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Resolutionizing: 2019

2019! Hi, holy cow, I can’t believe we’re here. How did 2018 go so fast? Am I officially aged into that category of people who routinely states “This year is just flying by!?”…

It’s that time of year - I, being basic, am naturally a longtime maker of resolutions and traditionally really enjoy the exercise of sitting down, evaluating where I’ve succeeded in the year past, and where I have room to improve. For some reason, I feel really good about 2019 after a lot of angst, illness and stress in the latter half of 2018…nowhere to go from here but up, is how I’m choosing to see it.

Last year’s resolutions ended up being a bit of a mixed bag, success-wise. I truly knocked “explore more of the Bay Area” out of the park, due in large part to old friends visiting and new, local friends knowing just where to go - a combination that really enriched my life last year. “Try harder at dating” was a sort of rollercoaster - there was definitely dating, and I definitely tried harder, with widely varied results, largely TBD at this point frankly. “Do more yoga” led me to commit to practicing three times weekly at work, a habit I now cherish, find so rewarding, and will absolutely continue in the new year. And finally, “Write more” was just a truly epic fail - hence its inclusion in this year’s list for the third year running, ugh.

My big intention was to “be open,” and I think that set me up last year to stand up for myself a little more, to say what I think a bit more readily, and to, in general, accept and embrace experiences and people as they are. That said, I am still a people-pleasing doormat who internalizes to a fault, a fact that has proved detrimental to my mental and emotional well-being at various points over the year, and will be a focal point going forward.

With that little look down memory lane, here we go: the chosen Lizzie format of a few small resolutions and one big intention/theme…

1. Cut back on social media.

You guys, I spend SO much time on my phone. Some of it is essential/unavoidable - responding to emails on the fly, texting, or calling family and friends. Some of it is value-added - I read a lot on my phone, although that should drop off with the purchase of a Kindle, and I manage to-do lists, my calendar, and fitness tracking through apps. The vast majority of my phone time, however, is social media - particularly Twitter and Instagram - and it’s just in no way justifiable to be spending as much time on apps as I do.

I’m going to focus on keeping my phone put away during the workday to stop the brain drain of playing on social media while I’m working, and I need to try harder to keep it out of sight/out of mind while I’m home in the evenings. Hopefully this will lead to a perceptible uptick in spending more time reading, writing, cooking, working out and actually engaging with and focusing on my friends - even without sharing it to the Gram, oh the horror!

2. Spend more thoughtfully.

Dave and I have had a lot of conversations lately about our skewed spending priorities - we’ll look at price per oz at the grocery store, lament the cost of goods like eggs, gas, etc, and yet have no problem dropping money at our favorite breweries, on eating out, or entertainment. Add to that the fact that I have a fairly expensive wine habit and love to shop, and you’ve got an arena where I could benefit from a more intentional, focused approach.

I’m planning to skip wine club shipments for at least the first half of the year (or maybe to divert them to my family?!), and to cut back as much as possible on the breweries/eating out aspect of my social life - it’s gotten really out-of-hand and excessive lately. As for shopping, I think focusing on whether I’m buying things because I need/love them, or because I’m bored, will be beneficial. All in all, I’m definitely financially secure, but want to focus on making 2019 a year that’s a bit more rational and a bit less hedonistic in the financial arena.

3. Write more.

I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS HAS TO BE A RESOLUTION FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW. Ugh, mortifying. Looking back at 2018, I wrote a lot at work and very little outside of it, for myriad reasons - I maintained a very busy social life, I spent a lot of time on other activities (reading, Netflix, apps BOO), and I suffered a lot from writer’s block/a general lack of desire to write last year.

This year, I think I just need to actually take last year’s resolution to heart: “I plan to stick to a more stringent writing schedule this year, and to be better about chronicling things - even if it's a "quantity over quality" exercise from time to time.” I calendared out my blog for the next month or two, and hopefully that will be helpful in holding me accountable. Further, I need to schedule writing time into my day just like I schedule in cooking, commute, work, gym, et cetera - treating it as something I have to do, not something I just choose to do, should make it more of a habit and part of my daily routine.

