In this month that holds Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what it’s all about, really. It is a big commercial day: flowers; candy, especially chocolate; dinners out at nice restaurants; gifts; and a day when some people propose marriage to the ones they love. Shopping aisles are full of red and pink everything trying to draw us into the “spirit of the day.” I believe in love, but maybe on a softer, quieter level.

The love I’d like to talk about this month is self-love. Experts say that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t really love someone else. What are the signs of self-love?

eating properly
getting enough sleep
being at least a little social
moving your body/exercise
being kind to yourself
forgiving yourself when you make mistakes
appreciating yourself when you accomplish something you’ve been working toward
rewarding yourself in some way for that accomplishment
talking to yourself as you do to a good friend
having some fun
and on and on with all the positive thoughts you can muster for yourself

Here is a poem I found by e.h. (Erin Hanson) that gave me food for thought. I hope it will for you, too.

Not

You are not your age,
Nor the size of clothes you wear.
You are not a weight,
Or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name,
Or the dimples in your cheeks.
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak.
You are your croaky morning voice,
And the smiles you try to hide.
You’re the sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried.
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you’re all alone.
You’re the places that you’ve been to,
And the one that you call home.
You’re the things that you believe in,
And the people that you love.
You’re the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of.
You’re made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined
By all the things you’re not.

https://ericalayne.co/youre-made-much-beauty-seems-forgot-printable/

What are some things you know you are that you don’t show to the world? Make a list, then write about one of them: what makes it you, why don’t you show it, how do you feel about hiding it?

How have you defined yourself in ways you are really not.

Write a poem contrasting an aspect that is the real you with one you show the world.

Introspection is my word for 2020. I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I need to look inward to find out what comes next. There was a time when age 70 sounded old to me. Now that I’m there, I’ve pushed old up to at least 80! My body often tells me I’m older than my mind feels, but I’m still looking for adventure. I can’t just sit around waiting for my time to trickle down to nothing. Hence the word Introspection. I think I must find and/or create the next phase of my life through looking within. Here is a poem from my book Just Show Up that expresses my desire to still find meaning in my life moving into the last phase of it.

Sleep Walking

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning
for life. . . . I think that what we’re seeking is an
experience of being alive. . . .”
Joseph Campbell

Do you know what I miss in my life?
Having no idea of what comes next–
the vision of “what if”
driving me forward
toward a gaping chasm,
unhooking my tether from fear,
kicking up the dust in my soul,
pushing me into the flames.

Do you know what else I miss in my life?
The unreserved offering of myself
to a calling that consumes me,
infusing substance into intention,
bearing me higher until I touch
the feathers of angels.

Do you know what I’m missing most in my life?
Sprinting to the peak,
dancing there in the rain
until a bolt of lightning
strikes me down,
then bursting upward
as fire in the night sky.

Write about what your life is missing and how you can create that missing piece moving forward.

Look inside yourself and find something that excites you, then write how you can incorporate it into your life.

Choose a word for your year and write about how you will use it in 2020.

Happy New Year!

Most of us are thinking about gift-giving around this time of year, and it is often a stressful time. That defeats the purpose of gift-giving, which could be joyful and fun. Maybe we can begin with a gift to ourselves, one of calm and peacefulness during this season of many different celebrations. How can we “buy” that gift for ourselves?

We can be aware of the stress first and acknowledge it. Then look for the reasons for the stress: maybe it’s a lack of money to buy all the gifts on your list, or not knowing what Mom really would like, or not enough time to do all the shopping. Whatever it is, look inward for the answers to the dilemmas, because they are there. You know what to do. Go to stillness and breathe deeply of peacefulness. Then choose the answers that make sense to you. Can you give time instead of something you buy? Can you help with a project or something the person needs done? Can you make something? These are things that come to my mind; your answers may be something else. I wish you a wonderful holiday season, whatever and however you celebrate.

Here is a poem that may show you a way to banish stress:

Gift
It is for me,
this gift of being here,
now,
and for all of us,
if we embrace it.

Notice what is before you
in this moment,
glorious
time we can use
any way we wish.

We can celebrate life,
give of ourselves to something
satisfying
that pulls us in,
or just be still.

Put aside the stresses
of living and worry.
Yes,
it can be done,
if you treasure this gift.

So much doesn’t matter
that we carry with us,
blocking
the light
of what is always there.

If we turn our eyes
that are closed
inward,
we will see
from a different view.

Be calm in your hearts
by breathing
deeply
of the silence
that is in you,

and fall into peace.

© 2019 Dorothy A Joslyn

Write about some ideas you may have to celebrate the season in calmness and peace.

Write a good memory of a holiday in the past that made you happy.

What do you do every year at this time that creates a tradition for you and/or your family that makes happy memories?

If you don’t or don’t feel like celebrating, write about how you can create peacefulness in your life anyway in the midst of holiday hype.

Not long ago, I began a gratitude journal. It is in addition to my regular daily journal. It doesn’t take long every evening to list what I am grateful for that day. Sometimes I make short comments beside particular entries, but mostly the entries are just lists. It’s a really nice way to end the day, remembering the positive things. Since it’s close to the last thing I do every day, I can smile myself to sleep. Sometimes I’m just too tired to write in my daily journal, but, so far, I haven’t missed a day of writing in my gratitude journal. There has always been something to be grateful for.

