Active Aging, environmental, Integrative wellness, me time, rest, stillness, stress

GYST 2022 – Morning Coffee

A Perfect Cup

Nearly every morning my husband, Tom, brings me my first cup of coffee in bed. He gets up, even though he doesn’t have to go to work, goes downstairs, prepares a perfect cup, and carries it up to me. He then goes back down to get a cup for himself and climbs back into bed beside me. With our cat, Lilly, snuggled between us, we read the news, plan our day, or talk for nearly an hour before we get moving. This is our morning routine.

Morning routines are good things to have. They set the day in motion. Most of the advice I’ve read about morning routines have to do with exercise or meditation. Getting out of bed and getting your steps in, your heart racing, your body moving in some way. Or, spending that time reflecting and calming your mind. I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty that my first few minutes of the day have nothing to do with movement or meditation. I fight with myself over how I spend these precious minutes. One side of me stresses about how wasteful I am with my time, the other knows that doing this makes me happy. To give up these minutes would take away a big part of my relationship with Tom.

There have been times when I tried other ways of spending that first hour of the day. I’ve walked in the mornings, spent time in a coffee shop writing before work, morning yoga sessions with guided meditations. But there has been nothing that has been so satisfying and meaningful as the mornings spent in bed with my cup of coffee, Tom, and Lilly. 

In my “getting my shit together” year, I am trying to find ways to make improvements in my life and how I spend my time. Ways to be better organized and resourceful. Ways to get more stuff done while feeling less stressed about all that needs to be done. I could use this hour to do something more productive. I have so many “shoulds” that I want to complete each day. I have people who depend on me and my time. More and more people every day. At this time in my life, instead of my time becoming more my own, it is becoming less. In the past year I have three new challenges that are taking a considerable amount of my time and emotional energy. My “day late and dollar short” can now be measured in weeks or months. I never seem to be really on top of anything. I’m always mucking down in the heap of the mess as more and more gets thrown on. 

Even so, I’m not giving up this hour. From our bedroom window we can watch the sun come up over the mountains to our east. Life always seems a little bit more peaceful in the early morning. This hour is too important. Getting my shit together is not only about getting organized, it’s about making my life a life that is worth living every day. It is about enjoying my days more than not. It’s about in the end, looking back and knowing that there was purpose and meaning to why I was put on this earth. I’ve spent too many days in a flurry of activities that will mean nothing in the end. Time spent with Tom, friends, and family will always carry weight. This time will always have purpose and meaning. 

It’s now the middle of January of this GYST year. Also in the middle of this impressive increase in the number of Covid cases around us due to the Omicron variant. I have still managed to get quite a bit done. I am moving my dad across the country to live near me. I have secured an apartment for him. I’ve started getting it set up with furniture and basic living needs (with the help of some very good friends). I had guests in my house for the most of the first ten days of the year. I held a New Years Day dinner for nine. I have taken care of tasks (also with the help of a friend and co-guardian) of our new 65 year old “daughter”. I manage to keep the house somewhat clean and straightened, although not always to my liking. Sure, I don’t get meals cooked every night. I  don’t always have the laundry under control. My car is a disaster. The mail goes unopened for days. My email inbox is overflowing with junk. But I am learning that GYST doesn’t always mean those are the most important accomplishments. We (I) will survive if we have to pick up take out or just eat popcorn or pancakes (the only thing that Tom cooks) for dinner now and then. GYST is about being okay with those things. Life is not perfect. Sometimes GYST is about giving myself a break, and starting my day with a cup of coffee, a husband, a cat and a beautiful sunrise. 

Active Aging, emotional, Integrative wellness, intellectual, Life Beyond Menopause, rest, social, stillness, stress

A Year To Get Your Sh*t Together (GYST 2022)

2022 hopefully will go down in history as the “Year I Got My Shit Together.” As I sit down to reflect on the last day of this year, this is the theme I have come up with for the next.

I’ve been using “get your shit together” as my mantra for ages. I say these words to myself at some point almost every day. It can mean anything from “I need to clean up my space,” to “I need to clean up my person,” to “ I need to get organized,” or even “I need to learn how to have fun again.” 

My life is messy. Whose isn’t? Mine has gotten messier over the past few years, and a whole lot messier last year. Messy doesn’t mean it isn’t good though. I have nothing really to complain about. I have a good job, a good marriage, great friends. I have people who reach out to help me time and time again. I have a place to live that I am over the moon about. My husband, Tom, and I sold our house a couple of years ago and moved to a townhouse with great indoor and outdoor space, but no yard care or snow removal to tie us down. That freed up so much for us. 

