Category Archives: Homestead
Remember how I said I’m not very good at play (October 6, 2016 post)? As I read that section in The Gifts of Imperfection, I realized that it has been a long time since I played. A long time since I let myself be that vulnerable to the world.
Brene Brown’s definition of play was that it is purposeless — meaning we play for the pleasure of playing, for the sheer joy of doing (whatever it is we’re doing), just because we love what we are doing. That’s actually a pretty meaty definition.
I joked in that post that I wondered if binge watching my shows count as play. It turns out that is a pretty good question to ask. I think I, unintentionally, got to the heart of the matter. Watching a show (in a solid chunk) is something that actually gives me a great deal of pleasure. So using that as a basis I asked myself a couple of questions. 1–What do I do that I love? And 2–What do I currently do as a “task” that really should be play.
I spent a couple of weeks logging time in my journal. I noticed a couple of interesting patterns.
Pattern 1: While I wore a Fitbit (like for 10 years) I logged a walk by the number of steps/number of miles I walked. After taking off the Fitbit I began to describe my walk by amount of time I spent out on the road or where I turned around, what the weather was like, and I started taking a picture each morning during my walk. I began putting the pictures on Instagram. I’m not walking because I need to log the steps, I’m walking because I enjoy being on the road, taking in my surroundings, and taking the picture. I’m not trying to be good at walking. I’m not trying to take good pictures. BOOM! I’m playing! My morning walk is play.
Pattern 2: I read a lot. My books typically fall into 2 categories: reading for pleasure and reading to learn. When I’m reading for pleasure, I’m not trying to check a book off a list, I’m not trying to learn something; I’m simply enjoying the pleasure of being transported to another time, another place, another reality, another me. So reading for pleasure is playing.
Pattern 3: Again, there are two types of watching that I do: watching for pleasure and watching to learn. Watching a show just because I love the storytelling is just about the same as reading for pleasure, it’s just a little more passive. Some people feel that passive is bad or not worthwhile, but I disagree. There are times when I just want to sit back and let someone else drive. Watching for pleasure definitely fits the bill. So watching for pleasure is playing.
I’m still playing with the puppy (and apparently still calling him a puppy) and I’m slowly starting to think of it as playing for me too and not just burning off his energy or trying to teach him something new. And interestingly enough, he’s learning to come much better now that “come on” isn’t the point of running around the yard.
In The Gifts of Imperfection Brene Brown says that we don’t fix (fear of) scarcity with abundance but with sufficient (enough).
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been drawn to voluntary simplicity for a decade now. It began as a spiritual practice and has influenced all areas of my life. I had never considered that I might be drawn to it as an answer to fear of scarcity.
However in reading through this section, again, I noticed that I often feel a lack of . . .sleep, time, and health. So while I’ve gotten control of fear of scarcity concerning money and possessions, I’ve never addressed these other more nebulous areas.
I think it is easy when dealing with an auto-immune disorder to chalk a lot of feelings up to how you’re physically feeling each day. It does seem that days when I wake up achy, dull, and swollen that is much harder to express courage, compassion, and even connection with others. I often just want to curl up into a ball and have the world go away. And on those days when I wake up feeling great everything just seems to fall into place and it’s easier to be the authentic me.
I’ve been working for a little over 4 weeks (at the time I’m writing this) with an Ayurvedic counselor. The work has been enlightening from a purely physical viewpoint, but also because it brings to mind so much of what I remember from this book. Physically I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. The dietary and lifestyle changes put into place were difficult at first, but as I began to build routines and habits they are becoming almost second nature. As I have felt better and better, I’ve noticed that all that soul work really laid the groundwork for this endeavor.
I’m learning how routine creates a sense of “enough” in the areas of food, sleep, time, movement, and health. As I sense “enough” in these areas, I feel the gifts of happiness and freedom flowing back into that area of my life again. My story continues to include this disorder, but slowly it is being pushed into a corner where it can inform but not control my sense of well-being.
Since happiness is an emotion based on circumstances, I realize that it was never my joy that this disease was taking. It was my happiness. When I ask myself what would make today awesome and then when I journal what made that day joyful, I think I have been focusing more on happy than true joy. As I read back through my journal I noticed these were all things that effected my emotions.
Happiness comes and goes, but true joy is a bit like a light in my soul. It is there just waiting for a chance to shine. So starting today I’m going to work on having two lists. One for what would make me happy. The second for where I saw true joy displayed in my life. I think the distinction is important and this is one way I can acknowledge that distinction.
