Hibernation For The Soul

Feeling Low

Sighing, I sit down to work at my computer after a couple of weeks of intermittent work and brace myself for diving back in.  I’m irritated by Facebook finding it difficult to celebrate others’ successes and reading between the lines my own sense of failure. I’m sulky with friends who haven’t contacted me even though I’ve made no attempt to contact those friends either.  Meditation is a constant battle of focus, and my gratitude list takes longer to assemble.  There is no logic to my state of mind, and it happens every year…I’m feeling low in spirit.

After the holidays are done, family has returned to their respective geographical locations, Christmas lights are removed from our own and surrounding houses and all the shortbread is eaten, I find myself batting a case of “Is this it?”

Energy Distribution

Normally, it is my mission to keep my blogs upbeat and positive.  I prefer to uplift and encourage as opposed to remind us to be stuck.  The world has enough negativity, and I don’t need to add to that noise especially since a case of chronic negativity is more a matter of a skewed perspective.

However, we are not talking about a chronic state of mind here, but a period of feeling low, and all the change of perspective chatter cannot logic us out of it.  Everything feels hard. The only thing to do at this point is to accept that it’s okay to be irritated with others, it’s okay to feel like a failure, it’s okay to be sulky and it’s okay to ask, “Is this it?”  

The real growth here when we feel this way though is where we choose to put that energy.

How We Deal

Do we lash out at our family? Do we post negative comments on Facebook depreciating others’ successes?  Do we bring an aura of negativity to work?  Do we stop meditating and stop being grateful?  Do we let our friends know they have let us down?

The obvious answer to the above is no, but this answer comes from a history of dealing with my low mood by acting out. This by the way never makes you feel better and has repercussions.  Think of having a closet of balloons…once they’re out, it’s really hard, if not impossible, to bring them back again.  Back away from the computer!

However, this is where acceptance does the hard lifting for us.  By not stifling our emotions and accepting them, we can move from “woe is me” to “how can I best take care of myself at this time.”  No explanation required, no excuses, just dealing with what is in the most healing way we can muster.

A Hibernation for the Soul

So, I’m going to do the only thing within my power to do.  I’m going to accept my funk.  I’m going to embrace the fact I’m feeling less than optimal and do simple things that bring me pleasure.  I’m going to go back to basics and get enough sleep, feed myself nourishing food, cut down the sugar and take the dogs for a walk.  I’m going to stay off Facebook and not go anywhere socially for a bit.  I’m going to focus on moving slowly and mindfully through my day bringing my thoughts to the present instead of letting them create negative stories.  I’m going to sit in the middle of the day with an uplifting book without guilt that I should be busy doing something else.  I’m going to keep meditating and being grateful.  I’m going on a hibernation for the soul.

A hibernation for the soul should always involve getting outside

The Takeaway

I encourage you if you’re feeling this way to employ your own hibernation whatever that looks like.  What I have found to be true is the more you fight it, the longer it will last, and the more likely you will lose control of your inner beast and start externalizing your low mood.

If you do, I promise life will look bright again soon.

A Clogged Drain and Mindful Living

“Mom, the bathtub is plugged.” 

Appreciation that it was not the toilet was short lived. 

I consider myself to be pretty tough in terms of gross stuff.  During an ugly flu that rampantly infected our family, three vomiting children, who somehow would never be able to make it to the toilet until they reached the age where they were involved in cleanup of same, would not affect my appetite in the least.  I considered this a point of pride until I realized that my husband who flew to the bathroom with sympathy symptoms at the sight of vomit had neatly found a loophole for avoiding being on the cleanup crew.

So, when my son told me about the bathtub, I treated it like any other household issue, donned a pair of plastic gloves, grabbed a coat hanger and went to work. 

My gag reflex is alive and well.

Without going into too much detail, wads of hair and conditioner seem to be able to render me nauseous like nothing else.  Vomit…ick, no problem.  Poop…disgusting, but fact of life.  Wads of hair and conditioner…gagging as I type.

After spending a period of 20 minutes clearing the drain, a test run with hot water ensued.  The clog was still present.  Multiple jugs of hot boiling water were thrown down the drain as the kettle was now part of my drain-unclogging arsenal.  Still clogged.

