This week I’ve been looking out the window at snowy, overcast days, mostly staying indoors except for a couple of errands on Tuesday afternoon. I am feeling a cheerful energy, though, almost like when we were kids and had a snow day. It’s actually just another workday for me, but I’m taking a break to write this post, and right now I don’t feel any time pressure. It’s all good.

Chalkboard word-art that says, "Let it snow."

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.”

This winter I’ve felt a touch of sadness in the dark afternoons. It hasn’t been too disturbing, and it generally goes away after I do my rowing machine workout and sweat it out. Still, it got me thinking that I probably ought to take a few minutes to check in on my younger selves in their imaginary refuge of Channelwood.

I found Queenie, the most melancholy past version of me, cocooned in thick blankets and sitting quietly on the empty sands of a beach. The cliffs and bay curved away toward a cloudy horizon. A chilly wind blew, carrying an occasional raindrop along with the ocean’s salty scent.

Seashore photo on a cloudy day.

(Image credit: Ihor Hlukhoi)

Although I hadn’t brought any blankets into the scene for myself, that omission was easily remedied by picturing a heavy quilt appearing around my shoulders as I greeted my younger self.

“Hello, Queenie, how are you doing today?”

She blinked up at me from her nest of blankets, only her face visible, cheeks reddened from the cold.

“I’m just being.”

The waves rolled in again, just a little closer this time. A thin strand of seaweed got caught on a pebble, disrupting the otherwise smooth expanse of sand.

“Would it be okay if I sit here for a few minutes just being, too?”

Queenie had gone back to looking out over the sea, and I was starting to wonder if she meant to answer me. Then she gave a small nod, as if she’d decided that no words were necessary.

I arranged myself and the quilt on the sand next to Queenie, with everything but my face protected from the cold wind, as she had done. I felt comfortable enough. We sat there in silence, listening to the ocean’s soothing, repetitive flow.

After I’d been sitting there for a while, I began to notice that each wave sounded just a little different from the one before. They came swirling in with more or less force, and some of them rolled back out more slowly than others. The beach wasn’t as smooth and featureless as it had looked at first glance, either. The strand of seaweed that I’d noticed earlier was not the only one, and there were shells, driftwood, and other small things scattered all over.

Even when the daylight began to fade and the little details became less visible, the glowing sunset colors and their reflections on the waves spoke to me of infinity. As Queenie and I gathered up our blankets and turned to go, I took a deep breath of the fresh sea air, wondering how I could ever have felt that one winter day was much the same as another.

Last month I put in an application for an open position in my company, and I’ve been going through the internal interview process. Because I have been with the same employer for many years, the application isn’t stressful, in and of itself. I am simply looking for new experiences and an opportunity to gain more skills; there’s no imminent risk of layoffs or other bad consequences if I stay in my current position. Also, if I don’t get offered this particular job, it’s likely that something else will come up.

It did bring some amount of old subconscious stress to the surface, though. Memories of searching for a job when I was young and took rejections more personally, as if doors were getting slammed in my face, came bubbling up from wherever they’d been lurking. I would’ve expected those old insecurities to be long gone by now, but they took me somewhat by surprise.

At the same time, I’m also feeling better in a way that’s hard to define—more solid, more grounded. Becoming more aware of those fears has gone a long way toward releasing them.

Word-art that says, "Sometimes you don't feel the weight of something you've been carrying until you feel the weight of its release."

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.”

If someone had asked me 30 years ago what I expected my life would look like in 2023, I’m not sure how I might have pictured it. Whatever I imagined would’ve been very different, though. We didn’t have cell phones or the Internet back then, and I wouldn’t have expected to be working from a home office with my husband sharing the space. It also would never have occurred to me that we might develop an interest in competitive rowing and that we’d start traveling to regattas.

With everything in the world changing so quickly, I now try to avoid making assumptions about what should happen going forward. There are always good things to find in the here and now—and even though they may not be what we expected, they’re still worth celebrating.

Word-art that says, "Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is." -Mandy Hale

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.”

Last weekend I did a rowing machine challenge that was a series of 5-minute rows with a progression of slower rates. The first row was at 17 strokes per minute, followed by another at 16, and so on, while doing it with enough power to sustain a reasonable pace.

