Highly Sensitive Material

I have discovered that one of the payoffs of simplifying is knowing when it is time to make a change. My writing has taken me down some unexpected, challenging, and invigorating paths, and I would love to take my readers with me for this next one!

Several months ago, my oldest daughter and I had an idea for a blog that we hope will eventually grow into a book. I decided to test drive the idea by sending an essay on a related topic to the Huffington Post. They published and promoted my essay, and also posted it on their UK site,  and then an editor from another blog asked if she could publish it as well. The essay, Highly Sensitive, seemed to take on a life of its own, with more shares and comments than I ever anticipated.

This confirmed for us that our topic is relevant to enough interested readers, and so we have gone forth with our blog idea and titled it Highly Sensitive Material. 

My plan is to redirect this blog to the new onemaking it simple for Musing Simplicity followers to follow Highly Sensitive Material.  You will find the writing styles and themes of some of the posts similar, and always written from the heart. If the new blog is not for you, of course you always have the option of unsubscribing!

If you aren’t a follower but would like to check out the new blog, here is the direct link:  Highly Sensitive Material

Posts will be frequent, most likely on Tuesdays and Fridays. Some of the posts will appear in the Huffington Post blog as well, and occasionally on social media, but you can have them delivered right to your inbox by following.

I will see you over there!

With Love,

Dana

 

 

 

 

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Life in fast forward

stock-photo-30594346-hands-of-driver-on-the-steering-wheelThat’s what it feels like right now.  It feels to me like life is in fast forward and I cannot put on the breaks.

This  makes me thankful that I have simplified enough to be able give my full attention to all that is in front of me.

I am thankful, but not like  Oh thank God for sweeping though my life and taking away all that does not matter but more like good thing I have narrowed my priorities way down because it is all I have room for in this lifetime.  Maybe it’s my way of beating God at her own game. I will focus only on what matters most to me so You don’t have to take anything away. See, I’ve already simplified! 

Wow, time is precious.  Of course we don’t realize it until so much has passed, but once we get it, there’s no going back to the days of blissfully and ignorantly thinking there’s an endless supply.

I had a phone meeting with a literary agent a couple weeks ago. I thought she might help me narrow down my writing duties. I had read that agents want writers who have more than one book idea, so I took the opportunity to start developing my second and even third ideas.

I’ve also been writing articles and speaking and networking(I actually dislike that word, networking, for some reason. Really, I’ve just met some good people and we have some common goals, that’s all) and building platform and editing my first book . I was sort of hoping she would tell me to back off of some of this. It’s a lot. 

I was thinking that maybe I could be more like Emily Dickinson, except with a Keurig, writing away up in my bedroom.  And that’s all I’d do. Just write up there in my pajamas until I die.

But she said keep doing all of it. And she helped me to clarify my brand, the common thread that is woven through all of my writing. I also got ideas of how I want to tweak my first book proposal and which direction to take the second.

All of it. Keep doing all of it, she said.

Do all the things. 

The second book is a blog-to-book project that I am coauthoring with my oldest daughter which I am very excited about. The blog isn’t live yet. We are stockpiling the posts for a while longer, before we launch it. We want to have several months worth done, because the writing may come to full stop for a bit in about four months.

May come to a stop? Who am I kidding. It will stop.

Did I mention she is having twins this summer?

Two, people. Two babies. At once.

Also, my youngest daughter is graduating from college next month.

My own babies are grown up now, all three of them. And I gotta say, they wear it well, this grown up human thing.

I sometimes think that it is our job as humans to do our best to be present for all of the moments, good and bad; To feel the waves of joy and passion, grief and fear, and let them pass through us.

And maybe that is the one thing that slows time down.  Just being there fully, in whatever we are doing. I know it sounds cliche now. Be present. Yeah, yeah. But it’s the best we’ve got.
I will hold all the babies and love all the people.   I will write and write.

I will do all the things.

Because all the things mostly just means all that I love.

I love what is left when all that is unimportant is gone.

The life- changing magic of meditation

cropped-stones-323807__180-legal.jpgThere is so much information supporting the benefits of meditation, but I won’t cover much of that here. I am simply going to say that meditation enables us to keep our promises to ourselves, make good and healthy choices, and access a wealth of wisdom and information not immediately accessible by our buzzing minds.

If you want to experience the magic that meditation will  bring to your life, but are turned off to the idea of sitting in silence, here are a couple of fantastic meditation apps you can try: Calm and Headspace.

You only have to allot about ten minutes to meditation to reap some significant benefits including  better sleep, stress reduction, clarity and peace. Who doesn’t have ten minutes?

