It’s so easy to get caught up in daily and weekly routines. We build hectic, jammed-packed lives and then have the audacity to wonder why we’re so burnout, fatigued, and desperate for some downtime.
I recently started meeting with my life coach again because I was feeling stagnant, stuck, and unmotivated.
“I want purpose!” I practically yelled during our session via zoom.
So she did what she does best and started asking thought-provoking questions like what do I enjoy? What am I good at? What can I get into a flow doing? What does my ideal day look like? Where do I see myself in five years? What do I need to do to become that person I envision myself as?
Not only did her nudges push me towards revisiting and resetting goals, but she also pushed me to dive deep into myself. How do I want to spend my one precious and beautiful life? What kind of impact do I want to make? How can I be my most authentic self?
One phrase keeps circulating in my busy, stimulated mind: invest in yourself.
I have the resources to pursue my dreams and my goals. I need to simply get out of my own way and let myself dream big and work hard.
I’ve always heard cardinals signal someone that has passed is present or attempting to make contact.
And as I watch a vibrant cardinal feed her baby right from her own mouth, I can’t help but think about Jake, my best friend’s little brother. His death was devastating, heartbreaking, and tragic. I think about him often, when certain songs come on or light hits a leaf and there’s a certain shade of green.
The baby bird in my yard doesn’t really look like a cardinal yet. It’s features have barely developed and they certainly aren’t red.
But yet it has this instinct that one day it will develop to look like its mother, streaking with dazzling, bright feathers.
The baby simply relaxes on my backyard furniture, not a care in the world, sure of itself and its future.
I wonder whats next for the little creature, when it will be on its own soaring across the sky, getting chased by my cat, and finding its own meals.
Its instincts will undoubtedly take over when the timing is right and it will fit in with all the other birds, chirping, dancing, and soaring.
Animals have that instinct to survive. We have it too, although it’s certainly stronger for some people than it is for others, but deep down we all that fight to survive as we try to find our place in this chaotic world.
The baby digests its meal and remains on the chair across from me, taking in all of its surroundings. I wonder if it will ever experience anxiety or heartbreak or even joy or if it simply only experiences primal intuition.
I suppose that ability to feel emotions is what separates a bird’s experience from a human’s experience. Sometimes it’s more appealing not to feel negative emotions, but really you can’t have the good ones without the bad ones, and aren’t those good things what make this entire human experience worthwhile?
I’ve been trying to be content where I am, to sit with what comes along, to accept things as they are and to take things as they come, all while letting go of things when I feel they’re ready to be released. I’ve been thinking a lot about Divine Timing and really trying to surrender myself to this concept.
Oftentimes, we get so caught up looking toward the future, toward some significant event, and we forget that this journey we’re on itself is the fun part. We forget that no matter how much we strive and strain we will always be a work in progress, constantly shifting and growing and evolving.
They say animals take the personality of their owners. So why am I surprised that my cat is indecisive?
Most mornings she wakes me up purring on my feet,”wake up, mom!” Or she will sit in my doorway yelling that she’s ready to go outside to play in the grass or taunt the birds and squirrels that are our neighbors.
This morning, my alarm went off before she could do either. Maybe it was because the gray, dreary sky didn’t light up my room or maybe she just wanted a little extra time snuggling on my legs.
I hit snooze on my alarm and watched as she slowly blinked her sleepy eyes open. I listened as the rain pattered against my window and I wondered how long I could snooze my alarm this morning, not entirely ready to take on the day.
But she had other plans and decided it was time to get up. So she yawned, stretched, and hopped onto the floor to bathe herself while she waited for me to drag myself outta bed.
As I brewed my coffee, she sat by the backdoor, meowing to let me know she was ready to go outside. I watched as rain drizzled from the sky, knowing she wouldn’t like the damp ground and the moisture lingering in the air. I ignored her as I popped my bagel into the toaster, but she was persistent. Where did she get that from??
So rain and all, I let her out, knowing she wouldn’t leave the covering of the porch, but still wanting to give her the freedom of choosing. Within ten minutes, she laid down on the doormat and eyed me while I began my morning routine.
