Best so far

This week has been our Spring Break, which for me meant that I had two days off at the beginning of the week. Two days to read, to journal, to do some tasks around the house, and spend time on myself.

A few of the good things that came from those two days:

  • I finished reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Oh my word, I loved this book. It’s the best book that I’ve read this year. It reminded me beautifully of the positive atmosphere that the Obama presidency carried with it. There were heartbreaking, difficult things that happened in the world during those years, but it was a time when I felt good about our country and its relationship with the global community. I felt good about the move toward granting dignity to every living person. It also reminded me of the heartbreak of our current presidency. I didn’t realize that an African-American woman from the South Side of Chicago could share so much of the heart of a very white woman from the rural south, but we do. I’m incredibly thankful that as a nation, we were able to know who Barack and Michelle Obama are. I’m thankful for their leadership and hope life holds many wonderful things for them in the future.
  • I had a self-celebration for my 51st birthday. I took time and acknowledged the five decades of my life and thought about what I want in the upcoming year. I lit candles, meditated, did some yoga, prayed and spent some time in my journal.
  • I decided to step away from teaching yoga for a while. I will teach my Monday night class for two more weeks and then take a break from teaching regularly. I need more time for me and for school and for family. And I need to focus on my personal yoga practice.
  • I started reading Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. I can’t put it down. I keep alternating between thinking it’s a ride on a crazy train and feeling that it’s a very familiar story. We are different. We are right. They are wrong. We must be different. We must separate. We must remain pure. Men know best and women don’t get a say. Granted, this family took things to an extreme that most don’t, but the underlying philosophy is very familiar.

I’ve felt a big relief in stepping away from an ongoing commitment and I want to use my time wisely, in ways that feed my soul and will allow me to be more fully engaged in others’ lives. One of the lessons I’ve learned this year is that even when the clock says things are possible, they may not be possible. Time can be there even when energy isn’t. Guarding and growing your personal energy is vital. Doing the things that feed your soul — for me that is writing, reading, music, spending time with friends, and having a personal yoga practice — is vital. Some activities give energy while others demand it of you. You cannot constantly participate in activities that take energy (work, teaching, and being a host) without also participating in activities that create energy in your soul.

So I’m stepping back into student mode. Student of yoga. Student of life. Student of Lisa. It’s a place I need to be.

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Wise Words

Dear God, 
Please reveal to us 
Your sublime beauty 
That is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere 
So that we will never again
feel frightened
~ St. Francis of Assisi

Second, but by no means second place

Long books are almost always worth the time and energy investment. When a plot and its characters are thick and meaty, readers reap rich rewards from the time given to them.

Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone is no exception to this truth. The length is long; the characters are complex; the plot twists and turns and pays rich dividends.

It would be easy to say this is another Young Adult work that places exceptional teens on a quest to save civilization and equate it to the Harry Potter, Divergent, or Maze Runner franchises. The author plans additional books and my guess is that the movie rights will be purchased at some point.

It is much more than that, though. It is steeped in West African mythology and hums with an energy beyond the other series mentioned. The primary characters are young and work as a group, but there is nothing easy or light about their group dynamic. The complexity of the characters and their cultural dilemma means there are few truly likable characters, yet Children is full of characters who are admirable. Strong. Loyal. Determined.

Fierce.

And as much as I loved the novel itself, the author’s note at the end of the book brought me to tears. Please don’t read it prematurely, but please do read it. We can learn much from fiction if we will allow it into our hearts.

First finished 2019

When I’m listening to an audiobook, the end sometimes creeps up on me. That is definitely the case for the first book I finished in 2019. Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile’s recent bestseller The Road Back to You has been keeping me company in the car recently. I’m a sucker for anything that delves into the human spirit and helps us understand its nature. In Myers-Briggs world, I’m an ENFP. My Clifton Strengths are Ideation, Communication, Includer, Positivity, and Connectedness. Zodiac-wise, I’m a Pisces unless you go with the hoopla from a couple of years ago, and then I’m an Aquarius.

