Kinship and connection

Image result for tree of life
“Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” 
Nadeem Aslam
I’m astonished by how much I want to connect with others recently. I wrote about this in my personal journal here, and wanted to share this quote, as I think it really sums up what I’ve been moving towards all year. 
This was a quote that Holstee (a wonderful, wonderful subscription that I love so much) had on Instagram the other day, and it immediately made me think of the Tree of Life. And my current interest in humanism. And the realization, over time, that we are all connected. What one does, says, creates…is never in isolation. Your actions, your words, everything you do and are emanates out and affects others in some (usually small) way. 
I’ve been wearing a lovely little Tree of Life necklace I was fortunate enough to find when I was in Maine last summer. I use my necklaces as little statements of where my mind is at that time. I’ve been wearing one that is the Norwegian rune for “joy” for years, when I want to remember to do things that spark joy in my life. I have an infinity sign, when I need to be reminded that I am one small blip who barely even registers in the great  history of humanity. And recently, it’s been this Tree of Life. 
I don’t know why I suddenly want to connect so much. But I’m going to go with it. I have been a hermit for so long that it’s a bit of a change. OK, a bit of a BIG change. But I like it. I don’t have to connect with everyone … but maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start building my tribe. 

Finding beauty in the everyday… and being grateful

On my way in to work this morning, I was struck by two things…
1. It was a beautiful morning. It’s snowing. We have about 5-6 inches on the ground. But it’s not cold. It’s not super-windy (yet… I think that comes later…). And you know what? It’s February. In Wisconsin. it’s supposed to snow. And it was beautiful and quiet and peaceful.

2. I am so, so grateful for the random people who do their jobs so that I can get to mine. No, I probably didn’t HAVE to be in the office today. I could have rescheduled my meeting. I didn’t have to be here to get work done. But I wanted to meet with my student. I wanted to see her face when we talk about her next steps and how I hope I can help her achieve them. I wanted to see my coworkers (this, for me, is a big big step!). And I’m so grateful… to the bus driver. The guy who always, always, has the longest stretch of sidewalk that I have to walk on to get to the bus stop cleared. The people who clear the paths here at the University. The people who cleaned the building last night (and, thank you, emptied my recycling bin, which was embarrassingly full…). They do their jobs, and then I can come do mine, and work with my student. I don’t know the name of the bus driver – although it’s a goal, since I see him every day! I don’t know the name of the random snowblower dude. I don’t know who they are – but I am so grateful to them.

So that’s how I’m starting my day. And you know what? there is something beautiful in every day. I need to seek that out – to shift my mindset from “I have to” to “I get to”. I know about 10 years behind the trends here on gratitude and thankfulness, but.. it makes such a difference to come in to work with a smile and a mental “thanks” to all who helped me get here.

Now time to get that work started…

Simplifying…But not Kondo-ing

My mind was always very cluttered, so I took great pains to simplify my environment, because if my environment were half as cluttered as my mind, I wouldn’t be able to make it from room to room. 

Leonard Cohen

It’s February, so the “fix your life” posts and articles and goals and resolutions have really slowed down, but it’s still something that’s been in my ever-spinning mind. It occurred to me yesterday that we have really complicated the whole idea of simplicity.

We don’t ask whether something is useful, if we love it, or if it works for us…we have to ask if it “sparks joy”.

We can’t rely on simple to-do lists and calendars, but instead must develop complicated integrated systems of online calendars, large (and expensive) planners, and then apply them in all areas of our lives.

I’ve been seeking, as it is my word for the year. And this weekend, I realized that there are a few things I’m truly seeking:

  • Adventure
  • Becoming more vulnerable
  • Simplicity 

And simplicity was really front-of-mind this weekend. We all get caught up in the consumer-driven culture, but I am truly trying to buy less. And if I do buy something, then something leaves.

I’m trying to read my bookshelves.

