I felt layers and levels of sadness I wasn’t prepared for nor able to fully express. As much as Friday was about moment-by-moment change, shock, and disbelief, yesterday was about grief – a mourning for life as I knew it and uncertainty about what kind of lives we’ll all have going forward.
My phone was never far from my hand which perhaps was part of the problem. There’s too much to know, too many affected in ways I cannot yet even fathom, too little comfort, too many opinions to sift through, and too much anxiety. Yesterday, I think, was my peak. At least for now.
Because today, my blue period is over. Today I feel hopeful.
I’m finding ways to be active and interactive. Connecting with family. Friends who check in to see if we’re okay. There’s a better balance between being entertained and informed. Walking. Talking. Texting. And, of course, shopping. Preparing as best I can for who-knows-what.
We return to school tomorrow to plan distance learning for our students, so I’m already listing, searching, thinking, strategizing, and imagining what side helpings of comfort and normalcy I can offer them in addition to the education I’m hoping to provide from afar.
I know I am needed.
Whatever else, this little blog of mine is a place to sort it all out and write it all down. To reflect. Remember. Share. Be. Help. Hope.
Hope almost never visits in the middle of the night. Worries and what-ifs toss my sleep and anxiety turns my pillow. This son. That friend. Events to come. Bills I’ve yet to pay. All of life’s little ins and outs become roadblocks and detours. Daytime lists become nighttime litanies, and I’m more apt to judge my own book under the cover of darkness.
A hope mantra for the middle of night:
Tomorrow, I will begin again.
If I’ve wronged, I will ask for forgiveness.
If I feel lost, I will ask for directions.
If I feel alone, I will seek relationship.
What’s undone, will be achieved. One task at a time.
If the list is long, I will comfort and congratulate myself in the almosts and not-quite-yets.
If I’m tired and overwhelmed, I will rest.
There is possibility in try-again-tomorrows. Hope to be found softly dormant and waiting for daylight. Breathe. Release. Breathe. Release.
Did you know spring arrives earlier than usual this year?
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the spring equinox falls on March 19th – earlier than it’s been in over a century! For those of us counting – and here in the northeast, we are many – that’s only 18 days away! Not only that, but we’ll turn the clocks ahead an hour only seven days from today as we spring forward into Daylight Saving Time.
For me, there’s no hope quite like spring hope!
Here’s a few fun ways to enjoy, celebrate, and spend your days in positive ways while you await spring’s arrival:
Keep a spring flower journal … The arrival of spring flowers is a beautiful progression of blooms to watch and document. I know just where the daffodils bloom next to the foundation at church and spotted a few green shoots this morning. I can’t wait for the forsythia and lilacs to bloom out back, and every year I spend lots of time photographing the neighbor’s iris. Journal your way to spring by keeping a written record, watercolor paintings, sketches, or photographs.
Keep a birding notebook … In our part of New England, Canada geese are making their way northward. Bird calls are increasing by the day, and I’m ready to research just who’s heralding spring around here. It’s time to learn how to match the call to the bird … a new project for me!
Visit a sugar house … with the warmer daytime temperatures and still cold evening temperatures, the sap’s been running well here in New Hampshire. There are over 350 maple producers in New Hampshire and you can learn about them here. The 25th annual NH Maple Weekend is scheduled for March 21 – 22 with open sugar houses across the state. Visit the Vermont Sugar Makers’ Association here. If you aren’t able to visit in person, visit either of these sites to order syrup or mix up some maple sweetness in your kitchen with a variety of yummy recipes!
Bake hot cross buns … a spiced sweet bun with dried fruit and marked with a cross on the top, hot cross buns are a Christian Lenten tradition. I wrote about baking them here and used this recipe, substituting dried cranberries for raisin or currents.
Plan your summer garden … no matter the dimensions of your yard or size of your containers, the Old Farmer’s Almanac can help you plan what to grow in it. You can explore their free garden planning trial by clicking here. Hope springs eternal in a growing garden, and you’ll harvest a bunch of health benefits too!
March for Babies … According to the March of Dimes, two babies die every hour in the United States and one woman dies every 12 hours from pregnancy complications. Register here to March for Babies and find a local spring march for healthy moms and their babies.
As of yesterday, I am one quarter of the way through the 100 Day Project.
Originating in 2010, the 100 Day Project originated with Yale University Art Professor, Michael Bierut, as a graduate level graphic design project. You can read about it and see some of his favorite projects here. His instructions were fairly open: choose a creative operation you can repeat in some form or fashion for 100 days.
Elle Luna, artist and author of The Crossroads of Should and Must, brought the project to Instagram in 2014, where its continued since. You can start any day you’d like, of course, but the next “official” start date is on April 7th. You can read about the project here.
My own project is wide-open, if not a little vague: 100 Days of Photography.
So what have I learned 25 days in?
I have more time than I think I have. This project is about making photography a priority in my life, and as my husband often says, “We make time for what’s important to us.” Haven’t missed a day yet.
I’m learning to look at the ordinary as an opportunity. Today I photographed a rack of cookies cooling on the counter. Last week, I played around with shooting candlelight on our dining room table. There’s art and inspiration in everyday living. Looking around to find a photograph each and every day helps me see it.
An iPhone can take some extraordinary photographs. Wow.
The process of photography: composition, lighting, angle, post-production is becoming more intuitive. I’m learning to trust my eye and I’m growing in confidence.
