ten days of waking up with a dog

By saying “I am not a dog person” doesn’t mean that I don’t like dogs any more than saying “I am an introvert” means that I don’t like people. It’s all about what drains my batteries and what recharges them.

Historically, dogs and certain breeds of humans have depleted my energy so much more quickly than say, cats, being alone or reading a books in solitude.

Recently, I had a chance to reconsider my position on the detailed story of “me, my and mine” up close and personal-like when Oz, my less-than-year-old grandpuppy, came to stay for ten days while my son travelled.

 

What I learned in 10 days:

I still have preferences.
I like to sleep in, a bit, especially on my summer holidays. And I like to wake up naturally, not to whining about having to go pee. I also like my furniture and yoga mat to be free of fur and drool accents. I like to eat at least one meal a day that doesn’t include taking the pup out for a ‘stoop and scoop’ session in the middle of it. I like to do yoga without a doe-eyed dog with a ball in his mouth begging for me to play with him. I like to walk down the street and not have to have a conversation with every single person I pass, especially those with their own dogs in tow.

I am still possessive.
I heard myself repeating the phrase “No, that’s mine” every time Oz picked up something that wasn’t one of his chew toys. He had them and I wanted them back. My sofa pillows. My kleenex. My sleeves. My fingers. My blankets. My yoga props.  My chair.  My energy levels.  My moment of silence.  My solitude.

 

I still over-effort.
I felt a serious pull to do this puppy-sitting “right”. I found it challenging to leave the little puppers on his own to go off and do my own thing. Suddenly, I was a new mother again who was resistant to leaving my toddlers with a baby-sitter. The responsibility for the job was mine and I intended to take it seriously. The encouragement from others to see Oz as just a dog fell on deaf ears. All I could see what neglect, if I left him alone and whining for attention.

 

I am still a cat person.
Only minutes after Oz had gone home, I missed him terribly. The house had one less heartbeat in it. The cuteness factor was now non-existent! But I know that the energy required to have a dog full-time is beyond my ability to sustain in the long-term. I had a cat for 16 years once and my energy levels were much more compatible with her self-sufficient, introverted nature. Another preference.

 

I am still learning.
As a highly sensitive person who still clings strongly to what is “mine”, I was stretched during Oz’s visit. Stretched to let go of the concrete story about who I am and what is mine. Me, my and mine are only constructs of my own creation. I noticed very quickly when I reacted instead of responded. I noticed when I resented having to give energy rather than preserve it.

I noticed that the only issues that were raised about Oz were in my own mind. Problems of my own creation like having unreasonable expectations.  Oz became the wall I ran into to continue learning about my patterns and preferences.

 

Interestingly enough, I noticed how Oz seemed to be the polar opposite of me when he:

  • was always energized by any interaction, he always had energy for me!
  • gave affection and attention so easily
  • made 98% of the people we encountered on our daily walks, smile
  • would be affectionate with me only seconds after I reprimanded him for digging a hole in my backyard
  • would play tug of war with his toys but not with intent of claiming it as his own, but rather as a way to interact with me
  • didn’t complain once because I did things differently than the way it was usually done for him

I may not be a dog person but I am definitely now an Oz person!

medication / meditation

 

Medication?

The casual statement over dinner was not tossed into the centre of the table as a controversial conversation starter. To the one saying the words, it was a matter of fact and as practical as leftovers.

“There’s no way we are meant make it through this life without self-medicating.”

Resistance bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me.

Wait! That can’t be right. Can it?

And what does she mean by ‘self-medicating”? Does she think, like me, that self-medicating refers to anything that significantly distracts or numbs us to the way things really are? To take the edge off? To help us avoid dealing with the hard emotions and thoughts?

But should we not be able to make it through a day without having to numb ourselves to reality? I pondered this question as I filled my wine glass yet again. Yup.

How do I personally avoid feeling the discomfort of stressful challenges?

I over-plan. It borders on an addiction. Stress can’t get to me if I map out each day with detours around all the potential potholes. Seems reasonable to me except for the hangover-type reactions I have to predicting a smooth route during construction season.

 

Meditation?

But then, another day and another conversation with someone else resulted in my companion responding to the knowledge that I regularly facilitate “Meditation for Resilient Living” sessions with his own unique take on things.

“So you teach people how to sleep, then!”

