I’m grounded: choosing good tools to stay rooted in reality

Two-thirds of my progeny are currently away from home. Aside from double the dog duty when this happens, I also find myself with large, quiet swaths of unoccupied time. I never have much trouble entertaining myself (INFJ), but I have to be careful not to go too far into my head for too long. Discontent is an easy road to travel when my head insists I should be able to create an ideal existence. Unfortunately, very little in this world lives up to the kingdoms I create in my head.  I am a much happier person when I stay a little more grounded.

There are many ways I reground myself when I’m feeling cut-off and adrift, when my body and my reality are the last place I want to be. Meditation, exercise and working with growing things all pull me out of my head space and into my body space. A good wrestle with one of the pups anchors me in the physical present by engaging all my senses, including my sense of fun. But I get the most bang for my grounding buck when I’m doing some good, old-fashioned house work.

If you spend much time at all talking to me, the conversation will roll around to minimalism. I’m a die-hard.  But it wasn’t until recently that I realized how often I use minimalism to plant myself in a healthier reality. The act of evaluation forces me out of what should be, to what is right in front me.

Let’s face it; life gets messy. Relationships require work. Cars break down. College demands tuition. People get sick. There’s literally no end to the list of things which can send us spiraling off into the Land of Should.

This should be easier.
I should have handled that better.
They should know how I feel.
Should Should Should Should.

I constantly take the mental train to Shouldtown, shoulding on myself the whole journey.

That’s the head space I’m talking about, the idealism in which I am so easily trapped. Reality can never compare to all the ways I am certain things should be. Because of my personality, I can camp out for weeks in Should Town, wallowing in my discontent and disdain for the way things are.

Understanding what tools pull me out of that space and back to reality is an important part of my recovery. When I use them to get grounded, I can break out of that funky head space and see reality clearly. Dreams and aspirations are necessary components of happiness, but idealistic perfectionism is the enemy of emotional health.

This week, when I’m not reveling in a book, you’ll find me cleaning closets and sorting the storage area. I’m making meal plans and writing book reviews. I’m touching and working and feeling and sorting, all ways to push my emotional roots further into the soil of my precious reality. If I let myself stay in my head, I miss so much that is beautiful and wondrous right in front of me, already resting in my hands, just waiting for me to notice.

There are so many things I enjoy about my personality. But like everything else in this world, I have strengths and weaknesses. The more I learn about myself, the easier it becomes to pull myself back from unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. I am more than the result of what has happened to me in this world, I’m also what I choose to make from the things I cannot control. When I’m grounded, I can see past what “should” be to what can be, and what steps I can take to facilitate the possibility.

 

How I spent all day reading: thoughts on guilt

Today I fully intended to write a follow-up post to yesterday’s thoughts on happiness. I even have part of the post pre-written. Instead, today, I read books. It’s the perfect sort of day for reading, dark, rainy, quiet. I was alone in the house all day except for the dogs, who love nothing more than to curl up next to me on the sofa. Since I have quite a few books que-ed up right now, I gave in to my base desires. I spent the entire day reading. It was completely delicious.

True, when I go on vacation, I spend entire days parked in a chair by the ocean reading book after book after marvelous book. I find it harder to indulge this way when at home. Here I can always find ways to be busy. Or to lose myself in the million responsibilities tied to parenting and wife-ing and life-ing. You can fill in the details, we all have lives filled with them. It’s easy to tell ourselves we don’t have time for the things we want when there are so many things and people that need us.

It’s almost a drug, this illusion of being needed. We want to matter, to know we hold an important position in this world. We measure our worth by how many people depend on us day in and day out. So we pile it on, the duties and activities and responsibilities, making ourselves important, believing ourselves invaluable. Then we look at all the appointments and responsibilities which fill our lives to the limit and beyond, leaving no time for self-indulgence or rest.

Or maybe that’s just me. But I don’t think so.

I’ve spent the better part of the last five years feeling guilty for failing to measure up to an arbitrary, shifting standard. I’ve signed up, cleaned up, cooked up and shown up to the point of exhaustion. But about six months ago I came abruptly to my senses. I realized I’ve wasted innumerable hours chasing after ill-fitting recognition for something I don’t want after all. I’ve chased acceptance and value in a vicious cycle, constantly falling short, constantly trying harder.

