If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a doer. And a thinker. And a dreamer. And a bordering on compulsive multitasker. So deciding that saying yes to life should be one of my 2014 Practices to Enact wasn’t really a stretch at all.
Life has gotten pretty crazy as of late, largely because I say yes. To everything. I say yes to my amazing queer book group, and the queer board game group that has emerged from it. I say yes to volunteering at two different book related places, and yes to moving my shift at the library because it’s better for their schedule. I say yes to planning – retreats, summer bike weeks, local food asset maps, you name it. I say yes to BUYING MY HOUSE, even when it is thrust upon me, rather than a process I have actively chosen to begin at this particular moment in time because I am financially and socially stable.
I love saying yes. But I have a problem. I rarely say yes to myself, yes to sleep, yes to hours straight of reading a fabulous novel I picked up from the library, yes to watching a show on Netflix that only I want to. I set aside a handful of minutes to sew together a couple of quilt squares or to work out at the YWCA, but it’s scheduled time, planned time, MANAGED time. Not relaxation, truly. Thus I am not doing justice to myself, or my practice to enact, for wholly saying yes to life necessarily must also mean saying yes to calm, to contemplation, to slowness at times.
I’m still on the train, one way or another, but distraction comes easier than relaxation, it seems.
Yesterday’s self care involved a sojourn by Lake Nokomis, a place I visit not nearly as often as I might, considering its proximity. I biked there from an unexpectedly lonely brunch, and found a perfect spot – half sun, half shade, tree to lean against. Or so I thought. A body board yoga class began not too long after I settled in, and rather than finding a new space (and having to start my half hour over, so I told myself) I decided to try to relax through it, despite wanting to do the poses the instructor half shouted so as to reach her floating students. So I sat, and left for work half an hour later somewhat more relaxed, but not as much as I’d have liked.
Today I drew. As in, coloring without a coloring book.
It was the first time in weeks for sure, perhaps even months, that I brought out my sketchbook without trying to accomplish anything particular. More of this needs to happen, this non-guided, easy handed Crayola time, as self care and then some.
Last week, I started seeing a therapist. It’s been a decade since I last had therapy as part of my life, and considering my current chronically overscheduled self, not to mention my divorce (among other things), it was high time I started going again. Yesterday was only session two, but I already have homework: intentional self care. No screens, no friends, no multi-tasking, no direction. Just a half hour minimum per day of doing something aimless for myself.
Much easier said than done. While going on a walk, sitting by the river, or drinking a cup of tea are all things I do with some frequency, they are rarely alone and never aimless. I go on a walk to a store with a friend, sit by the river or drink a cup of tea while reading a book (that I probably have some mild amount of guilt for reading if it’s fiction, because shouldn’t I always be reading things to expand my mind and better myself?). Always, always, always multi-tasking. Which is why the idea of relaxing for the sake of relaxing is unbearably difficult for me.
So today was day 1 of my new, prescribed, hopefully someday to be a routine, self care. I went on what ended up being a 40 minute walk around the neighborhood a few moments of which I found myself able to relax, breathe, and be. Sure I spent the first five minutes talking myself out of needing to plan a route in advance. Certainly I spent a good portion of the middle of my time planning the photo walk I am leading for work this evening. But for at least a few moments I lost myself in myself, the sunshine, lovely gardens, and woodpecker drilling on a nearby tree enough to return me to the drifting contemplative revelry I have found on walks in years past.
So here’s to finding new practices that, no matter how difficult despite seeming simplicity, I will commit to in hopes of living a deep life of both joy and peace.