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David is still coughing up a lung and I’m doing my best to dodge the cold which is hot on my tail. I think it’s best we skip church today and avoid spreading our germs about.
Yesterday I printed off some things I’ve been meaning to read so I can stay off the computer today. I also have a book I’d like to finish (The Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod), my adult coloring book and a puzzle to work on. And of course we have plenty of tea on hand. Oh, and a cake I baked Friday night! I think we are all set for a rest and recovery day.
I also plan to get back to my daily meditation practice starting today!
Do you ever schedule an unplugged day? If so, how do you like to spend it? Leave me a comment.
Wishing you a peaceful day, my friends…
I’ve been thinking about a word for 2014 for the past few weeks. At first I was considering “simplicity”. Sometimes I feel as though life is too much. Too much stuff, too much negativity, too many rules, too many “have-tos” and “shoulds”. I do want to simplify my life in many ways. I want to go through my house room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet and get rid of the superfluous. I want to develop a simplified, yet efficient, housekeeping routine. I want to carefully evaluate all parts of my life and make conscious decisions about what to keep and what to let go.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I am craving is more than simplicity. I desire mindfulness. So much of the time I feel scattered, distracted, as though I’m living life with too many browsers open – literally and figuratively. I don’t have ADD but I’ve lost my natural ability to focus.
As a child I could concentrate on a particular activity for hours at a time. Always a lover of solitude, I would retreat to my room and play by myself or read for hours in complete contentment. But something happened along the way. I think it started when I had children but truly got its foothold during an especially busy season of life. I was working full-time – plus on call – as a hospice nurse. The kids were elementary school age and all that entails. In addition to all the housework, laundry, cooking (I tried to put a decent meal on the table every night and even baked homemade bread quite often), and children’s activities, I volunteered in the kids’ classrooms, delivered Meals On Wheels, and sang in the church choir. I look back at that time and have no earthly idea how I did it all.
Multi-tasking was a necessity. While heating water for my morning cup of tea I’d set up the ironing board then iron our clothes between sips. As I’d braid Lisa’s waist-length hair I’d quiz her on spelling words. I always seemed to be doing two things at once. It reached its zenith when I found myself signing Christmas cards while driving to patients’ homes. Yes, I *do* realize how ridiculous that sounds. But such was my life at that point. And most people have busy times in their life when sheer survival depends upon multi-tasking.
My life has changed dramatically since then. I had nearly a decade of homeschooling which, while not as hectic as my work as a nurse, was still time consuming. Now my kids are both grown and I have the luxury of setting my own schedule. After Lisa married, David and I discussed it and we both decided our lives were more peaceful with me at home rather than returning to paid work. I still have plenty to do. I’m currently on the board for our local homeless services organization, serve on our city’s multicultural committee, belong to the city’s recycling coalition, serve on the worship committee at church, sing in the church choir, deliver Meals On Wheels, and occasionally help out at Abba’s Table (an organization which provides an evening meal 6 nights a week) and Compassion Outreach (local organization which provides free medical care and a meal twice a month). I’m also taking piano lessons. Of course, all that is in addition to taking care of our home, family, pets, cooking, laundry, etc. I’m never bored!
There are so many things I’m interested in and want to do or learn. It seems as though my brain is going 90 to nothing at all times. I find it hard to go to sleep because I can’t turn off my brain. No matter what I’m doing (well, there are a *couple* of exceptions) I’m thinking of something else. I even find it difficult to stay focused on reading for long periods of time like I used to.
I want to change this. I need to change this. Life is zipping by too quickly and I feel as though I’m missing a lot of it. I want to regain my innate ability to focus and live in the moment. I’m a deeply sensual person and I must take the time to indulge that need. If you’ve seen the movie, Amélie, that’s what I’m talking about. She revels in simple pleasures such as dipping her fingers into a sack of grain, cracking the browned sugar on the top on her crème brulèe with a spoon and skipping stones. Children do this sort of thing by nature but too often adults forego these pleasures.
I want to blow bubbles on the front porch, color a picture, enjoy the feel of soapy water on my hands when I wash dishes, truly savor the taste and texture of chocolate melting on my tongue. I want to slow down enough to notice things. This past year or two I have made some efforts in this direction. David and I spent a lot of summer evenings stargazing. I’ve tried to pay attention to my surroundings while walking Shiloh. One of the last warm afternoons this fall I spent about 20 minutes lying back in a lounge chair in our front yard watching a couple of woodpeckers in the tree above me.
In the year ahead I will be practicing yoga and meditation on a daily basis. Both of these practices help me feel calmer and mindful of my body and breathing. I will also be making an effort to avoid skipping around from one activity to another, but staying with something until it is complete. I’m going to relearn how to lose myself in a book for more than half an hour at a time. I’m going to take bubble baths by candlelight. When it warms up I’m going to take Shiloh on long walks every day. I’m going to plant a garden and then spend time playing in the dirt every day instead of letting weeds overtake it. I’m getting chickens again this Spring and I’m looking forward to spending time with them.
I have lots of other plans for becoming more mindful but I think you get the idea. This will be an ongoing effort and I’m sure the path won’t be smooth and regular. But that’s okay. Mindfulness is a life-long pursuit, not something one accomplishes overnight.
What are your plans for the coming year? Do you make goals or resolutions? Do you select a word to define the year? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you’ll be working on this year.
