Forced relaxation and stuff

For two days now, I’ve been down for the count. I received my COVID booster, and boy, let me to you what…it was brutal. The first round kicked my ass, too, so I sure as hell hope this whole vaccination thing turns out to be worth it. I was going to take a little hike today but just walking from the bedroom to the kitchen was enough to wear me out, so I think I’ll just stay put today. It’s the perfect excuse to listen to a bit of RIOPY and work on my masterpiece. (Um, this. This is my masterpiece.)

I do love me some fever-induced dreams, though. I imagine those dreams are similar to the ones you have when you do some pretty good psychedelics. My favorite? Well, Ryan Bingham (a.k.a “Walker” in Yellowstone) asked me if I wanted to ride his horse. Um…yes, please. {Ahem}.

As with all things, I can take a perfectly timed ass-kicking vaccination and find a way to turn it into a blog post. So, here we go, kids. Grab a drink and settle in. I’m about to tell you all the ways feeling cruddy can be a good thing.

1) Forced rest. Really? Do I even need to say this? Well, apparently, I do. I don’t know about you, but I’m not good at resting. When my son is at his father’s, I typically will cram a thousand activities into the weekend. I didn’t – really, couldn’t – this weekend because, well you know, the whole body-aches thing. So, I went to the recycling center to get rid of a month’s worth of evidence, stopped by a friend’s for a short while, and came back home – where my ass has been planted ever since. We all should rest more often, not just when we are unwell. There are so many benefits of rest. If you need more convincing than my epic post here, then take a look at this article.

2) Time to catch up with friends. I had a quick breakfast with one of my besties, had a two-hour phone call with a friend I hadn’t spoken to for over ten years and was delighted by another phone call that ended with a finalized plan for a ‘meet in the middle’ road trip/girls weekend. I didn’t realize how healing it can be to take time to catch up with people you rarely talk to – even though I put the importance of it here on my bucket list.

3) Less alcohol. You may not agree, but the last thing I want is booze when I’m not feeling well. I also haven’t had coffee since Thursday’s COVID shot – proving that, yes, I can survive without it – and you can, too. Less alcohol and caffeine make for better sleep, and less anxiety, so ill or not, cutting both out of your consumption habits on occasion gives your central nervous system a break.

4) Quiet time. I’m rarely alone in this house, and for two hours, I was ALL BY MYSELF. We all need some quiet time to recuperate from the world. Of course, there’s always a balance – no need to get reclusive. But I really appreciated the time to sit and meditate and do a bit of restorative yoga without my brain on alert that someone might barge in. This leads me to…

5) Restorative yoga. This isn’t the ‘be a pretzel’ kind of yoga; that’s why it’s called ‘restorative’. My body hurt all over from the ping-pong ball effects of having the chills and fever – often at the same time. I mean, even my tongue hurt from clenching my jaw due to the shivering. The quiet and calming restorative poses helped tremendously, and if you want to try it, here’s a 35-minute video you can do at home. It’s free and – bonus – uses no props. You’re welcome.

So, nothing particularly mind-blowing today, but I am going to leave you with this song. However, before you click that link, I want to warn you: This is a twenty-two-minute instrumental. So, if you were counting on a fast-paced Elle King or Tyler Childers song, it ain’t that. However…it’s the perfect background for washing the dishes, sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, folding the laundry, or just drinking a cup of warm tea. In other words, rest a bit. In fact, that laundry can wait. Just chill.

PS…if you liked this post, please consider sharing it on social media. Thank you, in advance, for helping a semi-witty and foul-mouthed writer the opportunity to share her experiences with others of like mind.

Pillows and Perspective

I’m up a bit later than expected today, nestled under the covers sipping my mid-morning cup of coffee with eggnog. I couldn’t sleep last night, which is really no surprise. I battle insomnia, and getting to sleep is a chore on most nights, at best. I did all the right things, though. Took my sleep aid at 8 pm, my anti-anxiety meds at 9:30, and started my ten-minute meditation right at 10:15. I was breathing in the calm, breathing out the stress. You know, all the stuff.

