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Archive for September, 2008

Happy Tuesday, everybody!  And Happy Week 39 to all the HYC-ers out there.  Hope it’s a great one.

Haven’t talked much about weight loss or even fitness in a while, so I thought I should probably post a quick update since this IS check-in day.  I’m doing fairly well, actually.  I haven’t lost anything that I know of…I’m not weighing, except on the WiiFit, and that’s at a different time every night, so it’s hard to gauge accuracy. (But based on that, I haven’t lost.)  I started this morning with a new routine, though; I’m going down first thing in the morning to do my Body Test, so I’ll get an early morning weigh-in and it should be more consistent.  So I’ll know eventually if I’m losing.

I’ve been doing the WiiFit pretty regularly – I’ve only missed a couple of days – and I’ve been adding additional cardio and a little additional strength with varying levels of consistency.  That is going to be the part I work on for the next couple of weeks – consistency.  I’ve been doing all right with the food and all right with the exercise – but it’s not consistent.  It’s sort of all over the place.  So while I feel I have been doing well with being healthy, it’s not a weight-loss track.  It’s more of a maintenance track.  So I’m ready to start buckling down and exercising a little more control.  And now that my stress levels have decreased considerably, I should be able to do that.

For me, control is a double-edged sword – I am more than moderately obsessive-compulsive, and I tend to try to overcontrol the entire world.  But when I work on letting go, I go to the extreme and let go of everything.  So for now, I’m thinking in terms of balance (my personal watchword to live by!).  I am going to work on letting go of things I can’t or shouldn’t control, and staying in control of the things I can and should – like my eating and my exercise.

My first step has been to start getting up early and doing my Body Test and 30 minutes of yoga first thing in the morning – I started with that today.  That is my new morning routine.  Yeah, I will lose a little sleep.  But I know from experience that if I am eating right and exercising consistently, I will need less sleep, so it balances out.

My next step is going to be to set a regular rotation for my evening exercise.  I need to balance a few things:  the WiiFit, which I really do love; extended cardio, which I really need to add, and usually is either a long (one to one and a half hours) walk with B. or an hour-long session on the treadmill.  I’d like to rotate so I can do both, because I get very real and very different benefits from both – and I really like having time to hang out and talk with B.  So I need to get that on a sort of schedule.  And then I need to add in some more intense strength training, because while the WiiFit does offer some kickin’ strength exercises, there are some gaps that I want to fill, like more intense arm and ab work.  So I’m going to sit down with a list of things and build myself a routine.  I’m actually pretty excited about that.

Another step, which will come pretty much in conjunction with the new exercise routine, is getting meal plans put together.  I’ve been playing fast and loose for too long and I need to get back to basics.  That means putting together menus for myself for at least a few weeks, to get myself back into the habit of planning and executing.  This comes at just the right time, because it’s time for me to do my monthly grocery-shopping, so I’d be doing menus for the family anyway.  So I plan to work on that tonight.

I am, however, trying not to let my enthusiasm run away with me.  I tend to jump too far, too fast, and too hard when I make a decision, and then I can burn out easily.  So I’m aiming for slow and steady – not trying to do everything all at once.  Pre-planning helps me do that – get all the pieces in place without killing myself trying to implement them all.  I’m not pushing my body too hard, and I’m building in rest days.  And the meal plans will be a ton of work at the front end, but they will allow me to go totally on auto-pilot as far as eating for the rest of the month – I won’t have to think about anything, because it will already be decided.

I’d like to start food-journaling, but I know from experience that’s one too many pieces to add at the same time.  I may start that next month, particularly if I feel I am still struggling to keep things in line.

My goal for the moment is to be feeling really good about myself by the end of the year.  We have tentative plans to take a fairly major vacation then (I won’t say more as ED might be reading and it’s supposed to be a surprise) and I want to be in a good place mentally and physically if that happens.  I’m not setting a numerical goal, because the numbers really aren’t what I’m after.  They are going to be a good way of measuring progress, but it’s the feeling I’m after.

And lastly…I am so over-the-moon excited about this.  I knew it was coming some time ago, because as a member of Jillian’s online program I got emails about it.  What I didn’t know was that it would utilize the WiiFit balance board (not required, despite what you may read on techie sites that should know better and do a little more thorough research, but it does allow you to use the game more fully).  This is exciting to me because honestly, at some point, I will have gotten all the benefit I’m going to get from the WiiFit.  With this, I will still be making use of the equipment, plus I get back to working out with my very favorite celebrity trainer of all time.  🙂  I mean, how much more exciting could that possibly be?  [Also, it comes out October 24, so that gives me added incentive to get off my butt and get myself back into fighting trim by then, because I know from experience that if it’s a Jillian workout, it’s going to kick my butt.]

Okay, I realize not everyone will share my excitement about this.  But that’s all right, I’ll be excited for you.  Heh.

So that’s where I am with regard to living healthy.  And now I’m off to get some work done.  Have a wonderful day, and a wonderful week!

