Day of Rest

A tiny library from our walk yesterday morning

A tiny library from our walk yesterday morning

One of my favorite things about Lindsey Mead’s blog (about the way she sees the world) is the poetry she finds and shares. This week, there were two in particular that made me pause, that I keep going back to. The first —

Be a good steward of your gifts.
Protect your time.
Feed your inner life.
Avoid too much noise.
Read good books,
have good sentences in your ears.
Be by yourself as often as you can.
Walk.
Take the phone off the hook.
Work regular hours.

~Jane Kenyon, A Hundred White Daffodils

I read this and thought, “could that be it? could it be that simple?” As you know if you’ve been reading my posts lately, I am trying to find some sort of “balance” in my life, balancing my effort with ease, but I’m not doing a very good job — and the fact that I would end that statement with that judgement, that I’m judging myself at all for how “well” I’m doing with this dilemma is at the heart of the problem. I don’t take very good care of myself, push too hard, don’t make room for rest or joy, and then make it worse by beating myself up about it.

I got a massage yesterday, and when my therapist asked me if the work I’ve been having done on my right hip was causing any issues with the left, I told her “no, the entire left side of my body is ‘normal,’ healthy, it’s just the whole right side that’s a mess.” She said, “well, there’s energetic reasons for that, that would make a lot of sense.” I asked her what she meant and she explained that often when we have issues with the right side of our body, it’s because that side is associated with work, working too hard, being busy, pushing ourselves, not getting enough of a balance between work and rest. Believe what you want about the validity of “energetic reasons,” but that sounds like a pretty accurate description of my current situation.

Add a heaping dose of anxiety, a bad night’s sleep, and three straight days of wet and gray, and I’m kind of a mess. I think about the too long to-do list for my day, feel the weight of it and want to crawl back into bed and hide. Then I go back and read A Hundred White Daffodils. Could there be another way to do this? Which reminds me of the other poem Lindsey shared,

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

~Ellen Bass

To be honest, ever since Kelly died, I find myself getting trapped in a panic, a sense that no matter how fast I go or how much I do, it won’t be enough. I haven’t yet forgiven myself for the time before that now seems wasted, for the “mistakes” I’ve made. I’m still struggling under “an obesity of grief” that manifests in my physical body as well. I’m still trying to find my way in a world where so many bad things happen and so much goes undone no matter how diligent I am and no matter how hard I try.

For today, I’ll take out the trash, finish the laundry, put clean sheets on the bed, work on my Something Good list for tomorrow, read a little, go out to lunch with Eric, and the checkbook won’t get balanced, the windows won’t get washed, nothing will be dusted, the garage will remain a place to be avoided, and the weeds in the flowerbeds will live another day. But most importantly, I won’t give up.

Gratitude Friday

narrowleaf

1. Trees. I have lots of favorites. The ones above are a stand of Narrowleaf Cottonwoods at the edge of McMurry Ponds. There are four trees just in our neighborhood that are my favorites — a Redbud around the corner that is so bright it looks fluorescent when it blooms, two Maples that stand together in a tiny front yard on opposite sides of a sidewalk leading to the the front door, and one that I’m not sure of the variety but the way its branches curl and reach out over the street cause me to stop and look up almost every time I walk past.

Another one of my favorite trees

Another one of my favorite trees

2. The morning walks. The moon was still out the other morning and I saw an owl flying across a field, then we startled a heron by the river, and both days we saw the herd of White-tailed deer who take their morning walk about the same time, along almost the same route as we do.

3. Friday, and this list. Seriously, today I could have called it “Tude Friday” because I am feeling pissy today, have a bad attitude. The sky was gray all day yesterday and the weather forecast is for at least three more days of the same — the guy on the radio this morning said, “great weather, if you’re a duck.” And I’m tired, and cranky about having to work so hard all the time but still feeling like I never get anything done. But it’s Friday, and writing this list reminds me that there are good things, things to be grateful for.

rowdyplay

4. My tiny family. I love my stupid dogs, too much, more than is probably healthy, but they make me so happy, and sometimes so stressed out. That’s where Eric comes in — he helps calm them down, calm me down.

My secret shortcut to my CSU office

My secret shortcut to my CSU office, much better than having to walk past the construction site for the new stadium

5. Being good to each other. I noticed this so many times this week, the ways that we help each other, encourage each other, make each other laugh. It feels just as awesome to be the one offering it as it does to be the one getting the good — win/win.

Bonus joy: payday, having a massage be the only thing on my schedule this weekend, my new car, flowers in the bathroom, my favorite towels, the promise of pie, texting with Eric, good books, good tv, roasted vegetables, naps, sleeping in, good feedback on my work, the camera on my new cellphone, knowing that this too shall pass.

