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I have great clothes. Really. I have a closet full of beautiful clothes for every occasion in only two sizes, perfect for the life I think I’m living. I have coordinated outfits and signature pieces, perfect for the office I pay for but rarely go in to, perfect for the camping trips scheduled but abandoned, mountain weather I’m rarely in, the soirees I attend but can’t find anything to wear to and every imaginable combo for the vacations I take and over-pack for. Theory and reality.

Most mornings I wake up at dawn, pull on a t-shirt and a pair of snappy yoga pants I bought for the classes I’ve paid for yet never gone to, take my son to school, return home to make a delicious hand-crafted cappuccino and head to the desk in my home office. I fire up the computer and the laptop, open my contact management program on one, my writing program on the other, log on to the MLS… and Facebook.  (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

All of this is fine really, and  I do get things done. I mean, something must be going right to be able to pay for  the multiple devises, the software, the yoga classes, the office desk fee and the closet full of clothes. And I devote enough time to writing to keep calling myself a writer.  But where is the gap between the life I think I’m living and the one that takes place day-to-day?

The question of theory is a check-in on the goals and resolutions for 2016.  In theory I’m the girl who gets up at dawn, pulls on those yoga clothes, does the school drop-off, heads to the gym/yoga class, showers and dresses into the sassy ensemble I’ve carefully packed and loaded into the car, and shows up at the office for a full day of work as a busy Realtor. At the end of the day (in my mind) I return to my home office and work for an hour or two on the Great American Novel before throwing a few shallots in the pan to sauté.

As a self-employed single mother, my time is flexible but never my own. Like most in my profession, I wake up every day unemployed and have to get my hustle on, as we all do, but rather than punch a time-clock, I have to time-block to get all that prospecting, house showing, contract writing, negotiating, parenting, exercising and creativity in. Don’t we all? Frankly, I’m not sure how anyone does it, who has time to bake cupcakes, or which day “laundry day” actually is.

But this is not specifically a productivity rant, rather an inquiry into the glitch that keeps us from writing that book or taking that tango lesson. Modern American life asks us to buy into images of perfection, because without feelings of personal deficit, how could we sell things? Madison Avenue must create the perpetual void to be filled with luxury cars, hamburgers, fashion trend and heartburn. We’ve grown so uncomfortable with the empty space within, the interesting space, we hurl ourselves moment-by-moment, away from it with busyness. I call it perpetual prepping; getting ready to be ready. It is the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, seeking a way in or a way out. 

2015 was a “structural” year for me. I opened the windows, dumped out my toy box, and got rid of what I’d outgrown, was no longer entertaining and/or working. The result was the grand realization that what I want I already have, I just want it more clearly. No sweeping changes or mid-life crisis, only the desire for simplicity, authenticity, and presence. I could dump my theory into the mixing bowl, add a dash of focus, blend until it becomes reality and, boom. Cupcakes!

I try this, making the commitment write more, I add time. I rearrange my head to include my body, specifically exercising before the caffeine has fully hit, a yogi move for sure. The night before, I  pack my gym bag, my work clothes, briefcase, and put them in the Subaru. So excited to become that new and improved Tracy, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep, but pop of bed at the first alarm. Being met with  a “Hello” from Adele at sunrise should only happen if you’re just getting home holding your high heels, but I rally. Dropping Gabe at East, I pull into 24hr Fitness by 7:45 feeling pretty damned good about myself. Maybe I can be ‘that girl’ after all, I mean this is going great, right?  Workout complete, I’d even remembered the towel, my self-esteem rising with the hot shower. Pulling on the nude fishnets I’d never worn, I’m troubled by the fact that the crotch seems to want to stay halfway between my knees and hips, the hem has fallen out of my skirt, there’s a spot on my blouse which hadn’t come out in the wash and I’ve not packed mascara. I soldier on into the office looking like a hot mess, reminding myself it’s day one. The next day goes better, though I forgot to pack a bra which wasn’t my best look at 25 either.boobs in pants

Day-by-day, as I morph my theoretical life with the reality I dream of, I learn how much courage it takes to truly be yourself. How much clarity it takes to slough off cultural concepts of needing to fill a void. I am that void, that mystery, and with all the new space in the toy box it’so much easier to find what I’m looking for. And though a few million things need practice, today I will be more present, plan, and try not to forget my foundations…my mother’s word for the brassiere department.

