Wasting paper and killing trees

I spent some time Tuesday morning listening to podcasts with writers. In the meantime, I dusted off the boxes in my office and decided to put some order to my journals. As some of you know, writing for me is somewhat a compulsion. It is a non-optional part of my daily practice.

journals 1992-1999.jpg
1992-1999

I hand write my journal. I am old-fashioned that way. The ideas that pour forth with a nice smooth pen on paper seem qualitatively different than what I write when I sit down to the keyboard. More raw. Less pre-meditated. Just me.

My intended audience for these journals is just me. I made my college roommate  promise me that if anything happened to me she would have the journals burned without reading them.

I was a little embarrassed when I started sorting the piles of journals into decades. The sheer volume of the once-blank books that span the last 26 years astonished me. Think of all the wasted paper! All those poor trees have been sacrificed for my greedy writing habit…Then I was kind of amazed. I started to wonder about the periods when I had been faithful to journal at least weekly, or other periods when journals were either lost or not kept.

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2000-2011

What happened to 2008-2009? No journals from that time. Mysterious.

Did I start journal-writing prior to 1992, the year I left home to go to Swarthmore College? I have a cute little lock & key style diary from when I was about 7 years old, a  that I probably got from my Mom.

I decided to document via photos the journals I have kept. This is as much to illustrate my insanity as to be able to let go of these books at some point, as per my desire to live a more minimalist life.

My collection from 2018 includes 15 blank books (so far, since I just started #16 today). That is really embarrassing. But I suppose in a way, it is something I can embrace. I write. My days flow better when I write each day. I also seem to have less insomnia when I let it all out rather than letting it simmer.

journals 2018
2018 alone – seriously?!?

When then if I want to work on a big project, a book idea? Do I keep writing? Do I perhaps use my journal as the “reward system” for after I’ve gotten my daily pages and work done?

Clearly it’s a habit that’s not going away. It feels like a lifeline to me, and I am sure I would need to spend a LOT more on therapy if I were NOT writing each day. Come to think of it, the gaps in my “years” of journals actually correspond to episodes of major transitions and/or clinical depression in my life: 1995, 2002, 2009.

Wow. Sh*t. Ages 21, 28 and 35. It seems I was due for an episode in 2016 at age 42, but it never arrived. I am giving credit to my consistent pile of journals and some proactive therapy. When you have tasted that flavor of darkness more than once you sometimes recognize the signs before it arrives again. Self-care is now a religion for me.

I told and AirBnB host back in September: I write because I must. Indeed. Apologies to the trees that sacrificed their lives for my mental health. And everlasting gratitude to you.

cumulative journals 1992-2018.jpg
The complete pile. Those top two huge piles in the left corner are 2017-2018.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

Quiet times of the year

I think we are fortunate in Minnesota that there is very little doubt about that distinct feeling of winter. The cold bites at us, and we notice. It will get down to single digits this week and it is inescapable.

Calvin on Dad.jpg
Our fat cat Calvin loves to use my husband as furniture in the winter. Shamelessly.

I have come appreciated quiet times of the year, when I take my time. There are less events, though some people attend holiday parties (I manage to avoid most). There are some family gatherings at the holidays, but right now feels like a nice quiet opportunity for reflection. I enjoy my peppermint tea with a dash of eggnog in it, and I snuggle with my cats.

Working from home, some days I am not required to go anywhere. I typically make it outside at least once for a yoga class, a dance class or a walk (at the very least a trip to the mail box). My grandmother used to say she enjoyed winter because there were a lot less yard work chores, and plenty of time for reading. I agree. SO many good books on my shelves.

What is your favorite way to spend quiet times of the year?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

TBT: Feliz cumpleaños, Papa

mexico flag country
Photo credit link

It is my Dad’s birthday today and so in his honor, I am posting an edited version of last year’s tribute to him.

My Dad’s choice of vocation as a bilingual teacher fundamentally shaped the way I look at the world. His countless presentations to school boards on language learning and the value of bilingual versus ESL-type programs shaped my thinking about social justice and education. He and Mom did highly influential work together to defend and protect educational opportunities for children of (originally) migrant workers in our small town.

