A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

Tag: self-care Page 1 of 2

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

Relativity – The Speed of Time

“Time went by so fast these days. There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. Seriously. It was beautiful. And, strangely, it came up from another reader in my Instagram feed just a few days ago. She hated it! I always find it fascinating that people have such completely different views about a book. It’s encouraging to a writer. Stories are subjective. It’s not that my story sucks rocks…it just hasn’t found its reader yet, the people that it speaks to best.

This quote. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?

Time is relative.

Time seems to speed by sometimes. Maybe it’s because you’re so busy with life that you lose track. Some months feel like they are creeping by but then when I look back…holy Toledo…it’s almost Christmas again. Honestly, summer does that to me every year. Maybe because I hate the heat so much. I’m trapped indoors and feel like it will never end and then BAM! Fall is over.

How do you slow time?

They say time speeds up as we get older. Maybe we realize our mortality and, in our rush to accomplish more before our time runs out, we miss the calendar changes. Would slowing down and savoring each day help? Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If I slow down and do less each day, will I accomplish more? Probably not. I will actually be doing less with my time, but I might enjoy what I’m doing more. If I savor that dinner with my husband, enjoy the books I’m reading as if I have all the time in the universe to finish them, really be with the sewing, yard, or house project I’m working on, maybe I’ll experience more of them and stretch out time, metaphorically anyway.

That song by They Might Be Giants runs through my head constantly these days.

“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. TIME is marching on.”

Like a fine meal, expertly prepared, we can’t save it for later, but we can savor each bite and share it with the people around us.

Overloaded Outlet

These past few months really threw me for a loop. Not because of what’s going on but my reaction to it. I thought I was better than this. Have I learned anything?

I read emails while I eat breakfast. I know…don’t multitask, Michelle. Be aware of your breakfast. But people, while oatmeal is delicious and nutritious, it’s just not much to be aware of. Give me a break here. Emails are much nicer to think about.

Yesterday’s “Moment of Happiness” from Gretchen Rubin was especially relevant to me, so much so, that I wrote it down in my journal.

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, An Inland Voyage

The visual of “a clock during a thunderstorm” really struck me…pun not intended but…good one! What I wouldn’t give to be like that clock!

A couple things came to mind when I read it. The first was how do I get that “quiet mind?” I have routines, meditation times, I read, I keep a journal, I “make space for me,” yet my squirrel brain continues to race around. I can’t seem to tame this beast.

And then, how do I protect my “private pace?” Shit, how do I figure out what my own private pace IS?! From childhood to young adulthood, to parenthood, I’ve always felt like I was running someone else’s race. My parent’s, my school’s, my job’s, and then my children’s. I’m always keeping up with them, filling their needs, inadvertently neglecting my own. Only recently have I begun to have time to even think about what my own personal pace will be now.

So I sat, drinking my coffee and thinking about it and it dawned on me. The scene from “A Christmas Story” came to mind, the one where they’re trying plug the Christmas lights into the socket and it’s overflowing with plugs.

I am that outlet! I’m overloaded with plugs draining my power at a rate I just can’t keep up with. I need to prioritize. There are some things I just can’t let go of, nor do I want to. My husband, my children, my home, and some very special friends are what make life worth living. At times they are also drains on my energy, but mostly they add to my life in amazing ways.

I need fewer pulls on my attention. I need quiet time. While I don’t generally spend a lot of time outside my home, I do spend a lot of time socializing online. And that is what I need to let go of.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Medium, Tumblr, even LinkedIn, all vie for my attention. Like an outlet with a poor fuse, if it even has one at all, I’m more likely to spark and start a fire that consumes it all than to blow a fuse.

So, I’m taking some advice that I got over a year ago and letting them go. All of them, except for my personal Facebook page. I’m keeping that because I use it as an online scrapbook and to keep in touch with my friends and family. I’ve set it up so that it pulls as little attention away from my physical reality as possible.

What does that mean for my blog? It means that my posts won’t be automatically shared across platforms. I will be sharing each post to my personal Facebook page, so if you are there, you are welcome to follow me. I won’t accept friend requests from readers but follows of my public posts are very much welcome.

My monthly newsletter will also continue to go out to all my email subscribers. I love writing that newsletter! It’s mostly about the books I’ve been reading all month, but I also share my favorite posts from the month. You’d like it. Go sign up. Please!

I need more time without the constant bombardment of other people’s input so that I can create things that are uniquely me. That doesn’t necessarily mean blog posts! I’m still trying to discover what my thing is.

