State Fair – time to play

The Minnesota State Fair has begun. Around here it is known as the “great Minnesota get-together.” Typically the fair attracts over 120 thousand visitors per day. Last year’s records showed a couple of days of nearly a quarter of a million people in attendance for a total of nearly 2 million over the 12-day event.

MN State Fair.JPG
Photo credit link

We do love our State Fair, or at least those extroverts among us. Actually, I really like seeing animal barns and some of the exhibits. Oh, and I love the fried green tomatoes, the cheese curds, and the roasted corn. Almost nobody can escape without a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies.

sweet martha's
Sweet Martha’s Cookies

The last gasp of summer for us, or at least how it seems, is upon us. Typically public schools do not open again until after Labor Day, so this Fair marks the end of the school vacation period.

It is time to grab the family and head down to the Fair. Best to use the Park & Ride system if possible, since parking can be a nightmare if you try to get to close to the fairgrounds.

It reminds me of that feeling at the end of the summer before the weather changes, and when we used to shop for school supplies. I love school supplies. Ah, the smell of new notebooks, freshly-sharpened pencils, and new erasers! I was a classic geek in school – loved it, and was always ready to back.

By the end of the summer I had usually gotten a little bored and was ready to go back to class. This year, I am having such a blast and enjoying my sabbatical so much, that it is really hard for me to imagine getting bored.

It is a privilege to be able to enjoy the State Fair. It’s certainly not cheap, but there is a lot of fun to be had if you attend. I am reminded how grateful I am for the resources in this state, and for the ability to enjoy them.

As a slight introvert, my maximum endurance is typically 4-5 hours. Beyond that, I get a little peopled-out. But as an annual event, it can be well worth the time to get out to play, and enjoy a final day of summer as it winds down for 2018. Make time to play this month, friends. It is good for your soul.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

Unstructured time

Yesterday morning my husband took me out for a ride in his fishing boat out on the river where his mother lives, and on Big Wolf Lake. It was a lovely day, a little cool but beautifully sunny and peaceful since only a couple of fishing boats out that early in the day. We always enjoy getting out on the water.

clem in boat
My hubby, captain of the fishing boat

It reminded me of the summers I spent in Bemidji as a kid. Since my parents were teachers, they had summers off. So we would go to Grandma’s house for the summer, on Three Island Lake, and spend time on the water and relaxing with books and lots of unstructured time. I didn’t go to camps or have summer activities scheduled until I was in high school (and signed up for those myself).

Of course, we had chores to do when we were old enough, helping Grandma with the garden, the yard, dishes, grocery shopping and a few house cleaning tasks. But chores did not take up very much time, and for the most part, we had time to enjoy ourselves.

I loved to read, and there was a loft up above the garage that was my sanctuary where I was able to enjoy plenty of solitude and “thinking time”. My sister would sometimes join me, and we would play. Occasionally a cousin would visit for a couple of weeks, and we canoed or hiked with them. We did a lot of swimming on the lake, rowing out to the dock since it too weedy by the shore.

I am so grateful for that wonderful, unstructured time. Today as I consider what I will do with my time, I know that I need to plan things – I will go to yoga, I will spend some time de-cluttering and organizing. I will spend time reading, writing, doing errands and preparing for the upcoming road trip with my sister.

pelicans on big wolf lake
Pelicans out on Big Wolf Lake. Taken August 6, 2018.

There is a huge emphasis these days on productivity, on getting more done every day. I understand it. But I also want to celebrate time when we can just BE not always DO. I cannot remember who said once, “you are a human being, not a human doing.” But how often do we forget this? Our striving and wanting for more can draw us into a frenzy of activity.

Brené Brown writes about this in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection.” One of the qualities of wholehearted men and women is that they let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. It runs counter-culture to do this, and counter to many of our family admonitions. We saw parents who worked all the time, and saw “hard work” as valuable but play as lazy. Fortunately I was exposed to rest and play as components to a happy life, and I am forever grateful for that.

