Friday, July 29, 2016

Day 29: The Kayak

[Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
Water spiders may not be large but they are rather bold. The way they all appeared as if out of nowhere when the dock was bumped by my clumsy handling of the kayak, and then vanished just as quickly was rather disconcerting. I was left wondering if I had just imagined them.  All eleven of them.

Yesterday, I was given a very brief lesson on how to get in and out of the kayak, but today was my first actual attempt.  I am proud to say that other than the brief questioning of my sanity noted above, I managed both successfully.

I have canoed solo before, and used a rowboat, but the kayak was a new experience for me.  At first I seemed to go mostly to the right and then suddenly was going too far left.  It took a few minutes of paddling before I got the hang of it.  I was sailing along at what I felt was a rather admirable pace when a young man, yes half my age at most, came cruising right on past me.

I stopped paddling to watch him figuring I'd learn something and I did notice that he was handling the paddle differently.  I attempted to mimic his form and while I can't say I went much faster, the paddling was definitely easier.  And I had fewer issues with weaving side to side.

I was about 15 minutes or so into my paddle when I heard the wooofhhh woooofhhh of bird wings.  I looked up and had the pleasure of watching an eagle fly about 15 feet above my head and the off into the trees.  I was also treated to the sight and sounds of a pair of loons.  And on my return to the camp a large turtle swam slowly past me.

I'm willing to call the first full day of my vacation a success.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Day 28: Vacation Begins

All the green...photo by J. Grandbois
When I logged in to write today's post I noted that I forgot to write a post yesterday. My first thought was, "Oh, well I guess now I have to write two blog posts to make up for it..."

Followed by, "Wait.  No actually, I don't have to do that."

Yes, I committed to blogging everyday for a month but one of the things I said in the very beginning is that I'd likely make mistakes and that this would a be a good time to practice some self compassion.  Plus, today is my first day of my vacation in this glorious cabin by a lake, where I have seven nights and six whole days that are mine to do with as I wish.

And I don't wish to make being too hard on myself on of the things I spend my time doing.   So, I'm doing what I should probably do with a lot of things...I'm letting it go.  Day 27 in my month of blogging will just have to be left blank.

And I shall begin my first day here as I wish to; relaxing, taking in the fresh air and quiet, and letting myself just be.

Maybe this is progress?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 26: What I'm looking forward to...

Photo by J. Grandbois
Yesterday I wrote about my anxiety surrounding my vacation.  I'm still nervous; still worried I'll over pack, that I'll forget something important.  Yes, I'm bringing my baseball bat.

But anxious as I may be I'm also looking forward to it.  I am looking forward to...

...days without a plan.
...putting my feet in the water.
...kayaking.
...cooking on the grill.
...sitting by the fire.
...looking up at the stars.
...seeing birds and wildlife I don't see in town.
...sleeping in.
...quiet.  I'm really, really looking forward to quiet.

And yes, I'm really looking forward to solitude.

Peace.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day 25: My vacation is stressing me out...

Arthur Rackham [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Alright, I'll confess.  I am feeling some anxiety over my upcoming vacation.  Okay, fine, maybe I'm feeling a lot, but I've not done this in what feels like a million years.  And, well, have a talent for making myself neurotic over just about anything...but...

Now, the best way for me to handle my worries is to name them so I can then find ways to manage them, right?

1. $$$$$$ . Unlike the last time I took a real vacation, I can barely afford to do this.  I don't have paid vacation time and while I made, and stuck to, a plan to get all of my bills caught up before I went so I'd not feel stressed about falling behind, it has left me pinching pennies.

Money. Stresses. Me. Out.  Blah, blah, mindset of scarcity, blah blah, the universe provides.  No, working and making money to feed myself and pay my bills provides - I provide.  However, I'm doing my best to recall all of the other times money was tight and I survived.  Rice and beans.  Rice and beans.  

2. Transportation.  I'll be at a cabin for a week without a car.  I'm making lists like mad but I'm still worried that I'll either forget something vitally important or I'll so over prepare that I'll bring a bunch of crap I won't need and then I'll have to deal with schlepping it there and back again.  I really want to keep this simple.

I keep telling myself that whatever I leave behind I can likely live without for seven days. And I do have a couple of folks in the area who have offered to give me a ride to the store if I need one.  My lists (food menu, clothing, cat supplies, entertainment...how many drums should I bring??) will hopefully keep me in check as well as prevent over packing.  I did manage to live out of two suitcases for three and a half months, I'll manage. 

3. I'm feeling anxiety over my anxiety.  That's right, I'm worrying over my worries.  I'm also anxious about possible attacks by hillbillies with axes, but that's a whole other blog post.  Truly, my brain keeps playing every what if scenario possible:  What if I have a panic attack while I'm there alone? What if I get there and I realize I hate being alone?  What if I fall down and I can't get up?  What if there really ARE hillbillies with axes?

