Monday, 30 January 2017

Live in Balance: when do I give up?

When do you give up? I mean, sometimes something is not meant to happen and no matter how hard you fight, or how much effort or money you put into it, it was not going to happen.
I have reached the point where I am ready to just give up. For weeks now I have been battling with mobile phone service providers to get a new phone. Sure I could have taken any model, but I had my heart set on the iPhone 7+ after Samsung had the problem with the Note 7. And for some reason, the universe is conspiring against me.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017

The first company I signed with, could for the life of me not get my old number ported to the new phone. After thirteen days I gave up, cancelled the contract and returned the handset, barely used. I think the only calls I made were to their customer service center asking about the status of my request to have the number ported. So I gave up and tried another.
Then on Tuesday, I thought my misery had ended. Given the history of the last few weeks, I should have known better. My contract was approved (the legal part) and when I enquired about the status of my phone (I still need to get the handset), I was told their internet connection is down due to cable theft. Welcome to the new South Africa!
Okay, that is not a new problem, but what about the days before that?
This past Thursday had been a week since I signed the necessary paperwork. You think I would have had a new phone by now!
Update: It is Sunday evening and guess what? No phone. I am so tired of the incompetence of people that I am almost at the point where I am going to tell to f*ck themselves. I spoke to the network operator, and it should not take more than 2 hours to port the number. So what the hell is their problem? *taking deep breaths*
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017

On a more positive note (and I am really trying to hang on to something that won't give me a heart attack) is that I have managed a few thousand words this past week. No lightning strikes or epiphanies, only sitting down and getting the words down on a new story. The first chapter is done, and chapter two well on its way.
Come editing time I might swap them around, but for now, the words are written, and that is the most important thing. While I have been contemplating this story for a long time, the opening, getting it started, had always been a concern. Without a good start, the story would not be anything more than a bunch of fluffy words and fluff has never done it for me.
So with some positive attitude shining through the cracks of my mobile phone miseries, week 4 was off to a better start than the previous week. Hey, I even managed to get my butt moving doing more than walking and climbing stairs so far. Not that stair climbing isn't exercise, but doing it in work shoes cannot be considered a workout. Stair climbing at work is an exercise in safety, not sweat.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017
With the writing, and a little exercise, and a sketch or two, I managed to keep my sanity intact. I just wish I could say the same for my digital communication channels.
Plan B, or should I say Plan C, is already in place. The question that I need to answer is how long am I going to give these guys before I cancel the contract with them?

And so week 5 is underway...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Live in Balance: The failure of week 3

While eating my breakfast of soy yogurt and a white peach on Friday morning, I realised that this week was fast becoming a miserable failure. Even this post is a result of the week of frustration and misery. My head is usually spinning with ideas to write about - writing about art, and Tai Chi, and even my weight-loss struggles - but not this week. In a 'down' week I tended to read more too. Devouring two to three novels in one week would not be an unusual occurrence. But not this week.

Week 3 of my year to Live in Balance, has just been seven days of failures. Let me list them for you, just in case you are thinking that I might be exaggerating:
1.   I did not write a single word - aside from this post, and about 800 words (for the whole week!) in my journal. Journal writing is something I love, but even this week that didn't happen so much.
Sunday update: Our writers' group has a word count challenge this evening. I plan to start week 4 with at least 1000 words on a new story.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017
2.   While excited about the delivery of the white gel pens, drawing pens and special paper for charcoal drawing that I ordered online, I have yet to open the packaging of the paper. I did write a few words with a drawing pen to get a feel for it, but that does not constitute art even in its simplest form - not even a stick figure was drawn!
3.   The bane of my existence - trying to lose weight - was an equal frustrating battle between the calories and my willpower. No prizes on who won that battle. Since it is Friday now, and I will only weigh myself again on Sunday, the news cannot be good given what I have done. The best I could hope for at this point is a zero loss, zero gain outcome.
Sunday update after the weigh-in: the news is not good. All the hard work of week 1 and 2 has been undone. Something to be grateful for: that I didn't gain more kilos than where I started from. But yeah, it is back to square one.

Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 20174.   As with doing more T'ai Chi? Well, I was a bad, bad girl. Nary a form did my body practice this week. Good thing I decided to have a T'ai Chi weekend, like I do art weekends, huh? Maybe by the time this post is ready to be posted to my blog on Sunday evening, I can report a more positive outcome. *holding thumbs*
Sunday morning update on my plan: no T'ai Chi. Although after my battle on Saturday with two desks, I think a good hour or so of practice might be the answer to the aching muscles in my back.

While I didn't expect smooth sailing on my Live in Balance goals, I really hoped it wouldn't have happened so soon, and be such an epic occurrence. On the other hand, now that it did happen, I came to the decision that should it happen again (and it will) I need to focus on one goal for the week. Only one. While the end-result might still be an overall sense of failure, there will also be a sense of achievement to help keep me motivated.

"2017 New Year’s Resolutions: The Most Popular and How to Stick to Them,” by Nicole Spector. NBCNews.com. 