4. Do a better job of staying in touch with friends.

I found myself really burned out in 2018 by extending effort to maintain friendships with people who really didn’t put in as much effort on their end, and unfortunately that leaked over into a general battening down of the communication hatches, a battening that negatively affected my very dearest, truest friends. Couple that with the fact that I am terrible about talking on the phone and generally don’t enjoy texting, and it makes it difficult to stay in touch, especially with my friends as scattered across the country as they are.

This year, I resolve to completely stop wasting my energy on those who don’t return it or add value to my life, and to be more considerate of those who do - with regular check-ins via text, phone or even, ooh, snail mail. I also love sending little things “just because” - so much more special than waiting for big occasions. Hopefully this focus on quality over quantity will do wonderful things toward continually strengthening my relationships with the sterling people in my life!

And the big theme for 2019:

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Treat myself better.

Really, this statement could be interpreted in any of a variety of ways, and I think that’s why it’s the perfect theme for this year. I was really down on myself toward the end of 2018 - insecure in my body, unsure about my personal happiness, and doubting a lot of things. Then I ended 2018 with a dramatic hospitalization, and realized that I was really just in general not taking good care of myself - physically, emotionally, mentally, you name it.

At the very basest level, I need to take better care of myself physically. My recent health scare is really putting into perspective that I’m getting older - 30 is right around the corner, and I’ve let myself justify bad habits for far too long. I’m already off to a solid start in 2019 of cutting down majorly on alcohol, working on eating better (and ordering in/eating out less), and making sure to hit the gym daily. I’m being proactive about seeing the specialists I need to see, and about the regular appointments too - eye doctors, dermatologists, dentists, even laser hair removal ooh OOH! I was scared enough by my recent issues to really commit to this, and while I’m disappointed in myself that it took that extreme a situation to prompt an overhaul, I truly think this will galvanize me to actually see a lifestyle change through.

More deeply and intuitively, however, I need to be kinder to myself. I finished 2018 really feeling depleted and downtrodden for numerous reasons. Fundamentally, I expend a lot of energy on other people - building them up, being there for them, ensuring I’m a good friend/sister/daughter/lover/employee, what have you - and I tend to leave myself very little at the end of all of that. I often feel like I don’t get that level of commitment back from others in return, and it frustrates me, especially when I realize I’ve spent so much energy on others that I can’t be there for myself. Further, the amount of negative self-talk and general self-loathing/negativity I’ve allowed to leech into my life is immensely damaging - I would legitimately never treat someone I cared about the way I treat myself. I am truly my harshest critic and own worst enemy, and that engenders spirals of shame, self-doubt and insecurity on a regular basis.

With that in mind, I’m going to do something that I’ve historically maligned this year, and put myself first for once. I’m going to speak up when others let me down, hold people accountable, and, most importantly, stop making excuses for others’ bad behavior. Even more so, I’m going to hold myself accountable to, as my mother so aptly puts it, “practice self compassion.” I’m only human - I’m flawed and I’m failing, but I try damn hard every day to be a good person, and I need to remember that when I get down on myself for not finishing a to-do list, for trusting people who don’t deserve it, for being unattractive or nerdy or awkward. Remembering that I am worthy and valuable and loved, and treating myself with love and care and compassion on a daily basis, is going to be the key to so many good things this year - I can already feel it.

Check out past resolutions here: 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014, and stay tuned for progress reports over the course of the year. Happy 2019, campers! Let’s make it great.



Skills I have that you can't put on a resume...

I was thinking just now about how carefully wordsmithed resumes are, and how really, when it comes down to it, they do very little to capture the essence of a person. Like, sure, mine tells you where I went to school and what my work/philanthropic history has been so far, but I think such a big part of why a person succeeds or even is who he/she is can’t be put on paper.

