Next week I’m scheduled to present a continuous improvement project, which I mentioned in a post in April, to my boss’s boss. It is just a small beginner-level project, there is a standard template for presenting the results, and it should only take about a half-hour. I thought it was helpful to learn the basic concepts of continuous improvement and to gain more experience with programs such as Excel and PowerPoint, which I don’t regularly use in my work. Still, there’s always a bit of stress involved when doing anything new.

I did a practice presentation today with some of my coworkers, and they were positive and encouraging. When I asked whether I sounded nervous, they said no, I was fine. It’s always good to have a bit of gentle encouragement to expand those comfort zones!

Word-art that says "Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

My most recent imaginary visit with a younger self didn’t take me very far back in my virtual time machine—only to the summer of 2014. At that time, Not-Much-Younger-Me was in the midst of an ambitious project to visit a positive blog every day and document those travels on this site’s Random Kindness Blog Tour page.

She had in fact set herself a schedule that called for multiple self-improvement and home-improvement projects going on at the same time. The other ones included decluttering the house and writing weekly posts about it, composing a monthly Recovering from Negativity blog series in the nature of a 12-step recovery chronicle, and learning to row a double scull with hubby well enough to compete in regattas. Some might have called it a midlife crisis of sorts, though she wouldn’t have described it as such.

I caught up with her while she was standing in the backyard on a warm sunny afternoon, working on what seemed a never-ending job of cutting back all the bushes and small trees that had been damaged by that year’s frigid winter. She ought to have hired someone to take care of that chore instead, as it didn’t all get finished before winter came again; but, long ago, she had gotten in the habit of taking too much upon herself without realizing it.

Willow after pruning off small branches. 

I stepped into the shade of the little tree that she was pruning. She glanced over at me, blinked a couple of times, and then just shook her head in a tired-looking way.

“If you’re a new blog idea or story plot having to do with a visit from an alternate me, well, I don’t mean to be rude,” she began, in a tone that sounded like it was meant to be apologetic but conveyed very little beyond weariness, “but I have a lot going on at the moment. Maybe I can get around to writing about you next week sometime, if nothing else comes up.”

“Oh, no, I’m just here to talk a little, that’s all. No need to schedule anything,” I said cheerfully. The shade felt cool and pleasant. Somewhere in the leaves above my head, a bird gave a chirp of curiosity.

“And I certainly don’t mean to be rude either,” I went on, “but you’re kind of a newbie when it comes to this positivity stuff, so I thought it might help to talk about a few things. Such as, you’re not obligated to put on a happy face every morning and convince yourself that life gives you boundless energy, making it easy and fun to do anything you might imagine for as long as you want. The human body has natural limitations, after all. Needing to rest and recharge is one of them. Although a positive attitude is indeed good to have, it doesn’t literally expand the number of hours available in the day.”

The pruning shears snapped firmly shut on another dead branch, which rattled into the yard waste bag a moment later. “I haven’t been putting on a happy-face act. When I decide to do something, it simply gets done. And if you’re me, then you ought to know that,” Not-Much-Younger-Me declared irritably.

“Well, I’m not quite you, exactly. Coming from three years in your future, I like to think of myself as a more sustainable version of you. Of course, I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I’m working on it.”

“Sustainable… that sounds like we’re talking about a rain forest with little coffee farms carefully planted around the edges, or something.” The snap of the shears came again, not quite as loud as before.

“Yes, sort of, in that we have to pay attention to our own personal ecology and not deplete our resources. When we’re doing too many things at once, that doesn’t leave enough time for our energy to replenish naturally, and after a while we start to feel drained.”

“But just a few years ago, I was busier than I am now, and it didn’t seem like a problem then,” she started to argue. Then her hand went slack on the pruning shears as she thought about it some more and finally said, in a much softer tone, “Oh.”

Three little rabbits chased each other across the lawn before running around the corner of the house. I watched them for a moment before I turned back to my somewhat-younger self and explained further, “I don’t mean to suggest that you should drop all your projects, of course. Just try to keep in mind that if something takes longer than you expected, it’s no calamity. For example, coming from your future, I happen to know for a fact that some trees and shrubs didn’t get pruned this year, and guess what—it didn’t kill them.”

