kindness

#reverb15: surprises & photographs

Today, I'm combining Kat's prompt about surprises with a favorite photo prompt from Sarah and Kim because they blend together so nicely for me. I'm likely to do this throughout #reverb, choose prompts from multiple places or use one from the past that speaks to me. What surprised you this year? 

My body: I got on the scale in January this year with immense trepidation. In 2012-2013 I'd lost a significant amount of weight. I spent a good deal of 2014 having it slowly pile back on. This year, I wanted to get back not to the size I was in 2013 but to the healthy body I had, the one that could walk up stairs more easily, spend time walking, running, hiking, biking. I wanted to do a better job of honoring, appreciating and just doing better in terms of my health because I knew I could. I started slowly and used my word for the year, explore, to try classes, experiences, foods, I might not have otherwise tried. And while I know I shouldn't be surprised that all that effort made a difference, there are days I still am surprised at my own reflection, or the way clothes feel on my body, but moreso I'm surprised when I push my body and it carries me to the end of a Zumba class or rowing session, or treadmill/elliptical workouts. I'm surprised at the elation and sense of accomplishment I feel each time I'm able to move a little faster or increase resistance, or meet whatever small goal I have going on at the time. I don't want to ever be done with this work. I know that I can't be because I owe it to the people who love me and to myself to do the best I can to keep my body healthy and happy and strong.

Reconnecting: It's always surprising to be made aware of an impact you have on someone's life. This was a year when friends and exes reconnected with me in pretty brave ways, expressing how something I said or did made a difference. It's also interesting to see what people remember of you vs. your own recollections. I can tell you I feature much less favorably in my memories than in those of the ones who've been in touch with me this year.

My friends are awesome. Okay, this didn't really surprise me. But it's nice to see friends and colleagues get recognized for the work they do, to see them in a mode I don't often see: "pulled together professional person." Let's face it, if you're like me, you rarely feel like you have it worked out, and many of your friends are in that boat with you, so to see their brilliance in the world, to be reminded of how great and smart and talented your friends are gives you a little bit of hope that you might achieve some of that brightness one day. And it feels damn good to cheer on important people in my life.

The world doesn't end if you decide not to finish something. This didn't really surprise me either, but I have to say that I experienced a deep sense of relief when I stopped working on a project that felt a little like spinning my wheels to pursue something that felt a little indulgent. The only consequence was that I became passionate about some ideas I'd previously dismissed once I decided to see what would happen if I pursued them as a research project.

Ugh, I can be a snob. I guess this isn't totally surprising but it is something noticeable in certain situations. It's okay to like different things from your friends/loved ones. It's perfectly fine not to "get" something other people are into. I'm trying, however to be less snobby when I don't like something that everyone else does and less judgmental of myself when I like something everyone else does. Maybe it's also okay to be a little snobby. I'm trying, here.

A little kindness goes a long way. Again, not a surprise but something that I seemed to be reminded of this year whether it was someone showing me kindness or me doing something nice for others, being generous in time and spirit was a common theme of the year.

Share your favorite photo from this year. Why is it your favorite? What makes it so special?

This year, a little over a month ago, M and I drove across country to the Grand Canyon. It was a huge adventure for us. While we've driven on long road trips before, never one that far. One of my favorite parts of the journey was asking M "couples road-trip questions". I could have guessed some of the answers, but it was still fun to hear her responses. I think when you've been together a long time (11 years now) there's a comfort between you and an assumption that you know all there is to know. I also think that's sad because we should continue to evolve and grow as people and as a couple and that means regularly checking in, asking questions you think you know the answers. You might be surprised at what you discover about one another.

