SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND

January 11, day 11 of the Ultimate Blog challenge. I wonder how I am going to write this post. I feel as if I can’t even work myself out of a wet paper bag. I did go for my ski, though I can’t remember how I got there and back. It wasn’t a great outing. I had a fall trying to sly down the slope. My legs and butt got a head start. I forgot to bring the rest along. Down I went! I haven’t fallen much at all this year. It was hard to get up. I’ve forgotten how without practice. I ended up taking one ski off. Practice does make for better.

So here I sit, fingers on the keyboard. My desk is crowded and full of paper clutter again. It adds to my can’t-get-out-of-wet-paper-bag feeling. At least I am at peace with it at this moment. I was not so this morning, digging through the piles and boxes for art supplies. They are not in one place but scattered here, there and everywhere. My head was in a spin. I want to throw up my hands and give up, but the Introduction to Watercolours is starting Saturday. I need to focus and see if I have all the material on the check list.

If I hadn’t chosen the word FOCUS for my year, I probably wouldn’t have stayed with the hunt. I probably would have left it till the night before and then get into a frantic mad search. I felt frenzied but I don’t think I was frantic. I slowed down, went up and down the stairs a few times, pulling out various drawers. I found things I’ve forgotten I bought. I found art that I have forgotten I made. I have a lot of supplies. I made a lot of art. Parts of my forgotten self stared back at me. They made me feel good.

Life is messy. I am messy. I’ve gathered up my material. I am short of just one or two things. I’ve got it under control. This is no time for me to be Wonder Woman and whip all my clutter in shape. I feel like a wet noodle. It is sagging time. I can just let it all hang out. Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I can regroup, refocus and get back into the track.

STOP, LOOK, SEE, ANALYZE

January 9 and day 9 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Today I gave into my fatigue and gave myself a break from my ski in the park. I don’t do it often. I am rather obsessive that way, staying on the track, not missing any days. But enough is enough. Sometimes it is good and necessary to step off the merry-go-round, look and reassess. It is the rightful thing to do. I need a rest, some TLC.

Funny how the Universe knows what I need. While I was drawing hot water for a nice long soak, I rediscovered Cheryl Richardson’s audio book The Art of Extreme Self-Care. It’s telling me something. I didn’t have to look far to find it. It’s right on my iPhone. It also reminds me that I already have many resources. I don’t need to search for more. What I need to do is to USE them. I have good reasons to choose FOCUS as my word of the year.

January 10, day 10 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I lost my focus or rather I saw what was more important. I needed a break/rest more than to finish my post yesterday. I’m feeling more rested physically. I am not so sure about mentally. We watched the movie, Bird Box (2018) starring Sandra Bullock on Netflix last night. It’s a science fiction movie of a post apocalyptic world. It feels quite similar to our present world. Whereas in the movie the people will die if they look at the monster. The people had to blindfold themselves. In our world, we will die if we breathe in our monster and we have to mask ourselves. You will have to watch the movie yourself. It might not resonate with you. Maybe you won’t see the similarities.

I have felt the weirdness of living in a sci-fi world before this. Now it is all the more eerie for me. There’s a lot of strange things and people out there/here. It emphasizes that I need to focus more on my boundaries and not let them infect my mental and physical health. I have to keep up with my routines of daily living. Tapping here gives me relief from thoughts trapped in my head. Stepping back on the ski trails will release tension in my physical body. The sun is out and it is WARM.

POSITIVELY OPTIMISTIC

January 7, Day 7 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. After announcing yesterday that I will finish the Positivity Challenge, I have stepped out of it. Why? It’s not that I don’t think I can still benefit from it. It’s because I have a finite amount of time and energy. It’s a priority choice. Since I am not a terribly negative person, I want to direct my time and energy towards more urgent areas of attention. I have a keener and more discerning eye now. That is one thing I have learned about myself during this pandemic. I have/had a habit of spending time on things that I already know how to do or am good at. Time is precious. I don’t want to waste any of it. I want to utilize it in the best way to serve myself.

