Awareness and Action

awareness and action

I’ve written a lot about the importance of a solid self-care routine, but the truth is that sometimes it’s difficult to practice one on a consistent basis.

Sometimes we have to work a little harder to put ourselves first.

I’ve been really focused on doing what I can to help remodel our small home and was beginning to feel depleted (emotionally). Although I get satisfaction from working on the house, missing out on some of the things in my self-care routine was making me feel unbalanced.

Unfortunately, rather than slow things down that were within my control, I attempted to  “power through” these feelings.  After all, my husband was doing so much more than I was and he neeeever complains! I didn’t want to let him down.

And here’s where my old pattern of thinking meets my new pattern of thinking: More importantly, I soon realized that by not taking action to get a handle on how I was feeling, I was letting myself down.

I know that by taking some time for myself to do what I love, like meditation and hiking, I feel more grounded and more plugged into those around me at the same time.

I am a work in progress.

It takes a long time for new patterns of thinking to come naturally, which makes sense considering it took our old patterns of thinking decades to develop!

Growth is about awareness and action.

Awareness

that something isn’t working or that you aren’t feeling balanced.

Since old patterns are so routine, just being aware that you aren’t at your best is a big step in the right direction. It’s growth!

Action

to create movement to make changes.

Share your feelings with someone you trust or write them down (accountability can be super helpful). Do a self assessment to determine if your self-care routine needs tweaking. Do what you love and what brings you joy.

If you don’t know how to make the changes you want (or have made changes but seem stuck lately), then do some research. Be curious. There are many inspiring people doing great things, online and around us. Read what they’ve written, sign up for their blogs and talk to people in your life that might be able to offer insight into a desired path. If you’d rather talk to a professional, a life coach might be helpful.

I knew I wasn’t feeling my best and shared my feelings with my husband. Just explaining how I felt made me feel better and of course he was understanding and supportive. I’ve been taking time to do what makes me feel grounded and we even went on a great family hike!

Sometimes it seems as if all aspects of our lives line up and everything seems to be going smoothly. Other times,  our lives feel aimless and out of control (like a wagon that just lost a wheel).  It’s these times that we need to keep moving forward and work a little harder to get that wagon up and running again.

When we do, it will be better than ever!

 

 

 

 

 

Let it Go

I’ve been parting with a lot of stuff lately. We are downsizing, and so out of necessity and by choice, we have gotten rid of many physical things we no longer find useful. So far it’s been fairly easy to do and even quite liberating!

But I know I’m not ready to part with some things. And that’s OK.

As I was folding the laundry this morning I came across one of our towels. Instead of folding the thinning, blue- floral towel and putting it in the linen closet with the other towels like I’ve done many times before, this time was different. I held it close, folded it, draped it over a chair in my bedroom and smoothed it out.

Hair Towel.jpg

This was not just any towel, it was the “hair towel” that my mom used, the one that I used as a teenager, the one that I took into my adult life and the one that my daughter now uses all the time because, well, it’s the best “hair towel.”

It got its name from my mom because it’s thinner and smaller than other towels (the “body towels”), perfect for wrapping up wet hair on top of our heads after a shower. I never really gave it a second thought until now, but it has certainly earned some notoriety.

And so I think I’ll leave it smoothed out over my bedroom chair for a while so I can take a moment to focus on where that towel has been and decide whether I want to get it made into a pillow. 🙂

Deciding when, if and how to let go of physical things can be challenging, but letting go of old emotional patterns can be daunting. You know the ones, fear, self-doubt, grief, anxiety, sadness.

Most of the time I’m able to focus on gratitude and presence, but I do have moments, days, and even weeks of feeling less grounded than I’d like to be. Not really sure what precipitates these feelings but I’ve learned that trying to figure that out gives the negative emotions more room to set up camp and a tighter grip that keeps me from my self-care routine.

So I have to let them go.

I read a quote earlier today in Flow Magazine by German professor and author Wilhelm Schmid. He said,

“Telling yourself you have to be happy mainly results in being disappointed when you aren’t. A far better idea is to focus on what you are doing and experiencing, and to let go more.”

Reading this today really helped me since it made me realize that, rather than get pulled into a negative emotional whirlpool, sometimes it makes sense to just,

Let

It

 Go.

Less is More

cuckoo clock1

As you may or may not know (thinking you know by now), I’ve been leaning into minimalism for a few years.

Less stuff in my cabinets, less clutter on my shelves and counters, less clothes, less on my calendar, less in my diet and less living space as we downsize to a smaller home.