Another five minutes passed and she began meowing at me from the other side of the door. So needy, I thought. Surely she didn’t get that from me. Apparently, she had enough of the rainy morning and was ready to come back into the cool, dry house.
I ignored her, my way of saying, “I told you so.” But the rain picked up and the wind blew harder and I felt bad for the stubborn little rascal, so I let her in.
She took a short nap and when she woke up, she decided it was time to give the outside another chance this morning.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at her and how indecisive she is. She does, after all, have a replica of my personality in a small, fluffy body with claws. I am jealous, though, that her toughest decisions are whether to nap all day or to chase birds and eat grass. If only we could all have it so simple.
At first, I was in this beautiful cottage on the beach, my family was there and it seemed as if we were on a vacation. For whatever reason, my sister decided she didn’t want to share a cottage with me. This would never be the case in real life. We have grown up sharing bedrooms and bathrooms and clothes and shoes and everything else under the sun. But for whatever reason, in this dream, she decided she would sleep in the cottage my brothers were sharing.
I remember there was a small creek by my cottage and I decided to get in and swim a little. While I was floating down the stream, I saw my mom frantically running along the bank, begging me to get out and come talk to her. I was shocked at how adamant she was, so I made my way to the edge of the creek, but for whatever reason, when I got there she was gone. I struggled to exit the creek, but I finally did. I’ve always been a strong swimmer, but there was a moment in this dream where I worried if the water would suck me under.
I sort of ran back to my cottage, looking for my family, but couldn’t find any of them. I did, however, meet a guy that was entirely covered in tattoos – face, neck, everything. He was trying to get me to go down this sort of rabbit hole, it felt like a deviation of Alice in Wonderland. But I didn’t trust him because every time I looked at his face, the colors and designs of his tattoos would change. It was quite disturbing.
I don’t remember much else before my alarm ripped me from my unconscious state. I did feel very off after the dream though, very disturbed, even though I’ve had far more violent, terrorizing dreams before. Something about not being able to reunite with my family in this dream really unsettled me.
But the sunshine was streaming through my windows, urging me to get up and start my day. I reluctantly obliged and trudged to my coffee pot. Anxiety coursed through me as I started my day.
Twice a day the tide in Bar Harbor, Maine parts to reveal a quaint path that leads to a sandbar. The locals call this mysterious strip of land Bar Island. The tide is reliable, like rain in Seattle, and doesn’t stay parted for too long. The locals will be sure to mention this casually by whipping out their phones and showing images of tourist’s cars submerged in the cold, salty seawater.
The term local is used loosely since the island shuts down from November to May. If you’re there working for the season, as I did four summers ago, you might as well consider yourself a local. Tourists would routinely flood the island. They were mostly tolerable, except for days when cruise ships would dock, and hundreds of people would exit the boat and fill the shops and restaurants with their demands and impatience.
I remember this island fondly and all the precious memories I made while living on it. It was a transformational summer. I grew more in those three months after my first year of college than I imagined was possible. Now four years later, I reflect on those young, innocent days and realize I was only beginning this journey of creating myself.
Since moving alone during a pandemic, I’ve struggled to feel at home. Visiting my college town feels like home and going to my hometown feels like home, but being here in Nashville alone post – graduation certainly does not feel like home.
I’ve been here a little over five months and I’m starting to finally feel settled. I have a couple of favorite restaurants, weekly routines with new friends, good relationships with my coworkers, and the house I’m living in is filled with my books and plants. But the city itself does not feel like home. It’s too big, with too many tourists and “instaworthy” photo spots. I miss being minutes away from gorgeous hiking spots in the mountains.
In these last five months, I’ve felt like a tourist myself. I don’t know my way around the city, I can hardly seem to remember the names of the places new friends take me – unless I write them down. It doesn’t feel permanent.
One night four years ago, while I was still living in Maine, I decided to go to the sandbar to see if the tide was parted. The wind was lazily blowing, a cool contrast against my tanned skin. The sandbar was out of my way, but I was leaving the island in just a few weeks. Time is a concept I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around.
