I just finished reading Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames (available at all major bookstores, but being frugal, I borrowed it from the library... of course!). This woman speaks my language. I honestly wasn't aware just how important frugality was to me until reading this. Through major portions of the book, I felt like she was reading my mind. This book is not really about spending less money: It's about living congruently. (Often, once we tap into that, we realize we don't need to spend as much money!). As a counselor and on a personal level, congruent living is a foundational belief.
Essentially, "Mrs. Frugalwoods" or "Mrs. FW" (as she refers to herself on her blog) and her husband worked in the city in cubicle-type jobs for several years before realizing it wasn't for them. It didn't represent their values. They started saving and upping their frugalness until they could purchase a homestead in rural Vermont, living off the land as much as possible, and eventually not needing to work but doing so because they enjoy it (my dream!). Mrs. FW is very open about her privilege--and I would like to acknowledge that, too. We aren't all born with the same deck of cards, and she is incredibly lucky, as am I. However, regardless of our deck of cards, there are many important lessons to be found in her words, with just as many tie-ins to mental health and overall wellness.
For me, I know I am happiest when I am connected to nature, to myself, and to loved ones. When I have community. When rock climbing. When I'm with my bees. When I'm lucky enough to accompany clients into deep healing. When I see myself clearly and see that my self is truly reflected in the way I live my life. It isn't when I'm spending lots of money, selling myself short, discounting my worth, or spending precious time on something I don't value.
Of course, this varies for each person, but I'm going to go ahead and state that most people spend money on things that don't really align with our values and goals on a shockingly regular basis--and our mental health and wellness would probably greatly benefit from some reflections on this, whether done alone, with friends, or with a counselor (like me!).
Here are a few questions to ponder:
A little self-disclosure: This book reminded me that I spend too much time on social media (can anyone relate?!) and not enough time writing and doing yoga. It also added fuel to the fire that I really want to invest into our one-acre piece of land so it becomes more of an ecotherapy paradise for humans and a sanctuary for my bees.
I will end with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"In the city, our lives were divorced from the natural world. It didn't matter if it was snowing, or 95 degrees, or if blackberries were ripe somewhere--we were in our offices all day long, no matter what. Now we base our days around seasonality. Each month, each day, even, blesses us with the minutiae of seasonal imperatives." -Elizabeth Willard Thames
Regardless of if you have a "city job" or one that allows you work more seasonally, I think we can all work on tuning into nature more! (Or whatever values you want to see more of in your life--though my personal belief is that nature is something we all need... and science backs that up too.)
Happy reading, everyone!
Body image seems to be a theme for me--professionally and personally-- lately. Here is why.
Last month, I registered for a half-day continuing education presentation on body image. As a therapist working with quite a few women of all ages, I knew I'd benefit from more training on this pervasive topic.
Then, a few days before the presentation, my engaged friend informed me that I'd need to be professionally measured so my bridesmaid dress could be ordered and fitted. I got on it right away and was surprised to learn that there is quite a difference between the size of my waist and the size of my hips. This may seem silly, but I hadn't ever had an objective measure of this. Having it in writing with exact numbers was... interesting. I love my body--it allows me to do amazing things, like experience the smell of rain during deep breaths of meditation and contemplation, or reach the top of a rock climb or a tall mountain peak. For the most part, I feel very grounded in and connected to this body of mine, regardless of my measurements. So, I reported these measurements to the bridal company, and forgot about it--for a couple of days, at least.
A day later was the presentation on body image, put on by the Center for Change (and the presentation was fantastic, by the way). I thought I was fairly informed about the ways in which our culture, the media, and advertising seem to make it hard for women (and men too) to feel good about our bodies. But this presentation blew my mind with tidbits like...
I fought back tears on several occasions during this presentation. How is it that so many capable, intelligent, compassionate, successful women are so unhappy with how they look? (As if that's the ultimate measure.) Why do we struggle so much to have self-compassion and self-acceptance? (I have a few ideas...)
Now to return to my bridesmaid dress adventure: A received a phone call, the day after the body image training, from the bridal company. The woman there informed me that my three measurements matched up with three different sizes, with a six dress-size spread. She said this with a sassy edge, and I almost felt shamed for having a body that doesn't fit into one dress size. The funny (and sad) thing is, my body is not strange. No body is. Yet so many of us, with perfectly healthy bodies, are having a hard time "fitting" into the body image ideal. Not only that, but another woman was delivering this message to me. It seems that women have internalized some ideas that are doing us harm.
At this point, I am feeling especially grateful to have developed a positive relationship with my body--and to have formed relationships with some others who feel similarly about their bodies. I also want to acknowledge that I've seen some progress! But... we have a long way to go. I recognize that this is a huge task, but I feel that it is critical that we tackle body image issues--together.
I don't want you, or me, to spend another minute of our lives wishing we looked differently when there are so many other meaningful, wonderful ways we could be spending our energy. Shame and self-hatred are not motivators. They keep us down. That's no way to be.
I don't have any answers here, but I have a few ideas.
What do you think? Personally, I plan on continuing to enjoy the way my body defies gravity while rock climbing and all of the other ways my body enhances my life. And I plan to wear my bridesmaid dress proudly.
In closing, I invite you to watch this video and imagine some of your own creative answers that are more like the ones towards the end. :)
I Am Me, by Virginia Satir
In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me -
everything that comes out of me is authentically mine,
because I alone choose it - I own everything about me - my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions,
whether they be to others or to myself -
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears -
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me - by so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts -
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know -
but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me -
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me -
If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turned out to be unfitting, I can discard that which I feel is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded -
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do.
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive,
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me -
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me -
I am me & I AM OKAY.
I first discovered this idea of “hygge” while reading Thrive by Dan Buettner. In Thrive, we learn about areas around the world with exceptionally high numbers of thriving centenarians (people age 100+ who are happy and healthy too). The book gives us a detailed look into the way of life in these places. It’s a great book that is truly a holistic way to think about health. I recommend it!
Back to the idea of hygge (pronounced “hooga”). Denmark, home of hygge, is overall a very happy and healthy place to live. Even throughout the many long and cold hours of this Northern country, the Danish have figured out how to embrace what they have and live in harmony with nature all year long, even in the winter (for more on the wintertime health, see my previous blog post). Hygge doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but the word coziness is pretty close.
So how can you embrace this concept of hygge now and throughout the year?
When the days get colder and shorter, remember to hygge. Think of the winter as a time to get cozy, slow down, and enjoy the simple things. While some of these things can certainly be done year-round, winter demands that we slow down and embrace the hygge.