Perhaps it's been our rainy weather lately or perhaps it's just been the theme of a very long and, at times, exhausting year, but I think we're all looking for extra comfort right now. A figurative hug in the form of practices and traditions.
Earlier this year, when the pandemic hit, a lot of what helped me cope in those initial weeks and months was to throw myself into work -- to plan and execute different photoshoots on my own within the confines of our apartment building and in a lot of ways, I thrived off that pace. It kept me busy and kept my mind occupied. Somewhere mid-summer, I think I hit a figurative wall -- one that made me slow down a bit and take stock of what fears and anxieties I might have been overlooking or sweeping under the rug. Throw in a tumultuous election and pangs of missing my family and well, I was ready to bury my head in the sand for a bit, I'm afraid. Part of me still is, to be honest.
With the holidays now here, I'm trying to recalibrate my energy by reflecting inward, practicing gratitude whenever and however I can and most of all, taking time to be still (I've struggled with the latter my whole). Here are a few practices that have been making a big difference for me lately.
ONE // Classical music at night
I mentioned this in a previous post about what was bringing me joy lately and in a way, falling asleep to Bach playing softly on our bedroom speakers has really allowed my body to sigh in a way I didn't realize it needed to at the end of the day. This is going to sound strange, but I feel like it cradles my brain, just enough, to support some interesting thought patterns before I drift off, without being distracting. I'm sure there's something neurological behind this that I'm likely oversimplifying but for now, let's just say, I've noticed a big difference in the quality of my sleep since starting this.
TWO // The smell of a candle just blown out
Like many of you I'm sure, I have candles burning in our apartment throughout most of the day, especially since I work from our living room. It fills the space with a warmth and an aroma that calms me -- but before going to bed? Ty and I have been relishing the smell of a candle right after it's blown out -- there's something about the lingering smokiness of it, maybe because it reminds me of nights spent sleeping in the living room of my childhood home, just to be near the fire. It feels oddly nostalgic and I love it. (PS: I can't recommend these WoodWick candles enough! As the name suggests, the wicks are actually wooden, meaning it has a delicious crackle sound when it burns.)
THREE // Reading out loud before going to sleep
I'm currently reading Obama's memoir The Promised Land out loud to Ty, right before we go to bed. While it's a slower pace than speed reading through a book, I appreciate how much it makes me notice and recognize sentence structure and interesting syntax. Instead of rushing to an ending, I now feel like I'm seeing each chapter unfold more fully, if that makes any sense? Also, there's something to be said about trying your hand at speaking in an Obama-esque cadence that makes me smile.
FOUR // Glass of warmed oat milk
We have this Nespresso milk frother and I could froth all day long! Of course, I use it for our lattes at home but right before bed? A simple glass of warmed oat milk is divine! Reminds me of the warm glasses of milk my mom would bring my sister and me before tucking us in at night.
FIVE // Larry Smith's 6 word memoir practice
Ever since discovering Larry Smith's 6 word memoir in the Thanksgiving New York Times Daily Email Briefing (that I mentioned here), I've been so fascinated by the art of it -- having gone down a bit of a rabbit hole when it comes to his compilation books, particularly the one on love (which I've now since ordered). The idea seems simple -- tell a story in exactly 6 words. But it's incredibly hard. Each word is so measured. So necessary. And weighty. Here were a few notable excerpts from the preview chapters of the love compilation I've read:
"Never forget, I love you madly."
"I wasn't supposed to meet you."
"No, you can't have the toaster."
"War destroyed his heart and mine."
"Not always perfect. But so worthwhile."
As part of a creative writing practice for myself, I've been giving myself ideas and themes to answer each day in the form of a 6 word memoir. As a storyteller, I love how it's starting to heighten my awareness of nuances, details and the small gestures that sometimes get overlooked -- to see what meaning they can carry as a plot line. Perhaps I'll share some of mine eventually. But for now, I enjoy filling my journal with them.
Now tell me, what's bringing you comfort at the moment?