Discombobulation and gratitude

Such an odd combo, I know.

I’ve been so discombobulated all week. Seriously askew in my life and routine. Tired. Fried. Yet anxious about taking another week off.

And so I know that to recombobulate, focusing on my gratitude and joys of the week will help.

So here goes.. a few things I am grateful for, and that brought me joy.

1. Three herons walked across the street to work yesterday. No, seriously. I had to stop and take a photo. It was unreal. I’m sure they were just off on an adventure, but it made me smile.

2. My office was warm for the first time in a long, long time.

3. We got upgraded for our flight tomorrow.

4. I ran the longest I have in a long time on Wednesday, and it felt so good. I was finally in the zone.

5. I get to see my niece and nephew tomorrow. It’s always too long, and then they grow and change and I desperately want them to still love Dora, but I also love the adults they are becoming.

6. Good feedback on my grant draft so far. Yay.

7. New babies.

8. A clean bathroom.

9. Sunshine and lovely midsummer weather.

10. Meetings with students. They are seriously awesome.

11. New hiking shoes that I kind of love. They’re springy. It’s so fun to walk in them!

12. Getting pulled into a new book.

The best sign in the Milwaukee Airport. ☺

Image result for recombobulation area

Unexpectedly creative

A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.
~ Virginia Woolf 

I tend to think of myself as someone who does not change. And yet, looking back, I have certainly changed over time. 

It’s a constant reminder that who I am now, where I am now, is only temporary as well. I will not be the same person in the future as I am now. I actually enjoy trying to project myself into my as-yet-unknown future, although admittedly my conclusions are … usually not correct. 

I would not have predicted that I would do and enjoy something new and creative this past weekend. That is not who I have been, nor is it who I aspire to be. I have never claimed to be creative – or artistic, a term that often overlaps (at least in my mind) with creativity. I have made it a self-deprecating joke to say that I don’t have a creative bone in my body, and I leave the creating to the true artists. 

And yet, I did something creative this weekend. 
And I enjoyed it. 

I actually painted for the first time since… well, since art class, maybe, in middle school? I think? Let’s just say that art classes were not on my schedule from there on out. See above – not creative! 

But a coworker emailed about a paint-your-pet-and-sip event at a local winery, and three of us joined her to, well, paint our pets. And sip wine. For three hours on a Sunday afternoon. 

Let’s pause here, because this is not something I would typically be doing on a Sunday afternoon. I usually work through the weekend unless I am on vacation or taking a rare break. And painting would not have been my first choice for an alternative! 

But I went. I enjoyed it. And, dare I say, I was pretty proud of my creation. I’m not going to share it here – come on, really? did you honestly expect that? But it’s not hideous. 

It was an immersive activity, one that did not require that I have my face in front of a screen for hours on end. I really couldn’t think much beyond what color to mix, how to make it look a bit more realistic, and whether I was being true to the image I was working from. That concentration on something other – that immersion in something new and different – let my mind truly relax. I slept like a baby Sunday night (although the wine may have had something to do with that, too). 

It was a reminder to me that stepping outside my comfort zone isn’t always a bad thing. And it doesn’t always have to be permanent, or a really fraught decision. Sometimes, you can just do something fun. Just because. 

So I guess I’ll go on changing in ways expected and not. It’s such an adventure to see what lies ahead… as yet unknowns unfolding in ways I can’t anticipate. 

Seeing what we want to see…

I took this slightly blurry photo yesterday morning.

It’s not the best photo in the world. If you look closely, you can see lights and fencing for the athletic field by the tree in the foreground.

But I choose to focus on the beautiful sky. It was breathtaking.

This. This is why I wake early. (Credit to Mary Oliver for that phrase, which I love…)

I could focus on the lights and the fencing, but the sky is so much more.

Why not focus on that, instead?

Sometimes, though, seeing what we want to see, or seeing what we think is there (even if it is not) is not a good thing. I was reminded of that later in the morning, when I reread an email from my mom. I had read it the night before, and (to keep this short) thought she was giving me permission to do something when I had not asked for that.

