Movement is the new exercise. Exercise is pedaling nowhere watching the miles click by on a monitor. Movement is breathing the fresh air, nodding to your neighbors and feeling the sun on your face. Movement is dance. Or stretching the kinks away, or even mowing the lawn. Movement can even be lifting weights in a sweaty gym, but not for me.
Movement is physical activity, no matter how small. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but implies counting reps or miles and following a program in the hope of achieving a level of fitness.
I love the idea of movement. But lately, I’ve been trying to be a little more vigorous about my movement without slipping into exercise. I have some autumn goals I’m looking toward, and I want to be strong and capable when they get here. For me, it’s a slippery slope to exercise. And I hate exercise. If it becomes exercise, (pardon my French, NIKE) I’ll just never do it.
Last weekend was hot and humid. It was my least favorite weather. And for a Minnesotan to say it was the worst weather of all, is saying something.
I strapped a water bottle to my bike with the intention of cycling just a little bit farther than I had the time before. And I did. Until, on the way back, I ran out of gas, so to speak. My water was warm. It was hot in the shade. Even after resting, I had trouble swinging my leg over the crossbar without losing my balance. To make a long story short, I eventually made it home safely and was fine after resting in the back yard.
Since then, I’ve had every excuse in the book why I can’t hop on my bicycle for even a few blocks. I’d ruined it for myself.
The days of rest gave me some space to assess the situation. I hadn’t practiced mindful movement. I’d made the mileage the goal. I’d turned it into exercise, which I personally equate to mental, physical and emotional torture.
So I pictured a meter. At zero is rest. At the far right is death. In between, the needle moves from leisure to torture. The sweet spot on the meter is where I find challenge. If I want to continue getting stronger, I need to push past leisurely movement and try not to venture into torture. The minute I hit torture, I’m going to shut down — physically, emotionally and psychologically — I’d literally rather sit on the couch feeling horrible about myself.
Torture = feeling too sick, hot or tired to continue; cursing myself because I can’t do what I think I “should;” playing mind games to keep myself moving
Leisure = feeling good to get up off the couch; smiling at flowers or bugs along the way; shaking off stress
Challenge = awareness of breath and body; gratitude for the ability to move and breathe; mastery of presence — finding the sweet spot on the meter
For me, running a marathon or training for the Olympics sounds like self torture. I simply want to walk a 5k without limping across the finish line. This is the movement movement. It’s personal, it’s mindful and it feeds the body, mind and soul.
I wore a brightly-flowered skirt and matching blouse to my father’s funeral. Immediately upon entering the church I knew I was inappropriately dressed. I’d forgotten funeral etiquette. After giving birth two months earlier, I had nothing to wear that fit, and I’d gone shopping in a haze.
When I tell this story, most friends usually try to comfort me and say I chose something that would make my dad smile. Actually, if he was looking down, Dad would have thought my skirt terribly unbefitting. Yet there I was, in front of the whole congregation competing with the alter gladiolas.
I made no apologies, and to this day chuckle at the misstep. I was young, consumed by grief, drunken with hormones, and a mother of three. If anyone was allowed the mistake, surely I was.
There may be five common stages, but we all move through grief at our own pace and in our own way. There’s no right way to grieve. It’s a personal thing. Even when faith, culture and etiquette dictate one right way to mourn, it’s crucial we show self-compassion and honor whatever it is that helps us to heal.
By accommodating our own process, it affords us the ability to do the same for others. It may be easier for us to feel empathy for the one who cries than for the one who didn’t attend the funeral. Yet, it’s entirely possible that the one who didn’t show feels such pain they can’t leave the house. It’s possible the one who is angry has hurtful regrets. It’s possible the one who makes jokes is afraid.
We can’t know what stories are deeply buried in another’s heart. Sometimes we scarcely know what’s in our own.
May we feel deeply for all affected by death and open our hearts to love and compassion for their healing.
Once I gave up dieting, sold all my diet books to the half-price bookstore, and unfollowed all my diet social media, I began the process of learning how to decide what to eat on my own. That sounds so silly, doesn’t it? I’m a grown woman who raised four human beings into adulthood. I’ve been buying groceries and cooking for forty years. And I woke up that first morning like . . . now what?
