Monday, 13 February 2017

A memory

I have a memory from last summer which has recently been coming back to me:

I am sitting in a taxi. I'd just spent the day running errands which were to do with my own little creative business project (so I was excited, had had a fun day, felt like I was going somewhere with everything I was doing). I'd made a start on a lasagne, and then I had to get changed, grab the gift I'd bought for my friend, and run out of the house and hurry to my friend's party. (I had hoped to stay at home for an extra hour, cooking and dithering in a lovely way, savouring some alone-time, when she texted me and made it clear that she wanted me at the party NOW. I allowed myself the unusual luxury of calling a taxi - I don't normally do this - and there it was, arriving to pick me up, and there I was, nice dress and the comfy/pretty shoes and gift in a bag, and we were off.)

I remember that I was wearing my favourite dark green dress and a slick of fuchsia lipstick. It was summer, a sunny early evening, and I had a light trench coat thrown over my outfit, and I was in a taxi. Little things, but luxuries to me, and I felt like a million dollars.

The taxi driver and I got chatting - wish I could remember how it started, and exactly what was said - and somehow, we got talking about 'success'. And I mentioned to him - you know, I sometimes don't feel successful. I don't have the traditional, normal 'things' that define 'success'. And yet if someone were to look at me, it's not like they'd think that about me. I look like the very image of success.

The taxi driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror - a young woman, healthy, dress, lipstick, all bright colours and youth and shiny hair - and he said something like, really, just look at you - you've got everything you could possibly want - you are rich (he didn't exactly say the following words, but the conversation was along the lines of: you are rich in terms of health, you are rich in terms of youth, you have absolutely every thing you might need; you have absolutely won the lottery of all things to do with luck. I remember that thing I read in various 'self-help' books: you are enough. You are perfectly fine just as you are. You have everything you need.)

I remember that gorgeous summer's evening, being chauffered from one nice part of my Saturday to the next, green dress and lipstick, friends waiting for me, and a conversation with this driver, and everything being OK in the here and now. It keeps coming back to me, this memory. (I'm not sure if it's happy or sad. I think it's happy.) I must not let it go.

Mornings - continued

This morning I woke up at 6:35.

And then I got up. And I turned off my alarm. And then I went in the other room (and not back to the warm, warm bed). And then I did the thing I wanted to carve out the extra little bit of time to be able to do.

(You see, recently I've been living the sort of life that a 'normal person' might lead: getting up in the morning, EARLY, and trying to piece myself together and heading out to work. I've been missing out on my beloved morning ritual of 'morning pages' (cf. The Artist's Way), and I've been feeling quite sad about it. But the thought of getting up EVEN EARLIER than EARLY was just ridiculous.

Then last night I was looking at this podcast (I say 'looking at', because I couldn't be bothered to listen to the podcast, but I just scrolled down and was lazy and skim-read the transcript instead) and what caught my eye is that this writer, who was being interviewed, talked about how he managed to train himself to get up at 5 every morning, precisely to try some of those life-enhancing type practices that I've been going on about in one of my previous posts.

So he tells you how he managed to make himself get up, and get out of bed, early. And I loved this thing he said:

'That was the morning my entire life changed, and this is kind of where I’ll wrap up the story, is I woke up the next morning at 5:00 AM, which if you ask anyone that knew me back then, I wouldn’t be caught dead waking up at five unless I had to catch an early flight, right? Never. I only woke up when I had to wake up, which is what most of us do, right?
Look at your schedule. You’ll go, “When’s the last possible minute that I could wake up and not get fired, divorced, have my children taken away from me?” Right? [...].'

And I love that because that resonates. No one has ever put it quite like that before. The reason we fail to get up 'earlier than early' in the mornings, when already life demands a pretty 'early' start from us, is because it's normal to want to get as much sleep as possible, to stay in the warm bed (instead of exchanging it for the arctic circles of the waking world) and to want to put off getting up until you absolutely HAVE to.

But this guy managed to motivate himself to get up. He offers two tips: one of them I've already tried doing, the other is amazing and it helped me make the first one work.

His tips for getting up at 5 are:

- set an alarm and move your alarm clock to the other side of the room, so that you physically have to get out of bed and walk over to turn it off.

(I already sometimes do this. The trouble is how to have the courage to NOT go straight back to bed afterwards. To the warm bed, with the pillows and duvet, and sleeping lover, and all the wonderful things...)

And his other tip, which I think is the best tip, is,

- create a visualization, before you fall asleep, of how this getting-out-of-bed thing will actually work; say to yourself 'Tomorrow morning I will wake up refreshed and full of energy, and I will go and [do the things I want to do]'.

So I tried it. I set my alarm for earlier than I'd like to (absolute latest time to get up - 7:30; a good 'early'  time to get up - 7; my 'earlier than early' goal for today - 6:35). And I said to myself in my head: 'Tomorrow I am going to wake up refreshed and full of energy; I am going to... turn off the alarm clock, put on my slippers, go to the room next door where it's warm; make myself a glass of hot water with lemon; and I'm going to write my morning pages.'

It took me forever to drop off to sleep (this due to a bad night's sleep the previous night) but I just kept thinking - I'm going to wake up refreshed and full of energy.

I woke up when the alarm went off; fuzzy, groggy, sleepy, not quite right after a not-quite-finished sleep. But, would you believe it, I turned off that damn alarm clock, and I put on those slippers, and I went into the next room.

And I did my lovely morning writing, and I felt powerful and energized (even if I did feel quite dopey, and did wonder how I was going to get through my day, and did spend my walk to work planning multiple possible naps in various nooks and crannies of the building).

