Archives for posts with tag: good self-care practices

It’s a gray rainy morning. The work day stretches out ahead of me. A lovely yesterday lingers in my recollection. My second coffee sits on my desk, slowly going cold while I drink fizzy water. I pause the work for a break, and sit for a moment looking out the window at the gray sky. I inhale deeply.

Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Repeat.

Minutes go by gently, quietly…

Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Repeat.

My mind wanders, I pull it back to this quiet moment.

Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Repeat.

Sometimes, it’s just that easy. Sometimes it isn’t. I feel the tension in my shoulders begin to ease. My headache begins to recede.

Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Repeat.

When I feel easy, contented, and calm, and a soft smile begins to relieve my furrowed brow, I prepare to get back to work. A stretch. A sigh.

…Time to begin again. I’m ready.

I called out again today, like, properly. Working yesterday was a bit ambitious, and I wasn’t really as up to it as I thought I would be. I talked myself into it anyway, because… work. It’s an American thing; we over-value jobs, and grossly under-value self-care. Before the work day ended, it was clear I wasn’t up to another.

After the work day ended, I took time to re-calibrate my actions to my intention; the intention being to “get well”, clearly my actions need to be other-than-work-related. I took time to have a healthy meal (soup, a small salad), more tea (and more after that), and treated my symptoms as skillfully as I know how. Then I went back to bed. Other than getting up fairly regularly to sip tea, drink water, deal with my sinuses, or to pee, I slept for the next 17 hours, in spite of the whistling and percolating noises of my breathing. I won’t be out of bed much today, I’m feeling woozy and fatigued just from the effort of standing, and making morning coffee. (I definitely don’t want to add that headache to my afternoon!)

I could have chosen differently – and I almost did. It can be hard to choose self-care. I fight myself for the choice to take better care of me, every time I’m sick. I’m not fighting my boss, or my partner, or anyone else, though – I’m fighting myself, and the remnants of self-abusive programming that lingers after a lifetime of exploitative messaging about the necessity of obligating oneself to an employer, and abusive messaging conveying an aversion to being “weak”. It sucks that we are so prone to treating ourselves poorly. All of that is built on our choices.

I sit sipping my coffee disinterestedly. It is less than ideally palatable, and I am disengaged and feeling ill. It’s hard to care about anything much, just at the moment. There are choices there, too. I will soon choose to go back to bed. 🙂

I find myself thinking about self-care and how we fail ourselves in our relationships through choices not to care for ourselves skillfully. I think about how often in past relationships I made choices to “let that shit go” when I would have served myself well to speak up promptly; failing to speak up for my needs or interests in the moment often seemed the fastest route to keeping things chill – but the explosive loss of temper down the road, when I finally could no longer bear to undermine my own needs didn’t serve me so well, and didn’t treat others well, either. I could have done better. Failing to test my assumptions, I could so easily be hurt by real life simply being what it was – because I was clinging to a very different vision, and inevitably, there would be conflict when reality finally forced a showdown with my imagination. Holding on to unverified expectations, and allowing a lack of Theory of Mind to confound things further, I could destroy a beautiful moment so easily by being intensely upset that life did not unfold as I expected it would. These are all such commonplace things to “get wrong” that whole lives are built on these flawed models of relating to others, without any notable challenges in spite of how fucking crazy that actually is.

Some relevant seeming notes, that sort of summarize some things I’ve learned along the way, because now I’m just tired and ready to go back to bed:

  • We don’t know what we don’t know – and can’t. 
  • We are each having our own experience; what is “obvious” to me, may not be obvious to another at all.
  • There is no requirement (or legitimate potential) for others to “make us happy”, however lovely it is that we are happy in the company of another; our happiness is our own to find, build, and sustain.
  • We “aren’t all that” – count on it – somewhere, someone is tired of our bullshit. We can do better. Every fucking one of us can do better today than we did yesterday.
  • We are perfectly divine, too, and “deserve” to be treated well; paradoxically, we must teach each other what that means to us individually, in every relationship we share.
  • When we are the one who is “always upset” or “always stressed out” in our relationships, we are also the one with the most immediate need to do a better job of caring for ourselves. It’s us, not them.
  • Self-care is not abusive of others, and does not have to come at the cost of treating others well.
  • Boundary-setting is hard. A lot of the very best adulting practices feel that way, and require considerable practice.
  • We can only do our best – and it’s on us, ourselves, to know what that is, and be real about it when we’ve depleted our resources and just can’t do more/better.
  • What we want from our partners and loved ones does not obligate them to provide that to us, however much we want it.
  • All of these bullet points apply equally to them.
  • We are individuals, not property.
  • We are equally obligated to treat others well, as they are obligated to treat us well; not at all. It’s a choice. (Although if we go around treating people badly, it’s not at all realistic to expect to be treated well, just saying.)
  • Some people don’t care the way we care. Sometimes we are the person not caring.
  • A lot of things improve when we listen deeply, instead of waiting for our turn to talk.
  • We can demand change from others until we’ve lost our voices, it is an empty unsatisfying endeavor; change comes because we choose change.
  • Attempting to force others to change is a form of emotional abuse – yes, and even if those changes we so earnestly demand are “good” or “better” or even “ideal”; it’s literally not our decision who that other person chooses to become.
  • Sometimes the wisest choice and best way to care for ourselves is to walk on. The mere fact that we want something to work out is no assurance that it will.
  • We are the cartographers on our own journeys. The map we make is not the world.
  • We can choose change. Any time. Any day. Any relationship. We do this by being the change we wish to see. We do it with our choices.
  • We become what we practice.

