The Here Year: Wellness

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Halloween night, 5:30pm.  October blazed out, shining like shook foil, reminding me of the glory that is all around us.

The months are turning faster than I can catch my breath.  That’s always been true, and it’s a cliche for a reason.  I’m thrilled to continue down the Here Year road with Aidan, and this month’s topic is wellness.

I have finally begun to figure out what I need to do to take care of my body and my spirit.  Of course, I often fail at doing these things.  But at least I know what I need to do. And if I’ve learned anything in these 40 years of mine, it’s that I’m going to keep failing.  We all are.  In fact, what I aspire to now is to keep beginning again.

There is a short list of non-negotiables when it comes to health and happiness.  When I fail to prioritize these things I almost always get into trouble.  I need 8 hours of sleep a night, I need quiet time to write and to read and to be still, I need to feel safe and taken care of by the small handful of true native speakers in my life, I need to exercise, and I need to eat mostly healthily most of the time.  These things, which are, at the end of the day, all choices, help me feel calm and happy.  They help me to love my life.

In order to make sleep, down time, reading and writing, and exercise a true priority I have had to cut back on many other things.  Because I work full-time, write as much as I can, and, most importantly, want to be my children’s primary caretaker, I don’t have much other time.  I don’t do very many things socially, I don’t watch very much TV, I almost never go to movies, my husband and I don’t have very many date nights.  For me, it’s more important to read Harry Potter to Grace and to Whit, to be the one who packs their lunches, and to read and write and go to bed early in the evenings, and to get up at dawn to run.

There are many ways I strive to cultivate stillness in my life.  Believe me, this is not my natural state of being (one childhood nickname I had was “Lindsey Mead, she’s on speed” because I spoke and moved so fast).  I have been a sporadic meditator for several years, but these days I do five minutes most days.  Five minutes.  It’s manageable, I promise.  Sometimes I do guided meditations on calm.com and sometimes I just breathe in and out.  What I know for sure is the practice is in the beginning again.  I have to tug my monkey brain back to quiet over and over again, probably 25 times, in 5 minutes.  But I keep at it.  Five minutes.  I promise, you can do it.  I notice the sky, every day, and take photos (and often share them on instagram).  Writing here, a practice so ingrained as to be an inalienable part of my life now, reminds me to be aware of the details of my own life.

My best, truest friends remain essential and close.  I don’t see them as much as I want, but they know who they are, and I value their support and love and presence more than I can possibly articulate.

Exercise is important to me.  25 years of running have had an impact on my joints and I can’t run as much as I used to.  I think a marathon is out of the question now, unfortunately (though, as Whit likes to point out, I have run a marathon, just in two halves, 3 years apart!).  I have been doing yoga on and off for 15 years and I find that it is an increasingly important part of my life.  The hamster run of my brain is slowed and quieted by exercise, and it helps me sleep better.

Food?  As I get older, I grow increasingly aware that what I eat is hugely important.  I like Michael Pollan’s simple, powerful line: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  Amen.  I have come to love – and crave – green juice, and I drink it most mornings.  I don’t, however, love smoothies.  But grapefruit, kale, ginger, through the juicer?  YUM.  We eat a lot of vegetables around here.  I often view it as a challenge: how many different fruits and vegetables can I eat today? But I also love sugar and try as I might, I haven’t successfully given that up.  I am going with the 80/20 rule on this one.  Mostly plants.  Not too much.  That I can do.

It’s not rocket science, is it?  In fact, as I write this, I’m a little bit ashamed that it has taken me almost 40 years to feel so clear on what I need to do to take care of myself and to love my life.  Sleep.  Down time.  Reading and writing.  Exercise.  Vegetables.  Lots of time with my children.  And, of course, a commitment to begin again.

I wrote parts of this post early this year, in a blog tour run by Katie den Ouden, whose example and work I can’t say enough wonderful things about.  Katie represents and models a life of self-care and gentleness, something I aspire mightily to and fail at often


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15 Comments

  1. Posted November 3, 2014 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    I am right there with you on almost all of these things. And sugar- my nemesis for sure. After a particularly binge-ful Halloween, I have gone cold turkey on added sugars for a few days and I’m reminded again of how much clearer I am with out it. Not to say that I won’t be right back on it again (if history holds, I have a few more days before I cave) but I do love being reminded of these things I know for sure…

    admin Reply:

    I had a particularly sugar-ful Halloween myself … yuck! xox

  2. Posted November 3, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I’m with you…quiet time, writing, children, walks, healthy cooking, trying to keep it as simple as possible. The days are fleeting, and I need to be ready to keep up with them. Thanks for helping me do that!

    admin Reply:

    Oh, yes, they are … so fleeting! I ache just writing that. Such truth. xox

  3. Posted November 3, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Excited for this month’s theme. And I love non-negotiables, especially when it comes to preserving our mental and physical health. Your list is a great one. To your health and wellness this month and always!!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! And to yours, as well. xox

  4. Kathy
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I am following you and Aidan during this HERE year, and LOVE this wellness month commitment! I have Hasimoto’s hypothyroidism which along with extreme fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty losing weight has insomnia as a side effect too! I have watched a lot of webinars recently about living with this autoimmune disease, and the number one positive thing to do is remove gluten from your diet! I did it for one month and felt an improvement in being less symptomatic. Time to try living gluten free again! I am ready to put my best foot forward to create better habits to support my best self!
    Looking forward to this month!
    Thank you for your blog, and sharing your journey with us!