If I could write a real Lizzie resume, these things would definitely be on it:

  • excellent at getting neutral/antipathetic bystanders hooked on the “Bachelor” franchise shows

  • crafter of the perfect grilled cheese

  • has seen “Hamilton” four times and knows it word-perfect from front to back (fluent in various other shows including but not limited to “Les Mis,” “In The Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Spring Awakening,” “Waitress”…)

  • actually loves doing laundry; hates anything pertaining to cleaning a floor

  • skilled baby-amuser; core competency in playing peekaboo across multiple tables in a restaurant with strangers’ offspring and gifted at the “mom-bounce” despite not actually being a mother

  • will laugh at just about anything

  • believes that most celebratory occasions call for a card and champagne

  • internalizes and sublimates all negative feelings; will persist in insisting that “we’ll get there” or “there’s never a dull moment” or “I’m fine, this is great!” in the face of most woes, issues, and personal problems

  • excellent “interested listening face,” equally excellent resting bitchface

  • highly esoteric/rarefied vocabulary

  • master procrastinator - once wrote a term paper four hours before it was due and got a professor’s first A+ in a thirty-year teaching career

  • afraid of the sensation of falling; exercises caution in all circumstances with such potential including but not limited to cliff edges, skydecks, and relationships

  • almost always willing to forgive, but when pushed too far will never look back

  • sees the best in people to a fault - currently working on a performance improvement plan to remove those rose-colored glasses

  • has a “candles” line in monthly budget

  • basic bitch who enjoys pumpkin spice lattes unashamedly

  • collector of books, wine corks, and Christmas ornaments

  • cares way too much about what other people think; marshmallow in a suit of armor

  • faking having it figured out every day - but really, who isn’t?

An OCD bookworm tale.

About a month-ish ago, I was having a REALLY off day. I was crabby about my body - feet covered in blood blisters from my New York escapades had kept me out of the gym for a few days. Furthermore, I was feeling disgusting after housing fully four bottles of champagne in three days, plus drinking all over the city. I was exhausted - 2am bedtimes, hotel sleep, sharing a bed, and going like a crazy person for days at a time had burned me out. I was irritated with just about everyone in my life - near or far. So I decided, spur of the moment, to rearrange my bookshelves. 

This may sound like a completely random, absurd action to take in an attempt to soothe myself, but consider the source. One of my absolute favorite parts of moving - one of the actions I have to take before a place feels like home - is to organize my books. When I moved to California, my initial quote was something like $3000, based on the phone consultation with my moving company. Upon seeing my Minneapolis apartment, the mover adjusted his estimate up by almost a thousand dollars. Dismayed, I asked why, and his explanation? "Well, ma'am, you've got...a lot of books. And my guys? They don't like moving books." I eventually negotiated the quote back down...but only if I agreed to move my books myself, in my car. This required paring down my cherished collection by almost half, and even then it was a tight squeeze to get them in the car with our suitcases and the plethora of other paraphernalia I had to fit. (I believe my mom's quote was "You can get to California with clothes and fewer books, or you can get to California with all your books but be naked til the movers come." OH JODES.) Anyway, I digress - moral of the story: for me, books are home, plain and simple. 

I am extraordinarily specific about how my books must be organized. Up until that crisis night a month ago, it was, inflexibly, "alphabetically by author's last name." I am a voracious re-reader, and knowing where to find my favorites (Austen in the top left corner cuddling up to the Brontes, Graham Greene hanging out by Hemingway with Ibbotson close by, and my growing J. Courtney Sullivan collection looking down on Meg Wolitzer from a shelf above) is critical for my happiness. Accordingly, making the shift to rearrange my bookshelves was reflective of just how unsettled and angsty I felt in every other arena. 

How, though, to rearrange? I stood in front of the shelves for a solid ten-ish minutes, debating the merits of "time period" or "alphabetically by title" or "genre" or "Dewey Decimal" while Dave looked at me like I was an actual crazy person. I dove in and eventually settled on "by spine color." BY SPINE COLOR? WHAT WAS I THINKING? I honestly feel as though I suffered some sort of miniature breakdown or psychotic dissociation that led to this completely asinine decision. But by the time I realized I was NOT pleased, I was midway through, deep in reflection of just how many blue-spined books I own. And at that point, it felt too late to turn back and start over, so I persevered, bitching all the while about how stupid it was to let Pinterest aspirations overcome plain old-fashioned good sense. 

And there you have it - the finished product. (Well, most of it - the second shelf is still only half-full because of how few books I could bring to California with me, and it's all the black spines, so...eh.) I stood back, I looked at them, and I decided I loathed it. But I left it, confident that it would grow on me. 

