mindfulness · presence

Vacation Kerriann

Tamara, Edgar, Jonas, and I spent four glorious days at the beach with family at the end of June.

One of my favorite things about a vacation at the beach is the way I constantly lose track of time. We spend the morning swimming and wading and building sandcastles, and then someone ask what time it is. They ask it casually, because it really doesn’t matter at all. And when they ask for the time, I realize that I have been so relaxed and caught up in the moment so I could not guess the time accurately if my life depended on it.

I love it when I lose track of time. For me, it’s a sign that I am fully present in the moment, and being present is something I am constantly trying to improve. It’s easier to be present on vacation, because you’re not distracted by the responsibilities of work or a household. And I noticed that for me, it is DOUBLY easy to be present at the beach, because of one unintentional great choice that I make the majority of the time when I’m going to the beach: I leave my phone behind.

It makes such a difference when my phone is not within my reach.  On our first full day at the beach, we spent our morning enjoying the sunshine and the waves. At one point, I thought that I’d like to take a picture of Edgar and Jonas playing together in the waves. I realized then that I had not brought my phone down to the beach with me; it was in our bedroom at the beach house. I would love to say that I did this on purpose, so that I could enhance my mindfulness practice, but I didn’t. I left the phone up at the house because a) I don’t trust myself to have my phone in my pocket or my bag when there’s lots of sand and water being strewn about, and b) Vacation Kerriann forgot that phones are things we sometimes want close by so that we can take photos, send witty texts, or scroll mindlessly.

I love Vacation Kerriann for that. That girl rocks.

I realized this summer that a beach vacation encourages mindfulness and presence in a way that some other kinds of vacations do not. When you’re at the beach, often your agenda is simply this: Wake up. Whenever you feel like it, stroll down to the beach to frolic. Whenever you’re hungry, eat something. When you’re tired, go to bed.

Sigh. Incredible.

We’re home from the beach now (boo!), and Everyday Kerriann is in charge. She’s doing what she does – listening to podcasts and cleaning the kitchen while the boys play, losing her temper occasionally, unskilled multi-tasking.

Vacation Kerriann is watching her, though. VK is making sure that EK enjoys her kids and maintains the playful + peaceful vibe she strives for every single day.

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

 

balance · family · mindfulness

Messages From The Universe

Over the course of the past two weeks, our family has had two weird and costly incidents. Each incident was a silly mistake – the kind of thing an absent-minded professor might do – and they resulted in a banged-up car and a smashed cell phone. These were bummer incidents, of course, but we were able to laugh at the funny parts of the stories and not stress too much over what happened.

These two things happening in close succession did cause me to wonder about our family’s general status. Like, are we so exhausted that we’re not functioning correctly? Are we trying to do too much? Are certain kinds of activity overstimulating for all of us, to the point that we really need to focus on slowing down and being present to avoid costly damage and general life headaches?

Then today, I went to the doctor. I never, ever go to the doctor. I have sort of a phobia, but it’s not about germs or sickness. My phobia is this: I am always worried that I’ll go to the doctor and find out that there’s nothing wrong with me. Then I’ll feel foolish, like I am imagining illnesses in my head. It is DEFINITELY a souvenir of my childhood and will be dealt with in a therapy session someday, I’m sure.

But I got three bad sore throats in a row, and I haven’t had a sore throat in years. When you google “persistent sore throat,” the internet throws you a whole bunch of websites talking about throat cancer. And then two days ago, I felt a decent-sized lump in my throat. (NOT the metaphorical kind that’s related to nervousness! The internet had trouble understanding that the lump I was googling was not caused by anxiety.) The lump freaked me out, even though Tamara assured me it was probably swollen lymph nodes related to some kind of infection. So I made a doctor’s appointment, and it turns out that I actually have strep throat, and probably have had it for several weeks.

This blew my mind a little. I was relieved that I hadn’t been imagining my illness, and I was relieved that I most likely don’t have throat cancer. But I couldn’t believe that I had strep and didn’t realize it. And that thought brought me back to reflecting on our two absent-minded accidents, and to wondering: Are we doing too much right now? Are we too busy to keep ourselves healthy, or even to notice when we are not healthy?