First off...reminder...I have not had a panic attack in two and a half years, and prior to that it had been about five since since my last one.  Second...I have always managed my anxiety alone, maybe not always in the most productive way, but I did it - and besides, I'll have wi-fi, worst case it's hot tea and HSN until my heart calms down.  As for the rest, I've been craving time alone, I know I need this and I know I'll be fine by myself.  As for the hillbillies, add the Louisville Slugger to the packing list - if there is more than two of them you are doomed anyway...so why worry. 

I want this vacation, more importantly, I really, really, really need it.  I need a space to clear my head. I need a few hours just staring into a fire.  I need to walk in nature.  I need to have quiet.  And, despite my anxieties, I need time alone.

I know I've got this.  Go team.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Day 24: Eavesdropping

Charles Joshua Chaplin
 [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Today's blog is inspired by a prompt from 500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal  Writing published in the New York Time on November 13, 2014. 

Prompt: Have you ever eavesdropped?

When I was young I used to practice being invisible.  I found that if I sat very still, was very quiet and made myself as small as possible people would simply forget that I was there.  I mostly did this at bus stops because there was a constant in and out flow of people, the characters always changed.

While I was invisible I would hear and see all sorts of things. I always hoped I'd overhear some conversation that would help solve some nefarious crime - but nefarious crimes didn't really happen in the town I was living in.  Mostly I just heard small, honest snippets of peoples lives which, while it didn't help me solve a great crime, did often set me to wondering how the person came to be there, in that moment at that particular bus stop.

In my mind I saw everyone's life as a line on a map.  From the moment you were born your line was drawn.  Every step, car, bike, train or bus ride marked by an infinitely inked pen.  I'd pan out and I'd see the towns and cities, with big blobs of color at the local hospitals. Lines would flower out by the dozens..hundreds, to home and the world. Each person's line a slightly different shape or color, alive and shimmering - moving for as long as they were.

Many lines crossed without the lives they were tracking ever intersecting and I'd think of how many lives, how many stories we are unaware of.  The life on the other side of the apartment wall, on the bench at the bus stop, in the next bathroom stall or the cars that pass going the other way on the highway.  Some lines would meet, pause and for a time, they might travel together as friends, lovers, or family.  And of course, to my bus stop, where I sat, invisible.

I'd see the people at the bus stop and I'd wonder what brought their lives to this moment where their line and mine paused together until the next bus came.  The bus would come, they'd board, I'd remain and as far as I knew, our paths would never cross again.

It would be years before I learned that I could learn these stories just by asking (and even more until I was brave enough to ask).  Most people are quite willing to talk about themselves if you give them the space to do so.  I have found, more often than not, that their stories were far more interesting and intricate than I could imagine.

It's easy.  I introduce myself, they reply and then I ask a very simple question, "So, tell me, what brought you here?"

And then I listen.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Day 23: Vacation

By Tichnor Brothers, Publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Tichnor Brothers,
Publisher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In less than a week I will be taking my first real vacation in nearly a decade.  It will be a week away from home in a cabin on a lake.  I can't express how much I am looking forward to this.

It will be the first time that I am going away where I'm not working, I'm not tending to someone else's needs, I'm not on someone else schedule and I'm not carrying a bag full of home work.  Best of all...

I going by myself so I don't need to do anything I don't feel like doing.  My life will be 100% my own for seven precious days.

Seven wonderful days...

I admit.  I'm starting to count the minutes until it is time.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 22: Simplify Part II

photo credit below**

It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town... he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Okay.  Unlike Henry, I'd be walking out the gate with my cat and my asthma medication, but I agree with the sentiment.  As I mentioned in my blog post I have pared down my possessions a lot in the past year.  And tomorrow I'm about to undertake another project.

I'll be going through few boxes of old papers and files - or starting to anyway.  I'm not really sure how big of a project it will be because the items I need to sort are scattered amongst several boxes and bins. And it isn't the size of the boxes that might make the project large...it's what is in them.

These boxes contain letters, writings, drawings, and other odds and ends of my life that have been put to paper.  Some things I know I will keep - the letters, in part for memory but also because no one writes letters any more.  My show posters and fliers (which I still intend to put into a scrap book one day) and any tax documents from the past five years (that is how long you are supposed to keep them right?

My goal is to get these things condensed down to one container, box or bin.  But it's not going to be easy.  Those who are on my Facebook page can probably expect some pictures of discoveries and I'm sure tomorrow's blog post will be about some memory or other that is brought up.  I expect it will be a bit of a journey.

It is one more step in my goal of pursuing a more simple life.

Stay tuned...


**By Tammy (Weekend with Dee) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Day 21: Stuff

Photo by Headscarf - wikicommons
Several years ago I had a conversation with my father while he was giving me a tour of his new redone house.  He exclaimed that he was so relieved to no longer be living in the just the two rooms they'd spent the past few months in.  I remember looking around the room we were in, the studio above their garage and thinking about how my entire apartment could fit withing its walls.

