rituals: the happy light (kelsey munger).

Guest Post Tuesday! Oh, you are in for a treat today: Friends, meet Kelsey Munger. Kelsey and I got connected through various online writing portals, and come to find out, we share Washington state in common (she more than I, and for the long-term, I imagine). But food, faith and feminism are also three of her favorite subjects to write about, which happen to be some of my top three as well. So enjoy this look into her morning, happy light and all.

Flickr Creative Commons: Lesley

I shuffle from the kitchen in the direction of my desk, unshowered and still in my pajamas, a bowl of cold breakfast cereal with blueberries in my right hand and a mug of chamomile tea in my left. I pull out the chair and sit down at my oversized black desk. It’s perfect for art projects, laying out books while researching a paper, or collecting clutter. Today it just has clutter. After settling myself into my chair, I turn on my happy light.

I live in Washington, not too far south of Seattle, so we don’t tend to get a lot of sunshine here. I love all that glorious green but we pay for it by giving up most of our sunshine visitation rights. And like a lot of Washingtonians, I’ve become rather well acquainted with Seasonal Affective Disorder over the years. This year, however, was different. This year it felt like the smog of depression just wouldn’t lift (save those rare days when the sunshine lit up the sky and made all of us poor sun-deprived folks more than a little gaga). So I bought one of those fake-sun lights and added it to my morning regimen, right before showering and right after pouring almond milk on my favorite cereal.

The light does cut through some of that I-really-could-use-some-sunshine depression; it does help me wake up. But what I hadn’t expected was for it to become such a self-preserving, soul-saving morning ritual for me.

After I turn on my light, I sit there crunching my cereal, and when I’ve fished every last piece out of the white ceramic bowl, a favorite wedding presents from two years ago, I start in on my mug of tea. The pace is slow and rhythmic, like breathing—breathe in, breathe out. I don’t plan my to-do list for the day. I just sit there focusing on my warm tea as I gradually sip it down.

I’m a recovering productivity enthusiast; relaxation makes me uncomfortable, just-for-fun is hard. What is the purpose? I want to know. How is this being productive? What greater good is being achieved? How is this helping anyone? But there is nothing to achieve, no purpose to accomplish. I let my drive to be productive go, at least a little. And I just sit there greeting the morning, being aware of the now.

Breathe in, breathe out.

The timer indicating that it’s been forty-five minutes hasn’t gone off, and I’m done with breakfast. But I don’t move on to the to-do list. Instead, I journal or collage; play with poetry or read a novel; make a greeting card or compose a letter. I relax into the moment. I stay in the moment. I enjoy the moment.

Breath in, breath out.

Since I was a kid mornings have always been the time of day I’ve seen as having the highest productivity potential—a chance to really get the day started off well. Part of this was my childhood church’s emphasis on morning devotions happening every day. Ideally, you would pray for about fifteen minutes, then read a chapter or two in the Old Testament, followed by a chapter or two in the New Testament, and then if you were really an overachiever (I was) you’d also add in a Psalm and a chunk of Proverbs. And then finish it all off with another prayer (being sure to include the different types of prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication).

For me mornings weren’t spiritual, they were regimented. And I didn’t always keep to my rigid schedule, so often times there was a lot of guilt hanging in the morning air.

Some this was church related, and some of it was just me and my own purpose-driveness. But my forty-five minutes with my little happy light has helped with both. My new morning ritual has made mornings about relaxation rather than achievement; self-care, instead of perfection; spirituality, instead of legalism. Instead of asking myself, “Did I do everything? What’s left to do?” I ask myself: What do I need today? What does self-care look like this morning? And I do that. Sometimes it means playing with color or words or scissors and glue. Sometimes it’s just sitting there, breathing, relaxing, allowing my mind to wonder.

Mornings have become a time for creativity, relaxation, and self-care. They’re a chance to focus on myself and what I need before I greet the rest of the day. Early mornings are no longer a list of obligations but my sacred space.

11386496_1451876031773067_1534366315_nKelsey L. Munger is native Washingtonian. When she’s not dodging rain showers, she enjoys reading about food, faith and feminism (but not necessarily in that order). And also loves fiction, a nice hot cup of tea, and marathoning too much TV with her nerdy husband. She blogs at KelseyMunger.com or you can find her on Twitter. Cara here: man, I love this – and I think I need to get myself one of those happy lights! Kelsey, thank you for sharing this nugget of your day with us. Friends, leave a comment for her below!

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