Taking a slower approach and re-embracing physical books

The summer of 2018 was rough. I felt like I was in a tornado of awful. Every single day felt like my amygdala was gushing the fight or flight response to the point that I took a week of vacation just to get a short break from the near-constant roller coaster I was on.

I decided to try something slightly different on this vacation since I needed to slow down and escape in a major way: I booked a one-day/one-night trip and I bought a bunch of books, with a plan to spend the remainder of my time enjoying my patio with beverages and snacks.

Buying books before I take vacation is nothing new for me. I literally never go anywhere without books since I have my phone with me everywhere I go. However, for the first time in years, I bought physical books. And I wanted fluffy books. That second part I pretty much failed since I bought books that mirrored, in various ways, the tumultuous period I was living through.

Despite my questionable judgment about the suitability of certain books for light, escapist vacation reading, I really enjoyed settling in for a book that requires two hands and a light source to read.

Since last summer, I’ve doubled down on reading physical books, making sure I always have one on the go. I still read on my devices and listen to audio books because this allows me to read more books more quickly and I love to read as much as I can get my hands on.

But I’ve learned to appreciate the calm that descends when I’m surrounded by quiet broken only by the crinkle and swish of a page turning. I’m still a fast reader but sitting down to read a physical book forces you to pay attention and forego other distractions, except some background music to help ward off distractions from ambient noise.

As long as I’m able, I’m not going to stop reading ebooks and audio books but it’s been nice to get back to my old ways of devouring books that aren’t quite as easily mobile.

Sometimes you have to get out of your head

get-out-of-your-head.jpeg

When Lara and I were running our business together, we started buying Leonie Dawson's journals to help us think about the previous year and plan for the new year. I've stopped buying them now because I never really have time to finish them and that bothers me irrationally. They're great tools to get you thinking about how things went, what you'd change and how you want to move forward. I did best with it the first year we got them. 

But my favorite part was a really short section that asked for a list of five things to do when a break is needed. The concept of identifying a finite list of ways to get out of work mode so I could return to a more productive head space was kind of revolutionary for me.

Since I'm going through my 52 Lists for Happiness in my own little way here on the blog, I immediately thought of that list when I came to the assignment about things that help you get out of your head. So, here goes:

  • Stories are the best way for me to turn off all the noise around me. I can escape into a book and let everything else fall away. (I try not to let it fall so far that the laundry doesn't get done.)
  • Music is so healing. I can be frustrated or mad and a fun song with a great beat will take me to a whole new space where I can relax and stop stressing.
  • Those days when you're hyperventilating and wondering how you're going to manage situations, there's nothing like having a chat or a glass of wine with a good friend. 
  • Taking a long walk helps me wake up when I need a jolt of coffee. And it can help me get out of a room so I can get out of my head when I really need to.
  • Movies and TV shows that have great storylines can be just as effective as a book for providing a vehicle to another world that doesn't share the same worries.
  • Getting immersed in creative writing can get me well and truly lost in another world. Unfortunately, it's not such a great way to pause work for only a short time unless that means hours or days.

I'd love to say I knit or crochet to escape, but I'm not consistent at practicing or even good at either one. I do both on occasion anyway. The jury's still out on whether such crafty activities are true escapism for me. I think I might be entertaining a fruitless idea that I'll one day be somewhat decent and grow to love them. I probably need to embrace my non-crafty status and stop buying yarn.

Please throw your own suggestions for getting out of your head in the comments - anything that works for you might help someone else. (Like moi.)

What makes me happy right now

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Happiness is one of those things that we're programmed into thinking is a life goal. Do what makes you happy. Don't worry, be happy. Live happily ever after. Happiness is...you fill in the blank.

I like feeling happy, but I also get how fleeting an emotion it is. I've learned to appreciate the depth and breadth of feeling joy - whether I feel happy or not. But happiness isn't something I'm going to turn away when it comes.

There's never going to be a list of things that make me happy that isn't topped by my family. Matt is the most kind, caring, funny, supportive husband. He's the yin to my yang. I'm messy; he's not. I'm a daydreamer; he's not. I drink wine; he doesn't (more for me). I don't like to vacuum; he does. I meticulously sort, fold and hang clothes (when I get to the laundry); he doesn't. I read and sing; he doesn't. I'm not into video games; he is. We also agree on a lot of things - both trivial and critical. 

When Matt walks through the door at the end of the day and smiles, it lights up my world.

Brandon's so much like Matt, it makes me smile. He's got his dad's quick wit and my tendency to tease. It's a combination that keeps us all laughing. But Brandon's also one of the most genuinely sweet children I've ever known. He's still an affectionate cuddler who isn't afraid to tell anyone how much he cares. I hope he hangs onto that as he gets older.

Every time I get a hug from my little guy, my cup of joy gets filled up.