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Two Steps Forward…

Happy Monday, everybody. I mean, it can be happy even though it’s Monday, right?

I have to say it was a long weekend, and probably the best way to define it was “up and down”. I won’t go into details but it wasn’t quite the wonderful weekend I’d hoped for…and I’m sort of glad it’s over. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all about the lessons, and when it’s hard that means it’s time to pay attention, because there’s something big there to be learned.

Sometimes I get very frustrated with life. I feel like I’ve made so much progress toward being mindful and aware and centered and happy, and then I find myself slipping back into old thought patterns and mental behaviors, and I feel that I haven’t made any progress at all. And that feeling starts its own negative cycle…and this weekend, I struggled with that cycle a lot.

But I’m very blessed. I have some amazing people in my life who excel at reminding me – generally without even knowing they’re doing it – that I have so much to be thankful for, and that it’s all about the journey. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about working toward perfection, and making at least a little progress. As my friend B. pointed out last night, “If you get to perfect, you’re probably dead.” Which made me laugh but also resonated enormously.

Life – as a journey toward wisdom and peace – is a journey. It’s a process, not an event. It’s ongoing, and although I’d love to be already perfect and get to just coast through the next however-many years, that’s not really the purpose or the point. My life is about learning and growing, not about coasting and floating. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

And sometimes, like now, I also need to be reminded that the ability to steer and direct that journey is not always mine. I think the lesson I’m working on right now is about control – or rather, about relinquishing control, and not trying to make everything in my world fit where I think it needs to. Not trying to fix everything that I don’t like, that hurts me or bothers me or makes things more difficult. Sometimes, my job won’t be to take care of everything and fix everyone…it will just be to accept that there are some things that I can’t change, that the people around me are who they are and that is okay, and to accept and love them as they are.

For example: my children just honestly don’t like each other much. Right now, I need to learn and accept that I cannot change that. All I can do is model proper behavior, establish and enforce rules about how we treat one another, and do what I can to keep their battles from poisoning the atmosphere in the household. Beyond that, it’s their relationship, their battle, and I can’t control or fix it.

That’s easier said than done, when you realize that I’m all about trying to fix and control everything. So…that’s my battle. And while it’s frustrating to realize that I haven’t made the progress I thought I’d made, I also realize that I’m not actually right back where I was 10 or 15 years ago. I have made progress. Okay, so I’m not there yet. But that’s okay. I’m moving forward. Two steps forward, one step back – that’s still moving ahead. Maybe not at lightning speed, but you’re moving.

So I’m going to choose to look at this situation as a sort of “progress check”. I’ve been given a little pop quiz, and I didn’t do all that well on it. Okay. So…as I pointed out to ED a few days ago, the purpose of testing is not to make you look stupid if you don’t do well; it’s to figure out where you’ve got a handle on things, and where you still need work. So I know some areas where I still need work, and I’ll keep working on them.

And I will spend a great deal of time being overwhelmingly grateful for the people in my life – like B., DH, Chris, and the ever-insightful MizFit, among others – who help me to gain the insights I need to progress on the journey. As I may have mentioned – I am blessed.

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Let Me Take You There…

I want to tell you about this amazing place.

It’s a gym – sort of.  Only, not really.  I mean, you go there to work out, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s really a place where you go to transform your life, whether it’s because you’re overweight, because you’re out of shape, because you’re tired all the time, because you are sick of taking care of the whole world and no one taking care of you…whatever your issue.  It’s a place to take back your life, your health, and your self-love.  It’s about the Total You.

When you go the first time, you meet with a coach who asks you all these different questions about your lifestyle and about what you like.  She’ll ask you about how you eat, and how you like to eat; about how you exercise or don’t exercise.  That’s not all that unusual.  But she’ll also ask you a bunch of other stuff about what you like to do, how you spend your time, and what your life is like.  Like…do you have a family?  How much of your time is spent caring for them?  How do they react when you take time for yourself?  More importantly, how do you think they will react when you take time for yourself?

If you are there to lose weight, she’ll talk to you about the reasons you feel you are overweight.  She’ll discuss with you the obstacles you perceive in your weight loss path.  She’ll ask you some questions to find out how much you know about nutrition and fitness.  Depending on your reason for being there, you’ll have a whole different set of questions – or you might get the whole gamut, if you’re not really sure what your reason is.  Either way, you get to spend a whole hour or so just talking about you – and your level of comfort or discomfort with that procedure will be a piece of the puzzle.  But you won’t be judged for it.  You’ll never be judged at this place.

