Over the weekend, the weather turned rainy, dark, and chilly here. It’s starting to feel like winter is not far away. Before I sat down at the computer to write this post, I put on my fluffy winter socks and comfy pajamas with a matching scarf.

But I’m not quite ready to give up summertime feelings of adventure and settle into long months of quiet hibernation, so I put this photo taken in Japan’s Yakushima Forest on my digital art display:
 

Mossy rocks in a stream in Yakushima Forest, Japan. 

Doesn’t it look like an illustration of an enchanted forest from an old-fashioned book of fairy tales, where anyone who followed the stream far enough would discover a magical cottage full of hidden treasures?

And with that picture on my wall, it’s almost like my house is the fairy cottage and I am looking out the window at the path I followed to reach it, after bravely daring to walk in the front door and finding no witches or goblins lurking there. Just right for the day before Halloween!

My husband deserves a shout-out for going above and beyond the call of duty on Sunday afternoon when he cleaned the shower and mowed the lawn at the same time. First he sprayed on some shower cleaner, then he went outside and mowed for a while, then he took a break from mowing and came back in to spray the shower some more. After he finished mowing, he hosed off the mower so that the garage wouldn’t smell like decaying grass clumps, which got him wet and splashed all over with grass goo, and finally he went inside and scrubbed the shower thoroughly while also cleaning himself up. What a guy.

When our family members and other people in our lives do something that’s worthy of appreciation, we should take a little time to compliment them for it. There’s always something nice that we can say!
 

Cartoon with a ruler saying "You rock!" and a rock saying "You rule!" 

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.

October 25, 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

Now that the weather has turned chilly, I’ve decided that until the winter is over, I won’t be doing any more of what has seemed like an endless chore of pruning my backyard willow hedge. It’s mostly under control and not as much in my husband’s way when he mows, but it still has a few dead and dying branches here and there. Winter isn’t far away, though, and the leaves are falling.
 

Willows after pruning in October. 

As well as getting back the weekend time that won’t be sucked up by those trees, I’m also going to take some half-days off from work just because I feel like it, even if there is nothing in particular that I need to do. My vacation days do not roll over from one year to the next, so there’s nothing to save. I already scheduled taking off Thanksgiving week and Christmas week, and I still have a little time left over.

When my husband and I were younger, we had a judgmental attitude toward people who took “mental health days.” We thought that they were wasting valuable vacation time and might regret it later, if something unexpected came up, and that they needed to do a better job of managing their time.

After many years of rushing from one activity to another, though, we can better appreciate the value of having a more relaxed attitude toward time. As with anything else, when time is treated as a scarce resource that has to be hoarded and carefully managed, it never feels like there is enough. Best to be more easygoing, within reason of course, and not worry about it.

Sometimes it seems like the more effort we put into letting things go, the more we look around and discover there’s still a lot to be done. When clutter gets cleared away, another heap of it turns up somewhere; and when those dusty old mental storerooms full of sad memories and wrong assumptions get a good sorting and sweeping, there are plenty more to be found. After a while, it starts to feel like too much effort and a never-ending chore.

That generally means it’s time to stop pushing and simply be present in the moment. We can learn a lot from nature in that regard, especially this time of year. When the trees let go of their bright autumn leaves, they don’t have to make any effort. Cool winds blow through the branches, and the leaves just fall naturally. Sometimes, as autumn shows us, letting things go doesn’t have to be hard.
 

Word-art that says "Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go." 

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 came across the word “postliminary” while reading, not long ago, and it left me thinking about how rarely that word is used. (The spell checker didn’t even recognize it when I wrote this post.) It refers to things that people do after finishing an activity, like cleaning up and putting tools away. In employment law, it means a worker’s necessary tasks at the end of a shift, such as taking off protective gear and hanging it up, which are counted as work time for purposes of calculating overtime pay.
 

