Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Morning Light

Gluten morgen!
A blogger/cat lover/person of influence named Susannah Conway posted what I believe is technically a photo challenge for August, but I am going to use it as a writing challenge.
I make zero promises that I will write according to every prompt every day for the month of August. Please. I mean sure it might happen and that would be awesome but it might not happen and I declare that that too will be awesome.
Anyway, so today's prompt for a photo which we are turning into a prompt for a blog post is this:
Morning Light.
So without further ado, I will compose a blog post for the first time in a long time. You're welcome, Jill. Thanks for saying you miss my blog.
I hated being up in the morning as a teenager. I mean, most teenagers hate that, right?
I believe it's scientifically proven that kids at that age NEED a lot of sleep. They're growing like crazy, so personally I try to be relatively gentle with sleepy, lanky, young humans. Then again I don't have any of my own yet, so....
I hated being up in the morning, and then at some point in college I became a much kinder person in the mornings and I actually had to finally have a heart-to-heart with my family members to explain that this whole "Grouchy Bailey in the Morning" moniker had to go.
I think my a.m. mood shifted for a few reasons. Number one, I was out of the growth spurt zone, so I think I just didn't need as much physical rest. Two, I began a job the summer I turned 19 that required me to be up early, so I just went to bed early and adapted. And finally, I was too afraid (still am) to be unpleasant with people who were friends but not family (AKA roommates from Ohio and Michigan and Indiana), so I mustered up early morning smiles and eventually it just became natural.
Fast forward several years when I started working 5 a.m. shifts at Starbucks and I really discovered that while coffee is a dear, dear friend in this life, Bailey Kathleen doesn't exactly need her.
She just loves her and drinks her anyway.
For years I have wanted to be an early morning exerciser, but it hasn't happened. It's true, I am totally fine to socialize and function and work even before dawn, but if I don't have to be up for anything, I won't get up. Ergo, I am not a breakfast eater, I am not a morning bather, I am not a read the paper/make coffee at home/walk the cat in the morning person. Generally speaking I roll out of bed, grab the essentials, and go.
I love being up earlier than I have to be.
I really do.
I love the mystical quiet of a house filled with snoozing peeps, where I am the mouse tiptoeing to the Kuerig machine.
I love texting my friends who live two hours forward.
I love journaling in bed.
I love doing whatever I want or nothing at all, and usually these are one and the same.
I love when Max crawls to my lap to get snuggled because Mama's Up!
And I love the light.
I love the way the cat holds still as I photograph him in the beams filtering through the mini-blinds.
I love the black to navy to ocean to Brewer-blue-eye slideshow of colors that appear in the west, changing in their stillness until we have a new day.
I love a new day.
I love the possibility of ending the strangeness between strangers, as we chat about books we love and songs we love and IPA beers we hate and wham! We're pals.
I love the soft trust of a new day just beginning.
I love the open space and the God sitting right there at the foot of the bed, ready to listen and be with us.
I love that He's in no rush and I can dump worries on Him or gush about how much I love color and cats and words and man if He didn't decide that I should have a chance to hang out with all of those things in this place called Life.
I love being alone to reflect on all the people I love love love love love. Charging up those extroverted reserves to go be loud and touchy-feely and sappy and crabby and moody and loved in return by these people who take me as I am, hyper or no.
I love the morning's rest after the night's rest. The rest where we can sort out any nightmares, remind ourselves they're just subconscious. The rest where we can sit up and lean into the pillow mountain instead of climbing the day's peaks.
I don't do it often, but when I can coax myself into opening my eyes, lure myself awake with a cuppa, I just devour the time around me.
Because WHAT. a simple, sacred, ridiculous gift to exit the dark and welcome the light.
The morning light, and her bright rest.

Friday, June 15, 2018

My life as yoga poses

I came into this world indeed a happy baby, utterly loved by doting parents and entertained by silly, affectionate brothers. Bonus: soft, sweet cats roamed our home and warmed my toes.

I quickly put my legs up a wall in life, never afraid to look at the world upside down, a true lover of nonsense.

In middle school I was pure mountain, holding my head high with confidence in those middle school halls of beautiful Colorado.

High school threatened to turn me rigid like a plank, where I toughed out the discomfort of being the new kid on the block.

But I always retained my dolphin core, intelligent and congenial, prattling and waving at passersby, even when the water was cold.

During my undergraduate schooling you could say I was a locust, mind buzzing with politics and theology, crushes and coffee.. I very quickly shed my shy shell that had hardened around my teens; luckily it flaked off with ease, and I reached out into the air of myself.