You’ll be weighed – but only if you want to be – and/or measured.  Your coach will discuss your body type with you (“discuss” meaning you will talk too, because there are always going to be things you know about your body that no professional can tell you), and why you shouldn’t rely on the scale, the measuring tape, or your BMI to tell you if you’re healthy.  You’ll learn about the waist-to-hip ratio, and why that’s not necessarily the answer either.  You’ll talk about how you feel in your body, about what your personal goals are.  Do you want to lose weight, or do you just want to be healthy? Because they’re not the same thing.  Are you trying to get off your maintenance meds?  Are you tired of being tired all the time?  Do you want to get in shape so you can keep up with your kids?  Do you want to get in marathon-running shape?  Or are you just looking for an improvement in your appearance?  That’s fine, too – there’s no shame in that, and there’s no “right” reason to make this change – at least not at this place.  But it is important to know why you’re making a change, because that will tell you what you need to do, and that’s how you’ll know if it’s succeeding.  If you really are all about the numbers on the scale, no one’s going to judge you for that either.  You can sign up for the regular weigh-ins and/or measurings, and they’ll be totally cool with that.  Most people, in fact, will probably opt for this.

You’ll get an overview of everything the place offers, from classes to personal training sessions to design-your-own routines.  You’ll get a complete tour of the place, which has several separate rooms.  One of them is a little room with nothing in it but a climbing wall and a huge billboard with pictures all over it.  You’ll eye that for a little while, wondering, and eventually you’ll ask.  Your coach will smile and explain that the wall is a rite of passage.  See, this place has a pretty specific target clientele.  When most of them come in, they could no more climb that wall than they could fly.  But eventually, they all climb it.  And when they do, their picture goes up on the board (if they want it to.  You always have options here.)  You can practice on the wall any time you want, and when you’re ready, you let your coach know and she watches you make that transition from want-er to do-er. There’s a similar board in the cardio room, for when you reach cardio goals like, say, walking 5 miles or running one.  There’s another board in the strength room.  You pick the goals…and you don’t have to pick any of them.  But if you do, the board is there, and you can triumphantly add your picture to it.

That’s really what this place is all about.  It’s all about making the decision to stop wanting something different, and start being something different. You get as little or as much help and coaching as you want.  If you’re in pretty good shape and just want a place that’s a little different to go and hang and work out, that’s cool, and you’re still part of the family even if you have no goals and just wander in aimlessly every week or so. (I’m thinking of the already-fit here, because we need some of you there to show us what we’re shooting for.  Just, you know, be encouraging, not smug.)   But if you’re someone who’s struggled for years and never managed to make a real change, but you’re determined not to live that way anymore…this place is perfect for you.

They offer classes – everything from Zoomba to yoga to Pilates to meditation and relaxation.  There is a child care facility where kids are actively engaged with games, activities, and close supervision – but it also has a reading room if they just want to study, do homework, or read a book.  There are workshops and classes offered weekly about nutrition, body image, alternative health techniques, women’s health issues, various fitness options, and even things like mommy guilt.  Guest speakers come in about once a month to talk about these things and a lot of others. There’s a library full of volumes about nutrition, fitness, general wellness, self-awareness, and every other health or wellness subject you could possibly imagine – and really comfortable chairs and sofas on which to read.  There’s a website where you can food-journal and log outside exercise, and connect with your coach if you’re out of town or can’t get in for some reason.  There are several personal trainers/life coaches on staff, and you choose one through a questionnaire and interview process to be sure you have the right match, both in personality and in training style.  There’s a wide range of equipment and there’s always someone there ready and willing to show you how to use it.  The hours are amazing – something like 5 a.m. to midnight – and the parking lot is well-lit and monitored by closed-circuit camera.  There is a security guard always on duty to walk you to your car, if you want, whether it’s midnight or 10 a.m.

There’s a pool, and no one takes swim lessons at it.  You can’t take your kids there, which sort of sucks, but hey, you’re not wading through anyone else’s kids when you want to swim laps, either.  You can take water aerobics, or you can swim laps, or you can just go and float around aimlessly and relax after your workout. It’s divided, so no one swims over you while you’re floating around.

There is no scale in the locker room.  None.  The only scale in the place is in the coaches’ office area, where you go for your regular weigh-in if you’ve chosen that option.

There are some things that are verboten at this place.  For instance, it is grounds for immediate dismissal if any staff member ever says to you, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!” or “Feel the burn!”.  You will almost certainly get a stern look, and probably a talking-to, if you are overheard saying, “God, I’m so fat,” or “I’m never going to (get thin, look better, feel better, be able to do this exercise – insert your choice of negative self-talk).”  Of course, you might just get a hug instead.  It depends – this is one of the areas where your choice of trainer/coach is pretty important.  Do you need the talking to?  Or just the hug?  (NOT what makes things “easier” for you, but what gets you out of that self-decimating place in your head.)

One thing this place has that is super cool is a coffee shop.  Yep, coffee.  Real coffee.  Lots of it.  Whatever kind you could possibly want, and it’s all fair trade.  It’s sharing space with the tea – an enormous variety, and it’s prepared by people who know about tea, not just people who know coffee and think tea is similar.  (It’s not.)  There’s also juice, of course, and a selection of other menu items, but the coffee and the tea are the real draw.  Free Wi-Fi, and a spacious area where you can just hang out and talk, surf the Net, write your blog, or just drink your latte and watch people on the street. This is a place where people will meet up regularly, because if you come here for long, you’re going to be family.  Some days you’ll stop by just to have coffee with your girls.  And that’s completely okay.  But you do have to be a registered member to hang here.  No outsiders smirking at the fat girls who think they’re cool.  Just non-judgmental family.

