Gratitude July

Well, I had planned on introducing July previously but, life, y’know? :)

So, since this month contains the birthday that inspired this year’s approach, I decided that doing a gratitude practice every day would be a good way to cultivate the attitude I want to have about this milestone. I know that aging isn’t for the faint of heart, as pain and bodily breakdown seem to overtake any feelings of accomplishment and capability that should be front and centre for someone with a goodly number of adulting years under their belt.

But I do find that the in-your-face activity of day to day living often overshadows the opportunities to stand back and marvel at how you’re *actually* doing it. We joke about giving up on adulting and sitting around in pajamas all day eating a tub of ice cream, but believe it or not, that is a completely adult decision brought on by executing your adult duties otherwise. You are paying bills, managing money, managing your time, standing up to meet your responsibilities and you’re ending up with a moment where you can do what you thought being an adult was all about when you were 12 (or at least I did) – being able to stay up as late as you want and eat as much junk food as you can handle. The 12 year old just thought you’d always have the constitution of a 12 year old, and that Oreos and Doritos were always going to be no problem to digest. But that was because at 12, you didn’t know that much about nutrition, and healthy lifestyle, *and* you didn’t hang on to the negativity as much so you don’t remember that you always got a tummy ache after stuffing yourself with junk food.

I think that adults focus far too much on problems and negativity. And that’s why we get bogged down in bad knees and delicate stomachs and left versus right and the automatic terrified “No!” to any suggestion of doing something other than what’s safe and secure and predictable. Which leads you to stay in unhappy secure and predictable spots because change is uncomfortable.

Studies are suggesting that a gratitude practice helps in a similar way to meditation – it reorients your perspective to look for the positive rather than focusing on the negative. It helps to reduce blood pressure and other stress related health issues. And it might go as far as changing your brain connections. Meditation has been shown to help rewire your brain, building up the ability to the serenely observe what’s occurring around you from a non-attached state rather than “running out into the traffic of your ideas”. That’s an image from the Headspace app that really resonated with me in May. And gratitude might rewire you to connect with positivity.

When I was in the midst of my struggles with the unknown facial prickling, I was very much stuck in a negative and unhappy state. How could I not focus on what was happening in my face? I couldn’t find the energy to sit down and meditate, because I felt I was always in a gravity well, needing a certain amount of energy to get over the barrier to do any activity.

Contrast that with this year and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do yoga and weightlifting and other activities that I wouldn’t have expected. I’m still experiencing some prickles, but they are more warnings now than what my everyday life consists of. They let me know that my posture is terrible or that I’m tensing my jaw. And usually a change of position or activity or a little walk, stretch and shrug are enough to work me out of them.

So as I hurtle towards a milestone that many people mourn, I’m going to be grateful every day of small and big things, of strangers and friends and family, because I have made it this far and it is worth celebrating. Look for the light, as Chookooloonks says.

And yes, I’m still working on the journaling from last month. I’m at the vision page exercise, where you put together a collage of what you want the next twelve months to be or to bring you. That activity is day 16 of 21 so I’m almost done, but I’m taking my time to put together my pictures and to consider what it is I want in this next year.

So far, I have at least one (and sometimes more) gratitude points per day in July. My journal from last month is almost full, but that’s okay because I have a ton of empty books on my shelf, waiting for all sorts of interesting things to be written in them.

I’m also starting to pull together the books I’ll be reading next month. I was happy to tear through Neuromancer the way I did. I have a bunch of sci-fi books that I bought alongside it, one of which I’ve already assigned a bookmark.

I’m on a staycation this week so I’ll probably spend some time reading. I have a lot of magazines to flip through before they become vision page images too.

Sunset pansies on a rooftop patio to start my vacation. :)

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Norway first

I know, it’s the first week of July and I started a new theme, but I also just had a week-ish long trip to Norway that I’d like to write up. I’ll write about this month this weekend.

So, Norway! It’s a bit of a haul to get there, at least according to the flight plan that I ended up getting. About ten hours of flight time, with a couple of layovers, so another couple of all nighters to get there and back. But I happily had pretty good seats. The only leg that was a little awkward was the short hop from Copenhagen to Oslo where I was sitting next to a man with broad shoulders. I’m not exactly a shrinking violet myself, and often have trouble sitting next to people who also have shoulders… or hips… but he was very considerate and I think we collectively tried not to infringe on each other too much.

