If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Summer came yesterday. The day opened and closed with rolls of thunder, clouds charcoal behind purple jacarandas, and in between it was still, humid and warm. When I woke up I noticed three things – the sore throat that had stuck with me night and day for four days had gone, the conjunctivitis that had come with it had not woken me up during the night, but had still glued my eyelids shut, and when I had washed my eyes, I saw the sun had birthed itself in a fiery red sky heralding the storms to come. It got hot enough for my first river swim for the season. I was hanging the clothes out in the afternoon sun, debating with my daughter the value of her pet guinea pigs and the ethics of keeping animals in a cage, when suddenly I stopped talking and said, hey, do you want to go for a swim? She readily agreed, if only to shut me up.

We swam and splashed, gave ourselves a salt foot scrub on the rocks and admired a pretty fantail couple in the callistemon who had built themselves a tiny, tiny nest. We wondered how small their eggs must be to fit. Contrast that with today’s river trip with my 12 year old son and two mates, who proceeded to discover all the most dangerous spots in the river and jump from them, half drown each other and find a huge patch of mud to wrestle in. Relaxing!

I’d been at home most of the week, leaving only to take my daughter to swimming or gymnastics, outings I appreciated. I was happy enough, even with my gunky eyes, sore throat and all the things, studying Sociology (gender inequality this week) and Politics. I was actually studying Political theories, concepts and models on Wednesday, while out in the world, the US was gnawing on itself, thrashing and wailing in that quiet, gentle way they do, voting in a new President. It occurred to me, as I was curled up on my verandah lounge, reading and taking notes, that I vastly prefer the study of politics to the reality :).

I’ve also been inspired by this TED talk by Sarah Trimmer, recommended by two of my favourite writers, and her idea of start and end the day happy:

To get through the deaths of both her parents and multiple cancer diagnoses and treatment, Sarah used structured journaling, morning and night, where she asked herself five questions:

  1. Today I am grateful for…
  2. Today I helped someone by…
  3. Something that made me happy today…
  4. Today I learned…
  5. Tomorrow I will…

She discovered that even on the most horrible days, she could answer those questions and raise her happiness levels. Most of us, me included, are not facing the kinds of challenges that Sarah has done, but we could all do with a focused daily practice of some kind that helps happiness become second nature to us. So, this week I’ve been taking some quiet time at the end of the day and answering those five questions, all except last night when I was inspired by a post by Anyes from Far Away in the Sunshine, where she asked herself five different questions, which I thought were so interesting I wanted to share them with you:

  1. What’s your favourite childhood memory? I am not sure I have just one favourite, but most of my happy memories seem to include the river, my favourite Jacaranda tree, being lost in a book or enjoying mealtimes with my family.
  2. How old would you be if you did not know how old you were? Such a funny question don’t you think? Probably the age I am right now: 40. All the signs are there – grey hair, a newly popped out vein behind my knee and sun damaged skin – plus the fact that I ‘do’ life so much better now than at any other time of my life, means I look and act my age, and I am happy for it.
  3. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Just one? Let things unfold, working with the Universe to create your life rather than being under the daft illusion that you have to do everything yourself. Actually, that’s probably too complex for a baby. Maybe just be and do the things that bring joy into your life, because joy is the clue and the key to your purpose.
  4. What is your favourite quote?
    Only one quote and one piece of advice? Do you know me at all? 🙂
    Let me keep my distance, always, from those that think they have the answers.
    Let me keep company always with those who say ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment and bow their heads.
    – Mary Oliver
  5. What is your current 3 word memoir? Trust-faith-patience

So, what do you think about structured journaling? Care to share any of your answers here?

I hope you have a beautiful week – hey, enjoy the Taurus Super Moon tomorrow (Monday 14th, Australia time), the closest full moon to the Earth in 70 years. Here’s an article from astrologer Sarah Varcas with a pretty cool take on it: Supermoons and Black Moon Lilith – you can’t have one without the other!

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26 comments

  1. how wonderful to be refreshed in nature
    and be healed with the loving companionship
    of dear children playing!
    very useful exercises.
    science has proven the value of holding onto
    the good for 10 breaths, or so
    to overcome that primitive
    negativity bias.
    wishing you continued well-being
    and purple blossoms 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a lovely idea David, to practice holding onto the good for 10 breaths. And yes, it was a very healing weekend, and I find now, on Monday morning, that I am finally better from the horrible flu that has been ailing me for the past 10 days. Thank you for your beautiful comment, I enjoy your visits xo

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  2. Oh you poor thing. What a lot of crap to slog through on the medical front. But you have written just what I needed to read today. It has been a tiring week both mentally and physically. I like your questions and will ponder them, tho I’m usually not very good at things like that. Take care of your dear self.

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    • Thank you Ardys, I woke up this morning, and voila! No sticky eyes! Yay :). I love questions, they have a magic power over me. I am a question asker as well though, so maybe I am oriented that way! Enjoy your day xo

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      • I like questions too, I just don’t feel I’m very good at answering them…How-so-ever… I have answered the second five questions in your post, and thought I would have a bit of fun with posting them tomorrow, and linking back to your post, and asking others to do the same if they would like to. I thought it might be a way of getting to know my community a little better. Is that okay with you? xx

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  3. Thanks for this blast of positivity. Perspective is always a good solution when things seem down.

    Do we really seem to be “thrashing and wailing in that quiet, gentle way” ? Hmmmm, quiet + gentle….don’t know if those words could be used to describe US once the pig goes into office.

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    • Quiet and gentle is deeply ironic Elysha 🙂 The US is suffering and we all know about it, no matter how far away we are. I don’t mean to minimise the extent of the suffering – I can see that it’s real. now what, I wonder – what will the people do now that the worst has happened?

