July 13, 2011

How Do You Reboot Your Life?

We are deep into the season of ice cream cones and fireflies! But, I confess, as unpopular a sentiment as it may be, sometime after July 4th we hit the patch of summer that begins to feel like a long slog to me. Vacation is far off in the distance, the air-conditioner is working overtime. It is, I imagine, how most people feel on January 3rd or February 15th. The air feels still; we’re treading water.

It’s not necessarily a seasonally-related thing, it’s a heart-centered thing, but for me, it always seems to hit in summer. Without warning or reason, life gets a heavy feeling. And it can be especially maddening when everything seems just fine. Life looks the same––hell, with the blue skies and lush geraniums and fresh herbs on the plate, it looks better than ever––but somehow it feels different.

When there’s not a big problem to contend with, I actually take a little comfort in knowing that something small might set me right again, like a yoga class or a frozen yogurt date with a friend. In fact, the obvious struck me the other day: if life feels out of balance, I’m probably not getting enough of what really sustains me and brings real, meaningful pleasure to life. It seems like a big duh, but it’s a lesson I have to learn again and again.

But sometimes you crave more than just a little reminder of what you care about. You crave a reboot, a clean slate, a pressing of the restart button. And despite being someone who loves familiarity and routine––the ritual of coffee in the morning and pulling the sheets back at night––the desire for a fresh start sweeps in in a way that surprises me.

The craving for neat, tidy newness must in some way be a reaction to life’s messiness. When we are overwhelmed with the reality of what is––the constant email flow, the what’s for dinner question, the pile of mail on the desk––the prospect of what could be is enormously appealing. A fresh start, for sure, would make things more manageable, more organized, happier, lovelier. That’s the thing about the unknown: we always think it could be better.

I set out here today wanting to ask about the healthy, productive ways we can approximate a fresh start in the day-to-day. I wanted to ask how you give yourself that clear, clean sense of a new beginning when you’re feeling stuck. And I still want to know, for sure. But it occurs to me that a question as worthy of asking is how to make peace with the untied ends of the everyday, the discomfort of a bad mood or a bad day, the ebb and flow of our moods and our progress, and the broken asymmetry of what it means to be alive and human.

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  • Kristina: If I may, this blog post (and heartfelt comments) always gives me the insight I need to get up and get on: http://www.pinkofperfection.com/?s=kick+in+the+pants


    And much like your Edith Wharton quote “If only we’d stop trying to be happy we’d have a pretty good time,” I feel like that’s exactly right. Happiness and content hits me when I’m not thinking about it. Waking up a little later than usual on a Sunday morning with the light filtering in over my pink bedsheets, or driving home at night with the windows down and the summer heat whipping through my car all around me. Right then, THAT moment of knowing that nothing is expected of me and I don’t expect anything out of anyone is absolute perfection. One moment that I cannot create, and one that surely disappears as the stresses of the day wear on, but for those 5 minutes, half hour, hour…I feel completely at ease with my life and where things are going. Ask me at any other time other than this limbo, and you’ll know that I’m a total bundle of nerves about what it all means, what kind of person I should be, etc etc.

    So without any real advice, I guess I would suggest taking full advantage of those moments where you can step outside of yourself (wherever you are) and your mind is clear and to just enjoy, write something about it, take a picture, then allow yourself to ease back into the flow of a beautiful mess of a life.7 years ago

  • Adrianna: Great post, Sarah! This was exactly what I needed to hear today.

    For the past several weeks I’ve been feeling perpetually overwhelmed and like I’m frantically searching for the reset button. At least for today I’ve found one such reset button in the form of a bike ride planned for after work.

    I love what Kristina said about finding moments in which “nothing is expected of [you] and [you] don’t expect anything out of anyone…” My bike ride certainly won’t release me from the responsibilty of all things waiting back at home for me, it will allow me to forget them for a little while as I pedal my way to the beach.7 years ago

  • Oh man, nothing like being reminded that I’ve written about this same thing before! I do like the idea of trying to step outside your life for a moment and view it from the outside. Maybe there’s some “reboot” perspective to be gained from that!

    Adrianna, Your bike ride sounds like heaven. I myself would like to be pedaling along the beach! I think I will have to settle for paddling up and down the YMCA pool. 🙂7 years ago

  • Ruth@GraceLaced: Gratitude is the best reset button ever. And it seems that when we stop looking for happiness through stuff and circumstances…peace can be found. C.S. Lewis said it…and so did Bono: We have a God-shaped void…7 years ago

  • Ewa: When July feels like walking through the desert, I take some extreme me-time; I’m trying to read old favourites and find new places in the city, I’m revisiting old friends in museums, I’m looking for new cafes. I know this requires time (I’m a teacher, so it’s my time off) and looks counter-intuitive – it’s not especially uplifting – but it allows me to prepare for rest, to shed the tension left after the school year, and to look at myself from a fresh perspective.

