Check it out: http://hemarriedawriter.tumblr.com/
(The following is the introduction to my latest book, Self-Care for Educators.)
I was sitting in the back of my Weight Watchers meeting when I clicked on the notifications on my phone and immediately wondered what the hell was happening. I very quickly realized that something I said during a training I conducted for teachers a few days prior had gone ‘viral’ (and by viral, I mean that within one day of the original posting, a meme attributed to my name had been reacted to 6.2K times, there were well over 404 comments on one site where it was posted, and that same site indicated 7.3K shares). Whaaaaat?????
I’ll be perfectly honest with you… my very first thought upon learning that something I said had gone viral was this: Holy crap, I hope I didn’t screw up the research. And then I scrambled to Google Scholar and typed in some key phrases and was so unbelievably relieved to see that YES, numerous articles, education blogs, and reports backed me up. Thank God.
You see, during that training with teachers, I said this: ‘Teachers make more minute by minute decisions than brain surgeons… and that is why you’re going home so exhausted each day’ but I didn’t make the meme (prior to that day I wasn’t even sure what in the heck a ‘meme’ was—if you’re also unsure, see my meme below) so seeing this ‘out there’ stunned me. I didn’t choose to go viral; I didn’t want to go viral. I didn’t even ‘approve’ having a meme made of something I said in a workshop. But welcome to 2016, I guess. It’s out there. Forever.
I felt anxious and twitchy and nervous for a few minutes and then if I’m going to continue being totally honest, I got kind of excited as I wondered if maybe I should expect a phone call from Oprah or Ellen (or maybe they’d team up and call me together? Yes, yes, that’s exactly what would happen) and maybe someone would beg me to do that TED Talk that I’ve been formulating in my mind and I’d then get my own TV show and newspaper column… and I allowed myself to feel even more excited. Maybe this was my break-through moment. Eeeeeeeee!
But then I made the horrendous mistake of reading the comments on one of the sites that shared my quote. I KNOW better. I really do. But I did it anyway. For every wonderful shout-out to a teacher there were (grammatically incorrect and highly misspelled) posts about lazy teachers, teachers who only teach half the year, how stupid this data is, how dumb (actually spelled ‘bumb’ in the comment) teachers are, how ‘Boogren’ looks like ‘booger,’ how teachers are overpaid… and I couldn’t stop reading them. I should have stopped but I couldn’t. I even clicked on the replies to the replies to the comments and I felt myself sinking into my chair, paralyzed by the hate, wanting to jump in and defend (but knowing damn well that that’s a TERRIBLE idea on all accounts), and wishing that it would kind of just go away because now I’m feeling really exposed and vulnerable (and let me remind you that I’m at a WEIGHT WATCHERS MEETING where I just stripped down to my tank-top and shorts to get on the scale in front of a stranger—as if that didn’t make me feel vulnerable enough).
I continued to feel anxious and weird and I was drawn to my phone again and again to see if this thing was still being shared—and it was—hours later. I eventually pulled on my tennis shoes and went for a walk where Elizabeth Gilbert whispered in my ear (via her Podcast, Big Magic, pumped through my headphones) about doing scary things and being brave and not reading reviews—‘Reading your reviews is like eating a sandwich that might have glass in it,’ she said—and deciding which part of your life you want to be your ‘real’ life and which part is your ‘fake’ life and how to bring light to the one that feels scarier but makes your face light up when you think about it.
I kept walking and thinking about her advice and when I’d check in with my body I’d realize that my stomach was still sort of flipping around from my words spinning around the world and I decided this: You know what? I DO have something to say. And rather than getting into a online shouting match with someone who writes ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ I’m going to be civilized and write this out in an essay, or maybe even a book. Because here’s the deal. I’ve worked with A LOT of teachers in my career. Do I fully, fully, FULLY admit that there are some very bad ones in the mix? You bet your ass I do. I’ve seen them. I’ve coached them. I’ve observed them. They’ve made me cry. Can I tell you story after story about the ridiculous things that they do? How they go out of their way to be ‘intentionally disinviting’ to their students? Yup. I could go on and on and on.
