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Writing about what really matters

Tag: dogs

The power of acceptance

Nurturer cropped

Often, it seems, when I’m told I’ve done something well, it’s not the thing I’ve struggled over and really worked on. No, many times it’s something I’ve taken for granted, barely given a second thought to. This happened most recently when I spoke with my animal communicator a couple of weeks ago.

A little background on animal communication … it doesn’t require the physical presence of the animal, or even for the animal to be in physical form. Once, when I was a foster for my breed rescue, I contacted my animal communicator to let her know I’d recommended her to help with a lost dog. I was surprised to hear that she doesn’t work with lost dogs! The reason is that she has difficulty distinguishing between an animal that’s here, and one on the other side that is what she calls “very present” (as she says my dog Cherry is right now). So a lost animal might truthfully report that it’s fine, and actually be on the other side–which its people may regard as far from fine.

In my experience, though, there’s always a significant difference in an animal’s perspective when she’s here, and when she’s not. After Honeycomb’s death, when I asked what she was doing, she said she was speaking with the Wise Ones. (Hey, just what we do over there! I thought.) She also gave me some advice about my own life–something she’d never done during our sessions when she was still alive.

In those sessions, typically I get very useful, practical information, like that a foster dog I haven’t gotten yet has bad teeth, including which quadrant of the mouth (I asked for the vet to do a dental if needed along with the spay or neuter–it was), or that a dog’s skin is itchy due to the dry air (I got a humidifier), or that a dog wants to take more walks so that she can smell some new smells!

With Cherry, the main theme was again something she’d never mentioned in our sessions when she was alive–how grateful she was for how well I’d understood her, how I’d accepted her and allowed her to be just who she was.

This took me aback at first, because it’s not something I’d ever tried to do, or put any effort into. It just made sense to accept her as she was, value the contributions she made, and not try to make her into something she wasn’t.

I do remember being a little disappointed when I realized she was never going to make a therapy dog. That had been my original dream, but my first dog, Honeycomb, was an unsocialized breeder’s dog, so when she came to me, my complete focus was on overcoming her terror so that she could function and have something approaching a normal life. She also (until she started to lose her hearing) always startled at the slightest sound, like a loud light switch or a clicker. Being able to tolerate loud sounds is required for a therapy dog, but attempting to acclimate her to something she hated seemed cruel to me. At the end of her life she was tremendously loving, and I think would have been a great therapy dog–especially if people could have come to visit her, rather than the other way around!

Cherry, whose original person or people had been elderly, absolutely hated wheelchairs and walkers, and barked in their presence! She was very friendly, happy, cheerful, outgoing, affectionate, loving, and loyal, but she was also fairly empathy-free. She admired strength, but didn’t understand that those who appear weak are often the strongest of all. (Granted, a lot of people haven’t figured this out yet, either.) The ability to tolerate medical equipment is an absolute requirement for a therapy dog, but while it may not be on the test, so is having a heart for those who are struggling in one way or another. So I let go of my dream … and perhaps one day it will come back around.

Cherry was always with me at home, and two of her favorite things to do were to watch me work in the kitchen–especially loading and unloading the dishwasher, because she loved how fast I moved–and watching me get ready to go out, because she loved being beautiful and valued beauty rituals.

If you’re thinking that these are not old-soul values, of course you are right. This was just one waystation on Cherry’s journey, one that we’ve nearly all experienced in some way, and no doubt she will eventually choose other, more challenging lives where she is not gorgeous, strong, and dominant.

These are some of my notes from our last conversation …

She says you got her like no one else. She is so grateful that she got to be who she was. Thank you for honoring who she was. She has a true sense of completion.

“I was gorgeous and I knew it! … Thank you for everything. … We were the steady ones, Heather and I. We were a team. … Without a doubt, I’m not done protecting her. … I love her so, and it was a great, great life.”     —Terri O’Hara, animal communicator, communicating with Cherry

Afterwards, I thought of how truly wonderful it would have been to be accepted for who I was and what I came to accomplish by everyone along the way in my journey. Whenever I’ve had that experience, it really has been wonderful and validating.