When I started hearing people talk about the enneagram a year or so ago, I wanted to find out more. It’s a bit more complex than some other systems and even the online screenings often say, “you could be . . . but you may be. . .” and advise you to do some reading and try to discern a bit more on your own.

And so I did.

The Road Back to You is an easy-to-read introduction to all things enneagram. It shares some history, tells the author’s journey of finding it at a time of spiritual emptiness, and gives an overview of the nine basic classifications of human nature, or “types,” in enneagram speak. One online assessment said I was a 2. Or maybe a 7. Or maybe even a 9. After listening to the book, I am fairly certain that I am a 2 with a 3 wing. No, that doesn’t mean that I can fly (I wish! Does that mean I really am an Aquarius? Ha!) It means that my basic nature is that of The Helper, but I lean pretty heavily into being The Achiever.

Well. No surprise about that achieving part. I still have to be intentional about not lapsing into overachiever mode.

So if you like to learn about yourself and others and have some time, I recommend adding this to your reading list. There is also a wealth of material online if that’s your preferred method of acquiring information.

Happy reading, y’all!

A Goal for 2019

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

It’s no secret that I have struggled in writing consistently for several years. I have also struggled with reading in ways that feed my soul rather than reading because of an assignment. Because my brain still needs the presence of words in my life, that often translates into substituting scrolling and posting for real reading and writing, and this year I would like to make some changes with that.

I’ve set a goal to read at least one book per month for myself this year. Not a work-related read or a grad school-related read, but something just because I want to read it.

That will start with finishing up some books I already have in progress.

  1. Children of Blood and BoneI have been reading this off and on for several months. It’s captivating and intriguing and I love the ongoing conflict among the characters. I am 72 chapters into its 85 chapters and want to finish. It’s the first in a planned series, so I want to be ready when the next one is published
  2. Curvy Yoga: I have been following the work of Anna Guest-Jelley for several years and was thrilled when she published her book. I see a lot of myself in her story, but in true Lisa non-fiction fashion, when I got toward the end of the book I stalled out and felt more excited about the next thing. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be the person who finishes books even when they are not story-related.
  3. Becoming:  This was a Christmas gift from my son Caleb so of course I dove right in. I’ve found Michelle Obama to be an engaging writing and since she is only four years older than I am, the cultural events of her life resonate with me. However, it is very different to read about the life of an African-American female growing up in Chicago as opposed to my experience as a white female growing up in a small town in the Bible Belt. This is what I love about reading, though. It allows you to begin to understand life through others’ eyes.
  4. The Road Back to You:  OK. To be honest, I’m listening to this. I usually have an audiobook going in the car and since I don’t have many long drives, it takes me a while to finish things. If you’ve heard of the Enneagram and would like to know, this is a great book. I’m a sucker for all things self-discovery and this is a good one. I’m a 2w3 in enneagram-speak. I’d love to hear your number when you know it.

So what is the goal? It has multiple parts. I want to read more, write more, and scroll less. As I read, I will use the blog to share what I’m reading. This is partly for accountability and partly to meet the writing goal. Both of these will take up time, meaning I will scroll less.

When I finish one of these, the next book I want to read is Every Body Yogapartly because it’s been on my list for a while, but also because I’m attending two workshops with the author next month. I’ll be writing here about what I’m reading and how it’s progressing, so you’re welcome to join me. I’d love to hear about your reading adventures; feel free to leave questions if you have them.

Happy reading!

On my mind today

It’s the end of the semester. All of my course work has been turned in. I have one meeting left with a professor to go, but I’m having a hard time getting it scheduled. 

I’m incredibly restless at work because my specific job duties are very wrapped up by this time of year. To be honest, I struggle at the end of every semester because I don’t have a school schedule. I won’t be off for a month. I’ll keep showing up. I’ll keep doing things that need to be done. I’d rather be at home doing things that need to be done there, but that’s not my reality. It’s a privilege to have a job and I’m working on contentment, but this time of year it’s difficult.

