As the final week of August draws to a close, I am taking a break. I am unplugging - literally and figuratively - for seven days. Beginning Sunday I will step away from technology; let the blog rest; and focus on being fully present with family and friends. I hope to return refreshed and ready to share new observations as we turn the corner into Fall.
I invite you to join me in unplugging and enjoying this last bit of summer. Give your loved ones the gift of your presence and undivided attention and allow yourself to relax and renew.
After years of putting it off, I finally had all four wisdom teeth removed over the weekend. When prompted by my dentist (again) this Spring, I could have made excuses for further delay, but I instead decided to take advantage of the extra space in the summer calendar to schedule the procedure.
When I informed my mother of my plans, she offered to travel to town and help entertain the babe while I rested and recovered. I insisted it wasn't necessary, but because I enjoy her company (and the babe adores her) I didn't say no.
Thankfully there were no complications, and I was back home within an hour of the scheduled surgery. Other than needing to ice my jaw and care for the extraction site, my recovery was a passive process. I would have been perfectly capable of making dinner, playing with the babe, and going about our usual weekend activities. But instead of plugging through routine, I was able to rest, read, and recuperate while the babe was whisked away for visits to museums and the farmers market, lunch out on the town, and time at the park. As a result, she enjoyed a special treat rather than being inconvenienced by her mama's discomfort.
From time to time, we experience small disturbances we CAN power through, but if we allow ourselves to accept the offer of help, the experience can be improved for us and our loved ones.
Is there an appointment, project, or event on the horizon with which you could benefit from assistance? Can you allow yourself to say "yes" and reap the rewards?
In recent weeks I have spent time with a mama of two who is stepping cautiously back into the workforce after staying home with her children for the past five years, and another mama of two who is eager to take a break as her youngest approaches the one year mark. Both conversations sparked thoughts about my own place in the world and where I want to be as my one and only continues to grow and change. It also reinforced the truth that there is no single path that is right for every parent.
Like so much in life, we all must chart our own course. And as is so often the case, we have a tendency to look at the world through a small window and forget that what we see is not all there is. I have experienced what it is to be away from my babe, fearful of missing one moment of her miraculous development. I also know how it feels to spend day after day teetering on the edge of exasperation as she flexes her independence muscles. What I must constantly remind myself is that neither is a permanent state, and there is value - for her and me - in both experiences.
As I continue on this path, I am gaining comfort in gliding through the shifts that take place from moment to moment. We all face decisions - large and small - about how to invest our time and energy, but rarely are we locked into those choices permanently. We must learn how to hold firmly enough to anchor ourselves in seemingly fleeting moments, but also how to relax our grip when we cling too tightly.
Can you find comfort in impermanence? Can you learn to fly?
When I first heard friends speak of artist dates, I was intrigued. I loved the idea of spending an afternoon at a museum or stealing away to watch a film in the middle of the day. But every time I set out to build this treat into my weekly schedule, I would hesitate. There was always too much to do - whether an impending deadline, competing priority, or the mundane household chores that somehow inevitably expand to consume any time that may have seemed free when the week began...
But as I seek to infuse this month with more creativity, I am giving it a try - and molding the practice to fit my present reality. On her website, Julia Cameron, who popularized the practice, describes an artist date as:
"A once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the
play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it."
Instead of carving out an entire afternoon every week to indulge in an expedition, I am giving myself permission to designate part of the babe's naptime as an opportunity to play in the kitchen or curl up with a book. I have conceded the fact that this likely means the laundry will sit for an extra day, and a few emails will linger longer than I would like. But the catharsis of plunging my hands into a bowl of dough or the escape of venturing into a fictional world will bring me joy and refresh my perspective.
What self care have you been putting off because it seems too indulgent? Can you re-imagine it in a way that allows you to make it part of your routine?
A friend (Hi Maria!) shared this quote recently, and I had to smile. It was exactly what I needed to hear in the moment.
