Literary/Reading August

Gratitude July concluded with a reflection on how wonderful my life is, really, despite the sadnesses and hardships. It was a good month, with great people and essential challenges. I finished it off with face prickles because I have a lot of engaging work to do.

But I escaped the city this weekend and got to float in a lake for a couple of days, hang out with wonderful people, eat great food, and relax. And enjoy snuggles from a sincere and loving little boy.

I am reading daily this month, at least 30 minutes a day, so I hope to significantly add to my reading list page. I also hope to get through a lot of the books I have and clear some shelf space. I’ve started to give away the books I finish reading that I probably won’t read again, so that others can experience the stories I’ve enjoyed. Also to try to prevent myself from hoarding so much stuff that my house is packed to the gills. I do keep some things, but they have to meet a pretty high bar to be kept (i.e., acting as a reference, being a story I would re-read over and over, or being really difficult to find).

Towards the end of the month, I’m planning on sitting down and evaluating the books I’m keeping to pare them down a bit. Ideally, I will pass along 15-20 books to their next owners this month.

I’ll also be heading on vacation shortly to a place with no wifi, so my next update will be later than mid-month, so I might just do my end of month wrap up. Not unlike this post being late for end of month/beginning of month post.

Then, next month is Sober September, and my husband said he would do it with me too. I don’t think it will be too difficult, but I might mix in cutting out other junk, empty calories as well as the alcohol ones. Like sugar and chips. That will make it more of a challenge. ;)

Happy still summer! Stay cool and hydrated out there!

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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. :)

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.

Wrapping up March

There are still a few days left in March, but I’m only going to get one more real muscley workout in before the calendar turns over, as we’re travelling to see family for Easter. But I’m going to make sure to do my big machine workout tomorrow to make up for it.

I have figured out the weights I have been using though and that has made me feel more accomplished, actually. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that each plate on the machine weighs 10lbs. But that the pulley system provides 0.5 resistance, so that actually means:

Actual weight = (number of plates x 10lbs) x 0.5 resistance

So happily, that means I’ve been pulling 70lbs with my lateral pulldowns (7 plates on two stacks = 14 plates) and 30lbs (6 plates on one stack) with my bow pulls, triceps extensions and bicep curls (though that one fails before I get a whole set). It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m evaluating at set 2 (of 3) whether to increase my weights next time and usually I am.

Considering how those feel, I’m pretty confident that the dumbbells I’ve been using are also in pounds (lbs). So I’m still struggling to complete my sets of hammer curls with 20lbs per hand, but frankly I’m also struggling with the machine bicep curls (which I’ve been doing with a bar connected to both stacks therefore using both arms on the same weight) at 30lbs. But I can easily complete full sets at 15lbs so that means I have to use 20lbs. So, it’s a work in progress.

We’ll be travelling on Friday, but I might be able to get in some yoga when we reach our destination. And I could always incorporate just body weight strength exercises into my post-driving recovery yoga. ;)

Next month, I will keep doing muscle building workouts, but my focus will be on doing something artistic every day. I have set up a backlog of sketches to do, and there are at least two poems fighting to be written (I am trying to work on one today before I lose it). I also have some short stories in my mind (and hopefully jotted down in my notebook for later). And, of course, the couple of books that I have started writing are vying for imagination space. Yesterday as I was walking (a prime writing time for me), an extra layer for my main book came to me (which I should also jot down in my “notes for changes to make when I’m editing later”). I’m trying not to go back and edit while I write because it just slows everything down. Also, I have paintings just waiting to be completed hanging around – one needs a Milky Way starry background; one needs tumbling ravens in a mating display; one needs more layers of blues, purples, greens and white; and another one needs… just more, it’s nowhere near done.

I’m also thinking of adapting one of the books into a graphic novel project instead. It had started as a graphic novel idea, then I just started writing it so that I could pursue the idea further, and now I’m wondering about going back. I have another graphic novel idea that’s in a very rudimentary stage of planning as well.

I don’t think it’s going to difficult to find something artistic to do every day in April…