ADHD · advice · covid19 · fitness

On The Complications Of Resting

TL/DR: Resting when you are sick is a good thing but it is very complicated when many of your roles are responsive rather clearly defined. It would be helpful if people acknowledged how complicated it can be instead of just telling a sick person to rest.

Truth be told, I had a pretty good run of luck but, alas, all good things must end and last week, despite my various precautions, I came down with Covid.

A woman in a mask is lying on her side in bed
Here I am in my full Covid glamour. This was before anyone else in my house was sick so I was self-isolating and masking even though I was alone in my room. My oldest son was at his grandparents so I sent him this ‘proof-of-life’ photo because he was worried about me. Image description: a selfie of me lying on my side in bed wearing an N95 mask. My face is puffy and I look ill. I’m wearing a grey fleece hoodie. On the nights as behind me you can see my lamp, medications, and my new tea cup that my friend Paula made. It has Cold911 tea in but you can’t tell that from the photo.

(And, subsequently, despite our in-house precautions, so did my whole family. Thankfully, none of us took any scary turns for the worse and we are all improving slowly but it was overwhelming and difficult and worrisome.)

So, I guess that means that my resistance to (and reluctance about) going out last Monday was probably part and parcel of having a virus attacking my system, not just a case of garden-variety I-don’t-wanna.

Now, I know that the key to recovery from any illness is rest and that that goes quadruple for Covid. The internet is full of advice about just how much and how long you should rest during and immediately after a bout with the virus.

But, frankly, it feels a bit like when I was a new mother and I was told to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’

Just like back then, the advice is good and so are the intentions, but…

HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO PULL THAT OFF?

Who is coming to step into my (metaphorical) shoes?

I‘m pretty good at the physical aspect of resting. I can take to my bed like a Victorian lady, surrounded by tea, snacks, books, and tissues.

However, even in the midst of all kinds of practical and moral support, it is damn hard to step back from the mental work of the things I do day-to-day. So my bedside accoutrements also include my phone and a notebook and some lists so I can deal with the things that are too complicated to hand off to someone else.

I am definitely not trying to claim that I am indispensable or any other nonsense like that but I am *used* to the things I have to do on a regular basis. I have practice. I am well-trained for my roles.

I’d need to be able to download the entire contextual net of my thoughts to be able to hand this off easily.

Now, to be clear, my paid work as a writer/coach/storyteller can largely be rescheduled. However, my family and volunteer roles, those can’t be handled the same way.

And a lot of that work can’t wait. I can’t, for example, put off groceries until I feel better. Normally, I would just go once a week or so and pick up the usual stuff and while I cook most of the time, any of us are capable of cooking.

But, I can’t just drop that task. We have to eat, even if we’re sick.

And since our existing system hinges on how my brain works, I have to be involved in the process of reassigning those tasks. Even if I am not going to be the one going to the grocery store, even if I am not going to be the one generating the list, I’m going to be consulted on the details. And since the default system (me going to the supermarket) won’t be happening, we need to figure out who is going to go and when they can go, and so on. Instead of an automatic system, it has become a series of plans and decisions.

That’s just one small part the various details I generally handle for my family.

For my volunteer work, often a lot of things can wait, but my work last week was related to upcoming public events that cannot be rescheduled. Yes, I have a team but I’ve been the person putting all the pieces together to make the big picture and it’s a bit late in the process to plop someone else into that role.

And I know some people reading are probably thinking things like: “Well, if you delegated the work in the first place…If you didn’t gatekeep…If you didn’t try doing everything yourself…If you trusted other people to do their work…If you insisted that other people take responsibility for things at home…”

I get why you might think all of those things. It’s a natural response to wonder if I have had a hand in creating this problem.

However, this isn’t about me trying to be a martyr and it’s definitely not about me gatekeeping or not holding other people responsible to do their part. It’s way more complex than that.

It’s about the roles I have ended up taking on in my life – by choice, by default, by societal expectation. It’s about a series of things going slightly awry and things coming to a time crunch. And it’s about someone with ADHD just doing the best she can most of the time and then not necessarily being able to ‘show her work’ so someone can take things to the next step.

Because of my ADHD, I struggle with creating systems. I have trouble seeing the bits and pieces of a project. I appreciate when I can delegate things but I’m not always conscious of the steps involved in my work until I am in the middle of them so it’s a bit hard to help someone else know what to do.