 

Three Truths and One Wish

My new favorite mug (check out Emily's website, she has some really great stuff)

My new favorite mug (check out Emily’s website, she has some really great stuff)

1. Truth: I can’t figure out the formula to make it all work. I never manage to accomplish everything I want to, or even need to. If I’m able to get up early, meditate, do my writing practice, walk the dogs, shower, eat breakfast, and get to work at a reasonable time, I probably didn’t floss my teeth and skipped the gym and didn’t make a lunch and arrive at my office to begin a long day of a whole list of other things I won’t get done, to add to the running list that keeps getting longer of all the things I need to do that I just can’t seem to find the energy or time for — make a vet appointment for the dogs, follow up on that question I have about my insurance, mail those books and such that have sat unwrapped in a box on the floor by my desk for months, meet with that person about my 401k, read the book for book club, balance the checkbook, schedule some maintenance on the car, get the snow tires taken off, weed the flower beds, go to a yoga class I’m not teaching, etc. I’ve tried to apply various techniques — spend less time on social media, watch less TV, get up earlier, choose three things to prioritize and make sure those get my attention before anything else — but it never seems to work. There’s still too much that needs done and not enough energy or time.

2. Truth: Instead of feeling like I’ve accomplished anything, I feel like I’m failing. It doesn’t matter what I actually get done, what I really contribute or what value I add, I can’t escape the underlying anxiety that there are other things falling apart while my attention is elsewhere. Sure I was able to keep those four plates spinning, but the other three smashed on the ground in the meantime. And in that moment of stunned awareness, in that pause of grief over my failure to do it all, one of the remaining four plates stopped spinning and crashed to the ground. Maybe I should switch to paper plates?

3. Truth: Deep down, I know that the cake is a lie. “The Cake is a Lie” is a catchphrase popularized by the game Portal, and is often used to convey the message that a promised gift is being used to motivate without any intent of delivering. I know the promise that if you just get organized, just get your shit together, you can have a happy, healthy life in which you are well-fed, rested, satisfied, content, a life in which the laundry is all done (folded and put away), you have time to cook healthy delicious food and make it to the gym and socialize with friends and do all the various maintenance required of your life, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada — is a lie. We have set the bar way too high — and yet, I keep trying.

One wish: May we, for just one moment, even just one breath, soften, relax, lower the bar, let go, and not feel guilty about it. May we forgive ourselves for not being able to live up to an impossible set of standards. May we find space in our days, rest in our nights.

Something Good

macroblooms

So glad to be partnering with Yoganonymous to share this list with a larger audience.

1. Staying on Mission from Chookooloonks, a really great post about why and how you write a mission statement.

2. On the precipice from Rita’s Notebook. Rita’s honesty about the difficulty of being a writer, a mother, a human, is always so comforting to me, and that’s no different with this post.

3. A Mini-Guide to Not Being Frustrated All the Time from Zen Habits. I love how Leo is able to distill the most complicated practices into a set of easy to understand and follow steps. In related news, How to Handle the Difficult Times.

4. Separating “Health” and “Weight” for Binge-Eating Recovery from Isabel Foxen Duke. Such an important post. It distills something I’ve been trying to figure out how to say into a simple, short post.

5. Truthbomb from Danielle LaPorte, “So much is because of you.” Think about it, let this one really sink in.

6. I Recorded the Racist Things People Did to Me For 2 Weeks – And Here’s the Result. *sigh*

7. Fancy Juice Doesn’t Cleanse the Body of Toxins. TL;DR: “Misconception: Juice cleansing can remove toxins from your system. Actually: To say that drinking juice detoxifies the body isn’t quite the same as claiming leeches suck out poisons, but it’s fairly close.”

8. Good Things To Read (And Watch) In Remembrance Of Prince. It’s just so sad… Two that was left off the list, Watch how “Hamilton” and “The Color Purple” honored Prince last night and try not to cry, and Prince’s First Television Appearance on NBC’s Midnight Special, (that outfit!), and Prince’s Hair Styles From 1978 To 2013.

9. 10 Great Reasons NOT to Copy Cesar Millan. When the research doesn’t support something, we need to stop doing it, and if this is your profession (dog training), you MUST stay current with the research. When we know better, we have to do better.

10. Loving Yourself some great tips from Sarah K Peck.

11. The most important thing I have ever written from Coach Taylor Simon. It’s also one of the most important things I’ve ever read.

