Month: April 2021

Randomly accessed memories 2021-04-26

When I need a mind-numbing activity to waste a few minutes of my day, rather than doom scrolling Twitter or needlessly refreshing my inbox, I like to hit the “random” button on some of my personal repositories of knowledge. I enjoy the exercise of thinking about where I was when I saved that webpage or liked that song or posted that quote. Here’s a quick sample from a recent trip down randomly accessed memory lane.

Random book from my library

Book cover showing sheep in a field

Montaillou : the promised land of error by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.

This is definitely a book I plan to read again. I first encountered it in 2006 while studying medieval literature in grad school. It’s a lovely (albeit disturbing) retelling of heresy in a small, French town based on an abundance of textual, “first-hand” knowledge that shows us more about life in rural Europe than it does about religious deviance.

Random bookmark

I saved this YouTube video back in September 2017. Apparently, by that point I was already on the Cal Newport train.

Random blog post

In 2016, I wrote about #LISMentalHealth, my chronic illness, and my decision to seek professional support to help manage my stress, anxiety, and depression.

Random word from the OED

nash, intransitive. To leave in a hurry, quit; to ‘dash’.

Random song

I don’t remember adding this to my library, but any time a song from this album comes on it makes me smile. Steven was right.

On showing up for work

pub laying on its back

The first time I attended a yoga class was at the invitation of a grad school friend in 2006. It was in a small, second-level studio full of dark oak and warm light. I remember feeling shakey, dizzy, and sweaty for most of the time. I remember the instructor gently teasing me about how difficult the first class can be for newbies. I remember I ached for days.

The next time I went to yoga was 10 years later, this time at the invitation of a colleague. This time it was in a spacious gym. This time it stuck. I attended yoga classes weekly (no, zealously!) for about three years. The class occurred during the weekday (at the campus gym) and I never missed a class when I could avoid it. I blocked the time out on my calendar, refused meetings during that time, and even went so far as to store an extra pair of clothes in my office in case I accidentally forgot my gear. Then the pandemic hit and, like many luxuries, I gave it up to focus what little mental and physical bandwidth I had on family, work, and sleep.

A year later, I am back at it. Once again at the invitation of a friend, I started attending a weekly, gentle yoga class. My body and mind are both protesting, but it’s getting easier each week. Easier to let go, to focus and to show up.

I don’t have yoga experience outside these three instructors. I can’t speak for all the various modifications, variations, and approaches to yoga practice. However, all three of these instructors have spoken about the act of showing up. As an act of courage. An act of forgiveness. An act of resistance. An act of letting go. An act of attention. An act of kindness, to oneself and to others. And as an act of community.

This simple act of showing up, of being present for a moment or an idea, can be such a significant action when coupled with attention and receptivity. When I “show up” to yoga, I move with intention layered in waves of attention. Like the breath our instructors repeatedly remind us to center, my attention rises and falls, but never completely subsides. It’s taken me years of sitting meditation to get to that level of focus. I was surprised to find it again so quickly, even while doing Zoom yoga amidst the cacophony that is working while home.

I wonder if there are parallels between this idea and some of my previous thinking about productivity. As I move through my day, constantly racing between the clock and the to-do list, am I really showing up? No, I’m reacting to a plan. Admittedly, it’s a plan I created, but reacting nonetheless. Am I really here for it?

Instead of thinking about what I need to do this week, what if instead I thought about what I need to show up for this week? More importantly as a manager and colleague, who do I need to show up for this week? Would I schedule my week differently with this mindset? Would this give me permission to say no to things that I cannot (regardless of will) be present for? In the past year, I’ve finally realized that I cannot be my best for others when I don’t practice self care, part of which mostly requires setting boundaries between myself and others, but also between myself and my expectations.

I’ve just put a library hold on “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving” by Celeste Headlee. I imagine there will be corollaries to some of this thinking to be found there, and I look forward to it.

Arlaux Premier Cru Brut

arlaux champagne bottle and small paper dinosaur

I don’t need a celebratory reason to drink champagne, but drinking champagne always feels celebratory. This bottle, disgorged in 2019 after spending 3 years sur lie, opens with fresh bread crust and vanilla on the nose. With a surprising amount of structure, citrus jolly ranchers hit the tongue with hints of apple. A long, tight finish of cream soda.