I realize it reflects a lot of privilege to be able to enjoy unstructured time off. But it also reflects choices we make and values we have. I will probably forgo some “things” I could have or money I could earn. But I will live fully and gratefully.  I enjoy this moment that is here, and do not postpone my joy for some future that exists only in my mind.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Starting my Summer Sabbatical

This weekend we visited our families in Bemidji and relaxed after a busy week of finalizing my corporate position. While I am excited to start my “new thing” I also know that I need a break from the intensity of work for a while.

In the corporate world, it is not as common to take a break of more than 2-3 weeks (at the most) in the U.S. as it is in academia. But I have been dreaming of a break like this for quite some time now. I expect it will be ~2 months for me, and will conclude with my 2-week honeymoon Sept 5-19 with my husband (1 year wedding anniversary).

In the academic world, typically sabbaticals have are granted as a year free from teaching duties that could be devoted to research, travel and writing. Traditionally this occurs in the 7th year. Sabbatical is related to the biblical “sabbath” in origin, the day of rest referred to in Genesis. Leviticus refers to an entire year of rest in the 7th year, as a way to respect the natural rhythm of crop-harvesting, and allow the land to lie fallow.

I love the concept of cycles of intentional activity balanced with intentional rest. An over-focus on productivity in our culture seems to rob us of the ability to rest and play without guilt. We feel like we have to “earn” our rest, and then, if we work very hard and have saved up a lot of money, maybe we can retire formally and finally rest.

sabbatical
Photo credit link

Personally the idea of going from full-time work, to full time retirement has always seemed weird to me, and not at all desirable. Work often gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction, even while it can be the source of stress and struggle at times.

If you love your work and it is well suited to your skills and interests, it is something you may not wish to escape. While you may decide to “down shift” in your later years, or work less than full time, the idea of going from 100% to zero has never appealed to me.

Granted, in the days when work was largely physical and humans had a limited capacity for this enduring effort, it certainly made sense. Today, knowledge work demands high focus during “productive time” but can also require rest and intentional play for creative generation.

What if more of us had a more flexible approach to work and life, where we could take a couple of months off every year to recharge and refresh? How might this affect our quality of work, our quality of life, and perhaps even the planet and the environment?

My theory is that quality vacations and sabbaticals may afford the kind of down time that helps us appreciate what is good about our lives, and also what is missing. This time off has required us to put away some savings, and make some sacrifices in terms of luxuries and spending. To me, it is entirely worth it. I have planned 2-2.5 days a week to “work” and plan for my consulting launch.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity and shall make the most of it. My husband tells me the time will go fast, and I am sure it will. I have a stack of books, some Udemy courses to finish, a road trip with my sister, and other connections to renew. I shall savor my journal and writing time, will meditate every day, do yoga, dance and perhaps create some art.

What would you do with a nice, juicy sabbatical of a month or more? I would love to know. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – move toward Joy

What brings you joy? 

This question can strike fear into the hearts of some people. If it has been some time since you experienced either spontaneous or cultivated joy, you may feel scarcity or grief.

If you have been living someone else’s idea of a “good life” but not your own, you probably feel a lack of joy. Or if things seem to be not going as planned in your life, and you feel a sense of numbness or sadness, joy seems far away. You may be like a poor kid looking through the windows of the candy store, knowing that joy exists (not in the form of candy, actually) but believing you cannot have it.

However, joy can be a daily practice as much as a feeling or an experience. I first learned about this from Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. I pulled out her book from my shelves last summer and started cultivating joy more intentionally when I realized my work life was no longer bringing me joy. For years, it had provided me with growth, challenge and satisfaction.

Then it seemed the minor annoyances I was tolerating started to grow into major annoyances. The bureaucrazy (yes, this is Freudian slip, and also deliberate) felt more overwhelming. On balance, the joy did not outweigh the suffering anymore. I no longer felt I belonged in that place, in that position.

joy disney
Photo credit link – Disney’s Joy character

I started finding joy in doing art projects at home, meditating, writing, doing yoga, reading books, and listening to podcasts that fed my brain new ideas. I started taking more joy in my relationship, planning my wedding (which took place last September). Instead of working late, I left the office early, enjoyed evenings on the patio, which is quite lovely in Minnesota this time of year.