Recently, okay last night,  I had the realization that everything I owned fit into one 10' x 12' room.   This is the size of my bedroom  in the apartment I share with four other people.  With the exception of a few pots and pans that reside in the kitchen, all that I own has a spot within these four walls.

This includes my yarn and fabric stashes.  No lie.

The summer before I left for Semester at Sea I put a lot of time into paring down what I owned.  I had a yard sale. I gave a lot away to friends and the rest went to Goodwill.  What I had left sat in storage for the three and half months I was gone.

Upon my return I went to my dad's place, where my things were in storage in the basement.  I remember thinking how small my pile of belongings looked.

Maybe living in a small cabin on a ship with only two suitcases changed my perspective on what it is I actually need, because in looking around I try to recall some of what I gave away or sold, and other than one missing favorite cookbook - I'm unable to recall any of it.  I don't feel like I am missing anything.  In fact, materially I feel rather content.

And so I realize that I have achieved one of the goals I'd set for myself a few years ago.  To narrow down my collection of things enough so I could eventually move into a yurt or a tiny house.  If I can fit everything comfortably into 120 square foot room, I can certainly fit it into the average 250-400 square feet of your typical tiny house or large yurt!

I guess it's time to start chasing goal number two!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 20: Refuge

We should all have a space a part from the world.  A quiet place in which we can just be.  A place to close the door and create a refuge of peace to breathe in.

A safe place.

This is something to be valued...to be held as sacred.

We should never take these places for granted.  A home can be lost so easily due to poverty, a break up, a tragedy, a war.  In an instant life can go from steady, predictable, stable to a pile of collapsing brick - sometime with a horrible literalness.

If you have such a space.  A place where you feel safe, where you are warm and fed.  Where you can exist without judgement.  Where you are free to be who you are.  If you have such a space, it is not enough to be grateful for it...

...because there are so many for whom such a place has never existed.  Where safety exists only in concept.  Where home is not a haven, but a hideout, because to step outside means making a life or death decision.  There are those for whom a closed door brings no protection, but its opening serves more as warning for the pain to come.

Yes, be grateful for the haven you have.  Make use of it.  Nourish and care for yourself, because the next step is to help. Those of us who are sheltered, fed and safe - we've a duty to help those who do not have these things.

And there are an awful lot of us who have these things.  We could, with a moment, a dollar, a few words...we maybe could change the world.





Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 19: Letting go...

Letting go.

Were there ever two more weighted words?  Well, probably, yes...but these are the words on my mind this morning.  Letting go. Let go.  Release...

I've not been a fan of the term. It was often brought up in therapy sessions or whatever self help website I might be perusing on a particular day. It was usually tied up in discussions of managing expectations and forgiveness, also two concepts I'm not exactly friends with.

When my therapist brought up the idea I often asked, why should I let go?  Why should I let go of the fact that this person hurt me and that it has impacted my life in all sorts of crazy, effed up ways?  To me letting go meant:  I'm allowing this person to get away with this.  

I've a five year old's sense of fairness at times.  You hurt me, you caused me pain and thus, you should face some sort of consequences for it.  Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done until you understand why you should be apologizing.  Yes, my inner child is far more into time outs than direct punishment. In any case, letting go, forgiveness, releasing expectations - none of these sat well with me.  And, in many ways they still don't....

But...

I've had a bit of a realization, a revelation, an idea that popped into my head a week or so ago.  As framed above "letting go" still does not sit well with me, but there is a concept that does.  There is something I can let go of, I can let go of the power the harm caused has over me.

I don't have to forgive you, but I can let go of the words you said that made me feel small, less than or unworthy of love.

I don't have to let go of the anger or the sadness, I am allowed to grieve the loss of years in which the beautiful parts of me were hidden because I only saw the portrait of ugly that was painted for me.  I can toss that image on the bonfire.

I can let go of the anger at myself that I've carried for so long because I didn't live up to your expectations, and how I thought that I was somehow the one who failed.

I can't let go of your actions.  They are there, they will always be there.  But, I'm pulling the plug on their power.  I can see the lies you told me for what they are.

I can let go of the space in my mind and heart that you have taken up. Space that should have been mine all along...

These are things I can let go of.

Now, I'd like to say that since having this revelation my life has been all light and flowers, but it hasn't.  Some of these things have been living in my head for decades, and silencing their voices will take time.  In fact it feels a little bit like they are making a last stand.  That since I've decided to let go of the power they have held over me, they are screaming louder than ever...and they say the same thing, over and over and over...

"What if it's all true?  What if you let us go and it turns out we were right?  Better the devil you know right?"

I find I've nothing to fight back with: no mantra, no belief that I am different than what they say, no foundation of strength on which to stand, because all along their voices are the only ones I've heard, the only one's I've listened to.   And when I turn my back on them I find I'm facing an emptiness, a big nothing...

But I'm discovering there is power in nothing. There is power in quiet.  I am choosing to listen instead to the silence and I am willing to take the time to explore the empty spaces left behind.








