Tenth Month Rituals

Here we are again; a ritual return. Ritual highlights are ready to reel. Back when this became a wellness blog I called each of these end-of-the-month posts my Work Release. To support my 2020 theme of Ritual, I have elected to describe and observe these monthly posts as Rituals themselves, in addition to being filled with rituals which support wellness. Welcome to a highlight reel of October’s rituals, shared here to inspire, encourage, and sometimes enlighten as a wellness enthusiast.

Financial Wellness

The ritual of credit. It’s one I rarely practice. I spent so many years digging myself out of credit debt that I’ve become an advocate of never getting oneself into (or back into) credit debt. And if we must use credit, passionately practice the rituals of Spending Fast and Zero Surplus to make the term as short as possible.

The Spending Fast ritual is not mine. I learned it from it from Anna Newell Jones (click to learn) and it involves no spending on non-essentials for a given period of time to free up cash for paying down debt. It’s a no means no ritual. Zero Surplus was my idea. It basically means not allowing surplus money (even a few dollars) to remain in a spendable place after all the bills are paid, operational money is reserved, and savings budgets are met. Every pay period immediately send the extra money away, either toward debt or somewhere we can’t easily spend it, forcing us to save it.

But there are times when zero interest on a credit balance is a more sensible choice than draining our savings. October was that time. Within the same week I was hit with a huge veterinarian bill and my dryer died. The dryer was over 20 years old and could not be repaired. Parts are no longer available. Because it was a stacking washer/dryer combo with shared electronics I had to replace the washer too. It came with the house. The space is so small it would have required spending more money on home remodeling to install separate units. Carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc., plus the appliances themselves. Another stacking combo was the smarter choice, providing I make it last another 20 years.

Ahem. Yes, I tried to find one used/secondhand but was surprised to find there are shortages afoot due to COVID shutdowns and upgraders spending their government stimulus on new appliances. Folks being home in COVID isolation makes folks want more home improvements. Older appliances are being snapped up as fast as they become available for repurposing on the rental housing market so no dice on thrifting a used one. Even the new one had to be ordered with weeks of waiting. Always trying to shop local, the small business guys said 4 to 6 weeks. The big business guys weren’t much better. So we wait.

And yes, you Frugal Fannies, I’m using a clothesline until the damn thing arrives but over the winter this won’t be a practical option. I always use a clothesline to save wear and tear on the dryer; over half of my laundry hangs to dry every week. But even with my efforts to make her last, 22 years was as long as the old girl could tumble. I’ll keep using the clothesline. I’m a strong advocate for preserving the life of all mechanical appliances as long as possible but let’s move on to the second of the money bombs dropped in October.

My cover girl puppy almost died. Her vet treated her multiple times and eventually performed surgery, ergo the huge bill. She picked up a bacterial infection (presumably from a puddle or some other source of groundwater) which gave her diarrhea. Diarrhea in very young puppies is particularly hard on the intestines so things got more complicated. She couldn’t keep food or water down. We kept taking her back to the vet. She kept failing to improve. Finally a radiologist gave us a second opinion and surgery saved her life. But the cost — oof. Medication, tests, treatment, the surgery itself, multiple nights in the doggy hospital, time off work; big money. She’s okay now but it was an expensive road back to wellness.

So I’ve got a big-ass vet bill in my right hand and a washer/dryer expenditure in my left hand. Paying out cash for both will drain too much of my savings, including emergency funds. This is one of those rare occasions in which zero interest makes sense. Pay cash for the vet bill and use zero interest credit for the appliances. Set it on auto-pay so it is absolutely without-a-doubt paid in full within the no interest period and practice gratitude for the privilege and the option. Then pay it off faster with a Spending Diet (Anna again) or Zero Surplus.

During the same week a ceiling light fixture fell out of the kitchen sky and smashed into a million pieces. I also had emergency dental work. This is part of the practice. Life will never stop with one-two wallet punches, y’all. Make the best choice you can and then make peace. The replacement of the light fixture can wait. Replacement of a molar can wait. Holiday expenditures? Probably won’t happen this year. I’ll be leaning to leanness come November.

