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.

2018-08-26 06.26.21

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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

2018-07-15 07.14.56

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge July 2018

Embracing Your Senses: Taste

Every day, if we have the resources to do so, we eat three (or sometimes more!) meals. So many flavors passing through our senses – but are we paying any attention to their complexity, savoring their diversity, taking pleasure in our capacity to sense them? If not, now’s a perfect time to start! Our relationship with food can be multilayered and sometimes fraught with the cultural and social messages we’ve absorbed over the years. It’s important to slow down our inner monologue enough to re-experience the simple joy of eating attentively. This challenge offers a chance to reconnect with your senses of smell and taste, and rediscover the pleasures of nourishing yourself. This challenge offers a chance to practice staying in the moment and connecting with your senses in (hopefully) pleasurable ways!

Habit:
Try a new food or combination of foods

Daily:
Savor a flavor with attention

To Do:
Share something tasty with someone you like (take a friend out to eat, go to a potluck, make dinner for your family… whatever fits well in your life)

Create something about food or flavor (a recipe, photo, poem, essay, blog post…)

Fight food insecurity! (donate to your local food pantry, deliver a home-cooked meal to someone you know is struggling, support a local farm, visit a farmer’s market; if you’re into vegetable gardening, consider planting some seeds for autumn harvest (Northern Hemisphere) or ordering seeds to start when the weather warms (Southern Hemisphere)–there are so many possibilities!)

Reflection:
This challenge was a blast! I’m pretty inventive in the kitchen as it is, and it was wonderful to have extra motivation to pay attention to some of my fondest pleasures. For my ‘sharing food’ task, I concocted a feast of Southern specialties for my favorite ex-Virginian: BBQ pulled pork from the Instant Pot, coleslaw, and some cheesy garlic grits! My food invention is pictured below: Blueberry parfaits with lemon and freshly whipped cream and ginger cookies. I even picked the blueberries myself! And my fight against food insecurity has dragged into August, but it’s going to be epic: a big tag sale with half of the proceeds going to the Food Bank of Western MA. I can’t wait.

2018-07-23 17.35.42

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge June 2018

Connecting Spirit

Do you have a connection with your spiritual side? Is there something in life that gives you a sense of your place in the universe, and your connectedness to all that is? Maybe you’ve considered getting to know people through a spiritual practice or interest group. Sometimes these kinds of connections can be a valuable support in troubled times. Let’s take time this month to consider the spiritual side of life, and what it has to offer us in our journeys. This challenge offers a chance to connect with people and with our own serenity.

Habit:

Spend time in a special or sacred place
Take 15 minutes to meditate silently or pray

To Do:

Do a good deed
Connect with someone about your spirituality or faith
Consider how spiritual connection can support your journey.

Reflection:

A lot of people enjoyed participating in this challenge. For me, it reaffirmed that my most sacred places are green spaces, and it is connecting with nature that makes me feel the most connected to the rest of life. Also, my daily meditation practice is huge. I am so happy that meditation drew me strongly enough that I was able to play around with it, making several unsuccessful attempts over the better part of a decade to have a consistent daily practice… until finally it just took. And now it’s a part of my daily routine that I would hate to do without.

2018-06-26 09.36.50

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge May 2018

Asking for Help

Asking for help is one of the hardest things we ever do. Our culture prizes capability, ability, individualism, and self-sufficiency so highly. We struggle with feelings of helplessness and shame when we admit we can’t do it all on our own. We fear rejection when we ask for things. We have no room to be seen to need things, to be vulnerable, or to seek the support of people who care for us. Imagine, for a moment, that your ability to ask someone for help is a gift you are giving them: a gift of vulnerability, opportunity, and connection. A gift of knowing exactly what it is you need and want most in that moment. A gift of having the information that they need to be of service to you. Remember how good it feels to help others. Are you brave enough to offer that possibility to the people around you? This challenge offers a chance to weave a stronger social web and practice the other side of the relationship dynamic of helping others—allowing ourselves to ask for some help. Having some practice asking for simple things may make it easier to ask when big things come up, and that’s a skill worth cultivating.

Daily:
Ask for someone’s help in a large or small way today. (A friend, a partner, a friendly sales associate or teacher or family member all might have different kinds of help to offer!)
Express sincere gratitude for someone’s assistance.

Reflection:
I’ve gotten pretty good at asking for help routinely for little things. But I do find that I push myself hard. It requires a real effort for me to take it easy before I’m in pain, or ask for help when I would like it, but don’t desperately need it. It was good to take time this month and reflect on where I am wise enough to tap into my sources of support. (My housemate’s help in the garden has been tremendous this season.) Co-creating beauty and food!
2018-05-08 13.53.09

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Living Vividly Habit Challenge April 2018

Wayfinding on Life’s Journey

Thinking about your life’s direction and what you want to accomplish with your time on this earth doesn’t have to be limited to the start of the new year, the span of a midlife crisis, or even the moment when you’re considering a new direction. In fact, there’s no time like to present to stop and think about the big picture. Are you putting your life’s energy into the things you really believe in? Or even the things that make you the most happy? Now is a great moment to start bringing your actions in line with your values and goals! This challenge is intended to strengthen your focus and direction, putting whatever resources and energy you have into what really matters to you.

To Do:
Make a list: what makes you happy? (Consider what gives you a lasting sense of satisfaction and pleasure, not just a momentary boost. What feeds your soul, or makes you proud of yourself?)
Make a list: what do you need to do for yourself? (What are the necessary elements of your self care: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual?)
Make a list: what do you need to do for your friends, family, and community? (Consider your obligations, your relationships, and the opportunities in your life for giving, connecting, loving, and sharing.)
Make a list: what do you need to do for the future? (What are your long term projects, life goals, the things you want to accomplish for posterity or as a big ambition? Be sure to break these into smaller lists as needed, and identify manageable first steps.)
Re-evaluate your current habits, dailies, and to-dos. See how well your current routine is supporting you in reaching your goals. Do the things you’re already doing on Habitica align well with the items on your four lists? Is there anything you want to update, remove, or add?

Reflection:
It’s so beneficial to revisit this challenge periodically. I worked through mine while I was away on vacation for Spring Break: gaining perspective with a little distance. The main thing I added to my routine is more cuddle time with my cat. She’s so good for my morale, she deserves to be a priority! Purr-therapy for the win.

The feedback I got from my Guildmembers was very positive and inspiring. This challenge was really beneficial for a lot of people.
2018-03-28 07.58.21

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