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Day of Rest: New Year, New Word

I wasn’t going to pick a word this year. Up until this morning, I wasn’t going to pick a word.

As I wrote about how I wasn’t, I took a look back at years past. How in 2011, I made my last New Year’s resolution and it was “to be a better friend to myself.” Then in 2012 it was “retreat,” 2013 “freedom,” 2014 “home,” 2015 “nourish,” 2016 “path,” 2017 was a whole phrase “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” and then 2018 I had intentions but no resolutions or word, and in 2019 I didn’t choose a word but it would have been “re-tire(ed),” and of course in 2020 what was there to even say as we all spent the year in a stunned silence going out on our back step every night at 8 pm to howl with the rest of the animals, and 2021 wasn’t much better or any less confusing and I didn’t know what to say or think about it, not a single word made sense, and in 2022, this year, I jokingly chose “nope.”

And after writing about it for a bit, I considered words like “mercy” or “love” or “surrender.” Then the word came that floats around for me quite a bit: “embody.” Wanting my actions to align with my truth, wanting to be present and responsive in my body, to have all the wisdom I’ve gleaned and carry around in my mind and pockets settle in and stick right in the center of my broken tender heart, that final stage of knowing where you don’t have to force it or try, it’s just who you are.

And yesterday, @asoulcalledjoel posted his morning check in on Instagram, ending with the blessing, “may you allow your authentic longings to be embodied — in every step, in every breath, in every action,” and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. So, even more than this year’s word is the mantra, “allow your authentic longings to be embodied.”

Though you cannot
remember it now,
you have taken a vow
with the stars
as your witness,
to offer your heart
to this world.

You have agreed
to remain naked, raw,
and vulnerable forever,
to enter into
the heart of sadness
and the ocean of tenderness
if that is where love calls you.

Your only guide
is the unknown
and the only map
is found inside
the cells of your own heart.

~Matt Licata

Happy New Year, kind and gentle reader. ❤

Day of Rest

His shaved leg from his IV though…

This morning as I sat at my writing desk with my journal and a hot cup of coffee, I once again was marveling at how well I was able to handle Ringo’s emergency this weekend — he’s resting and recovering today, btw. Those who know me well or have been reading this blog for a long time KNOW how much I love my dogs and how that same love has led to not only joy but suffering and loss, which in turn led to a particular kind of PTSD and all the work I’ve done to heal, to be able to be present for both myself and my dogs even and especially in moments of crisis.

I found myself this morning considering the “how” of this, and came up with a list I wanted to share. These are all the things that have supported my wellbeing over the past few years — which I’m sure you’d agree have been A LOT for all of us, kind and gentle reader. Disclaimer: I am 100% aware of how privileged and lucky I am to have access and the ability to invite this sort of support into my life, and that so many are simply struggling to stay alive, in ways both practical and abstract, related to both body and spirit. That said, in no particular order: 

Products

  • Weighted blanket: I was a little skeptical that this would have much of an impact, but I really like it. As I’ve heard people say before, it feels a bit like a full body hug. I have found that it soothes both muscle tension and anxiety. I sleep with it some nights and put it across my lap in the morning when I meditate or cover up with it on the couch for a nap. The one I have: Baloo 12lb Throw. It’s expensive but supposedly one of the best so I waited until I had a coupon.
  • Sleep mask: In particular, the one I have fits tight around my eyes but is still soft and fits comfortably, blocking almost 100% of the light. Mine is the Manta Sleep Mask. I know that some people with sensory processing issues also like noise cancelling headphones. I can’t use them because they make me panic. I need to be able to hear what’s going on around me, even and maybe especially when I’m sleeping.
  • Blackout shades. I need things to be dark in order to really rest. It’s why our alarm clock is on Eric’s side of the bed, we don’t have any sort of night light, and I have blackout shades to block any light from outside. You can get these as just a shade, or full curtains with the blackout material built in. I didn’t get any particular kind, so don’t have a link to share for this one.
  • Sunrise alarm clock. We’ve had one of these for at least 15 years (the same one, never even had to change the bulb), and I can’t imagine ever having to go back to waking up to straight noise. This one is so much more gentle and gradual, and super helpful since we get up before the sunrise all year round. We have the BioBrite Sunrise Clock, but due to “supply issues” they are no longer available. However, since we got ours, a lot more companies started offering them so there’s a lot more to choose from now, with all kinds of additional features.
  • White noise machine. This is another investment we made 20+ years ago, and the original one is still going strong. Now you can get one almost anywhere, cheap, but when we got ours, it was in a Sharper Image store in the mall (remember those?) and it was expensive, a definite luxury item — if I remember correctly, it was $149.99 marked down to $99, a lot of money to us at the time, (although spread out over 20+ years, it only amounts to less than $5 a year). Again, I don’t have a link because that was before we even shopped online and now there are so many more kinds available, with all sorts of features. There are also tons of smartphone apps you can use, that we do when we travel — brown noise is actually my current favorite variety, is a bit softer than white (or green or pink).
  • Infrared heating pad. I originally got this to help with arthritis pain in my knees, but I’ve also used it for my back and simply to cuddle up on the couch and rest when I’m cold. I love it. I’ve heard that some people even sleep with one. This is the one Eric got me for Christmas one year. The smaller size is of course cheaper, but I’d recommend going with the bigger one as it gives you more options.
  • Therapy light box. I have the Verilux HappyLight, an older model than what is out there now as I’ve had it at least 10-15 years. Again, there are SO many more options now. I have seasonal affective disorder and get up before the sun does so I use mine every morning while I write and drink coffee. It seems to really help me.
  • Oofos and Brooks shoes. I’ve had issues with plantar fasciitis and my knees, and with all the miles I walk, I need good shoes. Oofos are considered “recovery footwear.” I have the slides and flip flops, and have one set that are reserved for “in the house only,” wear them instead of slippers. Looking just now at their website, I think I need a pair of the clogs too. Brooks were one of the brands of shoes recommended by my podiatrist, and I use them for walks, running (when I used to still do that), going to the gym, and everyday wear. They are one of the only brands who offers a solid Gortex model, which is important when walking the dog.
  • Down pillows and blankets. I tend to run hot, and menopause doesn’t help, and I sleep in various positions, so I find that this is the material that keeps me the most comfortable. In fact, I have a bit of a blanket fetish, love the comfort of a good snuggle and seem to never have enough options.
  • Soft, loose fitting clothes without any scratchy seams or tags. My current winter uniform is the Soft Serve Cloud Cotton Hoodie (typically pretty expensive but currently 50% off) which are lighter weight and so soft, and the Universal Standard Hathaway Jersey Jogger, which is yes expensive and not as light as I’d like (can’t comfortably wear them when it’s warm), but so soft and such good quality. Another staple of my wardrobe that I’ve worn for he past 10+ years (and some of the pairs I have are that old and still going strong), which are mostly sold out on Columbia’s website but still available on Amazon are the Columbia Women’s Anytime Outdoor Boot Cut Pant. These are perfection. Light weight but durable, a bit of stretch and quick drying, they travel well as they don’t really wrinkle, are nice looking and a good fit. I also have a few pairs of the capris. These pants can be dressed up or worked out. I have worn them to work meetings, dinners out, even weddings, and I can also walk the dog and teach yoga in them. 
  • Zoloft (or more exactly, Sertraline). I resisted for so many years taking medication to help with my anxiety and depression, but three days before the world shut down for quarantine in March of 2020, I took my first dose, and I truly think I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for it.

