While I’ve been on vacation this week, with no concerns about getting tasks finished on a schedule, I have found myself wondering why I felt so constrained in the first place. After all, there are plenty of ways to arrange my days even when it’s an ordinary workweek. No need to stress about putting everything in a precise order and then hurrying through it all. Life doesn’t have to be that confining.

Word-art that says, "She couldn't keep her colors inside the lines, so she drew new lines."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

I’ve been trying to make sense of a dream I had last night, in which my family lived in a comfortable townhouse in a large apartment complex. We had bought a wooded lot in the country some time ago, but we still hadn’t gotten around to building a home on it yet.

Photo of woods along a country road.

(Photo credit: Robert Lyle Bolton)

In real life, there was no dilly-dallying when we built our current house. We looked at several subdivisions, found one that we liked, met with the developer, chose a floor plan, decided on a lot, and signed a contract to get the construction started, all in fairly short order.

My best guess is that the dream was illustrating the inertia that people commonly get at the end of the year. Our culture tells us that we’re supposed to be making long lists of projects to get busy on when January starts, but instead we’re comfortable just sitting in our quiet, cozy homes in the dark of winter. For now, it feels like there’s no hurry, and all those grand projects can wait a little longer.

This morning, while I was sitting at my desk, a bird chirped outside the window of my home office. Maybe it had hopes of an early spring, as this has been a rather warm December. But, although a white Christmas is not in the weather forecast for my area, I’m predicting it will be merry.

Merry Christmas word-art with birds turning the calendar to December 25.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

My husband was busy with his work today, and he ate dinner at his desk in the home office. I sat in the dining room across from his empty chair. It felt quiet and still, except when his voice carried from the other room while he was talking to a coworker.

After we finished our separate meals, I gathered up all the dishes and put them in the dishwasher, setting it to start on a delay so that it wouldn’t make any noise until late at night. Then I went upstairs to sit alone, composing this post. I didn’t mind having a little time for solitude; it calmed my mind and felt good for reflection and creative thought.

Word-art that says, "A person who enjoys solitude always gives others their space. No matter what kind of a relationship it is, healthy space nourishes the connection. But when someone is uncomfortable with solitude, they become co-dependent. Such people become so dependent on others that they don't let them breathe. Solitude is the foundation of self-love; a person who enjoys their own company knows themselves on a soul level. When someone truly loves themselves they give others space not out of obligation, but out of love. Giving others space is like setting them free, and the more you let go the deeper the connection gets. The ego thinks love is possession, but it's actually giving the other the freedom to be themselves." -Pawan Nair

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

December 11, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last night I went to bed wondering what I might do to be happier. It’s not that I was unhappy about anything in particular, but staying cheerful when winter’s short, dark days arrive is not always easy.

My subconscious mind obligingly answered the question by putting the disco song “You Should Be Dancing,” from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, in my head when I woke up.

When I went to do a rowing exercise on the Hydrow machine in the early afternoon, I set it to play disco and funk songs during my 10K row, which took about 48 minutes. “You Should Be Dancing” wasn’t one of the songs, but it definitely did put me in a more cheerful mood!

I recently slipped on acorns while walking on a hilly area under some tall oaks. That was, of course, a natural consequence of taking that particular path, but I still felt annoyed while struggling to get back my balance. After a while, I thought about it from the perspective of being fortunate to spend time among Mother Earth’s small wonders, and that put me in a better frame of mind.

Word-art that says, "The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

Now that people are living longer, “would you want to live to 100?” is a question more often asked. Some answer it by saying, “yes, but only if I am healthy and don’t run out of money.”

Photo of a piggy bank labeled "Retirement Fund."

Many retirees are so terrified of ending up impoverished and in poor health that they never spend more than a tiny fraction of their retirement savings. Health issues in old age can be costly, that’s true enough; it makes sense to have some funds set aside for future medical bills, assistive technology, and so forth. But in the scenario described above—living to age 100 while staying healthy—why would using up one’s savings be seen as a fate worse than death?

