Be Kind to Yourself

When I wrote this post for SheLoves, it was easy writing about the discomfort. That seems to be part of life, right? Leaning into the discomfort. Something didn’t feel complete about the piece. I worked on it, sent it to a friend, and finally sent it to my editor, thinking it was all about discomfort. And then I remembered the most important part: Be kind to yourself. I added in that imperative piece and it all came together. That seems to be the hardest part for me – remembering kindness to myself. I hope you’ll remember that today. Be kind to yourself.

Here’s an excerpt of the piece. I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

We stretched at the end of our weekly workout, faces on the mat, right hands extended, left arms stretched under our bodies, kind of in child’s pose. I’m sure there’s an official name for this stretch but I don’t know it. I do know it feels awkward and amazing, all at once. Just as the stretch feels more awkward than amazing, our instructor encourages us saying, “Lean into the discomfort while still being kind to yourself.”

Anyone who has taken any sort of yoga or workout class has probably heard something along those lines — lean into the discomfort. After an hour of movement, I often want to skip the stretching. I want to stop, change into clean clothes, move onto the next part of my day, and check off the box of healthy living. But that wouldn’t be kind to myself—mentally or physically.

But taking the time to stretch and lean into the discomfort is what allows me to healthfully go on with the rest of my day. It’s this kindness that keeps me from getting hurt and is why I keep coming back to class, week after week.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase in other areas of my life lately. How am I leaning into the discomfort of life as I stretch my thinking? How is that discomfort preparing me to take what I’m learning and go back into my daily routines?

I’m in a creatively quiet season right now. At first, when the words were hard to find, I welcomed the space, knowing that sometimes we need to stop and listen before we can produce. But months have gone by and that quiet is turning to discomfort. How long will this last? I’m starting to push against the discomfort, questioning my abilities and purpose. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest and join the conversation!

What are some ways you are remembering to be kind to yourself?

Spending Quality Time With Art

My top Love Language is Quality Time. During tax season, this means we are very protective of our weekends. We try to make sure to eat at least one meal as just the four of us and we keep Frank’s one day off as relaxed as possible. Of course, things happen and we engage with our community but we also realize how sacred these days are during this busy season.

IMG_5323Last weekend, I met a friend for the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum on our family day. Our meetup had been planned for a while and I was looking forward to catching up with my friend as well as seeing an incredible retrospective (my favorite type of exhibit.)

I came away from those couple hours spent in the museum completely refreshed. It reminded me that, while Quality Time usually refers to the people in our lives, I think it can also refer to the things that bring us joy. Ever since quitting my job at the Clyfford Still Museum a year ago, I haven’t prioritized the time to go to galleries and exhibits. Before I’d get my art-fix at work but now, I have to be much more intentional.

Walking through the galleries, looking at Degas’ stunning use of texture and movement IMG_8509in his sketches, seeing images of my old neighborhood in Paris all filled me with happiness that I didn’t realize I’d missed. I needed to spend some Quality Time with paintings. Walking through the galleries filled a travel itch and reminded me that Denver’s culture scene is growing and getting richer every year.

I’ve been reflecting on other ways I need to build in quality time with things I love. I already create room for reading and, while that is indeed fulfilling, it doesn’t necessarily get me out of the house. How can I use the time I have wisely to create spaces for me to really thrive? Sometimes, it means taking some time away. My experience at the museum would have been completely different had the girls been along. Sometimes, it means modeling something I love. When I’m reading, the girls know not to interrupt. (In theory…)

The friend I went with recently created a bucket list and she’s been faithfully working on it. Some of her goals are big. But she said the key to a good bucket list is keeping most of it small and local. What can you achieve with a Groupon and a day off? She’s inspired me to create my own list. What are things I want to do in the next year? What can I do now, without much planning? What’s worth asking for help or babysitting?

I’m realizing that, while my “love tank” will always be mostly filled by spending quality time with Frank and the girls, I also need to remember ways in which quality time might not include them. I’m learning to not feel guilty about leaving them for a morning, especially when I come home refreshed and ready for another week of tax season.

How do you prioritize activities that are life-giving for you? Does your family share your passions or do you find ways to fulfill those on your own?

Books Referenced:

51ItBwnbJ6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Reflecting My Self to Others

When I first read the post back in October, offering a 4-meeting journey to write my mission statement, I hesitated. What does a person like me need a mission statement for? For the next few years, I’m in this staying home thing, raising these little girls before school starts.

img_3818But something tugged at me and I ended up signing up and joining 10 other amazing women as we met via video chat, from all corners. We talked each week, processed specific questions, learned from each other. We reframed the idea of a mission statement into a purpose statement, something that seemed much more applicable to this stage in my life.

At the end, during my one-on-one call with our leader, we were writing words and moving them around, seeing what worked and what just didn’t resonate. At one point, my statement seemed pretty good until my coach asked, Is this for you or for others?

We switched a couple words and suddenly, my purpose statement was for me. My coach said that if this statement was for others, it would falter. It needed to be at the core of my self. If I had a statement that reflected me, it would reflect to others naturally.

This process helped me reframe this idea of self-care, of purpose. It can be so easy to make life about others – how am I best serving the girls? How does our home best create hospitality for others? How can I best love and serve this world?

But, when I take all those core values – of serving and hospitality and love – and internalize them first, it seems easier to go out with energy to give what I have to others. It’s a reminder that self-care often means including myself in the things I’m already doing.

How do you make sure you are included in your purpose or mission? How do you reflect yourself onto those around you?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “Purpose.”

