My blue trunk

When I was a child, there was an old blue steamer trunk in my bedroom. I used it like a bedside table, but usually just stored my stuffed animals on it. I wasn’t allowed to open it .. it was big enough that I could’ve gotten closed into it, so it was always locked.

Every now and then my mom would open the trunk and she and I would go through the contents. The trunk held my baby things. Tiny dresses, cloth books, baby toys, rattle, dish, cup, spoon, stuffed animals. I was able to convince my mom to let me have the stuffed animals to play with, but everything else just stayed tucked away in the trunk.

The trunk made it seem almost like my babyhood lived in my room with me.

I never knew the history of the trunk. I think it was my mom’s, originally, but I don’t know for sure.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had someone come by and cart away things to the dump. One of the things that left my house was the trunk. It had stayed with me my entire life, eventually serving as storage for Christmas decorations. It lived out in my shed where the damp and cold eventually rusted and rotted the trunk.

The day the trunk was taken away, I just felt relief to get rid of things. Now, I feel like I should’ve taken a moment to sit with the trunk. To thank it for a lifetime of storing my special things. It wasn’t until the next day when I realized how important that trunk had been and how I’d let it go with giving it proper regard.

So this little post is my salute to the blue steamer trunk. You know, I don’t even have a photo of that trunk. It’d always been such a fixture in my life, I don’t think I really saw it anymore.

Goodbye blue trunk. You served me well.

Evening binges

I have a problem with binge eating in the evening. Even though I’ll be full from dinner, as soon as I sit down on the couch, or settle in for whatever my evening activity is, I want to eat something. Chips, popcorn, berries, candy, whatever’s easily accessible. I prefer salty crunchy things for my evening eating fests, but I’ll rummage through the cupboards and fridge for anything easy to eat.

Tonight I decided to slice a cucumber and put salt and pepper on the slices. Surprisingly enough, it gave me satisfaction. A little crunchy, a little salty, a limited amount. The other night I had some cheese slices. They were also satisfying.

I’ve found that much of my current weight loss journey is getting control of compulsive food behaviors. Like evening binges. Evenings in general are my biggest temptation times. Ideally I’d like to not be eating in the evening, but at least substituting in some healthier choices in smaller amounts appears to be a good first step.

Anyone else get the evening munchies?

Summer Camp Refuge

When I decided to take a little Personal Retreat last month, I’d been reading the book Something More by Sarah ban Breathnach. She was stressing that one of the first steps for getting in touch with your authentic self was to revisit favorite places and events of your childhood.

I found myself thinking about the horse camp, Flying Horseshoe Ranch, that I went to every summer from age eight to fifteen. Suddenly a lightbulb went off in my head and I decided to take several days of my upcoming vacation time to stay at Flying Horseshoe, which had now become a guest ranch and was no longer a kids’ camp. What better way to get in touch with an important place from my childhood than to go back and immerse myself in that very place.

Flying Horseshoe was important to me for a couple of reasons. Mainly two. 1) Horses. Definitely the most important reason, and 2) lack of bullies.

I was the victim of some serious bullying at my school. Physical beatings. Verbal abuse. Molestation. I would come home from school in tears and with bruises all over my body, and my mother’s response was, “Oh, kids will be kids. Just ignore them.” It was me against an entire group of about ten kids who were all bigger and stronger than me. Somehow the school was unware of what was happening, or if they knew, they did nothing.

Anyway, I didn’t mean go off on a tangent.  Back to camp.

I felt safe there. I had friends. I found myself in leadership positions. People treated each other kindly. The few incidents of bullying that I was aware of were dealt with swiftly, and the perpetrators were sent home.

While growing up, I always felt like I could be my most authentic self at camp. I wasn’t afraid. I could speak up without fear of ridicule. I could live out my love of horses without kids making fun of me. So it was interesting being back at Flying Horseshoe as an adult. So many memories. And I found myself wondering how to get in touch with that girl who was confident and funny and competent and courageous and a leader and graceful. None of those are words I would really use to describe myself now. So much “life” has happened and torn me down from the best version of myself.

I’m not sure how to bring that earlier version of myself back into the light. Or maybe add those attributes into my current life. But having some time to be quiet and thoughtful at the place of refuge of my childhood was interesting and gave me a great deal of food for thought.

What places from your past may hold secrets to your authentic self? You can’t know what memories will be triggered if you reacquaint yourself with who you once were.

Candy and “food neutrality”

I’ve been working on weight loss and getting control of my compulsive food behaviors this year. I have a friend who I talk with regularly about my eating-related journey, and she believes it’s possible to achieve what she calls “food neutrality” where the food doesn’t call to you or tempt you anymore. I haven’t been sure what to think about the idea of food neutrality, but I experienced something this week that makes me wonder if there’s some validity to the concept.