Ready? The day ahead is a blank page, and you are the author of your experience. Choose your adventure.

I woke early this morning, but refreshed and rested. I started the morning with meditation and a longer than usual hot shower. I am thinking about a particularly personal ‘math problem’ this morning, while I wait for hot water to become coffee. I am, in fact, thinking about a ‘math problem’ a lot of people deal with, in a lot of different ways, and hoping that being in this healthier place puts me on the path to a healthier solution. I am heavier than I’d like to be, and it affects my health, my fitness, my comfort with myself, my comfort with my appearance, and silly small things like whether or not my favorite jeans fit. (Wake up call: they do not.)

I moved into Number 27 as a size 14. I’m a size 16 now – and I’ve been much bigger in years past – and much smaller in years still further in the past than that. I’m kind enough to myself these days to refrain from tearing myself down over gaining some weight, but I’m also done making any sort of excuses about it, because that’s not one of the steps on the path to meeting my fitness goals, or taking care of me. It’s honestly not a complicated process to lose the weight; I need far fewer calories than I am consuming, and consuming fewer calories, over time, will result in weight loss. Boom! Math homework finished! Now on to the biology, and physics of the thing – which require verbs – and the psychology of it, too (yes, still more verbs). Actual self-restraint, actual commitment to practices being practiced, and following a plan, a path, and making that journey… Sounds so easy as words  on a page… It’s still pretty simple stuff in the abstract, but whole industries exist because humans are poor at these simple practices, and good at reaching for shortcuts.

After my long hot shower I resumed a practice I had dropped without noticing, one I find helpful with regard to maintaining a healthy weight; I spent time looking at my body. Not berating myself for being fat, no criticism, no hostility, I just took a few minutes to really see myself – curves, fat, lines, silhouette, shape, where things are tighter, where things still sag from losing weight over time – just a few very real minutes, while also acknowledging how well this body serves me, and how much I have put it through over the years. I run my hands over curves that please me most, and those that please me least. I make a point of being grateful for how much I get done in this body, and how far I have come with it – in some cases, real mileage, on feet. I take time to ensure I feel loved by the woman in the mirror – and she feels loved by me. (No, we’re not separate people; it’s allegorical of the mind-body separation we so often seem to experience, that’s all.)

I’ve missed the day-to-day encouragement and reinforcement I got living with my traveling partner; when we met we were both working very hard to get fit and lose some weight, and it was a joy to share that journey, because we treat each other well, and with consideration and respect. We took time every day to notice progress and offer loving encouragement, and compliment each other’s physical beauty as we experienced it; encouragement is a far less damaging form of motivation than criticism. I do miss that, but it doesn’t make sense to let the pounds pile up waiting for more. So, before a size 16 becomes a size 18, it seems worthy to stop waiting around and grab some verbs.

I’m eating too much for the effort I exert day-to-day. I’m gaining weight so that’s a given. “Eat less and exercise.” There it is – the one sure fire path to weight loss. Fitness requires a bit more – and by fitness I don’t mean ‘big muscles’ or ‘super lean’ or ‘ready for a marathon’; any of those things may require fitness, but fitness does not require that those things be among my goals. 🙂  ‘Fitness‘ for the purposes of my discussion here means being at a comfortable healthy weight at which my pain is more easily managed, I feel good, am not prone to weight-related health concerns, I fit in my clothes well, breath and move more easily, and am likely to reach or exceed my maximum actuarial lifespan without suffering from diet/poor nutrition-related ailments. So. More simply? In good health and feeling comfortable with my appearance. There’s no one ‘right’ answer to that math problem.  A good starting point is basic good nutrition.

I am fortunate that I was quite slim for many years, and have a good idea what that looks like on me, and at what weight, and other sizes in between; for now I am shooting for getting my weight below 150 lbs, and being quite comfortable in a size 12. Some of you will read that and think I am not being sufficiently ambitious – others may find that to be a pretty aggressive goal – I am, myself, hoping to get there by my birthday in June. It’s achievable – but it’s also quite fail-able; there are verbs involved, and some practices, a lot of commitment, and the will to begin again is likely going to be necessary at several points – almost a certainty because I am approaching this endeavor during the holiday season. lol (Did you wonder sooner why I’m not waiting until the new year to start on this? Because life isn’t going to wait with me; I’d keep gaining weight and have to start from an even less comfortable place with myself!)