12. Little Girl Gives Her Hero Garbage Man A Cupcake, Melts All Our Hearts. “All of 3-year-old Brooklyn’s dreams came true when she met Delvar Dopson on her birthday.” Best garbage man, e v e r.

13. Security FORCES Gay Female Out Of Bathroom, a heartbreaking video. Dear humans, stop being so dumb.

14. This rescued bear couldn’t be any happier splashing around in his new home. So sweet, so sad.

15. The Limitless Living Course from the amazing Caroline Leon. FREE. “Each week for eight weeks you’ll receive an email from me giving you access to that week’s lesson, each lesson contains an outline of a principle, resources to deepen your understanding and actions to take that will help you to progress towards a life without limits and a life that you love.”

16. 14 Perfect Responses To People Who Want Harriet Tubman To Smile. “Apparently women can’t ever escape commentary on their facial expressions — even when they’ve been dead for more than a century.”

17. Hayao Miyazaki on the female protagonists in his movies. If you haven’t seen any of his movies yet, please go, find one, watch it, and you can thank me later.

18. My year on Match.com from Anne Lamott. “I’d done so many scary things in my life, but this might be the scariest. At the age of 58, I joined a dating site.”

19. There’s almost nothing better than a donkey in a hammock.

20. How to Make Aprons From Shirts. I love aprons, even though I hardly ever wear them, and this projects looks like something even I could do.

21. Michelle Bridges Can … Meet Me and We Don’t Have To Earn Body Love from Dances with Fat. I’m just gonna say it: Ragen Chastain is one of the most brilliant people and she’s posting some of the most important things.

22. The Thing Is, a beautiful poem by Ellen Bass shared on A Design So Vast.

23. It’s amazing I ever get anything done. This is my exact relationship with The Internet. Luckily, because of me (and The Internet), you get this great list of stuff every week.

24. Be the lighthouse, encouragement from Alexandra Franzen. “If you want to be ‘successful,’ ‘respected,’ ‘sought-after,’ insert-desirable-quality-here… Operate like the world is already listening…Sooner or later, the people who need what you’re writing, saying, baking, making, or delivering will arrive – gathering to bask in your light.” And as someone who has spent a lot of time basking in her particular light, I loved this post from Alexandra, A chronology of my life as a professional writer.

25. 6 Insanely Popular Ways to Waste a Life from Marc and Angel Hack Life. Guilty as charged.

26. Lessons From 40: Four Decades Of Dumb Stuff I Learned from Chuck Wendig on Terrible Minds. He really is one of the smartest funniest dirtiest writers, so this list is worth a read.

27. Slow and steady keeps me sane, wisdom from Jamie Greenwood. I absolutely love what she has to say about opting out.

28. Recipes I want to try: Caramelized Brown Sugar Cinnamon Grilled Pineapple and Broccoli Apple Salad.

29. How to be an Overnight Success (in Just Eight Short Years) from the amazing Amy McCracken. I am totally voting for her project, and you should too!

Day of Rest: On Not Giving Up

flaxchocolatemuffinsandbananas

I’ve been feeling quiet about some things lately, especially when it comes to writing about them here. Then this morning, reading the Day #2 email from Adreanna Limbach’s Meditation In Bloom program, I was reminded of why I write, why I share on this blog. Adreanna shared a definition of love from All About Love by bell hooks, “The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

Writing for me is about understanding and awareness, expanding my sense of wisdom and compassion. It’s about easing suffering, in myself and in the world. It’s about figuring out what it means to be human, and more specifically what it means to not give up in the face of the brutality and the beauty of this experience. It’s about love.

Writing for me is a mindfulness practice, and in her video for Day #2, Adreanna shared a definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn, “the awareness that arises when we’re paying attention on purpose in the present moment, without judgement.” And as Adreanna said, it’s that non-judgement part that’s “the real kicker.”

I’ve been being really hard on myself lately. My physical body confuses and confounds me, and this is complicated by the shift I’m trying to make in my view of bodies and health in general. To review: I was a disordered eater for 30+ years, not realizing that what I was doing wasn’t “normal” because I live in a culture where women are expected to hate their bodies, themselves, are encouraged to restrict and punish and distrust their bodies and themselves, are urged to constantly try to “improve,” to chase an impossibly out of reach standard. In that sense, for 30+ years, I was a very good girl.

And then I encountered Rachel Cole and her work, and my ideas about my body, food, exercise, health, wellbeing, my own worth and desires were upended, in the best possible way. I realized I was a disordered eater and started working with a therapist, continued working with Rachel, and made other changes in my life with the intention of being healthier, more content. I was disappointed when my therapist told me it usually takes about 7-9 years for someone to fully recover from disordered eating, but it was so much better than the alternative — a life in which I hated myself, hurt myself, suffered to such an extreme that I sometimes thought about killing myself.

