self-care

If I only had five years to live

If I only had five years to live:

I would let the small things go:  That argument with my husband; that misunderstanding that eats at me when I get quiet; that car that almost rear-ended me as they sped through the yield sign.  It doesn’t matter.   The annoying sound that usually puts me in a tailspin when I’m trying to focus.  I will let it go.  It won’t become an ingrained memory that I look back on.  It’s not a part of my legacy.

My mind and energy deserve more than this.  If this is all I got, then I’m making the most of it.  I would cherish and savor all the moments.   I would linger a little longer outdoors no matter the season to slow down and touch the ever-changing ground as it goes through its seasonal cycle.  I wouldn’t hurry and live in my mind of to-dos and being driven by tasks and lists, which leads to a hurried, stressed out, overwhelmed, rushed, fatigued day that beads into weeks and a lifetime.

I will seek out to experience life to the fullest for each day is truly a gift.  I will be grateful for my loves and my life lessons.  My time will not be squandered.  Do I want to travel while I still can?  Do I want to get caught up on what matters most?  Conversations with my friends.  Walks with Jeff.  Coffee dates.  An easy morning to set me up for an easy life.

In the end I know it will feel brief.  I will wish I had more time.  But ultimately I will feel fulfilled and that I had a life worth living.  That I sought out my own happiness and didn’t get caught up in dread, fear, worry, or future tripping.

The future is uncertain.  We do not have a timeline or our lifeline set in stone or guarantees of when and how it will end.  We just have today and our breath and our hearts to beat.  I will be here taking stock, creating memories for my loved ones, feeling that my time and energy is focused on what truly matters to me.  At least with this choice, I will feel whole and complete.

I want to thank my husband for challenging me to think and blog about this topic.   His blog is here:  https://amorereasonablemind.wordpress.com/  If you were told you only had five years to live, how would you choose to spend your days?

self-care

Hedging our bets on an unknown future

Future tripping is not really a gamble but the stakes are our very lives.

The future lives in the unknown and sometimes we get that dopamine hit like the lever of a slot machine.  Will today be my lucky day?  Will I go pro or go home?  So we go outward, discarding the mundane and instead wishing the day away to a future point.

We end up not appreciating how good we have today:  Our lungs to breathe.  Our hearts to beat and pump.  Life force coursing through our veins.  Our loved ones here today to share a meal or a hug.  To think it will be better or I will feel complete or more organized/fit/healthy/alive in the future makes us miss the target.  The point is that today is all we have.

Dreams and goals are important and we shouldn’t dismiss them and not have them.  Just don’t let them crowd our vision of today.  What small steps can I take today?  What future do I envision?  Why does it hold power and energy or attention over right now?  What can I do this very moment to bring that vision closer to my reality?  Ask questions.  Take stock.  Be still and listen to the guidance.

Is wishing away the potty training stage and loads of laundry that goes with it worth not being present to see her smile?  Her full sentences form, her blooming creative play, her, “Momma, play with me?”  This is where I am and the future is uncertain.  Someday it will go by all too fast and be a distant memory.  Today I’m in her life.  We share the same roof and space.

I can wish the clutter and loud chaos away or I can see the bigger picture.   We have the means to acquire all these awesome toys that allow us stretch our imaginations and connect with each other.  I can witness how she’s finally grappling with her own body cues to use the bathroom on her own.  And as in all learning, there are missteps and accidents happen.  And I don’t want to miss it for a moment.

Hedging our bets on an unknown future robs us of what is happening in the here and now.  I will breathe and I will play, if only for today, because that’s where I live.

self-care

We all carry a little trauma

We all walk around with a little trauma in our back pocket.  Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we pull it up and it’s in our face without any warning.  How we experienced the trauma is individual and unique:  what happened, how we dealt with it or didn’t deal with it, our own personal experience of the trauma.  We were innocent one moment and then the event rocked us to the core and that is something we all share.

We’d like to pretend it never happened to us.  Why talk about such negative things that don’t affect us now?  The event shaped us whether we’d like to admit it.  We can choose to acknowledge this trauma that we’ve been carrying around for far too long.  Perhaps we’ve grown tired and exhausted from the heaviness of that burden.  And it has metaphorically created a hole and fell out of our pocket.  However it happens, the opportunity lies before us.

