All Hat and No Rabbit

This is the metaphor that comes to mind for how I’ve felt trying to get back to work after the holiday weekend: I step happily onto the stage in the spotlight, smiling energetically, promising something astonishing as I show my empty top hat. With confident flair, I reach into the hat to pull out a fluffy bunny—but it’s not there. I know it should be, I know it’s been there before, but for some reason this time I can’t find the rabbit no matter how deep I reach.

Still from Pixar's "Presto"“Presto” via Pixar/Disney

Long holiday weekends like the one we just had are always a welcome opportunity for rest, and stepping away from the office to not think about work for a while is healthy. It’s a forced reset of my brain, a chance to let things go for a while. But the downside is that it’s easy to lose momentum on building a routine, as new habits are hard to return to when work resumes.

Only a few days away from it, and suddenly I’ve lost my routine, but I feel the audience out there in the dark, waiting, and I’m holding an impractical hat with no rabbit. I had energy and confidence and felt ready to dive back in. But I’m not just re-acquiring a routine, I’m re-building it. I’ve been adding things, re-configuring the order and accommodating the changes in priorities, and it was working. And now I’m left feeling like the rabbit is just toying with me.

So what else can I do? I know I’ve got some other magic I can rely on, so maybe the best thing to do is forget about pulling a rabbit out of a hat today. Skip that trick, set it aside and come back to it when the confidence is back. Return to the basics, the card tricks I know backward and forward, like the one that’s so simple one of my favorite magicians can do it slogged on painkillers after having his wisdom teeth removed:

So I’ll do that, and prove to myself that I’m not completely lost. And when I’m confident again, and I remember where I left that rabbit, maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to pull it out of my hat.

Coat. Hat. Gloves. Repeat.

Being really cold in winter is nothing new to me. I’ve lived in the Northeast of the U.S. of all my life, and January to February of every year seems to have at least one solid week of single-digit to below-zero temperatures we must endure, intermingled by “mild” days where it may get up to 40 degrees. Good times.

The challenge of winter then is in trying to be prepared on any given day for not just how cold or wet it is when I leave the house, but also how that may change during the day.

I’ve lived in Ithaca, NY for more than a decade, where the topography of steep hills carved by gorges overlooking a lake makes for some stunning scenery, but also creates a microclimate that can change our weather dramatically from one hour to the next depending where you are. It’s not uncommon to see it snowing ferociously over the campus where I work on the slope of South Hill, while only a light flurry falls on the flats of downtown half a mile below. Weather forecasts really are more of a guideline, which means taking precautions.

In winter, I’ve learned that there are only three important items I need in to be warm and comfortable no matter how cold it gets: the right coat, a warm hat, and warm gloves. I’ve also learned over the years that a warm hat and gloves are two of the easiest things to misplace or forget in the hubbub of getting to and from home and work.

But that’s not a problem any more because I’ve got a nearly foolproof method to be sure I’m never without the accessories I need to stay warm in any situation… Continue reading →

Starting At One

It’s the beginning of a new month. Perfect time to finally get started on that thing.

Day One for December calendar

You know what I mean – we all have a thing. It’s that project or task we’ve been putting off and telling ourselves we’re too busy to start; we’re waiting to think about it more because we’re just not sure we’ve figured it all out yet, but at the same time it’s starting to bother us that we haven’t gotten started on it yet because it’s important or timely or we just need to get it out of the way. That thing that’s distracting us, a bit of psychic grit in our cognitive gears.

You know what your thing is. You’re reading mine right now.

Continue reading →