Last weekend, I went to Forever 21 and bought a necklace (never mind that it’s closer to Forever 41 in my case…) It was less than five dollars, and it’s made of shimmery silver leaves that jingle when I walk, which makes me feel like a belly dancer and also makes me feel like a million bucks. And I never would have bought it if I hadn’t made accessorizing an assignment in my Manual.
As I have written here before, I have a three ring binder with Madeleine Michele Lohman – The Manual on the cover. It’s a place where I attempt to keep record of who I truly am, and where I would like to be, and what my most authentic self might like to accomplish.
What does authenticity have to do with me and a mall and a cheap necklace? Bear with me for a moment.
When we really stop and consider what we want out of life, the ideas can come back a bit…lofty. Happiness, contentment, self-empowerment, authenticity. These all sound lovely, but it’s hard to know what they would actually look like in our lives.
So, once I have an inkling of what I want, (what I really, really want) I start breaking it down. And then I keep on breaking it down.
Let me break it down:
Wednesday lunchtime is my weekly Manual Check-in. I sit down and open my binder and reflect. This week, for instance, I sat on the kitchen floor, in front of the oven. October just got cold. I sat for a moment with the question: “What do I really want my life to look like?” I rarely get any sort of articulate answer to questions like these, but I trust there is an inherent value to taking a moment to ask the question anyway.
The first page of the binder is called Seasonal Principles. These are the biggies – the sometimes overwhelming and elusive Things I Want out of Life. For me, it’s helpful to at least break this down into seasons. I don’t have to think about my whole lifetime, or even this year. Just what I want for autumn.
Following this page is daily practices and monthly projects. Three things to be aware of daily, and a handful of multi-step projects, that hopefully in some way relate back to the essence of the Seasonal Principles. Each monthly project has a list of actions, bite size pieces of how I will get from here to there.
Here’s my favorite part of my Wednesday check in: I take a pen and I write the next actions and daily practices on individual Post-it notes. I then place those notes on my calendar. (Yes, I still use a paper and pencil calendar. I like seeing the days of my life take up room in space so they feel more real. The last time I had a virtual calendar was a “Palm Pilot” – remember those? It was stolen from my car and I never replaced it.)
This system reminds me of rainfall – the Manual and the papers within it are pregnant clouds hovering over my life, and the Post-its rain down into each day.
By the time something makes it to a Post-it note, I make sure it’s so banal it couldn’t be remotely frightening to me.
So here’s how we get to the shiny necklace:
One of my fall goals is “Recognize My Power”. In the binder, I’ve actually written it as a mantra: “I am powerful.” It’s nice to have something you can say whether you believe it or not.
One of my daily practices in support of this goal is: “Accessorize.” Let me explain: I schedule the living heck out of my day (letting go of that would be another great goal…for another season) but generally one thing I never schedule enough time for is getting ready. I am too busy considering everything else and everyone else’s needs to remember that I might need time to transition from my private to my public life.
Which means that I generally start getting ready for, say a party, about five minutes before we’re supposed to leave. My spouse can tell you, that on almost any car ride, I have the sun-shield mirror down, and I’m trying not to poke myself in the eye as I scribble eyeliner on. And frankly, in 38 years, I’ve very rarely considered that an outfit can go beyond just the parts that are necessary to avoid public indecency.
So buying an item whose purpose is nothing other than to be shiny was pretty decadent. But the effect has been palpable. Taking that teency extra moment to put on a necklace made me feel different, even just sashaying the aisles of a Trader Joe’s. By accessorizing, I elevated preparing myself to meet my day to the level of all the other preparations I do, for class, for a massage, for dinner. Those are the things that usually take up all the room in my To-Do list. This system is the best thing I’ve found to make sure that an equal amount of space on my To-Do list is dedicated to what feeds my spirit and my soul.