In fact, I often say that it is only when I am working on step one of a project that step two will float up out of the fog and reveal itself. It’s like one of those adventure movies or video games where the heroine has to be brave enough to step toward the chasm in order for the first part of the floating platform to appear.

So, as a result, way too much of any project I am involved in is in my head. I am working on documenting more of my routine activities but since that is exactly the kind of work my brain hates the most and since I don’t have someone willing to follow me around and take notes, it will take a while to make that happen.

So, while I am not a Type A person and I am not obsessed with work, when I am resting I have extra trouble giving away the tasks I usually take on.

Don’t get me wrong, I would happily hand them off. I don’t even need them to be done ‘my’ way. I’m just not sure what tasks I usually do nor am I necessarily sure what needs to be done next.

And even when I do know what to do next, I find that the coordinating tasks that usually fall to me take a lot of work to pass along to someone else. In fact, it is less stressful to do the thing than it is to to figure out how to share the information that I am waiting on a call from person A and if they say yes then tasks 1, 2, 3 need to happen but if they say now, then task 1 can happen but we need to call person B for task 2, and skip task 3, and do 3B instead.

(Meanwhile, if I do continue with a few tasks, I give the impression that I’m not all that sick or that it is business as usual, and then more work comes my way but that’s a whole other thing.)

Even if I were to try to explain that collection of tasks and what-ifs to someone who has offered to help, it’s likely that they would get completely overwhelmed because it is too much all at once. And since they couldn’t possibly pick up a month’s worth of details in a single conversation, I would end up with umpteen texts and emails to confirm bits and pieces of information.

So, instead of having one set of tasks to do in bits and pieces as I felt able, planning for the kind of complete complete rest that we’re advised to do would actually involve multiple levels of new tasks.

I would essentially be choosing between 1) doing the tasks as they showed up for me or 2) a) struggling to identify the tasks I unconsciously do for a given project b) connecting them to their relevant information in my head and typing that out somewhere c) putting both of that in some sort of timeline d) figuring out who the best person is to take the next steps e) hoping it isn’t too much to ask f) responding to the person’s (completely justified) questions at random intervals.

Which sounds more like rest to you?

A light haired dog standing in a kitchen looking directly at the camera.
Speaking of being helpful, here’s a photo of Khalee who is closely supervising me as I eat a banana. She has indicated that if I need to rest, she can finish this task for me. Image description: Khalee, my light haired dog, stands next to our kitchen bench staring intently at the camera.

In the end, I’ve been doing a hybrid sort of thing.

I typed out as many things as I could think of that needed to be done and added any context that occurred to me.

I farmed out any urgent things to people who had capacity to handle them (and, to be clear, I had lots of offers of help and support and I took people up on them as often as was feasible.)

I did (and continue to do) any things that I could manage, whenever I felt up to doing them.

And, annoyingly, I’ve dealt with some of the same sort of pushback I had when I was a new mom who couldn’t rest when the baby rested because it was my only chance to get something to eat, to put in a load of laundry, or to pick up the things that were cluttering the room and making me feel overwhelmed.

I’m not ignoring good advice.

I’m not pretending that the world can’t get along without me.

I’m not refusing to let other people help.

I’m trying to recover from an illness while I balance my needs against my responsibilities.

And while I could, in the long run, develop systems to make the delegate process easier, for right now, I am doing the best I can with the resources I have and getting grief for that just makes things harder.

So, can I ask you a favour?

If you are advising someone to rest, could you be respectful about it?

Maybe say things like ‘Are you getting enough rest?’ or ‘Is there anything I can take on that would help you to rest?’ instead of ‘The world can get by without you for a few days.’ or ‘You’ll never get better if you don’t rest.’

It’s all well and good to tell people to rest so they can recover but the process way more complicated than them just switching off their lives and heading to bed.

Let’s not pretend otherwise.

PS – I am deeply grateful for all the help and all the offers of help we have received this week. My friends and family have made things a lot easier and I have been well taken care of.

advice · self care

Some Fabulous Little Reminders from Dr. Julie

I just started reading psychologist Dr. Julie Smith‘s book Why Has Nobody Told me this before? Everyday Tools for Life’s Ups and Downs and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not finished yet, so I can’t do a full review but I do really like her style. The book is full of low-key but helpful reminders that we can build our capacity to deal with most of our everyday challenges and that we can develop the tools to work with our emotions instead of trying to fight them.