I studied abroad as a cow, padding toward the far edges of the earth's field (and also, it must be mentioned, greedily grazing on thick, hot slices of buttered bread, filling out my frame just a weeeee bit).

College graduation came a semester before my friends, and I felt midway across a bridge, wanting to land but unable to see any future, save the boards just ahead of my feet.

When I started graduate school the first time, I was a downward dog; inverted in a personality opposite of my cat-loving self, trying to study something I didn't love. The time was uncomfortable, but the stretch was a valuable one.

After buttoning up my internship and school work for the fall term, I decided not to continue down that path. My first-ever therapist reminded me that I had survived, and with that I became a reverse warrior -- looking back and feeling my strength.

I then moved into the land of unemployment and then a job where I floundered. I hissed my anger at the circumstance I found myself in, a cobra stuck in a painful backbend, yet with her head above water.

The minute I switched jobs, I became a puttering pigeon, bowed humbly and gratefully in a time of rest, while life threw oh-so-welcome hunks of bread at me.

Over time I began to feel the burn of holding myself sturdy like a chair, the weight of my anxiety and fear never lifted out of my lap.

To fight it I became a wheel, running my legs in infinite loops down the trail, trying desperately to get away, away.

My stress was reduced to a half spinal twist when I began Grad School Take Two. Expectations kept things relatively tense, but there was release in the writing that my coursework required of me. And in turning my head about, I saw new people who have graced my life in ways I can never fully express.

Though juggling being a student, a new reporter, and a teaching assistant had me certainly overextended, I trusted my intuition for balance and awaited the release of wearing that gown, throwing my cap in the air to fly like an eagle.

Almost immediately following, I lunged into curious California, believing against belief that this might be a new home.

A challenging internship turned me into a warrior again (one might say this was part "II" of my time to act as a soldier), as I felt clueless but knew I was tough and that someone had put me in the armor for a reason. I charged ahead, unwilling to waste my ticket for adventure.

As I came down from the combination of professional struggle and triumph, I took a long cat nap, and unfortunately isolated myself too much.  

With the help of a counselor, a doctor, a church, great friends, family support, the southern sun, and a new striped CAT!, I arose from the corpse I had become. I awoke from my stagnant depression, my arms already conveniently dropped open to welcome hope.

Suddenly the scent of my beloved LA jasmine flowers met my nose again, and I developed into something of a flower myself, a lotus unafraid of stormy seas but rather floating in peace.

Then before I knew it there was a partner in my boat, and I began to row with the help of a second oar as if this was how it always was.

Like a child, I leaned in to the sacred surrender of unearned, but nonetheless deserved, love.

After a chaotic, fun, sometimes-awful year filled with birth, marriage, celebration, grief, and art, I decided to firm my feet in a steady state. Respecting the roots from whence I came, toughening my trunk with forward focus, pruning back twigs that weren't serving me, I wiggled my tree branches in the wind, greeting life anew.

And today I stand like a crescent moon, seemingly stationary but with limber, curvy edges, looking up to the One who blesses me over and over and out to people who make sure those blessings don't go to waste.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