Practices and Other Things

  • Meditation. I’ve had a regular practice for close to 15 years, have been certified to teach for six years. I practice simple breath awareness meditation, but also use mantra and other sounds, contemplations and visualizations. It has been so helpful with my anxiety, with understanding the way my brain and heart work, with helping me to stay here, not give up. Some of the products that support my process: Samadhi meditation cushions, and the Tibetan Mountain Seat, and Insight Timer app.
  • Yoga, including restorative and yoga nidra. As with meditation, I’ve had a regular practice for close to 15 years, and been certified to teach for eight years. I love the way it brings me back into my body and releases tension. It just feels good. My current practice is mostly restorative asana, and even though I can do my own practice without a teacher, I really love Caren Baginski’s YouTube channel.
  • Writing. I think it’s probably the thing I do the best and I for sure love it the most.
  • Reading. Both to learn and for the joy of it.
  • Sauna. I like both the traditional kind and the infrared.
  • Pool. Something about being in the water is magical, not matter how I’m moving while I’m there.
  • Massage. I enjoy the personal variety from my “amateur” husband, the professional kind from Dana, my masseuse of the past 15 years, and the mechanical sort that is both the hydromassage chair at my gym (which would run you about $10,000 to own — a true luxury item) and the Comfier Wireless Air Compression Hand Massager with Heat I have at home, (which I bought online at Walmart because it was about half the price).
  • Morning walks. You probably already knew that. 🙂
  • Dogs. They don’t have to be mine or even local.
  • Bodies of water. The ocean, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, creeks, ponds, and pools.
  • Trees. I have favorites, not just varieties but individual trees.
  • Bees and flowers. They just make me happy.
  • Birds in the feeder. I also love a good bird bath.
  • Poetry. I didn’t used to understand it, but I think I just wasn’t reading the right poets. Some of my favorites are Andrea Gibson, Ross Gay, Ada Limón, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Maya Stein, Alison Luterman, Hafiz, William Stafford, Nayyirah Waheed, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Rumi, John O’Donohue, Joy Harjo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Camille Dungy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Chloé Leisure, Ellen Bass, Bryan Doyle, and a whole host of others I’m forgetting. I could list my favorite poems but none of us has time for that.
  • A warm shower.
  • Coffee and Tea.
  • Listening to podcasts. My Favorite Murder, Do You Need a Ride?, Mike Birbiglia’s Working it Out, and Funny Cuz It’s True with Elyse Myers are the ones I won’t miss, but there are close to a hundred that I like.
  • Therapy.
  • Zoom art dates with friends.
  • Baking.
  • Comedy. Movies and TV and stand up. Some of my favorite comedians are Tig Notaro, Chris Fairbanks, Jim Gaffigan, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia, Pete Holmes, Jo Koy, Jackie Kashian, Melissa McCarthy, Fortune Feimster, Aparna Nancherla, Leslie Jones, Cameron Esposito, Hannah Gadsby, River Butcher, Marc Maron, Andy Woodhull, Tiffany Haddish, and a whole host of others I’m probably forgetting. 
  • Wild Writing.
  • Naps.
  • On demand streaming content. I love the access, being able to watch what I want, when I want. There is something about binge watching a series that is more like reading a book than what TV used to be like.
  • Documentaries. My favorites are about cults and true crime and mountain climbing, but I also love reality TV like home renovation shows or cooking competitions. 
  • Lots and lots of time alone, at home.
  • Texting.
  • Music. There’s way too much to even say about this one.
  • Hugs.
  • Laughter.

This is most likely not a complete list. And yet, when I started writing it, I didn’t realize it would be so long and it’s enough for now. I could easily make another list of things I avoid in order to support my overall wellbeing, and that list might be just as long.

What’s on your list? What or who contributes to your overall wellbeing?