Part 2 of my summary of The Gifts of Imperfection.
Garatitude and Joy: Both gratitude and joy are spiritual practices. This means they are not attitudes (which are just ways of thinking) but practices (which are ways of being). Happy (emotion based on circumstances) is not the same as joy (which is often felt in spite of circumstances). You must choose each day to be grateful and joyful.
One way I do that is in my journal. Each morning I ask what can I do (realistically do, not dreamily wish for) to make today joyful — it helps to phrase it “What would make today awesome?” Then as the day progresses I check in and incorporate those things into my day. Each evening I list those things that made the day full of joy. Sometimes my morning list and my afternoon list are very different. Joy comes in surprising places. I’ve always kept a gratitude list in my journal. Most people say you should write your list down each evening. I prefer to start my day reviewing the things I am grateful for from the day before or even things from the middle of the night.
Brene Brown says the opposite of joy is fear (and specifically fear of scarcity). We see this in our lives as worry, anxiety, fearfulness . . . and we don’t fix scarcity with abundance but with enough. For the past 10 years I have been practicing voluntary simplicity. I have found in it a realization that enough is more than adequate.
Intuition and Trusting Faith: Intuition is a rapid fire, unconscious associating process. Observe-scan for existing patterns-reach conclusion; occasionally this is so fast it just seems as if you know without knowing how you know. Sometimes the answer is clear and sometimes the answer is more input needed. Anne Lamott says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty”. I think what this means to me is that some things are a mystery and I just have to have enough courage to to believe what I cannot see.
Creativity: I don’t normally think of myself as a creative person. I can’t draw, paint, sing (well, I can sing, but nobody wants to hear it), write a novel, or any of those things that are typically thought of. What I can do is cultivate and curate meaning. I like to make sense of things — not like science facts, just life. I like to see the patterns in life and express those patterns. For me this often takes the form of journal type entries on this blog,
The biggest hinderance to creativity is comparison. Comparison is all about conformity and competition. And I have to say I am NOT into conformity or competition. So I was thrilled to learn that my cultivating and curating meaning is a form, my form, of creativity. It has opened doors of freedom that I’ve kept pretty close to the vest all these years. I’ve even been doing the Headspace meditation pack on creativity. Some pretty interesting thoughts come out of my head. Thoughts that I used to let others squash or ridicule me for are now embraced and given a voice.
Play and Rest: Play here is defined as purposeless. In other words, we play for the sheer joy of play, not to learn something, not to get in our exercise. Rest is downtime. Rest is not necessarily sleep, although we definitely need to make sure we are getting in enough sleep. I’m pretty good at the rest aspect of this — because of my auto-immune disease I make sure my day has time set aside to just rest and renew.
Play isn’t something I’m very good about doing though. I’ll romp through the yard with the puppy (I really need to stop calling him that; he is 18 months old now). I love a good bike ride, but only if someone else is riding with me and talking. Does binge watching my favorite shows count as play? I’m really asking here. . . .
Next up: Calm and Stillness; Meaningful Work; Laughter, Song & Dance
In September, during my morning walks, I listened to the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ (by Brene Brown). I listened for the “outward” stretch of the walk (and thought about it on the “return” stretch, occasionally accompanied by some pop/rock music). In the afternoon I’d sit down with the book version and reread the section I had listened to earlier that day.
This turned out to be a pretty good system for me. I process a lot of information audibly. I think that’s why I get so distracted in a classroom setting. I hear you sniffling, I hear you shuffling the pages, I hear you getting your cell phone out of you pocket — I hear you. This “hearing you” means my attention is split between you and what I’m trying to process.
This “hearing you” comes along with being a HSP (highly sensitive person) and an introvert (quiet people, I just need some quiet). This combination can make it difficult to stay on task, or to be honest, even think if the environment is loud enough/chaotic enough/over stimulating. For example: I once worked for a company that played music through the whole building. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love pop music and keep a selection on my phone for helping me power through the second half of my walk, but I don’t listen and do anything mental at the same time. Just does not work. Not. At. All. One day the same song played on repeat and loud (that Lego song: Everything is awesome) for over an hour. In attempt to maintain my sanity, I put in my earbuds and tried to listen to the Bach cello suites. I ended up frantic, in tears, and unable to do even the easiest of the tasks assigned to me.
This particular day left me with a sense that I was imperfect, I was flawed, and my boundaries were not important. Almost two years later I can still feel the shame I experienced that day. No adult wants to be brought to tears by a stupid Lego song.
