Hands up if you’ve ever joined the Wide Awake Club for more than four evenings in a row?
Over the last week, the following has happened:
- I landed a new client
- I was offered a paralegal job (dying to work out of the house for at least part of the week)
- I turned 31 (yesterday)
- My daughter’s appendix burst and she developed full blown peritonitis (thanks to the NHS, she is okay)
Although my happiness levels are steady, it’s been a manic week by anyone’s estimations. Thanks to the mania, my brain has entered busy mode at full throttle. So no matter how utterly exhausted I feel, I just can’t scrape more than four hours of sleep a night.
On some nights it has reached three.
Although I am no stranger to insomnia, this blast feels particularly torturous. Aside from tending to an unwell child I have had to play catch-up with my work. Sleep would be my biggest asset in achieving both. When those REM hours evade me, everything takes twice as long.
After rejoining the Wide Awake Club at 4am this morning when my cats had a brawl in the kitchen I decided to find a podcast to perk me up. I typed the word “happy” into Spotify and was met with Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast. The most appealing episode was titled Plan Your 19 for 2019. It seemed both ambitious and fun, so I listened and absorbed.
The title is pretty self-explanatory: you set 19 goals/achievements to complete for 2019. Refreshingly, Gretchen Ruben didn’t promote setting unattainable goals that only ever seem worthy of a breaking the Internet Instagram post. Many were humble, cute, and absolutely worth dedicating time to.
So I decided to create my own list, which is now sitting in a Thank You card (I was too tired to trudge upstairs and grab a notepad of any form). There’s every chance that I will lose this card or spill coffee on it. So, as with any major commitment (or not-so-major as many of them are) it’s time to put my list into a digital format:
Take my clothes to a clothes bank
Like millions of others worldwide I’ve allowed Netflix to sweep me into Kon Mari madness (which is weird considering how cute and zen Marie Kondo is). I absorbed the first episode of her show, immediately Kon Maried (sic?) my clothes, and stuffed them into a bag.
To avoid allowing this first step to become redundant I need to take them to a clothes bank. There’s a scattering of charity banks close to my home and by placing them in those clunky metal bins rather than trying to convince a charity shop to take them I can guarantee some have been recycled while others are resold.
Benefits? Less clutter and an environmentally friendly (possibly altruistic) action. And it’s seriously easy.
Kon Mari my home in general
Taking the Kon Mari approach to the rest of my home could prove challenging. For one, my partner is as close as a person can get to being a hoarder before obtaining a clinical diagnosis. Second, my pre-teen taughter is very uncooperative on the cleaning and organizing front.
I’m hoping that with a little leading by example and some gentle persuasion that I can at least convince the other grownup in my house to de-clutter. To give him his dues he has tried to on several occasions. Most recently he kept a polystyrene box because he once had to pay a man in the Grenadines to let him have one to keep his beer cool and it therefore seems like a waste to throw them away.
(I’m hoping I can convince him that our fridge is functional enough to cool beers and that the polystyrene box can go.)
Benefits? Less clutter, which hopefully means less cleaning. This one will require a lot of effort.
Finish writing a book
Around 18 months ago I listened to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was my audible book of choice while travelling to a placement that I very much detested. I needed something perky and inspiring to keep me going. It was just the ticket.
Although I’m sure my interpretation isn’t the only takeaway message from Big Magic, I did end it feeling as though it’s good to write your books and short stories; even if you don’t send them out into the world. It’s all of that getting the creative juices flowing business.
A couple of mini projects I am milling over include my musings on some of history’s most notorious women and how to freelance as a parent without going insane. Nothing original, but they are topics I enjoy.
Benefits? I can write about stuff I like and do it at my own pace. That’s a rarity when you’re a freelance writer. We’re not all fabled journos who can nip down to the pub between projects we pick and choose.
Lose 10 kg
As I started writing this post I did hear Gretchen Rubin mention that the goals can’t really be outcomes and weight loss targets (such as this) fall into the outcomes category. Instead, you need to focus on actions. With that said, I love a good target so I am going to give my actions the label of losing 10 kg.
I also understand the need to generate actions that result in attaining the goal and they need to be actionable right now. So my actions include:
- No more weekday wine (sigh)
- Fast food is down to once a month (yikes)
- Swimming at least three times per week
Benefits? My sleep patterns will almost definitely improve if I stick to my swimming plan. And although I’m not overweight, I would like to push myself further into the healthy category.
