Resistance and flow

Life has tossed me a couple of related gems recently from four completely different sources and I think that maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

First: I happened upon THIS interview by Marie Kondo with Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic of “tidying the mind.” I’m going to quote what most struck me because A) I’m lazy and also 2) this is way more genius that I can summarize/rewrite:

“You can’t work on yourself and not work on the space you live. And you can’t do work on the space you live and not work on yourself.”

“If you’re too afraid to look into the scary attic of your mind, look into the scary attic of your home. It will be a portal, a doorway, that will take you into the parts of yourself that you’ve been afraid to look at.”

“I always say to women, ‘Start knowing’ … Go deep and say, ‘It’s time to know.’ You have to believe the force of knowing is in you. We’ve inherited it from our ancestors; they passed on everything they went through. There’s an old version of you that lives in yourself. Ask her.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert

Second: I was at acupuncture, all laid out in the amazing chair with heat and massage, when my acupuncturist comes in to insert the needles. She looks at my left wrist — that’s where I always keep a hair tie for emergencies — and she says, This looks tight, I’m going to just take it off. We’re going for energy flow here, not stagnation.

My response: Laugh. Her response? We talk about that all the time in the clinic, clutter as stagnation. When energy is cut off, you’re also cut off.

And then she starts talking about the different forms of stagnation: A thousand saved emails, a cluttered house, even your weight. And when you’re energy is blocked, you’re in a state of stagnation.

So I looked up the definition of stagnation (I mean, this is me we’re talking about) and it is “a state of not flowing or moving; a lack of activity, growth or development.”

Third: I find THIS post by Kyle Nicolaides about journaling as a way to cope with depression and anxiety, and there’s a section where he’s talking about habit trackers — how you should approach them with lightness and joy instead of just another thing you have to do and that, upon failing, beat yourself up over. He further says that missing days at a time — weeks, even — on a habit you’re trying to cultivate means that it’s something your heart didn’t really want OR it’s something important that your heart is avoiding.

And fourth, an email newsletter I somehow got signed up for after helping a new wellness business with a press release, in which she writes that, with the winter solstice right around the corner (aka longest night of the year here in the western hemisphere) we should be asking ourselves two questions:

  1. What is too much in my life that might be causing me harm? (Think worry, sugar, toxins, fear, sitting, processed food, rushing around, over-committing, over-spending.)
  2. What is not enough in my life that can help nourish me/heal me? (Think sleep, nutrient dense foods, meaningful connections, healthy routines, movement, nature, mindful awareness.)

There’s a theme here, simply that resistance affects flow. That we know what we need to confront but we tend to numb and therefore further harm ourselves instead of just dealing with it. That it’s easier to be stagnant than get to the root of the problem. That change is hard and requires actual work. But if our heart isn’t in it, we won’t even start.

It’s interesting to ponder and also kind of scary. I’m still sorting it all out. As always, thoughts welcome.

Time + space + materials = this

Sunday mornings in the Walker household go like this: Eric immediately turns on the TV because he likes to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. I’d rather drink my coffee in peace, do a little blogging and journaling and catch up on the blogs that I follow — sometimes I watch with him, if I happen to hear something I’m interested in, but not often. In the summer, I’d just go on the deck, set up my parents’ old crappy card table and write while looking at Mount Hood. Now that it’s cold, I’m trying to figure out a good place to hide. Our house isn’t big, but I do have a couple of options: I could clean out my reading retreat, which has a built-in desk, or I could clean off the desk in Abby’s room. I should have thought of that before I woke up this morning, looking for a place to write this post (my Monday posts are always written over the weekend). So I’m on the bed, sitting cross-legged even though when I try to stand up, I will be hunched over and walking like I’m 93. I’m listening to a playlist that is mostly old songs by The Cure. (“Disintegration” was a big part of my senior year of high school.)

To create, a person needs time, space and materials — I suppose that I’m lucky, since my creative endeavors are written. I’ve got a laptop (materials). I’ve got time (weekend mornings). It’s the space part that’s sometimes the issue, but only because I’m picky.

(Austen Kleon blogged about this last month — you can read it HERE. I like how his brain works.)

The need for time and space, incidentally, is what drives me to do a lot of my more difficult writing for the newspaper at coffee shops. Four of us are jammed in what used to be a small meeting room. There’s no such thing as uninterrupted writing time there — there’s just too much going on. But the coffee shop takes me away from all distractions (phone calls, emails, people popping in, pages that need babysitting and editing, etc.). Plus I get coffee! I don’t mind the noise because it’s not demanding anything from me personally — it’s just there in the background. I can concentrate on the task at hand. And I can crank it out much faster.