It also occurred to me how karmic debt is incurred–by doing something that throws someone else off their intended path. The most definitive way to do this, of course, is to end the person’s life prematurely–war must have huge karmic implications, especially for those making significant decisions–but it can also happen in much subtler ways. No doubt failure to accept and honor the other person and their intended mission is always part of the problem.

So conversely, I saw that accepting another being, their place on their path, and what they came to do and be is really a profound expression of support for their soul’s intention–and, by extension, for the purpose of the whole Universe, our collective growth and expansion. I’m remembering this as I go about my business and observe others being and doing differently than I would.

That’s what I learned from my dog Cherry.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The Nurturer, made at last weekend’s SoulCollage Archetypes retreat to represent the Mother archetype.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

So safe, and so loved


Last night, late in the evening, we had a thunderstorm–and my dog Gracie hates thunderstorms. She runs around barking at the storm, and she is not kidding; she gets an adrenaline rush and her heart beats faster. I completely get this. I know she lived outside for awhile before she came to me to be fostered–and never left. (She had been seized in a 5000-dog puppy mill raid. She had escaped the wire cages inside, and was living with other dogs outside. Virtually all the other dogs were bigger, as the mill specialized in Huskies and Beagles, and all the outside dogs were fed and watered from two bowls.)

I have read the advice not to comfort dogs during storms, and I believe it to be (and this is putting it mildly) utter nonsense. Gracie had nestled into a spot next to me on the soft quilt on my bed, but I decided to pick her up and hold her (she’s a very small Sheltie) while I reminded her that now, she is so safe, and so loved, and has nothing to fear from storms. She rested her head on my shoulder, and as the thunder continued in the distance, went to sleep and began to dream animal dreams.

As I held her, having recently reflected on the year now gone, I had a sense of being held myself, in the arms of the Universe, angels, guides, and ancestors. I think we are all, ultimately, so safe, and so loved.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, So safe, so loved.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

How to go to sleep

sweet dreams

Every baby is born knowing how to go to sleep, and they do so effortlessly, whenever they want to (emphasis on whenever they want to).

And then … then it can get more complicated.

This week, for me, sleeping was complicated. I was eventually successful at getting my sleep back on track, and I thought I’d write about what I did, since I imagine that at any given time, there must be thousands if not millions of people having exactly the same problem.

First I’ve noted the things I do to sleep well on a regular basis, and then the additional measures I took when my sleeping pattern started to go off the rails. (Where I’ve written about a topic before, such as how to meditate, I’ve linked to it.)

