Monday morning musings

Taking a break from the heavy and challenging to think about a few things making me happy this week (despite a rather daunting schedule the next 2 days…)

  1. Family. This is kind of a COVID thing, to be honest. Before all of this started, I would have said that I was very close to my family, that they are some of the most important people in my life, etc. But now, after going through not only the pandemic but the other things my family has dealt with in the last 2 years (and it’s kind of a lot when you list it out), I realize just how important they are to me. I know that some people do not have this kind of relationship with their family of origin, but I have to say that I am glad I do.
  2. On a related note, and also a COVID thing, the weekly Family Zoom. And yes we capitalize it. As much as I knew I loved my family and enjoyed connecting with them, I was never very good about keeping in touch other than the usual weekly phone call to my parents. I talked to my brother occasionally but no often. I would still say we were close, but not nearly as close as we were earlier in our lives. The Family Zoom – weekly, for the most part (we have only missed a few weeks since March 2020) has been such an unexpected blessing. I get to SEE my family, to make sure that they not only sound okay, but that they look okay, too. My brother and I always join, sometimes joined by others in the family depending on availability. It’s just so much fun to catch up (my mother does most of the talking) and to know more of what’s going on in each other’s lives.
  3. Fall weather. Finally. We had our third summer, I swear, in the last few weeks. Bring on the cooler temps. And while you’re at it, could you bring on the sunshine, please? We’ve had clouds for the last week+ and it’s getting old.
  4. Realizing that yes, my schedule is daunting today and tomorrow. But for the most part? These are meetings I set up that I want to have (not meetings that were, well, foisted on me). There’s a difference, there really is.
  5. It seems odd to end on 4 so number 5? Vegan “cold cuts”. I know, I know, they’ve been around forever. But they have recently been just what I want for dinner at the end of the day. With vegan cheese. In a warm tortilla. I know, it’s like the simplest dinner ever but for some reason it’s working for me. While I am not vegan, I am edging in that direction. The one thing holding me back is the lack of a great substitute for cottage cheese. I know that people have Strong Feelings about cottage cheese, but I love it. And while there are “easy” recipes out there, they’re not THAT easy. Holding out hope that someone will be able to replicate it soon…

Off to start the day with something else that makes me happy… coffee. Why on earth did I ever give it up? What was I thinking? 🙂

“One of the best secrets of a happy life is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance…
People are always looking for happiness at some future time and in some new thing, or some new set of circumstances, in possession of which they some day expect to find themselves. But the fact is, if happiness is not found now, where we are, and as we are, there is little chance of it ever being found. There is a great deal more happiness around us day by day than we have the sense or power to seek and find.
If we are to cultivate the art of living, we should cultivate the art of extracting sweetness and comfort out of everything, as the bee goes from flower to flower in search of honey.”

Thomas Mitchell

About that breathing thing…

First, thank you all for your wonderful, supportive, and helpful comments on my last post. I feel terrible – writing that post, then disappearing for, well, weeks.

I came here about a week after writing that post, ready to share how I was trying to give myself some grace, and space, to breathe.

And then, just as I was about to do that, my life took a sudden and unexpected turn. I don’t want to share details – at least not yet – but I’ll just say that the path that I was on at this time two weeks ago is not the path I am on right now. It flattened me. For the last two weeks, it’s been more about surviving, which yes, includes breathing. But it hasn’t included much time for true reflection, and thinking. It’s been hard to work, too – sleep deprivation and emotional turmoil do not make me productive. I doubt they do much for anyone’s productivity. And that’s hard for me – someone who has always escaped into work. I’m starting to find my rhythm again, which is a relief, but there are still hard moments in every day.

As always, in times like this, I seek wisdom from others… and David Whyte (one of my favorite poets) came through again this week.

Just Beyond Yourself

David Whyte

Just beyond
It’s where
you need
to be.
Half a step
and the rest
by what
you’ll meet.
There is a road
always beckoning.
When you see
the two sides
of it
closing together
at that far horizon
and deep in
the foundations
of your own
at exactly
the same
that’s how
you know
it’s the road
to follow.
That’s how
you know
it’s where
to go.
That’s how
you know
you have
to go.
how you know.
Just beyond
where you
need to be.

I find myself on that new road, without really knowing where it will lead. I only know that it will lead somewhere, and that I will come out the other side stronger, and (I hope) a clearer vision of my potential future.

When the Universe hits you over the head…

It’s probably time to pay attention.

It’s no secret that this time of year is exceptionally busy and stressful for me. The return to classes, the realization that another summer has passed, and that I have not accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to by September, grant deadlines, etc. etc. etc. I could go on – but you all have your own challenges and stressful periods in life and, well, this is just mine. This is how it is – and how it will be – if I want to continue to have this life that I really do love.

And yet, how I approach this time of year is one thing that I can change, and that I want to change. Almost every year I vow to do better, to take time for myself, to remember to find the spaces of peace in the chaos of daily life.

And every year, I abandon that, often without even really trying. Despite my best intentions, I just return to the cycle of overwork, of impending burnout, and of crushing fatigue.

This year, though, I think the Universe is getting fed up with me.

Case in point: I have seen more references to breath in things I’ve been reading than I would have thought possible. Poems, blog posts, newsletters, tea bags.

Yes, tea bags. Evidence from last night’s:

Mmm, hmm.

Then there was the newsletter I read on Sunday, which had the sentence, “I hope you’re breathing.”