Once I bobble-headed my way to my hotel via a (very expensive) taxi, I dropped my things and headed to the Viking Ship Museum, following my usual routine of forcing myself to stay awake at my destination until a reasonable bedtime. And wouldn’t you know it that my “oh, that’s only like 4.5km from my hotel” turned into “oh dear, I may have bitten off more than I can chew…” as my body made me realize that, yes, I had just been sitting still for eight hours on a transAtlantic flight and been pressurized and why was I putting myself through this?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the warm, fresh air, finding the Royal farm on the outskirts of Oslo, and the adventure of following my map and making my way around an inlet of the Oslofjord to get to the museum. I made it to the museum with a whole 45 minutes before closing time! And it was entirely worth it.

Thank goodness that the Vikings buried these ships in such a way that they were preserved. They were awesome. It was really cool to see how big the ship was and some of the things that were buried with the people whose grave it was.

I was also hoping to get to the History Museum during this trip but alas my timing didn’t line up. I was there for a conference, after all, which also took place during working hours.

I stayed until the museum closed and stopped to have a waffle with jam at the little cafĂ© outside. Then I walked (slowly and painfully) back to my hotel area, after stopping at a roadside fruit stand and getting myself some nectarines and green apples for my room, for snacks. I needed to have dinner though, and the restaurant in my hotel was sadly a chicken and ribs place, so I popped into a tapas restaurant around the corner called Delicatessen for dinner. I had a lovely little dinner of green beans, grilled shrimp and bread with aioli. Then I slept for 12 hours…

The next morning, I had breakfast at the somewhat typical (in my small experience) and delicious Scandinavian breakfast buffet. Basically any kind of breakfast you could want, they offered. Delicious amazing oatmeal, eggs three different ways (scrambled, sunny side up or soft boiled), various breakfast meats, pancakes, cheeses, cold cuts, pickled herring (yum), fresh veggies, fruit, yogurt, granola, muesli, cereal, breads, juices, coffee, tea or hot chocolate… it was great. I found I was able to eat heartily and not be starving by the time lunch rolled around. And to even question if I needed lunch.

Since I had a little bit of time before the conference started, I headed to Vigeland Park to do some journaling and see the sculptures. It was a lovely place bustling with people strolling and touristing, and children having outdoor education classes (I think?) I sat on a bench in a shady spot and journaled for a bit and then had to move when I was very nearly the unfortunate receiving surface of some sparrow poo. There were a lot of sparrows taking little dust baths in the fine gravel of the pathway along the benches, and other birds flying around. What I roughly identified as a European robin species (?) landed in the garden next to my bench and seemed to put on some sort of display, ruffling up the feathers on its back, fanning its wings cup-like towards the ground on either side of its body, flaring its tail and opening its beak. I wasn’t sure if it was alright or suffering from the heat, but it eventually left, so I guess it didn’t get the response it wanted.

Oh yeah, and I think Oslo was experiencing a bit of a heat wave when I was there.

But back to the sculptures. So apparently, Oslo gave Gustav Vigeland this area so he could create his legacy there, so the park and everything in it as exactly as he wanted to present his work. It was lovely.

I didn’t get to see all 200 of the sculptures here, but I did get a sunburn, because me.

After this little adventure, I had to go to the opening of my conference! The conference was small but really great. I’m really glad that I was able to attend it.

I tried to pay attention to my surroundings to see more of Oslo while I was there working. I noticed a lot of Teslas driving around, but I also noticed the gas prices on my last day being about 16kr per litre, which is about $2.52 Canadian (which is much better than the 164kr I thought it was which is $26 per litre…)

I was there quite close to the summer solstice so I was experiencing some of southern Norway’s longest days. This was a shot of 11:09 pm on June 26th from my hotel window. Unfortunately, my hotel didn’t have air conditioning so I had to try to balance having my window open all night to get cooler air into my room with also needing my blackout curtains pulled, and that my room overlooked the street with the tram line. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last week.

I was delighted by their downtown corvids. I kept an ear out for the rough calls of ravens, and I was not disappointed. I found one hanging around a little strip of park that was on my way to the metro every day, and one day, a raven was also taking a bath at a little sidewalk fountain. They were lovely. This one was calling from the tram lines, just before the park.

I was also there for Oslo Pride week, so on our conference dinner evening, which took place down at the Oslo Opera House, I walked past the big street party that was going on in the downtown core near one of the universities. It sounded pretty fun.

I did walk up the opera house, twice, that evening. The first time on my own when I arrived down there, just because one of the conference organizers suggested it as a fun thing to do (it was). Although there is a ton of construction going on down by the water so the skyline is kind of interrupted by cranes.

