The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.
This morning, I woke up, served the dogs breakfast, set the coffee to brew and did something that I’ve done every day for the past three months: I poured my thoughts into a daily journal that I write via an app on my computer or phone. I write about anything that’s on my mind, which includes events happening around me and importantly, inside my head. It sometimes feels like thoughts and anxieties get trapped in there. Keeping the journal, for me, lets them out and gives me a chance to inspect them and evaluate what I can, or should, ignore. I ask myself, “What am I feeling right now?”
This journal is a new practice for me and one that I took on with intention. With so much change happening in leaving Seattle and moving to Orcas Island, I started to feel a bit unmoored and the journal helped, and is helping, me see it from a clearer perspective. It may sound a little woo-woo, but the science is pretty clear that journaling is helpful for most people.
My journal is one part of a bigger picture. Over many months, we anticipated the events involved in the move, but not how the move might change us. It shook up our lives and now I can see that moving has caused me to rethink a number of things. I call this a phase change because it feels like I’m in between phases in my life. In this gray area, change seems easier because almost everything is disrupted anyway. Why not try something new?
I take some motivation from one of my best friends, Tony. Last summer, his wife, Alex, died suddenly and it changed nearly everything in his life. These events can have consequences, both positive and negative, and Tony made up his mind to become a better, healthier person because of it. From what I’ve seen, he’s been successful in being healthier, more engaged and as happy as could be expected.
Watching Tony go through this phase change inspired me and showed me that change, like so many other things, really comes down to making up one’s mind.
So, I started to notice parts of my life that could be reconsidered, improved or removed. One of the most obvious was my addiction to political news. Before I started journaling, I would wake up and immediately dive into news sites and especially Twitter, which I had used virtually every day since 2006. This set the table for my day, for better or for worse.
In the stream of Twitter political commentary, where people are emotional and provocative, it can start to feel like the news is happening to you; that you are somehow a part of it and feeling its effects. On the day that the Mueller Report was released by William Barr, I thought, “Enough is enough.”
Starting then, I stopped reading Twitter and have never looked back. As a result, I‘ve found that political news feels more distant. It’s important and momentous, but not happening to me, personally. It’s been a relief. Today, I no longer seek out political news. Instead, I notice that the newsworthy information tends to find me. This has been a positive change.
I’m realizing, as I write this, there is a connection between starting my day by journaling versus reading political news. When news was my focus each morning, I started each day absorbing information. I was filling my mind with news. Today, by journaling each morning, I’m releasing information instead. I’m getting my mind set by reminding myself of where I stand. You can probably guess what works better for me.
The phase change also extends to where I find satisfaction in daily life. A few years ago, we planned a long term road trip to Charleston, SC, where we would live and work for three months. 18 days before we left, our dog, Bosco, was diagnosed with lymphoma (a terminal cancer) and we left Seattle without knowing if he would make it to Charleston. He made it, but did not return to Seattle. It was a terribly stressful phase of our lives and I wrote each day. I wrote about Bosco and Charleston and what we were experiencing. It was during that time that I learned that I’m happiest when I’m writing consistently and especially if someone might read it.
My promise to write one newsletter issue per week in 2019 came from that experience in Charleston. It was the first time I saw the potential for writing to become a renewable source of satisfaction. I wish it was my full time job, because I want to work on it every day. Now that we’re 23 issues into this newsletter, I can’t imagine not doing it in the future.
Other phase changes have been more like adjustments. We no longer live in a neighborhood with friends we’ve known for years, and we miss them. We’ve made a choice to be relatively isolated and I expect that distance to become more obvious over time. For the people who truly matter, proximity is not an issue. We’re not gone, just further away. And with fewer events close by, my fear of missing out is kept at a minimum.
In meeting new people and making new friends, it’s been interesting to see myself reflected in their perceptions. They have very little backstory or preconceived notions. I am just a person from Seattle who moved to the island. If I chose, I could reinvent myself or try on a new persona. I think that’s part of why people move to new places.
For me, at 45 years old, that seems like a lot of work. Despite this phase change, I am who I am. But that doesn’t mean I am immune to adapting to island culture. Sachi and I both have become keen observers of the differences between the city and island perspective. We want to be a part of this community and that sometimes means being open to change or new ideas.
For example, we’ve always been responsible recyclers, but the island’s culture of reuse takes it to a new level. People consistently do more with less. In smaller ways, we’re getting used to everything being so casual in appearance and expectation. No one really cares how you dress or even if you showered recently. And a neighbor might just show up unannounced to say hello or to share a bottle of wine. While Orcas is an island, it’s also a small town.
We’re taking it all in stride. Change, to varying degrees, has been a near constant part of our relationship. As soon as we complete a project, we take a breath and say, “OK, we’re done, let’s just chill.”
But it doesn’t last. It’s part of how we’ve worked up until now. Perhaps the biggest phase change of all is for us to work toward a life with less change. That is the long term goal.
But that’s not going to happen for a while. In fact, as you’ll soon see, the change in our lives is going to accelerate. Soon, I’ll share our long term plans for Orcas Island and what we see as our next project. If it goes as planned, the next phase change for us will take time, but set up a long term transition to a slower, simpler, more consistent lifestyle. Maybe that change will stick.