Friday, December 31, 2010

Joyfully Different

I recently stumbled on a book that I’m totally fascinated with. It’s called “The Beauty of Different.” I found it because one of my favorite bloggers, The Bloggess, is actually profiled in it and had mentioned it on her site. I ordered a copy and the day it came, I spent an hour with it and immediately ordered 2 more copies as gifts.

The book is a series of photos, quotes, and profiles of people the author knows or has come across in her life. She focuses on what makes each person different, be it a talent, an experience, or a condition. Some have suffered tremendous losses, others accomplished great achievements, others struggle with crippling anxiety. But the book tunes you into the fact that the “different” that is unique to each person is what makes them beautiful. Both the stories and the photos are beautiful and moving, and for me, very disarming and reassuring.

I think a lot of us, certainly myself, spent so much time trying to fit in that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what makes us different is what makes us authentic. And when we’re authentic, and comfortable in that, we are our best selves.

My 5-year-old has recently been grasping the basics of family backgrounds, and has figured out during this holiday season that he’s half-Catholic and half-Jewish. There’s only a couple other kids we know with that mix (it is, after all, central Texas), and we’ve spent lots of time talking about everyone else’s family. Once he realized there’s only a few kids he knows with his particular mix, he smiled widely up at me. “That’s something that makes me special!”

Damn straight kid.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Whine and Opera

I went to the opera the other night for the first time in years. It was La Traviata, which I saw in Italy well over a decade ago. Whenever I go to the theater, first my brain turns on all the backstage goings on – I worked in theater in high school and college. Second, in period pieces like this, I think about the times we live in. Part of me wanted to be like those women, spending their evenings at parties every night in Paris, their days lounging and visiting. Of course, I probably would have ended up on the less financially secure side of things, which was a whole different world. I’d be working in the laundry, or in some kind of servant role. Awesome.

Anyway, my point is that it’s confusing to be a woman these days! I feel overwhelmed often (apparent in this blog) by the expectations I put on myself. I have a great career I’m trying to grow and excel at. I have a wonderful son I want to give enough quality time for. A husband and a relationship to nurture, a house to care for, laundry and shopping and cooking, friendships to maintain. Yes, my husband shares the care of our family and home with me. But for some reason (am I alone here?) I feel like women (or at least I) put way more on ourselves than our counterparts do. Yes, I realize no one is demanding these things of me but ME – but it doesn’t make it any easier. If only my own expectations of self had an off switch.

No wonder I get so stressed. I mean, NO ONE can do it all. Seems pretty basic, and I keep trying to find my happy place where I can just be content with whatever I’m able to do. And yet every time I think I’m getting close, I watch the contentment slide through my fingers only to hover just beyond my grasp. Sigh. My life is certainly no La Traviata. I have a good job and family and health. Poor Violetta is forced to leave her love, getting your him back only in time to die of consumption. OK, she wins. And I guess sometimes, its good to go watch her story so I can get a little healthy perspective into my own. Cheers, girlfriend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trusting the Love

My son is ridiculously happy most of the time. Granted, he’s 5. But wow – it’s just so wonderful and inspiring. It makes me never want him to grow up and start thinking too much. Just keep wearing that smile and giggling and relishing the joy of being alive.

I’m not unhappy. Actually, a lot of the time I’m pretty happy. I had a day recently though where I did some stupid stuff. The problem I have is that in that case, when someone points out the stupid things I did – when I should perhaps just say “hmmm, that was not the best move, I’ll do it differently next time” I don’t. I start feeling like it’s a commentary on me as a person. I didn’t do something stupid – I AM stupid. I want to be able to take criticism but my brain seems to have a short circuit when it comes to that stuff. It’s not a task I failed at – I AM a failure. It’s not that I did something embarrassing – I AM an embarrassment. Even if the input is coming from someone I know loves me – my husband, my mom, my best friend….my brain still flips the input. And I become 2 inches tall in my head. Or just want to crawl into a hole.

I so desperately want to protect my kiddo from this. I want him to wear that smile and that trust and confidence in who he is forever. He’ll run into things that are bad and wrong and all that, of course. And I want to give him the tools to navigate those waters. But I really want him to feel a security I don’t.

For now I’m just watching his face, his smile, and when I’m feeling less than great as a person, I’m going to trust him. I’m going to believe completely every time he runs to me and throws his arms around my neck to hug me and give me kisses, that I’m loved with all my cracks and broken edges. Because even when I feel like I’m not worth it – he does, with all the energy in his little self. And that is awesome.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Slowing Down

So since my last post, I’ve chilled out a bit. Things were a little frantic there – I tend to take on a lot and put a lot of expectations on myself. And sometimes I get so involved in the goals and expectations that I forget to cut myself some slack.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those energetic, ambitious, outgoing, super motivated people. I’ve tried to play that part. But you know what? I’m just not. I like doing things, but I really like my quiet time. I like spending evenings watching movies and relaxing. I like walking – not running. More than going to huge concerts and festivals, I like spending time hanging out with a glass of wine, a fire in the backyard, and a few close friends. I need things to be slower than they are – slower than I let them be.

I realized all this last week, and looking at my relatively nutty schedule – I made the call that I’m taking a break from my 3x a week, 5:30am Crossfit class. And when I start back with Crossfit, it’s not going to be at that hour. I know exercise can help ease stress, but in this case, rushing to get to bed, then getting up at 5am and literally not stopping until 8pm that night – it’s worn me out. I can’t do it anymore, at least right now. And also, while I want to be healthy it isn’t my career or job to be totally focused on food and diet. I get why our coaches are so honed in – this is their passion, it’s what they do! But I don’t want to feel bad for spending an awesome evening out with friends over a pitcher of microbrews because there’s too many carbs in beer. I don’t want to do that every night, but I don’t want my overjudgemental self encouraged to deprive myself and beat myself up. While Crossfit certainly doesn’t encourage me to do this – I’ve been judging myself more harshly next to those ripped, dedicated people.

All that said, I do love Crossfit and I will go back. But I’m going back on my terms, for my reasons, and not for anyone elses. But for now, I’m going to kick back and take it a little easy. Give me a call if you want to hang!

Friday, October 22, 2010

She's Got the Funk

I’m in a funk. Again. I’m sure if I review my blog posts or journal or whatever, there must be some kind of cycle to this. All I know is I’ve been totally on edge all week, and all I want to do is crawl into a cave and hide out for awhile. Nothing happened, really. Nothing to warrant such a dramatic reaction on my part. Yet here I am. And as usual when I’m in this space I have no idea how to get out of it, and end up pulling deeper away into myself.

What do I think I need? Simultaneously I need a hike in the mountains, some flowers, and a hug. But I live in central Texas (no mountains) and I’ve sufficiently pissed off everyone around me this week so I’m pretty sure a hug and/or flowers are a no go. Well, my kid did give me some pretty awesome hugs and kisses this morning. He’s not pissed at me, no matter how wacko I get. Thank goodness. Of course, he is only 5.

So what now? Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn I’m taking a solo trip to New Jersey to visit mom and my sister. I’m excited to see them, for sure. There’s some drama going on up there, though, so we’ll see how relaxing it will be. Maybe its time for me to take another day off work soon and head somewhere remote. I would kill to be around VA right now – so many trails and mountains, its easy to spend an entire day without seeing another person, hiking around in the forest. And when I’m in this mode, that sounds perfect. Kind of at odds with my desire for a hug from someone, but….I think the isolation thing is my default self-caring mode. Perhaps not the best one, but it’s definitely the one that has been my steady habit. I get being alone. I’m good at it. Where I suck is letting people in when I’m like this.

How do you break a lifelong habit? Something that’s been key to self-preservation and self-care? I have no idea. But here’s hoping that I can figure it out at some point in the next decade or so. So much for a short learning curve. Wish me luck! And go hug someone.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shopping, Schmopping

I HATE clothes shopping. In a real and passionate way. I sweat, I get tense, I have to gear up for spending the afternoon looking through racks and running into dressing rooms, navigating over-helpful salespeople and annoying women in the store, hoping that I can trust my judgment enough not to buy anything that makes me look horrible. I don’t like shopping with people because I’m miserable when I shop, and I don’t want anyone I like to have to suffer through that with me. So I go it alone and just pray I come out on the other side ok.

Enter my new favorite thing: online shopping! I know it’s not a revelation for most, but it’s a recent discovery for me. Things arrive quickly, they’re free to ship back from Zappos, and I can try them on in the privacy of my own home, complete with all my existing clothes and shoes to see how things match. The other thing I notice is that I’m more willing to try new things this way. I’m not sure why, but it makes me a little more adventurous. Yes, I still mostly have all black, grey and brown clothes, thank you. Whatever.

I think part of the drive here is that I’m realizing that at this age, I want to have some nice clothes. A veteran Goodwill shopper who rarely purges her closet – I just started to notice that its time. Time to get rid of some things that I’ve had for WAY too long, that I never wear, that don’t have a place in my life anymore. And time to check out some new stuff. I’m willing to spend a little more on something that’s good quality – something I used to just walk right past because of the cost (part of hating shopping is hating spending money on clothes).

I guess this is growing up? Or just changing? All I know is that I like feeling good in my skin, and part of that these days is liking what I’m wearing. For years I wore sandals, a ratty pair of cutoffs and an old white v-neck t-shirt, but that’s not working for me anymore. Who would have thought? I can hear my mom’s sigh of joy. It took 37 years, but her little hippie girl is growing up. ;-)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Making a Choice

Though you’d never know it now, I used to be a pretty hard-core tennis player in my teen years. I played for the USTA, had a private coach, and spent 8 hours a day in the summer on the court.

