I love being groomed. I know that sounds weird but really, having my hair shampooed or brushed, getting a massage, or even the ten minute foot rub during a pedicure - all glorious moments of relaxation and luxury. The funny thing is that as a primate communal grooming is very common and I'm certain it releases all the happy endorphins that makes you want to come back for more. From an evolutionary stand point that makes sense - most often when grooming was happening across our evolutionary history, it was probably to remove harbingers of illness - parasites. Additionally, grooming can make you look nicer which could increase the odds of attracting a mate and passing along your genes. Nowadays we don't need to sit in a line and search each other for ticks and fleas (mostly) and yet we still drop hundreds of dollars on grooming services from others. I believe it's those evolutionary responses that keep us coming back for the amazing power of touch. I really haven't researched this much and was just spit-balling so if you have any evidence-based articles you know of, feel free to send them my way.
Future-thinking today. Every now and again I like to let my imagination and optimism, some would say naivete, go wild.
For my 60th poem of the year, I thought I'd take us down the comedic path. I've often had the thought that my glasses make me a liability in emergency situations. Once, when I was a newly licensed driver, I was driving in the winter and my glasses fogged up as I traveled further down the road, my well-meaning mother snatched my glasses off my face to clear them and we nearly careened into the guard rail...I have -6.5 prescription and was trying to navigate by fuzzy colors. See? Liability. I'm like Dennis Nedry in the rainstorm in Jurassic Park or Harry Potter in the quidditch match before Hermione spells his glasses to reflect rainwater. Liability.
Today's morning commute was quite smooth for my husband and I as he dropped me off at the transit station, compared to the discombobulated woman who was gathering her items out of her four door sedan that she had careened up a heaping mound of snow in the middle of a median and rammed into a tree. There was no ice.
Today is my birthday and I've been humbled and awed by the outpouring of love and well-wishes that have come my way from my family and friends. I know I've said this before and I'll say it again. I really do live a charmed life.
I taught my first yin yoga session open to the public last night. It was magical. I really enjoyed it and I hope my students did too! My poem today is another yoga philosophy poem about santosha, a niyama, a "positive duty" as outlined by Patanjali for recommended activities for healthy living. Santosha ultimately boils down to cultivating contentment. I believe contentment is fundamental for healthy living and I also believe that it is something you can practice and build over time. In my poem I tried to capture exactly how I construct my own contentment.
A nod to Brene Brown for the title to my poem. I think her interpretation of the term "wholehearted" is exactly how I felt when reflecting for today's poem. I have found that when I am living authentically, when I am saying yes only to those things that ring true for who I am and want to be, then I have a life of joy and ease.
One of my favorite mantras in yoga is Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu which means "may all beings everywhere be happy and free." My yoga instructor actually said this mantra in tonight's class - after I had written my poem - and it echoes my day's theme. I wish joy and ease for all beings everywhere and so, I'd like to share my poem, my "recipe," for wholehearted living.
We've had a glorious snowfall come through here in Minnesota. I really love winter, snow especially, so I'm happy to see the drifts piling high. I worked from home and didn't get many steps being camped at my desk all day and was ready to get moving after work. For our evening exercise, my husband and I decided to get outside with our shovel and help neighbors who'd gotten stuck in our un-plowed roads. We had plenty to do!
Drivers were getting stuck everywhere and we weren't the only people with the same idea. There were several neighbors with shovels and we gathered up and put our force to one vehicle at a time to clear the roads for the plows to come. It was FUN! I am not certain if other communities do the same thing when they face adverse conditions but I was proud that I belong somewhere that we work together to help each other. I do know folks in my state are typically called "Minnesota Nice", and well, I'm pretty sure that's what I was seeing today and I loved it.
Minnesotans were in full preparatory mode today with the oncoming winter storm warning and upcoming playoff game for the Vikings. Everywhere I went there were hustling crowds attempting to procure their goods and services before turning inside and hunkering down. In honor of the impending blizzard, I penned a little haiku.
I was inspired by the balmy 40 degree Fahrenheit weather, and motivated by a colleague, to walk outside for my jaunt to the bus after work today. My outdoor stroll was too sensory not to write into poem form.
Climate change is a buzzword in current topics and has been for a while and I guess I'm ready to say my piece. I firmly believe that individual households, especially in the U.S., can have a dramatic impact on whether we avert crisis. I'm the person at work who will turn off the sink you left running behind you when you walked over to the other cupboard to get a glass. I will shut the fridge door on you if you walked away to deal with your food "real quick" before putting the container back. I wonder about people who continue to buy bottled water after so many science-backed resources have campaigned to get the word out that plastic bottled water has so many ills. Have they just missed all the announcements somehow? Or are they willfully destroying the future of their children, nephews, or nieces? I know I can do my part better too, which is why today's poem is a reminder that what we do now, the imprint we make in this minute, is crafting the tomorrow of the little ones we love.