    Thanks for that post, Sarah; two weeks into my summer break I could not unwind, you reminded me of what I need.7 years ago

  • Maureen: When I start to get that itchy feeling, I know I need to get outdoors. When I was young, mom used to make me go outside to “get the stink off my tail”, and sometimes I still need to do that. Luckily I live somewhere with lots of hiking trails, so I can head off and within 15 minutes be somewhere beautiful.7 years ago

  • nicole: I loved reading this today, a day when I am feeling in need of a serious reboot myself. I am not sure I really have any answers — for we San Franciscans right now, waking up to fog and chill day after day (this is July here) it can get a bit disheartening — but there are a few things I do try that help a little:

    – a good yoga class
    – one solid uninterrupted hour (or more!) of reading
    – getting up 20 minutes earlier to make tea and sit quietly for 5 minutes
    – going on a hike
    – getting out of the city

    or just doing something completely out of the ordinary to shake things up.

    Tiny little things, really. But sometimes they really do make a difference …7 years ago

  • Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School: traditionally my are-you-kidding-why-does-it-all-kinda-suck-time is february. too many 4 day weeks with 5 days of work, deary weather, nasal allergies beginning to take their toll on me.

    what do i do? to be honest, usually sleep too much, watch too much tv and spend way too much time on the internet.

    what actually kicks me out the the depths? writing my morning pages, dusting off my yoga mat and attending other people’s classes, reading for pleasure, cooking for pleasure, and saying no to the grind of it all.

    hope you find your sweet spot soon. i wish everyone had summer break and could just relish 10 weeks off every year. it really does help with the blahs.7 years ago

  • Amy C: I think the second question you ask is itself the answer. It is simply being alright with discomfort, alright with the messiness and broken hearts and glories of everyday life. That a bad day doesn’t have to be fixed or peaceful or OK. That it’s fine to storm off to the bedroom and have a cry or some tea or read a totally trashy book. That what St. John would call “Noctura Obscura”, or the obscured night of the soul – or more simply put, those months when there is a cloud hanging above us and we don’t know why, but we somehow come out of the other side better for it – is sometimes frustrating and ugly, but so necessary. I will make a book suggestion – check out Gerald May’s “Dark Night of the Soul”. It will change your life.7 years ago

  • Amy --- Just A Titch: While I’ve seen a lot of virtuous, lovely answers, I’m going to be real: when I need a re-boot, I spend a night on the couch, with a treat and some bad TV. And while I’m doing that? I make a bitch list and write down everything making me irritated/sad/unhappy. And then I make a list of how to fix that. And the next day, I start. But that woe-is-me, wallow-in-everything night is KEY.7 years ago

  • Oh, Grace, I know you are right about the gratitude part, but it can be so hard to get there from here, like trying to go zero to sixty in a jalopy. I find it much easier to be grateful when things are good!

    Ewa, I love the sound of all your local adventures and seeking fun, and of course it is hard not to be jealous of a teacher’s summer vacation!

    Maureen, I love that phrase from your mom! And how lucky you are to live somewhere where the great outdoors are so close at hand.

    Nicole, I love your list, especially because sometimes I need to be reminded that I can sit down with a book before the sun goes down to just read. (And I just bought The Hunger Games—wee!)

    Tami, “Saying no to the grind of it all,” and “finding my sweet spot” are two phrases I’m going to keep close to the vest the rest of this week. Thank you for those. And also the reminder to cook for pleasure. Got to find some time for that this weekend. (And, oh, to have 10 weeks!)

    Amy C, I always love your wise, wise comments, and I know you’re right–that making accepting the discomfort and messiness is the answer sometimes. I will certainly check out that book. Thank you!

    Amy, You’re hilarious, and I love your Real Talk. The bitching and wallowing IS key, but I love that you also root in there and find a solution to begin on tomorrow. Now that’s a total reboot.

