Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

#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. ❤

#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.

#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

 

#NaBloPoMo: I don’t know what to say

Kitchen counter love notes

“Some things don’t work out”

For the past half an hour, Eric and I have been brainstorming things I could write about. I got up this morning, took the sheets off the bed so I could wash and replace them while Eric walked the dogs. I played on my phone, meditated, and wrote. Then I went to the gym for my Pilates equipment class. After that, I came home and ate, then went and got a massage. After that, I took a shower and got in bed to read. It’s been a nice, lazy day — but now I find myself 10 minutes away from dinner and I still haven’t made a blog post, and have no idea what to write about.

Eric’s first idea was actually a joke. He told me to write about D&D, his thing not mine, something that I don’t understand. After talking for a bit, he told me I could just come in and write for 10 minutes, call it a “brain dump,” but I told him that’s what I do in my journal in the morning and I’d never publish that. In fact, I hope nobody but me ever reads any of that — it’s junk, garbage, nonsense. It’s important to do, an essential part of the process, but not worth sharing most of the time.

So all I have is to tell you what I’ve been thinking about today, what I’m contemplating. I have been reading a lot of memoirs lately about addiction. I just finished one called Drunk Mom and then started The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare. Someone in my life is an addict, and recovery is something I’m trying to figure out. How does it happen? How does it work? What can people in relationship with the addict do to help?

The books I’ve been reading haven’t provided an answer, or at least not the one I want. It’s an answer that requires patience, a whole lot of waiting and hoping and not being able to do anything to help. Essentially everything I’ve read so far boils down to: the addict recovers when they decide they want to, when they make the choice and seek out help, (and sometimes it doesn’t work out). Sure, I’ve heard that before, that someone can’t get better unless they want to, that they have to choose it for themselves, do it for themselves, but it’s hard to believe it could be that simple, that complicated. For example, one of the books I read recently, the addict was in bed, feeling crappy, and heard someone using a leaf blower outside, and that was the moment they decided they wanted to live, wanted to get sober. In another, it was just a moment, not that different from any of the ones that came before, but something shifted and the person decided.

Addiction is further complicated by the fact that sobriety doesn’t always stick. Relapse happens. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of people recovering from drug addiction relapse. Some studies show that of people who are treated for alcoholism, less than 20 percent remain sober for a year. For many, they spend years of their lives in a cycle of jail/rehab, sobriety, and relapse. Rinse and repeat.

My response? I want to figure it out. I want to fix it. I’m frustrated that I can’t. I have no answers. I keep trying, don’t give up, continue to practice, hoping to ease suffering — in myself and in the world, when and where I can, and even when I can’t I hold that intention. That’s all I’ve got.

#NaBloPoMo: No Easy Answers

A snowy field with trees

From our walk this morning

When you are trying to write something to post every day, there are days like this. Days where there are at least three big topics you might write about, but each one feels too big and you aren’t really sure exactly what you have to say about it anyway.

For example, today I’m thinking about: how to know what to do when the symptoms you are dealing with are connected to multiple conditions, how to help someone who is struggling, and the difficulty of decluttering. In regards to the first, I was thinking this morning how some of my current primary symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Tracing them back to a single source or cause in order to track down a fix isn’t really all that easy since besides external environmental factors out of my control and difficult to pinpoint, they are some of the key symptoms of being highly sensitive, having an autoimmune disorder, having seasonal affective disorder, being perimenopausal, and suffering from burnout — all things I’m dealing with.

Then there’s knowing someone is struggling but not knowing how to help, and how much more complicated it gets when the one(s) struggling don’t even know what they need or want or maybe they don’t think they need help or don’t want help, and they are family, and there may or may not be children involved, and doing nothing isn’t really an option.

And of the three, maybe the difficulty of decluttering seems simple, but it’s not. I brought home things that had lived in my CSU office to integrate into my home office, which was already overflowing and piling up all around me. I started by putting some things in the garage and trying to sort through them there, but that just made a whole new mess in a second location. Eric cleaned up the garage, moving all my stuff to one side, and then said recently, “maybe while I’m on break next week, we can take that stuff to Goodwill.” I said, “what stuff?”, as I’d already taken the load of what I had to donate. He answered, “that stuff on the one side” referring to my things I was sorting but certainly not yet planning to get rid of, and I responded, “that’s NOT for Goodwill!” The space I do my work in feels like it needs to be decluttered and organized before I can feel good about getting anything done in there, but each time I even think about it, I just can’t…which only keeps me stuck.

I was explaining this to my friend after we were writing together this morning. That I had all these big things to contemplate and write about but none of them seemed manageable. After listening to me talk, she said, “there are no easy answers.” She took these three seemingly unworkable ideas, the whole entire human condition, and summed it up, just like that.