One week of no electronics
This one was inspired by a post I saw on Tiny Buddha. The author was able to go to Belize and enjoy a 10-day social media and electronics detox. Her anxiety levels dropped, but as someone who works online for a living she had to let them rise again so she could make money.
(Necessary and understandable).
Although I don’t think I could get away with zooming off to Belize and shutting the world out, I can create my own version. With the agreement that I can use texts and receive calls, I would love to try a week sans electronics.
(And by receive texts I DO NOT mean WhatsApp)
Like many hardened Milennials I can wax lyrical about how we all need to put down our phones to be more productive but I rarely follow my own advice. Angry People in Local Newspapers is a Facebook page that gets WAY too much of my attention.
Amidst the funny stuff there’s a lot of infuriating stuff. And jealousy-inducing stuff. And unattainable lifestyles are EVERYWHERE.
A week isn’t a huge stretch, but it’s an achievable experiment.
Benefits? I’ll hopefully be more productive. And that time could lend itself well to my next goal…
Read 35 books
One year I set myself the totally unrealistic goal of reading a book per week. As the last 7 days as proved, life does not let that happen. At the time I was also in the throes of full-time study and working as a freelance copywriter. I had no time for a weekly book habit.
The number 35 seems far more attainable. So far I am at 1.5. I finished The Secret Barrister at record speed and subsequently began living in fear of our broken legal system. I’m now part way through Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight. Although her advice on dealing with anxious and angry thoughts is very common sense, it’s also pitched in a way that makes me want to take it.
Benefits? More content ideas, relaxation, greater world view etcetera.
Grow a water orchid
Hear me out. This is not my sleep deprivation talking.
Yesterday my partner gave me a gorgeous planted orchid as one of my birthday gifts. Whenever I used to travel to Bangkok I would place an order for fresh orchids upon landing and receive them before returning home. Ever since then I have missed having orchids in my home.
My other go-to flowers are lilies, but they’re toxic to felines and I wouldn’t want to prevent my cats from brawling at 4am and waking me up.
After seeing a former colleague try to grow a hyacinth bulb in water only (thanks, Instagram) I decided to investigate whether I could achieve the same with orchids. Apparently, you can and it looks like a lot of faff. However, I am determined and so let the water orchid growing games commence.
Benefits? It’ll look pretty. If it works.
Flower arranging course
I’ve always loved the idea of being able to arrange flowers and source pretty ones from foraging/fresh flower markets. Although I don’t really have the time to take a full floristry course, I can take a flower arranging day class.
I think this falls into the whimsy category that Gretchen Ruben describes.
Benefits? Pretty home again, I guess? Also, I’ll venture into the idea that flower arranging is therapeutic.
So far my camping experiences have fallen into two categories:
- Festivals, where I was often a tiny bit inebriated.
- The one time my friend Cathy’s mother took a few of us camping and likely regretted it because we spent the entire night trying to tell stories in Scottish accents.
So I wouldn’t mind trying a normal camping experience. I’ll probably still drink wine, but not to the extent that I fall into someone else’s tent and wake them up at 3.30am.
Benefits? Family time, bonding, and experiencing the great outdoors.
A weekend in Bath (or a night)
This is another experience my partner and I discuss doing and then just don’t. Because adulting is a big time sucker and a city like Bath deserves our full attention.
However, this year a comedian he likes is playing there around his birthday…so the issue needs to be forced. I visited Bath alone last March and ended up holed inside my (very lovely) hotel room with the flu.
No thermae spa for me on that particular occasion.
Benefits? I may exit the experience more cultured. We’ll both get to spend some quality time together.
Having a picnic
This is another 19 for 2019 goal inspired by my birthday presents. I received a Le Creuset wine cooling sleeve (amongst many many other wine accessories and actual wine). It’s perfect for a picnic. It also makes me feel quite twee.
We’ve already discussed our favourite picnic spot. It’s in Southerndown, South Wales. Last time we went there we fell asleep and a kind labradoodle came to lick us and wake us up. The spot itself is close to a beach that’s sort of tricky to access, castle ruins (which somehow have immaculate gardens on the inside), an easier to access pebble beach, and some cliffs. In terms of picnic scenery, that’s difficult to rival.
Benefits? Vitamin D and sunshine, which I am craving.
Blogging every single day
This one is a BIG commitment. Huge.
