Fourth Month Rituals

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 April’s rituals, shared here to inspire, encourage, and sometimes enlighten as a wellness enthusiast.

Occupational Wellness

Working from home now.

I’ve decided I like it.

Grateful that I can.

Yep, that was a haiku. Add that to the list of privileges afforded by working remotely — time for poetry about working remotely. My company started sending out feelers this week to see who could/would consider working remotely on a permanent basis. I believe I could do it. Compelling factors include how much money I save now that I’m not commuting, significantly less stress, and flex time.

I discovered it requires a certain amount of courage to use flex time. My company will let me work non-traditional hours if I want to or need to while working from home. I tried it a few times this month to take advantage of non-storm weather patterns (see the next category for relevance). I got up early to knock out half a day’s work so I could toil outdoors when a weather break was forecast. Then I switched on my Out of Office reply and stepped out for a few hours to return in the afternoon and finish up. Sounds great, right? For me, scary. Yep. I’m scared of flex time. I was scared of flex time.

I found it stressful to walk away from the inbox and ringing phone. Letting call after call go to voicemail. Imagining clients/coworkers getting pissed and impatient. I worried the whole time. It was tough to let go. Control of my workflow is critical for me; task management, crisis prevention, efficiency, this is my wheelhouse. I solve small problems while they are small. Immediately. Stepping away and letting things wait a couple of hours? No. Not. Logically I should be able to do it because I know I’m headed right back into the zone at a scheduled time but my brain did not cooperate. At first. I kept working on it; moving into the discomfort, not away from it.

So my wellness practice evolves. Flex time is a new ritual. Not every day, but as long as I have the opportunity I will continue to use it as a chance to practice overcoming my fears of not being on top of everything all the time. So far, none — ZERO — of the awful scenarios I imagined have happened. None of the terrible consequences have come to pass. No one has reacted as I feared. Surely it would be okay to let myself enjoy flex time, wouldn’t it? I’m working on it.

Environmental Wellness

The garden beds are in. Frames built, soil tilled, manure, etc. A triad of small-scale food production. Vegan, organic, homegrown. I’m now practicing the ritual of backyard farming.

This was the first day, laying out the grid. They are small because I’m short, ergo short reach, and square because the math was easier.

Later in the month. Filled, tilled, and ready for roots.

And finally, some glamour shots of the food now being watered by storm after storm. The Guardians of the food have their own glamour shots shown below. Not that I don’t adore bunnies and squirrels and birds, but this project is not for them.

Emotional Wellness & Relationships

I put these two categories together because there was symbiosis between them this month. My beloved heart has been especially full of feelings for my friends who are self-employed right now. Several of them are also far away, so any ritual of help I might offer would be the long-distance variety. Can I send you anything?, etc.

The most we can exchange at the moment are personal updates. This speaks of how well my self-employed friends manage self-employment. In order to do it for a long time, Be Your Own Bosses must be prepared for times like these. As in plan for and expect to hit some skids, have a strategy to survive before a crisis hits, maintain reserves for lean times, the unforeseen, and sudden downturns. So far they all swear they are good, so the check-ins become less crisis-chat and more of a chance to say nice things to each other.

How long have we neglected that, folks? The chance to say nice things to each other. Which means I get to hear nice things too, such as the refreshing way someone else’s eyes interpret my circumstances.

Me: No one can figure out what’s wrong with my beloved heart. So far every test is negative or normal.

My friend: You’re so mysterious. It’s a calling.

Clang. That’s the sound of my bell being rung. Mysterious. Not blighted, not disordered, not challenged. Mysterious. I could weep at the magic of it. That’s the gift of the shift. I have taken to calling such things the gift of the shift. My mind immediately jumps the track of what’s wrong with my beloved heart to the reminder there is nothing wrong with my beloved heart. Instead of a design flaw perhaps I have a design flair.

I’ve heard the legend of a tribe of folk who walk among us with benign heart arrhythmia. What makes them so special?

Answer: their friends.

Physical Wellness

The short list of month to month physical wellness rituals is a song you know by now: tennis, running, hiking, yoga. But with pandemic twists. Gyms are closed so strength training also counts as a creativity exercise. For example, if you squat with a shovelful of dirt, you’re double-crosstraining. Extra credit if you overhead press the shovel post-release. Don’t lunge though. You’ll dump your load.

