Category Archives: Emotional Health

Gluten Free Sun Screen

She didn’t even flinch as she pressed “submit reservation.” Nor did she deliberate long over ordering the lunch for $13.00. It was not clear from the information if she was allowed to bring food and she well knew her propensity for hunger on the river, or anywhere in the out of doors. What do we work for anyway but to give ourselves a treat once in awhile? A mini vacation. An early birthday gift. A reward to ourselves for staying at work nine hours a day and often going in on weekends. This was a  reminder to herself why she is even here in this town on the edge of the river.

“So what’s a $100 dollar bill between best friends?” she asked. Me, Myself and I.

A trip to the beach just the day before in 99 degree heat reminded her of the necessity of sunblock. Don’t underestimate burn potential of reflected sun. So when she arrived at Colorado River Discovery to check in, she went straight to the counter and requested fragrance-free sunscreen. The clerk read the ingredients: hypoallergenic, gluten –free…. she laughed at sunscreen needing a gluten free label. “I’ll take it,” she said. She gulped at the $10 price tag, but did not reconsider. A moment later, as she slathered on the expensive, but quality, goo in bright hot sun she had no regrets. An hour later, eating lunch on a raft with fingers, camera lenses, sunglasses and nearly everything in sight greased with sunblock she acknowledged the necessity of gluten free-or at least non-toxic, sunscreen. It was a fabulous trip. The river is beauty. The river is nature. Nature has healing powers. Beauty can restore. And it did.

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Getting Back Your Best Game

She was new to this place and it had been a grueling two months. The face in the mirror looked her age – no longer youthful and refreshed. She had slipped into working every day of her life (again) in a mad bid to catch up, to get settled, to get a grip. BTDT in her twenties. Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops for a season – but she knew it was now time to get her game back.

She insisted on a half day off. It was only herself she argued with. She made herself take it. Half day out of seven, but it was a start in the right direction. She took a long hike. She sloshed her feet through the sand and water at the edge of the river and let the rushing water chill the raging worry and the work addiction within her. She sat on a rock in perfect spring sunshine. It turned out to be a comfortable rock – so comfortable she leaned back and closed her eyes and hazarded letting her mind drift like the gently gurgling riffle.

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How long had it been since she said that phrase, “These are the best years of my life?” She used to mean it. Now life felt suspiciously like some of the earlier years; grasping, gasping for survival.

She longed to laugh at a well-turned phrase, to feel the wind of adventure in her face, to see and hear new beauty.

“Take a look back,” she said to herself, “What were you doing? When was the last time you felt, really felt you were at the top of your game? The last time you said with sincerity, ‘These are the best years’?”

She remembered those deeply spiritually reviving days of living on the edge of beautiful places, of hiking before the heat of the day, of watching a sunrise, of strolling a beach at sunset. Times of letting nature nourish and nurture.

Those were the times she was dating herself; taking herself to an event or a concert-traveling – finding how to love herself so she might in turn love her neighbor as herself.

Those were the times she was eating with thought and care and great appetite for the healthful.

Those were the times she tucked into bed at a comfortable hour and woke naturally without necessity of an alarm or agenda.

So now, lounging on the rock like a lizard, she pondered, “How did I get to that soul- healthy position in the first place?” Part of it was a product of a resolution to live the next 365 days as though they were all she had. Part of it was allowing herself to be steeped in music and art.

She had a well-balanced brain and at one time had made the decision to live more fully in her right brain – her creative brain – with her organized left brain always guiding her. Now she wondered if it was possible to live in her left brain – forge ahead in organizational success –while letting her right brain guide her.   It was a grand experiment.

She didn’t want to give up the corporate part of life – the paycheck. Some of the best times of life to be had are times when you share with others. Her one big reason for having a job, for making money, was to have something to share.

But now she knew it was time to nourish and nurture that spiritual side again. Not all day. Not in lieu of the practical, but every single day in tandem with the practical.

More nature

More exercise out of doors

More music

More love

Less addiction to work stress and more commitment to working smart

Managing smarter

Embracing the beauty in work

Mini vacations

Why do you work? What do you love? What nurtures and nourishes your soul?

 

 

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from the beach nearest my condo. It is only four miles from where I sleep, but I have to drive in the car, cross a state line and go through a fee station to get here. I am lying on my beach towel, conducting a little self-care, taking a mini R&R, and thinking Easter thoughts. Perhaps I’ll just rest and relax here until Someone brings me grilled fish and little loaves of bread, breaks the bread and offers it to me saying, “Take. Eat.” Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful Easter Sunday brunch? Wouldn’t that make a believer out of you? But for now, I have the balm of the wet sand and sunshine, the smell of the water, and I will try to relax. I will not check my cell phone – which doesn’t have a signal out here anyway-to see if someone at the office needs me. I will spend an hour or two in sacred silence. I will walk away spiritually renewed, ready to speak truth, live in peace. I will know myself a little better and consequently be able to better love and understand those around me.