November is the month of Thanksgiving and a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for, so it’s a good month to begin a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy; mine is just a composition book with a few stickers throughout with gratitude quotes on them and “Gratitude Journal” printed on the front. That’s it. Easy and really satisfying. I date each entry, so if I go back through the journal it gives me a sense of the time frame in which the gratitudes occurred.

The following is a poem by Mary Oliver from her book, Thirst that expresses how gratitude can cause your soul to soar.

The Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

© 2006 Mary Oliver; Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

Writing Prompt:

Begin a Gratitude Journal. Start anytime, anywhere in whatever you have to write in. Write in it every day, or whenever you have something to be grateful for. I promise, it will raise your spirits and make you smile. Be sure to date your entries, so you can go back and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that day. It was a good one.”

It’s October with only ¼ of the year left in 2019. I’m in the habit of saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun. . .or even if you’re not having fun.” But this month is my birth month, and I’m going to be 70. It seems like a long time ago that I came into this world. So much has happened in my lifetime: computers, cell phones, digital everything, climate change, electric cars and all sorts of gadgets for the home that make life so much easier. How about that robot vacuum cleaner that does all the work for you? Or food processors and microwave popcorn poppers, not to mention microwaves themselves? So, in the whole scope of things, time stretches back a long way, and I marvel that here is where I ended up.
And I can’t complain. Other than a few physical annoyances, I am healthy and happy. I do what I want with my time. I make the choices for how my life looks. If it starts going downhill, I have only myself to blame. But my uphill belongs to me, too, and I’ve done well, I believe, to make a life I’m comfortable with. To me, this monthly write is a lifeline, a way I can reflect on what’s going on and what I hope to discover that’s left in my life.

Here is a poem by Mary Oliver that I think you will enjoy:

What Can I Say?

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.

~ “What Can I Say” from Swan by Mary Oliver; © 2010 Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, Boston, MA ~

What keeps you going. living, being? What matters enough to you that you look forward to your days just for the joy of them?

Write about your last birthday and how you felt about getting a year older.

Make a list of what has emerged into the public domain since you were born. Choose one and write about it.

Make a gratitude list of everything you can think of that matters to you. I hope it will make you smile.

Here in Southwest Missouri, where I live, it’s been an unusual summer, unpredictable: lots of rain, cooler temperatures than usual, the flowers still beautiful and grass green. I began to reflect on other things that I can’t predict besides weather. I don’t know what each day will bring. I can plan and try to stay with my normal routines and even schedule other activities to fit in among the usual things I do, but something can happen in an instant that changes everything. Flexibility is key. Now that we’re entering into another season, it’s a good time to think about what comes next…and hope it all works out.

My fall is beginning to fill up. September is looking busy, and I’m fine with that. I want to keep active, see friends, share my time with something worthwhile, and enjoy my life. But I’m also thinking about spirituality. I’m thinking of changing some of my life’s habits to allow for more “being” time. I’m not sure what that will mean right now, but I’m going to think about the things I do now and see where I can make some changes. I’m going to make a life-changing list.

I’m one who believes that spirituality is already a part of life right where we are, but I also believe that making some changes can enhance the spiritual journey and make a better life in the process. Some people talk about “waking up,” but I believe that we’re already awake, we just need to recognize it. I think we can recognize it in moments of stillness, so making time for stillness is a part of what I want to do. Meditation is one way to be still, so it will be on my list. I meditate now sporadically, but I want to make it a daily habit.

What are your thoughts and beliefs around spirituality?

Free write about spirituality. Do you ever think about it? What does it mean to you?

Make a life-changing list. What would you like to change to increase your recognition of the spirituality that already exists in your life?

How do you fit stillness into your life, if you do? Do you think it’s important? How can you increase your opportunities to be still?

Some call August the dog days of summer. The term came from Greek and Roman astrology as the period following the rise of the star system Sirius, which was thought to cause heat, drought, lethargy, mad dogs and back luck.
I wrote a poem titled “August” that is in my book Just Show Up, that describes this hot, humid month:

August

The morning breezes floating through open windows
billow sheer, ruffled curtains into rooms
catching the remnants of daybreak’s coolness.

The sheets, pinned to stiff wire lines
rise like tents, then float down, softening,
collecting fragrant air in their folds.

Noon lumbers in, sultry and surly,
quashing the morning currents under its heel.
Day stands still, suffering in silence.

The fine black afternoon dust lies heavy,
muffling the sound of tractors in the fields.
Quiet rest is the only cure.

The porch swing and hammock sway in the shade,
while a shimmering lake of straw-colored lawn
blurs the line between land and the white sky.

The labored breaths of moisture-laden air
argue with brassy shafts of overheated sunlight
soaking up the wisps of the remaining oxygen.

Night comes reluctantly, avoiding the heat,
dragging its feet until the setting sun
pulls darkness over its head.

A coolness settles first into hollows,
languishes over creeks and ponds, then
drifts through open windows on a breeze.

