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.