And the guy says,

'Number two is, you got to set your intentions before you fall asleep about what the morning is going to be like. Specifically, those first few moments. Before I go to bed, I tell myself, no matter how many hours of sleep I get, I’m going to wake up feeling rested, energized, rejuvenated, and I’m going to jump out of bed, and I’m going to keep moving forward, right?
Whether you visualize that, or I have a bed time affirmation that you can — that’s available online if you Google “miracle morning bedtime affirmation,” I’m sure you can find it. Bedtime affirmation that I read it before bed, and it’s essentially programming my subconscious mind for how to respond when the alarm clock goes off. I’m not deciding in the moment, that moment of waking up, and not in my REM, or in the middle of my REM cycle or whatever. I’m not deciding in the moment in the morning. I decided the night before I went to bed, I had my intentions, rock solid commitment was made before I opened my eyes in the morning, and then when I open my eyes, I just live out what I visualized or affirmed before I went to bed.'

And also (when asked if he wakes up 'refreshed' no matter how much sleep he had - does he wake up as productive when he's slept for three hours as when he's slept for eight hours, or whatever) :

'[...] there’s a lot of great books on sleep. But there’s also a lot of differing opinions. So I tell people look, here’s what I experimented with. I tried getting eight hours, or seven hours, six hours, five hours, four hours, and here was the difference.
This goes back to one of the tips I gave earlier about setting your intentions before bed. I tried all of those durations, but I tried all of them, each one. I literally did multiple nights at eight hours, telling myself I was going to be exhausted in the morning, and every time, if I set those intentions of being exhausted in the morning, that’s how I felt. I also felt exhausted if I got six, five, or four hours if I told myself I’d feel exhausted. I flipped it over and I went, I’m going to try eight hours, seven hours, six, five, and four, telling myself I’m going to wake up, and it’s a very intentional affirmation that I just have.
It really comes on the belief of the mind/body connection, you know?'

The guy got my attention.

So here I am. I got up at 6:35. (I just had a little nap in the armchair just over there in the corner.) I did that thing that I'm never, ever able to do if I have to be at work first thing in the morning, that thing I love to do for myself, and which really helps me. And I feel like I've reaffirmed my commitment to all the things I've learnt from The Procrastination Bible, and all the other motivational bibles which have got me through my PhD: the power of positive thinking, of affirmations, of visualizing success - they all matter... (I've been letting them slide in the last few days, feeling a bit blue, grappling with unwelcome life changes and circumstances, feeling helpless and powerless and 'not good enough'. Feeling like crying a little bit every day, asking myself 'what the hell am I doing with my life', 'how can I do all the positive thinking when the reality is THIS'. And now I'm seeing that you have to do those things no matter what, and stick with them, and imagine the bestest possible outcomes, and decide what you are committed to doing, and do it; and create positive expectations for what you would like to happen, and hold on to them.

'I heard [...] a quote that I’ll share right now, because this quote literally was the catalyst for turning my life around faster than I ever thought possible. It really was what gave birth to the concept that is now The Miracle Morning.
The quote is from Jim Rohn [...]. He said, “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development,” and he went on to say, “because success is something you attract by the person you become.” In that moment, I stopped running, and I replayed it, and I thought, “I’m not dedicating time every day to my personal development. Therefore, I am not becoming the person that I need to be to create the success I want in my life and sustain that success.”'

You can view the transcript, or listen to that podcast, here:

(I listened to it properly on my walk to work this morning.)

Have a great day, everybody!...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Contact Me

Dear Readers of this blog,

For some time now I have been wondering what to do when people ask me for details of my other blogs, and other projects, and I have also been wondering what to do when there is someone on THIS blog that I'd like to contact, and perhaps thank him or her - thank for visiting, or for encouraging me in a particular way, or for otherwise showing their support.

The weird thing is that I want to be friends with ALL OF YOU, and I want to tell you ALL about all the cool things I'm planning to do with my life, my extensive knowledge of self-help books, and my general itch to do creative and silly things. On the other hand, I don't really want to give up this privileged position of anonymity. Not just yet.

Writing this blog anonymously has allowed for two things in particular to happen: 1) for me to be able to come here, especially in the early days, and VENT, totally honestly, about the things that I felt were wrong in my life (mostly PhDs, obvs). I'm not sure the venting would have been quite so honest, nor so heartfelt, if I had been writing as 'me'. Also, no-one wants to risk being 'found' by colleagues and professional contacts, to be known as that academic who really, really hated her PhD.

And so the other thing that this anonymity enabled was, of course, a genuine connection with people sharing the same experience. If I hadn't written anonymously, I'm not sure my posts would have been as relatable as they were to some people who read them. They would have been sugar-coated with a veneer of professional 'readability': [yes, but what if someone SERIOUS stops by?... I'd better temper my outburst about missed deadlines, and instead cite something appropriate for grown-ups. I wonder if there's anything suitable in Plato.]

But at the same time, I would love to be able to share with some of you some of my upcoming thoughts, and dreams, and projects - and I would also love to have a place where people can write to me and say things, and ask questions, which maybe they don't want to say publicly here.

So I've created an email address - NEW! From Cloud Nine! - and if you are a regular reader of the blog, or if you are a fan, or if you have advice or feedback to give (or even you have already given it and I've already thanked you), or if you'd like to be on a special mailing list which will receive details of my next creative venture - or any, or all of the above - I want to hear from you, and you can write to me at hatemyphd 'at' (the unorthodox 'at' is to stop spam bots crawling all over my site).

So now there are some ways you can write to me:

Email hatemyphd 'at'

OR post your own email address in the comments below, and I'll note it down and delete the comment.

Lots of love,

Cloud Nine xx