Men, Women and Swim Suits ...

Spring may finally be spring-ing after a long, dark Covid winter.

You know what that means?

Swim suit season is just around the corner.

The catalogs arrive and women shudder.  Men, I have to believe, don't give it a second thought.

Have you ever heard a man say, "I am trying to get in shape for swim suit season?"

I highly doubt it.

Renee Engeln, in her book Beauty Sick cites a study out of Duke University. She writes:

"Men and women were asked to try on a bathing suit and stand in front of the mirror. They were alone - no one was there to see what they looked like.

Whereas men said they felt 'silly' in the bathing suit, women's emotional experiences were much more intense.

Wearing a bathing suit in front of a mirror left the women feeling disgusted and angry, even revolted.

How can you have respect for yourself as a human being if you're disgusted by such an important part of your humanity?

How you feel about your body's appearance is inextricably linked to how you feel about yourself, and this link between self-esteem and body esteem is stronger in women than men."

Do ya' think?

Might this be why the spring Land's End catalog that just arrived at my home contains EIGHT PAGES of swim suits for women, and ONE HALF PAGE of swim trunks for men?

The men's trunks contain no real description other than the phrases "comfortable" and "quick-drying fabric."  Also, "water-draining onseam pockets," which would, of course, be important if you wore pockets into a pool!

On the other end of the widest spectrum known to humankind, the women's suits contain these kinds of descriptive phrases:

Slimming, Stunning, Tummy Control, Slender, Skirted, Grecian (!!), All-over Control, Tugless, Flattering, Bra, Cute, Sporty, Sophisticated, Covered, Muffin-Tops-Be-Gone, All-over Support.

Dude ... The men's trunks cost (on sale) between $25 and $27. The women's CONTROLLING suits cost  (also, on sale) at least twice that much.

Now, don't get me wrong. I own a Land's End suit. With a skirt. It's probably a very controlling skirt, too. I no longer want to go to the pool in something akin to my undies.

But this whole topic just has me thinking, hard ...

And wanting to throw on any old swim suit I can find, the less controlling the better, and go to the pool and laugh and swim and eat a popsicle and just ... I don't know, act like a guy?

Anyone want to join me?

Giving up beauty sickness for Lent, friends. There is real freedom here.

How to find focus ...

I recently subscribed to The Harvard Business Review.

Because, well ... Harvard.

An article I read a few weeks ago has been helpful to me as I struggle to find focus in these long days of winter, these seemingly endless days of the pandemic.  Has it really been a year?

The author of the article confessed his own attention struggles and shared three journal prompts that have helped him bring order out of the chaos of these strange days.

First:

I will focus on ...

Here, he lists no more than 3-4 of the primary things he wants to accomplish and give his best attention to in the day ahead.

This forces prioritization.

It is a reminder that we can't accomplish everything. We must choose. We GET to choose. We need to choose, or things will choose us.

So for example, yesterday I had two work-related Zoom meetings and three smallish work-related projects. That was my Focus list.

Today, I have two important phone calls I want to give good attention to and I want to get a long workout in with enough time to stretch this tight-as-a-drum quarantine body. This is my Focus list.

This does not mean I won't get a myriad of other things done. It does mean, however, that I have decided - in advance - what I will give my best energies to.

Super helpful.

Next, the author suggests this prompt:

I am grateful for ... 

I know, I know. If I hear one more person tell me that I need to start a gratitude journal I am going to punch them in the nose!

But hear me out. This HARVARD guy says this really matters! So do it!

He suggests that we get really specific. We don't just get to write things like, "Coffee!" or "A warm house!" He pushes us to be super specific. There is some good research behind this, trust me. Harvard, remember?

So, I wrote things like:

"I am grateful we have health insurance so I can see a chiropractor today to get relief from my sore neck. I am grateful we can afford care for things like this. I bet it will help."

"I am grateful for my work colleagues I get to meet with today. I like them and they make me laugh and think."

"I am grateful for the book I am reading on self-compassion. I love good scientific research on topics that matter. I am grateful the author cares about this concept. I love what I am learning."

This simple act boosted my mood significantly. It forced me to get over the negativity bias we humans are prone to and pushed me to look for the good in a very average day.

Last prompt is:

I will let go of ...

There is some real power here, friend.

In order to focus on what matters we must let go of what doesn't.

This is just a fact.

