I'm sitting down to reflect on my year and, I have to admit something to you, dear reader. In 2020, a year when we faced a deadly pandemic, murdering police and calls for social justice, an atypical election cycle with attacks on our democracy, and business-not-as-usual, I, a self-proclaimed over-achiever, took on too much. In summary, last year I committed and completed the following: writing a daily poem and posting it here, my first year of classes towards my MBA, practicing and teaching yoga (in-person at first, online you-know-when), being an engaged contributor at my full-time day job, meeting my consulting clients' needs, and being a loving spouse who shares the workload.
Here's my caveat: even knowing it was a tough year, and hindsight being 20/20 and all, I still don't think I would go back and take anything off my plate. Wild. Right? So, with that personal clarity, I wanted to share with you the top insights I gained from taking on too much in 2020.
Image credit: Franz Bachinger on pixabay
• I control what occupies my mind
Despite the overwhelming amount of options my attention span is inundated with, in the end, I get to decide what information, entertainment, distraction, etc., consumes my mind. If you've been following me for a while, you probably saw that I paused my own reading of books for leisure for the first half of 2020. My intent was to pause for the entire year and over summer break, my will weakened and after that, I reasoned with myself that I could balance the urge to read with the rest of my commitments, which I did - sort of. I also stopped thinking as much though. I let the books become what I wanted them to be, a distraction, and it was fine because it was what I needed. At the same time, I haven't read any leisure books so far in 2021 and already I see my thought patterns changing. I also notice a correlation between novel reading and social media. When one goes up, the other goes down. I'm most heartened by my awareness. Because I am aware of what wants to pull my attention and what happens when I follow those different paths, I can better decide how I want my mind occupied.
• Having purposeful downtime is not wasteful.
I could have called this one 4b because it's definitely related. Since I control how my mind is occupied, I'm also in charge of whether I'm being "recharged" or just "draining the battery". If I choose downtime that makes me go braindead or forget that there is life "out there", then I'm not actually refueling. Choosing downtime that helped me feel refreshed and energized, such as a walk and a phone call, or making art, made a big difference on whether I had the energy and enthusiasm for school after work. Sitting down and reading a book made me want to stay sitting and stay reading. The new year gave me a good chance to "reset" and I'm finding my way forward on this one again.
• It's humane to be human
Being human must come first or I can't be anything. When I pay attention to my physiological needs and responses I am better able to concentrate on the tasks I decide to get done. This insight was taught at the school of hard knocks of 40 hour work-from-home workweek followed by evening school work. I could no longer rely on my walk to and from the bus station to stretch my legs. I could not count on having every weeknight for hikes or biking. I needed to be intentional in how I moved, sat, and slept. Yoga was a big help and when I practice more than 3 times a week, I can get away with more inactivity during the work day. The fewer the yoga sessions though, I better be moving on my 15s and lunch! Setting a routine helped and getting outside. I feel so much more human when I can feel the wind on my face at least once a day.
Thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me this long on my 2020 reflection, for tolerating my mildly obnoxious humble-brag as I worked through those insights. I hope they help you and me in navigating what is coming our way for 2021.
While I agree that humans need breaks and play, I also believe that it's easy to fall into a loop of constant gratification through escapism.
We are coming up on some holidays and it's a great time to remember that we are in a world of abundance and often feel better when we take 'just enough'.
Let's stop being apologetic for being mammals. Let's stop blaming ourselves for physiological processes. Let's say we all get to do what we want with our own hair.
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.
Creative enthusiast, gregarious naturalist, opinionated activist, RYT 200. Amy Kay Czechowicz completed a poetry challenge for 2018 and 2020 by posting an original poem daily to this blog. She writes here occasionally to drop nuggets of wisdom she picks up along her way. You can read her poems and posts by clicking and exploring below!