One might think I dove headfirst into a tall stack of buttermilk pancakes with real butter, pools of syrup dripping over the edge of the plate. But I didn’t. I reached for a banana, because it was familiar and safe. I grabbed a knife, and in my mind I was deciding whether I should eat a half or a third. Numbers danced in my head. Calories.
And then I did the unthinkable. I ate the whole damn banana.
It wasn’t that I’d never eaten a whole banana before. Usually I ate it in segments; a half banana for breakfast, calories logged, with a serving of oatmeal and skim milk. Midmorning I might browse through the kitchen and snip off another quarter, justifying that it was a harmless fruit. After lunch the last quarter would go into a scoop of ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, if we had it. I might even have added nuts.
And there it was. I’d blown it.
By 4 PM I was crabby, defeated, and angry. Fight or flight. Except I’d used up all my fight trying not to eat that sundae, and consequently wishing I hadn’t. So I’d fly into the kitchen and look for that One Thing that was going to make me feel better. I’d eat toast. Nope, that wasn’t it. I’d try fruit. Not quite. Maybe something salty? Gooey? Protein?
Eventually, I’d sit on the couch, stuffed to the gills. I no longer felt angry or crabby. The demons had been sufficiently numbed. Sometimes I’d sleep, waking groggy, guilty and full. But there was one more phase — keeping the secret.
Because . . . This was embarrassing, this weird afternoon rage through the kitchen. So I would fix a perfectly normal dinner for Bubba and I, with meat and vegetables, maybe a salad or potatoes. And I would eat that too. Because otherwise I’d have to admit I had already eaten toast and fruit and chips and candy and cheese and god knows what else. And having him forage through the fridge looking for something to eat on his own would have deepened my guilt. Then the meat and vegetables I had planned to cook would rot in the fridge, and I’d have to throw them out. More guilt. Better to keep the secret, eat like a bird, and end the night in gluttonous discomfort.
So, yes. That first day I ditched dieting I ate the whole. goddamn. banana.
I ate it with whatever else I had for breakfast. But I remember that full banana because it was the first full banana I’d eaten in years without bargaining a smaller bowl of oatmeal, or promising myself I’d leave the rest until the next morning, knowing full well that fucking thing was going to land in an afternoon sundae.
And I was full until lunch, when, making my salad, I picked up a ripe avocado. I pulled out a sharp knife, and sliding it through the rough skin to the inner buttery flesh, numbers began to dance through my head. Calories. Should I slice up a third or a fourth?
Then I sliced half of the avocado and laid it gingerly on my salad . . .
Everything and everyone are temporary. Some things are temporary longer, but never permanent. The oldest thing you can think of will someday be as gone and forgotten as tomorrow’s Top 40. Is this too deep for a Sunday morning? I apologize. I’m in a melancholy mood.
How, you ask, is this woebegone thinking going to dig me out of the doldrums? When I mention my thoughts on this out loud, at least one person will eventually tell me I’m depressing. I understand. Life is art. Your perspective depends on where you are standing. Lack of permanence is comforting or unnerving depending on your perspective.
Abraham Lincoln, in an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, once said,
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
Sometimes we control how long something will be temporary. We can take action; re-cut a bad haircut, remove a tattoo. We can take a break or even quit a job or relationship. I prefer not to stay in an unacceptable situation if it shows no sign of change. I left an employer over a decade ago, because I needed different hours. I asked if there was any way to change my shift, and they said no. It was a fine place to work, but it just didn’t fit my family needs. Several people mentioned how they should leave too, for various reasons, but mostly because they hated it there.
Upon handing in my two-week notice, a couple of managers approached me. They wanted me to stay. They would have offered me different hours. They would have trained me in different areas. They really had high hopes for me. Would I consider staying? “Sorry,” I said. “I already have another job.” Perhaps if they had known I was so very temporary, they have valued me more from the onset.
When I go back to that place, I still see a couple of those people who said they wanted to leave. If you wait for change to fall in your lap, you might have to wait a long time. After a while you forget you have a choice. Time flies when you’re having fun, but disappears forever when you’re not.