So I stopped. Yes, just like that.

And then I felt guilty…again, maybe more than before.

But instead of fighting the guilt with more busyness and activity and fixing and forcing, I just leaned into it. I leaned in and listened to what my heart was telling me about how I really saw myself. At first the image was distorted, almost unrecognizable. But the longer I looked, the more still I became, the more my inner vision came into focus. I began to recognize myself again. Day by day, slowly finding the real me, buried under the ways I tried to make myself bigger, better, more…whatever thing I suddenly thought I needed.

I still get caught up sometimes in the belief that I need to do more or work harder to be worthy of love or acceptance or …insert whatever thing is poisoning your soul here. Guilt for not measuring up lingers, and whispers, telling me to go, try, work, do. But I’m less inclined to listen now. When I’m not chasing every urgent detail, I can actually handle the important things and leave the rest for someone else, or no one else. It doesn’t really matter.

Which is why I’m perfectly content about my choice to drift around the house today, snuggling dogs and reading books and drinking tea. I accomplished nothing of consequence to anyone but me. Because I’m worth. I’ve always been worth it. Even when I was too busy to realize it.

This and That on Saturday: ideas, projects and books

On Writing

Yesterday as I blogged, I realized it’s becoming difficult to come up with new content every day. Apparently, seventy days worth of words is all I have without some sort of break in between. I’m not giving up on the one-hundred days project, not at all, but I am feeling more challenged. This is actually a good thing. It means I am looking for new things to say instead of rehashing old ideas forever. I feel like I’ve taken seventy-three cleansing breaths, and now I’m ready for anything.

I started a separate book review blog. You can click the link, or find it in the page menu. The Mo’Joy Reads page will direct you there. It’s a teeny, tiny, baby blog with just a few entries so far. But it’s making me immensely happy. It’s so clean, organized and lovely. I’m using categories and tags to help facilitate looking up subjects and genres. I’m toying with author tags too. I’m like Monica from Friends with her label maker. SO HAPPY. Feel free to check it out.

On Reading

Earlier today I was commiserating with a friend who is reading too many books. I have too many on-going myself right now, even after trying to carefully curate my consumption. (I get alliteration points for that sentence, right?) I started reading on Netgalley and went a little crazy with book requests. So I’m hammering through some advanced reader copies and trying to wrap up a few loose end books. I’m still having a great time reading all sorts of new things for the 100 Story Summer. I’ve picked up so many books I might never have otherwise. In fact, be looking for a review today of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf which may end up being one of my favorite books of the year. SO GOOD!

For years, I’ve felt a bit guilty about giving in entirely to my desire to read like a maniac at every spare moment. But this little side-project of mine has actually proven not only fun, but a huge productivity boost. Instead of getting fewer things done because of my reading, I’m doing and enjoying a lot more. I think I’m just not wasting time like I used to. This is an unexpected and delightful side-effect.

On the Month-of-No

The landscape of summer has shifted a bit since May when I got the idea for a month of no. It has actually opened up a bit more, relieving me of a few more responsibilities for a nice little window. I’m going to keep refining my schedule and saying more no than yes this summer. In fact, if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a resounding no . I like myself a lot more since starting this little plan. Although it can’t go on forever, this little window seems tailor made for me to take advantage of it and listen. Since I’m learning to trust my gut more and my guilt less, I’m going with it.

On Running

In January I set a little goal to lose 36 inches. I can’t use a scale because I obsess over numbers and climb on the awful device no less than twenty-seven times a day to see if I’ve fluctuated an ounce. It’s ridiculous, and not very healthy for me. We don’t actually own a scale. But for whatever reason, I can healthfully engage with a tape measure.

Anyway, since January I’ve been walking, and then walk/running, and now, I’m a runner again. I’ve had an on-again-off-again, mostly off-again, relationship with running since the half marathon almost two years ago. In fact, I’m beginning to toy a tiny little bit with doing another one. NEXT YEAR. Part of my crash and burn was training too fast and too hard for the last one and then a really difficult experience with heat and humidity actually forcing the route to close for marathoners.

