Last year I called these end-of-month posts my highlight reels. This year I’m thinking more along the lines of junior high algebra class. Remember when we had to solve the equations but also detail how we solved them? Teachers would note on the assignment, “Show your work,” which meant we couldn’t just provide the correct answer. We had to show how we arrived at the answer.
Eschewing the notion of correct answers, I’m applying the same directive here and showing the work of wellness. This is what worked in January, dividing overall wellness into six categories — Occupational, Emotional, Physical, Intellectual, Social, and Spiritual. Not necessarily in that order.
• January was a test run to see if I really needed a purse or wallet every day. The data is in — I don’t. There is no more purse on my arm just because I’m leaving my house. You read that correctly. I stopped carrying a purse every day. Yep. I’m not kidding. That means no wallet. I don’t carry money anymore unless I’m on my way to spend it. Monday through Friday I’ve got a bag with a book or notebook in it and my lunch. Identification and cell phone. That’s it. The number of emergencies for which I might have needed money or anything else in a purse? Zero. The number of times I stopped on my way to or from work to spend money? Zero. I gassed up on the weekend. I saved myself from spending money unnecessarily at least three or four times when I went to reach for my wallet and remembered, oh yeah, that’s right, I have no money with me. How many times did this cause the world to end or lives to be ruined? Zero.
• The no purse thing was a big deal the day I cut my own hair. Mm-hmm. I’ve been growing it into ever-increasing lengths of frumpy dumpy mom hair because I wanted to try cutting it myself. Everything I’ve read says cutting your own hair takes practice so I figured as a newbie I’d need some extra length on which to practice — some margin for error, if you will. I’ve had to endure weeks of crappy, shapeless, Lifetime movie polygamist sister-wife hair to get there but last week I finally did it. I did it at work, after hours, with the door locked and office empty, so I wouldn’t go home and lose my nerve. For those who mean to undertake this I did it four steps, all of which are easy to Google:
Step 1: The high ponytail method for layers.
Step 2: The low pigtails method for length.
Step 3: The low ponytail method for shape.
And then I freaked out and grabbed my phone and started typing the text message to my spouse…”I’m going to be home a little late. I’m headed to the salon to get my hair cut” except I remembered before I finished the message that I DID NOT HAVE ANY MONEY WITH ME. I couldn’t cave. I had to see this thing through. I had to march home and get my Step 4.
Step 4: Get a friend or spouse to clean up any scraggles you can’t reach or see in the back. Be calm and firm and very direct when requesting this. Give crystal clear directions. Promise him or her that it doesn’t need to be perfect and yes, you really, really want them to do it.
Step 4 turned out to be the best part. The Chef trimmed up the messy bits in the back and took off an extra half-inch that made all the difference in the world. In just under 45 seconds it went from What have I done? to swingy sassy style. He did such a fantastic job I almost cried in relief. I now have a glorious choppy bob with angled bangs and a spouse who will be much more likely to do it again because I was not a screeching hysterical mess. I’ve been trimming my own bangs for a while now so I didn’t include them as a Step 5, but you might want to, providing your balls ever get as big as mine.
• Continued the Spending Fast. In January, an additional $476 was paid toward consumer debt as a result of no spending on non-essentials. Once again, ask the average person if she’s got an extra $476 dollars per month and she’s likely to say No. That’s likely because she’s spending it and not because she isn’t earning it.
• Slowly working up the courage to take on Project 333. I’m getting there. I might have to start with a Project 666 (gasp! oh glob!). In January I made a bold strike in that direction by with the declaration, If I do not love it I will not wear it, which means I also refuse to own it. Each garment that comes off the hanger or out of the drawer to be worn gets the Do I love this? test. If it fails the test, the garment no longer lives in my house. Although I haven’t bought any non-essential clothing since October it will also apply to future purchases. This means NO MORE buying something simply because it’s a great deal or marked down on clearance. If I do not love it, it doesn’t matter how low the price. I will not own it.
