Right back at you

I’ve been getting a lot of help from the universe lately, and today I just wanted to share that with you a little bit. I really appreciate it, and I’d like everyone to know about it so that they can keep all this goodness going.

I’m not talking right now about the mystical kind of goodness created by the cosmological positioning of the stars, although I’m certain I’m getting all kinds of wonderful energy from those sorts of sources as well. I’m talking about the amazing things that happen when people support each other.

I’m involved in a number of different organizations, and I see this happening at all levels. My square dancing group is organizing a fly-in, which is a big event where people travel to Seattle to dance with us. My country dance group is organizing a Hoedown. Both of these events require an enormous amount of work, and both are being run by all-volunteer groups, and yet everyone is pulling together to get everything done. It’s incredible what people can do if they pull together. Both events are also getting all sorts of help from local businesses. We ask and it is given.

I’ve also been getting a lot of personal support. People will walk up to me when I’m out dancing and tell me that they’ve seen me dancing for a while now, and tell me that I’m doing well or that they’ve seen my skills improve over time. Other people—and many times I don’t even know these people—come over to tell me that they notice I’ve been losing weight. There have been days when my knees hurt or my spirits have needed a lift, and these kindnesses have cured my little troubles on the spot.

I think it’s true that we cannot always know the impact we have on the world as we move about, so I always try to make mine a positive one. When in doubt, I will compliment someone on a lovely dress or a well-behaved child. I know this brand of kindness sends a lot of healing out into the world, and I often find it rippling back at me from other people. Whoever you are, thank you!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

221. When you’re out and about today and you notice something positive, feel free to share that thought with the object of your attention. Use your discretion, but remember that most people don’t get as much appreciation as they deserve. Isn’t it time to remedy that?

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Start singing

Spring is starting to show its flowery face in Seattle, and all kinds of lovely things are beginning to reach out of the soil. The rains have started again, and everything is full of a sense of renewed possibility. I’m feeling it in my personal life, too. Life is good.

I’ve also just joined a gym, and muscles I haven’t used in a while are starting to wake up. They’re being a little bit cranky with me, but I can’t blame them. When was the last time I called on my triceps to do anything special? I do a lot of dancing, but the biceps don’t get a lot of play there, so things are a bit sore. I’m choosing to see it as a sign of progress.

I ended up having a very intriguing experience at the gym yesterday. I usually walk for about twenty minutes to warm up my muscles, and then I get off the treadmill and lift weights. Yesterday, I was listening to music as I walked, and I was having so much fun walking that I just didn’t want to stop. I decided to go with the flow and walked for an extra half an hour before going on to the rest of the workout. This was really fun, because this kind of spontaneous joy happens to me all the time when I dance but I didn’t expect to see it at the gym.

Sometimes I think I get in my own way by having the wrong sorts of expectations. This was a good reminder to me to experience things and enjoy whatever happens, rather than expecting things to be a certain way. If I’d expected to have a bad time, I would have. I see the same thing in the dancing classes I take. One of my friends has decided that he is going to have trouble figuring everything out. Of course, he always has trouble. When I tell him what a great job he’s doing, he invariably does better until he goes back to expecting trouble. I learn a little more quickly than he does, but not because I’m a better dancer. I simply realize that I might not learn everything immediately, and know that I’m going to keep at it until I do. My muscles will not become strong overnight, and the daffodils will not spring instantly out of the soil, but all things beneficial are worth waiting for. Spring is underway, and it’s time to celebrate that.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

219. The next time you have a big project to accomplish, try to leave your negative assumptions behind you. It’ll be so much easier without your mind dragging you down.

Calves of steel

I don’t know where Seattle ranks on the list of the nation’s healthiest cities, but I’m discovering that it’s been good for me, especially in the last year. The city has been sunk in a crazy panic brought on by a little bit of snow and ice, and so lots of the bus routes have been suspended until further notice as Metro waits for conditions to improve. This means that I’ve had to walk even more than usual, and I just walked up eight steep blocks to where I’m sitting. Surprisingly, it just wasn’t that difficult. My calves are used to the inclines because Seattle is laid out like a giant Stairmaster. I thought that was pretty cool.

I also just got a bathroom scale at a white elephant party. I could have traded it away, but I’ve actually been wanting one. The universe makes deliveries at parties, and I was happy to receive the gift. I’d been wanting the scale because I’ve lost some weight since I started going dancing back in February, but since I didn’t have a scale, I had no idea how much I’d lost since my last weigh-in at the doctor’s office. The magic number was thirty-three. I’ve lost thirty-three pounds since I started dancing, all without changing my eating habits or doing anything but having a joyful good time. How cool is that? I need to lose more, but I’m sure that’ll come as I keep dancing.

I think Seattle has been so healthy for me because I love it here. When you love the place you live, it’s even easier to bloom where you’re planted. I’ve also become really focused on using joy as a guidance system, and when I choose my course based on joy, I tend to steer towards healthier things. That’s a lot different than the way I used to do things—I used to use guilt as the strongest bearing in my compass. Guilt just steered me onto the rocks of despair, and once you’re on those rocks, it’s hard to get off. Now that I’ve broken free of that, I’m glad that I’ve landed in Seattle, and joy is likely to keep me here for a good long time.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

214. How does the place you live in contribute to or detract from your health? Also, take a moment to evaluate whether you are steering by joy or guilt. Is this working for you? Why or why not?