Monday, July 18, 2016

Day 18: Too much to say...

photo by J. Grandbois

I started a blog post about how I'd gained 25 pounds since I started back to school and how it made me uncomfortable to the point that I don't particularly like looking at myself in the mirror these days. Except for my shoulders...which is a whole other story. But that seemed depressing and not very body positive so I deleted it. 

Then I started a post about gossip and how in recent months it got round to me that someone was saying not so nice things, and how I was sort of a coward about it all.  Instead of defending myself or trying to counteract it I just hoped people would realize all the old things that people say about gossipers and their low self-esteem and need for validation via other peoples misery...but how I also secretly hoped they get a really bad case of athletes foot or other toe fungus that is annoying, super itchy and makes it totally uncomfortable to wear any sort of shoe...buuuut then I decided that was just mean and made me no better than the gossiper...delete...delete...delete...delete.

So I thought perhaps I'd write about a memory from what I was 16 in which someone I really looked up to told me that a deeply moving experience I had was invalid because I wasn't possibly mature enough to have had such an experience and so I spent the next year trying to understand why my brain tricked me this way.  And I began to trust my own experience just a little bit less...but I was afraid I didn't do enough to mask the identity of the person who said it, and why should I still feel the need to protect them even after nearly 30 years? I decided that there was till far too much to process there...

And then I jumped ahead a few years to a day when I walked in the woods with a friend who told me I was beautiful and for the first time ever I thought it might, maybe, actually be true.  And then I thought, well that's just too sappy...

So I came back to today when my phone buzzed me a thunderstorm warning.  As always my thoughts turned to that woman I picked up hitchhiking late a night in the pouring rain 20 years ago.  And her story of how her boyfriend had died after being struck by lightning.  She carried his obituary in her purse...and that I picked her up again about two years later on the same strip of road. Again late at night, again in the pouring rain.  She told me she'd been engaged but that her fiance was struck by lightning while playing football.  And how could this happen to her twice?  I dropped her off at the same spot and to this day I still wonder if I gave a ride to a ghost. 

And then I decided, well screw it.  I just write about all of it, but in a short surfacy, slightly self deprecating way so you'd take none of it overly seriously. 

Oh, and I'll include picture of a toy pony. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day 17: Altars


What do you honor?
What do you remember?
What do you hope for?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Day 15: Eyes Open


I know many of us are feeling a mix of fear, worry, anger and, most of all, helplessness right now.  It is okay to feel all of these things.

Years ago when I was more active in the peace movement I had a day where I was feeling like it was just all too much. I was too angry, too sad and I felt too small. We'd organized rallies, made speeches...nearly a million of us marched on Washington and it seems to make no difference.  I felt helpless

I reached out to a friend who had been an activist for around 40 years. I always admired her drive and her passion for peace and justice.  I told her I felt like it was too much, that I wasn't sure I could keep doing this work. How did she manage?  How had she kept it together all of these years?

She told me three things...

1.  Be grateful for the gift of having your eyes and your heart opened.  Even in today's hyperconnected world there are still people who are unaware of the suffering of the world.  And there are those that are aware but choose, for whatever reason, to keep their hearts closed.  We are designed to feel empathy and it is because of that empathy that the knowing hurts so much, but it is in knowing that we can act. It is in being able to relate to suffering that we move beyond our minds and our hearts and use our bodies to take action. 

2.  Wanting to save the world is a wonderful thing, but accept that you won't be able to do it; at least not alone.  The world is a giant place, and each of us one have but one pair of hands, one body to do the work.  Yes, collectively we have immense power, but as individuals we have no power over the collective.  

What you can do is be responsible for your own actions.  What you do and the way you live your life does have an impact on the world.  It means thinking about the things you buy, the words you speak and the example you set.  It means being aware of your place in this world and acknowledging that your actions, or your lack of action, make a difference.  

3. Know it is okay to take a break.  My friend told me she and her husband took two weeks out of the year to go to a cabin by the lake and disconnect.  They took the time to go into retreat and recharge.  While not all of us are able to take a break from our lives, we can do things like take a break from social media.  We can nourish our bodies and our souls so that we have the energy to go back out into the streets, to take that shift in the soup kitchen, to write those letters, to put our bodies on the line for justice.   

This post was inspired by a call from a friend who was feeling overwhelmed with things, so I would also add this:

Connect.  Reach out.  If it gets too be too much, call someone, get together for coffee or dinner, go for a walk.  Don't keep your fear, your worry, your anger or whatever you are feeling to yourself. Know that you are not alone.  And if you are the one receiving the call - pause your life and listen, you will likely find out you feel a little less alone too.  

Finally, rejoice in the community you have and celebrate the victories no matter how small.  We have not crossed the finish line, and I doubt most of us will live to even see it appear on the horizon, but we've passed many mile markers.  We are moving forward, however incrementally it might be.  

And we are doing it together.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Day 15: Share your pain - a social media challenge


Today's post is a request.  That's right, I'm asking something of you.  You don't get to just sit back an read today because I'm a bit peeved about something.

