Sunday, June 24, 2018

Simple Dreams Are the Eggs in My Nest

Part of this Summer of Self-Love for me is paring down and simplifying my life.

So, I've been doing some research about how to do that. And I've discovered that simplifying your life is a very complex process. My eyeballs want to fall out while I've been studying how to create a capsule wardrobe. There are entire books written about the subject. And this is just one area of life. I fled Amazon and searched for blog posts. The processes described there are just as frustratingly complex. Too much for me to think about. 

I am trying to simplify.

It feels like the simplest thing to do would be to leave things as they are and ignore what I don't like. Spend all my time away from home, meeting new people and discovering new things. Of course, that's a cop out. And that just will not do.

So I suppose I am going to try my own simplification ideas. Things like deciding what my best life would look like and getting rid of anything that doesn't fit that as I come across those items. Things like taking a small corner of my space and bringing order there. And then doing that again. And again. And again. 

Eventually, won't I end up with what I want?

I don't know the answer to that, but it seems like something to try. So, that's what I'm going to do this week. Ask myself the question, "What does my best life look like?" and "Am I living that best life by doing this, keeping that, eating this, watching that?" And as I think about all this, some of Yoda's words come to me.

Try not. Do.

Another thing comes to me as I think about all this. In December, when I was planning my year to come, a thought emerged. And that was to live my best life. Whatever that means. Of course, only I can decide what that means.

Part of what it means it to get up every morning with that intention.

So. Another experiment and adventure for the week. I set a precedent the last couple of days, after all. 

Wake each day with the intention to live my best life. 

And live intentionally while doing that. 

I'm excited to think about what that might look like. And whether or not I'm going to have buyer's remorse tomorrow morning when I get up and roll my eyes at myself. And considering that the mere mention of self-love a month ago would have had me rolling my eyes, it just might be that I'll be able to get over this too. 

I'm laughing as I'm writing this. Been doing that a lot lately.  

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Gifts and Tools and Mornings that Don't Begin the Way You Think They Will

Yesterday's near perfect day morphed into this strange morning.

I went to bed, knowing I'd be writing today with a gift. Literally. An experiment. An adventure.

Maybe I should start with a different beginning.

Yesterday was wrapped completely in gratitude and the day unfolded as if it had been flowing from a magical waterfall. My morning journal writing was a stream of gratitude that flowed right into my blog as if it were a pool for receiving. I headed down into the city to meet my son, who, greeted me with a smile and a gift. A small, portable keyboard that works via Bluetooth with a smartphone.

Last time we saw each other a few weeks ago, I talked to him about my excitement around this daily writing practice and my wondering about how I would do it when I am traveling, if I'd need to take my laptop with me everywhere I go. He popped online and did a few things, told me about tiny Bluetooth keyboards. He also ordered one.

That was my gift.

It's one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It's about eight inches long and an inch and a half wide when it's folded in half. When folded, it is it's own case, but comes in a drawstring bag that also holds the charging cord. It has a fold out stand to hold the phone, which becomes the screen. It looks like a toy computer when it's all set up. The keys are almost full size and the keyboard is a little bit different than usual for things like hyphens, exclamation points, and such. There are function buttons. I'm not sure how they function. It pairs to your phone and enables you to write anywhere. And since I actually write the blog online, I can use it to write for my blog and publish it. As long as I have an Internet connection.

And if it does nothing more than that, it's worth its weight in gold.

The rest of the day? We had brunch at a great little cafe around the corner from his house in Fishtown. I'd give it a shout out, but I can't remember its name. What I remember is the amazing welcome and delicious fare. I'll shout it out another time.

So the welcome.

We sat down at the table where ivory cardboard coasters proclaimed in bold red letters, "Glad you are here."

I don't know if it was the actual coaster or whether it was because I was moving through the day clothed in gratitude, but that felt so good. It gave me cause to pause and to notice something really lovely. I drank my Assam tea with a glad heart and Charlie and I had so much fun talking and eating we almost missed our movie.

Actually, we did miss our movie.