Tennis is getting harder because all of the public courts are now closed and most of the private ones are too. Tennis remains one of the few group activities you can play six feet apart but the decision-makers regarding access to the courts are obviously not tennis players. The only way to get on a court these days is to make friends with someone who has one in his/her/their neighborhood. There’s no serving since we can’t touch the balls. We have to use long-handled grabbers to collect the balls and racquet-bounce them to get them aloft. We’ve also had to create our own wheeled ball carts for no-touch collection. You can see one such handy dandy parked below in the slideshow.

Off peak; low traffic.

Hiking trails are super-crowded now. Unless you choose off-peak hours, wilderness areas win by default, which means bushwacking. So it is harder now. But I can do hard things. I’ve always done hard things.

I chose the purple flower this month because it carries the message of Do It Anyway. Even when things are hard. Click the link for more on that.

Running is the only thing I haven’t had to modify, other than costume changes. We’ve had our last cold snap for the year here in Mercyburg. If you’re wondering why nearly every damn post-run photo for the past four months has been in that ratty old blue shirt; it is my favorite ratty old blue shirt.

Falling apart but perfect in every way. So old it must be de-stink-ified on the regular but perfect in every way. Perfect weight, length, fit, function, and versatility. For seven years it is the cold weather go-to. The iron man of activewear. First out of the drawer, fresh out of the wash, right back in action. Retired now for the season. See you in October, old friend.

Spiritual Wellness

Now that I am working from home the ritual of changing location for meditation and spiritual practice has become downright critical on some days, and simply uplifting on others. Tough work days still happen even though I’m at home, and on those days I need to get away from the work space even though it is also home. As you probably already know, water is especially conducive. I often call it liquid church.

Just like with the tennis courts, the public parks with lakes and ponds are locked down, so one must seek out the privately managed (or collectively owned) and ask permission. So far no one has said No to a solitary person sitting quietly on the dock or a blanket staring silently at the water and not touching anything.

But wait, there’s more. The locations which happen to also serve as good running or hiking venues joy it all up exponentially. Silver linings, y’all. They’re out there.

Intellectual Wellness & Creativity

Documentaries: Mindfulness: Be Happy Now (Gaia) and Life Story (BBC).

Books read: The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan

In addition to the return of poetry there was an uptick in photographs this month. Lots of ritual candlelight this month, even on weeknights, which always serves to boost creativity.

If last month’s learning rituals were all about cardiac care, this month’s learning was all about planting and cultivating. Seeds, soil, space, sun. Everything one needs to know to grow her own food. Yes, mock if you will, but I’m now a student of the 2020 edition of Farmer’s Almanac. Because I’m not half-assing this shit. And the truth is the truth; kneeling on the Earth tending things with my hands is soothing. Air, water, earth, fire and spirit. It works on mind, body, and soul. The fact that I’m doing it to feed myself is all the more satisfying.

And it has sparked a Social Wellness component as well. My elderly neighbors are lonely. If they were lonely before, they are now COVID lonely. They have watched the breaking of ground turn into crop squares with interest and come speak to me over the fence every time I’m outside working. They grow one crop over on their side of the fence — huge red tomatoes. They generously shower me with their overflow when the harvest comes in. Every summer they wordlessly hang bag after bag of surplus tomatoes on the fence for me. This summer I’m returning the favor.

I have planted different varieties/colors than theirs so we can trade and share heirlooms and hybrids over the summer. And cucumbers, squash, zucchini, lettuce, beans, peppers, and herbs. I will repay their every kindness with produce and continue going to the fence to ease their loneliness until they can socialize again. A decade we’ve been neighbors who only smile and wave and toss back wayward dog toys. Now we are neighbors who take care of each other. I’m learning the value of such things.

If this is happening in some measure wherever you are, I hope such things never go back to normal. Taking care of each other is better. It’s a ritual we should honor whether we are in crisis or not. But more truth; the most compelling lessons are often learned the hard way. Those of us with the means have adapted our lifestyles so quickly and willingly in response, perhaps because we believe this is all temporary. We’ve all proven ourselves some kind of wrong about our needs and tolerances and abilities. Which of our adaptations will become permanent now?

See you back here next month, friends.

— Mercy

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