Another Year Down…

Another year has passed, and I’m getting closer and closer to gray hair.  I enjoy living in denial of aging, but the occasional gray hair has kept me real.  Well, real until I hank that fucker out.  Then I’m 25 again!

Truthfully, I’d like to subscribe to John Oliver’s opinions to New Years Eve, but I always seem to find myself resolving to make some changes in the coming year.  I only have two this year, which go completely against my belief that resolutions should be specific and able to be checked off a list.

First, I want to live an extraordinary life.  Something beyond existing, which is the realm I believe most of us live in, and move into thriving, growing, kicking ass, etc.  For me, extraordinary living is something you experience, not something that is admired by others. I’ve recently been reading Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness while waiting in the pick-up line at Cecilia’s school.  In a nutshell, he talks about focusing on the good by bringing it to the forefront of the mind and staying with those thoughts/emotions until it makes some good neural memories.  That activity helps your brain stay in a positive happy place versus focusing on the negative or things that need to be changed.  It’s a pretty awesome book, and I highly recommend it.

Secondly, I want to improve my sleep.  As I’ve mentioned time and time again, my sleep is FUBAR , and I’m going to take some of the tools I already have, increase my knowledge, and seek help to make things better.  I’m not ignorant enough to make a crazy lofty goal like, “Fix my sleep problems,” because that’s destined to fail.  Just make things better.  In fact, I’ve already started.  For three nights in a row, I have made it to the bed by 10:30, and from there, I have read a real book (see Hardwiring Happiness above), and avoided screens (like my phone) for at least 30 minutes before I planned to fall asleep.  I’ve also aimed to not eat in the middle of the night, write down the times that I’ve woken up, and wake up at 6:30am every day.  I’ve failed at those last three tasks, but I’m rejoicing in my current accomplishments.  Going to bed before midnight takes a lot of willpower.  I have a crappy relationship to sleep and giving into it early (instead of watching tv and browsing Reddit) is hard.  Also, I started reading The Promise of Sleep by William C Dement. Well, technique I’m listening to it because I downloaded the audiobook from the library. I haven’t made it very far into the book since Cecilia is with me in the car most trips during her holiday break, but it’s moving in the right direction.

Two goals.  Two vague goals.   And I already started on the wrong foot - but it’s not my fault.

Last night, I went to bed early.  New Year’s Eve be damned - this girl wants to improve her sleep.  But I was foiled by my redneck neighbors at midnight because the m-f’ers set off fireworks, a shit ton of fireworks, that woke me up and freaked out the dogs.  This resulted in two hours of awake time and my first thoughts of the new year to be rather unkind wishes for said neighbors.  Of course, I slept two hours past my alarm because I was in no mood for getting up.  Awesome sauce. (As in awesomely bad.)

But there’s always a silver lining since I got to tweet about it later.  

Regardless to the start, this year is going to kick ass.  Here’s to an awesome 2015 (and to not finding anymore gray hairs).  

Get Raw Project

In a recent conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I take medication for anxiety and depression.  My friend was floored.  She always thought I was zen and never bothered by anything.  This new revelation changed her mental picture of me and who I was, and, in a way, I think it helped her feel a bit better about herself.  Like most folks, she compares herself to others, and due to some self esteem issues, she feels that she falls a bit short.

But that got me to thinking.  People often have misconceptions of other people.  They hold them in high regard or complete disregard without knowing the true pictures.  It’s easy to forget that all the thoughts and emotions that swirl in your own head also swirl around in the head of every person you encounter throughout your day.  Yes, even the lady working the DMV or the barista at the coffee shop has thoughts and feelings while they renew your tags or make your coffee.   Unless they are very good at meditating on their jobs, but I doubt that’s the case considering how difficult it is to meditation while alone in a quiet room.

I decided I wanted to start a project.  One that allows me to get raw, share my feelings, let people know who I am.  Hopefully, I will inspire someone else to do the same.  It may not be in a blog, but it might be in an every day life situation.  So I’m setting my timer for ten minutes.  I’m allowing myself to make grammatical mistakes, and I’m going to write about me.