Rows of hard hats hanging on a wall.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

It is closely related to “preliminary.” Both words come from the same Latin root meaning a threshold or a boundary. “Post” means after, and “pre” means before. So, “postliminary” literally means after the boundary. That’s all fairly straightforward as word origins go. What I find interesting about it is that although “postliminary” gets almost no use except as a specialized legal term, we’re always using “preliminary” in ordinary conversation. That word has become so common that it even gets abbreviated, such as when we talk about an athletic event’s prelims. (The spell checker recognized prelims.)

I’m thinking that maybe this difference in word usage reflects a culture with a strong focus on planning and carrying out plans, but with very little consideration given to what comes afterward. Companies have been doing better in recent years, using continuous-improvement processes to measure and analyze project results; but as individuals, we often don’t have a good sense of what comes next when we reach transition points in our own lives. We haven’t thought much about what we might find after the boundary.

That’s understandable because people never really needed to think about it before the modern era. Our ancestors’ little villages didn’t change much from one year to the next. When something changed, it generally was simple enough that everyone knew how to deal with it—a good harvest or a bad one, a birth or a death in the village, a flood or a drought. If someone invented a better tool or returned from a long voyage with new knowledge to share, this was such a rare event that the villagers had plenty of time to learn all about it before any other surprises turned up.

Now, in the Information Age, we find something new just about every day, which means our brains are always on overload trying to cram huge amounts of unexpected new stuff into our existing mental maps. It’s no wonder that we spend so much time and energy planning how we’re going to manage each day in this busy, competitive, confusing world. We might realize in the abstract that it would be a good idea to consider our next steps, too; but because today’s society is so free-flowing, we often don’t know how to go about it.

We no longer have the predictability of life in those long-ago villages. While that’s good in some ways because we have so many choices and opportunities that our ancestors couldn’t have imagined, we also have more challenges to navigate. Sometimes we just need to step back from our busy plans for a moment and think about how we’re going to clean things up afterward!

Last weekend my family went on a one-mile “fun run.” Many people brought their dogs, and my daughter pushed her little dog in a stroller. The morning was a bit chilly, so we wore light jackets as we walked to the start line. I didn’t press the stopwatch button on my sports watch because I thought it would just be a nice easy run, with no reason to time it.

I ran with my husband at first, but then he speeded up and got ahead of me. After a little while my daughter’s fiancé passed me with his Labradoodle puppy, Ziggy, loping happily by on legs that looked like they’d gotten much longer since I last saw him. A few other guys passed me too, but most of my attention was on the puppy, who looked very excited about being taken to such a big event.

After I finished the race, I got a cup of water and a freebie sugar cookie (yum) contributed by a sponsor bakery. Then I put on my jacket, but I soon took it off again because the sleeves felt sweaty enough to be uncomfortable. That seemed kind of peculiar when I hadn’t done anything other than a one-mile fun run, but then we all went out to brunch and my thoughts moved on to other things.

I washed the jacket along with the workout clothes after I got home, and I didn’t think anything more about it until my husband looked up the race results online and said, “Hey, Meg, did you know that you ran an eight-minute mile and were the first woman to finish the race?”

My first thought was, well, that explains the jacket! And my second thought was, dang, I hadn’t run that fast in, what, 14 or 15 years, maybe?

That left me wondering how much I had been subconsciously limiting myself through low expectations all those years. Back in August, I wrote a blog post about my imaginary adventures in 2083. Some of the adventures were pretty silly, but the post had a more serious aim; I wrote in it that I wanted to plant healthy ideas in my subconscious to crowd out negative views of aging. After running so fast in a fun sprint without even realizing it, I’m beginning to wonder if some of those healthy ideas are now taking root!
 

Word-art that says "The only way that we can live is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way that we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself." -C. JoyBell C 

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.

October 9, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last week, two of my coworkers decided to have a virtual party to celebrate because things have been going well for our team this year. So they asked everyone to send in a photo of something fun. I contributed a swimming pool picture to make it into a pool party.
 

Backyard swimming pool on a sunny day. 

We ended up with a random assortment of photos showing what people had been doing recently. Running a marathon came first, before taking a dip in the pool, which was followed by eating chocolate and drinking wine. It reminded me of telling group stories as a kid at sleepover parties, where everyone would take turns adding a sentence—whether it made any sense or not.