Then, last week, I flew through Marisa de los Santos's transcendently lovely "I'll Be Your Blue Sky," and suddenly, fundamentally needed to re-read everything she had ever written. So I went to find her first novel last night before dinner with Kaitlin, thinking it'd be a perfect post-meal wind-down before bed. Problem? I couldn't find it. Campers, I freaked. Not like...externally. But internally? I was a spastic, stressed frazzle of a human. And right then and there, with about an hour until I needed to leave for dinner, I pulled every book back off the shelf, and spent the most relaxing, satisfying forty minutes of my life restoring order in this specific little corner of my universe. 

I guess the lesson learned here is simply to not mess with a good thing. Also that I am fully actually insane, but let's be real...we already knew that. 

Being right and humble pie

A few thoughts from my Saturday...

"Would you rather be right, or effective?" Every time I meet with our controller, those words stare me in the face from the wall of her gorgeous, light-flooded corner office, and I find myself fixating on them. I don't know why they just popped back into my head, as I sit here on our patio staring out at the palm trees, but they're stuck in my mind so I'm going to word-vomit out some thoughts. Hold on tight! 

I'm the kind of person who has a bad, bad tendency to need to be right. In seventh grade English, we were having an organized class debate about some reading or other - I don't even remember what - and I could not stop arguing my point. I was right. I was right, I WAS right. No form of emphasis can capture how utterly confident I was in my certitude that I had taken the correct side of the argument, and I was willing to die on that hill, status and popularity and other classmates' feelings be damned. Needless to say, my team "won" the debate, and after class, my teacher pulled me aside and suggested I talk to my mother about joining the high school debate team. As a thirteen-year old. Ummm, right. 

I did, eventually, join that high school debate team, and I was a damn good debater - undefeated as a novice, successful on the national competition circuit, and consistently placing high in my first and early second year. At a few tournaments, I made my opponents cry...an achievement of which I remain dubiously proud, even to this day. 

That sort of half-ashamed pride in my argumentative ability trickles over into my personal life, too. I am far too reluctant to back down - famous in my family for needing to get the last word in, to prove my point, or to twist the knife. I am vicious when confronted unjustly by friends or partners, gifted with a colossal vocabulary and cursed with the kind of temper that stays dormant or suppressed for far too long and explodes out so violently as to be near-cruel. My family has a name for these sorts of flare-ups, after an incident in high school when I eviscerated a close guy friend, over the phone (while they all eavesdropped on another phone, of course), for falsely accusing me of being dishonest about some prom drama, of all things. Now, when I go off, they call it "John Doe'ing" someone (name, obviously, redacted to save that poor guy's dignity a decade later). Since that high school lash-out, I've only John Doe'd a half a dozen times, but each one lives in my memory: distinct moments of mingled shame over losing it and satisfaction in my ability to stand up for myself in my own righteousness. 

I ramble so terribly, yikes - let's bring it back to that statement on the wall. "Do you want to be right, or effective?" I've been mulling over my desire to be right, and I think it stems largely from the fact that being right, being correct, traditionally earns one praise, accolades, gold stars and merit badges. I am a junkie for pleasing people and achieving highly - always have been, always will be. You have to be right to get high test scores, to pass pop quizzes, to clear audit review notes or adhere to finance policies and procedures. Doing things right is a source of comfort, of safety, of success. But there's a difference between doing things right and being right, and I often don't adhere to that brightline. 

Of late, my job has really hammered this point home, as has my personal life. Long story short, I John Doe'd a bit a few weeks ago on someone who was being hideously unfair, and the residual anger and sense of irreproachability has lingered. Professionally, I'm working with a few people at work who are not subject-matter experts in what I do, and who remain reluctant to admit that. All of these smaller situations have combined, I think, to make me feel like I'm right more often than not - and I am right, in these specific situations. 

