Feet to the fire, hands off the wheel

Light 'er up...

image: Hua Mao

wrote a piece earlier this week about something called The Birthday Project. It’s a little movement — or idea hub, really — started by an event planner in my home state of Florida.  On her 38th birthday, she practiced 38 acts of kindness and turned it into a whole day of mini-adventures for her family.  They taped spare change to soda machines for anyone who needed it.  Bought gift cards at the grocery store and randomly handed them out to people waiting in the checkout line.  Made handwritten Valentines for the residents of a local assisted living facility… and on and on and on… all these wonderful deeds to make people smile and maybe feel inspired to pay it forward too.

See?  Good things DO happen in Florida… occasionally.

Once the day was through, she wrote about it and posted pictures on her company’s blog. The response was so overwhelming, she created an online community around the concept to give people ideas for reverse birthday celebrations of their own — the notion being that birthdays can be a day in which you give instead of receive, and in doing so, bring loved ones together not only for fellowship and fun, but also to expand the do-goodery way farther than you could have accomplished on your own.

Wait… isn’t this all a little Brady Bunchy?  You bet your ass, and I love it. 

A few months ago, I was blabbing on and on about getting up off my tush and volunteering, what with this mega-flexible schedule I supposedly have these days.  Specifically, I challenged myself, IN FRONT OF THE INTERNET AND EVERYTHING, to kick it all off by giving blood for the first time in my life, even though I’m deathly afraid of all things medical and am officially, as my college roommate would say, “a fainter.”

Because I’d put it out there, though, I followed right on through.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I missed my self-declared deadline by about a week, but hey, we’re talking decades, so I’d say it’s negligible.)  Now, while I didn’t technically faint, I did come thisclose a solid three times, and it’s possible but not proven that there might have been some crying in the parking lot beforehand.  Since we’re being honest: I stayed in that chair so long after it was over, I’m pretty sure the med tech thought I was cheesing it up on purpose for all the Gatorade I could handle, like I was pulling some sort of free snack scam.  Sadly, though, I really was close to melting into a puddle from anxiety the whole time, even though it didn’t hurt a bit.  All in all, I gave a pint and, per the big red sticker I wore for the rest of the day like a five-year-old, maybe saved two lives.  Wonders never cease, my friends.  And next, I’ll learn to tie my shoes.

So, back to the first part — about volunteering.  I’ve skipped a few Fridays on this page, and it’s partly because of the too-few hours in a day (which according to the Times is all in our heads, and they’re probably right), but also because I sit here at the end of each week, staring wide-eyed into a WordPress screen, feeling like I’ve run out of words after churning out thousands of others and being deathly afraid that the few I have left will sound dumb.  There’s a doctrine that if you just produce, produce, produce in the beginning, even if you think what you’re doing is crap, the process will strengthen your voice.  I want to believe that.  But I’m also terrified I’m the exception.  So I keep plugging away at the stuff that pays — I write write write, taking on projects that edge me ever closer to my goals, but as a result of my fears I keep neglecting what you’re reading right now… just like I keep neglecting that vow I made to donate my time and give back.

We’re such babies about getting started with stuff like this, aren’t we?  What if it makes us face things?  Ew!  Or shows us our vulnerabilities?  Gross!  Makes us take A WHOLE AFTERNOON to do something nice instead of other, more important things like putzing around online?  Oh, now you had to go and make a point.

That, of course, brings us to a new promise — one I’m spelling out in the sand for everyone to read.  In the next 30 days, I will volunteer with an organization that needs help.  I haven’t decided which one to start with, but VolunteerMatch, as always, has some stellar options.  Maybe I’ll stick with my “do what scares you” mantra and host a brain aerobics hour at a senior center, talking in front of a group without having a panic attack.  Maybe I’ll work at a hospice, face to face with death — something I’m far too familiar with but refuse to go anywhere near for fear of what it might stir up.  Really, it’s not about me.  These things never are.  It’s about shutting up and doing something because it needs to be done.  The logic is simple enough.

So, off we go.  By August 20, I’ll have signed myself up for something concrete, and I won’t back out when I start feeling squeamish or too pressed for time.  My first experience won’t be my last, either — it will be Step One of a big, fat habit change.  You guys are my witnesses.  Feel free to check back and hold my feet to the fire.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t ever want to preach, but if I do anything resembling it, I’d better practice whatever I’m crowing about.  I can write all I want about other people’s good deeds, but I’d better do some of my own while I’m at it.  Maybe I should write about them here and quit skipping so damn many Fridays.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?