In the early stages of planning this trip out West (I had to go because of a conference) I wasn't particularly excited about the Grand Canyon. I thought, "I'll go. It will be cool. M is excited. I'll go for her." But the closer the trip got, the more interested in the canyon I became. Nothing I could have read or imagined prepared me for what I felt being there. The sense of awe I experienced; it's something sacred. I kept feeling like I shouldn't be there, that I was somehow out of time and space. It's just spectacular. My continuously awed reaction surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn't have. Each time we rounded a corner, I felt my breath hitch and was overwhelmed at the beauty and power of being in such a place.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip:

M and I at the Grand Canyon
M and I at the Grand Canyon

We never have photos of us that don't look like selfies. A nice guy took this one for us and did a good job of framing the area around us. It's really windy and our hair is out of place; we both have sunglasses on.But somehow it still perfectly captures the moment we first saw the Grand Canyon, and all those ridges and colors and rocks spread before us. The entire trip was a constant reminder to pay attention to the view around you. In the Grand Canyon, I couldn't help it. There was no other thing to do but to contemplate what was in front of you and appreciate it.

I couldn't imagine this trip at any other time in my life with anyone else. No surprise there.

being kind to YOU

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of being kind, of noticing others and letting them now that you see them. Today, I want to explore being kind to yourself. This is partly inspired by the topic of Self-Care from The Declaration of You Blog Lovin Tour. And though I am participating in other topics along the tour, I realized I had something I wanted to write about "self-care." 

For me, taking care of myself means creating conditions where I can bring my whole self to the day. This can be challenging if I haven't gotten enough sleep or if I feel particularly anxious about something (usually the two go together for me). Also, I need my coffee.  

But deeper than that, and why I think self-care is difficult, is that taking care means being kind, it means noticing, being aware and we don't always do that for ourselves.  

A few months ago I wrote this post on giving yourself permission to just be.  I was thinking about making choices based on what you need at the time. We do so many things in life because we think we are supposed to, or because we need validation, or we have responsibilities. It's easy to get lost in all of that and push ourselves to the background.

 This post from Tanya Geisler significantly resonated with me. She writes about the way we shrink ourselves when taking a compliment. We recede. Someone has noticed us and we don't know what to do about it. This has happened to me several times recently, along this journey to better health. Someone will say something about running like, "Way to go, you!" or "I'm so impressed you signed up for half-marathon" and I'll feel uncomfortable calling myself a runner, "Well, so far I've only run 5K's." or "I'm very slow." Both of which are true, but are they necessary? 

What happens if I allow myself to be proud, to say, "Thank you"? 

I told workshop participants a story about a time that I cut so much out of a poem based on other's suggestions that I ended up hating it. My professor said, "You are your own worst editor, right now, Devon. You have to start believing that you know what makes it good, and do those things, make those edits."

We know what makes life good for us. Yet, we often refuse it. In Tanya's post she writes that we are afraid we will somehow jinx it for ourselves and I know that is so true for me. I can be very superstitious and there's some fear in me that if I acknowledge my happiness, or talent, or feel good-ness, that it will somehow get taken away. And in doing so, I take it away from myself.  

Being kind to yourself is easy. You already know how. What works for me or your friend you tells how awesome the tea she found is and how relaxing it is, may not work for you. You have to figure out what you need to bring your amazing, kick-ass self to the day, the meeting, the moment.  

Here are some things I do when I'm being consciously kind to myself: 

I wear my favorite outfit. I have a pair of jeans and a few different shirts that make me feel awesome. I don't know why, but I love them and when I wear them, I am more confident, and more likely to accept a compliment, take a chance and be in a good mood. 

Give myself time. I try to schedule in some time in my day that I have no expectations on me. I spent this time reading, or listening to music, or walking around campus and taking photos. Sometimes, I watch TV. The key is to give myself the time so I don't feel guilty that I wasn't grading student essays or responding to emails. 

Unplug. There is a lot of noise in my life. So days when I really need to take care, I stay off social media as much as possible.  

Embrace my routine. Enjoy the daily stuff like errands, grocery store, putting gas in the car.  

Starbucks. I love coffee. And when I get my favorite drink: iced caramel macchiato, I am happy.  

 

How do you take care of yourself?