Do we quickly scoop it up and bury it once again?  Do we distract ourselves and hide it, ignore it or stuff it?  Or can we just for a moment accept our common humanity that trauma unfortunately happens.  It’s a part of the journey of life.  But it doesn’t have to control us any longer.  It happened, for sure.  It sucks.  Who wants to rehash unpleasantries?

But once we acknowledge our common human experience, our trauma, something shifts.  Our burden lightens.  We see that we are not alone in our suffering.  It is okay.  We are not justifying what happened, but right now in this moment can we feel safe?  Can we take a breath?  Can we sit with this feeling for just a few moments?

Here’s what I would like you to do right now.  Don’t engage in a dialogue with the trauma.  Just be the listener.  Write if it helps you to sort out your thoughts on paper.  Treat yourself gingerly, with the softness and tenderness as you would a small infant.  You were innocent when it happened through no fault.  Can you see what “trauma” is showing you?  Is there a message?  A nugget of wisdom that you can explore?

When you’ve listened to what has to be said, put your hands on your heart and just breathe for a minute.  Counting breaths helps.  I like to count to 10.  One, inhale; one, exhale.  Two, inhale; two, exhale, etc.  I promise you any fear, anger, or other strong emotion you feel will dissipate if for just a moment you can let it out.  It’s been bottled up for too long.

self-care

The blank page is my refuge

My journals lead me, guide me, remind me, comfort me and show me.  I’ve been keeping a journal since high school.  They often lead me to the answer or solution.  They lead me to insights.  They guide me to the next steps to take or can serve as a gentle nudge.  They can be a light in the dark; a map showing the easy and difficult terrain ahead; an exit to safe passage.  My journals remind me of what I had forgotten.

They are a tool that is portable and accessible.  I find the space to cope, hash out, dissect, examine, vent, relax, pause, slow down and breathe, and integrate:  To be the observer of thought.  My own words can comfort me during times of sickness, heartbreak, anguish, or confusion.  It’s like a warm cup of tea or being wrapped up in a cozy blanket.  I can enjoy and savor the moments.

My journals have showed me how much I’ve changed, my ever evolving inner and outer circumstances and how I dealt with various people, events and places.  They serve as a still frame, a reflecting mirror, a magnifying glass as to who I was on month/day/year and what mattered to me then.  Can I see how I got from there to here?  The most important part of my journals is that it records my timeline and becomes tangible evidence of my life.  My inner thoughts are brought onto the page for time immemorial; like a time capsule if I dare to look back.

The notebook:

In my teens they were one-subject notebooks. “Psychology,” “History,” “Oceanography” in large print on the cover.  Who would want to look inside of that?  Who would care to see my chicken scratch of quickly jotted notes?  To their surprise it would not be.  The subject on the cover was a ruse, a lie to cover up its true contents.  A teenage girl who shared a room in a tiny apartment with five other family members does not have much privacy or space to call her own.

I discovered journaling could be the safety net I so desperately needed to deal with the trauma, the heartbreak, the teenage angst, the big questions, the fears, the boredom of not being able to go anywhere unless it was by foot or public transportation.  Through journaling, I discovered my love of the written word.  I tapped into that creative well and poetry began to appear on the page.  It lit me up to hear my words rhythmically along the page.  Instead of wallowing in despair and hurt or numbing myself with illicit substances, I went within.  I found myself.  I saved myself.

Now in my 40s I still turn to the blank page.   These days I’m not looking for anything in particular to appear but the journals are more like creating an opening.  I’m deliberately making creative space and taking the time to see what’s beneath the surface.  What grain of salt or sparkling spec catches the light of my attention today.   My notebooks lately have been simple composition notebooks that I slip on a pretty cloth cover.

I am the observer, the recorder of thought, and it will always be my refuge.

 

 

 

self-care

Shadow v. The Light

The shadow is my constant companion.  We are connected at the “sole.”  We are together on this journey called life.  My shadow warps and changes shape in response to the light.  She may grow as long as a tree or seem to disappear beneath my feet.  But nonetheless we are tethered whether I like it or not.

