Archives for the month of: December, 2016

Well, it’s about that time. It’s time to wrap up 2016, call it a memory, and begin again. Are you ready? Do you know where you are headed, on life’s journey? Are you well-provisioned for the days, weeks, months ahead? Expectations explicitly set? Assumptions checked against reality? Emotions balanced with reason? Have you prepared a reading list, a to do list, or some other sort of list to guide you down life’s sometimes-less-than-clearly-marked trail? What do you know? Have you asked the questions that best illuminate the path ahead?

About that path, the trail, the journey ahead… about life, generally… Are you ready? If not, are you at least standing on the trail head, ready to begin again?

It’s your journey. It’s your path. Your experience – all your own – you’ll even be crafting your own map, making many of your own rules, and all of your own choices. Where will the new year take you?

imag8161

What would you do with life if you could begin again? (It’s time to get started…) ย ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you know who you are, specifically? Is it a question you easily ask and answer, or does the “who are you, really?” question mess with your head? I suppose I revisit this question rather frequently, and with little stress, these days, and sometimes with some surprise (as in “Is this who I am?”). I’ve changed a lot as a human being over a lifetime. (You’ve probably changed some, too – haven’t you?)

When I think about who I am, who I have been, and the journey between those points (and, frankly, extending well beyond my current understanding of self, into the murky unknown of the future), I prefer to rest comfortably on what I know of myself, personally, understood in the context of my own values, my own experience, and my own understanding of the world. There is value in hearing the perspective of others, and honest self-reflection on the words and impressions of others can be an eye-opener worthy of deep listening and consideration…but… at the end of the day (any day), the greater value is in self-knowledge, self-awareness, and an internal dialogue that is frank without cruelty, I find. It is a literal truth that no one knows me like I know myself.

How do I know if my internal dialogue is sufficiently honest? I guess only by being honest with myself about that, too. There are choices involved. Awareness is a good starting point on any journey.

Why does this matter today? Well, I guess because (to me) it matters every day…but… tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day will (if all goes well) follow it fairly closely. ๐Ÿ™‚ I celebrate New Year’s as a simple enough turning of a calendar page, and I celebrate it as the end of the winter holiday season, and also as another opportunity to begin again. No “resolutions” – change doesn’t work for me quite that way. I’ll sit down with myself, reflect on the year that has ended, consider the year to come, and look at the journey I’ve made in life so far. I’ll look ahead to destinations I hope to reach, successes I hope to achieve (larger or small, it’s not really about scale, more about trajectory), and changes I hope to make for myself to improve my quality of life, or to be more the woman I most want to be. I’ll consider the things I didn’t reach along last year’s journey, without diminishing myself or treating myself poorly. I’ll give myself the opportunity to learn and grow from both my successes and my failures. No shortcuts. No self-deception. No looking away from the harder moments, or less pleasant truths, and also willfully and eagerly embracing the lovely moments, the delights, the wonders, and the joys.

I use an assortment of tools, tasks, and practices to consider and reconsider the year behind me, the year to come, and the woman in the mirror poised between them. I spend time writing. I update my “Life in Weeks” calendar and reflect on how I have spent my time, and what I can do differently to better meet my long-term needs in life. I meditate. I meditate on questions I may not previously have thought to ask… sometimes it helps to have a tool for that. I take a walk along one path or another, sometimes new, sometimes more familiar. More than anything else, though, it is a matter of taking the time for constructive self-reflection, and placing enough value on that time to fully respect it, to set boundaries, and to take care of the woman in the mirror. Once a year? I definitely have time for me once a year. ๐Ÿ™‚ Over time it has proven to be a worthy investment in self, and so I continue the tradition year after year.

Today I will get the housekeeping out of the way for the weekend, run errands, do chores. I’ll treat myself exceptionally well by preparing in advance for deeply satisfying celebratory self-reflection and leisure to come. No discomfort, no guilt, no reluctance; I enjoy this time I spend with myself each year, and invest some effort in making it a moment worth savoring. Other people, other celebrations, this is me, doing New Year’s my way. I’m okay with that; it’s enough. 2017? Bring it!

I woke abruptly, wide awake, with a sense that sleep never was and relieved that the contents of my sleeping mind, so recently left behind, were not also my living, waking, experience. I woke clear-headed. I woke aware of my dreams, and aware of my relief. I woke feeling that purposeful moment preceding urgent action, not-yet-panic, sufficiently present to stall any move to action; there was no cause for taking action, and nothing to react to. It was merely morning. I was simply awake.

My morning felt far more than necessarily purposeful, and lacking any clear purpose this seemed strange. My dreams were perhaps still chasing me… Coffee. Music. I listened to my favorite playlist over my morning coffee, catching up on Facebook, avoiding more personal writing as though the words might suddenly jump out from dark corners, presenting some alarming situation for which I was not adequately prepared. Fucking nightmares. Damn it. It’s an ordinary enough morning off, and already I no longer remember the contents of my dreams, only the massive saturating feeling of disappointment and “I told you so” feeling of inevitability and suffering that characterized them. I didn’t really notice I had been avoiding being alone in the stillness this morning until the sky had begun to lighten outside the windows, and realized I’d kept the music fairly loud in my ears for some hours, coffee cold, every bookmarked article read, all the other tabs besides the “add new post” tab on my blog finally closed… It was hard, at that point, to overlook that I was stalling. How odd.

