Right about now, the middle to end of March, I begin to feel the heaviness. The clouds are fat with moisture, lumbering across a grey sky. When the sky is blue, the air is wintry cold. yesterday was grey, but I didn’t wear a jacket. I did, however have on my snood and gloves. That was enough to trick my body into thinking it was warmer than it was.
It’s not just the weather that’s heavy. Things are picking up for school assignments. Drama club has finally ended, but it’s been replaced by notes to parents for help on those end of year assignments, and how can it be the end of the year already? There’s Easter upcoming, full weekends, bills to pay, taxes to do, and nowhere to escape.
I’ve kept busy with my kids, our weekly television viewing, a church breakfast, reading Chernow’s Grant, tagging along to find The Lost Book of Moses, two days of reflection that were everything I’d hoped they would be, and more, and still not enough.
One or two times a year I try to give myself a retreat. A self-guided retreat, some planned out and some spontaneous, encompassing both spiritual and writerly things and if I’m lucky a tiny bit of travel, too.
I am lucky this weekend to be heading out on a spiritual-slash-writing retreat and I hope to bookend the weekend with two days of my own guidance.
If you don’t have a retreat center nearby, I would highly recommend giving yourself a self-retreat.
Begin by blocking out a few days in a row. I would suggest a minimum of three days. If that’s not possible, try and arrange your regular work days off to be two consecutive days.
Choose a theme. What are you trying to get out of this time “away”? Are you looking to get something done? Are you looking to get nothing done? Quiet time? Or contemplation? Meditation and prayer? Silence and solitude?
Will you bring music along?
Will you bring food or eat out?
Will you return home at times or is one of the objects to get away from home except for sleeping?
Be flexible, but plan your itinerary. You don’t want to spend most of your limited time trying to figure out what to do.
Have a map and/or a GPS.
Have a fully charged cell phone and keep the charger in your car in case you run out of battery power.
Even if you don’t normally use one, bring a journal. You can record where you went, the weather, what you saw, what you ate, what stood out to you, what you were thinking.
If you draw, bring a sketchbook and a pencil.
Dress in layers and bring a sweater or shawl. Wherever you are, you will either be too hot or too cold, I guarantee it.
Unless your phone functions as one, bring a camera. Looking at pictures later can highlight a memory.
Most importantly, know what you hope to get out of it before you go.
For awhile last year, I would take myself out to lunch once a month to “write”, and after awhile, it was rote, and I was getting nothing new out of it; nothing helpful. This kind of self-retreat is a good way to jump-start your creativity, your motivation, but also to jump-start your SELF.
[The above photo is from my first self-retreat. On that one, I had a little guidance from Father Jim Martin’s enhanced ebook, Together on Retreat, which can be found on Amazon.]
Here are a few links to help you be politically active but also take care of yourself. If you have any links or self care suggestions, please add them in the comments. We are here for each other; now more than ever.
Two of my Own:
And this helpful graphic:
For this penultimate Mental Health Monday for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I thought I would offer a few of my personal coping mechanisms and tools. I usually go through my things that work until they don’t and then go for the less good ones. You never know which combination of tools and mood will break out of those bad days.
As much as I love fall, October in particular, I find it a bit more stressful than the rest of the year (until late spring). It’s hectic. The school’s want so much, the weather changes throughout the day from summer to later fall, and then back again. We’re close enough to Christmas that we’re worrying how we’re going to pay for it all. The church is beginning its new year at the end of November, and this year I have a few new responsibilities on that front. My son’s birthday is in October, and from then until the anniversary of my mother’s death the first week in December, it’s like a ticking bomb, counting down to her death, like it did in retrospect eleven years ago.
I try to get myself set up with a retreat; not always feasible especially monetarily. I also have my writing group that meets for eight weeks in the fall. Except that it was cancelled last week for this season. *headdesk*
I guess in addition to giving you some helpful hints and resources, I’ll probably be using many of them myself.
First is my writing workshop. I need it. Desperately. My plan? Go to the library anyway at the time the workshop would have taken place, and work on my two books. They’ve been waiting in the wings for too long. One is a travel, essay, spiritual journey to and about Wales, and the second is the horror of buying my house. The first one is too much emotion, and the second one is too much anger, so I can’t handle them for very long. Now, I have a dedicated eight weeks to put a dent in their outlines and direction.
