#ThursdayTreeLove | The Oak and a Lesson in Self-Healing

Oak Tree in City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 2017

This was not a good week. I was ready to throw in the towel by Wednesday morning, but I got up, dressed, pushed through the rest of the week, and kept Philippians 4:13 on repeat.

I’m taking a mental health day tomorrow.

In the last couple of days, I was told twice–in so many words–that I was being negative. Me? The person who always finds the rainbow and gives [almost] everyone the benefit of the doubt? The individuals who commented were right. The heaviness of unexpressed grief, of holding it together, and of having to navigate all of life despite my feelings was seeping out in unpleasant ways.

Each time, I went back to my office and asked God for forgiveness and a little more of His grace. He didn’t give the scolding I deserved. Instead, He gave empathy, reminded me of my humanness, and affirmed my decision to take some time away from the usual maddening routine.

Normally, when I’m in an icky place internally, my camera and a slow walk with the trees work together to adjust my mood. Not so this week. I walked almost daily, spent time with the trees, looked for unique perspectives to photograph and…nothing. My mood was unchanged. I realized, sadly, considering the trees isn’t always an effective panacea.

Today is #ThursdayTreeLove and I was so sure I’d write a post about the lovely trees I’d considered all week. I’m not fond of the idea of sharing this week’s photos, so I decided to share some from a happier moment–photos from a walk through City Park in New Orleans with my mom, one of my older brothers, and my baby sister.

We captured loads of photos on that walk, but today, we’ll take a look at one of the gorgeous Oak Trees in the park:

My photos aren’t great, but I’m sharing them anyway because I love the structure of the tree, the network of branches, and the way the tree seems to reach across the park toward the other trees.

You can somewhat see the massive size of the tree if you note my “tiny” brother in the lower right corner of the photo.

Trees and buildings in the background are puny by comparison.

The 1300-acre City Park of New Orleans is home to 30,000 trees, and proudly boasts “the oldest grove of mature live oaks in the world, including the magnificent Anseman Oak and McDonogh Oak, which are between 750 and 900 years old” [See Trees in City Park].

My guys and I spent so much time in the Park when we lived in New Orleans that we captured hundreds of tree photos. We were (and still are) especially fond of the Oak Trees. The trees are simply breathtaking. One day, I’ll go through my collection and select a few to share on the blog. For now, enjoy a little extra #ThursdayTreeLove with a few more City Park Oak photos on my hubby’s blog. I think you’ll enjoy “The Root of It All.”

I read somewhere that trees are self-healing. I don’t remember all the details of the process, and I certainly don’t expect to do the healing work alone, but there’s wisdom in turning inward, taking care, and doing my part. I coped a bit better last week because I was intentional about spending some time daily, allowing myself to feel and write and think. I did none of that this week and it showed.

Moving forward, I’ll put into practice the lesson of the trees.


I am joining Parul Thakur every second and fourth Thursday for #ThursdayTreeLove. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Reclaiming “the Grind”

Today was my first day (back) at work.

Last night, I had inexplicable anxiety about facing today. With the way I was feeling, one would think I absolutely hate my job or hate working. But I don’t. After almost 24 years in the university classroom, I’m happy to say that I still thoroughly enjoy most aspects of my work. I dislike meetings, grading marathons, and end-of-semester madness. But I enjoy crafting information and creating content. I love facilitating discussions and watching students evolve, find their voices, and exercise their agency. I love engaging with students, tracking their progress, and keeping in touch with them as they move on from the university and develop their personal and professional lives.

So WHY? Why was I inwardly responding with such trepidation to the “first day back.” I’ve had a productive summer of writing, lots of reading, plenty of relaxation, and completion of a few projects. Then, it dawned on me. That’s the problem with returning to work–the rigid schedule that forces me up and out of the house and “doing” constantly until I fall exhausted into bed each night only to wake up the next morning with too little sleep to do it all over again and never, ever finding time for my own intellectual pursuits. Until next summer, gone are the slow, quiet mornings of sipping tea, spending time with God and watching day break. Until next summer, no playing board games with the guys and binge-watching Scott and Bailey (or some other British drama) with my hubby in the middle of the week.

Summers make me feel invincible, like I can accomplish any and all things. This summer has been particularly productive, so I don’t want to disrupt that productivity. Although I’m excited by the prospect of returning to a routine for my son, I realize that returning to a routine for me means less productivity. Less creativity. Less giving of my time in ways I choose, instead of ways that are mandated or expected.