I have more space in my cabinets and closets, more calmness from clutter free surroundings, more time in my calendar to spend time doing meaningful things and when we move into our smaller home, I will have a home that is more suitable to our lifestyle.

I’ve noticed lately that my weekends actually seem like extended periods of time off. I have the time to do what I need to do AND want to do, like socialize and relax.

Weekends don’t seem to fly by like they used to.

This morning my husband and I carved out a few hours to visit my friend’s daughter’s bakery. We heard she had some vegan items on the menu and were pretty excited to check it out! As we were driving home from breakfast, we passed several neighborhood garage sales.  I realized that I had no interest whatsoever to stop and browse. Come to think of it, I rarely spend time shopping at all. I used to spend at least a few hours each weekend roaming the aisles of one store or another. Now, I only shop when I need something.

Less IS more!

 

Bag of Tricks

There’s almost nothing that a nap, yoga and a cup of herbal tea (and a farm full of animals) can’t cure.

 

catskill animal sanctuary

The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY

 

I haven’t written in a while about feeling anxious or depressed, since I’ve been feeling pretty balanced. Although I’m curious about why I feel the way that I do, I try not to dwell too much on what I can’t control, and move on.

The truth is, I still have moments when I feel a little low and dwell a little longer than I’d like.

I’m so grateful that I have a menu of things to choose from to help me feel better and more balanced during these times. I think of these things, collectively, as my bag of tricks because they have proven, time and time again, to be helpful.

Some of the things in my bag of tricks are gardening, walking, hiking or just being outside, playing with Ellie, my daughter’s dog, meditation, healthy eating, writing and getting together with people I love. I choose what I need depending on how I feel, the weather and who or what is available.

I felt a little low recently and not very motivated at all. It was a cool, rainy day. I took a nap, did yoga and had a cup of one of my favorite herbal teas. I felt better!

Holding a chicken is pretty awesome too!

What’s in your bag of tricks?

 

 

 

Creating S P A C E for Me

cairn

The more curious and open to learning new things I’ve become the more I’ve realized that creating space can make some positive changes.

Space in my closets

Means that I don’t have to spend time picking through outfits that don’t fit, are out of style or aren’t flattering.

I donate clothing on a continuous basis and strictly adhere to the “one in, one out” rule: I don’t buy a new item of clothing unless I get rid of one first. This keeps my closet under control as I continue to figure out my style and what works for me. I’ve gotten many tips from Courtney Carver on how to pare down my wardrobe, and hope to get up the courage for Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge course (https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/), soon.

Space in my cabinets

Means that I use what I love and nothing goes to waste.

I’ve eliminated duplicates, use quality items and waste less food (hiding at the bottom of my freezer or in the back of my cabinets).

Space on my countertops

Means that clean ups are easier.

Less clutter makes me feel more relaxed.

Space in my social calendar

Means that I have time to do what is meaningful to me.

I’d rather give more time and attention to fewer things than rush through an overwhelming social calendar.

Space in conversations

Means that I am a better listener and that I am able to respond rather than react.

I used to let my emotions get the best of me and feel the need to react immediately. Oftentimes, after thinking about a previous conversation, I would see things in a different way and even regret some things that I’ve said. Although I’m still working at this, I feel like I am able to provide a more thoughtful response rather than an immediate reaction.  Sometimes, “sleeping on it” really does make a difference when it comes to emotions!

Space from TV and internet

Means that I am more engaged in mind and body activities (rather than things that are mind numbing).

I was raised on TV and admit that watching television is one of my favorite pastimes, but by watching less I can do more things, especially things from my self-care routine (like yoga and meditation), that have more lasting positive effects. Since it’s easier to pick up the remote after a long day, this can be challenging for me. What has worked for me lately is reducing my screen time slowly or putting my phone out of sight for a few hours or even an entire weekend.

Creating space means

More time

More quality

More calm

More meaning

More presence

More thoughtfulness

More creativity

More self-care

More gratitude

More love

More ME

The Sum of Small Efforts

Did you ever feel as if you’ve taken two steps forward and one step back?

I’ve been feeling this way lately, but my daughter’s dog  Ellie actually reminded me  to look at the big picture and that growth shouldn’t be measured by any one act. She’s so smart.

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.

-Robert Collier

I may have taken a step or two in the wrong direction, like when I felt I was inconsiderate to a friend,  or when I’ve eaten too much junk food or been a couch potato, or even when I’ve been mildly obsessed with the latest Twitter rant from the POTUS (or the live video feed of April, the pregnant giraffe), but it doesn’t mean I’m inconsiderate, unhealthy or not mindful.

