Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Lines are bring drawn everywhere. Politics have seeped into the most mundane parts of our lives. We all need a break, a retreat from the news without dropping out of our responsibilities. Many feel the fatigue of caring for others, either financially or literally. To keep the well of wellbeing primed each of us needs to take care of our own needs before deciding what others might need. I believe in taking a step back, looking at things from a safe distance, and with a very soft focus. What do I mean by soft focus?
It is very tempting to jump into all the arguments available to us at all hours on social media. This too shall pass. Maintain balance by taking your centering practices much more seriously than the outrage of the moment. Don’t consume the toxic Kool Aid. It is spiked, altered, unhealthy.
An appreciation for art of all kinds is a practical way to stay sane. During free time we can fall into the trap of planning too much, doing too much, and expecting others to do too much. Then the pleasure of leisure dissolves into another competitive realm to conquer. I believe that one of the best ways to indulge oneself and nurture creativity is to spend time making or admiring art. This is an open category. Art includes performance art, movies, theater, stand-up comedy, dance, and musical concerts of every kind. It is also written, painted, sculpted, and drawn. One can find it in museums, galleries, front yards, gardens, and libraries. There is plenty of art to view on line, but I think the best place to look for artistic talent is within.
It is fine to be a student, a novice, a dilettante. We do not need to be naturally endowed with talent, training, or determination. We simply need to dedicate some time to the discovery of the inner artist. I believe we can all seek greatness in one medium or another. It does not hurt to try, and it can enhance life to find a creative outlet at which we may excel. I have pursued many crafty, arty visual arts, but now I like to combine the visual art with something in writing. I am attempting a little bit of fiction lately, which I find liberating. It inspires me to broaden my vocabulary and learn more about story crafting. I think writing is good for my imagination and problem solving skills.
I love singing and was trained very well in my youth. I am a second alto and can hold my part in harmony. I no longer sing in public but I accompany many of my favorite recording artists, providing the harmonic third while I listen. I don’t want to go to choir practice any more, but raising my voice is a thrill and a chill. It puts me in a good mood, which usually means I dance around the house too. For me there is no better stress relief than belting a song.
Do you make time for artistic expression? Can you think of ways your creative side helps you deal with some of the more annoying parts of living?
My father was a corny guy who had a unique way of expressing himself. He had a PHD in petroleum engineering, but he like to come off as a down home Okie, for reasons known only to himself. He had a few phrases that have stuck in my mind over the years and guided my decisions in his absence. I am sharing them with you today for Father’s Day in hopes that you will see the humor in them and perhaps the wisdom.
My dad was very tall and imposing. He was an excellent musician and dancer, who loved to throw parties and sing. He was socially a pretty charming man. He did not discuss his politics in public, and felt obligated to be friendly, if not close, to all the neighbors. He was born in 1920, raised in Kansas and Oklahoma, at a time when petroleum was booming all around him, to say the least. His father, my grandpa, was a “jar head”, meaning he drilled oil wells with his crew before the invention of the rotary bit (very primitive stuff). My father got his masters in petroleum engineering at Penn State in the 1940’s and his PHD at Texas A&M in 1966. He loved A&M because he was in his element. He became a professor and taught there until he finally retired in 1997. His specialty was numerical modeling of oil fields. Being an Aggie suited him to a T.
His favorite phrase was “Hurry every chance you get.” This is a great example of his personal style. It doesn’t really mean anything, but sends one out into the world with a sense of urgency. He would typically say that on parting to everyone. He would often include, “It’s been great being with you” in his concluding remarks, just before he told them to hurry. It was endearing, and all of his colleagues and friends had heard it hundreds of times. His work crew bought him a desk set and had it engraved with the word hurry. It was too small to hold the entire statement, but everyone knew to what it referred. I don’t have a catch phrase for parting, but sometimes use my dad’s,”It’s been great to be with you”. I only say it if it is true. I never tell people to hurry.
In his parenting he frequently said,”Do as I say, not as I do.” This proved to be the most valuable lesson he engrained in me. He told me never to gamble or speculate on anything that was not a sure thing, as in a fact that already existed, rather than a speculation on the future. He also was firmly opposed to borrowing money, in theory. He then proceeded to gamble and speculate on oil fields (with borrowed funds) because he thought he was so smart. He both made and lost money, but it was stressful for him beyond belief. I could not help but observe that those oil wells were NOT sure things. He made this point clearly by doing what he said I should never do. I have no attraction to gambling or heavy financial speculation, and for this I thank Richard Morse. I remember to do as he said, not as he did, and this has served me well.
What did you learn from your father that stays with you in your life, gentle reader?
In ancient times the calendar and the clock were primary ways to communicate to the population. Holidays, and the Sabbath every week, were commemorated and acknowledged. Today we have less formally structured time, and many of us work on weekends. Sunday was dedicated to the sun once upon a time, and the solstice twice a year was viewed as significant. The marking of midsummer in agricultural societies was a celebration of bounty and fertility. Working the land in harmony with the stars and planets was a tradition that included observance of the astronomical events in the heavens. After the solstice the sun begins the journey back to the other hemisphere. The days will become shorter, just as now they are increasing.
Solstice will occur on a Wednesday in 2017, so I am making a few preparations to be ready in my heart and in my home for a new season. My celebration will involve synesthesia of colors, sounds, and flavors of this season. I am creating special menus for the week that feature the foods and drinks that spotlight summer. Grilled veggies and picnic style presentation remind me of my childhood. Seasonal cocktails make the adult party complete. I will be working up this party theme for the next 10 days, so I have time to find the best seasonal fruits on the market. The full strawberry moon has just passed, but the strawberries are in full swing. Berries and stone fruits like peaches, apricots and nectarines are both visual beauties and very tasty additions to any summer table. I like to eat berries straight up, but will probably make a shortcake to elevate the dessert factor.