Then why is my shit scattered in so many different directions? And where does all my time go?

Who knows, but I can tell you where it doesn’t go, and where I would like to spend more of it.

I haven’t had a haircut in over a year. I haven’t been to a doctor in two, and didn’t complete any of the recommended screenings she wanted me to have. Haven’t had a mammogram in three, (ok, maybe five). I did manage to go to the dentist once in the past eighteen months. You may be thinking that this could all be pandemic related. Sadly, it is not. I can’t use the pandemic for much of an excuse for anything I don’t get done. Truth is, I just don’t ever get around to making the appointments. I tell myself I’ll do it next week, next month, or next year. Only next never happens. I get bogged down in the day to day. I wake up every morning with a plan. Ten minutes after I get out of bed, the plan usually goes to hell. I might get to a few of the things on my todo list, but never all of them, and usually not the ones that I really wanted to do. I find myself slogging through the mundane, cleaning up the messes, and getting lost in pointless activities that mean little or nothing to me. Sure, those things need to get done, but they don’t need to be taking up so much of my energy. I also think a lot about the shoulds. Like, I should be cooking dinner, I should clean the house, or I should go to the grocery store. It’s not like I can give those things up completely. They do all need to get done. Eventually. By somebody. Maybe. I want to find time to do the things I enjoy. And, quit feeling guilty for not doing the things that I should.

So, this year of getting my shit together doesn’t necessarily mean that I will suddenly get organized. That my house will be clean at all times. That I will have dinner on the table every night at six o’clock. (Tom really doesn’t even want dinner every night, popcorn is good.) Or even, that I will manage to get a haircut. There have been some transitions that have happened in the past year that will change my life. It has gotten, and will get, even more complicated. I have some new obligations to contend with that make getting my shit together this year even more imperative. What getting my shit together means to me is I will make an effort to find calmness and satisfaction in the chaos that surrounds me. I will find time to give more. I will find time to take better care of myself and those around me. I will find the capacity within myself for compassion, empathy, patience. (That patience thing is the hardest one, never been good at that.) This blog will be the story of my journey through.   

If at the beginning of 2022 I’m feeling like I’m drowning, I want the end to feel like I’m floating in a pool of liquid blue on a cupcake raft. That is my goal. It seems like the perfect year to start. Follow along with me. We can do this together.

GYST (Get Your Sh*t Together)

environmental, Integrative wellness, rest, spiritual, stillness

Paradise Is What You Make Of It

What does paradise mean to you? Where would your paradise be? A few days ago a friend texted me on a particularly windy day that “the wind may catch me under the ears and move me to paradise.” I cautioned her to be careful; paradise is not always what it seems.

A few years ago I took a break during a rough time in my life. I went on a yoga retreat to a place in Mexico called Yelapa. The retreat was wonderful. We practiced yoga every morning and evening on an outside terrace that overlooked the small town and its beautiful bay. The sky was always a dramatic blue. As we lay on our backs during the ending Shavasana, large frigate birds circled overhead. The trees that rimmed one side of the terrace buzzed with the wildlife that lived within. The bougainvillea draped dramatically over the railing; it’s deep pink contrasting radiantly with the blue of the sky.

After morning yoga ended, we gathered for breakfast on an open portico. Homemade corn tortillas, fresh eggs, avocado, and tomatoes played starring roles most mornings. The middle of the day was filled with hikes, exploring the small town, relaxing on the beach, and late afternoon naps. A few of us even had a Watsu massage with an expat American who had lived there for many years.

On one of the days, the leader of the group arranged for a local boater to take as many of us who wanted to go to another small beach further along the shore. There were a small village and a few residents, but the beach was mostly deserted and was reported to be a great snorkeling site. About five of us decided to go. What could be better than spending an afternoon lazily laying on a beach, or playing in the surf and snorkeling? We landed on the beach during exceptionally high tide, the waves crashing on shore made navigating the boat in difficult. We decided that we would keep the vessel away from the shore and swim in, ferrying our gear and a cooler we had brought with food and beverage along our human chain. We managed to keep everything high and dry as we all crash-landed into the sand. We made a collective decision that snorkeling was not on the menu for the day. Instead, we set up towels and blankets on the beach and settled in for the afternoon. A local man drilled a couple of coconuts for us to sip on. A gentle breeze blew through our hair as we watched the ocean waves. As the palm trees bent in mild submission, we began to talk of paradise.

