Archive | Instrumental – The Care of a Creative Soul

Instrumental: You Are Here by Melissa Cynova

I got a call from a friend who’d had a truly unbearable year. There appeared to be no end in sight, and instead of calling for a tarot reading for her future, she just wanted to know where she was – right now.

Tarot readings don’t always go the way we expect. You can do a reading to see if you should get a divorce, and find that your partner isn’t the only person who created space between the two of you. That allowing the only sex that enters the relationship to happen when you flip each other off while passing in the hall. You could go to the cards asking why you can’t move up in your company, and the cards will tell you that you are in the wrong career.

The question you ask doesn’t always point to the answer, and the answer is often found in fear. Fear of that hard conversation that might put your relationship back on track. Fear that you’ve invested time, money and training in a career that doesn’t work for you.

Instead of looking into the future, it can be more helpful to find out what tools you have in hand, which things are holding you down, and which can lift you up. What is here, right now, to help you deal with getting through the day. Sometimes, you can’t believe the Instagram shininess that encourages you that everything will be ok in the end – but the end isn’t here yet.

Sometimes you just need to know that right now, here and now, you are ok.

You Are Here Spread:

(Cards in a cross – one on top, one left, one right, and one at the bottom)

Card 1 – What can you reach for – right now – that will help lift you up?

Card 2 – What can you release that is making your day more difficult?

Card 3 – What tool is within reach that will help you have a position of strength?

Card 4 – What will hold you up until the light at the end of the tunnel gets closer? What if your main support?

This reading can be repeated as often as you need it. When you want to move forward, you can tuck it in your back pocket for the next time. Remember that often, when you don’t know where to go, the best thing to do is sit down. Gain your strength, and breathe.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa Cynova is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. Her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, was recently published by Llewellyn Publishing. Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her husband, Joe, two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

You can reach Melissa at She is on Twitter and Instagram under Little Fox Tarot. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Editor’s Note:  Tarot Cards are from the “Pagan Otherworlds Tarot” Deck.

My First Kriya Yoga by Dona Murphy

I am not a morning person.

At 5:30 a.m., the 40-day kriya yoga practice I committed to seems like a terrible idea. There is faint light coming through my bedroom windows. The shadows hide danger – slippers I could trip over. A cold hairball left by my elderly cat; ready and waiting for my careless foot.

This is life in the gray. I want my life orderly and organized. Light, bright and clear over here please; dark, obscure and unknown over there. Where I can keep an eye on you, or better yet – a lid. Accelerating through bright flashes and dark voids is disorienting. The chaos feels a lot like living under a strobe light. Without the music. Without the Moet. Without the molly but with all the bashing and bruising of a righteous molly-whop.

Repeating patterns are what I see as I brew tea and prepare myself for this morning’s meditation. Daily I work to discard what no longer serves, to see old patterns dissolve while new ones take shape. Transcending both the old and the new by being in the present moment, in the breath, is the challenge of the morning. Every morning.

Today joy bubbles up and I laugh for no reason as I begin to chant. My hands form the mudras. Yesterday morning I wept. I had no other way to expel the rage and sorrow that climbed up my throat and had to come out but for which I found no words.

I’m riding a roller coaster – and how I hate roller coasters. But how else can the spark within grow and find its own expression? What lives in us ready to destroy and negate is also ready to create and affirm. Unleashing it is frightening, exhilarating, seductive – necessary.

Enhanced expression and communication is the purpose of this practice. I serve my clients through speaking (and active listening), so I can’t work without my voice. I’ve suffered with a bad respiratory infection including laryngitis through most of this. The Universe was not going for subtlety. I began to question how I could help my clients find their voices – if I couldn’t use, find or trust my own.

As day 35 drew to a close I was healthy, my voice was strong and I knew I was in the home stretch. I knew I could complete this and I felt clean and ready to receive. I reached day 40 primed and ready to say “yes” – to anything and everything. I am welcoming what I am offered; ready to embrace and accept and celebrate.

I didn’t become a morning person. On day 41 I slept in.

