Category Archives: gratitude

Stopping Time

I have finally figured out how to slow down time! Really, I have! And it’s not how I ever thought. It’s a revelation to me, which sounds silly. But it really is. Here is how you stop time:

Slow down.

That’s it. It’s simple, really. And it’s always been out there. I just never realized it, and I never slowed down enough to understand. If you, like me, are someone who would cram each day full and run around frantically trying to get all the day’s tasks completed, you could never even contemplate a time when things would ever slow down or give you space to breathe.

This summer, miraculously, I found that space.

For quite some time, I seem to have been collecting books on mindfulness. I’d read bits and pieces here and there. I’d nod my head and say to myself, “Yes. This is it. I really need to be mindful.” And I’d believe it. I just never really did it. I never took the time. I also found a book on slowing down. Again, I nodded to myself and said, “Yes. This is it. I really need to slow down.” And yet.

And yet.

So, somehow this summer, miraculously, I did it. It was like a happy accident. Once we returned from Kentucky and North Carolina, for some reason (honestly, I think it’s vacation – it really changes my mindset; I feel like a totally different and new person when I am on vacation) I decided to start using the meditation app on my phone. Every day now I start out on the porch and sit still for five minutes. Just five minutes. That doesn’t seem like very long, but clearly it’s long enough for me. Today was day 28, I think.

Then I picked up the book I got at Christmas that’s meant for planning and goal setting to help organize my life. And I started to think, “What goals do I have for myself, personally, right now? How can I reach those goals on a daily or weekly basis?” And then I write them down, get specific with my calendar, and each day I write out my To-do list.

And, perhaps the most important thing, each day I just take time to sit. Just sit. Maybe with coffee, maybe not. But I sit: on the back deck and look at the yard; on the front porch and look at the yard; on my blue Adirondack chair and look at the yard. Wherever. I just sit for a while and literally do nothing. And on each day that I do that, I am stopping time. I fully realized this on a day or two this week when my day was so full of this, that, and the other that I never took my time to just sit. It’s the just sitting that enables me to stop time.

It is wonderful. I now build in time each day to sit. It helps to start the day this way, but at the end is okay, too. It’s a way to find and center myself. It is truly changing my life.

I am also taking time each day to write. Sometimes I do it here, but right now the plan is just to sit each day and write a minimum of 500 words. With the exception of one day, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Sometimes it’s just a glorified journal. Sometimes it’s more. But it’s building the writing habit for me. Because writing is what I love to do, so I need to make sure I’m doing it. It brings joy into my life. And something that can bring joy is something that must be cultivated and tended. So, I’m tending every day.

That brings me here. My overall goal is just to write each day. For now, I’m not too worried about posting here because I’ve always been a little sporadic on the blog anyhow. But I figure once I get the daily writing muscle up to speed, the next step will be to make sure I post once or twice a week. At this point, I’m not sure exactly when that will be, but as school starts in another week, I figure I will need some time to find where some of my new practices will fit into the schedule. But I am glad I have been working on slowing time this summer, because as the new school year starts and things get hopping, it will help me to keep my calm and help me to better deal with the stresses that come with teaching.

So I am excited to start the new year. And I am delighted to have one more week to continue to work on stopping time.

Cheers.

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Dinner with Friends

Last night we had some friends over for dinner. Nothing big. Ed smoked a roast. I made some rosemary roasted potatoes and green beans from the garden with bacon. A little red wine was provided by Karen. Ed made a cherry pie. The star of the show was watermelon. Ed and Tim had a very deep conversation about watermelon the day before, and Ed told Tim he could make him a watermelon snob and we’d have them over to try it once a watermelon was ready. That happened to be the day after the conversation.

We sat on the deck under the umbrella festooned with lights, which turned out just fine because we sat there talking till after it got dark. Saw a few bats swoop by. Lightning bugs dotted the yard. A slight chill was in the air. All in all, it was a lovely evening.