Should I Stay or Go? – The Verdict

So my kind and wonderful reader, I hate to say it but I still don’t have an answer about social media. My thoughts over the past few weeks have sat firmly on, “If this is social, I’m not sure I enjoy it.” And if I’m not enjoying it and it doesn’t serve my life, what’s the point of being there? Would I keep going to a party filled with people that I don’t enjoy being around? Would I keep working at a job that brought me only stress and no income? Would I continue a relationship with a person that only made me cry?

Of course, I wouldn’t, but is that what social media is doing to me? No. In the past, the negatives were buried far beneath all the positives. Logging on each morning and scrolling through the “gossip pages” (that’s what we should really call it) brought me a bit of joy: my friend from high school got a new job, a cousin had a baby, my mom went fishing, etc. There was a bit of news from around the world. My writer group and my inspiration pages posted some tidbit of joy.

I’d share a piece of my life there as well and feel a connection with friends and family as we bonded over the jokes, photos, or articles we posted.

The negatives? You know what they are. A new medium always brings out the weird in some people. Social graces, manners, and rules of etiquette have to be reestablished. And there are always things that people share that you just didn’t want to know about them. It was easy to ignore the minor squabbles and navigate around the things I’d rather not discuss. “To each his own.” I’d think and move on.

This month, as we all are very well aware, has been different. Our lives have been abruptly changed by outside forces and we’ve all had to suddenly adjust. For me, the biggest hurdle hasn’t been the change in lifestyle but has more to do with dealing with people’s reactions online without the important benefit of physical and emotional context.

I’ll admit, which I really didn’t want to do and why I took a pause over the weekend to think about it, I’m struggling. I’m struggling to hold on to my compassion for others. I’m struggling not to withdraw and be fearful of others. I’m struggling not to lash out in my fear and anger.

Like someone threatened with drowning, I have to make a choice. Do I push people off my raft because I know they’ll pull me under? How do I stay alive without losing my humanity in the process? It sounds so overly dramatic but mental health is like that. No, I’m not threatened with immediate physical harm. There is no one with a gun pointed to my head or a mob at my door with a rope, but here I am with my heart rate up and my breathing rapid. Our minds are awesome and terrible things.

What’s your point, Michelle? Where are you going with this?

I’m getting to that. Hold your horses.

Human nature makes us do crazy, stupid, and terrible things to each other when we’re scared. I am human. I don’t want to add to the chaos, so I withdraw my participation. BUT, I also don’t want to withdraw my own point of view from the world outside my own four walls. I have joy and peace to share, experience and insight. I love my friends and family that I only see through social media. I love my readers, my fans, and my followers. You all add to my life in a very wonderful way. I don’t want to push you off my raft!

So what can I do? I’m still not really sure but I know what I’ll try. I’ll keep posting my joy and peace. I’ll continue to write and think and share what I’ve found and learned. I’ll allow you into my digital world to do the same as I want for myself, take what you want and pass on the rest.

“Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken
And thoughts unclear

What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you through

Just a box of rain
Wind and water
Believe it if you need it
If you don’t, just pass it on

Sun and shower
Wind and rain
In and out the window
like a moth before a flame”

“Box of Rain” by The Grateful Dead

Mind Your Own Business

Can you imagine how much we’d all get done if we just focused on our own lives and stopped worrying about everyone else?

But…Michelle! Then the bad guys would take over!

How? If we all were taking care of ourselves and the people closest to us, wouldn’t that spread out over the world like a virus? Here I am, putting on my own oxygen mask first, making myself stable and secure, then I look to my partner, my children, my family, and friends. Each of their lives is made a little better and then they do the same. It spreads across the world.

Too simplistic you say. So, you do nothing. Instead, you sit in your house and gripe. You watch TV, scroll through social media, and see all the things so far away that you can’t do anything about. You demand that somebody do something about those horrors. You decide the best thing you can do is make a poignant post about how awful people are and that if we had only elected this other person or passed this law, all of this would be better.

Meanwhile, your partner is lonely, you don’t know where your children are, the house is a mess, your mom could use a phone call, and there’s nothing to eat in your fridge. You are tired, grumpy, and overwhelmed because you’re not taking care of yourself. All of these are things YOU could do something about right now, but you’re too busy following politicians and arguing with strangers about why they should be thinking a different way.

What can I do to make the world a better place right now? Take care of myself and then the space and people around me so that they can do the same.

