Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Changing how I monitor and schedule my time

I've been taking an online class on creative focus from Jessica Abel and finding the time to do our creative work. We began immediately tracking our time to see where it was going and how we wanted to shift things. Then the next assignment was to schedule a perfect week. I dutifully printed out the form and sat down to do it and then stopped. I've done this exercise many times before and it never really changed anything. So I wondered how I could do it differently. And this is what I came up with.

Instead of focusing on goals and tasks (which I can still have), I focus on what I want in my life (I'm calling them domains). There are nine: connecting, reading, creating, learning, moving, maintaining, resting, reflecting, and earning.  In every week (every day is even better), I want a healthy measure of each of the first eight (the ninth, earning, may or may not happen some of the time). Some of these happen spontaneously or are habits (for example, taking a shower/maintaining or mediation/resting and reflecting); others are best included through focus blocks, where I set time aside to be in that active in that domain, like creating or reading. Some things I do satisfy several domains. For example, AA meetings are connecting, reflecting, learning. I'm liking tracking this to see what happens.

What might your domains be?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Some new thoughts about anxiety

I've been reading Harriet Lerner's book, The Dance of Fear, and one of the conversations in the book has really struck me. When people live with low-level anxiety all the time (not the big panic kind but the kind that begins to seem normal), they tend to respond in one of two ways to most encounters or challenges. Either they under-function or they over-function.

Underfunctioners give up. They step back, feel helpless, confused, weak, passive. Overfunctioners step up, take charge, move into the situation rather than backing out. That may seem more positive but many times, it's not. Because we overfunctioners--and I am definitely one of those--step up and into places we shouldn't. We give unsolicited advice, we try to fix other people, we act like know-it-all's. I find myself doing this in particular with those of my friends that I perceive to be underfunctioning.

For the first time, I can see what was propelling my childhood bossiness. It wasn't so much a need to push people around as a need to mask my vulnerability and uncertainties. What a revelation!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

5 Moments of Grace and Gratitude

My friend Rabbi Brian Meyer and I have been emailing each other in the evening for several years about the highlights of our day or answers to a question we pose. I recently asked him for a new idea and he offered this one: note five moments of grace or gratitude each day.

This totally brilliant suggestion has delighted me. It's brief, simple, and allows me to rethink some of the less joyful moments as grace and gratitude too. We do this in an app called Grid Diary, which I've mentioned before, but it could easily be a simple email.

Here are my 5 from yesterday:
Beauty. Driving home on Hwy 6 from the coast.
Amazement. How long it took to put everything from the retreat away.
Love. Time with my cats.
Pleasure. Coming home to a clean house.
Gift. A wonderful poem sent by my friend Sue

If you pick up this practice, let us know what you think.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bright Line Eating recommendation and discount coupon

It's been two and a half years since I ate any sugar or flour. I find this to be a miracle. I had struggled with sugar addiction for most of my life but never named it that. But its similarity to be struggles with alcohol were so evident. A friend sent me a link to some videos from Susan Peirce Thompson, the founder of BLE, and that same friend encouraged me to sign up. I will be forever grateful.

Over these past many months, I've lost a lot of weight (about 80 pounds) and my self-loathing, that self-hatred we feel when we can't stop doing something we know we should. I eat better, feel better, live better without that addiction in play in my life. I even wrote a book about my experience called Candy Girl: How I Gave up Sugar and Created a Sweeter Life between meals (www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.com).

If you struggle with food and sugar, you might want to take a look at BLE. I have coupons for $100 off the program. Just email me if you'd like one. (jill@lifebetweenmealscoaching.com)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pillow talk

About 15 months ago, I started doing needlepoint again. I had done some decades ago in my crafty 30s and came across a kit I had purchased in 2007 and never done. So I did it. I enjoyed it so much, I got a couple more kits and then started making my own designs.

