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Finding my way home, again

LJ Cohen

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I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons why I have been feeling rootless and anxious over the past months. Ultimately the reasons matter less than my reactions to them and while I've made my writing and publishing deadlines this year, it hasn't been without difficulty.

And it has been with the knowledge that I've wasted enormous amounts of time, lost to endless checking of FB, Twitter, and Google Plus.

I've tried more organizational techniques than you can count. They all work to some extent, for a little while and then I'm back to losing time at the screen or looking productive while researching yet another organizational system.

The other day, I pushed myself to go strawberry picking. I had had it on my to do list all week, and finally by Thursday, I had run out of excuses and knew that if I didn't do it that day, it wasn't going to happen this year at all. The season is short and doesn't care about my excuses.

So I drove out to the self-pick farm and spent the morning gathering strawberries in the lovely sunshine, under an intensely blue sky.

By that night, I had dehulled, chopped, and weighed out 3 pound portions of the 12+ pounds I'd picked and readied them to make jam. (One canner's worth is already done, the other packages are in the freezer waiting for their turn.)

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What I realized in sinking into the process of making jam is the thing I've missed this year has been simple immersion. Doing one thing with my full concentration and intent. It's what ceramics helps me achieve, and I've only been at the studio sporadically.

Concentration is like a muscle. If it's not exercised, it atrophies. My ability to focus fully as been eroded by the coping strategies I turned to when I was under stress. In the end, they are maladaptive strategies and I need to build in more adaptive, more nurturing ones.

But I have to do it in a way that doesn't feel punitive.

Making endless to do lists haven't helped me in the past. It only makes me feel worse when I don't get to what I know will help.

So I'm just going to use this to remind myself how much better I feel when I take regular walks with the dogs, make jam, spend 10 minutes meditating, read a poem, do a bit of yoga, spend time at the studio, free write.

These are things that help me feel more like me. The doing of them is its own reward.

Today I took a long walk with the dogs in the woods. Aside from the ticks, it was a wonderful day. I found myself breathing in a deep and easy rhythm while sun and shadow made patterns on the trees. As I relaxed more and more, I started thinking about an old writing project that has been stalled for more than a year and came up with a different way of looking at the problem.

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This is progress. This is self-care. This is coming home.

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