If this appeals to you, I recommend approaching it like an experiment. If you don’t currently meditate, then you know what a typical day is like without meditation. Why not see what it’s like with meditation? How about a week with meditation? The results may astound you. But don’t take my word for it.

Inconvenient musing

It’s ten thirty a.m. and I’m making my way through an already crowded grocery store. I’ve listened to some news (all bad) on the way here and my heart feels heavier than the cantaloupe stacked high in the bin, an avalanche waiting to happen.

I have not felt this depressed since I tried to give up my morning coffee. I am starting to wonder if a weighted blanket might be a good idea. Don’t be ridiculous, I tell myself. But still, it is a comforting thought.

I want to grab all of the sugary things in bakery aisle, but I resist, knowing that self-destruction is not the way out. So I am left to deal with my raw emotions.

I am overstimulated because the crowded, busy environment is competing with the thoughts in my head. I pull my carriage over to jot down notes on the back of my grocery list. It’s just a stupid essay, I think to myself, but it’s the first time I’ve felt like writing in weeks so I feel the need to seize the moment.

Why does this always happen in the most inconvenient of places? In the shower, while driving, while grocery shopping. Rarely does the muse come while I am at my laptop, fingers poised to capture the flow of words. Nope.

Lately I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen, my insides vacillating between numbness and nauseous churning. No words come out. Nothing seems good enough or clear enough or worthwhile. A waste of time, all of it, petty creative ambitions gone underground while I wait for my heart to thaw. Why does the muse hate me so?  

But today my writer’s block is broken in Market Basket, halfway down the carb aisle. This is why I never leave home without a pen.

Back at home, I sign up for a daily action text.  I text the word DAILY to the number 228466 and am prompted to give my zip code. I will receive a daily text prompting me to make a specific call to my Senator, on behalf of U.S. laws, on Planned Parenthood, on all sorts of rights on behalf of the welfare of the citizens of the United States.

I sort of hate the phone, and initially I worry I’ll be caught in some endless loop like calling Verizona or my insurance company, but I get through on the second ring.  This is easy, and something I can do every single day.

Helplessness and hopelessness is what will keep me down, not action. Action is good.

I go to yoga class and breathe and sweat and stretch and get out of my head and back into my body and my spirit and that sweet space of presence.

But then my mind gets a bit restless again and I have to give it something to chew on, so I turn to books like I always do. I read books to help me understand what has happened and what my part is in all of it.  I read Hillbilly Elegy and I ordered a book that my father has suggested, The Authoritarians. The author, Bob Altemeyer, explains in methodical detail, the roots of authoritarianism and who the authoritarian followers are. The book can be downloaded for free at www.theauthoritarians.com. My husband reads it first.  He’s not typically someone who enjoys psychological analyzing but he says it explains a lot. I put it on my reading list.

I look for Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. I want to understand, I do. The librarian tells me that there are a hundred and seventeen people in line for this book. I don’t think I can wait that long.

Then I decide I need to go deeper, much deeper. I need to rise above politics and read something that speaks to my soul.  Call me dramatic, but this is no small matter. I need an intervention here. I feel we have entered a dark night of the soul, as a country, and we are all in this together. I want to pull my weight. I’ve decided that means taking action toward what I know is right and remembering that there is plenty I could be wrong about.

I remember that I have Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love in my bookshelf.  Before I begin reading it, I look the author up the on social media. I follow her on twitter, thinking she’ll be blissfully calm in the midst of the storm that is our political climate. Not so.

You know we are trouble when even Marianne Williamson is pissed off.

But anyhow, I start reading her book and it does bring me peace. I am willing to see the bigger picture, accept responsibility for my own feelings and actions. She says if you are in disagreement with someone, that even if you think the other party is 90% responsible, you should focus on your 10%.  It’s not anyone’s job to change another or even to change another’s mind. I agree with this.

So I take care of myself so that I am bringing light, and not more darkness, into the world. I save my energy for the things I can do and can change.  I try, and sometimes fail, to be more mindful of my words and my thoughts.

We can’t fight anger with anger or fear with fear. I knew this. I’d just forgotten for a minute. I got scared.

But I am back.  I feel lighter now.

And mostly unafraid.

We have a new president-now what?

Like watching a train wreck, I could hardly tear myself away from watching the inauguration on television. Honestly, I was both horrified and fully cognizant of the time I was wasting. I’ve felt a bit stuck in a game of mental gymnastics ever since, a roller coaster of optimism (over one million people showed up in organized marches, vowing to resist President Trump! This is empowering!) and doom and gloom (what is this presidency going to mean for our country, the people, my children, the world?)