This was written from my memories of summers on the farm in the Midwest with no air conditioning, where shade and any hint of a breeze were welcomed. Do you have memories of August that make you sweat? Last month we wrote about vacations. This month think about your everyday lives through the summer months and what you do or did with your days.

I remember days of bike riding, roller skating on the sidewalks, chasing lightning bugs, and roaming all over my very small home town where we never questioned that we were safe and secure. Write about what you remember about summer during your years growing up. What were the best of times and, possibly, the worst of times? How did you stay cool, or could you?

Today, children must be watched and guarded and not allowed to roam freely, sometimes even in their own neighborhoods. What do you think has changed and why? Can we do anything about this turn of events? How or why not?

My neighborhood has a “greet in the street” event where neighbors come out and meet each other on an evening in the summer. It’s designed to enhance the neighborhood watch program but also to help us get to know each other better. What can you do during the rest of this summer to make your corner of the world a friendlier, safer place?

Summer is really here now, and I guess it’s time. Everything is still in bloom and beautiful where I am, because of adequate rain and sunshine, but hot and dry may soon appear. What do you do in the summer? My gardening friends are constantly working in their yards, people are going on vacations, to the beach or lake or mountains. It’s a great time to be doing something.

We celebrate the independence of our country from England this month. I have mixed feelings about it because of the people we displaced when we arrived here and since, and the people we enslaved who still struggle with the meaning of freedom for themselves. Our independence certainly wasn’t without high costs in people and resources.

Still, I’m grateful for the freedoms I enjoy and the independence I have to live my life as I want. I am glad that I can write what I feel in this blog and in my book and say what I want without fear of a dire punishment. I can look out my window and see my wild back yard (I am not a gardener, but I’ll take all the fruits and vegetables you’re willing to give me!) and be refreshed by all the green I see, though it isn’t organized in any way. I’d love to hear what you are doing this summer and about your fun vacations.

What is something you remember from the past that stays with you even now when you think of vacations? What about something not so good or fun, but that you survived anyway, and it makes a good story?

How do you feel about summer, all the outdoor activities available, the heat and maybe humidity, and what you do to enjoy it day to day?

Write about your perceived freedoms and what you appreciate about living in a country that offers them. What can you do to make sure those freedoms are extended to all people who live here?

 

Since I gave mothers some blog space in May, I guess I will write about fathers in June. The 16th is Father’s Day, a day to contemplate and/or celebrate fathers. My dad died 10 years ago after a long illness. He worked hard at living those last three years, and, I think, had some good days. I was at his side with my mother when he died. I remember she was baking cookies and had a batch in the oven when I called her in to be with Dad at the end. She sent me into the kitchen to take the cookies out of the oven so they wouldn’t burn. Then I called the hospice nurse, who had been there just that morning, to come back. It was the first time I had been with someone who died while I watched. It was a peaceful end, though chaotic in my head.

I wrote a poem years ago about my dad’s hands, but I couldn’t find it in my files, so I wrote another one in the same spirit as the first one:

My Father’s Hands

My father’s hands worked the land,
holding the steering wheel of the tractor,
guiding it down the long straight rows
where corn or soy beans would soon grow.

It was dirty work,
and his hands often had to repair equipment:
greasy gears, nuts and bolts, and other parts
that broke in the toil of the day.

He would come in at night,
hands covered in the day’s work,
and clean them as carefully and thoroughly
as he could.

Often his hands were cracked and rough,
and the soil would ingrain itself into those spaces,
but he would wash and scrub
before he came to the table for supper.

Somehow, on Sundays, after a week of hard work,
his hands were immaculate,
his nails neatly trimmed and cleaned,
as he tied his tie getting ready for church.

What was your father’s work? What did you know about what he did?

How did your father’s work influence your life’s work?

Write about a memory you have about your father.

May includes a special day to celebrate mothers. It can be a joyous day or one of sadness or anger or a whole range of emotions. Nevertheless, Mother’s Day arrives on May 12th this year, and it gives us a chance to pause and think about Mom. I am a mother, but only in memory, since my son died twelve years ago. Some years since then have been difficult, others full of happy memories of motherhood. I never know how I will feel on Mother’s Day, but there is always something to remember.

When I thought about my mother this year, I recalled a poem I wrote several years ago that expresses one of the transitions that occurred in my thoughts about her:

My Mother’s Face

I see the blurred reflection

of my mother’s face

in the window above my kitchen sink,

 

the way her hair falls forward

across the left side of her forehead

and curls out from behind her right ear.

 

A light from my neighbor’s window

glows through her eyes, masking

a color that is not quite hers.

 

The silhouette of a wind-tossed branch,

back-lit by fading daylight,

softens her mouth and rounds her jaw.

 

The face I see in my bathroom mirror

under the glare of clear-bulbed light,

is mine, not my mother’s,

 

but, in the foggy window

above my kitchen sink

I am her.

 

Write about a time when you realized you might be more like your mother than you thought.

How has your mother influenced how you are living your life? What are some of the rituals and rules you grew up with that you continue today?

What are some things you have changed in your life from what you learned from your mother?