So we saw a different one. And it was probably a lot better than the one we were going to see.

We saw The Incredibles 2. I hadn't seen the first one. Charlie saw it when he was eleven and it was one of his favorite movies as a kid. So there was so much swimming around and below the surface that made for such an exquisitely lovely time together. And punctuating it was an animated short about the love shared between a mother and a son. Tears were rolling down my cheeks one moment and I was laughing uproariously the next.

As Charlie went off to work, he asked me what I was going to do with the rest of my day.

I went home and puttered around the house, decided I would have a writing adventure today by trying out my new keyboard to take it for a test drive before I'm actually out in the wilds somewhere trying to figure out if I can write and post. I made a delicious dinner and talked to my mom. I corresponded with my daughter in Chicago via text. And as I write this, I marvel that this is my life.

I sat down and watched a movie that felt more like a beach read than a film. And I just discovered that I need to be more careful with this than with my usual set up or I will lose my writing.

So. The strange morning.

I haven't been sleeping well lately and I guess my body decided it was going to catch things up today.  I woke up at nearly eleven thirty feeling like I'd just returned from being kidnapped by aliens, or what I imagine that might feel like. I feel like I've lost half the day and like my body does not belong to me. I had strange dreams that I don't want to talk about. But I am writing, and that is beginning to bring me home to myself. When I'm done, I need to figure out what to do to help me to feel like I'm back in my body.

Of this new writing tool, I must say it's close to miraculous. I wish there was a manual, though, because I can't figure out how to type numbers, or some of the punctuation marks that are on the function keys. Yes. Yes. I've tried everything I can think of. Except, of course, going online to try to find a manual there. I'll get to it one of these days. Until then, eleven thirty is typed out because I did not want to type eleven twenty one. No hyphen access either yet.

The next thing I'm going to try is to insert a picture into the text.

Another adventure awaits.

Post script: I've gone back in and added the tag at the bottom for the Summer of Self-Love, corrected the movie title, and corrected some of the spelling I missed the first time because the letters on the screen are so small. I've added a photo. I will eventually be able to do that from my phone, but it requires downloading some kind of app or building up my library of photos in my Google library (attached to my Google profile which I don't really use, except to host this blog.) More adventures in tech await.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Friday, June 22, 2018

I Am Grateful

I'm grateful for the pen on the page. 
I'm grateful for how soft this morning feels.
I'm grateful for the sound of birds singing.

And I'm grateful to be seeing Charlie today, and for cantaloupe and strawberries. And Darjeeling tea.

For the wind moving in the trees. And for the subtle color changes in a grey morning sky - which is not really grey at all, but is a soft, muted blue and white. 

The white changes its tone, depending on the light.

I'm grateful for memories that recall moments of pleasure and bring a smile to my face this early in the morning.

I'm grateful for the sunshine, and for the reminder of its blazing light on my left arm. I'm more than a bit sun kissed there.

I'm grateful for the mess on my kitchen table - it give me something to strive for. 

I'm grateful for the message from a friend this morning, as we look forward to a writing workshop that we didn't know we were taking together. 

I'm grateful for the space to explore the unthinkable and to engage that courageously in my writing.

I'm grateful for the small rose bowl of pansies sitting on my kitchen counter and for the delight I feel to discover that they have fragrance.

Did I know that before?
Did  I mention strawberries?
Did I mention the sun and the moon and the stars?

I'm grateful for the desert and for cactus flowers and for beautiful horses with soulful eyes. I'm grateful to be part of their herd.

Sometimes I like horses more than people.

I'm grateful to be able to fill two pages with the things I am grateful for. And that it was no effort at all to think of them.

I'm grateful for the surprise I received this morning. It was totally unexpected. Duh. Rather the essence of surprise.

I'm grateful for the moments I catch myself being beautifully human.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container to harness three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Earth and Her Rhythms Are Powerful Teachers

It's the morning of the Summer Solstice and I've ridiculously overscheduled myself today.