To my disappointment, the path of shells and rocks was covered by the vast darkness of the sea. I was content that the journey would not be a complete waste of time so I climbed atop the container wall and stared out to the small stretch of land. When my vision adjusted to the darkness I saw two sets of glowing eyes across the water. I locked gazes with a mother deer and her baby.
They had probably walked across the sandbar while the tide was down, lost track of time, or were never aware of it. Now they were forced to spend the night on the small patch of land and wait for the tide to break before they could prance back home. At the time, I was sad for this deer and her young. They were trapped, unable to get home because their only path back was temporarily blocked by Mother Nature. But now looking back, I realize they were home all along. They were together, with a source of water, and enough leaves and twigs to keep their bellies full for the night.
Amongst all the internal and external chaos, I have realized, just like those innocent, clueless deer, I have been home all along, right here, within myself. I have spent years ignoring what my body tries to tell me. I have pushed nervousness away until it has put me in my kitchen floor, choking on anxiety and tears. I have ignored uncomfortable emotions and avoided difficult conversations while pretending everything was fine. I have felt like a tourist in my own skin.
But now, I’ve realized this body is my home; I am my home, and usually, once you realize something like this, you cannot go back.
It won’t be perfect – nothing ever is. Nor will it be permanent – because nothing ever is – but it’s mine. The tattoos, the piercings, the scars, the acne, the stretch marks, the wrinkles and folds, the shape, the texture. All of it is me. Beneath this flesh and these bones, I have found a place to call home. A place of safety, love, and gratitude. No matter what city, town, or state I’m in, I know that even if the external world doesn’t bring me peace, my inner world will always be a place of acceptance and self-love.
It has taken me twenty-two beautiful years of metaphorically staring across the water, helplessly looking for the sandbar, to realize that home has been right here all along.
Humans are meant to create. We do it without even realizing. When we cook something, when we choose an outfit to showcase our style, when we organize a shelf we are creating. This sort of creating is different from making music, painting, or writing. It’s more subconscious, but still nonetheless, we’re all innately creative beings from a young age. The world dulls our creativity as we grow up because we learn to become domesticated in our day to day functions. Getting into a flow state is tapping into the subconscious, reuniting with the creative liberty we possessed as children.
As a child, my imagination was encouraged – almost forced – to be wild and free. My siblings and I would play for hours – with dolls, some sort of ball, our bikes, or even in the trees and the dirt. We didn’t realize we were submerged in a flow state, we just knew we were having a good time while staying out of our parents’ hair. As a child, entering a flow state is an organic, natural state of mind.
My grandmother encouraged my creative energy through arts and crafts. She is one of the most creative people I know, always working on some sort of project of sewing, cooking, gardening, or crocheting. I remember as a child all the trips we’d take to Hobby Lobby. I could have browsed that store forever – looking at all the different crafts they had. She’d usually leave with a cart full of fabric or thread and something to keep me preoccupied. I remember making dozens of potholders while sitting in her living room, the purple plastic square that I would loop the fabric through became one of my most prized possessions.
Now, as an adult, entering a flow state is much more difficult. My mind is always swimming, thinking about what needs to be done next, what I’ve already accomplished, and a million other random things. It’s difficult to silence the chatter and create something. Which is why when I do enter that flow state nowadays, it feels so wholesome to let the energy course through me and let my subconscious mind take over.
It’s important for me to enter a flow state a couple times a week because it’s such a calm, relaxed state of mind. I’ve began to take note of different activities I participate in that really put me there.
Listen to a good album or song
I mean really listen to it. Close your eyes and feel the rhythm. Maybe the singer’s voice soothes you or maybe the beat makes you want to dance. Either way, surrendering to the melody is a common way us humans can enter into a flow state.
Do some sort of craft
I like to take washi tape, stickers, and pictures I print off and fill pages in my journal. It’s fun to do and I like to look back and see what I create through different seasons of my life.
Sometimes I’ll make collages from things I cut out of magazines.
There’s so many different types of crafts out there that can induce a flow state. Finding what works best for you is the most important part.
