by Sal Robertson
I absolutely LOVE September. It feels like it has all the potential of January 1st but without all the fanfare and countdowns and pressure. It feels like a much more gentle fresh start. There are four months remaining in 2019 and creating a plan for that amount of time feels good.This Summer has been my least favorite Summer ever as so many stressful things happened – three generations of ill health for starters. Summer has a different rhythm to it and the chaos of all the different challenges felt especially jarring during what is supposed to be one of the most relaxing times of the year.
So, hello September, dear friend. I have never been happier to see you!
Even in the midst of the “summer that never was”, there were snatched moments of joy. I rediscovered a love for reading and started playing the piano again. It reminded me of the power of simple pleasures. Especially simple pleasures that are YOUR simple pleasures. Doing things that have always brought you great joy.
I was listening to an interview with Gretchen Rubin on the “Reinventing Yourself” podcast with Lesley Jane Seymour a couple of weeks ago. During the conversation she shared three questions that she has found helpful for people who know what they don’t want to do but are struggling to know what they do want to do:
What did you like to do for fun when you were 10 years old? It’s probably something you would enjoy now as an adult, either as a profession or in leisure. But surprisingly often, you will see the roots of adult professional happiness in a leisure activities of a 10-year-old. It’s really fun to talk to people about that.
Whom do you envy? Envy is an unpleasant emotion; we often want to deny that we have it. But if you envy someone it’s because they have something you want. And it’s not the same as admiration, because I can admire someone but I don’t want it. Envy is “I want that” in a painful way. It’s very instructive.
What do you do? When you are free and just doing stuff in the world, what did you do? On the weekends and at night, what is it that you love to do. Are you cooking? Are you hosting events? There’s a lot of times clues in what you want to do in what you already do.
My 10 year old self absolutely LOVED reading. It was one of my greatest pleasures as a child. During the past few years, I have read a lot of non-fiction but very little fiction. This Summer, two of my favorite reads were Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had completely forgotten how much joy I get from being lost in a great book. Too often, we can forget what brings us joy because we have put it to one side for so long.
During the Summer, I made a simple decision to stop watching TV by myself. I had found myself falling into the habit of binge watching shows on Hulu and Netflix. I started to notice how many hours I was spending watching TV and realized that in 5 or 10 years time, I wouldn’t wish that I had watched more TV but I would wish that I had read more books. So I made a simple decision to only watch TV with my children. Two of my children and I spent lots of time cuddled up on the sofa watching Master Chef Jr and The Great British Baking Show. One of my daughters and I loved Killing Eve and that became our thing to watch together.
But I stopped watching TV by myself which cut my TV watching time in half or more. I thought I would miss it but I didn’t. During the time when I would normally have watched TV, I picked up a book or went to play the piano. It felt like I was filling myself up rather than mindlessly switching off.
Whom do I envy? When I stop and think about this, the people I envy (in the most loving way possible) are writers, stand up comedians and people who work for magazines. I was OBSESSED with magazines growing up. The night before my 17th birthday, I placed 17 issues of “Just 17” magazine on my bedroom floor. I saved every issue of Oprah magazine for years and years and years until finally I let them go.
I envy women like:
Sarah Tomczak, the editor of Red Magazine;
Viv Groskop, a writer, stand up comic and journalist;
Elizabeth Gilbert, who needs no introduction but who I envy for her commitment to her writing and her passion for creativity;
Tina Fey, it never occurred to me that I could have worked at the reception of a YMCA while taking improv classes;
Catherine Tate who grew up into the woman that my 11 year old self had the seeds to become; and
Susan Hyatt, a master life coach who truly walks the walk – I envy the business that she has created but that envy makes me feel inspired by what she has shown to be possible.
They are the first few people who come to mind when I ask myself the question “Whom do you envy?”. I think you can learn a lot about yourself and what you want by adding the follow-up question “And why?” There is so much valuable information to be found in your response of why you envy the people you envy.
For me, the third question “What do you do?” comes full circle back to reading and playing the piano which is what my 10 year old self loved to do. I would add activities like going to see movies and concerts and having great conversations over long dinners with dear friends. I would also add dancing and horse riding. These are all relatively simple things but they bring ME deep pleasure.
Each day, my goal is to fold more of those activities into my life. To put a stop to the busyness of life (where I’m responding to other people’s demands) and to carve out time where I get to do the things that fuel me and light me up.
I would love you to feel inspired to answer those three questions for yourself. If you would be happy to do so, please share your answers with me!
What could you do in the week ahead that would make your 10 year old self happy?
I would love to hear from you!
Take good care of yourself in the week ahead.
What has been inspiring me during the Summer
I absolutely loved each and every one of the following books:
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
On Being Human by Jen Pastiloff
The Misfit’s Manifesto by Lidia Yuknavitch