When things are really bad, I mean really bad, caring friends will ask, “Are you okay?” To which I reply, “I’m fine.” When they ask if I’m sure, I say, “What else am I going to be?” I suppose the obvious answer to that is “not fine.” But as long as I’m conscious and breathing, I make the choice to be fine. The rest is temporary.
In my car this morning, Alanis Morissette was singing through the stereo.
I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
She sings of the yin and yang of life. The fact that I gravitate toward the yang when the yin of life weighs me down is a healthy thing. I write. I walk. I get out of the house. I look for beauty in the world. I find beauty within myself. I know both light and dark are temporary, and find delight and grief in their brevity.
So, yeah. I’m a little introspective and quiet this morning. And a little melancholy.
When I was a kid, we never buckled up. The cars were big, and the seats were hard and flat. If the driver took a sharp turn, we’d slide across the back seat until we pressed up against another passenger and flattened them to the door. Cloverleaf turns were the best because they went on forever, and you just couldn’t right yourself.
Sometimes life is like that. I’ve taken a big turn, and I’m giggling. It’s exciting and fun, but I’m pressed up against the side of the car and I can’t seem to right myself. In the chaos, my purse tipped over and all my belongings are strewn across the floor.
If you’re not a woman or don’t carry a purse, you have no idea what kind of catastrophe it is to have it empty on the floor of a car. There are cosmetics, credit cards, pills, scraps of paper, keys, and candy that will melt if lost and forgotten under the seat. This is how my life feels. It is an upside down purse on the bottom of a car, careening around a cloverleaf off of Interstate 94. And I’m smooshed against the window giggling so hard I’m in danger of peeing my pants.
I know you were wondering why I hadn’t posted in a while . . . You were, right?
The car is finally starting to come out of its turn and I’m thinking about how to put my purse back together without stepping on any of it first. I chose to write here, because it seems to clear my head. It’s some type of conscious meditation, connecting brain fibers, inducing deep breath. It feels familiar, like soil under bare feet.
I see that there are two ways to go with this. I can pick up the most important things first — the credit cards and pills — or toss the scraps of meaningless papers out the window.
No, I don’t litter in real life. This is all metaphorically speaking. Try to stay with me, here.
Isn’t there some saying about swallowing your biggest frog first? Yuck. It reminds me of a nightmare I once had. I’m going to pick up my credit cards and pills first, which will make the rest seem like tadpoles. Gross.
So here’s the plan. It’s not etched in stone, but the internet is close.
Pick up the credit cards. I’m going to pay my bills before I forget them and they become overdue. While I’m doing that, I can check my bank balances. I’ll put all the tax documents in one obvious annoying place.
Chase down the pills. Take a walk. It’s a beautiful day — the sun is shining and the dog is eager. The fresh air is the medicine I need to complete the rest.
Put the cosmetics back in the case. Clean myself up — get dressed, from my makeup to my shoes, to gear up for the rest of the day.
Throw out the scraps of paper. Clutter is caving in on me. I still have Christmas stuff out for God’s sake! I’m going to pick up, tidy up, clear out, and throw away!
Pick up my pocket calendar. I’m pretty sure my son’s birthday was this week. What was it he requested? Vegetarian lasagna . . .
Find my keys. There are errands to run. Groceries need buying — soy sausage, noodles, sauce, maybe cupcakes . . .
Fish out that bit of chocolate under the seat. Lastly, I’m going to treat myself. Maybe I’ll watch a movie with popcorn or find a pair of shoes at the mall.
Another fun thing I remember about the old bench seats is a sharp turn followed by one in the other direction. I never knew if Mom or Dad did it just to hear us laugh, but sliding from one side of the car to the other was a thrill I will never forget.
One best left to memory, and not encountered in metaphor!
Nowadays we have seat belts, helmets, shin guards, face masks, and anti-lock brakes meant to suck the fun out of everything keep us safe and extend our lives. When they come up with one for the sharp turns in life, let me know, will ya?
I like to think of myself as a realist. My glass may be half full or half empty. I’ll let you know after I find out what’s in there. Wine? Dang, that glass is half empty. Fill ‘er up, eh?
As a realist, there are things I understand. Not everyone is going to like me. Nothing is perfect — not a job, not a friendship, not a house, not a spouse. Nothing lasts forever — not possessions, not happiness, not life, and certainly not cake.
