Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Taking your frustration out for a picnic

I hope you’re not tired of reflective meditation devotion type posts, because here comes another one!

Well, I don’t know about y’all but this is a jealous, frustrated week for me. Lots of negative aches running through my emotion nodes. Looking at people on social media who I probably shouldn’t be paying attention to, rehashing the grievances (unintentional or not) caused by people I struggle with, feeling defeated during exercise effort.
Ouch. Not fun, Friends.
I know if I put my phone down for a bit, and take a breather from the Interwebs for some hours, I’ll more than likely feel better, feel more truly at peace with who I am and who I surround myself with for love and giggles.
I will also begrudgingly admit that last night’s walk/jog is helping my mood today. I admit with resistance because the movement itself was really unpleasant. I’m surprised I didn’t actually drop tears during my long, slow climb to the top of the hill (and please note that tears did come even after I had finished the course). I could barely jog any of the up portions; I mean we’re talking I would take maybe 15 steps and then I had to walk again. And I don’t know about you but when I get upset it may give me a quick spark of speed, but in general my breath sharpens making physical activity much more difficult which in turn makes me feel emotionally even worse.
But eventually I reached the top, and I was able to jog the rest of the distance down and then along the level surface it melted in to. And today I feel not quite as edgy as yesterday.
But it hurts to be inside our heads, in no small part because once we arrive inside one of the gristly crevices we don’t want others to come join us. Well, we do, but only if they agree with us, which, in my experience my Positive Polly friends always annoyingly try to drag me back to a place of joy instead of just griping with me. They are so annoying, I’m not even sure why I keep them around sometimes.
Oh right, because they’re all really cute and funny, and sometimes it’s their turn to gripe and I get to offer support over fermented suds so that role’s OK.
Yesterday I moved through a really unpleasant string of thoughts that made me think exercise truly doesn’t make me feel better, so I should just give up trying to slim my body and accept that I will only regress from here forward. Truly, this is the state I was in for a good 20 minutes yesterday, until the ground’s grade tipped downward and my body was able to more easily remain in motion. When we fall in these moments of quitting on hope, we are at best labeled dramatic and frequently waved off to go deal with ourselves until we can sensibly come back to the general public. And as we all know this only tills our insides for more heartache, grooms us to practice greater isolation.
Now for me, I have a really annoying partner who insists on high-fiving me and telling me how proud he is of me and then making me a turkey burger with vegetables while I steam out in the shower. But even before him, I had amazing friends who would let me whimper over the phone, and I’ve long known the healing power of hot cheese and carbs. (If you ever find yourself at a loss for words with a person in crisis, order pizza. Trust me. They need it.)
Anyway, so now I am here today. Still apparently following my thoughts to the negative excursion they’re on, but overall doing better than yesterday and more in a place to walk myself back to a place of problem solving and rest.
So here’s my prescription for you today: Lead yourself to water. Lay out for yourself a virtual picnic, near a stream. Bring a soft blanket, pick a dry patch of grass, and fling those canvas corners out to flick the wind before they take a nap on the ground. Listen to the water, watch it create patterns around rocks, and eat popsicles and brie, doesn’t matter to me. There is no food pyramid here, we are just aiming for yums.
Think of one thing you can do today that will simply be for the enjoyment of it, and give yourself 10 minutes to do it. Even if you have to wait until the kids are asleep and you’re almost too tired to stay up much longer, just give yourself the gift of leisure. Flip through an old photo album, scribble with crayon, tip back in a chair on the porch. Remind yourself, through engagement, that life is not always a climb, not forever a comparison to others’ success. Eventually it levels out, and we actually decompress in the sunset, rather than cursing the glare it splinters across our windshield. So go ahead. Pull over. Step out of the minivan, and let the light filter directly onto your face. Release the kiddoes from their carseats and lift them on your hip so they can see, too, how a day nods farewell to us with color, promising to send his friend, Tomorrow, who will be dressed in an equally dazzling palette.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Monday's reflection -- finding calm in the cranky

Sooo, raise your hand if you started the day in a pretty decent mood (after getting through the road rage of your commute, of course) and then you accidentally napped during lunch and you’ve been a crank pot ever since.