So the book _The Gifts of Imperfection_ was really encouraging for me to read. The book talks about Being Enough and the three daily practices or tools that we need in order to set boundaries and know we are enough: courage, compassion, and connection.
Courage: to speak (and live) my whole heart’s truth openly and honestly, putting my vulnerability on the line, and owning my own story. Contrast this with hustling, performing, pleasing, and proving.
Compassion: to recognize our shared humanity, dignity due a person simply because they are, and maintaining boundaries.
Connection: the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued. Contrast this with being communicative and self-sufficienct.
Authenticity: letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. — This is the key for me. Being an INFJ, HSP, and auditory means I am going to experience life in my own way. Knowing this can help me set boundaries . . . I.e.: if you’re going to play that song on repeat for over an hour, I should probably go home or at least hide in the bathroom.
Self Compassion: Be slow to judge yourself, there is no such thing as perfect, and I am not what I accomplish or perform. A second boundary for me is knowing that I can not handle violence in movies or tv. For a long time, I assumed it was simply the visual image that disturbed me, but an incident the other night showed me the music and the sound effects have a lot to do with how intensely I perceive the violence.
Resilient Spirit: resilience is the ability to overcome adversity. The single biggest factor in my resilience is my faith. In the Anglican Communion I find faith, love, support, connection, meaning, and reliability. There is something incredibly comforting in knowing people all over the world are praying the same prayers and reading the same Scriptures. This comfort allows me to “feel all the feelings” and sort through them.
Other sections of the book include: gratitude and joy, intuition and faith, creativity, play and rest, calm and stillness, and meaningful work, laughter song and dance. Thursday I’ll take a look at each of these and talk about the lessons I learned from each.
Today I went to town just for one thing. Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
No person was injured in my quest– I did promise Michael I would come home with it even if I had to try several stores and use my elbows. As he left the truck, I said “Be safe out there today.” For the first time he said, “You too.” I guess he thought I might have to fight for the movie.
I did decide while in town to pick up a few strawberry plants and some garden soil. The strawberries I transplanted a month ago didn’t make it through some cold nights. That’s my fault, I should have covered them. They are a bit fragile until their roots get sunk into the new earth.
The garden soil is so I can transplant some seedlings from little pots to slightly larger pots. I’m getting a jump start on the garden this year. At least, I hope I’m getting a jump start. I’m not a great transplanter — as evidenced by the dead strawberries.
This morning on my bike ride I saw something that made me stop. It was a moment that would make a perfect picture, but I didn’t have my phone. I stopped and looked long and deep, trying to sear the image into my mind. I knew immediately that this moment held a lesson for me. A lesson I needed to remember. Not a lesson I needed to learn, just to remember, to appreciate, to call to mind more often.
The image was a farmer leading a young-ish cow down his driveway. He was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, knee boots, and a ball cap — John Deere, most likely. His right hand was gently resting on the cows shoulder and his left hand held a lead. The cow would stop, look around, turn to the farmer, and walk on a bit. It wasn’t in a hurry and neither was the man. I think I saw the man giving the cow little tidbits to encourage the forward motion, but I’m not sure. Mainly what entranced me was the peacefulness and gentleness of the moment.
Man and beast walking together, gently, peacefully, and slowly.
This world is full of hurry, harshness, cruelty, and hatred. But, there are many living quiet, simple, peaceful, gentle lives. I need to remember this when the news is ugly and hard to bear. I need to remember that quiet, simple, peaceful, and gentle are a choice. It’s a choice I need to make every single day with every single person I encounter.
I need to appreciate it in others and I need to acknowledge it in others too. So today I remember and appreciate:
*A childhood Sunday School teacher (and as it happens, my Aunt)
*My current priests (who encourage us to walk alongside and grow, but don’t use a bully pulpit)
*An old friend who brings out the best in me by appreciating the best in me.
*Sisters who are on the front lines of helping people be the best they can be on bikes, in healthcare, and in raising some pretty fantastic nephews!
*A husband who listens patiently to my wild ideas and only occasionally points out they won’t work.
*A daughter doing amazing work through her actions and her words
*A son who can’t wait to be bald like his PaPa, is generous beyond compare, and always strives to do the right thing
These are the helpers the Mr Rogers encouraged us to look for in troubling situations. These are the helpers that give me hope. And hope is the key. If we have hope, we can change the world — one person at a time, starting with “the man in the mirror” to borrow a phrase from Michael Jackson.