But I choose not to. Because for every ‘hanging on the bottom rung teacher’ there are ten others, working their asses off to be ‘intentionally inviting’ to their students, often to the detriment of their own families, health, and sanity. And these are the teachers that need someone’s spotlight to shine a light on them and to share their stories with the public who thinks it’s ok to call teachers lazy, stupid, and ‘bumb’. Oh no you don’t… not around MY quote you don’t.
The thing about teaching/teachers is that we (the public) all feel like we know exactly what they do because we had teachers ourselves. But this is like thinking we know what it’s like being a barista because we drink coffee. Or a bus driver because we ride the bus. Or a pilot because we’ve flown a lot. Teaching isn’t the same as it was when you were in school—guaranteed. Even if you were in school yesterday, I guarantee you that teaching is different today. Because it’s AL-WAYS changing. (What’s not changing, by the way, is the pay.) And because we feel like we ‘get’ a teacher’s job, we also feel like we have the right to comment, to judge, to evaluate, and to criticize. But we don’t. Unless you’ve observed, interviewed, and stood next to real teachers in a real school for days upon days, both in the school and on their own time, you don’t get to publically share your sweeping opinion about ‘all teachers.’
Actually, that’s not true.
And here’s the part that really stings. Teachers are public servants and folks absolutely have a right to share their opinion about us. Just as we do for our police officers, our President, our doctors. But it hurts when you’re one of them and you intimately know the other side; the ‘non-public’ side.
For teachers, that side is the hours spent revising lesson plans to ensure that you’re challenging your advanced students as fairly and as appropriately as you’re supporting your students who need more time or a different mode of communication. It’s the late nights at school coaching, sponsoring, cheering, meeting, and fretting. It’s never feeling fully present with your family because your students also feel like your family and when they’re not with you, you’re not sure how much love they’re getting. It’s never feeling fully present with your students because you’re carrying guilt about spending your evening at home grading papers. It’s paperwork, paperwork, paperwork—so much paperwork that it’s eating into your ability to be totally focused on your students, even though that’s all you want to be. It’s figuring out how to provide feedback that strikes that precarious balance between loving and pushing; between pointing out what’s correct and also being honest about what’s entirely off the mark and what to do next. It’s hours spent with colleagues, focused on one student, when there’s also ten more who need this attention, too. It’s presenting a lesson while also being aware of the individual behavior of each student in your classroom in order to direct the appropriate attention, support, love, and discipline that each child needs. It’s testing and tests and facing unfair consequences because of one test, meant only to be a snapshot in time. It’s having a perfect day when no one visits your classroom and then having everything fall apart when twelve visitors arrive for Instructional Rounds. It’s setting up field trips and guest speakers and parent volunteers—tasks so monumental that planning a wedding suddenly feels like a cakewalk.
And that’s only half of it.
I’ve been honored to bear witness to these teachers over the course of my career and I’m continually contemplating the question, ‘How else can I help?’ How can I ease the burden, honor the work, and sing the praises of our hard-working, dedicated, passionate teachers beyond what I provide during my trainings? What I’ve settled on is self-care. Small tweaks and reminders and (most importantly perhaps) permission for teachers to take care of themselves. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not. The teachers that I meet that are the shining stars are oftentimes putting themselves at the very bottom of their own priority lists. And I fear that their stars will burn out because of this.
And so this book is about reminders of ways to take care of ourselves as educators and also as human beings. Reminders like how getting enough sleep is an essential part of being an effective teacher as is pausing to take three deep breaths at various points throughout the day. It’s about giving ourselves permission to go for a five-minute walk during plan time; permission to conduct a walking meeting; permission to not be perfect. This will be a lot of re-learning. We know these things. We really do. But along our teaching journey, we might have chosen our students and our career over ourselves so many times that we’ve forgotten what it means to engage in radical self-care without guilt. It’s time to ditch the guilt and see if maybe, just maybe, we can become even more effective teachers when we put our own oxygen masks on before helping others.
Please join me in this conversation at: www.facebook.com/selfcareforeducators.