Here’s what I do on a regular basis …

  1. I keep my life pretty unplugged–no TV or smartphone, but I do have a laptop. I’ve read recommendations to avoid screen usage starting two hours before bedtime, and so I try to avoid going online as bedtime approaches. This way, not only do I not encounter the artificial light that’s known to interfere with sleep, but also all the mental clutter I could encounter by reading my e-mail, a news site, a combative forum, etc. If you do go online as bedtime approaches, I recommend keeping it positive. If you have anyone in your life who’s apt to drop bombshells via e-mail, maybe it’s best not to go there.
  2. I’ve always been a light sleeper, but (spoiler alert!) as I’ve gotten older, hormonal changes associated with perimenopause appeared to significantly accentuate this tendency. As a result, I take two things at bedtime. One, a low-dose progesterone replacement, and two, a tryptophan supplement. On a normal night I take just one of the three tryptophan caplets, and I get a noticeable benefit. If I know I’m wired or if I’m falling asleep slowly, I’ll take another.
  3. As I mentioned, I do have a bedtime–you’re never too old for bedtime! It has some flexibility to it, but I know about what time I need to get the household ready for bed, and I know there will be negative consequences for me in terms of sleep debt if I don’t track to it.
  4. If you have a job that exercises only your brain, as I do, getting some physical exercise is a great idea. Being tired in all senses helps me be ready to sleep. I love to take walks by a nearby river, and I’m equipped to do so in various types of weather. Gardening and dancing are great exercise too. I like exercise to be pleasant and fun. I’m sure there are people who love the gym … sadly I’m not one of them.
  5. I limit caffeine to 1-3 cups of green tea a day, and usually a max of one coffee drink (such as a Starbucks tall, which for anyone lucky enough to be outside Starbucks’ orbit, is their little way of saying small). If I’m tired and really need to crank it out, once in a blue moon I’ll have two cups of coffee. I enjoy it, and typically have it in the morning on a workday. I’ll usually have decaffeinated coffee with dessert at a restaurant–for some reason, I feel that dessert calls for coffee. I try never to have caffeine after 6 pm, and often avoid coffee on the weekends. I stopped drinking soft drinks a few years ago after eliminating my beloved Dr Pepper during a 21-day cleanse. After 21 days without it, it no longer tasted the same and it became clear I could live without it, so I have.
  6. My bedroom is my bedroom–not a gym or an office. I don’t own any exercise equipment, and have my office in a separate room. If you’re short on real estate, I’d recommend compromising your dining room or living room rather than your bedroom. Far better to have the Nordic Track next to the sofa, and sleep like a baby. My bedroom is the preserve of peaceful, pleasant, low-tech activities.
  7. I have no clock in my bedroom. I do need an alarm; my clock is a battery-operated Zen alarm, and I keep it in the hallway outside the bedroom. Typically one of my dogs gets up and alerts me even before I can hear it myself (she’s responding to the sound it makes before it starts to chime).
  8. I have no phone in my bedroom. Not only do I not want it ringing in my ear and waking me unpleasantly, but I’ve learned when my phone line has been dead how much more peaceful I feel without a live phone line right next to me.
  9. Every night, typically right before bed, I meditate for at least 15-20 minutes. This usually helps me wind down and puts me in the proper frame of mind for sleep. It’s also a good idea to set the intention at this time that your own energy be optimized for sleep.
  10. It’s a great idea to keep the bedroom clean. I’m not talking about a sterile environment perfect for watchmaking, but getting the dust bunnies out from under the bed on a regular basis can only help create a fresher environment that’s more conducive to sleep. If your bedroom’s gotten a bit dusty while you were busy doing other things (and whose hasn’t), there’s no better use of your time than to take a few minutes to get it in better shape. I promise you’ll be delighted with the fresh energy you create.
  11. I prefer to garden outside, but I do keep a few houseplants in my bedroom to help purify the air. I originally put them there on the recommendation of a feng shui consultant. I think she had a specific reason for wanting me to have them there that year, but they remain and still serve a useful purpose.
  12. I make sure the dogs go outside immediately before bedtime. A couple of them (I have three) aren’t so fond of the backyard late at night, and no doubt they have their reasons. If they’re reluctant to go out, I take them in the front yard instead.
  13. At bedtime, I spray the linens with diluted French lavender essential oil. I use Aveda Pure-fume Spirit Spray, which I have custom made this way at any of their stores. I get one free on my birthday, and so can you. I’ve noticed that the lavender aromatherapy makes a real qualitative difference in the depth of my sleep.
  14. My front porch light shines through some of my bedroom windows, so I turn it off before bed. I keep the back porch light on, a night light (with an LED bulb) in the kitchen only, and keep a lamp with a dimmer switch in my office on very low (this allows me to see the keypad for the security system). Otherwise, the house is dark.
  15. Good pillows are worth whatever you pay for them. I’m allergic to feathers, so I’m partial to a not-too-thick, medium-firm pillow with an organic cotton or wool filling. Good sheets are worthwhile, too. I like linen, or in the winter, cozy organic cotton jersey.
  16. I lower the thermostat a degree or two at bedtime for optimal comfort. When the weather’s perfect, perhaps a little cooler outside than inside, I open a bedroom window for a few hours before bedtime in order to get the freshest possible air. (If you have the thermostat set at a temperature that’s non-optimal for your sleep because you or someone in your household likes to save a buck … if you’re in no danger of having your utilities disconnected, I believe there are better ways to squeeze a dime.)