Just FYI: She is very clear about the fact that while there are lots of cases in which people need long-term therapy there are also many people who just need access to tools and guidance to help them manage their own mental health and that she is addressing the latter group.

Anyway, as I was telling people about this book recently I was surprised to discover that many people have never heard of Dr. Julie. If you’re one of those people, here are a few of her YouTube shorts that are a pretty good introduction to her kind and encouraging approach. You can find more on her channel.

Enjoy!

(I’ll post a review once I’m finished the book!)

A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘This is really important.’ In the still image, Dr. Julie is seated at a wooden table and there is a pyramid of playing cards stacked in front of her.
A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘This 60 Mindset Trick Will Change Your Life’ and in the still image she is sitting a table with a coffee cup and book in front of her and there are shelves behind her.
A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘Stop Waiting To Feel Confident! Watch This. In the still she is sitting at a table and there are white shelves behind her.
advice · fitness

How Catherine holds it together (when she indeed does…)

I’ve been seeing all these lists from the NY Times Well section on “how I hold it together”, written by various staff members. They started in 2021, and reflect responses to stresses and fears around the pandemic. But of course that’s not all. All the stresses and fears, I mean. But while the rest of the paper of record covers those worries from outside of us and around us, the Well list writers’ coverage is internal and personal. They’re telling us what they themselves are doing to maintain equilibrium and calm in their own lives, which may include children, family members, partners, pets, plants, etc. Here are a few of them:

Patia Braithwaite

  • Uses coffee pot as alarm clock—sets pot to start brewing so to wake up to coffee smell
  • Traveling “to-do” list—on sticky notes to carry with and keep track of
  • Therapy as lifeline—enough said
  • Rest for at least 10 minutes a day—maybe meditation, more often breathing and relaxing
  • Distress walks—dissipates negative emotions (with time and mileage)
  • Knitting (and not)—enjoys process around projects, relaxed about doing and finishing them

Catherine Pearson

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep
  • Limit electronic notifications
  • Cuddle the dog!
  • Update phone lock screen photo with new family photos
  • Go on app-guided runs
  • Practice 3-breath hugs—hold child or loved one for three deep breaths

Farah Miller

  • Spontaneous phone calls to distant friends and family
  • Naps
  • Really slow running
  • Making playlists
  • Hang out with pandemic puppy
  • Hike with friends

I like these lists. No, I don’t have a dog, and police procedurals are not my preferred binge watching. But other peoples’ comfort techniques definitely speak to me. What do these lists have in common?

  • Developing and trying to stick to a routine, especially around movement and sleep/rest
  • Cultivating an activity that brightens the day and mood
  • Reminding oneself to be realistic and modest about productivity expectations
  • Off-the-clock or off-the grid time, in whatever ways give pleasure (binge-watching, thinking about knitting, fantasy travel planning, resting, ceramics class, etc.)
  • Regular human social connection, though phone calls, group texts, shared walks, long hugs with loved ones
  • Physical activity– either with or without dog– but without performance goals or expectations

So, what about my list? When I’m holding it together, how do I do that? I know I promised one in the title of this post.,.. Okay, here goes.

Catherine’s Hold-it-together list, version 1.0

  • Morning meditation every day– either while still in bed, or directly after coffee
  • Late afternoon quiet pause– during low-energy time, a break to rest, read, do phone puzzle, meditate
  • Talk to friends or family on the phone every day– real-time connection through conversation is my life blood
  • Spend a little time on house tidying or organizing– it makes me feel more calm and in control of my environment
  • Move my body– on my yoga mat, on my bike, on my two legs– preferably outside, but even inside will do in a pinch
  • Set phone alarms for eating, taking meds, turning off media to go to bed– reminders help me avoid falling down a rabbit hole of whatever’s got my attention at the time

I’ll revisit this later on to see how well my hold-it-together list holds up. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you– how do you hold it together? Do you craft, canoe, communicate in Morse code across continents? Let us know.

advice · fitness · illness · rest · self care

A short post about not very much

I’m writing this on Monday night.

I’ve spent the day feeling under the weather (and appropriately it has been very VERY rainy) and trying to sort my to do list into:

– things that I feel up to doing today

-things that must be done today (by me or by someone else)

-things that can most definitely wait

-other stuff

Resting, very low-key yoga, and an online meeting made the cut…a lot of other things did not.