Instead, she was actually supporting what I chose to do, and there was no element of “permission” in the email.

I thought it was there because that’s what I thought she’d do, based on what she’s done in the past.

I saw what I wanted (or expected) to see, instead of what was there.

A good lesson for me. Again.

Light your soul on fire

Yet another cliche…yet again, this one is so relevant and true for me now.

Yesterday, while back at work, I was reminded of why I do what I do.

I had meetings most of the day. Two of them were with students. One was actually canceled (so, okay, ‘most of the day’ is probably an overstatement, but it was on my calendar when I started the day!). And the other was with two colleagues with whom I have gotten much closer, with whom I collaborate, and who are mentors to me as I navigate the sometimes-treacherous trails of the tenure track.

It was a wonderful day, even though I started it feeling a bit overwhelmed by being back from vacation. It reminded me of why I made the choice to come back to this type of job, after taking 2+  years away. It reminded me of why I have made all of the career shifts that I have. Believe me when I say that the “long and winding road” of my life and career trajectory should really be “long and winding road with lots of pit stops, detours, road construction, and blind curves”.

Meeting with students lights my soul on fire. I never realized this until I lost it. Until I wasn’t engaged with people who, for the most part, are eager and willing to learn, who have their own passions, and who are just starting to pursue those. It helps keep me from being jaded. It reminds me of why what we do is important, even if recognition and compensation are not necessarily, um, excessive, shall we say. I do what I do because I am passionate about making a difference for families and patients.

So yes, I’m lighting my soul on fire with my work. I’m feeding my soul in ways that speak to me, not everyone else in my life. I’m nearly in my mid-40s and… I feel like things are starting to come together. Better late than never… 

Feeding my soul

It’s a cliche, but sometimes you don’t know what you need until you’re in the middle of it and realize…it was just what you needed.
That’s what happened to me last week. I took the week off. I actually did not work. For the first time in, well, over a year. And it was desperately needed – I was so far in the muck and the mire of daily life and the grind that I didn’t realize how much I needed it. 
I spent time with 2 of the people I love most in the world – my parents. (I know I am beyond lucky in that I actually like my parents, despite our, well, radically different beliefs, political leanings, etc.) I sat on the beach. I read 5+ books. I stared at the ocean. I dozed off under the umbrella. I walked on the beach, and ran on the beach, and watched the sunrise from somewhere other than my office chair. I was overwhelmed at times, yes, because a group of 15 other people is overwhelming to someone who lives alone 99% of the time. 
They were the most welcoming, loving group. They let me participate and engage as much as I wanted. They never pressured me to join in, they never questioned my choices or told me what to do. They welcomed my (minimal) help in the kitchen (I mostly loaded the dishwashers… my great contribution to our week…)
It was something I needed so desperately. And something that I need to build into my life with some regularity. 
It’s also become clear to me that what feeds my soul is not what feeds my spouse’s soul. And that’s okay. He goes to outdoor concerts (seriously, kill. me. now.), he spends time drinking and hanging out with his friends. He doesn’t really read. He does walk and bike, but I like to hike and spend time in nature if I’m not working out at the gym. 
So now I know. And I have realized that building in this downtime may be essential to me actually doing something with my life and my career. 
I know. 
It’s kind of a big “duh” moment for me. Lots of people have told me this over the years – that time away is essential for a fresh perspective and actually moving my work forward. But I chose not to listen. I chose not to do what they suggested. 
Sometimes you need to be smacked between the eyes with something for the, oh, 100th time for it to sink in. Particularly if you are a bit, well, stubborn, like I am. (OK, maybe more than a bit.) 
So now I know. Scheduling time for myself – with or without others – at regular intervals throughout the year. Whether it’s local (I really want to go glamping!) or a road trip (Colorado is on my list) or just a long weekend at home (harder for me to disconnect, though).