This time of year, I am also tempted to return to diet world or at least food tracking world. I saw a video of myself the other day and it was hard to watch. My mental image of myself doesn’t match my physical reality and ever since then, I’ve wanted to be smaller, which means dieting. 

But dieting isn’t a magic pill and neither is being smaller. Maybe it’s just the stress talking to me. Part of me wants to go home and curl up on a couch and not be responsible for anything because on any given day, I do a lot. 

  • I’m a  yoga teacher
  • I work full time with college students
  • I’m in grad school and have homework
  • I’m a mom and even though my kids aren’t at home, I have ongoing discussions with them about life
  • I am also a yoga student
  • I am a friend
  • I am a wife
  • And occasionally, I need to just be Lisa

I’ve spent most of my life wanting to fix something — my family, my body, my house, my lack of knowledge in certain areas — it didn’t really matter what, but there’s always seemed to be something to fix. 

Now, I have a beautiful marriage and a wonderful house and home. I’m in a graduate program I enjoy and I’m doing well. I have amazing friends. My kids are kind of stumbling through young adult life, but they’re really doing ok. I set a huge goal a couple of years ago of becoming a certified yoga teacher and I finished it this past year. I teach yoga at least once a week. Me. Plus size me teaches yoga. 

And I still doubt myself. I doubt myself as a student. I doubt myself as a mom. I doubt myself as a friend (they don’t really want to be with me, do they? Aren’t I just the add-on?) and I doubt myself as a yogi. It all falls into the “good enough” thinking, not the life done in love thinking. I love my kids. I love being in school. I love yoga. I love my friends. If I could get beyond thinking I have to be good enough and simply do things because I love them, how much of a difference would it make? 

More on self-care

Note: This is a repost from Facebook from last Friday. 

It’s been a weird week. I don’t know all the reasons, but this week has felt heavy. Yesterday I was struggling to keep my mood and attitude in a good place and had to take time to make a list of practices that keep negative thoughts at bay. In the process I also remembered this is the first Fall I’ve been without an antidepressant in five years, which may be part of the struggle.

One beautiful truth of my life is that God has given me amazing, supportive friends at every stage of life. In the middle of my week of funk, I received two gifts from friends that spoke deeply to my soul. The amazing Michelle sent me this self care challenge book that — quite honestly — is exactly what I was trying to create for myself when I made my list yesterday. I had big plans of using today to generate an accountability plan for my self care activities. When I finally had time to look through the book this morning, I realized Michelle had already provided me with one.

One item on my list was “read more fiction. Meaningful fiction.” My friend Sander saw this T-shirt somewhere, had texted me and said I had to have it. This week it showed up in the mail. If you’re not familiar with the names, they’re all female southern writers. Writers are the keeper of our stories. I’m a big believer in the power of story and the stories of the South, even though they’re hard to hear sometimes, could be what helps us learn enough about ourselves to move forward. Thank God for the people who are willing to tell our difficult stories.

If you’re struggling too, hang in there. Be honest with yourself and your friends and let them come alongside you. Take care of yourself, take antidepressants if you need them, and take good, good care of yourself during the hard weeks.

And don’t forget to read good books.

Self care survival kit

Today, I asked some friends, “What do you do when you just feel done?” There is no one specific thing that is weighing on me, but I feel restless . . . antsy . . . and also like tossing in the towel.

I recognize these feelings as anxiety or stress or whatever name works best for you and I recognize that this happens when my self care is not in place. Then I had to ask myself, “Lisa, what is self care for you? And how can you get a better grip on it in the middle of your busy life?”

By the way, being busy isn’t a sign of honor, so that isn’t me bragging. It’s a statement of fact. I have a full time job and am taking six hours of graduate work every semester. I also teach yoga once a week and help sponsor a student organization on campus. And I have a marriage relationship which I long to give time to and I try to stay connected with my kids as much as possible. Which isn’t much.

black and white photo of clocks
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

So I need a self care kit. A list of things to incorporate into routine to help prevent these days of wanting to run away to Canada. I read about a school that has comfort corners with supplies for kids when they are feeling overwhelmed. That sounds like a wonderful idea, so this weekend I am going to create a comfort corner in my house.

