friendship

The Power of Writing Groups

Here’s a great article about declaring your dreams, creating a supportive community, and going out on a limb, and it happens to be written by my friend, Tricia Remark! Read about how our writing group got started:

http://pyragraph.com/2013/06/youre-an-artist-tell-people/

tricia writing group

Here we are pretending that all of our books reached #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.

A note on using people

As you might know I’m working my way through Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way. You might not know that one of the things that has helped with this process (tremendously) is meeting with three other women to talk about our journey to discover our hidden or stifled artist.

Two topics that come up quite often is:

  • If you know what you want and ask for it, doors will suddenly open up and if you’re brave enough you’ll accept that gift.
  • The fear of not wanting “to use” people.

I don’t understand the latter hang up. I personally love to open doors for people, and I doubt I’m the only one. As soon as someone mentions something they want to do and I can think of someone who is in that field I get really excited to introduce them. It makes me feel useful and invested in anything good that comes out of the union.

I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine (and I’ll even remove all the fleas).

For example, I’m looking for a job right now which is always an excruciating process. When I finally had a lead, I realized the actual job was not going to be challenging enough and I would quickly grow bored with it. A part of me want to take the job anyway, cause I don’t know when the next offer will come around, but another part of me said that would be a decision made from fear. Someone else would kill for that job, so why should I take it and not appreciate it. Then I remembered an old co-worker who just graduated from college. She was describing the kind of job she wanted and I knew she would be a perfect fit  for the school. To make a long story short, she got the job and is happy, the school’s administration is happy that I helped them get a great employee, and I can only hope that when a higher level position opens up, they will keep me in mind. In this situation everyone is happy (well I’m still out of a job, but at least I feel good about helping others).

It helps me believe that when I know for sure what I want to do there will be an army of friends and acquaintances who will want to open doors for me. Success and happiness are not limited resources; if someone helps you achieve success they are not giving up any of theirs, and it oftentimes helps them feel more successful.  So if you know someone who might be able to help you, by all means ask them for help. And if you can help someone offer to do so. If your friend doesn’t want the best for you, than maybe they are not a real friend.

How to Write a Good Resolution

You might be thinking it’s way too early to think about New Year’s resolutions. Afterall, December is the month of gluttony not self improvement. But taking these last few days to plan your resolution before the Christmas shopping frenzy starts will prevent the last minute, careless resolutions such as:

I’m going to lose weight.

I’m going to be a better friend.

I’m going to start reading more.

What is the problem with these resolutions? Well, how would you ever know if you’re successful? One thing I’ve learned from TLC (the greatest self-improvement course EVER) is that goals need to have the following:

1. Specificity

2. A time frame

3. Objective measurements of success

4. A greater cause (This isn’t always possible, but it’s always more motivating when you can see the bigger purpose of your goal)

Even my cats prefer a well made bed.

Last year I was going to make the resolution of keeping a cleaner apartment. But what does that mean? How will I know if I’m keeping up with my resolution. The apartment can always be cleaner. If I clean the kitchen but I don’t have time to do the bathroom, did I not achieve my goal? Then I remembered the TLC tips. I changed my resolution to: Every day by 10am I’m going to make the bed.

I’ve always been admittedly against making the bed. It seems pointless to waste ten minutes pulling and folding and fluffing when I’m just going to mess it up in a few hours. However, I wanted my bedroom to be a peaceful, inviting place. And since the bed takes up the bulk of my bedroom, just putting it together makes the whole room look better. Once I’m done making the bed I end up picking up the clothes off the floor and straightening out a few things and then in less than 15 minutes the bedroom is clean. Because the goal is so specific, I know that I’m accomplishing my resolution, and because I’ve done it every day for almost a year now, I feel good about myself – and isn’t that what a resolution is all about?

Here are some suggestions to improve the generic goals at the top of the post (in relative order)

1. I’m joining Lucille Roberts on Friday and I’m going to go to the gym at least 3 times a week. My goal is to fit into my old sexy jeans.

2. Every Sunday I’m going to take an hour to call at least one friend and catch up. I will  make a girl’s night out plan once a month.