Do you have weeks like this? Please tell me in the comments what you do to get your game back on.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Live in Balance: Are they the right goals for me?

With most of my colleagues back at work with me, we invariably chat about the holidays and that conversation then rolls around to New Years' resolutions. I usually listen with an attentive ear, not only because I can learn something but it is hard not to sympathize with some of their issues.
I might have mentioned it, about a million times or so, that I work in a very stressful environment. Most people have stress in their lives that follow a wave-like pattern - up and down, up and down. Meaning that the stress only occurs as peaks over a small time period: financial year end, completing a product for delivery, and so on.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, word count target

In my case, the level of stress never subsides. There are even higher peaks at certain times (almost every month), but the pressure never lets up. While it is a supercharged and exciting industry to work in, it takes a heavy toll on people, myself included.
To get back to my original point, New Years' resolutions in our lives can get drowned out in the noise of this kind of stress. A colleague mentioned that he decided to do something different this year since he barely made it through the last one. It is nothing odd or stupid, but he knew that the plan of last year was not good enough, so he had to change it.
And that is exactly the thing we often forget to do: sit back, reassess our goals of the past. Did they work? Did they achieve what we wanted them to do?
Most people are concerned about sticking to their goals for the year. I think there are many cases where people stick to their goals but feel just as frustrated or unhappy as those people who didn't stick to their goals. Could it be that the List, those New Years' resolutions, were the wrong goals to begin with?
Sure, there are lots of advice available on how to stay motivated. How to find out what motivates you to stick to those lovely goals you set for yourself. There is nothing wrong with that advice if you start off in the right place.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, weight-loss target

Why would putting losing weight as a goal (yeah, I have that on my Live In Balance list too!) be the wrong thing for you? Could it be that the thing you need to fix has nothing to do with your body weight, but more to do with the reasons you gained weight in the first place?
Boredom? Broken relationships? Depression? To name but a small number of reasons. Shouldn't you rather spend more time in figuring out on what the real reason is and then making that the issue you need to focus on?
It took me a long time to figure out that my problem is boredom. I don't need a lot of sleep and tend to snack after dinner to make my nights shorter. The problem is not the time of day that we have dinner, it's the snacking.
Doing mundane things bores me to tears - and I put household chores at the top of that list. I love cooking but detest washing up. And no, a dishwasher is not a solution to that problem, since it still requires work from a human - loading and unloading. I dumped the unloading part on my husband's shoulders. Needless to say, the list is long and dull. So if you expect a meticulous house when visiting me, you will be disappointed. Dust bunnies and the odd spider or gecko live very harmoniously with us until I do get around to cleaning and vacuuming. At least the geckos are smart enough to make a run for it before they get vacuumed!
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, art projects

Before I wrote this post, I had another look at my Live in Balance list, and at first glance it is overwhelming. But knowing my personal issues with boredom, it is probably a good thing. If I can keep myself occupied with things I love - reading, writing, sketching, painting, Tai Chi practice - then my weight-loss efforts might be less of a struggle.
While I was writing this post, I realised that by writing about my issues also helps to keep me motivated. As someone who has been struggling with being overweight my whole life, I need as much motivation and conviction as I can muster at this point.

It is the start of week 3 and so far so good. Are you still on track to achieving your goals for 2017?

And the debate on diet vs exercise rages on. Click to read more...



