Body for Life, the Universe, and Everything

Being a description of the author's thoughts on the experience of participating in the "Body for Life" Challenge, questions of great philosophical import, and randomly selected topics of no significance whatsoever

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Location: Missouri, United States

In no particular order, I'm a professional lettering artist, a yoga practitioner, a cat lover, a vegetarian, a reader of everything from books to cereal boxes, married to a very attractive guy named Tom (nope, no kids), an exercise enthusiast, and a lot of other things I don't care to admit in a public forum. I have a BS in applied math that I haven't used in over 10 years, and I can put both feet behind my head. What else would you like to know?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Website progress, and Rules of Relationships

My website text is finished! I had been slogging through the read-through/revision process, spending a fair amount of time on it over the last week, and then yesterday I sat down at the computer before I even took a shower or got dressed or anything, "just for a minute," and ended up sitting in the chair in my bathrobe, working on my website text, for six hours straight. I didn't even leave the room for a drink of water. I finished it just after midnight last night and immediately sent it on its merry way to my tech dude. He e-mailed back today that he's in Florida for work right now, and he'll contact me next week, but at least he has it and I'll stop fussing with it for now. And maybe Tom will have a chance to read it and make suggestions. It ended up being 90 pages in Word, although a few of those pages are instructions for my tech guy. Now I'm going to start working on getting the pictures together, some of which I have to create stuff for before photographing rather than just collecting it. Fortunately I do have a decent start on the photographs, although there's still quite a lot to do.

I'm starting to think I need to set up some way to send samples and price list information electronically, because I'm starting to get quite a few e-mail inquiries. It would be a lot faster than paper samples, once I got the initial setup done, and cheaper too. But on the other hand, I probably won't need to do that once I have my website set up, because it will pretty much all be on there. Maybe it would be best to just concentrate on getting the website up and not get sidetracked on the other thing.

I have been thinking about Tom's friends and their outlandish relationship situations lately, and I've been a bit horrified at the things these people have been doing to themselves and each other. In light of that, I've come up with:

Cheryl's Rules of Relationships

1. If you are dating someone and the two of you split up, regardless of which one initiated it, DO NOT try to get back together romantically. Friends, fine, if you like, but do not try to rekindle a romantic relationship. Once it's finished, give it up, because whatever caused you to split up the first time is not going to go away. If it were only temporary, you wouldn't have split up over it in the first place.

2. Don't sleep with anyone to whom you're not married. I know no one will listen to me on this, but it really is possible (although difficult) to control your raging hormones long enough to establish a relationship based on other factors, and if you can do that, you get lots and lots of benefits, with no negative side effects. No, I'm not dreaming. It can be done, and I am not aware of anyone who waited for marriage who regretted it, and I know a lot of people who are unhappy with at least some of the consequences of having slept around.

3. If you are thinking about getting married (or engaged to be married), take a good hard look at your significant other. Are you sure you will be able to deal with the things you don't like about this person for the rest of your life? 'Cause they're probably not going to improve. Don't get married unless you're completely and totally convinced that you can live with those things.

4. Once you're married, STOP looking for stuff like that--stuff you don't like about the other person. Now you need to concentrate on finding the good in your spouse. It will probably get pretty tough sometimes, but keep looking. It was there before, and it probably hasn't gone away, despite how it might seem sometimes.

4. Once you get married, recognize that relationships (and people, for that matter) go in cycles, in both the long-term and the short-term. If you're convinced your spouse has turned into an ogre, be patient, and also try to figure out what you might be doing to contribute to the problem, and more importantly, what you can do to make things better. Maybe, just maybe, you don't realize how difficult you're being. Maybe your spouse is just under some temporary stress that you don't really understand.

5. If you've gotten to the point of considering divorce, get help. Go to a pastor, or a therapist, or a counselor. Take a class, or go on a retreat, or read some books about marriage renewal. Maybe one or both of you could use some help individually, or maybe together. Don't just give up on your marriage unless you have absolutely no other options left. Why did you marry your spouse in the first place? Is this person you're now married to really that different from the one you married? Do you really want to throw the years you've spent together into the trash? Take some time to think this through and try to work it out. A marriage is not like a Kleenex!

6. Even if you are sure you are getting divorced--or are to the point of actually being legally in the process of doing so--as long as you are still officially married, don't date anyone else, and most definitely do NOT sleep with anyone else. You deserve whatever consequences you get if you do that.

7. At no point should you ever, EVER sleep with anyone who is legally married to someone else, no matter what they tell you about how horrible a person their spouse is, or how difficult or prolonged the divorce process is. If you are really meant to be together, it can wait until there are no legal entanglements.

8. Finally, if you do get divorced, don't just jump right back into the dating scene immediately. If you don't take the time to figure out what you contributed to the failure of your marriage, you'll probably do it again. Do you really want to keep making the same mistakes?

And that is the wisdom from my mountaintop. I've seen every one of these violated, mostly recently, and in many cases multiple violations by the same person. This is not about moralizing, it's about treating people (including oneself) with the respect they deserve, and avoiding negative consequences. I mean really, don't people believe they deserve better than, for example, to have to sneak around behind someone's back? Wouldn't it be a better world if people focused their romantic attention on the person they were officially partnered with?