I managed to get down to 10 strokes per minute, which was something I had never tried to do before. Rowing at such a slow rate requires a lot of core strength. Apparently, my core was weaker than I thought, because I was pretty sore through the midsection the next day and am still feeling it a little. The monthly subscription for my Hydrow rowing machine also includes yoga and other online workouts that are good for strengthening the core, so it’s about time I did a few more of them.

Word-art that says, "Challenge yourself."

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.”

On a cloudy New Year’s morning, I was browsing through images in the online library for my digital art display, looking for one that suited a reflective mood. Composing my intention-setting blog post was still a work in progress. Last year’s resolution—to replenish my energy while being careful to avoid overscheduling—had left me feeling somewhat better than in the previous year, but as December went by, I still didn’t feel that my energy had gotten back to where I wanted it.

Where that not-quite-there feeling came from, I wasn’t sure. Physically, I gained better fitness after a second season of virtual coaching, in which my husband and I won more medals at the rowing regattas. Work hadn’t been overly stressful, and I was sleeping reasonably well. I didn’t have any overwhelming demands on my time. Still, there were days when a small errand or additional task set off my subconscious threat detectors, leaving me with a sense that my time needed to be more vigilantly guarded.

There seemed to be no real basis for that in the present. Everything I needed to do was in fact getting done, and I had enough free time to laze around reading novels or whatever. That didn’t appear to be translating directly into more creative energy, though. Here I was on New Year’s Day, and I still didn’t have a clear intention for 2023 or a blog post to go with it.

In the digital art library, an image of a curving walkway, apparently in a public park, caught my eye. It didn’t suit the season, with yellow-tinged treetops of early spring in the background matching the path’s dusty color. I clicked on it anyway, just to see how it would look as an imaginary window on my wall.

Photo of a dusty yellow walkway with grass, boulders, and trees in the background.

A pigtailed girl in an old-fashioned dress ambled out of my subconscious and stepped onto the walkway. She looked vaguely familiar in her bright red shoes, with a small dog prancing at her heels, but I couldn’t quite place her.

“You’re not one of my past selves, are you?” I asked, in a doubtful tone.

The girl responded with a cheery smile and a shake of the head that set her pigtails bobbing. “No, I’m Dorothy, your to-do list. You can call me Dot. After all, you’re in the dot-com age where most of your planned tasks involve staring at a screen. I make a good personification of them, if I do say so myself.” She twirled in a happy pirouette, and the dog gave an enthusiastic yip.

I took a step forward on the walkway, realizing that the hard surface under the yellow dust was made of neatly laid bricks.

“Oh, you’re Dorothy following the yellow brick road!” That explained the sense of familiarity, but how she might relate to the mundane tasks on my to-do list baffled me. Taking a quick glance around, I didn’t see any wicked witches or other potential hazards. The scenery just looked like an ordinary park.

“I’m Dot,” the girl told me once more, “and right now, I am standing still on the yellow brick road. Even in adventure stories, we’re not obligated to keep moving all the time. This is Sunday, and it’s also New Year’s Day—is there really anything that you need to do right now?”

I considered the question for a moment. “Not much, just some laundry and a rowing machine workout, neither of which has to be done at any particular time. I do need to get my New Year’s resolution and a word of intention clear in my mind, though, and finish writing my blog entry.”

“You want to change how you feel about time,” Dot helpfully summed up the rambling thoughts I’d been sifting through before her arrival, “so as not to tire yourself out by staying on the alert for things that aren’t really dangerous.”

“Yes—it sounds rather silly, doesn’t it, when you put it like that.”

“Not at all. Even if leaving something undone is not dangerous in itself, worrying about it can cause real problems.” Dot reached down and gave Toto a gentle pat. “If you didn’t write your usual New Year’s Day post, your readers wouldn’t pay much attention because they are busy with whatever is going on in their lives. Some of them might notice, but they wouldn’t fault you for lacking imagination. You would judge yourself for falling short of your own standards, however—and that’s where the harm lies.”

Small shadows flitted over the yellow bricks, and I glanced up to see a troop of winged monkeys briskly flying by.

“Okay, that makes sense to me, Dot. How would I turn it into a resolution and a word of intention? Resolve to remind myself not to feel burdened by self-imposed tasks? Unburdened?”

“That’ll work, yes—and one more reminder, too. Sometimes, getting where we want to go is a lot easier than we may think it is.” Dot gave me an impish wink, clicked her heels together three times, and promptly disappeared from the picture.