I think a lot about what it means to me to be happy, to be content, and to be satisfied. I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating my successes or taking in the feeling of a job well done. I suppose I could do some psychological speculation about why that is, why I don’t “allow” myself to enjoy success. What it comes down to is I’m always looking for the next thing.
My daughter, Karina, has been very verbal about bringing all of this to my attention over the years. She doesn’t appreciate it when she struggles to make me happy, or to meet an expectation only to get “Now that that is out of the way……….” Her, “Hey! Wait just one minute.” has forced me many times to stop and honestly acknowledge her efforts. This is why I really need a gratitude practice.
This weekend was a simple, easy, uneventful weekend. Orion and I did a few things. We saw the new Spiderman movie. He got a haircut and his beard trimmed. We kept an eye on Minnie (Karina’s dog). I puttered a bit in the kitchen. There was a conference call for event planning committee and the beginnings of organizing things to bring. I stayed up late and finished a couple of books. I slept in until I was ready to get up.
Reviewing the week, thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realized that this was contentment. Not too much, not too little, but a just right weekend. Then I realized that part of the reason I could feel that contentment (rather than pressure, or resentment, or disappointment, or exhaustion) was because I had the previous weekend off.
I went into this week well rested. I’m feeling good. I have a list of things “to do” but feel like I’m making progress and not overwhelmed. I had a good balance of things I wanted to do and things I needed to do. And the things I needed to do I appreciated being able to do.
This coming week I’m gearing up for a whirlwind. The event, Earth Conclave, is on the schedule. I know I won’t get a blog in next Monday (maybe Tuesday). I’m excited and nervous and hoping I have left myself enough time to put what I’ll need together.
But…. I don’t have to pack up Orion for the weekend. That’s taken care of with the new schedule. I don’t have to worry about not being able to get through. I have a health reserve going in. I may be on the committee, but it’s not “my show”. I’m not cooking, I’m not “in charge” of anything. I’ve volunteered to facilitate a few things on the schedule, but I know this group (and my skill set) and it won’t be difficult.
This is where gratitude is easy for me. I haven’t always been able to do these things, or do them without too much effort. I am very grateful to have the opportunity, and the support, to be able to do them again.
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.
The last couple of weekends have been busy ones. Orion turned 27 last weekend! We went to a Comics for a Cause event. My friend Brenda Elsagher put it on and had her new book release there as well. Her book is about the humor in aging, the event supported the Ostomy Society. It was her sister’s birthday so she arranged a cake for both of them. What a sweetheart!
Orion wasn’t sure about it. He’s used to going out for German food on his birthday, but there were brats so even that was covered. He let Brenda know that although he doesn’t have a colostomy he’s had j-tubes for feeding on and off over the years. He had a great time and the comedy show was fun. Karina joined us (best sister ever!).
Karina and I spent some time together on Saturday. We brought Orion home brats from a beer fest we worked at. It was another fundraiser, this time for a center for homeless teens. Because Karina is in the industry she got a call from a friend, a distributor, looking for help. I poured beer from a craft brewery in the UP.
I know I’ve been “running”, pushing the edges of what I can do. It’s been good and I’ve been pleased with how “able” I am. I even got some yard work done this weekend! I know I’ve got more coming up and I need to find a way to pace myself a little better.
I have to be alright taking some time out, doing something just for me. Curling up in a chair and reading a book, being okay saying no, I do those things. It’s just that they get “fit in”. I suspect a little time out needs to be part of the plan.
I promised I’d let you know how sailing went. It was delightful! We had a pretty calm day so we drifted back and forth across the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin. Three middle-aged women in the middle of nowhere on a perfect day just chatting was exactly the right way to treat myself to a “time out”.
That was the whole point of going sailing, to take a real “time out” and do something fun just for me. I had the whole day so the hour and a half drive down and back was not rushed. We saw eagles and turkey vultures flying over the bluffs around the river. It was a lazy day, but a stimulating one. I love being on the water. It relaxes me in a way that nothing else can.