For these reasons and more, realists sometimes are mistaken for pessimists. But as a realist, I also understand that everywhere I go, most people are going to like me. And my job, friendships, house, and Bubba are really awesome. In addition, most things will last just long enough to get what you need out of them, including grief, strife, childhood, and life. Even cake.
Another misconception is that people with low expectations harbor low standards. While I know what superb results look like, I know there are times I just won’t achieve them. To avoid stress, it is in my best interest to be realistic.
Perfection is where high standards meet high expectations and can lead to procrastination and eventually paralysis. The dreaded 3 P’s. Look it up.
Take my last month at work and, for all I know, the next month or more. We had a software conversion. They tell me I am a super-user, which means all questions and issues from my department funnel through me. I work in a customer service position. Our software conversion is causing issues not only for internal users, but the people we serve. There are inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations. There’s that word again.
My email and voicemail inboxes are brimming with unanswered messages. I am not meeting my high standards of customer service. I am afraid I won’t help my co-workers feel comfortable in the new system. I have lost management of my time. My long hours are shrinking my personal time; my real life.
And on one particular day I crashed. I threw a hissy fit right a my desk. Papers were thrown. Tears were spilt. Someone in the neighboring office may have freaked out. Just a little.
The biggest problem was the level at which I had placed my expectations. I expected June to feel normal. I expected a manageable routine by now. I expected sleep to come 7 hours at a time. After five weeks in the new system, I expected to meet my high standards. When they weren’t, I imploded. Or exploded as the case may have been.
It is time for a game plan. And while I don’t completely have that plan figured out, chances are it is going to include lowering my expectations.
The difference between expectations and standards is that you can lower your expectations without sacrificing your self-esteem. I don’t think we can say the same of our standards. While our circumstances are often out of our control, both of these attributes are not; we can set them deliberately.
I have set my standards sky-high. Due to circumstances out of my control, I just can’t meet them . . .
Every child needs a good role model. Young people are so impressionable and idealistic, aren’t they? If you are a parent, you are likely careful with whom your child spends time. You want someone who will make good choices, be honest, trustworthy, kind.
We are all role models, whether we want to or not. We play a role and we model that for the world to see. As a caretaker for your Inner Child, you are on duty 24/7. Choose your actions wisely.
Listen. Get to know your Inner Child. If you have said “SHHhhhh!” often enough, you may need to give him time to speak up. He will be leery, and may have to remember what it was he wanted to say. You cannot move on to any of the other items until you succeed with this first one.
Inspire. What is it that your Inner Child would like to be or do? Choose actions that elicit that passion. Seek out knowledge about an interest. Give back to others. Try something new.
Be trustworthy. If you tell your Inner Child you will do something, keep your word. If you don’t think you can, be honest. Don’t make promises you aren’t able or don’t intend to keep. Follow through with those you do.
Apologize. Only deities are perfect. Admit mistakes. Learn from them. Promise to do better. Your Inner Child will learn to forgive.
Have integrity. Your Inner Child will respect and admire your actions when they align with your values. If you speak gratitude, and take people for granted, your Inner Child will suffer. When you speak words of love, and show actions of hatred, your Inner Child is watching.
Respect. Treat your Inner Child the way you would want to be treated. Be good, gentle and kind. Show respect and gratitude toward others. Respect the world, and the world will become your mirror.
Give. Children admire those who give freely and selflessly of time, money and essentials. It is important for our Inner Child to feel there are gifts that come to those who need them. He will look up to you as someone who fulfills those needs.
Be strong. Choose your fights wisely, then show your Inner Child how fiercely you engage. Overcome obstacles. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Rise from the flames. Reinvent yourself.
Have confidence. Be someone of whom your Inner Child would be proud. Then be proud of whom you have become.
Play. Go out for ice cream. Play on the swing set. Lay in the grass. Feel the sun on your skin. Pick a dandelion bouquet. Notice a bug. Picnic in the front yard. Take your feet off the pedals and coast.
What was your favorite playtime when you were a child? Could you do that now? If not, how could you change it for your grown-up self?
I’ve been thinking lately, because that’s what we introverts do. We think. A lot. That’s why we’re so damn smart.