This is what self care looks like

Self care looks like finding a quiet space and doing a five minute meditation.
It looks like recognizing that social media posts are making you especially jealous today and willing yourself to stop looking at them.
It tastes like chocolate after chocolate, unwrapped from the safety of your bed.
Self care is spending whole minutes watching the cat sleep, just obsessed with his cuteness and calm nature and how much happiness he's brought to your life.
Self care feels like that extra pinch of flesh around your belly. Touching it and saying, "It's OK," and getting back to your chocolates.
Self care sounds like the classical relaxation station on Pandora, softly, quietly sending sonatas to still your angsty chest.
It looks like Calvin's irresistible, wry, upside-down triangle grin. Like Hobbes' fuzzy fuzziness, a silly, adorable, philosophical tiger. It feels like letting a comic strip take you back to fifth grade, where you once slowly froze in the family basement but the pages kept turning and so no, you couldn't be bothered to get up and grab a sweatshirt.
Self care feels like an open window, breeze trickling in from the west, the ceiling fan click click clicking overhead.
It smells like a match struck, eucalyptus mint wax fumigating away the bad mood.
Self care looks like taking care of yourself, simple simple simple. It looks like giving yourself a break even though it took you a decade to realize that the practice is in fact simple. It looks like noticing that an hour, or day, or season is not going too hot for you, and letting go and letting God (I know this is kind of a throw-around phrase in the religious community, but all of a sudden I'm totally into it).
Self care is changing your environment -- get up and walk outside for five minutes only, or wash your face or re-stack the books on your nightstand. Self care is texting a friend. Self care is picking the right friend to text for the current occasion -- deciding who will make you laugh, offer advice (or NOT), rush to your door with tacos or take you to the tacos because you need to get out of the house. Self care is finding one positive in the moment and writing it down or typing it into the notepad on your phone. Write. It. Down. Don't keep it in the ol' noggin.
Self care may sound indulgent, or selfish (hey, it's in the name), or stupid or futile.
But self care only requires baby steps. No marathon sprints here. You can start at Square One and not move on to Square Two. We're only interested in seminal polygons here in the Self Care Wing.
Self care builds resilience.
Self care makes sure you are taken care of, and if you have ever felt the need to take care of anyone or anything in your life then you are already halfway there because you understand two things: urgency and necessity. You just have to tell yourself that you are worth the attention, you are worth the forgiving mercy, you are of worth. Tell yourself even if you don't believe it. And then wash your face. Or re-stack the books.
Square One, my friends. Start anywhere. It's OK to be angry, sad, irritable, stuck. Just don't let those things be the only players in the ring. Care for Self. Place value on yourself. Put a price tag on your heart that says:
"Not for sale. But here to stay. Here to be, and pump, and give life."
Go and give life to your life-giving heart. Wash your face. Re-stack the books. Tell yourself you have worth. Even if you don't believe it. You'll get there.
Love and more love,
Bailey and Max