Not-Much-Younger-Me responded with a genuine smile and started to take off her gardening gloves. “Well then, I think I’ll just go inside and drink a nice cold glass of iced tea.”

“That sounds wonderful. See you in three years!” I gave her a jaunty wave as I stepped farther back into the trees and disappeared into my own time.

Along with my husband and son, I went to the rowing club to watch the city’s Independence Day fireworks show. The boathouse is just up the river and has a great view. Each year the club has a picnic before we set up folding chairs on the dock to watch the fireworks. Everyone takes turns cooking hamburgers and other food on the grill, and we all bring snacks and sweet treats for our friends to share. There are old-fashioned games such as water balloon toss and three-legged race. For prizes, the winners get chocolate bars.

Word-art that says "There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate." 

Although we didn’t have any rowing races or other events on the water this year because of nearby bridge construction, everyone had a good time anyway. I’m wishing my readers plenty of fun with friends too!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I’ve mentioned in several blog posts how much I enjoy the digital art display that my husband bought as a Christmas present for me in 2015. So I was saddened to learn this week that the manufacturer, Electric Objects, has been acquired; it had major supply problems this year, and I’m assuming it ran out of money. The acquiring company has said that it will keep the art library on its servers without any interruption to customers, but there will be no more new sales of the product.

Start-up companies often fail through no fault of the owners. Our personal projects and circumstances also can run into problems, even when we do our best. For this Nurturing Thursday entry, I’d like to encourage anyone out there who may be going through difficulties to keep on trying. In today’s ever-changing world, there is always something new that is worth hoping for and working toward.

Word-art that says "When the world says Give up, Hope whispers... Try it one more time." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Lists of social virtues generally include kindness and honesty toward others, but it’s all too easy to overlook the importance of being kind and honest with oneself. Pushing too hard to get things done, while acting like everything is okay and the stress is not really a problem, often gets mistaken for being responsible. Then, before you know it, the real you ends up suffocating under heaps of phony pretense and desperately screaming to be let out.

Word-art that says "Be brave. Be silly. Be your own magic. Be present. Be full of surprises. Be adventurous. Be kind. Be free. Be you." 

I was going to write more about the value of authenticity, but I just read an excellent post on the blog Nuggets of Gold about what happens as a result of not wanting anyone to see the real you; so I’ll just finish with a link to it.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

June 18, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I have a backyard fence that is somewhat overgrown by the plants in the neighbors’ yard. They include an orange trumpet vine that gives me a lovely view from my kitchen window (as shown here), but I also have to cut back other, more intrusive stuff on occasion. Last year a wisteria vine climbed over the fence and got into a willow in the back corner, and I didn’t notice it right away; so when I cut off the stuff that was growing over the fence, part of the vine was left hanging from the branches, out of my reach. One of these days I’ll go out with a stepladder and clean it up, but the ground is often muddy in that corner, which gives me an excuse to put off doing that chore.

Dead vines hanging from tree branches

Seeing the remnants of that vine hanging all over the place left me thinking, sort of randomly, about the New Age intuitive healing practice of using a crystal to sever old strands of negative energy. Whether or not one believes in it (which isn’t really what this post is about), looking more closely at old memories and emotions often does leave me feeling that they are tangled up with all kinds of other past experiences.

That’s also what traditional psychoanalysis is about—bringing past memories into conscious awareness and sorting through them. Going to see an analyst for self-improvement purposes has fallen out of fashion in recent years, although it was quite popular in some circles a generation ago. Now we read self-help books, visit websites that give advice on nurturing ourselves, and generally try to untangle our own internal dramas as best we can manage it.

Although I would say that fits in fairly well with the modern trend toward learning more about our world and taking more responsibility for the course of our lives, it sometimes can leave us with long strands of bothersome thought patterns spreading unnoticed where we don’t want them—just like the vine that climbed over my fence. Then we’re left with a lot of cleanup to do. The job never gets completely finished, either, because those mental vines always seem to go wandering in unexpected directions.