I can’t, however, tell you how I decided which was which. (It’s not a secret, I just have no idea!)

How do you decide how much rest you need when you don’t feel well?

How do you decide what stays on your to do list and what you can let slide?

PS – Here’s a useful reminder I drew a few years ago. You don’t even need to feel sick to take it to heart.

A photo of a small square card on a patio railing. The card has been painted yellow and has dark blue lines extending outward from the centre to create the impression of a top-down view of a flower. ​Blue text on the drawing reads “you don’t have to be and do all of the things. Choose the ones that feel right, the ones you know are yours. (That’s enough)”
Image description: a small square card on a patio railing. The card has been painted yellow and has dark blue lines extending outward from the centre to create the impression of a top-down view of a flower. Blue text on the drawing reads “you don’t have to be and do all of the things. Choose the ones that feel right, the ones you know are yours. (That’s enough)”

advice · fitness · goals

Catherine’s 2022 Stop-Doing list

Note: this post is shamelessly stolen from Nat’s Stop Doing list posts (here and here). In just about everything (as far as I can tell), Nat is a role model for us all. In case clicking those links is just too much for you, here are her lists:

2017, Stop:

  • glorifying being busy
  • beating yourself up over missed workouts
  • apologizing for being a hot mess

What wise and prescient advice this is. But wait, there’s more.

2021, Stop:

  • letting expectations get away with yourself
  • comparing yourself to others
  • …and think before taking a new thing on
  • limiting yourself

Why yes, Nat, these are very fine things to stop doing as soon as possible. These lists are great in that they are self-caring, non-self-shaming, aspirational but also doable in everyday ways. Reading her lists made me think about what’s going on in my life right now. What would a positive (as it were), useful, inspiring and practical Stop Doing list look like for me? Well, here goes nothing…

STOP:

Apologizing so much: I’ve already started this project, but old habits die hard. Apologizing, for me, is all about insecurity about my own judgment, needs and boundaries. Getting clearer with myself about what I’m doing and what I’m taking responsibility for helps me feel less in need for forgiveness (or permission) from outside sources.

Maybe I should try having a "saying I'm sorry too many times" coin jar.
Maybe I should try this.

Buying clothes that don’t fit: It still surprises me how hard this is. Having spent years, nay decades, wearing clothes that were too close-fitting or not wearing things I bought that were too close-fitting, I am finally done. This year I’ve ordered XXL, 1X and 2X items because they feel comfortable and fit me. I even bought a pair of white jeans, in my size, that I actually wear. Imagine that.

Mind is in diagnostic reset mode over this.
Mind is in diagnostic reset mode over this.

Saying yes or maybe to things I don’t want to/am definitely not going to do: This one’s on all of our lists all the time, but it bears repeating. Even in cases where I *know* that I’m not going to do X, I’m not always clear to others or myself about my never doing X.

Mowing the lawn is a good example. Every summer, I tell my neighbors in our 3-condo house that I’ll do the lawn. Which I almost never do. I end up feeling foolish and embarrassed and beholden when my upstairs neighbor ends up doing it. Or I do it half-heartedly, late and poorly. Enough already. I can come up with other solutions when I share responsibility, or just say “no” when it’s not my responsibility. This is obviously a work in progress.

My new favorite way of saying no-- that sounds like fun, but I am going to be extremely busy not doing that.
My new favorite way of saying no.

Suffering and fretting over things in isolation instead of *asking someone for help*: I help other people all the time. Doing favors or lending a hand is fun for me. I like being around others and feeling good about accomplishing goals together. Perhaps, just perhaps, other people might not mind helping me out with stuff that’s hard to do by myself, or just flat-out hard to do. One thing, though: they won’t necessarily know what I need unless I ask them. Okay. Working on that.

Maybe put this in my living room window? A help wanted sign.
Maybe put this in my living room window?

I’m going to stop here, because I think this list is enough for now. See, I’m stopping doing something… 🙂

Readers, what’s something you want to stop doing that you’re working on or thinking about? I’d love to hear from you. Please don’t stop commenting– we love to know what’s going on with all of you!

advice · fitness · motivation · planning · time

Exercise During Vacation and Work Time

Our blogging team has reflected differently on our vacation exercise: what we did do, what we did instead of what we planned to do, what we imagined doing, and how long we did it (long, short, and ideal).

But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).

