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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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!

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.

Happy realization

Last week, when I was talking to my therapist, she asked me how my face was feeling. And I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a bad prickling day.

I’m sure all I would have to do is look in my agenda and I would have written it down, and it would probably be a lot more recently than I think. But it’s really nice, after two years, to be experiencing more normal days than not.

What gets the credit? Probably my ergonomic set up at work, and my constant mindfulness to sit up into the correct position. I find my home set up not very comfortable now, and it kind of has slowed down my enthusiasm for writing. We’re working on putting together a more ergonomic desk set up for me at home.

Maybe it’s also due to my now working part time. I’m treating my day per week of not-working as sacrosanct as I can. It is meant for me, my things, my rest and quiet alone time. I get disappointed if, in a moment of enthusiasm/optimism/trying to get things done, I use my day for appointments or running errands or doing active housework (running the Roomba doesn’t really count, but washing the bathroom does… laundry is somewhere in between…). I limit my screen time and don’t play video games during the day. I try to do some physical activity – often yoga, a walk, or a run. I feed myself fresh fruits and good tea. I get up in the morning and don’t sleep all day, although I will lie down and have a nap, if I feel like it. It’s about feeding myself and supporting myself. I really look forward to those days.

But now I’m thinking of bumping back up to full time… After that last paragraph, maybe I’m convincing myself that wouldn’t be a good idea. I know my colleague who has worked her entire career at part time would say wisely, “It’s just not worth it. Don’t go back if this is working for you.”

But it is definitely fantastic to suddenly turn around and realize that the pins and needles have almost entirely subsided. Perhaps I should give it a bit longer and not run headlong back into a wall…

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I’m also trying out an approach to this year, to have a theme for each month. This month, January, I am following Yoga with Adriene on Youtube for her 30 days of yoga offering, which she’s calling True. So far, I’ve successfully done the daily yoga and I’m certainly feeling it. I’m also proud of my commitment to it and making it a priority. It has been good – I like her style and her approach, and I do feel better once my practice is done. I think that something is shifting a bit for me, which is also my motivation/intention for this practice.

I’m considering what my theme for next month will be. My husband suggested Hulk Up February. ;) I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, owning it

Hey y’all. It’s been a while.

I’m sitting on our new couch, in our new place, listening to disc 1 of 4 of *one* of my Ella Fitzgerald collections, thinking about the calls and paperwork I have to do today but I’ve been promising myself all week that I was going to make a blog post. It’s Friday, I’d best get on that.

So. Sometimes I like to think that I’m fairly intelligent and body-aware and all that jazz (see what I did there – ha). Then sometimes my body has to scream at me, especially when my stubborn, head-down, plough-through attitude is over-talking the gentle “Dear, stop.”

After two one week vacations this summer where I finished them off with a night where I kept myself from sleeping due to the anxiety of returning to work and all that would hold. Given my current medical mystery, the things I was anticipating were great – such as the feeling that I’m wearing a mask of pins (to clarify, pointy side down towards my skin), that feeling creeping into my arms and legs on a really bad day. Not to mention the dizziness, feeling like I have blisters on the underside of my eyelids (I don’t as far as I can tell), and a brain that constantly was feeling like I was trying to run an electrical current through porridge (usually how I feel post migraine).

It took me hitting the verge of tears at my desk, and a friend who also was telling me about her struggles and shrugging off crying at her desk as a part of a normal workday until someone convinced her that wasn’t right, to have me make the call.

I can’t do everyday work right now and try to fix whatever is wrong with me.

And I’m sure a lot of people around me sighed in relief, glad I finally came to the conclusion they’d known for months. Those people include my husband, who bears the brunt of it and only gets frustrated at my stubbornness occasionally… All the way to my RMT, who has felt like we were in an episode of Groundhog Day since I began seeing her in January, I am sure.

So I went to see my GP, and she wrote me a note of medical leave until “at least December 1st”. Thanks to a supportive manager and a workplace advisor, I’ve been navigating the system since.

I had another neurologist appointment a couple of weeks ago, and she has ordered an MRI. We’re playing with my meds again. I’m in another experiment right now – I’ve added the new medication two weeks ago, and tonight I’m supposed to increase the original medication again on top of that. But my neurologist had mad respect for the treatment my RMT has been doing (and that I’ve been undergoing it – TMJ massage is not for the faint of heart, or the easy gag reflex). And the good news was that the difference of one week on the new med (which I don’t think can be a forever medication) is a drastic reduction in the tension (therefore pain) in my jaw and face from two weekends ago to last weekend. So much so that we bumped my next (weekly) RMT appointment back another week to see how I’m doing.

It didn’t help that we moved house over Thanksgiving weekend, shortly after I officially went on leave. It didn’t help that I didn’t have any more sick leave because I’ve had to be away so much (and my previous job had me so stressed that I basically was sick every month with a new cold or flu – stress does depress your immune system). I’m on leave without pay right now, trying to get a bit of coverage. That’s the paperwork that has to happen today.

So when I didn’t perceive any prickling yesterday, it was awesome. I have some today – right now pins are prickling my cheekbones, the outer corners of my eyes and a bit on my top lip. It’s been pretty light this week, though I’ve still been having headaches.

One of the pieces of advice I got from my therapist, who has been trying to help me work through all of this, was to go for walks so that I actually leave my house. I’m not super great at just making them walks and not multi-tasking. But I have been able to take some photos of the beautiful, colourful autumn we have been having.


I’ve also been able to get together with a friend who is off on maternity leave, and have lunches or tea and we both are less isolated.

I still think about work. I wonder how people are, how my stuff is going. But I’m trying to do things that will make me healthy again and I’m trying to be mindful so that I can accurately report to my doctor what I’ve been experiencing.

So that’s where I’m at. I feel like I’m not really interesting right now but I’m doing what I can to try to heal myself. I thought for a moment about doing NaNoWriMo but that gentle voice said “No, dear. Not this year.” And I listened.

I’m going to go and make those calls and do paperwork now, and maybe play some piano for a bit. Then, I’ll go for a walk to drop off some dry cleaning and try to take another few photos of something interesting.

Happy Friday, everyone. :)

Day 1 of writing

Although my leave started more than two weeks ago, it’s been a busy time since then. Plus I went away for a vacation to Prince Edward Island (which I will post about later, once I do some work on my pictures). So today is my first day sitting down to write. How exciting!

Unfortunately, it’s also very hot in Ottawa and we don’t have real air conditioning. But we have a little portable room air conditioner, that we’re currently asking to at least cool the bedroom, and we’re leaving the bedroom door open so the coolness oozes out into the rest of the apartment. Luckily the office is right beside the bedroom, so I have the fan blowing directly in the door, which feels pretty cooling.

So I’ve started my writing day by transferring a partially written short story from a moleskine into a word processing document and I’m going to expand upon it now. I have so many ideas…

I also have at least three paintings that need a little bit of paint on them, and a probably a fourth and fifth that I’m going to adjust since I’ve been looking at them up on the wall. :) Maybe even a sixth. Goodness!

I still don’t really feel like I’m really off for another month and a half. I guess it’s just hard for that to sink in. I am sure it’ll twig for me at some point. :)

Back to writing!