I have a crazy obsession with lists. Like, all kinds of lists. Shopping lists, lists of some artists I love, lists of tasks, lists of art projects I want to create, lists of business ideas, lists of dreams and goals, checklists for my kids, recipes I want to make…you get the point. Lists are my jam. It just feels so dang good to check things off and be able to see your actual progress and accomplishments. Daily checklists are one of my very favorite things because, while big goals and huge projects are awesome, they can get super overwhelming super quickly. Daily checklists allow me to break them down into smaller steps by choosing a few small things each day that help me reach those broader goals. But what makes a list even better?? Duh, one that is fun and that makes you smile as you check off your tasks! And what’s even better than that??? A free one for you to use… just click the image to open and download!
I recently had to get rid of my computer keyboard. Mine had a fatal flaw: the “+” key was stuck. Constantly inserting an infinite amount of little plusses into every record, every field, every document, every spreadsheet, every email, every search bar. I tried removing the willful key, but all that did was leave my keyboard looking sad and incomplete while still remaining in the top spot of the infinite-plus-key-entering leaderboard. So, a new keyboard it was. Problem solved.
It’s been a little over a month now since parting ways with the broken keyboard, however, that little plus key is still leaving its mark, but this time, in a much different way.
I set it on my desk and kind of just forgot to throw it out. But the longer it sat there, the more I didn’t feel right about tossing it. Sounds ridiculous, right? But every time I look at it, I see this simple, tiny, tangible reminder to stay on the plus side of things; to really make an effort to stay positive even when (especially when) it feels like things have gotten to be too much and I don’t really have full control of the wheel. I’ve glanced over at it a bunch when I am a little overwhelmed, or frustrated, or even content but a little restless, and each time I’m reminded that I’m focusing on the wrong things. I ask myself what’s good, not what’s bad and realize it’s all okay - and I know right then that I just need to remind myself of all of the positive things in this crazy beautiful life. The stresses I have are because I have lots and because I am lucky. Being overwhelmed means I’m lucky to have a job and a family to keep me busy, being sad reminds me that I am passionate and sensitive which makes me a good mom and a caring friend, being tired means I have found lots of things I want to try and do and I am lucky to be able to fill my life with them. Its funny how the littlest things can help change your entire mindset. Even when I’m not home, I find that every once in a while I take a deep breath and remind myself to stay on the plus side of things. Who knew that a teeny, tiny, obstinate little key would turn out to be so positive?
I have a thing about resolutions. They always seem to nag you somewhere in the back of your head before you even begin, letting you know they'll be long abandoned by month 2, at which time you carry around this little pocket full of guilt for not conquering those resolutions for the remaining 10 months until January, when the cycle continues again and again and again. I kind of don't dig the guilt - honestly it's a pretty sucky feeling. For the upcoming year I've decided to set a few goals... achievable goals, goals that might even make me feel better physically and mentally. I want to try some new stuff and go to some new places. I want to push myself a bit out of my comfort zone and work towards being a little more present throughout my day. But I won't promise that I'm going to get into the best shape of my life, swear off all sugars, or quit my guilty pleasure (bad reality tv - no judging!!!). I'd much rather spend my time doing little things to improve my mindset, daily rituals to help bring me joy, and some simple practices to remind me what I have to be grateful for. Who's with me?
I created these printable sheets for myself, though you might find them useful too (free download links below). One is a simple goal sheet to map out a few things you'd like to do in 2019. The other is a list of some easy but effective things to make 2019 more serene, and seriously, who can't use a little more serenity in their lives? I'd love to see your goals - share your completed sheet and use the hashtag #GoalsNotResolutions2019 and tag me @illustratethislife - I can't wait to see what you put on your lists!