Winter feels like a tough time for this project. Weather and lack of daylight make this a little more challenging, but by no means impossible. I hunger for color and often look to the sky for relief from the white and grey.
For me, the 100 Day Project is less about improving my skill as a photographer and more about devoting time to my passion. This is my second go-round with this project and I’m twice as committed as I was the first time. Sure, there was that quick shot of the Hershey’s kisses in the candy jar for Valentine’s Day, but there’s also the day I tried to capture rolling ocean waves in the extreme cold. I’m learning to be flexible. I’m learning to show up for myself – at least for a minute or two – every day.
I spend almost all day Monday through Friday making decisions. For myself, yes, but mostly for other people. It’s part of my job. I’m granted a lot of freedom. Choices. And the autonomy to make them. All of which I’m very grateful for.
But sometimes tired too. By the time the end of the work day or the weekend rolls along, it’s a challenge to make even one more decision. I’m decision weary.
Should I stay late or go in early? Home or gym? Cook or order in? News or Netflix? More often than I care to admit, my book gathers dust on my bedside table while I choose to scroll Instagram. A choice and decision I almost always regret.
Maybe my want-tos are all tangled up with my should-dos. Too many choices can overwhelm. And often there’s others to consider. What would he want? What choice would they make?
Sometimes decisions are mutually exclusive, and I want them both. Or both choices are necessary and pressing so I need them both. Sometimes I simply can’t make up my mind.
I want this and that. When and where is there room for both? For both and instead of either or?
I think the answer is: as often as possible.
More often than not these days, I’m compromising between wants and needs, work and play, and all of the shoulds, musts, and coulds. It’s thoughtful decision making at the end of the day. Tired or not, it’s finding room for a little bit of this and that.
The passage of time is predictable, of course, as are most of the ways I use my allotment. There’s a rhythm to my schedule and a routine. Some days, you’ll hear me complain about how little time I have. A common theme. It’s difficult to finagle a few minutes to do what I love, to be the friend I want to be, or finally get around to what I’ve been meaning to get done for weeks.
Come to find out: the time’s been there all along. I just needed to find it.
This week, I found time to:
walk with a friend
chat with my sister
photograph an amazing sunrise
sit in a bit of solitude
pack healthy lunches
listen (closely and carefully and completely)
run an unplanned errand (without stress)
moisturize my skin (not once, but twice)
enjoy a meaningful conversation – unhurried
soak in a hot bath
read – right there at my desk – in the middle of the day
And full. Purposeful. Mindful. Meaningful. Grateful.
I’ve felt powerful: building my physical strength and stamina. Resourceful: planning relevant experiences for my students. Sorrowful: remembering the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. And, of course, hopeful: beginning each and every day this month filling the pages of my journal with gratitude, guidance, goals, and hope for grace.
I’ve lived faithfully: honoring my commitment to #the100dayproject with at least a photograph a day – – showing up at the gym more days in January than not – – devoting time and effort to my health, diet, and overall well being.
There’s been wistful days, joyful days, and stressful days. More ups than downs, thankfully. A few trips and falls, painfully. Many new insights, realizations, and emotional turn-abouts, helpfully.
In other words, life’s been plentiful. And I’m taking one more deep, full breath of January and the fresh, clean air of a new year.
I think it’s true: the more you write, the more you write.
Writer’s write. It’s habit. It’s pen in hand. Laptop open. It’s simply showing up. The words, I’m discovering, will take care of themselves. It’s work, of course. Equal parts determination and devotion. Sometimes, delight. But mostly, it’s a decision.
So, I write.
I’ve been writing every morning. Journaling mostly. Lists. Notes. Phrases. Quotes. Ideas. Seeds.
As a child naturally seeks boundaries in order to feel safe enough to grow beyond them, so does the structure of my morning page first fence me in and then free me to roam beyond.
Ideas arrive, much to my surprise. Pages fill. I think bookish thoughts.
My notebook travels everywhere I do. Sometimes the words arrive in the spaces between. The space between leaving for work and arriving. There’s space too, after writing what I want to say in which I sometimes discover what I need to say.
I am not the sum of my words, but the subtraction of them. I take away what I mean to say from the entirety of what I wrote, so what’s left is what’s necessary, real, and true. Somewhere in all those words is my tiny moment of knowing.
And sometimes, simply sitting with stillness and silence feels just right. There’s faith the words will come, because the habit of writing proves this to be true.
After a rough walk-around count, we’ve just about 70 hide-aways in our home. Places where we tuck away the often used, useful, and very nearly used-up. Out of sight and out of mind, these drawers, doors, cupboards, and closets stash our stuff: the flotsam and jetsam, the random, and miscellaneous.
And December seems like as good a time as any to poke my head into each and every nook or cranny to take stock of what we’ve collected. I can knock off a quick drawer or two or even three each day of the month so come January the first – we’ve whittled away the unnecessary and organized whatever’s left. Closets and cupboards take longer, of course, but totally do-able in this long season of indoors.
Refrigerator door shelves need an annual purge of expired dressings, marinades, and forgotten vegetable stock. Medicine shelves need review too. Socks need sorting. Supplies need updating. In the process, the forgotten will be found and the accumulated reduced to the required.
Odds and ends. Bits and bobs. Remnants and paraphernalia. Pieces of our shared lives stored here, there, and often forgotten altogether. Each room, each drawer, closet, and cupboard with its own purpose, stuff, and substance. I’ll be going day by day, room by room, drawer by drawer, and item by item. A fun little focus for a dark, cold month.