“Guard your spirit” is something I used to jokingly say to my dog, covering his eyes if there was violence on the evening news. I would tell Nick that our little Frenchie was very sensitive and needed to be protected from things like swear words and fighting and pizzas that have mini hotdogs where the crust should be (I still can’t believe that’s a thing. And we wonder why people think Americans are not okay.).
I think I’ve always been a somewhat sensitive person. But I’ve gotten considerably more sensitive with age. And ever more so as a mother. I chalk some of this up to the fact that I haven’t slept since May of 2012, but I sort believe that the older we get, the more ourselves we become. (Please don’t check my grammar on that last sentence. We’ll both be disappointed.)
I used to be able to watch six documentaries on serial killers in a row without needing to booby trap my own house. I could listen to the baddest, most inappropriate music on the dial without flinching. I could (for the most part– we all have our limits) hang with negative, bossy, rude people and not turn too awful myself. And I could watch the evening news without covering Clark’s eyes, and plotting to lock everyone that I love in a closet (with plenty of snacks and a good ventilation system, obvi) so that nothing bad could ever happen to them. Besides the whole being locked in a closet thing. Speaking of which, add claustrophobia to my growing list of
So these days, when I say Guard your spirit (most often to myself), I actually mean it. And what I mean is this: I am the person who I am. And that person is part-sponge. And that’s okay. And I can do things to avoid becoming wrung out or water logged. Here are a few of those things (I’m pretty sure they work for all types of people).
GUARD YOUR SPIRIT
Be picky in the best way possible
- Choose to spend time with people who bring out the best in you. People who are kind, motivating, and encouraging. (And be that sort of person for other people.)
- Take advantage when opportunities present themselves. For me, this means embracing even a tiny bit of alone time. There are days when I sort of want to yell, “No one talk to me, no one touch me, no one look at me, no one stick a Duplo in my bra, no one breathe near me!” But that would be rude. So instead, I pretend I have to use the bathroom… and just hide in there for 3 whole minutes. For more civilized people, this might mean prioritizing a last minute coffee date with a friend over some other obligation.
- Be mindful of your goals and work to ensure your priorities (and like, daily behaviors) are aligned with these goals. Don’t do things that work in opposition to these goals. (Easier typed than done, I know.) Your time and energy are not endless in supply. Use ’em wisely.
Be careful about what you consume
- This goes for food and drink and things you put on your body (like clothes and make-up and glitter gel from the 90’s and dogs that demand to sit directly on your chest whilst you try to relax).
- …But it’s equally important when it comes to media. You don’t need to follow everyone and their grandmother (and let’s be serious, the grandmothers are present and accounted for on Facebook). If what someone shares– tweets, photos, commentary, what have you– affects you negatively, unfollow. And don’t feel guilty. Think of it this way: our mental and emotional feeds are limited. Don’t waste that space on pictures of cats eating steak or racist Facebook rants. Save it for waves gently crashing onto the shore. Or whatever floats your proverbial boat. Get it… waves… boats…. cool.
- Know what works for you. I don’t read fiction or watch shows or movies that contain much violence (especially if it involves violence against women or children). This is not entertaining for me, and doesn’t make me a more informed or helpful person. YouTube videos featuring baby pigs eating tiny cupcakes do entertain me. Jury’s still out on whether or not they make me better informed or more helpful.
- Have a stash of treasured books, music, poems, artwork, movies, podcasts, drawings, pig videos, plants etc. at the ready when you need a little (or big) boost. Some of my favorites: Mary Oliver, Hafez, Rumi, the On Being podcast, Wendell Berry, Paris to the Moon, Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure.
Default to kindness
- On my worst days, I default to giving people the finger as they cut me off in the Columbia Rd. rotary. But on my best days, I default to kindness. It’s a habit that takes work. I try to practice in little ways, like saying hello to strangers (but not in a creepy or unsafe way). Or being truly patient (rather than pretending to be patient, but actually being annoyed) while people cross the street. Or giving people the benefit of the doubt, that they’re doing their best for the moment.
- So much of being a parent to two young children feels reactionary. And prior to being at home with Grace and baby Nick, I worked in a very reactionary, which-fire-should-I-extinguish-first, kind of field. I’m (very) slowly learning to react with less stress, less need to be right, less authority… and more kindness. I think it’s sort of like when robots are re-programed so that they are, like, friendly robots instead of war robots in those war robot movies that you couldn’t pay me a trillion dollars to watch. Just a guess.
Take care of yourself
- There are going to be plenty of times when we miss an opportunity to guard our spirits (like when you try to not watch the debate, but then you have to take your sick baby– he’s fine!– to the ER and all the TVs are tuned to CNN… WHY?). And there will be times when life goes sideways, in tiny or tragic ways. And the better we’ve cared for ourselves, the better prepared we will be for those unexpected, unwelcome, unhappy or un-whatever times.
- So take care of yourself. Eat well. Drink plenty of water. And then a little more. Sleep well (assuming that’s an option and you don’t have a tiny human yelling at you all night). Exercise. Pray. Meditate. Paint. Hold a sleeping baby. Hold an awake baby. Do hula hooping in the park. Let a dog sit on your chest for no apparent reason other than that’s what he wants to do.
Be a nice person to yourself, and a nice person to other people. And don’t watch recaps of the presidential debate. Just kidding… kind of.
P.S. Happy Birthday to the best mother and grandmother we could ever hope for!
Also On Tap for Today:
- 5 cool getaway lines so you won’t get stuck at the water cooler from The Kitchn
- Meal prep Tuesday (because I sort of forgot to finish on Sunday)
- Something I could use: How I rewired my brain to become fluent in math from Nautilus
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever said to your dog? How do you guard your spirit?