I have been switching out my wardrobe and bed linens for the season, choosing lighter, brighter colors. It feels good to me to put all my winter clothing away to make space for what works now. I hope to complete this chore today, which will make me feel accomplished. I will reward myself with a long lavender scented epsom salts bath when those sweaters and jackets are all packed and stored until I need them next fall. I am listening to new music, trying new sounds as background. I think Baroque music just sounds like this time of year….it is zippy, light, bright, and happy. I have been listening and dancing around my house in anticipation of a harvest of happy times in 2017.
Synesthesia is the fusion of the senses. Sight, sound, taste, feel, and scent are purposely brought together to create a strong sensory impression. How will you prepare for your own midsummer’s night? I invite you to join me in a sensuous and pleasurable gratitude party.
This Sunday I did some work very early in the day to free myself for the rest of the day, and into tomorrow. I have my big indulgence of the month scheduled for tomorrow morning, my facial. This is my biggest self indulgence, without which I believe I would feel deprived. I go to a fantastic esthetician I have trusted for many years. She is the bomb. When I worked at spas I indulged in body work, facials, and all kinds of treatments on a very regular basis. I no longer feel the need for the entire high maintenance line up, but my skin and my mental attitude really benefits from my facial.
One reason I reduced the time and money spent on spa and health endeavors was budget. However, once I noticed how much time was returned to my schedule for any activity I choose I think I reduced my consumption more just to regain the unscheduled time. If I had unlimited funds to spend on treatments I would add a few things, but would probably not want to devote as much time as I used to for that sort of thing. I would rather have time to go to the gym and the steam room regularly because that is essential to my wellbeing. I would probably also spend large chucks of time at hot springs. For now I am happy with my condo village’s pool and jacuzzi, which I access with only a short walk. When I get up before dawn and watch the day begin from the deep end all is right with the world.
I think it is important to indulge oneself in healthy ways. The real question is what is indulgence. I know I have redefined it for myself and am happier for it. I had a large carbon footprint and the “need” for all kinds of services when I was younger. Now I like a good walk in the botanical garden with my neighbor better than a class, and a long soak in my own tub on Sunday evening better than any spa ritual I have bought and paid for in the past. The kingdom of spa is within you.
What is your best and favorite indulgence? Have you changed the way you look at that over time? I think it is good to compare value for time/money with everything in existence in order to hone one’s own best ways to pamper and sooth body and soul.
The essence of effective self care is self knowledge. If you begin to understand yourself just as you are it becomes easier to please your senses and intellect. Your body craves healthy food and activity, and your mind thrives on stimulating conversation and reading. Writing, art projects, and journaling lead one to discover inner talents and insights. Clearing or updating personal space is an ongoing project that gives great satisfaction. Creating excellent work and play environments in your own home make life much more pleasurable.
I like simple pleasures like beautiful plants and fresh foods. Since I like to cook and find it therapeutic, I can always spend an afternoon in the kitchen having fun. On Sundays I like to prepare food for the week. Bob takes a meal from home to work with him most days, so I pack a few servings to get a head start on the week. If I also take time to do some deep cleaning tasks on the weekend, my work during the week is lightened, and I enjoy the clean environment. I know cooking and cleaning might not sound like self care tasks to you, but in my mind they are basic. I don’t pay others to do these things for me, so making it an adventure in creative homemaking is my only good healthy option. I feel accomplished and well cared for when I have some chores finished. I then relax completely.
I do not plan an entire day of effort without some direct rewards. I often make sweets and desserts on the weekends, and clean my bathroom extra well. I treat myself to some sweet concoction and take a lovely long soaking bath in my sparkling clean tub. I use essential oils of lavender and grapefruit, and take a tall glass of iced tea to drink while I soak. This is at least as good as being at a 5 star hotel for me, because I don’t have to travel back home…I am home!! I provide my own room service, slip into my own bed with fresh linens, and sleep soundly.
How do you make your weekends work to combine tasks that must be done with some relaxation and fun? Everyone has a personal style, which is why each person knows best how to be true to that style.
Wipe the slate clean by taking the first day of each week
Make a commitment to clear your space and time
to restore your serenity
To daily life that passes at a constant pace, yet seems to be compressed
Into stressful packages of worry and uncertain future demands
On the dwindling energy and time our position in life
Step away from the every day, unplug from the noise and chatter
Give yourself the Sunday self care you deserve. This is an
Immerse yourself in music, perfume, and poetry that feeds your soul
Return to the world on Monday feeling healthy, relaxed and whole
The keeping of a sabbath on Saturday or Sunday is traditional in religious America. A day of complete rest, apart from the daily grind, was intended to be devoted to prayer and meditation on divinity. Today the religion of twitter has launched #SelfCareSunday as a tribute to taking a real break from the worries and stresses of modern life. This practice is viewed from different perspectives by many proponents of self-care. I have been reading lately about the Danish practice of Hygge, a simplistic, holistic way to stay centered and happy. This lifestyle concept is not related to religion, but does promote mindful awareness of simple pleasures, such as entertaining friends. Gathering to share cozy comforts is essential to maintaining community and identity in society. A good laugh and a delicious meal with friends can heal the wounds inflicted by the tragic news of the day. I like the idea of taking one meal every week to be mindful of our habits.
Here are a few ideas for #SelfCareSunday Brunch:
It is an excellent idea to be extra aware and conscious of self-care for one day a week. The benefits of rest and relaxation combined with good company can’t be overstated. We all need a little help from our friends. Do you have a self-care practice, gentle reader? Are your Sundays sacred? What is your favorite way to rejuvenate?