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I'm no mad brilliant neurobioligist like Jill Bolte Taylor, but I do know that the end of winter drags me through some physically harsh territory, which leads to some fairly psychologically harsh territory, which leads to me to having very little to no fun. This is no fun, so this winter I've taken an active stance against allowing this to happen.
<aside> Okay, I'm going to throw an aside in here that probably has very little to do with everything else I'm writing about, but Jill Bolte Taylor gave a TED Talk in February 2008 that I revisit again and again, because what she talks about restores my faith in possibility and the universe in a magical yet rational way that almost nothing else can.
If you watch it before reading the rest of this, the rest might have a fighting chance of making more sense. If you don't, you'll miss out on some fine, fine Jill Bolte Taylor.
That was brilliant, right? Don't you just feel better about a whole metric tonne of stuff now? </aside>
Back to me taking an active stance not to allow winter to harsh my joy. Winter is a harsh mistress in Saskatchewan. There are stretches of days that dip well below -40°F. The angle of the sun drops, turning the daylight into golden summer's pekid and weak-willed cousin. And while I pretty much just want to crawl back into bed and wait for spring, life doesn't slow down. I still have elevently-billion deadlines to meet, work to go to, a house to clean, friends to meet, and that episode of Community is not going to watch itself. It's easy to leave no time for myself in there, no time for me to just breathe and actually enjoy whatever moment I am in.
If truth be told, it's often easier to avoid taking time for myself than to confront the demon that is Late Winter Schmutzie, but by making a concerted effort to take time for myself over the entire course of this winter in particular, I have learned that Late Winter Schmutzie is a little less hulkified with the extra attention. I might even hazzard to say that she is occasionally given to purr a little.
How did I do it? I wasn't even really aware that I was doing what I was doing at first. I quit drinking in August, and that knocked a whole bunch of my weekly schedule free to spend time thinking rather than wading through the morass of the side effects of alcohol for hours on end most nights. With all of those extra hours of relative clear-headedness to fill, I started spending a lot of time just sitting and thinking.
This sitting and thinking I was doing a lot of was definitely not all happy fun times. I had just quit drinking. I spent a lot of that thinking time mulling over how bad I felt and how much of my life felt wasted and wondering what the hell I was supposed to do next and since when did evening cable television start to suck much. Looking back, though, that was my brain just mucking its way out of a bad situation, which it had to do to work its way into a better one.
As time goes on, it has become more and more of a habit to spend time thinking, even if I find that time while I am cleaning out the bathtub or scooping the cat litter. It's a rhythm that my brain can now fall into easily, allowing me to spend time with myself, watching my thoughts flow in and out. And an amazing thing has happened since late August: as the art of spending time with my thoughts has grown easier with practice, more and more of those thoughts are positive and active rather than negative and passive. They are about things I would like to do and how I might do them more often now than they are about how I am a sad little troll with no future in the bank.
My thoughts aren't always positive and forward moving, of course, because I have this winter muffin top to obsess over and winter is hard no matter what way I look at it and I am not suffering a wealth of financial riches, but as I've allowed myself to spend time just thinking thoughts, whatever they may be, they have naturally moved and evolved and grown in complexity just as any human being does as they change from childhood to maturity.
My thoughts have become greater and more complex and interesting since they have been given the space to flow.
What I do is not quite meditation, and sometimes it looks more like me hovering over the bacon completely unaware that I'm burning it into fragile crisps, but it's definitely space and time for thinking, and every other aspect of my life has improved because of it. I am more thoughtful. I am more gentle. I like other human beings more. I am happier.
So often we cut our thoughts off at the pass. We start watching scenes from our childhood or thinking about how we've always wanted to take a balloon ride, but we pull back into worrying about being on time for work or meeting that deadline. Let yourself loosen those reigns a little. If you don't know how, don't worry about it. Just reading this plants that seed for you. You can loosen the reigns a little up there in that brain of yours. It's something your brain wants to do, and it likes doing it, even when there's hard stuff to wade through. Let it play. Your bacon might end up on the blackish side of crispy, but let it play.
I run into scary stuff up there all the time, but if I let the scary stuff run its drills enough times, some other pretty fantastic stuff starts to come up in between, and just like that, the fantastic stuff will start popping up in what I do and how I do it outside my brain, too.
Like right now? I need to make me some more of that bacon. See? That's me taking time to think good thoughts, and now I'm happier. Just like that. Sort of.
(Which is easy to say now after all that hard work I did freaking out throughout the fall and having scary thoughts and hating stuff and subsisting on chocolate ice cream and coffee for a while, but after some of the hard thinking that your brain might have to do while it exercises itself in the beginning, which may include exorcising its demons, you will really start to like it more. You'll be able to take your brain back, and not only watch your thoughts happen but guide them, too, and then you'll be able to take joy in bacon. Or something like that. I've lost my focus with thoughts of breakfast).
Damn that complexity.
Life might be busy, and winter may be long, but there is time for yourself to be had if you do the work to find it, and, as hudu-guru-schmaltzy-self-helpy as it may sound, it's always within you. It really is. It might be under layers of panic and worry and a heavy, years-long practice of not letting your thoughts run free, but your moments of freedom are up there, and you can learn to dig them out whenever you've got a moment, even if that moment is parsed up into 30-second stops at red lights on the way to work.
Now that that seed's been planted, here's to bacon! I have some more of that delicious stuff that is just begging to be fried up with a side of toast.
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