Still, if we’re reasonably vigilant, we can end up with a landscape that looks pretty good.

Yesterday morning was rainy, and by the time it cleared in the afternoon, the river was very muddy. My husband and I had to wash our boat thoroughly after we went rowing. We had more rain overnight, followed by a damp and cloudy morning. I put an animated image on my art display today that shows rain falling in puddles in a muddy country lane. It’s clearing now, though, and the real-life puddles are drying up.

I would say there’s a simple but useful lesson in there: No matter how rainy, muddy, and messy everything looks at a particular time, it’s probably not going to last very long.

Word-art that says "With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts." -Eleanor Roosevelt 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

While I was out shopping over the weekend, I walked past a middle-aged couple in a parking lot. The woman glanced toward me and then said something to her husband about wishing to be young again. In fact, she was only a few years older than I am, if that; but I was wearing a sequined blouse and blue-jean shorts, and the wind was whipping my hair across my face, so I suppose she assumed that I had to be young without looking all that closely at me.

Pink blouse with sequins

I bought the blouse several years ago from a catalog aimed mainly at younger buyers, along with skinny jeans that had pretty embroidery. The jeans are shown in a decluttering post I wrote last year, when I took them to the thrift store because they were a low-cut style that I never felt comfortable wearing (I couldn’t tell from the catalog photo because the model wore the blouse untucked). But anyway, leaving aside the issue of age-appropriate clothing, which could take up an entire post in itself: Would you want to be young again?

Sometimes when I write blog entries having to do with what people think about age, I wonder if I ought to create an “aging” tag for them; but I always end up tagging them as “cultural narratives” instead. The word “aging” is both too general for what I want to say, in that it refers to many things besides people’s attitudes, and too specific in describing a process rather than a wide-ranging set of beliefs.

I do have a “Younger Self” tag that I use for imaginary conversations with myself in the past, which I find helpful for bringing patterns and assumptions to the surface. While it would be nice if I could literally go back in time and give my younger self a few very-much-needed clues, I would much prefer to do it as my present-day self, instead of swapping places and having all those life lessons to struggle through once more.

That’s not to say I am anywhere close to thinking of myself as a wise old woman in the present. To the extent that I can visualize my older self, she sometimes peeks out of a far-distant future to remind me, in a tone of dry amusement, that as far as she’s concerned I am still just a kid with a lot more to learn. I would say that’s good, though. After all, I wouldn’t want to get complacent and stuck in the proverbial rut. Much better if she has more to say a few decades from now, when the world surely will be much changed, about getting out and exploring all those new adventures.

Last weekend my husband and I participated in a rowing camp with traveling coaches who visited our local rowing association. The coaches gave useful advice, such as showing me how to lean at a better angle so as to reach farther with the oars, and telling me to have more patience and not rush.

Patience is something that I need to work on, generally. I wrote another post on that topic for Nurturing Thursday three years ago, and Becca helpfully reminded me that we are exactly where we are supposed to be when we are there. Keeping that in mind and letting things unfold naturally isn’t always easy, though… so I decided that I could use another reminder.

Word-art that says "I am exactly where I need to be, right now." -Janine Ripper 

No matter what the situation, there is always something that can be learned from it; and usually, taking more time makes those opportunities for learning a lot easier to find.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I had a busy weekend with a lot going on. It’s all good, but it left me feeling like I need to give myself more time to just rest and breathe. Also, can’t forget to de-stress by looking at a few good cat pictures, right? Wouldn’t want to end up like this poor kitty…

Cat picture that says "I'm so stressed out over being stressed out that I can't even remember why I'm stressed out... and it's stressing me out!" 

In the interest of avoiding stressed-out kitty syndrome, I put a beach photo on my art display this morning, with a nice relaxing view of the tide coming in. That, along with getting some exercise rowing for an hour or so this evening, should do the trick.

Beach photo with rising tide 

I’m hoping that this post gave everyone visiting my blog a little bit of stress relief too!