It's one of the healthier pastimes I've come up with and selling two of the pillows last week was a big thrill. You can see them up close on my art website, www.jillkellycreative.com 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Inspired by contentment

I was on a webinar a few weeks ago and a participant volunteered to be coached. He was bored and unhappy in his work but not wanting to leave it. The facilitator, who's really good at getting people to dive deep, asked him what he really wanted from work. And after a few other descriptors, he settled on "contented." He wanted to be contented when he left work at the end of the day.

That word seems old-fashioned now. We don't use it much anymore. But it really resonated with me when he said it. That's what I want in my life now. I wanted to be contented by the work I do, the painting and writing I create, the time I spend with friends and family. I see contented as a great way to describe time well spent.

What makes you contented these days?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A quote that resonates

"It's not the goal that changes our lives. It's the actions towards the goal." --Jessica Abel

Thursday, March 15, 2018


For some reason I don't quite understand, I've become fascinated with shoes. I know that lots of women have a gazillion pairs and wear them all but that's not me. I don't spend much time at all looking at my feet or anyone else's. I like anonymous shoes on my foot: mostly black whatevers that are soft and comfortable.

But I'm currently very intrigued by shoes as art objects and I'm putting them in a new series of paintings called Shoescapes. Here are a couple:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Listening to my wiser self and not my wounded child

This weekend I had planned to be in San Francisco at a workshop with good friends. Ticket purchased, catsitter engaged. Then Wednesday morning I woke with a cough and a tickle in my throat. Okay, I said to myself, I'll take my potions and be right as rain tomorrow. But I wasn't. I wasn't any worse the next day and I wasn't any better. I clearly had a virus. And I had a dilemma. Do I go anyway and if I get worse, just suffer with it? Or do I stay home and take good care of myself and spare the others any contagion and forego some really good times with people I love? 

There's a child self in me who does not like changing plans. She also doesn't want to miss out on anything she likes to do. And there's a frugal side of me that didn't want to pay $125 (!!) to cancel the ticket. (The other charges I could get refunded.) Those two voices were pretty loud Thursday morning and they tried to overrule my body and my wiser self. A few years ago, I would have listened and agreed with them. This time I didn't.

I made myself get online right away and cancel the ticket. I texted my friends that I wasn't coming. And I settled into taking care of myself. Friday morning I woke up and was no worse, and I flirted briefly with getting a ticket and flying down anyway but I didn't. I accepted that this was the best choice and relaxed into it. I'm glad to see that I'm better at listening to my wiser self.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Looking at time and relationships through a new lens

In the Marie Kondo tidying-up philosophy, joy is the determiner. If the object doesn't bring you joy, let it go. However, this seems a lot easier to do with tops and shoes or knick-knacks than it does with relationships, yet I think there is something very important to consider here. As I continue on my quest for increased spaciousness in my lift, discernment around how I'm spending my time is coming to the fore. And that's where relationships and joy comes in.

You may be familiar with creating a relationship circle diagram in which closest relationships go in the inmost circle. Your friends go in the second circle, your acquaintances in the third, and then folks you meet casually go in the fourth. My good friend Sage recently did this but she used the time factor in creating the circles. The inmost circle had the people she spent the most time with and moving out the least time. I liked that idea but it was missing something for me. So here's what I've been contemplating for both time and relationships:

Circle 1 is time well spent. When I spend time in this person's company or on this activity, I always come away satisfied and nourished. 
Circle 2 involves a meaningful experience. AA meetings, some work relationships, occasional friends with whom I share an interest or activity, people I meet at a workshop or retreat.
Circle 3 must involve a compelling reason. My dentist, a meeting with a new client, an opportunity to experience something new or something longed for. Many of the social invitations I receive don't pass this test. I don't feel compelled to partake. I'd rather be in circles 1 or 2. 

The best times are when all 3 circles overlap. I want that to happen more.

How can you identify the best ways to spend your precious time?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Apropos of school shootings, homelessness, and other social illnesses

"Not fixing what's broken--that's a conscious and deliberate choice. It's a choice to be cruel."