This month has me clocking some of the longest distances I’ve run since before half marathon training (remember the giant toe blisters? and the terrible fall? I was a beat up girl). I remember, now, why I loved running to begin with and what a healing practice it is for me. The continued shrinking is nice too. I’m a little bit ahead of pace to meet my measurement goal by the end of the year.

So here we are. Caught up on the little things that matter so much to me, but seem difficult to work into a blog. Happy weekend to us all. I hope you find a good book to read, a quiet place to rest and someone you love to share it all with!

 

How to connect with your soul: Self-care adventures

Lately I am all about self-care. The more I journal about it, the more I realize it’s been years since I invested in myself. I don’t say this as a point of blame since I am solely responsible for self-care, from boundaries to application. Exploring ways to connect with my soul has turned into an adventure and a challenge this summer. Every day, I’m engaged in understanding myself better which in turn benefits everyone around me.

However, I  receive a lot of push-back when I talk about self-care with others. Most often I receive the ‘I could never do that‘ response. From healthy eating choices to the Month of No, there is a general reluctance to swim against powerful cultural currents.

Honestly, I believe we see self-care as a frivolous indulgence especially in religious circles. If we aren’t sacrificing ourselves to near burn out (or often past the point of burn out) then we certainly cannot be “good enough.” Or maybe it’s just me who absorbed this message.

Popular culture is no friend to self-care either. Our fervent pursuit of busyness, constant activity, pushing forward, get-ahead, stay-on-top, win-win-win mentality is quite literally killing us. Even though I stepped out of the consumer race several years ago, I still worshiped frequently at the ‘altar of should.’ Constantly working at things I should do, who I should be, ways my life should look, I lived the busyness mentality quite well even though I practiced minimalism.

Granted, some seasons of life simply are busier than others. Children, family needs or other personal responsibilities often make demands beyond our control. However, more often we make our loads into burdens with poor boundaries, ridiculous expectations and subscribing to the American dream. I don’t believe it’s only me who is guilty of these things. Ask the next person you see how they are, and it’s likely their response will be “Busy!

Oddly, I find it harder to answer people when they ask what I’ve been up to now that I can no longer claim “keeping busy.” How do you tell someone that occasionally, you feel downright bored. Mostly, I have enough to keep my mind working, but when I use self-restraint and stay away from time-killing distractions, I do sometimes find myself twiddling my thumbs.

What I do notice more often now is a general sense of well-being. Even when I am busier than I’d like to be, I can still feel it. By creating margin for my inner voice, my circumstances have less influence on my general demeanor. I haven’t perfected this state, but I am certain it will be second nature the longer I pursue this less-than lifestyle.

Recently, I actually made a list of things which I consider self-care. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious, I choose an item, or two or three, and indulge in some self-care. I’m even incorporating self-care as part of my morning and evening routines. Creating self-care habits is high on my priority list this summer.

Some of my practices include:

  • Reading (who didn’t see that one?)
  • Browsing at the library
  • Taking care of my succulent garden
  • Meditating
  • Running
  • Snuggling the dogs
  • Drawing
  • Sitting outside, breathing deeply and doing nothing else
  • Burning candles
  • Yogi Tea
  • Journaling

As you can see, nothing is complicated or expensive. For a free practice, self-care may be as effective as a year of therapy was a few years ago. If nothing else, I like myself a whole lot more than I did six months ago. And I care a lot less about situations I cannot change or control as well.

What ways do you engage in self-care? How can you create margin to do them more often?

 

Live lightly: When your soul says it’s time to let go

Today I did a wild and crazy thing; I spent almost two hours purging books from my digital library. By purge, I mean delete forever. Go ahead: gasp, faint, recover. Occasionally, I need to lighten the load by whatever means I can find. Honestly, it’s slim pickings around here in the clutter department. After all, I’ve been purging for awhile. Today’s activity is brought about by a need to live lightly. It’s term that’s clanging around in my head recently: live lightly.

