I gave myself another treat today—as my reward for donning shoes and a visor and a mask and venturing forth into the semi-safe great outdoors for some welcome exercise, I indulged in an iced coffee and a sweet at my favorite patio-café-in-the-shade. A delightful place to write leisurely Morning Pages that sometimes, including today, turn into a blog post.
(Today’s post is more of a Ponder Wander than a sketching lesson, so consider yourself forewarned.)
We are nearing the end of Summer School in my small circle of creative friends (see prior posts “For God’s Sake, Get a Tribe!” and “Recent Travels with My Tribe”). Yet again, a lovely feeling of contentment seems to have settled over me when I wasn’t looking. I often select three words at the end of Summer School, which then become my North Star Trio to help me prioritze my time in the coming year. My three words for the 2020-2021 season drifted into my journal just now. They are Gentle – Kind – Integrated.
For me, this has a lot to do with tempo, pacing myself to be in alignment with whatever energy I have at the moment. About six weeks ago I pulled a muscle in my back, and I learned quickly that ‘powering through’ pain is not always wise or even possible. So I am learning how to move gently when in pain, neither pushing nor giving up completely. (I definitely do not want to become a crotchety old couch potato!) Which leads me to the second word.
Akin to gentle, but not the same really. At the moment, ‘kind’ feels more like an action word to me. Kind is not just the absence of unkind. Instead, it is an intention, an approach, and finally an action. Being kind to my friends is easy, but I can always make it more vibrant by adding a layer of extra action. I can be the one who places the call to check in, rather than simply answering the phone when it rings. I can make a point of remembering a birthday or anniversary, or recalling that someone is healing from an injury and may enjoy a friendly voice. There are many ways I can step up my game on Kindness. Which brings me to the final word.
‘Integrated’: a word which for me is the opposite of ‘distracted’. I want to feel that my life has not been merely a collection of fragmented moments (as I have so often thought), but instead has always had a substantial thread coursing through its center. Were it not for the adrenaline-addled myopia that seems to be inherent in the human condition, perhaps many of us might have a deeper sense of connection to our own lives and to one another.
In recent years I have kept a Month-End Summary in my journal, each and every month, to look back and catch up with myself really. Even in this time of semi-lock-down, when I don’t leave my beloved loft apartment for days on end, I often feel that I have been running in circles, dashing from one check-list item to another, losing myself in the process. The alternative requires only the smallest of shifts, simply pausing at the end of each task to be pleased, satisfied, that I paid the bills, made that phone call, tended to those dirty dishes.
Look how far we have come!
It is no longer the middle of March. By my count this is approximately Day 116. There is still so much to fear, so much loss of life, and more to come. There is deep unrest in my country as well as around the world, because it seems the pandemic was simply the missing ingredient in the soup kettle of discontent that has been burbling for centuries around the world. The pandemic was the baking soda for the simmering vinegar of inequity our human race has created for itself. It is so easy to feel that life is now officially Hell, and that Dystopia has arrived. This is not a stretch of the imagination.
But, for better or worse, we still have us.
I still have the innate ability to wake up, to observe my own thoughts, and question if they are serving me well. This is my greatest point of power.
A dear mentor of mine describes those thoughts that serve no purpose other than derailing oneself as “The Annoying Roommate.” I have really taken this to heart, have given her a name (pick any name you like, but make it funny), and now whenever the voice of judgement or uncertainty or discouragement arises, I just shrug and say, “Oh, you again?”
Calling it your Annoying Roommate helps to give those unhelpful thoughts a bit of distance, so that you needn’t waste time owning them, untangling them, or even discarding them. They are, after all, just the rantings of your Annoying Roommate. Then you are free to return to your own path, your own deepest focus / values, so you may set your course for the next week, month, or simply the next moment. You are free to get back to your original focus on kindness, justice, and generosity to everyone in your circle of influence, saving a bit for yourself as well, of course.
It helps to have a navigation device to guide your course: I like the notion of Three Good Words. For the next year I’m choosing Gentle, Kind, and Integrated. Destination unknown, but the path will clearly be all mine.
What guiding lights might you choose for the next many moments of your time on this earth? Take time to listen to your heart and choose wisely.