The funny thing is, sometimes I totally forget that episode of my life. Like, completely blank out on it. Weird, right? I was pretty good at tennis, but not the best. And in sports like tennis that aren’t team sports, when you fail – YOU fail. And you can read it on everyone’s face. It sucked. I liked tennis but eventually it wasn’t fun, wasn’t something I looked forward to or enjoyed. Just something that I had to do - that other people expected me to do.

I was just remembering a couple incidents that in retrospect seem interesting to look back on. One was on a summer day a few hours after my mom had dropped me off at the courts for the day. I was probably about 15. My coach was running me through drills and I complained I didn’t feel good. She wouldn’t let me stop, telling me to buck up, stop being lazy and weak. I tried to push through but finally had to literally sit down on the court, I was so ill. She threw up her arms and told me to go call my mom and go home if I was going to just give up. I did, and when I got home it turned out I had a fever of 103. No wonder I blocked that out!

The other incident I thought was poignant is when one afternoon, while my coach was working with me on my forehand and backhand, she had a sudden thought and ran to her truck. She came back with a walkman (remember those?) and made me put it on while I was hitting. To her surprise, I hit markedly better. She determined that I was a better player when I was distracted and not concentrating so hard, so she worked with me to figure out how to get to that slightly removed place. Pretty ironic that now I sit here trying to figure out how to be present and aware, eh?

I’m not saying that these two incidents shaped my life and are to blame for anything wrong with my life, but I think its pretty interesting to look back. I do have many good memories on the court. But I had enough bad ones that eventually, at 17 years old, I was miserable but realized that I had a choice. And one afternoon I literally walked off the court and never looked back. Do I miss playing? A little. But really, I’m not sure I was ever doing it for me. And if you’re not doing something for the joy of it, to give something back to yourself, I think its OK to choose something else.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It Gets Better

You’ve heard me talk about my middle school years at the hands of bullies. And the book I’m working on that is informed by a lot of that. Well, I recently stumbled on a project on YouTube called “It Gets Better”. And its amazing.

The “It Gets Better” project is geared towards LGBT teens who are being bullied and considering suicide. It was driven by a couple of guys who are gay and who finally realized that they CAN do something to reach out to these kids. They started posting a video of their own and encouraging others to do the same. And its awesome. I think its not only awesome for LGBT kids, but for ANY kid who is bullied. The message is the same. Just make it through middle school and high school, and those of us who survived that stuff knows that it gets better. You just need to hang in there. Sadly, one of the stories that led me to this was about a college kid who killed himself after videos were posted of him with another guy. For so many kids, both LBGT and not, college symbolized freedom, a move away from bullying. In this case it wasn’t.

If you haven’t checked it out – I would watch a few of these. Its powerful stuff, and definitely the kind of thing that makes me overwhelmed by the goodness of people, especially when faced with such ugliness. People in these videos are telling painful stories, but with the pure, passionate hope that it will reach someone and help them. Pretty awesome stuff.

Hug someone today and spread some love. Gotta balance the scales.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Off the Wagon

So I know I swore off self-help stuff. But I had already gotten this new book on tape in the mail so after a couple weeks I caved. And I’m SO GLAD I did!

This is a book that I think every woman should read (and maybe every guy who’s trying to understand the woman in his life). It’s another Geneen Roth book called “Women, Food & God.” Holy cow. It’s like she’s in my head and wrote this book just for me. Except that as I blog and talk more to people I realize that we all pretty much have the same issues, just to different degrees. So she’s in all of our heads.

To make it clear how much this impacted me, before I even finished the book on tape I ran out and bought the actual book so I can highlight excerpts and mark pages – it’s THAT amazing. I know I sound like a stepford wife here, but let me try to put some intelligent thoughts behind my enthusiasm.

The thing about this book is that though its mainly written with an eye towards eating disorders and food issues, it’s about so much more than that. You can substitute any behavior that you use to distract yourself from the core issues at hand, and the book will make perfect sense. Whether its food, alcohol, drugs, sex, work, smoking – anything that you obsess over – she makes you see how to (rather easily) shift your focus to the real issue at hand, whatever that is for you. And more importantly, she makes you realize that often, all your efforts towards changing your behaviors through deprivation and rule-following often only contributes to the problem. It’s not about fixing yourself. Its about loving yourself as you are, and in doing so you’ll naturally shift to balanced behaviors. If you’re trying to fix yourself through programs, deprivation, control, whatever, you’re basically sending messages that you’re not ok the way you are.

What a concept! A bit basic, but sometimes the most obvious points are the ones missed. At least by me. So go buy this book or book on tape. And I’d LOVE to hear if you get as much from it as I am!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's a Picture Worth? Oh, Right.....

So last week I started on a “Vision Book”, which is something I never have attempted before. The concept is pretty simple. You think about goals you have, dreams you want to achieve, and you create a book of images/words/phrases that inspire you and remind you of those dreams. I started on my book with a group of women – we gathered at a wine bar with magazines, scissors and glue sticks.

Honestly, I’m a little cynical when it comes to stuff like this. If I'm being honestly, I was primarily in it for the wine. But you know what? I ended up creating some pages that I really, really love – and that DO inspire and motivate me. I picked up a variety of magazines from the bookstore, as well as a small calendar with quotes and such. Though I had NO idea what I was doing when I sat down, I very quickly got into the groove. A couple hours later I had 4 pairs of pages that I love, and a desire to keep going with more.

I think the trick will be to remember to keep using it to inspire, rather than just letting it collect dust somewhere. Hopefully I can just keep adding into it and refining my vision as time goes on. After all, more goals will surface once I start achieving the ones I’ve already set for myself. Plus, it's a good excuse to play with glue sticks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Being There

I’ve been thinking a lot about being present, or in some cases, not being present. Not in a physical sense, but in the way we are as we live our lives. And I haven’t been very present lately. In exploring the “why” around that, I read that one of the basic instincts we have as humans is the tendency to bolt. That doesn’t necessarily mean physically bolting, but in more cases, its referring to our mental tendency to bolt. We bolt and hide through our obsessions – with food, or alcohol, or drugs, or sex, or whatever. Focusing on our obsessions means we don’t have to focus on what’s really going on. We can hide from it. Escape. Numb ourselves.

That was what I was doing, though I didn’t fully realize it. I knew something was off, but I couldn’t figure it out. And then suddenly I got it. And just like that, I was back. Back in my skin, back in my experiences, just present. And it feels awesome.

I know that staying in this place will require energy. But it’s so much less of a struggle than creating obsessions and distractions. I’m still learning and figuring it out, but this “conceptual leap” (to borrow Erika’s mom’s phrase) was a long time coming. And I’m glad for it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who's Driving This Thing?

I just finished reading a profound and really good book called “Drinking: A Love Story”. It’s writer Caroline Knapp’s memoir about her relationship with drinking. Its heavy and intense, but really good.

At the end of the book she talks about her experience with sobriety and in doing so, she touches on several amazing points. One of the most poignant for me was how she talked about growing up. She used to think that growing up was something that would just happen to her one day. She just had to wait for it and eventually one day it would be bestowed upon her – she’d be a grown up. But she learned that it doesn’t work that way. That you have to actively make the choice to grow up. Less magical, but more realistic indeed.

I often have said that I don’t feel grown up, and when I read that I thought “oh, jeez. You mean it doesn’t just happen TO me?” It’s like I thought eventually if I sat here long enough a King would ride up, tap a sword on my shoulder and knight me. Viola! You are now an adult! It didn’t really occur to me that growing up really is a choice, something you can do or not do. But it won’t happen if you just sit there.

Wow. Maybe it’s just me, but that kind of blew me away.

So I can choose and manage how I grow up. The how, when, and the way I want to do it. I don’t have to sit around and wait for it. And that is kind of cool.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'd Like to Get Off, Please

I notice as I get older, I get more overwhelmed with life. Honestly I don’t know if its age, or lifestyle, or technology, or what. But I’m craving a pause button so I can just literally get off for awhile and slow down.

We went on vacation, but that was a lot of running around – fun, but not too relaxing. I spent 5 hours at The Crossings spa on Labor Day, which WAS relaxing, but just too damn short. I think between work and being a mom and a wife and a home owner and trying to maintain social stuff and exercising….its just busy. And I think that somewhere at my core, I’m more of a slow-moving person than life allows me to be. Shockingly, I find myself envious of stay at home moms, something that I thought would make me nuts and go stir crazy 5 years ago.

Technology hasn’t helped, I decided. Though I use Twitter and Facebook, all those updates I read make me feel uncool, or unfulfilled, or not…whatever enough. Of course those formats lend themselves to only writing about the cool, interesting stuff (for most). Which makes everyone else appear interesting and makes me feel boring. Hmmm.

Back to my point though, there must be some way to recharge regularly and quickly. I don’t have time (part of the problem) so I can’t do a daily hour meditation or whatever. I already exercise, and that’s crammed in at 5:30am. Work isn’t something I can cut time from, nor is sleep. I’m a big sleeper. When does age start allowing you to need less of it? I’m a mess with any less than 7 hours. Anyway, you see my problem. And so I’m overwhelmed and generally feeling a little hamster-cage-ish.

Hopefully I can figure out how to speed up, or I can figure out how to get the rest of the world to slow down. That will be a neat trick!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Helping Myself

As laid back as I like to think I am, I tend to get a little obsessive about things (I’m SURE you haven’t noticed). For some reason my brain pushes everything into black and white categories. Success or failure. Working out or not working out. Being productive or being lazy. I struggle to figure out how to allow myself to lounge in the spaces in between – those gray areas without extremes. Which really is where I probably should be spending most of my time.

Lately, and by that I mean for the past year or so, I’ve been on a self-help kick. Books, books on CD for the car, seminars, focus groups – I’ve been burying myself in it all. And for some reason last week I just decided that it’s time to take a break. A self-help vacation, if you will. I’m thinking this is a good thing especially because when I told my husband my decision there was a careful pause and thoughtful assessment before he quietly said, “I think that is a really, really good idea.” Kudos to him to being able to bite his tongue all this time.