I’m considering all the ways that may affect my life. My desire to live more joyfully is one way to live lightly. Also, My on-going minimalism quest constantly reveals things I grasp tightly which only serve to weigh me down.  Even though it seems I should be as minimal as a person can be by now, I can always find new way to consider and evaluate my life. Perhaps that’s the gift of introversion.

Sometimes I play a goofy head-game with myself: could I pack this room up in an hour or less? We all know my addiction to moving to new living places. When I play this game I also ask myself, would I take this with me when we go. If the answer is no, it’s not likely to live here any longer.

But as I said, I’ve been living minimally for awhile. When I get the urge to purge these days, I have to be even more creative than when I began this journey. In my reality, we don’t even have a junk drawer. I know. It’s crazy.

Usually this urge means I am experiencing a sort of spiritual purge as well. This morning I listened to an amazing podcast. (Yes, I listen to one almost every day. What can I say?). Listening to the story of someone else’s spiritual journey, has me thinking about my own. There are many things I drag along with me spiritually that have outlived their purpose and then some. Basically, my urge to purge physically is a manifestation of something much deeper happening inside me.

Since learning this about myself, I’ve noticed that my emotional and spiritual health often mirror my physical environment. When my house is cluttered, my soul feels cluttered. It’s likely my need to lighten up digitally reflects a deeper need to live lighter emotionally and spiritually.

A few days ago, I shared about my need to make some lifestyle changes. As I think about them now, I realize they also are manifestations of this need to lighten up. Interestingly, they also relate to my digital life. Apparently, my soul is willing to use any means necessary to get this message through.

How will this need continue to manifest itself remains to be discovered. It’s tied up with the Month of No, in ways I can’t see clearly yet. But I’m listening, and purging, and sharing with you as new ideas and concepts reveal themselves. Perhaps God is making room to do something new in my life yet again. I’m so very ready. I think I’ll go purge something else to really prove it.

Post traumatic growth: finding answers in experience

Yesterday I threw a question out into the universe: where do I go from here? It seemed that I had reached an impasse, one I’m not sure how to get past. As a person of constant questions, I often ask things without expecting a response. I certainly didn’t this time. But sometimes the universe is simply waiting for us to ask the right question. It’s as though God knows until we open our souls to the answer, She’ll only be giving a gift to someone with clenched fists. On so many occasions I have to wait and wait and wait some more for answers. But this time, the Spirit was only waiting for me to ask to whisper her guidance over me.

Yesterday, I listened to a podcast I listen to infrequently (It’s a lovely podcast, we just don’t always click personality-wise because I am a grumpy curmudgeon. This the episode on anxiety caught my eye). Very briefly in that episode, they mentioned this episode of On Being about resilience which I listened to on my run this morning.

Holy Malloy. HOLY MALLOY! (this is what I say when swearing is inappropriate)

I wish I knew the word for how it feels when you hear the click of answers falling into place in your soul. Even though I didn’t receive a neon sign or a carefully detailed map, with just a few words, I received clarity for the next steps in my recovery process. I don’t need specific answers about what may be next, as long as I can see part of the path that will get me there.

Do you ever have these moments? You know the ones. Suddenly we gasp aloud as an electric thought jolts us into wakefulness. We hear or see or experience something so sweetly tuned to our soul that likely no one else can hear it the same way. In fact, it’s often the case that these gifts are specifically meant only for us.

The summer after my friend Natalie died, everywhere I looked were ones. When Nattie ended an excited sentence, she used exclamation marks…like this!!! Except, she always released the shift key too soon, so instead we got this…!!!!11. Those ones were so much a part of her, and after she was gone, the world around me was filled with ones. Maybe it always is, but that summer they were for me and no one else. I was specifically open to receive those ones. They were reminding me when random terrible things happen, life still has meaning. We have the power to make meaning through our own experience. 

It’s easy for me, when I reach what seems to be a dead-end, to fall back into learned helplessness. Accepting that I don’t have the power to change things is a familiar neural path for my thoughts to travel. This morning, however, I was literally shoved from that path onto a new one. I encountered a new perspective, a new way of healing, and permission to take back my spiritual experience as my own. What a silly thing to need permission for, huh? But apparently I did need it, and this morning the universe poured permission into my soul at fire hose volume.