But I fell. Hard. I fell so hard for Lucy. I fell immediately, in fact. As we waited for her in the cargo arrivals building of the airport and out she came, paws crossed, ready to love us immediately, I fell right then. Those eyes—like the sweet shape of a stuffed animal, those eyes… so sad yet so sweet. Those eyes got me first. Actually, maybe it was her eyebrows. Or what you’d call her eyebrow bones. Their animation gave those bones words—we communicated through the rise and fall of those bones. The rise let me know she was excited or she was agreeing with me when I suggested a run outside. The fall was how she told me she loved me and she was sorry that she couldn’t stay out of the garbage.
She saved me. When I was tormented by the dissertation process, she saved me. When I fell to the ground, surrendering to defeat, it was Lucy who got to me first. She snuggled into the nooks and crannies of my physical body like a therapy dog and she didn’t beg me to pet her, she just offered up her heart to me when I needed it; just as she always did.
Even as I write this, ten days after saying good-bye to 1/3 of our little family, I cannot stop the tears. It still hurts in a raw, terrifying way. I’ve never felt loss like this and it’s changing me.
As I write this, I’m on another airplane, two airports away from home, trying to breathe my way through my mood and knowing that among the layers of what’s making me restless and snippy is still the loss of her; of so much of my heart. And knowing that this is the first work trip from which I will return home and not be greeted by her, which was the absolute best. No matter how late it was when my key hit the door, I’d hear the thump of her feet hitting the floor from the warmth of the bed and my husband’s body and out she’d stumble—looking a little bit drunk, with that ‘sleepy face’ as we called it—over to me, waiting on my knees, to envelop her in a hug that would instantaneously melt away the travel sludge that comes with even the smoothest of trips. And as I unpacked my bag she’d patiently wait—legs crossed in her lady-like way, letting me know that it was ok. That’d she’d wait for me because she knew that my Type-A personality wouldn’t allow me to go to bed until I was unpacked and my damn expense report was submitted. She understood and she never rushed me.
I always thought it was ridiculous (and if I’m being honest, perhaps a bit sad) when childless couples treated and talked about their dogs like they were human children. And while we never put Lucy in a chair while at a restaurant like that couple did next to E and I years before we had Lucy, we did become versions of ‘those people’ before we even realized it. When out to dinner with friends we told stories about Lucy for hours. I sent pictures of her to my grandma, a non-dog person—and filled my letters to her with descriptions of our blond baby. I put her picture on my ‘about me’ slide that is in every PowerPoint presentation I give. It’s actually a picture of her and Eric in the car. Lucy is in the backseat but inching her way forward—as she always did—to be closer to us—so her head is bigger and closer than Eric’s in the picture and when that slide comes up and I introduce participants to the two most important ‘people’ in my life (yes, yes, I said ‘people’ here) I’d add on, ‘…in no particular order,’ with a sly smile which always solicited a laugh and exposed me as a crazy dog person within the first ten minutes of a workshop.
I don’t know how to introduce myself now.
Just as it hurts me the most to not have Lucy greet me when I get home from a trip, it hurts my husband the most when I’m gone and our home is empty and quiet and lonely now. It must be hauntingly quiet for him without her when I’m on the road. I hate that.
When we had to say good-bye to Lucy—on a Saturday—I took it as divine intervention when my trip that was already booked for that Monday was cancelled. I still believe that. But I also think it was a bit of a test. How would I face my grief at home—alone—in a space that I never knew without her. On Monday I was saved by Eric coming home early but the rest of the week I was on my own. And my grief surprised me. Maybe it shouldn’t have but it did. Because it would hit me in waves—full-body waves—that brought me to my knees and racked my body so hard that at first the emotion was silent—just the shaking of my whole body, on the ground, hands covering my face—until the tears would eventually show up and would hit me so fast and so hard that my entire face swelled up and I was almost unrecognizable to my own self when I looked in the mirror.
We always said that Lucy would be the best therapy dog. Like the ones they bring to the airport during times of stress or like the dogs I met on a flight one time, sweet labs traveling to places where students were facing a tragedy. She’d be so good at that—at holding space in her quiet, sweet way--for kids in particular. We saw her do it with our niece who wasn’t facing tragedy but who was spending the night with us for the first time. Lucy wouldn’t leave her side. Even keeping silent watch when our niece slept, sitting vigil right by her head, eyes never closing, protecting the most innocent in the house. Always.