Don’t just “start” with yourself, focus on yourself and stay right there. Do what you need to do to be healthy, happy, and strong right where you are. Then move outward and support others on their journey to be healthy, happy, and strong where they are.

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

You Can’t Just Dance Till You Drop

emmanuel-PV5jo94EGKo-unsplash

Photo by Emmanuel on Unsplash

I know I’m dating myself here but my best friend and I used to go dancing every weekend and not the kind you’re thinking of. It was the 90’s and (to us) country music was the thing and clubs that catered to line dancing, two-steps, and waltzes were in abundance. There were three right in my neighborhood. We’d show up right as the place opened and stay until they played the last song.

Two single girls on the prowl for young men? Looking for love? Or at least someone to take us out to dinner once in a while, someone we didn’t meet at work, someone not involved in the entertainment business at all? Not really. In reality, all we were looking for was to dance all night long with someone that knew how and that was generally the older, mostly married men, that were mostly interested in the same thing. I’m not saying we didn’t find a little love along the way but it wasn’t the driving force behind the activity!

Every Friday night went the same way. We’d arrive early and head straight to the bar for a shot of whiskey and a beer each. I’d buy the first round and she’d buy the second, then we’d take our beers to a spot we had scoped out by the dance floor. The reason we arrived right as they opened and not later in the evening when the place really filled up? There were dance instructors out on the floor for the first hour! We were not great dancers, to say the least, and could use all the help we could get. Line dancing was great mostly because we didn’t need a partner and it gave us the chance to warm up without looking like wallflowers. The whiskey gave us courage, the line dancing gave us confidence, and within a few songs, we had partners lined up for two-steps, cowboy cha-cha’s, and waltzes.

The music built up faster and louder as the night progressed and quieted back down during the slow songs. Sometimes we were right at the top of the wave, dancing our hearts out when the music would change and we’d reluctantly exit the floor. It was a forced rest, an instilled break from the pace, that we used to our advantage, in the form of rest and bathroom breaks, and the bar’s since we tended to buy more drinks when the music slowed down. Besides, a slow dance with a strong partner was a great break in the evening too. You don’t want to break your stride completely, just change up the pace and rest a bit so that the night lasts longer.

By the last dance and closing time, we were always exhausted and happily played out. Like kids on their way home from Disneyland, we rode that high all week at work until the next weekend rolled around.

Those night club dancing days are long past but they came to mind over the last few weeks of holiday preparation and execution. As I rushed from one event to another, one completed shopping list, one more baking day, one more quick run to the grocery store, I realized how busy I had become. By the time Christmas was over I longed for a break in the music, for a slow song to come on and push me off the dance floor for a bathroom break and a cold beer. And then I got one.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is notoriously slow. It’s that “nowhere” feeling that you’re not sure what to do with. This year I decided to use it to my advantage and relax a bit, but plans were inevitably made and the pace slackened a bit but did not slow to a crawl as I had hoped. I made a promise to myself to slow down again this week and I’ve already had to reluctantly say no to invitations, twice. I want to keep dancing, but my body says I need a break and without a good DJ to force the issue, I have to slow the beat myself or pay the consequences.

This coming year, I plan on making a more conscious effort to take those breaks from the dance floor. I plan on looking at my calendar and blocking off work times, play times, and nothing times. Those nothing times must remain sacred if I’m going to have more productive work and play times. I have built a habit of dancing until I drop, which may have been feasible when I was younger, but these days is getting harder and harder to maintain. Building in breaks, time to stay home and literally do nothing but relax with a good movie or a book, is something I have to do to maintain my health and stay productive. The old way of just working until I felt overwhelmed and then dumping everything, even the things I loved most, has never been healthy and it tends to ruin relationships. Time to build some new, more effective habits. Busy doesn’t mean productive. And taking a rest is not an option, it’s a mandate.

Without a good DJ, the music only gets louder and faster until the bar goes broke from lack of sales, exhaustion sets in, and everyone goes home early. Be your own DJ. Build your own volume and pace, bring it back down, build it up again, and know when it’s time shut it down and clean up for the next event.

I Have a New Year’s Eve Post Too!

20191231_0942409200667381125871213-scaled-2337917629-1577823340118.jpg

The ingredients of a decent New Year’s Eve!

Holy crap…we’re twenty years into 2000! I’m fairly certain that 2019 was the fastest moving year I have ever had. I mean it. It also happens to be the oldest I have ever been. I’m not sure if the two are related but it is suspicious.

