Self care, day 1.

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.

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And I found these along my walk! The black feathery thing is a hair clip.

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.

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So what do we do?

It is entirely possible to spend an inordinate amount of time completely in the abstract, preaching to the choir about one’s perspective without ever really coming down to find some answer, any answer, to the ultimate question that plagues every social, cultural, and environmental issue:
So what do we do?

This past weekend began with a marvelous gathering of friends around tea and the ideas of Wendell Berry, one of my all time favorite authors, largely due to his unique blend of utter practicality and deeply rooted philosophy.  The group managed to stay somewhere near the topic nearly all of the evening, only minorly distracted by the lavender shortbread and homebrew brought by attendees.  We shared favorite Wendell quotes (“Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.  Connection is health.”), passionately articulated our frustrations with innumerable systems and cultural norms (ie. garage culture, financial viability as an end all be all), and felt pleasantly challenged yet validated all around.  But the question continually surfaced:
So what do we do?

It’s all well and good to philosophize and commiserate, and I would argue the latter in particular is entirely necessary to both blow off steam and continually flesh out what it is one is truly passionate about and concerned with.  But until practical solutions for building a world different and dare I say greatly improved upon the one we so readily criticize, we are merely venting to one another.

So now what do we do?

I in no way claim to have any all inclusive answer to this all important query.  But here’s what I did with the remainder of my weekend that I think at least begins to create a world that is more holistic, more community-minded, more sustainable, and filled with more of the things that my circles and I are craving.

Ben and I spent all of Saturday riding around to various social gatherings on our tandem.  We built wheels while enjoying homebrew, stopped by our favorite local microbrewery, visited his previous community house to take part in their potluck, and then spent a couple of hours at a folk sing along before heading home, chilly and sleepy with full hearts and heads.

Today I read several more chapters of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle while cooking up homemade wheat tortillas for vegan enchiladas (above), the ingredients of which were nearly all local, aside from salt, spices, olive oil, and kale.  I walked down to our nearby park in the slowly fading sun, stopping en route to jot down a poem of noticings.

So what do we do?

Move more.  Consume less.  Sing.  Cook.  Bike and walk.  Pay attention.

There are days and moments when I feel as though I succeed at this almost extravagantly, and the ensuing connection to my friends, my food, my world is gorgeous.  And there are many more moments and days when I lose sight, get stressed, grasp so tightly to a desire for control that I cannot for the life of me remember that my soul wants simplicity, wants connection, needs the now and here and not the constructions that I fabricate.  So what do we do?  Question, live, and love.

2011 Practices to Enact

Now that we’re nearly two-thirds of the way through January, it’s probably time to commit to some practices to enact for 2011.  Benjamin and I discussed several joint practices which will hopefully hold us both more accountable, but I have several personal practices to include as well.

Shared Practices
1. Find a spiritual community.  Both Benjamin and I have been out of the spiritual community loop for a while.  Last year I went to meditation at Common Ground off and on, and church at OSLC once in a great while, but never really committed to a particular place.  Though our schedules don’t allow for it now, Ben and I are hoping after we get married to make intentional space for attending some sort of spiritual community on a weekly basis, likely one of the Quaker meetings in the Twin Cities area.

2. Spend more time on friend relationships, both hanging out with people in the area and calling people that are farther away.  I am especially atrocious at maintaining phone contact (as Caleb and others will attest to) and really want to make an effort this year to dedicate time to all of my relationships.

3. Have an awesome, simple, sustainable, beautiful and quirky wedding.  This is well underway, with locations chosen, food discussed, and invitations to be printed and sent within the week.  Details are still in process, and I am finding it difficult at times to explain why many of the consumption-based and/or patriarchal traditions of status quo weddings are not for Benjamin and I (ie having and throwing a bouquet, formal table settings, etc), but will persist in accomplishing our wedding mission statement.

4. Undertake many weekend bike-camping trips.  I printed a map and drew a 30 mile (ish) radius circle around my house, and lo and behold an amazing number of interesting destinations fell within that boundary.  Afton, Stillwater, and the MN Arboretum are among them, as well as some sort of pre-wedding retreat and a weekend out at Living Song farm in Howard Lake.

5. Tour houses in a variety of South Minneapolis neighborhoods.  Though we likely won’t be buying a house until autumn (at the very soonest), touring houses that we find on this great website never hurts, and just might be fun.

Personal Practices
1. Go on more walks.  As amazing as biking is, when I really need some centering, nothing beats walking, particularly when I’m going nowhere in particular.  I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks from a number of amazing places to traverse, and this year will commit to visiting those places at least once a week.

2. Write write write write.  I didn’t quite reach the December pre-goal of writing every day, but I’ve already begun writing quite a bit more.  From poems in my little journal that I carry everywhere, to blog entries, to letters on handmade cards to friends (if you’d like one, comment here!), my writing has expanded exponentially and hopefully will eventually become as natural of a practice as my morning yoga.

3. Cook more, eat out less.  Though there are a million and one scrumptious places to eat out in the Twin Cities, many of them featuring local ingredients and entirely deserving of my dollars, I need to commit to cooking.  It relaxes me, saves money, and makes lunches at work that much easier.

4. Cut my alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption.  I’ve tried going cold turkey on all of these and it has NEVER WORKED.  So I think small steps is the answer.  I’m already on to tea in the mornings rather than coffee, but the pastry habit is hard to break.

5. Commit random acts of kindness.  It’s relatively easy for me to think and get worked up about big ideas/issues, but I have found that I forget about the little actions that are oh so important and soul uplifting for both the giver and receiver.  A craft project on this is in the works (details to be released later when my silly camera starts working again so you all can have photographic evidence of my cutesy projects).  More Bookcrossing, anyone?

What are your hopes and practices for 2011?

~Lauren

Words to live by: Rebecca Solnit

“Apolitical is a political position, yes, and a dreary one. The choice by a lot of young writers to hide out among dinky, dainty, and even trivial topics—I see it as, at its best, an attempt by young white guys to be anti-hegemonic, unimposing. It relinquishes power—but it also relinquishes the possibility of being engaged with the really interesting and urgent affairs of our time, at least as a writer. The challenge is how can you not be the moralizing, grandstanding beast of the baby boomers but not render yourself totally ineffectual and—the word that comes to mind is miniature. How can you write about the obscure things that give you pleasure with a style flexible enough to come round to look at more urgent matters? Humor matters here, and self-awareness, and the language of persuasion and inclusion rather than hectoring and sermonizing. You don’t have to be a preacher to talk about what matters, and you don’t have to drop the pleasures of style.”
-Rebecca Solnit

I just finished Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust, which was an extraordinary history philosophy mishmash of the world held together by the thread of walking, and I hope to read more of her work.  I also wrote her a mini letter of appreciation (and am presently trying without much luck to find an address to send it to), something I often want to do in the midst of reading a particularly fine book but am often too distracted/embarrassed to do so.

Aaaaand…
I think I want to write poetry.  I said it, it’s out there, and now I’m accountable to it.  Scary stuff, because I’m not sure I’ve written more than two poems in my life that I’ll let anyone else read (excepting an assortment of angsty pieces from my adolescence that are an excellent source of humor these days), let alone feel proud of.  But writing of all sorts takes practice, I’ve heard 🙂

~Lauren