I want to write a blog post, about days flying by, and how I spend my time, and about goals and desires, and about milestones and planning. About the final stretch of preparing for my shodan exam. But first I have to clean out the run-in shed so Clementine, our donkey, will have a dry place to hang out during the predicted rain. But before that I need to check my voice mail, because I know someone called two days ago. Oh, but first I need to start my laundry or I won’t have a clean gi to wear to the open mat session this afternoon. And I have to get all the critters fed, of course. Yeah, right, I have to post some content on my business site so it’s not dead for the whole weekend. I can’t go out to work in the yard in my PJs, so I’d best get dressed. Did I eat any breakfast? I should eat something. And now the laundry really need to be put into the dryer. And I have to tend to her sore foot – that’s really most urgent. And there’s still that voice mail. Only 2 hours before I have to get cleaned up and leave for the dojo. I should go clean out the run-in shed. Maybe I’ll get to that blog post this evening.
For many years I’ve only minimally celebrated the “holiday season.” I do not believe in any deities, but do find the return of longer days worth noting on the solstice, even if it’s just a private passing thought on that evening. Luckily, my husband, Michael, and our extended families are also not attached to the decorating, cooking, and shopping madness that seems to hold many in some kind of collective trance for two months. This year my family went even further afield and skipped Thanksgiving altogether, in favor of celebrating my dad’s 80th birthday the evening before. Then on Thanksgiving day, Michael and I headed to the desert and took a hike. It was warm and clear, and absolutely beautiful.
It’s not that I have anything against tradition. I enjoy getting together with family. I like candlelight and fires, but am mostly too engaged in other things to bother with actually lighting or enjoying them. I love eggnog, and indulge in one quart each year, which I mostly put in my coffee, and sometimes swig out of the carton (which is mine exclusively). And on Thanksgiving morning I made fresh cranberry sauce to have with our breakfast of fried bananas and raw nuts, just because I like cranberry sauce. But you will find no lighted mechanical deer or color-changing plastic icicles at our house, and certainly not any plug-in artificial-scent-spreading gizmos. Gross.
Today we did some chores and errands. In the afternoon I went to the dojo to train with a few friends, and Michael went for another hike in the local hills. We had a quiet dinner, fed the critters, and called it a night. I figured I’d check in on Facebook before turning in, and was reminded that today was “Black Friday.” Wow… So much unpleasantness and unhappiness. Violence! People brawling over shiny trinkets. I know those are outliers, but how have we come to a place as a society where this is an annual ritual? Not just the brawling, but the whole feeding-frenzy thing. It’s insane.
Maybe I’ve come to see this seasonal absurdity more clearly as I’ve moved further and further from being a part of it. Or it could be that I’m more in touch with my gut feelings, and so recognize and acknowledge more easily how I feel about things. Maybe this year I’m seeing it especially clearly in contrast against the wild desert canyon and the generous, cooperative sanity of the dojo. But it’s just nuts. Seriously.
The Black Friday stampede videos are the most obvious sign of something gone very wrong, but I’ve seen more subtle and widespread misery. Friends fretting over how stressed out they are about having to get all their decorations up. Folks dreading spending money and time on travel, just so they can spend another awful holiday with their crazy families. Friends who would rather curl up with a good book, or just enjoy solitude and introspection, irked at being obligated to participate in rituals they do not enjoy.
I commented to a local friend recently, who was in the early stages of seasonal dread and obligation, something to the effect of “You know this is optional, right? You don’t have to do any of it.” Since then I’ve started looking at a lot of things through that lens. We get hypnotized into doing the usual things, the expected things – both for the holidays and in other contexts – but we don’t have to do them. We don’t have to decorate, or bake, or travel. We don’t have to listen to the music, or buy the shiny trinkets, or spritz holiday spice air fresheners around our houses. (Seriously, gross.)
If there are foods you love, people whose company you enjoy, or traditions that delight you, great. Enjoy those things. Drop the rest. You don’t have to do any of it. It’s not required.
Every so often I need to discover all over again that I run on music. My life has a soundtrack. The words and temperament of music affect me. This is good to know, even if I forget it from time to time.
This most recent period of forgetting about music was brought on by a broken input to my car stereo. I can’t listen to my music in the car, and so I just got out of the habit of having music on at all. And incidentally I’ve been feeling a bit… stuck? bogged down? serious? slow? Something like that.
Then yesterday I was listening to Jane Savoie, a coach to past Olympic equestrian teams (dressage), in her series The Rider’s Inside Edge, discussing musical freestyles with her guest Ruth Hogan Poulsen the benefits of riding to music for both the rider and the horse. Better energy, better rhythm, less thinking, less resistance, more intention, freer movement …
Oh, right! Music!
So last night I scoured my iTunes collection for some of my favorite tunes – positive, powerful, grounded, light, earthy, driven, playful, deep, or funny. It might be the lyrics, or the beat, or something in the melody. Now I have about 6 hours of nutrition for my spirit. Like emotional vitamins. Good stuff!
From “Glorious” by MaMuse
I’ve got good friends
To the left of me
And good friends
To my right
Got the open sky above me
And the earth beneath my feet
Got a feeling in my heart
All in life is sweet
Oh what a day!
I haven’t posted since late September, and even that was pretty lame. But it’s not for lack of anything to say. About every 15 minutes I trip over another “I really should write about this” kind of experience. But then I remember I have a dozen things to do. Maybe later… Maybe tomorrow… I don’t like that. For me not writing is like not speaking to a good friend for too long. I need to make it a higher priority, along with meditation, which I’ve also not been doing nearly enough.
Meanwhile, I passed my ACE exam to become a certified Group Fitness Instructor. Afterward I immediately got to work setting up my company, Reconnecting Ourselves (www.ReconnectingOurselves.com). Among other things, I am planning short-term programs, like boot camps, but for total beginners – the kind of folks who “will join a gym after I get in better shape.” A first step to get people on the path to being more active, and more connected with their own bodies, with nature, and with others. I hope to be offering them soon after the start of the year.
Along with that whirlwind of website work, content creation, and marketing mayhem I have been continuing to train in earnest for my shodan (first black belt) exam, just over two weeks away now, on December 13th.
Training for shodan, for me, has been pushing me in every way I can be pushed. And I suppose that’s part of the idea. I’m enjoying the process, and learning so much every time I step on the mat. But the more I see, the further I see I have to go. I keep having to remind myself that “shodan” means (as far as I know), “beginning rank.” I think of it like graduating from high school and starting college. A big deal, yes, but then you’re a freshman – just starting into serious study. I’m trying to be patient with myself and keep my perspective, and at the same time of course I want to do the best I can.
I’m rediscovering a few ways to get myself in the right state of mind, including listening to music that helps me call up the right energies, and visualizing techniques done well. Affirmations, too. I might naturally find the little voice in my head saying “I’m never going to be able to get this down smoothly,” so I’m countering it with some different messaging. If it’s going to chatter on, it might as well get to work saying something helpful.
Sleep is probably important, too, especially because we do exams on Saturday mornings – not my best time of day. Time to get into the habit of being rested, up, awake, and ready to go earlier in the day. Guess I should hit the hay.