I feel like that’s a win on all possible levels.

Johanna is an artist, and I’ve noticed that, while her room is her preferred space to create, she is also not adverse to bringing her supplies out to whatever surface is available. (That’s why my kitchen table is covered in paint. Someday I’d like Eric to refinish it, but it’s always in the back of my mind that it will probably just get covered again, even if she IS almost 15. Art is messy.) She’s got her sketchbooks and her tablet, more pens than any one kid will ever require, and a variety of paint types. It might take her a couple of trips to get it all, but she doesn’t worry about that.

Now, if she can be flexible in bringing her time, space and materials together on a daily basis, surely I can figure something out on the weekends. (More coffee shops?!)

P.S. I’ve never explained this before, but having just gone to Jo’s conferences and hearing her name pronounced wrong all night (new teachers! so many pronunciations!), I thought I’d toss this out there: It’s literally just Jo Hannah. She gets called Joanna a lot, or Jo-hawn-a. Once she got called Jonathan. Just in case you were ever wondering.

Morning routine, summertime edition

I am a creature of habit, as I’ve often proclaimed. It’s an understatement to use those words because it’s more like I’m deeply entrenched in the day to day routines I’ve established and any varying of those routines sends me into a spin, from which it takes me a ridiculously long time to recover.

I’ve gotten into a routine this summer of waking up early (sometimes as early as 5:30, although it’s generally more like 6:15, even on weekends. Um, not on purpose. I think it’s all the light), making my coffee and heading to the porch with my backpack of treasurers, aka Freida the laptop and my journals and pens. I may or may not do a guided meditation or breathing exercise a la the Tide app. And then I just write.

Bean July 17.jpg

Bean is also a fan of the porch.

It’s nice outside in the cool morning air, listening to the birds and the orchard noises and even the traffic. Seeing what Mount Hood looks like that particular day, watching the cats tumble around and vent excess energy by racing halfway up the oak trees. Sorting through the events of the previous day and recognizing any areas that might need a little extra attention on my part, whether that’s because it gives me something new to think about or because I need a little (or a lot of) grace.

After porch time, I get ready for my day and head to work feeling ready to face whatever comes. Which sounds cheesy, I know this, but when I race out the door and straight into work — a job that’s chaotic enough — I feel out of sorts. Centering myself in the morning means I am more apt to stay calm the rest of the day.

When you live with anxiety, that’s huge.

I can take this time because it doesn’t really matter when I head in for work — journalist hours are whatever the story requires — and I only have my schedule to contend with in the summer. And my kids are older and require less attention. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep it up when school starts up again and the weather changes. But I’m not worrying about that right now.

I’m just out here enjoying my coffee.

Restarting routines

I am a creature of habit. And I know what they say about routines cutting down on decision fatigue, but really, my days are all the same because that’s the way I like it.

Surprises? No thanks.

Our lives have been, shall we say, a bit on the rogue side lately, with routine completely out the window. And that’s been hard. So this past week, the focus was settling back into normal life. And I mostly succeeded. I worked a full week and managed to cross a few projects off my list. While I didn’t do any FlyLady zones as planned, I did get some general cleaning done, which always makes me feel better. The sun was out and I took lovely lunches out on our deck, soaking it up with an army of cats.

There were a few glitches, like there always are: Jo called in the middle of a coffee date because she wasn’t feeling well and needed me to pick her up from school; not a glitch, just that my grandma was in town and I visited with her instead of doing all that other stuff that needed to be done (eh, sometimes the ol’ list can wait); and everywhere I went, people wanted to ask about my father-in-law and how the family is doing, which comes from a good place on their end, but it’s exhausting retelling the story over and over.

Part of my morning routine involves writing — getting out my planner and seeing what’s on the docket for the day, as well as my main journal to process thoughts and feeling and whatever happened the day before. I’ve been resisting this for the past three weeks, although the rest of my routine is fairly solid. I rarely reread what I write, so it’s not that I am afraid of bogging my future self down with bad memories. I think it’s more denial. Once I write it, it’s real.

This week I’d like to get back on track with ALL of my morning routine … and my evening routine, which I haven’t bothered with for quite some time. I’ve also completely stopped my walk break routine at the office, and that’s going to be a priority as well.

I want to feel normal again, that’s why. I want to feel in control. And I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

Paper vs. digital

We’re going to go a different direction with today’s post — and ironically, I’m going to use a digital platform to talk about paper.