I am sipping my coffee black, and appreciating the awareness that there is presently no cream, no half-n-half, and no whipping cream on hand; it’s back to black coffee not only in the mornings (when I always drink it black these days) but also when I am enjoying a coffee in the evening (when I often add cream to my decaf…because it’s decaf). It’ll be awhile before that treat turns up in the fridge again. lol It’s those small things – and being consistent with them – that works best for me. My injury is a hurdle here, and saying ‘no’ to food-related impulses requires something more, for me – it requires mindfulness. I allow myself a moment of good-natured humor at myself on this one, and pause to appreciate how many lovely creamy coffee beverages I have enjoyed ever so mindfully…after quickly skipping past the moment of mindfulness that would have halted me having it at all, because it was more than I really needed, from the perspective of calories (and sufficiency). Oh, hell yes this path is strewn with debris to step over and around – and life always has more curriculum ready. lol I am still a student, and clearly on this one I need to begin again. Again. 🙂

So it’s back to some basics that ease this process for me; simple morning calories (a small serving of yogurt with a handful of nuts – measured – or oatmeal, similarly portioned out with great care), and no letting myself skip breakfast – the consistency is helpful for me, and also manages my blood sugar more efficiently. This small detail is important – and complicated by not being able to have food for about an hour after my morning medication. Mindfulness really matters. (Setting an alarm as a reminder helps, too.) Measured calories from that point each day, focusing on whole healthy foods, limiting dairy and sugar, and serving with a generous helping of mindfulness, even encouraging myself to stop eating sooner and avoiding the sensation of ‘feeling full’. It gets harder in the evening, after work. I find myself relaxing and munching more often than is healthy for the amount of physical work I do each day. There’s really only one answer to this one for me, generally; “no”. Mindfulness is the win here, too; being awake and aware and able to refrain from taking that next step to the kitchen takes practice, mindful practice, committed practice, and a connection between this moment now, and the actions needed to meet my needs over time. So…still easier on paper, and as a thought-exercise, than in practice…which requires practice. 🙂

Time isn't waiting for me on this one. :-)

Time isn’t waiting for me on this one. 🙂

Today is a good day to begin again. Today is a good day to love the woman in the mirror, at any weight. Today is a good day to be real – and be okay with reality, too. Today is a good day to walk another mile in my own shoes, and enjoy the journey; it has no destination other than to take the damned journey. 😀 I’m ready to walk on.

 

This is an easy restful weekend so far. I slept in again this morning, and although I woke stiff and in a lot of pain, aside from that – which is annoyingly commonplace at this point in life – it’s a lovely weekend, relaxed, and still somewhat productive. I’m not ‘trying’ to get here. I didn’t head into the weekend with a firm plan to relax, or to rest, or to tackle a big list of stuff to do. The weekend began. I’ve continued to practice the practices that work best for me – I’ve meditated more than I often to (which already tends to be often), and probably done less yoga than I could have (and might be in less pain if I had chosen differently).

Yes, of course, coffee. :-)

Yes, of course, coffee. 🙂

I tend to associate the verb ‘trying’ with focused effort and a very specific outcome in mind. I also associate ‘trying’ with frustration; trying puts me on a more direct path to failing, by setting specific expectations of which actions must lead to what outcome. I’ve got challenges with frustration – it is my worst emotion, inasmuch as I just don’t deal with the experience of feeling frustrated well; it quickly becomes unreasoning anger, with risk of tantrums, tears, and actual quite dreadful headaches. As emotions go, I am least skilled with frustration. I find that when I let go of ‘trying’ to do something, or get somewhere, and simply get started on the task, or headed for the destination, building on good basic practices without becoming attached to a specific outcome, I not only enjoy my experience more, I definitely achieve my goals more easily – and more often – with less frustration.  It’s an experience to explore further.

Fancy

Sometimes the luxury self-care package includes a moment of self-indulgence – my salted caramel cafe au lait, Friday evening.

Friday night’s prolonged periods of reflection and meditation are still ‘seeping into my consciousness’. Yesterday was filled with “Oh!” moments of awakening, generally followed by abruptly stopping what I was doing at the time to pause, sit for a moment with the realization or new thinking, before moving on with the day. I ‘didn’t get anything done’ in the sense of practical matters being checked off a list of tasks, but I spent the day treating myself well, relaxing without guilt, and practicing practices that build emotional resilience for the work week to come, and ones that build the emotional self-sufficiency I will rely on for a lifetime ahead of me. With modern medicine in mind, there is every possibility that I will live beyond 100 years… making me more or less at the literal half way point in life, with a great deal more awareness than a newborn child has. These can be fantastic years ahead of me – handled appropriately. Certainly, there are more paintings to paint, more words to write, and more moments ahead of me.