This past week, I was organizing pictures as I usually do around the end of the year. I take them off my phone to store them on my computer, safely backed up as well, organized by date, event, and place. I should probably do that monthly. Maybe I should tag pictures as well. Oh well. This year was weird though. I kept thinking things like, “You know back when we were on that camping trip last fall.” And then finding out that trip was the Fall before. And saying, “When my son was in Germany.” And then realizing that was over a year ago now.

Each January, I buy a printed book of my personal Facebook posts. Last year I didn’t. I was broke after Christmas and thought I’d get to in February, but BAM! Here we are in January again. What happened? I feel like I crammed two years into one!

I guess it’s true. Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been an amazing year of good times for our family. I’ve read a lot of great books, met some new friends, and went on great adventures. I wrote more than I ever have. I’ve been mentally happy for more days in a row.

And 2020 looks like it will be another year to remember or forget because we’re having so much fun that we forget to document any of it and remember. Strange to think we have to put so much effort in remembering the good times and so little into holding onto the bad times.

There have been some downs as well. But I do consider myself pretty lucky. It’s not like we planned out our life perfectly so that everything fell into place. Some of it was luck, some of it was attitude, and a small portion was brought on by good choices. Sometimes we made good choices but that was just luck too. Sometimes we made bad choices and lucked out with the results. I guess what I’m trying to say is, most of it is just being happy with what we have, choosing to see the positive side, and trying to be nicer to people, a little more forgiving and a little more understanding even when I don’t understand.

I started to see some talk on social media this week about how crappy 2019 was and how happy they are to see it go. I’m starting to expect those posts these days, but they always make me sad. What if this was the last year you had people? Cheer up! Enjoy the day you’re in, the life you have, even if it’s shitty. I mean, if Victor Frankl could see the bright side from a concentration camp in Germany, you can too! If you haven’t read his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, you should, like right now. Get it on your Kindle and read it over coffee in the morning. You will not regret it!

I may not be partying like it’s 1999 this evening, but I do have a bunch of stuff exciting things to do like finish my cup of coffee and do the dishes, maybe make my bed, but before I go I have one more thing. Have you ever wondered why so many people make such a big deal out of New Year’s resolutions? I mean, you can start a diet or go for a walk any day. You can get fit, read more, whatever you want on any day. New month, new week, new day, new hour for that matter! But why do most of us get angsty and want to start something new in the new YEAR? Even I do it and I hate the whole idea of resolutions.

I think it might have something to do with that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We got all geared up for Christmas and spent all our money one week BEFORE the end of the month. School is still out. Lots of things are closed or their hours are wonky two weeks in a row. The month is over but it’s not. We’re just sitting here in stuckville waiting for the New Year and on January 1st we’ll watch the parade and THEN start a new year. I think we all get weird in that week, reflective. Maybe we should be.

It’s not just the annual trip around the sun. That could be any day. It’s that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s that makes us think about making changes. The world is on hold. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the country officially does. Everything is closed. The trash truck comes a day late. The grocery store isn’t open. And the mail doesn’t come. And then we wait for a week for it to happen again.

Oh my greatness…it’s a hard boot of our whole system. What if we consciously took that week to think, reflect, make changes, rest, whatever we need to do to get ready for the coming year? That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this week. I’m getting excited to see what I can accomplish this year!

Wild For A Time

michael-anfang-8CUPYUqni8o-unsplash

Photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

Do you trust me?

Will you let me go feral for a time?
Will you take the reins and tame me again when I return?
Will you be the stable I can return to, hot and sweaty from my run in the wild?
Will you hold me tight, wash the dirt and sweat away, and bed me down?

Can I trust you?

It’s The Little Things

paul-bulai-XOQJa4OC8P0-unsplash

Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash

Today I noticed…

The build-up of a manic episode. The first sparks that light the fire. The fire that can warm and cook to perfection, or burn out of control and destroy.

Thoughts race, mood lifts, creativity flows. Words race out in text, building up fantastic castles in the air.

Projects are conceived and begun. Materials gathered.

Commitments are made. Parties planned.

People are contacted. Apologies made.

It’s a mental spring after a dark winter. Warmth comes from within and dares to spill out into the world of reality.

These are the good days. The days that so much seems so possible, so achievable. But will it last?

Can I build a useful fire? A controlled and sustainable burn?

A feeling that always escaped me in the past, never noticing the build-up until it has begun to burn me.

It’s a start.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén