This week got off to a slow start because I woke up later than usual on a cloudy Monday, and then I went to get groceries mid-morning, while the supermarket was still reasonably well stocked. So I didn’t get in a full day of work on Monday and felt like I was catching up all week.

Looking at it from the perspective of gratitude, though, it was a very good week. Working at home allowed me to get plenty of sleep and be well refreshed on Monday, the supermarket had almost everything on my list, and my home is a warm and comfortable place.

Word-art that says "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude." -A.A. Milne

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.

Sunshine on Wednesday morning left me feeling cheerful, especially after I went outside to get the mail around noon. The air felt warmer, and the sun was noticeably getting higher in the sky and farther north. Spring didn’t seem that far away, even though the calendar clearly says winter is not nearly over.

Of course, we’ve also had our share of cloudy mornings. Still, I feel much better than last year, when a long string of dark winter days left me so blah that I ordered a sparkly sleeveless top from a catalog to cheer myself up (much to my daughter’s amusement). This year, the winter blues have mostly stayed away. To match a hopeful mood, I chose an image of a peaceful landscape for my art display, showing trees with leaf buds opening at winter’s end.

River in winter with brown grass and budding trees.

For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t manage to shake off a persistent feeling that my energy level is not where it should be. I have to confess, I started ruminating about how long it might take me to improve it (which, of course, broke my New Year’s resolution to stifle my unhelpful mental chatter).

“Do you really want an answer to that question?”

Oh, great—my snarky future self Kass had chosen that moment to pop out of my subconscious mind and lecture me on my lack of mental discipline. I sighed.

“I have a feeling I’ll get one regardless.”

Kass grinned cheerfully in response. I pictured her wearing faded jeans and a matching denim jacket, ambling lazily along beside the stream in the art display image.

“Not necessarily. If you told me no, you didn’t want to hear it, then I would leave you alone. But, of course, you are a past me, which means you wouldn’t be that much of a wuss. So, I can feel confident that you do want an answer—right?”

After mentally unpacking the various parts of that statement, I sighed once more and grudgingly told her, “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Okay. Well, since you’re expecting to get criticism, and life has a way of giving us what we expect to get, I’ll start by saying that you asked the wrong question. Energy level isn’t something that stays constant until you improve it. Rather, it changes all the time because it’s a reflection of everything coming into, and going out of, your life. It’s sort of like water level,” and Kass gestured toward the stream, “which can go up or down very quickly, depending on how much rain falls upstream and whatever happens downstream. So, what you really want to consider is flow, rather than level. Does that make sense?”

“Sort of.” I looked at the quiet little stream, which didn’t seem to be moving at all. “When I row on the river, a low water level isn’t necessarily a problem if there is enough flow to prevent weeds from clogging the riverbed. And when there is heavy rain, the water level can go from low to high in a matter of hours.”

“Yes, exactly—it’s those pesky weeds that are the problem.” Kass snapped off a long blade of dry brown grass and tossed it into the stream, where it sank very slowly. “Weeds in the mind are all those distractions that interfere with the flow. Such as, wasting your time worrying about expectations and whether you measure up to them. Just do something fun, rather than feeding the weeds. It really is that simple.”

“Thanks.” Just to troll her a little in return for her unsolicited criticism, even though I had to admit to myself it was helpful, I asked, “Are you something fun, or are you a weed?”

Kass laughed out loud. “Either or both, of course!”

In difficult and traumatic times such as we’ve been through recently, it takes more effort to stay confident and move toward a better future. Even so, that’s when we most need to make the effort.

Word-art that says "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." -Henry David Thoreau

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.

When last year got started, I thought my New Year’s resolution was pretty simple. Instead of loading myself up with daily self-improvement obligations, I just wanted to focus on developing clarity in my life. I didn’t anticipate much change to my everyday routine.

Of course, we all know what kind of year 2020 turned out to be. Not much needs to be said there, except that it definitely gave me a lot more clarity as to what matters and what doesn’t.

One thing I’d had in mind to do during the summer was to get my lower front teeth straightened with Invisalign. The teeth had moved a bit out of place in recent years, and I thought it made sense to get that taken care of now, rather than waiting. I didn’t get started until September, but that seemed okay because the expected 13-week treatment plan would end before the holidays and, of course, I wouldn’t be traveling.

Invisalign uses plastic alignment forms that are changed once a week, gradually pulling the teeth into their optimal position as the sequence progresses. The aligner is supposed to be worn at least 20 hours per day, and it must be removed before eating or drinking anything but water. Needless to say, that puts quite a crimp in most people’s habits of snacking and coffee drinking.

Photo of a coffee cup with steam rising from it.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Probably in a more normal year it wouldn’t have bothered me much, but in 2020 it felt like another big disruption in a year of disruptions. Having to gulp my morning coffee took the comfort out of it. And I wanted my comfort, waaaah! So, although my teeth seemed to be moving into place well, I didn’t feel as positive as I might otherwise have felt. Instead, I was counting down the days left in the treatment schedule and telling myself stuff like “It’s okay, just six more weeks until I’m out of these things.”

That wasn’t the best attitude, obviously—and I got my comeuppance for it when one tooth remained stubbornly crooked at the end of the projected treatment period. It wasn’t all that far out of place and would be simple enough to fix; but by then, I felt like having my teeth covered in plastic for even one day longer was miserable rotten luck and an awful way to start the holidays.

After a few days on vacation, I settled down enough to realize that my own bad attitude had made the situation feel a lot worse than it actually was. What I needed to focus on instead was that my teeth soon would be nice and straight, along with gratitude for being able to get the Invisalign treatment, which was much quicker and easier than old-fashioned braces.

That line of thinking led to a word of intention for 2021—Alignment—and an accompanying New Year’s resolution to monitor my internal chatter more closely, putting a stop to pointless mental grumbling and anything else that is not in alignment with a joyful future. Although it’s not realistic to expect negative thoughts won’t ever show up, they don’t have to be indulged when that happens, but can instead be recognized for what they are and sent packing.