Morning Pages Ritual

On and off for years now I follow a Morning Pages ritual. I try to do it everyday. That doesn’t always work. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day, or a week or a month. I just show up again and continue where I left off. They are called Morning Pages yet I tend to write mine in the evenings, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when I haven’t gone to sleep yet. I rarely write in the morning yet I still choose to call them Morning Pages (MP). My sleep pattern at the moment is late. I sleep late and I get up late. Am I a night owl? Yes, I suppose. Would I like to be an early riser at dawn or 5am? Nah. I do know that’s just not me.

A ritual for me is a sequence of minor actions that are repeated to set the mood or scene for the intended major action in a particular place. There is no religious significance for me. Yet this repeated series of actions could be considered a type of meditation. So rituals could be absolutely anything done mindfully or thoughtfully: taking a walk, preparing a meal, gardening, writing, painting,… The preparation of getting the minor actions in motion allow the mind to prepare for the next action and the next until the major action. If you are lucky then ‘flow’ will follow. Taking a walk ritual could actually begin the night before when you select socks and place your shoes by the front door. Preparing a meal could start the night before also defrosting ingredients. Calling what I do a ritual makes it purposeful and more meaningful to me. I take care to get items ready. I enjoy the sequence and the scene. It sparks joy in my day.

My Morning Pages ritual location is well chosen. I made an oasis in a area of my studio. I have a Japanese desk that sits on on a carpet on top of two Japanese tatami mats. There are no legs to the desk. It sits low and right on ground and I love it. I bought the desk in a secondhand shop many years ago. I bought the tatami mats at an online auction. The desk has a fold down front and doesn’t take up much space so I always leave the writing desk open ready to write. There is one drawer inside and many cubby holes, slots and shelves to store paper and other stationery. There are sliding doors under the fold down front for more storage. It is a simple and well designed desk. I only ever wear socks or bare feet in the house so the tatami should last for many years.

I have an eclectic collection of miscellaneous knick-knacks on top of my Japanese desk. Ganesh sits next to a giant Troll doll with purple hair bought for two dollars at a weekend market, two minute origami cranes that were gifts from a best friend’s daughters lounge in front of an old Russian ink blotter that was hand carved during WW2. I have a Bakelite and metal calendar that I picked up while shopping with my uncle and aunt. I have a Russian doll that I painted as a red owl. A barometer stands next to a mini soft toy Totoro and a Gegege no Kitaro’s father plastic figurine. There is a collection of small interestingly shaped stones, there is sand in a tiny glass bottle from a friend who visited the Sahara Desert, a tiny capsule of red ochre collected while following the ghost of Matisee in France, a hand drawn postcard and an essential oil burner made out of rock.

There is a fabric coaster where I place my tea or coffee. There is a wooden stand where my fountain pen rests. The journal leans ready in the cubby hole. I have a green felt mat that I cut to size that I rest on top of the open desk. It is covered in paint splotches and I have no intention of replacing it for something new. This is a place of creativity, or mistakes and ideas. The old felt mat stays. The desk also has paint splotches too. I leave them there for the same reasons. I have ink bottles ready for when the ink runs out. Today I use Pelikan Edelstein’s Smoky Quartz ink. For everyday writing I use a red Lamy Safari fountain pen. I find the colour puts me into a good mood. I own several colours yet I keep going back to red. I write in a Japanese journal. The paper is exceptionally smooth. I like the sound of the ink gliding over the paper. I love stationery and paper. Smooth paper for journaling, And piles of blank and full journals and sketchbooks.

I make a cup of tea or coffee, I light a tealight candle, put a few drops of essential oils into the oil burner, change the old-fashioned Bakelite calendar by flipping the day of the week, scrolling the day of the month, I turn on the lamp, I get out my journal from the shelf, I pick up my fountain pen and I start writing. If I’m really lucky one of our cats will curl up in the basket and be in my eye line. It’s a peaceful view.

I have created a place to write that is comfy. I have the flame of the tea light candle, the smell of the oils, a comfortable cushion on top of a legless swivel leather chair. The location is set, the writing instruments are laid out, the ritual is in motion. Something to drink. The one thing I don’t prepare is what I wear for my MP ritual. I wear what I am wearing at the time. The clothing isn’t important. Sometimes I am still in my pyjamas, other times dressed for lounging, or ready to go out. For the MP ritual the clothing isn’t a part of it. The only thing would be that the clothing be comfortable for sitting cross-legged. Nothing more.

But what do I write? How many pages do I write? I write the date at the top, the day of the week in Spanish, and a simple tiny picture of the weather. The next line down I write where I am, the city. And after that I write whatever comes into my head. I mostly write three pages. I write down my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, my dreams, my gripes, my questions, my ideas. Anything. I write out an affirmation five times somewhere in those three pages. I also write down three things that I’m grateful for. Some days the words just flow and the end of the third page is a breeze. I end with the words ‘Well done.” I rarely read what I write again. It is really to clear my mind of clutter. Sometimes there are a few good ideas and I might flip back to it to remind myself. Some days I am up and down like a yo-yo and it takes forever to finish. Some days one page is all that happens. What I write, how much I write is not the point of the ritual. The point of the ritual is to show up and open the journal.