So the second I decide this, the mailman delivers another book on CD, and I get invited to a weekend seminar by a motivation speaker. Sheesh. It’s like giving up alcohol in time to start a job at a liquor store.

But I guess the point here, of course, is to stop with the extremes. I don’t have to completely give this stuff up forever. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I want to wander in that middle territory, the restful place where the pendulum settles. For example, I don’t need to live and breathe Crossfit – I can just do it 3 times a week and enjoy it. I don’t need to completely abstain from wine, or chocolate, or bread 100%, as long as my body responds well to the foods I put in it most of the time. If I slip up on the rules of a Paleo diet, it doesn’t mean I need to eat baked goods morning, noon and night instead.

And I don’t need to turn to an endless parade of gurus and books to tell me how to be happy. Don’t misunderstand – I’ve taken away a lot of good things from self-help publications, and I’m sure I’ll continue to read some of them. But for the moment, I’m going to pick up a good novel and generally try to find that happy, relaxed and productive place that I probably already have the road map for. And if getting (and staying) in that place involves the occasional glass of good wine or item from Upper Crust bakery, so be it. Let’s see if I’m happier for it in the long run!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Revisting the Fabric

Well, that was an unexpectedly long break from blogging!

Since last I wrote we had a 10 day family vacation, gloriously free of laptops (for me, at least). It was a needed break from technology. Our trip involved visiting with lots of wonderful friends all around Virginia and then heading to a beach house on Bethany Beach in Delaware. It was GREAT – but as usual never long enough.

Among tons of wonderful things I did, one of the most soul-enriching for me was a fantastic unplanned catching up with 2 of my favorite women in the world at the same time. One friend I was staying with – the other was living in the same town of Charlottesville, Virginia, but I’d been unable to reach her. The single night we were there staying with Martha, I got a call from Sarah, who I haven’t seen in ages. In fact, it’s been long enough that she has become a doctor since I saw her last. She was working the night shift at a hospital and it was slow, so Martha and I ran over to hang out with her. Amazingly, I got to spend over 2 hours of uninterrupted glorious conversation time with two women who I love. Martha and Sarah got to know each other, I got caught up with life and dreams and husbands and fears and joys and successes. It’s incredible when you can talk to people who you respect and love and find so much that you relate to in each other. Whether it’s good stuff or bad stuff or just boring stuff – connecting with those like-minded people and personalities make me feel like an important part of a much larger fabric. A feeling I sometimes need to be reminded of. That night, I hit the bed with a huge smile and a thrilled and contented heart.

I hope it won’t be that long before I see them again – but it warms me to know that no matter how much time passes, there are some people who you can just fall right back into the same lifelong and easy pattern with. And having that with more than one person – well, I have lot to be thankful for.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Under the Covers

I have a Crossfit class I go to Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:15am. I lay out my clothes the night before, set my alarm for 5:52, and for the most part I jump out of bed at the alarm and head out to my car, barely awake. Though I’m not a morning person, once I’m there I really like it. I like Crossfit and I LOVE the people I work out with. But this morning? With barely a thought I flipped off the alarm and snuggled back down under the covers. I wrestled with guilt for the next 10 minutes before I slid back into a fitful sleep. Why did I skip it? No idea. I just didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay in bed. I was tired.

You know, I want to be one of those women who is athletic and fit, who craves exercise and feels good only when I’m moving. I want to be that lean, strong woman in the Nike commercials, running easily and peacefully on an empty mountain trail. But in reality? I really only exercise because I feel like I have to. Because I like to eat, and because I feel guilty if I don’t exercise. Yes, I enjoy exercise when I’m doing it sometimes. I do like thinks like taking walks and going hiking, or leisurely swimming laps. But going to do something specifically as “exercise” just to stay in reasonable shape? The best part, honestly, is the sense of accomplishment when I’m done.

One reason for this lack of excitement over exercise, I’m guessing, is that no matter how much I’ve exercised (whether it’s Crossfit three times a week, or half-marathon training for 6 months, or swimming 3 miles a week – to name just a few kicks I’ve been on for months at a time) its never transformed my body into what I want it to look like. And since that has been my primary motivation – to look good and/or justify food intake – it’s kind of annoying when the smaller clothes continue to elude me despite the crazy amounts of pushups, squats, pull-ups and weight I move around the gym. Or the tons of miles I racked up a few years ago on my running kick. Yes, I know that diet has a ton to do with things, but even when I’ve had it all dialed in for months at a time, I still have seem limited results. At least compared to what I want to see. So this morning when that alarm clock went off, I couldn’t do it. I said PHTTTTTTTT, rolled over and went back to sleep. And I had a cinnamon scone for breakfast, just to rub it in.

I think I need some new motivation.

Health? Energy? Camaraderie? Yes. All those things are probably better sources of motivation than a size 8 pair of jeans, and I’m sure there are others. And I suppose somehow I need to make those the reason I jump out of bed at the crack of dawn.

So much easier said than done. Oh well. For the moment, I’m going to stop stressing about it and head out on vacation later this week – one that is very much needed. And I think a change of scenery and some head-clearing will do me good. Here’s to a good dose of rest, self-care, and quality time with people I love. Time for a recharge.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wondering and Wandering

One of my favorite magazines is Scientific American Mind. Each issue always has a theme and there are longer and shorter articles covering how the mind works, from a variety of angles. Check it out. Great plane reading and generally a good mag to keep around the house to pick up and put down.

Anyway, on a plane yesterday I read this article covering a study on willpower. My interest was piqued. Willpower is something that I always felt I didn’t have enough of. Case in point – my inability to say no to a cinnamon roll from Upper Crust Bakery. So this study had a group of people who were going to start an exercise regimen. One group was told to focus on the phrase “I will” before and during their trial of a few weeks or months or whatever. The other group was told to focus on the phrase “Will I?”. The results? The latter groups was markedly more successful.

Its pretty interesting to me that the group that was left with an open-ended mindset, one that left them the ability to make a choice, was the group that excelled. And the more I think about that, the more I’m down with it. In fact, I tried it last night – just repeating the phrase “Will I” over and over in my head. I think I actually felt my stress level drop. When thinking “I will”, I end up feeling pressured and guilty – all negative feelings. So this article definitely resonated with me.

So I’m going to give it a shot. Will I finish my book? Will I keep up with my 3x a week Crossfit workouts? Will I eat well? We’ll see, but this seems like a good (and much less stressful) starting point!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dazed and Confused

I’ve gotten to the point where I hate thinking about food. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food. But my whole life, I’ve been so overwhelmed by information and directives and contradictions about food that I’m just annoyed. Eat whole grains, we were told. Don’t eat grains, someone said later. Yogurt is good for you! Stay away from dairy! Restrict calories! But don’t deprive yourself! ACK! It is seriously enough to make a person crazy.

The result? For me it’s hard to even enjoy food anymore. I feel lacking if I eat something healthy, especially if I’m in the mood for something “unhealthy”. But I feel guilty if I’m eating something that someone said I shouldn’t (and given all the contradictory info out there, pretty much every food on the planet has an enemy somewhere). It’s also crazy to me that while we have more fitness and health magazines than ever, and such a huge emphasis on keeping fit and lean and exercising, I also see a huge movement in the foodie sector. I mean, how on earth are we supposed to find balance and keep sane in the midst of all this?

So I’m trying to disengage from some information and get back in touch with my own self about food. I’m not really sure how to go about this, but the last thing I want is to read another book or article that tells me how I’m supposed to eat or find balance with food or whatever. What I want is to just STOP getting information from someone else, and get in touch with what my body is telling me. If I want chocolate, then I want to eat it and enjoy it and savor it – without guilt!! And when I’m feeling bloated or gross, I want to choose to have a food that makes me feel better.

Sounds easier than I think it will be. It’s like trying not read celebrity news – even without seeking it out it’s in my face all over and I still seem to know what’s going on. But I’m going to try to put on some blinders and forge ahead – on MY food terms. Whatever they are!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

You Had Me at Hello

It’s funny, my husband never even read my blog post yesterday, but he got back from a business trip and handed me a card he picked up for me in the airport. He said he saw it and had to get it for me. It says: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” A quote from Neale Donald Walsch.

I gotta say, it’s pretty great to be married to someone who not only gets me, but supports all my phases and stages.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcoming the Breeze

I love quotes. Sometimes other people have already summed up what I’m thinking or feeling. Sometimes I just love the way a quote hits me. One I ran across is from a writer named Barbara De Angelis; “We need to find the courage to say “NO” to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.”

I think that’s pretty awesome. For me, I’m thinking more about the thoughts and emotions that aren’t serving me well. Like so many other things, I’ve definitely settled into an emotional pattern with feelings like fear and lack of self-esteem (to name just a couple). Even if they’re negative emotions, there is a comfort in them. I know them, what they feel like, how I respond to them. To move away from them means moving to feelings I’m unfamiliar with. And as someone recently told me (and I’m sure its quoted from someone/somewhere) – “the hell you know is less scary than the heaven you don’t”. Something like that, anyway. True indeed.

Getting older is something I love, and I think a large part of that is because every year I get more courage to cast off things that aren’t working. I wish I could be more aggressive about it, but regardless of the pace, I’m better every year. I will say that I think sometimes things happen that do force a much bigger leap forward, for whatever reason. I probably won’t have a good view of this for years to come, but I do think this is one of those years for me. The kind of year that marks a shift in myself, my career, my relationships, my life. The catalyst? It would have to be the untimely death of my father. Nothing like watching someone struck down quickly to make you think about life and how you’re living it.