Another fairly unique feature is the on-staff counselor.  A real, licensed therapist.  Someone to talk to if you’re having problems integrating your self-care into your normal lifestyle…or just if you’ve had a bad day at work and it’s interfering with your focus.  Someone to ask those questions about how you learn to live with the new you – whether it’s because you can’t stop feeling like the “fat girl” after you’ve lost 100 pounds, or because your friends are complaining that you don’t party with them enough anymore.  No matter what your question is, or your issue, she’s there.  She’ll also help you with those hairy “why am I fat?” questions.   And it’s all included in the price.

And about the price.  That’s pretty cool, too, because it’s cheap.  Not just “cheap for a gym” but cheap.  As in, if you can’t afford it, there are scholarships and financial aid.  As in, you don’t have to stop buying shoes for Junior so you can go there.  As in, if you’re a single mom working two jobs, you can still go.  (Finding the time will be a problem, but darn it, this place will move heaven and earth to make it happen for you, from the free child care to the mondo-long hours to whatever else they can do.)

This place isn’t a gym.  It’s not about just providing a place for you to work out.  It’s about providing a safe, comfortable, nurturing area where you can go to truly care for yourself, and where other people will help you do that.  It’s about the mind, the body, and the spirit, in equal measure, and about really knowing, feeling, and working with the connection between the three.  It’s about being the best you that you can be, in all ways.  It’s about knowing that in the end, we’re all supposed to help each other, and if we don’t, we’re monkeys.

As far as I know, this place doesn’t exist. It’s just a pipe dream.  It certainly doesn’t exist around here.  At least, not yet.  But if I could be said to have a dream…if you asked me “If you won the lottery, what would you do?”…this would be it.  This is what I want.  This is what I’d like to do.  Some day.

I talk about this a lot; probably more than I should.  A friend asked me if I wasn’t worried about someone “stealing my idea”.  I’m not, for several reasons.

First, I don’t know that’s it’s a great money-making idea.  To be honest, with all the features I’ve dreamed into it, it’s going to cost a mint to run.  You’d almost have to win the lottery, because you’re not going to be making enough from your clientele to keep it open.  Maybe you could do sponsorships – clients who can afford it could contribute to the cost for clients who can’t – but I’m not sure how that would work.

Secondly, for all I know, someone really has done this, somewhere.  So it might not be my idea to steal anyway.  I really hope this is the case – I’d love to think there really is somewhere like this, somewhere where you are accepted and loved and encouraged to be your very best self in a supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere, where all the tools you need are to hand, and the mind and spirit are as important as the body and vice versa, and all at a price that Suzy SingleMom can afford.

Thirdly…if it doesn’t exist, and if you have the time and money to make it a reality – for God’s sake, feel free to steal my idea!  Just make sure you steal all of it, because the hardest parts to make happen are the most important ones.  The price…the counseling…the fact that, like a really good relationship, it’s way more than just physical…these are the sticking points, but they’re definitely the most important part.

And last…even if it exists somewhere, it doesn’t exist here.  So even if every person who reads this goes out and makes it a reality (hah!), there’s still and always going to be room for one more.  🙂

Anyway, what’s life without dreams, right?

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Wow.  Thank you, MizFit.

I was all set to write a post today about how I’m really reexamining a lot of things in life right now – which I am – and how I’m just not sure that where I am is where I should be – which is also true…essentially, very filled with angst and soul-searching and the like.

Then I read MizFit’s post for today.  (Go check it out, if you haven’t.  These are words everyone needs to hear, even if you think you don’t.)  I generally do this first thing, but this morning has been somewhat askew, so I was late.  But that’s okay.  I read it at just the right time for me.

I do make a concentrated effort to be thankful for things in my life.  But lately, I’ve been putting less time and attention into that and more into being unhappy with what is wrong in my world.  And all of a sudden, I note that it’s been weeks and weeks since I last wrote a real Thursday Thankfulness post.  Sometimes, it’s just that I don’t have time to post on Thursday.  But mostly?  I just don’t feel that thankful.

That’s not the way I want things to be.  There is so much in my life for which I am thankful.  There are so many blessings and I really am cognizant of them.  I just don’t spend much time thinking about them.  I’m too busy mulling things I am unhappy with and want to change.

MizFit offers some wonderful ideas about being thankful.  Today, I’m setting an alarm to remind me to take five minutes – just five minutes, the world won’t end if I am not busy for that amount of time – concentrating on the blessings in my life.  I am also starting, today, this very minute, my very own Gratitude Board – because that is just the coolest idea I’ve heard all week.  And most of all, I’m just letting go of the angst.  No, the world is not fair.  No, people aren’t going to do and be what I need and want them to do and be, and that will make things harder for me sometimes.  And that’s okay.  I don’t have to let that determine my thoughts, feelings, or actions.  In short, It Doesn’t Have to Matter.  Because that’s not what I’m about.