My focus on finding and appreciating joy daily led me to the place where I am now. I feel healthy and more balanced than I have in years. My sleep has improved considerably, with much less insomnia than before. My eating habits have improved, and I struggle less with fighting cravings for sugar and junk food. Those things had been a “buffer” to my feelings and did not allow for me to sit with the reality of the change my soul was calling forth.

Joy is always not in the big, bright moments of happiness. These can be a part of a joyful life. However, it is often in the small, quiet moments of gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. Joy exists in moments of internal peace and in finding our center. Sometimes there is suffering embedded in joy, and it is an almost bittersweet experience. I would not trade it for any material thing.

What brings you joy? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wild vs domesticated

I have been thinking a lot about the exercises Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert asked of us on Saturday during our Celebrate Your Life Retreat this weekend.

I opted to skip the Sunday Q&A discussion after being peopled-out by the 611 women (and 4 men) attending the conference and the deep work we did as part of the workshops. We shared with each other some very personal things, those of us willing to be a little vulnerable.

What Liz and Martha asked of us was nothing less than the transformation of human consciousness. I wholeheartedly agree with their assessment. We cannot keep doing things the way they have always been done. It is killing our planet.

All this constant striving, ego, machismo and relentless activity are creating an unsustainable habitat for future generations. But before we run off trying to heal the planet, we need to heal ourselves. We need to realize that we are whole and that we are loved.

We need to get enough rest, enough healthy food and get enough PLAY in each our days. I think particularly for women we do not let ourselves have this time. We are conditioned and “domesticated” to be busy, to be caring for everyone, sometimes at a cost to ourselves. 

But when we do not allow for play, for natural curiosity, for that quality we had when we were younger, that fascination and wonder with the world, we all lose. For it is when we play, when we step away from the obligations and the chores and the everyday life that we realize our creative gifts. We re-energize our spirits.

So after a wonderful time Friday evening and all-day Saturday, I opted to “play” with my husband instead of attending the final 2 hour session. Part of me said: “hey, you signed up for this, and you want to get your money’s worth!”

But the bigger part of me, that divine intelligence that comes from my heart, wanted to enjoy the day with my husband. I wanted to process what I had learned, and integrate my learning into the bigger story of my life. I wanted to enjoy some togetherness and shared adventure that are so good for our relationships.

Sedona from cathedral
Sedona, Arizona. Taken April 8, 2018. Copyright mexi-minnesotana

 

So we went on a motorcycle journey to Sedona from Scottsdale. It was a long trip, along the back roads in the mountains, maybe 160-165 miles each way. For me ‘cycling more than 300 miles in a day, especially without “conditioning” for the season, is challenging! I’m not part of the “iron butt” crowd!

I followed my “wilder” and less domesticated instinct and the wisdom of my heart and have no regrets. I have studied Liz’ and Martha’s work and books for years. While some of the Q&A may have been informative, my soul was calling out for play, not for another morning in a ballroom away from the sunshine.

I am grateful to have such experiences and to have the luxury of the resources to plan such a vacation as this during what feels like a big transition in my life. I realize it reflects a lot of privilege to be able to nurture this side of myself, and I do not take it for granted.

But I believe that personal growth is an imperative, not a luxury. If we do not grow, we wither. If we do not honor the yearnings within us, our soul begins to die, even if our bodies still live. Many of us have learned this behaviors as a part of our culture, which is inherently conservative.

What got us here will not get us into the future unscathed. Caring and nurturing are done in the wild as well as in domestic settings. Women are good at it, so let us practice giving it to ourselves. Not only our own lives, but the lives of all those around us will benefit.

We return home today. My consciousness is raised, and the wild adventure has begun.