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Invest in Joy. The 33-Day Challenge.

Yesterday I was so tired I fell asleep on the cement walkway to our house. I woke up to the postal carrier tiptoeing around me to the mailslot. She did not freak out about me lying there on the ground. She said, “Oh hon. I know. Can I curl up and rest with you in the sunshine?” 

That was my Delight #57. I have been tracking delights, inspired by the poet, Ross Gay. I am home now after you helped me get through another surgery and radiation. I feel great physically and the kids and Kurt are doing well. I am genuinely thrilled to be alive; I am just worn down by fires and homeschooling and COVID and presidential debates. But this moment with my postal carrier reminded me of the goodness of people. It also made me wonder, Are we letting people know how tired/sad/scared we are? Are we showing up for one another–(even willing to curl up on the cold cement (6 feet apart) with one another) through hard times?

We are all tired. Disheartened. Scared. I keep hearing, “I don’t know what I’ll do if this election doesn’t go (the way I want).” We can say yes to challenges and this crazy life, even when we feel cranky, triggered, angry, and sad. We need to choose love and choose trust that we are bigger and mightier than COVID or the presidential office. When we get attached to a certain outcome, we deny our power to make bigger changes on the ground and within ourselves. 

Fear is our kryptonite. Trust and action are our antidotes. The brave we need now is to raise the vibration in our communities from fear to joy. 

Invest in Joy. Do a 33-day-mind-body-spirit challenge with me. 33 days until November 4th, the day after the election. (Ok-maybe Nov. 5th or 6th by the time I get this blog out…) The goal? To remember that we are not victims, we are creators. We are far more powerful than we think. We can choose to do everything we can to heal our country (see below) AND heal ourselves by  building our inner resiliency. Unless yours is already humming…When I asked Kurt what his challenge was going to be, he answered, “Get through October.” “And, how are you going to do that?” I asked. He flexed his muscles for humor and said, “Like a BOSS!” His confidence is ridiculous and…contagious.

The 33-Day-Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge Starts When You Read This.

  1. Do something for your spirit. Do one small thing that brings you joy each day. Joy is a possibility-expander. You are not just doing this for you, but for us. When you tap into your joy, you get out of your rut, and you inspire me to get out of mine. You raise the vibration around you. Joy puts us in touch with who we are and what we are capable of each day. And when we are connected to self, we can easily tap into inner wisdom, guidance, and strength. For me, joy includes napping in the sunshine, foraging for wild mushrooms, walking Leo the wonderdog, making a new painting for the outside of our house, and learning to tap dance. For Cole, it means putting his full weight on his not-broken-anymore foot to press in the clutch and drive. For Hazel, it means learning to breakdance. For Kurt, it’s mountains, elk, and deer. What is joy for you today?
  2. Do something for your mind. Choose Books over News. Your nervous system is not designed for our addictive-headline-consumption habit. There is nothing in the news that will truly help you to learn more about something. Read a book. Might I suggest (again) The Book of Delights by poet Ross Gay?
  3. Do something for your body. Will you do 11 minutes of arm weights and squats with me? (I just found out that muscle mass makes the body inhospitable to cancer!) And how about a warrior pose while we wait for the coffee to brew? I don’t know where to put walking…under spirit, mind, or body? It feels like all three. Get out and walk.
  4. Do something for your country. Adopt a voter. More than 40% of the country does not vote. Write a letter to an unlikely voter and let them know why you vote, not who you vote for. Infrequent voters who received letters voted 3.4% more than a control group. Doesn’t sound like much? Hillary Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by less than 1%. With Vote Forward, I was able to adopt 5 under-represented voters and 20 infrequent voters. 
  5. DROP something that you resent. Drop one thing that you do out of duty, but that drives you nuts. Drop emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen, that zoom meeting that doesn’t really impact your work. Involve your kids, your sweetheart, your boss. You’ll need to have a couple of hard conversations in order to win a month of relief. Do it.

A foolproof way to stick to the challenge:

Put two jars out on your kitchen counter. Label one with a charity that you love. Put $30 in that jar. Label the other with the name of the candidate you do NOT want to win in November. Leave that jar empty. 

Every time you skip one of the days of your challenge, take $5 out of your-favorite-charity jar and put it in the other candidate’s jar. You MUST donate all of the money at the end of the 33 days. This works because we are disproportionately motivated by negative consequences. 

If you’re cozy in bed and don’t feel like doing the arm-weights that you promised to do, just think of this scary fact: When you donate to the other candidate’s campaign, you’ll receive that political party’s emails for life.