If you are having a bad day. Share it.
If the world does not seem to be going your way. Share it.
If you are dealing with a depressive episode. Share it.
If you are suffering grief from loss.  Share it.
If you had an anxiety attack this morning.  Share it.
If you have a brain crushing creative block.  Share it.

That's right, I want you to take all the crap we try to hide from the world and put it out there.  I want you to show that your world isn't all perfect Instagram dinners, happy dance fests, perfectly frosted cakes and picturesque sunsets.

Why?  Because it isn't.  Because no one's life is full of bliss 100% of the time.  We all have shitty days, shitty weeks, shitty months and sometime shitty years.  I know this because I know that our personal human experience is not unique.  I suffer shit days and so do you.

This morning when I sat down with my perfectly brewed cup of coffee, with my perfectly adorable and perfectly fluffy cat at my side while still wearing my perfectly cozy pajamas, I saw several posts on my Facebook feed about people having shitty days; a couple were dealing with a fairly serious mental health issue. All expressed feelings of being alone, and several commented how hesitant they were to share this because everyone else seems to have perfect lives.

Sharing your crap day isn't putting negativity out into the universe.  It isn't whining or complaining. It isn't self centered.  It's real.

So tell the world. Put it out there. Share not only your perfect results, share the messy as hell process too.  Share the fallen cakes, the three rows of knitting you had to tear out.  Share how you came across an old concert ticket and cried because the person who attended is no longer with us.  Share your break up, your sad days, your stubbed toes and your feelings of inadequacy. Share your depression, your anxiety and your run of the mill melancholy. Put it right the fuck out there.

You'll probably get some reassurance.  Some comments that will bolster your mood, help shore you up to try again, but you might also help someone.  Your post might pop up in the feed of someone else who's day is less than perfect and it might make that person feel a little less isolated, a little less solitary.   It might show them that someone else made it through a rough moment, a tough day or a soul crushing year of loss.

Continue to share your up moments and your successes too; you should be proud of your accomplishments.  Just remember to share all of the bumps along the way.   By sharing your struggle you are not showing that you are in any way flawed. you are showing that you are human.




Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 14: Storm

Screen shot weather underground app
The weather map shows a long line of orange and red, surrounding by bright green.  The blue dot that is my town is on the edge of this mass of thunderstorms moving steadily to the northeast about about 20mph.  Though I am hoping one of the storms will wander my way, it seems they will stay to the north of me.

I love storms.  I love the energy they carry, the rain they bring and the scent that lingers when they pass.  It feels refreshing.

It's all too easy of a metaphor - the storms of life and the feeling of release when they pass.  And there is some truth to that, but unlike the storm that is passing near my home now, the storms of life don't often have a handy map with which we can see their approach. There isn't an alarm that will buzz on my smart phone letting me know I should take cover, close the windows and seek safety.

No.  The storms of life often sneak up on us.  They appear seemingly out of nowhere, knocking us down even as we try to run for shelter.  Of course, there are also the storms we live in the midst of for years without being aware of them because, well this is the life we are used to, until we have that moment of calm when we realize that, wait...maybe life doesn't have to be like this.

I feel as though I am on the edge of emerging from the latter; as though I am approaching a place of rest.  Perhaps it is the hopefulness of my approaching vacation - a week away from my life without work, or school, or other obligation.   Or maybe things have just run their course. Or maybe I'm finally starting to get some of this self care thing right and it's actually working.

I know I've a ways to go, but for the first time in ages I'm feeling just a bit hopeful, just a bit more clear headed, and just a bit more like I don't have to run for shelter because I'm starting to build my own inside myself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Day 13: Wishing for a storm

Tonight I find myself wishing for a thunderstorm.  It might be the heat or maybe it's because my mood is a bit off and thunderstorms always seem to improve my state of mind.




Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Day 12: Routine

I used to have a morning routine.

I would rise out of bed about 5:30AM.  My routine was so set I rarely had to set my alarm.  I rose with the sun.

I'd make coffee.  Read the news as I sipped.  After one cup I put on comfortable shoes and went for a walk .  4.1 miles.  The first three miles were a power walk and the last 1.1, a leisurely walk along the river with a stop to to sit, breathe and be still.  I'd generally be home by 7:30AM

I'd return home.  Shower.  Pour myself a second cup of coffee, then find a comfortable place to sit and write in my journal.  I'd write for 30 minutes or until it was time to log into work at 9:00AM.

I did this every day, though sometimes if the weather was bad I'd stay in and do yoga instead.

For the past three weeks this routine has been totally disrupted.  I returned from a weekend at a festival with my sleep pattern completely wonky and I've yet to reestablish it.

Lately I've been waking at 7:30 or 8:00.  I have just enough time to make coffee and sometimes to also shower.  Last week I actually had one day that I logged into work still in my pajamas - something I, until last week, had never done before.

That morning routine is so important to me.  It lets me start the day more calm and centered.
The walk made me feel better about my body and more connected to my neighborhood.  These past three weeks I've been tired, ill tempered and very, very spacey.

