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I’m sipping my coffee and contemplating the weekend rather happily. I learned a new skill (making scented “shower steamers“, a fun DIY project for a weekend) and improved my cognitive health (so the science says) and also my quality of life.

My Traveling Partner gave me a very nice gift of shower steamers over the winter holidays. I’d never tried them before and I was completely delighted. I quickly used them up. He bought me more. I used those up pretty quickly, too. I could see where this was going, and it was going to get expensive (and potentially annoying; I could already anticipate being unable to find the scents I enjoy most when I wanted them).

Small luxuries, shower steamers rarely go for less than $1 each (and you “get what you pay for” when it comes to items that are scented, sadly) and easily as much as $8 each for fancy ones from specialty boutiques. They seem to average about $2 each online…but they’re also pretty easy to just make. I found lots of video tutorials on YouTube, and some good DIY content on various websites. I already had most of the equipment I’d need, and some of the ingredients!

My first batch – lavender.

This all sounded like a tremendous opportunity to learn something new… so… I did that. 😀 Making them at home ends up much cheaper, and I get much more freedom of selection with regard to the scents! I enjoyed the process, and learned that – like a lot of things that “look easy enough” – there’s more to be learned that often isn’t stated in a description of the process. My first batch were very irregular in size. (I later weighed the one I thought looked “the right size” and began weighing the mixture before putting it into the mold.) The potency of the fragrance wasn’t quite as strong as I’d have liked; scents vary in strength (and often by brand), and there’s a bit of testing and experimentation required to get that detail “just right”. The second batch was cucumber-melon, and turned out beautifully.

Cucumber melon shower steamers. Yum!

I guess I’m saying it was a weekend well-spent. There was so much going on! In the shop, my Traveling Partner was also learning; the resin printer he added to the shop equipment was ready to use, and he’d begun making test prints. He also printed a cute set of Barbie dishes for me (I’m looking forward to painting them)! Later, after a discussion of the shower steamers, and what I’d learned so far, I made a point of saying that while I enjoyed the manual process just fine, I was less than thrilled with the results of using the moon cake press to make them; the very fancy designs are super cute, but a bit fiddly to get them to turn out well. I mentioned that I’d be content with a clean unadorned puck of some kind, or a cube, and wondered out loud if I should be thinking about getting a “proper press” and machined molds or dies for this project? We ended up at his computer together, drinking coffee and designing a resin-printed hand press that would produce a simply round puck (wow!) and then another that would produce a cube shape (with beveled corners so it would release from the mold most easily).

…My partner regularly blows my mind with all the many things he can do…

It’s fun doing these kinds of projects with my partner. 😀

Here’s the extra cool thing about this one; the shower steamers help me “put down some baggage”. I have shower-associated trauma that makes it super difficult to want to get into a shower. When my mental health is at its worst, this can result in poor self-care and degraded hygiene, and when my mental health is well-managed, I still find myself having to “drag myself” into the shower most days, with quite a bit of reluctance. These shower steamers completely change that; I’m not just willing to shower daily… I’m enticed. I’m eager. I’m looking forward to the next shower. LOL Win.

…What scent shall I make the next batch becomes the bigger question… followed by a cascade of little ones: sourcing the best supplies for the making of shower steamers. Which fragrances are the best value? Which smell the best in the shower? Which last longest and store well? How will I store them? Display them? Make them easy to reach when it is time to hop in the shower? I smile and finish my coffee. These are all very pleasant questions.

Day breaks beyond the window. I haven’t been sleeping well, but this morning I’m not thinking much about that, and I feel merry after spending a few minutes thinking about the weekend making shower steamers and hanging out with my Traveling Partner. I didn’t get everything done I’d planned to… there’s a package yet to drop off at UPS that I forgot about, and the freshly laundered towels did not get folded and put away. lol We probably ate too much fast food. But… I was where I wanted to be (at home) hanging out with this human being who I adore (my Traveling Partner). Hard to bitch about that.