I haven’t really been sailing. I’ve been on a catamaran on the ocean. I’ve been in canoes. I’ve been in motor boats and pontoon boats. I’ve always wanted to sail. There’s something about the water and the wind that appeals to my sense of imagination. It seems like there’s a freedom in sailing. The potential is there for speed, but also quiet.
We spent all afternoon on the water. When we came back to the marina and got the boat put away for the evening I felt I’d made a new friend in Captain Beth. My first words ashore were, “Can we do it again!?”
I think it’s important for all of us to treat ourselves on occasion. Sometimes that’s a quiet solitary retreat. Sometimes that’s trying something new and challenging. Sometimes that’s making a dream come true. Whatever it is I am starting to be more aware of things that actually feed my soul. I’m starting to prioritize making those things happen for me more frequently.
It’s challenging to do things “just for me.” I’m finding it’s also very worth the effort.
As we approach the autumnal equinox I am finding myself torn. On the one hand I feel this “start-up” energy that comes with the beginning of school and the bounty in the gardens. On the other hand I recognize the shortening of days, the approaching darkness.
After this coming weekend our nights will be longer than our days. This is great for romantics, evening walks in the cool sunset and not too late nights under the stars. This is not so great for mornings, getting up before the sun makes getting up that much harder.
Spiritually, the dark side of the year is an opportunity to explore the “hidden” parts of ourselves. This can be working with darker aspects that we don’t like to acknowledge or just spending more time in quiet meditation. It’s a time to work through old issues and clear out the attics of our souls.
It’s also a time to nurture ourselves. Those tender seeds sprouting from that fall planting need time to gain strength before they break through into the light. There is the nesting that comes with the harvest season. The gardens are put to bed, fruits and vegetables canned. I have an urge to bake, keeping the house warm without turning on the heat.
This is my third blog on the autumnal equinox. I’ve written about Choice and I’ve written about Balance. This year though I am headed into the darkness. I’ve reached an age where it’s important to me to be honest with myself about myself. I have to look at making some changes to my lifestyle, pruning away the things that interfere with my ability to truly prosper and grow.
These are small seeds I plant in my heart this season. The dark is scary and compelling. There will not always be a light to guide my way. I’ve commented on several of your blogs how facing fear, taking the risk and moving forward is the best way to grow confidence. Maybe I’ve been talking to myself all along.
Blessings on your equinox. May the balance shift in your favor.
It’s been so unseasonably wonderfully warm for the last several weeks. I’ve had the furnace off and the windows open. I’ve even took Orion on a walk to the park. But today it’s cold (technically it’s still warm for the season, but the furnace is back on) and rainy and gray.
I have so much to do! I have laundry, the refrigerator needs to be cleaned out, the dishes need to be done. I have to work up a web site, I have to write a workshop, I have to write a blog! All I want to do is curl up in front of a fire with a good book.
Sadly, I did neither. I get myself into these conflicts between the shoulds and the wants and I forget to check in with what I might NEED. I suspect that there are some things I could have done with the day that would have made me feel better. If I had done them, I might have gotten more of the other things done as well.
My allergies are bad, the early blooming is throwing tons of pollen into the air and the damp has the molds sporing. I get thick in the head and I don’t think to do simple things like take an antihistamine or a shot from the inhaler. It’s even difficult to concentrate on ready when it gets bad. Days like this I turn on a
computer game and hours go by without me even noticing.
I did manage to deal with the kitty litter this morning so someone in the house is happy with my accomplishments for the day. Every time I do that it puts my back out. I get achy and really out of alignment. Did I stretch or take a pain med? No. I did a couple of loads of laundry. In the basement. With the mold.
Maybe I should start a daily practice just asking myself “What do you need right now?” Right now it seems that what I need is to publish this blog, foggy as it is, and hope to do a little better next week.