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU! I am not familiar with Hasimoto’s hypothyroidism but am sorry that you struggle with it … hope that you are able to find ways to take the symptoms down at least. xox

  5. Erin
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I am trying to learn these things now. I am discovering new things about what makes me feel good and what doesn’t… what makes me feel alive and what doesn’t… what makes me feel loved and beautiful and worthy and what doesn’t. It is so important, but so difficult to do sometimes; even when you have all the information, you don’t always know what to do with it.
    I find that discovering what works for us, what we need, what makes us feel the best we can… we learn so many weapons we can use against ourselves too. I read a blog last week by Ally Hamilton and she said that letting people in is like giving them a road-map to your hurt – it is the same for self-discovery and wellness… you’re giving yourself the knowledge to go either way.
    I want to be well and it is time to be well (as in – taken care of, happy, healthy, healing) – my friend just released a song by that title earlier this year (“Time to be Well”)… In being well though, I know my own road-map by heart and sometimes past feelings of shame creep in.
    The difference now is… I have all the information and that makes it more of a conscious choice. So, for instance… I don’t eat “right” 100% of the time… but I am well aware when I am putting something in my mouth how it is going to make me feel. Sometimes the immediate benefits are worth the later cost. At least it is a conscious choice made with all the right information now. 🙂

    admin Reply:

    I love how you describe the choice. Yes. Knowing what we’re trading off, so at least it’s an informed decision. And I so agree with you on the map to the hurt, to the heart … oh, yes. xoxo

  6. Posted November 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I love this list! So many of your non negotiable are ony list as well. Although I don’t always do them … Sleep and down time have taken a back seat and I have been inspired by you and Aidan to make them more of a priority. Exercise is key to my mental health as is meditating. I love Insight Timer. So excited for more from you two!!

    admin Reply:

    I don’t always do them either … xoxo

  7. Posted November 3, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, yes. I am right there with you!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! Glad to hear that. xox

  8. Posted November 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    This is a great list, Lindsey. I have a question: How do you discipline yourself to not have moments of weaknesses when it comes to diet or foregoing on exercise? I really admire your level of committment.

    admin Reply:

    I have moments of weakness ALL the time!! Especially when it comes to sugar. I’m pretty disciplined about exercise (my surefire way to decide if I need to do something physical is this: not did I exercise yesterday, but can I exercise tomorrow? If no, then I must go today). But I am not at all where I want to be food-wise. I know what I need to do and I fail all the time.

  9. Posted November 3, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey – this post is what led ME to Katie. I started following her and the blog tours and finally took the leap this fall! I am in week five of my immersion:)>

  10. Posted November 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    You inspire me with your balance when it comes to healthy eating. I sort of regret my 30 clean thing. I did GREAT on it, but it was probably too extreme for me and put me on a something of a rebellious path every since. Major OOPS. 80-20 is ideal and I’m headed back there. But it’s hard work for me.

    I love how these themed months are shaping up. Really great idea.

  11. Posted November 4, 2014 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I put sleep as a major priority this year. I feel so much better!

  12. Posted November 4, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I knew the words sounded familiar, but then I thought, how you often say things that feel like echoes of my own thoughts.

    Thank you for acknowledging that you have to reset repeatedly during mediation. An acupuncturist once told me, “It’s fascinating what the mind will do to avoid accomplishing relaxation.”

  13. Posted November 4, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Exercise, quiet, writing time, eating well, sleeping well, friends, family — you have covered it all, and I love the grace you give yourself in the process. I do think when we go too extreme in cultivating health, we fall off the path for a long time.

    I’m with you in the exercise and yoga and meditation (though because of bunion surgery as a teen, I’ve long done my mileage on the elliptical), sleep (it is SO hard with teenagers), writing (essential), but eating for me has been the most extreme. I found out I had Celiac disease 7 years ago and it’s changed everything.

    Wonderfully inspiring, Lindsey! Thank you. xo

  14. Posted November 4, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I have a list. I think most of us do. The difference is your “non-negotiables”. That is key. I tend to make too many lists or try to prioritize items on the list–it never works. I am going to start listing my needs as non-negotiables. The rest can be “things that would be good for me but I’m being realistic” or something.

    It is never too late to learn what you need to take care of yourself and to act on those needs. Never be ashamed of how long it’s taken. You are here now.

  15. Posted November 26, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Wellness is something that seems to elude me. I go through phases with wellness. I think I fall into your camp where I know what I need. I have this intuitive sense of what is good for me. But when life gets too hectic, I fall into bad habits that seems to just grow and grow until they are out of control and that leaves me feeling out of control.

    I like the way you have created wellness categories here. I also love that you admit that even you have to remind yourself to start fresh every day. We all fall off the wagon but each day is a new opportunity to choose wellness. And I’m trying to constantly choose the habits that will make me well so that I can be better in all the parts of my life.

    I’m really glad that you and Aidan are tackling this topic for the Here year. I agree that wellness is vital to being truly present in life.

    admin Reply:

    I have to remind myself several times a day! It is a long-term goal, at least for me … xox