Welcome to mid-winter!
Imbolc on February 1, Groundhog's Day on February 2 and the Lunar New Year beginning February 10 in some ways all celebrate the shift to more light. We dance to Northside featuring Nordic music to honor this transition.
We'll have a Mardi Gras class on February 13, Tuesday, 9:30 am. There's class as usual on Presidents' Day, Monday, February 19, 4:30 pm.
a random assortment of Good Things to Know
1. Winter dehydration is a thing. Though we may not sweat as much as we do in warmer months, other environmental factors can contribute to our not getting all the water we need. My personal signs that I've gotten dehydrated are foot or calf cramps, headaches, and a dry mouth. I like to use an electrolyte solution when drinking just water isn't enough for me.
2. The New York Times has a suggestion for hitting middle age, and it's kind of a fancy way to remind us to do what we love. Go full throttle on a weird hobby.
Jancee Dunn writes, "If possible, try something you’ve always wanted to do. If you have the resources, book that quirky trip: a tour of abandoned Cold War sites (my middle-aged husband’s idea of a rollicking time), a birding expedition, the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise. A friend of mine joined a ghost-hunting meet-up. Another, who has always loved singing, is part of a Britpop choir. My brother-in-law, a chef, set up a mushroom cave in his basement. ...Instead of focusing on the challenges of this age, which are largely out of your control... explore ways you can learn and grow."
Last year, I decided to try pottery. I was terrible! It also was lots of fun and very stimulating.
3. Your feet are dry. They ache, too. So give them some love. Try leaving some wonderful lotion by your bedside. Massaging your feet, even just 30 seconds per foot before bed, yields lots of benefits and might help you sleep.
What if we gave up saying unkind things for Lent?
We celebrate the arrival of early spring on February 1 with what the authors of Celebrating the Great Mother refer to as the “stirring of the seeds.” Plants are not quite ready to poke their heads up through the dirt, but the seeds, the beginnings of life, begin to prepare for that journey. It’s winter yet we see the light growing and feel the change that will become spring life. I can use February, the longest month of the year, to stir my seeds of kindness and compassion.
I’m taking an online course in self-compassion. The fundamentals of this practice are that we recognize we are suffering; we recognize suffering is universal and that all humans suffer; and we practice mindfulness around that suffering. Instead of self-judgement, we bring self-kindness. Instead of stewing in isolation, we seek our common humanity. Instead of over-identifying with our suffering or the cause of our suffering, we observe things as they are, in a state of mind that is open and curious.
Most of us find it’s easier to be kind to others than to ourselves. Except – there are truly terrible humans I loathe. There are some disastrous humans who cause mass suffering, and I resist being kind to them. That’s okay. I can offer compassion – I really do wish they were free from suffering at least because then maybe they wouldn’t be so awful – while denying them loving-kindness. I don’t have to wish they are happy and well.
When I deny myself loving-kindness, I’m lumping myself in with the most awful, destructive humans I know about. That seems excessive. That’s pretty mean and I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve that.
What if I stopped, for just six weeks, from saying unkind things about all of us? The terrible humans are people I don’t know, so they don’t hear the awful things I say in my head. If I stopped saying the vicious things, might that be a delightful break for me? It might be good practice to help me also not say terrible, vicious, banal and unkind things to myself.
Pivot with me here. I have a confession: one of my favorite hobbies is shopping. I like to look at things and touch them. I like to go online and see all my options. Sometimes, I love the things that I buy, but sometimes I realize that I liked the idea of those things and not the actual things. I make myself feel better by giving those things away.
My problem with this hobby is that it seems more useless and harmful than other hobbies. Jigsaw puzzles? My brain is getting stronger at shapes and colors! Yay! Watching a movie? Ideas, emotions, all sorts of yummy stimulation.
Yet I know that some of what I enjoy about shopping is that it’s a form of self-nurturing and independence. I give myself what I want. Shopping calms me; my mind wanders; I imagine possibilities: where would I wear this? what would that be like? where does this go in my home? Oh, what lovely colors and shapes!