Second is it’s list season. I’ve told my family already: If it isn’t on my list, it doesn’t exist. I knew they knew I was serious when they didn’t comment on my little rhyme. My advice is to put absolutely everything on the list, including reminders to eat and go the bathroom. You’d be surprised how often you’ll forget without that check up on yourself.
My list for tomorrow looks something like this:
Kids to school
Target – toilet paper and Dawn
Groceries – cheddar cheese, rice, and Yartzeit candles (for Yom Kippur)
Continue cleaning my work space while Supernatural plays in the background
Write Friday’s fandom post about Gishwhes
Check Gishwhes site for updates
Seriously, no item is too small or too big. Too big use several steps, so break them down and pat yourself on the back when you complete something.
Third, I mentioned Supernatural as background noise. This is my comfort sound, especially the earlier seasons. Find what you like but don’t need to pay 100% attention to. It could be music. Talk radio. Nature sounds. We all have that one thing. Find yours.
Fourth, comfort food. Macaroni and cheese is an old standby (Kraft in the blue box), but last week I had the most intense craving…..and then I had the most amazing peanut butter and banana sandwich on toasted wheat bread that I have had in a long time. It was……fantastic.
Fifth, it’s okay to just sit and do nothing. Watch TV. Listen to music. Read a book or better yet, a magazine, so you don’t need to give it the same attention as a book. Take a nap if it will help.
Sixth, catch up on Netflix. I can heartily recommend Sense8 (warning for language, sex, adult situations, and violence) and Parks and Recreation (warning for sexual talk and adult situations).
Seventh, take care of yourself. Say no to people if you don’t have the spoons. It’s okay, and don’t apologize for taking care of yourself.
Beginning on Monday, there is going to be a few extra posts as I set up my new index. I apologize for the extra notifications you will receive with these posts. I’m also going to revamp my Facebook Page.
Hopefully, this will make it easier for everyone to find their favorite pieces or search for ones they might have missed.
Thanks for your patience.
Rec: MediSafe App
Reflection on Conversion (religion/spirituality)
Make Self-Care a Thing (self-care, health & well-being – mental)
The Republicans win the Senate (politics)
REPOST: When Life and Fiction Meet (and Greet) (fictional narrative)
Why is so hard to put ourselves first; to take care of our own needs? Most of us usually wait until the stress has hit its boiling point. Instead of letting it go that far, it would be better to take care of ourselves along the way. That won’t eliminate all the stress and angst, but it can go a long way in alleviating those feelings of being put upon.
Some things that might work for you:
- Tune-out. Turn off the television, the internet, the cell phone. Find a quiet spot to just close your eyes for at least ten minutes. [Note: I have to mention that when I wrote this in my notebook, I wrote ten months. That might be a bit excessive. ;)]
- Re-read a favorite book. The one that I go back to every year or so is Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman.
- Go outside and sit. If it’s a cooler day, wear a lightweight jacket, gloves and a jaunty hat. Watch the wildlife scurry by and the birds glide, counting leaves, following the branches as they reach towards the sky.
- Listen to music. Mumford and Sons, Adele, Classic Rock – whatever floats your boat. Pop in your earphones and put your playlist on shuffle.
- I used to love this and you could do the pages as backgrounds without even having the pictures ready. Check out Creative Memories for supplies and ideas.
- Wander around a local museum or a large library or other interesting places in your local area.
- Take yourself to the movies. Have popcorn.
- Netflix. Catch up on a series you’ve always wanted to watch. Orange is the New Black anyone? Or re-watch a childhood favorite. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Escape to Witch Mountain are two of my favorites; or catch something new like Catching Fire.
One of the things that I do in an attempt at taking care of myself is my recent retreat. That’s a week while the kids are in school, but I also take a day and attend a local flower show in the spring.
As I’ve mentioned before, I visit Starbucks, less now because of finances, but it is still something I consider a special treat and self-care place.
My attendance at Mass will usually put things into perspective for me as well as centering my spirit and preparing me for the day.
I feel sometimes that I don’t have the time for me, but I think the bigger problem is whatever I’m doing gets interrupted and restarted and usually I’ okay with that kind of multi-tasking, but sometimes I’m the guy from Network.
I think I’ll take an hour and catch up on Constantine.
What’s the best thing you do for yourself?