Dinner with friends is one of the nicest slow things you can do. It drops the blood pressure (except for the moment when someone, while trying to root the limes out of the fridge for G&Ts, knocks over your glass of red wine, spattering your new capris – thank heavens for Spray & Wash). It slows life down. It’s a good thing all around.

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A few months a go I found a book titled The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to be Calm in a Busy World. It is a book to read in little doses because each page or two gives you something to ruminate upon. It is not a book to read cover to cover. It is meant as a treatise on the mindful, thoughtful life. Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk and teacher, decided to publish it because so many people craved the kinds of nudges toward mindfulness that he provided in his Twitter feeds and Facebook page.

How to slow down? Dinner with friends. A slow evening where the rest of the world doesn’t matter, even if you do talk a little politics. So next time the world is driving you crazy, take a deep breath, pick up the phone and call a couple friends to have them over for dinner. Don’t fuss. Just make something simple. Simple is best anyway. Uncork some wine, take a sip, and relax. There’s no better way to spend a summer evening.

Cheers.

You Know You Have a Great Husband When….

Where can I start? Well, why not with the most obvious — the cat box corner.

I mentioned a week or so ago that I needed to put mopping cat box corner on my “to do” list. This is a job I abhor. About four times a year, I break down and take all the cat boxes out of their spot under the stairs. I vacuum scattered cat litter out of every crevice. Then, I mop. Ugh. And I wash cat boxes. Double ugh! One night we were going to leave for somewhere or other, and Ed said something about if I had time for it.

I whined. I complained that it would probably take me about an hour, or at least 45 minutes, to complete this Herculean, Dante’s Inferno, 13th level of Hell task. And as we did not have that kind of time, I did not. The end.

A few days later, I said something about having the time so I would gird my loins and go take care of the cat box corner. Then my darling said, “It’s already done.” My eyes were probably the size of saucers, and my heart grew ten sizes that day. “You did?” “I did.” I then got the rundown of what a pain it was and how he had to wash the boxes and this and that. And I listened with rapt attention worthy of an acolyte. Because I knew of whence he spoke. And my gratitude was great and overwhelming. And I think he finally understood why I whine.

So, at least for this quarter of the year, I don’t have to whine. All I have to do is be thankful for having the greatest husband. Lucky, lucky! That’s me.

Cheers.

Feels Like Home

I finally get that Bonnie Raitt song. Because this morning I woke up feeling changed.

Last night, I attended an evening of faith discussion (the topic was actually faith and wellness), and the keynote was Krista Tippett, host and producer/creator of the program On Being. I had listened to her from time to time, but was never a regular. I think that has now changed. She gave me a lot to think about.

In this world which feels so troubled, and which has made me feel so troubled, she provides an anchor to keep my boat from drifting. An island in a sea of troubles, as it were. It’s hard to explain how her words touched me, but I was scribbling things down like mad.

When she talks about faith, it’s not like some talk about faith. It’s not trying to force things down your throat for you own good (or someone else’s). It’s not in-your-face faith. It’s quiet and earnest and kind. It’s opening your hand and seeing a lovely flower blossom inside. It’s opening a box to find the swirling universe of stars. It’s beauty. It’s hospitality. It’s peace.

It’s home.

Over the years, I church shopped. I was never sure what I was looking for, exactly. I only know I hadn’t found it. I’d been to Trinity Cathedral a few times here and there, but it was never quite the place. Until now. When Ed got recruited for the choir, I became a Sunday regular. I’d always hesitated and held back from weekly church. I felt like I didn’t really need another commitment, another pull on my time. Yet despite church now filling in a spot of my weekend, it feels more like nestling into a place that’s been kept for me. It feels like home.

I am enjoying the people, the sermons, the rite and ritual, but most of all the sense of feeling like I belong. Even as I write this, I feel like weeping at how much I finally feel like I belong somewhere, because, for whatever reason, I don’t know that I have ever felt this so strongly, at least not that I can truly remember. I’ve been at my “job” (I enjoy what I do, so I never really think of it as a job, it’s just “school”) for over 24 years, yet I’ve never truly felt that I belonged there. Yes, I have friends from school, some very close friends, but having friends and feeling a sense of belonging are different things, at least to me.

