awareness

Action Words

Pooped
Tired
Exhausted 
Fatigued

The action words above describe me after today. After the crazy week. After all the emotional highs and lows I experienced. Too many highs and lows to note. More importantly, my week resembled a roller coaster of life. A real shit show.

Refreshed
Recharged
Rejuvenated 
Rested

The above action words describe me now after some time alone. After some time to gather my thoughts. After an unplanned trip to the coffee shop for a sweet treat. After a day outside In the fresh air. After a trip to chase the mountain air.

I had plenty of things on my to do list. I had a few events I could have gone to. I had some folks I could have visited with. There were many things I could have done but instead I chose me. Just me. Just time away from the noise. The chaos. The crazy. The stupid. All of it.

A plane ride to an island might have been a nice oasis but with the pandemic still lurking my options were a little closer to my normal than a vacation destination. The destination didn’t so much matter as much as the journey. The break in the cycle of chaos.

Many times I talk about a reset button. We all have them. We all need to use them at times. If you don’t reset the crack will deepen. The crack will then turn in sink holes that you can’t find your way out of. A trap of sorts.

Many may never see you need a reset but I’m sure you know. The question is can you just drop the to do it list and fix you? I do. I do it sometimes more than I want to or more than I want to admit. The point is I’m not afraid to say I need a mental health day. A day off the grid. A day doing the unexpected or unplanned. There is only one of me and in order to fire on all cylinders when it’s needed others around me need to know not to let the crack deepen. They need to see a stress fracture and say I can cover for you. Take a break.

How many just want somebody to notice they need a break? Many. Some people don’t ask if you are okay because they are scared of what you will say. Some won’t ask a hard question because of fear. I take the fear away from others. I say what I feel and do what I need to because nobody can fix me but me. 

This rant was about mental health A-Z. I may use myself as an example above but it’s relatable to many. Our teachers need a break from the chaos they see daily. The students need a break from what’s all been thrown their way, too. Let’s not forget about the parents that are juggling work, carpool changes due to Covid changes last minute, who has shots and who doesn’t, mask or no mask….they need a break. A break without punishment. A day off.

How many actually take a day off. How many people say no you can’t have that day off. Plenty! Plenty is one too many. My mom always said never judge a person until you walk a day in their shoes. Many have shoes I wouldn’t want to fill in this day and age and heck many wouldn’t want to be in my shoes most days. For whatever reason we need to have the ability to recharge. Reset. And just play hooky.

10 years ago I’d never tell my kid they could take a day off just because. However today I leave the possibility open. PTO of sorts. Physical time off. Time away. Taking care of self before others. Getting into nature. Moving the body. Stimulating what you want vs. what you have to. That homework can wait. In today’s world it’s okay.

When I revisit this post in a few years I may have a different mindset but today this is my journal post of sorts.

I will leave this post with words of discomfort. Words that require action in one way or another. What’s relevant today but most likely to be avoided.

Covid

Pandemic

Mask required

Vaccinated

Quarantine

Symptoms 

Restrictions 

Zoom

Digital day

Hoping 2022 has something spectacular lurking. 2021 is just as much of blur as 2020. 

balance

Life being Lifey

Life is being extra lifey these days. War, weather, mental stresses, financial hardships, on and on and on. It’s everywhere. My work life, my personal life, family friends colleagues acquaintances are all full of it. People are messy in their best times. Now, their messiness is more like a shambles that spills out and spreads all over.

Assume people will get sick, have issues and set backs and not be able to execute. Assume extra tasks, jobs, and responsibilities are coming as a result of the balls that others will drop. It’s just how things are right now. How can I thrive, survive, persist, stay sane in light of these times?

Here’s how I am hanging on for this bumpy ride:

Eat well. There are certain things I don’t farm out to anyone. Nutrition is number one. I own every step of that process from planning it to shopping for it to cooking it to packing it up. I don’t like being off plan and I don’t always make great decisions when it’s left to the last minute, whatever I can get my hands on. I know that eating well makes me feel better and do better. End of story.

Exercise first thing in the morning. The only possible exception is Sundays. Exercise helps me manage stress and gives me a sense of accomplishment and strength right off the bat. Extra boost if I see my friends and get the social sweat aspect of life first thing as well, but this isn’t always possible. Movement always is!

