A Accept. Accept who I am. A woman terrified of earthquakes. A woman with a brown mole on the left side of my mouth. Accept that there are things I do well, and things I don’t do well. Accept that there will be easy days and difficult days. Accept that people will love me and hurt me, help me and leave me. Accept that no matter what happens, the sun will come out tomorrow.
B Breathe. I know, it seems so obvious, but maybe that’s why we forget to do it. Tense situations, scary situations, challenging situations - we react. We tense up and we hold our breaths. Without meaning to, we’ve made the situation more difficult because we are depriving our bodies of an essential element - air. Without it, we really can’t properly deal with anything. Slow down. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
C Create. Create something you are proud of. An acrylic painting, a spaghetti dinner, a floral arrangement, a birdhouse, a child. Create a thing of beauty and wonder. Smile at your gifts and talents.
D Daydream. Yes, there are times and places when daydreaming may not be appropriate (while you’re filing your income taxes or having a discussion with your supervisor). But I do believe that daydreams let our brains work and figure out problems in a different way. We can temporarily disconnect from what surrounds us and spend some mental time in a different time or place.
E Enjoy. Certain tasks and situations (I’m thinking jury duty and cleaning toilets) are less fun and less desirable than others (I’m thinking walking on a beach or eating a hot fudge sundae). But as much as we can, we must enjoy what we do. Sometimes that means playing music that makes me smile while I clean my house. Sometimes it means nibbles of chocolate in between grading papers. It might just mean a pretty color nail polish on my fingernails while I type up lesson plans.
F Feed - my body, mind, and soul. Feed by body bananas because they’re healthy, chocolate brownies because they’re yummy. Feed my mind by reading - articles and books, pondering paintings by Van Gogh, and writing. Feed my soul by taking deep breaths, spending time near the ocean and believing that things will work out, some how some way.
G Give. Give hugs, kisses, and high-fives. Give canned foods, monetary donations, and no-longer-worn clothes. Give compliments and words of praise. Give time, give space.
H Hope. Hope for the smaller things - a better night’s sleep, a parking space, a short wait at the check-stand. Hope for the bigger things - an end to breast cancer, a world free of bombs and guns.
I Ignore. As in, ignore the phone ringing and ignore the emails. We never used to ignore a ringing phone because you didn’t know who was on the other end. “It could be important.” Now, with caller i.d., we do know who is calling, and most times, the call could wait. As a result, the phone is rarely answered during our family dinner, and sometimes, my emails won’t be read for a night or two. It will all wait. Messages and newsletters will be there for me the next time I sign in.
J Journey. To Paris, France and eat crepes at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. Journey to the French cafe down the street and try a chocolate croissant. Journey to the new and unfamiliar. Journey to the places we love (a favorite restaurant, a certain park bench, a quiet corner in a bookstore). Journey to a place that brings you happiness.
K Kiss. Kiss with passion. A spouse on the lips. A child - on the top of their head, on their tummies, or their toes. A close friend on their cheek or their hand. Kiss, and share that moment of intimacy that connects your bodies and minds and souls.
L Listen. Listen to the rustle of palm tree fronds. Listen to the crickets’ lullaby at night. Listen to the birds talking to each other, early in the morning. Listen, with full attention, to your partner’s recounting of their day. Listen, again, to your child’s joke about why the mushroom went to the party, song about snowmen, or explanation for rainbows.
M Model. Model behaviors, it’s all we can do. We can’t make others courteous or polite. But, we can “do unto others as we’ll have done onto ourselves.” So model what it looks like to be respectful (not laughing at others’ mistakes) and what it looks like to be concerned about our environment (recycling soda cans).
N Nurture. Help something thrive. A fern plant in your living room, a child, a tomato plant in the backyard. A dream to write, a yearning to travel. Cherish them all and help them to grow.
O Observe. Really pay attention to the exact shape of the clouds above your house, the brightness of the moon that resembles a thumb’s fingernail. You have seen clouds and the moon before. But not these clouds and not the moon on this particular night. Observe anew.
P Play. Play a game simply because it’s fun and makes you laugh. Not a game that requires score-keeping. A game that needs a good attitude to have a good time. Play dress-up with your child, play in a blanket-and-pillow fort, play in the sand, play on the computer, play ball outside.
Q Quit. Quit doing the things that hurt - skimping on “me time,” spending time with people whose company I don’t enjoy. Quit doing things I don’t want to do (sometimes that means paying someone else to clean the toilets). Quit looking at the mirror telling myself something negative. Whatever it is that I know I shouldn’t do; don’t do it.
R Read. Reading doesn’t just mean holding a book. Whatever form it takes (book, novel, blog, website) reading is imperative to learning, to growing as an individual. There is a different process involved in attaining information in the independent method of reading rather than listening to what someone is telling you.
S Sleep. I don’t know why I make myself function on minimal sleep. Well, because I can “function” in a sense. I can’t thrive. I can just get by, barely. But, it is sleep that is required for me to be able to perform all the other tasks in my life. My car may run with lower amounts of oil, but it won’t run well. I may get by on minimal sleep, but I won’t be running well.
T Talk. Say the words you’re sure your spouse, best friend already knows, but say them anyway. Talk with, “I love you’s,” talk with, “You’re so important to me.” Talk about what scares you, what intrigues you, what confuses you. Talk. Not email. Not text. Not short little updates on some social-networking site. Talk.
U Understand. Understand that things are not always as they seem. The person who just parked in the handicap spot, that appears to be walking just fine, may indeed suffer from a condition that makes walking more difficult on other days. The car that just cut you off may be rushing to the hospital to welcome a new baby to the world. I am sometimes quick to judge, thinking someone is doing something wrong, when in fact, I don’t know the whole story. And what may be “wrong” to me may be their best attempt at that moment in time.
V Vent. Vent with someone you trust, someone who will still love you when you’re done. Someone who doesn’t necessarily have to offer any words of wisdom, and someone who won’t cut you off but let you get it all out. Vent - yell and scream, whine and cry - until you feel lighter.
W Worship. Worship doesn’t have to mean a traditional service within a formal religious structure. Worship yourself by taking care of yourself. Worship, and say a little word of thanks for a sunny sky, for a luminous moon, for the miracle of a baby, for the wonder of a butterfly.
X X-Ray. And I’m not talking the kind that requires a special machine. I’m talking about taking a closer look at what surrounds you. Stopping and really looking at your home with appreciation. Stopping and looking to really see the exact shade of brown of your spouse’s eyes.
Y Yell, but in a good way. Not yell and scream because we’re upset or annoyed (although sometimes it helps to let that pent up frustration out). I’m talking about yelling because you’re happy. Yelling “I love you” as your child runs on the grass at the park. Yelling because you’re excited your student was just recognized as a “student of the week.” We don’t always have to laugh or cheer or applaud in quiet, calm ways.
Z Zero in on something. Find that thing that makes your heart happy and do it. Find that thing that helps you get through your “day job” and do it. Zero in on what it is you need and get it. Zero in on what it is you like and enjoy it. Zero in on life, focus on it, and don’t let it pass you by.