Click the links to download:
My son just turned 7. He is my bright light. He is a lover, he sings and dances 12 out of 24 hours of the day, his smile is beautiful and contagious, he pets my hair when I’m sick, hugs me if I’m sad, and is my best little art companion. He’s so many amazing thing but he’s also sad a lot. Friends don’t come easy to him, he’s small for his age, he’s sensitive and wants to fit in but would rather play alone than get his feelings hurt. This past year was especially hard. Fortunately, he’s been taking karate for a couple of years now and I really think it’s helped him feel more powerful and confident. They broke boards at karate the other day for the first time and he came home with these broken boards in his hands, so proud of what he’d done. He couldn’t believe that even though he’s small he was powerful enough to do it all by himself. It made me think about how important it is to feel strong and capable. Because of that, every morning we says these words out loud: “I am strong. I am brave. I am kind. I am powerful. I am confident. I am a silent leader.” We decided he’d write these simple words on one of the broken boards to always remind him that this strength and courage can’t come from other people - it belongs to him; we shouldn’t depend on other people to make us feel valid. When you own something instead of relying on others to lend it to you, you never have to give it back. We are all small. This world is giant and sometimes intimidating and unfamiliar. The minute we lose faith in ourselves we lose our power to follow the secret dreams we have, we lose the confidence to be strong enough to help someone else who needs it, we don’t feel brave enough to breathe deep and tackle our demons, we don’t feel secure enough to ask for help when we need it. We stay stagnant. That’s a pretty lonely way to exist. Remember those days you didn’t think you’d have the courage to take another breath or face another day? The times you had to fight with everything you had just to get out of bed? The time when the fear and pain went so deep you didn’t think it mattered what happened next? But you are here. You did it. Stand tall and let your self worth shine, believe in your courage, rely on your strength, show off your bravery and power because you have broken boards too.
I recently went to a town hall meeting at my son’s school. Up on the wall there were a few ground rules and expectations. There was one thing written up there that really didn’t mean much to me initially but I realize that I have been thinking about it a lot since the meeting. It simply said, “Risk Honesty”; admit when you’ve done wrong, confess to feelings that might make you feel really vulnerable, speak your mind when you think change needs to be made. Those things seem so simple, but at times, risking honesty can be one of the hardest things to do…like, really hard. But I feel like it’s my time to risk honesty:
My life has been really great over all. Like everyone, I have had extremely tough moments and some really low lows but I have also had such brilliant and beautiful highs that those lows begin to not feel so low anymore. Life has been good to me and I am happy - but I am not complete. I have always been an artist, within my chest my heart beats color and graphite and drippy ink. Drawing isn’t my hobby or an interest I have; people who know me think that art is just this thing I like to do. It’s not a thing I do...
...It’s the thing that I am.
My mom was an artist; I was raised feeling so deeply that art and breathing are connected and that one can’t survive without the other. I look around me and see sketchy lines around flowers and leaves as I trace the shapes in my mind and try to commit their color and texture to memory so I can draw them later. I have spent a super long time hushing the voice inside me that tells me I need to create and make and that I need to feel the weight of the pencil in my hand to be “whole”. I tried to convince myself that, as an adult, other things need to come first and that, while art is fabulous, I have more important things to worry about. Essentially, I have been telling myself that one of my favorite and most important things about myself just doesn’t matter – and I haven’t been telling this to myself for days or weeks or months...but years and years and years. I’d always thought it’d be so neat to take an art class or join a ceramics studio but, as usual, I kept telling myself that the cost couldn’t be justified and that I wouldn’t have time for something like that. Finally though, after stalking their social media pages forever, on a day when I felt particularly brave, I signed up for a bundle of art courses from Make Art That Sells. I risked honesty by telling myself that I needed this to feel whole and fully alive and that, while art might not seem like a true necessity, feeling “me” should be. I risked honesty by telling my family that there would be some nights when I wouldn’t be as available because I would have assignments with deadlines and that I might need a little bit more help with things at home. I was honest. And nothing bad happened. My family didn’t just agree, they were proud of me and they were so excited that I had enrolled in the classes because they knew how huge this was for me. I know so completely that art is what I need to go beyond just existing - to really thriving. Signing up for these classes is so small in the grand scheme of things, but this has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. So risk honesty. Find the thing that sets your heart on fire…now, go, and do that thing.