The thing is, quite a few of my regularly-scheduled commitments are happening today. A Mastermind Circle on-line meeting at 8 am, a Creativity Workshop I teach every month on the evening of the third Thursday. It's my habit to go to the farmers' market on Thursday mornings also. I think I'm going to give myself permission to skip that today. Makes me sad, though. That's a self-love kinda thing I do for myself.

But the loving thing to do today may actually be saying, "No."

The centerpiece of the day is around a teaching relationship I have. We get together on these days when the rhythms of the Earth deeply support our transformational work. There is something about working with the rhythms and flows that makes our work more powerful - whether those rhythms and flows are related to our connection with the bigger things of which we are a part or whether they are native to our own beings.

The Solstice arrived at 6:07 am with the crossing of the sun into Cancer. All the beginnings of seasons are marked with the sun crossing into the cardinal signs of the Zodiac. Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. We move into a cardinal sign (as opposed to fixed or mutable signs) so movement and (because Cancer is a water sign) flow are possible. And not just possible, but deeply desired and supported by the Earth rhythms.

I find myself this morning releasing Gemini's mercurial energies on the breath and feeling the flow of my inner waterways fed by the heart. 

I'm smiling as I'm thinking about that. 

Having awareness around the natural rhythms enables deeper pathways of manifestation. I think of it like an almost mathematical formula:

Awareness + Action = Change

And as I move more deeply into meditating upon that formula, I notice words emerging around the type of action that best leads to the kinds of change we want to see in our lives and in the world around us. 

Action that is inspired and focused and directed.

It's a good day to notice the seeds that are breaking open in us for the next season. It's a good day to notice what is coming to fulfillment or completing, what is blossoming. It's a good day to notice where we have flow and where things are blocked. To meditate on the teachings of rocks in the river and the ways water flows around obstructions, wearing them away over time. Or finding other channels of movement.

Earth and her rhythms are powerful teachers. 

I'm feeling like I might return to this at the end of the day. Something feels unfinished. Or perhaps it is simply this need I find in myself sometimes to say it all. That's folly, of course. But there's something I started with that feels untouched here. 

Perhaps I'll find more clarity as the day unfolds.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container to harness three months of thriving. The goal at the end is to have a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it. Most of them usually are. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Secret Life of Seeds

I spent the evening with children.

The church I work with hosts an evening children's program in April, June, and September. I offered to design and teach the program in June. We are working with the theme of growth and are using three parables that talk about the secret life of seeds. We have everything set up outside on the concrete porch of the church, which is located on a busy corner in a changing neighborhood in Philadelphia. 

We've got as many adults attending as we do kids, and this week we had four teenagers show up. It's mysterious to me how these things happen. You toss something beautiful out there and it takes hold.

Tonight we talked about harvest. I had a big glass bowl of fruit and vegetables in the middle of the table. I had a slender vase of pansies from the church garden there as well. A colleague who dropped in for the evening lifted her eyebrows as I moved from picking flowers and settling them into the vase to calling the kids together to begin. 

Use what you have. Begin where you are.

We start with dinner and then move into the lesson and the activity. The first week we talked about planting. Last week it was growth. This week harvest. The last few weeks we were all about playing in the dirt. We made grass heads in plastic water bottles, first to reuse and upcycle them, and second so we could see what's going on beneath the surface. I brought in sprouting sweet potatoes for them to plant the next week, first because they're cool, and second because I guessed that these kids had never seen anything like that before. 

And I was right. They hadn't. It captured their imaginations. 

The parable that week had been about the mystery of growth. 

Each week, we review the lessons of previous weeks. These kids are smart. They pay attention and absorb every lesson. Then we launch into the new learning. It's always about what happens next. Seed to shoot to bud to flower to fruit to seed. 

Everything begins and ends with the seed.

I never know exactly how things are going to proceed when I work with kids. I have a plan, but pay close attention to what emerges in the moment and allow that to lead. When I started cutting open fruit and veggies and showing the kids what is inside, all of a sudden there were valiant requests to eat the fruits and veggies. They'd spurned the tacos prepared for dinner but went nuts over the fruit and veggies. I started with apples, showed them the star inside, moved into cucumbers and then into cantaloupe. All seed-bearing fruits. I also had potatoes in the bowl, and when I finally pulled one out and asked if they thought we'd find seeds inside when we cut it open, they chorused a resounding, "No!" 

