The months are turning faster than I can catch my breath. That’s always been true, and it’s a cliche for a reason. I’m thrilled to continue down the Here Year road with Aidan, and this month’s topic is wellness.
I have finally begun to figure out what I need to do to take care of my body and my spirit. Of course, I often fail at doing these things. But at least I know what I need to do. And if I’ve learned anything in these 40 years of mine, it’s that I’m going to keep failing. We all are. In fact, what I aspire to now is to keep beginning again.
There is a short list of non-negotiables when it comes to health and happiness. When I fail to prioritize these things I almost always get into trouble. I need 8 hours of sleep a night, I need quiet time to write and to read and to be still, I need to feel safe and taken care of by the small handful of true native speakers in my life, I need to exercise, and I need to eat mostly healthily most of the time. These things, which are, at the end of the day, all choices, help me feel calm and happy. They help me to love my life.
In order to make sleep, down time, reading and writing, and exercise a true priority I have had to cut back on many other things. Because I work full-time, write as much as I can, and, most importantly, want to be my children’s primary caretaker, I don’t have much other time. I don’t do very many things socially, I don’t watch very much TV, I almost never go to movies, my husband and I don’t have very many date nights. For me, it’s more important to read Harry Potter to Grace and to Whit, to be the one who packs their lunches, and to read and write and go to bed early in the evenings, and to get up at dawn to run.
There are many ways I strive to cultivate stillness in my life. Believe me, this is not my natural state of being (one childhood nickname I had was “Lindsey Mead, she’s on speed” because I spoke and moved so fast). I have been a sporadic meditator for several years, but these days I do five minutes most days. Five minutes. It’s manageable, I promise. Sometimes I do guided meditations on calm.com and sometimes I just breathe in and out. What I know for sure is the practice is in the beginning again. I have to tug my monkey brain back to quiet over and over again, probably 25 times, in 5 minutes. But I keep at it. Five minutes. I promise, you can do it. I notice the sky, every day, and take photos (and often share them on instagram). Writing here, a practice so ingrained as to be an inalienable part of my life now, reminds me to be aware of the details of my own life.
My best, truest friends remain essential and close. I don’t see them as much as I want, but they know who they are, and I value their support and love and presence more than I can possibly articulate.
Exercise is important to me. 25 years of running have had an impact on my joints and I can’t run as much as I used to. I think a marathon is out of the question now, unfortunately (though, as Whit likes to point out, I have run a marathon, just in two halves, 3 years apart!). I have been doing yoga on and off for 15 years and I find that it is an increasingly important part of my life. The hamster run of my brain is slowed and quieted by exercise, and it helps me sleep better.
Food? As I get older, I grow increasingly aware that what I eat is hugely important. I like Michael Pollan’s simple, powerful line: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Amen. I have come to love – and crave – green juice, and I drink it most mornings. I don’t, however, love smoothies. But grapefruit, kale, ginger, through the juicer? YUM. We eat a lot of vegetables around here. I often view it as a challenge: how many different fruits and vegetables can I eat today? But I also love sugar and try as I might, I haven’t successfully given that up. I am going with the 80/20 rule on this one. Mostly plants. Not too much. That I can do.
It’s not rocket science, is it? In fact, as I write this, I’m a little bit ashamed that it has taken me almost 40 years to feel so clear on what I need to do to take care of myself and to love my life. Sleep. Down time. Reading and writing. Exercise. Vegetables. Lots of time with my children. And, of course, a commitment to begin again.
I wrote parts of this post early this year, in a blog tour run by Katie den Ouden, whose example and work I can’t say enough wonderful things about. Katie represents and models a life of self-care and gentleness, something I aspire mightily to and fail at often