I think it is time to reclaim my morning routine.  I'm loath to do it with an alarm clock, but...it seems I must.  This morning routine was part of my daily self care and I'm missing it desperately.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Day 10

Photo by J. Grandbois
I spent yesterday visiting a state park that my family frequented with some regularity when I was growing up.  It had been at least 20 years since I'd last visited there.  I tried to recall when my last visit was and I think it was sometime in 1993 or 1994 when I worked at a summer camp.  We brought the international staff there for a picnic lunch or something...

I was in a very abusive relationship at the time and my memories of those years are somewhat cloudy. Being on high alert at all times does strange things to the brain, so I may be recalling that incorrectly. In any case, it was a long time ago.

The Park had changed a lot of course.  The foliage along the shore walk had grown up so much you could not see the ocean even from the top of the old bunkers that are there.  As I kid I tried to imagine what it must have been like being stationed there in WWII, staring out to sea, wondering if the Germans were coming.  I imagined USO dances where the ladies all looked like the Andrews Sisters.

The battery has been cleared out and you can walk inside.  When I was there last they were still back filled with large piles of dirt.  They are also now filled with graffiti, some good, some not so good. Mostly it's notice of who has been there and what their agonies were (Jesse was here...Love Hurts...demons no matter what I choose...).  On my walk back to the main parking lot I was passed by two eager young men with flash lights in hand, intent on exploring the darker parts of the battery.

Some things I did not remember being there at all.  There is a breakwater that I stood and stared at for a good ten minutes trying to recall some memory of it. I thought walking the length of it might jiggle free a recollection but it didn't.  There was an old stone fountain that was no longer working but still beautiful to look at, and a hidden garden that maybe was not there at all when I visited in the past.

And I remembered other things.  The spot where my brother dropped a shirt full of shells and cried because most were broken.  The rocks that my brother and I sat on waiting for waves to splash us. The wall where I sorted sea urchin shells because I'd found so many and I couldn't bring them all home; I had to choose just a few. I remember lollygagging on the trails back to the car because I didn't yet want to go home and being told I'd surely be left behind if I didn't catch up.  And I remembered thinking it might not be so bad to live alone by the sea among the trees, eating berries and clams...


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Day 9: Things Change

Battery Seaman - Ordiorne Point State Park, Rye NH
Photo by J Grandbois

Friday, July 8, 2016

Day 8: A drop in the glass...


I am hardly a Pollyanna. In fact most folks would probably say I'm a grouch, cynical and rather cranky. While I might present as curmudgeonly pessimist I do, deep in my heart, believe that changing this world is possible. I have seen a lot of horror in my lifetime, but I've also known a lot of people who are out there doing the work that needs to be done to make the world a better place. I have seen people's eyes be opened to the awfulness out there and I've heard them ask, "What can I do?"

We might not believe that people's minds can be changed, that hearts can be opened but look at yourself. There was a time in your life when you had been closed to someone, maybe they hurt you, maybe you prejudged them, maybe you teased or bullied them, maybe you just never noticed they existed before...whatever the circumstance, there came a time when something happened the caused you to feel sympathy for that person. To relate in some way, and to understand, if only a little, their pain. That might seem a small thing, but it shows that none of us are made of stone, we are capable of change. We can say, "This isn't just your problem anymore, it's mine too."

Carrying the burdens of the world is difficult but we are not carrying them alone. There are billions of us out there who want the world to be a better place, a safer place, a more peaceful place. We shoulder this burden together, each doing what we can. Each trying to live a life that promotes a more just and peaceful world. The important part is that you do SOMETHING, and do it over and over and over and over again. Because these problems are not going away with one rally or one protest or one letter to the editor. They go away when we all start living lives that exemplify the world we want to live in and when we reach out to help others do the same.

And it will be uncomfortable because living that sort of life means stepping outside your comfort zone. It means acknowledging people who we might normally ignore. It means learning to see the humanity in everyone. It means failing, getting back up and trying again, and failing again. And it means speaking up when you see a wrong done, an injustice committed. Most of all it means you are no longer silent.

I wrote the following on a friends wall this morning when she wrote about feelings of helplessness in the face of that has happened in the past few days. It is not my metaphor, (I'm sure someone has used it before) and it's not new, but it carries some truth...

Think of the surface tension of water. Did you ever fill a glass of water so full that there is more water than the glass can hold, and you can see that little "hill" of water that is pushing up over the edge glass but the water doesn't spill? The surface tension of the water keeps it in place. If nothing else happened - if you didn't add any water or move the glass in anyway, it would stay there, unspilled, until the water began to evaporate and eventually the glass would be empty.

BUT, if you took a water dropper and started adding more water, drop, by drop, by drop...eventually there is too much water and the surface tension can no longer hold, the water will spill over the edge.