For Earth -
I got a little nostalgic for today's poem and took myself waaaaay back to summers on the farm, baling hay with my family. For those of you who have had the luck to bale hay, I hope this poem evokes some of the same joys that I found when digging up this memory.
Nine days into my year of writing a poem daily and I'm sensing a pattern about my writing. I pen my poems an awful lot like Randy Newton crafts his songs. There is a hilarious Family Guy skit about Randy Newton "singing about what he sees," that I only know because my husband has pointed quoted it to me numerous times. And yes, I do seem to write most often about things in front of my eyes. In the future, I will try to make sure I'm cognizant of this tendency and seek to expand my topics, but really, we live in such a magical world and people are so amazing, inspiring, and sometimes bewildering, that I can't help but want to capture that awesome in my writing. Or, I guess I could help it and I don't really want to stop.
I'm sure it comes without surprise that today's poem is about a person I saw on the bus ride home. This person was happily engrossed in a often-teased form of entertainment and not giving one fig about it. It really brought to mind one of my favorite phrases to use lately, "you do you." Be loud and proud for what you like even if it's not popular*. And now, I'll share my poem, about something I see because you be you and I gotta be me (whew, this poetry thing doesn't turn off).
*Note: statement does not apply to intolerance, hatred, or discrimination.
I love volunteering. I'm passionate about volunteering. You can tell from the photo above that I'm really, really happy when I volunteer. I think volunteering in our communities is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for others.
I don't want to get all sanctimonious because why I volunteer is definitely not all altruism. First of all, I'm far, far on the extroverted spectrum, secondly, I truly believe in the ripple effect of helping within your community, and third, there is so much fun to be had when you are performing a meaningful task.
So really, my public service announcement is "volunteer to help others in your community and get payback in the form of endorphins, a stronger community, and satisfaction from a job well done." Also, here's my poem.
It's Sunday night. My stomach is pleasantly full, and I'm just enjoying some downtime resting on the couch with my husband and cat. In short, I'm feeling pretty great. So I decided to challenge myself in writing a "blank verse" poem. According to the article I read, blank verse poetry doesn't rhyme but rather uses the "da dum" pattern to make "same-length-of-syllables" lines (like doing iambic pentameter but as many syllables as you want). I think I got that right, though readers can feel free to give me direction if my interpretation was faulty. I chose to do ten syllables in each line and definitely enjoyed the challenge and maybe my brain got some exercise out of it.
The subject matter is every home improvement store. I love home improvement shopping. Home Depot, Lowes, Menard's, you-name-it, I would love to go. Appliances, curtains, electrical wiring, flooring, whatever, I want to peruse. It really does pull me in as if I'm in the "twilight-zone." Hence, the poem.
Today's poem is about one of my most favorite places in the universe. Thanks, Lucia, for making a sanctuary.
I was inspired to write today's poem by a topsy turvy Friday. Typically, my Fridays are a heady combination of fun and productivity. I love wearing jeans and comfortable-yet-professional tops to work on my "day-before-Saturday" and am, in general, in a good mood. Today's Friday, however, really tried to get me and I'm happy to report, I persevered!
Soup in the lap, bloody nose in public, and a bona fide work kerfuffle had me fretting. So, I did my usual mode of processing and talked it out. I got some wonderful support and sympathy which called to mind wise words my father says when little things cause frustration. Wise words that encourage perspective on how really good I have it and the realization that all it takes to overcome is some elbow grease.
I titled it "Infrequent Friday" because it's rare to have a Friday that challenges me and that's part of the perspective too. I really do live a charmed life.
A few weeks ago I had an unsettling incident which was the theme for my poem today. As I was waiting for my bus one day before the holiday, I was punched in the head by a stranger who was obviously suffering from mental health issues. It was definitely a shock. At first I agonized over what it was about me that attracted his violence. I kept going back to that thought, until I realized that this wasn't about me and that I can't change how I go about in the world because of it, other than to raise my awareness. Coincidentally, the book I'm currently reading is the incredible disaster analysis book, Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley, which helped me frame the assault by stranger in a different light. She talks about people experiencing disassociation or freezing when they should be taking action as a natural response to fear, and that's what I felt I did. Froze.
She also talks about what can be done to overcome that paralysis and how to prepare for next time. Which is exactly what I'm doing, gleaning all the lessons from my experience and other great resources so that in the next situation I'm ready and aware.
