Monthly Archives: November 2019

#NaBloPoMo: 30 Days

Postcard from my dearest Mikalina, sitting on my newly clean writing desk

Today is the final day of NaBloPoMo. 30 straight days of posting something every day, (except that one day I missed). It was good for me to write this much. I’d been trying to get back here more regularly since I quit my job in May, but it just wasn’t happening. So much wasn’t happening because I’m burnt out.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give, (read this full article: Burnout Prevention and Treatment).

The article that I pulled that quote from suggests burnout can be caused by work, lifestyle, or personality traits. When I read the specific characteristics on those three lists, consider the three possibilities, every single item on every list fits the way I was operating up until I quit my CSU job.

Just last night, I was curious and looked up the Facebook page for my department (I’d unfollowed because it isn’t good for me to see it in my feed all the time) and I was reminded it’s the 80th anniversary of its formation, which means lots of extra work for the communications coordinator right now. I realized if I’d stayed and been the one to do all that work, I never would have made it. I felt so relieved in that moment, so grateful I’d been able to make that choice for myself.

And I’m realizing that no matter how aware I am of what I’m experiencing or how much I do to take care of myself, it’s going to take longer to heal than I want. I’ve said before I had big plans to get a bunch of house stuff done over the summer, then when fall came, I expected to dive right in to my new career as a Contemplative Practice Guide. I have ideas and completely fleshed out plans of what that’s going to look like and what I’m going to offer, just need to put in some work on the back end of things (such as creating a mailing list and a new website and choosing an online payment method, researching venues for in person classes and workshops).

I adjusted my expectations recently to expect to start full speed at the first of the year. After just this short holiday week, having spent a lot of time working on cleaning and sorting my home office, and looking ahead to Eric being home for an extended period for winter break and needing to do some preparation for Christmas, I’m realizing that maybe the first of the year isn’t realistic either. I even suggested to my friend Mikalina yesterday that maybe I’ll take the full year off, May 2019 – May 2020, before I’m really ready to start.

And that’s okay. Things take the time they take, and in a situation where you are healing your heart, mind, and body, cultivating a new resilience, there’s no reason or sense in rushing it. In the meantime, I’ll keep showing up here when I can. Next month, starting tomorrow, I’m beginning one of my favorite yearly traditions, December Reflections hosted by Susannah Conway.

The idea is simply to take a photograph (and share it if you wish) every day in December while reflecting back over the year. I’ve provided a list of daily prompts with a mix of things to photograph — for example: through the window, floral, home — and things to ponder. The ponder prompts are an extra invitation to pause for a moment and consider some of your favourite bits of 2019. Share your treasured photos from the year alongside your thoughts. Dig further into the prompts privately in your journal. You may feel moved to create paintings or collages or poems. December Reflections started as a photo project but feel free to take it in any direction that calls to you!

As always, I’m so grateful that you continue to show up here, kind and gentle reader. Knowing that you are “out there” is such a comfort, such an inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you. ❤

Gratitude Friday

A Modern American Thanksgiving, image by Eric

1. Good food with good friends. The picture Eric took cracks me up every time I look at it. I was the only one sitting at the table ready to eat. All three of the other adults were taking pictures of the table. I know that many people would think this was awful or sad, but I just think it’s funny, and let’s be honest I only wasn’t taking a picture because I knew Eric would get one I could borrow. This picture was just a few minutes of that whole night, and doesn’t show all the time we spent laughing, talking, sharing food and stories.

2. Cupcakes. These are the ones I really wanted when I made some last week. The first batch turned out terrible. These aren’t a recipe adjusted for the altitude here, and the batter is deep and dense. I’ve baked these before, but the first time yesterday, I filled the cups too full and they spilled over then collapsed. We saved them because even though they were a mess they still taste good, but I made another batch to take with us to share. I made a few adjustments to the recipe for altitude (less baking powder, less sugar, and a bit of additional liquid) and filled the cups only half full, and they turned out pretty good. I also realized the mistake I’d made the last time with the frosting — I used butter and powdered sugar but forgot the cream cheese. It makes all the difference.

3. Snow day! We got 16 inches of snow overnight, so I cancelled my morning yoga class and my therapy appointment, stayed home in my pajamas and worked on cleaning and organizing my office. I also convinced Eric that even though he might be okay going out, it was better to just stay home with me and spend the day shoveling snow, (he did a LOT of shoveling).