In the past week or so, I’ve been triggered by a series of things. I could write ten blog posts any one of them, but some of the highlights are:

  • This post from Isabel Foxen Duke, Separating “Health” and “Weight” for Binge-Eating Recovery, which explained something I’d been unsuccessfully trying to tell my husband for months so well that I sent him the link and said “just read this” — especially this part, “successful recovery from binge-eating usually involves redefining our definition of ‘health’ to exclude forced attempts at weight loss—since it’s pretty clear that these attempts lead to poorer health (and more binge-eating) long-term.”
  • Overhearing one woman comment on another woman’s body after not seeing her for awhile, telling her that she looked thinner, fitter, and asking if she’d been working out, and cringing remembering all the times I’ve done the same thing or had that said to me. And for all the times I’ve heard the opposite from people who think because we are close, they can comment when my body swings the other way, can make remarks or even jokes about my size, my weight, my body, because they “love” me and are “just trying to help.”
  • Having someone ask me how I can have all that chocolate in my office and not eat it all, and I gave some old answer about it being “safe” at work because I’m busy and don’t think about it, how I can’t be trusted with it at home, but then feeling so bad after that for not telling the truth as it is now that I wanted to find that person and tell them the real story, that I don’t do that to myself anymore, don’t micromanage everything that goes in my mouth, don’t punish myself for even thinking about food or eating, don’t binge or even just eat in private and in secret, don’t surround the act of eating with shame or pain or guilt, that I eat whatever I want and as much as I want whenever I want and because I do that I’m satisfied, there’s no regret and there’s no punishment necessary, and I can trust myself around food.
  • Rachel asked, on a Feast alumni Facebook page, how we were doing and I couldn’t answer right away, because on that very same day, I was beating myself up for the ongoing pain in my right leg, all the way from my low back down to the bottom of my foot, and I’d convinced myself that the origin of my pain was my weight (even though I’ve had chronic pain issues in that area of my body for decades and there are all kinds of valid reasons for it that have nothing to do with my size), so I’d driven home from a long day (week, year) at work with the plan to start starving myself again. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t go through with it).
  • Going to a fancy work event and feeling like I had nothing to wear, feeling bad about my body and thus feeling bad about myself, but going anyway, and because I did, getting to talk directly to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, and I guarantee he didn’t care one bit about my body or what I was wearing.

So I’m still struggling. I’m trying to be non-judgemental, to be gentle with myself, to relax with what is, to allow whatever might arise (even if that means being fat for the rest of my life), but sometimes I fail. And when I fail, I try not to beat myself up about it. I have no idea what I’m doing or how this is going to turn out, but I’m not going to give up.

Gratitude Friday

morningwalkpoudre

1. Morning walks. We had a rough one this week with lots of offlead (rude) dogs (people) and a skateboarder that Ringo and Sam decided they hated, but mostly I love that time.

Our view of the foothills during the last mile of our walk

Our view of the foothills during the last mile of our walk

morningwalkdudes

Right before the skateboarder rode by, the calm before the chaos

morningwalksky

2. The Colorado sky. It is a particular kind of magic. Last night at a poetry reading by CSU English department alumnus Yusef Komunyakaa, he opened by saying, “I don’t think I would be a poet without being in Colorado. I saw the mountains and couldn’t back down. And the sky…”

3. Sam and Ringo Blue. Oh how I love them. Oh how they can make me crazy sometimes.

Couching

Couching

samcouching

Ringo "helping" me meditate

Ringo “helping” me meditate

4. Spring blooms. The cherry trees, our first lilac buds. I’m so happy the snow this weekend didn’t ruin them all.

firstlilacblooms cherryblossomswalk

5. Our department retreat. It was a lot of hard work to plan, but it turned out great. One of the highlights was a Lego model of our remodeled building built by one of our faculty.

legoeddy

Bonus joy: FRIDAY, good friends, poets and poetry, clean water, feeling safe, the music of Prince, a good pen, a blank notebook, the camera on my new phone, the promise of rest, good TV, good food, voices of reason to contradict the crazy, apple and cinnamon oatmeal, sunshine, green everywhere, sleepy dogs, naps, sweet potato and black bean quesadillas, stretching, summer vacation so close I can smell it.

Something Good

Geese over the Poudre River, image by Eric

Geese over the Poudre River, image by Eric

So glad to be partnering with Yoganonymous to share this list with a larger audience.