I’ve learned so much  about what makes me happy and healthy  and have been steadily moving forward. THIS is what defines me. I’ll never be perfect (and I’m not sure I ever want to be), but I’m moving in the right direction!

How did I learn all this from Ellie?

I smiled when I looked down to put on my slippers the other day. I found Ellie’s bone tucked inside the left one, the one she had chewed on months ago. Ellie had left me a gift! Such a sweet, loving act. THIS defines her!

slipper

 

 

 

What a Difference a Day Makes

Patience is not my best asset, at home, at work or in relationships. If I have something to say, I usually say it, sooner, rather than later. My words aren’t always wrapped in a nice, neat bow or palatable to those receiving them, but I’m learning to pause more often, respond rather than react, and to listen more than I speak (sometimes).

Yesterday began like any other day. As I was rushing around getting ready for work, I clumsily walked into the corner of my stairs. Ouch, that really hurt! I immediately felt the pain on the top of my foot, but didn’t give it a second thought as I walked out the door and got into my car.

I sat most of the day, grading exams, which happens only twice a year. As a high school teacher, I’m used to being on my feet for 6 hours a day. I walked in my front door at the end of the day feeling happy that the weekend was ahead of me, but I was quickly reminded of the morning mishap. My foot really ached!

I brushed it off and went on with my usual end of the day routine, checking social media, texting, talking on the phone, and figured the pain was only temporary. It must be. I hadn’t felt anything all day.  It was the end of the work week  and nothing would come between me and an enjoyable (pain-free) weekend. I was sure I would feel better in the morning.

After about an hour, I couldn’t deny it any longer. The pain and stiffness in my foot got worse, and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I needed to get it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

I couldn’t drive, but my husband was due home in 30 minutes. He took me to a local Urgent Care facility for an x-ray. The pain had gotten so much worse that I flinched when the physician’s assistant gently manipulated my foot. I even had to be transported to the x-ray room in a wheelchair.

Oh, man, was I in a bad mood. I was in excruciating pain (a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10) AND I was helpless. I just wanted to get the x-ray results, get out of there, and get back to the security and comfort of my home and my couch.

When the PA returned  with crutches and an ace bandage, he said, “Don’t worry, this isn’t as bad as it looks.” He went on to say that nothing was broken but he wanted to wrap my foot, and that I shouldn’t put any weight on it for a few days.

Great news! Now I just wanted to get on with my weekend. I got a quick lesson on how to use the crutches, which it turns out I’m not very good at (since I almost fell), and we were out the door in the time it took my husband to pull up the car and for me to hobble out the door and into the passenger seat.

crutches

We arrived home and I wasn’t going to let a few stairs keep me from getting into my front door so I crawled up them! I was feeling pretty desperate and still in a lot of pain, as I snapped at my husband for cracking a joke. Looking back, I’m sure I did look pretty funny and  knowing my husband, he was just trying to make me feel better and lighten things up a bit.

I followed the “doctor’s” orders, took some ibuprofen, applied ice to my foot and elevated it for the rest of the evening. By the time I went to bed, my foot was feeling better and I was hopeful that I was on the mend.

I kept the crutches near my bedside in case I needed them during the night, but remarkably, I didn’t need them! The pain in my foot got progressively better and I was able to walk without pain in the morning. I was so happy and relieved!

What a difference a day can make!

Sometimes, our lives can change in an instant. From normal to the unexpected or even the unimaginable. From good to bad, or as was the case with me, thankfully, from bad to good.

Be patient, with yourself and others. That old saying that I know I’ve heard many times from my mom to, “sleep on it” has a lot of merit. I’ve felt emotionally charged on many occasions and rather than hit send, open my mouth, or make that call, I’ve waited to respond (some of the time).

With the passage of time, my foot didn’t hurt as much. I felt much better, physically.  This experience made me think about how the passage of time can also heal or prevent emotional wounds and improve communication. I’ve found that when I don’t react so defensively, it can make matters better, not worse. I can communicate my feelings more effectively, and find that people are more willing to listen.

This takes some finesse and lots of patience, which definitely do not come naturally for me! I practice being patient every day and when I slip up, I learn from it and move on. I’m sorry I snapped at you, Kevin and thanks so much for making dinner, Adella.

Sleep on it! It’s never too late to follow mom’s advice. What a difference a day can make.