Moral of the story though, in order to be effective in these scenarios, I'm going to have to put that in my back pocket and shut the eff up. I'm right, yes, but I don't know it all and I can't control others' response to the fact that I AM right. And in these scenarios, it's better to serve myself up a double helping of humble pie, acknowledge that there are other ways to get where I need to go, and bite my tongue rather than proving my point. This, for me, is anathema, which I've touched on before here; I take pride in my intelligence and grasp of what I do, and not using (let's be honest, flaunting) that expertise is hard for me. That said, it's a lesson I'm trying hard to take to heart, and hopefully having it down on "paper" here will help me adhere to that principle as effectively as possible. 

Wish me luck, I guess?! 

Ruminations on the future of MinneapoLiz (and a few funny photos)

A serious meditation below, but please enjoy the collection of outtakes from this Thanksgiving, when all Jodester wanted was a "nice photo of all three kids together," and we gave her these. Sorry Mama Bear! We love you!

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Lately it seems like every time I sit down to write anything, it leads off with the caveat of "I'm sorry it's been so long, blah blah blah BUSY STRESSED SO MUCH TO DO" - and that's really started to bother me. I'm trying very hard this year to say what I think, in the spirit of being open, so here goes: I think a big side effect of this move and new lifestyle is that the importance of this space for me is starting to dim a bit. I still love to write, and I still find it incredibly cathartic and gratifying to put something out here that seems to perfectly encapsulate what I'm thinking at any given time. Those times, however, are less and less frequent as my workdays are busier, my social life is more fulfilling, and my life in general is lived more off the page than on it. 

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This is a shift I didn't foresee. Since the moment I sat down and started writing this blog, it took on a momentous significance in my life. I used it as an anchor point of sorts - a place to process a major career shift, a lodestone and confessional while working through a horrible breakup, a digital exercise book that forced me to chronicle and create in equal parts. I treasure the memories I've captured here, and the different ways that blogging has forced me out of my comfort zone. 

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Why the sudden apathy, then? For the first time in a long time, my precious 24 daily hours are rife with other, more appealing ways to spend my time than writing. Unlike my previous job, I actually work full days here - and in the lulls in my day, I take lengthy walks and explore Stanford, or pop into a yoga class, or get lost in the art museum(s) on campus. After hours, I'm cooking and feeding a very hungry and effusive roommate, or spending time nurturing nascent friendships, or devouring books in our hot tub, or indulging in the kind of shenanigans that are so quotidian that they're hardly "blog-worthy." 

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In short, although this is getting really long, I'm happy, but in a different way than I've been for a long time. I'm happy in the mundane, unremarkable way that doesn't need to be voiced to be manifest. Maybe a better word would be content? I am at stasis - a point of equilibrium where, though life isn't perfect, it's balanced. Apparently, part of that balance bears the implied consequence of much less writing. 

I think a lot of this silence comes down to discipline (or a lack thereof), frankly, and that disgusts me to a certain degree. An anecdote: in second grade, I vividly remember our teacher trying to explain the word "lack" to the class by making us go around the circle and say something we lacked. While other seven-year-olds offered up things like "crayons," "trucks," "chocolate milk," I, being a precocious enfant terrible, threw out "I lack discipline." I couldn't understand why every adult in the room laughed, but the statement has held true all my life.

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I am not a naturally disciplined person - it takes an enormous amount of effort and fortitude to change a habit or check off an onerous to-do list. Once I commit to something, though, and get into a routine, I tend to cling to it with a tenacity that would belie the lack of discipline I claim. Writing this blog has been one such instance - I built a very rigid process out from 2014-16 in which producing blog posts was a part of my day as inexorable as brushing my teeth. That changed in 2017, along with so many other momentous changes. While I feel like I should want to get that back, I'm not sure I entirely do - which leads us to this massive rumination. 

I don't know if I'll keep blogging for the immediate future, let alone forever - I miss writing when I don't do it, but do I miss it enough? Is the cost worth the benefit? Do I gain enough from this investment of time and energy to justify forcing myself to make it a priority again? This doesn't even scratch the surface of my thoughts on this topic - vanity and self-importance, privacy versus authenticity, honesty against the desire to protect others. We'll see what shakes out in the next several months, but for now, I'm going to promise myself (and you) at least this: no more apologies for my absence, and no more excuses for why I'm not writing. 

Thanks for enduring this extremely self-centered essay, and for being here and who you are! I appreciate you!