Stay ahead on things, knowing curveballs are coming. Busy season is about to kick up. When I have an idle moment, I try to think about what task I can push one step (or more steps) forward. Throw the laundry in. Clean something. Stock the pantry with two instead of one. Hopefully, when deadlines come or something is needed, I am ready instead of behind the eight ball trying to juggle and patch things together. Being ahead on what I can eases my stress.

Sundays. Sundays are my reset and ready-for-the-week day. I try to protect this if at all possible. It is often the only day I start with an extended coffee time at home. I write. I pull out clothes for the week. I make lists. I try really hard not to drive anywhere further away than 10-15 minutes unless it is a soul-serving adventure. Looking ahead on the calendar, keeping Sundays “sacred” will get harder and harder as fall’s busy-ness kicks in. Even as I write this, my Saturday and Sunday has flipped for this weekend. But I still try to keep one day with fewer commitments. Go-go-go all the time wears me out.

Notice nature. Get out and immerse myself in nature as often as possible, even for a few minutes a day. Flower farming has been amazing for this. I have a couple of hours a week in our field, just cutting flowers, watching bees and butterflies, soaking up the fresh air. I keep our flowers with me at work and home so I see them many times a day. They always make me take a small mental pause and smile.

What could I add? I need to write more often. I need to stretch. I need to meditate. These fall too low on the to-do list right now and I know each of them would help. This paragraph is a challenge to myself!

These last few weeks have been a lot, at times bordering on “too much, I can’t handle it, get me out of here.” There have been times I’ve considered drinking alcohol, which I don’t do. I’ve considered massive carb-and-cheese-laden meals of things I don’t typically eat. These things float through my mind, I notice them, then remind myself what works for me.

“Self care” has been a buzzword over the last couple of years. It comes with these challenging times. Life being lifey just beats many of us down and we need to take care of ourselves. I am a firm believer that you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning you have to keep yourself cared for before you can care for others. Self care looks different for everyone. For some, it means doing whatever you want, regardless of the craving and what it costs. For me, self care does not mean self indulgence. Sometimes it means reminding myself what my goals are and what makes me feel healthy. A cocktail isn’t self care for me. Or a piece of chocolate cake. Might feel good for a moment, but then I’m left dealing with the fallout from my own impulsiveness.

In the end, I can only try to control my own decisions, my time, and my attention. I have to redirect myself when the decisions others make upset me. Boundaries are ok to set and adhere to. I only have to explain myself to those select few people who warrant it. But for most people, “no” can absolutely be a complete sentence.

perspective

Body Envy

A recent conversation between friends turned to observations about an acquaintance of ours. In the past year or so she has become incredibly fit and muscular. The comments jumped back and forth: “Have you seen her?” “She is just a solid rock.” “I might have body envy.”

I thought about it and, remarkably, I totally don’t have body envy. At all.

I can look at her and think wow, she looks great. She is lean and strong. So it’s not that I don’t think she is in amazing shape…it’s more that I don’t have body envy of anyone.

Maybe there was a time when I looked at bodies and wished mine were different. But not now. Am I perfect? Nope. Mine is a body that has carried as much as 314 pounds (or more.) There is flab and extra skin hanging down that no amount of clean eating and gym work will ever take away. It’s me. It’s my story. Even though I am proud of my shoulders, if I lift my arms up there is a ton of deflated balloon skin that just drapes down. It is what it is. It is me.

It’s a choice for me. A choice to be comfortable in my skin. I’m pretty proud of where I am and what I can do. So no, I don’t have body envy. I wouldn’t change my story.

You know what I envy, if anything? A person’s spirit. Their soul. Their joy.

People with endless kindness. People with hearts for so many. People who always seem to find the bright side, even in the darkest of times. People who are caring, lively, giving.

Bodies are great. Goodness knows we need them and need to keep them healthy. But there are limits to what we can do to change them, especially after years and decades of experience (and, in some cases, enjoyment or abuse, depending on how you look at it.)

The spirit can always be made more beautiful.

author moments

What I Know for Sure, 2021 Edition

A group of friends recently shared their thoughts on “What I Know for Sure.” This task, based on Oprah’s essays and so on, was a pleasant challenge.

