Because the weather around here has been hot and sunny for some time, I’ve been watering the row of willows in my backyard with a soaker hose. They used to be lush and healthy, as shown in this photo from 2015, but they’ve been dying back for the past few years after having been stressed by several cold winters and hot, dry summers.
 

My backyard willow hedge, bright and green in summer.  

I’ve read that because they are such fast-growing plants, they generally grow back well after being topped, so they’ll probably be okay. But after all the time I spent cutting off half-dead branches, I ended up feeling that those willows had turned into a giant time-sucking chore.

Truth be told, I hadn’t paid enough attention to them in previous years. Because I never took the time to prune them properly when they were smaller, they got overgrown with low branches that were in my husband’s way when he mowed the lawn.

Now, as they grow back, they’ll be in much better shape. So I have to say that I’ve learned a few useful lessons about paying more attention to routine maintenance, which I’d do well to appreciate rather than judging the willows as nothing but an unfortunate chore.
 

Word-art that says "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant." -Robert Louis Stevenson 

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 recently had a midyear conversation with my manager about resources available for building more skills, among other things. The company has been encouraging employees to use online training materials for personal development.

My manager said that she had been talking with other people in my workgroup about their plans. Some wanted to keep doing the same job, while some were looking to change positions or to retire, and others hadn’t settled on what would be next.

Although she didn’t come right out and ask, I got the distinct impression that there was a question in there; so I replied that I was in the “not sure what comes next” group. That was true enough.

I have been doing pretty much the same work for many years and sometimes feel as if I’ve gotten stuck in a comfortable rut (which I didn’t say). The job is well suited to my temperament and skill set, and my manager and coworkers are very nice people.
 

Rutted road bordered by telephone poles and fences.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

In our turbulent modern society, there is now an expectation that we need to plan far ahead. Otherwise, we’ll miss out on valuable opportunities and put ourselves at risk of falling too far behind to ever catch up. It’s no longer enough just to be a responsible adult who is working and paying the bills.

There are rational reasons for that fear. Many people really did end up in bad situations because they lost a job to offshoring or automation and did not have the skills needed to get a better job, or they wanted to retire but did not have enough savings. So, now we’re always seeing news articles that admonish us to save much more, improve our skills at every possible opportunity, and plan our entire lives in great detail.

There is an emotional cost to all this pressure, though, which I don’t believe our society is fully taking into account. When we’re expected to run faster on the hamster wheel at all times, we get stressed out. And stress causes health problems, detracts from mental flexibility, and leads to persistent feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure. Then, on top of all that, we feel guilty for not doing a better job of managing our stress, and we get even more stressed.

So I’ve decided that I am not going to worry about what might come next. Why should I feel obligated to live up to some arbitrarily created checklist—which, given how fast the world is changing, may not even come close to my actual future circumstances? To me, it makes much more sense simply to exist in the moment, saving a reasonable amount and learning enough to broaden my horizons, but without forcing anything. Then, maybe, when the time is right, discovering “what comes next” will happen naturally.

I began this year with a New Year’s resolution simply to be present in the moment. There was no daily routine associated with it. I wanted to train my mind, very gently, into a habit of noticing more of what went on around me.

Even though I hadn’t tasked myself with actively working on any problems, after a while I began to feel that they were getting solved anyway, or at least put into better perspective and taking an appropriate place on the priority list. By noticing more of my surroundings without judgment, I planted seeds for thought, giving my subconscious mind enough space to let new patterns grow naturally.
 

Word-art that says "Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution." -Stanley Arnold 

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.

July 4, 2018 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last weekend after the new air conditioner was installed, I spent some time tidying up the area around it. I weeded, edged, spread some mulch, and replanted a small yucca that had been moved out of the way temporarily. My husband was very helpful carrying the bags of mulch. That area looks much better now.
 

New air conditioner with fresh mulch around it. 

I hadn’t really noticed that it needed improvement before, but that is often what happens when old stuff like a worn-out air conditioner ends up staying around too long. Other things close to it that need maintenance also get overlooked, such as the need for mulch and edging. What’s going on, as far as I can tell, is that the subconscious mind sorts it all into the general category of stuff that’s not being done yet. Then we just keep on walking past it every day without even noticing.

The converse is also true—when there’s something new and fresh around, that makes all the old neglected stuff more noticeable and becomes a powerful motivator to get things in shape. As for my yard in particular, there are a few other areas in need of mulch. If it hadn’t been for the new air conditioner, I might have ignored them a while longer, but now they seem much more obvious.

