Weeds: Stay well with May meditations

(Gwen Ruff is filling in for Randy Krzmarzick this week)

Like many organizations, the school district I work for participates in an employee wellness program. We can qualify for money that can be put into a health savings account by reporting basic health measurements — blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index, etc. — just the numbers you don’t want to think about after a month and a half staying inside your house and snacking. We also have to complete a prescribed number of activities throughout the school year. We’ve had group hikes, after school yoga, pickleball games, sessions on cooking healthy meals complete with taste testing and craft-making classes meant to decrease stress and increase creativity. December typically has been reserved for a month-long calendar of physical and mental activities — like going without electronics for one day — to combat the accumulated calories and tension of the holiday season.

Our last activity of this unusual school year seems especially appropriate. It’s May Meditation. For some of us, we’re staying busy with new tasks, chores or hobbies. We’ve gotten a lot of closets, junk drawers and cupboards cleaned out and perfected recipes for chocolate chip cookies or freezer jam. Parents have brushed up on third-grade math skills. Judging by the empty fabric shelves at Walmart, a lot of people are sewing face masks. My neighbor across the alley says she’s gotten more outdoor projects than ever done this spring. More kids are playing outside and riding their bikes around Gibbon than usual.

Some people I know have been even more busy taking care of grandkids while sons and daughters do essential jobs or deal with changing work schedules. Several women I work with said their kids are extra busy because now that they’re doing high school and college classes from home, they’re also around to help on the farm.

I’ve been making up a list of chores to get done every week, so in a lot of ways I’m doing more than when I go to school, come home and make dinner as my one accomplishment after a day subbing for the phy. ed. teacher. So, the May Meditation calendar got me thinking how you can keep yourself even busier during this stay-at-home period and not take the time to really think about what’s been happening and what we want to make important in our lives.

Take cleaning out those cupboards. One day, the calendar suggests “mindfully” organizing a cupboard or a drawer. I reorganized a kitchen cupboard because it looked messy, but now I’m going to go back and decide whether I really need all those neatly lined up mismatched coffee mugs. Just the “Best Gramma Ever” and the Star Wars movie poster set will do.

Later this week, a calendar entry is especially appropriate. “Everything changes. This is both beautiful and tragic. Set aside some time to celebrate the gifts and grieve the losses.” Most of us have witnessed or performed acts of kindness in the last month and a half or marveled at the creativity of people learning to do things in a new way. All of us have lost something — whether it’s a milestone birthday party, high school graduation ceremonies, canceled summer musicals or the first snuggle with a newborn grandchild.

Later in the month, the task is to “do a chore you normally dislike with extra love and attention.” My first thought was cleaning the litter box, but I might switch to dog bathing because they’ll be more appreciative than the cat.

“Do something different today. Notice what this brings up for you.” This might be tricky because all our lives are pretty different right now. If the point of May Meditation is to be mindful of what you do, think and feel, I’ll have to come up with something. Maybe instead of standing at the kitchen sink staring out at the empty garden beds while eating a toaster waffle for dinner, I’ll set a place at the dining room table using my good china. Feeling weird and self-conscious — Can my next-door neighbor see inside my dining room? — should give way to memories of great family holidays at the same table.

“Be kind to someone that you find challenging in your life.” I don’t know any Stillwater, Oklahoma residents who abused store workers because they didn’t want to shop wearing masks or gun-toting misogynistic anti-stay at home protesters in Michigan, but I’d have to stick daisies in their gun barrels, I guess.

May 21’s task will be easy. “Reach out to someone in your life that you are grateful for and tell them why.” Every family member on our lengthy and hilarious text chain will get a special message along with my latest Bitmoji avatar depicting a wonky grown-out haircut, sweatpants, slippers and the same cardigan I’ve been wearing for six weeks.

Then there’s this calendar prompt: “Name three things that you have gained growing older. Take time to celebrate.” What a great thing to ponder. Growing older does give you a different perspective. My IRA has tanked before. Can you say dot-com bubble? What about the Great Recession? But it’s always eked back up, and I’m confident it will again when our pent-up demand for decent haircuts and below-the-waist clothing gets the economy flowing. My only grandson was born and lived in Ohio for a couple years, so not seeing him for so long has been hard, but I can’t wait to see his face light up when I finally visit. I might not be as optimistic if I weren’t “older.”

There have been a zillion news stories, Facebook posts and text messages about Americans having a chance to slow down, to bake bread and cook real meals, to play games with their kids. And just as many funny memes about being over it all. There also has been much speculation about what life will be like once this is over. How we get through daily life out in the world again will change, but I hope a lot of the good things will remain.

So, maybe take time to do your own May Meditation. Jot down things you’re appreciating and finding important on the calendar that hangs on your refrigerator. Before you throw it away in December, flip back to May. Write a little note about how you’re feeling May 6, 2020 on the back of your daily tear-off calendar. Stick it under everything in your junk drawer to find the next time you clean it out. If the memory isn’t so great, congratulate yourself for making it through and offer kindness to someone not so fortunate. If the message was more hopeful, remind yourself of the good things you found in yourself, your family and your neighbors and keep them going.


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