Nope, just me?
All right, well I guess I’ll put my hand down to finish typing this, this meditation/reflection thing I essentially promised myself I’d write for you today.
I’m tired, and not an obvious kind of tired, like due to lack of sleep or some other real reason. No, I’m that kind of tired where I only know I’m tired because all signs point to it, and those signs are crankiness and crankiness.
I’ve been drinking water. I just made coffee and stopped by a coworker’s office to fill my pocket with jellybeans that I have now consumed. It maybe helped like a teeny tiny bit – but that’s it, people! I’m still cranky! Don’t take this away from me.
Please take this away from me.
In fact, maybe you can take this away from me, because it is my aim this week to continue writing encouraging posts to help keep the people in my blog life going, and in so doing perhaps I’ll encourage myself. So let’s try this, I guess.
OK let’s start by thinking of one thing we’re each looking forward to. It can be Hawaii next month, a concert in August, or it can be putting on your coziest sweats after work tonight. One thing. Let’s close our eyes and really feel and see and think about how that thing is going to calm our inner motion. Watch that waterfall plunging out of the bathtub spout and hitting its puddle below. Hear the soapy crystals tink, tink tap the glass jar as you pour them into the mix. Feel yourself lower into the heat and automatically exhale the moment’s stress and annoyance. Keep your eyes closed.
You’re already there, huh? From the redundancy of your cubicle you’ve just taken a bath (albeit a dry one). And I bet you’re still taking bigger breaths than you were a minute ago, eh? I know I am after that little exercise.
OK next step everyone put your phone away. For 30 minutes, no peeking.
Now, finally, what should our last step be?
Hmm, how about this? Change one thing about your current circumstance. Unless you’re perfectly comfortable and at peace, in which case remain seated, please, and text me the address of whatever spa you’re at because I want to come join you.
Oh wait, no phones. Whoops. Enjoy, then, my sweet friend.
For the rest of us, let’s change something up. Get up and go to the bathroom, particularly if you’ve been ignoring your urge to pee for the last hour. Turn on the fan, open a window. Go fill up a water bottle, steep some tea, sit outside for five minutes. Put on lip balm, spritz your scarf with perfume, go put your feet in warm water.
Ahhhhh, welcome back. What did you do? I took my glasses off and collapsed into some forward folds, touching the carpet and noticing how Rastafarian the color-combo of it is. Isn’t it interesting how one stretch gives birth to about eight more? Stretching always sounds so boring, and a little painful, but whenever we do it it really changes our immediate feelings, massages out some of the struggle. I find it addictive even though it’s rarely enticing enough to begin.
Unfortunately – and, unfortunately again, I have confirmed this with a licensed professional – a lot of the things that make us feel worlds better are not interesting. Their label is boring, they take away from our binge-watching time, and they’re kind of dry.
But so was our bath we took earlier. We had no water, but just in remembering how something we could do could help us unkink our funk, we were able to find ourselves in a better space. I for one feel much less anger toward thin Instagram models than I did an hour ago, I don’t know about y’all.
So let’s move forward, K? Or just sit still as time moves forward, since we don’t really have a choice about the seconds ticking off. But remember they’re not ticking away, we are not losing our place. In taking the time to regroup and to give a hoot about helping ourselves feel better, we are finding our place, and earning back time that would otherwise be spent in tension.
Much love, and we’ll be reflecting again soon. Xox

Friday, April 19, 2019

Another meditation/reflection/take-a-pause thing for your day

Here we are, Friends. Another night that our hearts circulated liquid and our lungs lifted gas and we woke up without incident. Wow.