After listening to Krista’s talk, which was a revelation on many levels, I feel lighter, somehow, even as I also want to plumb more deeply into what faith means for me. I feel like I’ve gotten over a speed bump that has been preventing me from moving forward. I’ve been given something to cut away the ropes that have bound me in a place I really don’t want to be. But it’s also that I have been given the awareness that I had that something to cut those ties for a long time, but never recognized that I had the power to make those cuts.

I know this all may sound a little odd to anyone reading this, but that’s okay. Because I confess this really isn’t for you so much as it is for me. My catharsis. My rebirth. My renaissance.

Even though others, like my dear husband, may not believe in this, I believe I was brought to this moment. Krista mentioned an Irish priest and philosopher John O’Donohue. I jotted his name down because I want to listen to one of her podcasts with him. And this morning, as I work my way through a book loaned to me by a church friend, whose name do I see? John O’Donohue. And now I have something I simply must listen to and someone I must read. He died in 2008, but the website is there and in reading just a little, I am pulled away from my writing to read his.

So, I must leave you now. I’m not sure I said all that I wanted or meant to, but I think this is  a start of more thoughts to come, on faith, on myself, on my life’s journey, on healing myself, which, again, makes me feel those pinpricks behind my eyes as I think about the whole idea of becoming whole, of finally being able to find who I am, which is what I’ve been trying to do all along.

Feels like home to me.

Cheers.

Getting Organized

Again.

So, what’s the deal with making great strides towards being organized, thinking I have it nailed, and then circling the drain, organizationally (as well as all other areas of my life, I might add)?

Had a chat with my therapist yesterday about my wondering why I can get on a good path toward self improvement, realize I’m doing well, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, I wake up one morning with no desire to do anything positive or no apparent will to stick to a plan that has been working for a month or more. Huh.

Of course, we start digging around in my head, trying to figure out why things went well and then explore those cobwebby corners of my psyche to see what we can find in there. Naturally, we have to go back in the mental time machine of my life to figure out where this all started.  Still working on that one.  Came up with a few possibilities, and hope that maybe I can ruminate on some of those.

But now it’s Tuesday, the weather outside is still relatively cold and crappy for nearly the middle of April, and I can’t help but wonder how much of this is SAD. I do have a light for just such an occasion, but I haven’t been using it. Maybe that’s part of the problem. But another part is the fact that even though the sun may be out after school, and it stays light so much longer, it doesn’t get warmer than 30-some degrees, so it doesn’t seem to help much. I’d rather bundle up and crawl into bed, which seems like all I’ve been doing lately.

However, on a more positive note, tonight is body pump class, which I love. And it feels like my tendon is recovering pretty well, so I’d like to start ramping up my steps and maybe start a little (teeny bit) of, dare I even dream it, jogging. I’d rather say running, because jogging sounds so 1970s and wimpy, but that’s how I’d better approach it in the beginning, especially until about 10 pounds come off. I don’t want to screw up any recovery I’ve had, tendon-wise. It will be much better to try this outside, but today is not the day for that. Maybe tomorrow? But tomorrow is….(drumroll, please)….

…New Couch Day! Ed and our friend Randy are going to travel to beautiful downtown Clinton to pick up our new sofa and loveseat. And I will finally have some nice, matching furniture that I didn’t have to buy at Habitat Restore. Imagine! Furniture I like that didn’t previously belong to someone else.

Oh Happy Day! Plus, it’s supposed to get into the 50s tomorrow! And Thursday! And Friday! Maybe we’re turning a corner here? Oh, wait. It’s supposed to be in the 40s on Sunday with maybe a little rain/snow combo. Well, I guess you can’t have the whole world on a platter. But I’d at least like a little sample of spring, which I guess I’m getting tomorrow.

So, I’ll take what I can get. And I’ll reflect on my last therapy session and sit down and work, once again, on getting organized and creating a plan for self-improvement. Keep your fingers crossed. I know I will.