I still don’t like roller-coasters. You won’t see me at the local street fair or at Six Flags Great America even though it’s only a few miles away from where I live. You will see me here, often I hope. I’ve kindled the light inside and climbed out of the comfort zone where it was oh-so-easy to hide.

One of the greatest gifts of working with my clients is the chance to learn while teaching. I have the opportunity to grow by nurturing growth in another. The generous mentor and teacher leading the kriya shared her own experiences with us. She was transparent about her own challenges and triumphs, highs and lows. This gave me the freedom and space to do likewise with my own, and I am grateful.

The light, the dark, and all the various shades of gray look different to me now. They’ve opened to me for exploration and integration. The colors of the spectrum are alive in my body and in the world I look at with new awareness.

Good day.

About the Author: Dona Murphy

Dona Murphy is the owner of Destiny Tarot. She lives and works in Lake Bluff Illinois as a Tarot reader, Intuitive Counselor and Life Coach. Dona combines her metaphysical and spiritual studies, natural gifts and real-world experience to help her clients solve problems and live their best lives. As she says, “The cards don’t predict your future, they help you create it”.

The Lavender Farm by Bella Cirovic

We made no travel plans for the summer, opting instead to take day trips to little known destinations up to an hour from our home that boasted promises of magic and beauty.

A google search for such places helped produce our list of sights to see this season. It’s how we came upon the lavender farm, an oasis of purple tucked in the hills near the shoreline of our fine state.

What a wondrous day we had walking amongst all of those sweet smelling lavender bushes, sipping lavender lemonade, and eating coffee cake drizzled with purple flowers and honey.

This day was a treat for our senses not to mention balm for our hearts.

So I ask you, if you were to search for a magical place near your home, what do you think you will find? What’s stopping you from going there?

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Goat Milk and Love by Clay Robeson

As a teen growing up in rural California, I couldn’t wait to get out of the country, away from the farm, and off to The Big City. Too much quiet, not enough hustle. Too much peace, not enough bustle. How on Earth could I get my groove back, if there was no beat to groove to?

As an adult, after seven years in Metro Boston and having just hit the 14-year mark in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have a groove and a beat. They’re kind of relentless, and if I don’t pay proper attention, the record starts to skip and I find myself taking involuntary time-outs to recover.  It’s the moments of calm and peace that were once so reviled that help me recharge so I can keep on dancing to the incessant rhythm of the Big City.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

City Grazing, San Francisco


Thankfully, I found an oasis of calm and peace a mere 5-minute drive/10-minute bike ride/20-minute walk from my house, within the city limits.  And much to my chagrin, it somewhat resembles the farm.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

The view of San Francisco from my back porch,
with City Grazing visible in the foreground
(the white rounded structure to the lower right)

Tucked in the Southeast corner of San Francisco, just north of Candlestick Point is a small, active railyard within which hides a shipping-container-cum-hay-barn attached to a paddock that is home to about 80 goats.  They aren’t pets.  They are working goats. They are employed by City Grazing a (soon to be) non-profit landscaping company.

Photo Credit: Jeanne Park

My first visit to City Grazing in 2015, hanging out with Spock.
(Photo credit: Jeanne Park)

Every Saturday morning, sometime between 7:30 and 9:00, I make my way to the paddock. The goats recognize the sound of an incoming car, which is why I try to ride or walk there when the weather is nice, so I can spy on them lazing in the morning sun for a few moments.  Eventually though, one of them spies me and all hell bleats loose.  Relatively speaking, of course.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Tipsy, basking in post-brunch bliss.

The mayhem of the goat yard is nothing compared to the mayhem of day-to-day life. I give hay and water to the goats, feed the yard cats, and throw feed to the chickens, isolated from the city that exists within shouting distance of where I stand. The rhythm, for a moment, silenced. The groove slowed in a peaceful, quiet manner.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Udo, ever stoic.

The goats all have names, and while I don’t know them all, for the most part they all know and recognize me.  This affords me the opportunity to slip into the paddock and scratch some noggins and ears without causing a stampede. Usually.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Mothers Fulla and Freya with babies Brinkman, Daniella and Queenie.