This week, I took the following extra measures:

  1. It’s a great idea to be aware of your city’s quiet hours, and make sure others are following them when you need to be sleeping. You shouldn’t have to listen to nail guns at 6 am, or a dog barking all night long. Sometimes not everyone is aware of the law, so I like to let people (neighbors, contractors, etc.) know about the law and ask for their cooperation before I ask for it to be enforced. Very often, that’s all that’s needed. In my case, I made calls and sent e-mails about 24/7 construction noise. Technically I learned that round-the-clock construction is allowed at a distance of more than 300 feet, but I was able to achieve a considerable reduction in noise.
  2. I bought malleable silicone earplugs. They don’t block all sound, but they do block a lot of unpleasant noise. I was concerned about getting earplugs that block everything since hearing does provide important safety cues, allows my dogs to communicate with me, allows me to hear my alarm, etc. All that is good.
  3. I changed the sheets. Nothing says “Let’s go to sleep” like freshly unfurled sheets and pillowcases from the linen press. If you anticipate any challenge in going to sleep, making your bed completely fresh is incredibly inviting.
  4. I’m encouraging my dogs to be more considerate. No barking in the middle of the night when they go outside, and they get one chance to decide to join the party–no serial trips outside.
  5. Taking a lovely hot bath with Epsom salts is extremely helpful, especially if the cause of your insomnia is a magnesium deficiency.
  6. The first four nights this week that I had difficulty sleeping, I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after getting up to let the dogs out. The fifth night, I never went to sleep at all. At 2 am, I got up to meditate (again). I knew exactly what was bothering me, and also that it was my “resistance to what is” that was keeping me awake. I decided it had to stop. I got out my journal, and wrote down everything I want in this (work-related) situation, none of which I’m getting. I then wrote down that I know I’m not going to get what I want from the other person involved, either now or later–and I accept that. I’m not changing what I want, need, and expect, but I am changing my resistance to the reality of what I’m getting. I’m also putting my intention out there for a match between what I want, need, and expect and what I get in the future. With that, I suddenly became very sleepy, and was able to go back to bed and sleep peacefully the rest of the night. So, while completely acknowledging how difficult this step can be, I recommend releasing your resistance to what’s bugging you. Like resentment, resistance only harms you. Jesus said, “… Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39). He didn’t mean, of course, that evil is all right, simply that resistance is not an effective strategy.
  7. If your sleep is off track, don’t be afraid to do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Your sleep directly, and by that I mean directly, facilitates your sanity–which is more than just a nice-to-have. You ignore sleep deprivation at your peril. This week I took a day off work to ensure I got myself back on track–and that my sleep deprivation had no unintended consequences. Some years ago I had a crisis during which I was sleeping two hours every other night. That, my friends, is not enough. I got myself to a doctor, got a prescription, and took it. (Actually, on reflection, I told my sister what I needed and she made the appointment and drove me to it. Driving when seriously sleep deprived: Seriously not a good idea. I still owe her for her help at that time. Which brings up another point: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.) Some months later, I began weaning myself off it, cutting the pills into the smallest pieces I could without their turning to dust. I believe it was just about a year later when I was completely off it. I’ve had people who weren’t sleeping tell me they don’t want to be dependent on a sleep aid, and that is very admirable. I would love to see more of that attitude, in general. But dependence on a legal prescription is far from the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of sleep deprivation, and it need not be permanent. In my experience, I’m able to take prescription medication one night to sleep, when I need it, and I may be able to sleep well without it the next. So it’s important to realize that a sleep aid can be used occasionally. However, if you’ve tried everything else and decide you need a prescription, please be sure to research any prescribed drug you plan to take carefully. Some sleeping pills are known to have serious side effects.

On a lighter note, illustrating this post is the SoulCollage card I made today, Sweet Dreams. My sincere wish for you is sweet dreams and sound sleep–tonight and every night!