I've spent the last few years focused on writing and stories, so I get immersed in story practically every day. The medium doesn't matter. I love a good story in a song, a book, a TV show or movie, pictures and more. I even make up stories in my head starring strangers around me. Most of those stories get lost in a vault buried deep in some unknown tunnel in my brain. This isn't a bad thing.

Stories help me see new perspectives, explore new ideas, and occasionally escape from the monotony of life.

When I was a kid, I used to think once you finished school there was no more learning. Back then I didn't think this would bother me in the least. "No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers' dirty looks," sounded awfully nice. But somewhere along the way, I realized how much I liked learning and I just kept doing it. There's so much interesting stuff in the world to learn. I want to soak as much of it up as I can.

Learning makes me a better writer and a better human.

I'm also blessed to have so many truly wonderful people in my life, from my family to friends to colleagues. Life is rich in unmeasurable ways when you're surrounded by so much good. Also, coffee. And daisies. Daisies are such a happy flower. :)

Day 11 - What do you wish you'd done more of in 2011?

What do you wish you’d done more of in 2011?

*****

I have a whole list of things I wish I’d done more of. It includes exploring Ottawa, consistently working on getting healthier, and several of the items on a long-ago bucket list.

I have crocheted some, but not nearly enough - I’d really like to finish the scarf I’ve been working on for Brandon for almost two years now.

I’ve gotten completely off the rails with practicing photography. That makes me sad. Part of the reason is my kit lens limitations. The 50mm I got for Christmas last year is fantastic, but also limiting. I’m finding I really want something like this now. Oy. (It’s never going to end, is it?)

Sign Language…yeah, I’ve barely even tried. It’s harder now that Brandon’s talking. 

I’ve had a lot of practice with Photoshop and Illustrator this year. I’ve also added Lightroom and InDesign to my list of software that I’m learning. I get to use them often for work, so that helps a great deal.

Blogging has put my creative writing interest on the back burner. One day I’ll try to get back to it, but for now I know it just isn’t where my heart or my head is at.

I’m never going to be a Web Designer by trade, but I’m progressing in what little I know. I can’t do anything exceptional, but I’m mostly happy with the results of what I am able to do. 

Cooking is something I wish I’d do a lot more of. It would certainly save us money as a family and that’s never a bad thing. I just wish I could derive some enjoyment from it. I don’t like it and I’m not sure how to change that.

Somewhere in here there are goals for 2012, but I haven’t a clue which ones I’d like to pursue yet. I’m still hopeful that I can finish that scarf before the end of this year. I should go work on it right now.

Saturday night me-time rituals

When I was younger and still living at home, Saturday nights were a time I got to spend with my mom - just the two of us most of the time. We stayed up really late a lot of the time. When I moved out of the house, I lost those times with Mom, but I continued the tradition of unwinding on Saturday nights. I read, I watched TV, I just did whatever I wanted for as long as I wanted to do it.

I remember one particular Saturday night when I was living alone: I started reading Kiss the Girls by James Patterson. BIG mistake. That book is all about a guy who targets women who live alone. I can only assume that I hadn’t seen the movie before I read the book, which is my preference. Or maybe I had seen the movie and because it’s so watered down (it really is), I didn’t think it would scare the bejeezus out of me late on a Saturday night.

I laid in bed, fully awake and heart racing during every one of those scenes where you just know that the bogeyman is going to jump out at you, until 5:00am when I finally read the last word on the last page. I had to know that the bad guy was really gone and not in my side yard waiting for me to turn out my light.

Another Saturday night ritual was born when Walmart opened a 24-hour superstore in Tallahassee. I might have gotten into the habit of going grocery shopping at 1:00am. It’s actually a really nice place to be that time of night!

After Matt and I got married, I got away from my Saturday night at-home/retail rituals until Matt took a job at Blockbuster to make a little extra money. During that time, my new ritual tended to be sitting in front of the television for hours watching movies that we got to rent for free, thanks to his employment. Ten a week, thank you very much. Thankfully, that period of him working two jobs didn’t last long. It got to be pretty lonely. 

Brandon’s birth and my return to work led to yet another shift. The alternating sleep-in days. Matt was bound and determined to sleep-in on Saturdays. I think he needs to gird himself to survive the weekend and I can understand why. Keeping a child entertained gets a little harder the older he gets. I sort of wanted the Saturday sleep-in, but over time I’ve realized that I have my Saturday nights back! Matt goes to bed at a decent hour so he can get up early to take care of Brandon and I can stay up or go to bed at will.

Tonight, I realized that I have never really gotten over the fear of that bogeyman. I had to go down to the basement after Matt went to sleep and going through our house (alarm on) and seeing all the shadows and occasional light from the street lights filtering in through the windows made me feel so exposed and vulnerable. As they always do. 

Just writing that last paragraph made my stomach flip again about another ten times. I am such a wuss.

But I wouldn’t change my Saturday night rituals for anything. When else am I supposed to read/blog/explore (the Internet)? :)

When do you get regular alone time? How do you spend it?