I feel lucky to work with such a cheerful group, and am writing this post mainly as a reminder to myself that I shouldn’t take it for granted. After all, there are many workplaces that are so dull, nobody even remembers what the word “fun” means. And considering how much time most people spend working, that surely would determine a large part of how life feels in general.

As we get into October and the fall harvest season, apples and hot apple cider are always yummy. It’s also the season when many people plant trees. So I decided that this word-art about being careful what we plant would be just right for today’s Nurturing Thursday post:
 

Word-art that says "Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious." 

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.

One of my younger selves got into a tizzy not long ago. She was upset about something that happened in 1997, I think, or maybe it was 1998—before she started working and was still spending her days taking care of the kids. They had left their toys all over the floor again, and hubby stepped on a crayon and got grumpy. As she saw it, he was unnecessarily rude to her—after all, she wasn’t the one who had been coloring. What did he think anyway, that she just sat down on the floor and played all day with the kids?

She stomped down that anger into her overflowing subconscious trash can, along with all the other emotions that never saw the light of day. If she had talked with anyone about her feelings, she’d likely have been able to put them in better perspective; but she didn’t, and so the old rancid anger from that particular incident was still sitting there fully two decades after it should have been taken to the curb.

One evening last week, that annoying memory popped up. It left me wandering aimlessly around the house, muttering to myself, “How RUDE he was! What a JERK!”

Well, this certainly wouldn’t do. Maybe Younger-Me thought she was entitled to hang onto her gripe forever; but from my present-day vantage point, it was high time for her to get some much-overdue therapy. So I decided that she would be the first visitor to my imaginary Channelwood Sanatorium for troubled past selves who needed a little time to rest and recover from their worries.

I took her hand and stepped with her into the mirror on my dresser, which magically transported us both to the beach near the peaceful little village of Channelwood. Unlike my past visits, this wasn’t a beautiful clear day with birds singing. Instead, we found ourselves standing under an overhanging cliff that gave us shelter from a steady rain. The rhythmic roar of the surf breaking against rocks blended with the drumbeat of raindrops on the sand, blotting out all other sounds. It felt like we were alone at the edge of the world.
 

Storm over the ocean with waves breaking against rocks.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Younger-Me looked around for a moment, taking in the scene. Then she turned to me with a slight frown and said, “You know, I was just about to start cooking dinner.”

“No problem, this is all just imagination, and you’ll be back home soon enough.” I gestured toward a driftwood log in the sand at the foot of the cliff, which made a naturally smooth bench. “Please, sit down and rest for a little while. I’ve brought a coloring book and a new box of crayons for you.”

Sitting to my left on the driftwood bench, she read the coloring book’s title out loud. “‘Mandalas and Dream Catchers: Coloring Book Therapy for Adults.'” She sounded more than a little perplexed to have come across such a curious thing.

“Coloring books for grown-ups are very popular in 2017,” I informed Younger-Me as I handed her an unopened box of 64 crayons. “A lot of people have too many busy thoughts cluttering their minds and don’t take enough time to just relax and have fun. The idea of coloring when you’re an adult is that it’s good to set aside all those worries and play like a child sometimes, making pretty things without caring about whether or not they have a purpose.”

She opened the box, selected a blue crayon in the color of a brilliant autumn sky, and tentatively started coloring part of a feather on a dream catcher with it.

“And coloring or other creative fun refreshes your mind even if you don’t put a lot of time into it,” I went on to say. “A few minutes before you cook dinner, or in between other chores, is enough to shift your perspective and get your thoughts out of their everyday rut.”

Filling in teardrop-shaped speckles on the feather with a bright vibrant green, Younger-Me said pensively, “I’m not sure how I forgot that…”

I gave her an encouraging smile as the beach scene started to dissolve around us, sending both of us back to our respective timelines. Although it had been only a few minutes’ interlude, I returned to my own time feeling much invigorated by this brief exercise of imagination, with my perspective newly refreshed in just the way I had described.