Over my second coffee, the world slowly emerges from the mist, and looking like an ordinary enough morning in every respect. Whatever startled me from my sleep, leaving me feeling vigilant and over-prepared, and vaguely “combat ready”, is nothing more substantial than the morning mist, itself. I feel my breathing deepen and my shoulders relax.

Another misty morning

Another misty morning

The holiday weekend, and the end of the winter holiday season, is right there at the end of the week on my calendar. Another year at an end. I’m unlikely to see my Traveling Partner; his celebrations are planned in a quite social way, where I tend to celebrate New Year’s as a more solitary contemplative event, as with most years. (I don’t mind that we celebrate in our own way; we are equally welcome with each other, should we choose to break from our own traditions to get together.)

Today is the day facing me, though. What’s to be done with that? Here I sit, sipping my coffee, a lovely misty morning unfolding… for leisure? For labor? For love? Maybe the end of this cup of coffee will come with answers… Today seems a good one to take a moment, embrace it, enjoy it, savor it, and move on to the next. I’ll think I’ll start there. It’s enough to be here, awake and aware, taking my journey moment by moment.

I woke this morning during the wee hours, which is not unusual. I went back to sleep, not terribly rare either. I even managed to sleep in, wrapped in comfort and contentment, drifting among pleasant dreams, even sleeping through the bzz-bzz of the good morning greeting from my Traveling Partner when his message reached my fitness tracker. Sleeping in felt so good… right up to that point at which a neighbor’s idling vehicle in the parking lot woke me. It’s not my favorite way to wake up, but my coffee is tasty, and the day has begun. ๐Ÿ™‚

A first look at a misty morning

A first look at a misty morning

My calendar is empty today. No appointments, no plans, no events, nothing whatever actually scheduled happens to be happening today (for me). Interesting. The morning is foggy, most of the view beyond the window softened to an indistinct gray-scale beyond the meadow, a bit as if the day itself just hasn’t been formed quite yet. Clearly, I am awake too early; the day is not yet even created! I sip my coffee, smiling at the whimsical image of each day being truly formed anew from components of reality.

The view beyond the meadow

The view beyond the meadow

The lack of notation on a calendar page is no indicator of what the day is worth, nor a limitation on where it may take me. A painting is not often made of a single brush stroke. There are moments ahead, choices, actions, thoughts, details… The details add up, and when I look back from a later vantage point, the day will likely be filled with them. Will I make today another success with my current dietary restrictions? Perhaps a list of chores will be written, checked off, and my quality of life improved thereby? Will I finish the book I am reading? Will I start another? Will I spend minutes or hours meditating? Will a fire crackle merrily in the fireplace on a chilly winter day? Will I hike many miles and return home tired, smiling, and eager to enjoy a leisurely hot shower? Will I try a new recipe for chicken? Will I see birds and squirrels at the feeder? What emotions will characterize my experience, today? If I choose poorly and find myself mired in some unpleasant moment, how will I deal with that? All choices. Each choice matters in some moment. The moments add up.

There is something marvelous about choice, and choices; however things may be going, I can choose differently any time, and change my experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

Today is a good day to consider, and a good day to choose. We become what we practice. It’s enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

I slept in today. It’s still dark outside, though. I slept well and deeply, waking only once that I know of, and returning to sleep with relative ease. I woke with a stiff neck, eased by morning yoga and physical therapy exercises. It is a gentle morning, and I am not working today. The break from work, with the associated cognitive rest, is welcome. I yawn, and stretch, and sip my coffee contentedly, thinking about my partner, and the day ahead.

Capturing a similar sense of relaxed leisure during the busy work weeks, in those moments which are truly undeniably my own, is something that exists as a… goal? Intention? Ideal? Something like that. It’s a nice balance, when I succeed, to enjoy my limited leisure time in a fully relaxed, aware, mindful way, wringing all the joy and contentment out of them that they may offer. Sometimes I find myself enjoying it quite as I’d like, and happily so. Other times, not so much – my thoughts mayย be pulled back to work topics, or to actual work-related cognitive task-processing, thinking through the details before I even get to work, or lingering over them long after I have ended my busy day. It isn’t really helpful to over-extend myself, and good quality rest and downtime are a huge part of feeling content and well, generally. The hours I am now so often inclined to spend “sneaking back to work” in my thoughts used to be those hours I spent similarly mired in work, but doing so from the perspectiveย of feeling resentful to be there at all. ever. Funny how difficult it can be to let it go and embrace my own time, for my own purposes. It takes practice.

This morning the pre-dawn darkness lingers past 7 am. Sunrise is not until almost 8 am this morning. The sky is only now beginning to hint at lightness, where the clouds part, silhouetting trees against the sky. Soon I will take my coffee to the cushion at the patio door to watch the sunrise. It’s not a fancy moment, really, just one that I enjoy sufficiently to make time for it. Isn’t that the thing that is so often missing? Time. In this busy life, so many things I enjoy don’t just happen; it is necessary to make time for them. Walks through the park. Conversation with a friend. Coffee and a sunrise. Watching the birds at the feeder. Writing a letter on paper. Reading a book. ย It is necessary to make the time for the things I love. What matters most? The job? Oh, surely not! There is more to life – and not only somewhen beyond retirement, there is more to life right now than getting up and going to work, coming home and going to sleep, and repeating that cycle endlessly. We are not machines. Work is the least important thing about any one of us – even doctors, teachers, scientists. Our professional life is such a small piece of who we each are. I remind myself how critical it is to make the time to be a whole being, enjoying and savoring each moment.

Today is mine. It’s a nice luxury. Today is a good day to enjoy the woman in the mirror. Where will the day take me?

imag8161