This notion that we can’t pass up a bargain is part of the scarcity mindset. The scarcity mindset says I don’t have enough money so I’d better snatch up a great deal on something I don’t need right now and hoard it for when I do need it but can’t afford to buy it. For me, it is a leftover habit from growing up in poverty. We were too poor to buy what we liked; we had to settle for what we could afford, especially when it came to clothing.
We accepted clothes that were free or bought clothes because they were 75% off regardless of whether or not we liked them. It was wrong and wasteful to say No Thanks to a bargain or a freebie. That habit carries into adulthood. That fact that something is a great deal overrules the fact that I wouldn’t buy the item at full price even if I had the money — because I don’t really like it, it isn’t practical to my lifestyle, isn’t flattering or doesn’t fit well, etc. This is how we fill our homes with clothes we rarely or never wear. No more. If I don’t love it, it can be free or nearly free to someone else.
• Updated my resume, but not for the reason you think. I’ve learned to keep certain things up to date since I never know when I’m going to need them — my RoadID, my passport, and my resume. Now that I’m eight months into my current employment situation I’ve got a good enough grasp of what I do to describe it. It is uniquely satisfying to write it all down and see it in print. A job description is not the same because it only outlines what is expected of me. A resume details the actual accomplishments, experiences, and the expenditures of my time and energy. It helps me appreciate what I do to view the work from an alternate perspective once in a while, as opposed to the daily grind.
• Took half a day and did the work to get myself and my household removed from junk mail databases, newsletters, subscription lists, and email lists. I don’t mean your average Unsubscribe dealio. This was a laborious process which required filling out forms for multiple mass mail entities and sending in real signatures. It was worth it. The junk mail coming into my home is slowly starting to dry up now. The few pieces that do make it through get sent right back out Return To Sender.
Since the Do Not Call List doesn’t work anymore, I also took the time to find a robocall blocking app for my cell phone to stop the incessant spam calls and texts that come morning, noon, and night. I got a 30-day free trial on this so there was nothing to lose. What a difference! It’s not perfect or foolproof but it is an enormous relief. In February I will pay the $20 annual fee to continue the service indefinitely. It was either this or stop using a cell phone because the FTC simply cannot keep up with this anymore, no matter how many complaints I file.
• The new series A Year Ago This Week; a completely spontaneous undertaking. It continues to serve me well so I continue to write and reflect upon it.
• Making fire in the backyard. Summer’s most soothing ritual transcends three seasons.
• Reviving the Peaco play, currently featured in Wellness Today posts.
• Continuing work on my novel; still loving it.
• Cradling creativity and soaking up winter sunshine with shadow photos — yoga in a dress X 2, can’t fence me in, flirting with gravity and an unintentional pantsuit silhouette that makes me miss Mary Tyler Moore.
• Running or hiking 16 of 31 days. Sick for 10 days; 5 general rest days.
• Yoga 20 of 31 days. Sick for 10 days; 1 general rest day. In the throes of my ten-day illness, gave myself the gift of a lazy Sunday with no guilt, no reproach, no flagellation.
• Cooked several meals. When you’re married to a Chef you naturally defer to his talent and desire to do all or most of the cooking. In January I said Let me.
• Let’s talk about boobies. Titties. Breasteses. Hooters. I love boobs. I love my boobs. Good running bras designed to support anything bigger than a B cup are hideously expensive. It’s a fact of life for well-endowed running chicks. Over the years we make peace with sucking it up and forking over the cash to keep the bouncing and chafing and overall discomfort managed well enough to keep us on the road. It’s either pay the price or do something besides run.
If you buy the cheap ones you’ll replace them every few months. If you pony up for the good stuff, wash ’em in cold and never put them in the dryer, you can make them last a year or more, depending on use. I’m on a Spending Fast. All running bras from my last big purchase reached the end of of their life cycle months ago. So I’ve been suffering, trying to nurse them along, rationalizing that I can deal with it because I’m not racing or doing super-long mileage and the critical hot-weather months are still reasonably distant.