Monday, April 30, 2018

Talking to myself

When I was little, maybe six or seven, I got so wrapped up in a conversation with myself that I decided to sit down on the floor of the shower and continue my discussion, while hot water sprayed down around me, keeping my personal steam room nice and humid.
At least I think I sat down. In any case I was in no rush to finish with my shower and the privacy it provided me to catch up with myself and her many thoughts and feelings, so sitting would not have been out of the question.
Eventually I heard giggling and realized some of my family members had quietly planted themselves in the bathroom, eavesdropping on me myself and I. I was horrified and outraged and very embarrassed.
I have since gotten over this incident, but truth be told, I have never stopped talking to myself.
I talk to myself all the time, especially in my car. But no. Really, everywhere, all the time, anytime. While I'm walking, cleaning, sitting, typing. Talk talk talk, these lips are flapping to sort things out.
Some friends recently requested that I write a post about self talk and self care. Now I know that talking to one's self and practicing self talk may in many ways be considered different actions, but for me they go hand in hand. Or, as it were, lip on lip.
So without further ado, I will now dump all my random thoughts about self care and self talk below. Basically talking to myself, but taking dictation of what I say, then having an audience if any of you bother to read this.
So here we go, let's get on with it:
I'd say in the last year I've really started to get fully on the self-care train, and I think in that time my self talk has become much more positive, gentle, and forgiving than it ever was before.
I've also gotten on a nearly-every-day meditation schedule in the past year and that has changed my life significantly.
I am prone to be hyper, depressed, moody, passive, joke-cracking, and, at times, simply content. The moments of calm come always unannounced, but when they do those are times that I seem to be the most at peace among my friend group. That said, by and large over the last 10 years especially, I have often felt like the most crazed and unsettled of my cohort, which has affected my opinion of myself, my ability to function, and my outlook for the long term.
My life today involves a lot of little bitty action steps, a lot of checking in with myself, and a lot of scribbling or typing things out.
At some point almost every day, I am compelled to write or type things that I can do before the day is over to bring me some joy and peace. I'll write an example list of what this looks like right now so you can get an idea:
  • Try not to spend any money after work
  • Go home and eat what you have in the pantry/fridge/freezer
  • Sweep the floor in your bedroom
  • Smooch and squish the cat. Lay your head on his belly and enjoy the soft buzz.
  • Take an afternoon meditation break if you're up for it. Just three minutes, maybe more.
  • Maybe walk around the office building once or twice
  • Maybe go for a short walk. No need to even put athletic clothes on, even wearing your Chucks is fine. 10 minutes is great.
  • Write in a journal
  • Read Calvin & Hobbes
  • Text some friends
  • Chat with Molly on the phone
  • Wash your hair
  • Get some good rest
I could go on -- and usually would -- but I'll stop for your sake so you don't get my entire Monday play-by-play.
There is more than one purpose to making this list, and there are guidelines that I give myself.
Number One: As you make the list, simply list things that would bring you peace and joy if you were to complete them. It doesn't mean that you have to do them today or at all, ever. KEY: Things that are written on the list are not meant to be a task you are now bound to. The point of this list is not to get all the things done, in fact "done" doesn't even apply here. The point is to create options to improve your day, to become more aware of how many options there really are in each day.
Number Two: The list acts as a meditative device in its own way. I often close my eyes as I think of things to write down, and feel very still just in thinking up teeny weeny things I can do. I also sometimes write out each little step to break down an already little step. It's amazing how much it can relax you to just picture yourself doing the thing without even doing it. Truly. I find this is a helpful exercise simply in writing the things down.
I honestly don't care if I put this list in my tote bag and don't come back across it until weeks later, when I toss it. It is not a To Do list. It is a Possibility list. In a way, in knowing that something soothing like "put lotion on your feet" is written down somewhere, it almost becomes an accomplishment rather than just a spontaneous idea or action. And we Americans, even the type B among us, love accomplishments, am I right?
Checking in with myself:
I was telling Jill recently that I talk to myself like I might talk to a toddler. I'm very gentle, very encouraging, very basic.
For example: I was cleaning my room this weekend and I picked up an autograph book. This autograph book has been with me since the third grade, and it holds signatures and notes from classmates I remember and some I don't. It has a silly drawing inside, scribbled by my silly dad. In one corner of a yellow page are my late grandfather's initials: RFB.
I am not a packrat, but I am also not sure yet what to do with that precious RFB.
So how did I handle this situation?
I took a breath, let it out so I could hear it.
I held the book in both hands, and I said, out loud, "Bailey, what can you do with this book?"
While I was thinking I took a picture of a funny message in the book, posted it to Instagram and tagged the person who wrote it.
And then, after some moments, I decided: I can put the book on that other stack of books in the window ledge. It may be an unconventional place to put it, and you may eventually do something else with the book, but today you'd really like to get your room looking much more in order -- SO YOU CAN FEEL RESTFUL IN YOUR SPACE -- and so if you set it on that orderly stack, then your room will look nicer and you don't have to make a decision about the RFB just yet.
Annnnnd, scene.
See? Easy peasy.
This process might sound completely ridiculous and juvenile, like I'm a teenager who's too old for a nanny plus I am my nanny all rolled into one, still holding my hand to cross the street even though I know to look both ways and make the proper decision about when it's safe to step off the curb.
Here's my answer to such thoughts (and yes, these critical thoughts have run through my very own head):
Sure it's a bit strange, but it works.
In talking to myself in a positive, calm, you-can-do-it, you're-OK manner, on a continual basis, I feel so much better than I did during basically all of my twenties. And yes, there has been much life experience, much survival, much therapy, much support from friends that have helped me fill a tool belt with coping skills during and since my twenties.
But the self talk has been a new and huge addition.
I suppose I will stop my sharing here, so that you can finish reading and move on with your day, maybe even to some self talk.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on talking to yourself, talking to yourself in a purposeful way, speaking to yourself (and writing notes in your planner) with language that supports you, and anything else you might have to contribute to this topic. Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like.
And finally, if you're feeling overwhelmed, down on yourself, tired, bored, or even straight-up calm and self-actualized, maybe write a list. Think of what you would do right now if you could -- get a cocktail, vacuum the rug, snuggle your baby -- and write it down. Don't worry about whether it might actually happen today or tomorrow or this decade.
See how you feel when you're done writing the list. Then, later, if you get stuck in depression, anger, boredom -- pull out the list. Lost track of it? No worries. Just write a new one. Then pick one thing on the list; it does not have to be the thing at the top of the list. And go ahead and start it. (P.S. If a task seems too big, such as "clean the bathroom," start with "wipe down the sink").
If you get overwhelmed as you go, check in with yourself.
"What can I do next?"
"Are you hungry? What can we eat?"
"Are you tired? When should we start winding down for bed?"
"You're doing great. That shelf was so cluttered before and now it's linear and you're actually breathing easier looking at it."
Write things down. Check in. Be the child and the nanny at once, speaking only in gentle tones. Treat yourself as if you are a three-year-old having a meltdown. Get that kiddo goldfish crackers. Tell that kiddo to breathe. Sit with that kiddo and breathe beside him, until both your hearts come to steady.
Then throw away the goldfish wrapper, get some water, and decide only what to do the very next.
Gentle, calming love coming your way,