I haven’t always have seldom serve my own best interests. It’s not that I don’t want to. I haven’t realized before that I tend to gravitate outwards, towards others’ interests and well-beings rather than my own. For what purpose I do not know. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned or have been taught it’s better to think of others first. It’s being unselfish and giving. It’s being kind and generous. I haven’t thought about turning it around for myself till now. It’s a gift from our present pandemic circumstances. It’s given me stillness and silence to waken and see with different eyes. It’s given me time and space to breathe in a new vision of how to be. I agree with Caroline Myss that we are living in a remarkable time. It’s up to me how I want to evolve, transform and transcend. 

I am having a good winter – of skiing, cooking, reading, writing, musing… – despite the pandemic, the omicron, the cold, the news, whatever. I am open to see and hear what is going on around me and the world. I try not to be overwhelmed by the avalanche of good news, bad news and fake news. I have chosen FOCUS as my word for the year. I am practicing on focusing on what is good, true and what I can do to serve myself, my family, friends and community. Life isn’t perfect. There are some not so good moments. There are inconveniences and adjustments. It might mean taking more time and using more energy to make changes and adjustments.

I hope I can stay focused and not to fall back into my well worn habitual ruts. I like to default into the familiar. I need reminders and a warning system. Feelings of fatigue, frustration, grouchiness, etc. could be a sign for me to take a moment to rethink, step out of the loop and take another look at the whole picture. Then assess, analyze and implement change.

The end. Good night.

FOCUS AND COURAGE

January 2, second day of the new year, second day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge and first day of the 30-Day Positivity Challenge. My word for this year is FOCUS but already I’m feeling iffy, wishy-washy and a bit cranky this morning. I could blame it on the weather. I woke up to -20℃ instead of -35℃. It should be a cause for celebration instead of a case of grouchiness and moodiness. But it is what it is. I will just have to focus and move on with the day and this post.

It’s a good thing I have this writing space and challenges to work on. I’ve had this space since 2012 when blogging was new and a rage. I started out on Blogger in 2005. It was a struggle getting things to work but I managed to get some photos and a few words up. It did not have too much of a public presence. I then moved on to WordPress. I found it much easier to work with. It took a year or two before anyone noticed me. It didn’t really matter because I had no business to promote. Writing is pleasure and therapy for me. I love the rhythm of tapping on the keyboard and seeing the letters march across the screen.

It is not so at this moment. There is a stickiness and lack of rhythm. There is no flow. I have to work getting the words out. I’ve done the Positivity activity of the day. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I love you” a few times already. I don’t feel it. Rather, I feel irked. I don’t feel love but I said it anyways. I hope to reap the benefits eventually. Nothing happens that fast, right? I have to make being positive a habit first.

I’m considering the next 2 questions in my Unravel My Year workbook. 1) When did fear hold you back in 2021? 2) Where did you practice courage in 2021? I can’t say that anything held me back last year. When there was no fear, courage wasn’t called upon. Now if we were talking about 2020, there was alot of anxiety and challenges. Covid-19 came into our lives in early 2020. My 90 year old mother came down with shingles February 2020 right in the midst of lockdowns. I was busy taking her to appointments and worried about her pain, eyes and medications, I had no time for fear. That period lasted almost 4 months. Then I lost my fur baby Sheba. We were still in lockdown and I could not be with her at her time of passing. That was hard.

Sitting where I am now, life is pretty good. I may be feeling a little tired and moody, but it is still all good. I hear so many people say that Covid has made everything so hard. It is true but life have always been hard. If it is not one thing, it is another.

UNRAVEL MY YEAR

Happy New Year! January 1, 2022 and day 1 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. We are having bitterly cold temperatures. It’s conducive to be here in my sunroom, sipping a hot one and tapping on the keyboard. My goal is to show up every day with a post for the month of January. Each year I download Susannah Conway’s workbook, Unravel Your Year, but I’ve seldom finish it. I thought it might be a good project for the January Ultimate Blog Challenge. I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.

It has always been rather easy for me to relapse, to fall back into what was. If I am not careful and if I am not in the moment, I could dwell there for a long time. I have more focus now. I’ve relapsed only momentarily, maybe it was a day or two. I’ve climbed out, not savouring living the old, used and not useful. I saw the draw and the harm of it all. I decided that it was not for me any more. I don’t have to stay in the what was. I can make a new beginning. I can start, have a middle and an end.