Meditation as self-medication?

While sleeping is a common form of self-medication, what an interesting suggestion that a regular practice of sitting meditation could actually be a way to avoid feeling the discomfort of the bumps in the road.

Meditating in a seated position where the bones can be stacked on top of each other and your spine can be long helps with the desire to doze off during a sit but the real work is with sitting with whatever comes up.

 

Anything and Everything

Instead of avoiding the not-so-fun stuff, sitting is a chance to notice it, feel it, even get royally ticked off that you have to feel something uncomfortable but not have to do anything about it or to fix it.

So done with intention, clear instructions and lots and lots of practice, meditation is the opposite of self-medicating. There is no need for numbing, distracting or avoiding. It is all acceptable.

 

Now what?

Now what about my attachment to over-planning?  Self-medication?  Probably a proactive kind.  A preemptive attack on stress!

I think that some people are born planners. We are the same people who have not-so-hidden addictions to office supplies especially the ones that assist in keeping us organized. I’m thinking of starting a support group.

As a work in progress, I’ve decided to continue planning because, it reduces my overall stress levels and supports me tremendously in my life’s work.

But, the real work will be in letting go of my aversion to potholes and bumps in the road. I’m going to attempt to be aware of when I reach for my favourite self-medicating organizational tools and ask myself:

What am I avoiding feeling?

If I allowed myself to feel it, what would happen?

porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step one is good for now.  I’ll keep you posted on the support group, though.

 

behind the drama curtain

 

The pace was summer slow on this particular day when my sister and I wandered through the grocery store near her home.

nature's bounty

 

Once we agreed that we had all we came for, my sister indicated that she was going to go through the self-check lane with her items. Without even taking a breath, I scrunched up my nose and told her that I was going to go through the express lane where a tired-looking cashier was distractedly checking out a customer in front of me. “The self-check option is too stressful”. My sister lifted her eyebrows, twisted her face incredulously at me and said,

Seriously! How do you make it through the day?”

I am peculiarly sensitive to stress and work hard to avoid it even though I absolutely know that some stress is completely natural and even beneficial for me.

But what was interesting to me was how reactionary I was to this insignificant event and so unaware of the process behind the scenes.  It led me to consider how indicative my quick and unprocessed reaction was of how I handle more compelling situations that hold more meaning.

In this case, I had a whole story-line worked out behind the curtain of my mini-drama. The story starts with how hard my life had been recently, as all my stories do.

When I eventually stopped, took a breath and looked deeper, I discovered a voice behind the choice. The voice informed me that I was burned out from work, that I had had a tiring drive through too much traffic and construction, that I was in an unfamiliar grocery store and that a negative self-check incident from my past would forever be repeated so it was best to just avoid it for the rest of my life.

All of that silent and not-nearly rational chaos came out in a clear declaration from me that I was making a conscious decision about a simple check-out lane.  This minor incident is neither here nor there but what happens during more serious events and difficult situations?

What beliefs lie behind the big and small choices we make? What beliefs inform each of our thoughts, words, emotions and actions? And how do those unexamined beliefs lead to further complications in our lives, if left unexamined?

What is really happening behind these common experiences?

  • Numbness
  • Bravado
  • Resistance
  • Self-sabotage
  • Chronic irritability
  • Temper flares ups
  • Irrational fears and phobia
  • Physical symptoms
  • Stuck in a rut
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Panic

Thoughts, words, emotions and actions that stem from the above are like your car’s indicator lights. The lights come on to get our attention and to let us know that there is a deeper issue to be addressed. Ignoring the indicator lights or focusing only on them are not useful, long-term solutions. The light remains lit and keeps blinking while the underlying problem continues, undiagnosed and untreated. The logical solution is to lift the hood, shine a light on the inside and put what you find in there to the test.

Once we examine the beliefs behind the choices we make, we can be more certain that we are living consciously, with more awareness and a greater level of resilience to life’s stresses.