Clicking on the dashboard icon on my ancient 6-year old MacBook pops up a Widgets selection. The one I use most is the Oxford American Dictionary/Thesaurus. I was a little disappointed to find these definitions:
Introvert: a shy, reticent and typically self-centered person. A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.
Extrovert: an outgoing, overtly expressive person. A person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations.
My alarm goes off a good two and a half hours before I am due at work. In the who-can-get-out-of-the-house-fastest competition, I lose. People are amazed. “What do you DO in the morning?”
Well? . . . . I let the dog out, use the restroom and find my glasses and phone. I get dressed and take the dog for a walk, the length of which depends on the weather. During that time, I am engrossed in some type of auditory experience. I have radio programs, podcasts, audiobooks, and music apps that all bring entertainment to my morning walk. Every now and then I just listen to the birds waking up and connect with nature. But generally, I like something for my brain in the morning. It gives me something to think about during the day. Because as I already stated, we introverts think a lot.
Back at home, Bubba may or may not have started to stir. He’s not a talker in the morning. He’s more of a grunter. It’s one of the things that leads me to believe he is also an introvert. He grunts. I sigh. And somehow we manage to let each other know we need to get in the fridge, or use the toilet. It works.
I make breakfast and lunch for myself in the time I have allotted. I feed the dog. The rabbit gets a nice salad. After a quick healthy breakfast, I read, finish whatever I was listening to earlier, or maybe just play a word game on my phone.
For me to get out of bed, dress, shower, grab a cup of joe and head out would be disastrous. I would arrive at work edgy, tired, weak, and unsociable.
Instead, I arrive with a smile. The faces of my coworkers are beacons of light in an otherwise dingy grey warehouse. I’m already contemplating the work before me, prioritizing tasks in my head. I walk confidently, calling out a good morning to fellow coworkers and clients alike. I doubt anyone other than the Oxford American Dictionary would define me as a shy, self-centered person.
Meeting with my manager for a one-on-one, she is surprised to hear me describe myself as an introvert. Misconceptions abound over this term. As I talk, I gaze out the window of her office. Sometimes those I talk to will glance over their shoulder or out the window to see what I am looking at. I’m not looking at anything. Nor does my averted gaze mean I am lying. It means that I am so in tune to your facial expressions and body language, it actually distracts me from my story. I have to look elsewhere so that I don’t lose track of what I am saying. My manager likes to refer to me as a thinker.
I spend the day in a customer service atmosphere. I charm. I sell. I mediate conflict. I make things right. It demands a personality of communication, interaction, and a genuine love of people. I walk a sometimes-thin line between customer understanding and employer loyalty. We are the peacemakers. The referees. The crusaders. It is not a job for the meek.
On my lunch hour, you will not find me in the break room with my coworkers. I will be on a walk, or more likely at home snuggled up with a book, or writing on my laptop. I suffer the loss of networking and gossip, but reap a much-needed respite for this introvert.
Far from being the shy one at a table of my peers, I am the one biting my tongue. I am the class clown. The heckler delivering one-liners. But also the one who interjects thought-provoking counterpoises to the conversation. Sitting with friends is more thinking, and being clever. No, better to re-energize over a home-cooked lunch, nuzzling with a dog, and some quiet time.
In a team meeting, I choose my words wisely. I wait to make sure what I say is practical, unique, and intelligent. The team is often on to another topic by the time I have fully constructed my thought, and I ask to go back to the previous point. I apologize. As in any group setting, I am often the last to leave, waiting for a chance to talk to one particular person alone. While presenting a prepared speech in front of group exhilarates me, I communicate spontaneous thoughts better with one person. I appreciate a group leader who asks us to contact her later if we think of anything else.
The workday ends in reverse of how it began. Smiles and goodbyes and wishing people a good night. Not connecting with someone on my way out would be a letdown.
Suppressing my desire to head home, I try to ignore excuses for avoiding the gym. Exercise does more than rev up my heart. I breathe. Breathing releases any anxiety I have incurred in the form of outside stimuli. I try to spend some time each day in repetitive exertion at the gym, or even better, on a walk in some natural setting.