The hour or two I spend there is generally one of the best parts of my weekend.  Especially this time of year, when there are baby goats to be found.  This season, there are about a dozen newborns ranging in age from a month and a half or so, to two weeks old.  I found the youngest two, Carol and Tim, one morning rather unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Space Cowboy and Milkman at the Udder Bucket.

Their mother, Frigga, is a newcomer to the yard — a failed dairy goat if memory serves. We were aware she was pregnant, but we didn’t know just HOW pregnant.  And so, at 7:30 one bright Saturday morning in July, as I was preparing the Udder Bucket for the orphans who were still nursing, I heard a bleat that was far too high pitched.  Peeking into the paddock, I saw Tim standing all alone in the middle of the yard looking rather confused.  I pulled him and his sister into the nursery section of the hay container and rounded up their mother.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Carol and Tim’s first meal.

I spent much longer at the yard than I planned to that morning, helping Carol and Tim with their first meal. Somehow, I also managed to be holding both when they decided to have their first pee.  But despite that, I found myself unable to put down these two little creatures who smell strongly of Goat Milk and Love.

Photo Credit: Clay Robeson

Carol and Tim, standing strong.

About the author: Clay Robeson

Clay RobesonClay is an improvisor, photographer, puppeteer and part-time goat herd living in San Francisco. He likes to make things.

To learn more about Clay, or find his social media links, go here:

You can also visit the City Grazing website.


Instrumental: Put Down the Cards by Melissa Cynova

I’ve been reading tarot cards since I was 14, but a few years ago, I fell out of love with it. I would book a reading, and start dreading it. I would still give the reading to my client, but I felt like I was being annoyed by the intrusion into my time. To give you an idea of how weird this was for me, I LOVE doing readings.

It’s my favorite thing. I have, in the past, read for 6-8 hours without a break and the time just flew by.

Right then, though. I was done. It didn’t make me light up anymore, and what’s more? I didn’t care.

In my personal life, I’d just gone through a pretty rough divorce and was adjusting to shared custody for the first time after having been a stay at home mom for seven years straight. I was lonely for the first time in a long time. I had large swaths of time that used to be filled with kiddos. You’d think, right, that I’d be anxious to fill the time with my favorite thing.

The problem was that my soul was bruised. It’s hard to dive into someone else’s psyche (or even your own) when you’re sad.

So, for the first time in twenty something years, I put my cards down. I told my clients I was taking the summer off, and I walked away from them.

I have to tell you, I didn’t miss them at all. I slept a lot. I cleaned my house and spent time with my friends. When I had my kids, I was wholly invested in them. I didn’t miss my cards.

Until I did.

It only took about three weeks for me to miss it, but I’d set a date and by god, I was going to stick to it. When I finally did come back to readings, I was in LOVE again. Whatever it was that went away was back, and I felt like myself again. I was looking forward to readings and to playing with my cards again, and I felt refreshed.

Even the thing you love the best can become a burden if you’re not feeling your best. Even that thing that drives you can drive you crazy. If that happens, walk away. For a few minutes, for a day, for a week. Even for a summer.

For everything, there is a season, after all.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa Cynova is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes. Her first book, Kitchen Table Tarot, was recently published by Llewellyn Publishing. Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her husband, Joe, two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

You can reach Melissa at She is on Twitter and Instagram under Little Fox Tarot. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

Instrumental: Turning to the Elements for Cleansing by Melissa Cynova

Regardless of the kind of energetic work you do – you’re probably aware that energy accumulates. Have you ever walked into a room where two people have just finished fighting? The air is thick and the energy is heated. Have you walked into an empty house and have just known that it was empty? The energy that flies around sometimes lands, sometimes sticks, sometimes screws up your mood or your day.

Now, imagine doing a dozen readings in a row with the same tarot deck. Every heartache. Every frustration and illness and romance and loss. It’s intense! Those intense emotions stick to your cards and make them feel – for lack of a better word – grody.

Whether you do reiki, runes or tarot.  Actually, even if you don’t do any similar work, as a creative, you are sensitive to the energy around you. So, yes, writers and artists, this is for you, too!