I’m about being the best me I can be.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally…and that doesn’t mean always struggling to achieve more.  That means giving everything I can to being strong, happy, mindful, and present.  For me, that means I do my job to the best of my ability – and then leave it at that.  I don’t stress over what I can’t control, and I don’t take it home with me.  I spend time with my children and I respect them for the people they are, while gently guiding them to learn the lessons and develop the life skills they will need.  The emphasis here being on gently. (I have been a very crabby DietBook indeed, of late.)  I enjoy my beloved DH, spending time with him and appreciating every moment, showing my love for him in every way possible, and giving as much of myself as I can to be sure that his needs are met.  I also respect that he does not need constant attention or input from me, and appreciate and enjoy the freedom and personal space that are possible because of our mutual trust and the strength of our 16-year bond.  I spend time with friends when I can, appreciating them for who and what they are and the role that they play in my life, and recognizing that each of them has a different role and brings something different to the relationship.  And I spend time with me, just being present and taking care of my body, soul, and mind.

And I do all of these things in their own time, without pressure to achieve or perform, and with the understanding that the challenges and trials in each of these roles are contributing to the greater purpose and definition of me.

I’m thankful for the understanding of my life as not a painting, but a mosaic, made up of hundreds of tiny pieces that together create a beautiful, rich whole.  Each of those pieces is, in itself, a picture, and each is beautiful in its own way.  They may not all be perfect, but I don’t have to address that today.  Today, I can just be thankful for them and relax into the knowledge that it’s all a part of the greater purpose.  And even when they don’t seem to fit together very well, they really do.  I’m just looking at them from the wrong angle.

Today, I will embrace the Way of the MizFit, and I will be a better person as a result. 🙂  And I hope you all have a wonderful day.

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Happy Friday! And I know I’m not the only one who’s happy it’s Friday, so cue the celebration. 🙂

I mentioned yesterday that my neighborfriend B. had given me all sorts of useful insights on our walk the other night. Some of them have really, really stuck in my mind, and I wanted to share one with you today because it was exceptionally profound for me.

One of the questions she asked me early on (when I was commenting incoherently about how stressed I was) was this (paraphrased): What are you? What, in other words, is your defining identity? Naturally, I said “a lot of things” and she said no, what is the one thing that you would define yourself as being, that all other things in your life support?

Okay. This is deep. My instinct is to say that I have many identities – I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a paralegal, a writer, a friend, a sister…the list is not endless, but it’s long. But the nature of this question means that there must be one answer, a single defining thing that is Me.

The very fact that this question was so hard to answer spoke volumes to me. I – and by I, I mean we – define myself not in terms of who I am inside, but in terms of who I am to other people. I define myself in terms of my relation to outside factors.

Have you ever had a moment when you were immersed in a fog of uncertainty and then suddenly, someone said something to you and the clouds parted, the fog cleared, a beam of light centered upon you and the angels sang in a sudden paean of clarity and reason? When suddenly, it all made sense? A moment when, in short, you finally got it? This was that moment for me.

The purpose of my life, the goal toward which I have consciously striven for several years now – and probably unconsciously for even longer – is to be centered, to be happy and content and mindful within myself and to be at peace with and love myself. The keystone of that effort is, and really has to be, mindfulness. If I am not aware, am not mindful and completely conscious of what I am thinking and feeling and the reasons behind my feelings and actions, I am never going to achieve this.

Probably one of the most oft-quoted and significant pieces of spiritual advice out there is to “Know Thyself”. This is important. This is crazy important. Yet how many of us can really say that we do?

I am a wife. This is very important to me. It’s a big part of the foundation of my life. Yet it’s not eternal, not guaranteed. Spouses are lost, through divorce or death. I watched my mom lose that identity, and I watched the major crack it put in the foundation of her life.  And if I lost it, while it would be devastating and change me enormously, it would not destroy the essence of me.  I love my husband more than I could ever put into words, but I know that I would survive.   He has taught me that, and it hasn’t been easy.

I am a mother. There are no words for how important this is to me. And no matter what, I will always be a mother. But the definition of that identity will change as my kids grow, and one day they will not need me as a constant presence in their lives. Again, I have watched my mother struggle as that identity changed over the years.  If I lost my kids…I can’t imagine anything worse, and I don’t even want to think about what that would do to me.  I can’t.  I’d gladly let the entire world perish if I knew it would save my children.  I know this about myself.  BUT.   I have watched people lose children, and while it destroys a big part of them, it does not erase them.  Sometimes they wish it had (and I don’t doubt I’d be one of those people, and please God I never have to find out).  But it doesn’t.

I am a paralegal. My work is pretty consuming, and it does mean a lot to me to do it well. I have a great deal of loyalty to my employer, after almost 10 years. But in no way is this my defining identity, and I don’t even want it to be.

