This is my 1243rd post on this blog. And, just so happens a lucky confluence of days off, doctor appts and a yummy-nummy holiday cause me to have a week off of work. Well, six days. And with no canned posts up, you won't hear much from me for a while most likely. Nevertheless, I have a few thoughts for my Saturday ramble. Even worse, spirituality and creativity issues, lol! Thus Writtenwyrdd waxes philosophical, oh my!
Me, Me, Me! All about ME! This upcoming week I have a bunch of writing to catch up on, some exercise to wrack my muscles with (walking the dog, actually) and a bunch of people coming over on Thanksgiving to feed. Mom and I have to go out of town on Tuesday to Bangor to see the docs about my post-surgical check in, shop and do girly things like look for smaller clothing. All good things, especially having my friends over to dinner. Some of the usual crowd can't make it, but my doctor friend and her hubs (who usually are the ones unable to attend) can make it this year, yay!
Oddly--or perhaps not unexpectedly--being ill has shrunken my new small stomach back to walnut size. I find it odd that three or four bites makes me unpleasantly full. Perhaps it's an advantage, but when you can't even eat half a sandwich it's odd. And for some reason suddenly finding myself painfully full comes as a shock every time.
Anyhow, besides the advent of my migraine cycle, which losing 65 pounds was supposed to stop (Waugh!) I'm back to normal from my faux flu. Not sure what that was I caught, but it was pretty darned mild, for which I'm grateful. And believe me I'm incredibly grateful that my migraines, with preventative meds, are merely an annoyance and discomfort. I'm not huddled in the bathroom crying for about a week during which even breathing sets off incredible pain. I tell ya, without the drugs, I'd probably have jumped off a cliff or something several years ago. It was that bad. I might have been able to function with week long migraines, but live? Hah. These minor things that are my present migraines? They are nothing in comparison. I complain somewhat because they hurt like any strong headache and no one likes pain; but I know how much worse it could be, and I'm very grateful for the blessings of meds that help me. It was so much worse five years ago.
Thanksgiving thoughts. And on that note, let me just bring up the topic of thanks giving. Not the holiday itself, but the inspriation for it.
It's an appropriate thing to do, going into the dark season of the year: Thanking diety, luck, life, your family and friends for the people, opportunities, things, jobs or whatnot that feed your spirit and your body, that teach you, love you, let you love in turn and experience the fullness of life.
Yet, despite the vaunted holiday that's supposed to be aboutThanksgiving (okay, it's about eating turkey), our culture doesn't tend to emphasize gratitude; in fact, I find that there's a sad tendency to think that people who do nice things are schmucks. Losers, even. So, in a sort of convoluted yet related mental flip, we tend to think that being grateful smacks of loserhood, too. I mean, if you have to be grateful, you had to receive. And, if you had to receive, you were weak, a loser, a failure, a schmuck yourself. That's a sad generality, but I don't think mistaken.
And, on the other hand, I think other aspects of our modern lives poison the spiritual well. We are so busy rushing about (trying to be winners and not schmucks/losers/charity cases) that we cut ourselves off from recognition of things that are really important to our spiritual and emotional selves: Creating art, seeing friends, enjoying time with loved ones, spending 'quality time' or any significant/meaningful time with your kids (especially playing with them), volunteering and community work--things that feed the soul--are considered less because they are not generally considered 'real' or 'work' or 'career.' And yet they are the mortar that holds society and family together. (Similarly, that old tendency to denigrate stay-at-home moms or dads as not really working, e.g. not doing anything meaningful comes to mind...)
We really do forget to recognize, to feel the connectedness of things, in particular the connectedness of ourselves with the world and people around us. Being thankful is one way of connecting, as it allows you to ponder the points where you affect and are affected by the world. We don't do that enough. We tend to go through our days thinking of our body as a machine without feelings or 'real needs' and not seeing how our actions affect the rest of the universe. We tend to be distracted by data streams, email, phone messages, blog reading, fiddly bits of business that really can wait or even be forever ignored as not really adding to the quality of our lives. The butterfly effect is real; but we are generally too shallow-minded to consider the implications...not because we can't; but because we won't.
It takes a bit of practice to sort the chaff from the wheat. And what's chaff and what's wheat are, of course, variable. It depends entirely on your personal filtering system. It's where you could say "the rubber meets the road" on your life's journey.
An odd but useful tool. A habit I've had for years, especially when I was going through some major depression, was to set out to notice and focus on at least three good things each day. Three is a small and simple number, it's a doable number even when you are emotionally distraut. And if you stop and recognize three good things in your life, no matter how small or insignificant you'd usually think them, you build a repertoire of thought that allows you to find a more positive framework for things. It's so easy to drop into a "everything's useless, why bother?" mentality. But counting three good things per day (and constantly revising, rating, considering or referring yourself to your mental list) will help you step outside that particular bad frame of reference and--at least temporarily--into a more positive one.
When I'd despair of myself fixing certain problems, hanging onto those three things or choices I'd made that were good things helped a lot. Might help one of you guys, too, if you find yourself in a bad place.
Try it. It's not that hard, especially if you reinforce it by trying to expand the listing to categories, such as Three Good Things Others Did For Me, or Three Good Things I Did For Strangers, or Three Paying-It-Forward Actions I Did Today, or Three Times I Looked For And Found The Silver Lining. Soon, you can be much more positive by habit. Because expanding the list is also a form of play, which is always good. Lightening up is good. Smiling is good. Hugs are good. (But you guys know this, right?)
And what brings this "Three Good Things" thing up? Well, I've gotten out of the habit lately. Probably a lot longer ago than lately. Years? Might be so. See, I used to practice all sorts of self-cleansing ritual, meditation, self examination as part of my religious practice*. It was a spiritual lifestyle I lived, and then I moved to the back-of-beyond Maine, got The Job That Ate My Life, and fell away from that constant practice. And now the knowledge is there, but the habit is not. Because entropy has occurred.
You see, slowly but surely, my creativity has suffered in the ten years since I moved to Maine. My happiness, oddly enough, has not. I have maintained (mostly) my long-sought-for peace of mind; but I seem to have lost the raw joy of creativity that used to burn in my soul. I've grown tired or complacent or something. In particular I noticed it this NaNoWriMo, as I've been feeling "so what, I don't wanna, why bother" after the first bloom wore off that particular rose (after about four days.) So I got to wondering just why I was like this the past few years, feeling burnt out and lacking that joy in creation. Because I really don't like feeling defeatist and negative, especially not about my art or writing. I miss feeling totally high on the experience of making something.
And it came to me this morning: I've been getting back that old negative state of mind I described above. Not depression, but negative habits of thought. It's a cancerous thing, and it spoils the fun in life. And life should be about joy and good things.
Small steps got me happy; small steps will get me back where I want to be. And deliberately setting out to notice good things, positive things, is a way to be postive. Life is all about being in flux, anyhow, so you cannot expect to achieve a perfect mind, creation, relationship and stay there; but you can gain the 'sea legs' that allow you to shift with the flow of things and remain stable. It's about balance. And we proved as toddlers that we could learn to balance quite well, didn't we?
The skill's there; we just need to practice our spiritual balancing.
*I spent most of a decade studying, ahem, religiously as both a wiccan and in some other non-christian faiths. I talk about it quite a bit in my magic for writers series.