On Sunday, August 10th, I’ll be facilitating a Building Personal Resilience workshop at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener, Ontario to explore how the beliefs behind your drama curtain may be impacting your life choices and experiences . You will leave with practical strategies that you can implement even before you leave the workshop.  Join me, if you can!

the beauty of berries

 

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the right tool for the job

 

I have a quirky trait of stubbornly “making do” when faced with a task requiring a specific tool. My resistance rises with even the thought of purchasing a tool when I think that I may have an object that was made for a different purpose but will do in a pinch within arms reach. This approach has always seemed simpler, more practical and oh-so-much-more efficient than the alternative of the time-guzzling acts of browsing, shopping, listing pros and cons of which one is the best to buy, spending money on then cleaning, storing and organizing all the tools until the end of time! Doth she protest too much? Methinks so.

 

Beyond my issues with the traumas of shopping, and my still firm desire to just get the job done effectively and efficiently, I am growing in my appreciation for the wisdom of using the right tool for the job.

Despite our love affair with our minds and the wonders they perform, when it comes to emotions and moods, the mind and its incredible ability to problem-solve external situations is precisely the wrong tool for this type of internal work.

Emotions are not problems to be solved. They exist to be felt. Why then do we feel the need to enlist our minds into action, to swoop in heroically and solve our problem of unhappiness, disappointment, fear, anxiety, anger or depression? The answer is because we don’t like to feel uncomfortable and will numb ourselves to these signpost emotions that we’re off our path.

Instead of feeling the emotions, we question why life is hard for us but so easy for everyone else. We wonder why we can’t seem to just get over our hurt and resentment quickly. We speculate on what we did to deserve the pain. And we ruminate on the darkness of our lives thereby increasing the gap from where we are to where we think we want to be.

Trying to “solve” emotional issues through thinking is like digging the trench deeper. The deeper we dig the trench, the more accustomed we become living in a trench and it then becomes a future platform for the unproductive process of thinking through our feelings.

There is a way out of the self-built trench that may include professional intervention but could also be supported by:

  • Taking our minds off the pedestals
  • Remaining keenly aware of our mind’s desire to be in charge
  • Developing a practice of sitting with overwhelming emotions
  • Noticing when our mind tries to hijack the process

Our minds have their place but our vulnerable yet resilient inner workings deserve the use of the right tool for the job.

Thoughts?

 

 

 

made you look

 

What do you see when you’re not looking?

I was recently driving by a large group of high-school students who were milling about and what cut through the uniformity of the bravado in baggy jeans was a young couple, in the midst of the crowd, motionlessly embracing each other.  There was absolutely nothing unique about them so why did they become the focal point?   It may be reasonable to assume that my attention might have also as easily rested on two people engaging in a fist-fight.  Or a solitary individual sitting alone just outside the hub of the group.  Something different.

 

But I still wondered why that particular snapshot of life grabbed my attention which led me to wonder what other things draw me in.

What grabs your attention in the sea of competing images?

Or what has the power to pull your attention from the backdrop of the ordinary?  A sudden noise, bright colour, shiny object, unexpected movement or something incongruous and obviously out-of-place?

And what is it that gets your adrenaline flowing and the nervous system ramped up to buzzing or even just something that tugs the emotions up closer to the surface?

Is it the unexpected eruption of raucous laughter?  Seeing a police car behind you even when you’re driving within the speed limit.  Or an accident on the side of the road.  Is it the unabashed display of emotion at an airport arrival gate?

If we know that these unique interruptions in the monotone daily pattern draws our attention, is there a chance that we use this same technique to get attention from others?

Do we proclaim loudly that we absolutely don’t want any attention but then still send up brightly-coloured smoke signals to be noticed?  Perhaps we stand out in the crowd with:

  •  the flash of over-achieving competence?    
  • the discordant noise of barely-adaptive dysfunction?

 

 

The bigger question is why do we want that attention?

To answer that question, we may need to sit with the following two questions:

 

Who makes you look?

What do you do to make others look?

 

 

death date not cut

 

I discovered the death date not cut phrase on a web site that acts as an online roll call of the sleepy inhabitants of a small country cemetery near the town where I was born.

And in fact, this bracketed set of words sits ominously next to the name of my 101 year-old grandmother who has not yet shuffled off this mortal coil and who still eats, yawns, argues and wonders what it is all about.

And, on this master list, her name sits under the name of her husband, my grandfather, who took up permanent residence in that cemetery more than 30 years ago when his Parkinson’s made the move necessary.

So, with her name and birth date already etched in, her unfinished headstone awaits the day when all her eating, yawning, arguing and wondering are done.  But that day is still unknown. For her and for us.

