Radvent day 20: Silence

This month I set some boundaries and goals for myself: I limited my to-do list to five items per day, and tried to be in bed by 2am each night. With Alice going to pre-school at 9am two days each week, my book deadlines coming up, Hello Holiday orders, Radvent and the pressures of the holidays, I just had to draw a line as far as how I can use my time. Each day I write three things (usually a Radvent or two, and a thing for the book or two), ship all of the day’s orders for Hello Holiday, and get to inbox zero. That’s it. Other than that, I make gingerbread houses with Alice, wrap gifts, make cookies, take a nap, have dinner with my family, put Alice to bed…things people do. Things I should do. Most days I’ve been successful with achieving all five things on my list, but writing can be such a cruel vocation.

When I don’t have anything to say, I can’t write anything good.
I can’t force myself to sit down and type something intelligent or think of a creative, never-before-seen tutorial and compose the instructions perfectly.
When I have nothing to say, I have nothing to write, and the only thing to do is empty my mind.

There’s no better phrase for it. Empty your mind. Not calm it, not focus it, but completely clear it. The only way I’ve found to do that is by taking a break in silence.

In silence, at first, you can “hear” EVERYTHING you’re internalizing. It’s not calming, it’s not comfortable, and if you keep listening to those voices, engaging them, conversing with them, they will never subside and allow the possibilities of quiet to unfold. When I was little, my grandma taught me to think about one word over and over to quiet my mind and be able to fall asleep. In my office now, I usually have some kind of white noise in the background–a heater, an air conditioner, the fan on my computer running, traffic outside. If I listen, I can find it somewhere. To quiet my mind, I stop listening to my thoughts and start listening to the slow hushing roar of the electricity hum or the tires on pavement. I do close my eyes, and sometimes I do accidentally fall asleep, but if I set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes with a quiet alarm, I find the brief time I spent quieting my thoughts goes a long way toward finishing my writing goals.

Choose to be quiet for ten minutes today.

Try one of the techniques I mentioned above to quiet your mind, or do what works for you. Reading a book, going to a new place for a change of scenery, or even driving on some back roads can calm and refocus your thoughts.

Wait before speaking.

There are so many times–especially around the this time of year with the pressures of family and expectations of the holidays, when I’ve spoke to soon and regretted something I’ve said. Be conscious and present in your voice today and pause to consider the meaning of your words and the context of the situation before you speak. Take time respond. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or try keeping your opinion to yourself. I’m trying to ask myself before I speak if what I’m going to say is true, helpful, and worded the way I intend for it to sound. Otherwise it probably won’t hurt to keep my thoughts to myself until I can express them better.

Let others reveal their thoughts.

I have a few friends who are amazing listeners. When we get together for drinks or lunch, I soon realize that I’ve monopolized the conversation and we’ve been talking about me for almost the entire time. Listen, I’m not a good conversationalist. It doesn’t come naturally to me and it’s a skill I’ve needed to develop–I think I’ve probably missed out on some good friendships just because I sounded like an ass when we first met. I try to impress people by making them laugh, and relate to them by sharing “me too” stories, but I’ve realized that people want to make their own points (without me making it MY point too). Being quiet in the office is one thing for me, when I’m trying to write, and it’s an entirely different issue when I’m out with other people.

Reflect on a time when you received some important information, or achieved something impressive because you had the strength to be quiet and wait.

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-Franz Kafka

Do you have any thoughts or reactions to today’s Radvent topic? I’d love to read your blog responses or comments below. Or, just be quiet.

xx
meg

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Five things I’ve learned as a full-time Airbnb host

1. Airbnb is actually about entrepreneurship (which can kind of sneak up on you).
When I started hosting, it was truly out of desperation because I needed a way to fund the new company I was building. When I made my first few hundred dollars in a month with seemingly little effort, I realized that by taking hosting more seriously I could avoid what I thought was the inevitability of needing a part-time job (in addition to my 60-hour/week at Hello Holiday plus parenting my daughter). As my personal finances were dwindling, I could never have stomached the idea that starting a second business would be the solution, which is why the possibility of so much hosting success surprised me.

OOTD: Summer Sweater

That thing where it's 420 degrees outside and 69 degrees inside.

when you want to work as remotely as possible: traveling for business

A: Travel is important to me because it helps my morale. It recharges my spirit. Every month or two? I like to get away as often as I can…probably sometimes to the annoyance of my business partner and coworkers. It’s always important to me to find something to work on wherever I go–a reason to make it worth my while from a business perspective–but there are some places I go just to ONLY work.

OOTD: Office Hours

This summer instead of having our 4-year-old Alice go to her school’s summer program, Dave and I decided to get a nanny. Her name is Kylie and she’s been WONDERFUL over the past two months! I really wish we could keep her all year and just have Alice in this hybrid coparenting-learning-field tripping-coming to the office situation, but I’m not sure I’m up for all the coordination it would take. I’m definitely considering it because I’ve never seen Alice so engaged and happy–she plays all day, does art and science camps and activities all over town, and gets lots of time outside, which leads to nice early bedtimes. Smile. I love having her at work after 4 every day and all day on Fridays.

Letter from a reader: Changes and consistency

I am a long time reader of your blog and have seen it through its various incarnations. I wondered if you might find inspiration one day to discuss the changes, i.e., the changes in you. For example (and these are purely from memory, so I may very well be misremembering things or just plain getting things wrong):
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