The answer is definitely yes. The farm is getting busier, which is the main thing. And the day-to-day life tasks involved with being adults and running a family – they just seem insurmountable at times, especially with two full-time working parents.

I am constantly making resolutions about slowing down and being present. I don’t know what else I can do to actually make this life change! All I can think of are these strategies:

a) Turn it over. In recovery, we talk a lot about letting go of things that seem to be unmanageable or out of your control. I am wondering if slowing down is one of those things that I need to turn over to the magic of the universe and just stop worrying about. I mean, I resolve on at least a monthly basis (if not weekly or daily!) to slow down, and I still catch myself rushing from place to place. So I don’t think another resolution will help.

This is me, turning it over. I’d like to slow down; it seems impossible. Your move, Universe.

b) Catch up. I feel like I have some pretty good systems in place for staying organized and accomplishing tasks, but it also feels like we’re all always ten steps behind. I don’t want my whole summer to be swallowed up by adulting, but I do think summertime is a good chance for me to catch up.

If we ARE getting cosmic messages, it’s a good time for it. (For me! Tamara can’t slow down because farming is relentless.) It’s summertime baby! Slow and steady equals a relaxing and refreshing summer.

scenic view of night sky with stars
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

 

mindfulness

Do One Thing At A Time Fully

Once again, I am thinking about the need to slow down and do one thing at a time.

Every few months, I think about slowing things down. It’s on my mind this week because I’m reading a wonderful book called The Mindful Kind by Rachael Kable, an author who hosts a podcast of the same name. I’m enjoying this book so much. And when I read about mindfulness, it reminds me of my extremely unmindful tendencies. I have a tendency to multitask, to have a podcast or a TV show on as background noise. I have a tendency to get caught up in the whirlwind of other people’s schedules and emotions, even when I’ve set an intention myself to slow down and do one thing at a time, fully.

I looked through old blog posts and I found one from 2015 called Introducing Mantra Monday. (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t think I ever wrote about Mantra Monday again!) The mantra I chose for that day was do one thing at a time, fully. 

Sigh. So simple. So challenging.

My phone is a big barrier to this – always there to pick up, check a text, write an e-mail, distract me from the task at hand. Just technology in general makes it difficult! At work the other day, I started to write a note, then got an e-mail and drafted a reply, then went back to edit something in a treatment plan, and suddenly was planning a group I’m running on Thursday.

Other than my phone and technology, I would say that the biggest barriers to doing one thing at a time are my tendency to stress and overthink; my habit of having background noise; and my talent at multitasking.

The background noise thing is tricky. If I’m about to do something I don’t want to do, like clean the bathroom or wash dishes, I automatically reach for the iPad to put on a podcast or a TV show for the background. This obviously interferes with my ability to do those jobs mindfully. But it even becomes a problem with things I do want to do – like writing. Sometimes I will put a TV show on in the background while I’m writing – and I love to write!

Rachael Kable wrote about this in The Mindful Kind. She talks about how we sometimes practice self-care but do it mindlessly – like, taking a bath while watching a TV show, so that the bath is not a fully mindful and relaxing activity. I totally related to that. Sometimes I even put a TV show on in the background while I’m spending time with my kids, which is the time in my life when I want to be the most mindful, the most present!  It’s a lifelong habit, and it’s hard to change it.

And then – my tendency to stress and overthink. If I am not careful, my sensitivity to other people and my stress level can combine and make it so that I am incapable of focusing on one thing at a time. My brain is racing to figure out how to respond, what action to take – or I reach for something distracting or numbing to avoid the painful feelings associated with overthinking and stress.

Finally – the multitasking. Which is sort of a talent and sort of a curse! I noticed it this morning; I was melting butter for our pancake breakfast, and I started to change out of my running clothes while I waited for the butter to melt. WHY? The butter was only going to take 30 seconds! At some point in my life, I started doing little things like this, increasing my speed at getting things done but decreasing my ability to stay in the present moment. I’m so glad I noticed it today, because we can’t change what we don’t notice.