Of budgets and windfalls

Verbena cottage

I never thought I’d be the one to say this, but there’s something about making and sticking to budgets that really feels great. Perhaps it’s being the creator of discipline, rather than having it imposed upon you by outside forces and circumstances.

I structure my budgets to ensure that I can have some of what I want right now, in accordance with my belief that every plan (budget, diet, or what have you) should include carrot as well as stick. There’s an overall outline for the year, various goals measured in months, and then a very specific budget for each pay period. Each of these allows for bills to be paid, debt to be paid off, and necessities, as well as some entertainment (going out to eat with friends or antiquing) and other “want to” types of spending. (I initially typed “wait to” types of spending–and waiting is certainly a key concept in my theory of budgeting. Suze Orman‘s idea of waiting a day to go grocery shopping can be applied to many types of shopping and spending.)

Not long ago I watched Oprah’s recent interview of Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of Simple Abundance who made, and then lost, millions from its royalties. I’ve found it food for sobering thought ever since. It would be very easy to think, I’ve got more common sense than that! It could never happen to me.

But it’s happened to more than one inspirational writer, all of whom have published books that seem to indicate they knew better–this situation is not a one-off. And it happens when people get windfalls at all levels, whether it’s a relatively small storm-relief stipend spent on a Louis Vuitton bag, or millions of dollars earned and spent with very little left to show for it.

It all seems to beg the question, Is it my values or my circumstances that are determining my lifestyle and the choices I make?

Since 2005, I’ve been participating in an online discussion about building a wardrobe via a handful of high-quality acquisitions each season. This discussion has turned into a virtual support, accountability, and advice network that stretches over continents. It’s a way of life now, an ingrained habit for me to carefully consider every clothing purchase I make. My intention is always for every item to be beautiful, useful, and make a lasting contribution to my wardrobe. I take a similar approach to buying the other things I need.

This approach is important to me, not just because I want to use my own resources–such as time, money, storage space, and head space–wisely, but also because I don’t want to grab an inordinate amount of the planet’s resources. I want to take only what I’ll really use and enjoy, and leave the rest for others.

So what (I ask myself) would happen if there were no practical limits other than the ones I myself set? Magazines are chock-full of documentation of the obscene results that can occur when people have huge amounts of money to spend. I have yet to understand, for example, what people can possibly be doing in a 25,000 square foot house.

I’ve always preferred cozy little cottage-like houses … they speak of home to me. I truly don’t understand the appeal of a house you could truly get lost in–unless perhaps it’s an historic treasure. Still, it’s hard to imagine actually living in a castle. I’d really prefer to live in the gamekeeper’s cottage. (Of course, Sarah Ban Breathnach also lived in a cottage–Newton’s Chapel.)

My house is 1400 square feet, and I found when looking at 25+ houses that there was a very specific size that felt right to me. I’m a fairly abstract person, I’d always thought not that spacially-oriented, so I was interested to find that even 100 additional square feet registered as too much.

So 25,000 is a bit mind-blowing for me. Do people really find that comfortable, or is it just about impressing others? Or oneself? These are the kinds of questions I wish interiors magazines would ask (perhaps a bit more obliquely), instead of about the difficulties of bringing a hugely bloated space back down to human scale.

I’d like to believe that should I experience my own windfall, I would continue to take a measured approach to spending and acquisition. That I’d still value a few exquisitely beautiful, high-quality things. That I’d still want a house that feels cozy and home-like to me and others. That I’d still believe that all the best furs are attached to furiously-wagging tails, and greet you at the door of your cozy cottage.

Walks along the river

Now that the weather has cooled, I’ve been taking walks along the nearby river. There’s a network of paved and gravel trails that run along it, I’ve been told so extensive that no comprehensive map exists. I’ve been using the gravel trails as my feet seem to prefer them.

Last time I went I saw many water birds–perhaps half a dozen white cranes, which seem to like inlets for their fishing, and even more blue herons. Today I went earlier in the afternoon and saw none of these, but did see perhaps a couple of dozen ducks, some mallard, some brown, all swimming together below a dam, with birds of prey soaring overhead.