Admittedly, household stuff is a challenge for me in my journey to mindful living (see Himalayan Mindfulness).  The inconvenience itself is frustrating, but as I have trouble staying on top of the surface stuff like housecleaning and heaven forbid improving my asset to any degree, a step backwards in terms of fixing the status quo is infuriating.

Time for chemicals.  Ordering from a very optimistic supplier of chemical drain cleaner that promised both to unclog my drain and be good to the environment felt like the next good move.  After four days, my package arrived, and immediately, the powder was poured down the drain with the requisite hot water.  A positive (in my mind) puff of smoke emitted from the drain plug and a rather potent smell.  Good things were happening down there.  Enzymes were devouring hair and conditioner (gag). 

Twenty minutes later, time for the moment of truth.  I poured hot water down the drain again and watched it swirl down the drain and then back up again.  Clog still present and enduring.

The second attack was an overnighter, and a second powder treatment was applied to the clogged drain.  Enzymes once again got to work eating organic material.  This was not a fast food job, but a dining experience for my little enzymes. 

Flash forward to this morning, hot water again swirled back up the drain…still clogged.

After a period of meditation, the realization hit that acceptance and mindful living are easy when life is going well.  It’s the bumps in the road that really show your commitment to the process.  Apparently, mine is need of some work.

I’m okay with that though.  I would be insufferable if I was not a work in progress.  I am evolved enough to know that I would not wear perfection well or humbly.

While I’m working on acceptance, if you have any tips or tricks for unclogging a tub, please feel free to share.  It’s now between a plumber or purchasing a drain snake…to be discussed with husband…done with suffering alone.

Update:  Plumber came and conquered.  A good plumber is truly a gift.  Now back to mindfully watching the water swirl down the drain.

A Contact Lens and True Clarity

Alarm sounding at 4 a.m., I snuggle deeper into my blankets to soak just a few more seconds of comfort and warmth before sending my foot out into the cold, cold world.  On autopilot, I stumble my way to the bathroom where I go though a series of morning routines.  Fortunately for me, my work involves me making my way downstairs to my office, so I can begin my workday in the best outfit ever…my jammies.  However, despite morning commuter freedom, I cannot feel ready to begin my workday without my face on which consists of contacts in, teeth brushed, moisturizer, light dusting of foundation powder, mascara and yes, lipstick.  I come from a long line of properly made up women, and the habit is continued in me.

This morning’s ablutions began like any other without much thought other than looking forward to my morning coffee, when suddenly my contact dropped from my finger.  I went from a woman with sight to a woman with partial sight, and it all happened in a second.  Now with considerably more alertness, I began to search for said contact, and I tell you it is an ironic thing to be looking for your sight when you don’t have it.  Looking with my face about an inch away from whatever surface I was searching and one eye closed, I scoured the sink, the floor, my tee shirt and the counter-top to no avail.  It was clear the contact lens was gone into the same void that single socks from the laundry travel to, but where no toilet roll is every accepted.

If you’ve learned anything from reading my blog, it’s that I can see signs and messages in just about everything.  I believe they’re all just little hints from the Universe to bring us back from the past or the future into the present, and this was no different.  The message…life can change in an instant.

Brain swirling, I was now fully awake and to be honest a little panicky.  This kind of realization never comes with an exciting epiphany of positivity like coming suddenly into money or a surprise party…nope, straight to everything I love and hold dear could disappear in an instant.  To be honest, I was going into a dark place, and from the outside, it was quite ridiculous, but give me the slack that I had just woken up and hadn’t had my coffee yet.  It was like asking a two-year-old in a full-blown temper tantrum to calm down…I just didn’t have those logicking skills at this precise moment.

After what seemed like ages of descending into the pit of dark thoughts (was likely 5 seconds), I eventually pulled myself back together, mourned the loss of my contact lens, popped in a new one (disposable!) and moved forward with my day with a larger than normal cup of coffee, all the while appreciating and celebrating my vision.

The take-away:

Wake up…Pay attention…Appreciate the little things…Don’t focus on the fact that your life could change in an instant but keep that little gem in your subconscious periphery…a little salt adds flavor.

Life lessons from a contact lens…think about what I could glean from an empty toilet roll…ah well, next time.

