Living Vividly Habit Challenge October 2018

Cultivating Compassion

Compassion is a process of connecting by identifying with another person. It involves allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering, and experiencing the motivation to help alleviate and prevent it. Qualities of compassion are patience and wisdom; kindness and perseverance; warmth and resolve. It requires perspective-taking, and striving for understanding when someone is struggling, even when their reaction to that challenge spreads negativity. (Healthy boundaries together with compassion allow us to understand and empathize with what motivates challenging behavior even as we refuse to be treated badly.) Compassion encourages us to make generous assumptions when we don’t have all the information. Let’s work to look outside our own context this month, and cultivate our most compassionate selves.

“When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience.” — Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy

This challenge offers a chance to practice focusing outside ourselves and strengthening our understanding of and connection to the people around us through reflecting on the challenges they face.

Habit:
Make a generous assumption about the reasons for someone’s behavior
Bear witness to someone’s struggle
Do something kind

To Do:
Week 1: Watch a talk about compassion, like https://youtu.be/ipR0kWt1Fkc, https://youtu.be/vWbWPuvM7R8, or maybe something from this playlist–https://www.ted.com/playlists/447/how_to_make_compassion_thrive
Week 2: Try a Loving-Kindness Meditation – https://youtu.be/sz7cpV7ERsM
Week 3: Write down a memory of a time you have practiced compassion, and how it made you feel. (In a journal or similar, this is just for you.)
Week 4: Share in the Living Vividly Guild about your experience with this challenge.

Reflection:
This challenge really supported me in exploring more fully a way of being in the world that I would like to bring into more of my everyday life. Compassion and self-compassion are huge parts of the wisdom I feel like I’m learning as I continue on this journey of living. I hope I can stay grounded in that intention as the months and years go by: bearing witness, opening my heart, and helping wherever I can.

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Self-Care and Polyamory

What is self care? A lot of people throw that term around these days. In my working definition, self-care is acting on your own behalf to maintain or restore your physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is treating yourself the way a nurturing parent or caring partner would. Looking out for your long term good.

Some examples might include getting exercise, spending time in nature, making time to do hobbies you enjoy (alone or with others), physical pampering (like a spa day, or a bubble bath), listening to music, enjoying a treat, trying something new, or getting the right amount of sleep every night. Everybody’s self-care is going to look different, and that’s just as it should be. You are your own best guide to what enhances and protects your health. (But don’t forget to brush your teeth!)

Sometimes when we’re already overwhelmed, and running more on impulse than planning, we might self-soothe with things that meet an immediate need, but are not the best long-term choice. I regard these things as coping mechanisms rather than self-care. I know one of my go-to coping strategies is emotional eating, especially of sweet treats and chocolate. I see echoes of that in ‘wine-mom culture’ as well. It’s important to recognize that these things can be essential for getting through a stressful moment intact, and practice self-compassion around turning to coping mechanisms. It’s equally important to recognize that if you’re caught in a pattern of routinely coping instead of engaging in self-care, it’s worth trying to problem solve around that. Being routinely overwhelmed and backed into making short term decisions that don’t reflect your long term well being is a problem.

The aim of self-care isn’t to be happy all the time, or to only cultivate positivity, though effectively managing one’s stress may result in easier access to positive emotions. Your personal best state of physical, mental, and emotional health might look more like calm, or contentment, relief, or relaxation. You might have a feeling of greater resilience in the face of life’s little upsets, or a sense of greater competence in managing the day-to-day demands of your situation when your self-care strategies are working well.

So how does self-care relate to polyamory?

Self-care supports your best function, and when you have multiple relationships to engage in, this becomes an important responsibility. How can you show up for others when you’re falling apart? Taking care of yourself is good for everyone in your web of relationships. They always say to secure your own oxygen mask first.

Taking personal responsibility is generally highly valued in our community—it doesn’t mean you have to go it alone, it just means that final responsibility for your welfare is yours. How you choose to take care of yourself can and probably should include asking for help from the people who care about you.

One thing this can look like is making time for yourself—reserving your spot on the group Google calendar. Making time in your schedule for the hobbies you care about, and the introvert (or extrovert!) time that makes you feel good. If you have trouble staying accountable for saving aside this time, maybe your partners can help encourage you! After all, when you’re feeling balanced and calm, everyone benefits.

I also want to acknowledge that self-care can be really hard.

It’s hard to make yourself a priority if you feel like you don’t deserve it. Like other people’s problems and other people’s pain is more urgent or important than yours. It’s hard to take care of yourself if you’re legitimately overwhelmed all the time; if your life is asking more of you than you have to give; if you’re short on resources. Sometimes getting the support of multiple partners can help.

People can help each other have time to do things like get to the gym by sharing childcare or making it a gym-buddy date. They can remind each other to take time for themselves. They can split the cost of things like a visit to the hot tubs. They can cook each other healthy meals! They can set each other a good example at taking care of themselves. Peer pressure is sometimes a good thing.

And finally, one of the most important aspects of self-care in relationships is the cultivation of healthy boundaries. Getting yourself out of a toxic situation; insisting on negotiating communication that feels good to you (whether in content or in frequency); making sure your voice is heard and your needs respected by your partners—these are all profound examples of self-care. You deserve to preserve your integrity. You deserve to be seen, and heard, and cared for both by yourself and by your partners.