By the time I drove down the driveway this morning, I was okay. I have two more weeks left before students return and classes actually begin, and in that time, I will be implementing ways to take care of my intellectual and creative self and continue to get my own work done. I’ll also work on getting more sleep. I don’t ever want to feel like the classroom is a trap and a killer of dreams (literally and figuratively).

Kindness Week Day 7: Charge Your Inner Light

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to yourself.

When I began “Kindness Week,” I knew the prompt for the last post would focus on kindness to self. The words were in my spirit, but tonight as I was typing them, I realized the words felt familiar because I’d already written the post a year ago! I started to scrap the topic, but decided the words bear repeating.  After all, even the kindest among us has difficulty being kind to ourselves.

Here are the words from last summer’s post:

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.  —Pics and Posts, June 20, 2017

Kindness to ourselves often requires changing the language we use to speak to ourselves. It requires taking care of our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.

Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself. You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest: Take Care. Just recently I encountered a young blogger, a college student, who features a self-care post almost every Sunday. You might want to check out her blog too: The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver.

Earlier this week my son suggested that I close out the seven days of kindness with the message, “be kind to everyone.” It really is that simple.

I encourage you to live with a spirit of kindness. Walk with it. Breathe it. Look for the good in people. Help people in need, including the disheveled stranger who asks for a dollar or two. Drive with courtesy. Give the benefit of the doubt. Forgive easily. Love freely.

Make kindness more than a habit. Make it part of your character.  And remember–we can be heart and light to others only if the inner light is glowing.

 

Note on today’s image: The postcard above was made by Terry L. who participates in both Love Notes and the Global heART Exchange. She sent the card in April, shortly after receiving happy heART mail from me. Her message is clear: “Be kind to yourself. You are amazing! You’re good enough. You are worth it!”

Previous “Kindness Week” posts:

Have a “kind” week!

Motivation on a Monday: I Hope You Smile

I received a bright purple postcard recently, and without flipping it to the message side, I knew immediately who had sent it–Jacki, my purple-loving Love Notes pal who lives on the other side of the pond.

She wrote a nice, long quote on the back, perfect for sharing on a Monday.

One day it just clicks. You realize what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.

I hope that you can smile when you look in the mirror today “because you are truly proud of yourself” and truly in love with the person staring back at you.

If you’re not there yet, wrap yourself in a little purple love, knowing you’ll get there some day.

“We Need a Little Silence”

We have had far too much tossed at us the last several days–natural disasters, the escalating rhetoric on race in the U.S., the criticism of peaceful protest while validating violent protest, the invalidation of one the most basic rights of U.S. citizenry, dangerous political venom spewing from heads of state. In response to all of this, Larry K, one of my former students, wrote in the middle of a semi-lengthy Facebook post–

The world needs a little silence.

I feel this need with every fiber of my being as I am struggling to navigate the chaos.

We are assaulted with a barrage of traditional media and social media commentary all day long and we are not filtering and processing. This leaves us burdened. And weary. And (maybe) cowering in a corner.

In my writing courses, I tell my students that whenever we read an article, a social media post, a work of fiction–anything–we are entering a conversation, and with all conversations we must hear/listen, ask questions, respond, and add to the conversation. Conversations should be healthy and productive and should lead to growth in some way, no matter how small. The problem lately is that there’s been a lot of noise but little listening. We’re all talking at the same time and few are hearing the unspoken. And we’re just becoming more and more angry and frustrated. We’re screaming at each other. And the earth is mad and screaming too–through hurricanes, earthquakes , wildfires, and everything else.

We “need a little silence,” Larry says, “like when you’re angry at your mate and you just retreat to your corner.”

We do. We need to walk away from the fight. Retreat–in both senses of the word.

I urge you to take care of your mind and spirit and tune out the noise, regroup, and take strategic steps to filter what is unnecessary, what is not beneficial to your soul.

Seven Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

Postcard from Love Noter Angela C.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of summer as a season. You won’t find me outdoors much between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It’s just too hot for me!

