Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life Keeps Surprising Me

One of the strange things I did not realize about buying a house is that everyone ignores the closing date you write into your purchase agreement. After all the paperwork and inspections are done, you wait and wait and have no idea when closing will be or when you can move. You want to plan, but you cannot. You just wait. When you dare to ask, people just shake their heads and say it could be weeks...or more.

This is bizarre.

Yet, it turns out kind of good that I couldn't move when I had hoped to do so, because I needed to attend to a crisis situation: a good friend in the hospital with some mysterious high "fever of unknown origin." After more than a week, the illness finally seems under control, but the friend is likely to need extra help after being released from the hospital.

Meanwhile, classes started. I appear for class, and (surprisingly) manage to teach, and then I'm back to the hospital.

Boxes. Half-packed stuff. Hospital. Worry. Semester starting. Students all over the place again. Colleagues needing all kinds of advice or input from me.

And people ask me, "How was your summer?" and I have no idea how to answer.

I see them stressing (in that happy, giddy, start-of-a-new-year sort of way) about the normal start-of-semester chaos and I feel very far away. If only that was all I had to worry about.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Basic Principles of Self-Care

I thought it might be helpful to list the basic principles of self-care. I find I need to keep reminding myself of these! Self-care still does not come easily to me.
  1. Establish and stick to a regular sleep schedule, giving yourself enough high-quality sleep.
  2. Eat healthily. The basic recommendation seems to be lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, plus some protein. Minimize simple carbohydrates (grains -- especially refined grains -- and sugar).
  3. Get regular exercise. Build cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.
  4. Build a good support system for yourself. Surround yourself with people who like you in ways you like yourself, and who bring out your best. Be supportive of them too, bringing out their best.
  5. Cultivate mindfulness. Be aware. Pay attention. For example, be aware of your emotions, and don't be afraid of them: learn from them. Be aware of habits of thought and habits of behavior: change those that are not serving you well. Be aware of your effect on the world, and the world's effect on you. Be aware of the present moment, of what is real right now, and all of the richness of possibility that is available right now.
  6. Keep stress to a minimum. Some stress maybe cannot be avoided, but sometimes stress is self-generated, or can be alleviated by making different choices.
  7. Develop effective strategies for coping with the stress you do have to deal with.
  8. Avoid unhealthy addictions or compulsions. Or, if necessary, seek help in recovering from those already established.
  9. Enjoy all that is worth enjoying. And regularly do things you enjoy. Being in nature, coming into contact with beauty or greatness, being creative, learning something new, or spending times with those we love: these are some examples of renewing, enjoyable activities.
  10. Cultivate a a "realistic positive" attitude. Be alert to negative thinking, and rework it into realistic positive reminders and aspirations. Also, cultivate a sense of humor towards those challenges of life that deserve being laughed at.
  11. Be in touch with who you most truly are, and with the meaning of your life. What do you value? Who and what do you love? What greatness does/can your life bring into being?
  12. Know when to seek help, and do not be afraid to ask for it. Most people feel honored to be asked to help. Helping each other is one of the sacred activities of everyday life.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Time for General Updates

I've had an interesting summer of trying to make certain changes in my life that hopefully will allow me to live more true to my contemplative nature. Some of this has been very hard. But once I got the process seriously under way, I found way opening (hence my last posting). Certain things started falling into place. There have still been ways the journey has been hard, and doubts and anxieties were never fully erased, but overall, I have felt a sense that I am on the right path.

One of the manifestations of the change is that I am buying a house. Earlier in the summer, I thought, "wouldn't it be great if I bought a house this summer and moved and then started my new life?" I would have these flashes of a "vision" of where the house would be (which neighborhood). I saw nice gardens, and the house was red. These were like daydreams, except that they would come to me spontaneously. In truth, I did not believe that this would be possible. I felt deeply stuck and dangerously "tempted by despair" (to paraphrase George Fox). From a rational perspective, this seemed totally impossible. It was a long-term vision for my life, not a short-term one.

The vision was odd in some respects. The neighborhood I envisioned was one of the most desirable and expensive neighborhoods in my small town. I do not have a special fondness for red houses in particular. And, while I like nice gardens, I am a little daunted by the efforts required to maintain nice gardens. So I would think that my "vision" would be a more modestly-colored house in a humble but quiet neighborhood with a small, neat yard, but no fancy gardens.

Yet, my "vision" re-appeared with a compelling sense of impending reality. It's hard to describe. This sort of thing has happened to me before, so I took it seriously. Yet I could not believe it.

Then one day I heard of a house for sale. And yes, it was a red house in that neighborhood, with beautiful gardens. In fact, it was a house I had admired but never dreamed would come up for sale (I knew the people who lived there, and assumed they were here to stay). And the price, surprisingly, was within reach.

That shook my world. At the time, my despair was high and my energy was low -- but as soon as I saw this news, my soul was electrified and I knew that everything would change. And everything did.

The full story is dramatic and maybe would be worth telling some day, but for now I will just say it looks like this is in fact really happening. It's possible that I will be moved into my new house and my new life in a week (yet the exact moving day is still uncertain, so I don't know yet).

Meanwhile, the school year is also soon to start. And so, yes, on the surface, I feel plunged into chaos. Managing a move at the start of a school year is, in general, not a good idea! Yet, I am happy and dealing with the uncertainty remarkably well. And I think that is a good sign.