What’s Working

In 2001 I learned about Appreciative Inquiry–the practice of noticing what is going right in order to remain energized while moving forward in positive potential.  It’s a wonderful, feel-good exercise.  I highly recommend it!  (My list follows, if you would like to read the positive things I’ve noticed.  Recent entries appear higher on the list.)

What’s Working #26:  “remembering my babe
In a nutshell, it is using computer passwords that relate to my beloved Erik, which helps me think of him even when I’m in “busy” mode.  :-)  For several years now, I’ve been using Erik-themed passwords for my laptop, email, and online banking login.  Each time I type in those passwords, I can’t help but smile as I think of my man.  He’s very inspirational!  Some ideas (NOT my passwords–just suggestions): “G1ft0fM1n3,” “L0v3MyM@n,” “F@vP@rtn3r,” etc.  I love remembering my babe throughout the day! (11/27/17)

What’s Working #25: “a habit of healthy exercise
In a nutshell, it is the established pattern of exercising three or four times per week to maintain my physical health and emotional wellbeing. It can be difficult for an individual to find the motivation to get out the door and headed to the gym, but having a thrice-weekly “exercise date” with my spouse (MWF or MWS) makes it super easy for me. Listening to good music or a book on tape keeps me entertained as I do my strength training or cardio, and having Erik flirt with me while I’m there (either by coming up and whispering in my ear, or sending me flattering texts) adds to the fun!  I almost always leave the gym elevated in spirit–thanks to exercise-induced endorphins and a renewed sense of personal accomplishment.   So grateful Erik and I formed the habit of exercising together–eleven years ago!  (9/5/17)

What’s Working #24: “name that emotion
In a nutshell, it is noticing and naming difficult emotions in order to stop being overwhelmed by them.  In chaplaincy training (called CPE–clinical pastoral education), I was taught the importance of taking stock of one’s emotional state in any given moment in order to minimize the likelihood of reactivity and transference.  Learning to [silently] name my emotional state was an important practice in the “art of being a healing presence,” allowing me to be a better listener.  That was 2012.  More recently, I’ve used the practice to help me deal with painful regret, concern, or discontent.  Noticing disturbing feelings, I ask myself, “What am I feeling right now?”  Almost always, feelings become less painful once I’ve sifted through potential labels and named aloud the emotion that best fits.  Emotional intelligence (EI) is good for my wellbeing!  (6/21/17)

What’s Working # 23: “artistic conversation”
In a nutshell, it is the ability to initiate and hold a meaningful and mutually-rewarding conversation with [almost] anyone.  Over the years it has become apparent that “I’m my father’s daughter” when it comes to unreserved sociability.  Sometimes that can get a person in trouble, but thanks to some clinical chaplaincy training (2012), I’ve grown to better self-filter (still working on this!) and not say everything that comes to mind.  As well, I’ve grown in the ability to “handle” difficult, emotional conversation and to help people express aloud things that they’ve needed to voice and process, without taking what they’re saying personally [usually].  When people thank me for our conversation, I know it’s served us both.  That’s a great feeling!  (11/28/15)

What’s Working #22: “completing the loop”
In a nutshell, it is finishing a project or experience completely–including clean up.  I began applying the concept of “completing the loop” to erranding a few years ago.  The idea was to empty the car of all bags, trash, or sundries every time I pulled into the garage and got out of my car. Surprisingly, it was a very easy habit to form–despite my prior years (and years!) of living with junk-filled cars. My brain just “got it”: an errand’s not done till the stuff’s put away.  Now to apply it to clothing!  [Editor’s note:  “Hey brain: The experience of picking and wearing an outfit isn’t finished until I’ve put it all away for another day’s use, or put it in the hamper in preparation for laundry day.  Complete the clothedness loop!  Got it?”] (6/3/15)

What’s Working #21: “my antidepressant”
In a nutshell, the antidepressant I’ve been trying for months now, Wellbutrin, is helping.  A lot.  While it doesn’t completely free me from feelings of anxiety or stress, it does make emotional equilibrium the norm–which means when I do feel either of the former, the difference is noticeable enough to inspire me to action: mindfulness, talking it out, rest, etc.  I’m grateful I bit the bullet–confronted the stigma–and finally gave antidepressants a try.  It’s a beautiful thing to not be tormented with endless ruminating, overwhelm, worry, OR mania. And it’s wonderful to feel greater sexual interest, which Wellbutrin inspires.  Wahoo! ?   (2/17/14)

What’s Working #20: “memento mori”
In a nutshell, it is remembering that I will die (how soon, no one knows) and that who I am and what I’ve done in my life will be forgotten (probably sometime within the next 200 years).  What “works” about this morbid thought?  It frees me from the burden of feeling that I have SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO ACCOMPLISH, that I must work to figure out what it is, and that I will never be satisfied with myself until I accomplish that thing.  Memento mori (“Remember death” in Latin) gives me the perspective that I might as well enjoy myself during this one precious life, since my life is not going to matter to anyone else after it’s long gone.  (Ego frowns; Shaunalei breathes easy!)  (6/11/13)