I allow the probability that a relationship can break beyond restoration. That happens sometimes in this life. Depending on the relationship, this unresolved stress cycle can continue to cause trauma – relational, emotional, perhaps even spiritual. But just as I can receive permission, I can also withdraw permission. I can close doors, declare an end, if not geographically than relationally, taking back whatever power I relegated into their care. I can own myself, and all the pieces of myself again.

Are you waiting on permission to own all the pieces of your life? It’s already yours. We can make meaning from our experience if we are open to receiving it.

 

 

How to prepare for a Month-of-No without guilt

I had plans for writing today. I even have a mental script and a written framework. However, when you can’t drive for four days, the next day will fill quickly with all the things you couldn’t do the previous days.  It’s been a bit hectic. Since Saturday, I’ve worked on a list of things to be done before the ‘Month-of-No’ which begins tomorrow (or tonight at sundown if you’re speaking sabbath). I’m just about ready now, but my words are few. So instead:

How I prepare for the Month-of-No
  1. Decide now what and who gets my yes. Make sure the list is short.
    My family, Craig and the girls, are my first line of yes.  I will pick Olivia up from her friend’s birthday party and handle most work transportation for Bailey.  I’ll also make sure we have groceries each week. But no, I’m not dropping everything for last minute plans, or ill-planning. The last two months were packed, packed, packed and I have juggled, juggled, juggled. I want us all to enjoy ourselves. Since no one likes being home as much as I do, I will occasionally have to venture out. But only with fair warning.
  2. Don’t apologize for self-care. Yes, it is nice to be able to take this time. Yes, I understand this option won’t work for everyone. I do realize how lucky I am.  This is the way life goes sometimes. I have margin at the exact time my soul really needs it. Only a fool looks at that gift and ignores it.
  3.  Make a plan to accommodate my limits. Probably one-third of my running around is due to lack of planning on my part. Over the last few days I wrote out a menu plan and a master grocery list. Honestly, I’m over making dinner. But I also am one of two people in the house who isn’t employed, so dinner is on me. Fortunately this month has girls and husband gone for weeks at a time, and I’m simple. A few groceries go a long way. Beyond that, there is not one thing I need that won’t wait until later.
  4. Have a ridiculous number of books on hand. I currently have 18 books out from the library with another 9 on hold. (The library is on the yes list for the month of no.) I’ve actually set myself up with several projects and plans -with tools already on hand – for the entire month. I don’t want to spend it watching seasons of netflix or scrolling through social media. Even though I enjoy those things, more often, I use them as numbing tools. I want to spend this month aware and engaged.

My family has observed a weekly Sabbath for many years. That observance has taught me rest doesn’t come without preparing for it. There is a front load of responsibility to handle before I step out of sync for a bit. Fortunately for me this year I have a rare window. Many of my responsibilities are winding down for the summer. No children are taking classes or doing activities, and as I already mentioned, parts of my family will be gone at least a week this month. So, I made a choice to do what I need to do, which is rest, relax and restore.

When I went to therapy a few years ago, my therapist gave me a great gift. She told me to take an entire year off of everything. She recognized what my traumatized soul most needed. Quiet. Margin. Room to breathe. Room to dream. She was right. But it’s been couple years since I did that, and the last season was packed. Even good things- so many good things- wear you down over time.

One last thing to remember for the month-of-no is this:

5. Practice Gratitude. Every day, friends. Even the ones filled with yes in the months to come.

Giving myself permission: How to break free from dogmatism

Did you know that perfectionists love dogmatic thinking? We do. Well, I do; it might be dogma to say that about every single one of us. When we work within a system, it’s very important for us to know the rules and abide by them – perfectly. We need rule which are constant and true. If we cannot measure or lives by a set of infallible, incontrovertible truths, we do not have a plumb line set our perfection against. Certainty matters when we don’t have permission to make mistakes or, even worse, fail and fall apart.

