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Mark J. Keenan
WRITER, TRAIL-RUNNER, ENGINEER, HUMAN
"Birthdays, death days and holidays like Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Christmas, Easter and other festivals (even Grand Final Day) can be difficult when you're grieving......
Acknowledge how important these days are for you. Tell someone. Ring someone else who feels the same loss. Remember the person together. Let yourself feel sad, or happy or crazy or however else you're feeling. Make these days special, in whatever way feels right to you."
Edwina Shaw, A Guide Through Grief.
📷Manly, New South Wales - where my mum celebrated her 31st birthday (9th February 1970) and gave birth to me exactly four months later.
Photograph taken by Edwina Shaw, 8th February 2023.
New year, new experiences.
Go places you've never been.
Or somewhere you've passed by regularly but never stopped.
Be a tourist in your city or town.
Open your eyes and mind to the wonder of what is tight in front of you.
📷Getting Lost cards from gettinglost.co.nz
For a few minutes this morning, the sky was a mystical shade of purple. An amethyst canopy hoisted above the planet, in place just long enough for the stars to take their leave, and for this part of the earth to turn and once again face the sun.
The magic of existence is everywhere.
📷-31.93,115.86@4:36am, 29 December 2022
Make small commitments and keep them.
Be a light, not a judge.
Be a model, not a critic.
Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Don't argue for other people's weaknesses. Don't argue for your own.
When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it and learn from it - immediately.
Don't get into blaming, accusing mode.
Work on things you have control over.
Work on you. On be.
📷This quote has been carted, from desk to desk, for over fifteen years, and yet, each time I read it, I learn something new.
The secret to change is not planning.
Ot talking about it.
Or waiting for the perfect time.
The secret is a step.
The first step.
Choosing a simple thing you can do to start.
And then doing it.
Not later today.
Not after you've completed your to-do list.
📷Between 2015 and 2019, there existed a 52-week Illustration Challenge. The idea was to respond each week to a prompt. I posted this the week I found out about it.
It's easy to get caught up in what we are doing and forget to move. Too much time hunched over the desk or even at a workbench can be problematic.
Of course, there are apps for fixing that. Phone and computer programmes which prompt you to take a break. Some, like the one I use, even give you a suggestion of what to do in the break. Others lock you out of your tech. This week, I was prompted to spend ten minutes drawing.
📷10 minute sketch of part of my desk.
Just do it.
That project you've been putting off for days, weeks, months, years. Maybe even decades.
You know the one.
It's been gathering dust, pushed up behind the freezer, in the garage, where you rarely see it.
Pull it out, wipe off the dust, and get to it.
It will be better for it. And you will too.
📷Our trip around Australia. 1993.
It's easy to be entertained these days.
It's good though to leave that all behind sometimes and just get outside.
Bike, walk, run, sit, stand, lay.
It doesn't matter how you do it. Just do.
📷Jolly Jumbuck trail run, July 2022.
Live entertainment is back and, while I haven't yet gotten square eyes from watching TV like my mum said I would, I am excited.
If you can, get into it!
Bands, orchestras, plays, poetry, musicals, comedy, life stories, ballet, performances in the park, whatever you like.
It'll be good for you.
📷Plini @ Badlands Bar in May, 2022
Henry Ford famously said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” The quote emphasizes the way attitude determines an outcome. As quotes go, it's quite a good one.
A better one though, for me, comes from my mate, Glenn, who says "If you can, you can. If you can't, you can't.'
This one captures the importance of acceptance. Being able to do something, or not...well it's not always attitude which determines the result. Sometimes, it's other things, and that is okay. You might try again another day, or you might not, and that is okay too.
Before you open the app, click on the link, type in the search bar.
What are you specifically looking for?
Write it down.
Make it clear and concise.
I am here to research / discover / buy / do / play / read [INSERT PLAN HERE].
Come back to what you've written when you're done.
Did you achieve what you wanted to?
📷Where Are We Going, Spy V Spy
"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten."
Origin of quote: not clear.
Familiarity can be great, but unfamiliarity can be awesome.
This week choose to go somewhere different for coffee, read something outside your normal selections, watch a challenging show, speak to someone you haven't before.
Here is a place to start looking for ideas.
📷Robot Bun Factory Cafe
"The moment he stopped being busy, he felt his heart quake. He had to cry. Life was suddenly too sad. And yet it was beautiful. The beauty only dimmed when the sadness welled up . And the beauty would be there again when the sadness went."
Dominic, William Steig.
It is okay to feel sadness.
Experiencing loss simply means you have felt, and you feel, love. When the tears end, the wonder and the beauty of that feeling of love will still be there.
Resolutions. Goals. Intentions. Fresh optimism, bold horizons, new adventures. We will get fitter, eat better, drink less.
It's great to have plans, isn't it? Until, we don't follow them. We miss a run, eat an icecream, have a mid-week beer, and feel like we've already failed.
On January 1, there are 364 tomorrows available. It's too many.
Try a shorter time frame, a simpler target.
eg. each of the next four weeks, I will exercise at least three, and no more than five, times. The lower limit is achievable. We can catch up on the last day if we really mess up the week. The upper limit stops us getting over-ambitious and burning out.