Ha! But what will truly motivate me to do this challenge is knowing that you might be doing it, too. It feels like you are saying “Can I curl up with you on the cold cement in the warm sunshine?”

Love,

Susie

***

 

Focus on Five; Navigating Uncertainty like an Ultramarathon

I used to run marathons and ultramarathons for kicks because I loved the feeling at the end that comes from knowing we are capable of far more than we think. But to get to the finish line in an ultramarathon, you can only run five minutes at a time. You don’t think about the next 30 or more miles because it’s too much. You go into overwhelm; your mind spins and your body rebels. To tackle uncertainty and a big challenge, you need to break it into small, manageable pieces. For me, that meant that during long, ultra-running races, I had to focus only on the next best step. I ran from river crossing to big pine tree to ridgeline to mountain peak in five minute intervals. I learned that you can go a long way five minutes at a time.

I’m going to take this next month of surgery, recovery, and radiation in the same manner. What do I need right now? Who can I ask for help with this? What is my goal for the next 5 days or 5 minutes? I want to bring the calm of a clear lake to every decision and sleepless night. I’ll need your help. You can remind me to focus on five. We can visualize all of us reunited and thriving in September. And we can all visualize this nation healing one step at a time.

Love,

Susie

Walking the Labyrinth

Out on a walk with Leo the dog, I came upon a big, beautiful labyrinth made of carefully chosen bricks and stones. It looked inviting, like something I had to do. But part way in, I’m sure the dog thought, Why do we keep going around in circles over here when the squirrels and ducks are over there? And I thought, This is taking a long time. I have a lot to do today. Can I sprint through a labyrinth? 

I stopped and took a few deep breaths, scanning for an easy-out. Leo sat down. And in that little sliver of calm, I decided to stay in the labyrinth. I thought, My to-do list can wait. Leo can wait, too. I’m here now. I started walking the labyrinth’s bent path again. But I couldn’t focus. My mind kept spinning on my latest health challenges. 

This week I found out I need brain surgery, on the fourth anniversary of those first surgeries on my skull. Then yesterday I learned that my son broke five bones in his foot. Knowing that we both might need operations during COVID and that we will be apart for another five weeks has sent me into a small tailspin with the big emotions of a mama bear who cannot care for her young. 

But as I walked the labyrinth, certain that I was doing it wrong by not being meditative, it started to work on me anyway. I walked the turns and realized, This is my life. It is not straight. It is this labyrinth: curved, cyclical, full of turns and uncertainty. The problem isn’t the shape of my life, but the size of my expectations. I expected my life to be more straight and clear by midlife. But that has not been my experience. And yet that has not changed its quality or beauty. It is still magnificent.

So I kept walking, and Leo came right along with me. Before I knew it, I was standing in the center. I was home. I felt relieved, confident, and calm. Leo naturally relaxed and lay down. I noticed that the way out was back the way I came. I thought, I know how to do this. Back through surgery and radiation and recovery. I ran back, laughing. Leo liked this part and started leaping a little. I know how to do surgery. I know how to recover from surgery. I know how to heal with radiation. I am here. I am still here. I will be here for a long time to come. You can find me riding the hairpin turns, one at a time, always bending home.

Love,

Susie

Cowboys Were My Weakness

At twelve I had a crush on the Marlboro man–

rugged, self-reliant, riding in his dusty cloak,

lone hero of the American west,

protector of our freedom.

I thought I needed a cowboy to rescue me

from bad guys and Indians.

 

I should have let it go when he died of lung cancer,

but I didn’t look deep enough,

didn’t see beyond the billboard bullshit.

 

Years later, I drive with my family on WY 296, 

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway,

over Dead Indian Pass.

I feel sick,

And I don’t think it’s the winding road.

 

I’m done with macho white myths,

let the dust cloak my need for their protection.

I’m done with freedom’s gun-toting guardians,

let them rescue the 4th amendment instead.

I’m over cowboys,

let them ride into the sunset for good.

–Susie Rinehart 06/10/20

image: Reuters/Theatlantic.com

Breathe: a poem

Breathe

All morning I’ve been thinking

about the beauty of a breath,

a child’s body breathing

as she falls asleep,

a sweetheart breathing

next to us in bed,

a tree breathing in carbon dioxide

and giving us oxygen

in an ancient, astonishing exchange,

my own lungs giving and receiving

without me having to do anything.

 

Meanwhile, a radiologist tells me 

to take a breath in, hold it, release,

as he scans my chest for cancer.

Meanwhile, in a hospital bed alone, 

someone takes her last breath.

Meanwhile, on the cold ground alone,

but with untold others, 

George Floyd cries, “I can’t breathe!”