I’m setting up for my beginning, the first day of the rest of my life. Did I say it’s cold? It is – minus 35℃. It’s good to cuddle up in a warm sweater and with a cup of Ovaltine. It is a good to just sit with it all and watch it like a movie as it plays across the screen of my mind. It’s coming out blank though, with white noise. I cannot remember anything. I will have to access my recorded photographs and watch them as a slide show. Perhaps I can put on Jim Croce’s Photographs and Memories as background music. I will wait for my mind’s eye to warm up.

Last year I did not have to word to guide me. No wonder I have no immediate recollections. I chose FOCUS to help me with 2022. With focus life will be easier. It will help me to find the heart to carry on and finish what I start. Looking back through my photographs and what memories I have of the year past, I spent the winter learning how to cross country ski. We were out almost every day. I slipped, stumbled and fell – uphill, downhill and on flat terrain. I learned that for some things, I don’t give up easily. It was like that for swimming and riding a bicycle. I guess I yearn for physical agility and ability.

The spring, summer and fall were spent in the greenhouse, gardens and yard. I was out of doors alot. I had my physical checkup in May. My doctor phoned and told me my serum vitamin D was almost at the top recommended level. At one time, it was almost at 0. He recommended that I cut back my supplement, at least for the summer. In 2021, I discovered that I really loved the great outdoors and that dust and pollen did not bother me as much. I also discovered that I hang on to things and maladies far too long, way beyond the best past due date. I am happy to let some of it go.

I do not regret hanging onto my love and memories of Sheba. I miss her soft animal body, how she circles and lays down with a grunt near me. I miss the sound of her kibbles falling in her bowl in the morning when the guy feeds her. I miss finding her laid across the bathroom door whenever I come out. Some things you never get over – love. And I don’t want to. I want to hang on to love and affection. They warm the cockles of my heart.

WEEKEND MORNINGS COMING DOWN

It’s Saturday morning, September 25th. It’s sunny and warm – 17℃. I should be happy but I am quirky and irritated as hell. I am living in the moment of how it is. I had a restless sleep, waking up every couple of hours. Things creep under my skin, unwelcomed as they are. I am pissed at the ineptitude of our government, the stupidity, ignorance and selfishness of anti-maskers,anti-vacs and conspiracy theorists. How can we go from stringent restrictions for Covid to have them all lifted on July 11th? There was no easing in period to see what would happen. The outcome was quite predictable given that the variant was already in our midst and that it is much more contagious.

It is Sunday morning, September 26th. Another beautiful sunny day at 16℃. It is 20℃ in the greenhouse. It’s pretty fabulous for this time of the year. My cucumbers and bittermelons are thriving. I’ve lost count of how many and which of the little starting cukes I have pollinated. The tomatoes and peppers are still going strong. I am really surprised at all the new growth. This is my therapy room. I feel better the moment I step into it.

I am feeling a tiny bit more cheerful, having gone to bed super early last night. I had a good sleep the first 3 hours. Then it was awake every 2 hours. It’s like my body was on alert, waiting for something to happen. I’m not fretting over it. It is what it is. My kitchen drain is still not free flowing. I will give it till after the weekend and the bottle of enzyme is finished. A professional plumber might be in order. Somethings you can’t be stubborn about.

The other day I noticed how difficult it was for me to focus. I had trouble even looking at a flyer. I see the pictures but the information was not travelling to my brain. I’m buggered! I need to get my mind back. This time I am working on not going down the same old paths. They haven’t been too successful. I’m resisting looking for and reading another self-help book/video. What I need is action and practice. What do I need to do? What is my next step? What comes to mind is first is:

  • I need to clear my mind by: not multi-tasking, doing one thing at a time
  • stop wasting time scrolling through social media, googling for needless information

I think that these two things are enough for me to work on and chart on for this week. I will get better results if I am mindful and not overburdened. These last two mornings I am mindful, noticing that it doesn’t take any more time or energy if I put things back neatly where they belong instead of just tossing them to wherever. In fact it saves time and energy. A light bulb moment. I am a slow learner!