We all have a shadow side. So why do we collectively try to snuff out the darker parts of ourselves?  My shadow is forever patient and steady.  I may ignore her and go about my day or pretend she’s not there and distract myself from her message.  She is ready even when I am not.

What is the light?  It’s who I project myself to be.  It’s my high points, my bright genius side.  I can wrap the light around me like a blanket or hold it close like a soothing cup of tea.  I am held in its warm embrace.

But sometimes the light is too much.  Blinding even and I fear I will lose my footing on the path.  My shadow will always guide me back, shield my eyes, and give me that necessary reprieve to regroup.  The shadow is my retreat from the spotlight.

We need both the light and the shadow.  We can’t have a shadow side without a lighter one.  And we need not fear one and idealize the other.  They can both peacefully coexist with equanimity.  And we can collectively accept both sides of the same coin, us.

self-care

Whose plan is it anyway?

Life has a way of not going according to plan.  Whose plan is it anyway?  “Oh, those silly humans still think they can control their lives and circumstances.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean we should just lay back and let life happen to us and around us passively.  We need to take action and be the director of our own life’s work.  Choose what skills, experiences and relationships we want to pursue with our time, energy and money.  And let go of what doesn’t fit or work any longer.  Let go of our silly pride, clinging to unreal outcomes, lost dreams or wearing our failures like a badge of honor.  Stuck and unwilling to see what else is around the corner.  It is a symbiotic relationship with our nature and nature itself.

We suffer less when we’re not surprised when things go awry because that is what it means to be alive.  It can be pleasant, heartbreaking, triumphant or a huge loss.

What do we do next?  Pick up the fragments left behind, be our own excavator to learn from the experience, and continue down this journey that belongs to no one but ourselves.

self-care

I am a contradiction

Sharing my story heals myself and others, and at the same time I am not my story.  Yes, my story is my past and has shaped who I am.  I am grateful for my past.  It has brought me to here.  Now.  This moment.  Yet my story doesn’t define or shape this very moment that may someday become “my story.”

How can that be?  I’ve learned from my story.  I’m able to fit life’s experiences into a nicely labeled box or manila folder to be tucked away into my memory.  Those lessons have been integrated and shape my view of myself and the world.

I am more than my story: than my past, than my teenage angst, than my mistakes, worries, future trips, to-do list, career, roles, and lifestyle choices.  Each part is not a stand-alone entity because for this moment it’s on the front burner of my psyche.

However, as with all contradictions, each integral part is a part of me, responsible for who I am, who I was, who I will be.

self-care

Save it for later

Maybe it’s the ease of access and unlimited offers for free X.  “See my PDF” and I get a hit of dopamine.  And like a hoarder, I add it to my digital collection to read later.  When is later exactly?  Links expire.  Websites go away and fade into the ether.  The information was there.  I just didn’t bother.  I was too busy or I didn’t have the energy at the moment.  The timing wasn’t right.  The interest was there and it was promptly filed under “later.”

There are eons of digital folders, filled to the brim on my desktop and email.  Yes, I may be downsizing my physical clutter.  But there sure is a lot of digital clutter.  I have three or four full thumb drives just hanging on a tack on the corkboard.  My Google Drive free space is completely filled and I’m considering paying money for the extra storage space.  I do have a Seagate external drive that is only a quarter full, but I don’t trust its longevity. And this morning my iPhone noted that I was out of space to shoot a video or download an app.

Tasks put off to “later

Do I have the time to actually access and assess those files?  Are they named accurately so I can find them when inspiration finally hits?  I have Ebooks, countless PDFs, meditation and audio files, and even some MP4 videos “just in case” the internet goes down or the website goes away.

I’ve learned enough not to count on the website being in fortitude.  Sites cost money to keep and maintain.  Who wants a blogpost from 2010 with working links?  Who cares?  Is it relevant anymore or to anyone?  So I get it.

2010 was an integral time for me.  I was in my early 30s.  I was figuring stuff out and what worked for me.  And somehow what I put off for “later” is now being revisited almost a decade later now.  I remember digital programs that I took and printed in full color, and memories of  audios I never listened to.