Without further ado:
Last year I had the obvious realization that if I wasn't creating something, I was likely consuming. Food, tv, social media, goods, services, were all sucking me in to a vortex of consumerism and pulling me away from creating the myriad of ideas I have in my head. So in 2017, I resolved to create more often and was, ultimately, successful. I wrote more, crafted more, made more art than many of the previous years. And then I went to a Creative Mornings MPLS talk featuring Mary Jo Hoffman, a native Minnesotan who took her minimalism philosophy, her creative spirit, her love of nature, and her gift for photography and gave herself a photography challenge to take one photo a day and post it where others could see it. Her urge to other creatives at the talk was to do just that, find one thing, anything you like to create, do it, and share it where others can see. And in 2018, I've resolved to do just that - my creative venture is poetry and my goal is to write just one poem a day, about anything, and share it where people can see it. Here. On my blog.
I've loved writing poems since grade school when we were given an assignment to write a book of poetry. I was particularly proud of one eloquent piece titled "Fall" that went: leaves fall, fall leaves. Ha! I still love that poem from my adolescent brain. I also see many parallels between poetry and the other creative adventure I've been on, my yoga instructor training. Writing poems gives me space for reflection and an outlet for experiences. I chose poetry as my creative challenge because that joy from penning a good line is still there. I still get that satisfaction when I synthesize an experience or feeling with all the words that feel right. And like Mary Jo's choice of photography, I am choosing something that brings me joy.
I don't know what I'm going to learn yet, and I don't know where it will take me. Mary Jo admitted that some days were harder than others, that some photos turned out better than most, and I've no doubt it will be the same with my endeavor. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the reading of them for the most part, as I'm sure I will enjoy the writing.
Life-paralysis, what is that? Well, it's a phrase to describe a state of being in which you cannot move forward in the direction of your goals. This momentary seizure can be caused by many factors such as indecision, lack of confidence, or fear. I have, unfortunately, found myself becalmed in the waters of my ambition more times than I care to admit. Thankfully, with all the times I've found myself adrift, I'm also improving in identifying those moments and reanimating myself towards a purpose.
I think I've mentioned before that my Myers-Briggs personality is ENFP and, though my therapist brother-in-law tells me personality quizzes, in general, are simply a way for humans to create patterns out of chaos, the write up for ENFP does coincide with many "patterns" that I see in my character. According to a free Myers-Briggs quiz, 16pesonalities.com, the ENFP nickname is "The Campaigner." What that nickname fails to reveal is that as energetic and enthusiastic I can be for my creative projects, I can often get trapped in the pitfall of indecision or lack of focus. There are so many wonderful things to campaign and feel passion for - how do I choose just one!?
Fear has also reared its ugly head to freeze me in neither fight nor flight; perhaps it's my subconscious "playing dead" when the bear of the future lumbers through my forest of dreams. When the weight of my goals sits heavily upon my chest, it seems easier to ignore the asphyxiation by distracting myself with countless cat videos, Instagram food, or my Facebook page, ultimately feeding the beast rather than taming it.
Lack of confidence has also proved a shackle a time or two. My reoccurring thought, which I had even before writing this post, is "who am I to offer advice?". Some people refer to this as "impostor syndrome" although I don't feel as though I'm an impostor; rather my concern is that I will bore someone to death or contribute ideas that don't help anyone.
Whew, I know its sounds rough, but all is not lost! As mentioned above, the common occurrence of my temporary life paralysis has resulted in a silver lining. I am now increasingly adept in overcoming these pitfalls and did convince myself that I had something useful to offer you, fair reader. So, without further ado, these are the methods I've found helpful in overcoming life-paralysis.
1. Be honest with yourself. This solution is probably the toughest because you have to come clean with why you are stuck. For example, I'd been allowing myself to "check out" by reading books for pleasure rather than spending time working towards my goals. Partly the reading had become a habit, but the other part was indecision. I couldn't decide where to direct my efforts, so I directed them nowhere. I had to fess up to myself when I realized the books I was reading were drek. Talking about life-paralysis to my sister and husband also helped, so I recommend finding a sounding board for your honest revelations. They can ground you while you face the fear.
2. Do something for five minutes that you can take pride in - even if it's just a "jobs done" satisfaction. This tactic is especially effective if you are struggling with the self-confidence. It's amazing how ticking off a few "to-dos" can make you feel accomplished. The other day I spent an afternoon taking donations to Goodwill, weeding my front garden, and getting my spare tire re-inflated for an upcoming road trip. Each task had been on my to-do list for a while, and they all took less than an hour each. It was so satisfying by the end of the day to have so many long-standing items ticked off. I'm sure I had a grin the rest of the evening.
3. Step away from the phone/laptop/kindle. I know, I know. We hear this one so often it's annoying. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with being dialed in 24/7, but when you are trying to reanimate your purpose, the best thing to do is disconnect. How can you know your mind if you are continuously consuming other people's thoughts and ideas? We have so much more to offer than the consumption of goods and services, but you need to give your brain some time to form your own thoughts.
I'm happy to report that these methods have revived me from my latest bout and I hope they serve you well too!
Let me know, was this post helpful? Am I the only one who suffers from life-paralysis? Feel free to comment or let me know on twitter!
