores, when my body and mind just need a break. For the most part I tweet and run, maybe do a quick scan on the fly. When I do sit down for 20 minutes, it's usually time I couldn't bear to spend productively because I just need a rest from the production. 

It's both restorative and generative time that, largely, would otherwise be wasted. I achieve a depth of connection in some ways, and a shallowness in others, that fits perfectly with the time, energy and attention I have to give. It's like an accelerator, sliding learning into the grooves.

For time spent blogging and writing, I can do a bit better. Based on my writing patterns and regular times I make available, I'm guessing I spent between 100 and 120 hours of the last year on creative writing. It averages to 10 hours a month, 2.3 hours a week, but it doesn't play out like that. It's more feast and famine. This metric does not mean that, given 3 weeks of full time work, I could produce a children's book, 1/3 of a novel, 81 published blog posts and a short story. What it means, to me, is that I've carved out times for writing, and made good use of the time that shows up in between.

In essence, what I'm saying is this: not only does Twitter not waste my time, it actually gave me time back that was otherwise wasted. It filled my cracks and crevices with creative interactions, new thoughts, connection that I otherwise would not have experienced, and allowed me to do things I've never managed to do before.

Will it always do this for me? Who knows? I'm thankful to have had this tool for the past year, this way to connect with so many people, and to become a person who values connection and seeks it in my daily life without subterfuge. 

Before the next time someone asks you why you waste your time on Twitter, I hope you'll do your own mini-Cost/Benefit analysis. And please, share!