Ok, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but better late that never, right? (I hate cliches, but sometimes they’re overused for a reason: they work.)
All week long I’ve read amazing posts from bloggers who have chosen a word or a theme for 2012. I’ve heard of this before and though I set intentions each year and have used mantras before, I’ve never actually chosen a word for an entire year.
So, after a few contemplative walks and some journaling, I’ve chosen my word:
This isn’t an exciting word, and I definitely considered some snazzier ones, but that’s not what I need. For the past several years of my life, many thing have felt unstable. Relationships, income, self-esteem, my body, jobs, career plans, and mental health to name a few.
That’s a rough way to live.
This word fits perfectly with my intentions for 2012, and now that I think about it, stability is what I’m seeking through those intentions: a stable income, stable moods and health, relationships, supportive habits, creative flow, and a stable career. By that I mean that this year, I want to create a stable, solid foundation for my art and writing career.
Stability. Just saying it in my mind makes me feel grounded and focused, which is exactly what I need to create this in my life.
It reminds me of this quick little collage I made several years ago when I was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. All I wanted in the world was to feel grounded, strong, and secure.
I’m actually working on a small painting version of this that I’m not planning to sell, but I promise I’ll show you when I’m done. It’s funny to look back on past artwork and see “seeds” of what I’m doing now!
Best of luck in 2012.
Somehow it’s Christmas Eve already.
This has been kind of a weird Christmas season for me and my family. It’d be easy to feel sad or let down because the season hasn’t been quite as “magical” as I’d hoped in a lot of ways. I never got around to making a lot of the crafts and treats I’d planned on or watched all my Christmas movies or listen to all my favorite Christmas songs. No snow yet, so it doesn’t look like Christmas. I’m also living in a new city that holds no Christmas memories for me.
But I’m not sad. It’s Christmas, and I’m with my family. It’s ok that it’s not perfect. I’m still grateful for it and I welcome this holiday season and all and all it has to offer. Fun, weird, goofy, hodge-podge, whatever.
Peace, joy, love, and fun are unconditional.
But Christmas has a way of being magical somehow, even if we never got around to putting up Christmas lights or if there aren’t many presents under the tree.
One of my most magical Christmas memories was when I was 9 or 10. Every winter, a giant ice patch used to appear in our field. I don’t know whether Dad flooded it or if the well did it on it’s own, but that Christmas eve at sunset, I took my little brother out to slide on the ice.
The neighbors across the streets had just turned on their traditional configuration of lights, and as the sun went down, I witnessed that moment when the sky finally darkens and the lights become brighter than the last colors of the sunset. I can’t explain what happened that moment, but the air just crackled with magic.
The snow, the lights, my pink-cheeked toddler brother, and the faint echoes of Christmas music from my house filled my soul with some of the purest joy I’d ever felt. Not the kind of joy that makes you want to dance around your room laughing and giggling, but the joy that nearly brings you to your knees in sheer gratitude of being alive.
That’s the kind of joy I try to express in my art, and that’s the feeling I strive to allow into my heart each day.
I wish you a holiday full of peace and that special joy.
In a few days, we will have reached the shortest day of the year: The Winter Solstice. Until then, the days of the Northern hemisphere rapidly grow shorter and darker, and the world seems to slow down.
I too, feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I wrote about winter blues a few weeks ago, and though I’ve accepted that this is my slower, quieter time of year, it’s still difficult to deal with low moods, fatigue, and carb cravings. My body also seems to want to eat higher on the hunger scale, meaning that I start to eat when I’m less hungry and stop when I’m fuller than usual. I’ve taken on a few pounds of “winter padding”, which doesn’t really bother me because my clothes fit and I know they’ll go away in the spring.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like she’s slowing down. Creative people in particular seem to be very sensitive to the seasons and the cycles of nature. Many great creators throughout history worked seasonally. I honestly can’t remember who at the moment, but maybe that’ll be a fun post for later 🙂
A few days ago, I wrote about how I felt overwhelmed by my to-do lists, especially related to art. I was going to post two new paintings last week, but I haven’t quite finished them. I was going to create a painting about the solstice and actually have it finished by the solstice (which would take several full days of painting) but I haven’t even started it. I was going to do so many things, but I just can’t.
At first, I felt guilty. Sometimes I’m still stuck in that modern American mindset that my worth is determined by my productivity and how much I work, which is not true at all. Then I remembered that in these darkest days of the year, I need to respect my need to slow down. I can’t chug out one or two paintings a week like I did in early fall. I can’t power through a mile-long to-do list each morning before work. It’s not laziness. It’s just respecting my limits, which is an essential part of self-care.