...and more books to read. It's a good day for that, too.

…and more books to read, more poetry to write. It’s a good day for it.

I find myself asking a strange new question as I move through the hours of my days this weekend. “Is this the life you are choosing for yourself, for the next 50 years?” It’s not actually a yes/no limited question. The question is more intended to provoke reflection on who I am, how I live, and what my choices are – not only how I treat the world, and what I do with my time, generally – but also how I feel in the context of my own experience. Each time I ask myself the question, I take the opportunity to make some small change to improve on how I care for myself, how I treat others, and even how I think about my experience, and the world I live in. I am learning to value and appreciate my emotions without letting them take the driver’s seat; they communicate things about the nature of my experience that reason doesn’t notice right away [or at all, let’s face it; reason has a different mission].

…Now, if I can just figure out how to wring every last drop of delight, education, and value out of experiences that frustrate me, that would be quite spectacularly lovely! 🙂

It’s a good day for being, and for becoming. It’s a good day to try new things. It’s a good day to become more skilled at the things that work well. It’s a good day to honor progress, and appreciate all the small moments and interactions that delight me, educate me, and nourish my heart. Changing the world is a long process, relying on the incremental changes over time of a great many individuals – there are verbs involved. Changing the world within can happen over night; it’s a choice. [There are still verbs involved, and your results may vary. Practice. Begin again.]

Tonight started in a most promising way. I had a task in mind; hooking up the stereo. Simple stuff, but it hits a nerve with my post traumatic stress and I felt considerable anxiety about the undertaking, and a dreadful lack of confidence about it. Here’s the thing, though; I know how to do hook up my stereo, and the fear and stress are an illusion left over from a lifetime ago. So, I got home, and got started. Didn’t get it quite finished – it turned out the wee allen wrench for tightening the set screw on the back of the speakers had gone missing. It’s a small thing – I’ll replace it and finish connecting the speakers and be done with it…

…I’m not wired for frustration. Rationally, I knew it wasn’t a big deal – I’ve been contentedly listening to music on my laptop for days. The disappointment and frustration collided at the end of a busy workday. I wasn’t up to the challenge and wept for some time, helpless, immobilized, overwhelmed. It seems inexplicable now, on the other side of it. I had a shower, meditated, did some yoga, had a bite to eat… I’m fine. Frustrated, but even that has dissipated.  You know what hasn’t changed? The ferocious itching of bites that I suspect now of being spider rather than mosquito. I’ve got several large painful welts that itch so fiercely moment to moment that it’s hard to focus on anything else. The one of my foot was most agonizing walking to and from work. Right now the one on my calf feels worst. My mood may be affected by these bites – I am sensitive enough to bee stings to carry a bee sting kit all spring and summer, anywhere I go.

...I still try to get pictures of bees...

…I still try to get pictures of bees…

Practicing good practices doesn’t prevent bug bites (well, there are probably some excellent insect control practices…) – and I don’t know how or how much these bites may be affecting me. (When my traveling partner got a nasty spider bite sometime last year it definitely changed his outlook on the world, and he was much more irritable, generally.) I’m suffering enough with these bites – and they are numerous – that I withdrew an offer to hang out with my traveling partner sometime over the weekend. It doesn’t make sense to allow even one previous minute to be tainted with predictable irritability or suffering when we can save it for another day, and enjoy each other. It was a difficult choice to make – but hanging out Wednesday went sideways pretty easily, and I wouldn’t be surprised to confirm these bites had something to do with my emotional dis-regulation. Another time.

detail of "Emotion and Reason"

We are creatures of both emotion and reason, of both light and darkness.

Tonight, between the frustration with the stereo, and the itching of the bites, and challenges getting my routines down (I think I missed on my hormones…not sure, though, I can’t recall taking them, but I also don’t recall not taking them…) (Did I mention the fucking itching? lol ) I finally just broke.  So sure, I cried some frustrated tears. I do that. I suck at frustration, even now, although I am hopeful that experiences like this will help me improve the way I handle frustration the next time. No humans were harmed in the making of this experience – even me. Really. Frustrating, sure, but even that passed, leaving behind only me. Pretty content, and entirely okay. Yes, it was a choice, and no that doesn’t make it less valued, or less genuine. It isn’t forced, it’s just that there are verbs involved. 🙂

At 2 with Inga

At 2, a very different perspective.

I’m tired. Sleepy, fatigued, and not feeling my best, without actually feeling ill. It’s a lovely evening to meditate – the process of moving has broken so many routines. It’s time to rebuild good habits, practice good practices with consistency and discipline – it’s time to take the very best care of this fragile vessel.