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A precious evening

Guacamole sustained us.
The Moulin Rouge soundtrack lifted us.
Fuzzy socks and a loud scarf comforted us.
Jill and I were self care queens last night, discussing at great length how we were going to make it through our marathon trek to Santa Barbara on a school night, how we were going to treat ourselves the next day, Tired Today. We quoted aloud our Queen Anne, who taught us both about practicing "radical self care."
Anne beckoned us in with her miracle writer's beam. Up the coast we snaked, alien fog gracefully misting and settling into our open pores, open to the night and its treats.
I ordered mole, as a nod to Kimmy Schmidt, and gawked at the guac, so creamy.
We walked quickly up a hill back to the car, re-parked, and walked quickly to the theater, bellies full of beans and rice and big writer hearts ready for the Queen.
The Queen talked about mercy and hope. She told us, unfortunately, that we must cease our practice of not writing. She said we have a choice to do the hard work of telling our story or live with the regret that we didn't.
She told us that birds and birdsong are proof enough to her of something Greater Than Us. She said that pelicans are her favorite. She left us with the benediction to take off and land, take off and land. As she exited the stage she readjusted her knit purple shawl, and for a moment she had wings. Our Queen, our angel, our bird. Our bird who had flown into hundreds of lives in that room, teaching us that it's OK to be a person of faith with fear, it's OK to tell the truth, it's OK to cry or laugh in any moment, any moment at all.
I bought a copy of "Hallelujah Anyway," and I wanted to tell her as she signed the title page that a year ago I read it to a man in a coma, a man who soon later died, that his blood pressure mellowed as her words filled the ICU at 3 a.m. I wanted to tell her Thank You, but she was tired and so instead I gifted her with the grace of moving out of the line so she could rest.
How many times has she let me rest; I could only return the favor.
I do not say it lightly that Anne changed my life. I may not have chosen to speak openly about my hurts, I may not have believed that I could write them down, were it not for Anne.
Anne first let me rest when I was 18, showing me that I could have questions about God but still want Him in my life.
She offered respite from crippling worry and heartache, an ache I feared I could not escape, when I was navigating life after college. Her essay titled "Junctions" in "Grace (Eventually)" is one my heart returns to, years later. It is a beautiful piece about being in a stark, dusty place of life, going on a dusty hike, and finding some sort of peace. Whenever I call it to mind I am back on my tummy in my twin bed, my only reading lamp the afternoon Kansas sun.
"Some Assembly Required" held me safe in an office basement in Missouri.
"Stitches" rocked me to sleep in a pool house in LA, a la the Fresh Prince(ss).
"Help Thanks Wow" gave me wings on a plane headed west.
An audience member last night asked our Queen about her Christian faith, likely poking at how it plays into her life, given the current world climate.
Anne answered without mention of mules or pachyderms. She told the story so many of us know well: joining the Jesus Freaks was never something she wanted to do, and a group of singing voices in a dilapidated Northern California church soothed her hungover, hungry heart.
She told us of the children she teaches on Sundays, the children whom she calls upon one at a time and assures them they are loved and chosen.
She said of her church and fellow Christian family, "It's my precious community, and I show up."
Brave and emboldened by our Queen, Jill and I went deeper into the night that had already grown late, deciding to wait in line to get autographs, then veering off course for dairy products.
Chocolate glue and rainbow sprinkle glitter hid my vanilla ice cream from sight, and I spooned childhood into my mouth as Jill dined on what can only be described as a hefty smear of Nutella atop her churro-flavored froyo.
We talked and talked in the Toyota, our faithful sand worm zig-zagging us back to La La Land (this is not a review of Jill's driving, the road is just windy along the ocean, Friends).
My church, too, is my precious community. Fellow believers I meet in bars and airports and Walgreens parking lots are my precious community. Brothers and sisters who don't know what they believe are my precious community.
My family is my precious community.
Honest writers are my precious community.
Jill is my precious community.
I can't imagine life without any of them, and I can't imagine life without Anne. It is truly a miracle that I have been gifted with all of the above, not to mention so many more heroic people who show up in my space and make me better, make me OK, make me safe.
Full nights in the middle of the workweek are not for the anxious of heart, which is why Jill and I began texting days before last night's event to make sure we would be properly fed and mentally prepared for our evening excursion.
Yesterday, in a town so much quieter and cleaner than our city of residence, we communed with our precious community. For Anne, we showed up.
We could not see the sea as we drove home in the dark, but I knew she was there. Lapping at the shore, waving hello before dipping her head in a somersault back out to herself, where she could gather greetings from the orcas and the kelp, translating their message and carrying it back to the people.
Take off and land. Take off and land.