This weekend marks the start of a new month. I love new beginnings. They feel like a fresh page in a journal, full of endless possibilities. While I did a decent job of caring for my physical body in May and June, I fell off the wagon a bit this July (a little too much dessert/not enough exercise) and I can feel the consequences of that neglect in different manifestations. So with this new beginning, I’m recommitting to moving by body with more intention with another 30 day yoga challenge.
Yoga has taught me so much in the past few months. I have learned how to listen to my body, how to be more present and how to find what feels good for me and only me. I have learned to make space for growth by leaning in, focusing on my breath and respecting my own boundaries. And I have been blessed to be able to see how all of these lessons are applicable in my everyday life.
I don’t know that I have anything profound to say this Sunday afternoon. Mostly I want to reflect on gratitude. I want to archive all the tiny moments that have allowed me to feel joy so that when I find it difficult to find again, I can try to replicate some of these practices.
Gardening has brought me unprecedented amounts of joy as of late. It is grounding to work with my hands and care for pieces of nature in our home. I have learned how to propagate old plants into new homes and how to use natural fertilizer via composted foods. One of my favorite parts of the process is when a plant has grown so much that it becomes root bound and has to be repotted. The entire process reminds me of the people and practices I have had to shed because they could no longer contain the person I was becoming.
Poetry has brought me joy too. Last weekend, I joined sister Rabih Ahmed in her Love, Light and Poetry workshop series for a session called “Flourishing Vessels.” We practiced mindfulness, yoga and read/wrote ars poetica poems. In her poem Ars Poetica#100 I Believe, Elizabeth Alexander writes, “Poetry is where we are ourselves…digging in the clam flats for the shell that snaps, emptying the proverbial pocketbook.”
Me being the person that I am, I had to look up what clam flats are. Apparently, they are stretches of soft tidal mud where clams burrow. I was struck with what a beautiful imagery that was for both life and poetry. I thought about how my life’s work and writing has been steeped in the work of mud-crawling and digging to find the treasures hidden in secret and darkness. This week I decided to join #thesealeychallenge , a challenge founded by award-winning poet Nicole Sealey that calls on people to read a book/chapbook of poetry a day for the month of August. It’s day two and I am already reaping the benefits of more poetry in my life.
I’m also taking the time to celebrate myself and my achievements. I’m my own harshest critic and I have a tendency to focus on what has left to be done as opposed to what I have accomplished. I watched a video this week where a woman said, “I have to own my Master’s or my Master’s will own me.” It really resonated for me when I thought about the crippling school debt I hold because of my ivy-league degree. I can choose to focus on how long it may or may not take me to repay that debt or I can focus on the doors of opportunity that have yet to be unlocked because of my hard work and discipline combined with that degree.
Since a little before this pandemic started, I set out to take some professional development courses for a raise at work. I was 14 credits shy of the next level. Between February and now I completed 11 credits while simultaneously transitioning to online remote learning, facilitating workshops and fundraisers and caring for myself and my family. I. Did. That. With two A’s (and two pending grades that I feel pretty good about.) I am taking the time to celebrate this feat as opposed to throwing myself into the next class.
Today, I took my time chewing my food instead of swallowing it like I’ve become accustomed too. I watered my plants, did some yoga, washed my hair and gave myself a facial. I made fresh watermelon and kale juice and drank lots of lemon water. As I write this, I’m cuddled up on the couch under a soft, fuzzy blanket. I am sitting with joy and letting it wash over me. I haven’t forgotten about the heaviness of the world, but I am actively pouring into myself so that I can show up for my students, friends, family and community.
This Sunday, I’m challenging you to take a few minutes and make a list if you haven’ already done this exercise. What are you grateful for? What brings you joy? Make the time for these people, places and practices in your life. Save that list for the hardest, rainiest of days and try to find ways to thread your joy and gratitude into your everyday work. (aka the reason I use literacy based intervention so much with my students.)
Happy Sunday family. Stay safe. Stay well. Stay curious.