Eight months ago, I stopped eating sugar. Cold turkey. Even went through withdrawals of sorts. Mainly headache, body aches, and overwhelming cravings. The discomfort lasted about a week, and then things settled down. No more physical symptoms, but still having cravings that I battled everyday. I talked to my friend everyday during this time, and her encouragement really helped. I have remained sugar-free for more than half a year. Amazing!

Fast forward to now.

Two weeks ago, I bought two large bags of candy to hand out to the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. I put the bags into a large bowl, and set it by the front door. Now, to give some context, on previous years if I’d bought candy early, I would’ve eaten the entire bag all by myself, and then would’ve needed to buy more candy to hand out. I’m a bit of a sugar addict and binge eater.

But this year it was different. I walked past the bowl of candy (all favorite candies, by the way), and I felt nothing. No cravings. No temptations. When I would look at the candy bowl, it felt almost like I was just looking at a bowl of dirt. Something inedible. Not food for me at all.

Is this what food neutrality is like?

On the other hand, I found myself thinking about the upcoming holidays and all the homemade treats that show up. Will my candy neutrality apply to homemade baked goods, too? I honestly don’t think so. Just thinking about those items (which will remain nameless so I don’t trigger myself) sends me into cravings. But knowing how eight months of living sugar-free set me free from candy, if I make it through the holidays and get some more time under my belt, perhaps food neutrality will show up for other temptations?

In the meantime, I’ll start this month of Thanksgiving being grateful for making huge strides with my weight, food, and body goals. Oh, and by the way, I’ve lost twenty-five pounds! Slowly, but I think, healthily.

Discontent and disorder

I read something recently that gave me pause. It was something to the effect that discontent and disorder are signs of energy and hope, not despair.

I thought it was an interesting thought. I’ve been feeling discontent/restless lately, but saw it as a sign of maybe depression trying to rear it’s head.

But is it possibly a sign of preparation for changes and possible new directions?

The fact that restlessness is a part of what I’m experiencing is interesting. Restlessness has energy behind it, and when I’m in a true depression, there’s no energy involved.

Anyway, it gave me a bit of hope that perhaps something’s percolating in my heart and spirit.

Personal Retreat Action Plan

A Personal Retreat is an act of self-love and self-care. It’s a gift to yourself. It can be long or short. A couple of hours alone on a park bench, or an overnight in a fancy hotel, or several days in a location important to you (like I did).

When I decided to do a Personal Retreat, I wanted to make sure I accomplished what I set out to do.  First, I identified what I wanted to get out of it::

  • recharge – set life in a new direction
  • get unstuck – reconnect with myself
  • revisit goals – find new insights
  • brainstorm solutions – get clarity
  • transformation

I wanted space to rejuvenate, recollect, and reflect on life, on the past, and on my future.

I identified the main transformative activities I would do:

  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Mediation/prayer
  • Gratitude
  • Walking

I brought with me a book that I wanted to work through that focused on personal change, a large blank sketchbook for notes and doodles and whatever, healthy food (the place I stayed had a microwave and fridge in the room so I didn’t have to interrupt my retreat to go off in search of food in town).

I roughly outlined my days with time for reading, time for reflection, time for physical activity (walking/hiking the trails and the long driveway of the ranch), and time for fun (horseback riding!).  I alternated transformative practice with relaxation and physical activity.’

After the retreat, I wanted to come up with an Action Plan of how to live out any new ideas or new intentions, but that wasn’t really something I could plan ahead, since I didn’t know what sorts of transformations or ideas were going to come out of the experience.

Now I plan to do a check-in with myself after a week of being home.  That will be tomorrow night.

Taking a Personal Retreat isn’t complicated. It just takes a little planning and thinking ahead. For myself, I think choosing the book to work through might have been the hardest part, but in this circumstance I’d already found the book and had started the process at home. The location was easy for me and sort of presented itself. I’d say trust your intuition about where you could go for some serenity and space for reflection.

If you take a Personal Retreat, I hope you find it beneficial and enlightening.

A personal retreat

I’d been feeling restless. My job is just a job. I kept sensing there’s something more I could be doing that would bring more fulfillment or more … something. Partly, I knew I needed a vacation, so I scheduled two weeks off.

And then the idea came to me to take a short Personal Retreat. A time of focus, and questions, and maybe even some answers (if I got lucky).

The horse camp I went to as a kid has become a guest ranch for anyone, so I decided to take a trip back in time and spend three nights at Flying Horseshoe Ranch in Cle Elum, Washington.

