It’s the Little Things

forest smallOkay yes, it has been a while since I wrote anything. To be fair, it’s been a kind of hellacious summer, and to be honest, I’ve kind of let it get to me. However, recently I’ve decided that even if I don’t give myself time for much else, I need to at least take some time out for what I’ve been calling Nature Therapy. I’ve been making a point to get out and appreciate nature and the truly beautiful state that I live in, Maine.

Getting outside for a hike or a paddle changes my mindset, even if it’s only for a little while. I take my camera with me, and I go with the intent of finding and appreciating the wonder that is nature. I walk along, thinking about the flowers and critters and smelling the balsam fir and the fallen leaves. I listen to the songs of birds, the buzz of bees and frequent scolding from red squirrels. I revel in that non-silent silence that you find when you’re deep out on a trail with no modern distractions.

When I was preparing to finally get back to writing on this blog, I kind of first planned a bit of a rant about being judgmental, but I could not quite get it to flow the way I hoped. Two things changed my mind. red squirrelOne was this Sunday’s message from my minister, who spoke about “Something is Wrong”, and with it she spoke about the judgment and treatment of our fellow humans, and it gave me a different spin on the thought that I want to write about. So, watch for that coming up next. (You can listen to this message here. This particular message starts at 11:30)

The other thing was that afternoon’s walk in the forest, where I had an entertaining encounter with a red squirrel and another one with a damselfly, and I realized that what the world needs now is good news. It made me think that sometimes what we need are the little things to help us change our mindset, turn down a different path, or look at the world in a slightly different light.

I decided that one of the things I would start doing on this blog is also writing up some of the entertaining things that end up happening to me on my walks in nature. A reminder to everyone to take the time out, find your nature therapy or book therapy or whatever little thing makes your world even just a little bit better.

spiderwebA reminder that sometimes when you’re trying to see the forest for the trees or staying on the path, because that’s how you get to the end, you miss the journey. You miss the cheeky red squirrel, the ambling porcupine or the spider web glistening with rain drops.

So, yes, I will write about personal and social responsibility and growth, but I’ll also take the time to share some of my nature therapy with you, in the hopes that it will help inspire you to go experience some of your own.

Peace & Hope



Why Celebrate?

MP900422102Now that the holidays are over, we have a bit of a break from what can sometimes seem like an overwhelming amount of festivities. Over the years, my opinion of holidays has ebbed and flowed. My first Christmas that I was working at a retail book store in a large mall, I loathed the holiday season. The only reason we had any Christmas decorations was because my mom sent over a table top fiber optic Christmas Tree.

Now that I live several states away from my closest family members, holidays around here are pretty low key. While I appreciate being able to lay low and not worry about who’s house to arrive at when and fitting parties into work schedules and all that, I confess that I do miss the bustle and busy-ness of visiting family and hyperactive, Christmas-supercharged children. At the same time, a quiet day of painting or reading is a pleasant little Christmas gift to myself.

MP900422657There’s a great deal of media hype about the so-called war on Christmas, which mostly boils down to a war of words about whether your Christmas should be merry or your holidays happy or your Yule Log bright. I think that despite the general negative press that the holidays get, the hype about how commercial and material they have become, and all of the general griping that goes along with it all, the holidays are good for us.

We all tend to work too hard, think too hard, feel too tired and crabby, too many days of the year. No matter how you choose to celebrate any holiday, whether you are one to throw a huge gala event, a family feast or celebrate at home with a good book, what’s important is that you allow yourself to have a little celebration in your life.

Celebrate the big things like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but celebrate the little things, too. Celebrate your birthday. Instead of lamenting your age, feel grateful that you have one more year of life to live and dreams to dream and chances to do the things you aspire to do.

MP900309665Celebrate the first robin of spring. Celebrate small successes and big victories. Celebrate births and milestones and anniversaries.

The choice to celebrate the good bits of life makes it a little easier to get through the mundane bits, and makes it easier to survive the rough times. It’s part of all that we do that helps us balance our lives, find new strength, and recharge our batteries.

So, it doesn’t matter if you want to celebrate something by dropping a few thousand bucks on gifts, or by having a cupcake at your desk, or by having a nap. Find ways to celebrate all that is good and right with the world.

Now, I think will celebrate completing this blog post. Perhaps with nap. 🙂

Oh the Ruts We Dig

Meadow PathMost human beings are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time every day, have our coffee, got to work, come home, do dinner, housework, evening entertainment, bedtime, do it again the next day… Okay, so maybe I’m oversimplifying just a bit, but you get the idea!