On the Thursday before we said good-bye, when she was starting to hurt and we didn’t yet know what it was, I returned home from book club to find her in my spot in the bed—as always. And like always, I loved on her, kissed her, and gave her the signal to scooch over as I took hold of the bedspread and started to pull it down. This move always solicited a verbal gruff from Lucy but she also always got up and moved down and over a bit to let me in. Always. And so I’d apologize to her, love on her some more, and slide in, contorting my body to fit around her, sacrificing comfort, to appease her. But on this night she didn’t move; she stayed put. Quietly. Her head was on my pillow and she faced me so I slid in, my head on the same pillow, facing her, looking directly into those sweet eyes and she put her paw on my shoulder and I pulled her in—in a hug—and we lay there like that for a long, long time and I knew that this was something. I wasn’t sure if she was telling me that it was going to be ok or that she loved me or that she wasn’t well, but I felt it. It was something. Normally she squirmed away from me when I tried to hold her face-to-face like this, preferring instead to be curled into my knees or have her head resting on my feet but on this night she was perfectly still, paw on my shoulder, looking deep into my eyes until we both feel asleep like this, my heart nearly exploding.
I loved to run with Lucy. But it was embarrassing. I’m not as fast of a runner as her first human-mom, Sara, was and so Lucy liked to ‘cheer me on’ by holding the leash in her mouth, getting two steps ahead of me, and pulling on the leash in an attempt to get me to speed things up. Passer-bys loooooved it. (And secretly? So did I.)
She howled at sirens. Just last night after finally returning to ‘normal life’ by spending our Saturday out on the town, Eric and I returned to our empty home and collapsed into each other’s arms when the sirens sounded and there was no Lucy to howl for us.
Last year I chose ‘intention’ as my word for the year but that never felt quite right (to be honest, I kept forgetting what my chosen word was) and in 2014 I chose ‘equanimity’ mainly because I thought it sounded fancy and it was fun to say. But this year is different.
My one little word for 2016 is ‘better.’ It came to me quickly and suddenly and I knew it was the perfect word for me once it appeared in my brain. It stuck. Like melted gum on the bottom of my flip-flop. Stuuuuuuck.
To me, ‘better’ simply means that I want to make each day, each moment, each breath, just a teeny tiny wee bit better than the one before it or the one in 2015 or 2014 or 1994. Just a smidge bit better. Not the best—no one needs that kind of pressure. But also not the same either—because while my life is good—damn good in so many ways—I also believe that it/I can work to continually improve things even if that improvement measures only a millimeter. It’s still better.
I was thrown off for a minute when I read some of my favorite bloggers talk about how we should give up the idea of ‘better’ and instead focus on all that we already have. True. So very true. And yet, I also don’t want to wake up on January 1 of 2017 feeling like my life is at the exact same spot as it was on January 1 of 2016. No, I want to wake up on January 1 of 2017 and say, “Damn. That was a good year. My life shifted in subtle—and not so subtle—ways for the better. And I’m grateful.”
As an educational consultant, I’m constantly sharing research around the concept of expertise from Dr. Ericsson and the notion that it takes a minimum of ten years of deliberate practice to get good at something difficult. And that got me thinking. About my own life. And if I’m truly an expert in my own life… hmmmmm.
I’ve got the ten years part down (ahem…). It’s the deliberate practice part that has me pushing my own thinking. In education, we talk about deliberate practice as choosing one or two things to get better at each year. One or two things. Not 500. (Because in education, like other vocations, I’m sure, we tend to throw 500 new ideas at our teachers and announce that they need to do these things. Now. But for us veterans, we know that if we don’t get to them, we don’t worry, because we’ll throw 450 of those things out next year and bring in 475 more. Which sometimes leads to complacency and a feeling of ‘I’ll just shut my door and keep on doing what I’m doing because no one outside of my door seems to know what they’re doing anyway.’ And I want more than that for my own life--and for the educators that I work with.)
