This month has been all about managing my emotional health. After my grandmother passed away two weeks ago, I’ve been doing my best to be present and allow myself to experience my feelings. Historically, whenever I’ve been challenged with anything too real or too upsetting, I’ve immersed myself in work as a distraction. The busier I become, the less time I have to address my sadness, and thus I stuff it into the back crevices of my mind, neglecting it consciously for as long as possible. That is, say, until I lash out randomly at someone who cuts me off at the supermarket. “Sorry that I reacted so poorly when you grabbed the last jar of pesto. It’s not you, and it’s not that I love pesto that intensely, I’m just struggling with residual grief from a loved one’s death that I thought I could avoid.” The apology wouldn’t really make sense to a stranger. Or maybe it would. I suspect that many of us would rather move on than mourn.
So I’ve been journaling and meditating and looking through old photos of Grandma and me. The memories make me smile, and sometimes cry, but both reactions are okay because they are real. Although I’ve always been good at practicing self-care (I’m a champion napper), I’m finally allowing myself to really enjoy it and find ways to do it well. These three self-care regimens have been helping me the most right now.
I’ve been going to see Tómas at Three Treasures Community Acupuncture for a little over a year now. There’s much more I can (and will, at a later time) say about this experience, but simply reclining in a Barcalounger, listening to the sounds of woodwinds and birds chirping, with several little needles inserted into my skin at just the right spots has revolutionized the way I relax. It calms me, and somehow seems to make me feel more aware throughout my day. Acupuncture has also helped my sleep, which has long been erratic. But the moment of transformation for me, when the world went from black-and-white to color, if you will, came last summer as a storm was rolling in. I had dozed off in the late afternoon heat, and awoke to Deva Premal on the stereo, her ethereal voice literally lifting my spirit from a deep sleep. The clouds had become dark and foreboding, yet I felt totally at peace, so much so that I was moved to tears. It was a great moment of healing for me. I’ve been going every week ever since.
I wish I could say I go to yoga every week as well, but I’m a sporadic practitioner (or sampler, then?). But I have found an instructor at Life Time Fitness‘s Highland Park location that I adore: Aleeah S. I felt so limber after my first class with her, and nurtured as a first-timer, that I had to go back. It took me a few weeks to make the time in my schedule, but I attended another class on April 30. I had received the call the night before that Grandma was slipping away, so I was especially tender. Aleeah had a sub for that class, but this woman shared her soothing and supportive manner. We were on our backs in savasana at the end of the class, breathing deeply and slowly, and our instructor guided us through our meditation: “Imagine your bodies weightless, hovering above the ground, as your lungs fill your body with life, and you rise to meet the clouds we will all meet eventually.” It was a little close to home, so you can imagine my response. However, after all the poses and the strength I felt in my body from the one-hour session, I felt pride in my heart. I didn’t feel sadness, I felt illuminated. So much so that I was moved to tears. Again. Clearly I register “tears” as the marker of a successful self-care activity.
After Phoenix, Kyle and I drove up to Duluth, Minn., for some R&R. We spent these past few days walking around Canal Park, sitting and talking by the shore, and eating tasty organic food at Amazing Grace Bakery & Café. The trip had been planned for months, before I needed to travel to Arizona, but I was glad to have a few more days off to reflect before transitioning back into work mode. The beauty and pace of life on the North Shore is always so pleasing to my soul, and as often as I’ve been, I never tire of the rocky beaches, the tangle of ancient trees and the seemingly endless span of Lake Superior. As a child, I first came to Duluth with my parents and brother for a camping trip. One of my favorite views is from Interstate 35 as you drive over a hill and descend into the city, the tops of the buildings dotting the valley below. My dad would exclaim then (and throughout the trip), “Too much!” as the awesomeness of the sites practically overwhelmed him. Kyle and I would later find our way back there for camping in Gooseberry State Park, and then returning after a year on a surprise trip that Kyle arranged so he could propose. The area holds all sorts of good memories for me, but the history of the city itself and the wilderness of its nearby parks draw me like a magnetic force from the Twin Cities. Must. Go. To Duluth. I can’t fight the pull. It’s become an almost annual summer trip, and a highlight of the season.
It’s those places and activities that allow me to slow down, quiet the mind and decompress from a busy life that really make me stronger. And here I thought it was just those 45-pound kettlebell swings.