The Sunset Project

This week we have been focusing on different ways that we can take care of ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is five minutes of alone time, whether that means we lock ourselves in the bathroom or go for a walk. So, I wanted to share a quick way that I connect with myself, my best friend, and my day. Welcome to the Sunset Project.

Two years ago, my best friend started posting pictures of the Arizona sunset on her Instagram feed. Arizona may be super hot, but it has some of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. I began to look forward to those nightly posts. When I saw them pop up in my feed, I would walk out on my balcony and look at my own sunset in Utah. Soon, I began sending photos back to my bestie as a way to show I was aware of her and wanted to share the moment.

So I called up Lee, who is also a member of Bloom, to ask her if she would share her thoughts about our project and about self-care in general for the blog. What ensues is our conversation, minus a lot of laughing and some very loud semi-trucks.

Me: What is the Sunset Project, and why did you start it?

Lee: The Sunset Project is a personal project that I started to take a moment at the end of every day to feel a sense of gratitude, accomplishment, and appreciation no matter what the day had been like. Coming from a background of mental illness and a history of not taking care of myself, it has always been difficult to easily find gratitude. In the past, I have gotten to a place where I felt like there was nothing to live for. That is really sad place to be. While I understand how I got there and how others can get there, I never want to be there again. It is a really bleak way to exist. I don’t want to be in that space.

When I moved to Arizona to be with my kids, that is a whole other story, I was overwhelmed. Arizona is a harsh environment, not only because of the heat, but also because it was close to my ex. One of the things that I was looking for in my self-care routine was a way to find something positive about where I was. The sky in Arizona is huge. And when you are out of town, it is even bigger. I have always been drawn to the sky, so it became a tradition to stand at the edge of the alfalfa farm across the street from our neighborhood and practice breathing.

I say practice breathing because we lose the ability to breathe as we age. Babies know how to do it, but as adults we stop breathing. Especially if we have been through trauma. As I look at the sky, I realize that tomorrow is another day. There is this sky that is over everything, and it is bigger than my problems. It is different every day, but it is always there. You know it will be there when you are dead. There is something that is comforting about that.

Me: When did you start taking pictures?

Lee: When you live through trauma, you lose big gaps of memory. When I was in elementary school, I started taking pictures using the old disposable cameras to solidify my place and document my existence in the world. Photography is a beautiful art form. It is an art form where you can capture the way you felt about what you were looking at, not the actual thing.

It was a natural reflex to take pictures. I was actually quite obsessive about saving the sunset pictures at first. I didn’t want to lose them. But I came to realize that it’s not necessary to prove that I exist anymore. That’s why I have an Instagram account where I preserve them. I am engaging with my environment, and the photos helps me to remember that everything is going to be okay.

Me: How did you feel when I started doing the project with you?

Lee: I felt like my friend was engaging with me. It was really valuable for our long-distance relationship. We were looking at the same sky and the same sun. It is the same moment of time, even in different time zones. It is very healing to move from isolation where you can’t share things with anyone, and then you have this moment of connection that is so real.

We have a tendency to focus on minutiae. Instead of looking at life as a series of failures, look at them as unexpected detours and as the universe trying to teach us something. The sky is everlasting. There is something comforting about that. It reminds me that this moment is really all we have, instead of thinking about the past or the future. That fact that the sky will be there after I die, makes the minutiae fall away, and I don’t have to stress. So what, if I didn’t vacuum the floor. I can vacuum it extra tomorrow. Worrying about little things isn’t worth it anymore. The sunset is fleeting and it reminds me to let go of all the fear and just embrace the moment.

I feel like it would be a really good exercise for all of us to have that one part of the day where we can all slow down. It isn’t about anything else. I am just barely learning how to be present and aware. I wish we had a group that could share that. It really helps with the isolation that people tend to feel.

As for me, this project has taught me that storm clouds make the sunset more beautiful. I used to wish for clear skies in my life: no smudges or imperfections. But those kinds of skies make for boring sunsets. The more clouds, the more turmoil in the atmosphere there is, the more spectacular the sunset will be. The clouds will pass eventually. Watching the sunset also takes time. I hike up the mountain to watch the sunset most nights. It is part of my self-care regimen. What looks pretty at the beginning is going to deepen and evolve as the light fades from the sky. The coming darkness gives the light even more beauty.

If you want to join us in our Sunset Project, you can use the hashtag #noticethesunsets and send us your skies as part of your self-care. You can also tag and follow us @bloomforwomen on Instagram. Let’s fill the feed with sunset skies to remind all of us to be in the moment and to breathe. We are in this together.


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