Where did they all go?  Does it matter?  The lessons are still swimming around and taking up my headspace.  So I guess if it matters to me, it counts.  And I’m sure as hell that others are wandering around the digital realm too wondering where did it go?

Perhaps it’s the lack of the physical, tangible that drives my need to digitally hoard.  A backup is my safety net.  It’s there when I’m ready like a book patiently waiting on the shelf until its title just seems to leap across the room and enter my vision.  It becomes real, possible, important and interesting, worth my time and energy to look into.

I guess that’s what all information really is.  Energetically waiting to be discovered, observed, tried on, experimented, digested, alchemized and transformed with our own meaning behind it.  Finally making it ours to integrate, to share, to evolve, to be.

 

self-care

Fixed v. Growth Mindset

It depends on how much I “buckle down” and get done.  If I just work a little harder, strive a little more, I will be X:  Happier, successful, loved, fulfilled, accomplished, complete, evolved to be my best, smartest, healthiest, perfect-as-I-am self.  But that’s a cop-out.  I will never fully “arrive” as my life is here for the long haul.  My health, my interests, my friends, work, creative focus and otherwise will wax and wane, as it should in this place called life.

What happens when we get to the end of the road and arrive?  Is that the end of my story?  Do I stop learning, evolving and growing?  Do I want to?

There is no ultimate destination because that would mean the end of the line, the old couple on the porch sipping lemonade as the days quickly pass, waiting for what?  Remembering the past and stuck in story?  Waiting for a peaceful end to a fulfilled life?

I’m not there yet.  I have a lot more to learn, to glean, to create, to love, to be, to serve, to clear way, to relax, to enjoy, to delight, to revel and linger.  It’s too much, too juicy, too soon to stop.

So that fixed narrative sets you up for failure because there is no “done.”

Just be. Just here with life’s lessons, trials and tribulations, joys, mistakes, regrets, loves, memories both cherished and wished to be forgotten, hopes, dreams, pleasures, etc.  My growth mindset says to keep being curious on what lights me up lately.  Keep writing, keep asking the questions, digging and laying the inner groundwork to see what’s in store next.

self-care

This is where Doubt lives

Doubt is where the real inner work resides.  We can take a breather, examine what’s worked, what lies underneath the surface, and uncover old fears and wounds.  This is where Doubt lives.  It makes us feel small and inconsequential.  It belittles our triumphs as not a big deal or just a coincidence, chance or dumb luck.  Not true.

What do we do when Doubt creeps in?  Do we run and hide and choose  not face what’s blocking our path?

Playing safe = playing small.

It’s our duty to share our gifts with the world:  Our talents, our skillset, our voice, our words, our stories are desperately needed.

How can we overcome Doubt?

We can journal the uncomfortable feelings.  Process our thoughts into words on the page.  Or stop and simply get outside and take a walk in nature or do some other movement.

How do we get still and ready to confront Doubt?

My favorite is to sit still and do a visualization with Doubt.  Ask Doubt what is she trying to protect us from?  Imagine Doubt is an unexpected guest that needs tending and attention.  Make a cup of tea.  Help Doubt take off her wet raincoat and dry by the fire.  Hand Doubt the warm mug.  Start gently, where you are.  Try not to get caught up in a shouting and pushing match.  Accept Doubt.  Listen calmly and openly to all the concerns and potential threats.  See them as outside yourself.  They are not your truth or your story or what will happen.  There are no guarantees.

Assure Doubt that you are okay.  You are strong.  You are capable.  You are ready to take the next bold step.  That with uncertainty can come greatness, joy, and a life beyond imagination.  Sit in silence together, sipping the warm tea that never seems to cool until the last drop is gone.  Thank Doubt for her words and say goodbye.

What’s the payoff for playing small?  It provides a safety net in a world that seems wrought with violence and fear.  Doubt is natural and almost like reflexive, protective posturing.  However, please remember that your dream, your talents, skills, story, words, and energy are not threatening.

When I sit with Doubt I uncover some more:  FEAR.  Fear of being vulnerable, being open to criticism or possible judgment.  Or possibly overcoming Doubt will spark a movement, create momentum for inner growth and shared experience, and provide an accepting environment and community where we can all thrive and not only merely survive.