So why would I put myself through the trauma of trying to blog every day? A little while ago I went through a phase of making sure I started my day with writing something I actually wanted to write. Again, as a freelance copywriter, this isn’t something that happens all that often (although I am going to try and redirect myself towards clients who fall into my target niches of healthcare and medicine).
During that time, writing felt a lot more fun. It could be the entirely hectic nature of 2019 so far, but it’s feeling a little less joyous these days. My enthusiasm hasn’t waned entirely, but it does need a nudge in the right direction.
My aim of blogging every day is, therefore, more therapeutic than traffic-driving or promotional. With that said, I do want to insert a few posts that are useful for marketing myself.
Unlike when I’ve started blogs in the past (there has been many. Oh so many) I’m maintaining a relaxed approach. That may make some traffic-driven bloggers spin in their seats. But, a la Big Magic, this is more of a creative space that’s my own than anything else.
Benefits? It’s still good for marketing. And I get my creative release. Journalling has excellent mental health benefits don’t ya know?
At LEAST one flying lesson
I spent a few glorious years working as cabin crew (flight attendant). I was privileged enough to work for Virgin Atlantic and then British Airways. Both airlines provided me with experiences it takes many people years to amass. Sadly, the race to the bottom culture that exists on the wages front made creating a career out of it unfeasible.
(That and the whole losing one to two nights of sleep each week thing).
It’s an experience I’m hoping I can revisit one day when parenting responsibilities don’t call for a big home presence. My rosters often involved being away at least two to three nights per week. Sometimes that stretched to eight (Vienna one night, then Prague, then Vienna, and then Johannesburg…that almost killed me) which is untenable when you’re a Mother.
The people who work in aviation are like nobody else on Earth. They’re often cutting and dry, but they’re also kind, fiercely loyal, and heart warmingly open. I’d often sit next to someone on a jumpseat one night knowing nothing about them, then two nights later they’d share their darkest secrets with me.
One of the main reasons I struggled to work in the NHS was that I couldn’t find the same rapport with my colleagues. I didn’t intend to start telling every consultant and HCA about my relationship worries and bizarre Tinder experiences, but I also didn’t expect everyone to be so closed off. It just felt like there was no sense of comradeship. It was an environment where we delivered care, yet we were all in fierce competition with one another and happy to see our peers fail.
(As a side note, it felt like sexism was far more prevalent. You’d have thought that would be the case in aviation, but nope).
Where is this leading to? In the periods where I felt a complete sense of despair at working for the NHS I would start new cabin crew applications. At one stage I went to an interview, but then backed away from the offer. The career didn’t feel sustainable, but I hoped that one as a pilot could be.
Although I haven’t ditched the idea entirely, I do need to consider the following:
- Would I be a competent flyer in any way?
- Is Brexit going to seriously scupper my chances of gaining a frozen ATPL and then finding gainful employment that helps me unfreeze it?
I can’t really answer question 2. I suspect that aviation may be heading for trouble, but that is based on nothing but a hunch. It recovered after 9/11 and after the recession.
Question number 1 I can answer. And I can do it by actually taking a flying lesson. I promise I’m not using delay tactics here, but I do need to wait until the weather perks up. I don’t fancy the idea of booking the thing and then rescheduling it.
Benefits? The sheer experience. And maybe carving out a career plan.
Learn to make a curry
As much as I love discovering new jar curries and ordering the much tastier ones from local takeaways, I do feel as though it’s time to make the most of my freelancing lifestyle and dive into learning to make a curry. It’ll be healthier and cheaper.
Benefits? New cooking skills. And less money spent on takeaways (this could help with the whole 10 kg thing too).
Banishing plastic from my kitchen
This one was inspired by The Year of Less. Although I’m unlikely to achieve a complete zero waste lifestyle, I do want to incorporate some of the tactics various bloggers use.
My key starting point is the kitchen. We produce an embarrassing volume of plastic. And although we recycle religiously, I can appreciate that:
- Not all of it will successfully be recycled.
- There’s an environmental impact from purchasing such goods that stems through the whole manufacturing chain.
I won’t claim that this is a monumental step that’ll resolve the way we’re harming our planet en-masse. At the same time, I also feel as though the “It won’t have that big an impact” excuse is sheer laziness on the not trying front.
I like the idea of experimenting with plastic-free tactics. It’s going to start with DIY laundry detergents, which I’m hoping to sneak past my convenience-loving household. I can leverage the way I am pretty much the only person who washes clothes right now.