And so, as consultants in the world of education, we advocate for not doing that—not closing our door and doing what we’ve always done. We advocate for better. Because we know that if teachers can improve just a smidge each year, the impact on student achievement is astounding.
Which circles me back to my intention for myself this year: If I can improve my life just a smidge this year, the impact just might be astounding. And I like to be astounded.
So I started writing. As I do. And reading. As I do. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before revolutionized my thinking and helped me to hone in on who I am and what small steps I can take to know myself better in order to shape my habits rather than trying on someone else’s habits as though swallowing a magic pill that would finally change my life immediately and forever (as I’ve been doing for years).
And so for the start of 2016, I’ve implemented my own ‘Daily 5.’ Educators might be familiar with this framework from the world of elementary school literacy (and now math) and how this framework helps to foster independence and fully engage students in reading and writing. The daily five in literacy are (1) read to self, (2) read to someone, (3) work on writing, (4) listen to reading, and (5) word work.
My daily five? My small steps that I am going to engage in action research around to see if they do indeed make me feel better are as follows: (1) take one photo each day (2) meditate (3) write (4) move (5) choose food (and drinks) mindfully.
For the last six days I’ve been using my Streaks app (through Rubin’s book I’ve learned that I work well with monitoring and Streaks allows me to keep track of my daily five in a tangible way) to monitor my progress. And so far? So good. Soooooo good.
I wake up in the morning, check my Bethadilly Challenge (http://bethadilly.com/the-bethadilly-challenge/) prompt and snap a photo. With intention. I love photography and starting my day with a visual image of beauty from my immediate surroundings feels like an indulgence.
And then I check my email, plan my day accordingly, take a few deep breaths, and open my journal. And I write two pages. Just two. Privately. For my eyes only. No pressure whatsoever; just putting pen to actual paper and seeing what unfolds. And what’s unfolding feels like magic.
And then I eat my healthy breakfast, with no distractions.
And then I meditate. I’m up to 25 minutes and while the first five minutes are still incredibly painful and scattered, I do eventually settle into my seat and my mind and when the chime goes off, I feel light and airy and… settled. Calm.
And then I get to work. Because I’m entering my work world in a state of calm. And that’s so much better than entering my work world feeling scattered and pressured and frantic. This week I’ve been at home, working on presentations and handouts and my book for beginning teachers and that sense of calm has led to improved presentations, handouts, and a few more words on the page.
And then I move. This week my movement has been in the form of yoga on a mat in the middle of my living room with Lucy (my dog) staring at me from the couch or from directly above. We also walk, Lucy and I, without my phone and usually without a shower, around the park, taking in all the smells, the puppies, the sunshine, and being careful of the icy spots. I’m not pushing myself to start running again as I usually do in January. My body doesn’t want to run (my knee in particular) and I’m listening to her. She craves yoga and walks right now and I’m obliging.
And then I work some more and eventually welcome Eric (my husband) home by putting down the work and looking him in the eye when I ask how his day was.
And then I cook. For real. (This is a relatively new skill for me.) I use my fabulous Vegetti to make myself zucchini ‘pasta’ and I eat it mindfully.
And I check off my five boxes on my Streaks app and give myself a pat on the back for another day spent feeling better.
It’s only the first full week of January and I know that when my travel schedule kicks back into high gear starting next week I may need to ease up on myself a bit. And I will. Because as I engage in deliberate practice around myself and my life, I know that getting five checkmarks might be too much and so some days I’ll only get one. And that’s ok, too, because each teeny tiny wee bit of forward progress is acknowledged and appreciated.
And today, through my morning journaling, I got to thinking that maybe you are interested in creating a life—or a moment or a breath—that’s just a wee bit better for yourself as well. Because perhaps you’re a mom who puts your kids and your spouse and your dog and the gerbil and the ironing before yourself. Or maybe you’re an executive who travels every week and while you’re raking in loads of money, you know that life could be better than sitting in a lonely hotel room ordering room service and trying not to let the duvet cover touch your face. Or you’re one of my people—an educator—who knows that balance is essential and yet you’re trapped under a pile of papers to be graded and an alarm clock that goes off at a despicable hour in the morning. And you’re thinking: There’s got to be a better way. Surely.