Our death date has not yet been cut either.  Until it is, how will we attend to our doing and non-doing? Sleeping and waking? Noticing, acknowledging and self-medicating? Reacting and responding? Loving and living from fear? Choosing and accepting?

How will we live while the engraver naps?

 

 

 

why i sit

I sit.

Intentionally.

In silence.

(4/365) concentration, meditation, contemplationIt is certainly not because I’m a calm, balanced person who lives devoutly among the pure and the pious. Nor it is because I exude self-discipline. Far from it. Sitting started out simply as my way to overcome the overwhelm, to quell the tsunami of thoughts and lower my oft-rampant heart rate for a sense of overall well-being. It was basically a physical solution to a spiritual problem.  But that has transformed into something more akin to falling down the rabbit hole where the experience has become curiouser and curiouser. While I still get the physical benefits of habitual stillness, my sitting has become a time when I explore previously unknown landscapes and meet the oddest characters who mostly exist inside my own head.

Body-Speak

I sit to notice my body.

Physically, the act of sitting provides an experience of grounding and being firmly rooted to one spot.  From here, there is room to build capacity to get out of my head and notice my bodily sensations. It may be a subtle sensation of discomfort especially if I’m sitting for an extended period of time, or perhaps tightness in one shoulder, a stiffness in a joint or a blunt lack of sensation in one area. During a typical day of non-stop mental information tennis, this quiet time of softens the mind-noise enough to allow me to be keenly aware of my body’s innate wisdom.

Feeling-Talk

I sit to feel the feelings.

The feelings could be connected to my body’s messages or they could be left-over feelings that had never been given permission to be expressed.  Isn’t that the point of feelings? To be felt?  Not all the feelings that come up are easy so I sit with whatever comes up and resist the urge to label the feelings “good” or “bad”. I notice the feelings then give into the fullness of their expression. A gratitude, a sorrow, a desire or even a dark numbness are acknowledged.  The practice is to hold both difficult feelings and the sense of ease and grounded-ness that sitting provides as a balancing act of surrender and release.

Story-Time

I sit to listen to the stories.

I love a good story.  I’m a stubborn idealist with an imaginative flair for dramatic detail so talk about walking the smooth path to self-delusion.  I can rant, rage and rationalize with the best of them.  But I have found that there is absolutely no light at the end of that alliteration tunnel. The mind-stories where I repeatedly have a starring role are fun for a creative outlet but definitely not so useful for living life on purpose and wide awake. Sitting often enough helps me to recognize the stories penned in fear and dread, to unravel the foggy plot-lines from the intricate web of physical sensations, emotions and to recognize the way things actually are.  That is the work. Unremarkable, hard work.

Work that frees.  Releases.  Softens.

And work that begins with sitting.

Just sitting.

Meditation Rock 2

a mindful student’s guide to stress relief

 

Mid-term mania is sweeping through high school hallways like a mid-autumn tropical storm.

Research shows that the adolescent brain is not quite done ‘baking’ yet and is very much still in the developmental stage, so teens cope with stress much differently than adults.  Add an over-commitment to activities in and out of the classroom, teacher and parental expectations for consistently self-regulated behaviour and the increasing pressure on teens to figure out their future plans and you’ve got the makings of the perfect storm.

Fear not, oh overwhelmed adolescent!   Not only does it get better as you get older, there are strategies that can help you weather the high winds and choppy seas of high school life.

 

student_in_tilburg_centrum_mei_2008_cc

 

NAME IT

Name what is actually happening.  Don’t rationalize, blame or give the power to change your situation over to anyone else.  Stand up.  It’s your choice.

Right now, I choose to procrastinate. Instead of taking even a tiny step forward, I am distracting myself from the discomfort of having too much to do with other things like friends, electronics, music or just zoning out to temporarily help me create the illusion that I have nothing to do.  I choose a temporary fix over a long-term solution.

My expectations are much higher than is reasonable and is rooted in my need to please everyone, to be accepted and to prove my worth to those around me. I choose to keep thinking in this concrete way even though I know, at some level, my value is not connected to how well I perform.

I am attached to this heightened level of panic because it is what I know and I am only  comfortable when there is some drama and chaos.  Plus, it also gives me an excuse as to why my performance and achievement is well below my capability.   