Dad was called to serve these children and their parents, who needed a strong advocate for their education. He worked with them to help ensure they could get the best education possible. He believed in their potential and was ready to nurture it every step of the way, building a strong base of skills and also self-confidence. His work as an elementary level teacher touched so many young children’s lives in a powerful and profound way.

We used to go to the classroom late at night, my Mom and Dad and my sister, to put up bulletin boards at the beginning of each new month. My sister also remembers how “cool” it was for Dad to have a key to the school, and he and Mom could work there after hours, when it was easier to get work done uninterrupted. Having special access to the school meant that we could run down the hallways while nobody was there! So much fun. We could never get away with that during a school day.

father daughter reading
Photo credit link

I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? I got to skip my  reading classes in favor of going to the bilingual classroom several hours a day. This saved me from the torture of repeating what I had already mastered.

Dad nurtured that spark of learning within me, and that has been a constant throughout my life. I learn quickly, and greedily, reading books as fast as I can. Of course, having a bit of challenge with attention, I sometimes read a book twice in order to fully absorb it.

Both Mom and Dad believed in reading to us when we were young, and this may be one reason I still love to read. I also enjoy audio books because it is a sweet memory to have someone read to me. For sure, my Grandmother had great influence as well. She was an avid reader and consummate learner.

Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved well for him. He almost never sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed by his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year.

Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior by their children in school. One call from “el Maestro” was enough to get a student to realize they could not misbehave in his classroom without having consequences happen at home. Their culture still has high respect for teachers. Sometimes Dad brought in psychologists as guest speakers to talk with the parents about how to help their kids at home, and was devoted to helping those young minds open and bloom.

Dad faced racism in his experience as an educated Mexican living in a small town, a very “white” town. The parents of his students respected him a great deal, but some of the teachers he worked with did not. Indeed some of the administrators did not, but he did have good principals. One particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This leader, noticing how respectful and well-behaved my Dad’s classes were, made sure that the direction from the top was to expand the bilingual program, not to cut back, as some school boards had tried to do.

respect

One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad (and Mom taught me this as well) was that you should treat everyone with respect. A person’s “station” in life does not matter. Whether they are a teacher, a principal, a janitor or a cook, you must treat each person with dignity and respect. This is fundamental to the way I interact with the world, and is something I strive to emulate as well.

I am truly grateful to my Dad, and for all the lessons I learned through the way he and my mother live their lives. Teaching is a vocation, not just a job. I like to say I come from a family of teachers, and it is true, multiple generations. I am immensely proud of that.

Happy birthday, Dad!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

My problem with transcendence

I recently wrote an article for a client on “meditation 101”. It was fun to write, given my study of the topic and my practice for the past 2.5+ years. It was posted at the client website, sadly without a byline. But it is all good practice and part of my writing portfolio, so to speak.

I wanted to reflect on a principle that I think is a misconception about meditation, at least in my experience. People often assume that you must do something to “transcend” the body, when in reality the goal for me is to get grounded in the body. I seek to come back to my body not to transcend or escape it in any way.

Photo credit link – my article without the byline

Most of my days are spent “in my head” and outside my body. I recently realized that my body contains a tremendous amount of wisdom and intuition that my over-active brain conveniently “skips” much of the time. When I come back to my home, the body itself, I access what my soul is trying to tell me. It is through understanding the subtle emotional language of the body that our truths can be revealed to us. 

A lot of the men and the male teachers of meditation that have instructed me have encouraged us to “transcend” the body, and go to some ethereal destination. Perhaps this works for them, and I will not disparage their efforts.

We are built with this mammalian architecture that is incredibly subtle and wise. We ignore it at our peril. Women have been “escaping” and transcending their bodies for millennia due to patriarchy, cultural norms and many other reasons. It is time we stopped taking that advice, and stepped into full ownership and joy in our bodies. That’s where the magic happens. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – Throw away the manuals

How many of you have “manuals” for how other people should behave? 

