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!

even if

Do it even if you think you can’t, or when you think it doesn’t matter.

(You can. And it does.)

Do it even if you’re tired.

Do it when you’re scared. Irritable. Or feeling lazy.

Do it because it helps someone else.

Do it because it feeds your soul, fills your heart, and makes you smile.

Do it even when you feel foolish or uncertain.

Do it when you’re down. (And know you will be lifted.)

Do it when the little voice inside you reminds you what’s best.

(Trust the voice.)

Do it for the common good.

Do it for the team.

Go team.

Go me.

Go whoever, today, I (or you) want to be.

all will be well

I’ve rounded some sort of corner. Life feels less sharp. Softer. There’s an understanding. An acceptance. Maybe it’s an intermission in the grief process, or a bigger appreciation for smaller things. Maybe after 69 days, I’ve come to value a life made simpler by circumstance.

I miss our family most, of course, each housed in our own versions of homestead. Apartments. Shared houses with roommates. One soon to deploy and quarantined in a barracks. We’re all working from home, hovering over screens, managing and making the best we can of a bad situation. Loving as hard as we can from a distance. Blowing kisses to a toddler by phone.

There’s projects and putterings and plantings. We work for the good of the whole, starting each day by asking what’s for dinner and ending it with a game of cribbage. We measure the minutes in between by work and the odd jobs of life at home around-the-clock. I’m writing more letters, listening to more music, and sometimes dancing in the kitchen. There’s joy. Hope. Tears. Fear. And fun too. Homemaking has new meaning.

While each day has a quality of feeling much like the day before it, I feel differently from one day to the next. I’m humbled by the rise and fall of my mood, finally coming to the realization that I can choose to look at the sky as partly cloudy or partly sunny. Of course, warmer weather and open windows help. We gather on the porch or in the yard out back at the end of the day, grateful for the greening of the world around us and the simple pleasures of bird song and chipmunks and the perfume of blooming lilacs.

Neighbors call from across the yard, and we chat with other walkers from across the street. We all feel a little friendlier, more neighborly somehow. Our door’s often unlocked these days because home is safe, and our guard only rises when we need to enter the world beyond.

Last weekend, I pulled my bike out for a ride. Coasting down a hill, I was eight again, and about as carefree as I get these days. Sun warmed my face. Happy filled my heart. All will be well.

self-talk

let not the weight of this

bend you

bow you

break you

straighten your spine

lift your head

turn your back to the wind

smile at strangers

and the mirror

wave at whom-so-ever’s in the car

passing you on the road

give

somehow, some way, each day

grow

walk new paths

learn something

create something

breathe

dream dreams

you never knew you had

be you

a new you

but you

still

life ways

We’re living new life ways.

Even as cancelled and isolated as we feel, I’m finding life’s still a daily balance. I work several hours, clean a little, exercise a bit, and find some freedom in all the confinement. We still have dates and details, things to do, order, and buy. There’s calls to make. Emails to write. Trips to cancel.

And always, always hands to wash.

There’s a new order to things, our living spaces organized by function over form. A hand weight sits alongside the remote in the family room. I’ve clustered all manner of disinfectant wipes, gels, sprays, and hand creams of every kind in the kitchen right where I can reach ’em.

(I’m a little worried about my jelly bean addiction.)

I climb three sets of stairs from my basement to the attic and back down again for a round trip total of 112 steps, and call it cardio. I moisturize after my shower and call it self-care. I add lemon to every glass of water I drink for the extra vitamin C. Each family member dries with their own personal hand towel. Today, I folded and packed away our ironing board and iron -an important fact only in its symbolism.

There’s not much of a routine yet, but there is a rhythm. A time to wake and work and sleep. And while the biggest question of the day is: What’s for dinner? When we get right down to it, no one much feels like cooking. Dinner is catch-as-catch-can most nights. Maybe it’s a lack of motivation, but I think it’s more of a world weariness that sets in by supper time.

There’s daily joys yet. I’m finding pleasure in the way sun splashes my desk. There’s happy industry to be found in the dusting of windowsills. I’ll love in the baking of my husband’s favorite shortbread cookies.

I catch myself humming the theme song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as I work, missing our granddaughter, but connecting to her in that one teeny, tiny moment.

Today, I’ve got plans. Today, I feel strong. Today, I feel like fighting back.

Today, I’m hopeful.

One hopeful day.

in the here and now

We’re adjusting.

Rearranging our days and our expectations. Sometimes we’re up and then maybe a bit down. One minute grateful and the next worried, living on either side of a tossed coin.

We make our bed in the morning. Dress for our day, just like always. The laundry’s all caught up and we plan dinner based on whatever fresh produce we don’t want to spoil. We avoid television broadcasts of news and numbers, choosing instead to rely on news we can read and official websites with information we trust. We walk outside just about daily, discovering roads in our own town we never really took the time to explore before.

Family, friends, and colleagues check in. We speculate about the economy. Trade news. Share what’s working and what’s not. Comment on our raw hands and our raw nerves too. We sigh a little sometimes. Laugh others. Collectively shake our heads in disbelief. We reassure each other and offer help however it’s needed. We’re thankful for this contact and promise to touch base again soon.

Our dining room table is repurposed as our distance classroom, he on his side and me on mine, each of us a little amazed at being able to reach and teach our students tucked away in their own homes miles away. We plan together. Strategize. Confer. Suggest. We are partners in all of the best ways in the very worst of times.

As uncertain as we are about practically everything, we’re finding comfort in each other and in the circle of shared experiences all around us. All playing fields are level, and we’re all on the team. We talk a lot about living only in the day we’re in. Tomorrow, the memory of my grandmother’s voice reminds me, will take care of itself.

All of us. In the here and now. One day at a time.