I have a deep sense of shame that shopping is bad for the environment and it's desperately materialistic. Even while I am enjoying myself shopping, I am also spewing a steady stream of negative self-talk that I'm a bad person for doing this bad thing.
It’s as if I am looking for something mean to say about myself.
That may be the dirty little habit I have let grow to the size of a monster. Feeling vulnerable sucks; in contrast, saying mean things feels strong and righteous. Saying unkind things somehow is subversively empowering. I don’t want that kind of power over myself. I’d really rather enjoy life.
The clincher is that feeling bad about shopping hasn’t led me to reduce my shopping, just to enjoy it less because I feel guilty. There’s a theory that says when we deny ourselves, we set ourselves up for a binge. Allow ourselves what we love, and we are satisfied and don’t need quite so much. I could allow myself more opportunities to shop-without-buying, to look and imagine, to wander.
It’s okay if you think shopping is a stupid and even harmful hobby. I mean, you have a point. It’s not okay, though, for me to berate myself daily. I am absolutely certain that if you think shopping is not a great hobby, you’d keep it to yourself. You wouldn’t unload on me, saying unkind things to try to get me to change.
That was my mother’s nasty habit, by the way, and she alienated her loving granddaughter by complaining about Siobhan’s hair and tattoos. My mother told me she thought she could influence her granddaughter’s behavior with her disgust, which was true but not in the way my mother wanted. Instead, Siobhan chose to spend less time with her grandmother. She felt hurt. Well, when I do that same thing to myself, I hurt myself and I want to spend less time being me.
So what if I gave up saying unkind things to myself and to others and even thinking it in my head? I can’t see any downsides. No one needs my unkind words. I can speak an honest truth, of course. I can speak out against terrible humans acting in terrible ways. That will be right action, the way I remain a kind person in a world with unkind people. It doesn’t matter that I’m not Catholic and don’t actually observe Lent. I can use this midwinter shift to stir my seeds of self-compassion.
It Worked For Them: This is a section in which I relate tales of good health results. Some of what worked for them might work for you!
1. Zo had debilitating daily headaches and migraines. Botox worked on their occipital neuralgia.
2. Jenn Lewis also has dealt with unrelenting headaches and migraines. Her primary work has her on the computer all day.
"For me, physical manipulation by a PT was oh so much more effective than stretching to get things loosened up, and dry needling was a big turning point. Once I started doing dry needling regularly, my neck has been much improved. I still have to be careful, but I can definitely manage that, and massages are also really helpful.
There are some stretches that I like, particularly some with a foam roller. My OT said she wants to me to roll out of bed onto my foam roller and just lay there with my arms to the sides to open my chest in the mornings. Anything that opens your chest and pulls your neck back from the phone / computer position where your chin juts out is effective for relieving the computer / phone posture issues.
If I do all the different exercises I've gotten over time, it's like 45 mins a day, so I focus on the ones that are more effective. The hands and neck are related issues, so it's a double bonus when I do stretches that help both. I mention my hands since tight muscles in the neck area can also lead to tingling and numbness, so it's a good reminder to get on prevention early."
3. Jenn has one more recommendation. She loves People and Planet Refill. They offer refilling of personal care and cleaning products as well as other low-waste skincare, bath & body, and local products.
Locally, I like Savers for used and TJ Maxx or Marshalls for discounted.
REI has a great return policy for members: go ahead and wear that bra or walk in those shoes for a few months and return them if they don't work.
Athleta has excellent quality clothing, and they've opened a store at Academy and Wyoming. Lululemon is also excellent quality, but like Athleta, they're expensive.
I found on Amazon a pair of tights that feel a lot like Lululemon Align leggings. There isn't much compression, and my digestive track really appreciates not being squeezed. (TBH, getting a bit annoyed with the "suck in your tummy" bs). These tights fit true to size. The quality isn't as good as Lululemon as they are a bit thinner, but they're also a fraction of the price.