MAKING LIFE WORK

I like to say that I am relaxed and focused BUT I am not. The harder and more I tried, the worse I feel. Logic would say I should stop trying so hard and just relax. Sounds easy but it is very difficult to do. I am restless. My stomach is in knots. I’m trying to stop thinking but I am bombarded with thoughts. Relax! Quit thinking! Let everything go! I could feel the gears in my head going round and round, trying to make it work.

It doesn’t work that way. So here I sit, tap, tapping my anguish onto the page, doing a brain dump. It’s more or less Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. In my case, it’s the Afternoon Pages. It works. I’m finding relief externalizing my pent up angst. Sometimes my thoughts drive me crazy, into a frenzy. I’m like that girbel on the wheel, going nowhere. I lose so much time and energy in this state. It’s better that I can exercise my fingers and let it all out in words. I can call it my brainstorming. I get ideas. I get relief. I get somewhere.

I’m working on getting out my quirks and kinks. I’m focusing on what I can do. I try not to blame other people for my short comings. It’s tempting to throw it on others, but in the long run the only control I have is what I do. That sucks but that’s reality.

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I had to abandon my Afternoon Pages yesterday. My mind was overloaded and stimulated. The day was getting on and so was I. So here I am the next day. It is late morning. I have time only to tap a few words before making lunch. I’m appreciating the tips from Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project. Our/my attention span is short and getting shorter. There are so many distractions/things to check. For me it’s a constant scrolling – what is the temperature outside, what is the temperature in the greenhouse, messages, emails, social media….I didn’t realize how disruptive all that was for my brain until I cut back.

It’s not all that easy. It’s become such a habit. I find myself reaching for my smart phone whenever there is a lull, which is every few minutes. It helps if I leave it in a different room and if I ask myself if it’s important knowing a particular thing. What difference would it make? Quite often the answer is no difference and of no importance.

Now it is after lunch. I’m sitting with my cup of tea. I intend to finish this post at this sitting so the dishes can wait. If I was to do the dishes, it would lead to other chores. It would be more difficult to come back and refocus. That’s what happens with distractions. It costs more time and energy. When I am in a flow, I should go with it. Multitasking does not lead to flow. It makes me frenzied and freezes me up. It’s better for me to focus and do one thing at a time. Another important tip in being productive. It’s also important to know when to stop and that is now. Tomorrow is another day.

HELP OR HINDER

Just like that our heat wave is over. Not only that, it’s now cool. I woke up to 12℃ this morning, whereas only a couple of days ago I went to bed with 30℃. Life is like that now, swinging from one extreme to the other. Sometimes there is a short almost normal in between. Now is the time to pay attention and try to live the best rest of my life. I do need alot of help. My attention span is the size of a gnat. Can you believe that I paid my property tax twice this year? How inattentive can I be, especially when I do make written entries of paid bills. If I had only glanced up a few lines….

But not to worry. The city will probably send me a refund cheque or I won’t have to worry about paying next year. Do you know how hard it is to speak to a real person on the phone these days? I was lucky the first time I called the city when I was alerted that I had made another payment. It was first thing in the morning and a person came on the line after a few prompts. He told me to call the bank to have them stop payment because it hasn’t shown up on his end yet. But he could see that I’ve already paid up. I wasn’t so lucky calling the bank. No real person came on the line. No luck for me either at the bank in person. They could not stop payment. It had already gone through and because I had paid online, they can’t do anything.

All of this had cost me some time. It’s my own fault really for not paying attention to what I was doing. It cost me more time phoning the city back. Now all I can get is a recording about their high volume of calls and to visit their website. On emailing them, I was informed that they are experiencing a high volume of mail and not to expect an answer for 5 business days. If it is urgent call the telephone line! Round and round we go. It’s almost 5 business days since I’ve emailed the city. I have not heard from them yet.

It is helpful to pay attention where and when we lose time and energy. Most of us spend too much time and energy online and scrolling on our phones. The last few days, it’s cost me both, trying to fix my Fitness app. I still can’t log onto it doing everything I’m suppose to – even enlisting help from my fitness center. I’ve decided not to phone the helpline. I’m sure I will get a recording prompting me to press this and that. So while technology can help us, it also can do the opposite. It’s up to us to be mindful of how we use our gizmos.

