It’s been a few weeks since I’ve put pen to paper, which somehow feels like an eternity. In 2020 it seems as though so much can happen in the space of several weeks. Or at least that’s how Ireland feels. From the continuously odd advice from the government about COVID-19 to the more sinister rise of a public presence of right-wing protests, I have found myself floundering.
I am under no delusion that I am alone in this feeling as we approach the six month mark of this global pandemic.
I have been asking myself some challenging questions, which have no easy answers. Is there space for my blogs and writing when the world is burning before our eyes? Yet doesn’t denying myself a voice somehow work against my belief that all opinions have value?
Often, I have found myself to be a polarising person. I’m not particularly controversial, nor do I aim to make people uncomfortable in my company. Yet I am so clear of my views, opinions and perspectives that I understand how inflexible I can appear. This sparked another important question; how necessary are the views of a woman who is constantly seeing the grey areas of situations in an era of cancel culture and black and white, good and bad, existences?
The answer came to me one evening as I was driving home from work. Ultimately, I am inflexible about my morals. One of those those key moral beliefs I hold is that I will never allow myself to be ashamed of my thoughts again. I said this to my best friend over a pizza the following evening and she rolled her eyes and said, ‘That’s nice Jen, but we’re not all on your level of intensity all of the time.’
I won’t deny that I was initially a little affronted by this. Mainly because I do not hold any assumptions that my thoughts make me somehow supporter to others Humanity’s undeniable equality is the basis for much of my thoughts, actually.
Once I set aside my bruised ego, however, I understood more clearly what my friend meant. She was referring to the life I have curated to contain all of my healthiest habits as daily, repeatable actions.
So, here it is – how I live my morals everyday. Please note that to me, the worlds ‘morals’, ‘self-respect’ and ‘spirituality’ are almost interchangeable.
1. Honour the Sky
I know that we’re beginning with something a little bit left-field but this is close to a religious practice for me. After years of being chronically ill, I am (tragically) no longer a morning person. I start work at 8am each and every morning. This means that when I open my curtains at 7am and face the daylight, I am half-blinded with eyes that feel too big for their sockets for a solid half an hour. Yet I practice gratitude each day, grateful to have woken up. My close to ogre-like state is not conducive to immediate morning gratitude, so I have begun taking a picture of the sky at the same angle, from the same position every day the moment I wake up. By the time I’ve had breakfast and am feeling a little more awake, I pull up this picture and bullet journal some of the thoughts and words I’ve associated with this sight.
2. Acknowledge My Physical Limits
As you are probably praying I’ll stop mentioning, I was chronically-ill for over five years and continue to live with my chronic illness (EDS) everyday, though I am much improved. For me, after years of undermining by own health, self-respect is a moral I cannot deny. This comes in the form of understanding my health limits as a factor of being and existing, not of suffering. So, I immediately drink a half-pint of water and take my morning vitamins. Every day, without question.
3. Review The Lessons of the Past
Typically, I will have spent the evening before going to bed doing some journalling, usually in line with a spiritual book I’ve been reading. I tend to take notes, draw out my thoughts or favourite quotes as I muse on the words. In the morning, it can be very helpful to review these notes as they spark a small reminder of joy in my mind. Usually, I squeeze this in on my coffee break from work.
4. Time to Laugh
Though this is hardly impressive, I try to take ten or so minutes in the early morning to scroll TikTok. I realised how necessary this was when I felt the first adrenaline rush of an early morning laughing session. Sometimes, your soul needs a reminder that the outside wild can be a funny and creative place.
5. I Like to Move It
When I first wake up, my body usually makes noises like an old house. Noises of settling, I’ve heard them called. For years I have known how much happier my joints would be if I gave ten minutes to yoga-based sun salutations each morning, to ease out the nighttime stiffness. For years, I insisted I didn’t have time. That was until I reframed this – I had the time, I just didn’t value the well-being of my physical body enough. Well, now I do.
1. Circle of Friends, Strong and True
By the afternoon, the thought of being continuously awake is probably palatable enough for me want to be social so I usually take a minute or two to check in with my friends and cousins. In doing so, I remind myself that my life is in no way contingent on their reply. I am whole without the validation of attention; kindness is my intention.
2. A Brain Dump
After reading the revolutionary ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker, I developed a healthy level of regret for ever depriving myself of sleep. I simply wish I could go back the year of my Leaving Cert and sedate my highly-strung self. I no longer feel guilty for craving a lunchtime nap (usually during my literal lunch hour – thank God for working from home!). I consider this time housekeeping for my brain, a time to process and clear out what no longer serves me. Frankly, I wish more people did so too as I wonder how many snappy moments and arguments could be mitigated should we all take time to cleanse ourselves of past pains.
3. Wear an SPF
On the days in which I am not using my lunch hour to nap, or otherwise rest, I occasionally go for a cycle for the sole purpose of feeling the air, usually wet and misty, against my skin. It is a tonic, which gives me a chance to respect the body I chose in this life.
Evening & Nighttime
1. Wash the Day Off
I’ve never been very fond of listening to music in the shower – unless it’s Taylor Swift’s ‘folklore‘ album but that’s a precious exception. Do you ever have those days where you get into a hot shower in the evening and feel as though the hot water is a very balm for your soul? I try to make every shower that way by reciting to myself the experiences which I am washing from my skin from the day. Perhaps it was a tense work call or a comment by a family member that unknowingly wounded me. Either way, they go down the drain and I am as I was before; whole.
2. Put Pen to Paper
I love writing novels. I am constantly working on at least one novel. However, after a day at work, I can sometimes feel a little discouraged at the thought of having to focus intensely. So to get myself in the writing mood, I will usually spend some time writing letters to my friends living abroad or emails to my family. This is vital to me, as a moral I try to prune like an unruly hedge is remembering that expressing myself honestly and candidly isn’t an unattractive quality.
3. Be Your Own Rocking Chair
There are certain things that I will always find soothing. Having my hair stroked or a hug from my mom after a hard day, those are in my very DNA. In order to cultivate an environment that feels safe, I have included some of these childhood soothers back into my life. This involves having my favourite childhood teddy bear tucked by my pillow as I sleep and listening to lyric-less lullabies to usher myself to sleep. Inner peace is as valuable to me as anything I do in the outside world and it is a moral which I am no longer compromising.
4. Find Your Tribe
I am a Wattpad writer – yes, Wattpad. The place you might have read ‘The Kissing Booth’ when it was riddled with typos and written by a fourteen-year-old. I publish novels online to gain feedback and opinions from readers and sometimes the most gratifying part of my day is messaging with some readers and writer friends. This reminds of a key, fundamental truth in the world; I am not alone and never was. Our separation from each other is a mere illusion, which makes the crimes we commit against one another all the more heinous.
Well friends, I don’t pretend to have all of the answers. What I do have are answers that work for me. It is my goal and hope that the inspired words of others can lead us to our own answers. Thank you for reading, for sitting with my mind and being patient with my words.