Sigh. If everyone would just follow my advice...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Positive ramblings

Over the weekend I finished adding all the stuff to my website text that I thought of after I thought I had finished it. It's now 83 pages long in Word. I still need to go over it one last time and make sure I didn't do anything stupid, and I need to add the link references so my tech guy knows where to link to. Going over it one more time is going to be difficult, not because I think it will be tedious or anything, but because the reason this whole process has been dragged out so long is that I keep tweaking it, and it will be hard to resist the temptation to do yet more tweaking. At this rate, I'll be retirement age before the website is ready, and that just won't do. Not acceptable. I am so ready for this website to actually be done, but there's still so much to do before it is.

Okay, I can do this. One step at a time. Don't agonize over how much is left, just concentrate on the next thing to be done, and eventually there won't be any more "next things" left because it will all be finished. Just keep moving forward. Okay. Today's goal is to start on the final read-through and not get too sidetracked. Just start. Make progress, even just a little bit. It will still be progress. Make notes for the link references along the way and number them as they come up. Yeah, I can do that.

I am trying to develop a habit of thinking more positively this year. I guess you could call it a New Year's resolution, although I don't really care for such things. It is, however, easier to make changes when something is in a fresh, renewal-oriented state, so the key is to keep finding ways to think of something as being in a fresh state. I have mixed feelings about the success I've had in making improvements in my life, but because of this positive-thinking thing I am going to concentrate on finding the silver linings. I did actually create a rather involved calligraphy piece a month ago that wasn't for a client or a class, and I like to think that this will be the beginning of a trend. I even created another (much smaller) one this past week, for a fellow student in the year-long calligraphy class I took in 2005 whose husband just died. Granted, it wasn't my idea, but I did it. I couldn't think of anything very elaborate to do, and I didn't have a lot of time anyway, but I did something. Okay, that's good. And I am making progress on my website text, and I've started taking some photos of my work with the website in the back of my mind, and I did manage to get a photo and some text together for my Knot profile. Okay, those are all things I've done in the past month. Good.

Okay, enough babbling. Next time I may post about the fear of success. Or perhaps just about the fear of posting about the fear of success....

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Snow and soap (operas)

It's 11:45 p.m. on Saturday night and it's snowing big, fluffy flakes. I just heard the snowplow making its way up the road, and when I looked out the window for it I saw that the snowplow blade was throwing a three-foot-high shower of sparks the whole time I watched it going by. Fire and ice. Well, fire and snow, anyway, but that's not quite so poetic.

We just got home a little while ago. The refrigerator was pretty much empty except for condiments and the like, so I wanted to make sure to get to the grocery store tonight before they closed and the snow started (I go to Whole Foods now for almost all of our groceries, and they're open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, which is pretty good, but not the 24-hour thing I'm accustomed to with the standard places). Since Whole Foods is half an hour away, I persuaded Tom to go with me, suggesting we have dinner beforehand at Fitz's (in the Loop, on Delmar)--home of the famous Fitz's root beer, which is the only kind of soda I ever drink (and even then it's about once every two months). When we went into Fitz's, it was cold but not precipitating. When we came out of the restaurant, at 9:15, it was snowing. By the time we left Whole Foods, about 10:20 (yes, they closed at 10 p.m.; don't ask), it was snowing harder. Tom was in the parking lot with the car waiting for me when I came out of the store (he went to Borders bookstore while I did the grocery shopping, because grocery shopping gives him hives or something), but I don't think he was too bored because he was on the phone with one of his friends who lives out of town. He finally persuaded her to get off the phone and let him concentrate on driving in the snow when we were about two miles down the road. Getting home was a bit more of a challenge than usual, what with the snow coming down and obscuring the road markings, and the other drivers doing foolish things. Tom talks to the other drivers when he thinks they are being stupid, and tonight it was almost an even split between the time he spent telling me about his phone call and the time he spent talking to the stupid drivers.

Remember a few posts back when I talked about Tom's friends and their personal soap operas? Well, this phone call was from one of those. In fact, it was the fourth time today that she and Tom talked. This friend just started talking to her husband about a possible divorce on Thanksgiving weekend, and they've already filed the paperwork to make it official, less than two months later. Two weeks after the initial divorce discussion, her husband was dating around and she was already dating a guy who is seventeen years older than she is (which is more than half again her age)...and this guy is still officially married. I understand that he told his wife last week that he was leaving her for good. The current plan is for Tom's friend's soon-to-be-ex to be dropped off their joint mortgage and for her new guy (or old guy, considering the age difference) to have his name added to hers on the mortgage, and new guy will move in and soon-to-be-ex will move out (hopefully not in that order). And there's a bunch more stuff related to this whole fiasco that's too complicated to go into right now, but just take my word that it's a complete mess.