Carol Zoref, Barren Island

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Failed Starts

Eighteen or maybe twenty
small pots on the hearth
The brown of the dirt
the same as the shadows
on this cloudy February day
Failed starts, she said
and I did not ask
if onions or herbs
flowers or food
For it should not matter
what doesn't work
in our lives
And yet more often
a life is defined
by the claims
that don't pan out
the investments
in love
that don't ripen
that don't yield
the hoped-for return
than it is
by the sweet successes

Friday, February 16, 2018

Changing my schedule, changing my conditioning

As I move towards working less (I work now about half-time), I've bumping up against some very old conditioning: do your homework before you play. This was a rule in my house growing up. We came home, got a snack, and settled in to our homework (and chores) and then if there was time left over, we could play or read or do whatever we liked. I was a kid who enjoyed learning and who enjoyed studying so this was not a hardship for me. And it served me well with my parents, with my teachers, with my professors in college. It also has served me well in my various careers and is undoubtedly a big part of the success I've had.

But now it's a habit that doesn't serve me so well. It shows up in the driving need to complete any and all paid work before I can paint. So I spend my mornings and early afternoons "in the office" and then have no creative energy left. In fact, my best studio time is early morning when I'm freshest. This is something I've been trying to change for years, and this is the year I intend to break that old conditioning and create a new conditioning that serves me better.

With the help of my great life coach, I'm starting a new schedule in which I have play time between 9 and 11:30 every weekday morning. I can do anything I want except paid work during that time. I'm excited about this possibility, of increasing my comfort with free time, and seeing what can arise in the studio.

What old conditioning are you considering letting go of?

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aligning my life further with spaciousness

In developing my spaciousness practice last year, I started with just putting some space between items in my day. When I came back from running errands, I'd take my time settling in to the next task on my list. When I finished a work project, I'd take a break instead of just moving on to the next. It took a while to really embrace this change as I am very efficient by nature, and I had to get over the idea that I was wasting time.

The next thing I tackled was saying yes to too many activities. I live alone and work at home and I'm reluctant to forego opportunities to connect with friends and acquaintances. A second complication is that my friends have very busy lives so we tend to make plans several weeks in advance, but that doesn't always mesh well with my freelance work, which comes in erratic batches. I can have a ton of work for 2-4 weeks and then nothing much for a month. So I needed to keep things looser, ask for flexibility, and not plan too much.

Now I'm looking for ways to expand the spaciousness. My challenges now are to lower my expectations of myself (I'm a productivity junkie) and get comfortable with free time. Those of you who are already comfortable with free time are probably laughing, but for me it's going to be a big shift. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What I'm asking myself these days

I've written before about Grid Diary, an app that encourages daily reflection. What's cool about it is the ability to change the questions and to easily share them by email. I've been sharing them for a couple of years with two good friends. It's lovely to have my day witnessed like that.

These are the questions I'm responding to every night now:

What gave me satisfaction?
What gave me peace?
What gave me pleasure?
What gave me joy?
What gave me connection?

These are the things that I want to focus on in my day so I watch for something to report.

What questions would you answer?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

First poem of the year

The first brave blossoms
have dabbed their pinkness
on the fingers of an old cherry
although January has just
reached the half-way mark
and the big-bodied plane trees
in the park
slumber on
last year's leaves
moldering beneath them
on their way back to Source

An ancient chinese hazel
is waking up too
tiny chartreuse fronds
uncurling along its arms

I walked up to the park
for the miles
and got a tiny taste
of spring
for my trouble.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Consider Creating for Happiness

In December I got an email from a fellow alumna of the art intensive course I took last year, Jan Allsopp, with an invitation to join her online program called Creating for Happiness, which is designed to encourage creating in small bits every day. When I took a look at her introductory materials, I could see how closely aligned her thoughts are with those I wrote in Sober Play: Using Creativity for a More Joyful Recovery. And since I can always use more encouragement to focus on my art, I signed up for her program.