Then

a list with activities
List and calendar making for holiday activities

This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page (likely your previous page, as I am left-handed) I drew a wobbly boxes and slotted list items into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading the activities out but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.

So, each vacation day I had at least one activity to look forward to, and thinking back I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise in my local area.

Now

Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.

melancholic woman watching video on laptop at home
Not me, but I feel this. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I am needing exercise more than ever after sitting in an office all day.

Next

What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!

My vacation activities seemed galvanized by choice. Now that I am back to work, I feel less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to want to be more active?

Or, perhaps I should try to mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work.

Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?

advice · camping · fitness · habits · nature · self care

To Get More Active, Inconvenience Yourself

I went summer camping with 5 friends recently. We went biking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking—regular outdoor physical activities one might do while in The Nature.

During this time, I noticed how often we were up and moving around to do simple tasks and chores throughout the day, even when we weren’t out out doing the recreational exercise activities.

When we wanted to go to sleep, we had to put up a tent. When we wanted to make a fire but ran out of wood, we had to scavenge or head to the conservation office to buy more. When we wanted to brush our teeth, it was a walk or a bike down the path to the loo. Whenever I misplaced bug spray or sunscreen, I was up rummaging around to find what I needed.

A campfire at night with wood on the ground
There’s exercise to be had in scavenging for firewood!

Not everything was within easy reach when you are camping: there’s often a little added effort to find, get, or make whatever you need. Without all the conveniences of home, we were moving, walking, bending, and stretching in short bouts all day long.

Like most people, I often establish habits and use tools that maximize convenience and comfort when I am at home. How much more physical activity might add up in my days if I intentionally made things slightly less easy for myself? What if I chose to knead bread without the mixer, walk to my mailbox rather than stop after my commute home, use one tissue box at a time rather than plant them in many rooms of the house?

Wall-E holds a plant next to a spaceship
Wall-E Theatrical release poster (fair use)

The animated Disney movie Wall-E tells a story of how, in the future, people have every luxury thanks in part to the machines they invent; consequently, they become totally inert and lazy. The moral of this cautionary tale is that excessive convenience and comfort will diminish our ability to think and act and move for ourselves.

Of course, my tent-trailer and Coleman stove camping experience was still relatively easy and convenient, but I realized that adding some purposeful inconveniences in my daily life could lead to a little more physical activity that I might not even notice.

What are some small inconveniences you maintain for a little more physical activity each day?

advice · commute · covid19 · ergonomics · fitness · habits · planning · self care

Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?

I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.

A woman hunched over her laptop while seated at a desk
A woman hunched over her laptop at a desk. Posture posture posture!

I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.

You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)

Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.

Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).

  • Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
  • Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
  • Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
  • Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
  • Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
Cats and trucks lined up on a highway
That’s me, third car on the right.

What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!

advice · Dancing · Fear · fitness · media

Bad Dancing

FIFI bloggers have shared many beautiful and uplifting posts about the aerobic, aesthetic, historical, cultural, and social aspects of their dance and dancing.

But I want to talk about bad dancing. Not defining what is bad dancing (too subjective, or in the case of trained dancing, too specialized). Rather, I want to consider how we respond to the fear of bad dancing in social situations that can creep on the edges of our minds before, during, or after we dance.

Dancing, the media, and us

If you’re of a certain age, a single one word brings to mind the epitome of “bad dancing”: Elaine.

Elaine dancing, from Seinfeld.

If you’re not quite at that age, but close, here’s second word that sums up dancing so bad it’s good: (the) Carlton.

Carlton dancing, from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Both tv sitcom clearly characters find joy and freedom in their dancing. Yet, these scenes also capture some not uncommon worries about dancing: folks laughing behind our backs without our knowledge (like Elaine), or being seen and judged when we dance (though I realize that race, class, and culture ground the joke of Carlton dancing to a Tom Jones song as well).

The media not only reflects but can also amplify our worries. Elaine’s scene reminds us that wedding and parties are places where dancing is a social expectation. We might start to compare our dancing with the many mainstream media celebs and performers who dance with more style and grace (thanks to professional training). Also, there are TikTok dancers around to remind us how much money we are not making from our own dancing.

I bet my non-existent jazz flats that—even those with actual dance training—most folks at some point have wondered whether they were a bad dancer, or if others might have thought so. Just last week, after a fun house dance night with about 12 people I avoided watching the phone videos that were shared around because I didn’t want to watch myself, or see others watching me.