    You guys know what I did? I made myself walk away from the computer at 6pm and started cutting out pictures that delighted me from magazines: a woman doing yoga, a forest, a great lipstick. Collage-making is a adolescent pastime I’ve come to late in life! And then I went to my aforementioned swimming class and put my husband in charge of dinner, and together, they really did create a reboot. Plus, I’m about to watch Drop Dead Diva. I like to think of this as a sort of combo pack of much of the advice here! 🙂7 years ago

  • molly: oh, gosh, you and me both!

    so glad to know i’m not the only one slogging through summer, says she who begins dreading july in january 🙂

    that said, i’m finding the REALITY is better than the anxiety. particularly if i take it one week (day ((hour)) ) at a time. really, much better.

    and get a good night’s sleep. hmm…7 years ago

  • Anita: It’s sorta like the feeling you get after Christmas, “Okay, I’m ready for Spring.” Then after Memorial day, “Okay, I’m ready to swim and bbq and shoot off fireworks”. Now it’s “Okay, I’m ready for leaves falling, roasting hotdogs and warm socks and sweaters.” Then after Halloween we’ll be, “Okay, I’m ready for snow and Christmas lights.”

    I think it’s our nature to be reset our clocks once our expectations for the seasons are met. It’s a natural part of being human. Are we longing for or looking forward to.

    Right now I’m looking forward to fall leaves. The heatwave we’ve had here in the Midwest the past few days have zapped me and I’m ready for summer to be over! I get it.

    What I like to do when I get anxious for the season to change is to do something unseasonal. Something I’d do no matter the weather or time of the year. Like maybe go to my favorite thrift store or coffee shop and just be.7 years ago

  • wendy: Well, this came at the right moment! Again, as usual, you seem to know what the rest of us need to hear or think about at the right time. For me, to reboot means to shuffle the deck. Not cards. But my atmosphere. I deep clean the house one room at a time. I get rid of dead weight, i.e. things we don’t need, use, or care about anymore. If it is not loved by us, maybe someone else will love it. Our piano went to someone whose burnt in a fire. Books went to the church summer book sale. Clothes always go to a thrift store that benifits those in dire need. By the time I am done, I will be ready to start all those projects I keep putting off for some other reason.
    I also agree with the gratitude part. I have started a journal that everynight before bed I write down 3-5 things I am thankful for. Whether it is a person, place, thing or state of mind. It has been very healthful, and rest filled. I wholeheartedly reccomend it. I think Anita said it as well, that we look forward to the next thing/season to come. We are gearing up for school to start in a month, so we are looking forward to the change of schedules to come! woo hoo! (ugh)
    Rebooting also comes in the form of taking stock of things I do now that bother or irritate me, and then change them. Personal growth is a cool thing.
    Sara, thanks for opening up this topic!7 years ago

  • Erin: This is a dead-simple act, but it took a load off my mind.

    Since having a baby six weeks ago, I’ve been a wee bit behind in my blog reading. So this week, I pressed the “Mark all as read” button in my Google Reader to start over. Going from 1000+ items to zero was liberating.

    I heard an interview with Biz Stone (founder of Twitter) in which he said that from time to time he completely empties his email inbox and declares a “do over.” He emails everyone and says that if they had something important to tell him, give him a call or try again. If something truly is important, it’ll get to you!7 years ago

  • Andi: I always feel like being happy takes work. I don’t know why, but for me, those perfect moments when I am walking in the park and the breeze is just right, and I feel like I can hear every leaf rustling with it’s neighbor isn’t enough. The moment feels perfect, but it’s fleeting.

    My situation is probably very different from the other commenters, though. Except maybe for Tami, who also has a lot of time on her hands now. I quit my job in May because it was awful, and I have spent the past two months studying to take the GRE. It’s all boiling down to next Wednesday, and every day has been just like the day before. So far, my favorite season has had a very lonely, almost sullen feel to it.

    There are days when no matter how perfect the weather is (and normally, Nothing can upset me when it is sunny and warm) I just cannot seem to be happy. And it’s the same deal as with you, Sarah, nothing is really wrong.

    Anyway, on those days, I really try to go out of my way to make myself happy. If I’ve been going down hard on myself about spending money on little luxuries, I go and I get myself one. (Okay, for me that’s getting a latte, but that’s because I don’t have a job – for others who will read this, go get yourself something Better!)

    Or, I don’t let myself study. I know it might seem like a horrible idea, but I know myself, and I put my happiness first, so even if I score a few points lower on the exam, I know I won’t regret it because it was something I had to do for myself. So, for real world people, maybe that means taking a day off, even though you already took too many this month. Or indulging on ice cream. Hey, you’re not going to be eating ice cream in the winter… appreciate the season for what it is.