If you read for yourself or others, knowing how best to clean your tools is as important as how to take care of yourself. If you’re not grounded and centered, it’s hard to do your best work. I like to go to the elements when grounding myself and cleaning my cards. Here are some tips that might help you, too!

Care and Keeping of You Using the Elements

Earth:   Stomp your feet on the ground. Go running or walking. Lie down in the grass. Garden. Put your hands in the dirt. Pet your animals. Have really good sex. When I was a social worker, I would stop outside of my car before I left for the day and stomp my feet like crazy to get all of that (sometimes very negative) energy off me before I got home.

Air:  Breathe! Yoga breathing is outstanding. This breathing pattern by Dr. Andrew Weil works great for me: you breathe in for a four count, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. It feels great. You can read or meditate, too.

Fire:  Use a candle to meditate. I would say smoke, because that worked for me for a long time, but smoking is bad for you, so light a candle and stare at it for a bit. Send your energy to the wick and imagine it getting turned into smoke and blowing away.

Water:  Take a shower. Take off all of your jewelry and put it in water to disperse any energy it’s collected. Take a bath. Go for a swim. Stand in the rain.

 Care and Keeping of Your Cards*

Cleaning them energetically is a practice I would take up after every use if possible.

*Note: you can modify this for other spiritual or creative supplies, like your journal.

Earth:  Rap your knuckles on your card. Put the deck in order – Ace to King for each suit, Fool to World. Stack them up. Put them on the (clean) grass and let them go to ground for a bit. Clean with fanning powder.

Air: Use a sage or cedar stick to clean them with smoke. Breathe on them.

Fire: Tricky with flammable cards. I find that incense feels more fiery than sage sticks. Light a stick of incense or a candle in front of your cards and put your intent into the lighting of it. You can also put your cards out into the sunlight.

Water: Also tricky with cards. This might be me being weird, but I look to the Moon for water cleansing. It controls the tides, right? Put your cards on the windowsill in front of the moon and let them soak up the goodness.

Whatever your tools, the better you care for them, the better they’ll serve you.

About the Author: Melissa Cynova

Melissa CynovaMelissaC_Bio is owner of Little Fox Tarot, and has been reading tarot cards and teaching classes since 1989. She can be found in the St. Louis area, and is available for personal readings, parties and beginner and advanced tarot classes.  Melissa lives in St. Louis with her kiddos, her husband, Joe, and two cats, two dogs and her tortoise, Phil.

She is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Go ahead and schedule a reading – she already knows you want one.

(The element lists were originally found in my book: Kitchen Table Tarot)

Instrumental: Nature Walks as Ritual in Spring by Bella Cirovic

When the flowers begin to bloom, I happily partake in one of my favorite Springtime rituals: a nature walk. The air feels so fresh while the sun casts a perfect temperature and glow on all the pretty buds that line my path. What a treat for my eyes after a long, dreary winter. I never tire of the scenery.

I fill my calendar with day trips to the farmer’s markets, coffee shops, and museums in and around my town. Seeing like minded people on the streets with their sunglasses on, some walking their dogs, others running with their earbuds in makes me feel like I belong to a family – a community of sun cravers getting their daily fix.

Just before the blooms hit their peak, I know it’s time to tend my own garden. I begin by clipping away anything old and dead. I then crouch down on my knees and start pulling weeds, creating space for leaves and roots to spread. The dirt gets a turn and a spread of new soil before anything gets planted. It’s so fun to plan what vegetables I’ll choose for our small garden. It’s even more fun to collect the bounty at the end of the summer.

My wardrobe colors don’t change much, but I do stray from my all black routine to include some light gray, navy blue, and white clothing. I pull out my collection of nude lip glosses and pack away everyone’s winter boots. The sun has come out to stay. The colors are spectacular. My being feels restored.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Space by Bella Cirovic

I attended a women’s retreat in Oregon’s high desert on the summer solstice last year. It was a week of complete relaxation, soul restoration, and sleeping under the stars. It was exactly what I had been craving after helping my daughter through a long first year of high school and prior to the start of our summer vacation. “What do I want from this week?” is a question I keep asking myself. If I could describe the feeling I was after with one word it would be: space.