Right now, I accept that it may take me two or even three weeks to finish a painting. I accept that what I need right now is the time to read, journal, do yoga to keep my body healthy. I need to think, prepare healthy and warming foods, and slowly work through the things I have to do. I have to go to work to pay my rent. I have to buy groceries and wash my dishes and do laundry. Sometimes, that’s the best I can do.
I’m not taking time “off”, I’m just allowing myself to move slower during these darkest days of the year. This feeling is temporary, and it’s ok. It’s ok if you need to slow down as well. The holidays are a time when most of us feel like we should be rushing around, even though it goes against our natural instincts. Do what you can to take this week slow. You’ll thank yourself later, and think how energetic and awesome you’ll feel in six months during the summer solstice!
So, today is my half-birthday.
On my actual birthday this year, I posted a list of things I’ve learned in those years, even though I’d learned most of them in the past year. 22-23 was a year of tremendous emotional struggle and growth for me. The the six months since my birthday were much less painful, I feel I learned as much as I did in that bumpy year. In six months, I’ve gone from a mass of unorganized creativity and hope running around like a dog let out of the kennel at the end of the day, to being focused and clear. Six months ago, I was just happy to be free. Now, I have direction and I’m taking steps to lay the foundation of my creative career.
I feel that’s something to celebrate.
Do you celebrate, or even acknowledge your half birthdays?
“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
It’s that time of year again. Since I was a child, I’ve had winter blues. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but I know that my moods, energy levels, appetites, and creativity are very seasonal. Even my art is seasonal.
I usually dread this time of year and pretend it isn’t happening. I curse the snowfalls, the darkness and the cold and I retreat into my little turtle shell until spring. I always pretend that this year will be different. I will eat the right foods, exercise a ton to keep my serotonin up, take all the supplements I need, somehow find the money for a light box, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Has it ever worked? Nope.
This year though, I’ve decided to stop fighting it. Call a truce. Make peace with winter. I’ve accepted that I’m entering my low-key, quiet, contemplative time of year. I need to allow myself to be slower, quieter, and to even…enjoy the change of pace.
I know I’m not the only one who feels like a slug all winter, so I wanted to share some ideas of how we can embrace this time and stay healthy.
- Do what you can to stay healthy, but don’t be militant. Simple carbs like sugar and white flour can raise serotonin levels briefly, but often leave you craving more. Get enough protein to keep your blood sugar stable. Exercise helps boost your mood, but be compassionate on the days where you really need a rest. Make it easy to stay healthy. Stock up on healthy staples and if you have a freezer, try preparing a bunch of healthy meals in advance like soups, casserole or stir-fry and crock-pot meal ingredients that you just have to open and dump into the cooking apparatus. Pick up some fun exercise videos. I’m a fan of belly dance, kundalini yoga and kickboxing videos.
- Keep warm. I’m a frugal person, but I’ve found that one of the nicest things I can do for myself during the winter is to shell out the extra money on the gas bill to keep my apartment warm and to take lots of hot baths. Also, I notice that I’m a lot more likely to exercise if I’m not freezing. Invest in an electric blanket and cute, warm clothes to layer. Get some warm exercise clothes if you plan on trying to exercise outside.
- Remove as many stressors as possible before your energy starts to sink. Do your holiday shopping early and/or online. Do a deep “Fall cleaning” so you don’t have to be as vigilant with housekeeping in the winter. Prepare Christmas cards early. Take on less responsibility if possible so you can create “white space” in your schedule, and give yourself plenty of “transition time” instead of rushing from obligation to obligation. Take care of as many nasty chores as you can before the temperature drops. For me, this means car maintenance. Blegh.
- Take advantage of sunny days. Get as much sun as you can. Decorate your home with candles and lights. The lack of light is a huge factor of winter blues. It’s no accident that many winter celebrations that take place at the darkest time of year include light as a major part of their traditions. Think Hanukah candles and Christmas lights.
- Make your home beautiful all winter. I hate taking down Christmas decorations, because then my home looks so drab and depressing after a month of lights and glittering ornaments and beautiful colors. This year after I take down my little tree, I want to put up some other beautiful winter decorations so I won’t have to look around at the newly dreary walls and feel sad after I put the Christmas décor back in the closet.
- Find things to celebrate, but don’t try to overdo it.My November Gratitude Project is a good example. Perhaps you could spend the evening of the winter solstice taking a candle lit bath, or read a special book. This gives you things to look forward to and ways to make peace with the season rather than fighting it.