They'd remembered the lessons learned with the sweet potatoes. That the potato itself is the seed. 

So to speak.

And they totally got the lessons around harvest as they giggled while juice ran down their arms, and the sweetness and juiciness of the fruits and the experience of eating them together, around the table, filled them with joy. With harvest comes the feast.

That was to have been next week's lesson. Celebration.

Tonight's plan had been to use different fruits and veggies as painting implements. My lesson had broken open - like the fruits and veggies - and like seeds. I had a gigantic cutting board in front of me, covered in apple, cucumber, and melon seeds, while the kids munched on the fruit, and I found myself cutting designs into potato halves. I'd never done that before.

That became part of the evening's lesson.

Sometimes you have to risk doing something you've never done before in front of a lot of people so that everyone can learn something new. 

We all made awesome works of art with finger paints and potato halves. There were red hearts and triangles, blue squares and Pac Man heads, green leaves and stems, yellow crescent moons and an uncut potato half that you could make into a sun if you added rays with your fingers. And a little yellow circle of potato for Pac Man food. All cut into potato halves by a woman who prayed as she worked that the shapes were recognizable. 

Every child at the table was held in rapt attention the whole time. 

The adults watched with interest. Especially when I said I'd never done it before. People love to watch someone else try something new. 

And I had a ball.

It was a deeply restorative end to a very long day at work. I had also onboarded a new office temp, led a Bible Study for seniors, led a Stewardship meeting around creating a gratitude program for the church to prime the members for the visioning work we'd be doing down the road, completed what felt like a million other tasks in the moments between and beyond.

And I finished writing this a minute before midnight.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Something in Me Wanted to Stay Close to Home

The day is achingly beautiful.

Blue skies, every kind of gorgeous cloud imaginable, breezes, green everywhere. The roadways are lined with wildflowers. Honeysuckle on the vine, day lilies, and so many others whose names I've somehow failed to learn. Or have forgotten. Delicate blue blossoms, pink, yellow, soft white. Every color imaginable. 

Hawks circle in the skies. 

The day is also achingly hot. 

But this did not bother me at all as I drove through the countryside today. I had the windows open and music playing. I did not have anything scheduled for most of the day. I figured I'd do some tasks around the house. But those were very easy to sacrifice to being out and about .

I was tempted to drive an hour to the coast and walk by the ocean. 

But something in me wanted to stay close to home.

As I sit here writing late at night, my thoughts are interrupted by the desire to close my eyes and sink back into the day. Something I noticed about myself today in all that beauty was the instinct to be deeply present. To notice everything. To connect with the natural world with all my senses. 

It's important to be out in nature. We spend so much of our lives indoors, especially on achingly hot days. We spend so much of our lives connected to technology. Plugged in. It feels good to unplug, to connect to something other than the Internet. To fill our brains with the stimulation offered by the gifts of Earth on an achingly beautiful summer day. To allow something creative to counter the destructive impulses we observe day in and day out as we tune in to news and commentary and outrage and relentless electronic stimulation. 

I carried my desire for beauty and ease into dinner this evening. A simple salad with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, some wild-caught salmon simply prepared punctuated the day and leaves me filled with a peace I will carry into sleep. 

I expect a long day at work tomorrow. And I'm grateful for having been able to sink into wildness today. 

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Sounds like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it. Most of them usually are.



Monday, June 18, 2018

The Rebellious Teenager Showed Up for Work Today

I must need to have a rebellious teenager in my life.

I come from a long line of women who don't like to be told what to do, who are tenacious, and who tend to defy expectations. My grandmother accomplished the kinds of things a woman in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s did not often attempt, and my great-grandmother left everything behind to start a new life in a new land as a young bride at the turn of the century. I can only imagine the kind of grit she had to muster to do that. After I turned 50, my mother (who is perfect, by the way) began to fess up to her own teenage rebelliousness. And my daughter wrote the book on teenage rebellion. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I can hold my own with both of them there, but my mother and my daughter have more self-discipline than I can dream of. They accomplish like pros. 

