Second Month Rituals

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Here we are again; a ritual return. Back when this became a wellness blog I called each of these end-of-the-month posts my Work Release. The idea was to show the work which goes into wellness as a practice to reinforce that wellness is indeed a practice and it is indeed work. To support my 2020 theme of Ritual, I’ve elected to describe these posts as Rituals themselves, in addition to being filled with rituals which support wellness. Welcome to a highlight reel of February’s rituals, shared here to inspire, encourage, and sometimes enlighten as a wellness enthusiast.

Intellectual Wellness & Creativity

Creativity nose-dived this month due to illness. Yep, that was a pun. I caught a nasty virus which mushroomed into a hideous secondary infection and all I managed was two blog posts and all of these photos. Most notable is a non-sports-related self-portrait (above), which is rare these days. You’ll notice it was taken lying down. The mojo obviously picked up once the slime began to drain. But this category isn’t all all about being creative. It’s also about intellectual stimulation and learning and I had plenty of downtime.

Books read: The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy, Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, and A Transcontinental Affair by Jodi Daynard.

Documentaries: Unnatural Selection (Netflix), The Pharmacist (Netflix), Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC) and The Keepers (Netflix).

Spiritual Wellness:

I chose a different Yantra for meditation this month. Hop back to January (First Month Rituals) if you need an explanation of yantra practice. January’s choice was the Moon. For February I chose the Sun.

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The day of my birth happened in February. This day happens to also be an ancient European holiday and festival called Imbolc. It is the halfway point between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox, therefore it was celebrated as the return of the sun, with the days gradually getting longer and longer. Although in America we don’t celebrate the first day of Spring until well into March, this is when the ancestors would begin Spring preparations. The whole thing was later Christian-ized and renamed, and over centuries in the New World, mostly forgotten. You can google its resurrection by pagan folk around the world to learn more.

I’ve written about this several times over the years, so the observance is by no means new to this month. But new for 2020 is the ritual of festival, rather than just a holi-day. I celebrated all month long with various ancient rituals. Before you get your Puritan panties all wrinkled in angst, many of these rituals are as benign as Spring Cleaning. You thought this was a modern invention? Nope. Spring Cleaning was originally a spiritual observance. I’m appropriating it with aplomb, along with feasting (vegan gumbo), prepping the fields (garden), various prayers (self-explanatory), and ceremonial fires (the annual rite of the paper file purge is a favorite).

Physical Wellness:

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Safety rituals

Wellness took a bit hit in this category in February. As mentioned above I was sick for over half of the month, so the ritual observed the most was that of getting myself well. I missed work. I missed runs. I didn’t play as much tennis or get on the yoga mat. This doesn’t mean the work load was any lighter; it was simply different work. Healing oneself requires monumental efforts of other kinds, such as saying No and surrendering to rest so the immune system can fortify and rebound. And then when we start to feel better, easing back to normal activities, as opposed to trying to make up for lost time. Took me years to appreciate the wisdom of this.

But I did choose a different flower for the month and as the viral plague abated, got back to the rituals of physical wellness as shown below. One of the best ways to prevent re-infection is to avoid the gym while the body’s defenses are low. Germs are at the gym because people are at the gym. So I practiced the ritual of digging out all the free giveaway blinky lights and reflectors dumped into every cheap marketing goody bag from every convention, class, clinic, race, expo, or charity event I’ve ever attended; a smattering of which is shown above. This also counts as Financial Wellness. Don’t buy safety gear if you can get it for free. Who cares if there is an ortho clinic logo on it? It’s dark out. No one’s going to notice anything but the weird bouncing light on the side of the road anyway.

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Yep, one of those is snow! We don’t get much snow in Mercyburg but if at all possible I never miss a chance to play in it, sick or not. There was no accumulation so no sno-ga (snow yoga), only a quick jaunt before it all disappeared. But speaking of precipitation; although I called January the rainiest-ass month, damn if February didn’t treat that as a challenge, hence all the shots of puddles and mud.

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As for the awards, there are fewer of them this month because I’m back down to one device. It turns out they both weren’t compatible with the third party app the company chose so I can’t earn double prizes for the same effort.

Financial/Occupational Wellness

I continued the ritual of Zero Surplus this month. Hop back to First Month Rituals (January) for a more detailed explanation but in a nutshell, this is the practice of zeroing out your bank account every time time you get paid. Or rather, right before you get paid.  Again, more discussion on this in January’s post.

New this month in Financial Wellness is the ritual of not taking an upgrade every time I happen to be eligible for one. In February this happened to be eyeglasses. Even with vision insurance eyeglasses are ridiculously expensive. Folks who wear progressive lenses typically can’t use the online discount options. We have to buy in-store to ensure correct lens measurements. And contacts are not usually a better option (an exercise in frustration for progressive needs), so we’re still talking hundreds of dollars per pair of glasses even with vision insurance. So here’s a pro tip: if your vision hasn’t changed enough to truly justify a new prescription you can probably wait another year.

I got my annual eye exam this month. In a year’s time my vision only changed slightly in one eye. With last year’s glasses I am still seeing 20/20. Even though my insurance company says I can get new ones, even my doctor agreed last year’s glasses will continue to work fine for another year. They are still in good shape. They are still under warranty. Even though we are led to believe new lenses/frames are “covered” most of us don’t wear the option/styles which qualify as covered. Most of us are wearing better materials with  better functionality with protective coatings for UV and computer light, which are not covered.