Jan sends a brief encouraging email every day to help us stay on track and there's a Facebook page for the group where people post all manner of creative efforts, some simple, some extravagant, and we cheer each other along. You don't have to be any kind of artist to do this, just somebody who'd like to spend a little time each day creating something.

Jan's program is free and you can start anytime. You can take a look at https://janallsopp.com.au/creatingforhappiness/

Monday, January 22, 2018

My January daily creative practice

This year one of my possibilities is to do a small creative something every day and to change that something every month. I had this idea before I joined the Creating for Happiness program and I've found it to be a great support.

My January something is a digital painting done with Art Set Pro, a $6.99 app for i Pad or iPhone. It's an art studio with no set up or clean up, and I am having so much fun with it.  My practice is to do a painting in 10 minutes or less before I go to bed. Sometimes I spend just 3-4 minutes but never more than 10. I'm not ony getting used to the app but some of the paintings are things I want to do in a larger format in the studio.

Here are some of my quick explorations:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Choosing not to stay informed

I stopped attending to the news (newspaper, TV) about 30 years ago. I found it too depressing. The only exception I made were a couple of very small town newspapers that reported local events and a lot of good stuff about the town's residents.

My parents watched the news every night; they felt it was really important to stay informed. And so I felt guilty for a while when I stopped knowing what was going on in the world. But now I don't.

I revisit my decision from time to time, but I've yet to change my mind. Here's why. First, a large percentage of the news is meant to frighten us into accepting the untrue and unacceptable and lettingcorporations make money on "fixing" the problem. There is little celebration of all the many beautiful, wonderful, kind, and generous things people do for each other, so we get a very skewed outlook.

Second, if something earth-shattering happens, someone will let me know. I don't need to worry about that.

Third, I don't have enough time left in my life to spend on lies, fabrications, manipulations, and demagogues. I don't want to focus my energy on bad behavior and greed and violence. I want to experience the best of others and to do that in person.

I don't feel I'm in denial about the malfaisance and idiocies of our culture and world; I just don't need to know a lot more about it than I already do. 

What is your relationship with the news?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Another great post from Nick Wilton for all of us creatives

3 Steps to Make Your Dreams Come True

By Nicholas Wilton 

If you have a dream, something you are passionate about achieving in your life, sometimes it can be reassuring to look back a few years. How did you previously accomplish something that is now present in your life that was at one time just a dream? 

I do this all the time. In doing so, I have noticed a pattern of behavior. 

There have always been a series of sequential steps taken. They have been present in every journey I have taken from a dream to reality. 

These steps have become so familiar I finally just had to give them a name. I call it the 
Pattern of Desire. 

Maybe this could be helpful for you too. 

Step One – Begin in any way possible. 

This is the hardest step as it involves some degree of courage. Whatever that thing is you desire, whether it is writing a blog, dramatically improving your Art, learning to sing (that one terrifies me) or even quitting your day job to do whatever that is your more passionate about, you first must just do one thing. 

You must begin. The first steps can be small but they are essential. Do that one thing that moves you a tiny bit closer towards the dream. 

The “Living on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, making Art in the morning and swimming in the warm sea every afternoon” dream (Oh you have that one too?) might possibly start by taking a beginning Italian class at the local community college. Getting your Art in a prestigious gallery might begin by taking a trip to visit and possibly just saying hello. 

It is hard because it is an actionable step. You must DO something. You must be proactive. It is scary because any worthwhile dream carries within it the fact that you have never actually been there before. It is all brand new. And that is scary. 

So make it a small step but simply begin it in any way possible. The pattern will not work if this step is not first taken. The world will never know what truly extraordinary thing you were thinking of bringing to life. You simply must first begin. 

Step 2 – Talk about it 

The repercussions of taking an actionable step towards whatever that desired thing is in your life is significant. Almost immediately the payback comes in some form of exhilaration. Pushing send on that first ever blog post you just wrote, or starting to paint on the biggest painting you have ever tried, gives you the secret sauce you need to maintain momentum. It also is newsworthy. 

