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!