Whether they are family members, or co-workers, or just other people encounter during your day, we tend to have “manuals” for how we want them to behave. Here are some of my example thoughts related to this principle:

“They shouldn’t talk about people in such a mean way.”

“He should not behave that way.”

“They should say something nice instead of always criticizing.”

Those are some negative “manual” thoughts that sometimes appear in my own head. But they are actually false! How do I know that? Because they DO talk about people, he DOES behave that way, and they DO criticize.

We have no control over others’ behavior. But sometimes we think “if only they would behave differently then we could be happy.” \

Photo credit link 

This is actually a position of powerlessness. When we realize that we can respond to people from our own cleaned-up thoughts about the situation, we free ourselves. We cannot control the world. (Those of us who are control freaks find this a little hard to accept sometimes.)

Separate out what a person is saying (or how they are acting) from the thoughts and interpretations in your head. Then you realize it is not related to you, it is more about THEM.

This does not mean you should be a “doormat” or that you should not make requests of them (like “please stop”). That is totally fine. But you have to accept that people will choose to behave however they behave. Sometimes you need to have proper boundaries if they are mistreating you. 

But the only person who’s thoughts, emotions and actions you can manage are yours. This is incredibly liberating, the more you practice awareness of your own thoughts and feelings, the more you take back the true power in your life. 

Is there anyone in your life that is bugging you because they are not following your manual? Consider whether it’s time to trash that manual. Thanks to Brooke Castillo for first teaching me this principal. It has been a game-changer. 

Input fatigue

‘Tis the season for me. I can feel it. 

Countless emails in my inbox imploring me to get in on Cyber-Monday deals… that feeling of trying to filter it all out but feeling that it has clogged up my internal operating system somehow.

My plan is to give myself extra quiet time tonight, wind down early and allow for some rest from it all. My body and mind feel tired. What I have learned in my last couple of years is to honor that call for rest. 

The beautiful discovery about this rest, when I take it, is that I discover nothing falls apart when I take that time away. It is all still there when I return, though usually I have fresh perspective on it. 

How often do you turn everything off and allow for rest? What happens as a result?

Outsourcing our dream-time?

I am researching sleep this week as part of a project contract. I finished Dr. Rubin Naiman’s book Healing Night and it really got me thinking about the hazards of our dream-deprived (REM state) sleep habits. 

Recent CDC reports indicate that over a third of U.S. adults receive less than the 7 hour minimum recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. As a matter of fact, that range is actually more like 7-9 hours and is highly individualized. So I suspect probably over half of the population is not regularly receiving a necessary component of a healthy life.

Unfortunately, much of the science focuses on quantity and not always on quality of sleep that people are receiving. I get it. I like numbers. I actually track the sleep I receive every night in an attempt to understand what influences and affects it. Generally I know I want more of it, and feel fabulous when I get at least 8 hours.

But quality matters too, and when we do not receive enough deep sleep, which allows us to get into the REM (rapid eye movement or dream) state of sleep at least a 2-3 times in a night, we become dream-deprived. This is a state that can lead to depression when prolonged and also has links to cancer. 

Further, it can interfere with our creativity and vitality in life. Ironically enough we have myriad entertainment options outside us, “Dream Works” and other sources of artificial dreams that we indulge in to escape our lives.

I started to wonder: 

Would we need to escape our lives if we felt refreshed and allowed for our proper “dream time” at night? Would we need to rely on external entertainment if we felt our creativity were not drained from sleepiness and fatigue? 

To me it is a troubling proposition, but all too often a reality if we feel our lives are over-scheduled and that we must sacrifice some sleep in order to attend to our “to do” lists. My advice: get your sleep if you can. Do not sacrifice your precious dream time, or outsource it to the entertainment sources. It is all yours, it is necessary and it is sacred. 

I shall write more about the topic this week. It is on my mind, and I am an even stronger believer after doing more research. I hope to convince you as well if you are not there yet. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com