I’m not being crass, I really do think it’s a sizable miracle that our lives remain alive day after day, because we all know how fragile life can be. So I don’t care if you’re in the crankiest of moods, do me a favor and take a moment to be grateful that you get to be alive today, and remember that the crankiness will abate and maybe tomorrow will be amazing and you get a chance to enjoy that. Go ahead, give thanks, I’ll wait.
Ahhh. Feeling better? Me three.
I began my morning with the usual, snuggling that cat. He loves to squish in close when I wake up, and I feel wrong letting up on the petting until he’s done purring, which is why I’m usually running out the door in a rush. But he could not be more worth it.
What’s worth it in your life? Adding storage space on your phone for pet photos? Earning a buck to feed your kids? Tending to your dream? Personally I struggle with the latter, but I’m trying to regain my focus.
Beyond coordinating the occasional bachelor or surprise birthday party, I’m not the most enthusiastic planner you’ll ever meet. While I’ve always been full of opinions and ideas, in many ways I let life happen to me, and I find a way to make the circumstances handed to me work. Growing up my family moved several times, and I really couldn’t put in a vote or protest that would stop us from loading up the U-Haul and driving to Colorado, then Missouri, then back to Kansas. While it’s definitely a strength that I’ve grown to make the best of things, I think it’s fair to say that my grasp of goal-setting and goal-achieving is a little off.
When I’m asked to plan my future, my self-esteem goes rigid. My confidence clocks out and I give up on even thinking that I might be able to go after something and get it. It’s unfortunate, and disheartening, and one of the worst feelings on planet earth to believe that one is wasting her education, skills, talent or time. I can imagine every one of us can relate on some level.
But guess what? Our lives are not wasted, nor are we a waste, though at times it may feel that way. You may not have a clear five-year plan of how you’re going to find things that feel like they’re missing. You may not really enjoy the work it takes to make change. You may not have a crowded vision board of cut-out words and pictures to inspire you; your head may just be full of nebulous longings and your heart may not have received the message yet that it’s aching for more.
Wherever you are, how-ever you are, whoever whatever whichever life you’re leading – it’s OK. It’s exactly as it should be, even if you hate it. Because life can be molded to look so different. Are you the same person you were in high school? Duh, totally not. But, well…a little bit the same, yeah? Your core – of silliness, bravery, perception, grit – is supremely sticky, very hard to remove, I don’t know if you know this. We might be able to wash off our teenage awkwardness, expunge offending photos of that ill-advised perm, but You? Your greatness? Your power and prowess and passion? Sorry, Honey, they ain’t gone anywhere in all this time.
So take heart today, if you can manage. And if you feel like you can’t, close your eyes for a moment and see yourself as a kid. Remember him, remember how he would spend a Saturday morning – what did he race off to do, so eager to engage, not worried about a time limit? Look back at your baby girl self in her pastel-painted bedroom. What did she want, what did she believe she could have before experience made her wary that maybe it wasn’t for sure a thousand percent possible to achieve?
Sit with that kiddo and give them love. Tell them their ideas are great, their energy an inspiration! Listen to their music, scan the posters on their wall, find their family dog and give him a pat; let him remember you with a lick of the fingers.
Then invite your youth to step into today with you. Feel that sticky core squish against your bones and let your essence effervesce around your bloodstream. Hang with Younger You, buy them an ice cream and get lost in the chatter of what you two – excuse me, you ONE – have always wanted.
Ready? Eyes open. Let’s do this.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A meditation/pep talk/reflection/breath for today

There are a lot of things that need to be done. They’ll get done. And if they don’t, the world is going to keep on spinning. You’re not going to lose your job, your friends, the love of your kids. It will all still be there tomorrow. In fact, I bet you’ll find it later today. Just sip that coffee and take a breath – really feel it balloon in your chest then spill out from your nose – and recognize that though the preferred lack of stress may not be here in this moment, it will return in time.
That’s the thing about a day – it changes a million times. Morphs from a rush of deadlines to a sudden drink of lemonade on the porch. Then you’re chasing a tot in a diaper, next thing you know you’re watching him sleep on the baby monitor. I used to deem it a weakness – an extreme weakness – that I could have so many feelings in one day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? was the only way I could greet the reality, like a party guest I didn’t invite so why are they still here??
With a therapist explaining over and over that my person is normal, and working together with her to cope with and address my many emotions, I truly am able to calmly live with the fact that this is just how it is. We go through a lot of thoughts and feelings in a short amount of time. Our brains are super complex and impressive, honestly why should we be surprised that they’re capable of shuffling through moods and reactions like they’re feverishly looking for a number in a Rolodex?
So I guess that’s a secret that life in general never tells us – there’s going to be a lot of shifting. From happy to sad, angry to jealous, bored to overwhelmed, anxious to lost. And when you can’t take any more of the Ferris wheel ride, they send you back up for another nauseating loop.
But there’s another secret that takes longer to discover: we recover.
A hundred times a day we recover. Think how many things you’ve overcome this morning already. Got toothpaste on your shirt? I bet you changed it before running out the door, or you realized that you’re going to be OK smelling just a little bit minty fresh today. Kids had a meltdown before school? Bet they’re fine now. Discovered you were out of coffee at home? Bet you snuck into Starbucks to remedy that.
What, you still haven’t had your coffee? Are you crazy?! Go! Now! Stop reading this and get a cuppa!
What I’m trying to say with all this is that you’re totally fine, Friends. And if you’re not fine in this moment, you’re gonna be fine in one of the next several moments. There are so many ways to reset an annoyance, a frustrated attitude; so many healers inside your head ready to rescue you from that fear that just washed over you.  
My tiny practical recommendations? Drink some water, get outside (just sit, for five minutes), make a list, hug someone you love, text something honest, close your eyes for a few seconds. Turn on classical music or silly 90s music or Motown. Always Motown.
And then? Psych yourself out. Pretend you believe that you’ve got this, that the pain is going to correct its course and head back toward peace. Find one thing to look forward to, even if it’s the shipment of brightly colored Post-It notes arriving at the office today. Hold onto the blessings around you, and if you can’t touch them just yet, make sure you’re in a reaching formation so you’ll catch them when they come near.
Open up your chest, to possibility, to change, to trust. Feel that? That’s hope pouring in, filling in the little crevices that were crowded with crud. In reaching you’ve made space; you’ve stretched apart the grievances that were grinding together making everything feel ouchy. Now the balm of ice cream and giggles and tenderness can have a turn in that bounce house of a brain you’ve got.
You. Have. Got this.  
You. Are. Beautiful.  
In all your overthinking and panicking and worry you are finding room for a different train of thought. A train headed for the prairie, golden light filtering through the window to brush your forehead as you watch city melt into fields of wheat.  
Hear that? That’s the whistle humming you to rest, Baby. Listen to her love, echoing off the air and dancing for miles ahead.  