Maybe it was the virus. Maybe it was the Women’s March. Maybe it was the Wolf Full Moon. Whatever it was, I said Enough of this shit! and declared the replacement of running bras to be essential spending. In one fell swoop I grabbed those worn-out over the shoulder boulder holders and chucked them. This was not a small concession considering three new bras set me back over $200. However, as soon as the virus subsided enough for me to take my first feeble mucus-laden jogs, I was so grateful I spent the damn money. The takeaway: don’t be seduced into crippling one wellness practice to boost another. They need to operate in harmony and support each other.
• Attended a baseball banquet with The Chef (who continues to side-hustle as a sportswriter). Got dressed up, carried a purse, ate dinner with local celebrities, faked no smiles or laughter. I don’t get to meet many strangers anymore unless it is work-related. It did me good to get out of my routine of work, gym, home and spend time with People At Large.
• Welcomed the reach-out of several friends who have just now noticed I’m missing from social media and accepted invitations to reconnect face-to-face. It’s nice to be missed. And it is good practice to maintain positive relationships with people still living on SocMed without preaching to them about why I’ve sworn off SocMed (that’s my newly shortened term for social media). It is good practice to spend quality time with quality people and not need to convert them or convince them. Here on my own turf and on my own time, I’m a Zee EE AY zealot. But sharing someone else’s time on common ground, it makes better wellness sense to love and let live and let folks come to this decision without me in their faces, beating their brows.
• Cleaned the fluff out my blog reader (I use Feedly) and restocked it with bloggers who teach, inspire and challenge me, and call the bullshit. It is not unusual for some bloggers to use their blogs as larger social media pages, which is not wrong or bad. But one of the perks of giving up social media is reclaiming more of a choice over what I see and read. Social media fed me information in a scroll. I couldn’t choose not to see that content until after I’d already seen it and then made the choice to hide or unfriend or unfollow. My free time is too sacred to squander ingesting information chosen by someone else, be it news feed or blog roll. A judicious clean-out of my blog reader was another step in that direction — making better choices over what I put into my mind and how I
waste spend my time.
• Updated the About page and Links for this blog, which desperately needed to be re-tooled. This had the effect of an organization examining its original mission statement from time to time to make sure what they do is in alignment with what they really mean to accomplish. It helped realign my sights. I tuned the piano. I adjusted my focus. Honed the blade. Pick your metaphor; it emphasized why I do this — to show the work of wellness, promote that work, and do what I can to help make my world well, starting with myself.
• Watched the Minimalism documentary. I already follow the blog and the blogs of several of the contributors, so when the film became available I was an easy sell. I do recommend.
• Let’s talk tech. I love boobs. I despise overly complicated gadgetry. A dead giveaway that something is overly complicated is the use of the prefix Smart in the name of the gadget. I have a Smart TV leftover from my yoga business. When I opened a yoga teacher training school I needed a larger screen than my laptop for teaching certain modules. I’ve got it in my home office now. Ever since I brought it home the sound on this TV would adjust itself at random times, up and down, up and down, and I’d have to scramble for the remote to bring it back to a reasonable volume. It was maddening. I tried to troubleshoot. I tried to reset it. I tried hard not to smash it.
I realize there are people out there who get all tingly and jazzed over electronics but I am NOT one of them. I don’t want 50 cool optional functions and special settings for every conceivable life situation. I want to plug the damn thing in and use it for one function — just one — and have it work correctly without spending six weeks learning a manual or fussing with a thousand modes. My [smart]phone is about as technical as I can stand.
I won’t even drive The Chef’s new car because it’s a computer on wheels. It’s all Smart. I call it The Bridge from Star Trek, without the crew. Everything is voice-activated and there are too many beeps, alerts, panels, flashing screens and cameras, things that heat themselves, things that turn on and off by themselves, automatically become wi-fi, talk to all the other electronics in the car, and warn me with frightening video game graphics that there are other cars behind me and beside me. I hate this. It’s too much. I don’t want all that stuff. I happily retreat to my primitive Dumb Car that does nothing but drive and haul my ass around. When my Smart TV volume became possessed by demons smarter than me my instinct was to give it away or throw it away because Nope!