Sister, daughter, friend…I am all these things. But if they went away, if that changed – if all of the above changed, I would still be me. There is a basic core essence that would still be, and would still be me.  So what is that is Me? Who is that person? What is it that defines me, that motivates me? What is that one thing that is the distilled essence of me?

I’m not sure it’s a question that can ever entirely be answered, because we are complex creatures with complex identities and complex souls. But I think it’s important to try, and I think it’s important to have a general idea at least of what the answer is.

I do know the answer, at least in vague form. I know it because, after another hour and a half of conversation, B. pointed it out to me. (Did I mention how insightful she is?)

“So you,” she said to me, “are a Seeker. You’re a spiritual seeker, a seeker after truth.”

And it was, at least for a moment, exactly that simple. Because when you erase all the complications and embellishments from my life, when you put me in a room alone with myself and my thoughts and my beliefs and my tendencies, this is indeed what I am. It is the one constant that has been with me always. It is the one facet of my personality that has never changed, in all the years and all the things that have happened to me and that I have done. It’s the thing that I can’t leave behind no matter where I am or what I am doing – and don’t want to.

This does not in any way negate any of the myriad identities I possess – the hats I wear, if you will. To the contrary, in each of those roles I am able to gain greater insight and learn more lessons that enable me to be that seeker. The entirety of my life supports that essence, even when it hinders it. (Nothing in any of my roles irritates me more than when they seem to interfere with that identity, and that’s an indisputable fact.) And really, that is how it should be.

So there was a moment of clarity and understanding that I hadn’t expected, and that has made all the difference for me in the situation I’m currently in. Suddenly, it’s as though all the pieces of the puzzle that was so frustrating me have fallen, through no effort of mine, neatly into place. I can see, though I can’t really describe it effectively, exactly how all the pieces of my life fit together, and the picture they make as a whole. There is no need for me to struggle or resent any of them, because even when they seem to be interfering, they are in fact presenting opportunities for greater insight and wisdom.

So that’s my piece of wisdom for this week. What is it that defines you? Not what you do or what other people need from you or what your obligations are, or even what you really want to be doing. What are you, at bottom? How do you define yourself?

You might not know the answer, and in fact just the process of trying to figure it out might be all you need. But take some time to think about it, to really examine it and figure out what, in essence, you are. And, if you want, share it with me, because I’d love to know.

And have a wonderful weekend.

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Happy Thursday, everybody!  Look, this is me, findingmaking time to blog!

At three in the morning.  Hm.  Perhaps not the best time management.

But as they say, there are no problems, only opportunities.  I do not have an insomina problem.  I have an opportunity to catch up with all of you!  Someday, my stress will decrease, and I will once again be able to go back to sleep after the cat wakes me up at 1:30 to be let out.  But until that happens, I shall take this golden opportunity to once again fill the blogosphere with many random words that will hopefully end up having some meaning.  Stay tuned to see how that one turns out.

I had no wisdom for you yesterday – or rather, I had no opportunity to coherently share any.  So I’ll do it today, and it may not be very coherent, but I think it’s worth sharing anyway.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with a number of things.  Not the eating and exercise, ironically – those are going very well.  But the rest of my life has been a challenge.  Work has been brutal in a way I cannot even express in words; the Daughters have been dealing with their own challenges that (naturally!) become mine through Mom Osmosis; and DH has been – well, okay, actually DH has been phenomenal.  No complaints there.  Have I mentioned how much I love him?  But everything else has been a little nuts.

So last night, my neighborfriend (wow, there’s another friend category for you!) B. called me to go walk.  We haven’t done this in far too long – I’ve been relying mostly on the WiiFit and my treadmill for my workouts – and it’s something I’ve missed.  So I inked it into the calendar and arranged the evening to fit around it – something I rarely do.  Mostly, things have to fit into my evenings as they stand or the things just don’t happen. More on that later, I promise, it all connects.  🙂

So on the walk, one of the first comments B. made was (paraphrasing, here) “I’ve been really trying to be joyful and live in the moment lately, so I’ve built this partition in my mind and everything that is not part of this moment goes behind it.”  (Okay, massive paraphrasing, she was much more eloquent than that.)  And I, who was mired in endless-loop negativity, did a mental double-take.   Have I not been striving (or saying I’m striving, anyway) to Be Present?  Have I not been making a real effort to deal with my stress in a positive way and not let it overcome my life?  And yet, look – here’s my mind:  no partition.  All the hurt and frustration and stress and anger just floating around in a giant Ugly Soup.  So I decided then and there that she was right, and I needed to just set all those negative things aside and concentrate on enjoying the walk.

I couldn’t seem to manage it.  I found myself, as I eventually put it, clinging to the angst and negativity with all my strength and resenting the idea that I should let it go.  I wanted to be miserable, because it just felt like I had the right.  Wow.  I thought I was beyond all that.

So that was sobering, and a bit depressing.  But over the course of the walk, things shifted.  One of the great things about B. – there are a lot – is that she is very insightful, shares a lot of my philosophical leanings, and can generally cut through the BS to the core of an issue with a few well-chosen words.  In short, she has a way of helping me see things more clearly than I even knew was possible.  She did that last night.

