Guest Pep Talk (Alison Kranz): An excuse for you, an excuse for me.

zerofux1

I spent the better part of 2013 making excuses for someone else. This was someone whose excuses I had listened to, assessed, and accepted when he made his case for why we should get back together the first time around, in February, after break-up number one. When we were back together, his excuses became—almost instantly—moot, and I filled his lack of excuses with made up ones of my own.

When someone is slipping away from you and you’re not ready to lose them, you will tell yourself anything. They are three hours overdue to your previously-scheduled hang out? They are self-employed and have a lot of work to do. You understand. They haven’t responded to a text message you know they read eight hours ago because they have their iPhone read receipts on? They must have gotten distracted and forgotten about it. They finally respond with a one word reply after hour ten? Well, at least you know they’re still alive. They never apologize for these breaches, or make any effort to make it up to you? At least the time you do get to spend together is good.

While making excuses for myself is an idle pastime I am capable of accomplishing without much thought (unfortunately!), making excuses for someone else turned out to be an endlessly draining and daunting task. I was tired of thinking so much, let alone having those thoughts and excuses serve as my “other half.” Why split myself into two, when my one-on-one with myself was essentially the same thing, and healthier?

For the year I’d started off in true single-person style as the “Year of Zero Fucks Given,” (thank you, Lady Gaga), I had sufficiently given one too many. It got to the point where I realized I had no more excuses left to give, and not a single one of the pre-existing ones were worth my time or effort. So I was gone, gone, gone—and it never felt so good.

While the mourning period for break up number two was significantly shorter, given that I had already been through the roughest parts during break up number one, the same principles and mantra remained: make no contact; do not waste any more of your time; do not dwell; no excuse is good enough; move on, move up, move forward.

As we kick off the second annual No Excuses November, remember: it’s for you. Do it because you’ve been putting it off, do it because you need to, do it because it feels good. But, above all: do it for you.

_________________________________________________________

Alison Kranz is an editor, writer, observer, currently-crippled runner, and an abundantly photogenic model. She likes wordplay, flânerie, typing, squares, surrealism, and consistent correspondence.

You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
Advertisements

Guest Pep Talk (Amie Lamontagne): Giving Up Coffee– the Groundhog Day of Bad Habits

quit you
“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 

I’ve always been complimented on my positive attitude and cheerfulness, at times even called perky (which always makes me feel like Elle Woods). This character trait is 50% nature and 50% nurture, given that nurture actually means coffee. My mother loves to tell the story of how I was basically born to drink it. Apparently she spent a good chunk of my toddler years keeping me away from her morning mug, until she found Postum, a caffeine-free, coffee-flavored alternative. Thus, my addiction was born.

Coffee suits my Type-A, multi-tasking, ambitious personality quite well and allows me to access the kind of energy needed to deal with 22 small children daily. Life with coffee was grand, until the summer of 2008 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. (It’s a long story and the short version is: I have chronic ulcers on the walls of my colon.) Since the diagnosis, doctors have insisted it would be best to cut coffee out of my diet, and I’ve tried many times. Without fail, though, I end up back in line at Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks… Of all the forms of caffeine available there, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (now “PSL”) is absolutely, without a doubt, my hands-down favorite. It’s one of the reasons I adore Fall (along with the start of school, baseball’s postseason, and leggings with boots). I am certain that given the choice between an evening with Michael B. Jordan and a grande PSL, you would find me happily sipping the latte. Unclear as to why this should be a difficult decision? I submit this as evidence. There is a slight chance I would choose the coffee over the amazingly talented and beautiful actor because I imagine I would end up behaving like Emma Stone on a date and never be able to leave my house again.

I digress. Each time I’ve attempted to quit daily coffee consumption, I find — or create — an excuse to fall off the wagon. It is always the same: wake up one morning with the urge to stop drinking coffee every day because I know it really would be the most beneficial life choice, look at the calendar and choose a break from school I think I would be most likely to be spending at home curled up on the couch anyway, and then tell all of my friends that I am quitting coffee. Encouraged by rounds of “You’re so brave!” “I absolutely support you,” and “Good luck with that!” (Perhaps not so encouraged by the last one…) I stock up on green tea and Tylenol. After a week or so of getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night (did you know that going without coffee will make you realize how much you need 8 hours of sleep? I was surprised, too.) I wake up one morning — usually after a tough day or a night of less than 8 hours sleep — and say to myself: “Oh, I really need a coffee today. One won’t hurt me. I’ll go back to No Coffee again tomorrow!” Famous last words. Three months and goodness knows how many lattes later, I am looking at the calendar to find the next ideal break, during which I will definitely quit drinking coffee. The vicious caffeine-laden cycle is my own personal Groundhog Day. (Groundhog Life?)