I jotted mine down in quick scribbles. Nothing really took too much thought. I just did 20 in no particular order. Most of them are pretty basic. There was some head-nodding as we shared at the dinner table. Here’s the list I shared:

1.) The most important approval in my life is my own.

2.) I feel better when I move first thing in the morning.

3.) I can do without way more than I imagined (e.g., cheese)

4.) The main thing I can control is my own choices.

5.) Focusing on what I can control eases my anxiety.

6.) Bring food, a book, and something to do with you.

7.) I can provide guidance, but walking the walk and being an example is the most powerful, grounding thing I can do for others and myself.

8.) I can’t expect anyone else to prioritize my physical, mental, and emotional health – that’s my job. They also may not understand what prioritizing those things look like. That’s also not my problem.

9.) Garbage in, garbage out – reading, media, food, all of it.

10.) Most people are doing the best they can based on what they know and are capable of at a given time.

11.) Play is important at every age. Laughter is, too.

12.) Local places beat chains.

13.) If it’s worth it, go for it.

14.) Nature heals, redeems, centers and grounds.

15.) Writing matters.

16.) Dogs are amazing and make most of the people in my life happier than other people do.

17.) Most things that seem like a big deal really aren’t that serious.

18.) To be on time, leave at least 15 minutes before you think you should. Always leave a buffer.

19.) Time and attention are the most precious gifts we can give other people.

20.) Thank people often for things big and small.

Most of this stuff is not groundbreaking. What I marvel at is how my list would have changed from even 5 years ago. I didn’t work out in the morning. I was beset with anxiety most of the time. I didn’t spend much time outdoors. I didn’t write for myself. I didn’t like dogs. Life is changing. I am changing. If my list stays the same, have I really learned or grown? What will the next 5 years bring?

I have a number of friends who are on the cusp of this time of great change with me. It’s wonderful to share such an exciting and transformational time with people. Instead of a stumbling, fumbling block it can be a launch pad.

What do you know for sure, right now?

dare to be different, fitness and nutrition

Sense of Direction

It’s true, I’m getting older.

As I age, I notice that certain things are starting to deteriorate. Today’s example: my sense of direction.

When I was young, I would read Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper every Thursday or Friday. I’d check out the list of festivals, events, art openings, even new music releases, and make my weekend plans. I’d pull out my mom’s Atlanta road atlas and set on my coordinate spree to map my weekend adventures. From these jaunts week after week, year after year, I got to know my way around Atlanta inside and out.

These days, I can hardly find my way around my little suburb without waze or google maps. If I’m somewhere without service, I get nervous and often guess the wrong direction. Such a change. It may not just be due to aging. Maybe more a combination of getting older and over reliance on technology. Still not a change I like, no matter the cause.

I spent the past week in a confusing condo building. Actually there were two buildings connected by bridges and corridors. There was also a parking garage. None of the connecting floors had the same number. Walk through a hallway from one building’s first floor and suddenly, without stairs or elevators, you’re on another building’s third. The garage was a totally different mess. I felt lost and disoriented much of the week.

After a couple of morning condo workouts, I went to the gym one evening to make sure I could find it from our room. The next morning I spent a half hour with dumbbells in the gym. After I was done, I decided to test myself and make my way back to the condo from the gym using stairs instead of the path I already knew.

I walked into the stairwell. When I opened the door, I was surprised to find an old man, slightly hunched over, standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was short with groomed gray hair. He wore a cotton t-shirt, athletic pants and tennis shoes. He was there to exercise. He smiled at me.

Good morning, I said.

Are you still moving every day? he said,

Yes sir, I replied. I want to be sure I can move for as long as I can, so I try to do it first thing every day.

Good for you, he replied. I do the exact same thing. Keep it up. It’s so important.

And with that, one floor up, I walked out of the stairwell. He kept walking up the stairs. Up. Up. Up. Moving. Ascending.

It was like the (living) ghost of Christmas Future. Letting me know that taking time to move, for me, is what will keep me moving long term. I can feel confident when I get up and make my physical and mental health a priority each day. What others think of it is none of my business. My approval is what is required.

Did I find my way back to the condo? Happily, yes. And taking that different path gave me unexpected landmarks and signs. I’m heading in the right direction. It was a roadmap to the future I am heading toward, nimble and purposeful.