The wound that our world has is far bigger than a glass of water, but we potentially have billions of drops available to fill it. The best thing we can do is the work that is in front of us, in our communities and to keep in mind both the local and global impact of our actions. A sustainable world, a peaceful world, includes environmental justice, economic justice and social justice...we can work towards all three. And yes it will take time... it only takes one drop of water to break that surface tension..but you have to have a whole lot of other drops in there first. It doesn't matter if you are the first drop or the last as long as you make it into the glass.


Change often comes slowly, and we want so badly for there to be a savior to come along and fix things, but there is no other savior than us...us. A few billion of us.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 7: Use your words...

Photo by J. Grandbois
In my memory of the moment there was a clock ticking.  But I also recall a conversation about the clock being broken so I know this is simply my minds way of marking the time.  I am in a chair, the comfortable one.  Across the room is my therapist who just asked me a question, "What do you want out of this?"

Between us is silence and the tick tock of my imaginary clock.

I sit.  My shoulders rise towards my ears.  My hands are willed to be still in my lap, my jaw is clenched and my throat feels as though it has a tennis ball lodged in it.  The words are in my mind...if I had a pen I could write them down.  I could text them; the distance between my phone, the cell tower, and my therapists phone more easily traversed than that between these two chairs.  I want to speak the words.  I will my vocal chords to work. When I speak the words are slow, distorted and my voice breaks...

"I want the self loathing to stop..."

I love conversation.  I could linger over a dinner table for hours discussing just about anything.  I don't have an overt fear of public speaking.  I will stand in front of a crowd of nearly any size to make a speech or MC a show.  I don't have a problem with speaking up for others.  If you ask, or sometimes even if you don't, I will willingly be your champion.  Most folks would probably call me an extrovert and they'd mostly be right.  So the following may surprise some people...

When it comes to myself, to things that are deeply personal, I go silent.  It isn't willingly, because there are times that I have huge emotions swirling inside of me that I desire to express.  I can speak up for nearly anyone else but when it comes to myself, I have physical reaction where my vocal chords cease operation and nothing, no sound emerges.

I have had therapy sessions that have long silences where I struggle to get words out.  When I do finally speak, I can often barely whisper a squeak.  I will be hoarse for days after, as though by forcing  my vocal chords into action I've somehow damaged them.  My therapist has told me that this physical reaction stems from trauma; from times in my life that speaking my thoughts was dangerous, or where I would be belittled or told my feelings were wrong or not valid.

And it is true, I've had many of those times in my life. And they've left me with more scars than just my body enforcing my silence, but there has always been one way I have been able to express myself, where words and my body don't fail me.  I write.

I've kept a journal since I was nine years old.  I write nearly every day. Even during the most silent periods of my life, the blank page was my safe space.  While most of it stays private, I've also written poetry, personal essays, short stories and of course blog posts.   It has also become the way that I could share my deeper thoughts with others.  I could write you a letter, an email or even a text message about what I'm feeling, even if I cannot speak it.  My vocal chords might seize but my hands do not.  I may not physically be able to discuss it with you after, but at least I'll get it out there.

Maybe it is because I have a choice in whether or not to share it, and who I share it with, or perhaps it is because I have the time to craft the words so they express clearly what I want to say.

Right now I don't really need to know the why, I'm just very grateful that that outlet has existed. And I'm grateful for the ability with word craft that it has given me.  It is my silver lining...

(And I'm working on the speaking thing.  Right now my technique is, of course, to write things down first and then say it over and over again until my voice no longer catches.)  



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Day 5

Photo by J. Grandbois
"I wouldn't know how to handle serenity if somebody handed it to me on a plate."  - Dusty Springfield

se·ren·i·ty - səˈrenədē/ (noun) -
the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

I have experienced moments of serenity.  A sunrise over the sea witnessed in solitude.  The quiet of a damp, mossy forest after a rainstorm has passed.  A walk by the river when the fog still hovers above the water.  A moment of waking up and realizing I've nothing to do on a particular day. 

These moments all have two things in common: they were all experienced in solitude and they were all fleeting.  I believe serenity might be a solitary experience.  We can be feeling serenity in the same place and at the same time as another or even many people, but the feeling, while possibly set off by external events, exists solely in the heart of the one experiencing it.  I don't think serenity is infectious in the way laughter or tears can be.  We have have a shared joy or grief, even a shared sense of peace...but serenity is singular.  

Serenity to me is a feeling that I can breathe, that things, while they may not go okay, will fall in whatever way they will and I'll find a way through.  Serenity is an acceptance of the fact that I am not in control of everything.  It is recognition of the connection between myself and all other things in the universe.  The matter and energy that is me occupies this point in space and time. I may not exist for any particular reason but I am here and I'm alive. 

It is a feeling I'd like to have more of in my life.  I'm not sure how one cultivates it.  Perhaps it is created by cultivating other things: peace, self esteem or a sense of gratitude.  Maybe it is easier to feel if one spends more time in nature and quiet places like sunrises and pauses.  I'd like to have enough of it that I could tuck some away in an inside spiritual pocket, so when I find myself in the midst of chaos I can pull it out, unfold it and drape it over my mind.  


Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 4

Miss Pickles -  Perfecting the art
of doing nothing

"In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts."  –Carl Honoré

Today I find I am feeling quite unmotivated to write at all.  Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's my mood (blahhhhhh) but today is the sort of day where I really just want to sit in my room, with the door closed and do...

NOTHING

Despite my best efforts I have accomplished some things today.

  • I went for a walk by the river where I sat for a bit and cried, because I was sad and well...crying seemed appropriate. 
  • I started baked beans in the crock pot.  They will be done soon and I will be able to accomplish something else, eating them. 
  • I took a nap. 
  • I ate a sandwich. 
  • I ate a slice of quiche. 
  • I did my monthly new moon tarot reading (yes..two days late, I know, I know)
  • Watched a documentary on South American traditional medicine.  
  • Pet the cat. 
  • Read a chapter of a book while sitting on the front porch. 
  • Watched a Ted Talk on posture and spent about 15 minutes trying to improve mine. 
  • I wrote in my journal. 

Apparently I'm not all that good at doing nothing, especially since I can now add writing today's blog post to the list.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Day 3

Today I'm spending the afternoon and evening with one of my oldest friends.  Everyone should have at least one friend who knew you when...
...you had the bad breakup. 
...they had the bad breakup. 
...you doubted everything. 
...you thought you were so sure.
...you finally admitted you knew nothing.

I am grateful that I have such a person in my life.  I hope you do too... 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 2

Growing up Saturday nights meant two things at my house: baked beans and A Prairie Home Companion.  There are only a few things that make me nostalgic for my childhood - the scent of holiday balsam, a certain angle of sunlight through autumn leaves, the taste of baked beans and the sound of Garrison Keillor's voice.

I was an anomaly as a teenager  Nearly every one of my friends had parents who where divorced.  That my family sat down to dinner together every night, even on the weekends, was something that was noted and commented on.  My brother and I were home for dinner every night by 6:00pm - except Sundays because Sundays were "every man for himself..." (and it was written as such on the weekly menu my mum posted on the fridge every Sunday night).  This of course really meant, it's the night we eat all of the leftovers from the prior six nights of the week.  Which was okay because, those other six nights - the food was good. 

Each night of the week was a different meal, but Saturday night was always baked beans; sometimes with hot dogs, or cornbread, or brown bread, nearly always coleslaw.  I can remember the sound of the cabbage, carrots and onions being crunched through the hand crank grinder that attached to our counter top.   I remember the light reflecting off the old dented penny that my mother used to brace the screw vice that held the grinder tight to the counter's edge.  

I remember the scent of honey as it was squeezed onto warm cornbread.  I recall the snap of hot dog skin as I cut them up to mix into my beans and the the sweet contrast of brown bread with creamy melted butter.  And always that voice.  That steady, breathy, voice that accompanied the preparation and serving of our Saturday night meal. I remember singing along with the Powder Milk Biscuit song and how when they started taking the show on the road we swore we'd go, and we'd find some creative message to be shared on air during the intermission...

I never did make it to a show.  And my family is now scattered.  My parents joined the statistical numbers of the divorced nearly a decade ago and my brother lives in Alaska.  Try as I might I don't remember the last meal we all had together.  

Tonight, I'm listening to Garrison Keillor's last show with my cat while eating homemade quiche instead of baked beans, and sipping chardonnay.  I keep telling Miss Pickles, she's the cat, how maybe part of the reason I love to tell stories is at least in part due to growing up listening to this man, that I used to write scripts for my own radio shows.

She rolls over and blinks at me...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 1

Here's the thing about deciding to do a month of blogging, the first day, it's kind of a freebie.  Why? Because on the first day you get to sit down to write about how you are going to blog for 31 days. You can talk about how you aren't 100% sure you can accomplish the goal of writing every day, but as you are trying to practise self compassion anyway, it will be a good opportunity to not be too hard on yourself.

You might share the theme of your month of blogging, if you have one.  Which you don't, not really.   You do want explore more deeply this thing you have professed to have been doing for five years now. Yep, that's right...five years of blogging, not always regularly, but you have managed to write and publish 449 posts in that time...

Mostly though, you want to figure out whether or not to keep on doing this and if you do, how much of yourself do you want to put out there?  How personal should this blog be?  You've written about a lot of really personal stuff but there are things you've not said; things you keep close.  You know there has to be line somewhere.

And maybe as you are writing this post.  The freebie.  You begin to realize that this isn't about your blog and what you want to do with that, but instead maybe it's about your life and just what do you want to do with the 34 years you statistically have remaining.

You are after all 44 and just got around to finishing your undergraduate degree.  You can only call your self a late bloomer for so long.   You crossed the half way mark nearly seven years ago.  Death is no longer on the far side of the center line.

Like the prior 44 years of your life, you don't really have a plan.
You don't have any blog prompts...  
You just have 31 days of writing.
31 days of trying to figure out the next step.