Category Archives: daily practice
It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year. In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult. Some of it is of course the darkness. For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.
North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun. At the summer solstice the sun never sets. That means at winter solstice it never rises. Think about that for a minute. A day where the sun doesn’t rise. It’s kind of creepy.
I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun. The snow helps. It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter. The holiday lights help. They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.
The darkness can also be emotional. Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great. They can also build a lifetime of resentment. A death during the season can bring people together. It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year. Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.
Then there is the demand. There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job. If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile. There is a demand on the pocketbook. All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts. When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating. Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.
I lean heavily on just do it. Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things. Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not. Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back. Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.
So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed. I make the phone calls and appointments. I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget. I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income. I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice. Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.
I love this time of year. I like the cooler weather. I like wearing sweaters. I like the light and the colors in the leaves. Fall harvest has me making soups and baking.
I struggle at this time of year. I have serious mold and dust allergies that always gets worse until we have a good hard freeze. The temperature swings (I live in Minnesota. It can be 35F one day and 80F the next) are tough to navigate. I cherish the sunshine and dread the days getting noticeably shorter.
There is so much to do at this time of year. I need to bring in the plants and repot. I need to get ready for Halloween (both trick or treat and the Sabbat). I need to swap my closet and bedding over to the winter wear. All I want to do is curl up in a blanket with a good book and a warm beverage, or maybe take an outing to the movies.
There’s also the food issue. My body wants to eat more. I’m not hungry, as the post-bariatric pouch won’t allow that. It’s not even head hungry. It’s more like hunger in the bones. My genetics expect a winter and have kicked into survival mode. I can tell I’m not getting enough protein, even though my diet hasn’t really changed. It’s another push and pull.
This year it seems I’m especially aware of the paradox of the season. As I struggle with balance in my own life I become more alert to the push and pull around me. I recognize that I can allow any of these things to buffet and batter me, throwing me off course. I can also simply acknowledge them and let them wash over me. There is a peace in simply appreciating the variety of moods the season brings.
So I do small things. I get apples and squashes for baking and decorating. I tidy the house. I pick up a few things in the yard as I walk by. I’m playing the grasshopper, not the ant. I’m not ready for winter. I am simply trying to be present in each day.
I’ve said many times that this notion we have of balance is active and not a point of stasis. But sometimes balance is easy, once you get the hang of it, like riding a bike. Other times it’s like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with a big pack.
This season my experience of balance has been a lot more like the latter example. I’m off, the world is off, my home is off, it’s just crazy. I suspect I took advantage of the little surgery I had to just check out for a bit. Unfortunately that has made getting back on track even more difficult.
On the good side are my kids, my work and a lot of unexpected support. On the rough side is money, time, and overall despondency. I’m frustrated with people who are fixed minded about an issue that they clearly don’t actually understand. I’m frustrated with the vile, demeaning attitudes that people have decided are okay to unleash. I’m frustrated with the notion that being polite and having good judgement are somehow not positive attributes.
Then we do something like attend the Kaposia Gala. This is Orion’s day program and work placement group. I see Ramsey county, being the second county in the country to pass legislation allowing them to directly employ people with disabilities. I see a group of people encouraging young performers who have to work a little harder for clear speech or to get through a piece of music. I sit at a table with people in all manner of dress knowing that they all “dressed up” for the occasion, that what they have on is the best that they have.
When I speak with the disabled community, or those with chronic illnesses, I recognize that we share an understanding outside of “normal” experience. When I spend time talking with members at Gilda’s Club there is an inherent desire to make that most out of what we have. When I find the small things that make me smile I remember how important those small things can be.
So I struggle to stand in my own truth and not be blown over by the winds of the world. I shift and adjust and accommodate and work to hang on to the notion that things can be better. I go back to daily practices of gratitude and just take a moment to recognize all the privilege I have in my life. I may be swaying pretty heavily, but at least I’ve got a bridge.
I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”. It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska. People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”
We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing. I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge. I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”
My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view. They think it does. It changes the way they approach their days. It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.
I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day. I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day. I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.
It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day. I like that. I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in. I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.
In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me. A good day is active rather than passive. I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity. I can have a good day curled up reading. But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.
There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day. A good day demands engagement at some level. Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing. By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days. Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.
Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.
Routines, we all have them. From the little rituals that get us going in the morning to the major cleaning, exercising, and vacation planning our routines help us get things done. The problem is that we can be assured that our routines will, at some point, be disrupted.
Disruptions come in many forms. An illness or injury can throw routines into a jumble. Taking a trip or having guests will put pressure on our schedules. Even something as simple as a change in the weather, or season, can throw a routine into chaos.
I feel as though I’ve been living in the land of disrupted routines. Even when I think I have a handle on it something else seems to rear its ugly head and throw me off my balance. I’ve been out of town (and not in a restful, renewing or inspiring way). I’ve been dealing with allergies (spring is early this year). I’m back into the remodeling project and even just planning has me throwing my hands in the air screaming.