I figure my anxiety is the best place to start.  I think my anxiety stems from my struggle with perfectionism.  As a child, I really had a hard time with making mistakes.  For me, making a mistake shows a weakness - something someone can tease you about - and I REALLY hate feeling vulnerable to teasing.  Thankfully, I’ve overcome a lot of that need for perfection.  Some has come with time.  Some with experience.  Some with spending time with my mother-in-law (who has no fear of making a mistake).  But the anxiety I haven’t kicked.  A lot of it involves being late.  I loathe being late.  I like to be early, freakishly early, because it allows me to avoid that panicky rushed feeling.

Another thing that sets of my anxiety is excess noises.  Ticking sounds. Tapping of Fingers. Dogs barking excessively.  Kids making obnoxious persistent sounds.  That pretty much sums out the sounds of my house, right? I’m probably a noise pollution tyrant.  I try really hard, but Chris’s constant drumming along with the song stuck in his head can drive me bananas.

Once I get annoyed with those types of things, it gets really internalized.  I don’t know how other people feel when they’re anxious, but I can feel it from my brain to my chest.  I get worked up in the cyclone, and it’s hard to stop it.  It’s not a thought, it’s a feeling.  It’s not just a distraction.  It takes over my body, and it sucks.

Thankfully, with the help of medication,  I only get that way around my period.  There are other times, but it’s not bad.  I’ve wondered if I would be okay without medication, but I’m not sure I’m afraid that will turn my family into cannon fodder.  Let’s just not go there.   

A Warning

I get raped every day, or at least it feels like it. At least once a day, I see a man staring at me with a lecherous look on his face.  Before you think I’m conceited, let me explain.

I know I’m an attractive.  I don’t think I’m gorgeous or God’s gift to men.  But I do workout to maintain a trim figure and make an effort to wear clothes that flatter me.  The thing is that I do this for me. Looking nice (not slutty) is a confidence booster.  Please don’t misunderstand me. I know all guys look at women.  My husband, my dad, my friends. Whether they’ll admit it or not, they do.  And honestly, I don’t care as long as it’s done discreetly.  If I catch you, divert your eyes and pretend you were just looking around.  That’s cool. Women do it to other women and pretend that we don’t.

My problem is the perverted assholes.  The one that stared at me HARD in his side mirror and licked his lips today while stopped at a red light.  (And I had a male passenger in the front seat.) Or the guy that hung out of his Jeep as he drove past me while I was running with my 50lb dog.  And the guy who tried to film me walking by when I was on my first date with Chris. (Chris noticed too, yelled at them, and flicked his cigarette towards them.)  Those guys are assholes.  They make me feel uncomfortable and violated. How exactly do they expect me to respond? What confident woman would want that attention or the person giving it?

I recently decided I was going to start fighting back.  Chris asked me what the point was, and I told him that I wanted my power back because those men make me feel powerless.  Then it hit me – just like rape, this is about power.  Please don’t be offended – I know rape is a million times worse and a horrific, traumatizing experience. When these perverts look at me, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel angry, powerless, and violated. But be warned, I will acknowledge what you are doing, yell at you, flip you off, make revolted faces at you in response.  Maybe you’ll get a rise out of that, but I don’t care. It’s not about you anymore; it’s about me. If I feel like I’m in charge of myself, that’s all that matters.

Tofu for Two

A couple years ago I spent a couple months on a pescetarian diet.  Inspired by my yoga training, it was an interesting experiment to see if I could eventually transition to a vegetarian diet.  It was hard, and I gave in a couple times along the way (pulled pork - who can resist?).  Eventually I knew my body wanted MEAT or, at the least, more protein.  Plus I was really struggling to balance eating only fish and feeding a family who was not.

Despite my failed attempt to clean up my carnivore diet, I did learn something along the way - a little bit of self-deprivation is good for the soul.  Denying myself delicious things taught me a lot about my mind-body connection.  It felt empowering to be in control.  It was a truly spiritual connection.  In fact, self denial is a reoccurring them throughout many religions.  Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the desert fasting (and then tempted by Satan).   The Buddha fasted for 49 days during his quest for enlightenment.  In Judaism, Yom Kippur is used as a day of fasting and meditation.  Considered one of the most holy days of the year, it’s a day for prayer and penance.  By removing food, you remove distraction and are forced to focus deeper on your spiritual pursuits.