Across the river, a man and his foxy little dog were walking along the grassy bank. I couldn’t identify the dog’s breed from across the river–I suspect he may have no pedigree–but his coat was red with a short white ruff and a white tip on his tail. He was full of life and clearly enjoying his outing. The best part was when he walked seamlessly off the bank into the river and swam for awhile. He kept his white-tipped tail above water at all times, and actually wagged it as he swam! Here, I thought, is a dog who really knows how to have a good time.

There’s a unique two-sided water fountain by the trail. One side is for people, and the other, with the button at waist level and the fountain just above the ground, for dogs. I’d like to see if my dogs would drink from it, but sadly they are not good walkers. I’ve taken two of them walking on the trails before, and neither experience could be characterized as a great success.

When taken for a walk, Cherry makes it her business to select the very best patch of grass, or the very most beautiful lawn, and then makes a deposit, which I then have to clean up and place in an appropriate receptacle. She’s also a slow walker, because she needs to sniff everything, and then respond appropriately to all the other dogs’ ‘pee-mail.’

Gracie I suspect may have been dumped at one point prior to ending up at the puppy mill from which she was seized (along with 5000 other dogs). That would certainly explain her walking style. She will walk no further than two blocks from the house, and then she stops. No more than one block is her preference. Off leash and of her own free will, she goes no further than the next door neighbors’ yards on either side. On leash, when she stops walking around the two-block mark, the most mulish look appears on her little face, and she will walk no more. I took her to the river a couple of years ago, thinking that she might walk further with me if the house weren’t nearby.

And what I learned is that if the house isn’t there, the car will do just fine as a landmark. I ended up picking her up and carrying her, and I heard probably two dozen identical jokes from the people I subsequently met on the trail about how I was giving new meaning to “taking the dog for a walk.” So … I haven’t done that again.

Cookie is such a persistent herder that there is no taking her for a walk on leash. Unless I use considerable muscle to keep her where I want her, she’ll circle me and wrap the leash around me. And she’s so fast and skittish that I hesitate to attempt to walk with her off leash.

So I walk without my dogs.

After walking the trails for an hour, I notice that my hips and shoulders feel looser, and when I sit down afterwards, I can feel my quads twitching for awhile. One of the random bits of useless knowledge rattling around in my head is that there are fast-twitch muscles (possessed by Olympic sprinters) and slow-twitch muscles … mine have not been examined by an expert, but I feel I have an excellent guess as to which they are. I’m trying to recall a single occasion when I felt an urge to sprint, and coming up with exactly nothing.

It’s lovely to be able to connect with nature–masses of mature trees, the flowing river, the wild birds–right here in the city. In the distance I can see the downtown skyline, and today I thought also my office building with its light blue glass, from which I was very pleased to have the afternoon off. I started to look more closely to make a positive identification, and then decided that wasn’t at all necessary.

Of the other people I saw, a few were around my age. Many seemed to be college students, one guy (“This is Charles”) was conducting business on his cell phone, and a few were retired. One particularly ancient man was diligently riding his bicycle up and down a short stretch of trail. So many people locked away in those buildings on the skyline, so few out here enjoying the beautiful weather. I thought how lovely it would be to create my own schedule and come here whenever I liked.

I hope to enjoy many more river walks before winter begins in earnest. And also to design a way of earning my living that allows me to come here whenever I like.

The owl whinnied

The first time I heard whinnying coming from a tree outside my window, it got my full and immediate attention. I got my shoes on and went outside to check it out, then came back inside to Google this call I’d never before heard in my life.

Turns out it was an Eastern screech owl, making one of its territorial defense calls–the descending trill during territorial defense, to be exact.

I feel particularly fascinated by this owl, and usually go outside to listen when I hear it. Sometimes the dogs are the first to alert me that an owl is nearby. If it’s close enough, they’ll bark when they hear it calling. (They growl and bark at recordings of the owl trill as well.)  I enjoy all birdsong, but this owl’s calls I find hauntingly beautiful.