I had a book I’d planned to work through (Something More by Sarah ban Breathnach). I brought a big blank sketchbook for notes, doodles, whatever. I brought simple food I could heat up in the in-room microwave so I didn’t have to worry about scrounging for food in town. Brought along CDs of a favorite poet/teacher to listen to in the car.

It was an interesting time. Peace and quiet. Heartache and joy. Physical pain (my bad hip didn’t care for horseback riding). I have a notebook now with lots of thoughts outlined for further reflection. I didn’t know when I started this process how many answers I’d have at the end of the Retreat, or if I’d just end up with further questions. Now looking back, I think it’s a little of both. I feel some sense of direction, but there are many details to figure out.

Coming home, I felt rejuvenated, but also exhausted. I took a good nap, hung out with my cats, and spent some time on my back deck working more in my notebook. I want to bring some of the Retreat habits back home with me. I don’t want to lose the momentum that started with this time away. It’ll be interesting to see what the long term effects are from this time of concentrated reflection and self-care.

Over the next week, I’m going to share more about the practical how-to steps I followed for my personal retreat, and I’ll also share a few of the insights and answers I received. Honestly, I hope it’s just the beginning of an on-going journey and exploration.

A long pilgrimage away from yourself

I found this in a little notebook where I’d been keeping notes on things I’d read. I don’t know what this is. Is it phrases I liked from a book? It doesn’t seem to make enough sense enough to be a poem of its own. It’s sort of poetic feeling, though. It’s super intriguing to me and a bit weird that I don’t know where it came from or what its intent was. Dream writing? It is definitely written in my handwriting. Well, just to give it some sort of sense, I’ll call it a poem. Here’s the unknown mystery “poem” that I stumbled upon today.

a long pilgrimage away from yourself
appreciate someone when they’re gone from your life
come into your body of change
you’ve seen the light
looked into stone as a strong sturdy rock
be weathered by what comes to you
imprisonment of the human spirit
sheltering beauty
wild horizon
creates the essentiality
astonished at the place you grew
dedicates himself
takes half-a-step braver step
house of high thinking and simple things
imprisoning necessity
to the brim my heart was full
walk in blessedness
a dedicated spirit
magnificent morning light
my heart was full
sinning greatly
what horizon is there
devilish version of self
in Biblical times
saw it for the first time
a strangled scream
ascended into new life
an uncaring invitation
panicked quivering arms
like extras from the Bible
wide-eyed and singing
the books beneath the conversation
one short step away
a door of revelation
brutally honest spiritual warrior
foundational truth
grounded in humility and humiliation
keep loss and heartache at bay
the outer diagnostic
no realistic choice
the path of vulnerability
asking for the help you need along the way
humble compassion
apprentice to understanding
obeying the earth
the give and take of the sea
moonlit shadow
a pale whispering face
waking joy
it always had to break your heart along the way
walking far outside yourself
a prayer for safe arrival
the heart, the mind, the promise
more marvelous
a simple reflection
the road stretching on
the road seen
the road dropping away
take your promise from you
the dwelling place you lived
another invitation
a field of freedom
the road stretching on

What is the intent of the room?

I just read/skimmed another book on decluttering. “Declutter Like a Mother.” Funny title. 🙂

Anyway, she had one idea that sort of revolutionized part of my decluttering project. She said before you do anything with a room, take some time to identify what your intent is for the room. How do you want to use it when everything’s done? And then keep that intention in mind as you’re decluttering.

Since I won’t be using the current rooms in my house after I declutter (I’ll be moving), it didn’t really apply to my current situation. But then I thought about the intentions I have for the rooms in my future house. And suddenly the two rooms that were going to be my office and a spare bedroom changed entirely. I realized I wanted the office space to be solely for work-related things so I can close the door and be done with it all at the end of the day. The other room I want to use for more than a guest room. I want to use it for art/crafts, sewing, reading. I want to make it cute and cozy. I want to put a hide-a-bed or futon in there so it can be used for guests as needed, but I don’t need an entire room set aside for guests since I rarely have anyone sleep over.

Just that idea of “intention” for a room really transformed my thinking. It also has changed the decluttering process on this end, too. When thinking about the intention of the rooms at the new place, I realized I can part with the queen-sized bed that’s currently in the guest room since I’m going to be using a hide-e-bed instead. I can keep a desk I was going to part with because now I’m going to use it as a craft table. I have chair that was going to go away, but now I want to keep it as a reading chair in the craft/activity room.

I didn’t really get a lot of new ideas for this particular book, but just finding one idea that’s helpful like this is definitely worth checking it out from the library.