Friday, May 1, 2020

Routines for staying grounded

 In the studio

Some recent and current reading


There are no weeds

Routines, be they daily, weekly or monthly, are an anchor in life, especially in these extraordinary times. We need structure. As a natural introvert I haven’t had trouble adapting to the lockdown, and while I share the global anxiety and heartbreak, just as I feel it about global warming, wars, human rights issues, poverty and other crises, and am worried about other people (and in awe of the frontline workers), I am used to dealing with massive uncertainty and am embracing the gifts and lessons in this situation, something I have had plenty of practice in since being diagnosed with cancer.

I am using this period as a retreat of sorts. Luckily I am still working part-time and only losing out on some of my income, and we are financially secure. Being at home has given me the space to expand the routines that have become such vital tools in my healing. It has been an emotional few weeks for various reasons, and some days I could barely do one or two of the things on this list, but I can feel the cumulative benefits from incorporating the below into my days and weeks as much as possible:

Exercise / gardening:
Two activities not everyone is able to do, and I never take them for granted. I dusted off the dumbbells I had bought in preparation for surgery and now rotate Christine Coen’s 22-minute workouts. She focuses on the mental health aspect of weight training and the workouts are varied enough to not feel overwhelming, though I still have to pause at times. I am also running more than ever, but I try not to be too rigid about it. One of my rounds involves stopping at the beach on the way home and wading through the water - we are very lucky to have so much space around us with access to beaches within the 2km radius our movements are currently restricted to. When I don’t feel like a run, I walk instead or spend an hour gardening. It has been sunny and dry lately and I am getting a lot of fresh air into my lungs and appreciating this heightened connection to nature.

Thanks in no small part to this wonderful course, I am in a state of Flow when it comes to painting and drawing. At the moment I am drawing and painting children a lot and working on my botanical illustrations and some personal projects. Last night John and I got our hands into clay, inspired by the Great British Pottery Throw Down (Keith Brymer Jones must be one of the most soulful people on the planet; he is regularly moved to tears by a piece, and those are moments of humanity that are a balm for the spirit!). Food preparation is a creative pursuit in itself and an exercise in mindfulness, and I am trying out recipes I had saved and making large bowls of rainbow salads, healthy desserts and cakes.

Meditation / visualisation / spiritual practice:
These days my practice usually involves one long Joe Dispenza meditation and/or two shorter ones each day. I also still listen to my custom hypnotherapy audio recordings a few times a week. Marisa Peer has been uploading a lot of free resources, including hypnotherapy sessions and visualisations. I read spiritual texts every day and listen to podcasts or Youtube videos, for example talks by Michael A. Singer (I bookmarked this one as I want to listen to it again).

Yoga / breathwork:
These are essentials for getting back into my body. Yoga with Kassandra has created a 30-day morning yoga challenge, so before I sit down to work I do one of those ten-minute sessions and later in the day one of her longer Yin Yoga classes. This one focuses specifically on the immune system.
Wim Hof (aka the Iceman) regularly shares free content, and I have been doing this short sequence of Wim Hof breathing.

Reading is probably my number one activity right now; I have been reading so much, across different genres. A couple of standouts: Before lockdown I got Laura Cumming’s new book On Chapel Sands from the library and started reading it last week (as usual, I have several books on the go); I am savouring it at intervals, chapter by chapter, out in the garden. I finally bought Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Instructions on Writing and Life, which I had been wanting to read for years, and, as expected, it is excellent, a book to visit again and again. Elizabeth Hardwick's semi-autobiographical novel-letter Sleepless Nights is also remarkable and certainly in a category of its own.

Writing / correspondence / connection:
I still write my Morning Pages every day and am also working on a journal/memoir (that I might never share publicly either) about the last two years, something I have been doing on and off.
Correspondence is important, too, and I have been making and sending cards, writing letters and putting together parcels, and reaching out to people I had been meaning to contact for a while. Snail mail also offers a balance to all the additional screen time now that so many meetings and appointments have moved online. In a lot of ways this pandemic has brought people closer together. I now talk to my 86-year old friend almost every second day (she lives alone and is cocooning); there are more video calls with family and friends; my ‘Irish’ nephew has playdates with his cousin in Germany via Whatsapp; people are reviving old friendships and forging new ones.

I have regular appointments with my therapists, counsellor, healers and mentors, and these are very much part of my routine. They are expensive (with the exception of the Cancer Care West counselling service; everything they do is free - we are very lucky to have them), but so worth it, and I am thankful that I am in a position to afford them.

When I am feeling well, I want to make up for all the time I lost or wasted and go all in. Thanks to energy healing from this man the previously continuous fatigue lifted not soon after my treatment, but in my excitement over that I tend to forget that my body still lets me know very clearly when I have overdone it - which is of course true in general, but now comes with the added sensations of cancer-related fatigue. So while it is tempting to do all the things I've been meaning to do, I remind myself to slow down and take rest days as needed, with no pressure to be productive.

On the note of productivity, I hope to be back here with possibly shorter but more regular posts - I have a lot of drafts, but haven't had the mental space to edit and post lately. 


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