I’m not saying I can toss off the security blanket of fear and self-judgment completely, or in one gesture. I’ve worn that fabric for a long time. But I’m pretty excited about pushing it off a shoulder and seeing what the breeze will feel like.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Taking it Down a Notch

I was talking to a friend today, and we were talking about my fears and just generally about the negative feelings that we as humans harbor. It was kind of enlightening to notice that so many things I fear or that I resent are things that are self-inflicted. Things I’m holding onto – not something that is being forced on me. Which is cool – because if its in my control, well, then I should just be able to let them go, right?

Right. But…wait. How? Exactly where I’m at now. One thing that I’m doing to figure it out is to kind of flip the table a bit. Instead of looking at all the things I want to get rid of, I’m trying to look at the things I want to be/have/feel. What does the best me look like to me?

I’m brought back to the comment of an extremely sane friend who listened patiently as I bitched about what someone had said or done and how much it upset me and so on and so on. When I stopped to take a breath he looked at me evenly and asked, “why do you care?” I was stumped. Why DID I care? I couldn’t control that person's actions, focusing on it only bothered me, and it had nothing to DO with me. It was that other persons issue. I think about that comment a lot, and I still don’t have a good answer. It’s impossible for me to not care at all what other people think, but I certainly could do with a healthy slide down the scale in that direction.

Not sure how to do that either. But hey, at least I’m trying. Right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Puppies in Wolves Clothing

I heard this great story the other day that I think was originally told by LBJ.

A little boy ran into his house yelling and screaming that there was a wolf in the front yard. His mother, knowing there were no wolves in the area, ran out to look and saw the neighbor’s dog in the yard.
Anxious to get back to her chores, she punished her son for telling lies. “You know that is the neighbor’s dog and not a wolf. You shouldn’t run in here screaming, scaring everyone like that. I want you to go up to your room and pray about what you did.”
Awhile later, she went up to the boy’s room.
“So did you pray?” The boy nodded. “And what did God tell you?”
“He thought it was a wolf too!!!”

I love this story because it’s all about perspective. We all have our own perspectives – some we have held our whole lives through. Some are shifted dramatically by events in our lives, or people and conversations, or explorations of ourselves.

I think that challenging our perspectives and trying on some other ones, just to gain a broader view on something, is a great exercise. Sometimes it brings me back to my original view with a stronger conviction, and other times it brings me to a whole new place. Right now, I’m taking a hard look at some behaviors of mine that have been habits that I thought I needed. Habits that covered my lack of self-esteem or gave me the ability to put something between myself and something else. And you know what? Its super-liberating, and really enlightening.

I thought some things were wolves, but they turned out to be puppies. And that is a good thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Me and My Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about God and spirituality lately. God and I have had a complex relationship. And religion and I have gone toe to toe more than once. I’ve typically dealt with any questions around my beliefs with the phrase “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I think I believed it. But I didn’t really ever have anyone hold me to task on it, and I never had to actually really define what that means to me. And I’m realizing that all these years, I’ve pretty much used that phrase as a copout and just put myself at the head of my world.

I’m kind of rethinking that. I still am not comfortable with the word “God.” It makes me squirmy. So far, I’ve gotten to the point where I do believe in a higher power – something more than me. I don’t know what that is or what that looks like at all. Which is ok.

I’ve had some things making me think about this a lot lately. And I’ve decided that for me, the image of a higher power is a tree. Its bigger than me, and its connected to the Earth. I could go on about the aspects of a tree that align to my thinking about a higher power. Not to mention that trees just make me happy.

No worries – I don’t plan to get all weird and preachy with spirituality and higher powers. But I do think there is a benefit and a place for those thoughts. And I do like the process of making myself think about it and being honest about what I really believe – and don’t believe. For the moment, me and my tree will just be pondering things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holy Brain Cells

I’ve been recently reminded of how physically taxing it is to be mentally and emotionally functioning at a high level of intensity. I remember when I went to the Peace Corps I spoke no Spanish (aside from “Hola” and “Cerveza”). I lived with a family, so I was immediately in a situation where I struggled to communicate daily. The first 3 months in country I spent in crash language and cultural courses, ramping up faster than I ever remember doing before or since. Most nights I was so completely and totally exhausted from the mental and emotional energy I had used that day that I hit the bed at about 8pm every night.

I feel like that now. I’ve got some pretty intense stuff going on at work, and I’ve also taken on some personal work that involves what I guess could be defined as a personal deep dive into myself. And man, I am just BEAT. Its all so good, and I know the work and the effort will be totally worth it on all counts. I think I just haven’t taken on something big and new for a long time, so I forgot how tiring it can be.

All that said, its also very exhilarating after such a long time to challenge myself. I’m not bored, that’s for certain. And to some degree I’m altering the very foundation that I’ve used as my personal bedrock for most of my life. Pretty scary and weird, and also really cool to know that you can shift gears anytime in an effort to get things more right. To be better and to live better.

So its 8: 15pm and I’m wiped. So off to bed. Looking forward to sharing more about what’s going on as I process. Brain shutting off…..NOW.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oh, The Humanity!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about toolboxes. Not the normal kind with the hammer, screwdrivers and such – but the mental kind. The toolboxes full of things that help us navigate life and crazy situations. My toolbox has been feeling a little on the lean side lately. So I’m doing some things to fill it up.

Some of the hardest things we do as people, I think, involve opening ourselves up and making ourselves vulnerable. Humility. Admitting our faults. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m kind of a black and white kind of person. When I approach something, I do it perfectly or else I’ve totally failed. I don’t give myself a lot of grey. But I’m trying.

I recently was chatting with a new friend who told me “you know, this sounds stupid, but I only am just now realizing that I’m not perfect. And man, what a HUGE relief!” I get that totally. As soon as you give yourself permission to not be perfect, it’s like a weigh is lifted. The irony is that the pressure to be perfect is probably only coming from you. And you are the one who can make it go away. It’s so easy – yet it can be SO hard to do.

So, I’m human. I screw up. I’m learning to ask for help. Learning to throw my arms up in some aspects of my life and say “I can’t do this, I need help”. And I’m learning that it’s ok. Beyond that, even. It’s actually awesome to recognize that we’re just human. What a relief indeed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Life Was Weird

Holy insane week. I have some nutty stuff going on at work that is keeping me busier than I’ve been in a long time. On the one hand its good – I hate being bored. On the other, I could use some downtime, you know? But things should calm down shortly, so there is an end in sight.

So now that I actually have a second to sit and write, I’m drawing a blank . Sheesh. Though I did just remind myself a couple hours ago about some funny past experiences. I used to have a weird, crazy life. I lived all over and it seemed like unlikely things happened all the time. It was great – though after awhile I was ready for a calm, settled lifestyle. Anyway, I was living in New Orleans for awhile at one point and found myself backstage at House of Blues sitting on a couch with Tito Puente, sharing a bottle of vodka for hours. He was awesome and we had a total blast. At the time, that’s just the kind of weird stuff that seemed to happen. But in retrospect, I’m like – wow. That is weird and cool and totally random.

On another random evening a few years earlier Tommy Lasorda invited me out to dinner. I went and we talked about his grandkids because I started the conversation telling him I know nothing about baseball. True story.

Why do I always run into famous people who could be my grandfather? Why not Johnny Depp, just once? There was an evening partying with Jon Lovitz, but, well – he’s not exactly Johnny Depp either. That was a fun night though.

I’ll probably get my writing groove back soon – I feel it coming. In the meantime you’re stuck with odd stories of my former, more bizarre (if less stable) life. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hug it Out

I love quotes – bumper stickers, whatever. Anything that makes me smile or think. But I was driving today and saw one that just hit me wrong. It said “To err is human. To forgive is not something that I do.” Ouch!

I have a lot of reasons to find forgiveness difficult. I have a mother-in-law and father-in-law I’ve never met, who disowned their son and in 11 years have never met me or their 5 year-old grandson. I have known people who have deliberately gone out of their way to hurt me, who make a conscious decision to be mean or cruel. But what I have learned over the years is that the only way I can move past those things and not let it make me crazy is to forgive. And I can’t imagine holding onto the anger and frustration. What a waste of my energy.

When I was in the Peace Corps, the village I lived in was small and most people were totally uneducated. The ironic thing was that there was a strong sense of political allegiance. Part of it is that the political parties would come into the villages and bribe people with food and money – things they desperately needed. I also think people found pride in being attached to political groups – even though they didn’t really see the whole picture of politics in general. Sadly, I saw these political games breakup friendships and even families. Brothers who wouldn’t speak because each supported (i.e. was bought out) by an opposing party.

Anyway, my work in the village wasn’t associated with a party – I was out to help everyone. This didn’t go over well with some. At one point after I’d lived there for well over a year I had managed to get the government to give me permission to start a pilot project in natural resource management in my area of the country. Until then, people were being arrested for cutting down trees to build homes. I launched a program that allowed people to cut down only what they needed – and we started a community nursery that they were required to work in and then plant 20 trees on their property for every one they cut down. It worked beautifully. I even had the Vice-President of the Dominican Republic come out with camera crews to check it out.

But I pissed some people off in the community, who felt I was favoring villagers on one side of the political fence. I think I just wasn’t paying attention to who was with which group. Anyway, some villagers got together and wrote a letter to the government asking to oust me from the village. It was sent behind my back and signed by people who I thought of as family there. A government official I had gotten to be friends with came out to the village to tell me about it.

I was devastated. Then mad. Then defensive. But once I managed to calm down I made a decision. I went to each of the 7 people who signed the letter. I told them how hurt I was and I told them how much I had wished they had come to me with their issues before taking a step like that. And then I forgave them. And I know for a fact that I walked out of each conversation with a clear head and that it took each of those people awhile to feel better about things. And I told them I’d work with any of them anytime again – and would continue to as long as I was there. And once they could face me again, we did work together.