1. Homeless Dog Found In Garbage Becomes A Lion He Deserves To Be. I love these pictures so much. He looks silly and regal all at the same time.

2. Writers: When In Doubt, WWYL. As always, great advice from Terrible Minds.

3. A new museum offers a rebuke — and an antidote — to our sanitized history of slavery from Smithsonian.com. I really want to go to this museum some day. “You have to go inside. When you walk in that space, you can’t deny what happened to these people. You can feel it, touch it, smell it.”

4. A call to action: your fat friend is going it alone. This is an issue that matters so much to me. “Please, dear friend, do something now. Say something to affirm a fat person. Post something on facebook. Break the isolation. Go out on a limb. Feel the way it sways and cracks beneath you. Remember that some of us feel that unsettling sway every day.”

5. Down with Diet Books. “Diet books are full of lies. But they’re even worse when doctors write them.”

6. Man escorted from easyJet flight after passenger said she did not feel safe. Ragen Chastain posted a link to this with the best caption, “Fuck this bullshit. If you have a problem flying with people because of your racism, YOU get off the plane.” Word.

7. The Fashion Industry’s Warped Perspective of Plus-Size Women. This was posted in the student run newspaper at the university where I work, and it made me so happy to see it there.

8. The Voyeur’s Motel from the New Yorker. “Gerald Foos bought a motel in order to watch his guests having sex. He saw a lot more than that.” So fascinating. So creepy.

9. In Bloom, a great free offering from one of my favorite teachers, Adreanna Limbach. “14 Days of Meditation devoted to dropping our defenses and opening up our senses. hearts. and minds. Farewell, Hibernation. Welcome to IN BLOOM.” Begins April 22.

10. Good stuff from Jena Schwartz, All of This and We Encourage You to Submit Your Ego Again.

11. The Protagonist from Rachel Cole, such an important reminder — “You are not the bad guy in the story of your life. You have always always always been trying to survive.” In related news, Career Hungers Conversation and Q&A, a really great free offering from Rachel and Laura Simms, who are putting together a program to support you in your pursuit of more fulfilling work. Even if you can’t make the live call on April 20, I strongly recommend signing up to get the recording. These women are individually amazing, but together they combine into a super nova.

12. Miniature Treehouse Sculptures Built Around Houseplants by Jedediah Voltz. Super cute.

13. Follow Us Home Campaign from Animal House Rescue & Grooming. This is where we got our Sam, and many friends have also found their furry friends there. Right now, they are just down the road from us, but this new facility would allow them to do so much more good work.

14. Skipping Lorikeet: The Rain Dance Parrot. He is so adorable.

15. Burglar Breaks Into Fast Food Restaurant, Surprises Police With What He Does Inside. *Spoiler alert* he made himself a burger. I totally understand this kind of hungry.

16. The Best of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. With a few exceptions, James Corden is my favorite part of this series. There’s just something about people in a car singing along to the radio that makes me so happy and bonus: these people sound good.

17. Recipes I want to try: Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Garlic, and Homemade Pop Tarts.

18. 25+ Smiling Animals That Will Instantly Make You Smile. Try it. I dare you.

19. Accomplishments, a hilarious cartoon from Sarah Andersen. Funny because it’s so true. Check out the rest of her stuff, she’s amazing.

20. Good Omens, Cheap Seats, and the Memorial from Neil Gaiman. He writes so brilliantly about grief. This is one of my favorite posts ever from him on the subject, The Power of the Dog. Cabal (2003-2013).

21. Heart and Brain cartoons from The Awkward Yeti, so good! For example this one, (which got me through my work day Friday),

awkwardyeti

22. 12 insanely CUTE baby animals that fit right in the palm of your hand, one of the best photosets ever on Facebook.

23. This Facebook post that quickly went viral. My favorite part was this, “Let’s start a movement peeps, let’s end predatory marketing practices that sell self-loathing to women from cradle to grave. Women have more important things to do in 2016 than spend a single other minute worried about our wrinkles or the acceptability of our thighs.” Amen.

24. Five ways coffee makes you live longer and happier—yay coffee! I don’t drink coffee anymore but my husband does, so he’s always sending me these kind of links.

25. Do something cool, great advice from Alexandra Franzen.

26. It’s True: Body Positivity Isn’t An Excuse To Be Unhealthy from Dances with Fat. “Health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.” I’m so glad that Ragen does what she does, writing the things I want to say so that all I have to do is share the link.

27. Octopus slips out of aquarium tank, crawls across floor, escapes down pipe to ocean. This story blows my mind.