I always tell my students that the challenges they are overcoming, getting their work from A to B might not be pretty, it might be hard but it is almost always super interesting for other people to hear about. We all appreciate the Mona Lisa but wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear how Leonardo felt insecure the day he painted it? That he was going to work on that other painting of his neighbor’s dog but since he couldn’t find it in his messy studio he just decided to work on the one of that rather plain looking girl he had started but didn’t feel particularly good about?

So let the thrill of beginning enter your life and share it with those around you. Talk about what it feels like to have your first ever reader comment on something you have written, say you feel happy in Italian or share on Instagram a photo of that started painting that is so big it practically couldn’t fit into your studio. 

It is not boasting. It is generosity because your willingness, your bravery to take a step towards whatever it is you desire in your life inspires everyone around you. Talking about it, sharing it also adds to your momentum. Like a child first learning to ride a 2-wheel bicycle, you are wobbly but OMG! I think I am actually doing this and now the feeling is contagious. This is big news. Make sure all those you care about know about it. Tell them your dream is starting to come true. Because, in fact, it is. 

Step 3 – Teach Someone 

I used to think I had to be the world’s biggest expert to teach. I now see how that thinking was flawed. It really held me back for years from helping people because of course I never could really become the world s biggest expert in anything. It is also not necessary. In fact, all that is needed is that you are simply just a few bends down the road ahead of the person you are teaching. So wherever you are on the road to accomplishing whatever you desire in your life, I assure you there are quite a few people behind you wishing they were where you are right now. 

So help them. 

The act of teaching, offering guidance will not only be super helpful for those around you but equally important to you. There is enormous personal conviction gained by teaching. The universal principles of first giving and then in turn receiving – not to mention the confidence and personal authority that all comes with helping others – is often all the additional tailwind that is needed to hold your course steady to the realization of your true desires. 

It does of course take time. It might take years. However, knowing that you are on a reliable course, that there is a worn path ahead of you, makes the journey far more doable. If the journey is familiar, it will be palatable. The path can be enjoyable and even exhilarating. If it is, there is a strong likelihood you will remain upon it. And of course if you do, then that desire that once was only a dream, might just possibly come true.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A report on my spaciousness project

For years, I've created an overarching intention for the new 12 months as I move closer to how I want to be in my life. 2017 has been the year of spaciousness and peace of mind, and oh, what a difference having those filters on my choices and decisions has made.

I've mostly used the spaciousness filter on my schedule and my to-do list. I've lowered my expectations as to what I can get done in a day or a week. I've shifted to seeing my task list as possibilities rather than expectations. I do what I can with a big margin in between for moving around, stretching, taking care of little odds and ends, connecting with friends and family, resting and reading.

The peace of mind filter has trained me to pause before making decisions. Will eating this increase my peace of mind? Will accepting this invitation mean an experience that will be peaceful and satisfying? What will happen to my peace of mind if I take on one more paid project this week? Is there good space for it or am I wanting to say yes out of scarcity, which never leads to peace of mind?

I plan to continue to practice these filters into 2018 as they are a huge gift in my life.

What might a spaciousness/peace of mind filter do for you?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A great way to get two minutes of serenity a day

My niece Lisa Simmons has spent her professional life as a chemical engineer cleaning up toxic waste sites, challenging and interesting work for sure, but not always the most rewarding. Over the last several years, she's been turning her creativity towards quieter things and has developed a wonderful video program called Live Serenity. It's a subscription service and each week day she posts a new 2-minute video of a gorgeous natural location, usually with natural sounds, and reminds us to breathe and be here now. You can watch them as many times as you like and they will run as a loop as well.

I liked it so much I got a subscription for two friends  for Christmas. While this is clearly a plug for Lisa's project, I also want to acknowledge her for creating something that contributes to peace and well-being in the world, a gift we need more and more of.

Check it out at http://www.liveserenity.com/