For days I had been mentally circling an episode from the past. Someone I considered a dear friend had let me down, and I was deeply hurt by the experience. I thought I had moved on, but there I was again, stewing about the fact that the person never apologized and likely had no idea how much pain they had caused.
The quote put my experience into its proper context. Time had passed, and the culprit had certainly moved on. Why hadn't I? I realized in the moment that any residual suffering was no one's fault but my own, and I couldn't heal unless I truly let go of the incident as well as the desire to make my feelings known.
We all encounter situations in which we feel wronged, but we are ultimately responsible for how we respond. We can linger in self-pity, thereby compounding our pain, or we can let go and heal.
Is there something you need to let go of today? What can you do to leave it behind and move forward?
Like most children, my daughter seems to have been born to entertain. She narrates every encounter, creates her own songs, twirls and dances down the street, and lives to make her Mama and Papa laugh.
Anyone who has spent much time with children - or can recall their own childhood clearly - can relate to the seemingly endless creativity with which we are born. Need a guitar pick to perform a guitar concert for your cat? Repurpose a small wooden magnet. Need an extra bed for your dollhouse? Grab your mama's yoga block. Discover a lone key on the sidewalk? Use it to "unlock" your stroller wheels.
But somewhere along the line, our focus shifts from the beauty of creative expression to more immediate needs. We want to succeed in school, so we study. We want to excel in sports, so we practice. We want to find the perfect job, so we send out resumes and network. We want to get a promotion or a raise, so we work harder. We divorce ourselves from creativity because we fail to see its practical application.
And when creativity does find its way into our lives - whether singing in the shower or signing up for a photography class - we tend to keep it siloed away, separate from our day to day rhythms. We are out of practice and find the idea of creative expression a bit uncomfortable. We haven't picked up a paintbrush in years. We haven't touched a piano since grade school. We are fearful of putting our (self-determined) lack of talent on display.
I notice this in myself when my daughter invites me to join in her sidewalk serenades. Rather than mirroring her gusto, I find myself carefully scanning the crowd for familiar faces and stalling until I can navigate to a less well traveled street. We spend so much time thinking about how something might sound or look that we forget the sheer delight of making up a story, dancing around the room, or filling a page in a coloring book.
Fortunately, the joy is easy to recapture, and it isn't contingent upon skillful execution of any particular art form. Creativity isn't defined by our ability to transform a blank canvas into a lifelike representation. Consider the catharsis of slapping paint on a blank canvas Pollock-style. Pull your phone out of your pocket as you walk through the farmers market and capture a particularly beautiful display. Experiment with a new recipe - or close your cookbooks and embark on a spontaneous kitchen adventure.
For many of us, August provides a bit more spaciousness than our the rest of our jam-packed year. Can you invest a free afternoon or weekend this month reconnecting with your creative side? Can you let down your guard and your creativity shine?
When my husband and I took our first staycation, it was a matter of necessity. We were newly married and living in a 400 square foot apartment with a twin bed. While still in the "honeymoon phase" of our marriage, the reality of sharing such a tiny dwelling was sinking in, and we were eager to stretch out - literally and figuratively. A proper vacation wasn't in the budget, so we opted to spend a full day and night inside our city - but outside our home - to recharge.
More than a decade later, we still enjoy the occasional staycation. We are fortunate to live in a city that offers many different neighborhoods to explore, and staying close to home affords us the opportunity to enjoy a brief escape without wasting time sitting in a car, train, or plane - or being away from our sweet girl any longer than necessary.
Last month, to celebrate my husband's birthday, we packed an overnight bag and made reservations at a hotel in town. The simple act of waking up outside our neighborhood sparked enthusiasm about shaking up our routine. We revisited an off-the-beaten-path coffee shop, browsed new and unfamiliar shops, took a nap (!) in the middle of the day, and treated ourselves to a leisurely, vacation-style dinner.
Before summer sighs its last gasp, consider treating yourself to a staycation. Break out of your routine and appreciate familiar things from a different point of view.
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!