(I have to get my kicks wherever and whenever I can).
After the DIY laundry detergents, I plan to zoom through to DIY kitchen cleaners. We use Zoflora in a plastic spray bottle now anyway (I’ll keep that one rather than discarding it…it makes sense to) so I think this one will go unnoticed too.
Food packaging will be a far bigger beast to tackle. But I sort of have most of 2019 left to try this, so I’ll see how it goes.
Benefits? Less plastic waste and fewer carcinogens. I’m not a tin foil hat wearer, but I am open to the idea that half the toxins that go into the products we use cause more harms than we’re aware of.
30-day shopping ban
Another 19 in 2019 goal inspired by The Year of Less! Bravo, Cait Flanders. You’re doing some good in this household.
If you’re yet to read the book, Cait Flanders goes through an entire year on a strict shopping ban. She can still buy groceries, toiletries, and pre-designated gifts. But clothes and pointless spending are both off the menu. Admirably she does admit defeat when it comes to trying to patch up some jeans. I feel like that’s admirable as it’s a reflection of how honest and realistic she is as a blogger and author.
When I look at the rest of my 19 in 2019 list I can see that a year of following her method wouldn’t lend itself well to achieving everything else. For example: reading 35 books, buying camping stuff…etc. I can try 30 days, though.
Narrowing in on the most appropriate month for achieving this is crucial. I suspect March will be the one, as it feels like a slight in-between month for me. February is a no-go, as my partner and I are yet to do a much-planned post-Christmas shopping day for each other (we did smaller gifts on the agreement that we’d go out and treat each other as we didn’t want to balls up the big ones.)
Benefits? Self-control on the spending front. More savings. Paying off debts. I also support the idea that being a little more minimalist is conducive to greater happiness levels.
I do tinker with a dream roller occasionally and rosehip oil. So far I’m not sure if I’m seeing any results, but I like it.
I’ve wanted to give microdermabrasion a whirl for some time now. I did once ask for recommendations on Facebook and a colleague said she’d throw sand at me for free. Given the chance, I think she would, but I’m not going to consent to that.
I do love to wear foundation and apply makeup, but it’s a time sucker and it means removing the stuff so I can swim without worrying about streaks and mascara pain. I feel as though an even skin tone could help me ditch the war paint for a couple of days a week.
Also, I’m not sure where this theory stands in terms of scientific evidence, but I do feel as though too much makeup every single day will accelerate my ageing journey. I’m not much into the idea of Botox and the like (although more power to you if you are) so I need to use my 30s to prep myself for ageing gracefully (and by gracefully I mean shamelessly a la Madonna).
Microdermabrasion aims to slough away dead skin cells, generate more collagen etcetera. And it should tackle the minor acne scars and (major) pores I currently sport.
Benefits? Maybe less makeup. And I can increase my chances of not succumbing to Emily appearing at my front door and throwing sand at me.
Buy and use a kettlebell
I love love love my kettlebell classes. And I am not saying that with a faux “look at me I am a wannabe fitness freak” tone. I actually enjoy them.
Unfortunately, my local gym hosts them twice a week only. Once on a Wednesday evening and once on a Thursday morning. Last time I did both in a week my DOMS had me feeling as though I had every strain of flu going.
The easy answer to this is to get my own and use it.
A clean air plant in every room
AND WE ARE AT NUMBER 19!
NASA studied the different types of plants that purify air the most. Many of them are Jurassic Park-esque and quite Pinterest worthy, so I can do a happy dance over the whole achieving better aesthetics and better air quality thing.
The plants outlined in NASA’s list remove pollutants and toxins from the air in your home. Subsequently, you may have fewer headaches and (hopefully in my case) less fatigue.
Since I discovered that lilies could make my brawling cats sick, I need to spend a little time looking into the potential side effects with plants. They’re complete food snobs (despite being rescue cats) so I doubt they’d eat a mysterious leaf. At the same time, I don’t really need to spend any more time at the vets with them. Between one giving the other abscesses from bites and the other letting his hair get so matted he once had to be anaesthetised to have it shaved/detangled (we comb him more often now…it’s a journey of discovery being a cat parent), I feel like we’re frequent flyers at the animal hospital.
So a careful approach to air purifying plants it is.
Benefits? Better air, hopefully.
Well, that was a ridiculously long post to write during the darker hours of the morning. Let’s hope these goals translate into reality.