Sunday, September 27, 2015

How do you find balance?

A lot of you already know that I love setting goals. It's probably my favorite thing to talk about in my journal—the future—including what I want to get better at, where I see myself next week or next month or next year, and how I plan to get there.

Sometimes my goals are big and lofty, like writing a book. Sometimes they're small and simple. The small ones tend to work best. And often I find that I can break my big goals down into small steps, which helps me to actually achieve them.

Writing a book, for example, is really easy to break down into chunks of 500 or 1000 words, which is definitely a reasonable amount to write in a single session.

There are other goals though that are less tangible and more ethereal in nature. These are a little harder to put into measurable daily achievements. These are things like being optimistic, being more charitable, and maintaining peace of mind when I'm stressed.

Right about now you're probably wondering what all this has to do with finding balance. I'm getting there, I promise. Last weekend I realized that my life had gotten a little out of balance. I wasn't spending enough time enjoying the beauty of the world around me. I was letting days slip past without really noticing them, and I wasn't devoting enough of my attention to connecting with people or being present in my body. That sounds very hippy-ish, but I just mean that I was spending a lot of time on my phone or computer and not as much time in the real world.

One thing was clear: it was time for a course correction, and that meant a chance to set goals. I thought about my bigger ideals and the kinds of pursuits I like to have as part of my life. I thought about my seemingly endless to do lists and how I was so discouraged by them that I'd stopped trying to do anything on them because I knew I couldn't do everything on them.

I thought about how balance means being able to achieve a variety of goals, rather than focusing too much on any one particular area. I may not be nearly as good at playing the piano as I am at writing (not that I'm proclaiming myself to be good at either one), but I enjoy both of them, and both bring me joy in different ways.

And with all of those thoughts in mind, I tried to come up with a balanced list of ten simple things I could do every day to make progress toward all of my goals at the same time without feeling overwhelmed.

Want to know what made the list last week? Here it is:

1. Pray and read scriptures
2. Write one Jane Journals entry
3. Play one song on the piano
4. Go for a fifteen-minute walk
5. Do something nice for someone else
6. Do one thing on your author to-do list
7. Do one thing on your regular life to-do list
8. Tidy up five things
9. Count five blessings
10. Spend two minutes appreciating something beautiful

Some of them I left intentionally vague to allow me to focus more on one area than another on any given day. And I purposely set the bar low in each area because I wanted to make sure I could actually achieve each of these things every day. The point was not to excel in any one area, it was to stay balanced. And you know what? It worked.

I actually finished my list four days in a row (Monday through Thursday). Most days I did more than I needed to on some of the items. I'm pretty sure I played more than one song on the piano every day, and I decided it was okay to go a little bit overboard as long as I did all ten things.

My goals sort of fell apart over the weekend, but I decided that was okay because life happens and I can't be perfect all the time. Overall, though, I was really impressed with myself. I liked having the structure. It was nice to be able to cross things off my list quickly and go on to the next thing.

This coming week I've decided to keep the list going, with only minor revisions. I finished the first draft of the second Jane Journals book (currently untitled) on Thursday, so that item will be changed to spending at least twenty minutes reading over what I've written and making notes or revisions.

I've also decided to add one item to the list, and it's an important one.

11. Write one email per day to connect with someone personally rather than en masse.

I love this blog and how it helps me stay connected to friends and family all over. But between blogging and social media, I feel like I mostly connect with people in the aggregate. I post updates that are for everyone, not for one person specifically. I miss that one-to-one ratio. Jesus taught large multitudes sometimes, but he also connected with people on an individual level. I know that He knows each of us individually and wants to maintain a personal relationship with each of us.

As clever or open or vulnerable as I think I'm being on my blog or social media, it can never be as real and personal as a conversation with a single other human being. That being said, a lot of my close friends live far away. I miss them, but I'm terrible about keeping in touch (hence the need for a blog). Since I can't physically spend time with all of these people, I've decided to compromise a little bit. I could've made a goal to call one person each day and connect that way, but I have a phone phobia. I think I mentioned it in this post. At some point, I'll probably have to get over my phobia, but I'm not ready to tackle that goal just yet.

Instead I decided that an email was less daunting than a phone call but would still give me that one-to-one connection that I've been craving. I thought about texting, but that didn't seem long enough to really connect. And I thought about writing a physical letter, but I knew I'd get hung up on tracking down addresses and the logistics of envelopes and stamps. There are still people I want to send Christmas cards to, I just haven't gotten around to it. And seeing as how it's nearly October . . . yeah. Mailing physical letters is a great idea, but I think it would throw me off balance.

Emails on the other hand, are achievable. I already spend a good portion of my day writing emails. Well, one email actually. Every week at work for nearly my entire professional life, I've started a new email on Monday that I send to myself at the end of the week. It's my version of journaling while I'm at the office. Sometimes they're short; sometimes they're long, depending on how much downtime I have that week. But they're my way of processing what's going on around me and what I want to accomplish during the day or week.

So this week in addition to my email to myself, I plan to email other people too. At least one person each day. I started with my sister Ali today. She's on a mission in the Netherlands, and I'm always forgetting to write her until I see her email in my inbox on Monday mornings.

Sorry this post is so long. I just wanted to warn you guys in case you happen to see a random email from me this week or in case I message you on facebook and ask for your email address. I know I still need to work on in-person connections with people, but for now I think emailing is an achievable balanced way to start. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Sunday! And good luck in your own attempts to find balance!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Do you have any author-type events coming up?

So. Many.

Right now I live in constant fear that I won't remember all my author events. I really need to do a better job of putting stuff in my calendar or writing it down or something. Actually, that's what I'm doing in this post.