4. Practice. As a teacher, it was actually a nice reset, a lovely rest to skip teaching last week. It’s like that thing they say about “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Since I wasn’t teaching, I got to sink into my own practice in a way I might not typically. I could practice just for me, do what felt good for only me — which in turn makes me a better teacher.

5. My tiny family. Eric was home this week on his fall break, and with the snow, the three of us got to slow down and hunker down in a way we don’t normally do. It was wonderful.

Bonus joy: friends with nice kids who you enjoy spending time with, how much bigger my writing desk is with all the crap cleaned off, good TV (Mike Birbiglia: The New One is streaming on Netflix. I saw the show live last year with Eric and it’s just so good), good music (Mary Lambert’s new album Grief Creature is everything I expected it would be), the stuffing I make every year (maple pork sausage, onion, celery, apples, cranberries, bread crumbs, chicken broth, a few eggs, thyme, rosemary, and sage — it’s SO good), leftovers, cuddling with Ringo, how Sam is always happy to take a nap with me, knowing that it’s okay if I need to take a full year off before I really start working in earnest again, having a partner who just wants me to be happy, the privilege that allows all this to be so easy, how happy it makes me when my clothes all match (like right now I’m wearing a black shirt, eggplant pj pants that are so ridiculously soft, and socks with black, eggplant and gray stripes), hanging out with Mikalina and Chloe’, texting with people I don’t get to see in person as much as I’d like but still feeling like I’m “there” with them, all things citrus (I start to crave it this time of year).

#NaBloPoMo: Thank You

Ringo cuddling with me, a #tbt from 2016

When we were looking for another dog after we lost Dexter, one of my wishes was that he be a cuddler. I was imagining a dog like Dexter, who could never be close enough to me, who would circle around and when he finally landed, he wasn’t just next to me, but part of him was on top of me — and I loved it. I still miss having him curled up next to me at night while we slept.

Ringo Blue isn’t in general a cuddly dog. He’d rather be moving, and when he does sleep at night, he doesn’t like to be bothered, will wake with a growl if you bump him. And yet, he does cuddle with me under certain conditions, specifically on the couch while I’m watching TV, usually at night. He doesn’t really ever cuddle with Eric and absolutely never with Sam, just me.

Last night, he crawled up into my lap while I was watching TV. He was positioned just about how he is in the above picture, which is his favorite way to cuddle — back end somewhere just above my knees and head resting right about where my heart is. He was there about 10 minutes when I decided I was finished watching. Typically, I’d get up and go get my phone, check in for a bit before I brushed my teeth and got in bed to read. By this time of night, Ringo has usually already asked to be put to bed, but last night he was just too cozy to get up.

I felt the urge to ask him to move, get up and get my phone and get on with it, but instead I stayed. I thought about how I’d give anything to see Obi and Dexter again, to sit quietly with them, doing nothing but being together. I reminded myself that some day Ringo won’t be here anymore, and I know on that day, I’d look back on a time like this and tell myself, “just stay, don’t move, be here.” So I stayed.

To practice gratitude, we often skip past joy. We list the things we are grateful for with a sort of duty, a sense of obligation — we give thanks, look for ways to return the kindness or to earn it. Appreciation is something we offer, extend out, give away. Last night, I spent some time sinking into the joy I was receiving, opening to it, letting myself notice it, allowing myself to fully experience it. I embodied my gratitude by feeling my joy.

NaBloPoMo: Three Truths and One Wish

Snow and sunrise

From this morning’s walk, image by Eric

1. Truth: I’m on day two of cleaning and organizing my office. Today I found two canisters of pepper spray Eric put in my Christmas stocking a few years ago that have never been opened (backstory: Eric and the dogs got attacked by a dog running loose in our neighborhood, Sam put himself in between Eric and Ringo and the other dog, got hurt, and Eric wanted me to start carrying something that might help me if I got in a similar situation — problem is all I can imagine is getting out the pepper spray and using it, accidentally hitting myself or one of my dogs, or that I would hit whatever was attacking us and it would just make them mad, make the situation worse, so I don’t really want to use it), FIVE different coffee/tea mugs that I’ve been given as gifts or gifted myself but never made it to the kitchen cabinet so they could actually be used, a box of books I meant to donate to a local middle school THREE years ago, and a whole box of knick knacks and pictures and magnets and post it notes and other various office supplies from my CSU office. Blergh…

2. Truth: I hate this part of repacking, reorganizing, remodeling. You feel okay about the progress you’ve made, but the deeper you get into it, the deeper it seems to go, until it starts to feel like you’ll never ever finish. I also start getting sloppy and tired and have to work really hard to not start throwing things in boxes and hiding them in closets or the garage (which is where all this nonsense started) or convincing myself to just throw it all away.