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  4. What a stunning tree, is that a jacaranda? How could you not feel joy when you see that 🙂 The swim sounds heavenly. I think structured journaling sounds like a good way of not only counting the blessings you have but living a better life tomorrow.

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  5. As you know I love River immersions! You are right, if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is 🙂 Summer came and went again in my slightly-south-to-you area of Australia. We had warm still summer days and river swims too. And then sleet, snow in the mountains and lighting the wood fire for the first time in a while. Spring in all its forms.

    Like your comment about the American politics – I much prefer the idea of structured journaling than the reality of actually doing it. Years worth of bits n pieces of journaling, snippets of structured reflection. Equally each of those snippets has been significant in its own way. I just had to find a way past my perfectionist self to allow for the sporadic nature which seems to be my writing and reflecting via written form preference. Since I have let go of neatly, completely answered processes – I have found value and joy in all sorts of structured reflection. One of my favourite times for structured handwritten reflection is the 15mins or so I spend waiting at the kids school bus stop (which is conveniently a short walk from our house, right alongside a lovely ana-branch creek of our river). I have put a little chair there and sit and write. The short time frame gets the flow going and gently puts the overthinking mind to the side for a time.

    I was listening to an audio of Terry Tempest Williams the other way where she spoke of opening a lifetimes worth of her mothers journals. All beautiful, all neatly bound and stacked, all completely blank. It prompted open curiosity and ponderings of the diverse role journaling can play in our lives. Somedays, I wonder what to do with my little snippets, keep them randomly in a box, fire-flame them, lovingly collate them. As yet no particular answer has emerged, so I tend to do a combination of all three.

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  6. Despite all the recent craziness in my own life and this week’s national nightmare coming to life in front of our very own eyes, I’ve been purposefully stepping away from all that and just focusing on the good things in my life. It feels slightly selfish, given how much people are worrying over the state of our country now but I need to take care of myself first before I can even try to start worrying about such a huge disaster. I really hope we as a people can come together in a dark, uncertain time like this and prove to Trump that his vision of a closed off, prejudiced, non-diverse country will never come to light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lillian 🙂 I think it’s smart not selfish to look for the good in things as well as care for your own wellbeing. I really don’t think the world or the US needs more fear or angst thrown into the mix. You are actually helping more if you remain open, aware and positive! That’s how I look at things, anyway!

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  7. Oh I like those extra five questions they are great… and no way I can answer so spontaneously!..will muse on them 🙂 As for structured journaling. I don’t know, I still feel like I need a bit more elbow room to break out and wave my figurative arms about a bit more. I don’t like being backed into a corner, and structured journaling feels slightly like that. Nonsense yes I know, but there just the same 🙂

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    • No. Not nonsense! Where I find a structure useful in this sense, is to bring you to the page/mat/whatever when there is no clear purpose or perhaps resistance to it. So if I perhaps put off journaling because I don’t have anything to write, then if I have a structure to fall back on, where there is always something to write. On the other hand, I thought today that there was something else I wanted to explore in my writing tonight rather than the five questions…but I like that they are there as a back up or even a starter.

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  8. Structured journaling… I like it. It’s helpful to have this kind of grounding practice, especially if you’re one (ahem) to have a million thoughts and ideas floating about, and thus write none of them! 😉 I love the Mary Oliver quote too. Mine would be Anais Nin ~ “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ❤

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    • Hello Aleya 🙂 Yes, I love that beautiful Anais Nin quote too. So many beautiful words. It’s interesting the way structure works, I think, and not in the restrictive way that people sometimes see it, along with that other useful practice, discipline. For instance, this structured journaling technique brought me back to daily journaling, and then enabled me to expand into more free form writing last night when I wanted to write about some things that we were worrying me. Or, as another example, I decided to give myself a set time to practice yoga whenever I am at home, something that I have resisted for a long time. But I find I really need that strictness to get on the mat at the moment. Not always, but at the moment.

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  9. I’ll start by saying, again: Oh, how I love your beautiful world! That swimming hole gets me every time! (no crocs?) It is so inviting, and serene! The jacaranda is stunning, and the hills and fields behind it just call to me! LOVE it.

    Admittedly, right now (for the past 2 weeks in particular) we could use some reminders to be grateful… it’s a challenge, when the news is full of scary stuff, but yes, there is always something to be thankful and happy about. Thanks for the reminder Sara! I’m always grateful when I read your posts (which I do more, than I comment 😉 )

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    • No crocs in our part of the world, not until you get to the Northern Territory. Most of Australia has no crocs 🙂 It is a lovely time of year, although it’s really starting to get hot now. That’s okay, more swimming 🙂
      The news always has scary music playing, like the end of times is nigh…and mostly it’s just BS. I try to avoid it wherever possible 🙂 hanks for your visits Dawn, I appreciate them ❤

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  10. Sara, thank you for the post. I try to keep up with your posts but you produce them with such blinding speed I always seem to be one or two behind.

    What a lovely written description it opens with–summer–summer–swimming. I so like your posts on your everyday life especially well, and i look forward to them. I looked at Sarah’s five questions and they made me think of.my country’s Thanksgiving national holiday that’s coming up Thursday. Sitting around a large table we will each answer the question. “What am I most thankful for?” The statement “Today I learned” I really liked–I suppose that’s really who I am: one who loves to learn.And then tells other people about it.,

    My favorite quote is poet Robert Frost’s “The best way out is through.” If I didn’t know how old I was I would be seventeen. Who can forget his/her seventeenth year?

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    • Hello David 🙂 I write posts at blinding speed do I? That’s pretty funny! I know you like my personal posts the best, and it seems to be all I feel like writing at the moment, so you’re in luck :).
      I hope you had an enjoyable thanksgiving, it has always seemed like such a lovely custom to me. I love your quote by the way, it defines you 😊

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