It was hot; then it wasn’t. Then hot again. I think I’m finally at the age where a comfortable climate will never be something I feel again. Then, of course, the pillow wasn’t soft enough, making the ability to fall asleep that much worse. So I switched. Wouldn’t you know it…that one was too soft. I felt like I was in a real-life version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. “This pillow is too hard. This pillow is too soft…” except none of the six pillows on my bed were “just right.” 

Then I remembered something I used to do when I was a kid when I couldn’t fall asleep in the hot southern Missouri home where we had no air conditioning: I switched positions so that my head was at the foot of the bed and my feet were at the head of the bed. The fans (Yes, plural.) were hitting my head ever so lightly, and, I don’t know, it just ‘felt’ better. I think I was asleep within ten minutes of changing my sleeping position.

This story is a nice setup for what I think will be a halfway decent post today. The subject? How changing our perspective in difficult times can significantly impact our ability to cope with discomfort. Some call it ‘reframing’ or ‘changing the narrative.’ Both are correct, but to summarize: The ability to look at a problem in a completely different light can make all the difference in the world. If you disagree, at least you know my trick for finally finding a way to fall asleep via the foot of the bed. That’s your takeaway.

Today I’m going to tell you about some of the ways I’ve managed to change my perspective and arrive at an entirely different place from the original story I was repeating day in and day out. So, grab a drink and settle in. Let’s put our head at the foot of the bed.

1) Life’s little valleys happen for us, not to us. I used to be the first person to cry “Why is this happening to me?” In 2016 I let a man I loved talk me into quitting a perfectly good job, moving back to the God-forsaken land of Southwest Missouri, and fighting like hell to make a dollar to keep us all afloat. The marriage started to fall apart (big surprise) and at the time, I wasn’t sure there was a lesson in this. I was so hung up on telling the story of what happened to me that I didn’t realize at the time what was happening for me. The shift came in therapy when the therapist asked “So, what did you learn?” forcing me to change the narrative. Ever since then I’ve been able to feel better about myself and my experience, about my ex-husband, and about the circumstances around what got me here from there. So. What exactly did I learn? Glad you asked. First – never marry a man that refuses to pull his own weight. Next, I can live on a lot less than I thought I ever could so I’ve learned how to save money. Third, accept help when it’s offered – which is still a challenge, but I try. And finally, when allowed to rise from the ashes… don’t forget the lessons. I save more, give more, and value more than I ever did before we packed that U-haul.

2) It’s okay to be afraid. In the past, I was the last person on the planet ever to show vulnerability. The “never let them see you sweat” force was strong with me. But my perspective changed in those dark times between 2016 and today. I’ve learned to open up, to be brave, and to feel the fear and do it anyway. I knew how strong I was and just how much I wanted to help other people by coming out the other side better than I went in. Before the day we drove out of Michigan to Missouri, I NEVER would have shown a lick of vulnerability. I’m still not super great at it, but some people have seen it because I feel safe around them. And some people are now benefiting from my experience because I’m sharing the experience. (Hence, the creepy online diary.)

3) Quitting and accepting the seasons are not the same. Search the internet for ‘quotes about quitting’ and you’ll find a million that tell you not to do it. I’m not a quitter by nature. I have a high tolerance for bad behavior and this unfortunate character flaw hasn’t served me well. But by changing my perspective I’ve come to know that there are seasons in every person’s life. And seasons are meant to change. If you accept that a season of your life is over and that requires a different direction…it isn’t quitting. It’s growing. Like the leaves on an autumn tree…it’s accepting that it is time to let go and move on. I’ve realized that anything unhealthy is just not worth the fight and there must be a lesson or two that I picked up along the way during that season in my life. In other words, it’s okay to walk away from anything toxic – a job, a relationship, family members, and thoughts or habits.