And so let’s do this together. Let’s take this journey to becoming better versions of our already kick-ass selves. Let’s choose one or two things to engage with deliberately. Maybe you start with your breath and reminding yourself to pause and take five deep breaths before you check your email or before your feet hit the floor from your bed or before you enter the office or the classroom in the morning or your home at the end of the day. Or maybe you start by moving your body in a way that feels good. Without the pressure of a ‘resolution’ screaming in your ear. Or maybe you decide to set an alarm to go to bed so you actually get seven hours of sleep and not two. Maybe you decide to buy that silly Vegetti and make yourself some crazy-ass non-pasta. Or you pick up that book that’s been collecting dust on your nightstand and you read two pages before you go to bed instead of checking Facebook one more time. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. You know yourself better than I do—better than anyone.
In education we often talk about adding instructional strategies to our tool-belts so that we have multiple resources to utilize with our students and I’m proposing a similar idea here but instead of adding instructional strategies to our tool-belt of educational resources, I’m advocating for strapping on a self-care tool-belt so that while we’re taking care of our students, we’re also taking care of ourselves. So that we can feel better this year. Just a wee bit better. And I’m proposing that if we do that, we just might astound ourselves.
Care to jump in the water with me?
When you were used to traveling by plane twice a year, you felt contempt towards people with ‘status.’ Always getting in line ahead of you, nabbing the seats with extended leg room, being bumped up to First Class. Jerks.
And then you get a job that requires you to fly for work and you put in your time and you suddenly understand that status is e.a.r.n.e.d. Not only by miles but by what it means to travel for work.
It means the obvious things, of course: being away from home and crappy airport food—but it also means learning how to be patient, kind, calm, and generous in situations that beg for impatience, hostility, anxiety, and anger. (And carbs and alcohol. Both of which you've given up while traveling.)
It’s running on shitty hotel treadmills in basements and converted storage closets because your training schedule calls for five miles and it’s dark outside and there are no sidewalks here and you are a woman alone in a small town.
It means sticky carpets and questionably clean towels and the decision to trust that the duvet really is fresh for each guest.
It means that on every flight there will invariably come the waft of a dirty diaper, straight into your nose at the exact moment you decide to take a soothing, healing, suck-it-all-in-breath.
It’s small talk with seatmates and hotel clerks who ask you—straight-faced—if you’re vising their piece-of-shit town for your one night stay for business or pleasure.
It’s constantly being ‘thanked’ or ‘rewarded’ with packaged food and more packaged food and cheesy pasta and fresh-baked cookies and free pizza at the manager’s reception. When you’re gluten-soy-and-dairy intolerant.
It’s changing out of work clothes and back into your (dirty) travel clothes in a dingy bathroom stall at the rental car place or the airport. And feeling genuine joy when said stall is the roomy handicapped one.
It’s businessmen on cell phones, thrusting their authority over armrests and aisles and pushing their way over you and past you on shuttle buses and elevators. Old-school politeness and chivalry be damned.
It’s seat mates looking over your shoulder, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice and opinions on the state of education in this country when you simply don’t have the energy to dispute, argue, or put into place with the loads of research and numbers and stories that you carry in your mind and your heart that would blow this slimy man’s opinions out of the air and to the bottom of the ocean below.
It’s messed up sleep patterns thanks to time zone changes, questionable sleeping quarters, unbalanced blood sugar, and constantly catching up on the emails that were missed when you were up in the air, on the road, or leading a workshop.
It’s waking up extra early to review your presentation for the 50th time and to allow for a 15 minute padding because MapQuest and Google maps can’t decide if it will take you 15 minutes or 25 minutes to reach your destination and you don’t know the local traffic patterns and if there will be a Starbuck’s or a Dunkin Donuts on your way.
It’s germs and coughs and unexplainable stickiness.
It’s running through O’Hare every. single. time. And getting full-body pat-downs in one-gate airports.
It’s getting bumped from rental cars and hotels after delayed flights and 2:00am arrivals.