rsz_book_stack_2The dawn cracks, pouring indigo, gold and steaks of pink through my windows. I steal one more moment in the glorious dream as time floats and wafts and mingles with the smell of coffee. Suddenly the realization slaps me like a wet towel— GET UP!-and somewhat reluctantly I prepare to face, if not carpe, the diem. I’ve heard of those who rise in the darkness, bounding into their oatmeal and the day with a bright-eyed zest and a can-do attitude, and wondered… What’s with those guys?
The thing that brings us to our feet may vary but I’d bet the alarm clock isn’t the primary motivator. For some it’s routine obligation and the dubious joy which accompanies, for others it’s the spiritual practice of twisting yourself into a contemplative pretzel and for those crazy enough to do so, it’s the bristling thought of a five mile run on a freezing cold morning. Most of us find ourselves in a conflicted combination, making the bed and the best of it; we wake up, surrender our warm comforts and/or our sense of dread and heave those dogs onto the floor to hit the ground, if not the jogging trail, running.
The answer to your personal wake-up call may be private, but it is essential that you ask yourself the question.
The calendar turning the page on another year and we turn our collective thoughts to hope and new beginnings. “This year will be better” we tell ourselves as we create business plans and swear off the carbs, but what we’re really saying is “This is a good moment for me to DO better.” Doing better is most commonly connected to a personal vision of success, our proximity to it, and the perpetually moving goalpost. As a real estate agent working from home, the bells, alarms and time clocks that segment our days are set on silent scream. I set my own hours, create my own task list and my break room is often the laundry room, moving clothes from washer to dryer while negotiating the day via Bluetooth. No one will chastise me for being late or fire me for not showing up, but I don’t make money beating rugs the way I do beating the bushes. I muster some discipline, create order, time block and do that consistently for 325 days.
2013 starts today. Rather than welcome it with the lose-ten-pounds-double-my-sales-goals-and-be-nicer-to my-cat kind of resolutions, I look to the here and now before looking forward. How well do I really use my time? Not in some kind of crackpot, gotta get organized, type-A manifestation because I already do that, but if our lives are a string of moments, how many are pearls? I’m thinking I can do better, trim the fat, and slip in the right-brain stuff as I go along, rather than blocking out ‘creative time’ on my calendar. First let’s identify the fat. Pencils ready?
1. Write down all the things you’d like to do in 2013. (Go wild and without censor!)
2. Write down all the things you wanted to but didn’t do in 2012. (Go deeper.)
3. Breathe and wait until you get over feeling guilty for the length of #2.
4. Now… write down all of the things you did do that kept you from doing those things that you wanted to do in 2012.
5. Resolve to give up those things (or people). Think of it as freeing yourself up.
6. Do only what you want to this year, and I don’t mean playing Angry Birds— but do the things you know you want to do…right?
In other words STOP MESSING AROUND. (I tried to get this message to Congress but obviously they didn’t get it.)
Look at #1. Does it say “Dance with the Bolshoi Ballet?” (Why not?)
Now look at #2. Does it say take a dance class?
Hmmm. Is there anything on item number 4 that you’d gladly replace with Take a dance class… rearrange sock drawer, maybe?
If you go back to the top three items under each of the numbers, you’ll see what you want now and what you wanted when the year began. How close do they match? And then go to number 4 again and peruse the list of things you do to get what you want. I mean, that’s the list you’d make if you were going to make a list of things to do to get what you want, right? That’s what I thought.
The perception that there are doers in this world and do-nothings is just plain wrong. The do-nothings are doing something; maybe not what they should be but they are— playing computer solitaire for example, or playing the busy, busy, busy card. “I really want to work on my dreams, but who’s got the time?” because that card leaves you with lots of dreams and a very organized sock drawer. Time is not something you can manage like split ends, you’ve gotta give into it like a body surfer. How many times have you told yourself you’d do (or not do) something only to find you’re making the same to-do or not-to-do resolution for days, months, and years? This is where life slips away; in the space between the lines of lists made with good intention. Somewhere between the 2 a.m. worries and the 6 o’clock buzzer, your true motivation lies sleeping. The only way you’ll find it is to look for it. It’s probably hiding under what’s comfortable.
I’ve tried to resolve my way into world peace and my skinny jeans without much luck, and I couldn’t be any nicer to my cat, so this year I’ll keep it simple. Do more of what I really want to do and less of what I’m doing to avoid doing what I really want to do. Happy New Year.