What’s Working #19: “pre-cooked frozen meat”
In a nutshell, it is enjoying the convenience of quick-to-thaw, ready-to-eat ground meat for last-minute dinner recipes.  Over the past ten years or so, I’ve formed the habit of never storing ground meat in the freezer without cooking it first.  I buy low-fat ground beef (or turkey) in bulk (since it’s cheaper), and then cook the whole lot in a stock pot until no longer pink.  After draining and cooling slightly, I store the meat in 2 c. portions–which equals a scant pound of cooked meat–and place the bags in my deep freezer.  Love having ready-to-use meat! (11/8/11)

What’s working #18: “drop-dead deadlines”
In a nutshell, it is creating a realistic ending point (and a realistic consequence for incompletion) for a project I wish to accomplish.  For example, I hate sweeping and mopping our large kitchen/dining/sitting area and therefore haven’t done so for the past 2+ weeks.  Today I noticed the grime and decided to give myself a drop-dead deadline in order to get motivated to clean.  We had planned a fun family outing of swimming tonight, but I told myself I couldn’t go unless I got the floors done first.  Voila!  I got the floors shiny clean.  The deadline and the consequence gave me the motivation I needed.  (In the past, I’ve also used the website www.stickk.com to give myself deadlines.  Very helpful!) (6/5/11)

What’s working #17: “morning sunshine”
In a nutshell, it is enjoying a morning hug of radiance from my Sol friend. ;-)  A couple of years ago, I decided to switch the location of our dining and living room furnishings. Having a big, dedicated room for dining inspired regular, lingering evening meals. That was a boon. But, as I soon discovered, I was equally pleased with having a lounge-in-the-morning-sun area made possible by the large, un-curtained bay windows and french doors flanking the east side of our new sitting area. There are benefits, both emotional and vitaminal, to spending some time basking in the sun. (Cats know!) (4/28/11)

What is working #16: “universalism”
In a nutshell, it is believing that no one is condemned. This is a fairly recent belief of mine, growing in inverse proportion to my residual fear of a demanding God. It is believing that where there is omniscience—understanding of all that brings us to our decisions and actions–there can be mercy and compassion. It is believing that in whom there is hurt and harm, there can come healing and help, through the infinite power of Love. It is a motivating belief, inspiring me to seek to understand rather than to judge and condemn. It is something I hope to live and not just define. (3/13/11)

What is working #15: “wonderment”
In a nutshell, it is remembering to be curious. Wonderment is a wonderful antidote when life feels mournfully monotonous. It is having a child’s perspective and approach to life rather than stagnating in self-restrained structure. I get in the mode of wonderment when I wander around the internet exploring idea after idea. Many times I feel guilty afterward for not being “productive,” but then my beloved Erik reminds me, “It’s not your job in life to be productive. Exploring ideas and thoughts is valuable—you enjoy it; it’s fascinating; it fills in the gaps in your education and helps you clarify what it is you want to do.” It makes me feel alive! (3/3/11)

What is working #14: “decisive energy”
In a nutshell, it is experiencing the power inherent in choosing a clear course of action. The term “decide” comes from the latin root cid—meaning “to cut”. Deciding is an act of cutting off other potentials in favor of one potential which we hope to realize. When Erik asked me back in Jan. 1994 if I’d go steady with him, I said, “Sure, we could try that.” When six nice guys called me that very weekend to ask me out, I had to really decide if I was willing to cut off these “other potentials” in order to grow my relationship with Erik. I was. Cutting off the “what if’s” infuses one with energy and peace. It makes one’s immediate (though perhaps not life-long) course clear. (2/22/11)

What is working #13: “dexterity”
In a nutshell, it is enjoying quick muscular and mental reflexes.  This allows me to catch falling precious things, to maneuver around dangerous obstacles, or to detect when I’m feeling manipulated, with amazing accuracy.  It’s been interesting to note that my lightning-speed brain is able to discern almost instantly when the “something” requires my immediate attention, pumping me up with the needed adrenaline to power my accurate response.  My reaction time on less-urgent “somethings” is noticeably slower, however.  If my memory serves me right, I was not as accurate when I was younger.  The brain’s pathways have been strengthened, I believe, experience upon experience. (2/17/11)

What is working #12: “a heart for teaching”
In a nutshell, it is being passionate about learning and passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. It is realizing I’ve been “made to mentor,” which is what I think Jack Canfield has discovered about himself. Just today I came across this term: mentos–meaning “intent, purpose, spirit, passion” (OED, Online Etymology Dictionary.) Those attributes resonate with me. I believe I have a heart for teaching! (2/7/11)

What is working #11: “epiphanies”
In a nutshell, it a gift of wisdom concerning something I’ve not considered before. As much as I enjoy thinking things through as a rational practice, I enjoy even more experiencing the grace moments of revelation and intuition that bring me insight, aha’s, and hilarious lucidity (“Of course!”).  Now to apply the wisdom I’ve learned; that is the challenge! (2/2/11)

