Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Birthdays and Biomes

Today is my birthday, and when I typed the header for my 6am competitive lesson this morning, I accidentally typed "3.30.71" for the date. I caught my error before the swimmer arrived, laughing at her imagined reaction: she probably thinks 1971 was the darkest of ages. It certainly recedes ever-farther down the list of dates to scroll when entering my birthdate online, but still within two screens of 2022 (not that I'm counting). Despite the increased scrolling I feel lucky to be here, especially on a glorious spring day when messages from friends and family keep me smiling.

For an introvert, I feel fantastically fortunate in friends and family, but I can be overwhelmed at times, by attention and to-dos. My dear friend reminded me this morning that we need to occasionally "fast" from people (and work), to rest and enjoy solitude and lack of busy-ness. She quoted to me from my own book, which was a happy surprise as only 15 or so people on the planet have read it. Though rest and fasting are lessons I learned long ago, I have been in the process of forgetting them since the pandemic ended and the excitement of being "out" again took over. I was also afraid of submerging in sorrow after William went to college, and double- or triple-booked myself to avoid my feelings.

Because I felt my energy levels running low and my body was traitorously weak at the Masters swim meet this past weekend, I went to see my bio-meridian practitioner on my birthday afternoon. From stress, overwork and over-exercise I have again put my body in the hole. My gut biome has flipped from healthy to unhealthy, which affects everything from hormones to energy to sleep. I've been running ragged for months and ignoring early warning signs, but hopefully I caught myself before plunging off the same cliff I've plunged off before. Time to go to the calendar and cancel whatever may be canceled, double-down on the probiotics, eliminate excess sugar, and rest.

So I promise to recharge and give back to the wonderful people who make my life joyful. I feel profoundly stupid for making the same mistakes again, but I will just enact the same cure I've used in the past and hopefully emerge just a smidge wiser. I'll eat half of my gluten - free, dairy - free cupcake tonight with a goal to celebrate the coming year in good health with people I love.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Climate Cafe

 My friend, Susan, and I hosted our first official Climate Cafe over Zoom last night. We "gathered" via laptop screen to facilitate a sharing about attendees' emotions around climate change. The sharing was honest, moving, enlightening and powerful. There was often a deep silence after one attendee finished, as people processed and sat with the difficult feelings that arose, but sometimes one person's story would inspire another and the thoughts tumbled out furiously, as individuals wrestled with grief, despair, hope or a combination of multiple emotions.

Susan approached me about co-facilitating this meeting several months ago, when I was deep into high school swimming and couldn't afford to add another activity, but when I went to a training and digested the idea that people around the world are struggling with eco-anxiety, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to offer a climate cafe here in the Denver area. 

The climate cafe concept came out of Scotland in 2015 and is based on death cafes, where people gather to talk about another taboo subject. Climate cafes have taken off in the UK and were offered in person before the pandemic, though now are largely relegated to online. Working with mental health professionals in the UK, the North America Climate Psychology Alliance is now working to popularize the cafes in this country and to train facilitators to meet what they perceive to be a deep need.

Both facilitating and participating in a meeting about feelings are difficult to me, a person who prefers action to thought, to - do lists and righteous angers to the heavy weight of grief and occasional despair. I fought within myself to allow the long silences, to hear the words of people struggling and not rush in to console or counter with my own story. The ultimate take-away from last night, as I found with my training, is a sense of relief that other people feel the way that I do, that I am not alone in my eco-anxiety and that together, we can help each other to express lament as well as hope, and help increase our resiliency in difficult times.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

My Gig Economy

After the girls' State championship meet it took me a week to recover - both physically and emotionally. Rob, Daniel, and I went to Sonoma, sneaking in long walks through vineyards and cow pastures between visits to my brother and his family. We did a wine tasting at Roche and took some family hot tubs as we looked out over the early spring grapes. 

I caught up on some sleep, but returning to real life was a challenge. I was far behind in work for my four other part-time jobs after I gladly gave coaching all of my free time and energy. To help get back on track, I traveled up north to Montana and visited my mom, using some of the down time up on Flathead Lake to get work done - at least until my computer died and my back went out. 

At home, Rob started his new job and went back to working 12-hour days. Our older children got sick and needed health guidance (and antibiotics) and Daniel's baseball season got under way with a new practice schedule and uniform requirements up the wazoo.

I am the luckiest person in the world to do what I love, but my personal gig economy keeps me hopping. While enjoying the flexibility and the diverse range of activities, I'm stressed about keeping up with multiple efforts as well as friendships and family responsibilities. At this juncture I thought I would be resting, but our schedules are tighter than ever. I think I need to start saying 'no' more often.

For me, personal freedom trumps a few dollars an hour, but that can't be true for everyone. I'm lucky in my choices and in my partnership with Rob, whose job carries the health care benefits and (truly) all the real salary.  I can opt out of a gig if I need to, but not everyone has that luxury. I know employers in our area are all desperate for shift workers, but it doesn't seem like that equates with workers having the upper hand.

I recently read Nomadland for another of my jobs - a writing gig that I love - and learned about America's new migrant group, containing millions of people. Formerly middle-class families and would-be retirees living a life on wheels - vans, RV's and trailers - take seasonal jobs and move around the West seeking warmth and a steady hourly wage. The book was thought-provoking and provided a fresh look at today's economy and lack of safety net for workers. If nothing else, Nomadland helped me ask good questions about the difficult choices facing Americans today and how the gig economy either helps or hinders workers, depending on your vantage point.