So, rather than hoping I will be able to overlook distractions, I set out with intent to body check them before they even showed up on the scene.

I wrote things like,

"I will let go of checking news and social media this morning."

"I will let go of multi-tasking and will work on one project at a time."

"I will let go of texting while I work and will put my phone in the other room."

"I will let go of needing a clean home office today and will get right to work."

"I will let go of worrying about things I can't control. Instead, I will write them on a list as they pop into my head and will pray about them tomorrow morning. God will handle them better than me anyway."

This all took about 10 minutes.

I will focus on ...

I am grateful for ...

I will let go of ...

Three thoughtful prompts to help us find focus in these frenetic days.

Thanks, Harvard Business Review!

Accept whatever comes next

I do not think I am overstating it when I say these last months, weeks, days have been hard.

Emotions have run so high.

Anxiety feels ever-present.

Political discussions are super-charged and feel more volatile than they should.

The transition of power at the highest level of our government felt fraught with danger and uncertainty.

So, I wonder how you are feeling. I really do. I wish I could sit down with each one of you and listen to you tell me how you are doing.

How you are REALLY doing.

I wonder if we are feeling some of the same things.

I am struggling to focus on even the smallest of tasks.

Things that would ordinarily take minimal effort often feel monumental and demand all the positive self-talk I can muster.

I dread checking the news for fear of some jarring headline that makes the world feel less solid.

And then I judge myself for feeling this way. I self-critique. I try to take myself by my own collar and shake myself into being more strong, more secure, more grounded. More something.

But I have been working on self-acceptance; on being less aggressive with myself.

And it has been helping.

I am learning to accept that every day I will experience a range of very normal emotions.

I am learning to accept that sometimes my body will simply "suggest" it is time to shut down. 

I am learning to accept my need for rest.

I am learning to accept that I am human; both frail and powerful.

I am learning to accept whatever comes next - whatever thought, whatever feeling, whatever bit of jarring news - without critique or judgement or effort.  I am trying not to label things as good or bad.

This is not fatalism ...

It is not an "it is what it is" form of shrugging off reality.

It is a gentle way of being faithful and trusting God.

It is a powerful method of facing life head-on.

It is a new way of being open and curious about what might come next.

It is a helpful way of welcoming life as it comes, rather than demanding life be as I want it to be.

It is a subversive way to show perfectionism the door.

Accept whatever comes today.

Trust God in this way.

See if that helps just a bit.

 

 

How important the empty days ...

I always forget how important the empty days are,

how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything,

even a few lines in a journal.

A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged day,

a sinful day.

Not so! 

The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally,

is to let it rest,

wander,

live in the changing light of a room.

(May Sarton, 1912 – 1995)

Just a few thoughts ...

I haven't written for awhile.

We hosted our son's wedding in our yard a few weeks back, which was lovely.

Then a huge oak tree fell on our house, which was disastrous.

Immediately after these events, I took two weeks off from work and on the first day of my little vacation I fell down several stairs whilst carrying 5 books, a yoga mat and a 15-lb. kettlebell.

So I've had a bit going on.

But I have been watching what is happening in our country.

And I have been listening, especially to young people.

And I have been reading and educating myself and trying to learn.

And I have been deeply saddened by so many things.

1. ) Black and brown people are being murdered and abused in our streets, our courts, our jails, their own homes.

And white people, myself included, have been too busy, too privileged, too distracted by life to care until we were literally forced by social media to watch a black man die over the course of almost 9 minutes  in broad daylight.

It is time white friends, to wake up and pay attention, listen, learn and practice being allies with our black and brown neighbors. We have no excuses. None.

And white people of faith ... please explain to me how on God's green earth the bible was ever used to justify human slavery.

The second book of the Old Testament kicks off with good ol' Moses enlisted by God to set the enslaved and abused Israelites free. Then the New Testament opens with Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah, saying about himself:  "The spirit of the Lord is upon me ... he has sent me to set the oppressed free ..."

How did our forefathers and mothers use the bible to justify kidnapping and enslaving human beings  created in God's good and beautiful image?

And how on earth do we read that same bible today and not immediately affirm that Black Lives Matter?

And see with our own eyes and acknowledge with our own minds that systemic racism still exists and it crushes our black and brown brothers and sisters?

And that it is past time to do something about it?

2.) And then ... the pandemic. 

Over 120,000 Americans dead.