I’m proud to say I did neither. I got online and read a bunch of stupid electronic know-how and DIYed that mother. I fixed it myself. I’ll even milk it for extra impress value and say I repaired it myself. The takeaway here is that I had to fix my brain first. I had to get out of my own way. I had to adjust my own settings. Big deal. Big shift. Big mental growth. And then yes, I fixed the hell out of that TV. Gold stars. Extra credit. Rockstar status reaffirmed. Just imagine what might be possible now.
• Morning prayers and evening vespers.
• Writing out the Word of the Year post.
• Repurposed strings of Christmas lights destined for the landfill into fairy lighting for my home yoga studio/writing sanctuary. This probably sounds more economical or frugal than spiritual but not when you turn off all the lamps in the room, plug in those lights, take some deep breaths, and let the armor fall away. It’s the reason we love candles. Everything softens. I become receptive. I surrender, let go, decompress. I listen instead of speak. I want to spend more time in the space because I’ve changed the way it feels. This wellness of environment directly affects wellness of spirit.
• In the same room I spent $9.95 for a tiny thrift store table someone spray-painted blue, because I gave my desk to the Chef for his new business. My lap is mighty but it can only hold so much. A writer needs a surface for her journals, her pens, her coffee cup, and her USB ports. But she also needs to keep the space mostly clear — visually and physically — for yoga and meditation. My place of devotion needs to support all my devotions and my writing is high among them. Seven days a week now I go this room, plug in the lights, and either roll out my mat or pull up the tiny blue table, and practice wellness of spirit. Seven days a week, people. A string of lights and a cheap secondhand table makes me want to go to church seven days a week. Powerful stuff, y’all.
So what didn’t work? That Frugal Living Challenge thing. Not because there was anything wrong with the challenge but because I am already doing most of the activities suggested by the challenge. I signed up for a 31-day challenge I didn’t really need. Clearly I needed a course on how to work all my Smart stuff more than I needed a course on how to manage my finances. So that was less than thrilling.
I’m still hanging on to Twitter as a news outlet, with heavy edits on who I will follow. The news is not well right now. It upsets me. It angers me. It frightens me. That’s not Twitter’s fault. I’m opting not to look away because this news is rooted in issues of national wellness. The Constitution of the United States is the foundation of our government. We either uphold and defend the Constitution or we rewrite it but we don’t get to contradict or countermand it. It’s not unlike me wanting to throw the malfunctioning TV in the trash rather than figure out how to fix it.
If the Constitutional freedoms of any group of Americans are eroded, the Constitution becomes gradually worthless. We become liars and posers. We either didn’t really mean what we wrote in the Constitution or we don’t have the courage to live up to the responsibility of what we wrote. This ceases to be the home of the brave and becomes the home of the scared shitless hiding behind locked doors. If the process by which people become American is taken away based on religion or ethnicity, we reduce the relevance and significance of being American. We become exactly what we fled. Where will freedom exist in the world if it doesn’t exist in America?
Will I be grandfathered in because I happen to be the right variety of human being when the Constitution becomes worthless?
Will I be required to prove I’m the right variety by registering my convictions? Will I be condemned if I don’t claim the god of my dictators?
When the balance of power changes will I suddenly be the wrong kind of human being and thus ineligible and unworthy of my previous rights? Will the nation cleanse itself of people like me?
Or people like you? Or people who fled here because their own nations wanted to cleanse them and WE PROMISED THEM IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN HERE? This is how it starts. Word of advice Americans — don’t leave the country right now, not even on vacation. You might not get back in if you were ever nice to someone America doesn’t like.
For the time being I’m going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. With respect to national wellness I am choosing to be unwell — upset, angry, frightened — rather than stand down, look away, or run off to a yoga retreat. I’m going to have to answer these questions and do this work, be it hard, uncomfortable, or unpopular. Like it or not, so are you. So must we.
It has never been more true that wellness is a practice. January was a hell of a month. My personal work seems so small in light of the shit-tons of national work to be done. I see that. But I also see that I don’t get to stop doing my job in my daily life just because people with bigger jobs are doing them badly. The work to be done will require citizens who are well. I remain hopeful, willing, and intentional. May our practices favor our promises and honor the privilege of sustaining the freedom to practice.
— Say Rashity Junior
(january is history)