Nothing very good comes out of feeling stuck and stressed, that feeling of wanting to curl up in a fetal position and wait for something to change. Fortunately, I know that behaving as a child stuck in dysfunction behaves- appeasing, accommodating, denying, self-blaming or escaping- will not work in this situation either. Fear will most definitely not work.

But what do we do?

We take care of ourselves and each other, because raising our consciousness as individuals and as families, will raise the consciousness of our country, our world, our planet. It sounds so vague perhaps, but really it’s simple.

Do the next right thing. Whatever is right in this very moment, no matter how small, is the thing we do. And then the next and the next.

When I look around me, it seems we are doing it. We march. We write. We speak up. We make the call, make the art, make the bed.

Go to work.  Take a nap. Hug a child. Go for a run. Eat your vegetables. Sweep the damn floor.

Be in this moment, taking a breath, and being true to yourself right now.

The little steps may clear a pathway for bigger ones, but sometimes the right thing to do is to just do the right thing without knowing what is next. The simplest, most basic right thing is underestimated. It’s the path to peace, to healing, to change. It’s the way to our own souls and our own souls are the way to the collective soul.

We can do this.

 

 

Not Just Another New Year’s Resolution

 

images treeI LOVE the New Year holiday because we get to make whatever we want of it.

It’s the holiday that asks the bigger questions.

What do you want to make of this year?

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Okay, I stole that line from poet Mary Oliver).

New Year’s appeals to the list maker and the goal setter in me.

I was not always a goal setter.  For years I had vague and marvelous things I wanted to do on replay in my head, but never a plan.

I am an excellent dreamer.  I could dream with the best of them. And as other introverts know, there is plenty going on inside my head to keep me occupied for years.  Take action? But I am so very entertained right here inside my own noggin. 

This can be a bad thing, in case you didn’t know.  Without a plan that includes specific action steps and time limits I would be, well, dreamin’ my life away.

Then I started to have concrete goals and planned them out and what do ya know, when I take action things actually start to happen!

Why didn’t they teach me this in school? Oh wait- this is real life we are talking about here- it’s more like quantum physics than academia.

I like the ‘work backwards’ technique. What do I want to accomplish by the end of 2017? What would that require of me?  Then I break it down. What do I need to do on a weekly basis?  Daily? What time block? And I write it down.

Most of my own goals are writing ones, and are pretty easy to define,  but I think even broad, vague sounding goals such as “get healthy” or “enjoy life” can be broken down into specific actions if we get clear on what those goals mean to us.

Perhaps it should be called a New Year’s plan instead of a New Year’s resolution.  Maybe that makes all the difference.

So what do you want in 2017?

As the poet John Anster famously said:

 Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Brain Food

20161213_183954Last night I drank caffeinated green tea after dinner and it kept me awake half the night. When I finally gave up on sleeping, I went downstairs and watched the YouTube videos of Dr. Daniel Amen. The guy knows the brain inside out and is passionate about the care of this amazing organ. Ironically, sleep is one of the brain’s critical needs.

And I’ve known this. I’ve stressed the importance of sleep to my kids over the years, to the point of sounding like a broken record. When we haven’t had enough sleep, we don’t function as well, we are more prone to poor eating habits, skipping exercise, irritability and accidents. I knew it would not bode well for me to be wide awake at 3 a.m., and yet I was not sorry to be taking in Dr. Amen’s knowledge.

20160602_170831-2Diet and exercise are also critical to healthy brain functioning. We know this already, right? But I usually think of these things as important for my body and my heart. Rarely do I focus on the fact that I am caring for this incredible, elastic bundle of nerve cells. And what really makes me want to jump up and down is how the brain’s upkeep affects our overall happiness in a BIG way. Our mood, judgement, creativity and attention are all  results of the brain. I would say all those things together affect the spirit. As Dr. Amen says, when your brain works, your life works. 

What are you feeding your brain? 

That is the question I am going to ask myself from now on.
20160503_111231I am feeding it eight hours of sleep most nights, plus exercise and meditation. And I am feeding it some pretty yummy things too, like spaghetti squash and shredded zucchini and quinoa stuffed peppers and salmon over spinach. 20160801_171519-1

 

Our brains needs a lot of water, and of course, intellectual stimulation and empowering thoughts. We can nurture and stretch our brains, or let them atrophy. We can feed them well or neglect them.

We can literally grow and heal our brains by making healthy choices. 

I’m drinking the decaf tea tonight.

My brain has some sleep to catch up on.