One of the things we talked about was the necessity of “you time” – an issue I’ve been having a lot lately.  You Time, for me, is limited to exercise.  I can justify that.  It has a Purpose.  It’s a Must Do.  See, most of my life centers around what I need to do.  Work, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, etc.  I live for the Must Dos.  I stress and worry over the Should Dos.  And the Want Tos?  Feel like sins.  I have come to think of anything that does not have a measurable, specific goal as decadent.  If I’m reading a book, and not also eating a meal or taking a bath, I’m wasting time.  If I’m watching TV, and I’m not also working out or folding laundry, again, wasted time.  If I’m going out with friends – what?  Why would I do that?  What does that accomplish?  Oh, sure, if they need me for something – maybe a friend is having a hard time with a relationship or it’s his/her birthday – then I’ll make time for them.  Of course.  But just to go out?  Just to have fun?  Who has time for that?  I mean really! (Yes.  That’s sarcasm you smell.)

I had not realized until very recently how insular and goal-oriented my life has become lately.  I do not do anything that does not have a purpose and an “end result”.  And yet, I seem to achieve and accomplish less than I ever have.  There are stacks of junk mail and filing sitting around my house.  I can’t tell you when the last time was that I cleaned out our home office and filed things away.  I still haven’t managed to have a very important conversation with YD that’s weeks overdue.  I’m behind at work.  I have regained some weight – not a lot, but some – and lost muscle tone.  I have a novel that’s years old that’s gathering dust.  And I haven’t seen some of my friends in literally years.

So if I’m so goal-oriented and driven, why isn’t this stuff getting done?  That’s a question I haven’t been able to answer and it’s been one of my biggest sources of stress – no matter how hard I work, I don’t make any progress.  I’m like a hamster on a treadmill.

The answer is actually pretty simple, and it’s something that DH and B. have both helped me to put into words.

I’m not accomplishing things because I’m not Present.  I’m not giving anything my full attention.  And I’m not giving anything my full attention because I’m not giving myself any attention.  Exercise and health-oriented actions are great, and I need to be doing them – but they’re still very goal-oriented.  I’m not giving myself any time to recharge.  I am not doing anything for the simple purpose of enjoying it.  As much as I hope and strive to live life joyfully, and as much as I try to take joy in everything that I encounter – I have made no time, and no effort, to do things for no other reason than the simple joy of them.  And that is contrary to everything I believe and preach.

If I take a walk, it’s a power walk, to burn calories.  If I read a book, it’s with a view toward improving my own writing or to learn something.  (I do read for entertainment – but not much, and I have trouble doing it for very long any more.)  If I take a hot bath, it’s because my muscles are tight and tense and I spend the whole time working to relax them.  (Working to relax.  Only I could come up with something that self-contradictory and pointless.)  I can’t even sleep just for sleep’s sake – it’s “I need to take a nap to get rid of this headache so I can concentrate on what I need to be doing” and “I’ve got to start getting enough sleep because if I don’t, I won’t lose weight”.

Dear GOD!  At what point did I forget what life is supposed to be about?  Yes, there are things that I must accomplish.  I must go to work, I must take care of my family, I must be healthy.  But all of those things will be the better if I build in some time to just Be.  Some time to have dinner and laugh with friends.  Some time to – as B. said last night – have a 2-hour phone conversation with a girlfriend just because, not because someone has a crisis, not because we’re planning an event, but just because.  Some time to watch mindless TV and laugh at people with odd hair trying to sell houses.  (Love you, Miz. I truly do.)  No, I don’t want to do these things to the exclusion of my responsibilities – but at some point, doing these things becomes a responsibility, to myself as well as to everyone else.  Because if I don’t, if I don’t take some time to be me, to remember who that even is, then I have lost myself, or at least part of myself.  And that is that much less that I have to give anyone else.

It is necessary, critical, and right to take time to recharge.  To let the mind rest.  To let the body breathe.  To simply be, without the need for a purpose or a goal.  To go and have fun, to waste a little time in the interest of freedom and joyfulness.  It is in those moments that we find beauty and joy and love for life and the world around us.  There are so many people who need us…and so much that they need from us.  Is it better to give four hours of grim, dry presence – or is it better to give one hour of beauty and love?  Quality time may be an overinflated concept built by our generation to lessen our perpetual parental guilt (that’s a whole other blog post there, about how we cling to the chains of guilt and how it’s all the Quakers’ fault)  – but it’s got a core of truth.  If I don’t care for myself, the care I give to others is lessened, cheapened, and made sterile and stale.

This is not a new lesson.  This is not something I didn’t know.  But for whatever reason, while I excel at point this sort of thing out to others, I stumble when it comes to applying it to myself.  Not because I’m great and self-sacrificing – but for a much darker, uglier reason.  Deep down, after everything I have learned and done and as much as I have grown, I still don’t really like myself much.  There is a fundamental core of self-loathing there that still remains.  It’s not like a dandelion that you can dig up and root out.  It’s more like crabgrass.  You can kill the plant, but the roots are ineradicably intertwined in the basic soil.  Crabgrass takes a lot of killing.