The clincher, though, was 5AM Joel’s email yesterday, which included a beautiful poem by john roedel. I won’t paste the whole thing here (the link below links to the whole poem) but it included this part that jumped right out at me…

there is no yesterday in your lungs
there is no tomorrow there either

there is only now
there is only inhale
there is only exhale
there is only this moment

there is only breath

and in that breath
you can rest while your
heart and head work
their relationship out.

john roedel

So, yeah. Message received, Universe, thanks. I’m going to try this breathing thing and see if it helps smooth out the transition back into the chaos of the academic year. I’ll let you know how it’s going – I know the best laid plans and all that. But, well, when how you’ve always done it doesn’t really work, maybe it’s time to consider a new approach.

The world is so heavy right now. Perhaps breathing is the best place to start… I hope you take the time to breathe, too, to try to shed some of the burdens we’re all carrying. I’ll be breathing right along with you.

Unexpected and surprising

Despite my love of habit and routines, a few unexpected and surprising things have happened recently… reminding me that surprising changes aren’t always bad. There were two surprising things in my life the last month or so…

The first is that I’m canceling my gym membership. This may not be “big” to some people, but again, some context. I have had a gym membership pretty much constantly since 2001. That’s 20 years. Before that, I was a travel nurse so didn’t stay in one place long enough to justify a membership. But as soon as I settled in the DC area in 2001? Gym membership. And I’ve never looked back. Until now.

So what happened? I think it was the intersection of several different factors: (1) the pandemic. I was just so over people not paying attention to the mask-wearing and / or distancing rules. I was tired of the lack of consideration of others, and the stress of wondering if the “maskless moron” (yes, I took to calling them that) was going to be there. (2) I was tired of driving even a short distance to do something that I can do right where I live. And it was even less appealing when it was -20 and snowing. Why was I risking my life? (Well, that applies to the pandemic situation and the drive in less than ideal conditions…). And (3) I can’t run right now, and I don’t know if I ever will. I might (MIGHT) be able to walk/run but I have had such difficulties from an illness/injury almost 2 years ago that it probably won’t happen. I’ve been a regular runner since 2001, too. And surprisingly, I’m… mostly okay with this. Running had gotten so hard. It wasn’t fun anymore. It hurt. And I was running the risk of injury. All good reasons to switch to my now well-loved stationary bike, plus the elliptical in the apartment building when I want to do that.

The second surprise? Bonding with my dad over music. Again, some context. My dad has never claimed to be musical, mostly being told to “mouth the words” in kindergarten music class. Yes, seriously. I can’t even believe a teacher would say that, but apparently it happened, and it has made him believe for his entire life that he is “not musical”, and can’t sing. (He’s completely wrong, of course, but you try undoing 75+ years of believing something that strongly…) A few weeks ago, he started sending me links to YouTube music in his daily emails to me, connected either to the day of the week (e.g., Monday, Monday). He’s since branched out to music that he just finds and likes.

Well, imagine my surprise when one of the songs he linked “for something different” was one of my favorite groups that I’ve been listening to on repeat recently! I was floored. How did my dad and I both hit on Tide Lines (modern Scottish folk, if you were wondering) completely separately? And this led to the rather surprising realization that, despite what I have believed nearly my entire life, I am more like my dad than my mom, at least in terms of personality, life philosophy, etc. That’s a subject for another post, but for now, let me just say that I am loving this surprise and now, the fun of finding more music for my dad to explore.

They say people don’t change. I beg to differ. 🙂

Be Open to Change -

A week of Mondays

That’s what the last week has felt like.

A week of changes, frustrations, annoyances, lots of peopling, and just an overwhelming sense of, well, too much.

I knew that reentry into real life was going to be hard. I knew that there were a lot of changes coming. I think I just had my head in the sand, thinking that things would just continue as they were, that I could just keep moving forward the way I have the last 18+ months.

Whoops. Talk about a miscalculation. Now that the changes – both those I have initiated, and those that have been, well, thrust upon me – are sweeping in, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and a lot underprepared. And like I said, it’s my own fault, for not wanting to see that this was going to happen – that it was inevitable – and that the best thing I could do would be to prepare. I don’t think I did. At least not to the extent that I should have.

It’s not that I am not embracing some of the changes – believe me, it was good to spend even a few hours in the office yesterday, even if most of that was spent wrestling with the printer (argh, why?). I got to see 2 of my favorite people – a bit of serendipity. (Sidenote: I was going to write “unexpected serendipity” but, well, isn’t ALL serendipity unexpected? After all, that’s kind of the point…)

And it reminded me that even if I didn’t prepare myself well, even if the changes kind of snuck up on me, well, the only thing I can do now is respond to them as best I can. Maybe I am not ready to fully embrace them – give me some time, here! – but I can at least recognize them for what they are, realize that I am unable to change many of them, and just, well, remain calm.

One thing I have been doing the last, oh, month or so was inspired by Kae, over at Grateful Kae. As you may have gleaned from the name, she brings in something to be grateful for, each and every day. I’ve been doing the same. Sometimes, my gratitude is for something really simple (usually food, if I’m being honest!). Other times, though, it surprises me how much I am grateful for, despite what seemed like a really off day. It is a good reminder that there is some good in every day, and that it’s probably a bit better to focus on that, not the endless cycle of frustration.

That I’m even here at all…is astonishing. Because it could just as easily have not been the case.
I am humbled by that. I am humbled by the the absolute improbability that any of this is happening…

~Josh Radnor