I’ve missed two weeks of blogging. The first week I new I was likely to miss. Out of town and no internet handy it was unlikely I would get to it and didn’t make it a priority. The second week I was still reeling from the effects of having my routines disrupted, again and again.
I talk about Daily Practice a lot. Although Daily Practice can be part of the routine, I make a distinction for it. Daily Practice, for me, is a small action with a big impact. When I take up a Daily Practice it becomes a top priority, a commitment. Daily Practice requires an attention, and often an attitude shift.
In the crazy of my world, with my routines all a jumble, I hold on to my Daily Practice like a lifeline. I may not be as efficient, or effective, but I still do it. I may not manage to get it done in it’s “normal” timeframe, but I still do it. I may start with “oh shit, I have to do that.” but I do it.
This is one of the many reasons for taking up Daily Practice. Those small things can keep us going when we are physically, emotionally, and mentally out of sorts. They become a foundation from which we can build a new routine. They are a simple constant in an ever changing complex world.
Yesterday was one of those days when I needed to give myself points just for getting dressed. I meant to post a blog. I had started one about a weekend worth of celebrations. I had started one about the immigration ban. I had started one about Imbolc and the winter thaw. I just couldn’t manage to bring any of those topics into a coherent, cohesive whole.
I needed an ostrich day. A day to curl up and put my head in the sand. A day to pretend the world didn’t matter. I didn’t talk to friends. I didn’t get to my “to do” list. I stuck my head in a book, turned on Netflix, and played games on the computer.
We all need an occasional day like that. Right now there are many people who are practicing civil disobedience. There are many people who are truly threatened by the political climate. There are many who are suffering cognitive dissonance working to convince themselves that what they see, what they say, means something else. My Facebook feed is full of posts saying “maybe I should take a break from Facebook”
Sometimes we need to just take the time and space to actually feel our feelings. There can be so much going on in our lives that our emotions become a jumble and we don’t know where we stand or what we think. Allowing ourselves a moment to come back to our own center, without being battered about by our circumstances, can recharge us. Taking time can allows us to be more effective in the world.
Unfortunately, sometimes those ostrich days make me feel worse rather than better. It’s too easy to get into the cycle of self blame and guilt. It’s easy to start thinking of all “better” ways to have used the time. We live in a culture that has no patience for this kind of “time out”, and we carry that culture with us into our “time out” space.
It’s my Daily Practice that gets me through. I get dressed. Then, since I’m dressed I might throw in a load of laundry or run out to the mailbox. I make my bed. Then, since I really appreciate having the bed made I might tidy up someplace else in the house. I do my language lesson. Then, since I really do want a vacation, I might balance the checkbook or pack a bag or make a fun meal or even just tend to my seasonal spaces.
Doing the small Daily Practices I know I’m not lost in a hole. I am not entirely overwhelmed. I’m just taking some time out. Doing the Daily Practices I have a springboard to reconnect, to move forward. Doing the Daily Practices I am reminded to have compassion for myself. I am reminded to appreciate what I do, and accept that I can not accomplish everything.
Daily Practice becomes a kindness to myself. Doing Daily Practice is a magical act of transformation. It’s not always apparent that Daily Practice is doing anything. (That’s one of the reason “Daily Practice Sucks”) But ultimately we practice so that when we need something to be easy, when we don’t have the time or energy, when we are looking for a lifeline we have the Daily Practice to lean on.
My car was due for an oil change. Overdue technically, but not by much. I have always been diligent about the oil change maintenance.
Thing is, technology is changed. When I first bought the car, the first time I took it in for an oil change I was told the rules are different. With new systems and synthetic oils instead of 3 months/3,000 miles it is annually or 10,000 miles. I can’t keep track of that!
But now I’m driving for Uber and Lyft and racking up the miles on my car. It seems like I’m back at about 3 months. Maybe that’s just my perception. Maybe I’m reaching for the familiar. In any case I took the car in for routine maintenance.
Which of course got me thinking about maintenance. In my home there are places that I’m pretty good about doing routine things: laundry, dishes, paying the bills. There are things that are beyond me (My kitchen cupboards are empty, but still almost a year later falling off the walls. Don’t talk to me about banks!) There are a lot of things that fall in between (like cleaning the oven and scrubbing the floors).
I thought about the blog I wrote last week, and reconnecting with friends. Relationships require a certain amount of maintenance as well. I’m not great about keeping in touch. I’m less likely to make a call just to say hi. On the other hand I’m likely to show up in an emergency or send a hand written note in a get well card. Different skills sets I suppose.
Then I thought about general health maintenance. The annual physicals got crammed in between Thanksgiving and New Years. The letters keep coming from the insurance companies about which of my prescriptions they’ve decided not to cover. I’m still doing allergy shots. I do have some long term maintenance things here. Mammograms and colonoscopies are not even annual events any more. The rules change.