I’ve done yoga sporadically for a couple years, but just recently I’ve been adamant about attending my gym’s yoga class every Sunday. Not only is it an amazing stretch for my sore muscles, it’s a time where I can really be present inside my body. I can take notice of where I’m holding tension and focus my breath on that area to release it. It’s easy to enter a flow state when you keep coming back to your breath. Coming back to your breath is coming back into your own body.
Go on a run / workout
Not only does exercise produce endorphins, it’s also a great way to get into a flow state. I personally do Crossfit and the workouts always demand my full attention. Once my body gets warm and I start to sweat, I really enter into a flow state. Sometimes it’s all about simply surviving the workout. I know if I just keep moving and pushing through then I will eventually complete the workout and get on with the rest of my day.
I know Crossfit isn’t for everyone, but I believe some sort of exercise should be on everyone’s daily agenda. Whatever works for you to get your heart rate up and get a sweat going is your flow state.
Write Morning Pages
This is a good way to not only enter a flow state, but to crank out some writing. I like to set a timer for 15-20 minutes and write as much as I can until it goes off. It’s a good idea to do this in the morning before your brain has a chance to start chattering. No idea is off limits. Sometimes I can get right into it and articulate something decent worth sharing. Other times, I write about random thoughts and ideas I have. One of my professors introduced this practice last year and I frequently visit it when I feel stuck and uninspired. I know I have to get something on the page or else I’ll just be staring at blankness until the timer goes off.
These are just a couple ways I’ve found that can induce a flow state. Everyone is different. What works for me might not necessarily work for you and vice versa. It’s important to experiment with different practices and techniques until you can find what works to get you in your own flow state. The important part is that you do enter the flow state. Universally, it’s a positive state of mind that benefits our mental state.
What are some practices that get you into a flow state?
It’s the first week of the year and I already feel like I’m falling behind. I found myself extremely frustrated. I should have written down more goals. I should have done more reflecting. I should have my daily routine perfected.
This negative self-talk exhausts me and I have to focus to pull myself out of it. I work out five sometimes six days per week. I meditate nearly every morning. I write at least a page in my journal everyday. I’ve recently started forcing myself to sleep at a decent hour. So why do I feel like I’m not doing enough to be where I want to be emotionally and spiritually?
The short answer: I hold myself to a high standard because I was raised to believe I am capable of anything I set my mind to. I know that deep down to my core, but sometimes I fall short of my potential.
And this year I want to accept that it’s okay to not be exactly where I want to be! It’s okay to celebrate the small victories when the big ones are still out on the horizon. It’s okay to honor myself even when I’m not living my dream life. So what if some days I can’t get to everything on my to-do list? So what if someone has a beautiful, healthy relationship? A more successful career than me? Lifts more than me in the gym? Writes everyday?
My story isn’t theirs.
2020 was a rough year. A lot of things happened that were out of anyone’s control. I understand this happens every year, that there will always be things that I physically cannot change. And I’m learning to be okay with that, to accept the way things are, to understand that not everything plays out how I’d like it to.
I can’t always control the external world, but I can always control my internal world. In 2021, I want to be gentle with myself, I want to trust the process, and meet myself with grace every step of the way.
We’re living through extremely insane times. Everything seems to come back around to COVID-19. News articles online. My Twitter feed. What my friends share on Facebook. Most conversations seem to come back around to the pandemic.
I’ve been feeling extremely anxious about everything. I wake up in the middle of the night, anxiety pooling in my stomach and I toss and turn for a few hours before finding sleep again. This morning around five am my cat woke me up from what I assume was her having a nightmare. One minute she was peacefully sleeping on my legs, the next she jumped up and growled at my empty doorway. It was disturbing and I couldn’t fall back asleep afterward, so I got up made some tea and began to scrub my kitchen. I feel like I have no control over any aspect of my reality, but at least I can have a clean kitchen at 6 am on a Saturday morning.
I know I’m not the only person struggling with this pandemic. It’s drastically changed society and nearly everyone’s day to day life. And I think the worst part is that we don’t know when all of this will die down, we don’t know when life will return to “normal” or even relatively normal.