4) “No” is a complete sentence. I was the ‘yes-iest’ person on the planet. I was nice. I was sweet. I was committed to the very end, even long after I got depressed just thinking about saying yes. But nice people are resentful people. Nice folks are just people with no boundaries and they are explosions waiting to happen. By changing my perspective, I realized that saying yes to things I didn’t want to do wasn’t making me any ‘nicer’ – it was making me more resentful. I realized that saying “no” was actually the nicest thing I could do in those moments. So, say “No” and say it unapologetically.

5) I’m sorry doesn’t mean it’s okay. Growing up, I was taught that if someone says “I’m sorry” then that was that. Things were to go ‘back to normal;’ This narrative became repugnant when I realized that the “I’m sorry = Acceptance” story was most likely the root of my ‘I have a high tolerance for bad behavior’ patterning. I concluded that even though an apology was nice, what I really wanted was changed behavior. When the behavior didn’t change, my responsibility was to set boundaries on what I would and would not accept. In 2017, unchanged behavior led to a divorce. No need to get that dramatic in most cases. I’m just saying that you can accept the apology and still move on (or, at minimum, take a different route). I once had someone tell me that their financial issues were none of my business. It’s true, they aren’t, however up until that point, this person had freely shared their salary, the dwindling balance of their mortgage, how quickly they paid off their car, bragged about the increasing amount in savings, etc. etc. etc. So, of course, I was shocked when I asked a simple question one evening and they exploded (yes, exploded) with “It’s none of your f***ing business.” Um. Okay. I was hurt by the behavior and then a little bit pissed off about it. Eventually, they apologized, but something in me had clicked that night (I think it was my F-It switch) and now when they try to discuss their finances with me I just stop them in mid-sentence: “You know what? Your finances are really none of my f***ing business. Please stop.” In this case, I learned that I couldn’t change another person’s behavior, but I could sure as hell change mine.

To wrap this up, whether it’s sleeping with your head at the foot of the bed or changing your old behavior by reframing all the experiences you’ve labeled as ‘bad’, there’s a lot of value in accepting a new perspective. And, in doing so, we can gain greater insights and achieve more happiness. Changing perspective is a healthy exercise if we want to be empathetic, rational, and compassionate. So…shake up that narrative a little. Ask yourself: What if I look at this differently? How could that change the outcome? It might just blow your mind a bit.

I know this might be hard to follow today. It’s esoteric… it’s metaphorical… it’s long. But let me know in the comments if I’ve made any sense at all. If I haven’t…well…at least I’ve left you with a pretty good song. You’ll want to click that link because the optimistic spirit of this song is part of why it’s a great song about perspective. So…sip that coffee (or eggnog…or whiskey…or coffee with eggnog and whiskey) and enjoy.

PS…if you’ve read this far and liked it, could you share it on social media? Or hit that ‘follow’ button? I’d appreciate it so much.

Five Reasons To Buy Less Stuff

I’ve been working from the kitchen, the living room, cafes, and libraries off and on since February 2020 when the pandemic shut the entire world down. It wasn’t ideal, and the quiet I needed when I was working was lacking. So about a month ago, I converted my walk-in closet to my home office.

When I told my co-workers this (they noticed a change in my background on a Zoom call), one exclaimed, “What did you do with all your clothes?” The truth is, I really didn’t have many clothes in my closet, so I just moved the few I had into my son’s closet, and that was that. It was primarily items I wore occasionally, and it’s not inconvenient to walk 57 steps to his room if I need my little black dress. Which, frankly, I’ve only worn once this year, and that was to a funeral. 

The point is I don’t have a lot of stuff for the sake of having stuff. I’ve been practicing rational minimalism since 2009 and tend to purge regularly. I would say that the things I have more of than I really need are colored markers, glass jars, and for some dumb reason, exercise thing-a-ma-jigs (hand weights, bands, yoga mats – yes, mats, plural).

I don’t know if minimalism is a matter of choice for me. I need it as a way to control my environment. Seems a bit ironic, though, doesn’t it? To use a concept meant to ‘free’ us as a means of keeping myself from being hostile?