Once at home, I do like I have always needed to do for as long as I can remember. Like coming home from school, or shopping, or lunch with friends, I need to sit down alone and re-energize. To skip this step would be harmful to my relationships and my mental health. Word games, Sudoku, cooking, gardening, watching television, and cuddling with a pup are all ways for me to re-energize. I can’t read because my mind is too full. Sometimes I can write to empty it. Sometimes I make lists. Particularly bad days include a glass of red wine, maybe two. Chocolate is optional. Nuts are nice.
If I’ve had enough time to decompress, Bubba can enter like a whirlwind, propelling gloves, empty lunch containers and shoes in his wake, and it won’t bother me a bit. I welcome him home with a kiss and a smile. Other days I greet him with a hug and maybe point him to the stove for dinner. Usually he takes the dog out for some tongue-dragging playtime. This gives me a few moments to adjust to having someone else in my space. Then he will often let loose with the news of his day. Sometimes we just retreat to the television, exchanging weary smiles.
From my point of view, it is not the concern of my own thoughts and feelings that makes me an introvert, it is the way I use those thoughts to recharge myself to face the external demands of life.
The rooftops look like marshmallows, puffs of steam trail off in the bitter cold, the January sky is icy-blue. The days are short, the winter long.
This is the weekend, and my large south-facing picture window invites the sun in. During the week, I work in a small windowless office. Daylight is down 18 stairs, across a warehouse, and through the doors. It is dark when I wake and barely light when I leave the house. The sun is low on the horizon for my drive home.
I don’t go to bed any earlier in the winter. I don’t rise any later. Yet there are fewer hours in my day. Maybe it’s the damn Sims game my daughter suggested I download to my phone. My reality is now based on Life Points and making Woo-Hoo. I know I need to quit. But my tiny people would starve and pee all over their little houses. I just can’t bear the thought. Or maybe I’ve just lost my mojo.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is something I’ve often thought I might have. I try to disregard things I think I might have as opposed to those things I know I have. However, for the last five years that I’ve worked in this fluorescent box I call an office, the winter months are insufferable. And last November when we turned the clocks back it was like someone flipped a switch. I’m moody. I’m overwhelmed. I’m hungry. My thoughts are disjointed. I feel socially awkward. There might be something to this S.A.D. thing after all.
A simple trip to the grocery store is suddenly a major event. It is unlikely I know how much is in my debit account and even less likely I have a list. With no plan in place, I buy a few of the usual items from the usual departments. Vegetables. Eggs. Meat. Yogurt. Toilet Paper. I hope against hope I find the ingredients for a meal when I get home. Thankfully Bubba, engrossed in his everyday rituals, is fairly unaffected. Fairly.
Bubba: (At the deli counter) I’ll take a half pound of turkey breast. Me: There’s a coupon. Deli Man: You want a pound of turkey breast? Bubba: Oh, the coupon is for a pound. No, just give me a half pound. Me: I should get some ham. Bubba: (Realizing the guy is measuring out the whole pound anyway) Hey, just take a handful off the top of that, and it will be fine. Me: I don’t want him to measure out whole pound of ham though. Bubba: (Thinking he heard me say I didn’t want a half pound) Just get a quarter. Me: Are you telling me or asking me? Bubba: Huh? Me: Why are you telling me what to do? Bubba: Should we just go back outside and start over?
“Poor guy,” you’re thinking. It’s a good thing we can keep a sense of humor.
And there is anxiety. Looming bills, stubborn weight-gain, errors at work, unwritten letters and cards, forgotten birthdays, dusty shelves; all encroach like a tidal wave gaining size and momentum at sea. Unwritten lists build hour by hour, day by day, filling my murky brain. Yes, I have been too overwhelmed to write my damned lists!
This is the time that one must go back to one’s best practices. Shed the heavy winter coats of burden, and pry off the snow-caked boots of guilt. Go naked against the day. Figuratively, please . . . hey now, this is a family blog!
Drink water: Flushing toxins, rehydrating the skin, muscles and brain, drinking water is one of the gentlest things you can do to begin healing from anything.
Eat mindfully: Paying attention to what goes into your body is important. This doesn’t stop with purchasing and preparing your meal. Really slow down and enjoy your meal purposefully.
Be present: Include activities that bring yourself closer to now. Cuddle your children. Pet the dog. Tend a plant. Meditate.