Lisa’s Self Care Survival Toolkit

  • Yoga — 15 minutes a day keeps the anxiety away
  • Writing — journaling to get the thoughts out and gratitude to find the happies
  • Music — it’s the language of my soul
  • Fiction — I need to read for fun
  • Movement — dance or walking or something. I just need to move more.
  • Visual beauty — I need to do something creative
  • Soft things — a super soft blanket or other warm fuzzy
  • Fuzzy socks with aloe
  • Lavender anything
  • Cooking and filling the house with the yummy smell of baking
diary girl hand journal

So tonight when I get off work, I’m going shopping for a few things to add to a self care kit. I am also going to focus on planning a morning and evening routine that will incorporate some of these things.

I’m tired. I’m tired of life and the world being hard and weighty and constantly present and never getting better. The world is too much. The longer I live, the more often I come back to these words:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
I want to shout AMEN! We are out of tune. . out of tune . . out of tune . . . and if what I see as Christianity in our nation is the real thing, then yes — I would rather be a pagan. 

low light photography of books
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A Time for Everything

A time to blog, a time to refrain from blogging. . . 

Those may not be the exact words of The Teacher in Ecclesiastes, but I have a feeling he would approve. For the last little bit of life, I’ve felt it was much more important to focus on doing than on pondering or  pontificating. Blogs used to be a great way to catch people up with what was happening in life, but now we all seem to live our lives on Facebook or Instagram, so using a blog to share life events seems a little unnecessary. I’ve been managing life. Living day to day and somehow managing to (mostly) get done what needed to be done that day. I’ve felt no wisdom to espouse or truths to unpack so writing in a semi-public venue seemed unnecessary.

So the quiet began

And continued

Then sat down and decided to stay awhile.

Today I feel restless . . . I feel a need to process. Two parts of my life have collided and sorting it out is taking a lot of me. Yesterday, Bayard James Thornburley entered the world after his beautiful mama spent hours and hours in labor. We had already planned for me to come on Saturday. The plane ticket has been purchased for a long time. The days off from work have been requested. For a couple of months, I’ve been reminding myself that most first babies are born at least a week late and that he would most likely be born after I got there.

But that isn’t how it happened.

My beautiful girl had her first baby — the first in the next generation of family — and I wasn’t there. And I won’t be there until Saturday.

Responsible worker me knows this is the way it needs to be.

Mom me is silently dying and pushing tears down throughout the day.

I get it. This is their time. They need this time. I needed time without other people after my babies were born. they have people. They are being cared for beautifully, I have no doubt.

But my baby had a baby and I couldn’t be there because I was at work.

Being a working mom/professional type anything was never on my list of things to do. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about that because there’s not much point to it. I have to work. For a variety of reasons, I have to have a job and I have to have this job. There are wonderful people in my life because of this job. My children have been fed and clothed and had braces and medicine and education because of this job. I was able to help with my mom’s final months on this earth because of this job.

But today my heart is breaking because of this job.

Trying to make peace with these two different aspects of life has been hard for a long time. I thought I had found a balance, but today I feel very unbalanced about it all. I am resentful.

The resentment wanders down many roads. Roads that journey to the past and the financial insecurity that forced my decision to pursue full time, professional work. Roads that are paved with student loan bills, high priced health care, and a society’s lip-only service to family values. It’s also on the billboards that line my current travel and remind me the decreased flexibility with my work time that has happened over the last few years.

I was in a meeting yesterday and part of what we did was work through Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why process of writing a why statement. Not a mission statement or a vision board, but a why statement. Why do we do what we do? Not why do work where we work, but what are our core values that get us out of bed in the morning and give purpose to our days, whether they are with family or work or community.

Here’s mine:

My why_ To create

The American culture is neither equal nor balanced when it comes to work, especially the combination of work and family. We are a culture who throws around terms like “family values,” and “community,” but has no structure in place to support either of those ideas.

And today, much more than other days, I resent that.

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