The clearest shot I could make, but very interesting building designs going up.

And the second time was after dinner with a few people I had sat with at dinner. It was much cooler the second time since the sun was going down.

There are even cranes in that one!

The rest of the conference went by quickly and then it was time to return home. I set my alarm for 3am on Friday (which was 9pm the day before back home) and took another (more expensive because it was “overnight”) taxi to the airport (complete with detour around the closed offramp for the airport). Luckily the fare for the taxis is agreed upon before your trip starts so that sort of thing doesn’t hugely increase your costs.

3:05am, June 29, Oslo.

The trip home was a bit long – 22 hours or so in transit. But the flights were again fairly smooth and easy. And I came back to Canada and another heat wave. Hello summer!

I definitely want to go back and do a tourist thing. Maybe head up along the coast, and get as far as Lofoten. My friend highly recommended it. Heck, maybe I could even get up to Tromsø. :)

Farewell, Norway! Until next time!

Journaling update and beginning of travel

So, I meant to write a week ago but June has been extremely busy!

The journaling e-course that I signed up for has been great. It has exposed me to some really interesting concepts relating to vulnerability and positivity. It has also introduced me to the Theodore Roosevelt speech referring to the man in the arena. Reading that gives me goosebumps.

I’m not as far through it as I thought I would be by now (i.e., done) because there was a stretch of time where I either wasn’t able to journal that day or I just didn’t have the energy to do the work involved. There are a couple of days where I feel I want to go back and redo the exercises. Because I think my tiredness affected how I did it, so the answers I wrote out in response to the question don’t really match what the e-course anticipated, if that makes any sense? The conclusion of those exercises said “Now you have discovered what you admire in certain people!” And I was looking at my answers and thinking, “I don’t think I ended up where I was supposed to…”

But I’m currently sitting in the airport, heading for another work trip. This time, I’m going to Oslo, Norway, for a conference. Another new place! I won’t get too much time for looking around, but hopefully with the proximity to the summer solstice, I’ll have some daylight after my conference day to at least wander around and see the city.

Journaling June

Mindfulness May wrapped up with a few stressful days, and more scattered-feeling meditations, but I really liked practicing observing the thoughts running around in my head. It was really amazing to see myself following my breath, counting them even, and then realizing that I was suddenly planning what was coming next or reviewing what had happened that day. And then to be able to shift back to counting my breaths again and not getting upset with myself was really good. A weird aspect of the Headspace meditations was that they give you a moment of just releasing the focus and letting your mind do whatever. Almost every time, my mind just kind of went blank when I could “let my mind wander”. It was neat.

This month will involve journaling every day. I signed up for Chookooloonks Glow e-course, where she sends a journaling prompt every day to lead you through an introspection exercise to work on recognizing strengths and maybe even making room for changes to happen in your life. She also recommends to use your journal for everything – writing down notes, shopping lists, ideas, doodling. I’ve enjoyed that today already. I’ll probably play with my writing utensils, but I started with my fountain pen and a number of coloured ballpoint pens for fun doodling, outlines, and checking things off my to do list.

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Of course, these month themes aren’t the only things going on in my life these days. My husband has been dealing with lower back issues, which have been really debilitating. It’s funny how you can take your relative mobility or lack of pain for granted until it gets ripped away from you. It’s been a good reminder for us both to not ignore those initial signs that something has been tweaked. He’s heading to physiotherapy now, and I won’t be far behind him, once I check with my doctor about a stubborn hot/pulling sensation in my quad. Unfortunately, I figured out another yoga pose that it’s showing up in today – “sleepy pigeon”, but when that leg is straight back, not the bent one that you lean over, so that’s annoying as pigeon is one of my favourite poses. It seems very related to trying to release my hip flexors/psoas… like I say, annoying.

This month is going to be busy, with family visiting, solo trips, and travelling to visit family. I’ll try to blog my work trip to Norway at the end of the month, though I still owe a quick post about my February Quebec City trip… or is it too late now? Hm.

And sprummer is upon us here, after a pretty typical winter. Today, it’s humid and hot and the clouds look like they could storm, but the sun is out as well. We’re well into blooming season. :)

Some little irises I found on my sweaty walk home today from errands. :)

Mid-May check in

More like latter half of May check in, but that’s okay.

The meditation every day is going well. There have been a couple of busy days where it was a last minute “oh yeah!” before going on to another activity, but I got it done. Yesterday was the first day I missed, but I just finished my meditation for today right now.