Naming it may not be pretty.  But it is potent and is always your choice.  By taking responsibility for what is really happening and not blaming others, you will become free and more empowered.  Since you are responsible then you can not be a victim to an external source.  Taking responsibility give you all the power to change things and make a difference.

 


NUMBER IT

On a scale of 1-10, rate your current stress level.  We all know a little stress is okay and, for the most part, manageable. But how much is too much?

Level 10 would be the hyperventilating, off-the-charts panic mode when the sound of your heart beating wildly in your ears drowns out all other noises.  Overwhelming anxiety, irrational fears and phobias showing up, and being mentally frozen or unable to act could be possible signs of this level of stress.  Save Level 10 when your life is danger.  In my experience, no one has died writing or even failing a math test.

Level 7 is not a bad place to be during times of evaluation like tests, exams or a performance of some kind but it is definitely not a desirable place to live, work and play every day.  Staying at this level consistently could easily lead to emotional, mental and physical dis-ease.  You need to go lower.

Level 4 is quite comfortable, bordering on relaxing, but with just enough energy to get things done.  This is more like it.

Level 1 is like a quiet, restful slumber that seems to only come when you are on summer holidays and you know you have no tests or assignments due the next day so can sleep in as long as you want.

Notice your stress level throughout the day and become aware when it begins to crawl ever-upwards.  Once you know where you tend to live, you can intentionally level out to a healthier, more functional place.

 

Student in Starbucks, Fremont Seattle

 

LEVEL IT

The best strategy to help you to quickly bring down your stress level to a healthier number is deep, belly breathing.  You can also try other relaxation techniques that work well for you, exercise, yoga, meditation or calming music. The benefit of focused, deep breathing is that is accessible wherever and whenever you need it.  It so simple to do and the results are powerful, predictable and grounding.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take deep, smooth, belly breaths.  Evenly inhale and exhale allowing your lower belly to expand like a balloon and contract with each breath.  Do this slowly 3-5 times.  Check in with your level.  If you are still floating up to any number beyond 5, then repeat.  Practicing this type of calming breathing regularly in non-stressful times will make it more automatic and have a greater impact during times of stress.

 

RE-FRAME IT

Visualize yourself stress-free and living large at a Level 4.  What does it look like?  How do you feel?

What is working in your life right now and already fits with that picture of what you want your life to look like?

Are the thoughts that you are having true and useful?  Is your thinking distorted with over-generalizations, blaming or catastrophizing?  And which thoughts are cleverly distorted to match the story you keep telling yourself where doom is the only outcome.

What steps have you tried already to change the situation from stressed and striving to calm and thriving?  Did they work?  Why or why not?

Where else could you go for support?

How can you break down your tasks to their smaller, bite-sized portions? Checking things off your to-do list is energizing and smaller tasks mean more chances to check!  And how does doing this impact your level of stress?

What itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny tiny step could I do RIGHT NOW to start?  Take three deep breaths?  Make a list?  Ask for help?  Be grateful for what is going well?  Name the situation courageously where you are responsible?  Notice your level as you take one step.

 

GROUND IT

Now that you can visualize what a stress-free ‘you’ looks like, recall a time when it was true.  When was the last time you felt amazingly at ease, comfortable, relaxed and in charge of your own life?  It could be as recent as the beginning of the school year when you vowed to stay on top of things.  Or maybe you have to go back a few years when life seemed simpler.

After you have a mental picture of the way your life looked and how you felt back then, find some token to reflect that important memory. It could be a picture, an object, an action, some music or whatever else will remind you of the experience of being at peace. When you find your stress level inching higher, remember your grounding token. Hold it, look at it, listen to it do the action that reminds you to settle and breathe deeply.

 

Student

 

Stress is unavoidable but managing it is a life-long skill that takes practice and is worth every moment you commit to doing just that.

Start now. Take a deep breath and choose to take that first step to managing your own mania!

 

 

words. create. reality?

 

I am a twin.

Well, I guess it is more accurate to say that I was born with a twin. My womb-mate, although technically fraternal, seems identical to me in so many ways yet indescribably different at the same time. Some days it feels as if she’s from a different egg altogether!  Weird.

Twins

Being twins, there’s a slight chance that we were treated more similarly, more alike than just siblings, especially since we were only sold as a set. Two of everything for years on end. Side by side for the pureed peas, high-chair feedings and dressed in matching outfits in every class photo until middle school.

