Spring Cleaning Your Life

Passover and spring cleaning can inspire change and personal growth.

photo_spring-cleaning1It’s a very busy time of the year for traditional Jews. We are cleaning like crazy trying to rid our homes of any spec of hametz–aka “leavened bread” before Passover which begins, Monday night, March 24th. That means cheerios on the car floor, crumbs in the couch, backpacks, and the dreaded kitchen. We will sweep, vacuum, wash, and scrub to make our homes “hametz-free” for 8 days.  All this may sound a bit obsessive, and it is, but all part of “turning over” the house to Passover.  Call it Extreme Spring Cleaning.

At the same time, the rabbis caution that we shouldn’t focus completely on just the physical preparation: we have to prep ourselves. We need to get rid of the “spiritual hametz“–the parts of ourselves get in the way of growth. Think addictions. Bad habits. Negative thoughts that enslave us.

Why Is Matzah So Bland? - Passover

For me, personal hametz is an ongoing battle with perfectionism. This ailment makes me my own worst taskmaster. Since Passover is a time to celebrate freedom and redemption, letting go of perfectionism is a fitting goal. (Notice I didn’t say “perfect” goal?)

Recently I learned that Passover is considered another Jewish year.  A good time for spring cleaning your life.

 If you didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions on Dec. 31st, maybe the arrival of spring is a more meaningful time for you to make changes.  A non-Jewish friend told me she makes her resolutions in the weeks before Easter since that is a time for rebirth.  Another friend says he takes stock of his life every year on his birthday. What a great idea!

Do you have a special time of the year for renewal?

No New Year’s Resolutions For Me

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

I decided some time ago that it wasn’t a good practice for a recovering perfectionist. Like most people, I rarely kept them past March of the New Year. And then my inner critic would rise up and chastise me.  But, I do like the idea of fresh starts and self-improvement. So instead of giving up the resolution thing altogether, I’ve made some tweaks to this practice.

First, I look back at the previous year and ask myself: what worked and what didn’t?  I consider different aspects of my daily life: financial, relationships, teaching, writing, health, organization, happiness.  Then I make revisions–not resolutions.  I usually frame them this way:  Instead of (fill what wasn’t working, I will try (fill in the blank with a revision).

For example, I have a lot of trouble turning off my laptop before bedtime.  I know it disrupts my sleep, something I can’t afford to skimp on.  Yet I  find it hard to stop.  My excuse is that I need to finish “one more thing” or read “one more article”  or “respond to an email” before bed. Face it–the internet is addicting.

Instead of resolving never to use my laptop before bedtime , I’ve chosen four days of the week when I will try not to open my laptop after 8:00 pm. Notice I said, try not to? Yes, that may sound non-committal, but when you tell yourself you are NOT going to ever do _______, it is very likely that you will.

So I cut myself some slack.  I try out a new behavior that will improve the quality of my everyday life.

Revisions, as opposed to resolutions, tend to be more specific.  I’ll put a reminder on my calendar to call my brother every other Sunday so we stay in touch.  Research shows that when you make a specific goal with specific steps, you are more likely to reach it. That’s good news for me.

What didn’t work in 2012.

1. Trying to enter every writing contest I possibly can.

Revision:  I will be more selective in the contests I enter and Limit myself to entering one contest every 8 weeks.

2.  Giving up my gym membership.

Revision: I will sign-up for a weekly yoga or dance class.

3.  Taking on too many outside commitments.  (This happens every year.  I have never succeeded in changing this behavior!)

Revision: I will consult with my family before accepting more commitments.

Get the idea?

If you try revisions this year, please let me know how you did.

If you are committed to making your resolutions–and keeping them, check out Gretchen Rubin’s helpful blog post on the Happiness Project.

Do you make resolutions? If so, how do you get them to stick?  calvin

How many books will you write this year?

Sunday afternoons I usually devote to writing projects.  This Mother’s Day, after a little prompting from my family, I took the entire day off.  And I enjoyed myself!  That is, until later that evening when a NY Times headline caught my eye: Writer’s Cramp: In-E-Reader Era, a Book a Year is Slacking.

Oh, my.

Those commercial fiction writers who previously managed to put out a book a year are now “pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift.”  These writers, whom we love and hate, are churning out extras–short stories, novellas, e-books– to satisfy their impatient readers whose attention spans have shortened, thanks to our revved up world.

Thriller writer Lisa Scottline has revved up her daily quota to 2000 words.  That translates into a 12/7 workweek.

Best-selling literary novelists are, so far, off the hook. (Go ahead, take your ten years. We still love you!)  Since I don’t belong to either camp (not yet), I’m wondering what to make of this madness.  Between book marketing, building my platform, speaking engagements, circulating short stories, writing query letters, entering competitions, raising my kids, and the Other job, my next novel is still in note form.

Maybe I could offer this for 99 cents while my fans await the real thing.

Let’s suppose that you could (or do) write full-time?  How many books could you (would you) write in one year?

Raising an Entrepreneur: My daughter Leah Larson

I’m busy working on my presentation for the State of Maryland International Reading Association Conference. I’ll be speaking with my daughter, Leah Larson Caras, founder and publisher of Yaldah Media, Inc., Wed. March 26th 2012.

Topic: A Parent’s Dream. 

I’ll trace my journey from teaching first grade to publishing my first novel while raising an entrepreneur.  Thurs. evening I will talk about my book, One Is Not A Lonely Number, along with a slew of other children’s authors at the Author’s & Desserts event.

Looking forward to meeting inspiring educators and authors. Let me know if you’ll be attending or in the Baltimore area.

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