I had a long conversation with the opto-tech about the fact that my insurance company says new lenses are 100% covered but when I get to the end of the transaction I still owe a couple of hundred dollars even if I put them in my old frames. Almost no one wears the old-fashioned, thick, heavy, lined bi-focal lenses which are 100% covered. Modern technology has given us thinner, lighter, malleable materials which are more comfortable and certainly more attractive, but cost extra. And frames? Double ditto. Don’t get me started on frames. The old-fashioned clunker lenses won’t even fit in modern frames. So if I don’t really NEED these right now, why fork over $400 just for a fashionable new look with such little benefit to my actual eyeballs? I didn’t. It can wait a year. I’ll save it. Not every upgrade is smart, y’all, especially if the benefit doesn’t justify the expense.

The Occupational Health category gets little conversation on this blog now that I no longer work in staffing, but February brought an OccHealth ritual back into the spotlight. If you are working a half-day and everyone knows it, leaving early for something that will definitely not take a half a day and everyone knows it, exercising the option to take some PTO for pleasure independent of your appointment and everyone knows it, say Yes to the pain-in-the-ass task/favor when you are asked to do it before you go. Especially if it is your supervisor asking you to do it. Even if it is not your turn. Even if you just did the last one. You’re leaving early today. Do the thing. And be f*cking cheerful about it.

Social Wellness

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My infirmity prevented me from socializing much this month. I spent most conversations in zombie mode explaining that I was not contagious despite sounding/looking otherwise and after the second week, telling folks I was tired of answering the question, “How are you feeling?” I finally had to say it straight out, “I don’t want to talk about how I’m feeling.” It was obvious enough. Why keep asking just to fulfill a social obligation disguised as concern? Once we’ve covered the contagious question, folks are generally only interested in your symptoms so they can give you unsolicited advice or tell you a story of similar suffering. I want to talk about that even less than my horrid symptoms.

But once I was feeling well enough I did bite the bullet and join my tennis teammates for practice matches. This counts as social wellness because it forces me out of my social comfort zone. For instance, I can hit a decent ball in practice but as soon as we call it a match, I choke under the pressure, even if it is a casual match. It doesn’t matter that it’s tennis; it could be any team activity. I am so loathe to choke during competition and let down a team that I’ve avoided league play. In a league you can’t play singles all the time. You have to play doubles as well, and this is where I falter.

This is where I was going to write that yes, I did choke in the very first practice match. Yep. Hard. I hit awesome balls during warmups but as soon as the match started, well … you know. We lost. I was going to write that I’m committed anyway. I’ve paid my money. I have to show up or the team forfeits, which is worse than losing. I was going to write that have to do this through the fear and tension and disappointment because saying Yes to doing it anyway is a ritual designed to prompt growth and I’d like to grow out of my avoidance. The Universe intervened after I’d already drafted those sentences. I’m changing my tune.

My coach is launching a new program focused on the mental/emotional aspect of the game. Designed for players of all levels who defeat themselves before they ever step on the court or who no longer enjoy it due to reasons similar to mine. I nibbled on the bait. After just the introductory meeting I’m already rethinking my negative reinforcements and declarations of defeat made under the guise of being self-aware. If it was true that I choke under pressure it was only true because I believed it; not because I always do. So I guess you could say I’ve signed up for tennis therapy. More to come on this.

Environmental Wellness

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I continued the standard rituals of composting, rigorous recycling, and waste reduction via reduced consumption. That’s all stuff I do every month. It isn’t exciting or particularly interesting to detail these effort every month but there are highlights. One of those highlights is the way these rituals influence and inspire other folks to make better choices they might not have made without exposure to my rituals. I told you last month I made a big deal of darning a fine sweater for a younger co-worker in the office because a) no one taught her even the basic sewing stitches and b) she planned to throw the holey sweater away. I repaired the hole to keep it out of the landfill. This January ritual had a bigger impact which would come to fruition in February.

Our company provides us with branded clothing. These are high-quality items, not cheap promo junk. Every few months we get to order items embroidered with the company logo and/or we are given branded specialty items to wear to community events. After you’ve been with the company for a while you accumulate a lot of these clothes. When a colleague resigned this month I suggested she bring in the company gear she would never wear again (since she was leaving for a competitor) rather than throw it away. She did, and her cast-offs were divided appropriately among the crew. But this one suggestion prompted a larger swap event.

Company gear is not returnable if it doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable, isn’t as attractive as it appeared in the catalog, itches or chafes, etc. And if something doesn’t fit over time due to body/weight changes or shrinkage, lots of folks get stuck with lots of high-quality company clothing they can’t wear. So we held an informal swap meet at the office and re-homed these items. And it all started because I mended a hole in a company sweater for one of the millennials and then suggested a farewell donation. As I said last month, these are small actions but the larger point is to make people rethink how to deal with broken or unusable things. More specifically, to not habitually think of reusable or repairable items as disposable. It’s working. I’m pleased.

Emotional Wellness

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There were no highlights to report in this category other than the tennis therapy mentioned above. Being so horribly sick for so long caused low points rather than highlights. But the rebound is worth a mention, because I am grateful, and gratitude is a powerful ritual. I made it through.

The worst was when I slid off the couch into Child’s Pose with my forehead on the floor because I was so desperate to equalize the pressure and sinus pain in my head. While I was down there I surrendered to tears of exhaustion and leaked snot all over the hardwood. The best was three weeks later when I was finally able to laugh at full strength without choking on phlegm and I articulated this particular delight as a prayer of thanks.

Amen.

A short month managed to yield a long post so I’m stopping here. Sometimes I forget this is a highlight reel and not a compendium. Bottom line — wellness is work. Ritualizing the work makes it feel less like work but wellness doesn’t just happen. And since the work never ends I will meet you back here in March with burgeoning reserves of freshly earned antibodies.

— Mercy

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