I must have missed that gene. 

Today was the day I was going to start doing all those things I think will enable me to feel the way I want to feel. I was going to go to the gym, was going to cut sugar, dairy, and grains out of my diet for two weeks, was going to spend two hours working to begin to bring some order out of my overfilled living space. I was going to make a list and check everything off and look at the list at the end of the day and feel the sweet sense of accomplishment that lets me know I've taken the first steps on the yellow brick road. 

It was the rebellious teenager who showed up for work today, though. The one who does not like to be told what to do.

I spend a lot of time coming up with strategies to get things done. Take today. Having got up later than I'd wanted to and realizing my plans were not going to go as intended, especially since I still had food in my fridge that did not fall into the guidelines I had established, and I hate to throw out food, I decided to eat all my "bad" food so I could start fresh another day. To tell the truth, the food is not actually bad, it's just not sugar, dairy, and grain free. And I definitely did not feel like going to the gym, so that was easy to let go of. The start on my decluttering, though? Nope. Not that either. But I did not want the whole day to be an utter loss. 

Writing in my morning journal, I noted,

"When I make these big plans, I tend to overwhelm myself and freak myself out. I need to dial that kind of thing back. Little things. Small steps. Here I am, Monday morning on a day when I was going to make a 'brand new start' and I've lost confidence in my abilities. Plus, it's hot. Already 80 degrees at 9:30 in the morning. I do need toothpaste, toilet paper, and light bulbs, though. I do need to do the dishes." And the list went on. Little things I needed to do that, if I could accomplish all or most of them, would feel like a big win. 

So here is the strategy I used to get everything done.   

I needed to go to the laundromat to wash my towels. I know. I know. How could someone my age live without a washer and dryer? Okay. Maybe not the best decision I've ever made, but about three years ago I decided to spend less on rent in order to travel more. I also thought moving into a tiny apartment would force me to deal with my stuff. The travel's been totally worth it, but the trips to the laundromat are a pain. 

Back to the strategy.

There was a time I used to take a book and sit for two hours in the laundromat while the laundry washed and dried. No more. No more. I use those minutes to get a lot done. 

And the list.

Wash the dishes. Leave to go put towels in the washer. (I have 23 minutes.) Go to the bank, stop at the store and pick up my three items. Go back and put the towels in the dryer. (I have 35 minutes.) Run home and put the store items away, replace the bulbs, and do several small tasks around the house that will clear the space a bit. Go back and fold the towels, come home, put them away. 

Check. Check. And check. 

In a mere two hours I'd handled all my errands for the day, some household chores, and even had a conversation with my son and planned a get together for later in the week to see Solo, which we missed a couple of weeks ago when we'd hoped to see it. All before Noon, after having got up later than I'd expected to because I was up late last night after writing in the evening and getting my second wind. 

I spent the afternoon with calendar commitments and even managed to make a beautiful, and healthy, dinner while writing. In the afternoon. So I'll be able to go to bed early enough that I'll be in dreamland before my second wind comes. I made a list and crossed everything off. I feel great. It's not what I'd planned to do when I was in my extravagant mind space, but for a Monday I got amazing work done. And all without even realizing I was doing so much. 

I have no idea why a long to-do list freaks me out. Or why I don't think I can do everything I want, or think I need, to do. It just feels really good to feel accomplished instead of feeling like I did not do enough. 

Learning how to work with yourself well is such a loving thing to do. I think many of us put so much expectation onto ourselves that we often live unhappy, dissatisfied, disappointing lives. 

Or we might just not think as well of ourselves as we deserve to.

The Summer of Self-Love is a daily writing practice birthed June 1, 2018 as a container for harnessing three months for thriving. The goal at the end is to host a dinner party. Seems like an odd Hero's Journey, doesn't it? Most of them usually are.