His words, their deaths, 

our loss, our failure.

 

The first struggle humans have 

is to breathe,

our next struggle is to breathe 

light into darkness–

Breathe,

and remember

those who can no longer breathe.

What do we need to take in?

What do we need to let go?

We fall, we rise. 

We inhale pain,

we exhale love.

 

–Susie Rinehart, 06/09/20

How Many of Us are Feeling Emotional Overwhelm?

Cancer, COVID, white privilege, uprisings, menopause, teenagers…I know a thing or two about how to cope with intense emotional overwhelm.

Symptoms: trouble focusing, difficulty finishing tasks, may feel unsettled, unclear, unsteady.

Treatment: Avoidance coping is what we do to distract, numb, or escape our way out of discomfort. We watch TV, pour another glass of wine, run errands, work without breaks, power wash our windows. Active coping is what we do when we want to make real forward progress. 

3 active coping strategies: 

  1. Write down your emotions after breakfast. Don’t judge your feelings, explore them. No need for complete sentences
  2. Call a friend and say, “I need to vent to someone who won’t judge me. Are you available?” 
  3. Do the smallest brave over perfect thing. Take one vulnerable step forward. It might be asking for help. Engage imperfectly.

Refuse to be defined by Fear. Let me help you find healthy, active coping strategies that work for you. 

Love,

Susie

Act Local; A Guide to Boulder Elected Officials + Tips for Finding YOUR Representatives

Boulder, CO Elected Officials June 11, 2020

Act local and make real change. It took me too long to find out who my elected officials were last year, my first year to vote in the USA as a brand new citizen. I made this quick reference guide for those of you living in Boulder, CO in 2020. For those of you outside Boulder, the best resource I found for searching for elected officials AT EVERY LEVEL, no matter where you live in the USA, is on the website for The League of Women Voters under the tab “Elections.”

Our Federal Representatives:

US Senator Michael Bennet (D)

Webpage: Michael Bennet 

Phone: (202) 224-5852

Russell Senate Office Building Room 261

2 Constitution Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20510-0609

 

US Senator Cory Gardner (R)

Webpage: Cory Gardner

Phone: (202) 224-5941

Russell Senate Office Building Room 354

2 Constitution Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20510-0610

 

US Congress Representative: 

Rep. Joseph D. Neguse (D)

Webpage: Joe Neguse

Phone: (202) 225-2161

Longworth House Office Building Room 1419

15 Independence Avenue, SE Washington, DC 20515-0602

 

Colorado Governor:

Gov. Jared Schultz Polis

Webpage: Jared Polis

Phone: (303) 866-2471

 

Our State Representatives: https://leg.colorado.gov/findmylegislator

House District 10

Edie Hooton

Email: [email protected]

Webpage: Edie Hooton

Phone: (303) 866-2915

Colorado State Capitol Room 307

200 East Colfax AvenueDenver, CO 80203-1784

 

Senate District 18

Stephen Fenberg

Email: [email protected]

Webpage: Stephen Fenberg

Phone: (303) 866-4872

Colorado State Capitol Room 346

200 East Colfax AvenueDenver, CO 80203-1784

 

Mayor of Boulder

Sam Weaver

email: [email protected]

City Council Office, City of Boulder, 1777 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302

 

Police Chief

Ms. Maris Herold 

Sheriff / Police Chief

Phone: (303) 441-3310

Power to the Imagination

I’m listening and learning to Black leaders. One gem I found recently is this:

Angela Davis(told a crowd at UPenn in 2010)

“Activists in America in the late 1960s were saying,

“Power to the People!”

while activists in France were saying,

“Power to the Imagination!” 

It’s so important to use our imaginations to create the future we want for our children.

Watch this 3 min video clip from Angela Davis: How Does Change Happen?

What if I don’t want to go back to pre-COVID reality?

Dear Susie,

What if I don’t want to go back to my old reality? I used to run around so fast I had bugs in my teeth. It feels good to slow down. To have breakfast with my kids. To spend more time on relationships and deep work. To spend less time in airports and reacting to coworkers. I feel guilty saying this when so many don’t even have jobs. But I like the quiet. I don’t miss the noise, the commute, or all the travel. I have time now to exercise because I am not sitting in traffic. As tough as it has been working from home, homeschooling, AND trying to stay healthy, I am scared of going back to the pace of life before we had to shelter-in-place. Plus, I haven’t cleaned out my closets yet. I’m not ready!

What can I do?

Signed,

Woman formerly known as “Bugs-in-my-Teeth” 

***

Dear Woman formerly known as “Bugs-in-my-Teeth,”

Whenever the shelter-in-place is relaxed, you don’t have to rush back to your old reality. There is no guard at your door saying you must act exactly as you did before.