Growing up, I was exposed to many forms of dogma: religious, relationship, and educational. Most of my learning, formal and experiential, reflected the following equation: X+Y=Z, always.
Education + work ethic = financial success
Believe the right things + baptism = eternal success
Constant availability + self-sacrifice = relational success
Conform to norms + firm us/them boundaries = cultural success
Go to church + Serve selflessly = religious success

In every new experience and social setting, I searched for the rules to follow so I could be the best at everything. I sought acceptance, approval and popularity by making myself the best fit in any given situation. Failure was not an option. Intelligent, hard working people can do anything they set their minds too. Throw in a little Philippians 4:13 and no one has an excuse for coming up short in any expectations, our own or someone else’s.

These concepts made the framework for my world view for a long time. Until one day, they buckled, broke and collapsed. Reconstructing my world view has been an extended effort in erasing all the equations that made sense of my world and making room for new ones.

Perhaps, this sounds simple; for others maybe it is. I have only my own experience to draw on. Rewriting the mental narratives, the ones which help me be always right and never wrong, is difficult at best. Some days it’s outright terrifying. Finally, I’ve found a key that opens most doors when my mind locks up.

I give myself permission.

Ridiculous, right? How does a person in their mid-forties not know how to give themselves permission to disagree, to refuse, to fail or fall or make a big, sprawling mess? How do I not know it’s fun to explore, deviate and even completely diverge from a common practice or belief set? If  you know the answer to this question, will you share it with me, please?

Granting self-permission opens doors for me I never imagined opening before. Many weeks, I attend an episcopal service on Saturday night. I love the repetition of liturgy and the open-ended questions posed in the homily. Every day, I meditate. I use words like ‘zen’ and ‘mystic’. Sometimes I speak to the universe at large and I don’t end with the word “amen.”

I have permission, now, to quit something in the middle if it isn’t working for me. At last, I can acknowledge the end of a season instead of trying to beat life back into it, regardless of how badly it limps. I listen to my gut, write letters from my intuition in my journal, use colors to describe the state of my soul. When I’m tired, I take naps, even if the to-do list doesn’t get finished.

The crazy thing about giving myself permission, is the ability to write my own equations:

Doodle + silly music = calm. Except occasionally, it doesn’t. Then try something else. Keep trying, or read a book. Whatever you feel like.

Open-minded questions + experience = healing. Sometimes, I still get hurt. It’s hard to know when that might happen. Remember to be brave.

Self-care + saying no = peace of mind. But say yes too, when you know what you want. Yes is good. Until it crowds out your soul. Then say no. Listen to your intuition to tell you when. There’s no scale.

What I’m unlearning most is that rules aren’t always safe and freedom isn’t always scary.  Rules may guide me, but they may also stunt me. Freedom may result in disaster, but it may also teach me to fly. The only way to know any of this is to try and fail and fall and try again.

If you fall down seven times, get up eight times, or eight, or seven times seventy. There’s really no limit.

 

In praise of small, slow changes

Am I the only one in denial that we are headed into summer, into the sixth month of 2017, into the second half of the year soon? I surely can’t be. But here we are, ready or not. I’ve always aspired to do a better job of tracking goals, habits and changes in my life. While I haven’t done this as efficiently as I would have liked this year, I have noted small, slow differences. In fact, last week in my journal I began a list of changes and accomplishments for the first half of 2017.

As I was making my list (I’m still adding to it as things come to mind), I realized it’s not terribly impressive to anyone but me. In fact, many of the “accomplishments” are small, incremental changes which no one else may even notice. This bothered me for a while, until I realized who better to notice change within myself than myself? To make changes or go after accomplishments for accolades, or worse, because someone else imposes those changes upon you, is to be burdened with unhealthy responsibilities and expectations. In fact, the healthiest choice I can make, is to seek to change myself due to internal motivation regardless of external acclaim.

Last week in Celebrate Recovery, I received the privilege of celebrating some huge life accomplishments with a friend. As she excitedly told me about these changes in her life, her eyes shone and her shoulders straightened. She stood tall and confident, “I’m not sure I remember a time when I was so proud of myself!”  I cried right there while I hugged her, not only for her joy, but because I know that feeling too.