And scientists and doctors begging us to do one or two simple things - like wear a mask.

Not mainly to protect ourselves, but to protect our neighbors.

And we can't be bothered to do that? 

Because we feel "our rights" are infringed?

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends."

The apostle Paul said, "The only thing that counts is faith working itself out through love."

There is nothing in the bible that calls on followers of Jesus to fight for their own rights.

Nothing.

The only thing we are called to fight for is the good of our neighbor.

The good of our enemy.

The good of the marginalized, the persecuted, the poor, the excluded.

Which leads me to one last thing that I am noticing ...

3.) The church is crushing young LGBTQ folks.

I am not going to say any more about this here, except to say that it is wrong, and it breaks my heart.

Jesus always, always, always stood on the side of the people being crushed by those in power.

Jesus always, always, always stood on the side of those being crushed by religion.

We are called to do the same.

No. Matter. What.

 

 

It could happen anytime ...

I love poetry that reminds me to savor the moment.

That forces me to stop running around worrying,

and to enjoy what is happening right here, right now.

William Stafford is one of my favorite poets.

I don't have to work hard to try to understand what he is saying.

His poems move me to be a better person.

Here is one example of his poetry - I hope you like it.

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out––no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

(William Stafford, 1914 – 1993)

Top 10 Post - #3

Heard this quote this afternoon

and laughed out loud:

"One of the greatest theological questions of our time is,

'What in the Sam Hill is going on around here?'"

(Annie Dillard)

Just one next step ...

I have been in a few conversations recently about when we can return to normal, about what re-opening our community might look like, about what lies ahead.

We are so in the dark about what the future holds.

The hard truth of the matter is that even during more normal phases of life none of us - not a one - know what the future holds.

But most of us have learned to navigate life as if we do.

So this uncertainty is especially disconcerting.

It forces us to be more thoughtful, more careful, more deliberate. At least it should ...

But we are not good at this.

Uncertainty causes anxiety.

The unknown creates dread.

Loss of routine brings disorientation.

And so we often try to control things; we move way too quickly to try to plan the future!

I was reading an article this morning that described this kind of uncertain time as a "threshold moment."

The author, Brandan Robertson writes this:

What are we to do at such a threshold moment? 

In moments of transition, we are simply to be. We are to pause and acknowledge that a transition is taking place. Instead of seeking to abruptly pass through a threshold, we are to tarry ...

A new reality is emerging, but we cannot see beyond the threshold. All we know is that we exist in this moment, where everything is in transition. We may experience a new way of being, but we cannot yet sense what it will look like.

This force some questions:

Am I giving myself permission to just be during this threshold moment in history?

Am I choosing to take time to pause and acknowledge what is going on?

Am I allowing myself to tarry, which simply means "to remain, or to stay in place?"

Am I reminding myself that God is at God's best when I don't know what is coming?

When I am walking in the dark I focus on taking just one next step. Once I safely take that one, I take another. And then, just one more ...

This is what life needs to be for me right now. 

Time to be - just to be - and to let that be enough. 

Time to pause and acknowledge that we are living through a remarkable moment in world history. This is a threshold moment!

Time to tarry, to just stay in place; to not push forward to what's next.

Time not to plan 4,000 next steps, but simply to take the one next step I can see.

Just the one next step.

I love the words from this old hymn by John Henry Newman;

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home --

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

the distant scene -- one step enough for me.

Just take one step today, my friends. And if that one step is to just "be" that is good enough for today.

 

Courage doesn't always roar ...

Courage doesn’t always roar.

Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

 (Mary Anne Radmacher, b. 1957)

What I need ...

Starting to recognize what I need during a pandemic quarantine:

1. Outside time every day. No. matter. what.

2. A shower. :)

3. Set-aside time and space to work. Clean out the home office, open the shades, light a candle, clear off the desk, stay in chair until all the daily work is done.

4. A great novel.

5. Limited Zoom meetings - I can do a few, but I am still an introvert. I had 4 Zoom meetings one day and it was too much for me. Weird, but true.

6. Limited news. Important to know what is happening, but that can be picked up in about 30 minutes in the evening through reputable sources.

7. My dog. What a joy-bringer she is.

8. My people.

9. Some inspirational reading - The Bible, some poetry, an Irish blessing, some writing from another era, something that helps me think bigger.

10. Dark chocolate.

How about you? What are you finding that you need during these strange times?