It’s missing Friday night happy hour with your husband because you’re two flights from home. And missing Saturday morning brunch because you’re not sure what city you’re in when you finally do hit the pillow and you need sleep, sleep, and more sleep before you can be a civilized human being once again.
It’s the lack of human contact and the newfound desire to hug the security woman as she checks for weapons and drugs.
It’s leaky liquids, trashed suitcases, smelly rental cars, and middle-seats, stuffed in-between two large, self-important men.
It’s wrinkle-free travel wear and comfortable shoes and ironing black pants two, three, and four times because checking a bag is out of the question.
It’s also exploring a new city—one that has swamps instead of mountains and whose largest employer is the federal prison.
It’s checking out new restaurants and grocery stores and the feeling of comfort that a chain restaurant can sometimes provide.
It’s schools with outdoor hallways and gardens and kids who cuddle up next to you to share their coloring and letters.
It’s teachers who wait past 3:30pm on a Friday afternoon to stand in line to thank you and envelope you in a bear hug because you gave them renewed hope and inspiration and they are grateful.
It’s the uncommon-but-not-unheard-of perks of a hotel room with a strong showerhead, spa shampoo and conditioner, a full gym, free WiFi, and a healthy breakfast spread. Or a rental car with Sirius satellite radio and a back-up camera.
It’s the gentleman shuttle driver who tells you that you have a beautiful smile as he lifts your suitcase up for you with a smile and a knowing nod.
It’s the service dog on the plane with the owner who tells you that they’re heading to a place where children are in trauma and they’re going to help. And she lets you pet the dog yourself for a bit and you, too, are healed.
It’s the amount of reading you get done and the uninterrupted work time that a two-plus hour flight provides.
It’s the unexpected upgrade to First Freaking Class where you’re given (more) food, a warm washcloth, a glass glass, and a friendly flight attendant.
It’s arriving home to a clean house and a fridge full of groceries because your husband gets it. And you.
It’s opening the door to be greeted with wet sloppy kisses because your dog is so incredibly excited to see you. Even at 2:00am.
It’s doing the work that you were meant to do. And if that work requires travel, than you learn how to do it. How to make it work, make it fit, make it suck less, make it ok. Make it a memory, a story, a tale for when you get home and someone aks you what you’ve been up to lately…
I can’t believe I’m already three months into my ‘Project 40’ year.
Didn’t we just ring in the New Year?
Is it weird that I’m still writing 2014 on most documents?
Do I sound like a crazy person as I talk about how oddly mild the weather is when in actuality the weather is right on track? Because it’s damn near spring and not January like I keep thinking it is.
So I’m hitting the pause button for a second and checking-in.
I look at my ’40 Things to do the Year I turn 40’ list every day (it hangs on the front of our refrigerator) and I am slowly checking things off. Eight things so far, to be exact. With progress being made on five others. Not too shabby.
And as I sit here and reflect on that list, I’m realizing that so far, 2014 (for real. I wrote 2014 for real. See???) 2015 has been pretty kick-ass. And here’s what I’m discovering: it’s kick-ass because not only am I working through my desired intentions, as outlined on my list, I’m also adding things to the list that I didn’t even know to add in 2014 (nailed it).
(2015 hasn’t been all roses and sunshine, don’t get me wrong (hello, acne! So awesome of you to show up this year of all years!) but part of my ‘Project 40’ is staying grateful and living with a mindset of abundance rather that looking at life through a scarcity lens. Bam.)
(Thank you for the inspiration, Mollye!)