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Take Me To Church

It is Sunday morning as I write this – For many, a traditional day of gathering together in brick and mortar buildings for worship. A time for soul searching, spiritual refreshment. Others like to worship in mountain cathedrals, commune with the great outdoors. Still others find peace in the wilderness.

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.” Terry Tempest Williams

I hope you did something deeply spiritual today, something sacred. May the peace linger with you.

Hiking with The Phantom of the Opera

“I love to go a wandering, along the mountain path; and as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my back.” Who hasn’t chortled that song at the top of their lungs whilst trekking with a group of young people? Though I have grown older, I am nothing if not a happy wanderer.

So often the things we love most to do in life dovetail. Hiking and Music. That’s the perfect combination for me. Hiking. Writing about it. Writing a musical about it. Even better.

Nowadays I don’t often sing while hiking. Silence is better in the great outdoors. I embrace it. I think better in solitude. But there are times a tune whistled or hummed is just the right thing to get you through a narrow passage, barren stretch, or energize you for extra effort.

I have learned something about hiking along the Colorado River or its tributary canyons: There be willows – sometimes tamarisk – in riparian areas and sand bars. Willows and tamarisk can slap you, lash you and poke your eyes out.

Further up White Canyon from Sipapu Natural Bridge, the willows tower above my head, yet in the undergrowth, the trail is clear. The animals who regularly roam these paths are short, maybe coyotes. And there, on the wildlife path, I discovered a new way to wield my hiking pole.

Keep your hand at the level of your eye, may be a famous line from Phantom of the Opera but it’s also the latest principle I learned while putting one foot in front of the other.

Take your staff by the hilt, but still pointing down. Now salute with your fist in front of your nose, thumb on forehead, fist, pole and forearm vertical. You can now see around either side of your fist, your walking pole will part the willows from your forehead to your knees and you just might come out of the brush free of most lashes and scratches and without your eyes smarting.

Cue marching music. Let’s go a wandering, friends, with our hand at the level of our eyes

Humans of Hometown

I stopped in at the grocery market on 12th Street and purchased a couple food items. It was Tuesday so the store was filled with Tuesday discount shoppers. In one checkout line four or five group home residents were lined up with an assortment of express lane items. In the lane I chose an older couple (as in, older than me) was slowly shuffling through the mechanics of buying groceries. The checker, a middle-aged high functioning special needs man, was cheerily and patiently providing customer assistance. A bottle blond and hairspray grandma a little younger than me approached with her six year old grandson. He flopped the purchases up on the belt. I reached for the divider bar and inserted it between orders, whereupon grandma said, “Oh. Sorry.” (“no problem”). And the odor of alcohol wafted on the air. Not too whiny and not too impatient, the little boy began to while away the time by singing:

Boy: Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool…”

Checker (as he begins to scan my items): Well all I have to say to that is, ‘yes sir, yes, sir three bags full.’

Grandma: ‘One for my master and dum dem dum, how’s that go? Lives down the lane.

Checker: sings the lines again and gets stuck in the same phrase.

The line has now been joined by a white female of approximately 35 in a tank top and tattoo looking like a muscle builder who needs to loose 50 pounds fast.

Grandma and Boy: Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool, yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. One for my master and one ….????

Newcomer: One for my master and one……dum de dum…lives in the lane. How does that go?

Me (having completed payment): One for my master and one for my dame and one for the little boy that lives down the lane.

Where upon the pleased cashier spins and high fives me jubilantly.

We all slept well that night.

 

 

Morning Matins

It’s like morning matins, I said. And she, thinking I said morning maintenance, nodded in agreement.

The early church had some set times for daily prayers, meditations, observances. Some were referred to as matins and others as vespers.

My early years within the bounds of evangelicalism stressed the discipline of morning prayers – don’t leave home without them.

Contemporary thinking gives credence to meditation in many forms, looking inward, quieting the thoughts.

“This,” I clarified, “This morning walk in solitude, this is morning matins for me. I can’t live without it.”

I have adopted a few healthful morning rituals mentioned in Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project (2009):

Take a drink of water before you rise

Get out of doors as soon as possible

Engage in at least 20 minutes of rigorous exercise

That morning walk or hike is beyond helpful. It is essential to a clear head and a stable emotional life. I suspect it supports good physical and spiritual health as well.

Morning Maintenance, Morning Matins

Potato, Potahto

No matter how you say it. Do it.

 

 

Living the dream albeit frugally

The life I live does not make my mother jealous at all – except that she would love to see me more often. She wasn’t jealous when I lived in the primitive cabin either.

But Dad liked it. His can-do pioneer spirit revived. He could see all the possibilities and he pitched in with a will to help make the dream come true. Mom pitched in too, went over and above, but to her it was only hard work, extra duty. “I could never live like this,” she said. No, Mom and Dad are not at all jealous of the life I now lead.