What is working #10: “friends pulling for me”
In a nutshell, it is knowing that people care.  Sunday, I shared in church a few details of a couple of painful interpersonal experiences I’ve had recently to illustrate the changes I’m going through.  Afterward, several individuals came up to talk with me, to reassure me, to encourage me, and to share with me some of their own life wisdom.  It is such a blessing to know people care, support, and love me–imperfect though I be.  It is such a gift when friends’ faces light up when I come into a room; thank you, friends, for that simple kindness! (1/25/11)

What is working #9: “flying by the seat of my pants”
In a nutshell, it is acting in realtime, satisfactorily. While I’m a gal who likes to scheme and dream, I’m not one who typically pulls all the pieces together early. (Need an executive secretary!) But despite my procrastinating and unrealistic estimations of how long it will take to get something ready, I can usually do so, even last-minute. (Such skills! ;-)  ) To quote Wiktionary, flying by the seat of one’s pants is: “To use one’s judgement, initiative and realtime perceptions to decide on a course of action as events unfold without a predetermined plan.” Viva la power of now!—fueled by all the experience that has prepared me to act in a given moment! (1/22/11)

What is working #8: “fashion fun”
In a nutshell, it is coming up with cute clothing ensembles through trial and error. In 2006, I started paying more attention to my appearance (see What is working #3). As I’ve continued to expand and purge my wardrobe since then (thanks to Erik’s generosity and great thrift store finds), I’ve found a lot of pleasure in coming up with beautiful combinations of jewelry and attire. Now, as I watch older family home videos, I contrast my former frumpiness with my more fashionable form of dress. I like my new hobby!–it’s fun to feel cute. (1/18/11)

What is working #7: “freedom to question”
In a nutshell, it is being open to improvement, to a better way of doing things. During my years of schooling, I valued getting straight A’s and consequently became a slave to the authority of my teachers. They told me what to do and I did it, without ever questioning whether a more customized assignment/methodology might be a better fit for me. But by homeschooling our children, and going through a faith transition, I’ve learned to question the what, why, and how’s. May I never forget this life is mine for the choosing. (1/17/11)

What is working #6: “gastronomy”
In a nutshell, it is enjoying good food and the act of dining–which inspires my inner chef.  I used to have a menu of meals I repeated each month as I cooked for my family.  While it facilitated shopping-list creation and dinner-making decisions, it got boring.  Once I let go of the preconceived menu and started asking myself the question, “What food does my body want?” the gastronomy miracle happened: savory, soul-satisfying food was found regularly on our dinner table, with no resentment on my part for the time it took to cook.  Bon appetit! (1/15/11)

What is working #5: “mindfulness”
In a nutshell, it is inviting peacefulness by being fully present to the moment.  Erik’s sister, Heidi, teaches mindfulness professionally in Sweden and introduced me to the practice two years ago. I’ve finally formed the habit of becoming mindful prior to sleep, when first waking, in moments of stress, or whenever it occurs to me.   It is inhaling deeply and listening to one’s breath, paying attention to sensory data (aromas, sounds, flavor, beauty, touch), letting go of tension, connecting with the body and consequently being freed from the clutter of the mind.  Mindfulness helps me sleep better and recover more quickly from disappointment and stress.  Thanks, Heidi! (1/13/11)

What is working #4: “courageous honesty”
In a nutshell, it is speaking the truth of things even when it’s scary.  As Erik and I have gotten closer these past five years, I’ve come to realize what a blessing it is to be completely honest, to hide nothing.  Being courageously open and honest bears wonderful fruit: greater emotional intimacy, compassion, and progress (the chance to make things better). Honest discussion, by definition, must be accurate!  (Descriptions of real feelings, situations, and behaviors–NOT exaggeration, labeling, or judgment). (1/10/11)

What is working #3: “wedded bliss”
In a nutshell, it is finding grace and happiness in my marriage. Nearly five years ago I discovered that I was not enjoying the incredible man (my husband) sharing the same house with me. With new eyes to see his pain, I became incredibly interested in his happiness and well-being, re-learning how fun it is to make out, dress beautifully, or talk for hours with my Erik. Erik is my gift, a gift I enjoy everyday now! (1/8/11)

What is working #2: “appreciative inquiry”
In a nutshell, it is searching for my strengths in order to enjoy/discover/create more good in my life. I learned about Appreciative Inquiry last summer and have begun the process of identifying what’s working in my life in order to be positively energized and primed for even more positive life change. (I think A.I. would also add vitality to a family “team.”)  Creating this What’s Working list is a practice in appreciative inquiry. Thanks for letting me indulge!  :-)   (1/7/11)

What is working #1: “short-term parking”
In a nutshell, it is a system to keep my house tidy without constant nagging. Several years ago I purchased buckets (1 per family member) and placed them in the coat closet. Left out items get placed in the individual’s respective buckets.  I also have a large wicker basket in the study, for items left out upstairs. Once a week family members are encouraged to put away their items and/or place them in the To Be Donated bin in the garage.  Having my house tidy is nourishing to my peace!  Love this system. (1/6/11)

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