I don’t really like the idea of a schedule. “Routine” sounds a little better but also a bit boring. But “ritual” has a pleasant, soothing connotation for me. Over the past few weeks my evening porch time has developed into a ritual of sorts. After all my evening responsibilities are taken care of, I pour a glass of wine, light candles and incense, turn on some music and settle in for a peaceful ending to my day. David often joins me if it isn’t too warm and he doesn’t see any mosquitos. When he’s with me we turn our chairs to face one another and I rest my feet in his lap. Many times I have a kitten in my lap. Most of the time Shiloh is out there with us, too. Sometimes we talk but mostly we just enjoy the music, and lately, the sound of the cicadas. It’s a soothing way to wind down after a busy day and it, along with my red wine, helps lower my blood pressure.
I’ve come to enjoy my porch time so much that I’ve started looking for other ways to integrate pleasant rituals into my daily life. I’ve long been in the habit of drinking my morning tea while checking email, Facebook and blogs. However, I’ve been thinking about instituting a different morning ritual. I’ve tried drinking my tea on the front porch but the cats are all drawn to the scent of my Earl Grey and try their best to get a taste. Batting cats away from my beloved tea is not the most pleasant way to start the day. I do, however, also have a huge balcony off our bedroom which has possibilities. I used to sit out there occasionally but it became a bit of a dumping ground for David’s tools while he was working on replacing the siding. He’s not done so I just left everything (although I did neaten it up a bit). I finally decided the other day that I could put it all in a box for the garage and when he has time to get back to his project, it would be a simple matter to get it back out.
So I did. I also washed and ironed the tablecloth and chair pad covers for the little table and chair set. I swept the leaves and other large debris off the indoor/outdoor carpeting. Tomorrow I plan to vacuum it thoroughly. Last week I picked up a few decorative items at the dollar store and Goodwill. Eventually I hope to have an iron daybed out there but until that happens, I decided I could bring up the tri-fold lounge chair that I use (twice a year – in March) for sunbathing. I have a washable quilt that I can cover it with and I bought a pillow for it. I’m envisioning afternoons reading on the balcony…at least on those days when it isn’t pushing 100 degrees.
I’m also going to buy three ferns to hang out there. I had some which I even managed to over-winter in the house for 2 or 3 years but finally let go this winter as they looked pretty scraggly. Eventually David will be re-doing the balcony and hopefully screening it in, but in the meantime I can pretty it up and make it a comfortable space for morning tea and afternoon naps.
Speaking of naps, that’s something else I could turn into a pleasant ritual rather than simply crashing across the end of my bed when I can no longer keep my eyes open. I don’t sleep well, which is quite the understatement, so a short afternoon nap is a necessity many afternoons. It’s something I wish weren’t necessary. In fact, I wish I didn’t have to sleep much at all because there are so many things I want to do and the days just seem so short. But instead of fighting it, I’m thinking that I should “embrace the nap”. As I child, I recall my grandfather taking a nap every single day just after lunch. No matter what was going on, as soon as he ate he retired to his room, closed his door and went to sleep. Now, Grandma never did this. She seemed to be busy from dawn to dark and I wish I had the energy she had. But it is what it is. I think I will institute a regular nap time – the same every day – and just accept it as part of my daily routine.
Well, I just noticed that it is after 9:30. I have much more to say about all this and more to share about rituals but I think I’ll go ahead and close for now. David just called up to me and asked, “Don’t we have pie?”. Yes, I made a coconut cream pie for my dad and a pineapple cream for us this afternoon. Guess I’d better go make some whipped cream and warm up some coffee. And then it will be “Porch Time”. But do check back tomorrow to read more about my thoughts on rituals.
It only took 14 years of living here but I’ve finally discovered the “pleasures of the porch”. We have a large, shady front porch but for some reason we’ve never fully appreciated and enjoyed it. I’m not entirely sure why although Oklahoma weather extremes and bugs certainly play a role. David is a mosquito magnet and the minute they come out, he goes inside.
However, I decided that I was going to start spending less time on the computer and more time relaxing and listening to music on the porch. I scrubbed the winter grime from the table and chairs, cut a few pieces of blooming honeysuckle, poured a glass of wine, lit a candle and turned on some music. It was pure heaven!
I began looking forward to “porch time” and carving out more time for it. Even on mornings chilly enough to need socks.
Over the past couple of weeks the porch has become my haven. I brought out a couple of houseplants, another candle, and a basket for various items such as magazines, a fan, hand lotion and matches. I’ve been enjoying my morning tea out there, too.
We also solved the bug problem. David bought two citronella candles and I picked up some incense to burn. The mosquitos aren’t as much of a problem after dark so that’s when David joins me on the porch. Dive-bombing June bugs are the after-dark issue but we solved that by leaving the porch lights off but turning on a light indoors. The bugs are attracted to that and away from us.
Every night after dinner we head for the porch. I usually save my evening glass of wine for this time and David has been enjoying the hand-crafted vanilla rum he bought from a fellow-pirate in New Orleans. Occasionally we’ll have a homemade cookie or a little piece of dark chocolate. And there’s always music. I have a Bose docking station for my iPod or iPhone and we generally listen to something soft and blues-y. We’ve even shared a brief dance on the porch once and I hope to do more of that.
And here is the one who joins us every night:
Sweet Shiloh LOVES porch time. He seems to know what the word “porch” means and gets excited when we ask him if he’s ready for porch time. By the way, he had the pins and external fixator removed last Friday, and was neutered as well. He’s putting more weight on the injured leg now and soon should be as good as new.
So that’s where I’ve been. I’m making an effort to stop filling up every minute with activity or computer time and purposely make time to just *be*. Sitting with my husband, listening to music and petting the dog have become priorities for me. I only wish I’d started this sooner.