I spy a waltz

Wednesday I went line dancing, and tonight I’m going out for regular country dancing, which will include all sorts of dances. There’s always a certain contingent of the crowd that doesn’t dance. They are there to watch.

It’s an interesting dynamic, and one I participate in myself. I don’t know how to do every line dance, although I know quite a few now. Sometimes I sit out a dance or two to catch my breath, or because I didn’t grab a partner quickly enough. I like to watch the dancing, too. I learn things from watching the other dancers, and I appreciate the grace and skill of many of the people on the floor. When I go dancing, I always feel like there’s a free floor show for me to enjoy whenever I want to stop long enough to watch it.

As a dancer, I also enjoy the watchers. Sometimes one of them will stop me as I’m leaving the club and tell me that they enjoy watching me dance. That’s so sweet, and it makes me feel great, because I’ve worked hard to learn what I’ve learned so far. Besides, it means I’m spreading the joy. I know I’m having a great time when I’m dancing, and if someone else enjoys watching it, I’m just multiplying the benefits. That has to be good.

I also love to pull new people out onto the floor. That’s one of the reasons I’m enjoying leading. As a good leader, you can dance with people who haven’t gotten much practice and get them out there enjoying themselves. Some of them hang back, telling me that they really don’t know much. I always tell them that they aren’t going to get better by just watching, although, as I said, you can pick up some tips. Some of these people are also intimidated by the dancers who seem to know what they are doing. I tell them that everyone learned by doing it. Once I manage to coax them out there, they all seem to have fun, and a lot of them get hooked. I love to watch, and I love to dance. I love being able to introduce some of the spectators to the joys of dancing. Let the music begin!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

213. Is there something you love to watch that you’re not certain you can do? Give it a try. You just might surprise yourself. Remember that no one is an expert right away.

We twirl a lot

I’ve been thinking about crinolines lately. This would be an unusual topic if it came up in a random way, but since I square dance it’s not as random as you might think. Most modern western square dancers no longer follow a dress code, so we are not required to wear the short pouffy skirts. Since no one is forcing us, several of us are thinking about getting one and trying it out at a dance to see if it’s a fun outfit to dance in.

My main concern is that I pick the right skirt length. I was talking this over with another woman in the group. We’ve both got ample hips and chubby legs, and I told her that I was afraid of looking like the tutu-wearing hippo in the movie Fantasia. “So what if we do?” she said. “I still want one.” I think she may just have a point. I think I’ll start looking for an inexpensive skirt.

See you tomorrow!

Feel the beat of the tambourine

On weekends I like to do things a little differently. Enjoy!

Sometimes weekends are all about sleeping until noon, then sitting with a cup of coffee and a novel for hours. Sometimes, though, weekends are a whirl of activity. I’m having one of those, and it’s a great deal of fun. Saturday I took a workshop on two-step, and then rushed right over to a square dance. This morning I’m going to attend the 20th anniversary brunch for my Toastmaster’s group and then go to a Mamma Mia sing-along. My friend and I both love the movie, and last time he went to the sing-along version no one in the theater was willing to sing. It was a big disappointment for him, so this time we’re gathering a bunch of friends who have all vowed to go out there and make some noise. It’ll be great preparation for coming home and working on my novel in the quiet of my apartment. I hope everyone reading this is having a great weekend, too, whether it’s busy or quiet.

See you tomorrow!

I even heard roosters

I spent this weekend out of town at a dance retreat in the middle of the woods with some friends. It was just what I needed, and only my second time out on the Olympic peninsula.

The house we stayed in was near Lake Cushman and the Hood Canal. The area surprised me. We drove down to the lake, and the part of it that I could see was surrounded by evergreens, many of them coming right up to the water. It looked wild and undeveloped, even though I’m told this particular lake is an artificial reservoir. My friends said that most of Washington’s mountain lakes are this way. It was stunning.

The house we stayed in was near a swampy pond, and I saw several great blue herons out on the water. Other wildlife came much closer to the house. Families of raccoons came up to our deck and we fed them graham crackers through the sliding window. I’ve never seen them so closely before. I particularly liked their little black feet, but I was very careful not to get too close to their paws as I distributed the treats. Apparently they cannot retract their claws.

We were also visited by chipmunks and many different varieties of birds. One particularly glorious specimen was a relative of the blue jay. I really enjoyed the chance to see the wildlife, as I live in a brick apartment building surrounded by sidewalks. I like that, too, but there’s nothing like the sound of a herd of trees in the breeze. I use the word herd consciously, as I experience the trees as joyful living beings.

Of course, I also loved the dancing. Our small group of friends took the time to practice steps we wanted to improve, and to enjoy the music. Best of all, we had fun amongst ourselves. We’ve all met on the dance floor, and it was great to laugh, play cards, and find out how much more we all had in common than two-step and the Boot Scoot Boogie. I returned from Labor Day weekend feeling I’d truly taken a break from my daily grind, and that’s what the holiday is all about.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

174. When was the last time you had a real change of scenery? If you’re a city mouse, plan a day trip out into the country. If you’re a country mouse, brave the wilds of the urban jungle. How was it?