I’ve been a little sick this past week – a fever and a sore throat. Illness sometimes helps me to be more mindful. I have less energy to zoom from task to task; I can feel myself walking more slowly and giving myself time to think before I respond to questions from others. I set four alarms on my phone one day, with messages like slow down , speak slowly and softly, and stretch and breathe; the alarms were ineffective at reminding me to slow the pace of my day.

But my book, The Mindful Kind, is helping a lot. And my blogging helps.

Slow down. Do one thing at a time fully. Enjoy every moment.

slow signage
Photo by Song kaiyue on Pexels.com

 

mindfulness · self-care

Thoughts On Mindfulness & Self-Care

I’ve been reading a lovely book about mindfulness. It’s called The Mindful Kind and it’s written by Rachael Kable.

Currently I am reading the chapter on self-care. Which is wonderful, because I continue to a) be obsessed with learning about and talking about self-care, and b) suck at actually doing self-care myself.

One thing the author talks about is her previous practice of saving all her self-care for weekends and holidays. I thought about it for a long time, and I realized that I do the same thing. I will elaborately plan out my snow days or my vacation weeks with self-care activities, but on regular work days, I pay little or no attention to my daily self-care. No wonder I am burned out by Friday afternoon!

I wrote about my adult coping skills in a February 2019 post. I didn’t love my list. The healthiest and most reliable coping skill for me was to write. Utilizing writing as a coping skill is talked about a lot in The Mindful Kind. It’s actually mentioned as a therapeutic way to transition from work to home – and that’s how I’m using it at this exact moment. Right now, as I type this, it’s the end of a work day, and I’m in my office at my job. I am feeling squirrely – antsy and overwhelmed. I’m excited to go home, but my afternoons are tricky. I often make unhealthy snacking choices and end up feeling lethargic and cranky until I’m able to crash into bed at the end of the day. (SEE? My weekday self-care sucks!)

These are my ideas for everyday self-care:

  • Eat healthy food, all day every day. (THIS ONE IS SO HARD LATELY.)
  • MOVE all day long! (My current job is more sedentary than I’d like. I am encouraging myself to stretch and jump and dance and walk whenever I get the chance. Little dance parties with Edgar and Jonas are helping!)
  • Slow down. (I get so caught up in the pace that is set by others; I have to be intentional about allowing myself to speak slowly, take my time, and not rush from activity to activity mindlessly.)
  • Take mini breaks to write when you start to feel out of sorts.
  • Spend time outdoors. (I’d always rather be outside, but sometimes the need to clean the house means I’m inside cleaning while Edgar plays in the yard. That’s okay, but it’s better self-care for me to be outdoors.)

I’m going to write more about everyday self-care soon; the Mindful Kind book is really helping me to think about this topic, and there will be more to say! Stay tuned.

chair scenery summer abandon
Photo by Zino Bang on Pexels.com
family · mindfulness

Octobers

I love fall. I love sweatshirt and denim jacket weather. I love pumpkin spice lattes so much that I don’t care how cliche it is to love pumpkin spice lattes.

However, I tend to have bittersweet feelings at this time of year. I love fall, and I love the holidays. I tend the enjoy the briskness of November and the festivity of December. But I feel a wistful feeling as we approach the time of the year when the days are shorter. The biggest downer for me is the decrease in daylight hours; I dislike when the sun sets at 5 or 6 in the evening.  I also struggle with the bitterly cold times of the year, when I have to put on five layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.

This struggle I have with fall is indicative of one of my biggest overall struggles – keeping myself in the present moment. Enjoying October for October’s sake, without worrying about what January and February will be like.

This feeling – loving the present while dreading the future – also lines up with how I’m feeling as my waywayway too short maternity leave comes to an end. My six weeks of leave will end on October 17th. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much; I worry that if I think about it, I’ll become too overwhelmed to function and to enjoy the present. How do people do this? Just enjoy the now without anticipating the later with anxiety?

One of my wise and gentle friends often reminds me to come back to where my feet are, and that helps. Not talking about the length of my maternity leave helps, too – in a way, not talking about it is a coping skill I’m using, reminding myself to stay in the now and not to dwell on what I don’t have but to enjoy what I do have.

Today is a brisk and beautiful October day. My infant son is big enough to go in my Ergo 360 carrier and I’m celebrating that with a walk around the farm and down the trail. Life is sweet.