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I like the mental and physical space that minimalism provides for me. I think I’ve got a few I can share with you this morning, so grab a drink and settle in. Let’s talk about childhood trauma, shall we?

I grew up in a home that was full of stuff. My parents kept things around for years and years and years. In 1977 we added a garage onto the house. I can not remember ever having had a car parked in that garage that wasn’t some project car my father was working on. I never saw them get rid of anything – never once did we make a donation trip to Goodwill. By the time my father died, it was literally easier to simply walk away from the house than to even attempt to clean it out. So, that’s what my mother did. I don’t really know what leads people to become hoarders, but I’d say it’s some pretty deep shit, that’s for sure.

In fact, today, I’m even questioning the label “Rational Minimalist” I’ve given myself. What if I’m not really a minimalist but more of an anti-hoarder? That, in and of itself, is therapy-fodder, I’m sure. But some days, it does feel that way. Some days the compulsion to get rid of things is probably as great as the compulsion to hold on to them. I had one too many items in my garage so I recently rented a storage facility (Don’t judge me. It’s a small one. Gosh.) so I could get some things out of my garage. What kind of mess requires a storage facility? you ask. Three totes and a cooler. I know, right? I’m spending $40 a month because I want to look in my garage and see…yup…space. I want a clean – and controlled – environment…for my car.

That’s nuts. Right? 

Anyway. No one is judging anyone here. Not on my watch. Here are some of the ways I’ve justified my anti-hoarding/rational minimalism lifestyle. I’ve picked my top five reasons why living a simple life with less stuff makes sense:

1) More time for doing what you love. Less stuff to clean and organize means more time for reading, hiking, knitting (not me…you.), and playing with your kids. Josh Becker once said, “You don’t have to organize what you don’t own.” That makes a lot of sense to me. As a person who will put a label-maker label on anything not moving, this is freeing. 

2) More money to do what you love. Honestly, how many dresses does a girl need now that 80% of the world works in their pajamas? I posit one. I own two pairs of jeans. I own three ‘dressy’ shirts. I own way too many dresses for reasons unbeknownst to me. By spending less on clothing and other items I really don’t need, I’ve had the funds to invest in a good vehicle, camping whatnots, and trips. 

3) Less stress. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s true. Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious, and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered. Additionally, The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory. In 2011, neuroscience researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging and other physiological measurements found clearing clutter from the home and work environment resulted in a better ability to focus and process information, as well as increased productivity. So there

4) More creativity. I can clean my garage, or I can knit. Frankly, I’d rather clean my garage than knit anything, so maybe I should seek another example. Nonetheless….you can bake. You can paint. You can write. You can color with your kids. I’ve recently started painting rocks and hiding them in parks. It’s a very ‘old lady’ thing to do, but I love it. And it’s something I can do with my son, which is even more fun. Not to mention, it gets a little cultish, and I’m always up for cult-like activities. Don’t believe me? Just search “rock hiding groups” on Facebook or “rock painting” on Pinterest. These folks are serious.

5) More time for relationships. I’d rather spend $25 on a delicious bottle of wine to share with my two besties than spend it on a shirt that hangs in my closet. Minimalism isn’t about frugality – although saving money is a by-product. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve saved more money since I’ve chosen to buy less ‘stuff’ – I’ve just spent it on experiences that bring me more pleasure. 

So, my thoughts this Sunday have centered around rather or not to go on a quick hike or stay in bed and watch Pitch Perfect 1, 2, and 3. Either choice would bring me joy. 

I know one thing: I won’t be organizing my kitchen. It’s pretty well organized because I only have one skillet.

Oh, AND! If you’ve read this far, can you possibly ‘follow’ by email or share on social media? I have deactivated my primary FB account – another minimalist move – and I’m worried I won’t have a way to promote this blog. I’m trusting the Universe on this.

Here’s your song for the week. It’s by The Weepies, and it’s a bit older. I personally think it’s a great song to which to sip coffee. Enjoy!