HeadCheck Bookends, version 1.0
When death snatches one you adore, without warning, your world stops. The only hint of subsequent growth involves the degree of rage swirling within as peepers pop each morning. Realizing rage offers only a 5th gear rush to the Land of Sheer Misery, I scoured productivity-focused journaling books (thank you Look Inside Amazon books). Plucking a dozen mini-prompts, I fashioned a spread designed to cement a positive mindset during the preDawn and evening hours. These weekday bookends, combined with a new habit entrenched in my morning routine, keep my spirit upright.
Defeating negativity ate months, but I hung in there. Serial deaths had left their pulverising mark, increasing my slow-cure tolerance level. I continued to believe I’d work my way through it. Because mindset rules, I did emerge on the other side of grief. Battered and bruised, to be sure. But standing upright, once again.
My initial related post discussed Version 1 of the HCB, detailing the nitty gritty of my quest—resume my pleasant persona—in Dragnet style: just the facts, m’am, just the facts. Fidelity to the spread certainly pushed me in the desired direction. But some sorta invisible barb-wired fence kept me on the wrong side of true recovery.
Tweaks ultimately polished the early spreads, as noted below, kicking down that blasted fence.
A New Morning Habit: NFY – Nature’s First Yawn
Summertime fun in the backyard. Wrapped up and seated on the front porch on a frigid morning. Spawled next to an open window during a torrential storm. Whatever the weather, witnessing Nature’s First Yawn calms and invigorates. By focusing on matters external to self, we learn more about the internal self.
While any time outdoors beats no time, I prefer the preDawn hour. Photographers live for The Golden Hour, best described as a master class in divine lighting. PreDawn’s gold, also intriguing critters and creepy crawlers, presents the greatest show on earth—ripe for our discernment.
10 minutes of stillness, intensely focused on the moment. Coffee or other beverage in hand, awakening senses. Relishing a mental break, to prevent a breakdown. A respite of glory, to counteract the gory.
Indulging Nature’s First Yawn clears my psychic cobwebs, preventing mental skips as pen hits paper to tackle the day’s HeadCheck Bookends.
HeadCheck Bookends Journaling, version 2.0
The revamp found me exploiting every angle within the Hobonichi Cousin’s vertical weeklies. Indeed, I evicted everything from that book not immediately relevant to self-care issues.
How did it work out? Hint → You can check every post comprising this site, but only here will you witness my use of the green heart emoji as a marker. It best summarizes the impact of, and my appreciation for, the overall HCB effect. After all, green serves as a universal go signal.
💚 HCB: the Primary Spread
In addition to revising the prompts, I added labeled Monday through Saturday slots on the right, populating a combined Saturday / Sunday column. Filled either in the evening or following day, the thoughts summarize my gut reaction to the day concerned. For reasons still unknown, this provided a desperately needed missing link.
Experience smacked me, instilling hard-fought lessons. I learned my heart stays on course no matter what, enslaved by pure unconditional love. I learned the good Lord situated my brain above my heart, as an ever present reminder of which one should remain large and in charge. And, I learned the one part of my being which nevah! gets it wrong is my gut. End result: in pinch situations, I follow my gut, tamed by my brain. Heart? Time-out corner til it gets its sheeeet together. This reality takes physical form, via my gut-inspired thoughts filling the newly married “Saturday+Sunday” column.
Further, I added color to the 2.0 version. Why? It’s too easy to descend into a stark black-white perspective while working through this chore. With the exception of right vs wrong queries, Life sneers at simplistic black and white formulations. We instead fall prey to innumerable hues and shades of emotional and psychological color on any given day. The planner coloring thus reminds me of the nuances Life presents, triggering recognition—and written acknowledgement—of the little things. And hey, the eye candy also perks my spirit. 🤗
✦︎ Hobonichi Cousin as Bullet Journal: HeadCheck Bookends Spread
💚 Reworking the Monthly Calendar: Self-Care Central
Admission: profound fool and Pam were once synonymous. The basis for that curt declaration? I spent untold hours honing my work-a-day world via planning. But I treated self-care as an also ran, at best. When the vicious emotional thunderstorm threatened to drown me psychologically, I enjoyed only fumes as counteraction weapons. Maya Angelou crystallized it: when you know better, you do better.
✦︎ Plotting Events to Attend
Perhaps the presence of a gazillion colleges within the Raleigh-Durham Triangle area induces the largesse of entertainment possibilities. Whatever the cause, I live in an area overflowing with (free!) things to do each weekend. It’s like every small town comprising “the Triangle” craves its time in the popularity spotlight, effecting a combined embarrassment of riches. I committed—finally—to refueling my tank by partaking of these potential smile inducers.
Net result: a new bi-weekly habit. I study multiple sites, with pen-in-hand hovering over my Hobonichi Cousin monthly calendar, e.g.
✦︎ Incorporating Joyful Obsessions
I also recalled the wisdom of incorporating joyful obsessions in daily tasks. As a direct result, bird stickers now adorn the HCB. Each sends a privately understood signal, further enriching the drafting moment.