Cheers.

Get Happy!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to use the library more and spend less (I have a hard time saying “spend less on books” because that seems like blasphemy to me, but I do need to remember that while my husband built me a beautiful wall bookcase, it does have only so much room).  This resolution is always harder for me when my Bas Bleu catalog comes in the mail. It is full of wonderful new books, coffee mugs, cat items – in short, it’s as though someone had me in mind when they created it. It’s also like they truly understand my weaknesses and are ready to capitalize on them. Those curs!

Anyhow, I circled the books I would love to buy. Then, I wrote down the titles and looked for them at the library. While not all were there, many were, including my current favorite, The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People.

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After learning I’m about 1/5 Scandinavian, a book on happiness written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark should not be a big stretch. But that aside, it’s a really interesting and fun book to read.

My reading over breakfast this morning talked about a movement in Japan called shinrin-yoku, which translates as “forest bathing.” The idea is not just to hike around and get in the exercise, but to pay closer attention to the world that is the forest. Check out the leaves, the trees, the birds, the critters; the sights and sounds of the world around you. This concept has been studied and Japanese researchers have concluded that it boosts immunity. Researchers in the UK finds it also helps boost one’s mental immunity,  raising mood and self esteem. I could have told them that! But hooray for woodsy hikes, right?

While my friend Deb and I were going to hike over Christmas break, the sub-zero temps put an end to that idea. But, I am still going to hold her to that hike. And maybe we can practice a little shinrin-yoku! I want to generate those positive feelings, or, as the author of the book, Meik Wiking, calls them “outdoorphins” (this is my new favorite term!), and a hike with a dear friend would be just the ticket.

So, pull on your hiking boots and wrap yourself in your favorite scarf and get out into the woods, even in January. It can only do you good! Outdoorphins, people!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a full moon and owl spotting hike to sign up for with the Quad Cities Women’s Outdoor Club!

Cheers.

Speechless

This morning, part of my crazy day began when I read a copy of a reference letter a friend wrote for me for a job I am applying for. She is a former school board president and I had her son in my class about a million years ago. We are, as we both agree, kindred spirits. To that end, we get together for lunch or coffee sometimes, but not nearly often enough for either of us, I daresay, being kindred and all.

And her letter today left me speechless. Part of me was thinking, when I wasn’t crying, who is this person she is writing about? This shining pillar of a person who loves kids and who is good at what she does and really should get that English position at the high school, thank you very much. Speechless, except when I replied to her e-mail, between spots where I told her I was weepy with gratitude and stunned by her view of me, I said the principal would probably read that letter and hire me without the trouble of an interview. Yes, her letter was that wonderful.

Which makes me think about how I view myself. I have never been one to brag. I don’t like to do that, particularly. I know I’m smart. I consider myself nice enough looking (there are days when I think I am pretty, but then there are plenty of those other days). And that’s about where it begins and ends, unless I’m having one of those down days, where I get angry at nothing and anything. Where I have no patience with myself. Where I yell at myself and tell me that I’m so stupid. I know these are all falsehoods. But that’s where my head goes sometimes. Actually more times than I really like. Which is to say “never ” – I never really like it to go there, but go it does.

And then I read this letter. (sniff, sniff)

I told her that I struggle with how I view myself, which is true. I spend a lot of my internal time second-guessing myself, doubting I am good enough, and I tend to put other people’s thoughts into my head (“Oh, good grief, what is she thinking? She’s so stupid.” “Why is she wearing that?”). I have to remember, as I read somewhere, “Other people’s thoughts are none of your business.” True, so true. And yet…

And then there is this lovely, wonderful letter.

So, I think what I need to do is print out this letter from my dear friend and read it every morning when I get up, just to look in a different kind of mirror that I never knew was there. Or maybe didn’t want to think was there. I like this mirror, mirror. I guess in Snow White the mirror does reveal the truth. But I never knew which mirror to look in to see the real me, or at least the me my friend sees, which I would like to hope is the real me.