That would be a real loss. If we all did that, none of us would integrate the lessons we’ve learned about what’s important. About what matters. About the value of reflection. Or about how creative we are. Or about how strong we can be when we emphasize solidarity, health, and wellness.

This is a time to create a new reality. You are right. We are privileged if we still have jobs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful and innovative at the same time. This is an opportunity to transform the way we live and work together.

Some questions I have:

  • What is the pace just under “bugs-in-your-teeth” fast? Can you aim for that? 
  • Can you lead your family and colleagues in conversations about integrating what you have learned from this time? 
  • Can you claim space for deep work and rest?  

Here are three ways that may help you to imagine creating a new reality instead of having to go back to the status quo.

3 ways to create a new reality: (Start now. Don’t wait for your governor to give new orders!)

  • Protect space and time

Get in your calendar and block off time for exercise, deep work and also for what restores you. Take control of your time and don’t let others schedule meetings for you in those times.

  • Advocate for integrating lessons learned

Use existing forums or create one where people can anonymously share learnings from sheltering in place. Let people freely express new ideas about how to work smarter, not harder. Do people want to telecommute more, have shorter meetings, limit travel, and make space for research and innovation? 

  • Say NO respectfully. Be the voice for deep work and focus

If you had to drop some obligations lately, don’t rush to revive them. We want to say yes to everything, but it has a cost. Be the voice that respectfully says “No” to projects that impact your wellbeing or hurt your relationships. Be brave and challenge the old reality’s tendency to add, add, add to everyone’s plates in favor of a new reality that encourages deep work, reflection, efficiency, and effectiveness.

I also imagine that you feel more connected to some of your coworkers now than before because you are checking in on each other’s safety and health more often. We are seeing one another as human beings now in our messy living spaces, with our toddlers and pets interrupting video calls. It’s a reminder of how little we knew about one another before this crisis, and how much we tried to hide. But no need anymore! Work can bring out our best selves, if we felt free to show up real.

One of the simplest and most important things you can do as a leader is to show up whole and human, and encourage others to do the same. It may feel small, but it’s a radical act. You can do the following 1-minute activity on video calls, beginning now. Ask, “On a scale of 1-10, 1 being terrible, 10 being amazing, how are you doing right now?” Have everyone throw fingers at the same time so you can get a sense of who is a 3 and who is an 8. Encourage everyone to check in later with those who may need a listening ear or a helping hand.

Every day, devote space to what matters to you most. Next, be genuinely interested in your colleagues as people. If we all resist returning to an unsustainable pace, we can create a new reality that feels whole and balanced. And you won’t need to clean out your closets because you’ll need less stuff to feel happy!

Love,

Susie

***

photo credit: Tracy Kahn/Corbis

You do not have to be good

Today I discovered how freeing it can be to write down all the ways in which I do not have to be good. These are stressful times and yet we don’t give ourselves permission to do less without feeling guilty.

We imagine that everyone else is productive and creative and bringing healthcare workers meals and saving deportees at the border. We think we are the only ones who are struggling to get dressed or have a shower.

But tense times make it difficult to motivate. And If you are a well-meaning person who wants to make an impact in the world, you are probably beating yourself up right now because there are people with much more difficult problems than yours.

Stop it. Give yourself a little self-compassion. Then join me in a little game that writing geeks like to play.

It’s called “extend a line.”

Here’s how you play: Use the first line of Mary Oliver’s famous poem “Wild Geese” which is “You do not have to be good…” and extend it with your own words.

Imagine you are writing a gigantic permission form to yourself and you want to list all the ways you do not have to be good. Lower the bar. You do not always have to be a self-improvement project. 

Here’s my attempt at extending the first line of “Wild Geese.” *Thanks to Adrie Kusserow for the idea!

Wild Geese in the Time of Corona

(by Susie Rinehart, with deep apologies to Mary Oliver)

You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk 

on your knees through your Clorox-wiped floors, repenting.

You do not have to be good at sheltering in place.

You do not have to be good at sewing masks.

You do not have to be productive.

You do not have to wear pants.

You do not have to feel shame for losing your cool.

You do not have to pick up the laundry you threw out the window, 

or the iPad.

You do not have to keep your voice down. 

You only have to let the soft animal of your body 

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours. And I will tell you mine…

–Read the whole, real poem here.

When I was done, I laughed out loud. I felt free of the loud inner critic. I felt light. I felt connected to all of you who might be going a wee bit mad. There is power in celebrating who we are rather than who we strive to be.

Love,

Susie

***

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