This place gave me the room to declutter my mind of everyday thoughts and worries. I woke each morning and sipped coffee with women in the meadow where our camp was set up. After a short gathering we were given free time to do as we wished. Each day I chose a new spot to sit and relax. I had a blanket, my journal, my camera, and a playlist to keep me company. The fresh (but very hot) air combined with the quiet was exactly what my soul needed. I came home a better version of myself and fully ready to jump into summer.


I can’t be on vacation all the time though, so I try to find ways to create space in my everyday life that mimics the breathing room I enjoyed while camping out among the juniper trees in Oregon. It has become a personal mission to create tiny pockets of peace in my day. Doing so meant that I had to reevaluate how I was spending my time and energy, also to note where I could make changes.

In the morning, after a shut off the alarm, I take a few deep breaths before getting out of bed. After being jolted from a peaceful sleep, I need a few moments to reset and focus on my breath before I get up to face my day. I take a deep breath in, hold for 5 seconds and blow a soft, long exhale out. Take notice of how what your beginning moments feel like. Mine certainly feels aggressive, but the truth is I’m a heavy sleeper who needs a loud alarm. To compensate for the harsh awakening, I give myself these few moments of pause which for me mimic space.


I find space in the clothes I choose to wear. The materials need to be made of a pure cotton variety with room to breathe. My clothes flow back and forth with me. I have been wearing leggings for a long stretch of time because they are so comfortable. Now, I have nothing against a good pair of jeans, I just much prefer the way I can fully stretch and not feel constricted by my clothing.


At some point in the middle of the day, I unroll a gorgeous pink yoga blanket on my bedroom floor, light candles, gather my journals, and sit in quiet stillness. I picture in my mind’s eye a wide, open meadow. Even on days when life is especially noisy, I still make it a point to show up to my practice with the intention of creating breathing space. After some quiet time, I spill some thoughts into my journal and revel in the quiet.
Intentionally slowing down and being mindful of how I want to feel as I move through the world keeps my soul feeling tended and cared for. I choose to spend less time scrolling through my iphone and more time in conversation with my family. I choose to close my eyes and take a breath when chaos trumps quiet. And I choose to always find my way back to the peaceful meadow.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

‘Tis the Season by Bella Cirovic

Instrumental_Care of Creative Soul

‘Tis the season for creating new rituals. It is a time for long walks in the afternoon just before the sun fades into the early evening. Allow yourself the space to breathe in the fresh air. Notice the scents that travel on the breeze, the textures of the trees around you, and the firmness of the ground beneath your feet. Watch the sun fall behind the horizon. Take the wonder of nature indoors with you. Grab what speaks to you. Maybe it will be a leaf or a twig or a stone or a piece of bark. The piece will infuse a sense of harmony between the outside world and your sacred space.


‘Tis the season to nurture our body’s energy center with pungent and aromatic delicacies like fresh turmeric and ginger. It is said that yellow and orange colored foods fan our creative fires in addition to fueling our solar plexus chakra. Feed yourself food that mimics the sun now that the days are shorter. Indulge your senses with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, peppermint, and cumin. Swirl one or more of these spices into a mug of hot cocoa for a magical treat.

‘Tis the season to create cozy corners in our homes. Layering a couple of blankets and pillows to the couches and love seats of our family rooms creates an intimate vibe. Think about how inviting a plush, comfortable space would be for work, rest, entertainment, and play. Set aside a half hour to go through the rooms of the house and make a checklist of what can be moved around or added onto. Bring candles and oil burners to nooks and corners of your rooms. What about a string of twinkle lights? Vanilla and patchouli blend well together and both have properties that lend to the warm atmosphere we are going for.

‘Tis the season to move your body. Create some playlists or cd’s of music for all of the upcoming holidays. Don’t forget to add one for when you’re cleaning the house, one for cooking dinner, one for solo dance parties, and one for relaxing. Now that it’s colder, we’ll be inside more often. Movement, even simple stretches, revitalizes the body and gets blood circulation going. Move at a rate that feels right to you, whether that’s high energy steps or simply swaying from side to side. Shake away old energy. Sweat your feelings out. Movement is our sweet release.