"Keep it simple, stupid!"
I still remember the encouraging voice of my elementary school teacher who repeated that phrase if ever we lost sight of our project goals or tried to beleaguer a topic in an essay. Elementary school teachers sometimes send us on with the most remarkable nuggets of wisdom that come resounding in our minds at the most opportune moments.
This certainly was the case for me recently when I eagerly sat down at my kitchen table with my 2016 goal board ready to complete my much-anticipated "introspection and reflection" prior to goal setting for the new year. My grin slowly drooped into a frown as I surveyed my annual progress. I had set 19 goals. I had set 19 goals? Why had I set 19 goals? I began to tally my achievement and realized I had created a goal board that would have made me feel unsuccessful no matter the outcome. I had set 19 goals. 19. for one year. I'm only one person.
After I tallied the results, I found that I had achieved 40% of my original 19 and it didn't feel good. In an attempt to cheer myself, I then reviewed how I did "categorically", meaning, if I had set three measurable goals that all related to health and I achieved one - then I "sort of" met my health goal. When I broke it down into categories I had met a goal in each category, but it felt empty, and I knew why. I had failed to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.
But all is not lost!
I resolutely turned to my 2017 goal board, and, brow furrowed with determination, I began creating a more manageable vision of what success would look like in the year to come. As I sat, I glanced absentmindedly at my Instagram feed and saw that, thehappyacademy, an instagram account I follow, had posted an incredible quote that echoed the lesson learned from 2016's goal setting gaffe. It read, "the key to fulfillment isn't doing more, it's doing what matters." I excitedly penned it to the top of my page as inspiration for my task. I then resolved to only select 4 goals, just 4, for my 2017. I put them into categories again (I can't help it, I like categories), and selected my measurable goals for Professional Development, Creating, Financial, and Health. I also paid particular attention to ensuring my goals were "SMART", if you've heard the term. The acronym stands for smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely (with attainable being the element I believe I missed the previous year).
I'm smiling as I write this because I think I'm on the right track. I've now discussed my goals with three people and feel good about accountability. I've taken my performance from last year, analyzed my trends, found an area of improvement and am working towards that continual progress. I'm now looking forward to December 2017 (wow, doesn't that seem a long way off) to share with you the outcome of my annual goals "introspection and reflection".
Feel free to check in on my progress! And, happy goal setting!
Get two wheels beneath you and get your feet a' pedalin'. For reals.
My eldest sister once reflected to me that everyone smiles when they get on a bike, and, having immersed myself in mountain bike culture for the past year, I have to say that anecdotal wisdom seems true. Eight hours of blearily squinting into harsh white screen glare with hunched shoulders and a numb posterior does not benefit my health. The hours in meetings, writing, reviewing data, and discussing projects are well spent but can leave my brain swirling with the very long list of growing to-do's that hurtles at my psyche like a train bearing down on a cow on the tracks. Moo.
In my past life, my farming life, I recognized the catharsis of retreating to the outdoors and losing myself in manual labor, milking cows, tossing bales, or cleaning mangers, to refresh my body and mind - but hay bales are harder to find in a concrete jungle. To what should I turn when weighted down by stress and exhausted by inactivity? The answer, I've found, is going for a bike ride.
You could argue that the same could be said for any type of activity, going for a walk, going to the gym, dancing, etc. and I think you'd be partially right. Everyone is different and everyone has their own motivations but I wanted to share a little of my own mad-thinking that brought me to my conclusion that biking is best. I have found that gyms make me grumble from the cost, going for a walk sometimes feels "too easy" (read: not enough sweatin' time), and I struggle getting motivated to work out at home because I don't actually have to go anywhere and the couch becomes a vortex when I step within five feet (seriously, beware my comfortable couch).
Biking, however, rolls a lot of what we know about reducing stress into one fun-filled activity. First, if you go fast enough, you'll sweat - and sweating from physical exertion is good for your stress levels. Second, it's an activity done out-of-doors, and scientists have indicated there are benefits to our brains by just being outside. Finally, it can be done by many folks at all skill-levels. In fact, there are so many "types" of bike riding it's boggling. Mountain biking, cyclocross, road biking, touring, cruising, BMX, trials, recumbent, tandem, you-name-it, there is probably a biking-style out there that's sure to plaster a grin on your face and motivate you to get outside and move after a long day of sitting.
So my message is this, if it's been a minute since you last balanced yourself on two wheels and pumped those pedals, I encourage you to head out to the garage, clip on your helmet, dust off the ol' schwinn (don't forget to oil the chain!), and go for a bike ride. Oh, and, feel free to let me know if you crack a smile. ;)
Creative enthusiast, gregarious naturalist, opinionated activist, RYT 200. Amy Kay Czechowicz is completing a poetry challenge for 2018 by posting an original poem daily to this blog!