One of the things I was hoping for was to build up that mental distance between issues and stressors and my reactions to them. I’ve been using the Headspace app for my phone to guide my meditations and they have a really great mental picture for what I’m going for. Imagine your thoughts as a busy road, and you are sitting on the side of the road, watching them pass by. And that’s what we want to do, just let them pass by, instead of running out into traffic and frantically chasing them or getting upset. I’m trying to build that into my psyche.

So, only one day missed in 21 so far is pretty awesome. I’ve been doing either 10 or 15 minute meditations, although I’m not sure how long some of my early May ones were, as I was doing a mindfulness break at work with my friend M and she had a Deepak Chopra session that we were listening to. It was also good.

I’m also trying to plan the next three months of stuff and things. Not just themes, but also trips and vacations and get togethers. I think August will be my reading month, and June will be journaling each day. I’m leaning towards July being a month of gratitude, since it will also be my birthday and that seems like a good theme to have on your birthday. :)

I hope everyone is having a very good spring!

Another month theme done?!

And so ends Artistic April. I wasn’t able to rouse any creativity while I was ill, so I lost a week, sadly.

But even so, I got a short story finished, another one almost done, and some writing done on two existing long stories as well.

I also worked on my one canvas and made some good progress that I’m happy with. That was what I did on this final evening. I did four sketches, and attempted a fifth while I was feeling ill that didn’t really get very far.

And lastly, something that I did count towards creativity was building some Sylvaneth miniatures – my Spirit of Durthu and some dryads. Although I didn’t entirely make them myself, I did choose which bits went where so there was some creativity associated with it.

So, all in all, this month seemed more challenging, surprisingly. I think because I was fighting against my normal deprioritizing of doing my art, and because it is work to create things. It takes energy, and sometimes I didn’t have much. It helped that I mostly had a plan for what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to think things up on the fly too often. The couple of times I didn’t have a plan were tougher to get through, and I wasn’t as happy with the results.

And May? I’m going to do a Mindfulness May. No, not every month has to alliterate. But I’d like to challenge myself to incorporate meditation into my daily life. It’s another one of those things that I have been deprioritizing.

One of my sketches, inked and cleaned up – a replica of one of the pages in a quest item from Skyrim. I really enjoy the designs they developed for the game.

Ice storm + sick

Time for my mid-month check in on my theme progress.

Unfortunately, I’m feeling rough today, and did all weekend. It started on Saturday – nausea, headache. My husband went to get me crackers and ginger ale on Saturday night when I was making plain pasta with oil (and parmesan) for dinner (he also had a steak). I thought I was feeling better yesterday, though I was still kind of unsure. Today, I called in sick because I’m just back to how I was feeling on Saturday – horrid headache that I am fearful of taking anything for because my stomach is unhappy and I’m having one of my telltale symptoms of potential vomiting – profuse, salty tasting saliva. Sorry, this is probably TMI.

So all that said, Saturday’s creativity attempt was kind of a bust. I started sketching, and erased, and restarted with better page mapping, and erased, and I’m tempted to just scrap that page and start over with something else. Yesterday, I spent the day building miniatures from Warhammer Age of Sigmar (Sylvaneth dryads and a branch nymph, and now I’ve started to carefully put together my Spirit of Durthu).

As for my creativity moments from the beginning of the month, I think it’s been going rather well, actually. I finished a short story and I’m thinking of writing another in that same universe. I’ve done a couple of sketches that were fun and good. And I got some paint on my one active canvas. I was hoping to get some work done on it on Saturday but alas, that was not to be.

And the other fun happening today is the ice storm that came through this weekend. Happy mid-April! We have some impressive ice buildup on the trees and power lines (and anything outside really). People are without power, school buses are cancelled, trees and power lines are down. My husband is working from home, so that he didn’t have to risk the roads (also he’s getting reports from those few who made it to their office that they’re thinking of heading home for the afternoon because it’s freezing there – maybe they lost power last night and the rebooted system hasn’t warmed the building up yet?) I’m trying not to bother him, wrapped in three blankets and my hoodie, closed in the living room with my ginger ale, crackers, chamomile tea, water, painkillers that I dare not take and some relaxation music on Youtube (allegedly to remove all the “toxins and negativity” – not working…)

Hopefully I’ll feel a bit better this afternoon and I’ll be able to do something creative, but feeling gross might be a good enough reason not to push it.

Some photos of the ice buildup I can see.

Stay safe, folks in the path of the storm.