Birthday parties were double the fun, for our guests. But my twin sister and I began to share knowing, resigned glances as the party-ready guests arrived each bearing their single-package gifts knowing that we were about to receive a lot of board games and other items to be shared between us. My twin and I were close, but did not relish spending hours together playing Battleship and Connect Four.

And although, our mother was thoughtfully aware enough to not compare us to each other, the labels we created in our individual self-talk perception journals were very clear. My personal black and white journal from way back then read something like this.

Me: I am the smart, introverted, persevering and sarcastic one.
She: She is the pretty, creative, social and sarcastic one.

I told you there were some similarities. The twin and I have a long-standing joke between us where we will end up sitting side-by-each in a nursing home where the experienced nurses will whisper warnings to the newbies to “stay away from those two, they bite!”

The fifth-grade “I am” statements I had scripted all had some foundation in whatever form truth takes when you’re that young. My twin indeed knew how to successfully socialize and seemed to always have plans with friends. Me, not so much. I preferred to be alone rather than hanging out with friends, chose the library stacks to the sports field and often reading a book over talking with a group of girls who were talking about a group of boys. And her creativity was expressed fluently through art, playing piano by ear or even the way she dressed with a genuine style and flair. Again, me not so much. My untapped creativity was trapped beneath a impenetrable mix of perfectionism and procrastination.

I guess I could say it’s natural to design our own labels but what is the long-term impact? What invisible doors of opportunity in our lives appeared only as walls because the risk involved would only be taken by someone with a different “I am” descriptor than the one we had for ourselves?

Recently, I started listening to my current, daily list of “I am”s and the resounding bass line of repeated phrases is interesting.  And kind of sad.

I am tired.
I am too busy to do any more.
I am too busy to get all of this work done.
I am definitely much too busy for a social life.
I am overwhelmed.
I am done.

Now there’s a snapshot of an exhausted life by design. Morbid much?  Designed to run on the steam of the consistently uttered, out-of-breath “I am”s.

But, in a given moment, am I actually tired? Or am I Danette who may at the moment be feeling the weight of a long day expressing itself as lethargy, the need for a relaxing and nourishing meal and simply a brief break from social interaction and multiple deadlines?

As soon as I say “I am tired”, my body is all too quick to agree. My posture imperceptibly crumples, with shoulders rounding forward and breath getting more shallow by the moment. Just enough though for the mind to get on board. “Yes, I am definitely tired. Exhausted even. I need a break. I work too hard.” Clearly, it must be true because I thought it.

Yet, even contemplating inverting those “I am” statements and converting them into less weighty ones might lead me perilously close to the edge of the forest where the secret life of the ‘be positive’ fairies live and dance with the woodland imps and magic fire-flies. Yikes.

Wouldn’t that just be switching one concrete for another? What about not labeling ourselves at all? But then what would we say when we are compulsively chronicling our lives in every conversation. Yes, yes, yes, I am (truly) acutely aware of the irony of that statement coming from an avid Compulsive Chronicler in blog form. Doesn’t mean I can’t question.

True confession time. I invert. And I am a converter. I recently grabbed my most common doomsday “I am”s and turned them on their heads to come up with something less lethargic, with more ease and a little less damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t.

The experiment is to use intentional word tools to see if I can rewire some of the negative, patterned, unconscious reactions. I may be just blowing sunshine up my own kilt but I’ve felt the weight of bearing these old “I am’s” and would like to see if more light-infused statements will be enough to begin some initial re-programming. I’ll keep you posted. If I start posting as a positive-thinking-will-solve-all-your-problems guru, you have permission to tell me to get my head out of my arse!  I won’t be offended. It would’ve been something my dad would’ve said so I’d respond well to it.

I do know though that things can change because when I look back on my twin-based, matching outfit litany of “I am’s”, I’ve noticed that they have oddly morphed into truthful descriptors for both me and my twin sister even if the expressions of them may appear different in varying situations. We are separately, uniquely all of them.

Not to leave all cynicism in the dust of this power of positive thinking party, I’ve still got money on the fact that the twinster and I will be an acerbic pair of old grannies, sitting in wheelchairs with knitted blankets folded on our laps,complaining about getting another board game for our 90th birthdays.