Aging is its own thing, though, and the weekend was also fraught with those challenges. I was in a lot of pain pretty much all weekend, on top of the poor sleep. My Traveling Partner was also sleeping very badly. We were cross with each other over that, and some small dumb stuff, too. I felt my years. I was moving slower, and I felt stiff. My blood pressure was a bit higher than I’d like. I’ve begun to feel as if my life is counted off in Rx pills for this-n-that, instead of minutes or hours. lol I’m not saying it’s worse than some other person’s circumstances; I don’t have it that bad. I’m just beefing about approaching 60, because from the inside of my perspective… I sure don’t feel 60, but g’damn my body sure feels every minute of those years. LOL

I sigh out loud in the quiet of this mostly empty room, and look at the time. It’s already time to begin again… 🙂

The sun rises later these days than it did back in June. The Autumnal Equinox is tomorrow. It’s quite early and I am at a local trailhead adjacent to a meadow, not far from home. I am waiting for the sunrise, drinking coffee, yawning, and wishing I had slept in. I’ve got my camera ready for my morning walk.

My morning camera walks serve a purpose; they get me out of the house with my camera for a bit of fun, exercise, and “me time”, and they also give my partner a shot at some deep sleep. (When I am asleep I sometimes snore, and when I am awake I am often a bit clumsy and noisy at least until I am fully awake). This approach works for us, but tends to be a seasonal solution. Already I have begun to resist waking up so early, where in past weeks I struggled to sleep during these early hours. The later sunrise is the culprit.

…The early hours betwixt day and night are a good time for meditation and reflection.

An orange glow begins as a thread on the horizon, becoming a sort of messy smudge as minutes pass. Still not enough light for my lens, and the trail alongside the park and meadow, which passes through a vineyard, is still quite dark. I wait. I yawn. I tried to snatch a few minutes of nap time for myself, but the mornings are now also too chilly and I don’t even doze off for a moment – I just yawn. lol

Waiting for the sunrise.

…I think about work and routines and future mornings and finish my coffee. I develop a cramp in my right foot and shift in my seat until I can easily massage it until the cramp eases. The western sky takes on hints of ultramarine and dark lavender. The eastern horizon becomes more peach and tangerine, with swaths of gray-blue clouds sweeping across the sky. This is not wasted time; I love watching the sun rise.

The dawn of a new day.

The sun is up. The coffee is gone. I’ve gotten a good walk in and snapped some pictures. My Traveling Partner sends me a message; he is awake. The day begins in earnest. I have no idea what today will bring… looks like it’s time to get started and find out. 😁

Yesterday I prepared a meal for my Traveling Partner and a visiting friend using vegetables from the garden.

We walked around the garden together, as I harvested peas and radishes, Swiss chard and daikon, and took note of which crops have been doing well, and which have been lagging behind. It’s been a slow chilly spring. Almost summer and the daytime temperatures are still generally in the high 60s to low 70s (Fahrenheit). The peas have been doing incredibly well. Radish, daikon, and bush beans appear to be doing very well, too. The recently planted peppers and the eggplant are doing well, but it looks like it’ll be awhile before I’m harvesting anything there; they need a few more sunny days and some warmer afternoons. The container garden, other than the peas, is not doing so well. Germination rates are poor, and this is likely because the first plantings were mostly “old seeds” that had been kept around from previous seasons, but stored in paper in a haphazard way. I find myself wondering is I might want to abandon those grow bags in future years for all but proven partial shade crops – like the peas, which are just exploding with eagerness to provide, and beautifully weighed down with young pea pods.

Veggies from my garden.

…There’s a metaphor here…

The planter box, so carefully built and filled, and planted with seeds chosen with care, is very successful… even the recently planted melons have sprouted in a promising way. Seems so obvious this is the way to go, right? Except I’ve got a wild “garden helper” fucking shit up out there, digging, and eating seedlings. LOL

What I’m saying is that even when we “get all of it right”, we may face some challenging circumstances in life, in love, in our professional endeavors. Just keeping it real. Do 100% of everything correctly, make all the “right” choices – still no guarantee of success. There’s a lot of “good fortune” involved in our individual successes, and a lot of help. We’re interdependent. We rely on each other. The well-chosen seeds planted in my garden? Yeah, I didn’t grow the plants that produced those seeds. I selected them from an online catalog from a vendor I felt I could trust. Interdependence. I didn’t built that planter box (although I helped a little bit, the design and effort were not exclusively mine). Interdependence. I was not the first to spot the handiwork of my wild garden “helper”; my Traveling Partner spotted the missing melon sprouts opposite the undamaged hill with healthy green seedlings before I did. Interdependence. We don’t walk our path alone.

A wee snake traveling through a flower bed. It’s easy to overlook fellow travelers as they make their own way.

…It is as important to choose our traveling companions on life’s journey as any other detail. Whether they are merchants who provide the goods and services we favor, or our friends, and even the loved ones we keep close and connect with frequently. These choices matter every bit as much as healthy self-care and wellness practices do. They affect our health as directly as the food we eat, and the media we consume.