I have written about change before in this blog and I’ll probably end up on the same soap box, but maybe they’re things we all need to hear more than once, anyway. The source of most of our ruts in life is usually something like an aversion to, or fear of, change. Most of us really long for change, but we keep on doing the same old thing and then wonder why nothing new happens.

The Easy Rut

Icy PathChange can seem complicated. For example; we know that maybe our diet is not the greatest, but it so much easier to buy the same groceries and plan the same microwaveable menu each week, or make the same run to McDonald’s for lunch every day. Eating better means we have to maybe do a little research into new things to cook and better ingredients to buy. And who has time for THAT? I have Facebook games to maintain!

Try something new that seems like it would be a little difficult or inconvenient. Just for fun! Find an interesting recipe that involves extra ingredients and chopping up of assorted veggies. Make yourself something fun to take to lunch tomorrow instead of running out for fast food.

The Comfort Rut

IMG_9805We all have our comfort zones. They might also fall into sort of a sense of security rut. Someone might work every day in a job that doesn’t suit them or challenge them, but at least it’s safe, right? At least I get a paycheck every week? I am comfortable here in my cube. Going out and finding something new and different means leaving my comfort zone, having to learn a new job, meet new people. Scary!

Okay so you don’t have to run out and find a new job tomorrow, but you can expand your network a little. Find a group or a class that involves a special interest or something you have always wanted to do. Could be photography or painting or maybe even just a short class on negotiating skills or a sales technique you’ve always wanted to try. It gets you out there to meet new people and starts to expand your comfort zone a little bit.

The Relationship Rut

Sunny PathThis probably also falls into the comfort zone rut, but how many people do you know that are desperately clinging to bad relationship? It doesn’t even have to be a marriage or a romantic relationship. I for one have been guilty of desperately clinging to friendships that were obviously broken and doing me no good mentally or emotionally. We wonder what we will do without that person in our lives, even if it’s the regular rut of being constantly hurt by them.

Take stock of your relationships. Nurture the ones that are good for you and step back from the ones that hurt you. No one person should have control over your sense of well-being or emotional health.

The Creativity Rut

This is also known as writer’s block or artist’s block. We don’t have a good idea for new art or the next great novel. So we hunker down inside our self-defeat and say well, if I can’t paint something GREAT, then I’m not going to paint at all! Or if I can’t finish this seven hundred page novel, then forget it, I’m not writing anything else! So there!

Forest PathThe desire to become the next Andy Warhol or James Patterson can be overwhelming. Don’t hold yourself to an ideal perfection. As one writing instructor I heard about put it, just “throw up” on the paper. Make bad art just because you can. Heck TRY to make bad art, it’s fun! Writer Ann Lamott says “write a shitty first draft”. Your first writing doesn’t have to be pretty, that alone is enough to stop most people in their tracks. That’s what editing and second, third or fourth drafts are for! Write something every day even if it’s just one big long whining rant about your boss and your kids and how the cat threw up in your shoe. Do it!

The Work Rut

Workaholics, we all know one, or maybe ARE one. Work becomes such an easy excuse for avoiding change, growth, and even creativity. We say I’m too tired and busy to go find something new and fun to do this weekend. We take on more work and responsibility and think of it as growth and improvement. But what are we leaving behind?

I’ll use myself as example here. I work from home. I worry about allowing myself to “slack” and not get work done, because that of course means I don’t get paid. Over the holidays business got REALLY slow and so of course when it picked up again I worked like a madwoman to make up for lost time. I had also taken on writing work as well as the work I do in the virtual art community. I wondered after a while why I felt like CRAP.

Woodland PathOh hey, it’s because I’ve been in a work rut so deep I couldn’t see out of it! The nice weather recently really brought that message home to me, when I forced myself into going outside for an afternoon. Oh wow! I almost immediately felt better! It’s nice here outside this rut! The sun is shining, the birds are singing!

It’s the difference between the quantity of the hours worked and the quality. I had gotten so that I was tired and cranky and didn’t want to sit at my desk all day, I’d wander off and do laundry or wash dishes and then come back and stare blankly at my screen for a while. Four hours of work would fill eight hours of the day, so then I would end up working twelve hours to compensate. Once I actually remembered to just give myself breaks, go out and run errands or for a hike to get out of the house, read a book in the evening, the hours that I spent working became less tedious and more productive.