It’s amazing what forgiveness can do for everyone on all sides. And so to the person driving that car with the bumper sticker – I hope they figure that out someday and take that thing off. It would be a lesson well worth learning.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Think and Grow Exhausted

My newest book on CD for my car time is “Think and Grow Rich”. You know what surprised me about this one? I know it’s been popular forever, but I guess I always thought it was just a book focused on money. Investing, saving, etc. I never looked into it much.

I was totally wrong – this is a GREAT book. It’s definitely right in line with all the other stuff I’ve been reading about how your thinking and feeling affects your success. It’s pretty inspirational and definitely makes you think. The book also gives tons of short bios of amazing, successful people – which I find interesting and motivating. I recommend it for sure!

Anyway, it’s definitely helped feed that fire under me. I’ve realized I’m actually pretty torn in a few directions right now. On the one hand I have some pretty cool and satisfying stuff going on at work. I’ve launched a new service and have, so far, a team of 15 contractors working for me. On the other hand, I have this book I’m working on. And though I’ve been working on shaping the plot and characters in my head, over the past few weeks I haven’t had a moment to sit and put it on paper. Time is the one thing I haven’t had much of, and that’s what I need.

That said, I’m not feeling too bad about it. My plan right now is to roll with the work stuff, and keep thinking about the book. I’m hoping that in a month or so I’ll have enough time to take a couple days off, go out solo to a place in the hill country, and just write and write. I feel confident that this will come and I will make it happen, and oddly that knowledge alone is providing me with peace about it all.

What I’m ready for now is to stop thinking TOO seriously, have a great holiday weekend, and enjoy my amazing little family. Cheers to THAT!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Walking the Tightrope

You know those great times when you finally get to catch up with someone you love? Last night I got to do that with my friend Elizabeth. We had our kids and work and our crazy lives to catch up on and somehow between the kids racing around the house and and the interruptions we managed to actually talk. Impressive (those of you with toddlers know what I mean).

One thing that constantly amazes me is how much my own feelings, emotions, and fears are things that so many other people can relate to. Last night, Elizabeth and I talked a lot about balancing. Its a tough one. The parenting, the career, the wants, the desires, the spouse, the friends...not to even mention all the emotional burdens we put on ourselves. Its kind of amazing any of us are sane, really.

But my point. The thing that I've been thinking about is how hard we work to do whatever is "right". For me, I'm of the mind that if I'm committed to something I have to do it all the way. That part is good except I tend to put pretty unrealistic rules around it. And if I don't follow those rules exactly then I've failed. And then I may as well just give up and go in the opposite extreme direction. Take drinking. In the beginning of this year I decided to stop for awhile. That lasted for a couple months - but once I had that first night with a glass of wine, I entered the spiral where I beat myself up, felt horribly guilty, like a total failure, and figured I've already messed up my goal and may as well just give it up altogether. Sheesh. How ridiculous. Substitute "diet" for "drinking", or any variety of other things I've tried to excel at and you pretty much see the pattern. Its pretty exhausting.

So I'm tired of the pattern. I'm not a failure just because I'm human and I'm not able to maintain strict rules on myself all the time. And that should be ok. No one else is making me feel bad about it or thinking I failed - its just me bringing all that on myself. So enough.

Now is the part where I try to figure out how to balance - the goals and behaviors I want to change with the knowledge that its OK to choose to get off the horse once in awhile. After all, life is short. And I for one want to enjoy it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Flying Leaps

So my 5-year-old son is taking swim lessons. He’s a funny, happy, smart kid – and also pretty cautious. It’s great that I don’t have to worry about him taking flying leaps off of playscapes and such. But as a big swimmer myself, it’s starting to get painful watching him be so tentative in the water while other kids his age and younger are jumping in off the edge of the pool over and over.

This weekend I finally got him to jump into my arms. He seemed to like it and we did it a few times (meaning before he could protest I had him back on the edge, arms out for him to jump into). The last couple times I confess, I pulled my arms away so he could see that jumping into shallow water meant that he could immediately stand himself up after jumping in.

Anyway, after a bit he didn’t want to do it anymore. And I kept pushing. And I got frustrated. He had already DONE it. Just get up there and JUMP! I could feel myself getting annoyed, and I’m sure he could too. I finally just told him it was time to go – we’d been there for awhile and had to get moving anyway. I gave him the option to stay 5 more minutes if he’d jump in on his own. And he wanted to, but he stood on the edge thinking and worrying and stressing and never made it. I tried everything – telling him I’d not let anything happen, reminding him he already did it, telling him it was ok to be scared, but it wouldn’t be scary once he did it a little more. UGH. He ended up crying and we ended up going home.

I’m not sure if this was an example of bad parenting. But it is an example of me not knowing at all what to do. And as he gets older, this whole parenting thing gets more challenging and I feel like our risk of scarring him goes up exponentially. And this fear – my strong reaction to it is probably because it’s one of the things I see in myself and don’t like. And I want to smack it right out of him so he doesn’t have to deal with it. Probably not the best approach. But I don’t want him to wait until he’s in his late 30s before he starts figuring it out. Hmmm.

I suppose that for now, the best thing is to just keep catching him so he knows we’re there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Room with a View

So tonight was a clear glimpse into exactly how much my brain pushes thoughts and ideas onto other people. And then I take them as gospel. And then I react emotionally, and you have no idea why because you had no idea any of this was happening. (sigh) I’m kind of a mess, really.

Lately I’ve found myself craving a space of my own. Like, a real, close the door, quiet thinking and writing space that isn’t my bedroom. I have a nook where my desk is off our kitchen, but it’s not really doing it for me lately. So I’ve been eyeing our office, which my husband has set up in. Probably noteworthy that I decorated that room. He’s not a huge fan of the decor, but I love it. And lately I’ve been jealous. It took me WEEKS to build up the nerve to ask him to switch with me – the office/guest room for my nook. I was all freaked out asking him. This is my life partner, people, and I’m all scared to ask about distribution of space in the house we share and both pay for? Yes, I was scared. Totally freaked to bring it up. But after weeks, I did. His response? Heck yeah! No problem! When should we switch?

I was surprised and thrilled. I got really excited and started envisioning some light yoga on the shag rug, curling up on the sofa, door closed, with a book. Putting on classical music and writing at the desk. That was Tuesday. That night, after our boy went to bed the husband was in said office, working away on a huge project for his job. I let him be and went to bed early. Wednesday he also was in there working in the evening. I started to wonder – maybe he didn’t want to give it up? Maybe this was his way of squatting? Or claiming territory? Would I have to oust him? I spent all day today wondering how to bring it up, thinking I’d just say – “remember that office switch thing? Well, never mind, we don’t have to. I mean, if you don’t want to.” You know, that thing where you leave an opening, but passively aggressively try to communicate your disappointment? Yeah, that.

Can you guess the next part?

After dinner tonight, I finally asked if he wanted the office or if I could still have it. He looked at me shocked. Of course I could still have it – and he pointed out that the only reason he’d been working in there is because I’d been going to bed at like, 8:30 every night and there hadn’t been time to do the switch. Right. (Insert sheepish grin here.)

So quick recap. A tally of the number of hours I stressed out about something that I fabricated completely in my own mind? I’d say a conservative guess is about 15 waking hours. Things I had to actually BE stressed about – zero. Minutes it took to realize this through communication – about one minute.

Yow. Maybe by the time I’m 50 I’ll start getting the hang of things. Sheesh.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Girl in the Bubble

I surprised myself with kind of basic revelations today. I know I have felt a little distant and removed from people lately, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Things have been great with my marriage (since the May ups and downs) and with my friends and family –yet I’ve just felt this lonely distance without knowing why. I’m still not totally sure what’s up, but I had some thoughts around it today.

This year for me has already been a lot about change. Change in my diet, exercise, my job, my habits, my mental state, my goals and motivations. Pretty big stuff. It’s an ongoing process of course, but here’s the thing. Change is kind of freaky. While I love it, I think subconsciously I’m also wondering how it’s going to affect my relationships. If people will be cool with me as I change and evolve, and likewise, if I’ll be ok with relationships I’ve had for a long time. I realize this is kind of obvious, as change is the only constant. But as I thought about it, I realized that I was nervous about where all this change (as good as I’ve felt about it) will land me. Part of the challenge is that I think I revert to the very habits and behavior I’m trying to get away from, in an effort to find that “comfort zone”. To be the person I think people expect, rather than surprise people (and myself) by demonstrating new behaviors that better reflect the space I’m in now.

Then it occurred to me “HEY – everyone else is changing all the time TOO!” (Yes, duh.) And in fact, that part of what makes relationships ebb and flow is that very fact. Some people you’ll get closer to as you both change and find new ways to connect. Others you’ll drift from. And still others you’ll choose to work to remain close to no matter what.

So I think, and I’m no therapist, but I think that I’m at a place right now where I really need to spend some time on those relationships that are so important to me and that I’m feeling a little removed from. Whether it’s just grabbing coffee and catching up, or going for a swim – there are people that I’m simply not willing to drift away from (or have them drift away from me!). I’m busy and already feel like there’s never enough time, but this is big. This is necessary.

Time to show off some new sides of myself, and check out some new sides of people I love. So brace yourselves. I’m heading your way!

Get Out the Pruning Shears

I’ve mentioned the book Simple Abundance several times during these blog entries. It’s a daybook with a short piece for each day of the year – a great way to start or end each day for me. My mom was recently visiting and I had left it out for her to read. She was particularly struck by one entry (the June 29th one if you’re interested). I should note (or remind) that since last year my mother suffered the sudden death of her husband of 42 years, and just a month later her mother passed. And out of all that emerged a woman whose strength, perspective, and ability to find joy continues to astound me.

