small things

A text this week from my youngest:

“I am trying to concentrate on just doing small things to take better care of my body.”

Contemplating health is not new to me. It is to him, however, and a new conversation emerged between us as a result. Health. All kinds of health. What it means to be healthy. How to be healthy.

Mind. Body. Spirit. Soul. Heart. Relationships.

His thought stayed with me all week.

And offered a new kind of hope.

Small things.

One at a time, small things build me, bit by bit, brick by brick, into a stronger person, healthier, happier in my life and relationships.

One small thing which makes me happy. One small thing which feeds my soul. One small way to move my body … fuel my body … nourish my body.

One small action to better the world, brighten a day, honor a friendship.

One small moment to breathe more deeply. To read more closely. To listen more carefully. To decide more thoughtfully. To hope more actively.

Health. Happiness. Hope.

One by one by one.

today will

Today will have its challenges. Meet them. Greet them. Walk with them. Work with them.

Today will have its feelings. Feel them.

Today will see its beauties. Frame them in memory.

Today will smile. Laugh. Or maybe cry.

Today’s forehead may wrinkle in concentration or confusion or concern.

Breathe through it all.

Today needs encouragement. Grace. And a rousing — Go get ’em!

Today works hard, loves deeply, and searches for silver linings.

Today hopes.

in transition

I’m in transition.

Vacation to home. Summer to fall. From the known and safe to the unknown and uncertain.

In the space between here and there, I am in charge of the transition. What’s just ahead may be impossible for me to predict and somewhat out of my control, but I can choose how I travel there: smooth and intentionally or abrupt and jarring.

What have I learned on this side of the transition that I can take with me to the other side? What mementos of me will I leave behind – evidence I was here – parts and pieces, ways of being which no longer serve me? What souvenirs must I pack? What memories will I carefully tape into my scrapbook? What stories will I tell to those who were not here? Later, what photographs will I find of moments I no longer clearly remember?

There’s parallel living between the understanding and acceptance of what was … and anticipation of what will be and what’s to come. Who I’ll meet. Where I’ll go. What I’ll see. How I’ll feel.

But aren’t we really always transitioning? One day to the next. Work week to weekend. Year to year. Yesterday to today to tomorrow. What we get isn’t always what we expect. After all, any forecast is circumstantial and sometimes unreliable.

This is a time just before and just after.

Time gently tugs me toward tomorrow when I’m not ready to let go of yesterday and I’m still living today. It’s hard not to feel a little sad, a little wistful, with a few regrets tucked into my pocket. Wish I hads. Should’ve dones.

But.

Gratitude also straddles this space between here and there. Pride too. Hope and history, both. A place of pause. Breath-catching. Nerve-steadying. One last look back before taking a step forward.

In transition and thankful.

verbs of doing

I set about writing my to-do list early this morning. Limited by the small scrap of paper, I decided to keep it simple and without much detail.

It’s still summer, after all.

What evolved was a lean list of tasks, a single word each, using only verbs.

Verbs of doing. Action words all.

So succinct. So fun! Because when it got right down to the doing, I sometimes had to think a minute. Empty? Oh … the dishwasher.

And let me tell you … the doing got done!

Here’s today’s to-dos:

polish

fold

wash

pack

chop

play

move

delete

search

walk

lift

empty

feed

shop

read

write

love

hope

pray

What are you doing today?

self-soothing

I felt my way through a few sad days this week. Nothing (and everything) in particular. Just a little sad. My mood rises and falls, just about as unpredictable as everything else in the world. I’m heartsick. World-weary. Agitated. Snippy. Almost always a little anxious. And tired. So tired.

It’s hard to find hope or comfort, and I know I’m not alone. We’re all a little inconsolable.

I n c o n s o l a b l e (adjective) unable to find solace in a time of distress

Perhaps, like an infant learning to sleep through the night, I need to learn to self-soothe. Self-calm. Self-comfort. Find my own version of solace in these times of distress.

A quick search of self-soothing methods for infants reminded me of soothing my own babies who, from time to time, were inconsolable too. Turns out keeping a babe at rest is not much different from consoling an agitated and worried adult.

Here’s an adult spin on self-soothing techniques for babies:

Anticipate needs. Avoid the toos. Too hungry. Too thirsty. Too tense. Too worried. Too tired. Overthinking too much, too often. So nap. Stay hydrated. Sit still and breathe deeply. Or walk and breathe deeply. Eat well. Rest. Daydream. Pray.

Find a routine. Nothing feels regular or routine right about now, so it’s up to me to set my own structure. Start small. Aim to wake up and settle down at the same time. Rough out a schedule for the day. Time for this and that. Look for openings and plan how to enjoy them. Create. Read. Exercise. Journal. Bake. Tuck in some quiet time. Wash the clothes on Wednesday and change the sheets on Sunday. I think a good part of self-soothing is finding something I can count on without needing to think too much. Old stand-bys and rituals. Habits.

Focus on the environment. Clean and tidy. Organize. Reduce clutter. Find a place for what I need when I need it. Breathing room. White space. Air. Pluck some roadside wildflowers for a windowsill or bedside bouquet. Make the bed. Do the dishes. (You know you hate waking up to a mess in the kitchen.) Simplify.

Find some security. What can I control? Who’s on my team … in my circle … can be counted on? Where do I feel safe? At ease? Comfortable? When do I feel most calm? What’s going well? Where am I finding success? And especially — What am I grateful for?