Change Your Course

I’m sure that there are more ruts I haven’t even thought of today, so think about your own ruts in life. You know what they are, and ultimately you are the only one that can get yourself out of them. Write them down and think about what you can do, just one little shift that will get you up and out of that rut and onto a fresher, brighter track. You might be surprised where this new road will lead you!

One Step Backward

Sometimes I feel a bit like a salmon. Pushing my way upstream against all odds, getting battered and bruised, feeling exhausted and wondering when I will get to where I am going. I think that I feel as though I have to stay the course no matter how strong the current is. I get washed back downstream again and again. It takes weeks, months, even years to get back to where I was.

A little common sense may make you realize that most salmon die once they get to where they are going. Granted this is a bit extreme of an analogy, but it kind of suits my purpose. How much longer does a person keep pushing and getting battered and discouraged before they realize that maybe this is the wrong stream? Before their bodies finally give out and stress or worse takes its toll? How many waterfalls do YOU have to leap up and get washed down again before you realize that maybe there is a different, better path?

I talked about this in Resolve to be Happy, to an extent. Many of us spend years, even a lifetime, beating ourselves up within our so-called comfort zones, simply because the thought of something new, no matter how much better it might be, is simply too scary. We put on our suit and tie, take our taxi to work, clock the time clock, complain about our job, sludge back home and sit in front of the television. We call this living!

Okay, so my situation is really not THAT extreme, but yes, I have had my share of feeling like I am struggling and struggling to get somewhere, but when I stop to think about it, I am not really even sure where I am going, and if I get there, is that really where I want to be? Are the washes downstream really setbacks, or just the Universe trying to point out that I missed that left turn at Albuquerque? (One of my favorite Bugs Bunny lines!)

So, sometimes, what feels like a sacrifice, a failure, giving up… maybe its really going back to find that left turn. I have friends who have shown me that getting fired or laid off, while scary and upsetting, can be the kick in the pants needed to make a life change and turn that step backwards into two steps forward. Another one spends day after day in a job that makes them miserable and unhappy because it pays well. Now they look at the idea of taking a step backward and turning onto a new career stream, swimming outside of their self imposed comfort zone in search of something more.

For years and years my art, and now my writing, have taken a back seat to this comfort zone. Those of you who do follow this blog probably have noted the fairly long gaps between posts. Its not for lack of ideas what to write about, its more for lack of energy. I always say, tomorrow I will paint, this weekend I will write a blog post. I have two books and an in depth article sitting on the back burner for that day when I am suddenly, miraculously less bogged down by being tired and unmotivated.

I said in Resolve to be Happy that I didn’t mean you should necessarily quit your job tomorrow. But shouldn’t you? Are you doing what you really feel like you’re meant to do? How many subtle hints and trips back downstream again do you have to have before you burn out, or get eaten by a bear? How are you doing on that journal, that list of things you always dreamed of doing? Have you become what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Don’t take the leap without thought and preparation of course. A step backward is still a step backward. There’s still other streams to navigate, though with good planning the trip will hopefully be a bit gentler on your body. Don’t just race back downstream and take that left turn without a good idea what rocks and waterfalls there are to navigate, but don’t be afraid to do it, either.

For thirteen of the last twenty years, I have worked in the veterinary field in some form or another, from my first job as a kennel attendant, to emergency care & shelter medicine, to the last two and a half years at a fast paced, high tech, advanced care veterinary practice. The further I have gone in the veterinary field, the more I know I would not be happy in a practice that only did well care. I love the mental challenge, the mystery solving, the advanced client education, the amazing potential for growth and learning.

My body, however, has different ideas. My body and my brain have been at war for a while now. I am one to push myself to keep going, keep battling upstream as my body whines and complains. There’s only so far you can push before things start to break down. That list is a whole other blog post and really not necessary, as most of you 40 and over can appreciate.

Suffice it to say, I have been shoved back down stream many, many times. This week, I decided to go check out what I missed at that left turn in Albuquerque. The bad news is, I am leaving the veterinary field. Maybe for good this time.

The good news is, (I hope anyway) you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of me on this blog, and with good planning and luck, on the internet and in magazines. It has not been done with out a lot of careful thought and planning, and it IS scary. It’s a step back, briefly I hope, in search of my two steps forward.

So, I give my fellow fishes a hug – many of them are already in the right stream and well up over the waterfall – take a deep breath and go with the flow back downstream.

I’ll let you know what lies beyond Albuquerque!