You deserve your own time and space to be your own person, so that you can return to your interrelating refreshed and share love and care and vulnerability with your whole heart.

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Sage

This life that leads me here—
To where I wait for my daughter in the chilly air,
Crouched in the golden autumn afternoon light,
Tenderly picking sixteen leaves of sage
For my pumpkin cream sauce,
While the goldfinches twitter to each other,
Invisible among the branches of the arborvitae—
Brings me just where I belong.

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge September 2018

Language of the Heart

One of the keys to a vivid life is slowing down and becoming open to the beauty of the world around us. I have long found that one group of people who pay exquisite attention to life and then make stirring art out of their observations are poets! Maybe you find poetry in song lyrics, or like the cadences of Shakespeare’s dialogue. Maybe the expansive small grace of haiku is more your style. Maybe you get a kick out of rhyming children’s books or Shel Silverstein poems. It’s all good here!

This challenge offers a chance to expand your mental horizons, examine small moments of beauty, and share your enjoyment with others.

Daily: Read, write, or share a poem

Reflection: It seemed like this challenge had appeal for a smaller crowd than many, but for those who participated, most found it valuable. Certainly I enjoyed reading what others had shared, and wrote a few poems this month myself (as I usually do!).

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Five Minutes with the Ocean

Atlantic ocean, under a rose-gold dawn;
Waves rushing, rhythmic, sky shifting with every breath.
Gulls flying and laughing, sanderlings skittering
As they chase each breaker on clockwork legs.
The light grows, the sky shimmers,
Whispering wind surrounds me, ankles gritting on dun sand.

Awake, now, for just this moment—
And how did five minutes grow so wide?—
I greet the sun. Sea-sound grips my heart.
I am alive.

2018-08-26 06.11.29

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge August 2018

The Art of Good Boundaries

Having good boundaries is a profoundly important aspect of self-care. It is essential to prioritize your own physical, mental, and emotional good health right alongside that of others. It is essential to be able to say no sometimes. It’s not selfish to protect your own best functioning. You don’t need to give and give until there is nothing left of yourself to be helpful and valuable to others. You can find, instead, a sustainable level of giving. A level that leaves you healthy and ready for your next adventure. It is okay if people don’t always understand why you draw your lines where you do, especially if you have a chronic illness. Find what’s right for you, and protect it. This challenge offers a chance to build habits that support your mental, emotional, and physical health!

Habit:
I said no to something that would have been bad for me

Daily:
Today I considered my health and happiness equally important to that of the people around me.

To Do:

Check in with yourself. Are there any areas in your life where you’re caught in a pattern of saying yes to things that are bad for you because you’re taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings, worried that they’ll be angry if you say no, or tying your value as a person exclusively to what you can produce or contribute? (If you find these patterns, stay aware of them this month. Consider their impact on you. Think about whether you want to make changes. Building good boundaries is a difficult journey, and it makes sense to line up support before you get started, maybe even from a therapist. You can expect pushback from the people around you when you make changes, since they’re used to relying on you overdoing it.)

Choose to say yes. (Having good boundaries doesn’t mean you can never go ‘above and beyond’, even when it’s tough in the short term. As long as you have a plan for self-care afterwards, it’s okay to make some sacrifices for other people or for future rewards! Just be clear that it’s a choice, and take responsibility for the consequences. Be kind to others, and also be kind to yourself.)

Reflection:

I tend to have good boundaries with regards to my health and wellness–a lot of times, the biggest pushback I get when setting limits is from my 8yo… and, well. She’s 8. This seemed like a very valuable challenge for the Guild, though, and some great feedback was posted in our guild chat. Also, it was nice for me to have a reminder to take care while I was on vacation at the beach. The family members I was vacationing with were so respectful of my limitations and willing to pitch in and help make sure my kiddo’s vacation experience didn’t suffer for it, it was a true joy.

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Battle Cry

Someone I love has depression.

It’s a fight with no winners, only those who live to fight another day. Even for us support staff, it’s a long, awful slog. As much as I try, my love and support mostly get through belatedly, only making an impact in the better times and not in the worse ones.

But I’m not giving up.

My efforts are still valuable, even if not in the ways or at the times when I would like them to be. My tenacity is valuable. My determination is valuable. My work has meaning, even if sometimes the meaning is simply this: I choose to be a person who doesn’t give up on the people they love. I choose to live my life fighting entropy and darkness, loneliness and pain. I don’t have to win to be a warrior, and for that to matter.

And more.

Relationships are not a zero-sum game. By giving more, I do not have less left for myself. Rather, giving is one axis of connection, and connection is what matters to me. By giving now, I celebrate the abundance that I have. By giving what I can, when I can, I cultivate my generous spirit. Certainly I am also looking forward to better days, but how I live in this moment is equally important to me. My choices have to be worthwhile on their own merit, not just in the hope of future remuneration. And what’s important to me today is holding my life up to the sun, that any stray refracted rainbow might add vibrancy to someone else’s life. What’s important to me is learning, every day, to be a warrior for love.

I try my hardest, and it’s worth everything.

“Battle Cry” by Claire Guerreso, You Tube video

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