Dance: Let your music move you. If you are so inclined, SING! (A big thank you to izzwizz for that suggestion!)
Go on outdoor walks: Bundle up, if necessary — we are 5 degrees at 1:00 p.m. today — it’s necessary! Let the weather hit you in the face; rain, wind, sun and snow. Trust me, you will feel more alive for it.
Make an intention every day: Some days we need to aim low. Today my intention is to write this post. Another day it might be to move a mountain. But that is another day, and another day will come.
Be your own best friend: I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends and family who care for me. None compare to the friend I have found in myself. I always know what is best for me at any given moment. The trick is to allow myself to give and receive graciously.
These are the tools I have chosen to shovel myself out this winter. I have a couple other tricks up my sleeve, like vitamin supplements and a small therapy light, both suggested by my doctor last year. While it is normal to feel down some days, if you feel down for days and cannot seem to get motivated to do the things you usually enjoy, please see your doctor. This is especially important if you have changes in your sleep patterns or your appetite changes or you feel hopeless, suicidal, or are turning to alcohol for comfort.
Let’s face it. Sometimes the bathroom stinks. Sometimes life stinks. It came to me while I was cleaning the toilet; a mundane task that allowed my mind to wander toward more pressing, serious matters. I got to thinking about the task of cleaning up one’s life. Not mine. Mine is sparkly-clean and smelling fresh! Ahem . . . Like bathrooms, most lives could use a little freshening up if we really get down there and put our noses to it.
There are different kinds of cleaning, and not all bathrooms need all of them at once. There is the clean-it-up-for-company kind of clean. Appearance is everything here. A quick wiping off of the surfaces, fresh towels, and a swipe on the mirror may do it. Light a candle if necessary. We all clean up pretty well when push comes to shove. A clean outfit, shampoo, a spritz of fragrance, and no one would guess there is anything hiding beneath the surface. In bathrooms as in life, smiling helps.
Then there is the kind of cleaning you do to get set up for the week. You scrub a little deeper. You bleach and scour the shower. You put a fresh bag in the trash, replenish the extra rolls of T.P., and scrub the floor. It’s what weekends are for — paying bills, running errands, putting the train back on its track. It sets you up for the week. It doesn’t take long, but a weekly catch-up makes all the difference.
In the course of its use, eventually every bathroom hits a point where it has fallen to ruins. Someone gets sick and the bathroom is clearly overused. When there is illness in your life, the washroom isn’t going to be fit for company. It’s a time to take a break from letting others in and just heal. When you are stronger, you can run over what needs to be cleaned first and leave the rest until you have more energy. It is not going to smell fresh, and the towels are going to be laden with germs. And that is exactly what it needs to be until you can restore your health.
Maybe you are just needed elsewhere. Sometimes it just isn’t all about your bathroom. Other people have bathrooms, too. It’s about helping to cook the community supper, or getting your kids to the doctor, or helping your neighbor clean up after a fire. You can let your bathroom go. If someone needs a clean washcloth, they know where to find them. If toilet paper runs out, let someone else buy it. Your bathroom is important, but you will appreciate having one a lot more if you occasionally help someone else with theirs.
Every now and then you need to take a look beneath the surface. The medicine cabinet is crammed with expired prescriptions that need to be thrown. There are so many near-empty conditioner bottles that you can’t find a place to set your soap. You need to get rid of the old things in your life before you can let new and improved items in. You may find things you had forgotten were there when you really start digging. Finding old treasures is as precious as the gift of new ones. When you find something you once valued, but no longer find a need, it might be time to let it go. Not always an easy thing to do, once you have all your favorite things lined up, it is easier to see what belongs and what no longer does. Traditions are like stale lotion in that way. Cherish them for what they once were, and let them go.
Sometimes things have gotten so bad that you will need to ask for help. You need to look for someone you trust. He knows his own bathroom is not at all as clean as it appears to guests, and will not judge you for yours. He realizes that someday his own space may get out of hand and he will need to ask you for help, too. And he is not likely to go blabbing about your dirty corners to anyone else.
I hope you have a friend in your life that you can let into your dirtiest bathroom. Someone who has seen your worst filth and will love you anyway.
Oh . . . And don’t forget to flush and wash your hands.