3. Tomorrow I’m going to post a message on Facebook and ask everyone what their favorite book is. I will pick out the 12 that sound the most interesting and read one each month.

These are specific goals that have a time frame, but they are also flexible and doable. It’s easy to know when you’re being successful. And it’s easier to continue your success when you feel successful.

Now, here’s your turn to share your resolutions. Leave a comment below because I love hearing people’s resolutions! My new resolution is to organize my desk every night before 10 pm. I feel stressed out whenever I look at my messy desk, so I know if I keep this goal I will be more prepared to work in the morning.

p.s. the next TLC workshop is this January 27-29. These workshops are few and far between so it’s important to sign up when they are available. If you’re in the New York area I would definitely suggest going -there’s nothing like it!

Goodbyes

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my great friends and neighbors, Hannah and Matthias.  As I watched Hannah maneuver the giant moving truck down our cramped street I had to hold back the tears.

The sad thing is it would have been easy to not have a friendship with them. There are so many people who I see on a regular basis and all I do is smile and say hi. I’ve never made an effort to meet my neighbors before. Fortunately for us, my landlord said that we have a lot in common and we would get along. That was enough for me to consistently knock on their door and burrow my way into their lives. Otherwise they would have remained strangers, and when they moved out yesterday I would have thought, that nice couple’s leaving oh well.

Even though it’s hard to let them go  I’m glad I got to know them.  They are truly thoughtful, genuine, funny people and it was so nice to hang out without having to take the subway :). But I can’t help wondering how many other great potential relationships I’m avoiding because I never take the next step. If there is someone you see every day, take the time to ask them a question about themselves. Maybe even invite them to do something with you. They could turn out to be an amazing friend, but you’ll never know unless you start the friendship.

Why learn another language?

Learning another language makes you a better person. Here´s why:

Years ago when I was living in Mozambique with Gerome, from France, and Flavia, from Brazil, we tried an experiment. We each spoke in our native tongue and then afterward tried to translate what we heard into English. Even though Gerome didn´t speak Portuguese and Flavia didn´t speak French they were able to catch almost everything the other said. I on the other hand couldn´t remember a word. Gerome said that ¡t´s because Americans don´t know how to listen. I got offended, but then he said it´s understandable because we are not surrounded by different languages. We can drive for ten hours and still only hear English, but in Europe or Latin America, you can drive one hour and hear an entirely different language. They have to learn to listen or else they could never get by.

In class, I´m realizing how little I listen. I catch myself tuning out my teacher all the time because I don´t understand her. But I´m making an huge effort to listen and it makes a world of difference. If I can take this concentration back with me to New York, imagine how much more I will hear. Maybe I´ll actually be able to quote a real fact from the news, instead of just estimating the figures. Maybe I´ll hear a friend´s hint for a good birthday present, when before it would have just passed over me. Perhaps I´ll hear someone´s complaint before coming up with my defense.

Last night there was a party at the school to welcome the new students. We spoke in Spanish for as long as we could, but after a while it became obvious that we were genuinely interested in each other and our knowledge of Spanish just wasn’t cutting it. There’s only so much you can learn about a person from questions like

How many brothers do you have?

What is your favorite color?

Do you like food?

So we gave up and started speaking English. The students are diverse. At my table, I was talking to people from Turkey, France, Germany, The Ukraine, Brazil and Belgium. And everyone was fluent in English. It made me realize how lucky I am to have English as my primary language, because it truly is universal. Then it made me realize how important it is to learn a second language. We could not have become friends if they hadn’t first made the effort to learn English. Imagine how many people am I excluding from friendship because I don´t speak their language and they don´t speak mine.

Besides for opening up doors to friendship, it´s also really fun to eavesdrop. Yesterday, I was at the grocery store, and there was an old woman ahead of me at the cashier. When she heard the total for her groceries she started yelling, in Spanish, ¨That´s too expensive. You can´t make an old woman pay that. I won´t do it!” and the cashier told her she could have a 20% discount. I thought that was pretty funny, and I would have missed it all if I didn´t understand any Spanish.