3. Truth: Now I’m going to take a break. I’m going to leave this project as it is for now, start to cook some good food and look forward to relaxing and eating it, hanging out with some friends, slowing down for another day.

One wish: Wherever we are in the process, may we remember to pace ourselves, to take breaks and rest when we need to, to appreciate the preciousness of both making space and letting go.

#NaBloPoMo: Snow Day

We woke up to 13 inches of snow this morning. It wasn’t a surprise. As the hours of Monday moved along, the forecast kept getting worse and worse. I think the first time I noticed the Winter Weather Advisory, it was predicting 6-10 inches. Later in the day, they raised it to 8-14. By the time I went to bed last night, they’d upped it to 12-20 inches, and we already had six inches on the ground. It started snowing around 2:30 pm yesterday and never really stopped. Last time we checked it was 16 inches at our house.

I canceled my 8 am yoga class and my 11 am therapy appointment. I probably could have made it, with my all wheel drive and snow tires, but I didn’t want to risk it. They don’t plow our neighborhood streets, (other than the few people in our neighborhood with pickups and makeshift plows who drive around for fun, making the roads more passable), so you have to make it five blocks to where they’ve worked on the roads and there were multiple cars stuck and abandoned between here and there.

Since I had a whole day with nothing on my schedule, I decided to work on organizing my office. After I meditated and wrote, I worked on it for just a bit before it became clear I needed a big breakfast if this was what I had planned for the day. I made fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, and french toast — particularly yummy and nice on such a snowy day. After that, I came back to my office and got to work. It feels like the primary things needing sorted and either removed or stored are years of accumulated paperwork, along with piles of unread magazines and books.

As I sorted today, I found some of the weirdest things. A second digital camera I didn’t even realize I had, various music players (pre-smartphones), power cords that have no mate (at least not one I know of), owner’s manuals for items I no longer own, an old bag of Greenies from back when Dexter was still alive with just one remaining, an old pair of prescription sunglasses, a collection of half eaten candy, things I’d meant to mail but didn’t, a credit card I never even bothered to activate, a sweatshirt I recently bought for one of my nieces that I didn’t realize still has an anti-theft device on it (which means I have to take it back to the store with the receipt and ask them to remove it).

Getting my office cleaned up and sorted feels necessary. The work I want to do needs a solid physical foundation, a space that is clear and open. If I clean it up and clear it out, what else wants to come in will have room to breathe. I’ve known this for a long time, even worked on it a little here and there, but with my burnout and the merging of what was in my old CSU office and what’s accumulated here over the years, it’s been hard to sustain let alone complete. Today was no different. I probably got two hours of work in, cleared some space before I couldn’t do anymore. On the surface, it doesn’t look like I did much of anything.

And that is totally okay. This is how it goes sometimes, in fits and starts, a little at a time. I’m trying to reconcile who I’ve been with who I want to become, and that’s messy. I’m pacing myself.

Something Good

River and trees

From our walk

1. How to Be Kind to Yourself & Still Get Stuff Done.

2. Can You Say…Hero? “Fred Rogers has been doing the same small good thing for a very long time…” The original article from 1998 that the new Mr. Rogers movie staring Tom Hanks is based on.

3. The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga.

4. The new Black Friday.

5. Swimming Sideways: Navigating Grief As A Writer And An Artist from Chuck Wendig on Terrible Minds.

6. Resisting Fatphobia (A Social Justice Perspective on Size) from Isabel Foxen Duke.

7. How to Avoid Burnout While Trying to Make a Difference (And Recover From Burnout if You Do) from Andréa Ranae Johnson. “Feeling exhausted by your drive to create change in the world? This video is for you. Here, I share about common signs you’re experiencing or on the verge of burnout, how to avoid burnout and how to recover from burnout and why this is necessary for those of us that care deeply about the world and making it a better place.”