    Anyway, I hope this does’t come off as obvious, because I mean Really go out of your way for yourself. I know there is something in the back of everyone’s mind that they’ve been wanting to do…7 years ago

  • Erin: Thank you for this post, Sarah. Misery loving company, it’s good to know I’m not the only one not totally into “the good ol’ summertime”. The Texas heat would burn out the cheeriest of attitudes eventually. Cool, dark movie theaters used to be the answer, but now movies are rented or skipped altogether. A big thing is getting the endorphin-raising exercise in before the sun is over the treetops. Other things are like many have already mentioned – doing things that you consider indulgences. The what’s-for-dinner question can be answered with a bowl of gazpacho, tabouley, or frozen pizza & salad. Hey, there are some not too shabby frozen pizza’s now!
    Cheers!7 years ago

  • Michelle: When I get stuck in a rut for no good reason, the usual pick me ups don’t do anything for me. I’m just apathetic about everything, which makes me so annoyed with myself. I try to look ahead and imagine what I’ll miss about the present. It can be hard to believe that there is anything about a rut that one can miss, but I always look back at these stretches of time and find SOMETHING that I miss. In the depths of winter I’ll be wishing that I was sitting out on the porch sipping margaritas, or going for an evening bike ride down by the beach–things that I’m not appreciating nearly enough right now. I think of all he things I can only do NOW, and I think of how mad at myself I’ll be in the future for not taking advantage of those things when I had the chance. It doesn’t completely eliminate that feeling of being in a rut, but it does keep me from wallowing in it.7 years ago

  • Karen: I am in the midst of trying to separate myself from a not so perfect job situation. I am agonizing over the “to leave or not to leave” (although moving along is the right thing to do for so many reasons it is not easy to walk away not knowing what my next step is). Today I took a day to clean out my closet and think. I am purging a lot of unwanted items. It feels good. Cleaning my closet and my head at the same time!7 years ago

  • Sherry DeLaine: It was as if you had read my thoughts! In Texas we are in the dog days of summer when the heat gets relentless and I have been working 60 hour weeks. I am drained and in dire need of recharging. I am planning a week long vacation in the cooler Rocky Mountains in six weeks. I am also using this time to start to declutter my house. I feel “lighter’ when I get rid of stuff.7 years ago

  • Sharon: I just wrote a post about your post! I’ve been feeling the same way as of late, but in thinking about a “reboot” the question of “What do I want to be when I grow up?” keeps coming up. The last time I felt this way I moved to New York! It’s always good to have some time to examine one’s life and to be reminded of your passions that are far too often hidden under the daily grind. It’s been really nice to read this post and the following comments to be reminded that we all feel this way at some point in the pursuit to discover ourselves. Thanks!7 years ago

  • Ginger: Ok, so I know I’m a week late to the party, but here’s my (good) excuse. Pink of Perfection is one of those blogs I actually like to read, instead of just skimming through the pictures.

    So, when I read this one, it so resonates. I’m in a waiting season where things can’t really change, and while I know there’s much to be grateful for, I loved when you said, “it can be especially maddening when everything seems just fine.”

    Yes! I was reminded by a book I read years ago, Sacred Romance by John Eldredge. Ok, that title sounds a little hokey, and I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but he does have that rare ability to make you go “yes!” and any writer that can tap into the human condition is worth reading. I just had to share my little underlined excerpt here:

    “Some years into our spiritual journey, after the waves of anticipation that mark the beginning of any pilgrimage have begun to ebb into life’s middle years of busyness, a voice speaks to us in the midst of all we are doing. There is something missing in all of this, it suggests. There is something more.
    The voice often comes in the middle of the night or the early hours of morning, when our hearts are most unedited and vulnerable. At first, we mistake the source of this voice and assume it is just our imagination. We fluff up our pillow, roll over, and go back to sleep. Days, weeks, even months go by and the voice speaks to us again: Listen to your heart. There is something missing.

    We listen and we are aware of… a sigh.”

    (Incidentally, I read another of his books, Desire, that I think I liked even better than Sacred Romance, but they are along the same lines — we’re all looking for something bigger. Definitely worth a read!)6 years ago

  • Alice and Me: It’s funny how the grass always seems greener on the other side. Or how we always want what we don’t have. Or how everything that we don’t have always seems better.

    I’ve always felt like I need that reboot – the chance of a new beginning. But now that I’m in that exact position, I don’t know if I want it any longer. I wanna establish a routine as soon as possible!

    I have just written a post about this in a new blog. It was very interesting to read this post of yours, knowing I was there and now I’m on the other side. And wanting to go back! Go figure…6 years ago

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