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Calm Rhymes with Balm

These are chaotic times for sure. Who else is exhausted from finding newer and longer songs to sing while washing their hands?

With the news changing by the hour, and major plans getting shifted or canceled, it’s easy to feel like the world consists entirely of moving staircases from the halls of Hogwarts.

My crazy squirrel brain can hardly settle down. Here are a few things I’m doing to try to quiet my mind and calm the hell down.

Reading poetry, not news. Poetry has always been a balm for me, and I especially like to read it before bed or when I’m in need of grounding. Poetry is a meditative act for me—there’s something about the rhythm and the economy of words that slows everything down. I recently found a next-level way to enjoy it: the Poetry Unbound podcast. I promise you…even if you think you aren’t a *poetry person* I bet you will appreciate this series. Each episode is less than 10 minutes long and covers a single poem. Hosted by Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, who is now my favorite carpool buddy, this podcast is a potent way to inject some beauty and thoughtfulness into your day. When I first listened to this episode, I was so moved I had to pull over and listen to it all over again. It’s that good.

Sweating the small stuff. Yeah yeah yeah, we know exercise is important. We know, Liz! But hear me out, friends. Of course you know that exercise is good for your body and soul…but remember it’s also great at helping us adapt to shifting situations. One thing I’ve learned from my decades of running is that when something feels off (too stiff, too sore, too anything) I make a small shift in the way I move. I shorten my stride on the hills, I pick up my feet a tiny bit more, I lean in just a hair. I relax my shoulders and shake out my wrists. I take a longer, slower exhale. These minor tweaks have major impacts. We can all learn from this because in exercise and in life, it doesn’t always take much to reset and keep going.

Seeking the moment. This can be so hard, right? For me, staying in the moment is always easiest and most effective when I’m also outside in the fresh air. A few of my favorites activities that keep me out of my head: 1. Volunteering in a park. In Austin we have so many opportunities every weekend. I bet you do too! Here's some inspiration for you. 2. Watching my kids compete. Nothing keeps me in the moment like cheering on my kids and trying not to be That Parent on the sidelines. As a bonus activity, I take photos to keep me focused and well-behaved. 3. Maybe this suggestion is ironic, but listening to my favorite old music keeps me in the present. There’s something about knowing all the words to a U2 song that keeps my brain from going sideways. 4. One last idea: Cooking something new. Ok, I have to admit this one is filed under #goals because I haven’t cooked anything new in months. But I still think the plan is a solid one! It’s hard to be overwhelmed about global disasters when you’re chopping vegetables. Maybe we should all do this and report back?

That’s all I’ve got for now. What is helping you stay calm-ish these days? Drop me a line via email, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I love hearing from y’all!

Other things running around in my head:

• A new Sibling Revelry Project story is coming soon.
Are you caught up on previous sessions?
Sibling Revelry Project archives

• An incredible photography project I wish I had done myself.
A Photographer’s Parents Wave Farewell

• My friend Meg's beautiful efforts to bring arts programs to incarcerated individuals.
Rehabilitation Through the Arts
Thanks for your enthusiasm and support!
If you know someone who might enjoy this newsletter, please share!

Copyright © 2020 Elizabeth McGuire, writer/photographer, All rights reserved.

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