Finally … a little lullaby soothes me to sleep:

Breathe peace. Feel peace. Be peace.

a collection of pleasures

A lot of my life’s details are currently unresolved. There’s no clear forecast to be found, and I feel uncertain about almost everything. Like just about everyone else I know. It’s an unsettling way to live day after day after day.

So this morning, I went looking for the known, the constant, the beautiful, and the joyful. It’s a gratitude list yes, but more a gathering of what makes me happy, where I find pleasure … where my day-to-day satisfaction can be found in the midst of all the world-weariness, anxiety, and uncertainty.

In no particular order . . . here are some joys I can count on . . .

. . . washing my face . . . a stack of clean, white plates . . . folding laundry . . . old, wooden spoons and rolling pins . . . the sudden, hot flash of a red cardinal . . . soapy sink water . . . the heft of a camera in my hands . . . the smell of ink . . . learning something new . . . early morning light . . . making the bed . . . a new notebook . . . tenacity . . . chopping vegetables . . . an uninterrupted night’s sleep . . . dogs . . .a toddler’s pout . . . clean sheets . . . unexpected laughter . . . the scuff of slippers across hardwood floors . . . nested mixing bowls . . . bossy bluejays at the suet feeder . . . the annual parade of flowers from the first of the crocus to the last of the mums . . . a new book . . . neighbors chatting on the porch . . . making our own fudgesicles . . . a breeze billowing summer sheer curtains . . . the perfect backhand . . . persistence . . . kicking acorns and hickory nuts down a country road . . . a tidy desk . . . feeding my family . . . the first sip of morning coffee . . . clean kitchen counters . . .the smell of hose water . . . sleeping with the windows open . . . the call of an owl . . . sun on my face . . . knowing someone far away is safe for another day . . . the ocean

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

What’s in your collection?

bread

I’ve been baking bread. Loaves. Buns. Rolls. Sourdough mostly. And after many failed attempts.

I am my most patient self while baking bread. I am most patient with myself while baking bread. I allow myself the time. The learning. I forgive failures and put aside worries. The bread won’t be rushed. And neither will I.

There is only the bread. The starter. The flour. The salt. The yeast. Maybe a bit of honey. A pat of butter. Simple ingredients, pleasing to my senses. The combination comes to a kind of miracle. The task offers me some sort of purpose. Satisfaction. A notion I’m doing good work…Is wholesome the word I’m looking for?

Each step, its own place, its own part in the process, a piece of my peace. Of my pleasure. A moving meditation. I am quieted for a time – inside and out. The measuring and mixing. The kneading (needing.) Rising. Waiting. Shaping. Rising. Waiting. Baking. Browning. Smelling. By and by … we break bread and eat. A small blessing.

I clean up. Set the kitchen to rights. Hot water from the tap. Soap and soak bowls and tools. Brush flour from the big, wooden work board – taking care not to dust the floor.

I didn’t know I needed bread making. I did not know my hands needed a simple and satisfying task. I did not know my heart needed another way to love.

(Dedicated to Stephanie)

possibility

Possibility is hope with options. It’s every choice and every open decision from how I will cut my hair this week to what’s for dinner tonight. From what to read to how and who to help. From how I spend my time to where my resources will go.

An optimistic sister of imagination, possibility possesses the ability to envision the rainbow stretched across the sky during the storm. It’s the best of all outcomes, the silver lining, and the cart before the horse.

While worry wrestles for control, possibility sees potential. It anticipates the best of what could be, might be, may be. It’s a mind wide open and ready to imagine, to dream, to wander streets seeking only what’s found at the end of them.

As a child, possibility hinged on which way an adult door would swing. There was excitement in the anticipation of and in the last few seconds before knowing. Can I stay up 10 more minutes? Will we stop for ice cream?

For me, with opportunities for summer employment cancelled, an empty-ish nest, and relaxed responsibilities, possibility need not be any less thrilling as an adult. And while we’re as cautious as ever about venturing out into the world outside our own four walls, there’s possibility in the every day. And even more in the some day.

The only expectations I must meet are my own. And while my tendency is almost always toward lofty, this summer I’m reaching for concrete action and possibilities easier to grasp, measure, and attain.

I am learning. And I’m learning every day about the privilege which affords me all the many possibilities in my life.

From professional to political and social justice to self-awareness, there’s humility in the understanding how very much I do not know or need to relearn. So much to think about. So many questions to ask and answer.

Beyond the horizon of this pandemic, there’s hope. Purpose. Progress.

And a whole lot of possibility.

a certain sort of saturday

Saturday mornings are my favorite. But the first Saturday morning of school’s summer vacation needs be savored, spent, and even squandered in any way I’d like. It’s a hard-earned kind of Saturday. A deep breath exhaled kind of Saturday. Maybe even an ice cream for breakfast kind of Saturday.

An ordinary Saturday feels relief. A week’s worth of pressures put aside for at least 24 hours, and I feel free. But the first summer Saturday? Especially this year’s first summer Saturday? My body – held taut for ten months, and anxiously tense for the past three – already softens just a bit. I’m giddy. Maybe delirious. Full of ideas, I-can’t- wait-tos, and do-ya-wannas. And ready – so ready – for no plans at all.

My mind, however, remains full, busy, and a little scattered. All those students. Their hearts, still near. Their efforts, remembered. It’s a reflecting sort of time, these first days of summer. Wistful. Nostalgic. Contemplative.

And here’s a little secret only teachers know: thinking, dreaming, and mentally readying – for next year – began about a month ago.

Still, today’s Saturday. The first Saturday of summer vacation. And I’m raising my ice cream scoop in celebration.

Cheers!