Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lent Trap!

Yes, I know - it's a terrible pun. Bear with me.

March 1 is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the season of Lent. While traditions and mileage vary, many Christians use this 40-day season as a time of reflection and preparation for the Great Mystery of Christ's Passion. Some people give up something that they enjoy - maybe caffeine or sweets, maybe even going so far as to temporarily turn vegetarian or vegan. Other people put other sorts of restrictions on themselves, such as limiting social media time.

I've observed Lent in a number of ways, but one of the best, most meaningful ways for me was to avoid the "Lent trap" of giving up something or imposing restrictions on myself.

Instead - and keep in mind you don't have to observe Lent per se to try this - take up a good habit. Offer alms every day by setting aside a dollar or a quarter and donating that money to a worthy charity of your choice. Make a pledge to offer five strangers compliments every day. Let that other driver merge in (although you're right; they really ought to use their signal). Resolve to let your Beloved choose the show every time you settle onto the couch with the remote. Take the dog for a walk just because it's warm outside and the pup would enjoy spending time with you. Write a series of cheerful notes on sticky notes and put one on the bathroom mirror at work every day.

You see the pattern, I trust. Spread some joy. It doesn't have to be a big thing, but try hard to make it a consistent thing - a habit, if you will.

I've heard it said that in the Bible, God commands His children to "be joyful" SIX HUNDRED times. Maybe we ought to pay some attention to that. I plan to go forth and try my best to take Emerson's advice to "scatter joy" instead of putting so much effort toward feeling that my worth is measured by how much deprivation and want I can deliberately put myself through. Yes, God puts restrictions on our behavior - we're supposed to "love our neighbor as ourself," so let's get out there and smile, encourage, and hug instead of spending so much of our time on this whirling blue ball scolding, shaming, and judging.

Get your kindness on!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jump Starting Self-Care!

When I was just a wee li'l teen driver, my father made sure I knew how to use jumper cables in case I ever found myself with a dead battery. (By the way, this is knowledge that is extremely useful to have. Don't know how? Click here!) Basically, the idea is that you can "Frankenstein" your dead battery with a jolt of energy from a car that has plenty to spare.

The core principle can also be a good idea as you work to develop and put into place good habits. Now, you need to be careful - just as you wouldn't try to jump start a running car, there's nothing to be gained from overloading your personal system. In other words, don't make the all-too-common mistake of trying to change six habits at once. Pick one thing and work on that one, get that ingrained into your life, then move on to the next.

Being a big believer in taking care of yourself so that you can then take care of others, I wanted to work self-care into my everyday routine. (Yes, I know on the surface that sounds shallow and selfish. I blame the Puritans.) This is a goal that regular readers of this blog know that I've worked on pretty much since the very beginning of Mockingbird's Nest and it's a key focus on mine for this year of  "being kind and finding delight in my days." So I was delighted to be recently handed (on the proverbial silver platter, no less) the nigh-perfect opportunity to work on this habit.

Old and dear friends (like the kind you'd get on a plane to see on the strength of a phone call saying, "I got into a touch of trouble. Please come to Pocatello.") live out in the Beehive State. FryDaddy and I had visited over this past summer and pretty much fallen in love with the vastly-different-from-North-Cackalacky terrain, climate, wildlife, and lifestyle. Well, lo and behold, we were invited back for the world-renowned Sundance Film Festival. (Details about that side of the experience can be found over on the other blog, UnfetteredBrilliance.)

Imagine a week-plus of relaxing, eating, talking, playing, and just being. It was glorious! There was the cold night spent in the outdoor hot tub as snowflakes drifted down. There was standing at the kitchen window seeing a small herd of mule deer twenty feet away. There was seeing four-foot snowbanks and realizing that the town shrugged and went on. (There was also nearly running over Woody Harrelson in the Whole Foods parking lot, which has to be the most "Sundance Festival" sentence I've ever typed.) There was the afternoon spent experimenting with mass and acceleration as we went snow tubing. And there was the afternoon spent at the Utah Women's March (My sign had messages on two sides - one was "Trump Cancelled Firefly." I was surprised at the high-fives that got me! A favorite of mine was "Trump Skis in Jeans," which is apparently the ultimate diss in snow country.) Every day brought new adventures and there was so much love showered upon us throughout the trip.

Furthermore, this is a family that enjoys cooking - and they pulled out all the stops. Homemade (from scratch!) chocolate birthday cake, complete with buttercream frosting. (Note - this must - MUST - be eaten for breakfast on at least one morning to count as decadent. I counted it.) Amazing beef fillets grilled outside surrounded by pristine snow and served with a warm berry sauce that made me moan just a little. Tim Horton's coffee! I could go on and on, but that would simply create envy in you and that would be unkind.

I felt like a duchess, only without a uncomfortable corset or social obligations regarding finger bowls.

And I came back with my compassion tank reloaded.

Jump starts work!