Photo by Max Muselmann on Unsplash

Undentable Joy

While walking my dog and indulging in my newest addiction, podcasts, I heard a line that stopped me in my tracks…literally.  I had to pause in my walk and immediately jot down what was said.  My dog looked confused tugged at the leash, but to no avail, the wheels of an inspiration had hit.  People drove by silently judging (I used to be one of them!) the woman who was ignoring her dog to be on her phone.  I now no longer silently judge people walking and typing on their phones…might be creative inspiration at work.  They need to be encouraged with padded electrical poles and perhaps a moving sidewalk. 

This particular podcast which I was unable to locate on the website as it was an older episode was discussing Thanksgiving and gratitude (Ologies with Alie Ward), and in the discussion, the words came up “undentable joy.”  A visual image of someone being barraged with negativity with a layer of insulation while they existed in a state of calm and peace came immediately to mind.   Well, Pandora’s box had been opened, and ideas began to flow about what undentable joy looked like and how one could obtain it in their own life.

An aside:

Please know that when I discuss undentably joy I am discussing it in terms of day-to-day life, its ups and downs.  Extreme life events like grief and loss are circumstances where discussing undentable joy seems inappropriate. That being said, joy never travels alone, and while it takes a back seat in certain circumstances, it is replaced by its cohorts of resilience and hope.

Undentable joy is not running around in a state of perma-grin.  It is not exuding positivity inauthentically.  It is the ability to be live in a state of mindfulness and delight that is not dependent on life to be good, but that to live is good.

Undentable joy is a choice, but it’s a choice that needs strengthening.  Thinking about undentable joy as a practice, I began to recognize areas in my life this year where I have been building up my insulation.   Humor, limiting negative social media and news, a good dose of nature and surrounding myself with uplifting books and podcasts have been a few ways I keep myself in the joy zone.   The big two though by far have been a daily practice of gratitude and meditation which I started earlier this year.

Meditation

 You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. – Zen proverb.

Five minutes, five minutes is all it has taken to bring me from constant mind chatter to mental quiet and being present.  I’m not saying I achieve this all the time, and even this morning, I found myself meditating on my grocery list.  When I started this practice, the peace and calm did not come right away, but gradually.  I started to notice things more like the way the wind stirred the autumn leaves and how one leaf drifted down like an elegant Mary Poppins.  My emotions were a little more even keeled and less led by the anxious roommate in my brain.  I occupied the present more than the future.

Gratitude

Every day mentally or in my journal, I list three things I am grateful for.  My gratitude has extended from being thankful for big things like family and shelter to appreciating a simple cup of coffee and fuzzy pajama pants.  Gratitude has a way of weaving itself through the day and taking away reasons to complain.  The size of the gratitude does not seem to matter, what seems matter is where your focus goes. 

Meditation and gratitude have made it possible to stay more often in a state of undentable joy.  Without these practices, I would turn to guilt …I should be happier, why can’t I be more positive and relaxed, but the effectiveness of guilt is demonstrated in my daily exercise regimen (non-existent).

Well, there you have it, my sidewalk musings.  I am curious though, what are some of your undentable joy builders?

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Struggling in the mud trying to keep with my dogs who have navigated the rocky, muddy route with ease and are way ahead of me gives me pause to notice how an ordinary event can be infused with the extraordinary.   Nothing like walking through sticky, slippery mud to make you notice every step…every flipping, precarious step…on a beach littered with dead fish.

Simultaneously cursing my decision to choose this path and stopping to catch my breath, I find myself noticing the many ordinary, yet extraordinary, events taking place around me. These include:

The Mud of Contemplation
  • An 8-foot sturgeon breaching the river…Amazing!
  • Rocks littered with dead salmon, the end of a long journey from the river to the ocean and back again to spawn… Smelly and humbling.
  • A feathered plant I had never noticed before…Delightful curiosity.
  • My awesome new boots…Warm, comfy, dry.
  • Mist settling on the river…Mysterious.
  • Dogs that don’t listen at all running ahead of me with pure joy…Annoying and lovely.
  • How much more nimble a dog with bad hips is over the rocks versus a woman in her 40s…Sad.
Plant I had never noticed before…pretty isn’t it!

By being forced to pause and reflect, I had an opportunity to change my story from getting the dogs out for walk (to-do list item #5 checked) to one of appreciating events weaving to create a magical moment infused with gratitude, awe, humor and delight.

It’s a reminder to get stuck in the mud more often and see beyond the ordinary.  I’m never disappointed when I chose to employ it, and it’s a perspective that always adds quality and value to the moment.

