Wednesday, July 8, 2009

good things

a while back, i came across this article in martha stewart living about her "matter-of-fact 10 step plan for healthy living." now, i'm a sucker for anything in list form, but i particularly appreciated the obvious attention to detail and dedication to her routines, and i have no doubt that this article is an honest account of her days. i have been keeping it in my "personal reference" file (i know), and pulled it out this morning as i found myself wishing i had more time to putter.

martha's matter-of-fact 10-step plan

i think the schedule this article reveals (starting with a 5:30 am wake-up time to walk the dogs and check email) is as inspiring as it is overwhelming - clearly martha is a busy woman, and she literally makes time to do all she needs to do to meet her life's demands and stay happy and healthy. she clearly understands balance and strives for it...hair care is one of her 10 steps, and so is relaxation...maintenance of an orderly calendar and "morning juice" are steps unto themselves. she also discusses how important close personal relationships and pets are, as well as the significance of surrounding yourself with people who are smart, interesting and fun.

i also love the earnest matter-of-factness with which she talks about her routines...meeting locations on her calendar "include cross streets so no time is wasted in finding a location," and "feet, hands, arms and legs should be cared for and pampered as often as possible." so sensible and neat. its almost like she's writing a 1950's home ec book and is about to tell you to have your husband's gimlet ready when he gets home.

but the message for me is that she talks about these things matter-of-factly because to her, they are. they're non-negotiable parts of her day and she treats them all, even the relaxation parts, with business-like devotion. and i say that in a good way - i'm sure she truly does relax while reading a book or walking her dogs or talking to her daughter on the phone each day...but their existence in each day and the discipline she employs to ensure that those things are a part of each day are all business. her personal needs come before her business needs, and she has found a way to fit them all in, not as an afterthought or an "if i have time" situation, because she clearly recognizes their importance in her success. she makes the time. how else would she find the time to ensure that, each day, her email subscribers receive careful instructions on crafting a summer maypole, or making embellished piecrusts, or organizing a mudroom for most efficient usage? so she wakes up at 5:30 in the morning.

i remember showing this article to a few people when i first read it, because i was impressed by its completeness, but also heartened by its simplicity. many peoples' initial reaction was "well, sure, if i had yoga instructors come to work to train me or a staff of people maintaining my house, i could do all that too." and i sort of feel like, yes and no. she didn't always have those luxuries, and while she does now, she also maintains several homes and offices and a company worth billions of dollars, so that kind of staff is a matter of course at this point. but i have a strong feeling that the same qualities displayed in this article - dedication, thoroughness, resourcefulness and a certain degree of stubbornness, had a lot to do with her getting to where she is, starting with a catering company out of her basement.

i think its just our reflexive defensiveness to look at a schedule like hers with sarcasm and doubt, but really, i sort of feel like she's given away a wealth of advice here - not even so much in the individual steps to her routine, though they are undeniably healthy and good, but in her overall mentality and centered-ness about how to treat yourself well on a daily basis - not just when you splurge on a mani-pedi. because that’s what it comes down to – treating yourself well – as well as (or better than) you treat anyone else. many of us (especially women) are loathe to accept that commandment, but it is incredibly important, as i have been learning. my morning balcony time is a great example of one of the ways i have employed this, and once in a while when time is tight, that’s what gets skipped, because you can’t skip the shower or the commute. but i want to commit to not doing that anymore. i feel inspired to wake up a little earlier to make sure i don’t miss that time.

martha says "a blemish or a crack or a rash is unacceptable, so i need to use preventative treatments." that one i might say a big "whatever, martha" to, because no amount of planning, forethought or cucumber and mint-infused water can stop unexpected things from popping up on the skin or in life at large, but i feel like if we generally have routines that are steady, calming and comforting, we automatically send messages to ourselves of worthiness and self-love, and we are better prepared for the chaos and stress life inevitably throws our way.

its something to aspire to, and as martha would say, it’s a good thing.

i'd love to hear about some of the routines that you use to send yourself messages of care and love.

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