It sounds like I’m going to fast, huh? Well, I’m not.  I find it an amazing and noble cause, but it’s not for me - at least not this stage in the game.  But, what I am going to do, is try to cut out meat again.  This time, however, I’ve got Chris on board.   First we’re going to eat down our supply of meat in the deep freezer, which shouldn’t take too long, and try our best to make vegetarian choices at lunch.  It won’t be easy, especially since we eat out most weekday lunches, but should be a good challenge for our will power.  I’m looking forward to feeling both powerful and frustrated at the same time.  Here’s hoping!

With that said - anyone have any good tofu recipes?

Projections

I realize it’s been way too long since I last posted to even call myself a blogger.  To be honest, it’s not a title a really attribute to myself anymore.  My life has become extremely full, and my blog has been left behind in order to follow other passions and connections.  It’s actually a really good sign, in a way, because it shows that I’m making connections with people in person and finding myself somewhere besides the vast, empty internet.  With that said, don’t be concerned when I do get around to posting.  It’s not a litmus test for my emotional and social health (hopefully) as much as me taking a moment to share some thoughts that are swirling in my head.

One of the things that is currently taking some of my energies is yoga.  I’m in the process of obtaining my Registered Yoga Teacher - 200 hour (RYT-200) certification.  I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the certification.  I’ve done a little teaching already, and technically I can teach now.  However, I’m not sure if I want to.  I’m just enjoying the courses and growing my knowledge.  I feel like I fell into this program and that I’m just suppose to be doing it.  I’ll see where the journey takes me, and even if it doesn’t take me anywhere, I’m really loving the ride.

Hopefully, just with that little paragraph, you can see that my yoga training has changed my thought processes a bit.  I’m sure I’ll delve deeper into that another day, but for this post, I want to talk about projections.   In my last class, we talked about how we are all projections of God and how this is a commonality in all religion.  The Bible even says in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” For most of my life, I interpreted to this to a literal meaning - I physically look like God, but I now realize that perception is much to superficial.  My physical body is earthly.  It’s is my soul that is unearthly. Dare I even say divine?  My soul was created by God in his own image.  Or rather, my soul is a projection of God.

I know - it’s heavy.  Take a second to process it.  Or, if you think I’m swimming in heathen waters, take a second to pray for me.

Back to the divine soul.  God created these amazing souls and entrusted them to us.  He also gave us some pretty basic instructions - love.  Love everyone.  Love all the time.  And if you really think about it, the root of a joyful, fulfilling life is love.  In love, we find gratitude.  In love, we find acceptance.  In love, we find peace.  In love, we find fulfillment and contentment.

These thoughts have forced me to focus on my own projections.  If my soul is a projection of God, is my life a projection of my soul?  We have the ability to lift up and give love to folks so easily.  Kindness to a cashier.  Willingness to let another driver into the line of backed up cars.  Donations of goods and time to those in need.  Gratitude for those who serve you.  But also, just as importantly, we have the ability to not bring someone down.  We can choose to not react and not take offense.  We can approach others’ digressions with an open heart and know that there will be a coming day that we will be the transgressor.

Of course, my saying of these things hardly makes me an expert.  I struggle.  I get flustered, especially on school mornings, and snip at my husband and child.  I get annoyed.  I get angry.  And that’s with taking anti-anxiety medicine every day.  However, I’m trying to be mindful.  I try to ask myself if my words or actions will bring someone down.  I try to focus on the good things and ignore the bad.  I try to just say, “Thank you,” when receiving a compliment instead of undoing it by downplaying or contradicting the giver’s kind words.  I want my life, my words, and my actions to be a projection of my soul.  I want my energy to be a loving energy.  I want to feed the fire of another spirit, not dampen it.