Instead of striving to do more, wanting to get more, working to achieve more, take time to appreciate what you have.
"When you focus on what you lack, you lose what you have.
When you focus on what you have, you get what you lack."
📷This card is one of 101 Practices to Improve Thoughts by Seth Gillihan.
We all know what gifts we have and we all know gifts are for giving, without expectation. Therefore, we all know what we should do.
kindness - pass it around
creativity - make things for others
wisdom - offer ideas
perserverance - light the way
integrity - release judgement
curiosity - encourage questions
dancing in a horse mask to "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa - film and share it
Do something with your gift today.
'I'll do it tomorrow,' I said.
'Will you?' I replied.
'Of course. Anyway I should check my emails first, and unstack the dishwasher. Plus, I'm starting to feel hungry.' I walked to the kitchen.
'You just ate lunch?' I said, frowning.
'Okay, maybe I don't need to eat.' I closed the fridge. 'But, I do need to think about it some more. It's complicated, you know?'
'I know.' I said, nodding knowingly at myself. 'Maybe you should just get started? You know, take the first step.'
'You are right.' I walked back to my office. 'But I am having that cake after I finish.'
"What gets measured, gets managed."
I'm not sure this is universally true, but it has some validity. I'm currently using an app*on my phone to record how much of my life is being consumed by this palm-sized instrument of distraction. It breaks down usage by day, and application, and my plan is analyse the data at the end of the month. In the meantime, I've found the app has a handy feature which can be used to "create" a break.
*the irony of using an app on my phone to record how much I use apps on my phone is not lost on me.
📷Taking a "break" in Quality Time.
When something happens which we don't like - small or big - we often use the words should or shouldn't. For example, when someone cuts across our lane on the freeway, we might say "they shouldn't drive like that" (plus a few expletives). We might even throw in some hand-gesturing and honk the horn. If we are really agitated, we might tell the next friend we meet so they can join in and fuel our rage.
Or we could just say, "I'd prefer they didn't drive like that", and let it go.
Try swapping prefer for should and see how different it makes you feel.
Are you getting enough rest?
I recently discovered this excellent TED article and talk on the seven types of rest we need.
In wellness courses, they often talk about self-nurturing. I am regularly surprised when people respond to this idea. They say “this week, I will have coffee with my friend” or “go to the movies with my partner.” Great examples, only the frequency makes me curious. Each morning, I write down something I plan to read, write, or learn, and a self-care skill to use, then something I am going to do as self-nurture. Listen to a favourite song, edit a photograph, eat a mandarin outside. The important thing is not the what, it’s making the choice to do it. And, I do, every day, because I am worth it. And so are you.
We form habits without thinking, but we can also do so intentionally. Habits are formed by repetition of a cycle where we receive a cue, undertake a routine or perform an action, then receive a reward which reinforces the desire to do it again. Seven years ago, I intentionally used this to form a running habit. Each night, I'd lay my running gear out. When I awoke, they would cue me to wear them. I could not change until I'd exercised. My reward was a shower and wearing regular clothes. Later, the reward became the feeling of achievement and fitness.
Suggested reading: The Power of Habit, Charles Duhig
Technology can be used to help boost your mental well-being. There are many apps available. They cover everything from simpler things like calming music, mood monitoring and improvement, to more extensive tools teaching mindfulness or supporting cognitive behaviour management. I have a couple of go-to apps which I use regularly (daily and weekly) but I also like to try different ones from time-to-time as they always teach me something new.
📷sleeping cat is from Headspace.
Growing up in the 1980s, I was one of the original gamers. I understand the attaction of the screen. I spent countless hours destroying asteroids and avoiding ghosts in a blue maze full of yellow dots.
These days, I'm less inclined to sit and play Playstation for six hours straight, but I still spend a lot of my time in front of a screen.
Our family does play board games. Always has. But sometimes the screen is the easier option. So, next time everyone is sitting on the couch "chilling" on their phones, I think I'll suggest a game of Rummy or Scrabble.
A friend shares something online. It's their wedding anniversary, perhaps a birthday, or maybe they've got a new job. Your cursor hovers over the list of emojis....which one to choose, should I pick more than one, shall I write a comment.
Pick up the phone and call them. If they don't answer leave a message, "hey, I just wanted to say congratulations!"
And don't worry if they don't call back or acknowledge you with some form of reply. They got the message and I reckon you probably made their day!
"It's rarely doing the work that is hard, it's starting the work. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to continue working. This is why—in the beginning—it is often more important to build the habit of getting started than it is to worry about whether or not you are doing enough."
James Clear, Atomic Habits.
If you want to start exercising, don't open your calendar. Don't check your diary. And don't search the internet for 'how to get fit'. Just pull on your shoes and head out for a walk. Right now.
Stop consuming and start creating.
Are you procrastinating?
Do you have something you need to do but just keep delaying it?
Try the five minute rule approach.
Set a timer on your watch or phone and spend the next five minutes doing the first steps of the "something" you have been delaying.
When the timer finishes you can stop, or continue, as you like.
🥸The Five Minute Rule is a common cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) technique.
© Mark J. Keenan
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