The entry that reached her so deeply talked about “life accidents”, those things that happen and that seem so unfair, so unexpected, and that you threaten never to recover from. Illness, loss, and any number of other things fall into this category. In this case, however, Sarah Ban Breathnach equated these “life accidents” to pruning a garden. You cut back seemingly healthy parts of a plant to ensure greater blooms and a stronger plant overall. You either prune it yourself, or nature takes care of it through weather or other means. In this case, she spoke to how painful events are a way that we prune away parts of life that need to go. That the painful events help us grow in a way that joy never can.

As my mother says, the last year has taught her not to sweat the small stuff, and she has definitely come out with a renewed perspective on love, tolerance, and compassion. But she wishes that it didn’t take my dad’s death for her to learn all that she has, and to become a better person. I think as we both read over Breathnach’s words, it really helped us put words and a great description around the feelings we’ve all had. This year had a lot of pain in it. But we’ve all come out better, stronger, and I think more loving and beautiful on the other side. I know I’ve written about this before, but I had to share the imagery around pruning ourselves back in order to make us stronger and healthier. I have a feeling it will resonate beyond just mom and I.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Technology Bites

You know those days when you realize early on that you should probably just get up from the computer and walk away? From the second the first program crashes, you know instinctively that the only way things will end well is if you shut the computer, throw on some shorts and spend the day outdoors. Yet that isn’t an option. So you slug through, feeling your frustration level rising by the hour until by the end, you’re ready to throw your *&#*$^# computer into a fire pit.

I should probably apologize to anyone who had to interact with me after 3pm. I was hardly a joy. I tend to have this low tolerance for technology when it doesn’t work (as my husband is all too aware of, poor guy). In addition to that, I hate the fact that I am woefully ignorant of code and programming skills and other things that the rest of the guys I work with are so capable of speaking about. After my technology troubles, I also found myself repeatedly stuck in situations where I felt pretty much like an idiot.

So why do I work in technology? Beats me. I guess I’m normally pretty good at and happy about what I do. But days like this I just want a cabin on a lake with a cup of tea on a warm sunny afternoon, and no computers or electronics in sight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Body at Rest

It’s been a week and a half since I worked out. And significantly longer since I was eating “clean”. Lately its been lots of London pub food and pints, Indian food and wine. And all I can think about is how nervous I am about starting back. I mean, I’m really, really nervous. Which seems odd to me. It hasn’t been THAT long that I’ve been out of my routine, and I’ve been doing Crossfit 3x a week since late November. I should know I can jump back in. And yet I’m totally freaked out about showing up again and inclined to bury my head.

But I won’t. I’m going to drag my butt out of bed at 5:30am 5 days in a row next week, get myself to the gym and push my body to do squats, pushups, pull-ups, and lift heavy weights. And I’m going to go shopping and get some vegetables (remember those?), some lean protein and nuts, and walk right past the beer and wine aisle without a glance. And a week from today, I’m going to feel way better than I do right now. Because right now I feel kind of like a bloated elephant.

Funny how once we’re in a habit, it’s easy to keep up with (a body in motion stays in motion….). But it’s also really, really easy to get off track. And for me starting up a habit I was sidetracked from can almost be harder than it was to start it the first time. Which is annoying. But off I go, nonetheless. Wondering why I torture myself, but knowing I’ll be happy I did.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Absolutely Fabulous

So London kept me busy. So busy in fact, I didn’t blog but once. But I warned you, so I have NO guilt. Well, maybe a little. OK, ok – I was raised Catholic, so I have a lot of guilt. Sheesh. Let me be already.


A few fun facts about London. People are nuts. We immediately noticed the funky shoes and varied outfits of people all over the city. The women, for sure, but also the guys. The shoes, the scarves – there was color and wacky patterns and all kinds of combinations to behold. At first I thought “wow – REALLY? You’re wearing that?!” But then I slowly realized something. The British (and actually Europeans in general, since a good portion of folks in London aren’t British at all) have WAY more fun with fashion than we do. And why NOT? My tan slacks and black blazer felt really, really boring. And I started to crave wearing something daring and fun. Why NOT wear something that makes you smile? Whether it’s a ridiculously big ring, or a pair of gold pumps, or crazy shawl, or whatever. Life is short, and being nervous about wearing THAT thing that you love is just silly. So I’m going to make an effort to be a little more daring and fun this summer with what I wear.

Consider yourselves warned.

Monday, June 7, 2010

No Accent Yet

Ah, traveling. We actually had a great trip – though the overnight flight from the states to London is really surreal. Between the time change and lack of sleep and general change of environment, we were pretty whacked out Sunday. Our luggage didn’t make it, so we’ve been in the same clothes for a couple days. But we’re happy.

We are already pretty big fans of London. The people are wonderful and weird, and the city is eclectic and cool, the transportation is simple and we can walk all over. We shared a Sunday afternoon at the pub with some American friends who live here. One thing that is so odd – and different for me since I’ve more recently travelled to the Americas and Caribbean – is that we don’t stand out here. In the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Costa Rica, I was clearly foreign. Here, if I was able to fake a good accent, no one would know. It’s just something that feels so different, since going abroad more recently has meant being conspicuous.

I also was thinking about how much I love traveling in general. Figuring out new cities, investigating foods, talking to people who live here. But I’m also WAY out of the habit of traveling to new places. I was nervous Saturday packing, wondering if I was forgetting things, considering all the “what ifs” and things that could trip us up. But I should know better – I’ve traveled enough to know that things for the most part always work out, and are pretty easy. And yet being out of the habit, it wasn’t until I got here that I remember how simple – and how fun – it is.

All that said, I will be VERY glad to put on clean clothes once my luggage gets here. Cheers!

Friday, June 4, 2010

London Calling!

So for the next week, this blog might read a little more like a travelogue. David and I are headed to London – primarily for work but we’ll have some time to play. Its been years since I’ve been across the Atlantic, and also quite some time since I’ve been international at all. So I’m pretty stoked.

One of my favorite things about traveling is food and drink – getting into all the local stuff. So stay tuned for updates from small curry houses, pie shops, pubs, and more! I’m going to try to hit a Crossfit affiliate while I’m there to help compensate, but we’ll see what happens. Between meetings and exploring, I have no idea how much time I’ll have.

Wish us happy travels, and if you have favorite recommendations for the city let us know! We have a lot of friends and coworkers we’ll be with, but we’re open to anything you have to offer. Stay tuned for updates from the other side!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lucky 7

So I think there is often a misconception that there are these amazing marriages that work without fights, problems, issues, whatever. After 10 years with the same person, I know this is not true. It is WORK. We fight. We have gone several days not speaking. All that said, I wouldn't trade my marriage for anything. And it’s great when you read articles or books or whatever about marriage that are real, honest and something we can all relate to. Marriage is work, but its GOOD work, and for me has been totally worth the effort. It’s made me a better person, and its challenged me in ways I never expected.

This article is perhaps one of the best I’ve read about marriage. The author is a writer who basically put her own marriage under the microscope, resulting in some massive revelations and harsh moments as well. There were a lot of “me too!” moments in reading it. Studying and analyzing your marriage is, I think, really valuable. However, I think there is sometimes something to be said for rose colored glasses. Knowledge is power, but it’s also hard to realize how many imperfections something might have until you really begin to dig into it. As she puts it in the article, when you shake the bush some snakes might come slithering out. Indeed.

Despite the issues and tough moments, I appreciate my marriage for the patience it teaches me, for the person it’s made me grow into, for the challenges its presented, and for the effort it has required and rewarded. We just celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary, and the journey continues to astound. I’m sure the work will never end, but it’s worth it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Move Over Shaun White

So one thing I’m realizing is that when I’m moving forward with positive momentum, it’s reminiscent of downhill skiing. I’m flying down the cool white mountain and it feels awesome and amazing and powerful, but if I let my brain enter the equation and it has time to point out that I’m going insanely fast and if I fall I’ll probably break my leg, I’m screwed. I can’t listen. I can’t let that thinking interrupt my groove, or I’m a goner.

I wrote recently about cycles, and I went from a pretty low one to a kind of crazy high one rather quickly. I’d think I was bipolar except I’ve had confirmation I’m not from legit sources. ;-) But I do think that the ups and downs are not unique to me. What I do want to do is get a better handle on controlling them. And most importantly, figuring out how to hold onto the good flow that I get into at times like this. Can I cruise along without letting a bump, big or small, completely derail me? Or even partially derail me?

In the past I think I’ve been pretty cavalier about the joyful downhill ski runs. Enjoy the moment, let the wind flow over me and relish the speed until the inevitable end (be it via crash or hitting the end of the run). I’ve tried to push the logical thoughts aside – they didn’t have a place in that moment. But now I’m thinking that they do. I need to be conscious and thoughtful about the experience this time – and rather than just “go with the flow”, teach myself how to harness it. Because if I can turn on that kind of positive moment whenever I want – how amazing would THAT be?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now I've Done It

So if I haven't mentioned it, I'm in the process of writing a book. That's a weird thing to say. It actually sounds a little cliché and cheesy, reading it back. Oh well. It’s not done, and I have no guarantees that anyone will want to publish it - but I'm still writing a book.

To that end I've been taking on an online workshop geared at helping me with the process of getting this thing done. I have never taken an online course like this, and its definitely an exercise in dedication and focus. It is really, really easy to get distracted and not get assignments in on time. Its also weird to get feedback and not really be able to discuss it. The instructor reads my stuff, writes me feedback, and then we move on. The good news is that when I find myself wanting to argue or defend something I submitted, its not really an option. I have to just take what she says, decide what within it I want to use, and then move forward. Tough to do sometimes, but good to practice.