So, on the note of honing my skills, I’m going clothes shopping with my family today, and watch out, I’m bringing extraordinary (if your immediate reaction was pity for my family, you are not alone).   Kind of curious what kind of extraordinary magic can go into a moment that involves convincing my youngest to try on pants, but I’m willing to go there.

Dogs having fun and thinking about rolling on dead fish

Sunflowers and Noticing

Inadvertently this spring, I threw a seed mix into my garden just to use it up.  Nothing much came of the seed mix until we noticed one distinct weed was growing above the rest (weeding is taking a back seat to bramble fun).  Last week, it flowered and revealed a lovely, bright yellow sunflower.  Every day, the kids and I peek at our beautiful flower and admire…a bit of sunshine amongst the green weeds and bramble.

It’s continually fascinating to me how the Universe continually hammers a message at you until you finally reach a point of listening and understanding.  Sometimes, your subconscious already has picked up on the hints and is busy setting up hints for my slow processing speed.  My requests for books from our local library usually mirror whatever angst is going on in my soul, so after a period of feeling intensely busy all the time, I went to the library, and there on the order shelf was a plethora of books on calm, slowing down, slow living and mindfulness (tax time usually involves a selection of books on off the grid living).

Whining and lamenting my frustration at never having any breathing time or the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, I started my trek through these books…jotting down quotes of inspiration while taking short breaks from working, ferrying people around and errands of life, but still not connecting the dots.  Thankfully, the Universe never gives up that easily.

My constant mental complaining and whining only led to out loud whining and complaining…poor me…so busy…never any time for me. 

A few days ago staring through the window admiring the sunflower with my teens while making dinner, one commented to the other “It’s so cool the way it follows the sun.”  “Yah!” said the other “You can always tell what time a day it is by looking at where the head is.”

Record screeching halt to dinner preparation.  “What?!  It follows the sun?!” 

“Of course, Mom!  Didn’t you notice?!” 

Weakly answering, I said “No, I just thought it was a pretty flower.”

I received some deserved disdainful looks from my teens at this point. 

The next couple of days, I stopped and noticed our sunflower following the sun; it faced east in the morning and by the evening it was facing west.  Because sunflowers do not swivel 360, I noticed how it moved its face to follow the sunlight. 

And you know what, it didn’t stop there.  I started stopping and noticing the way my impatient mind would carry itself off when I was working or doing housework, and I started bringing it back to focus on the task at hand.  I started stopping more to stare out the window for a few seconds and notice what the bird was doing on the lawn or the dog digging a new hole in the lawn.  I dug into my book selections with a new mind of actually paying attention to what I was reading.  I started recognizing that feeling of over committing to something where it would manifest as quantity over quality and turned down some invites, rescheduling them in a more qualitative way.  I started noticing that anxiety rumble and started breathing.  I started noticing my bad attitude and changed my attitude or changed the plan. 

My life quality is going back up again.  I can almost feel myself welling a bit when I say this.  Anxiety and mindlessness are soul-sucking places to live. 

All this due to a sunflower (and teenagers).  Thank you, teachers.  I’m paying attention now and following the sun.

Our Pretty Flower

Sharing Abundance

One of my own personal acts of gratitude for the abundance in my life has been to tip and tip well whenever I dine out.  My husband started this trend for our family, and at the time being in the mindset of frugality, I failed to see why it was necessary to tip so high whenever we ate out.  My husband has always been a generous soul, and it was one of the many aspects of his character that I loved and continue to love about him…even if it did cause momentary irritation.

Now understanding that my own experience of lack and abundance has to do with perspective, I have embraced his generosity as my own.  In enjoying the comradery of my family and being served a wonderful meal, I celebrate the abundance that allows me the option to not cook, as well as appreciating the beautiful people who spoil me.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

Financially, there have been many times in our family life where eating out was not an option.  Recently in fact, my hubbie experienced a layoff which meant the luxury of eating out was off the table (literally); however, celebrating abundance is a habit that tends to stick regardless of circumstance, and having to weigh the cost of eating out including our generous tipping into the equation has enhanced the specialness of the occasion when we chose to do so.

Besides the benefit of being remembered by servers and eyes lighting up when we enter certain restaurants, these little habits of celebrating and sharing abundance have enriched my life and remind me to walk in gratitude because there truly is so much to be grateful for.