I’ve never actually thought much about paper vs. digital formats, I guess because my life naturally involves both. I started blogging on my 39th birthday as a way to deal with having the 40s in my sights, but even before that, most of my working life has revolved around what I produce on a desktop computer screen.

Eric and I got our first home computer in 2001 — Abby was around 2 — and I immediately took to it. I am a fast typer (had to be: English major, history minor, there were a lot of papers going on in my college days) and I enjoyed being able to toss out my thoughts quickly and cleanly. Word docs look so organized!

I have also been an avid journal keeper for … most … of my life. I started at around 10 years old (I was also writing stories in earnest when I was 6, much to the delight of my first grade teacher, who just knew I’d have a writing career. I guess she was sort of right) and kept them religiously until I was 25 or so. Then I just got busy. When the girls were born, I kept journals of the funny things they said while simultaneously writing about how overwhelming young children are. (I’m so happy with my older kids, I can’t even tell you.) And I’d go through phases where I’d keep a personal journal — mostly that was anxiety control, and the thought of rereading any of it isn’t something I’m up for at the present time. I’m in such a better head space now.

All of THAT is just to say that I like and use both formats, the paper and the digital, and I can see the benefits both bring to my life: Sometimes writing longhand is therapeutic; sometimes I want to write quickly and get it all out.

My blogs have served as a bit of a journal from the get-go, and I never really thought about the possibility that any of what I’ve written would ever go away. Until I read “Raiders of the Lost Web” (HERE) about how the internet isn’t exactly forever.

My favorite parts of that article, written by Adrienne LaFrance:

Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

And, later:

“There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words, if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

She concludes:

But the thing unsaid, the fact that unravels even an optimist’s belief in what the web can be, is that the ancient library was eventually destroyed. Not by technology or a lack of it, but by people. Saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.

Huh.

I don’t know that I need to save everything I’ve ever written online right this second and for evermore, but I do like the idea of my grandkids, if I ever end up with any, being able to read my stuff. It’s vanity, of course, thinking that they’ll care or that I have anything to contribute in any possible way, but whatever, I still want that option. So maybe I’ll pursue some sort of paper version of my favorite posts someday.

Because my mother would totally read it even if my own grandkids never materialize. WORTH IT.

It’s interesting to me that right now, my Simple Year co-bloggers and I are working on an anthology that will take a digital media platform and translate it to paper. (Or maybe still digital format, since I wouldn’t mind seeing it available for eReaders.) So I know the process I’d have to undertake to get an anthology of my own work going for those future maybe grandkids. What ticks me off a bit is that had I just written this stuff down in a notebook and not gotten sucked into the idea that digital is better / anyone besides myself would want to read what I’ve written, I wouldn’t have to do anything else besides hand it over at the appropriate time. Um, not that I’m going to stop blogging. VANITY.

And there’s no way I’m transcribing any of those entries in longhand, I can tell you that right now. Plus my handwriting at this point is terrible because all I do is type.

I guess it’s a bit of a war with my minimalism, too, now that I think about it. Of course I’d prefer to write online — nothing physical to have laying around the house. But I also have three paper journals going at the moment: A planner, a bullet journal for daily brain dumps and notes, and a quote book. I like being able to play with these, make them pretty or just scribble. They are whatever I say they are, with no one to please but myself.

And damn! I love journals! I love that paper aspect and how I can go back and read whatever it is I thought important enough to write down without having to scroll through a bunch of screens. There’s a sense of possibility with paper that I don’t get from a blank Word doc. (Word docs symbolize work.)

I have no idea where I’m going with this now that I’ve come to the end of this post. But I like how this aspect of my life is coming to the forefront … that I read an article about the vastness yet limitations of the internet around the time I’m translating my experiences with my zero waste year to paper via the computer screen.

Well, I don’t have a lot of hobbies.

Um, thoughts, feelings, ideas?

Back on track

After the soul suck of everything of last week, I’m heading into this week with grand plans of getting myself back on track. One of the issues I face is that, when the going gets tough, I shut down. This is why I need a social media ban after 7 p.m., to keep myself from just laying on the couch all night in a device-induced haze. I’ve always tended to be like this, although we didn’t have devices when I was growing up (I mean, we didn’t really have devices until I was in my mid-30s), so my “induced haze” was mostly just laying on my bed, listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure on the ol’ stereo and being depressed.

Different times, different drug. Although I can’t help but think THAT was healthier than, like, getting into fights with strangers on Facebook just to vent feelings.

