Grief

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The weirdest month of my life, right here.  March 2020!  My father-in-law fell on February 27 and it turned out, broke a vertebra, and a week later, on March 5, he died.  The next Tuesday, my union went on strike and we were on the picket lines for 3 days.  With COVID19 closures looming we reached a contract settlement and the next Sunday we learned we’d be closed for the remainder of the month preparing for a massive scale distance teaching of children of all ages.  Said preparation was spent with my own two small children at home with me, competing with my husband for work time, and binging on faaaaar too much Facebook.  I let myself indulge in a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. I’ve been eating a lot.  Too much.  Trying to avoid feelings.  Needless to say, my stress levels have been somewhat elevated.

On week 3 of this, we are settling in, figuring it out.  My husband started actually distance teaching; we are officially on spring break so ours doesn’t start for another week.  I’m sleeping kind of better and kind of worse.  I’m walking every day.  Inspired by this post, I’ve been doing little projects that have just kind of sat around forever and it feels good to finish them, use them, put them away, be done.  I’m pushing myself to actually finish up things rather than get close and not see them to completion, and to avoid my old foe of spending time researching and ordering yet more supplies for projects and then not actually doing them.

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I left off writing that last night . . . just couldn’t feel out where this was going . . . but I’m back again today.  I have a vague feeling hanging about me, a constant unease.  Maybe, as this article suggests and much more aptly describes, it’s grief.  So many griefs this month, and it feels shallow to admit that the one that feels the biggest right now is this sense that I’ve spent 15 years in a career that I’m consciously choosing to be in said career at this time in my life, but is renowned for its degree of superfluous crap.  The paperwork.  The meetings.  The documentation.  The events.  The committees.  The TESTING.  The TIME.  All of that, in the snap of a finger, gone.  Done.  Don’t have to do it!  Now:  Do only the most important thing (teach) and in the simplest yet most effective way you can given the novelty of the format, etc. and take care of yourself while you do it.  So while my intellectual brain knows that it’s temporary, and because of a very unusual circumstance, I also wonder . . . will I actually be able to go back to that?

“I live aligned with my values.”

I’ve written about some of the thought work I’ve been working on for the last two years or so, and I have a new thought I’m really digging:  “I live aligned with my values.”

What would that look like?

I’d move: walking, biking for transportation and enjoyment, running, hiking, swimming, playing with my kids, skiing, yoga-ing, and dare I say, dancing?  I’d be outside in all kinds of weather:  in the garden, in the yard, in the neighborhood, in parks, camping.  I’d be on screens, sometimes: for connection, for efficiency, for learning.  I’d be off screens most times: for connection, for efficiency, for learning.  I’d be decisive, willing to fail, and imperfect.  I’d be avoiding plastic and new goods wherever possible; I’d be using a bike whenever I could.

I’d be living with less stuff in my home so I wouldn’t feel so stressed out about it, yet with enough to feel abundant and cozy.  I’d be working actively to be satisfied with my material goods, including whatever home I’d be living in, instead of always seeking the greener grass.  When making purchases I’d be taking the time to shop at the hyper local shops I treasure – right now, I could 90% live my daily life within two miles of my home and 99% within 10 miles.  I’d spend money free of guilt and not second-guess purchases large or small – neither being unnecessarily frugal just for the sake of it, nor spending in order to avoid a small inconvenience or more importantly, avoid or create any feeling.  I’d allow myself simply to spend money, and not attach many unspoken and vague conditions in order to grant myself the right to spend.  In doing so, I’d assert myself as a full and equal financial partner in the household with the right to achieve my own dreams and desires regardless of my partner’s level of comfort.  I’d either have to be comfortable with setting aside some of my earnings outside of the household pot and/or earning some more through other avenues in order to control these funds in the pursuit of my dreams.

I’d be fully present without guilt at work when at work, at home when at home, and with myself when with myself.  I’d create community in, well, creative ways and breathe life into some of my many ideas instead of just letting them knock around in my head.  I’d chance to participate in the community life in ways I feel called, while accepting that those ways can also feel hard and give me a bit of anxiety.  I’d embrace the plans I set for myself, whether for daily eating and tasks, weekly schedules, or steps to meet long term goals.  I would keep seeking the balance of being considerate to others while not really caring what they think of me, my plans or what’s important to me in the world.  I’d love my partner in life for who he is, neither putting him on a pedestal nor expecting him to be anything other than exactly just the wonderful person he is.