A certain kind of crazy

FRIDAY!  It’s been a mega-productive — and therefore long — week, and my creative reserves are almost completely tapped out, so I’m being lazy and using a writing prompt I ran across this morning that made me laugh because of its timeliness:

Write about 5 things you would do to entertain yourself if you did not see a soul for 7 days.

photo by Elena Serozhym

Now, if you saw last week’s post, you know my trusty (and sometimes not-so-trusty) Hellica bit the dust last week, rendering me an utterly involuntary pedestrian until I decide on a replacement.  Working from home has its privileges, including procrastination when it comes to the stuff of life, like car shopping.  And since I’m lucky enough to live atop a retail space with all the shops and restaurants I could ask for, I thought I’d take my time and sort of revisit the days when I lived my “urban core” lifestyle and walked everywhere, sometimes leaving my car in the parking garage for nearly a week at a time.  The good news is, my calves look great.  The interesting news is, I can respond to this prompt almost completely from real life without using my imagination at all.

1. Talk to myself.

I’m pretty sure I do this anyway, but going the entire week without having had any real conversation or real company — aside from cursory chatter with baristas and neighbors — renders me a babbling mess with no filter as I walk around my apartment, just plain talking to myself.  No wait, that’s a lie.  I had dinner with my boyfriend Wednesday night.  Look at that!  Memory loss.  Which is a form of entertainment in and of itself, at least for the people around me.  Speaking of which, I wonder if we’re still dating…

2. Talk to the dog. 

Thank god for the dog.  Since the vet recently informed me that Bogey needs to “dance” since he’s got “too much booty in the pants,”* I’ve been doing my part to take him out for longer walks, and I find myself talking to him like he’s a therapist.  I’m sure it looks completely normal to all the people walking and driving by.  Totally.

3. Develop crushes on “the men of daytime.”

Don’t anybody panic or get in your car to come over here for an intervention… I’m not watching soap operas.  The CW, however, has this thing called “the men of daytime,” where they line up Nate Berkus, Dr. Drew and Anderson Cooper one right after the other to tell me how to get off drugs and mix and match the fabrics in my home.**  Truth? I’ve had miniature nerd crushes on the latter two for a few years, so I was already kind of pre-qualified to get sucked into their self-helpy afternoon shows.  I don’t even want to know what their target demographic is, because I’m pretty sure that knowledge would make me want to die.***

4. Write write write write write, and keep weird hours.

I should explain that afternoon television is actually my version of morning television.  I’m a born night owl, so for me, this whole being-a-writer thing is like putting a big long table of fried butter balls (an actual food) in front of Paula Deen.  I hit my groove around 8 pm, when the world outside is settling in for the night, and I generally wrap up work in the wee hours of the morning.  I basically keep a schedule that is exactly opposite that of a normal person.  Yesterday, I wrote ten (yes, ten) blog posts and did a fair amount of client service stuff on top of that.  Had I tried to carry that workload during normal hours, I would’ve accomplished only half as much.  Weird thing is, from the sound of it, my neighbors are nocturnal too (get your mind out of the gutter! The dude next door plays guitar late at night and the guy above me… well, he walks around a lot between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am.)

Maybe we should start a breakfast club… and call it a supper club.

5. Make stupid jokes about supper clubs.  Also, sing.  Like, a lot.

Anyone who’s ever lived with me knows I sing around the house.  But lately, I’ve been doing it way more than usual.  Might be a sign of increasing weirdness and detachment from reality… might be a sign that I’m just really happy.

Upon consideration, I say both.

There we have it… 5 things and a completed writing prompt/post.  I know I flogged myself a couple weeks ago for writing about me me me me me all the time, but I’m banking on the theory that me me me me me doesn’t count as narcissism when you’re full-on admitting to the world that you’re insane.

* Not the vet’s real words.

** And sometimes give me insight into world news.  Thanks, AC!  You’ve come a long way since Channel One.

*** Oh my god, I’m a stay-at-home soccer mom, sans kids.  And soccer.  Awesome.