‘This the season to gather with loved ones. In these tech heavy times, we need more coffee dates and get togethers with our friends and loved ones. Don’t settle for relationships that only exist because of text messaging. Make phone calls and pencil in some time to hang out and get lost in conversation. Enjoy watching the sun rise or set with your mate minus your smartphones. Read a good story to the kids before bed. Smother your family in hugs and kisses. The most heartfelt gift one can give is their time and their presence. These are things that cannot be bought.

‘Tis the season for tending to our hearts. The holidays are not always easy. This season in particular is known to amplify feelings of sadness, anxiety, and the blues. Check in with your spirit and feed yourself what you need. Be tender and merciful with yourself, you deserve it. Wave hello to your neighbors and smile at strangers. One kind gesture could mean the world to the person on the receiving end. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or to offer your hand to help out. We are all in this together.

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

Staying Healthy and Creative as I Age by Joan Z. Rough

In my thirties I was busy raising two kids, being a housewife, and a fiber artist. Cleaning toilets, doing laundry, and cooking meals were all part of the job. I also cared for a small flock of sheep and Angora goats. A dozen hens kept us supplied with fresh eggs all year round. I learned how to spin yarn from the fleeces my sheep and goats provided, then dyed those yarns with plants gathered from my garden and the roadsides of Northern Vermont, where I lived at the time. After weaving those yarns into a variety of goods, I went to craft fairs where I sold my finished products … pillows, bags, ponchos, and scarves. Amidst all of that I found time to go cross-country skiing most days in winter, sit in the shade and read a good book in summer, and spent lots of time with family and friends. Sure I was tired at the end of each day, but I rarely felt as overwhelmed as I feel these days.

I’m seventy-five years old now and live with my husband, two dogs, and a cat. I have a housekeeper and help in the garden when I need it. No I don’t have the energy I had way back when, but I’m an active walker, take classes in Yoga, and Pilates every week. My book, Scattering Ashes, A Memoir of Letting Go, was published in September. In addition, I publish a weekly blog post and a newsletter on the first of every month. I rise at dawn and by the time 9 PM rolls around I’m ready for a good night’s sleep.

But I’m frustrated and overwhelmed by all that I have to do.

I simply want to have more time in my studio for free writing, painting, keeping a visual journal, and making all kinds of visual art. Add to that, time for reading and puttering in the garden. You’d think that without all the responsibilities I used to have I’d be sitting pretty with all sorts of time to spare. But along with my age, and my energy levels, times have changed. We live in a culture driven by the rush, rush,woman-with-a-cup-of-tea-picjumbo-com rush of technology. Speed limits on Virginia roadways, where I now live, have been raised. A peaceful, 55 MPH drive to Washington, DC, ten years ago, is now an anxiety riddled, 65 MPH race to the finish line. Even if I wanted to drive more slowly, it’s impossible because like everyone else, I get caught up in the pace of today’s timetable.

What ever happened to the old rumor that once computers came into their own, work weeks would become shorter and we’d all have leisure time for whatever it is we love doing most?

I heard a statistic that the average American checks his or her email eleven times an hour. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Using a cell phone, we can connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Maybe we do have fewer absolutely necessary things to do in physical time. But now we’re expected to fit more into our days. Stress levels are higher than ever and we all suffer from the new ailment, FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. Regardless of bumper to bumper, fast-moving traffic, too many of us make calls and answer our cell phones when we’re behind the wheel, causing accidents. We’re a high-speed, be there first, crazy society that is on it’s way to causing it’s own destruction. And we’re moving so fast we’re not paying attention to how we feel and what this craziness is doing to us.

It’s taken me a long time to notice that my body tells me when I’m moving too fast, tired, about to get sick, am anxious about some world crisis, or trying to make important decisions. Until the past year or so I didn’t connect my sudden, painful but brief headaches with the fact that I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off and stressed beyond reason. Naturally, when they hit, I would sit down. Once my body relaxed and my heart rate slowed down, the headaches magically disappeared. I think it’s something all of us need to pay attention to.