My challenge for you is to take a moment to reflect on your projections.  Does your praise always come with a criticism?  Do you spend more time wanting and not enough time being grateful?  Do your words project a loving energy or a negative energy?

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Resolutions ‘11

As this blog has documented, I’ve gotten really, really bad at following through on resolutions.  This year, my list is mostly a to-do, like reduce clutter, get a financial planner, etc.  The only true “resolution” is to give up diet soda.

My relationship to diet soda is a lot like a smokers relationship to cigarettes.  Well, maybe it’s not that deadly, but it’s that strong and addictive. I really struggle with this one. I’ve got two dietitian friends, and one firmly believes that all soda, even diet soda, is bad for you.  (The other is as equally addicted to Coke Zero as I am.)  However, I’ve been trying to eliminate processed foods from my families diet and replacing it with healthier options, and it doesn’t take a nutrition degree to realize diet soda is the ultimate processed food.  I mean, there’s nothing natural about that stuff.  It’s made of chemicals - delicious chemicals - but chemicals just the same.

Many, many years ago, I gave up caffeine, and since I don’t like Diet Sprite or 7up, I consumed very little soda.  I felt better physically than I had ever felt, and I was also the smallest that I’ve ever been.  At this stage in my life, giving up caffeine isn’t an option I’m willing to explore. I love my morning cup of coffee (albeit 3/4 decaff), and I enjoy drinking unsweet tea while dining out. There are women who can live with a toddler and live without caffeine.  I am not one of those women.

I know it’s only been four days, but it’s been hard.  I get Coke Zero cravings several times a day.  The coolers at the registers at the grocery store call to me.  I’ve been trying to replace my soda with water, but let’s face it - water sucks.  I told Chris that I would try it for three months and see if I feel better, but I think the reality is that I have to take it day by day and hope that three months come quickly.

Lessons from my Toes

When I’m stressed, I pick at my toes.  I scratch off my polish.  I tear at my nails.  I just beat them up.  And lately, I’ve been pretty stressed so my poor little phalanges look pretty rough.  For the most part, I don’t really think about it, especially in wintertime when I’m constantly wearing socks.  That’s until I go to yoga class.  Then I find myself getting embarrassed.

I’ve been going to the same classes for over a year now.  I’ve developed several friendships there.  I’m not sure if they ever notice my toes, but I really notice them there, especially during all the forward folds when my feet are literally in front of my face.  Today was incredibly embarrassing as we were working on proper form and alignment.  Our instructor, who’s also a friend, was checking out our foot placement and correcting us when necessary.  I found myself completely distracted by my ugly feet.

But then during a seated twist, she told the class something that she says often, “You are where you are.”  She was telling folks to not push further into a stretch and to be mindful of where their limitations are.  After all, you can really injure yourself when you try to force your body into something it’s not ready for.  But that got me thinking - I’m surrounded by people who love me.  My toes look this way because I’m stressed.  I am where I am.  If I pretend that I’m not stressed is to force myself into a place that I’m not.  I would be hiding my true self.  To expose your flaws and weakness is to be open, and when you are open, you able to receive and give more love.  I am where I am. I will be okay with that.

Learning Every Day

As I stated previous, Cecilia is very TWO, and the last few months have been challenging.  It seems like every minute she’s trying to explore her world and test boundaries.  It occurred to me the other day that this is when the real parenting begins.  I’m not saying that parents of infants aren’t real parents, but rather, they aren’t quite “parenting”.  With babies, the main goal is to keep them alive and thriving - take care of their needs by nurturing their bodies.  But when they become toddlers, especially older toddlers, you have to start nurturing their souls, and that’s when it gets really hard (at least in my opinion).  Mending a little body is much easier than mending a little soul.

I’ve found this responsibility to be overwhelming at times.  It’s very tricky to find the right balance of discipline and openness that creates both a structured and empowering environment.  How do you control and correct a two year old’s behavior without risking harm to their fiery spirit?  How do you build their self-confidence while teaching them to value others?    How do create an environment that is loving and open while still maintaining individuality and space?  It’s all so new and different from the baby years.  Yes, those were hard, especially when I couldn’t figure out why my small child was crying, but I think these years are harder and more long lasting.  At least I’ve finally shaken that “new parent anxiety”.