✦︎ Example Calendar Entries
Examples from the first weekend in June:
- Annual Pen Show, Crabtree Mall Hilton Hotel, Saturday & Sunday
- Apex Latino Arts Festival, Saturday
- Cary’s Bond Lake, Saturday: 🎵live🎵 + 🍕🍔🥨🍦🍺
- dinner with Homie @ her spot
🎵Got to be there🎵 dates appear in red ink, i.e. think long & hard about canceling.
Bond Lake earned a signifier because it never disappoints in the wildlife department. Backyard birds flit freely, explaining the depicted Carolina (Black-Capped) Chicadee. And ducks waddle up to me, poised to play 🎵Vogue.🎵 Unlike most waterfowl, these feathered friends don’t blink when I do my belly flop thang, i.e. drop to all 4s, flatten out, and belly-crawl my way to a desired pic angle. Two hours immersion in the Bond Lake environment simulates another’s serial Valiums.
Proof of the pudding as regards medicinal effect? Given the June 2d RiP date, my constipated brain and spirit forestalled writing that Sunday morning. Dropping my sports car top, I jumped in, attached my iPhone to the post-factory installed CarPlay doohicky, and 🎵Motowned🎵 my way to the Lake. Smiles born in my gut expanded as I entered Bond Lake Park.
Arrival started with a stroll through one area, gifting a mellow family of Mallard goslings:
Dad kept a firm eye on this interloper:
And, of course, The Mischievous One made an appearance:
✦︎ Hobonichi Cousin as Bullet Journal: Self-Care Calendar Spread
Overall Scheme and Impact
Before my “self-care only” edict, the Cousin’s monthly section served as my hardlandscape calendar. I moved those entries elsewhere. To force a clean slate, I repurposed another Hobonichi month.
While discrete (green) go-there and (red) hang-with-Homie events own weekend slots, tentative (purple) treat-me episodes grace the weekday blocks, e.g. relaxation and encouragement cues. Definitive exercise plans appear via my Zebra DelGuard or Kuru Toga 0.3mm mechanical pencil packing 2B lead.
Rounding out the target locations, a list of churches (nature spots) descend the left column. That represents my attempt to break away from old-faithful locales. It takes several visits to discern a spot’s worthiness in terms of adding it to my fave list. Anything explicitly targeted means I inadvertently shortchanged the location, and need to give it a closer look.
Until I can expel rage—death’s lingering gift—outta my system, the my-height floor-based punching bag will hold my attention.
Thereafter, I’ll branch out to morning bike rides, reawakening the kid within. Flirting with at-dawn timing eliminates both traffic and extreme heat, allowing enjoyment of the crisp morning air whizzing past my face. A 30x optical zoom pocket camera will sit in my waist bag, anxious to capture feathered friends kidapping my retinas along the way.
The pocket camera, a Sony HX90v, nods to the mechanical prowess of the Sony dSLRs I left behind (after grabbing the 80x optical zoom Nikon p900). Example: the Virginia Living Museum presents owls, behind grimy glass windows. The room’s absolute darkness leaves you unable to see even your hand before your face. On a lark, I placed a macro lens on the Sony dSLR, switched to the (automatic) Hand-held Twilight scene mode, and snapped a pic of the Eastern Screech Owl. Suffice to say, the result blew me away.
I pinpointed that precise feature in the HX90v, precipitating its purchase (years ago).
Because my standard goTo treats—immune to weather-instigated concerns—remain etched in my brain, they don’t fall into the bullet journal. Among them:
- Barnes & Noble: cheesecake, ‘zines, and the option to study assorted table of contents in niche books: manna for idea generation
- local mom & pop cafe: small, quiet, and homey, with an ambiance guaranteed to rejuvenate writing juices
- library: comfy chairs with fat arms ripe for laptop placement
Crap happens. A beloved Homie you kibitzed with on Friday night devolves into Death’s latest claim come Monday—no warning. An alleged bestie for whom you’d have taken a bullet inadvertently drops her mask, forcing belated recognition of a live in-yoe-face fake friend. And more. These premier Life events pack a debilitating punch meriting a special course of recovery treatment. I start with a dose of Nature’s First Yawn.
Continuing with the aid of these spreads, I’ve managed to dig below the lingering rubble to unearth the positive. I’m supremely grateful for that last Friday before yet another D(eath)-day sucker-punched those left behind. Likewise, I thank my Maker for the quality women of integrity long surrounding me; their stellar character ultimately caused me to forget: the terminally insecure / frustrated also walk this planet.
The HCB-sparked excavation on some days feels easier than others. But only walking directly through the pain navigates you toward recovery’s door. The trickiest aspect, for me at least: allowing myself to evolve into a woman of steel, withOUT my heart frozen as a lifeless brick.
The only art I practice in my bullet journal concerns the 3-fold art of minding my own business, refusing to indulge comparisons with others, and finessing Life’s trickier turns. More frequently than not, it works, enriching my self-management quest.
Bonus: the HCB spread coerces a relaxed state. Because part 1 transpires preDawn, that positive glow casts its magical shadow throughout the day. Writing and other ventures typically find me in flow mode.
Similarly, part 2’s evening HCB routine formally concludes the day, leaving my brain receptive to peaceful sleep as opposed to hosting (inner critic) Poindexter’s torment playground.
The monthly calendar spread provides a gentle yet effective reminder: head health requires diligent check-ins, refueling the tank powering all I do.