If you have some version of this playing out in your own life, then you understand the frustration and confusion I feel: I know what I want, I know it’s the best thing, and yet… I’ve lost count of how many times I have tried and failed. There are so many other areas in which I can exert the kind of willpower needed to quit coffee: why is this so hard? Perfectly capable of saying “No” to people and situations, I find myself unable to turn down this hot liquid. What?! In the past few months, I have pushed myself to accomplish things I never thought possible. Every day with my students I repeat the phrase “We grow our minds, we push ourselves, we take the lead!” Suddenly (and inspired by this post), I feel more ready than ever before to push myself and come out on top: only drinking coffee when I want, instead of needing it. And, maybe, by sending this confession out into the vast sea of the Internet to be seen, read, and possibly chuckled at by anyone, I’ll find a new network of support and accountability to reach my goal.

This year, I am participating in No Excuses November, and I will stop drinking coffee. No More Excuses (NoMoEx): “There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.” 
 

Join me, won’t you?

What’s Haunting You?

ImageThe fact that this post is coming a few days before Halloween is timely, but not related. I don’t mean “haunting” in a ghostly kind of way. Though, if you think you are being haunted by a ghost, you may have a problem on your hands.

I mean “haunting” as in: what is the one thing you never tried to accomplish, or keep failing to, that keeps you up at night? If something immediately pops into your head, it’s that thing.

When I was trying to figure out what I was going to commit to this year, I had lots of ideas. Write another novel, write a full screen play, eat ALL the ice cream. You know, just really important endeavors I hadn’t gotten around to (except the ice cream part, which I always manage to make time for).

But something has been haunting me ever since last February: The Warm Fuzzy Project. Last year, I started the project as a way to thank everyone who joined NoExNo and inspired me to accomplish my goals. I had the postcards made and even set up the website, only to send out a little less than half of them. I was disappointed and frustrated with myself that I didn’t follow through with the project to the end or try to grow it further. In fact, if I had spent the amount of time I did stressing about it as I did working on it, I would have made some progress. Instead, I continued to feel like I had failed and did nothing about it.

So, when it was time to make this year’s goal, I decided that I didn’t want to be haunted by the Ghost of Unfinished Business any longer. That’s why I have committed to finishing the project.

What unfinished business is haunting you? Chances are, you already know what you want to commit to for NoExNo. So, what’s stopping you?

Ready to commit? Add your goal now!

What Really Matters

I was going to send out a wrap-up email about what I learned from No Excuses November this month. I would have included my trials and tribulations peppered with funny anecdotes and Allison-style self-deprecation.

But last week, I read something that made me change my mind.

One of our NoExNos Ashley shared this via Facebook status update:

November 30th. Today marks the day that I have not had a single alcoholic beverage the whole month of November (I didn’t even give in on Thanksgiving when I really really wanted a glass of wine!). As of today, I am down 5 pounds! (I have a lot more to go to reach my goal…but I’m pretty happy with 5 for now) I am going to continue working out… and if I do drink, I will limit myself to only drinking on special occasions. 
 
I am so thankful for Mahdis G for introducing me to my new friend Allison Baker. Without her telling me and Jami about NoExNo that we participated in, I don’t know when I ever would have started this path to a new me! 
 

Today I am happy. I feel good and I am looking forward to continue pushing myself to be a better me. Raising my cup of coffee for a toast– To No Excuses November! 

 

As much as NoExNo started out as a way for me to force myself to write, I now understand that it had a much greater impact. For me, seeing this status update changed the way I viewed my NoExNo success. Yes, I was happy that I made my word count, but seeing how NoExNo encouraged Ashley to change the course of her life (she also quit smoking, which she didn’t include in her post) is incredibly humbling and moving.

It doesn’t matter if anyone or no one met their goals this month. Even if you simply signed up for the emails and did nothing after that, know that you were still a big piece of what happened this month. People were encouraged. People were motivated. People were changed.

What a beautiful journey this has been with all of you. And I mean ALL of you.

I hope you learned something about yourself this month. I hope you endeavored to do something you didn’t think you could do, even if you didn’t end up doing it. You are brave for even entertaining the idea of accomplishing something this November. I hope that you will continue to make and achieve your goals into the new year (and BEYOND).

The one where I talk about running a marathon.

As many of you know, I am endeavoring to run a marathon this Sunday. This was never something I wanted to do. A few years ago, I thought a half marathon was crazy. And here I am, about to run farther than I ever have before.

I have never been an athlete. I played sports growing up (soccer, volleyball, tennis) but I did them very poorly. In fact, my freshman volleyball coach actually told me that she wished she had made cuts the year I played. I was genuinely terrible.

