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California Sea Lions and How to Do a Life Edit

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

California sea lions are a common sighting along the coastline in Dana Point. If you venture down to Dana Wharf in the morning or at sunset, you'll hear the adult males barking loudly as they bask on the docks. Voluminous and brown with thick whiskers, they loll around by the boats or on the red buoys for hours and can only be bothered to territorially shove another sea lion off the dock (or buoy).

I took a Saturday morning ride on the Ocean Institute Research Vessel earlier this year. The crew told us how sea lions self-regulate their body temperature with tried and true techniques. Rafting is one of these techniques where the sea lion will float motionless on its back with a flipper raised in the air. The raised flippers help their blood vessels just below the skin's surface to release or absorb heat, depending on what their body needs. When the water is colder, they jockey for position on the buoys to spend extra time in the sun, bringing their body temperature up after a feeding dive.

I loved learning about this and was immediately envious. Because I, too, wish to raise my arms over my head and float in a giant body of salt water (without a care in the world like an overwhelming fear of sharks or drowning) and passively adjust back to a comfortable baseline.

Patiently waiting for a system reset seems increasingly harder to find and achieve. We don't have the time or space here to unpack the many ways that capitalism, media, and phone notifications push, pull, and trick you into caring endlessly. That's why the idea of a "life edit" seemed especially welcome this week.

I found out about this through a blog post on The Everygirl. Perhaps I felt drawn to it because I am, by trade, a writer and editor, so I loved the idea of a new editing project. Or maybe because it feels very like The Devil Wears Prada, and I would perhaps (but unlikely) result in a much more put-together person with the aloof approval of Miranda Priestly. Or maybe (and likely) deep down, it appeals to an idealistic side of me that wants to simplify and streamline all of the demands into a life that feels nurturing and more of a warm hug than a cold shove toward achievement.

The gist of a life edit is this: reflect on the good, the bad, the blocks, and the opportunities across six areas. These buckets include digital, home, financial, wellness, mental health, and social life. The journal prompts I used were the ones writer Isabelle Eyman suggested:

  • What do I want more of in this area of my life?

  • What feels overwhelming?

  • Do I feel any blocks are keeping me from achieving my goals?

  • What do I want to introduce more of?

  • What can I release?

  • How would it look to feel a greater sense of peace?

These pages turned into a multi-day journalling activity, which I then parsed through to identify some small action items or habits that could be implemented for a welcome, immediate sense of accomplishment/relief and some that would take more time and general awareness to come to fruition. One of these things was taking a soft break from Instagram. I still love Instagram, but I soul-level hate the algorithm that keeps me from regularly seeing my friends' and inspiration accounts' content.

During my life edit week, I also built a couple of shelves, cleaned out the closets, wiped down the baseboards, canceled some subscriptions, and moved a couple of pieces of furniture around.

Another thing I did, which will take much longer but I'm most proud of, is resurrecting my on-and-off-again novel project. Without all of those 10-minute Instagram breaks looking at memes, I'm writing snippets of character and location sketches to help the book find its fledgling wings. I realized I missed the characters I introduced 16 years ago during an undergrad creative writing assignment at the University of Iowa. What had happened to them? Why are they still in a time loop purgatory of an unrealized story?

I'm still a long way off from a California-sea-lion-level of peace, but I do feel more confident in some small and big ways that I can trim out some of the physical and digital clutter and, therefore, some of the anxiety. Life edits and a change of seasons to a more reflective autumn seem ideal. And I'm curious about other slow, mindful-awareness activities out there that can be habits or semi-regular. If you have an idea of what you love, drop it in the comments below.

All photos and media featured in this blog post are by me. Please drop me a line or credit Lacy Brunnette if you'd like to use them in your project.

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