Presumably, many people feel that going back to work in old age would be too hard, so any further years of life after running out of money would be a miserable penny-pinching existence. But if we’re talking about living to 100—which, for most of us, is pretty far in the future—then why make such a negative assumption? The current labor shortage is not likely to go away by then, given today’s historically low birthrates, and I expect future employers will be happy to hire anyone they can get. Age discrimination won’t be much of an issue when companies desperately need workers. Medical advances will make us healthier.

Granted, after having been in retirement for three decades or so, our hypothetical centenarian likely won’t have the skills needed to do the same work as before. That prospect might also seem very unappealing to a person who has gotten used to a completely different way of life. In a future economy where workers are scarce and in great demand, however, we may find that it’s easy to start another career designed around whatever new interests we may develop. Maybe we’ll all have bespoke jobs, tailored to our every desire by happily obliging employers. Such jobs would be available to anyone, including older people who run out of savings in retirement.

This may seem a wild flight of fancy by comparison to today’s workplace, which is not far removed from a decade of brutal cost-cutting. Some managers still can’t wrap their minds around the prospect of a long-term labor shortage, and age discrimination certainly hasn’t gone away. Even so, it’s fair to say that any attempt to imagine the distant future is just guesswork—so why live in fear of one possibility when so many other things might happen instead?

That said, I do save regularly in my workplace retirement plan because it’s always good to have savings, whatever the future may hold. In the interest of present-day serenity, though, I don’t worry about how much of my savings might have been spent decades from now. I prefer to hold space in my imagination for a future world with plenty of choices, rather than problems.

By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat distracted after a few minor annoyances, such as my headphones weirding out when I joined a Zoom meeting. After it was over, I went to get gas and groceries. The sun had come out, warming the air, and I felt comfortable standing at the gas pump, unlike the wintery weather of a few days ago. Even though I wasn’t doing anything but ordinary errands, going outside put me in a more cheerful mood.

Word-art that says, "Are you overwhelmed? Go outside. Too much to do? Go outside. Overly distracted? Go outside. Feeling anxious? Go outside. Need some restoration? Go outside."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to encourage self-nurturing and to “give the planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.”

November 28, 2023 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Perhaps because I’ve been reading historical novels, I dreamed that I was a young medieval princess. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good thing to be. Some rebel faction had killed my father and taken over the country, and they wanted to dispose of my mother and grandmother—literally, as in “off with their heads.”

All of us were walking along a path toward the execution grounds, with a jeering crowd on both sides gleefully anticipating the spectacle. The rebels weren’t quite vicious enough to murder girls, so they were going to lock me in a dungeon afterward, along with my baby sister. My mother was holding the baby, who blinked sleepily at me when I offered to carry her.

Princess image in black and white.

“Don’t take her from me yet,” my mother said, in a voice that allowed no argument.

I kept moving, one foot in front of the other, telling myself this didn’t have to be real. If only I had enough faith, then it would all go away. Quietly, I began saying a prayer as I walked.

“Dear God, please let me be dreaming. Let this be a nightmare. Let me wake up.”

Surely, God was more than powerful enough to change the world around me, making my life completely different. I pictured the hostile crowd melting away, taking another shape—flattening out, turning into the covers on my bed. They couldn’t hurt anyone because they never existed.

Waking, I found myself in a completely different life, just as the prayer had asked. It took me a moment to sort out which version of me was the real one!

All parts of this story are consolidated on one page here.

The lake wasn’t very deep where Mabel had fallen from the tree. Ina could stand up easily; the water didn’t quite reach her shoulders. It was murky enough that she couldn’t see the bottom, however, and rain had started to fall. She looked for bubbles or other disturbances, but none were apparent.