8. Your 5-day gratitude challenge: 5 exercises to increase your gratefulness, a challenge from Ideas.TED.com, which included links to relevant TED talks.

9. 10 Better Ways to do Black Friday from Be More With Less.

10. Go Ahead. Eat Your Holiday Feelings. on The New York Times.

11. McMindfulness: how capitalism hijacked the Buddhist teaching of mindfulness.

12. Black Farmers Were Driven From Their Land for Decades. Now, Some Are Reclaiming It.

13. forget thanksgiving: 5 indigenous women dismantling stereotypes.

14. ‘Queen & Slim’ Could Be One of the Great Love Stories of All Time — if You Let It on The New York Times. “The film is a rare portrayal of black people in our fullness — angry and frightened and hurt, euphoric and loving and free.”

15. Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Cancellation of Colin Kaepernick on The New York Times. “‘Cancel culture’ has always existed — for the powerful, at least. Now, social media has democratized it.”

16. Mary Lambert on Her New Album “Grief Creature.” (video)

17. It’s Time to Talk About Black Girls and Anxiety. In related news, Summer Walker’s Canceled Tour Proves Social Anxiety Is Deeply Misunderstood.

18. ‘She Saved Us’: Mourners Pay Tribute to Toni Morrison on The New York Times. “The Nobel laureate, who died in August, was honored at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. Speakers included Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis and Fran Lebowitz.”

19. Trump ally Franklin Graham is thrilled that Chick-fil-A haven’t abandoned their anti-LGBT beliefs. In related news, Chick-fil-A backtracks, won’t pledge to end donations to anti-LGBT charities and Chick-fil-A Still Isn’t LGBTQ-Friendly, Despite Pledge on Donations.

20. Marie Kondo Wants to Sell You Nice Things. What’s Wrong With That? on The New York Times.

21. ‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’: Can You Say ‘Sincere’ And ‘Heartening’?

22. Victoria’s Secret, Struggling on Many Fronts, Cancels Annual Fashion Show on The New York Times. “The decision comes as the lingerie giant has sought to overcome a host of challenges, including criticism of objectification of women and its financial woes.”

23. How to Help End the Epidemic of Violence Against Trans People.

24. Humanitarian Scott Warren Found Not Guilty After Retrial for Helping Migrants at Mexican Border.

25. 27 Responses to (Never-Ending) Diet Talk.

26. I Now Suspect the Vagus Nerve Is the Key to Well-being.

27. Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo. “Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit Aimee Mann’s third album, a world-weary showcase of independent spirit and expertly tuned songwriting.”

28. The Trans Obituaries Project: Honoring the Trans Women of Color Lost in 2019.

29. My Culture is Not Your Toy: A Gay Japanese Man’s Perspective on Queer Eye Japan. “How Queer Eye damages the very people and culture they were trying to save.”

30. Why Doctor Visits Really Are Different for Highly Sensitive People.

31. What pure happiness looks like. (video) This is me in the pool.

32. Stray Dog Found Curled Up In Snow Keeping Orphaned Kittens Warm.

33. Meet the Good Dogs Rescuing Koalas From Australia’s Wildfires.

34. Blind, Lonely And Ignored By All Other Animals, Helen, The Bison, Seemed Destined For Loneliness, But Then She Met Oliver.

35. Dogs Can’t Help Falling in Love on The New York Times. “One researcher argues that a dog’s ability to bond has more to do with forming emotional attachments than being smart about what humans want.”

36. Mister Rogers And The Dark Abyss Of The Adult Soul.

37. The Jungle Prince of Delhi on The New York Times. “For 40 years, journalists chronicled the eccentric royal family of Oudh, deposed aristocrats who lived in a ruined palace in the Indian capital. It was a tragic, astonishing story. But was it true?”

#NaBloPoMo: Poem Inside a Poem

Sunrise over the Poudre River

Eric took this picture while he was walking the dogs this morning

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

~David Whyte

 

“Do not let the day slip through your fingers, but live it fully now, this breath, this moment, catapulting you into full awareness.” ~Danna Faulds

 

it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

~Mary Oliver

 

“The original meaning of the word ‘appreciate’ means to move toward what is precious. Practicing gratitude is a type of leaning in towards being truly present. It’s a practice that reengages our aliveness—that awakens us to what is precious.” ~Mark Nepo