To an erstwhile spouse, the cabin was a dream-come-true. He caught it, got a grip on it and will never let go. Once upon a time, he had other dreams, outdoor dreams, naturalist dreams, travel dreams, but his grasp of possession on the cabin obliterates the vision of other possibilities. He is trapped.

I alone get to live out the rest of the dream.

My ex-husband is no longer along for the ride. Sometimes that makes me feel guilty when I enjoy the great outdoors, the rocks and trees and solitude. But it was my dream too. I got here responsibly. I worked hard. I provided for my children. So I keep putting one foot in front of the other. Solo. I probably feel guilty less often than he feels covetous.

Wilderness lovers and supporters to the max, my brother and SIL work duty-bound jobs to support themselves with a six-figure income. Their love of travel and their gifts evocative of everything Nature speak to their love of the great outdoors. Yet they are tethered to a university and an edifice; to the whim of grants and administrators.

My brother and SIL are living the dream in their way; well-planned, itineraried and funded by secure savings accounts. They wonder at me living it frugally and surviving on less than a shoestring – a thing many are not willing to do. Admittedly, I still have to find a way to pay a couple residual bills and I don’t see any overseas travel in the near future. Once in awhile that stresses me.

But most of the time I am abundantly grateful for a roof over my head at night, a vast sky and wilderness during the day, hot and cold running water, the nurture of nature’s beauty and the solitude that brings inspiration and understanding.

 

 

Taking a meander through life

How often had she said it? “I don’t like to walk for transportation. 15822841_10154008704191891_2897296190757686136_nWhen you walk to get there, you have a set goal, a deadline. There is no pondering, no exploring. You have to walk fast, be punctual.”

Granted, she usually had some direction in mind when she hiked. She was seldom without preparation and a good plan. It’s just that she reserved the right to alter her course, take a different side path, experience something new. She hiked to see new things. To think. To ponder. To assimilate new insights. To make connections between the physical world and the spiritual; the mental world and the earthy. In short, she hiked for recreation. And, in putting one foot in front of the other, she reaped all kinds of health: Physical health. Mental health. Spiritual health. Emotional health.

How like a river is the journey of life, she thought. A river meanders. Often, instead of taking the straightaway through a meadow or valley, the river pushes its boundaries ever outward toward the side, taking a longer route and then making a leisurely switchback. But, when a river gets between a rock and a hard place, where geologically the sides are slumping and closing in, it crashes forward in a cataract. Sometimes a flash flood stirs up the calm meander of the river and it pelts rocks and twigs and throws debris against rock walls. Eventually, the river punches a new hole, a shortcut through the rock wall making a natural bridge. Water flows swiftly under. Or maybe the river, growing impatient, just floods over the neck of the earth peninsula outcropping between two switchbacks and cuts a new course, a shorter route to the goal.

A good meditative meander may result in some active chipping away, some erosion, a new shortcut, maybe a dramatic change of course, less often a roller coaster ride down a cataract. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Explore all options in your journey. Be strong like the water, and do a good deal of thoughtful meandering.

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The memories we lost in 2016

Nineteen years since I have seen him, yet the face in the photos is so real I can hear his voice, remember his manners, sense his body heat emanating from the mixing board, read his language. Harvey has been dead for three years, but I didn’t find out about it until 2016, so it’s been a shock getting used to his absence these past few months. Harvey was nine years younger than me. He is not supposed to be dead and me alive. The last time I talked to him was by phone. Dallas to Denver, long distance. He was getting married, he said. Honeymooning in Colorado, he said. Did he need to rent a four-wheel drive to make it to Georgetown safely? That was 18 years ago. His eulogy said he was married for 15 years before his death. I found the video of his funeral online. I recognized several of the photos in the section titled early years – the ones taken during the brief years we worked together. Wrote music. Recorded music. Wrote musicals. Directed children’s musicals. Those years are still real to me. Moments of success and fulfillment. And that is how I found out Harvey had passed. I went looking for him via Google one night. My musical life had taken yet another U-turn, I was playing in a band, reconnecting with a musical acquaintance from 1984 and I found myself wanting to reconnect with Harvey of 1996. I left contact information on the website of the DJ service he used to run. His former business partner got back with me and broke the news. Harvey is gone. Who will validate my memories? Harvey’s widow had barely entered the scene when I exited for Colorado in 1997. She knows nothing of those years we spent as musical colleagues in shared studio space, though pictures of his individual musical successes proliferate.  2016 has been a year of loss for so many. When you lose someone, you lose a part of your memories. I am aging, increasingly losing more extended family members and high school peers. Who would have thought learning of the loss of a cowriter with whom I had lost contact would come as such a jolt? But it does. We are all intrinsically connected – especially those with whom we have made music. There is no going back. There is only forward. Treasure the music you make today. Treasure the people with whom you make music. Sing a new song every day.