Do I notice when the candle flame goes out? Not usually. Do I watch the clock to see if I am writing fast enough? Sometimes. On those days I am writing like a snail pushing a nut uphill. Do I forget to change the month on the desk calendar? Sometimes. The sound of the click as the metal hits the bottom of the date is very satisfying. One more day of writing to do. I am showing up. I am here.

What daily, weekly, monthly or annual rituals have you added to your life?

Sober as a line of Sahara sand.

An Involuntary “Yes”

Last night I was asked if I’d like a sweet snack. I immediately yelled back, “yes, please.” I was in another room.

It took me a split second to realise that I wasn’t eating snacks at night. I was trying to NOT eat sugary delights. I changed my reply to a firm ‘no.’

Habit is what it is, involuntary automated actions or thoughts that inhabit our lives. The bad ones are hard to shake. They reply for us when we are undecided. I have gone five days without sugary snacks. I have lost weight. This is a good start. Today the weight plateaued but I know why. It was the tempura yesterday. Oily fried foods. Noted.

I have gone from absolute concentration to grumpy to head-achy back to grumpy and ho hum. When I wake up on Monday i will have made it to an entire week. Again I am determined to make it one week. Alcohol and sugar have been a huge part of my life for so long it is such a change to not reach for a glass of something or munch on something.

The involuntary yes to alcohol is no longer there. It is long gone. I am not a year sober yet but feel I have a handle on it. Or at least I do today. I haven’t been tempted. Sugar is still a firm habit that I am ripping off. The black adder tea was a Godsend last night. Licorice without the sugar.

Why is it that a bad habit is so hard to shake and a good habit so difficult to adopt? Both take effort. And we tend to take the easier option when offered choice. I know. And then when we are offered too much choice we freeze and make no decision at all.

I am choosing to be healthy.

101 Tokens App

This app started the ball rolling. 101 Tokens. A little but powerful app that asks you to record the days that you drink alcohol, to comment whether it was worth it or not, and record where you drank and with whom. You can record what you drank and the volume but that’s up to you.

The point of the app is to shine a light onto your drinking habits and to learn to drink in moderation. Limiting yourself to up to 101 days per year of indulging in drinking alcohol.

One token per day, whether you had one glass or twenty. One token per day. And was it worth it? Stopping to ask yourself was it worth it was a good exercise.

I remember last year trying it and by March my numbers were high so instead of facing my drinking habits I stopped using the app. Problem solved said the ostrich to the sand.

When written down in black and white with the fast accumulation of the number of tokens, it was hard to ignore. The results shouldn’t have surprised me but they did. I may have stopped using the app but the number of tokens shocked me. Learning to curb your drinking and consume in moderation didn’t seem like a solution for me. I would want to be the best. At consumption? What an achievement! To be honest I had grown tired of drinking. It didn’t have the results I wanted and it required that I consume more to try and obtain the effects. Hardly a win win situation. A dangerous slippery slope plus an expensive one too.

My choice in wine, beer and spirits were tasteful. Expensive. Not always but I knew what I liked. Living Sober website clicks over your estimated amount you would spend on alcohol per week and it keeps accumulating with time. I have already saved four figures.

I would hate to calculate how much I have spent over the years on the liquid called alcohol. Could I have bought a house? Probably. I don’t have buyer’s remorse. I don’t feel ashamed. Sheepish perhaps but I mostly have wonderful memories. Alcohol was entwined with all my memories. I cannot erase it, without it the memory becomes a redacted memo with black marker throughout and the meaning becomes lost. That I don’t want nor do I need it. It was my life. A part of me. It was fun mostly. It was my way of celebrating life. Or on occasion commiserating. Or just because. I am not glorifying drinking but it was what it was. Enjoyable at the time. Until it wasn’t.

101 Tokens is doing great things. It started in Australia and it has spread far and wide. 75 countries. If you are drinking and want to see how you fare, download the free app today and check it out.

I still have the app on my phone. Not because I intend to drink again but as a reminder not to drink.

Thank you 101 Tokens. I am now a Smart Sober.

On a hot summer’s day

All I could think about yesterday evening was how a glass of wine would be nice. I watched a film and they were drinking on that too. Cocktails and glasses of wine. I went on YouTube and the videos I watched people were drinking wine there too. I couldn’t get away from it.

It infuriated me. I ate instead of drinking wine. I didn’t need to eat. I wasn’t hungry. It was comfort eating. It was a habit. A bad one. The one good thing in all, I didn’t have any alcohol. I am still sober. Day 28.

Going strong with a wobbly day yesterday. I haven’t felt that I was missing anything. Okay the first week I felt and convinced myself I was giving up fun and joy. By week two I realised I was thinking stupid thoughts and I was gaining freedom and control of my life. Yesterday I slipped up with thoughts of what I am missing, instead of all the positive gains I have so far.

My skin looks better.
I feel proud of my self control.
I am SAVING money.
I sleep more soundly.

Insomnia is still with me. I cannot get to sleep before 2am. I am leaning into it. I am not getting upset with it. With my lifestyle I can manage. I don’t have a 9-5 job and so don’t have to get up early. But I am having brunch at 3pm and so my eating habits and sleeping habits are on European time. I’m living in the wrong time zone. Probably I need to set my alarm clock and get up early one day, regardless of the desire to stay in bed and sleep some more. Bite the bullet.