Monday, April 8, 2019

A weekend that won

This weekend was a service to my soul, a tune-up for my attitude, a peace amidst questions.
So many tiny, amazing things happened, and even with tears involved it was basically perfect.
I finished it with a 12-hour night of sleep and woke up still sleepy. Sufficiently worn out and supersaturated with gratitude. Supergratituded.
I had a party on Friday to celebrate the Daily Bailey's 10th birthday. Friends came out to be a part of the event, and I reveled in the miracle that (save one of the people in attendance) I knew none of them seven years ago. These are friends I've met at a wings restaurant, a Gin Blossoms concert, a backyard BBQ, church, even through blogging itself.
I made a quiz about the blog and people asked if the different colors of paper it was printed on meant that the quiz had various versions.
"That's just because I like color," I explained, and assured them the quiz was strictly voluntary, because if there's one thing I hate it's mandatory games at parties.
Alex, angel that he is, recognized I was busy circulating among the attendees, hosting it with the most of it, and offered to grade the exams.
I kneeled atop a bar stool and read the answers in the crowded brewery, and my friends gathered close to hear the results and eagerly shout which ones they thought were correct. Our proctor Alex revealed the surprised winner, a faithful reader of the blog who scored a 7/11.
There was rainbow-colored cake with cookie dough bites edging the rim, a last-minute text sent just in time to a guest who hadn't arrived requesting she bring candles.
There was an exorbitant fee for "cake cutting" even though we just borrowed a knife and did the cutting ourselves, but the service staff was so kind and calm and attentive with us that I switched my annoyance into the perspective that this was just an extra tip to thank them for all their help.
People stayed late and ordered happy hour food. One friend left then returned later with another friend in tow. I got sleepy but knew it was amazing that people had gathered for my milestone and so I bucked up and enjoyed their excitement as they found Ninja Turtle stickers and SpongeBob tattoos and coupons for karaoke and hiking dates in their party favor bags.
I fell asleep in my jeans and woke up pleased and content.
Alex and I jogged around the block, and I stopped to walk but didn't spiral into feelings of failure.
I felt the endorphins arrive and smeared ivory foundation over my splotched, athletic face.
A group of musicians whom we've met through an open mic performed a showcase, and when we arrived they all got big grins on their faces and pulled us into hugs, so excited that we showed up. One of them played a song that I didn't request, but he knows it's my favorite of his and that I listen to it regularly to calm down and rest inside a moment. He told me after his set that he had played it on purpose, and our beers clicked in the sound of friendship.
I cleaned my room and my bathroom and lit candles of different hues and scents while a cracked window brought in fresh breath.
Feeling self-conscious about something I cried, and Alex tickled me to make me laugh, and at some point the tears stopped. (Then I showed him that video of the girl who's crying and cheers up thanks to Fraggle Rock and peanut butter and jelly, and we agreed with zero joking that she is just like me.)
With my body curved in an L-shape, I took a nap, then went out for pizza and salad. Put gas in the car, bought cat litter, went back home and quickly fell asleep again.
I ate macaroni salad and de-scaled the coffee maker and called my mom.
I wore a dress and started two books, gathered papers into a stack and put away laundry I washed the week before.
I painted my nails to look like Easter eggs, to literally have color at my fingertips.
But even if this weekend had nails in the nude, or a cake without funfetti, or quizzes printed on paper white, it would have been filled with hues a many. Because the tiny, amazing things, and the giant, generous hearts that filled it are so colorful my life feels like a stationery shop where everything is free. Cards of mint and pens of coral, washi tape of grape and stamps of flora.
My friends are a boutique of paper and pencils, and coming from this writer, that's a compliment to be reckoned with.
Thanks to all who helped us celebrate far and wide, who offer me giggles and endorphins and cheers over beers on the regular. Your color reminds me this life isn't black and white, and that it doesn't have to be sad like grey either.