Friday, March 22, 2013

Conviction, Part One

March has been a month of facing personal convictions on many levels. One thing I didn't feel convicted to do was write, so I decided to wait until I felt like I was ready to share where my thoughts have taken me.

For example, I looked at my 30 By 30 list. These goals I set for myself to hopefully accomplish before my 30th birthday no longer seem urgent to me. Whether I complete them by a certain age or not no longer seems relevant. Some goals don't interest me at all anymore. I suddenly felt like I was trying to busy myself unnecessarily. And just like that, I let the list go. I simplified my life further by easing the burden on myself to achieve things that didn't feel like priorities. Sure, maybe someday I'll get to eat at Alinea in Chicago (which would be amazing!) or drink yak butter tea or learn to do the splits... but the self-imposed urgency of achieving these things no longer appeals to me. I did give up using paper towels (my towel dispenser sits naked and lonely on my counter), I continue to read parts of the Old Testament I have not explored before, and I still pursue creative works that I will hopefully submit to a film festival in the not-too-distant future.

I then looked at my list of goals for 2013. I feel differently about this list; it motivates me far more than a more randomized list of cool things to try. These goals were more about bettering myself and my life, as opposed to just doing something interesting:
  • I have made great advancements in my posture and stance, mostly out of necessity. My neck and shoulders were in great pain, and by introducing yoga into my regimen, I have found that I slouch less at my desk. I even get up frequently to walk around. I stand while I read documents. My co-worker makes fun of me: "Oh, are you torturing yourself again?" It was more tormenting to sit all day, a sedentary lump with a spine that was slowly morphing into a question mark shape.
  • I also get jeers for bringing my own snacks to work. I'm the office "rabbit" because I like to snack on carrots and hummus, fresh gala apples, or a spinach salad. I even brought my own pan to work to make lunch on the office kitchen stove, and I thought my colleagues were going to call the local media because they were so fascinated by it.
  • I pledged to read at least one book per month, and I've blown that goal out of the water. I recently discovered my local library had an eBook lending system and read six books on my iPad this month alone! I'm currently reading about yoga breathing and stretching exercises that help with chronic pain.
  • I cook a lot more fish, I eat a lot more green vegetables, and I log my meals every single day. I am a bit frustrated because, despite these improved health choices and regular exercise regimen, my weight loss hit a wall. I have been getting stronger and feeling more energized, but my waist hasn't shrunk and the scale hasn't budged. It is discouraging, but I know what I am doing is good for me, and I feel so much better! I think I may need to "shock" my body into breaking this early plateau by eating very cleanly for a while. That means when the beau offers me a few bites of his ice cream, I won't take it... even if it is just a few bites. Hopefully it will become a habit!
  • I bought a Le Creuset dutch oven this month. It was certainly an expense, but I see it as a worthwhile investment. I bought it on eBay for under $200 (they retail for over $300) and expect it to last me 30-40 years. I've already cooked several soups in it (storing some in the freezer for future meal options), baked loaves of bread, and made pot roast for a friend in the hospital. This pot can do anything; it's amazing!
  • Despite the large purchase, I have been sticking to my 2013 budget plan. I write down everything I buy, and even though I still have about $100 of flex money left in my monthly budget, I am trying to see if I can refrain from spending it for the rest of the month. Then it can go into savings to replenish the expense of refinancing my home (which had to be taken out of my emergency fund). Just a reminder: the money I "save" doesn't make me a wealthy person; it goes towards increased financial independence (see my notes on the devastating effects of divorce) and rebuilding my nest-egg.
  • I paid off my last monthly credit card payment. I pay my "everyday expenses" card in full each month, but in the past I made some large purchases using a card with a "no interest for 18 months" plan. This month I made the final payment on the dining room table I bought in late 2011, and paid it off before the deadline so I could avoid shelling out money for interest. It feels good not to have any credit card payments to worry about.
  • I no longer feel compelled or tempted to shop at retail stores, even online. I have not purchased any new clothing, nor have I felt the urge to. This is a big deal for me! I love clothes and I used to get bored with my wardrobe very quickly. I'd donate a bunch of clothes, then "justify" my wardrobe cleanse by buying new clothes to replace the old ones. Not anymore! I even busted out the needle and thread to sew a hole in the finger of my winter glove. Me, finally learning to sew. Yep!
  • Other spending cuts: thanks to new policies, my prescription medication no longer requires a co-pay. This is a small money saver that will add up over time.  I have not purchased a cocktail all year (thought someone did buy me one... how nice!). I continue to post and sell random knick-knacks on eBay, and though it is an inconsistent process, I do end up getting rid of something every month (and making a tiny profit on it!).
I have felt convicted in focusing more on self-improvement and less on setting other types of goals. The results are cumulative most of the time, and the effects linger a lot longer. My spending habits now feel so natural that I can't imagine going back to the impulsive consumer lifestyle. I also feel convicted to say and remind others that it is okay to change, and it is okay to change your mind.

Part one of my meditations on personal convictions was mostly about my health and wellness, both physically and financially. Coming up in part two: convictions in personal relationships regarding navigation of situations with family, friends, co-workers, and people who pop up from the past.

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