Photo of rain falling on a lake.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Mabel couldn’t be far away, but Ina’s foot touched nothing when she swept it in a broad circle. Taking a deep breath, Ina plunged under the water, reaching more widely around herself. Still nothing, and below the surface it was literally too dark to see her hand in front of her face.

With burning lungs, Ina came up for air. She blinked the muddy water out of her eyes and looked again, feeling increasingly frantic; still, there were no bubbles nearby. Was Mabel dead already? Had Ina failed, yet again, incapable of something as simple as finding a little girl who surely had to be right here

A voice spoke in her thoughts—Mother Ocean, from a lesson months ago.

“Ina, close your eyes. What do you see?”

Forcing herself to shove away the rising panic and take a calming breath, setting an intention on the breath out—let Mabel be safe and well—Ina obediently shut her eyes.

There, just to her left, a tiny pinpoint of life energy. So faint, so terrifyingly faint—but she could feel it. Ina reached down again and touched the soft fabric of Mabel’s dress almost at once. She got her arms around the child’s torso, heaved Mabel over her shoulder, and waded up out of the lake.

The rain was coming down in earnest now, huge sheets of it. Ina set the motionless girl down in the sodden grass. Her hands moved almost on their own, as if they knew what to do without need for guidance from her half-panicked mind. Compressing Mabel’s chest, she forced out a big gush of lake water. Had the child started breathing now, or was that only Ina’s imagination? Her skin was so cold, so pale. It was hard to believe she could still be alive.

The pouring rain hadn’t washed away all of the blood on Mabel’s dress where a sharp branch had pierced her leg. Most of the branch had broken off when Mabel sank into the water, but some was still in there. Ina took hold of the splintered end and tugged it out, feeling a gush of blood over her hands.

That means Mabel is alive, Ina told herself, grasping for a tiny shred of reason. Dead bodies don’t bleed; they don’t have a beating heart to push blood out. Fumbling in her pocket for the cloth sacks she’d been carrying, Ina wrapped one of them around Mabel’s wound, and then another. The blood kept seeping around her fingers, however tightly she held the makeshift bandage in place. Maybe it had slowed, just a little…

“This won’t be enough.”

The voice in Ina’s mind was her own this time, but it held the same certainty as the earlier fragment of memory. Of course, a bandage wouldn’t be enough. Even if the bleeding stopped soon, Mabel was chilled through and half drowned, and her unnaturally pale skin showed that she already had lost a dangerous amount of blood. What she needed was a skilled healer, along with shelter, dry clothing, and warm blankets.

None of which Ina could provide right now. Although Rowan had tried to teach her the ways of healing, she hadn’t made much progress. Healing magic felt beyond her reach—unlike fire magic, which Ina always pictured as dancing joyfully, eager to play. If she could call upon healing magic in the same way, it would leap from her fingertips and dance along the child’s injured leg, sparkling with heat and life.

The bandage took on a sudden warmth under Ina’s hands, though she hadn’t consciously invoked magic. Dissolving into a glowing cloud, it first had the deep red hue of blood, shading almost at once into orange and yellow like a leaping fire. Ina felt the heat going into Mabel’s wound, bringing the torn flesh together and mending the damage. It faded into a pinkish mark like a healing scar, and then the glow moved up Mabel’s body to settle in her chest for a moment before fading away entirely.

Moving her head just a little, the child breathed more deeply and normally, as if asleep. She hadn’t regained consciousness, but her cheeks now held a trace of color. Now, she needed to be gotten out of the rain, without delay. Ina tried to control the storm and make it stop raining, but she couldn’t muster up more than a tiny flicker of magic after so much of her energy had been drawn into the healing work.

Ina still had the normal strength of her body, though, and the cabin where Mabel’s family lived was just across the lake. Carrying the child that distance would be manageable. What to do about her mother, Nellie, who hated witches “more than anything,” might prove more difficult.

One problem at a time, Ina told herself, picking Mabel up again to carry her home.