One thing I’ve been trying to do is assign Cecilia tasks without making them commands.  (The commands weren’t working!)  So instead of saying, “Find your shoes,” I’ll say, “Will you help me get ready? What shoes do you want to wear?”  Cecilia loves to be part of whatever I’m doing, and she loves choices.  Does it always work? Nope.  Does it usually work? Nope.  But even if it has the same results as just saying “Find your shoes,”  it still fosters a more independent and loving environment, and it’s just as easy to say.

We’ve tried giving Cecilia some independence when it comes to her clothing.  Some days we let her choose between two options, but if we have more time (a lot more time), we let her have mostly free reign on her wardrobe (no jammies to school, which gets requested often).  Today Cecilia asked to wear her Wiggles shirt from the Wiggles concert that she saw with her grandparents.  I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite shirt.  It’s a bit androgynous, and I like to put my cute girl in cute girly clothing.  But, eh, it’s just a shirt.  When it was nearly time to leave for school, I asked her to go find some socks while I put on my shoes.  She was gone for quite a while so I figured she got distracted, but when I found her, she was sitting in front of her sock draw and exclaimed “I got socks!”  Well, almost, kiddo.  She actually put on leg warmers.  You know what? I let her wear them.  It won’t hurt sending her to school with leg warmers over her pants and taking them off might hurt her self-esteem.  I did, however, put some socks on her too.

independence

27 months wiggles shirt

2010 Resolution, Part Oops

Well, I guess my monthly approach failed like most folks’ year-long resolution approach.  Life has gotten a little hectic around here, and I’ve forgotten to make myself a priority.  I still found time to veg out on tv while stalking my friends on Facebook, but I didn’t blog or work out.

However, I haven’t forgotten about my resolution to quit shopping so much.  In fact, I did a little reading on overshopping.  In my research, I figured out that I’m not an overshopper, or at least I’m not addicted to overshopping.  I definitely use it as a band aid for boredom, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy.  All those things have the potential to become an addiction, but I don’t think I’m there yet.  I’m going to resolve to be more mindful of my attitudes and feelings while I’m shopping, but I don’t think it’s 12-step program worthy.

Over the next few months, I’m going to focus on approaching my life with an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude.  I’ve been blessed with so much, and my life would be much fuller if I find a way to be mindful of this.  I don’t need to add anything to it.  I need to spend my time giving thanks and not by spending time wanting.

In The Happyness Project, Rubin tells how she transformed time spent on mundane tasks, like waiting for the bus, into time spent on gratitude mediation.   I’m going to try this while I’m lying with Cecilia in bed trying to get her to sleep at night or naptime.  I’m also going to express more gratitude towards friends and family members.  I don’t do this enough even though I feel it.  I’m pretty sure it will only strengthen the already strong bonds.  I’m also going to try to project a positive attitude.  This is an area I struggle with.  My default is to be sarcastic and critical.  That doesn’t reflect the happiness and gratitude that I feel.  It’s going to be hard, much harder than cutting back on my shopping, but it’s something I need to do.

I’d love to hear any advice that you guys have to offer.  How do you give thanks? Do you have a grateful heart? What’s your secret?

Sh*t

I admit it. I made a mistake.  I was waffling back and forth.  “Should it stay?” “Should it go?” And I let myself down.  I knew better.  I think my March 1st tweet says it all:

The stray cat that I’d been feeding had kittens in my mudroom last night. Shiiiiit!

It’s totally my fault.  I should have paid to get her fixed or taken her to the pound.  It’s just that it costs so much for a procedure for a cat that isn’t mine.  But I’m the one who’s fed her all these months and opened up my mudroom as shelter from the cold nights.   Alas, she is my cat, and I should have done better.  Damn.  Now I either need to find homes for four adorable kittens and get the cat fixed or take her to the pound.

Bob Barker raised me better.

065

“It didn’t have to be this way.”

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“I wish I could go to prom with my friends…”