Plateaus, New Goals, & My First Failure of 2018

2017 was a challenging year for me in many ways, some good, some not so much, but it ended positively.

In October, I had opportunity to show ten new paintings where I work, part of an exhibition titled Healers, Artists, and Breast Cancer Survivors. A local TV news station covered it. Around the same time, I was interviewed for a local magazine, also about being an artist, oncology nurse navigator, and breast cancer survivor. I admit, I felt very good about both, because 2017 was a difficult time for pursuing my goals as an artist.

Part of the hospital exhibit was an artist talk. I spoke about how my arts career was launched when I completed cancer treatment, and was told I had a 32% chance of dying in 10 years from disease recurrence. Blah, blah, blah, I decided if I were to die in 10 years there were three things I wanted to do:

  • Become an artist
  • Fall deeply in love with, and be deeply loved by the same person
  • Give people reasons to say nice things about me when I die.

As I spoke these words to the audience, I realized I have achieved the first two of the three, and it’s too soon to know the outcome of the third. I need new life goals.

I spent the past weekend reflecting on what these new life goals should be. I did some deep soul work, and came up with new intentions. They include questions I’m hoping to have the answers to this time next year. I’m not going to write them here. They’re personal.

I started 2018 with a bang. I spent time with some of my closest family, which  was a goal for 2018 (there’s a difference between yearly goals and life intentions). Afterwards, I went to my barre class, and the instructor talked about breaking plateaus. That resonated for me. I’ve reached a plateau in my life goals. 2018 will be the year to break through.

I came home from that class ready to write a post for this blog about how to know if you’re stuck in your life goals, and methods to get unstuck. I was on fire.

The too long knitted sleeve photo by Jparadisirn 2018

I forgot to mention, I began knitting a sweater last week. I’m a pretty good knitter, but the pattern I chose, though it builds on skills I’ve gained by making smaller projects, is the most complex pattern I’ve worked with. It’s knit from the bottom up, beginning with the sleeves, which are joined to the body of the sweater before making the yoke. I’ve been working on the first sleeve for several days. It’s over a foot long.

That’s when I noticed it’s too long to accommodate the rest of the rows needed to make the remaining necessary stitch increases. I re-read the pattern. I had misunderstood the increase rows sequence. Now I have to rip out all of the knitting I’ve done, and start over. Arrgh!

I felt defeated, the wind let out of my sails. It’s the first day of 2018, and already I’ve made a mistake!

Then it came to me: That’s how plateaus are broken. You try something new, and you’re not good at it yet, so you make a mistake, maybe more than one. You have to start over, and keep trying until you get it right. That’s how you get unstuck. That’s how progress is made.

I haven’t ripped out the stitches yet. I decided to write this post first. I feel better because I did. I feel motivated to rip out all those hours of knitting, and start over.

2018 is going to be a transformative year.

 

A Meditation on 15 Minutes

The problem with committing to writing or drawing something for 15 minutes every day isn’t finding the time to do it. The problem is convincing yourself that 15 minutes is worth the effort in the first place, which is funny if you think about it. I mean, if you were starting an exercise program for the first time, 15 minutes would feel like an impossible amount of time to run in place or around a track. 15 minutes of laps in a pool would be a goal of achievement to an out of shape swimmer. Hell, meditating quietly for 15 minutes is hard to do for the initiate. But for an artist or writer, 15 minutes of creating something feels barely worth the effort. For most artists and writers, (notice I did not say bloggers, a genre of creatives who often boast about how fast they can whip together a post) it takes 15 minutes of staring into space or working out a puzzle just to limber our minds enough to type a thoughtful sentence or paint a meaningful stroke on canvas. Once it’s in place, we are known to again stare into space, read, or work a puzzle for another length of time before inspiration strikes and the next sentence or gestural stroke is generated. 15 minutes? Why bother?

ink drawing by Julianna Paradisis 2015

ink drawing by Julianna Paradisis 2015

Here’s what I’ve discovered in a few days about committing to writing or drawing for 15 minutes everyday: during my waking hours, whether home or at work, I now find I am thinking about what I plan to create when I get home and set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. This post in fact, began vaguely in my head sometime after lunch today while I was at work. By the time I came home and ate dinner, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and start writing. How did this happen?

Actually, I already know the answer. It’s because what you focus on expands (Wayne Dyer). It’s very New-Agey to talk about intention, and mindfulness, but intention and mindfulness are euphemisms for “Pay attention!” as in when you were a little kid and your mom or dad yanked you by the arm out of the way of something or someone, and hissed, “Pay attention!” Or maybe you weren’t spanked as a kid, and instead your teacher dropped a book on your desk in front of you because you were daydreaming and not following along with the rest of your class, and then said loudly, “Pay attention!” until someone complained about that teacher, and now when someone doesn’t pay attention someone else makes a new rule and everybody has expend for the kid who wasn’t paying attention whether or not they were.

Self-discipline, the foundation of personal progress, is like that. If you pay attention, you can accomplish almost anything, and that’s why no one should think 15 minutes everyday isn’t enough time to change a behavior. It is. Give it a try.