I am glad to have stumble onto Chris Baily’s The Productivity Project. It came at a good time. The thing is I’m just reading it and not doing the assignments as he recommends. So I’m backtracking to make the lessons stick. Here are 4 tips from the project:

  1. Consume caffeine strategically, not habitually.
  2. Work on your hardest, highest return tasks at your peak energy time of day.
  3. Focus on one task at a time. Multitasking is simply less productive.
  4. Compartmentalize email and social media to specific times during the day.

I know these tips are really helpful. I did a caffeine fast for a week. I felt more relaxed and things tasted a lot better after. No. 2 is what everyone recommends. The hardest task requires more energy and focus. Multitasking screws up my mind and I make more mistakes. Limiting time on social media and online makes me feel more restful and peaceful. I’m not exactly that at the moment. I have been very busy during the heat wave to keep all our gardens and greenhouse watered. It didn’t leave me much spare time. Now is my unwinding time.

CHOP SUEY SUNDAY

Sunday, a day of rest – supposedly. Since I’m retired every day could be a day of rest. I haven’t found it so. I’ve lost my knack for idleness. I hope to tap my way back to my chaise lounge. I used to be so good at languishing and contemplating my navel. Oh dear! What has happened to me? Can I get myself back?

No use in crying over lost skills and spilt time. I should focus my attention here and write  this post for day 26 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I get myself all a-jittery shifting my attention to one thing, then another. What I need is something like a cattle chute or Temple Grandin’s hug machine. Oh, great! Now I’ve diagnosed myself with autism as well as ADHD. I guess if the symptoms fit, I might as well learn and work with them. It might be of benefit in the grand scheme of life. I wonder if Sheba’s thunder shirt would work for me.

In the meantime, on with the post. It must get written. Sunday is our morning of sourdough pancakes. I feed Oscar (my sourdough starter) daily for that purpose besides making bread. I like mine with just one fried egg and smeared with just a tad of maple syrup. I look forward to them as much as my occasional whole enchilada breakfast at A&W (2 fried eggs, 3 breakfast sausages, brown toast and hash brown) after my Saturday morning swim. It’s like a winter getaway for me. AND it’s much cheaper than going to Mexico or Cuba, even if it’s an all inclusive.

I’m cheap to keep if I need to be kept. Lunch is on in the Instant Pot. I’m making chop suey soup. Chop suey means a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I opened the freezer and found a bone and 2 slices of ham. In the fridge was some leftover roast beef, wilted celery, 3 still plump mushrooms and a couple of carrots. They all ended in the pot with a few other items and some water. The lid is closed. I pressed the soup button and and 75 minutes. Now we are minutes away from eating.

Did you know that Canada is a chop suey nation? There’s a Chinese cafe in almost every small town in Saskatchewan/Canada. I had a mission of visiting them this summer but only managed one. Someone else already had that idea and written a book about it. It’s called Chop Suey Nation if you are curious. It’s my story and every Chinese immigrant’s who or whose parents had a cafe. So much for writing today. Onto some other chop suey. Here’s a fun video to take us out.

 

LEARNING TO BE A WANNA BE

Wednesday and I am wandering the hallowed halls of learning. I feel more at ease amid the crowd of young people now than when I was young. I feel oddly out of place among my peers. Am I denying that I’m of age? Am I a wanna be? Seems like I’m always out of step with the world. I’m the sore thumb that sticks out.

Yes, I guess I do want to be a wanna be. That’s the reason for taking this class on Buddhism. I want to know how to be happy and content. I want to know how to go about the world, to feel peaceful with myself, to have a purpose, to be kind, generous, to have all those positive attributes and none of the flaws. I know that’s asking too much so I try to quell these desires and quiet my mind.

I wish that I could come to my keyboard a little earlier in the day. My mind would have been sharper. But it seems that I have to live my day before I could find the words. So now I try to do the best I can, to focus and impart the lesson I’ve learned, the jewel of my day.

I’ve noticed lately that I have terrible trouble with focusing. It’s been getting worse and worse. Sometimes I don’t hear or is it that I can’t listen? My mind is always somewhere else out there – even when I’m ‘meditating’. I realized today that I could use this class to bring my mind back – to this moment, to the classroom, to all what the professor is saying. It won’t be easy. I have to make it a practice.

It is late. Time to say good night to day 22 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.