Am I a bad dancer? Part I

How do we respond to fears of being regarded (or regarding ourselves) as a “bad dancer,” or at least not a very good one, when dancing in social settings?

There are lots of ways, most of which fall somewhere between the Elaine (totally surprised/defensive) and Carlton (hyperaware/embarrassed). Read on to see what strategies you have used, and let me know what I have missed.

  • You can seek out ways to reduce your inhibitions to care less about how you (or other) feel about your dancing. “Liquid courage” is a common method. There’s even a study that suggests that if you find the “platform of effective intoxication,” alcohol can actually make you a better dancer.
  • You can choose ironic dancing, an exaggerated form of dancing that is intentionally self-deprecative, as this DJ describes. (Think the Robot, the Sprinkler, or any other passé dance craze). Some may interpret your ironic dancing as making fun of not yourself but them on the dance floor.
  • You can accept that you are not a trained dancer, but dance anyway—just for fun, relaxation, or exercise. Perhaps you are someone with the congenital condition known as beat deafness, in which you cannot distinguish rhythm or move in time to it.
  • You might get constructive and practice dancing, as suggested by the advice in this Steezy blog post: take time watch online dance lessons, practice in front of a mirror or in safe places with friends, and take in-real-life dance classes.
  • You may embrace your dancing as a form of resistance or protest—to white/middle-class/ableist dance norms, the hyper-regulation of bodies, and other forms of systemic injustice. I will never forget for the first time watching Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) in his music video “This is America” (warning: violence)—his dancing had me re-thinking my assumptions about what dancing is, who dancing is for, and why dancing is such an important form of representation and resistance in BIPOC communities. (See this Atlantic article for more.)

Am I a bad dancer? Part II

Upon re-watching Elaine after her let-loose dance scene, I didn’t find myself sharing in her friends and employees’ teasing. Rather, I wished Elaine would have taken her own advice from her wedding toast: “Here’s to those who wish us well. And those who don’t can go to hell.”

In her post Bad Dancers?, dance and fitness instructor Karen Kiefer writes, “A dance floor will always have people with different styles and knowledge levels about dancing: which doesn’t mean they are good or bad dancers, just people enjoying themselves for an evening.”

This is a reminder to you (and me): when you have an Elaine and Carlton-level love of dancing, don’t ask the question—because then the answer doesn’t matter.

advice · fitness · health · hiking · meditation · nature

Hiking with a Book

I almost always go on 2 to 3-hour hikes with friends. I enjoy the great conversation topics, the companionship, and the treats we often enjoy together afterwards.

But one recent morning, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to go on a solo hike outside. Because I also enjoy the company of books, I decided to bring one with me.

The place

three trees and water (The Thames River, London, Ontario)
Spring! Photo by Elan Paulson

Hiking with a book is not exactly like reading in your backyard or on a deck. One of the best parts about hiking with a book is that you have find a spot to read. While I was outside primarily for exercise, I was also side-questing for the best place to stop. On the hill or by the water? On a rock or a log? Behind or facing the sun?

Once I hiked as far as I had wanted to go, I doubled back and settled on the best of my mentally shortlisted spots: a great, flat tree stump that was surrounded by trees but also eye-line to the river. It was perfect!

The book

On sites like Bustle and Goodreads, and on blogs like thehikinglife there are lists and lists of books to take along hiking and backpacking. But I am mostly a short-distance hiker who is not really drawn to stories about radical feats of extreme hiking.

Cover of One Story, One Song, by Richard Wagamese

Instead, I brought a book I had just bought: One Story, One Song (2015) by Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. He is one of my favourite writers, and it was a happy coincidence to read Wagamese’s reflections on what he has learned from the land while being on the land myself.

The experience

Out in the crisp spring air, on my solo hike I savoured both the hike itself and anticipation of stopping to read.

When I sat and read, I paused between chapters under the section titled “Humility,” which put into relief some of the petty challenges that had wound me up over the past week. As I looked at the water and listened to the little birds chirping and flitting around me, I thought quietly about my own humility.

When I resumed the rest of my hike, book in pocket, I set some positive intentions for the upcoming week based on what I had read and thought about. In the middle of my busy week, I plan to find some quiet time by recalling what I had read and where I was when I read it.

So, this week I discovered how outdoor reading that is “bookended” by some alone hiking time can be replenishing for both body and mind. I definitely recommend it!

Do you hike with books? What do you read, and where?