I can't believe I actually know people who do things this stupid. Honestly, breaking up two marriages and not just moving in together but actually jointly owning a condo, for what will probably be a temporary relationship? Knowing that they each cheated on their prior spouses, they think they can actually trust each other? I should be used to this sort of idiocy by now--Tom's had plenty of his friends tell him about the completely imbecilic things they are doing (usually in their relationships), as I described in my other post--but I still can't get over the "Doesn't this sort of thing just happen in scripts?" feeling. Sigh. Well, as Tom said this evening, if only everyone would just listen to us....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Year's Resolve

Tom's started another BFL Challenge and is posting to his blog again, so that has inspired me to get back to mine, even though I don't think anyone is actually reading it....

I was whining to him on New Year's Day (what a guy; he puts up with so much from me!) about how frustrated I was with myself because I can't seem to get anything worthwhile done or make any of the significant changes I'd like to make in my life, and he had some very interesting points/suggestions. One of the big problems I've had is that I might wake up excited about working on some project or doing something creative or fun, but by the time I've slogged through my two-plus-hour "morning routine" involving my daily exercise and all these chores and things, I've completely lost interest in whatever I woke up excited about doing and so I never do it. This is why there is so little fun or creativity in my life: The unbelievably long routines are crushing it out of me. I procrastinate partly because I feel there are so many things I have to do before I can get to something I enjoy that it doesn't seem worth trudging through all the "have to" stuff, so I just want to punt all of it. Tom's response was to talk about how I seem to have myself in this box with my thinking ("I can't do this until I've done that, and before I can do that I must do the other, and before I can do the other..." ad infinitum). He suggested that I need to let go of my "boxed-in" thinking and loosen up my schedule.

For Christmas I created this massive calligraphy-based wall hanging for him, and I realized while I was working on it that not only have I had the idea for over a year without actively working on it (I actually planned to do it and give it to him last Christmas!), this is the first time in eight years that I have done any calligraphy that wasn't for client orders or classes or absolutely necessary marketing materials. (Well, any calligraphy more involved than envelopes or designing our (sort of) annual Christmas card, which I don't count.) In other words, I haven't actually done anything creative with my art unless I was doing it for a class assignment or direct payment. Or even practiced a lettering style I'd like to improve, when I didn't have to. In eight years. And the streak would be even longer than that if it weren't for the fact that eight years ago Tom and I decided that I'd make some calligraphy pieces as Christmas gifts for several relatives instead of spending a lot of money we didn't really have. If you don't count that one situation, it's been considerably longer than eight years. And I wondered, what happened to the passion I used to have for my art? I read all the time about how changing one's hobby into one's livelihood tends to kill one's creative joy in that activity, whatever it is, and I knew it had happened to me, and I had done some things to try to renew it, but nothing had really taken. So Tom had a suggestion for me. He said, "If I were in your situation, I would start every day by doing at least an hour of calligraphy." I said, "You mean, get out of bed and put on some clothes and go do calligraphy?" He said, "Yep. I don't care what you do there, as long as it's calligraphy. Don't do all that other stuff first that you think you have to do. If calligraphy is a big rock, do it first. Don't worry about the gravel." I knew he was talking about Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," in which Covey does a discussion/demonstration on how if you put the gravel and sand of your life (gravel and sand representing the trivia in your life, like picking up dry cleaning or mowing the lawn) into a jar first, there won't be room for the big rocks (the truly important things in your life, like your relationships or your career); whereas if you put the big rocks into the jar first, you can then pour in the gravel and sand and it will fill up the spaces in between the rocks and everything will fit into the jar.

After Tom made this comment, I thought about what my life might be like if I started putting the big rocks first in my schedule like that, rather than just first in principle, and I wondered why something so obvious had never occurred to me. Apparently it was due to my "boxed-in" thinking. Then the next thing he said was, "If you were going to start spending an hour a day on calligraphy other than what you needed to do for the business, how would you spend that time?" So I started thinking about that.

So the end result of all of that was that the very next day I started trying to change that. I started beginning my day with an hour or more of calligraphy. I spent four days practicing a style in which I have always wanted to become more proficient (Gothicized Italic). Then I spent two days working on a major calligraphy project that I started in a class over a year and a half ago and never got anywhere close to finishing. Between January 2 and January 10 I spent over 11 hours doing "pure calligraphy"--in other words, working on something I didn't have to do. This is over 11 hours more than I had managed to get in during the past eight years, up to the time I started working on the Christmas gift for Tom in mid-December, a month ago. I also started eating more meals per day (something I've been trying to change for a number of years) because I was starting earlier on them instead of feeling like I had to wait until after I'd exercised (which I couldn't do until I'd done several hours of other chores...). And amazingly enough, I was mostly getting all of those other chores and things done too. I was thrilled with the improvement in my accomplishments.

After January 10 I started slipping into my old habits of "gotta do this first, then this, then this..." before I felt I could go into my studio and start playing. I think it has something to do with my depression, because I don't feel that I deserve to do something fun until I've done a bunch of obligatory boring or annoying chores. But I will keep working on this! I really want to change. I am tired of being where I have been; namely, stuck in a rut. I will keep tweaking this and looking for feedback. This year I will stop making excuses and start succeeding!