Hi, friends! Happy Thursday. I’ve written a lot on here about my own personal journey to be gentle, to love myself, and to find my path. Today, I wanted to share some of the tools that I’ve learned to lean on along the way.
Now, I’ve read those same articles you have:
“Don’t hit the snooze button!”
“Exercise 30 minutes a day!”
“Vitamins that boost your mood!”
“5 New Ways to Enjoy Kale!”
It’s easy to read this (admittedly accurate) advice from sleep scientists or vitamin scientists or whoever these experts might be. It’s another thing entirely to avoid hitting snooze when it’s dark on winter mornings and I’m groggy from stress-induced nightmares and my ear hurts and do I have tinnitus? I’d better Google tinnitus. Then, because of the nightmares and the snooze button, I forget to take my mood-boosting vitamins, and even LOOKING at the raw kale in the crisper drawer fills my soul with dread. I’ll have to chop things! And wash multiple dishes!
The truth is, it took thousands of dollars of therapy and lots of help from a loving, supportive family and great friends to get to a place where I actually enjoy taking care of myself. If you can afford it and it resonates with you, therapy is great. Onsite Workshops was a real game-changer for me. But there were many little things I read, ate, or did along the way that helped. Here are some of those things.
* I start each morning with a passage from The Language of Letting Go. Codependency is a scary word, but it really just means you’ve decided your happiness is tied up with others’ happiness, or their reaction to you. This book helps. (It’s also on sale for less than $12! They probably have it at your local library!)
* Anything by Anne Lamott – her beautiful words remind me you can be sharp and witty and own your flaws while also embracing grace and mercy.
* Anything by David Sedaris, because he’s dark and weird and smart and hilarious, and though we are different, I feel a sense of connection when I read his non-fiction. And that, friends, is what it’s all about.
* Oprah is an angel who has come to Earth to share the good news. Her Super Soul podcast is the perfect companion to washing all those dishes from the kale dinner I’ve bribed myself to make. (Seriously, bribing myself is a very effective tactic and one I would recommend.)
* Armchair Expert by Dax Shepard lets me listen in to famous people who are generous enough to share their mistakes, empathy, and humanity. We’re all in this together.
* The Moth podcast is an enjoyable workout for your empathy muscle.
* I’m a borderline hoarder of things I have endowed with sentimental value. But you know what feels great? Giving that dinosaur lunchbox (which, yes, I bought as an adult) to my friend’s kid, who treasures it. Or cleaning out a bunch of clothes and imagining them having a whole new life at someone else’s house, where they might give that person a sense of pride and style. Or at least serve as part of a Halloween costume. Buying new stuff feels great at the time, but it feels way better (in my experience) to release, reduce, reuse, and recycle.
* Frequently, I get overwhelmed by the little bits of responsibility I have. It seems like it should be easier to keep myself, my dog, and my house in order, but it just isn’t. “Should” is such a dangerous word. When I look around me and feel I might sink under the weight of what I haven’t done, I pick one tiny task. Maybe today isn’t the day I scrub all the grout, but it can be the day I sleep on crisp, clean sheets; I can wash all the dishes before bed. Then I send out some empathy/sympathy for parents of young children and feel grateful for my life.
* I put up some bird feeders a few years ago, and they provide the best free entertainment, with their little squabbles over sunflower seeds. I love getting to know their personalities, watching black-capped chickadees steal away with their food to the security of a big old spruce, and seeing the one fat house finch scare the other ladies away.
* Meditation is one of those things that, YES, I GET IT, we should all do every day, and there’s that should again. Podcasts have once again come to my rescue, here, because there are oodles of them with meditations under 20 minutes. Mindful Pause by Jeena Cho has some good ones.
* Yoga is magic, as my friend Kirsten says. Don’t go to an exercise class pretending to be yoga (unless that is your thing, in which case, do your thing!), find a studio filled with houseplants and statues of Hindu gods and goddesses and crunchy people who talk about honoring the light inside you. I love restorative yoga and Yoga Nidra, which are like paying for a guided meditation/nap with some gentle stretching. I don’t like going to yoga and then being tricked into doing crunches, but that’s just me.
* Having a high-energy dog has helped me in many ways. She forces me to go for daily walks, because if I don’t, there will be hell to pay. She also reminds me of simple pleasures in life – just the act of going outside is the best part of her day! Every single time she gets to go outside, even just into the yard, it is like she has won some kind of award! Frozen peas are a delicacy! She can be a real pain, but on balance, I’ll keep her.
* I moved to New York because I wanted some adventures, and even when I was miserable and depressed and homesick, there were so many adventures. I moved to Colorado to be closer to nature, and in 30 minutes, I can be driving through the Rocky Mountains. But regardless of where I live or happen to be, I try to find little adventures. Wherever you live, there are probably free days at your local museums, cool antique stores, or restaurants you haven’t tried. Even a little adventure goes a long way.
* Watching a lovely sunset can feel like a discovery. When I find myself in a Netflix rabbit hole, cranky about the dishes I need to wash, nothing pulls me out of a funk as quickly as watching clouds turn rose gold or purple.
* Talking to people on airplanes always gives me a thrill – I’ve met people who kept me calm during turbulence, and people who defied my initial judgements (a tattoo-covered man who turned out to be an incredibly sweet formerly Mormon veteran comes to mind). I’ve had people give me their business cards and offer to help me if I ever find myself in Tennessee and in need of anything. I know from friends that this isn’t a popular hobby, but it has given me many gifts.
The common thread here is, of course, connection. Nature, good books, yoga, and sunsets all help me hook into a sense of awe about our shared experience here. They help me feel less small, powerless, and alone. There are infinite ways to find this magic – what resonates with you?