So running was something I always fell back on to keep in shape, largely because it took the least amount of coordination. But I never really liked it. Even two years ago, when I trained and finished my first half marathon, the only runner’s high I ever experienced was in being elated just to have stopped running.

More recently, there was a time in my life that I felt stalled, like I wasn’t moving forward. I lived with my parents, wasn’t pleased with my career, my relationship status and a multitude of other things. I was unhappy. But I started running in response to my dissatisfaction, because sometimes it was the only thing that made me feel better.

And that’s when I first understood the concept of a runner’s high.

After that, running became a metaphor in my life for moving forward. Even when I felt like my life wasn’t going anywhere, running helped me propel myself forward. Literally.

I’m not running 26.2 miles this weekend to lose weight or to beat the clock. I am running a marathon because it was something I never thought I would do. More specifically, something I never could do.

Through running, I found that it was possible for me to do things I previously thought were impossible. I could get faster. I could run farther. I could be stronger.

I was never an athlete, and won’t ever be. But I now have the mentality of an athlete.

For me, running is a constant reminder that I can always get better. At anything.

Running is just a quantitative reminder that success is possible.

How are you choosing to move forward?

STOP IT.

This is one of my favorite comedy sketches of all time.  It’s amazing in its own right, but I also think it carries a relevant message for No Excuses November.

In the sketch, a woman goes to a therapist to address her fear of being buried alive in a box. The therapist listens to her for three minutes and then prescribes her a two-word mantra: STOP IT!

The woman goes on to tell him about all of her other issues, to which he offers the same solution: STOP IT!

While it is slightly naive to believe that all of our problems can be fixed that way, I think there is some value to the misguided therapist’s mantra.

A few years ago, I was complaining to a friend about the state of my life. I hated my job, I didn’t have much of a social life and I was feeling generally directionless and lost. Instead of telling me something like, “It’s okay, Allison. It will all happen when it happens,” she told me that the only person getting in the way of my own happiness was ME.

It was hard to hear but also made me wonder why no one had put it that way before. It wasn’t the economy. It wasn’t my job. It wasn’t my social or relationship status– it was ME.

It’s easy to shake your fist at the world and make yet another excuse for why you aren’t getting your work done on time. Or why you have an obscene amount of unread emails (guilty as charged). Or why you haven’t been able to lose the weight. The hard part is being honest with yourself about why you’re really stalling. And then doing something about it.

Granted, not everything in our lives is within our control, but think about how often we get in our own way. Sometimes WE are the obstacle.

You’re unhappy?

STOP IT.

You’re insecure about your body?

STOP IT.

You’re in a bad relationship?

STOP IT.

You’re making excuses for X, Y & Z?

STOP IT.

Are you letting yourself and your excuses get in the way of living a satisfied life?

Well, STOP IT (OR I’LL BURY YOU ALIVE IN A BOX)!

What’s My Goal Again?

The whole reason I even came up with No Excuses November was to motivate myself to move forward on a project I had been stalled on. I thought that if I was working on it everyday, I would have something to show for by the end of November.

My great master plan for NoExNo was to write a screenplay. My goal of 4 pages a day, for 30 days, was my attempt to write 120 pages in November. 120 pages is the length of a feature-length screenplay.

In the beginning of NoExNo, everything was going just as planned. Almost all of my writing had to do with the screenplay. Then I started working on Pep Talks and emails, and I began shifting my energy toward those instead.

Even still, I found that drafting Pep Talks and emails proved beneficial to my daily writing routine. And by “routine” I mean “sit down to write at 7, don’t actually start until 10, and finally finish at close to should-have-been-asleep-hours-ago o’clock.” In any case, it was nice to add a little variety to what I was working on for the month.

However, as of today, I haven’t touched my screenplay for five days. What have I been working on instead? Personal essays, guest articles, a flood of superfluous Facebook status updates (sorry), and NoExNo mail.

But something interesting happened. In the midst of trying to work on ONE project, I came up with and worked on MANY. In fact, I even came up with two new stories I wanted to write.

So what does this mean? Does it mean I’m a failure for not accomplishing what I originally set out to do? I’m reluctant to say yes.

While my purpose of doing NoExNo was to make significant strides in my screenplay, I still wrote. I created. I thought of ideas I had never entertained before. I worked and I saw results. It’s hard for me to see that as a bad thing.

From what I’ve seen happen within the group, a similar thing has occurred. We are changing our goals, or rather, letting them change as we understand them better. Maybe you are making your goal smaller, or maybe you are adding even more to your plate. It doesn’t matter– because you still have goals you are working toward.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that was this is all about?

****

Check out an article I wrote about No Excuses November for Girls on the Grid!