Learning to Be Choosy

This has been a long week. Not bad, just long. Frank’s working on the tax extension deadline; Bea’s teachers are at a conference for the week so she’s home; we’ve had our sweetest sweet moments and our lowest frustrations.

One of the most difficult things about finding energy though learning is that learning takes energy. It’s more work to read nonfiction or even to read, for that matter. There are nights – mostly when Frank is working late – when I want to mindlessly watch a show.

But that’s not what energizes me. It’s a hard balance to achieve: Making time in the margins for thinking and learning and making time for rest.

We were talking at my MOPS group this week about quiet and rest and wondered if it means different things for different people. For some, laying down for 20 minutes is the rest that refreshes for the rest of the day. For others, taking a walk or going for a run all alone is what rejuvenates them. We all agreed that we need a certain amount of quiet – time to think, to breathe, to not care for anyone but ourselves.

It’s easy to say that it’s important to practice self-care. When I think about my day, if everything goes perfectly and according to plan (ha!!) then I can find a few minutes here and there for rest and reading. But when does that happen?

I need to remember that life not going according to plan is certainly not a kid thing. The other night, Frank came home early in the height of busyness and working late because of a huge IT problem that couldn’t be looked at until morning. Hopefully it’s an easy fix. Who knows what will happen if it’s not… Life doesn’t go perfectly for any of us. That’s life.

So, in the meantime, what do I do? For now, it means being choosy about what I read. Someone asked if I abandon a book that just doesn’t fit with what I’d like to learn. Years ago, the answer would have been no. I would have powered though, hoping for a nugget to takeaway. These days, I’m learning that time is limited and energy levels are even more so. I need to keep my mind active, to learn new things, but I also need to know those things will be beneficial. So, I’m choosy with my material.

It also means recognizing how I can best absorb information. I signed up for Skillshare earlier this year and loved the idea. But, I never found time to do it. Nap times would shift or I’d need to do something else. It just wasn’t realistic for this stage. As much as I enjoy listening to podcasts, it’s the same. Bea dictates what we listen to in the car and any time I try putting one on while making dinner, things are bound to go downhill, fast.

Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to take more risks with how I learn and what I can choose. But for now, I’m recognizing that to fulfill that need, I also need to have a high success rate.

How do you best learn – books, audio, video? When do you find time to recharge?

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This post is Day 15 of the Write 31 Day Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the StrengthsFinder test. You can find the entire series over at Live Your Strengths page.

When Life is More Than a Number

A couple years ago, Goodreads introduced a “Reading Challenge” feature. You could set a reading goal and it would track your achievement. The first year, I set a goal of 52 books and exceeded it by 30. I had never tracked my reading before and the overachiever in me was thrilled. Look! I’m such an amazing reader!!

unnamed-1Last year, I again set the goal of 52 books and just baaaaarely made it. Like, I powered through a couple books in December, since my type-A personality was cringing at the thought of not making my goal.

This year, I again set the goal of 52 books. Goodreads tells me I’m falling behind. We’re over halfway through the year, and I’m just at the halfway mark for my goal.

At first, I got a bit stressed about this. If only the girls were a bit more independent. I’d totally reach my goal!

The moment that thought crossed my mind, I laughed. When I was teaching, I read for book club and perhaps a few more books but I would come home tired and ready to veg. When Bea was Elle’s age, I was knee-deep in newborness and figuring out life as a mom and I doubt I had much reading time. And now with two? Life is all the crazier and I have to be all the more intentional about taking time to do what I love.

Perhaps I need to take the challenge off of Goodreads. If reading becomes a goal or just a number, what’s the fun of that? Am I reading to learn, to get lost in a story, or to make sure I’ve checked that number?

I guess my Goodreads goal is quite indicative of my life right now. What was easy pre-kids became tougher with Bea but I learned to make it manageable. What was manageable with just one became even more challenging with two, but I’m learning.

I’m learning to stop and set aside numbers and simply watch and be present with these fast-growing girls.

I’m learning to take time for me and not to feel guilty about that.

I’m learning again about the ebb and flow of seasons. That school will start and we’ll be in a whole new phase and rhythm.

I know that in a blink, Elle will be in school. Perhaps I’ll go back to full-time work. Perhaps life will again be challenging and reading will be squeezed into the margins. And then the girls will get older and even more independent and reading will look different. And I’ll wonder, was the reading goal the most important thing?

I’m learning to prioritize books. Now, I judge books before I read them, knowing that I only have a small amount of time. In some ways, that’s been cool – I’ve read more 5-star books than normal, probably because I’m looking for books I know will resonate with me.

unnamed-1 (1)As a family we’re learning. We take short, fun hikes rather than intense long ones. One day, we’ll be able to increase the mileage but for now, we’re teaching a love of nature and the outdoors, an eagerness to get up and get on the trail. At the same time, Frank is hiking a 45-mile trek right now and all Bea can dream about is the day she’ll be able to join him on a “marathon hike.”

We’re learning that, while our goals look different, it’s so important to model our loves for the girls. If I got discouraged and just didn’t read; If Frank stopped doing days-long hikes until it was easier, would our girls want to emulate that?

We’re still figuring it out, and it’s still hard not to define myself with a number, but I’m learning the balance and fleeting nature of these seasons. One day, I’ll have all the time in the world to read and set reading goals, but I have a feeling those numbers won’t even matter by then.

What is something that you prioritize? How has that changed as life’s seasons change? Have you ever gotten caught up with a number?