My old air conditioner gave up the ghost yesterday. The service company was able to send people out to my house to put in a new one this afternoon, so I didn’t roast too much; but it was a large unplanned expense. Not exactly unexpected, as the old unit obviously didn’t have much life remaining. It had gotten so noisy that I pulled my bed away from the wall last year, so it wouldn’t disturb my sleep.

While I might have preferred to keep it going a while longer and spend the money on something else, having a new, quiet, modern air conditioner is a good thing. And being able to buy it right away is something to be grateful for in itself, rather than having to leave the windows open all summer (which happened about twenty years ago in our starter house when we didn’t have much money). So, I can’t complain.
 

Word-art that says "Happiness isn't about getting what you want all the time. It's about loving what you have and being grateful for 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.

I’ve been getting outdoors almost every day in the warm weather, rowing and bicycling. Although that’s fun and good for fitness, both my blog and my yard are starting to feel kind of neglected. I keep meaning to sit down and write a post or a story, but then I wander off and do something else instead. My flower garden is full of thistles that grew back after I weeded last month, when I meant to put down fresh mulch but never got around to it. Thistles can be pretty in nature when they’re blooming in a field, but I would like them much better if they would stay there.
 

Thistles blooming in a field.

(photo credit: publicdomainpictures.net)
 

If anyone happens to find my responsible grown-up self, please let me know. I’m really not sure what became of her. After all those blog posts I wrote about imaginary conversations with my younger selves, I’m beginning to wonder if I turned loose an inner child who just wants to go out and play all the time.

While it’s probably about time I lightened up a little on those self-imposed To-Do list entries, I haven’t yet gotten comfortable with the empty places where they used to be. I feel as if I might wake up one morning, with only a vague memory of strange thumping noises in a dream, and discover a mindspace like a half-empty attic where a gleeful Younger-Me has tossed dusty old boxes and furniture out the window to make room for a hopscotch grid on the floorboards, decorated in all the colors of the sidewalk chalk bucket.

Last week’s heat wave in this area has finally broken; today was much cooler, and a light rain was falling all through the day. Although I stayed indoors and there wasn’t a bit of sunshine to be found anywhere, I felt cheerful anyway when I looked out the window because the grass and flowers, which had gotten parched in the heat, were visibly greening up and looked so happy to be alive.

Wishing everyone visiting my blog a happy Thursday too!
 

Word-art that says "Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy 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.

Last weekend my house felt like it had gotten totally overrun with dogs. My daughter, who has two dogs, came to visit while she was dog-sitting for a third. They were all very well-behaved the entire time, so I can’t complain; but the house did feel kind of crowded.

We played a game of Monopoly while sitting on the floor and managed to avoid having our little plastic houses, etc., knocked off by playful dogs wandering onto the board. Then I thought about how fortunate we are to have such a close family—pets and all.

For Nurturing Thursday, here’s a dog picture for all my awesome readers.
 

Word-art with a dog that says "Who's awesome? You're awesome!" 

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 make a point of surrounding myself with cheerful images, particularly in my house, because I believe that the things we regularly encounter in our environment go a long way toward creating who we are. Even though we may not be fully aware of what is going on around us from one day to another, the subconscious mind notes the smallest of changes and looks for new ways to put those perceptions together, updating the stories it tells about life in the world.

When my husband bought me a digital art display as a Christmas present in 2015, I thought he understood me very well and was being especially kind and thoughtful. Recently he said that he hadn’t entirely understood my beliefs in that regard, but just thought it was an interesting gadget that I would probably like. Still, it was a much appreciated gift; and it goes to show that kind acts often have unexpected ripples. In keeping with the water metaphor, I’m displaying a bright, colorful image of boats in a canal today.

Wishing my readers many cheerful sights and ripples of kindness too!
 

Brightly colored image of boats docked in a canal between buildings. 

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’m still wearing the Fitbit Alta that I got in April; it’s helpful for reminding me to get up from my desk chair more often, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. There is one thing it doesn’t do, though; I often row on the river, and the Fitbit is not programmed to identify rowing motions, so it doesn’t include that when it counts time spent exercising. It recognizes other activities such as walking, running, and bicycling.

That left me wondering if I should turn off the icon on the Fitbit phone app that counts days of exercise, so as not to be annoyed by it. After giving that some thought, however, I decided that walking more would be a healthy, nurturing thing to do, whether or not I row. Now that the warm summer days are here and getting outside for a walk feels refreshing, it’s another way to take better care of myself.
 

Word-art that says "Be kind to everyone, including yourself." 

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.