I’d be soft on myself when I forget my journey and my vision – when I’m in Target the day after Christmas excitedly acquiring more plastic detritus – remind myself, love myself free of judgment, learn and move on.

A Perfect Day

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I had a perfect little day yesterday.  I was and am overflowing with gratitude.

First, I got to sleep in, then putz around the house unhurried and buying my husband a Xmas gift that I think he will love online for a great discount.  (I have a conflicted opinion of Black Friday, but I do like to take advantage on items I’d planned to get anyway).

After that, we cleaned up/put away the fall decor items and got out the Christmas tree and decorations, and set about getting that all ready to decorate later in the day.  The kids were soooooo excited to see the Xmas stuff come out again, especially their books.

Then we packed up our kiddies and goodies and headed to my sister’s for a belated Thanksgiving of delicious and simple foods, games and play.  I made my family do an activity where we wrote down what we were thankful for and had to guess who’d written it.  We laughed really hard.  I kept them for a future year to look back on, though I’ll admit that may be wishful thinking!

We came home and finished the decorating (which is adorably lopsided), had a yummy leftovers supper and the kids went to bed with zero fuss in my big bed snuggled up on either side of me.  And miraculously, I didn’t fall asleep myself, but just drank in those little bodies snoring there next to me.

I headed downstairs and decided I’d do some crafting, so I got out my Pandora and earbuds and fancy paper from when I actually scrapbooked and all the photos of why I want to lose weight that I printed weeks ago and got my creativity on.  And doing so revealed a big aha!  I don’t necessarily want to lose weight for the loss of the weight itself.  I want to lose it so I can be active, mobile, adventurous for a long time to come.  But I can have activity and adventure now.  And I’ll only achieve the mobility part if I DO have activity now.  I don’t have to wait to lose one more pound.  So today, I went to yoga.

And to top it off, I got lost in the rest of a book and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished.  I had to hide in the bathroom to finish it, but it was worth it.  And since it was a YA novel, I didn’t have to stay up all night to get my lost-in-a-book feeling.

BEST. DAY. EVER.

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My yummy book

 

Mental Load

An illustration of a woman with head held in hands and million swirling household thoughts written in thought bubbles all around here. Photo: www.bellebear.com
Photo credit: http://www.bellebear.com

A Facebook friend shared this graphic recently and I can’t stop thinking about it.  I have to-do lists miles long on the computer, in notebooks, in my head, unspoken, carried around all the time.  I suspect many women, particularly mothers, relate.  She kindly posted an inclusion of dads, but I wasn’t so nice or feeling so accommodating about the mental load men carry, as in most circles, men can simply opt out with no repercussions to career, standing in society or family.  But it was stopping to articulate that thought in a comment to my friend that got me thinking, well, why couldn’t I opt out, too?  So I decided to explore a bit more.

As I’ve written about before, I’m trying to practice new ways of thinking about thinking.  The programs I’ve been a part of use what’s called the Model: We have Thoughts regarding Circumstances.  Our Thoughts create our Feelings which drive our Actions and create our Results.  Our Results always prove our Thoughts true.  We outline this in a graphic organizer labeled CTFAR.  Brooke Castillo, Corinne Crabtree, Kara Lowentheil, and many other coaches trained through The Life Coach School use the Model to teach and coach.

 

Here are some unintentional models I think I have working about mental load:

C – mental load

T – If I don’t think of all this crap, I can’t guarantee it will get done.

F – pressure

A – Constant tasks, constant making of lists, always “optimizing” time and doing errands, orders, thinking.

R – I think about all this crap, but can’t guarantee it will all get done.

Or:

C – mental load

T – Men don’t suffer any consequences if this crap doesn’t get done.

F – victimized

A – Spend inordinate amounts of time in thought about everything there is to do, OR NONE in rebellion – sticking my head in the figurative sand

R – Men DON’T suffer any consequences, but I do.

How about:

C – mental load

T – People will think I’m a terrible mother or an unfit employee or (insert any number of perceptions/opinions of others here) if I don’t stay on top of this crap.