When I was looking at houses before I bought mine, a homeowner in another historic neighborhood told me they had a neighborhood owl (more probably at least a mated pair I suppose), and I guess now that this is how she knew. I’ve never seen our owl or owls, only heard them. Eastern screech owls are quite small, and apparently are well camouflaged and difficult to spot. Certainly I haven’t seen one yet.

I don’t know why, but I typically hear owl calls between 10 and 11 pm or so. Perhaps this is when the nocturnal hunt begins in earnest, and thus the hour when owl territorial issues arise! With a river nearby here in the middle of the city, owl hunting is most definitely encouraged. I’m more than happy for them (really anyone using non-poisonous methods) to cull the local rodent population.

I wonder if by any chance owls eat my nemesis, the grasshopper? A girl can dream. (Research indicates they do eat insects as part of their varied diet, though grasshoppers were not specifically named.)

Perhaps I should install an appealing nest box, as close as possible to my roses …

A nap on my own personal sabbath

Obviously, it is in many people’s best interest for you not to find yourself … –Anne Lamott

Today, as I read a book on the sofa, I found that the words began to flow together. I hadn’t realized I was tired (I slept in this morning, after all, though the dogs were unwilling I should do so), but clearly I was.

So I leaned over and took a nap. For about four hours. I guess I had some sleep debt.

Of course, today is Sunday. Most afternoons I’m working, Saturday afternoons I’m generally out running errands, and the answer then to this type of problem would be a cup of coffee and some sticktoitiveness.

But today is Sunday, and so I have the luxury and the possibility of taking a nap on the sofa.

When I ordered my sofa, I test-drove those in the showroom to determine the exact length I needed to be able to stretch out and nap comfortably, and then I ordered it (about 7 feet as I recall, including pillows and arms). I feel it is essential for a sofa to be nappable.

The dogs feel an afternoon nap (unlike sleeping in once or twice on the weekends, thus totally interfering with their plans to eat breakfast as soon as possible) is utterly reasonable. It is, in fact, what they like and prefer to do themselves in the afternoon. So I was blissfully undisturbed for four hours of Sunday afternoon naptime.

When I was growing up, both Sunday naptime and keeping the Sabbath were strictly enforced. I remember being ratted out once for reading a non-religious themed Reader’s Digest condensed book (desperate times …) during a wakeful Sunday ‘nap’ with most unpleasant consequences.

Of course I recognize the survival value of learning to follow rules that seem arbitrary and nonsensical. I’ll never forget what a friend told her son, who complained bitterly of the dumb people in charge at school, who were making all kinds of stupid rules.

That’s excellent, she told him … excellent preparation for the real world. You won’t believe the number of dumb people making stupid rules that you’ll run into there!

Lately I have returned to keeping my own kind of sabbath. But this time, with the delicious privilege of adulthood, in my world, on this day, I make all the rules.

There are only three.

  1. I have to do nothing I don’t want to; I must deal with basic necessities only, like food. This means there is no to-do list for a Sunday, unless I’ve planned so many fun things that I think I might not remember them all–then I can write them down.
  2. Otherwise, the agenda is to do what I would most like to do, given other constraints (i.e., the budget may not, in fact definitely won’t, allow for an emergency trip to Paris).
  3. At some point, I write on Sundays. I write on other days as well, but I definitely and always write on Sunday.

Recently my sabbath rules helped me decide whether I should accept a volunteer position that would have been a considerable expansion of what I was already doing.

When my current assignment required me to say yes to a completely unnecessary Sunday meeting that epitomized everything I didn’t want to be doing, I realized that saying yes to the further assignment could and very likely would lead to many more like it. So I said no to the flattering offer. It wasn’t important work, and it wasn’t consistent with how I want to spend my free time.

I quite like having my own personal sabbath, and recommend it to anyone. And if it seems like a big step, you could always start with just a nap.

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