I’m not telling you anything new. I’m also not telling you what changes – if any – you might want to make. I’m just saying; our relationships matter and affect the quality of our experience. Build good ones.

Like adding compost to my garden, it makes sense to cultivate healthy relationships. There is value in expressing gratitude and appreciation. There is value in participation and giving back. There is value in listening deeply, and checking assumptions and expectations. There is value in making choices with care – instead of free-falling through moments with strangers and shopping Amazon for every-fucking-thing. There are no “bootstraps” with which to pull yourself up, all alone and utterly independent of the goodwill and effort of others. That’s just… fucking dumb. Trace things back, you’ll find that you had help. 🙂

Never too late to begin again. To connect. To care. To choose. It’s a journey, and there are opportunities to take detours and choose another path. It’s your journey.

What might you see along the way, if you change the way you’re going?

Fog is weird stuff. We pass through it easily, still, it blinds us and alters what we see of the world around us. Try to shine a bright light directly into fog, and it becomes more difficult to see, rather than easier. So weird. So… metaphorical.

Sure is foggy… am I really so certain I know what’s hidden out there?

How many times have I driven a familiar road, blinded by fog? Or walked some foggy trail listening to muffled steps through the mist, with only my thoughts for company? Or just sat quietly, in the dense damp of morning fog, imagining whimsically that the fog held more meaning than mere droplets of water densely dispersed in the air?

Fog is a pretty good metaphor for the various thinking errors I find myself prone to, and even the “obscuring mist” of misleading assumptions that can so easily crowd out any perception of my reality in the moment. I think about that, on and off, from that first moment standing outside, early this morning, wondering if the mist were properly fog, or more likely the smoke of distant wildfires. Both, maybe. The stench of it suggested at least a considerable portion was – is – smoke. Blech.

…Maybe rain tomorrow? The weather hints at the potential. So does my arthritic back. Fingers crossed! We could use some rain. We could use a way out of the fog.

Yes, of course, it’s a metaphor. 😉

Begin again.

My coffee is a memory. By the time I got to actually drinking it, it was already rather tepid. It lingers, cold, and bitter, in my recollection. My day is off to a rather poor start for no good reason. At some point, the quality of my experience becomes up to me…

I reflect on things quietly, thinking perhaps I’ll gain perspective through writing, then find myself stalled, unwilling to tackle the “harder questions” this morning, in spite of knowing they would do well to be asked, and where possible, answered. Instead, I make an ambitious list of household chores and resolve to complete those. It’s easier.  Today is, in most respects, an ordinary enough Sunday.

…Order from chaos… sometimes I find it helps with other challenges troubling me in the background…It helps to have a list.

Same view, different day. Perspective matters, but we each have to walk our own hard mile.

I remind myself to make room for other perspectives, to listen deeply, to be open to change…

A slight change in point of view can make a difference in understanding our circumstances.

…I wander off to get started on my list. Another new beginning… the day may improve, if I can stay open to that potential. I can always begin again…

…Sometimes this shit is hard. Seems so, I mean. Subjectively. I remind myself “one practice at a time, one step at a time, one task at a time; it all adds up”… I feel unconvinced and blue. Some days suck. I make a mental note that change is – even the most miserable moment is just a moment, and it’ll pass. I have choices. I have practices that I know I can count on to be uplifting. Yeah, not super convincing that time, either. I’ll “get over it” and “move past this”. For now, this is the experience I seem to be having. I try not to take it personally, and stay with both this actual moment, and these feelings; the moment, which is frankly fine, is my anchor, my point of “safety” that gives me a firm foundation to consider the feelings without becoming mired in them (that’s the intention, anyway). I’m okay right now. That’s real. The emotions are emotions. I make a point to refrain from conflating the feelings with actual experiences.

…I make a point to consider the experience separately from the emotions I feel during or about the experience, itself…

…Uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences are something I can learn and grow from. Fighting that isn’t particularly helpful. Getting mired in unresolved emotions isn’t particularly helpful (or comfortable) either. I take a breath and turn towards my discomfort, seeking growth… and begin again, again. I eye my “baggage” and personal demons with some distaste and impatience, and snarl to myself “bitches, I can do this “begin again” shit all fucking day, just go ahead and fucking bring it“. That at least gets a laugh out of me.

I check my list, and yeah, I even check it twice. There’s more to do… and it all begins with a beginning.