F – anxiety

A – perpetual to-do lists, taking on more, proving myself, not fully relaxing/recharging at any moment

R – I’m not a great mother OR employee OR . . .

Here was a surprise one:

C – mental load

T – It’s time to pare down.

F – overwhelmed

A – spin in deciding what to get rid of (physical or mental/emotional)

R – It’s still time to pare down.

 

Here are some Models I’d rather have (Intentional Models):

But what if I tried on:

C – mental load

T – What gets done gets done.

F – Peace

A – prioritize, eliminate, allow unfinished tasks without worry

R – What gets done gets done.

Or:

C – mental load

T – I don’t have to think of everything right now.

F – Permission.

A – relax, or fully finish one thing before starting another.  Case in point: as I’m writing this, my husband popped his head in the door and reminded me I should wake the 3 year old up from a rare nap.  I sat back down and kept writing.

R – I don’t think of everything right now/all at once.

I could try:

C – mental load

T – Maybe I could pare down a little at a time.

F – Curious

A – Cull some low hanging fruit, think about systems to set up/change that would save time and mental energy

R – I pare down a little at a time.

(That one works 🙂 )

Regarding others’ thoughts:

C – mental load (and what I do/don’t get done as a result)

T – What other people think about me is their Model

F – free

A – go about my own life

R – What other people think about me is their Model

 

So what I’m trying to get at with all this gobbledygook, which is meaningful to me but maybe not so much to you, is that 1) I can control my Feelings about all the tasks to be undertaken in an adult life by my Thoughts, and 2) whatever anyone else feels about me as a result is from THEIR OWN Thoughts about the issue, and is not within my control to change.  So: do I need to let mental load be such a problem?  I think I can work on my thoughts to feel more positively about the many things I choose to do in my life.  And maybe part of that IS to pare down/streamline.  And maybe some of it is simply to shift my thoughts, without changing a thing.

How Can I Love Myself Today?

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I’ve been experimenting with a journal prompt that’s helped me beat myself up a lot less.  So basically, I’m learning, the brain wants to missile-seek answers to questions it’s been asked.  If the question is anything along the lines of why am I so dumb? why can’t I get it together? why am I so fat? etc., then those are the answers it’s going to seek, and those answers feel terrible.  And if those are the questions we ask and the answers we get when trying to lose weight, or start a business, or have a better relationship with anyone, or a million other things, if that’s how we react, we’re going to feel like garbage, and we’re going to quit trying, because who wants to feel like that?!  It’s easier to just watch TV or scroll FB or eat a million Tate’s Bakehouse gluten free cookies (*ahem*).  But we can ask any question we want.  So How can I love myself today? helps me be kind to myself, which makes me more likely to take the actions toward the goals I really want to reach, rather than at each failure (of many) beating the crap out of myself mentally.  It’s working . . . I’m still moving forward.  And it feels a lot better.  Try it.  ❤

Brunch on the Patio Plans

It’s a grey, slushy Saturday 2 days post April blizzard, my husband has been with my father-in-law at the clinic all day, and I’m needing happy, sunny thoughts of friends and summer.  So!  I’m going to “plan out loud” right here on the blog.

I’ve been missing a lot of longtime friends in the time since our littles have come along.  Many of them already had their own littles, or have had some since as well.  We have a fantastic back yard with a great deck and now a huge play structure!  So!  I was thinking a few months ago, why do we always stress out about a restaurant that we have to figure out where to go, where to park, and entertain the kids instead of talking and enjoying each other, all at the cost of approximately $1,000,000 for the meal?  We could be enjoying our backyard on unlimited time, a far cheaper meal, and the kids don’t even have to behave.

That time has come!

I want to have a menu that is the same every time, to save on stress, mainly.  The easier this is, the more likely it will be to happen.

I polled the members of a local women’s group about a set menu for friend brunches on the patio.  Requirements:  some kind of main that is gluten free (for me), and pretty much otherwise – just easy.  I posed the idea of an egg bake and they riffed on it.  These lovelies came up with tons of scrumptious ideas for meatless or meat-full, and other customizable ideas like fruit and yogurt parfaits.

