I still struggle against unhealthy patterns learned early on in life and in a long-term abusive relationship. The objective is always to remember who I am, and to honor that. That’s not always as easy as it might sound.
There’s been a tremendous amount of work and education sorting it out. Along this journey, I’ve realized there are a few essential things that facilitate the process in a practical way – my tools, if you will.
My toolbox contains six go-to items that reliably help me remember who I am. I try to ‘touch’ my tools every day. (As a quilter, I remember a maxim that one should at least touch their current quilting project every day. The logic was that if you took time out to stop and touch your project, you couldn’t help but be drawn in to working on it no matter how busy or crazy your day was.)
So here are the tools in my toolbox right now:
Writing is essential to me, whether I am journaling or writing for publication. The act of writing helps me to process and organize thoughts, to explore issues, and to connect. I write lots of different ways. Even when I am not writing, I am making notes. Writing also relates to photography, making me more aware of what I see in a day, and what matters to me.
If I’m not running, or at least walking, it is a clear signal that I have shut the door on my self. Running is an amazing gateway to remembering who I am. It is a meditative process which engages my body and all its memories. When I run, I am very present. I am able to quiet the noise of the inner critic, and to just see what’s there. I am so grateful to have discovered this tool. It is indispensable.
Creativity is at the core of who I am. This relates to writing, but it also relates to hands-on, tactile creative acts. I learned to sew when I was 12 years old, and the process of creating things from textiles has been a part of me ever since. Pen and ink is another medium to which I am always drawn. Building things, using tools, always satisfies. I love to express and to give through creative acts, but this is an area into which it is often very difficult to allow myself.
Oddly, it took me awhile to recognize my real need to be in nature. Nature is absolutely restorative. It brings me back to one. All of my running and walking is done outside, which is part of the reason it is such a profoundly centering experience. I love to feel the wind, the rain, the snow. I love the trees, the birds, the wooly bears, the Monarchs. When I am in nature, I am home.
If one honors one self, this most basic act of properly nourishing one’s self must be addressed. I have noticed that, like running, when I stop eating and hydrating well, I have turned away from remembering who I am. It is, obviously, fundamental. This is a far more complicated topic than it might appear, because it touches on so many big issues from physical to spiritual, environmental, gender, ethics, and more.
Given the destructive patterns established early on for me, I struggle with connection. I do find ways to connect through all the other tools in the box, though. For example, at times, when I may have difficulty actually connecting with other people around me, I may connect by writing and/or publishing. I recognize, nevertheless, how important it is to be connected with other folks and with my self. It is something at which I must consciously and deliberately work since my self has learned so well to simply hide. Running, creating, hiking, food are avenues to connection. I stay mindful of this. I am gentle with myself about this, though. This tool is not always easy to use, but it’s essential. Spiritual connection is also integral to, well, everything.
There’s a lot more I could say about each one of these areas.
One of my little ‘grounding’ reminders is to sort of count off my first five tools on the fingers of my hand – write, run, make, nature, nourish. Then, I put my hand against my heart to remember: ‘connect’. My little mantra helps to remind me that I have these tools, and to look for ways to employ them each day.
When I honor who I am, I am the best I can be for others.
What’s in your toolbox?