This is my attempt to tell you all about my plans for the next few weekends and tell myself at the same time, so that I won't forget to follow through.

And, here goes . . .

Next Saturday 9/19 - 1–4 pm - Authorpalooza! 

This is going to be amazing. So far I know of four other awesome author friends who are going to be there, and I'm sure there will be others too! I'm super excited!! In case you don't know, authorpalooza is an event with tons of local authors so you can come to one place and meet all your faves at the same time. It's so cool. I've been a few times as a fan, so I'm basically giddy over the fact that I now get to go sit on the other side of the table.

You can find out more about the event here:

Saturday 9/26 - 9–11 am - Brickyard Seagull in Salt Lake City

Come say hi at Celebrating Sisterhood at the Brickyard Seagull. I'll be there from 9 to 11 am signing books and hanging out. Plus apparently you can enter to win prizes and there are special deals during that time. All good things.

Then later that day it's . . .

COMIC CON!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday 9/26 - 2-5 pm - Salt Palace in Salt Lake City

Guys, I feel like I am going to be completely out of my element here, but I'm way jazzed about this. I have never been to a Comic Con in my life, but new experiences are always a good thing. Especially as a writer. I'm just going to have to put on my best Cate Morland face and pretend like I read a lot more vampire books than I actually do. But it'll be awesome. Seriously.

I'm not saying you should buy a ticket just to see me, but if you're already there, you should totally come check out the Cedar Fort author's booth. Plus, I'm selling the Jane Journals there for only $10 including tax, which is a pretty sweet deal if you've been thinking about buying it for a friend or something.

Then, as if this weren't already enough . . .

Saturday 10/3 - 6–8 pm - Deseret Book in Midvale

It's Ladies Night!!! This one should be super fun. And you should all come because you know you want to come play while the guys are still in conference!

Unless you're a girl at BYU because traditionally the priesthood session is when you pull some sort of prank on your crush's apartment while he and all his roommates are gone. (Not that I would know from personal experience or anything. Probably. Sh...)

Anyway, if you are a girl at BYU, you get a pass. But the rest of you should really come because it's going to be awesome!

- - -

And for all of my awesome friends and family who don't live in Utah, I wish you could all be there. Maybe you could come for conference? But if not, it's okay.

I was sort of hoping to do an author event in California sometime. I think I mentioned it to a few of you. But I put my plans for that on hold right now, so I'll just have to keep you posted.

Thanks for all your love and support, guys! I really hope to see you at one of these events. Or three. Or four. :) You know, if you want to become a Heidi the Author groupie that would really be just fine by me. I can't promise that it would pay well, but we would sure have a lot of fun together!

Friday, September 11, 2015

What do you remember?

There are a lot of things I don’t remember about that day. I don’t remember exactly what we heard on the radio as my dad drove us to seminary before school. I don’t remember if Megan Miller really came into the room crying or if that’s just how I picture it now. I don’t remember the words of the prayer we said as a family kneeling in front of the television between seminary and school, and I don’t remember how my mom explained it all to Ali, who was only six, or to Tom who wasn’t even two.

I do remember the images on the tv screen—first at home, then in Ms. Stanley’s second period psych class, and then in Mrs. Wohlgemuth’s AP US History class later in the day. But I don’t remember which period I had Mrs. Wohlgemuth’s class or what she said to reassure us or help us understand. I don’t remember if Kirsten Bezzant gave me an extra-long hug at lunch, but I think she probably did.

I do remember coming home after school and lying on the trampoline, looking up through the branches of the redwood trees into the totally empty sky. No jet trails. No engines overhead. And I remember my dad telling us that this was probably the only time we’d ever not see planes flying, like we’d stepped back in time or were in a different world where human flight had never existed.

I don’t remember if I was afraid or angry. I know I was sad for the people and families who were most affected. And I remember feeling relieved it hadn’t happened closer to me and at the same time feeling ashamed of my relief. I remember thinking there was nothing I could do because everything was happening on the other side of the country and I was only an ordinary junior in an ordinary California high school.

I remember the community coming together as we all mourned. I remember realizing for the first time how big America was and how many people would never be the same. I remember the varied reactions and the talk of how we should or should not retaliate.

And I remember thinking I would never forget.

Of course in the years since then, I have forgotten often. There are moments of remembering, days like this when we ask each other to share our stories. And little changes that make us recall how it was before. But that sense of collective memory and community identity is mostly lost now, I think.

I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. I think it’s okay to forget. Life has to go on and we can’t let that day bring us down forever.

But I also think it’s important to remember in how we live every day. I think we can remember by having a little more patience in line at the airport or wherever. I think we can remember when we choose to forgive others. I think we can remember each time we do some little thing that makes the world a better, more beautiful place. We know that evil will always exist, but I have faith that we can rise above it. When we add just a little to the collective altruism of the universe, we immediately join the forces that fight the darkness.

So remember today when you give blood or when you offer to help a stranger or when you use your talents to create something inspiring. We all have some goodness to share: a smile, an extra hand, a little time. It doesn’t matter how small your offering is or how flawed your execution.

All that matters is that you remember with the choices you make, not just today, but every day.

To paraphrase one of my favorite hymns,

Have I done any good in the world today?Have I helped anyone in need?Have I cheered up the sad, or made someone feel glad?Has anyone’s burden been lighter today because I was willing to share?Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now, opportunities right in our way.Do not let them pass by, saying, ‘Sometime I’ll try,’But go and do something today.’Tis noble of man to work and to give;Love’s labor has merit alone.Only he who does something helps others to live.To God each good work will be known.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,A blessing of duty and love.