Physical Wellness

The usual rituals of tennis, running, hiking, yoga and vegan living were again observed in October. There were no changes, which is to say these are all enduring and ongoing aspects of the practice.

The dental work I mentioned was completely unplanned and unwanted but it served to relieve several weeks of chronic pain, which had worn me down to raw emotion by the time I made it to the dentist. And I love my dentist. Adore him, really. But the moment he uttered the words to state his recommendation I began to weep and did not stop for nearly two hours. I cried through every minute of the procedure, in front of the entire clinic, all the way through his home care instructions, and all the way out the door. I haven’t cried so much in public outside of a funeral setting since I was an infant. But the pain is gone, replaced by more gratitude.

Intellectual Wellness & Creativity

More enduring rituals. For creative wellness I wrote the blog posts published throughout the month and created all of these images. For intellectual wellness I spent a fair amount of time studying Campylobacter (bacteria) infection in canines and the treatment of intestinal intussusception (the condition it caused). This was nothing I ever wanted to know but knowledge is critical to prevention and informed future choices.

With voting imminent in Mercyburg and the nation beyond I did make extra efforts to research some of the issues on my absentee ballot. A tax proposal, amendments to the process for getting issues onto the ballot, and term limits for elected officials. It’s not a just a civic responsibility (and privilege) to vote, but to cast mindful votes which serve our collective needs.

Books read: This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann

Documentaries: The Social Dilemma (Netflix) and the docu-series Sacred Power (Gaia).

Social Wellness

Voting, as mentioned above, was done early and at home. Our Governor deemed COVID 19 to be a valid and legal reason to qualify for an absentee ballot this year, so I applied for one. Although I will miss the experience of going to the polls I confess the paper ballot on the desk in my home office prompted me to spend much more time learning and choosing. I usually have a preplanned list when I do go to the polls, but being able to do it from home created a feeling of more care-full contemplation. Get this right, said my intuition. Take the time to get this right. Because I’m not just choosing for me; I’m choosing for everyone. State, local, national — my choice affects more than me. It should be one of the most careful things I do.

Remember when we used to hug people? You know, people who don’t live in our homes and who are not immediate family? I did that in October. When we finally got to pick up the dog I hugged her vet. Gasp! I know.

I know we’re not supposed to do this anymore but I needed to communicate with more than words and there is no verbal substitute for human touch. He came home early from hunting on a Sunday so we could pick her up without taking any more time off work. He also saved her life, not only with the surgery but by recommending the second opinion. When she came back to us she was not the zombie dog from our agonizing deathwatch. She was a wild pup again; happy and hyper and hungry. Thank you was just not enough. Neither was the hug but it did both of us good to share it.

Environmental Wellness

October saw the demise of another pig. This one was a winged pig. She originally featured two ears and two wings. She was a gift. She sat upon my outdoor altar until a spontaneous bout of Doggy Wrestlemania erupted one afternoon, wiping out the altar and sending her flying (pun intended). When she landed her wings broke off, along with an ear. Too much fragmentation occurred for mending to be possible. Send her to the landfill? Nope. I filled her with foliage instead. Clippings from the herb garden. A mix of dried and fresh. Her glory prevails.

If you look closely you can see her wounds/holes but you can also see she’s perfectly usable for dried floral offerings. I may darken those edges at some point. For safety’s sake, she is now stationed in the rock garden adjacent to the altar site to prevent any further falls from heights. She will receive seasonal freshenings of her fronds, stalks, and sprigs and we will carry on our rituals as before. And she can hold sticks of incense now, quelling any notions of disability since she’s even more useful since the accident.

A small joy for an emotionally wretched month but it is often the smallest joys which create a pivot. An after all, a pivot is a small shift. This month broke me apart too and the pivot back to joy didn’t come until nearly the end. But it came. One particularly dark day a line from the television show Call The Midwife (BBC) seeped in through the cracks, the words crushing and comforting. I will leave you with their poignant refrain and see you back here in November.

Bonds are tested and tightened.
And our landscapes shift in sunshine
And in shade. 
There is light. 
There is.  Look for it. 
Look for it shining over your shoulder, 
On the past. 
It was light where you went once. 
It is light where you are now. 
It will be light where you will go again. 

Be well, friends.

— Mercy

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