When I’m tired and must keep moving because of an approaching deadline, I often notice that my vision isn’t as acute as it usually is, my energy level starts lagging, and my body feels heavy. If I take a breather from my work, take a short walk around the block, do some much-needed stretching, or take a twenty-minute nap, my energy bounces back and I can easily pick up where I left off. But being an unreasonable citizen of this crazed time, I often don’t do those things because I feel I’m too far behind. My weekly Pilates sessions are late on Monday afternoons, about the time I’m dragging and wanting to crash and burn. I force myself to go, but once I’m there and start moving my body, a new energy kicks in. I always feel like a new person afterwards and I’m good for the rest of the day and into the evening.

Making decisions has always been messy for me. Being somewhat lazy and a people pleaser, I’ve found myself just going along with whatever someone else wanted to do, even though all I wanted was to stay home, have a big bowl of homemade chicken soup, and read a good book. (A typical sign of FOMA.) But after years of wondering what was wrong with me, I finally accepted the fact that I’m an introvert and always will be. In order to feel happy and healthy I need to be careful about what I agree to do, keeping in mind that the big event a friend or family member wants me to attend with them is not my cup of tea.

So I’ve come up with a way to make decision and keep myself on an even keel. I consciously invite my body, mind and spirit to help me figure out what I want and/or need. We’re all one, after all. Not separate entities. If I feel especially excited about going to an event and can’t wait to go, there is not doubt that I’ll be there regardless of what it takes. If I feel only somewhat interested in attending, I take extra time to think about what I really want. If I push myself to give in to things I feel so-so about, I’m usually sorry later. I like to sleep on those items until all the pros and cons come to the surface, even if it takes a few days. If nothing arises to peak my interest, it’s a no go.

I’ve also discovered that sometimes it’s a good idea to procrastinate about deciding what to do. More often than not, something else arises to let me know that I don’t need to worry about it. I’ll suddenly remember a forgotten promise I made to be somewhere else, or something even more interesting and exciting comes along. And at my age, it’s okay to change my mind if I realize at the last-minute that I need to stay home and take care of myself.

When I feel the need to do that, it usually means I’m noticing that I’m exhausted, need to slow down, landscape-690617_1280meditate, take a walk or a nap, or simply sit and stare into space. On cold nights in the winter it helps to soak in a tub of steaming hot water, laced with Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil. Sipping a cup a hot tea while reading with feet up is also one of the most relaxing things I can do, as well as writing in my journal. I’ve learned that being able to say NO isn’t really a big deal and that setting aside an afternoon to throw paint around in my studio is one of the best medicines out there. And nothing beats laughter to get back on the map. I often see life as a slap stick, comedy of errors. Why not laugh about it? What else can we do?

I’ve been stuck on a treadmill of SHOULDS, needing to keep up with the world in order to be successful. I’m finally letting go of that idea. Unless I do so, there will be no time for a new story or poem to blossom. The pages of my visual journal will remain blank. And like my mind and spirit, the pots of paint waiting for me on my worktable will dry out and harden. My curiosity will die.

These days I’m not measuring my success by how many books I sell or whether or not I’m at the top of the heap. Noticing the changing of the seasons, cutting back, and replanting overgrowth in my garden, noticing an unusual birdsong, and spending quality time with myself, my family, and my friends are the things that fill me with joy. It always beats feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and anxiety ridden by a long shot. And it’s how I keep my creative mind at work.

About the Author: Joan Z.Rough

joanauthorbioimageJoan Z. Rough is a visual artist and writer. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, and is included in Mariflo Stephens’ anthology, Some Say Tomato. Her first book, AUSTRALIAN LOCKER HOOKING: A New Approach to a Traditional Craft, was published in 1980. SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go, was recently published by She Writes Press. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Bill, her two dogs, Sam and Max, and crazy cat Lilliput. You can follow Joan on Facebook and Twitter.

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