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meditation · mindfulness

Zen Kerriann

A few days ago, I finished reading one of my Slow Jams – Buddhism Is Not What You Think, by Steve Hagen. It was great, although I preferred the first book I read by Hagen, which was called Buddhism Plain And Simple.  

Now, I only had a few takeaways from this book, and this was in part because the book emphasized several simple and key points repeatedly. My biggest takeaway was this: you can’t sit down to meditate because you’re trying to achieve something. If you’re trying to achieve something – peace, health, enlightenment – then you’re missing the point.

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Huh.

Yeah. I don’t know about that.

It certainly doesn’t resonate with my current feelings about meditation. For the past few months, I’ve continually come back to this thought: I really need to meditate. 

I have meditated, on and off, for years, but I’ve never maintained a regular meditation practice. Meditation is recommended to me often – as a source of strength and connection in my recovery, as a way to clear my monkey mind. The biggest reason I’ve been wanting to meditate recently is that I’m facing up to the fact that I am a pretty anxious person, and that my anxiety and my fears often affect my mental and physical well-being.

I listened to an audio program that outlined 12 steps toward practicing mindfulness meditation well, and I learned a lot. But putting it all into practice is a challenge, especially in the midst of caring for an infant, getting little sleep, and eating mostly candy with the occasional home-cooked organic vegetable squeezed in here and there.

The program highlighted the simple things you need to engage in mindfulness meditation and to see the benefits of this practice, such as consistency and quieting your judging mind. It also talked about doing EVERYTHING mindfully – eating, walking, breathing, etc. That seems like a lofty goal when right now I’m doing almost nothing mindfully.

Whew. Well, this has been a long few weeks, and I’m tired. I’m looking forward to taking the next few days to reset, and meditation is on the agenda. Maybe I am missing the point of meditation – but I don’t think so. I think it’s okay to seek the benefits – mentally, emotionally, physically – of meditation. Along the way, I will likely come to realize that acceptance of the present is the only real thing we can “achieve” when we meditate – and maybe I’ll have decreased my anxiety and increased my capacity for stress enough to enjoy that realization more fully when it comes.

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mindfulness

Staying Present

I have a long-sleeved maroon hoodie that I got at Target. It’s lightweight and it says STAY PRESENT across the chest.

I love this shirt. It’s comfortable and cozy, and I love anything that helps me remember to stay present in my everyday life, rather than getting caught up in yesterday and tomorrow.

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Our family spent a few days at the beach this summer, and I was wearing this shirt while doing a crossword and chit-chatting with a group of people. My father-in-law asked me what my shirt said and what it meant. I explained, and then meekly put down my crossword. Because, while I strive to be present always, I am often not present. I am often multi-tasking, worrying, regretting, and doing a crossword or crocheting a blanket while also talking to a room full of people.

When you have a fresh start, it’s a good chance to set a reset button and start anew. And I have several major fresh starts happening in my life at the moment. I thought about that today; I was expecting a visitor, and I started to fret a bit, about how to entertain, what we’d eat. what we’d talk about. And then my visitor came – and I was completely in the moment, totally present. We talked and we laughed and we cried. I didn’t say everything “right” because there is not a right and wrong way to say things most of the time. I was just – present. 

When I really stop to think about it, I realize that it is rare for me to be fully present in my life. I worry about the future and I fret about the past. I do two things at once, doing neither of them in a really mindful way.

And now, after spending an afternoon with a friend and my family, just being in the moment and accepting every moment without judgment, I wonder – can I do this? Can I try to live totally in the moment? Can I worry less? Can I try to not have such high expectations of myself and everyone else? Can I try to just BE? Scratch out the TRY – can I just be?

One of my favorite quotes is from a song called “Another Day” in the musical Rent. 

There’s only us

There’s only this

Forget regret

Or life is yours to miss

No other road

No other way

No day but today

There are so many moments that I miss because I’m worried about being perfect, about doing everything the right way. I desperately want to be present. I want to be fully present in each and every moment of my crazy beautiful life. I know I can’t achieve presence and mindfulness the way you can get an A on a test. But – I can pray. I can hope. I can just BE and forget the rest.

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