Monday, 9 January 2017

Live in Balance: Daily Choices

It always amazes me that once you decide to either do or work at something, information about that subject seems to pop up everywhere. From my mailing lists to articles shared by online friends - living a life in balance or harmony suddenly appeared to be the flavour of the week.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, word count target progress
Live in Balance 2017
I am not complaining, quite the contrary. Seeing all this information, or experiences shared by others, work well to inspire me to keep working at it. Of course, it is early days, but reading about good intentions versus commitment, can be a good starting place. A place that helps to get (and keep) my head in the right place and on track towards my goals.
I am not sure that we actually learn from the mistakes or the experiences of other people. Many people are of the opinion that we read about others' experiences (good or bad) and yet deep down still think that we won't make the same mistake even if we make the same choices. I am no expert in human behaviour, but from what little I understand of the world, I have to agree.
Take smoking or alcohol as examples. There is no way that people who smoke or drink excessively cannot be aware of the consequences of their actions unless they live in a hole somewhere and then at least they won't hurt anybody else with their choices. But the information is there. People who have rehabilitated themselves from these bad habits, share their stories to anyone who wants to listen, and still, the number of smokers is on the increase. And the same can be said of alcoholism.
Please understand I am in no position to judge but didn't they make a choice at some point in their lives to use these dangerous substances? Or do they choose not to seek help to stop once they have become addicted?
So if we don't learn from mistakes made by others, and we persist in living down the rabbit hole, what do we have to do to break these chains around our own minds? Is it simply a choice, or is there something more?
I think the first step is the choice, but it shouldn't end there. All choices to change something in ourselves or our circumstances will come with sacrifices. And therein lies the fundamental reason why we continue to live doing the wrong things to ourselves or others.
Why it is so easy to slip back to old habits?
No one likes sacrifices. No one will choose pain. So why should you?
Why should I?
Why did I choose to lose weight? Or do more art? Or write the equivalent of three novels in one year?
Doing art and writing provides me with a lot of satisfaction, and pleasure even, but the sacrifices still have to be made. To be honest, I have been writing for sixteen years now, and I don't miss the one thing I decided to sacrifice to make the time to do so: watching TV. Taking up art again, was simply another creative activity I added to please myself.
Losing weight, on the other hand, is not that simple. The choice is easy: I stick up my hand and say 'I do', but this choice comes with both sacrifice and pain. Trust me, I will avoid pain as far as I can. So what now?
It is early days. And my will-power when it comes to the temptation of food and snacking is anything but strong. I don't know if I will make my target. I don't know how difficult it is going to get.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, art goals 2017
Live in Balance 2017
What I do know is that if I don't learn from the mistakes made by others, or heed the advice of those that went before me, I could end up killing myself. If that is not something that scares you into commitment, trust me, it sure as hell scared the living daylights out of me.
So here I stand at the beginning of week 2 of my year to Live in Balance. My bravery of before is seriously lacking right now. What I do have is the choice to do this today. And choose to do this tomorrow. And when I get to the day after, I will have to make the choice again. Pain and sacrifice now. So that a month or three from now, I can continue making these same choices, perhaps with more bravery and less pain. And if I can manage to make this choice enough times, the pain will go away and so will the threat to my health and ultimately my life. So I choose the pain, today.

Advice from other writers on getting better at writing https://www.grammarly.com/blog/experts-on-writing-better/

Monday, 2 January 2017

Live in Balance: Setting Up

I don't know if the New Year started at a high or a low, or both. There were few fireworks around on New Year's Eve (thank goodness) but still enough to agitate the neighbourhood's dogs into a barking frenzy. We gave our own dogs something to keep them calm, but they were not happy for the duration of that noisy display. Although, I have to say we got to bed earlier than most years. 💜👍
I started a new journal as I would normally do at the beginning of a new year. Usually, I decide on a theme for my journal, a colour or subject, to decorate it with or use as the primary scheme for any visual entries. This year I decided to forego that and stick to my goal to Live in Balance for my journal too. So whatever colour, or subject, or nothing, pops into my head for that entry, I will just go with that. It is a journal after all, and not a scrapbook.
As I sit here, waiting for the first load of laundry to finish washing, I had a look at the spreadsheet I drew up with all my goals set up. To measure is to know - a saying that has prevailed in my professional life and has proven to be a good motto to work (and live) by. Goals can only be achieved if you track your progress towards attaining them. I find this kind of thing motivating although it might be largely contributed to the engineer in me. 😉
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, word count target 2017, Open Office Calc graph
Graph Example
Each goal has a graph setup to be a visual map of my progress. Despite my love for math, constructing graphs has never been my strong point, so they might transform into various versions of themselves before I find a style that I can work with. So far, the simplest types were my first choice, and they might still end up being the best.
Of course, doing art and practicing Tai Chi can be difficult to measure the outcome. Here I decided to stick with the hours spent since in both these cases it is the process that is the goal instead of the outcome. I am aiming to become better at it after all. Neither art nor Tai Chi has a destination where you can say 'I have arrived' or 'I have achieved my goal'. The aim is to develop my skills, and time spent can be the only measure of progress. Without working at it, there cannot be any getting better at it, can there?
While this is the official first post of my year to Live in Balance, it is too early to show any progress of any sorts, so I decided to tell you a bit more about my project plan.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, project plan for 2017, writing projects, writing, editing, publishing

As a project manager (my day job) planning forms a significant part of my daily activities. But then so is progress reporting and following up to ensure that the tasks are being executed as planned. So why not use those skills to plan my writing projects for the year?
While I use OpenOffice, Excel has the same template available to help you plan any project. While these are predefined spreadsheets, versions of both the software companies are simple and easy to use. My biggest problem usually is that the plan sits on my computer and unless I open it on a daily basis, I forget what the daily targets are, or forget to update progress.
Since the plan spans the entire year, printing the whole thing is not practical - I simply don't have space in my home office to put it up against a wall or something. So I opted for Plan B - print some weeks of the Gantt chart. This way it fits on an A4 page which I can put on a small magnetic board that I have on my desk right next to my computer. If it's in my face all the time, there is little chance of me forgetting about it!
In case you are wondering? I print my work project plans too. The only difference is that I have enough space in my office to stick them on the walls. The interesting part is that the other members of my team, like to have a look-see now and then to see where we stand overall. It helps them too.
By this time next week my Live in Balance goals will have some progress that I can share with you.
👉 Please share your goals and progress in return. This is the first time I am doing this in such a structured way, and I could definitely benefit from your comments. 💟
Have a great week!
Linzé 💜