Egg bake ideas:

  • With hashbrowns for the “crust” so it’s GF – saute the hashbrowns before adding egg & baking
  • Mushroom, asparagus & gruyere
  • Bacon, cheddar & chives
  • Veggie only for vegetarians, breakfast meats on the side
  • Sausage, onions & peppers with or without cheese
  • Tex Mex egg bake
  • Cheesy Croissant Brunch Bake with caramelized onion, brown sugar ham, sauteed spinach, cheese, and croissant crust (though I’d omit that for GF purposes)
  • Biscuits & gravy egg bake
  • Baked eggs with tomato, cottage cheese, Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, broccoli or spinach

Side dish ideas:

  • Cut fruit
  • Bread
  • Yogurt granola cups – bake the granola in the bottom of a muffin cup and top with yogurt, or just have yogurt with a bag of granola and some little bowls/cups
  • Mimosas & bloody bar
  • Baked bacon

 

 

 

Scarcity v. Abundance

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I’ve been pondering a concept lately and that is the idea of financial abundance deriving from frugality or a scarcity mindset, and that of financial abundance deriving from an abundance mindset.

For years, I doggedly pursued frugality as paramount.  I was on message boards where frugality was held up as THE way to early retirement.  Basically, spend ONLY in accordance with your values so that you retain as much as you possibly can in order to liberate yourself from outside employment.  And then often, it became in my mind: spend as little as possible for the sake of doing so.  Case in point:  I was in therapy after my son was born for post-partum depression and part of what was stressing me out that particular day was that we were always arguing about supper – what to have, who would make it, etc.  We were both working full-time in high-demand, moderately high-income jobs with an infant at home.  It was tough in many ways, but we had plenty of income.  When the therapist suggested that we buy an assortment of convenience meals, salad fixings, etc., I remember thinking and maybe even saying, “but that will cost so much money!”  And it was kind of a wake-up call.  I was punishing and stressing myself out for no good reason.  We had tons of resources right in that moment, and I was thinking thoughts that made me feel like a pauper.

With that, I started to spend. I did almost a 180 on spending.  I started buying and even had my word for the next year be “permission,” mainly to get over the feeling that I was not supposed to spend any money at all, OR any money without consulting with my husband, even though I actually earned more money than him.  (Mind you – none of this imposed by my husband.  Allllll me.).

Since I’ve joined The Life Coach School’s Self Coaching Scholars program, I’ve been exploring money concepts and thoughts again.  Brooke, like many others, teaches about creating feelings based on thoughts of abundance.  I’m not yet super clear on how to apply this to my own life.  I’m not over the idea of early retirement espoused in the voluntary simplicity literature and movement.  I find it very appealing.  But for me, it’s always been about escaping the work world, about NOT having the freedom and fancy-free life I imagine I’d have when early-retired.

So I guess one way I’m trying to live the idea of abundance versus scarcity is in thinking about the business I plan to start (website is still a skeleton, ‘kay?) and WHY.  Initially, it was for reasons like freedom, not to have a boss, etc.  Just like for ER, those reasons are to escape something.  It won’t work.  I will find some other way to feel restricted or constrained in my business.  So I’m trying to envision what I HAVE that I can bring to the business, not what I’m trying to GET.  I will serve.  I will bring my experiences to share with others.  I have everything I need right now, so I don’t need the business to be anything more than that right now.  And from there, I will not be focusing on what I DON’T have, I’ll be focusing on what I DO have.  And even if my trajectory takes the same amount of time, I will feel so much better along the way.

I do have one old and funny story about this, though.  I dated soooo many guys in the ten years leading up to getting married.  Obviously none of them worked out, for so many reasons.  So one day I’d had it.  I threw my hands up – I was DONE dating.  And didn’t go on the dating sites, and quit looking at every man as a potential partner I had to impress, and did my own thing (including, LOL, paying down a ton of debt and locking in some of those frugal behaviors).  Anyway, it was then that my now-husband asked me out.  And I’d known him for 2 years!  But I was never able to see what was right in front of me for focusing on what I DIDN’T have – a good boyfriend.  It was when I released the scarcity that I was able to get the best boyfriend.  ❤ ❤ ❤

I am still finding my way with this concept.  What are your thoughts?