“There was the cold grip way down in the stomach as though somebody had laid hold of something in there, in the dark which is you, with a cold hand in a cold rubber glove. It was like the second when you come home late at night and see the yellow envelope of the telegram sticking out from under your door and you lean and pick it up, but don’t open it yet, not for a second. While you stand there in the hall, with the envelope in your hand, you feel there’s an eye on you, a great big eye looking straight at you from miles and dark and through walls and houses and through your coat and vest and hide and sees you huddled up way inside, in the dark which is you, inside yourself, like a clammy, sad little fetus you carry around inside yourself. The eye knows what’s in the envelope, and it is watching you to see you when you open it and know, too. But the clammy, sad little fetus which is you way down in the dark which is you too lifts up its sad little face and its eyes are blind, and it shivers cold inside you for it doesn’t want to know what is in that envelope. It wants to lie in the dark and not know, and be warm in its not-knowing.” – Robert Penn Warren
All the King’s Men is probably my favorite fiction book of all time. If I could write half as poignantly as Robert Penn Warren by the time I’m old, I’ll be fulfilled in life. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:
For when you get in love you are made all over again. The person who loves you has picked you out of the great mass of uncreated clay which is humanity to make something out of, and the poor lumpish clay which is you wants to find out what it has been made into. But at the same time, you, in the act of loving somebody, become real, cease to be a part of the continuum of the uncreated clay and get the breath of life in you and rise up. So you create yourself by creating another person, who, however, has also created you, picked up the you-chunk of clay out of the mass. So there are two you’s, the one you create by loving and the one the beloved creates by loving you. The farther those two you’s are apart the more the world grinds and grudges on its axis. But if you loved and were loved perfectly then there wouldn’t be any difference between the two you’s or any distance between them. They would coincide perfectly, there would be perfect focus, as when a stereoscope gets the twin images on the card into perfect alignment.
Life is full of choices. If you have to weigh the pros and cons of each option every time you make a decision, you’re going to drain your willpower and miss out on a lot of opportunities. That’s why it helps to develop habits that streamline your life and free up your mental strength for more important things.
These are the habits I’m currently working on building:
1. Going for a walk or run first thing every morning. This wakes me up and gets my blood flowing, and it gives me a chance to focus myself and plan out my day. I use the time to remind myself of my goals, take note of my feelings, and (recently) to plan out my daily blog post. Sometimes I even record my thoughts as a note on Voxer.
My favorite thing about my morning walks is that they keep me connected to my environment. My body attunes itself to the changing of the seasons and I feel more at peace with the weather. Right now I live less than a mile away from the point where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers meet at the heart of Pittsburgh. There’s something about the flowing water and the crisp morning air that makes me feel more alive.
2. Being kind to strangers. Just because city-dwellers have armored themselves with blank stares of stoicism doesn’t mean that I can’t say hello—or at least smile—and make a fleeting connection with someone I will never see again. Whenever possible, I strike up a conversation. At the very least, I can make my day more interesting, and at best, I could make a new friend.
We’re all going through this same whirlwind we call life, so we might as well acknowledge it.
3. Hugging people. I’ve been in way too many of those awkward situations where you’re parting ways with a friend, and you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate to hug or not. Usually, I end up just walking away with a wave and a regret. So instead of putting myself through that dilemma every time or waiting for the other person to initiate, I’m going to just assert myself and do it. And not one of those lame side-hugs either—a full embrace that shows how much I care about the other person.
Human touch doesn’t have to be sexual, and it angers me that so many people see it that way. Along with numerous other therapeutic benefits, hugging releases oxytocin and serotonin, and it helps you to connect with people in ways that words can never do.
4. Meditating every day. I like to do this right before bed. It helps me wind down from my day and sleep better.
5. Standing while working. This is hard to get used to, and I’m only able to do this when the task isn’t very mentally challenging, but I’ve noticed that I feel more energetic afterward.
6. Being more sensitive to my own and others’ feelings. I’ve been learning recently that a lot of conflicts arise simply because one or both parties are not aware of their own feelings. I’m trying to get in the habit of asking myself and others what they are feeling at the moment so that I can make sure that whatever is being said is not just a result of feeling invalidated or hurt in some way.
7. Living more simply. A few months ago I went “no poo”—I stopped using shampoo and conditioner and any other synthetic chemicals on my hair. After several weeks of overpowering greasiness, I finally reawakened my head’s natural mechanisms of self-regulating oil production. Now I can go much longer without washing my hair and can bask in my newfound independence from toxic chemicals.
Jumping on the bandwagon with this adult-version of those surveys I used to love.
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Current gig: Digital Marketing Contractor for GlobeIn, Freelance Translator
Current mobile device: iPhone 5
Current computer: Macbook Air <3
One word that best describes how you work: Detailed
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Calendar, Evernote, Google Drive, Voxer, Google Translate, Multitran.ru, Linguee
What’s your workspace like?
Since I work remotely, I work in a variety of places. If I’m at home, I either sit in a comfy chair or use my standing desk (actually a bookshelf). When I need to get out of the house I go to coffee shops and libraries around Pittsburgh, or sometimes I sit out on my back patio. I always like to mix things up and take lots of breaks so things don’t get too monotonous.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
Don’t multitask. Focus on one thing at a time until it’s done.
Also, get as much sleep as your body needs.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
A combination of Evernote, Reminders, and my Calendar.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
My phone and computer are the only electronics I regularly use. I prefer to read physical books, although that could change if I got a tablet of some sort.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Admitting when I’m wrong. Being honest with myself and avoiding sugar-coating things. I’m pretty good at seeing through bullshit and getting to the root of the problem so that I can find a solution.
What are you currently reading?
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff.
What do you listen to while you work?
If the work doesn’t require much thought, I can listen to whatever I’m in the mood for. If it’s more demanding, I’ll either work in silence or listen to one song on repeat so that there aren’t any surprises to distract me.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Most people would label me an introvert, but I find that dichotomy extremely limiting. I have lots of friends and enjoy spending time with them, although I usually prefer 1-on-1 interactions to group settings. I spend quite a bit of time alone and enjoy it immensely. I used to feel pressured to spend my weekends being social, but I’ve grown out of that and now I’m perfectly content to spend my Saturday nights home alone reading or working on something.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to go to bed before midnight and wake up around 7. I feel most productive in the mornings, so if I stay up any later, then I’m either tired the next day or I sleep in and feel like I’ve wasted half my day. I like to go for a walk every morning to get the blood flowing and activate my brain and then get right to work.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
Nobody. I don’t think anybody else should be able to get away with this lame excuse for a blog post.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t mistake the path of least resistance for the one most likely to bring a full life.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Experiment with different things, see what works for you.