Do you–like me–avoid the higher temperatures?  This doesn’t mean you have to stay “cooped up” in your house or bored until the heat lessens. If you’re looking for some ways to enjoy summer and stay really cool, here are a some “tried and true” ways to get out of the house and beat the heat:

Head Out to the Air Conditioning

  • Read at the mall. Grab a book, toss it in your bag, and head out the house to a bench in the air-conditioned mall. When your eyes need a brief rest from reading, you can people-watch or window-shop. If the mall is too far away or not the kind of place you like to hang out, a coffee shop is a great alternative.
  • Hang out at the Public Library. My baby sister and I were just talking about all the wonderful opportunities for growth and entertainment libraries offer. Her local library offers free painting and crafting classes, piano lessons, and so much more. There is always something at the public library here in Huntsville–readings, lectures, crafting, film viewings, book clubs, author signings, discovery centers, special exhibits, and so much more. There is literally something for everyone. In fact, there’s so much to do it’s a wonder we don’t leech off the library’s AC every day.
  • Journal at the Pool. Kids love pools, so what better way to give your kid what he or she wants and get what you want without compromising. Public indoor pools offer the perfect opportunity for you to do a little art journaling or writing. The lifeguards make sure your kid is safe, so you can take “me-time” with your kid in view. Be sure to bring along your favorite pens, pencils, stickers, and washi tape. 😉

Just Outside Your Home, but Close Enough to Air Conditioning

  • Plan an Iced Tea Party. Host an iced tea party for two or three of your friends. You can do this outdoors under a large tree or on your patio. Serve a variety of cold teas and your favorite cold salads, chilled fruit, and raw veggies. I love tea, but I’m not likely to sip hot tea during the scorching days of summer.
  • Step Outdoors. Open your eyes to the “cool” things just outside your door. Spend some time watching from your patio or from your porch. You’ll observe birds, squirrels, bunnies, even foxes, deer and coyotes, depending on where you live. Even the cloud formations can keep you engaged for a really long time. There’s so much to see just outside our front (and back) doors.

Rainy Day (or Indoor Fun)

  • Create a Vision Journal. You’re familiar with vision boards. A vision journal is the same thing, but created in a notebook instead of on a board. Go through old magazines and cut out pictures that represent what you really want in life for your home, career, vacation, health, spiritual development, self-care, etc. Create collages on the journal pages. Refer to the book from time to time and imagine yourself with your dreams fulfilled. Now, of course, you want to do more than create colorful collages of a beautiful life; you also want to make plans for achieving the dream.
  • Private Concert. Your phone, tablet, and/or computer are filled with music, some you haven’t listened to in a long time, if at all. Create a list of your favorites from the past (or present). Turn down the lights, turn up the music, and host your own concert. If your family members want to join in, let them! The more the merrier. (Tip: If you don’t feel like searching through your extensive music archive, you can find a lot of your favorites on YouTube. Create a playlist there and it’s always available for you).

Summer will be over before we know it, so stay indoors and have some summer fun!

 

Guard Well That Treasure, Kindness…

Many years ago one of my good friends warned me that I was too kind and admitted that she was worried people would abuse my kindness and that would forever change me.  Though I thought this would never happen, I recalled her statement more than a decade later when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person I saw. A light was missing. The spark had dimmed.  The unkindness of others had taken a toll on my spirit and was beginning to affect how I interacted with everyone.

That moment in the mirror was a wake-up call.

I had an acquaintance who operated from the belief that few could be trusted and it was “better to get them before they get you.”  Even when she could plainly see (and admitted so) that she was wrong about a person’s motives, she found it difficult to change her approach. She was always in self-protective mode, and it was clear (to me, at least) that her defensiveness and abrasiveness were the result of people’s taking advantage of her kindness.

I did not want to become this person.  I did not want to assume the worst before I expected the best. I wanted (to continue) to treat people with kindness.

Today’s kindness card, designed by Cricket, reminded me of my mirror experience and underscored the lesson I learned in “guarding kindness.”

Cricket, who designs simple and elegant cards, posted a “sneak peek” of the card on Facebook, and I admired the card before I knew it was on its way to me. The bright green and the red hearts in place of fingernails were visually appealing, but I loved the words which were typed on the card using a vintage typewriter.

“Guard Well…” by Cricket

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.  –George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant, née Dupin)

Kindness is a treasure that should be protected–given without hesitation and with no regrets. It is indeed a gift that changes the giver, even if it doesn’t change the receiver. But kindness doesn’t mean answering “yes” to every request or becoming a doormat.  As I suggested in an earlier post, one can be compassionate while saying “no,” and kindness shouldn’t cost anything.

Sometimes, people have other motives. Sometimes, people are mean. Sometimes, people are so wounded from past experiences that they know of no other way than to take advantage or hurt others.

Their behavior should not determine how we treat them, but we must learn there is kindness in walking away.