But that’s okay, and that’s another thing B. helped me realize.  Because if I rail and rant and weep about that – about how hard I’ve worked to love myself, and how I haven’t managed it yet – I’m feeding that self-loathing.  I’m not going to do that.  I choose not to.  I choose, instead, to recognize that there is still work to be done.  And that’s okay.  Because I’ve got time.  I’m not going anywhere.

I’m still a work in progress.  And look!  I already knew that.  My tagline says it.  🙂  So I guess it’s all right.  And today – it being technically Thursday – I am thankful for that.  I’m thankful for this chrysalis stage.  I’m thankful for the lessons I’m being taught.  I’m thankful for the amazing people in my life who help me learn and help me realize what it is I’m learning.  And I’m thankful for my friends, some of whom I am going to make time to contact today because I haven’t in too long.  So today, I’m going to take some time to just Be.  I’m going to findmake the time to do something pointless and silly, that I love, but that serves no purpose.  And it won’t be surfing the Web.  It’s going to be something that makes me laugh like a five-year-old.  And this weekend, if I can make it happen, I’m going to set aside time to have lunch with an old friend.

I hope that all of you (look, Miz, nary a comment about how I’m amazed if you’ve read this far!) have a wonderful day, and that at some point during the course of it you find some time to just Be.  And laugh like a five-year-old.  🙂

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Well, Happy Tuesday, everybody!  I hope everyone’s having a great week so far.

I’ve been shockingly lax at keeping up with everyone and must apologize.  Things have been crazy.  I did have a rather nice weekend, with some relaxation built in – and for me, relaxation is not going and doing fun things, it’s sitting very still in one spot and just existing.  🙂  That doesn’t happen a lot, but it happened some this weekend, and it was very nice.  I actually even had dinner out with a friend, which is a very rare occurrence but DH pushed me into it and I’m glad he did.  It was nice.

I have been struggling with various existential issues of late, nothing profound or depressing, but more just trying to get my mental and metaphysical feet under me.  I find that this happens periodically, and the ‘waning of the year’ is a big trigger time for it.  It’s almost as though, when the world outside starts to settle and get all winter-quiet and cool, there’s less noise coming in from outside and more room in my head for deep thoughts.  🙂  I’m also being more active, which tends to make me more mentally alert, and there’s been a lot of low-key drama in various lives around me, which makes me introspective as well.  So it’s sort of a perfect storm of spiritual stimuli, but I’m not sure yet if it’s in a good way or a bad way.  I’ll let you know.

One thing I’m sort of struggling with right now is my own identity.  ED has, of late, evinced some serious angst with respect to me being not only a mom, but a person in my own right.  She and I are very close, which is a good thing and means a lot to me.  But as she gets older, and really starts to spread her wings and have her own life, she seems to be keeping herself anchored by holding on to me more tightly.  She doesn’t, as she puts it, want to share me.  She has to share me with her sister, with her dad, and with my neighborfriend B. (which she has reluctantly accepted because she knows her sister and dad aren’t going anywhere, and she really likes B.) but she doesn’t like the idea of me having any other friends.  That, in her mind, is just too much sharing.

I understand what she’s going through, and I empathize.  By which I mean, I don’t just sympathize as in ‘understand what she means’ but I can feel her pain and discontent.  She is much like me, in that she wants everything in her world neatly in its place.  I am her mom, and that is my niche.  I’m not supposed to be someone’s friend, and I’m not supposed to be off doing my own thing.  It’s unsettling to her, and she sort of feels left out.  Add to that the fact that, in changing schools this year, she has left behind many of her friends and is forging through the process of making new ones, which is hard…and you have a recipe for clinginess that is understandable, but still difficult.  Because right now, I feel the need for the decompression and revitalization that I get from spending time with friends, more than ever.

I’m walking a fine line between recognizing her needs and trying to meet them, and teaching her that love should not consume you to the exclusion of all else; i.e., that while I love her and I am here for her, I also have a right to and a need for my own time and friends and life. This is such a critical lesson for her to learn – because she’s learning how to be in a relationship right now, and she needs to know that even when she is in love and has kids, she is still a person.  What she sees me doing right now, she will (more likely than not) see as the ‘normal’ way to be a wife, mom, and friend.  I don’t want her to think that means ceasing to have a life or needs.

So it’s hard.  I can’t stand for her to be unhappy…but I know that giving in and making her happy right now could compromise her long-term ability to be happy.  And also, making her happy on this issue would compromise my own ability to stay grounded and (in the end) sane, which would end up influencing her negatively because who wants to live with a stressed-out lunatic?  It’s a very fine line.

Love isn’t easy.  Parenting isn’t easy.  And, while I’m stating the obvious and well-known, hey, look, gravity holds you down and the sky is up.

Gah.

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