Shift your focus. Demand—and declare—gratitude. Take all the pictures. Be still. Keep holding. Power pose. Read it all. Breathe. Close your eyes. Hold on to your heart. Literally. Laugh from your toes, through your belly, and out your eyes. Feel all the sensations and feelings and angst without judgment or cover. Be a soul care-giver. To yourself. Take ten minutes of soul-time to engage-fully—in soul-work every. single. day. And evening. Make it. Take it. Smell it. Savor it. Touch it. Hug it. Honor it. Swallow it. Be so damn brave that you shake and rattle. Connect. Radiate: kindness, hilarity, confidence, passion, authenticity, beauty, vulnerability, sincerity. Observe. Notice. Put the phone down. Turn the TV off. Check-in. Tune in. To the living, breathing world. To you. Often. Walk in their shoes. Walk in your own shoes. Walk until it lets go. Just walk. Consider the other side. See yourself from outside of yourself. Be gentle. Open up. Move your body. And your mind. Daily. Sleep with no alarm. Take a day off. Cuddle. Shut down: the screen, the pressure, the inbox, the notifications. Try just answering to you. Love your greens. Embrace the unknown and see its beauty. Find your tribe. Do not settle. Journal. Without a third point of view—the one called judgment. Inhale lavender and peppermint and lemon. Marvel the moon. Don’t own other’s shit. Be careful and gentle with yourself. Step carefully. Slow down. Take your time. Forgive. Apologize. Mean it. Stop scrolling. Prioritize. Re-prioritize from your soul. Ask yourself, ‘How do you want to feel?’ instead of ‘What do I need to do?’ How does your soul ache to feel? Your belly? Your mind? Your heart? Look forward to something. Meticulously care and plan. Sometimes. Be flexible without guilt. Act as if. Walk as if. Spoil her, him, it, you. Today. Immediately.
So yesterday I wrote a blog post with observations that support this suspicion that I’ve had lately: We’re I’m old. And while all those things were true, I feel a need to write this follow-up post because guess what? Being old is pretty awesome. I swear. Each year just keeps getting better and better and I’m not lying when I say that I’m actually looking forward to turning the big 4-0. (Maybe because I’m only 38 right now. Ask me again in a year.)
Here, let me convince you:
I bought a big bag of Epsom salt yesterday because I read that Epsom salt baths are full of awesome. They soothe achy muscles, reduce inflammation, help you sleep, etc., etc., etc. When I told my husband this and informed him that the bag was in my bathroom if he ever wanted to use it, he simply looked at me and said, ‘Oh good God. We’re old. You should never repeat those words to anyone else ever again.’ And it dawned on me… Oh, shit. He’s totally right. Epsom salt baths are for old people and are just another link in a growing chain of discoveries of how old we really are. Shit.
Here are my recent discoveries/observations. I’m saying ‘we’ just to make myself feel better. This may really only be about me. (Gasp.)
It is December 31, 2013 and I’m bubbling. I’m spending time today saying good-bye to 2013 and deciding how to welcome in 2014. While I typically engage in a ritual to close out one year and welcome in another year, I’m doing it entirely differently this year. And it feels soooooo good.
Rather than lamenting over my muffin-top that has held on for yet another year, I’m reflecting on all that my body allowed me to do in 2013: travel all over the country in tight airplanes, sleep in lumpy hotel beds, do yoga on shaggy orange carpet in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, run a half-marathon from Loveland Ski Area to Georgetown, CO, walk the entire city of San Francisco, and explore a new neighborhood with Lucy.
Rather than making a list of ‘must-do’ tasks and accomplishments for 2014, I’m thinking about how I want to feel next year and what I need to do to ensure these feelings.
I want to feel radiant so I’m going to ditch the gluten and the dairy for good and move my body more often than I let it sit idle.
I want to feel calm so I’m going to set office hours for myself, unplug on the weekends and evenings, and let go of Facebook a bit. Quite a bit.
I want to be fully present in my own life and so I’m going to spend less time poking around online and more time in my journal, with my watercolors, and looking through my camera lens.
I want to feel nurtured and so I’m not going to always opt for convenience or the easy route, instead I’m going to treat myself more and let the guilt go.
I want to feel authentic and so I’m going to finish my book on supporting beginning teachers and continue to design trainings for educators that are worthy of their time and attention.
I want to laugh at the hilariousness of life and revel in the humor that makes everything ok. I’m going to lean my head back and let the laughter come up from my toes and pour out through my throat until my tummy hurts and the tears flow. Daily.
I want to feel whole and enough. I’m going to change my inner-dialogue and talk to myself just as I’d talk to you, dear reader. With kindness, respect, appreciation, and love.