- Acceptance, compassion, and gentleness. You probably won’t be the Energizer Bunny during the winter. It’s ok. There is a season for everything. I get some good thinking done in the winter. Read good books, think, write in your journal, learn to knit. This is the season for slowness. Nature takes a rest, and you can too. You will have rough days, but this is also a time to exercise patience. Spring will come. It always does.
Hope you have a wonderful 4th today, whether you’re American or not!
I’ll be back on Wednesday with an amazing guest post for the Big Scary Monster Series!
On Monday, my American readers and I will celebrate the birth and independence of our wonderful country and thereby, our freedom.
Today (or pick another day) I’d like you to celebrate your own freedom and independence.
What have you freed yourself from? What independence will you celebrate?
Bad self-talk or thoughts?
A harmful relationship?
A job that didn’t/doesn’t suit you?
Or maybe today you’ll begin a journey to seek your independence from something that doesn’t serve you. Whatever it is, acknowledge it, seek support, give yourself a hug, and pass through it. Feel your freedom and celebrate it.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!
Happy Mother’s Day! Sadly, I won’t be able to see my Mommy today, but I just wanted to publicly thank my Mom for being so amazing and always taking such good care of me. I love to make lists, I thought I’d list some things I’d love to thank her for, then I’ll call her to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and remind her to check the blog 🙂
Ready, set, go!
1-Thank you Mom, first of all for bringing 10 pound, 2 ounce me into the world. I know that wasn’t easy, but thanks a lot of doing it. Being born means a lot to me.
2-On a less ridiculous note, thank you for meticulously documenting every inch of my life in the form of scrapbooks and journals. I love reading them.
3-Thank you for always telling me I’m beautiful and amazing no matter what.
4-Thank you for teaching me to make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. I’m sure all my friends and neighbors thank you too.
5-Thanks for always listening to me and guiding me through life’s twists and turns. I couldn’t have made it this far without you!
6-Thank you for driving me all over kingdom come to music lessons, art classes and play practices.
7-Thanks for teaching me to eat healthy and exercise, but to also enjoy ice cream.
8-Thanks for sacrificing so much so you could be a stay-at-home mom for me. A lot of kids these days don’t have that, but I’m glad I did.
9-Thanks for trying to teach me to balance my checkbook and do my own tax returns. It’s not your fault that I hate doing them, but thanks for teaching me how.
10-Thank you for nineteen years of meals, laundry, a roof, and a whole teenage career of stealing your clothes and raiding your jewelry box. And thanks for still letting me.
11-For always telling me I can be whatever I want and for encouraging my creative dreams, “unrealistic” as they may be.
12-For always “getting me” when no one else seems to.
13-Most of all, thanks for always being my best friend. I love you so much Mom!
I had some really nasty dreams last night, we won’t get into that but when I have bad dreams, getting up doesn’t count. I feel like I wasted all my sleep time. It’s kind of like my cousin Dane rationalizing that “free time didn’t count because I didn’t have that much fun.” Great. I’m turning into a seven-year-old.
I finally looked at the clock at 7:40, which is a reasonable time to get up, but I just couldn’t. I don’t like sleeping past 7 or 7:30, but I don’t work today. I have nothing I have to do today (except pack and maybe decorat a Christmas jar. And put gift coupons into envelopes.)
Why did I dread getting up?
Because I felt like getting up meant I had to put in an exercise video and go for it. And I didn’t want to.
Dilemma: Allow myself to be lazy even though I know it won’t serve me, or to force myself to exercise when I don’t want to?
IE isn’t permission to pig out on churros or to be a couch potato, but quite the opposite. My body was telling me it wasn’t ready for action yet even thought it didn’t want to sleep more. Ok, I respect that.
So I got up and sat on the couch with my computer until I feel like doing something. I have that luxury courtesy of Christmas break, and I know my body well enough to know that after a little while, it will want to move, just not the second I pop out of bed.
I have the urge, and guess what I feel like doing? Walking in the snow and taking pictures of this winter wonderland. I can hardly believe it myself. I don’t like snow, I dislike cold even more and I really hate wet feet, and I’m sure to encounter all on my walk. Frozen fingers while trying to get a shot of frosted tree branches? Check. Numb face? Check. But it sounds like fun. It won’t burn calories like a 45 minute Tae-bo video, but it will make me feel good (once the numbness goes away.)
So I leave you know to put on a couple pairs of pants, a sweatshirt, wool socks and my whole hat/scarf/glove collection, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and if I don’t write before then, Merry Christmas!