Sometimes, we let cruel messages from the world, from people we thought we could trust, from spiritual “authorities” sink into our soul. Not enough, too broken, unfit, dangerous.  These messages brand themselves over our true identity, blotting out what we thought we knew. Leaving us with something to prove. So we adjust in order to fit in. We try to live up to other people’s expectations and agendas. We jump through hoops, as dependent on being noticed for what we’ve done as any addict is for the next hit.

Two years in recovery has taught me my drug of choice is acceptance. I’ll do whatever I have to to get it, even if it means losing myself completely.

Now back to my little list, this is what it tells me: I’m getting better. I’m on the path to my true self again.  If I am perfectly content making changes that no one notices but me, I am on the way to mental and emotional health. I’ve looked at that list a ridiculous number of times the last few days. Each time I do, an unfamiliar feeling swells in my chest.

It’s pride. Pride in myself, for myself.

This week I’m praising slow, small changes. I’m praising myself for making them. I’m giving thanks for the people who held space, held my hands and made me feel safe enough to try. And I’m trusting the Spirit whose presence tells me I don’t have to fit in, because she fits within me. I’m praising another day, another week, another year where I don’t have to change for anyone but me.

Routine Magic: how good mornings can change everything

Because life is for trying new things, today, I’m on board with doing something different. It’s a crazy sort of day with many places to go, errands to run, people to slow down and really listen to and in between those things, my own goals and responsibilities to handle. Today writing is important, but it didn’t make the top of the list. So today, I set the timer and when it rings, it’s time to move on. Good-bye perfectionism; Hello good enough. I’d like to share a bit about my morning routine.

Creating a working morning routine has been one of my goals for a ridiculously long time. I have no idea why I couldn’t just hammer one out and stick with it. Maybe it’s my self-discipline, or maybe it’s that the time wasn’t right in my soul. I really do believe in the old (cliche?) adage that when the student is ready, the teacher will always appear. It’s happened to me too many times to discount. So whether it’s finding self-discipline or timing, I’m finally settling into something that works for me.

My morning routine begins every night before I go to bed, I make a priority list and daily schedule in my semi-bullet journal (linked in this post). I clean off my writing table and place a full glass of water on it. That water is the premiere figure in my morning routine.

A few months ago, I stopped keeping electronics by my bed. As soon as my nature-sounds digital alarm wakes me up, I reach for my water and drink it down. I’ve read research that says this is the best way to start your day and research that says it doesn’t really make any difference, but what I know is, it makes me feel better. I wake up thirsty, and sitting quietly in my bed taking a few moments to take care of me and only me, sets a good tone for my morning.

Then I spend around ten minutes meditating. I’m doing guided meditations right now. (My monkey brain is off the chain. until that becomes a bit more focused, I need a guiding voice). More immediate self-care. It’s like I’m a princess.

Now the sun is making an appearance so I hit the street for a run. I’ve not been a very committed runner for well over a year. For now I’m not measuring, timing, pacing or setting goals. I’m out the door and I run, going wherever I want. I walk when I’m tired, which is a lot. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts; other times it’s birds singing. College is out for the summer so the streets are mostly quiet and the sidewalks mostly empty. I’m not racing anything, just being in the moment. It’s good.

When I arrive home, it’s time for my morning Mo. We wrestle, play ball, eat breakfast and take a walk. Mo is especially fond of mornings because he gets up early and the other dog sleeps late. For a few hours every day, he’s an only dog with the run of the house and all the attention. He likes it like that.

This week I started what will likely be the final piece of my morning routine into place, daily journaling. I invested some birthday money in myself and signed up for a journaling course. True, it’s journaling. Do I really need a course? Maybe not. Maybe I just need a kick in the pants, some accountability and reason to sit down and write yet again. “I paid for this, now I will do it”, mentality. Whatever, it’s working.

May has been a very busy, very demanding, very creative month, all in very good ways. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed but usually, these four habits, and the behavior patterns they are creating have kept me fairly anxiety free all month. They aren’t a magic potion by any stretch, but they are working magic in my life. Sometimes it takes awhile to get the chemistry just right, but when you do, it really is worth the effort it takes to get there.

And there’s my timer.

What morning practices help you each day?