I come back to daily practice. When I’m doing daily practice maintenance seems to get done, both on the long and short term. When I let daily practice slide, everything seems to go downhill along with it. When the rules change sometimes the daily practice needs to change, but that’s different from letting it go altogether.
Life happens. Entropy happens. Maintenance is necessary and unavoidable. So I work on keeping up the calendar and consulting it daily. I work on tucking in a small home maintenance job daily. I juggle my appointments and phone calls and try to be available for my friends.
I also remember that the alternative to maintenance is crisis. I don’t need that. Maintaining to avoid it is worth a little gratitude. Maybe a daily practice worth.
The solution to the problem in the kitchen is clearly to do a remodel.
2 [ no obj. ] decide firmly on a course of action: [ with infinitive ] : she resolved to call Dana as soon as she got home.
That means calling contractors and getting bids to take to the bank to get a loan.
3 chiefly Chemistry separate or cause to be separated into components.
Components: Contractor, Banker, Clear the deed, Subordinate city loan, housing for Orion and I while the work goes on.
So far, so good.
• [ no obj. ] (of something seen at a distance) turn into a different form when seen more clearly: the orange glow resolved itself into four lanterns.
Contractors don’t want to waste their time writing up a bid on work that I 1. May not be able to afford or 2. May hire someone else for
The season is upon us and contractors already have work (with a GO) lined up.
There is probably more to do than I can afford and I have to prioritize.
This isn’t going to happen quickly.
The contractors who could do the work faster have larger teams/businesses and also larger prices.
Resolve: noun firm determination to do something: she received information that strengthened her resolve | she intended to stick to her initial resolve.
The only way this is going to happen is if I just keep plugging away at it.
Actually my whole life seems a little like this right now. I put the gardening on hold, not knowing what will be torn up. I can’t take it so I spent the weekend planting. I’ve mostly got things in containers, so they could be moved. But if this isn’t going to start until August I want tomatoes and basil!
The lawn has been mowed. That required having the tractor overhauled. The blades needed sharpening and there was a nut that disappeared.
The hose has a huge hole in it. It actually has for sometime. I bought a new hose long enough ago I can’t remember. I dug it out of the garage and hooked it up. It actually reaches everything! (Bonus, it doesn’t leak.)
Bills still need to be paid, and credit cards paid off – going back to the issues with the bank. I need to find time to write, time to garden, time to tend to Orion, time out for myself.
It all comes down to resolve.
When the sun is shining and the breeze is keeping the bugs away I have to remember not to play hookey from my life. I also have to remember to take a minute and appreciate the day.
I resolve to do both!
Definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary
It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend and it may take me a bit to come back into my regular routine. Paganicon happened, which was fun and exciting. I did a presentation on Friday. It was well attended and I got some very positive feedback. I have to think it went well.
I spent plenty of time socializing on Friday. This is a local convention, but it’s getting some buzz on the National scale. Some of the guests and folks coming in from out-of-town are good friends. It’s always nice to have the opportunity to touch base in person with those long distance relationships.
Saturday was our political district convention. Both Orion and I were delegates. This year Orion is excited about politics and I’m feeling fit enough to make it possible for him to participate at this level. We struggle with accessibility in these venues. On caucus night it was the crowds. For the district convention it was the convention set up itself.
The building this district historically uses for its convention is technically ADA accessible. There is a ramp and an elevator. There are handicapped stalls in the bathrooms. However the signage is horrible.
To make matters worse the convention was in the auditorium. You may know most auditorium seating has a small designated area to accommodate wheelchairs. Depending on the auditorium they may or may not have seating near them for companions. But at a political convention the rules require that delegates sit in their precincts – not in the special seats on the other side of the room.
We found a spot in a little used aisle. Little used because the door to that aisle was locked the entire day. Every time we left we had to get someone to go around and let us back in. The lighting was horrible. I had eye fatigue and a burgeoning headache from trying to read the amendments. Orion is legally blind. He can read, but he needs good lighting. I drained my cell phone battery using the flashlight.
In spite of being worn out we swung by Paganicon after the political convention. It gave Orion a chance to visit with some of his friends. He picked up a beautiful drum that he’s enjoying. Orion has an inherent sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.
Sunday morning I was back at Paganicon to do a book signing. It went pretty well for me after one of the organizers kindly found me a decent cup of coffee to get me through. I spent the afternoon actually attending the convention, going to workshops and participating in rituals.
It was a good weekend. I couldn’t have done so much, and at that pace, 3 years ago. I am so grateful to be able to do these kinds of things again, and to be able to do them with Orion in tow.
I was talking about my bariatric surgery and the outcomes with some folks I hadn’t seen for awhile. These are people who have been in that internal debate about their own weight issues. I said that I think part of my success is because I’m not focused on the weight or the numbers as much as I’m focused on the things I can do.
I can get down on the floor and up again. I can go up and down the stairs. I can walk from one end of the convention to the other and not sit down. I can stand for my entire presentation and still manage to pack my stuff up when I’m done. Gratitude keeps me on track. Excitement about what I can do keeps me pushing to do more.