My goal right now is to have a draft of this thing ready to start submitting by the end of the year. I've realized that to do that, I'm going to have to seriously step up my devotion and the time I spend writing. And its pretty scary to lay down a goal like this. I've never written a whole entire book, worked through revisions and drafts, asked for readers - all that stuff. I know how to do it on paper (ha) but now I've committed (and said it out loud, and here for all to read) and its all about action. Exciting, yes. Scary, yes. The fear of failure is pretty real and intense, whether the failure is driven by me not completing it or no one wanting to publish it.

But I can only control what I can control - so I can finish it. I will finish it. And believing in that is a good place to start.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Confusion Runs Deep

So I’m listening to yet another book on tape, and this one is a Stephen Covey course, of sorts, on how to focus. Whether personally or professionally, the idea is that you want to make sure you’re focused on the right things – you want to spend your time and energy on those things. To do this, you need first to identify your values and make sure your priorities are clear.

Hmmm. So what are my values? Seems like a simple question. And yet I find myself struggling a little. I can’t tell if it’s because I don’t know what they are, or I don’t know what it will mean to define my actions around them, or because I’m worried that some of them will contradict each other. I think the latter used to be more the case, especially when I was younger (and oh so much more immature). I wanted to be healthy so I’d run, but then I’d totally go out and party like a rock star with friends (quality time spent building relationships?), followed by a day of horrible eating to take care of the hangover. Mostly I think I was just winging things – whatever felt good at the time. Which I think there is also come benefit to? Ugh. Figuring all this out is hard. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s good to spend all this time working on myself, or if I’m really just adding to the confusion in my head. Sheesh.

Quiet would be nice – some simplicity and quiet. It’s hard to sort out MY values when meanwhile I’m bombarded by messages telling me what my values ought to be. Be thin! But love who you are! Be an independent woman! But build a good home and put your family first! Exercise! But make sure it’s the right kind! Do what you want! But not THAT! Ack! It’s no wonder I’m so damn confused.

I guess that to figure out my values I’d do myself a favor to shut out some of the noise for awhile. I don’t want other people’s opinions on my list of values – it’s MY list. So go make your own.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Perfect "O"

I think a lot of us who are parents really have one primary goal: Not to screw up our kids. I mean, its not like they come with a manual or anything, and God knows I often have no idea what I'm doing as a parent. But at the end of the day if our son can just be a happy, good person, that works for me.

Anyway, someone once told me this story with regard to good parenting. There was a kid in elementary school, and every time he did his homework his handwriting was a mess. His parents kept telling him to do better, made him practice, and drilled him endlessly to no avail. Finally his parents came into school to see his teacher. His father held up a sheet of the kid's homework. "Look at what a mess this is!" The teacher looked at it thoughtfully, and then pointed to a single letter on the page. "That," he said pointedly, "is a perfect 'O'."

The point? We spent so much time focusing on what's wrong that its hard sometimes to make ourselves see what's right. I try to keep reminding myself of that story, especially when my son is being a crazy toddler who intentionally seems to be trying to make me nuts.

Beyond that - I think its important that we look for our own "perfect 'O'" too. Right now, most areas of my house are kind of a mess. The garage is a disaster, my office needs a complete cleaning, and the cabinets are a tragedy. BUT, I cleaned my clothes closet this weekend, and it looks awesome. That is my "perfect 'O'" right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So a Priest and a Rabbi Walk into a Bar.....

Its kind of amazing how much I learn from my kid. He's 5, and a constant source of fresh perspective and frank wisdom. Yesterday we were at the pediatrician. Max had to get 2 shots - never a fun thing to hear.

His response? He jumped up on the table and told me he'd distract himself by being silly. As the nurse stuck needles in his legs, he laid there telling her jokes.
"What's got 4 wheels and flies? A garbage truck!!!" Followed by ridiculous laughter. "Why couldn't the kid get into the pirate movie? It was rated ARGGHHH!" More giggles. The nurse was kind of floored. I think she's more used to tears and kicking. I was pretty amazed myself.

Lesson of the day? You have a choice in how you approach anything. And I for one hope that I can be awesome enough to tell jokes the next time someone needs to stick needles in my legs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where's My Pony?

We are funny creatures. We have the blueprints for so many things that we want. Want to lose weight? You know what to eat and what not to eat. Want to have muscles? You know how to exercise. Want a promotion? You know what you need to do. And yet - we don't do it. Or at least, I don't. Or I do for a period of time and then I totally slack off. Followed by a bitch session about why I'm not seeing whatever result I'm looking for.

WHY do we do this? I can't figure it out, honestly. I can't figure out if its laziness, self-sabotage, or if I just get tired and find comfort in things that don't mesh with the goal. Sometimes I'm cool with it - I tell myself life is short and that glass of wine and rich dinner is totally worth it. As are the 3 glasses of wine after. ;-) And then the breakfast tacos are necessary to recover from the wine. Well, you get my drift.

Anyway, then there are days when I straighten up, eat perfectly, do all the stuff I'm supposed to, and generally just kick ass. And that feels good. Its just hard to keep up all the time, I guess. But do I have to?

At the risk of sounding resigned, I really have no reason other than vanity to want to look like a supermodel in a bikini. I don't need to attract guys (I got one!), I'm happy, and I get to eat, which I think many supermodels can't do. ;-) In terms of exercise, I'm pretty fit, and get probably more exercise than the average American. Career-wise, I'm doing pretty good. I want success, but I don't want my career to be my whole life, and there are limits to what I'll sacrifice for it. I guess what I'm saying is that things are good. So I can probably stop beating myself up for not perfectly following the blueprints I have.

We hold ourselves to some crazy standards. I think, perhaps, its time that I reset mine a bit and aim mainly for just a smile, a good quality of life, and warm moments with friends and family. Really, there's not a whole lot more to need.

Except for maybe a pony.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Get Up, Stand Up

I always hated being tall. For me, it stems from Junior High – I shot up ahead of most other girls, just at the time when I was being picked on and bullied. I wanted to disappear, but nature forced me head and shoulders above. There’s probably a lesson in that, but whatever. Not my point.

I hunched and wore flats for years and years. Mom tried to get me to stand up straight. I wanted so badly to be petite and cute, like so many other girls I knew. Even my older sister was shorter and more petite than I was.

Then I went to Peace Corps. I showed up in the Dominican Republic with a suitcase of hiking boots and Birkenstocks, khakis and t-shirts. I had been a field archaeologist – I knew what was up when it came to roughing it in the third world. Another girl in my group, Kristi, showed up with a far different suitcase. Hers was full of cocktail dresses and heels, lacy underwear, dressy shirts, makeup. My first thought was that she didn’t have a clue.

Here’s the thing – when you go out at night in a city or even a small town in the Dominican Republic, you’re going out to dance. And you dress up. A LOT. Suddenly, I was the one without a clue. Kristi saved me. We were the exact same size, height, even had the same hair. She dressed me up, did my makeup, and got me ready to go. When she grabbed a pair of heels for me, I started to draw the line. No WAY. I didn’t wear heels in the states, much less in the DR, where most of the population is easily a head shorter than me! Kristi shook her head and thrust the heels at me as I complained about my height. “Own it. Love it. It’s who you are.”

Wise words indeed. That night Kristi and I headed out like the twin towers, cocktail dresses and heels and all. There was no way to ignore us – we were the tallest people on the street, not to mention the whitest. The attention was uncomfortable for me, but with Kristi by my side, head tall and completely comfortable with herself, I was able to relax. And across those 2 years we spent many a night out dancing together and each time, I felt more and more at ease. Plus, it’s actually easier to dance in heels than flats. Who knew?

So I left the Peace Corps with the first pair of heels I had ever owned, several cocktail dresses, and straighter shoulders, all because of a sweet girl from Georgia with a penchant for dressing up.

Thanks, Kristi. I owe you one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Ain’t The Autobahn

I’ve heard all my life phrases like “it’s the journey that counts and not the destination.” I’ve listened, and I thought I got it. But I think as I get older it’s one of those things that I keep understanding more.

I’ve often spent time looking forward to when certain goals are achieved. Buying a house. Having a kid. Hitting a certain salary. Being a certain weight. The thing is, none of these goals are end points. What’s the point of rushing through things just to get there? There’s never a place to stop, sit down and say – I’m done! I did it and now I can relax and do nothing. Also, I really suck at doing nothing. It’s too boring.

Thinking about that, I realize that I need to generally just slow the heck down. Life is busy and all, but I’m the one who’s been setting the pace. And while I have great friends, a great husband, an awesome kid…all these things take a level of work and attention. And it should be relaxed, thoughtful attention. Even the house stuff (like the infamous junk drawers) – why not try to actually enjoy the process of those things, of creating order from the chaos. (OK, I’m not sure how to enjoy the process of laundry yet, but let me know if you have ideas.) And definitely not last on the list, I also deserve time and attention. Things are busy, but spending time on me, whether that means exercising, taking a bath, writing – it’s all necessary to the care and feeding of myself. And as much as I beat myself up, I am worth it. ;-)

My garden is doing really, really well this year (and given my lack of a green thumb in the past, I secretly think my gardening grandmother who passed away last year is behind it!). Like all that other stuff, it’s not about the end, the harvest. It’s about the care and feeding of the plants, the cultivation and the process of tending to the garden. The harvest is the reward of all that work, but it’s not nearly the whole story.

So it’s time to put on the brakes and stop being so focused on getting somewhere. Time to enjoy where I am and move forward at a slower, more thoughtful pace. It’s probably wise to do so before I spin out and crash into a side rail.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Lies Beneath

So another book that I’m reading (yes, I read many books at the same time) is called Simple Abundance. It has a short piece written for each day of the year, mostly about living simply, pausing to appreciate things, etc. It’s kind of a nice, short peaceful read at the beginning or end of each day.