Twins

my precious morning routine

“I am not a morning person. I have to ease into my day slowly. First I have my coffee. Sans eggshells or anything else one tends to pick out of the garbage. Then I have a low fat, high fibre breakfast. Finally I sit down and read a crisp, new newspaper. If I am robbed of the richness of my morning routine, I cannot function. My radio show suffers, and like ripples in a pond, so do the many listeners that rely on my advise, to help them through their troubled lives. I’m sorry if this may sound priggish, but I have grown comfortable with this part of myself. It is the magic that is me.”

The above “priggish” speech was pompously delivered by the tight-lipped yet lovable radio psychiatrist in the 80’s sitcom, Frasier.  He was defending his right to keep to his intensely, precise morning routine in order to perform his best throughout his day.  

After my last post about how often the pressure of time significantly increases my stress level, the scene from this episode came to mind along with the memory of the dismissive eye-rolling from the supporting cast and from me. .

I began to consider strategies I use to manage my weekday mornings.  Here are my three simple methods of creating space, stress-free morning moments and a way to ease into a world geared for moving constantly in fifth gear.

1.  Night Vision

My mother tells the story of a time she came into my bedroom to wake me for school to find me still asleep but already fully dressed for the school day.  Apparently, I had put on my clothes the night before. And even more apparently, I was quite an odd child with the quirks to rival those of a sitcom character!  Perhaps my motivation was to find calm in the chaos of a busy school morning filled with getting my turn in the bathroom, practicing piano, making lunches, eating breakfast, doing the dishes and packing my schoolbag, all alongside my three siblings who were also doing the same things.

Currently my mornings do not involve jockeying for position with siblings or piano practice but can still induce a level of nerve-jangling tension when the clock ticks closer to the time I need leave for work.  For this reason I decided to use the night before more wisely.  No, I don’t sleep in my work clothes (often).  But I do prepare my lunch, choose my outfit, pick up some of the excess clutter and create a to-do list all before I go to bed.   This all takes me no more than half an hour.  Not too much work for a huge benefit of a slower pace in the morning.

2.  Rush No More

Realizing that rushing is a genuine energy-sapper for me, my goal is to pace my mornings so that there is no need to hurry.  To make this happen, I choose to get up as early as possible to leave morning space to pause, to linger, to, heaven forbid, dawdle!  By getting up earlier, I have time to sit for a short time of meditation, practice some simple yoga stretches, record three ‘gratitudes” in my journal and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while considering my day ahead.  There are those days when getting up so early is not so easy as others.  My routine is too precious to be written in stone so there is always room to change it according to the situation.  But there is a noticeable difference in my energy levels on the days that begin early with this settling routine.

There was a time that I would regularly check my work email in the morning but I quickly realized that it only served to put my nervous system in work-mode high gear and encroached on the unhurried pace of my personal time.  I was no further ahead when I got to work by knowing what new things were going to be added to my ‘to-do’ list and instead, I’d arrive depleted of energy that would be necessary for later in the day.

3.  Leave Stuff Undone

A problem for many of us with Chronic Productivity Syndrome, is that we feel the need to fill in any extra space with productive activity.  This is true for me.  I look at the clock, see that I’ve got plenty of time before I need to leave so I attempt to fit something useful into that space.  Wash the dishes, pay a bill online, clean the kitty litter, email a friend or whatever.  The pausing, lingering and dawdling are tossed out in favour of “getting something done”. The conflict occurs when I realize that I am soon going to leave my home for a job where i am expected to be “getting something done” for the next 8 or more hours.  Where’s the balance?

And if you’re like me, you’ll begin a task that will keep your steady focus on it until you look at the clock and realize that now you’re running late.  Nervous system is on high alert and deep breathing becomes more shallow and less nourishing.  The trick is to consciously, purposefully leave something undone in favour of a moment of just being.  See the task, notice your desire to attend to it immediately, to fix it , finish, manage it, then just leave it!  You know it wil still be there later.

With this precious morning routine, I clearly understand that I will most likely be considered priggish, hyper-sensitive, and a quintessential introvert to the n-th degree, but I’m okay with that.  This routine provides me with the pace I like, the space I need and energy I love to be the magic that is me.  (Cue the eye-rolling!)

Make it a morning of unhurried moments.

Egypt