Filling days with happy routines

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I recently changed jobs, and the switch means my 5-minute commute is now 30-40 minutes. That's a big jump, but it's kind of awesome. The only thing I didn't like about my 5-minute commute was that it eliminated my best opportunity for me-time with audiobooks. I've always been a voracious reader, but life happens and it's hard to find the time. For me, the commute is the perfect time to get through non-fiction books, particularly on business topics. 

When I was noodling on how to position a product, I listened to Positioning. When I was struggling with how to explain a complex but important concept, I got inspiration from Made to Stick. And one of Jim Collins' stories in Good to Great reaffirmed my choice to leave my last position. Some days I need something fiction to get lost in because my brain needs a break from absorbing information and generating ideas. Occasionally, I switch on my favorite playlists so I can give a concert in my car.

Having a longer commute creates some logistical challenges, but I try to take advantage of every moment of that time to prep for my day and unwind from it when it's over. The routine - provided I'm not rushed - makes me happy and less stressed. 

Life is too busy not to have routines that inject some amount joy into each day. I love getting my first cup of coffee in the morning. That first sip is the best, too. 

Sometime last winter, my colleagues at my previous job started sitting together regularly at lunch and I looked forward to that routine. It made hard days better and gave us all a break from the grind. This one was good for our whole team, especially since we were dealing with so much change.

It's amazing to see the impact of a simple routine when you're going through change.

One routine I practiced when I was younger, but has fallen away was something I learned from my fifth grade teacher. She once told me that she loved to wake up on Saturday mornings, have a cup of tea, a hot bath and read. I still think that sounds divine, but I haven't done it in years. I might have to revive it before it gets too cold. 

I like having happy routines that are also comforting and calming; they're a safe space in each day, week or month. 

It's time for a mindset reset

This week was an anniversary for me, though it's certainly not a big deal. I almost forgot about it, but then something happened. But before I get to that, back to the anniversary.

One year ago this week I started a new job. It's been an experience I'll never forget. And the best part about this experience?

The people. They're talented, intelligent, and willing to try new things. They're also a diverse crew of fun, funky, lovely, loud, and truly likeable humans. I've had a lot of jobs and it's rarer than it should be to find this. 

Life over the past year - at work and outside of work - has been one big transition period (i.e., things is changin'). And change can be hard. It's uncomfortable. But we all have to figure out how to adjust when change happens. Of course, sometimes the feelings around change need to come out and be acknowledged before we can reset and move on.

It can be tempting to wallow in the muck of wishing this or that had never happened and rail at the world for not being fair. Personally, I don't like muck and I would rather spend my time reading than wallowing.

Victim mindset? No thank you.

Back to what happened. 

I picked up Brandon from his summer program yesterday and when our conversation about dinner didn't go quite the way he wanted (he was craving steak and I wasn't going to make any), it led to a tearful monologue about how bad his day was. Translation: He was tired.

But I was tired, too. My kid is sweet, sensitive, trusting and good-natured, but he has a negative streak that makes me a little nuts. I do not want to raise someone who enjoys being a victim. I actually have a rule that I pull out of my annoying-mom toolbox every now and then when his negativity gets to me: For every single negative incident he shares, he has to tell me two positive things.

I told him it breaks my heart that he defaults to thinking about the negative parts of his day. And you know what he did? He hugged me. He didn't want my heart to be broken. 

That's how I know he's gonna be okay. He actually cares. He'll get it.

My ugly truth

Today I picked Brandon up again and when I asked him about his day, he immediately deflated and I knew what was coming. I got a couple words out of him - not negative, but not particularly positive. 

When he didn't expand on his day, I changed my tactic: Tell me something good that happened! 

He thought about it and he told a story about a kid who wouldn't let him pretend to be a Nintendo character when they were playing a Lego Movie game they made up. He said he snickered at the irony that the kid wouldn't let him choose a creative character.

You know what this means, right? My kid totally gets the point of The Lego Movie AND he gets irony. He's brilliant and you can't convince me otherwise. 

As we were driving home after a trip to pick up some more books for the wee genius, I had some quiet thinking time, remembered the anniversary and began reflecting on everything that's happened in the past year. It's been a doozy for the world, right? As I thought through it, I realized I have been taking on the mantle of victimhood a little bit myself and it's time to let it go. 

Choosing joy 

Someone I know recently started blogging about joy and she's apparently had a good influence on my subconscious. I was at the bookstore and picked up a list journal.

I have a lot of these journals. I use them to get inspiration for my writing. And since I can't seem to stay away from the journals in the bookstore, I doubt there are many I haven't picked up.

As I was driving home, after I picked up the journal, I decided to challenge myself to blog one of the lists each week. 

But check out the cover and note what the inspiration is for:

I can't expect my son to look for the positive if I'm not setting the example - intentionally and consistently. It doesn't mean ignoring the negative because that's not healthy either. But dwelling on the negative is toxic and not productive. I'd much rather be good to myself and bring good things into the world around me.

A perfect moment of joy between friends

Brandon has a friend at school whom he adores. This other little boy, who I'll call Dennis, kinda reminds me of Dennis the Menace, but in the best possible way - we really like him. He also seems to get Brandon like no one else. They've been in the same class for three years, and they've been mostly inseparable for the past two years.

Dennis has been out from time to time this school year - I think his family must be having one of those cursed years of one sickness after another after another. (I really feel for them on this!) On one occasion, he returned to school the same day Brandon asked me to pick him up early. I was able to get him early, but I found out later that Brandon had a really hard time leaving Dennis behind. He wanted to be with me, but he didn't want to miss a single minute of his friend being back. He actually got teary-eyed when he hugged Dennis goodbye. They have a really sweet and special relationship.

Brandon often comes home telling me plans that he and Dennis have made. We take them with a grain of salt. If moms or dads haven't been in touch, there aren't any actual plans. But a couple weeks ago the boys decided they were going to meet at the school playground to play after dinner. Matt picked Brandon up, heard the plan, and was able to take him at the time they said. Dennis wasn't there. 

A week later, I was doing pickup. Once again, a plan had been made. But I had a work commitment and I told Brandon I wasn't sure we'd make it back in time. He went with me, helped me, and I rushed to finish so we could get back to the school as soon as possible. We were 15 minutes late and Dennis was once again not there. 

While Brandon and I rushed to get to the school, I called Matt and begged him to meet me at the school so I could go home and change out of the shirt I spilled chipotle sauce all over (I was a literal hot mess). He met us, as promised, as we were walking back to the car and offered to stay with Brandon so he could play even though Dennis wasn't there. I got about 20 feet away, heading back to my car, when Matt called out to me.

I turned around and saw Brandon running for all his might toward Dennis, who was running just as eagerly to hug his friend. 

Their faces radiated happiness and their little bodies practically vibrated with joy. 

Even though I didn't have a camera ready, that image is etched in my brain as one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. 

Later, I found out that Dennis had to work pretty hard to convince his parents to let him go and I'm so thankful they humoured him.

The stories that come out of schools about mean kids and bullying (even some of what Brandon has experienced) can make us sad, depressed, and angry.

But those aren't the only stories, thank goodness. There are stories of kids who meet and form a bond that has the potential to last if life circumstances work in their favour. Whatever happens, I hope these boys will always remember the years of their friendship as happy times growing up knowing they have a friend to lean on no matter what.