Anyway, the last couple days in the book have covered organization and caring for your home space. Specifically junk drawers. I felt all exposed reading it, as though this writer could see through the pages to the various drawers and closets in my house stuffed with stuff. All kinds of stuff. Honestly, some of those drawers haven’t been opened since we moved into the house two and a half years ago. And when I do look in and/or attempt to clean one of them out, I find myself pulling out various objects and thinking “oh, that’s cool!” or “that will be handy to have around”! Silly me. It will NOT ever come in handy. It will remain in that drawer to rot until I finally just THROW IT OUT. This is why we have Goodwill, people.

I respond well to organization. When I’m stressed or upset, my husband knows because he comes home to a whirling dervish of a wife, cleaning and clearing every surface and chair. He slowly backs away and retreats to his office until I have cleaned myself into calm.

But even with the surfaces clean, I know deep in my heart what lies beneath – the hidden places overflowing with junk. Two year old seed packets (I’m sure I’ll use them next year!), corks I was saving for a friend, batteries that might have some juice left, a card someone gave me, a broken can opener….and on and on. Even though this stuff isn’t in my face, it’s there – like the heartbeat under the floorboards in The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s pulsing and present and apt to drive me nuts.

So it’s time. Get out the trash bags and the donation boxes. I’m going in.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Call Me Esther Williams

So back to the book I’ve been (slowly) reading, called Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting (which apparently is very similar to The Secret, but I haven’t read the latter so I can’t vouch for that). Anyway, in the book, the author talks about how the Law of Attraction means that for positive change to occur in your life you need to shift gears to feel good, and put that good feeling energy out there. She’s really emphatic that you have to generally FEEL it, not just think good thoughts.

So I’m struggling here. Sounds great in theory, but how are you supposed to ignore something big, like say unemployment or the prospect of losing your house? She’s insistent though, that you have to stop thinking about whatever the IT is that is stressing you out, hard as that might be, and reach in to find things that make you actually feel, physically and emotionally, good and positive. Tough to do. She literally is suggesting that we put on rose-colored glasses, ignore the problems at hand and go all Grateful Dead, spinning around the lawn barefoot on a warm summer night feeling awesome.

Not that I've done that. Ahem.

Anyway, I experimented last night, trying to just play with my brain and see what kind of visualizations made me happy, relaxed, and joyful. There were some that are kind of expected. Watching my son sleep at night, sharing something special with my husband, etc. But one that surprised me was water. I love to swim, granted. I grew up on a lake, so swimming and swim teams were a constant in my life. Specifically though, I was thinking about playing in the water. Jumping as high as possible, doing as many underwater somersaults as you can, handstands – that kind of thing. And it made me really joyful and happy to think about. I love the sensations of the water, the physical effort, the way you have to move to get the water to work with you, and just the pure FUN of it.

It also struck me how rarely we allow those elements of play in our lives, now that we’re all mature older and such. I’ll go swim laps, but unless I’m playing with some kids (and yes, I have TOTALLY borrowed children for this express purpose) I won’t just PLAY. And given how much joy even the thought of it gives me, I should probably do it more.

I’m still having a hard time believing that simply thinking about (and feeling joy about) underwater somersaults will result in tons of good results in my life. But I guess I’ll never know unless I try, eh?

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Need a Weather Forecast for People

They say everything moves in cycles, and I know for a fact that I have some pretty clear cycles of my own, both good and bad. My husband is all too aware of them. Its weird - I have no idea what triggers the bad ones, but I'll go from feeling like I can take on the world to feeling like everything is going wrong. After whatever period of time, I get sick of the funk and give myself a good kick in the butt, shake it off and head back to it.

You can imagine what a joy I was while pregnant. My husband should probably be sainted. Lucky for him I only broke one door during those 9 months, during a short lived hormonal rage. True story.

Anyway, in thinking about these cycles I ended up thinking about hurricanes. Quite a perfect parallel actually. To form and sustain, hurricanes need:
1. Favorable conditions to form
2. A way to feed themselves and grow stronger

Also worth noting is that when an energy source is changed or removed, it can stop the cycle. On the flip side, one large system can trigger other cycles. I've watched a lot of hurricanes heading towards the Gulf, closely monitoring the news as they moved and changed. I was even in a Category 4 once (Hurricane Georges) in the Dominican Republic. The sheer power of being in a storm like that was incredibly humbling and left me feeling pretty powerless myself. The destruction it left in its wake was horrible.

Its kind of the same thing for us too, I think. We all have things that set us off, or that trigger us in a good way. Conditions are set up, the means for it to spiral is set, and it grows and expands, and lays either a path of destruction or a path of creation. I guess the thing to know is that with whatever kind of cycle we're in, it can be interrupted and changed - if we know how to do that. And with the bad cycles, I definitely want that power.

Mainly though, I want to get a handle on how to trigger, maintain and feed those good cycles. They're way more fun, and certainly cause less damage to my doors.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mrs. Yehaskel, Tear Down This Wall!

Its still weird to me that I'm a "Mrs.". And a mom, for that matter. I didn't even have to get a license for that one. But that's neither here nor there.

I'm super, super stubborn. It can be a great quality and it can also be a really dumb and negative one. Honestly, I don't know how some people in my life put up with me. When I'm feeling defensive (like, lets say for the last week or so) I have an amazing talent for putting up a huge wall, locking my arms across my chest and going into hyper-protective mode. I can do that for a long time. The intensity builds up and up until things just hit a breaking point. But once I start to let the wall crumble, it falls fast and everything is so much better. Resolution starts, and healing begins.

I honestly never know why I let things escalate and get that far. Its painful, unpleasant, and it can be stopped. I can stop it. But I don't. Its like I'm a total glutton for pain and tension and heartbreak. Sheesh. Why don't I just whack myself over the head with a club? Drive a nail through my arm?

The good news is that I'm recognizing what I do and the patterns I fall into. And in the iconic words of the GI Joe cartoons I grew up with, "knowing is half the battle." Indeed.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the knowing. I'll be 37 years old tomorrow (sorry, WHAT????) and I still feel like I don't have a clue most days. Maybe the beauty in aging is that each year I'm better at accepting that I don't know squat.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm Miserable, Thanks for Asking

I blogged before about how things that are scary and hard are good, that they are things to be sought after. Except this week, I've been in the midst of some seriously HARD crapola, and it did not feel good or like something I wanted to seek or deal with or anything. Frankly, it sucked.

Its not over yet, but here's something good that has come out of it so far.(And trust me, I'm still amazed that I managed to get to a place where I could see any good in anything this week.) I don't like to open up much. I like to give the impression of being calm and easygoing - I want to be someone that people admire and see as a generally happy person, not a miserable mess of a person. I don't like to bring my problems to people. But this week, I caved. I leaned, hard, on friends this week. I called people up and said I need to talk, badly. I asked for advice. I cried. While I didn't go into detail with people I'm not close to, I didn't fake it when they asked how I was. "I'm not great. Having a hard week."

It's tough to do that. But boy, fear quickly gave way to massive amounts of gratitude. Arms opened to me, literally and figuratively. I've felt supported and loved, and I've had some people call me out on things where I needed some perspective. I've cried. A lot.

I guess what I'm learning here is that opening yourself up is really tough and scary. Its hard to make yourself that vulnerable, not knowing how people will react. Back to the image of standing in the center of a medieval courtyard waiting for people to pelt you with rotting food.(Is it sad that I keep using that example to describe my life?) BUT, its also proved to be incredibly worthwhile, inspiring and helpful. And this week in particular, its just been really, really nice to feel loved.

Oh, and my mom started to read my blog. Hopefully she'll keep me even though she can now see what a freak unique person I am. (Edit made at mom's request.) Hi mom!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still Wishing for the Wisdom of Yoda

I'm probably pretty selfish. In fact, this whole blog is selfish. Talking about myself, my needs, my wants and my dreams. All about me. I have a need to fill my life with lots of rich experiences, and I get incalculable joy from small moments. I revel in things like hiking on a gorgeous day and stopping suddenly to breath deep some pungent mountain laurel that I stumbled across, or getting really, really dirty gardening or doing something outside and then having the best shower ever, thoroughly enjoying the clean aftermath with cozy clothes on and a glass of wine in hand. I need these experiential, sensual events, and I need to share them with people I love. The more often I can get them the better. And I want people to do them with.

Maybe that makes me selfish. I don't know. It can't be fair to expect people to enjoy what I enjoy or want what I want. But is it also fair to sacrifice those things myself? At what point is a person selfish, and at what point are they simply doing what's right for them so they can be happier and better for the people around them? At what point does sacrifice move from being a noble thing to something negative and damaging in the long-term?

I wish Yoda lived next door. He probably knows.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

Remember when you were little and would dream and fantasize about all the things you would do and have and be when you were older? Those dreams were exciting and full of hope and promise. Anything was possible. Now, I’m finding that dreaming is a lot scarier. If you give voice to dreams, let yourself want them, you’re opening yourself to the chance of them being denied, stomped on, broken, never achieved. That’s a lot to risk.
I’m reading all these books that tell me that one key to happiness is reigniting that ability to dream and want things – all kinds of things. They can range from wanting to have fancy houses and private jets to having a big, loud happy family, or just traveling the world. I want desperately to keep dreaming – I WANT to want things, set goals, and go for them. But there are some goals that I know I can’t have, or I can’t possibly figure out how in this universe they can happen. And that makes me sad.
I certainly haven’t given up. And I want to kick complacency straight in the crotch. If I settle, I will only resent it later. I have dreams, even if it will take me awhile to calm the fears and give voice to them.  As we’ve already established in this blog, I’m terrified all the time. In this moment, I’m terrified of opening up that Pandora’s box of dreams and wants, only to not be able to have them. But I’m more terrified of pushing my dreams out of the way and stuffing them in a closet.
Not sure what any of this means, really. But wish me luck while I figure it out. God knows I’ll need it.