Behind us was a large house, surrounded by a low wall, made of round glass blocks and concrete. From our vantage point, it looked like a grand palace. The house rose to two levels. Soon two women emerged from the gate and made their way toward us. We talked for a bit. The woman who owned the house was an American, probably in her early fifties. She and her husband had worked hard and saved to be able to retire early to move to this area and build the house of their dreams. The other woman was a Canadian who had a house a few miles away. With them was a small dog who frolicked at their feet as they talked. We could tell by their actions that they were half smashed, but a little alcohol on a sunny afternoon in paradise with friends is no big deal. As they wandered off down the beach, they told us to feel free to go up and see the place.

We eagerly took her up on the offer. We all dreamed of living in paradise as well someday and wanted to see what we could expect. When we got to the gate, her husband was there in his underwear. He politely excused himself to put on some pants and just like his wife, told us we could wander around the house and property. He then staggered away. The lower level of the house was the kitchen. The upper level consisted of the master bedroom, and maybe some other bedrooms for guests. The house was round, and the side facing the ocean was open on both levels. The walls of the house were made of the same glass blocks and concrete as the surrounding wall. The opening was about a third of the radius and a stone patio extended from the kitchen, which seemed to functions as the primary gathering area. In the working part of the kitchen was a rounded countertop. An elevated bar with stools on the outside was adjacent to the countertop. The first thing we noticed as we walked inside was that the countertop and bar were completely covered. Half-eaten bags of chips, cookies and other packaged foods spilled onto the counter.  There was no fresh food in sight; no fruits, no vegetables. At least thirty bottles of every kind of liquor and wine available littered the space, some empty, some half full, all opened.

We declined from visiting the upstairs, fearful of running into the man in his underwear again. Instead, we wandered along the garden path the extended from the patio. It meandered along another low stone wall and to a couple of guest houses and a bathroom with an open shower. Again all constructed of the same materials. As we got to the end of the wall, I noticed that it was about a ten inches thick, and that the opposite side was made up of small round holes. It slowly dawned on me that these were not glass blocks. Every wall consisted of liquor bottles set in concrete. Thousands of liquor bottles. How much liquor must they have had to consume to build their paradise? I spun around in total disbelief as the realization of that set in. The sight we had encountered in the kitchen was not a once in a while activity with friends. It was their daily life in paradise.

We left the property and returned to our little spot on the beach. The two women were still playing with the small dog further down. We watched as a pack of larger dogs descended upon them and attacked the smaller dog. We rushed to help them fight them off. One of the women jumped into the middle of them and grabbed the little dog, but in the fray was bitten herself. A man came out of the brush behind us with a stick to drive them away. She saved the small dog, the others ran off, and the women staggered back to the house crying and bleeding. We had seen and even petted the pack of larger dogs since we arrived. We learned from the man who came to help that these dogs were mostly pets who had been abandoned by their owners and had learned how to survive on their own. Most of the time they were harmless but would attack and kill anything they could for food. The women seemed to know the dogs as well, one of them pleading as she passed us that she didn’t want to see them hurt and that she was sure they didn’t mean to hurt her. I couldn’t understand why, if they knew them so well, they had decided to take the smaller dog with them to the beach? They surely knew their habit of attacking and killing small animals. Our group was left sickened by the event.

We left the beach shortly after. Getting off was no easier than getting on. I returned to Yelapa that day with a new understanding of paradise. For the most part, aside from that one afternoon, I loved my time there. The beautiful days, the yoga, the hikes, the downtime, the food, the friendships I found, the quiet, the time for reflection all created a paradise in my mind. But, I realized in that one afternoon that my life at home was mostly a life I loved. I couldn’t live my days without structure, without purpose, without community. I wondered if the people we met that day had pictured their life in paradise playing out as it was. I wondered if they were happy. I couldn’t see the happiness there. It was not visible to me. I couldn’t feel it either.

Even now, years later, when I start to become weighed down in the messiness of everyday life, I think back to that day. It helps me appreciate what I have. It helps me clarify what I need. Visiting paradise is a powerful and necessary diversion. Living in paradise may not be all it’s cracked up to be.