I’m simplifying the recipes I have saved – and the ones I use.

I am trying to simplify my work life, but I think that’s a losing battle. There are constantly competing threads of research, scholarship, service, and they all need attention and care. And I have goals, too, that I need to achieve in each.

So I am focusing on simplifying my personal life. In many ways, I already have. But I’m starting to realize that many of the things I have done in the last year – donating clothing, realizing what I feel comfortable wearing (and it’s not, despite my mother’s insistence, what SHE thinks is best for me to wear!), and so on, have been a way of simplifying my life. My meals are boring many times, but they are simple, don’t take a lot of time to prepare, and are made up of nourishing foods I like.

So yes, life really is simple. It can always be more so… but I’m getting there. I’m trying not to over-complicate my approach to simplifying, though. I don’t need that. 🙂

This applies to my relationships, and my overthinking in general, as well, but today I just wanted to write about life simplifying in general…maybe something deeper tomorrow.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

On Kindness

What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? 
Jean Jacques Rousseau

I had a meeting yesterday where talk eventually turned to the story of the woman on a plane recently, who was seated between two (in her judgement) large people. And she was not happy. She ranted, raved, called them names, and was just downright nasty. To the point where she was eventually removed from the plane and put on another flight.

The two people with whom I was meeting are larger people than me, and this really touched a nerve with them. I had no idea the judgment that people face because of their size. I sometimes do, because I’m smaller than many people. But they apparently have been criticized, shamed, and ridiculed because of their size.

And that’s not right.

What brings people to the point where they feel compelled to be mean to others?
It takes just as much energy – heck, probably less energy – to be kind. I have no idea what you are going through. I have no idea what your life is like. Why on earth should it matter to me what size you are, or what you’re eating, or what you’re doing? As long as it doesn’t affect me or my loved ones (for example, I draw the line at driving while impaired…) it’s your life. Live it!

So why can’t we live and let live? If I want to live my life without judgment, then it seems reasonable to think that I should not judge others. We’re all humans. We’re all presumably trying hard. why not assume the best, rather than the worst?

I felt terrible for these 2 colleagues. To face that vitriol – apparently, multiple times for each of them? – must be so demeaning. I can only hope that the lessons from Mr. Rogers are learned by all…

There are three ways to ultimate success. 
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind. 
The third way is to be kind.
– Mr. Rogers

New boots…and being myself?

Related image
Sometimes, it’s something simple that reminds me I need to just. be. me. 
This week, it was boots. Yes, boots. 
I’ve been searching for “casual” gray boots for what feels like a year. Maybe it has been. Anyway – I finally ordered a pair, thought they were it! And, no. Uncomfortable. They didn’t look right on me. And the color was off. Sigh. The joys of online shopping… 
And then I realized that…I’m not a casual boots person. 
I’m a jeans and hiking boots kind of person. 
I am not fancy. I don’t wear a lot of makeup (ha… I actually wear hardly any…). My morning “routine” from getting in the shower to leaving for the bus literally takes a half hour. (Granted, I lay out my clothes the night before, but still.) I forget to comb my hair when I get to work nearly every single day. And much to my mother’s chagrin, I never, ever wear lipstick. Ever. Maybe – MAYBE – tinted lip balm. 
Where am I going with this? well, I finally realized that as much as they may be cute on others… casual gray boots are NOT me. Hiking boots, that’s where my comfort zone is. 
So I got a new pair of hiking boots. I wore them today for the first time – thank you, Wisconsin, for having freezing rain last night! And oh, they made me so happy. They looked right on my feet. With my jeans (have I mentioned how much I LOVE working in academia??). 
And I realized that … hiking boots helped me remember to just. be. me. 
I may not be normal. I may not be like everyone else. But you know what? I’ve done just fine being me to this point. What I bring to the world as me will be a lot more valuable than if I try to put on a facade. 
Sometimes it’s something simple. Today it was a pair of boots.