Because I like to journal, I’ve made a list of what I want to remember this week — those things I have to do, like sweeping up all the cat hair off the floor (Pro tip: Dark hardwood + light-haired cats = a recipe for disaster), and the things I want to keep in mind, like making decisions based on how they will affect my overall health.

And THEN, because I know myself so well, I made an additional list of what I can do when I feel myself shutting down — generally just problem solving my way out of bad decisions. I want to take care of myself, not just numb the negative feelings, as is my fallback solution to basically everything. (It’s probably a good thing I don’t like the taste of alcohol, to be honest. I would have another layer of problems if I did.)

My list, in part:

  • Put phone on silent
  • Keep a stack of books on hand
  • Journal it out
  • Listen to music
  • Take a nap
  • Yoga
  • Hot shower
  • Walk break / outside time
  • Turn off electronics
  • Go to bed early

I need to come up with a list just for work, I think — things there aren’t quite as bleak as I thought they were last week, but damn! It’s not unicorns and rainbows, either. And I’m finding myself completely wiped out by the time I get home, physically, mentally, emotionally, the works.

So let’s do some brainstorming, internet friends: What do you do when you’re overwhelmed? How do you put your health / sanity first? How do you make good use of the time you have in ways that fill you up? How do you deal with stressful situations?

Life in general

Johanna and I went to visit Abby at college last weekend. My girl is stressed — she’s taken way too much on — but doing well. My favorite part of the whole ordeal was when we all went to the library so she could study for a few hours: It was quiet, we had a nice window seat to enjoy the campus view, and I was able to transcribe notes from the bullet journal that Abby made me for Christmas last year … it ran out of pages at the end of September.

I don’t usually transcribe my notes from my journals. That’s mostly because I like to write, but I don’t necessarily like to read what I’ve written. Which is why, at work, I’m notorious for handing a story to our copy editor, saying, “I wrote this, but I didn’t read it.” I don’t always want to revisit what I’ve written, I guess. Not everything I write is pleasant.

Anyway, two themes I noticed while I was transcribing my journal — which I decided to do this time, incidentally, because I have a lot of notes scribbled from various websites and books that I wanted to keep — was that my stomach issues haven’t really gotten much better and that I am continuously trying to figure out how to be a better person while also hiding from the world.

(Fear of missing out? What’s that? I’m totally jacked when I get to stay home.)

I’ve put myself on a relatively strict diet in order to cope with my food sensitivities (we won’t rehash them here, let’s just say there’s a lot I don’t do well with), and while I have tremendously good days — many strung together, in fact! — I noticed that I’m not doing quite as well as I think. (Huh, maybe I should reread my stuff more often.) This seems to be because I get bored with my diet and try to add too many new items at once, or fail to register when a food upsets my stomach and then I continue to eat it, all the while wondering what on earth is happening.

Abby’s suggestion last weekend (she’s taking anatomy and physiology and kept pointing to where all my organs are located, gross) was to take one food at a time and give myself two weeks to experiment. Her feeling was that would slow me down but still allow me to add foods back if they worked out — and if they didn’t, I’d have time to recover before moving on to something else. Those two and a quarter nursing school semesters are paying off already.

As for the hiding from the world, I’ve realized that I really, truly need introvert time — or else I have a hard time functioning, which also leads to my stomach issues flaring up. I’ve read somewhere that ideally, you need two full hours to yourself every day, unplugged (that’s the hard part) and doing whatever it is that fills you up.

That’s a tall order when you’ve got a kid and a husband (and cats, the adorable jerks) but I’m working on making sure I do have time to myself. It might not be two hours, but it’s still mentally and emotionally stabilizing to know that I will have SOME time to myself each day. And Eric and Jo are super fantastic about realizing I need this time. (Well, they’re also introverts, so usually they’re doing their own hiding.)

Ironically, one of my goals at the beginning of this year was to connect more with friends, and looking through my journal, I realized I’m actually doing pretty well at that. I’ve had lots of coffee dates and a few dinner dates, too. I’ve caught up with people whom I have been meaning to reach out to for years. Abby has been particularly gung-ho about my social life, and I finally asked her why. “You’re going to be an empty nester soon and then what are you going to have?” she asked. “Um, my porch, books and coffee?” I replied, but she didn’t think that was enough for some reason.

Trust me, kid. It totally is. But coffee dates have turned out to be kind of fun.

P.S. Johanna is also well. Eric is well. The cats are fine. Life continues to roll on.